Boomerang bags: the first ten

At an early point in lockdown, a passing superstar delivered patches for a new round of bags. They came with a hand folded envelope of marigold seeds! And it was quite a big pile. I decided to deal with it ten bags at a time. Sometimes I lose my mind and have dozens of part finished bags lying around for extended periods.

Then I started in on a friend’s mother’s stash. Her dear and lovely mother has now been gone for long enough that her stash can be passed on.

This also has allowed me to use up some of my offcut pile, pieces so small even I usually don’t use them for patchwork. Some is becoming interfacing for bag straps.

So there it is, the first ten. It might have been eleven at some stage….

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Screenprinting

Over lockdown, I have powered along creating stencils from old wallpaper and using water based, low toxic inks on sheeting from the op shop and other scrap fabrics for Extinction Rebellion.

My skills are not first rate but they are a good match for the equipment I had available (one old battered screen that dates back to the 1980s when I learned the basics!) I’ve created bags, left some as patches, and created labels for our sizeable collection of pre-loved (or maybe just pre-worn) high vis vests… bag linings also from fabrics that have been rescued from landfill.

First the green series…

Then the pink series…

And frankly, so many more! But I’m sure you get the picture…

I have had some fun making labels for the high vis and I think I still have a series to go… and now, I would really like a screen with my favourite graphics on it, and a break from text, though my hand cut stencils have certainly done the job.

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Scraptastic socks

Earlier in the year, I created some “sock kits” from my remnant sock yarns.

Here is the second pair, created entirely from leftover yarn, for the son of a friend. And here is the #tuffsock version recently finished and sent on its way to a happy new home where I thought it would be welcomed in all its wonky glory…

I used to be amazed to realise that other folks could tell the difference between madder and eucalypt dyes just by looking from them. I have recently realised that now I can too (or, at least sometimes).

And… I still have sock kits left to go!

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Moko Trews and Baby Shoes

The lovely Marion from Beautiful Silks sent me two sets of blanks for “moko trews”–trousers for the grandbub. One layer in cotton (the lining) and one in silky merino (the outer).

They were just so glorious! I dyed the outers and set about constructing them. It took a little while and then they were just SO cute!

Into the very slow mail service they went. Weeks passed. At the time, this was not surprising.

Australia Post says they were delivered and left in a safe place, but apparently not, because they have utterly vanished. And so, my friends, has a second parcel.

I made some more baby shoes–graded up in size, insulated for warmth, and hand embroidered, with nice stout soles. Let’s overlook their defects…

I very much hope that these two parcels ended up with people who could use these items so lovingly made and involving such a kind gift to me… and not just in someone’s bin by the side of a road. I wish they could at least have left my cards to the dear ones that I have now not seen in person for months, whose comfort I’ve been trying to raise in times of challenge. But I guess I’ll never know.

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Other things

Dear readers, here is a little post I wrote and overlooked weeks ago, while I try to create some new posts 🙂

This is just a little round up of things at my house in the last few weeks, that aren’t especially crafty. I pruned the lime tree. Also the nectarine and the peach, but they are not fruiting! I used the sugar I had and made marmalade. Then later my parents were shopping and brought me more so I made a second batch!

I got a crisis call for support from someone new to town who needed seeds. Into the post!

Our suburb is showing the love and solidarity with rainbows. So I made this. The last two triangles are made from a friend’s dead jeans, given to me for reuse!

I opted out of the toilet paper drama in this country for the most part, with a reused squirt bottle and some dead t shirts. Thanks to the friends who posted about this and inspired me.

The slow conversion of indigo dyed fabric to hankies continues and was massively assisted by new ‘fine’ needles and a service of my sewing machine.

I mail ordered prepaid postage satchels when it became clear that I wouldn’t be seeing some people for a long while. I could not resist this Australia Post postcard. Although it depicts the biggest open cut mine in the hemisphere (apologies if some other horrible project has since overtaken it)–it has been made to look like a work of art. Many years ago I went there (Kalgoorlie, WA) with a friend on our way to Perth. I had not really understood what the SuperPit was even though I’d known many open pit mines, and when my friend asked where we used to live–I had to point into the hole that had swallowed the entire town, many other mines, the house we used to live in, and so much more…

Finally, success with (dwarf) dyer’s coreopsis!

And there you have my little photographic round-up…

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Leafy Crazy Quilt

Some time ago, I realised that many of my plant dyed cottons and linens were becoming a quilt top. This may have been, ah, a few years ago. It wasn’t the plan initially, but sometimes things come together in such a way that even if I had an initial plan when I began patching fabric together, I discard it and follow the lead of the project (or perhaps it’s my own imagination).

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A bit later it appeared that my learnings about indigo dyeing with old clothing, discarded worn tablecloths and such were headed in the same direction and might be becoming a quilt back.

 

I have decided that we don’t need more seriously warm quilts in this city.  We live in a place that is warm most of the year round.  We have quilts with polyester batting that are too warm to use except on the very coldest nights.  Thin quilts, and the last one I made with a batting made of a worn out cotton flannelette sheet are getting more use and allow layering. And–I have a back catalogue of worn out t shirts that are up to 24 years old.  You ask how I know this. Some of them are for events I was part of organising in the 1990s.

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This particular t shirt and several others got a makeover about the time I began this blog, in which I re-cut the side seams, armholes and sleeves so that they were not quite so loose (the 1990s were a time of oversized t shirts, and I liked it!) Many are raggedy and worn through.  Others were gifts or free in contexts where I felt unable to refuse.  And I can only wear so many t-shirts gardening and in bed!

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So–they are the batting. I cut out the sleeves and added them to the rag collection, and cut off hems and necklines. Then the awkward process of figuring out how to control a batting made of uneven rectangles (more or less) made from stretch fabric.  What could possibly go wrong? In the end there was a festival of pinning them to the back and then a palaver of stitching them down.

Eventually the indigo patchwork was completely covered with t shirts…

There was the binding creating stage… and then the binding application stage.

And yes, I quilted after applying the binding. Not sure that’s the approved order of things. Don’t look to me for quilting advice! I find this part to be a process of arm wrestling a big item through the sewing machine over and over again, while executing kilometres of stitching and rethreading the bobbin and oiling the bobbin casing, a lot.

Why yes, that is a kangaroo paw print. By this stage I knew who I wanted to give the quilt to. I checked with them ever so gently because, I do not wish to give a quilt like this to people who might not like it. The last thing I want is for someone to feel burdened by the gloriously strange thing this is, compared to a regular quilt. For some people, this is an amazing thing. For others, it might feel quite different.

It is made up of flour sacks, offcuts, calico, linen clothing that has been dismantled and repurposed. There are tablecloths, trousers, shirts, bits, bobs, scraps, remainders and offcuts. It contains a pocket and some darts as well as the places where hems and seams used to be.

The indigo dyed backing contains patches that have been dyed plain, some that have been tied or clamped first, some that have been plant dyed and overdyed with indigo.

It is covered with stitching that is trapping the t shirt batting in place, and another layer of stitches scribbling all the layers together.

It records quite a few eucalypts–favourites like E Cinerea and E Scoparia, lesser used lovelies like E Cladocalyx and E Sideroxylon. There is evidence of iron and copper (which I wrap bundles around). Plus experiments with tamarisk and shoak, walnut leaves and kangaroo paw flowers, agonis flexuosa and all manner of other plants besides. There are some tannin mordant experiments as well as plenty of soy. There are even some fold and clamp patches as well as many that were rolled and bundled.

It has gone to fine friends. I hope theirs will be a happy home far into the future, and this quilt might be some small part of that happiness.

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Grandbub socks

I began these bootees some time ago and did not manage to finish them before they became redundant. Finally I ripped them out and responded to a call for hand knit socks.

And here they are: Rye Light by Tin Can Knits in some glorious sock yarn that was a gift from my sweetheart so long ago I am not sure what it is any more. And for scale–with my hand.

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Bike Bag

My friend requested a replacement for his much loved bike bag. I was happy to oblige! One day the bag arrived in a post pack with two pairs of black moleskins/jeans, the sleeve from a high vis shirt complete with the reflective strip, and some added fabrics for good measure.

I set to work drafting a pattern from the original and applying my wits to reverse engineering it. The strap goes all the way around the bag. Zipper on top, zip pocket on the side. I found two zips that I thought could do the job from the stash, ripped the sleeve and scavenged the reflective strip, and cut the jeans up ready to go. I’m quite proud of that pocket, which uses things I’ve learned about how to create a welt pocket.

The top zipper is pretty stout too.

And there you have it, ready for the road. Or ready to post back, as the case may be!

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Mending

There have been times in this lockdown when it felt like I’ve mended every day. Sometimes just adding a few stitches so that the underwire doesn’t peek out of there, or stitching a button back on. Or re-sewing the seam that keeps Mum and Dad’s shopping bag in use instead of it hitting the bin. Or sewing the binding back onto the edge of the gardening gloves. Darning my beloved’s slipper sole…

This much mended shirt began as flour bags from the Fremantle Roller Mills, with a big red dingo as well as the name of the mill and the weight of the bag. That was a long time ago! The front edge had worn down to fraying and the corner of the pocket had become a hole. So I covered the worn edge with some handkerchief fabric complete with rolled edge hem–it was in the scrap pile so must not have made the final cut for a hanky!

For those wondering how the patches on the inside are wearing–here’s the inside. The madder dyed thread has been through many washes, some focused more on getting out the grime than protecting plant dyes.

The back is now so thin the patches from my mother-out-law’s kimono dressing gown can be seen right through it. But I love wearing this shirt… it feels so soft and lovely and is such a good gardening companion. I’m just going to wait and see when the time comes that I don’t want to mend it again.

Under that indigo dyed thread is a small patch taken from the scrap pile to reinforce the pocket corner. The time for this shirt has not come yet!

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Screenprinting

Long, long ago (the 1980s) I was a university student in the days before voluntary student unionism. Everyone paid a student union fee, and a lot of student services were paid for in this way, that no longer exist on university campuses in Australia. On my campus there was a craft studio. It was a thing of wonder to me that there was a space with a part time staff member where you could go and make stuff for free or for cheap. The woman who ran it would teach you things at a basic level and let you go. As a young activist, I learned how to do basic screenprinting, and in the days before photocopying and laser printing were freely available and good to look at, this is the way we created posters for events or occasionally, t shirts.

There is nothing fancy about my skills and lack of practice has not improved them, I’m sure. But to my surprise sometimes at Extinction Rebellion crafternoon I’ve been the one teaching screen printing, because others don’t know how, at all. The embrace of imperfection in Extinction Rebellion is a good fit for my lived imperfection. Before we went to lockdown, I had borrowed one of the very much preloved and probably 1980s era silk screens that had been donated to us and a friend’s squeegee. I had op shopped up sheets in good colours (and some that are less good)… and now I’ve also had time for digging around for stencil artwork and creating some of my own. I made this screen with stuff from an art shop (that was not available in the 1980s!!)

Plus the traditional one, cut in this case from a roll of second hand wallpaper from the Adelaide Remakery.

Between them, my first effort resulted in a lot of patches and my second, in patches and some bag blanks…

And some of them turned out quite well, especially considering the less than perfect combination of a very much used screen and my basic skills.

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