Extinction Rebellion, climate change, and a beanie

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Hello dear Readers, I have designed a knitting pattern.  You can, should you wish, download it from Ravelry here. You see it here in handspun coloured merino with eucalyptus-dyed wool contrast. But allow me to explain.

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It is a big time in the life of the world, with even conservative estimates by scientists telling us that we have less than 12 years to take emergency level action that could keep global warming to below 1.5C.  Even 1.5C warming will have, and is already having, massive impacts on the earth and all who depend on the earth for life. Including you and me. It isn’t as though I’ve been sitting around. I’m doing the little things that depend on my being one straw in a very, very big haystack for impact (online petitions, postcards, letter writing, voting).

Last week I joined the thousands of Australian school children who went out on strike demanding climate action.  Their speeches showed more understanding of climate change than anything coming out of our federal government, which is still supporting coal mining and oil drilling on a massive scale.  The school students had more clarity than our state government, which has only partially, temporarily, banned fracking because it destroys farmland (and thus costs votes though these things certainly do matter in their own right)–not because of the impact of burning fossil fuels on global warming. I sing with a posse of climate singers who were out on the weekend telling the good people of our city about the issue and giving people the chance to write to the leader of the opposition about this issue.

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And yet, on this day when world leaders are meeting in Katowice, Poland, to talk about what to do about this–there is just no coverage in my country of this critically important meeting.  My government is not on track to meet the inadequate targets set in Paris.  And the high pitched screaming sound between my ears when I lie awake in the middle of the night worrying about climate change is not quietening down.

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My heart soared when I saw that a new group in the UK called Extinction Rebellion have served their demands on their government, and that they are framing the climate and ecological emergency like the existential threat that it is.  On their first Rebellion Day they blocked all the bridges across the Thames River and brought central London to a standstill. This is a strategy of escalating nonviolent civil disobedience designed to compel the governments that are failing their people and the future of our world to take emergency level action.

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It may not succeed.  But it has to be attempted, because scientists have been patiently explaining and then explaining in tones of increasing panic, and then explaining with tears as they set out the loss we already face: and governments are not listening nor acting.  Fossil fuel companies are continuing to fund political parties here and elsewhere.  The current federal government is not even close to having a rational policy on climate.  And nowhere are there signs of action being taken that comes close to responding to the grave threat every life form on earth now faces.

So, dear friends, I have decided to commit to being an organiser for Extinction Rebellion. And I also decided to design a beanie, watching all those English folk out being arrested and protesting in the chill weather of their winter as we head into the searing heat of our summer.  I knit it in the week a tornado hit a town in our state for the first time in my memory.  If you have questions about Extinction Rebellion, I hope you will roam their www site, find them on social media, and go here scroll down and watch their briefing on climate change and what we can do about it.  This is an invitation to act with courage in times that demand no less. Let’s step up, for the love of life.

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Preparing for Gion Festival

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We were in Kyoto during Gion festival time.  The Gion festival runs over weeks and embraces two parades as well as numerous smaller events, nights of street carnival, days with observances to be made, blessings to be received, shrines to be moved from place to place–and so much more. Some of the preparations were of course mundane, as in the case of this banner, placed in preparation for a neighbourhood to build its float and then fundraise for the maintenance of its neighbourhood float and celebrate in style. One night we came past this banner and there were matching koi t shirts for sale as well as food and drink.

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These are not just any old floats.  They are kept in pieces in the neighbourhoods they represent throughout the year, assembled on the street and displayed, and then paraded through the streets. They are part of a tradition centuries long, and many parts of the floats, as well as the treasures that decorate them, have long histories. Many are assembled as they always would have been, with heavy wooden structures held together with ropes made of plant fibres.

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Some are very large and some relatively small, and almost all now dwarfed by buildings standing in the streets, while in photos I saw in museums–you can see these floats towered over the city buildings even at the time photography had come into existence.  Surely when these floats originated, they would have towered over every building in the city.

Because of the heat, I walked past groups of men building these structures and intermittently lying down in the shade to rest. Every single part of the float has significance–historical, local, spiritual, literary.  The interpretive signs that were eventually erected for the ignorant (such as me) offered a small introduction to stories about what the float represented and the way this might be changing though time.

The balcony you can see in each large float is a space for the Gion Bayashi musicians to sit and perform during the parade.  As we walked in the still very warm evenings, we came upon rehearsals of Gion Bayashi musicians which we could hear from the street and sometimes see through an upstairs window.  Eventually we came across a rehearsal in the float itself.

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And, all over Kyoto, an air of expectation.

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Kyoto Imperial Palace

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On one of my first few days in Kyoto, I went to the Kyoto Goen National Gardens and the Kyoto Imperial Palace, which is set within them. On my way there, I walked past the Goo Shrine.

At this stage I had not yet understood that I would see shrines everywhere I went. This one caught my eye because of all the statues of boar.  I was immediately puzzled.  Clearly in my mind a wild boar is only ever a threat.  I soon came to understand that fearsome, potentially lethal beasts can protect you from your enemies!  This was a whole new thought for me, generated at this shrine which commemorates a wounded warrior who escaped his pursuers with the help of 300 wild boar, and was healed by a miracle.

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I walked on to the Imperial Palace in its immense grounds. First there came the Muku Tree, beside which an ancestor was killed many, many years ago. I loved the fact that this tree was the thing being commemorated, and was astonished by the way the tree was being supported. And there it stands, right by the Imperial Palace.

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It was a punishingly hot day in which I took much less pleasure in this wide stretch of gravel with no sign of shade, than I might otherwise have done.  But the imposing scale of the Palace is undeniable.

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Some parts of the Palace were inaccessible because they were under repair or renovation. In Kyoto it was always evident that the past is constantly under repair. Nothing is exactly as it would have been hundreds of years ago.  In many cases entire buildings  have been completely rebuilt after fire, flood or war, in this country where fire has been such a major issue for so much of human history. When we were there flooding was extremely recent, with many loves and homes lost. Typhoons were coming, and we sat through a small earthquake in Tokyo.

The gardens were spectacular and so were the exteriors of the buildings, which eviently contain major works of art I didn’t have the chance to see.

The sculpting and protection of trees and shrubs was very striking here too.  In the image below right you can see a tree entirely supported by a circular structure. Should you wonder whether I come from a culture in which this is done–I cannot find an English word that could describe this structure and the closest practice to this I can think of would be espalier–or perhaps creating a hedge.

And there you have it–another world heritage listed site from Kyoto full of beauty and wonder.

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Spinning optim

Quite some time ago, Kylie Gusset, amazing dyer and originator of the fabulous Tonne of Wool project had a sale of some of her last optim fibres.  It was a lucky dip arrangement in which I did not choose the colours.

In my recent period of being unwell, I found myself spinning down through the stash of rovings I still have–I just wasn’t up to fibre preparation.  One day I discovered the optim, which I had completely forgotten–and I believe there was some Ms Gusset merino in with it.  Why have I kept them for years without spinning them? I think I might have been saving them until I became a better spinner.  I am not sure what this view of myself and my capacities is all about, but it’s time to give it as little rope as possible, because my spinning is fine.  Even when it’s less than exquisite, it’s still fine… and will only get better through practice in any event.  I have listened to women at my Guild who still think they don’t spin well enough after fifty years of spinning.  It seems so obvious that this makes no sense at all, when I listen to them (and I have of course seen their spinning)!

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Once I got started, I just kept going… and pretty soon I had a lot of bobbins…

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And then, a whole lot of skeins. And they look fine to me!

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Dyeing embroidery thread

Some years ago, I bought India Flint’s little book Stuff, Steep and Store. I stuffed a lot of jars with all manner of small quantities of dyestuffs, and set them to steep.  Some have been out of doors with their cardboard labels tied on with woad dyed wool, or with string made of leaves.

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Some are still sitting on my bookshelves patiently waiting. Recently I opened several of these jars and washed off the contents.

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And here are the results.

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It’s a bit sad that this thread dyed with weld was the entirety of my weld crop! I came out one day and found that it had fainted.  Some critter or another had severed it below ground.

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On the other hand, the colour from the black hollyhock flowers is stupendous.  I will certainly save them again this summer for a future jar of dye. This method is fantastic for small quantities of plant material. But I must admit I was interested so long after the fact to see how risk averse I’d been in setting up all these jars of dye and yet dyeing so little fibre.  Maybe next time I could be just a little bolder…

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Little socks for little feet

So there’s this small person coming into our lives early next year. I think I may have mentioned this!  I haven’t felt up to anything too complicated, so I settled on some socks for a start on knitting for the babe. Cat Bordhi’s Little Sky Socks, to be exact. In fact, I had in mind also knitting another design from the same book, but we’ll get to that in good time…

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I selected some hand spun alpaca dyed with eucalyptus, and when I didn’t seem to have quite the right number of dpns, I added one that didn’t match… a slightly different size even.  As one of four, not such a big issue, I’ve found, and infinitely better than investing in a new set or waiting for it to come in at the op shop (thrift store).

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Here’s the thing.  I started these when I had recovered enough from my recent bout of illness to feel interested in knitting, but evidently I was still not the sharpest tool in the box.  I finished one sock, and felt pretty happy.  Then some time passed and I knit another and felt ready to move on to the Little Coriolis Sock. I put the two socks together, and what do you know?  Not even close to being a pair. I don’t mean they were trivially different (that would just be normal in my case).  I mean one was a centimetre or two longer than the other, and on a sock this size–that’s a big difference!

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I had to knit two more socks and try to match the mistakes made the first two times!  Attentive readers will have noticed the yarn was dyed/spun as a gradient.  So doing this guaranteed that the socks would also not come even close to matching in colour.

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It’s a lucky thing that the intended recipient won’t care at all. And that my daughter isn’t fussed either!

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And while I was sending weird gifts by mail, I sent this silk beanie.  I found this single skein among my friend Joyce’s stash after she had died, and pure silk seemed like a good choice for a baby.  Oh, my goodness, though–the colours are a bit much, and they are even more astounding knit up than in the skein.  Happily enough, I received a call when this strange set of gifts was received. The colours had been judged to be fabulous! I think Joyce would love the idea of my being a grandma and her skein of silk going to a newborn.

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Guerilla weeding

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This culvert has been one of my patches for a few years now (in this post in 2016 I am not sure I am planting for the first time…), and it is really looking good now.  In fact, today as I weeded, a gentleman in a suit came past and his only comment was “oh, I wondered who had been doing that!”

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Ultimately, my goal is to have native plants out compete weeds, so that no one feels the need for poisoning, and native insects and birds and lizards can have a little more of what they need. In the meantime however, the struggle is on to make sure that effort to poison weeds do not kill my little plants before they can become established. So here is my weeding toolkit and our biggest bucket.

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I filled it to overflowing and at this time of year, a weed the hivemind on this blog identified as a cudweed predominates.  It is probably Gnaphalium affine (Jersey Cudweed) (so far from home!) But look!  The saltbushes (three species here) are really established now.

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There is flax leaf fleabane and prickly lettuce and fourleaf allseed , and even a few fumitory plants have survived past the first heatwave and my best efforts. On the other hand, look at the native plants now.

Even the Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes are looking good at the moment.

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And, here it is afterwards–perhaps you can’t tell iin so small an image.  But hopefully the seed burden is reduced.  Already, the boobialla and saltbushes are crowding out weeds which really can only take root seriously at the edges. I hope the poisoners will leave things be.

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And seedlings for autumn planting are springing up under the regular watering provided by my beloved. Life rises up in its own defence, and so must we rise up for the future of life on earth. Today, with a little local weeding.

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Indigo dyed Frankensocks

Once upon a time there was a lovely handspun Suffolk yarn dyed in a near exhausted fructose indigo dye vat. Or perhaps it was just that the dyer had exhausted her capacity to keep the vat reduced.

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It was paired up with some indigo-dyed merino-silk commercial yarn.  Here I am knitting at the Royal show.  Watching the ponies.

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I stopped with two legs knit because the Suffolk yarn for the feet was in the royal show. I started another pair of socks and this pair of legs sat on the top of a chest of drawers for some weeks.  Once I got to the point where I started knitting the feet, they went super fast, with a few long meetings and some TV watching.

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Here I am heading for a grafting moment at a concert at the Fleurieu Folk Festival.

And here are the finished socks!

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Sewing jeans, and imperfection

So, when my best jeans went through in the knee, I decided it was a sign from the universe–make some new jeans!  I had decided a while back to try the Morgan Jeans from Closet Case Patterns.  I settled on using up some topstitching thread I had from taking up Dad’s jeans (I needed to buy a second reel part way through), some traditional style Japanese cotton bought in Kyoto for the pocket linings and waistband facing, and part of a dead shirt for interfacing.  The denim came from The Drapery (yes, a local bricks and mortar store!) and as they had Closet Case jeans hardware kits, I invested in one of those too. The staff were kind and gave sensible though understated advice, like confirming my sense of which size to make. I like that place and the fine women who run it very much, even though in my heart of hearts I think I should just STAY AWAY and never buy fabric again.  Well.  I’m not going to be free of contradictions anytime soon.

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I made these while I was quite unwell.  Pattern assembly and cutting out took me 4 hours!  However I discovered that the extremely slow pace of my progress did result in some good looking topstitching and a lot of close attention to the pattern, and ill as I was, switching between threads for seams and topstitching did not trouble me like it often would.

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They came together really well.  I have made jeans before (with mixed success) and I have made button fly pants before, so that was a help too. I decided on washing the fabric three times prior to cutting, ten degrees hotter than I usually would–as my most successful previous pairs of jeans shrank to impossibly small after being made, despite pre-shrinking.

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Now, there are some things that I notice I am prone to when I make my own clothes, and I believe other people who sew might be prone to them as well.

It’s easy to notice all the things you did badly when you are the maker.  News flash: while some clothes are made in a factory far, far away by someone you have never met, mistakes do happen and imperfection results.  I have had plenty of purchased clothes that have defects, including some that required mending I could easily accomplish, and some that had a defect that became apparent after one or two washes that was not really capable of mending without wholesale reconstruction.  Needless to say, I’ve had loads of secondhand clothes that require mending as soon as they get to my place. Well, sometimes I make clothes that are imperfect.  And sometimes I do something stupid that requires mending soon after they are completed–in this pair I machine tacked the front pockets closed during making to prevent wiggling, and then managed to rip out the tacking and the top stitching.  Oh, joy.  But you know?  Imperfection is part of life and there is really no reason clothes you make yourself will or should be perfect.

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Then there is the question of fit.  I doubt I am alone in finding that jeans sold in stores don’t fit me all that well.  One fine reason to make your own is skipping the bit where you try on 20 pairs and hate them all, and maybe also notice you don’t like yourself much.  Oh, sexism, you make appearance the measure of a woman in a way my mind refuses to accept but that evidently has a grip on my feelings, and consequently you make self-kindness so challenging to accomplish. Oh, sexism, you make it seem that a woman should care more about how she looks than how healthy she is, and that alone makes me hate and resist you.

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The pairs of jeans I’ve bought over the years new and secondhand often don’t fit all that well, but for some reason they get a pass and my handmade clothing doesn’t. Nothing rational about that.  I measured myself up, selected my size and resisted the urge to make a size larger.  I made just one adjustment, right at centre back just below the waistband, where jeans normally stick out a whole lot, requiring a belt. I have been told by my mother that this is because I have a sway back, whatever that is, and by sales assistants it’s because I have a big butt.  Whatever, this minor adjustment meant these jeans were the right shape for my particular body, three cheers!  They did wrinkle under the seat, which my pants fitting book tells me is due to “thighus giganticus”.  Oh, internalised sexism, that has women talking to one another this way! I don’t like you much. If feeling bad about ourselves could make us better people, more confident sewers, or even slimmer, the world would be a different place.

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I was so happy about the fact these fit me better than any pair I’ve bought in years (that’s the test, right?) that I made another pair, very slowly and over several weeks.  This time, I decided on more ease, provided by making the same adjustment at CB but stitching the main outer seams with 0.5 cm seam allowance rather than the 1.5 cm allowed in the pattern.  They are even better, as I seem to have come home from Japan smaller than usual and returned to my customary more generous size since. I also decided on a different colour of topstitching thread.

And by this time I knew that I’d had a user fail on the hardware kit the first time and noticed another thing: why had I bought this (admittedly lovely and functional) hardware rather than using what I already had?  Still invested in consumption and overlooking the fact I never show my waistband off and I’m the only one who sees these fastenings?  On the second pair I used a hammer-on jeans button from the op shop (more in the pack if I have done a bad job of installing it) and some almost matching buttons for the fly, from stash.  And there we have it, the top end of my regular-wear wardrobe restored!

 

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A short stop in Tokyo + Fast Train to Kyoto

I have belatedly realised that I didn’t start my account of our trip to Japan at the beginning.  We began with a day, just one, in Tokyo. Of course, we could see little in this time, but how amazing to be in Tokyo at all! My beloved’s internet hivemind of global travellers had said that the fish market was the place to see.  So we were booked into a hotel right on the edge of the market.  I didn’t realise my beloved had cunningly planned this, so was delighted and surprised when we came out of the hotel right onto the edge of the part of the fish market that was out on the nearby streets.

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Crowds of people, cooking on the street, and stalls with all manner of things from vegetables and pre-cooked food to knives and dishes.  And fish, of course. I even saw dried, smoked fish being shaved into bonito flakes.

I can see from my photos that I was taken by Japanese-style cuteness right from the start… and that I felt I couldn’t take pictures of all. the. things.  So many amazingnesses!!  I know what it’s like to have people photographing everything in the central markets in my home city. And a friend who grew up in Taiwan has since informed me that for any person from China, a fish market would be the obvious place to see in a new city.

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Eventually, we left the fish market and I followed my bold beloved onto the train system.  Needless to say, unfamiliar plants and places and things were everywhere.  I couldn’t get over these capsule stations, full of weird and wonderful things. This display was in a department store, in a stairwell or corridor.

After some wandering about in a shopping district, we took a break in a beautiful park.

We had to investigate what “pachinko and slot” was (as it is advertised all over the place and in very big buildings).  I have since read Pachinko by Min Jee Lee, which is more of a multi generational account of Korean immigration in Japan than it is an account of pachinko–but pachinko is a low-end form of gambling that is a little like pinball.  It is very loud and accompanied by the smell of cigarette smoke, so far as we could tell at first sight, and apparently a predominantly a male occupation.

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We had a very funny experience of being in a shop in the geek district of Tokyo and being hailed by an Australian friend of my beloved.  Just so we’re clear–Tokyo itself has a population almost the size of the entire country of Australia.  And–the pictorial signs of Japan were gratefully received by me with my pitiful Japanese, but they also have a very different aesthetic to Australian signage.  This one I especially enjoyed. I held onto my hat.

And then we had to travel to Kyoto. There had just been major flooding in Japan, not far from Kyoto, so we were lucky to be able to catch the train at all.  Some of my beloved’s students had arrived early and been evacuated along with locals, and others had struggled through travel rearrangements made necessary by damaged rail lines and roads.  While we didn’t catch the fastest train Japan has to offer, it was still very fast by Australian standards.  And very clean and lovely too.  All the signage inside the carriage (about the next stations and such) was in at least three languages–more gratitude from me.

I spent the time taken to travel out of Tokyo marvelling over its size and density. Oh, and knitting a sock.

Once we left Tokyo and were in more rural areas, I was amazed to see rice growing all the way up to the train line.  I don’t know why, exactly, as wheat grows up to the train line in Australia.  But even seeing rice growing is pretty amazing to a person from such a dry place.  People live right up against the major inter city train lines too, and there were market gardens all the way to the train line that we passed.  We passed Mount Fuji in the distance too.

Even just being on the train made vivid why so many lives and homes are lost in floods, typhoons and mudslides in Japan–people live very densely by comparison with Australia.  The heartbreak and trauma of the flooding just before we arrived was plain even through the language barrier on Japanese TV news each night. And for the train buffs, here is a view of the train from the front, most unlike any Australian locomotive I’ve encountered. Much faster and much quieter too!

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