Happy birthday hand-knit socks and seed collecting

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I am not much of a one to give people presents on their birthdays.  I enjoy doing that when I can, but essentially, I prefer to make something and hand it over gleefully soon afterward. More than once a year maybe.  Once every several years, perhaps.  Or find something perfect for a friend and give it to them right away, because–why not?  I am not dedicated to one day a year of gift giving.  I’m awful at remembering dates and apparently I am too impatient to wait! Sometimes, though, there is planetary alignment.  I finished these socks close to my beloved friend’s birthday, I managed to take a picture, and we walked them over on the very day and shared some happiness about the fact of his existence.

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They were delivered tied with a piece of hand twisted silk cord, no less!  For those wondering, I succumbed to Noro Silk Garden Sock again. It was so much fun the last time!  The two socks are completely different.  There was a green segment that was not repeated at all, and a knot in the thread that had been tied with no consideration for the colour sequence.  Online knitters have led me to expect that this is what Noro will do for you.  I know the recipient of these socks will not miss symmetry in this case, and I was intrigued but not troubled.

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Meanwhile, I have examined my wattle seeds, collected for later use, shucked them and stored them for later planting.

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Saltbush all over the city have finally started to show ripe fruit.  I attracted a lot of puzzled attention from passing cyclists when I pulled over on the West terrace bike path to harvest these.   For non locals, this is a major road travelling along one side of the city, with parklands and a cemetery on one side and the CBD on the other.  These berries have already gone to the propagating area.  If it stays warm long enough perhaps they will come up–but they sure won’t come up through the colder months.  So from here on, I’ll be saving saltbush seed rather than planting it.

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My mother gave me the tube, which previously held vanilla bean pods.  She gives me all kinds of little treasures she can’t find a use for, with apparent confidence I will find one.  I love her confidence in me!  And, to finish, some spectacularly huge eucalypts I found myself enjoying recently…

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Fibre preparation

There has been a breakout of fibre preparation.  I got to the end of all my carded fibre.  So I started going through what I had washed and otherwise ready to spin.  Grey corriedale dyed with Eucalyptus Nicholii: before…

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…after.

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Polwarth dyed with indigo.  Apparently overlooked last time I was carding…

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Here it is ready to spin.  Just one random batt.

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Then there was some angora (rabbit)–just a handful.  A Guild member was gifted this at the Royal Show last year by a rabbit breeder and since she couldn’t spin, I offered to dye it for spin it for her.  I dyed it prior to the workshop I ran along with a huge batch of fibres for the workshop participants.

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It was reeeeally short, and there was not very much.  So I carded it into some natural white polwarth.  Tweedy angora flecks?

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I managed to spin it into a singles before I went to Guild, then plied it up for her on the night.  Here’s a rough and ready photo.  She was delighted.  She is a tapestry weaver, so I feel sure this will find its way into a tapestry in due course!

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Another leafy quilt!

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I am surprised to be able to say this, but I have finished another quilt.

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In December, I was rather inspired  by a comment on the blog from Susan, who put me onto GiveWraps–Australian craft bloggers advocating for the Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts (and everything else, it seems to me) in fabric.  The Needle and Spindle versions are patchworked together in a very lovely way that is an excellent fit with what I like to do.

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I have been trying to use recycled wrapping paper or making bags for gifts to go in for years… so I was rather inspired by the GiveWraps idea and immediately began patching together yet more bits and pieces.  However, ususally I patch leaf prints with other leaf prints, and prints with other prints and plains.  The GiveWrap idea somehow had me mixing them up in a rather liberating way.

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In this case, I patchworked together leaf print offcuts with leftover pieces of garments that have become bags, scraps of sarong leftover from making pants, details from a pair of shorts that finally came apart and scraps from the previous quilt, as well as stash fabrics.

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It went really well, and soon I had two squares the size of the only Japanese wrapping cloth I own.  It’s a generous size, almost a metre square.  We often use it as a tablecloth on a coffee table.  I laid my two squares out on the floor side by side and immediately thought–almost a single quilt there already!

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I had plenty of leaf printed fabric to make the back and the binding. This is the back.

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Admittedly, machine sewing the binding on became a wrestling match between me and the sewing machine, and in the end the machine had to go into the repair shop.  The last little section was sewn on a friend’s machine, and now I have been sadly parted from my machine for weeks.

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This time, I actually did make the binding with the wonderfully beautiful slanted seams t5hat create less bulk in the next step.

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Partway through hand stitching binding to back, a friend who is a tailor and teaches sewing gave me a tip about sliding my needle along the inside of the folded edge of the binding as I handstitched down the binding, so that went extra well too.  Second picture of the binding because… I am proud of actually doing the proper thing with the binding for the first time!  So, from this…

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To a finished quilt.

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I even embroidered a little panel with a dedication and the date, as this is going to be a gift for my fairy goddess-son.  A finer appreciator of a handmade item would be hard to find, but he is blessed to be sharing his life with, and being brought up by, two such fine people.  Soon it will be his birthday.  How to wrap the quilt???

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More guerilla gardening…

I like gardening before work.  Especially at the moment, when the early morning is the coolest time of the waking day.  So this morning I was out weeding and fertilising and examining the state of the patch. Then it was time to plant.

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Here are my seedlings soaking in preparation.  I have been propagating native plants alongside my vegetable, flower and herb seedlings.  It’s a bit more random because it’s harder to get good advice about when and what to plant.  I am gathering seed of plants that look plausible and happen to be seeding or fruiting and seeing what sprouts.  The simplest thing for me to grow  is ruby saltbush .  I am not sure if it is objectively easy to sprout, or if it is just that I run my propagating system in a way that favours it.  Here’s a full grown one in our back yard.  It has magenta berries about the size of a currant.  Currently, almost none are ripe.

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These ruby saltbush were planted only a week or so ago!

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These little ones are sea-berry saltbush (Rhagodia candolleana).  I harvested a lot of seed last summer, which is good–because so far these are not ripe anywhere I have seen them growing.  The cool summer has slowed down the fruiting cycle.

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This morning I also planted a couple of little low-growing daisy plants. Here are some I planted months back that have begun to spread.  They have tiny flowers (yes, these plants are in flower) and they are seeding already.  Some Australian plants are opportunists–these ones have been regularly watered and clearly they are making seeds while conditions are right.  Judging by the ones in our garden, they can flower and seed for months of the year.  I think they are Woolly New Holland Daisy (Vittadinia gracilis).

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I also planted something that looked suspiciously like New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragoniodes)–I didn’t try to sprout it but I am growing it in the vegie patch and a good part of my potting mix is sieved soil from the chicken run, so seed sharing happens… and it is a very hardy ground cover!  I seem to have a volunteer indigofera australis in my propagating system too, no doubt because the indigoferas are growing beside my pots!  Then it was back to the garden at home…

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In the last few days I finally discovered why this plant is called ‘strawberry spinach’.  I bought it at the local community garden but had been wondering about the name for quite a while!  These fruits went from green to red very quickly indeed.  So spectacular!

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And… a little harvesting before breakfast to finish.  I do love rhubarb!

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New year’s crafty wrap up

I realise that new year passed a while back… but there are a few things to report.  I did some serious plying on my January holidays–

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This is the indigo dyed grey crossbred fleece you might remember.

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Surprisingly hard to photograph, but I like it very much.

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I also plied two immense hanks of black alpaca yarn.  The fleece was a gift from a community with lawnmowing sheep and alpacas.  I am thinking I will check whether any of the resident knitters would like this yarn.  It is deep black and happily… now virtually free of scurf.  Spinning is such an educational pursuit!  I had not encountered animal dandruff before, but my online research reassured me it was just one more of the things to pull and shake out and nothing to be afraid of… 2015-01-14 15.19.11

Last year’s calendars have been turned into envelopes, as they so often are.   This lovely piece of whimsy covered in Indigenous animals and detail of lunar cycles is by now-local artist Lucy Everitt. She also has delectable cards and other items for sale, and a beautiful blog. Her 2015 lunar calendar is available here.

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This calendar, all about Japanese art.

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Did I mention the shopping trolley?  My beloved and one of our friends restored the metal parts of this vintage item to their former glory.

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I had the job of taking the ripped, torn and stained vinyl cover (yellow, green and white) and making a new one from red vinyl.  It didn’t convert me to vinyl at all!

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And then there were the late 2014 slippers.  Two different models in blue alpaca yarns. 2015-01-17 08.39.54

Apparently the procession of slippers will never end, as I have long suspected might be the case… 2015-01-17 08.39.34

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What I knit on my holidays

You may have detected a quiet moment on the blog… in which I finished holidays, returned to work and ran out of pre-drafted posts.  Before that, though, I had some moments of achievement. I momentarily forgot my commitment to local fibres and invested in some lovely but imported sock yarn.  My daughter scored these socks.

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It did make me think about spinning up colour changing sockyarn, but this Noro Silk Garden is a single.. and I can’t believe I could spin a singles that would be up to the challenge of becoming a sock.  Love those colours!  I have some handspun sock yarn in my stash.  I was so committed to spinning it finely I have ended up with something on the light side of 4 ply (sock weight) and I am a bit intimidated by the knitting of it.  Being three ply, the colours in the original fibre have been very much blended in the spinning process.  This, in contrast was a fun, fast knit.

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There was some quiet stitching… more on that later.

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I finished another scogger for my farmer friend.

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And from a different angle…

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We went to visit her and saw some of her beloved rescue donkeys.  She will be out feeding them come winter and that is where the scoggers will come in.  They are knit with sock yarn and shirring elastic for firmness and fit.  I have made several earlier versions and this is what works best.

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How lucky these donkeys are to be cared for by someone so devoted in their old age!

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We also saw the orchard and the fabulous chickens.

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Look at these modern game bantams!

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While I am showing pictures of critters, here is a spectacular caterpillar we found in a friend’s front garden (on a pink gum).

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But of course, it wasn’t all knitting.  There was also spinning!  And lazing around sleeping, and reading and, because it is summer here, there was beach walking and swimming.  On the way to the beach, a fabulous woven basket-fence.

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Wonderful limestone cliffs…

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And then the beach.  My greetings to all of you now in midwinter.  I thought you might like to be reminded of summer.

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We are so lucky to live in this beautiful place.

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Spinning workshop

Since readers have asked what happened to those batts and braids… I thought I would give a partial report at least, since that is all I can really do. The difficulty with creating a report is that I took photos in the first hour, and then forgot about pictures altogether.  There were other more exciting matters to hand, and there were a large number of passersby as well.  The braids and batts went to my Guild Hall for a workshop on textured spinning.  Here they are set out on a table ready for people to arrive, with batt makings at the far end (we made yet more batts at the workshop).

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I decided to start the workshop with getting people to try letting loose and spinning something that they normally wouldn’t spin.  There were many Guildies in this group who can spin fine, smooth, regular yarns with ease.  They are superb spinners with years of experience.  There are some who never spin anything above 5 ply (sportweight), some who spin for weaving (say no more) and some who have wheels that are not very well suited to spinning lumpy, bumpy or even simply plump yarns.  So our first exercise was spinning a fat singles.  I supplied batts that I hoped would make it hard to spin something entirely smooth and even because they were full of texture.

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I decided to break with tradition and play music for this part… I put on Fat Freddy’s Drop (a superb NZ/Aotearoa band and awesome live too)… and off we went.

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I got lucky and saw Fat Freddy at Womadelaide years back and then again when they came through my town and did a gig.  Unfortunately I couldn’t persuade anyone I knew to come to the gig (!), but it was so good… that… I danced.  You don’t know this about me, since you and I usually talk about craft and trees, but take my word for it.  I danced, enough said!  For the curious and those who indulge in digital music, I was playing Based on a True Story. 

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I am sure few of the Guildies present have ever used ‘fat beats’ in a sentence, but frankly, I wouldn’t either, if I hadn’t discovered that is what other people say about the music of the Freddies.  I was hoping that the music might have people out of their usual groove and trying out a new one… with their fingers dancing.  It seems to me that some of the bigger barriers to learning new skills involve the need to be patient while the pull to the familiar exerts itself, and this can be especially difficult for very skilled people, who are accustomed to being very good at a related skill.  Of course, some people get lucky and find it comes easily or that they can immediately understand how to transfer what they do know into learning what they can’t do yet.

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We moved on to corespinning and coils and all kinds of exciting stuff after this, but I have no pictures to prove it!

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Some people went with texture right from the start…

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Action shot!

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There has been some chat on the Guild’s Ravelry forum with pictures of further adventures in making wild yarns and nonplussing the (non-spinning) muggles… which makes me very happy!

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And… here we leave the workshop even though really, it had just begun at this point :)

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Basketry plans and prospects

Through winter and spring, I gathered some materials for basketry.  One fine day these iris plants were for sale at the Guild for a song.  I planted them in the garden, where they have struggled along but not actually died.  This leaves me with some uncertainty about what kind of iris they are.  I see them in various places about the neighbourhood, and there are some like these at work as well.   

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I decided to keep the leaves in case they might make good basketry supplies (I know varieties of iris are used in basketry), so I cut them off and deposited them in the trusty wheelbarrow where they could air and dry over a few weeks.

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I harvested Aunt Eliza (Chasmanthe Floribunda) growing at a deserted house.

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I dried them too.

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On a bike ride with friends I even gathered some leaf sheaths from philodrendrons at the Town Hall!  I saw these used (and had a go at it myself) at a basketry workshop and it was too good an opportunity to miss.

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Late last year, friends organised a kayak event on the Onkaparinga river, with a picnic. Here’s the river bend where we met. There were pelicans, shags (cormorants), even an egret.

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I volunteered to be on the picnic team rather than the kayak team, in part because a friend who wants to learn basket making was one of the main picnic organisers.  I called and said I could bring basket makings (and a cake)–and she was keen. It had been an inspiring week for basketry because one of our lovely visitors had been making this from weeds and wool.  She has communicated her enthusiasm to at least one other friend who has made a couple more already!

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(Clearly I did not notice the silhouette of my fingers when I took the picture…) So I soaked iris leaves and Aunt Eliza and prepared them, and packed a box of necessaries so we could each move our skills forward–mine, from rudimentary to less rudimentary and hers, from zero to beginner. Here are my efforts.   I taught my friend how to make string, and then we made a start on a coiled basket, each using a different kind of leaf.

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My friend took a big ball of linen yarn, a needle, her string and the start of her basket home, as well as the rest of the leaves… can you see the leaf tip sticking up from her handbag?

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What a lovely day.

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Quilt finished at long last!

It has been a long time coming, but toward the end of my first burst of holiday time I finally got a proverbial wriggle on and made some serious quilt progress. I have created a series of blocks that each showcase leaves from a specific eucalypt, and embroidered the name of the eucalypt onto the block with eucalyptus-dyed silk thread. Who knew I had it in me?  I thought I had decided against embroidery as a child, never to go back.  I tracked the old posts on this project because I wondered just how long I have been working on this quilt (or not working on it, which is the routine case, of course!)  Just between you and me, this post in July 2013 is my first intimation on the blog that this project was in my mind.  Blocks sitting waiting for courage here.  Blocks finished here.  Sashing attached with help from a visiting friend here. Dyeing the border here.  Back finished here.  Finally, it was assembly time!  Here is the back, pinned out flat on the floor, wrong side up.

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I love the wrong side.  Of most things. The back is made of a mix of recycled, inherited and thrifted fabric.  Next, the minimal batting option for women of a certain age in a warm climate: an ancient flannellette sheet, well past its prime.  It’s hard to tell it was ever blue now.

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The top, pinned out over the rest, is made of stash black fabrics and a mix of recycled and thrifted fabric again:

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All layers pinned together, I decided on machine quilting, coaxed by a friend. The quilting part has never gripped me.  My last quilt was tie-quilted and not really ‘quilted’ with stitching much at all. Clearly the patchwork is my main interest, and the dyeing, of course.  Then, time to make the binding.  There were plenty of leftovers.  I made metres of binding and followed the instructions in Block Party by Alissa Haight Carlton and Kristen Lejnieks.   As usual, with less precision than the authors suggest might be warranted.  Just the same… here it is, kept tidy until stitching-on time…  Second Skin was right behind the ironing board, and seemed perfect for multiple reasons…

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I do understand bias binding, and there are places for it, but I can’t see the point when binding a straight edge, so I went with on-the-grain binding and contrary to the instructions, sewed seams straight across at 90 degrees (okay, it creates less bulk to use 45 degree seams–that part, I concede). I made an exception when I had a moment of curiosity and finished with a lovely 45 degree seam–seen under sewing-machine-mood-lighting below.  Because who needs seams that match?  Maybe next time I’ll give all the binding that treatment, you just never know.  I followed the instructions for mitred corners.  Simple and effective!  Much better than my own past efforts at reverse engineering without instructions.  Done!

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Apart, that is, from the metres and metres of hand stitching required on the back.  And here it is, midsummer!

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But all such jobs come to an end, and now, finally, I have a quilt I love.  I am surprised by how much I like the embroidery.  It just glowed in the sunlit window the day I tried for pictures.

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I like all those blocks with their Latin names and motley prints.

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And I like its all-over-leafiness and the nicely bound edge.  I expect this quilt will be a companion for many years to come, and this is such a happy thing!

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…because there can never be too much plant-protective bunting

I have been tidying up the bunting we set up to protect recently planted and small native plants as I pass, adding a few pennants and re-tying after wind and rain.  I am surprised it has lasted so long.  But there are other plants in need of protection.  A woman had a long chat with me as we each tried to figure out what to do about cars parked in ‘the garden’, as she put it, in another nearby newly planted patch.  She confided that there was bunting across the way and it was wonderful and effective and she wished there was some in her street.  I confessed I’d made it and explained how in answer to her questions.  She asked for some.

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We discussed the council and what we might be able to do. I encouraged her to call them.   In the end, I made some more bunting.

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It’s low-fi bunting, this.  I have made some that is labour intensive and lovely, but in the case of bunting that suggests people should stop going where they feel entitled to go–through experience I have learned that sometimes metres of it will be ripped down and vanish in a single night.  I’m not up for that when I have spent a lavish amount of time and care.  This is bunting made from scraps, with minimal effort.

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I cut fabrics to shape, and then sew onto recycled string.  Here, two strands of cotton yarn from an unpicked second hand jumper.  I dyed them years back, inadvisedly, but here they are, coming into their own.  The fabrics include a second hand napkin, what is left of a thrifted sheet (considering most of it became a shirt for a friend years back), remainders of a bag made for my mother, little bits from the cupboard, a panel from a thrifted skirt…

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I piece together little bits, and don’t worry about grain and such.  They just need to flutter in the breeze and offer a tip that this is not a parking bay.  Drape is not a big concern!

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My very patient beloved agreed to come and help me put it up.

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And here we are, admiring our handiwork as the sun goes down and passersby come past with their dogs, too polite to ask. As you can see, the plants we are trying to protect are still small.  Those that haven’t already died must be hard to see from a car.   There is still another spot near here where people park… so there may yet be more bunting!

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