After the recent India Flint workshop on the Island Book, I took home enough paper and ideas to make a second book. In the upper images you can see my post-workshop efforts with dye plants local to me, and in the images at the bottom, some pictures of the Aldinga Island Book.
Some time ago, I bought two pieces of tapestry (the embroidery kind, not the woven kind) at the Guild trading table, where the cast offs of members go to find happy new homes. It’s one of my failings in the acquisition stakes. There are some things I look at and think–someone dedicated many hours of their life to creating that, and here it is in a thrift store or a garage sale, discarded completely. Sometimes that is enough, they have to come home with me. Finally I had an idea, and I acquired enough $2 pairs of jeans to make it happen–because woollen tapestry is heavy stuff! I made denim surrounds for the tapestries, which, judging by their shapes, might have been intended to cover a seat back and perhaps a stool. Then I worked out some linings, and sewed on patch pockets!
Once I started actually figuring out how to convert them to bags I think I understood how they came to be discarded. They had biased in some way that meant they could not possibly have worked out in their intended applications. the rectangular one was a trapezoid. The one designed for a shaped seat back was not symmetrical. I can only imagine the heartbreak of having stitched these only to discover they were not going to work.
It’s a bit odd even in this context–but unquestionably, it can work as a bag.
In the end I realised I had a third tapestry. It had been reduced from $5 to 40c in an op shop in Warrnambool (country Victoria). I bought it thinking the frame could be re-used. But the badgers? I am not going to hang them on my wall. So I deconstructed the frame ready for its new life and here is the new destination of the badgers. Where will they go next?
There have been several forays out into the neighbourhood lately. I’ve planted cistus (rock rose) after my first season of successful propagation, as well as some of the regulars, carprobutus (pigface), boobialla and so on. My beloved and I also made a special trip to deal with a lot of tree branches that had been cut ow torn off and thrown into one patch, on top of living plants. Some from the trees in the patch and others perhaps from further away. We filled our own green waste bin to capacity (the council collects this and it goes to commercial composting) and then cut up what was left and distributed it as mulch. At one stage while we were chopping up dead branches, a gentleman I often see walking his dog when I’m out and about stopped and said this was the Council’s job. We had a chat about how Keeping Australia Beautiful was everyone’s job (this was the theme of an anti littering campaign we clearly all remembered). In this final image, a place where the council has planted and even paid a watering system, and nothing has been growing on the front edge of the patch except weeds for over a year. Now, groundcovers. That’s better!
The springtime brings on fleece washing, carding and seed planting, apparently!
I’ve spun up all kinds of tragic fleece dyed last year, lawnmowing crossbred sheep’s wool, alpaca, blends, cochineal dyed fleece, natural fleece… there has even been some eucalypt dyeing (the orange skein in the foreground).
I’ve spun batts created from logwood exhaust and woad exhaust and where did that even come from? batts.
Anonymous roving from my friend’s stash. Alpaca gifted from another friend. Local fleece blended with dark grey alpaca with far too many burrs in it. Possum and wool blended together.
My winter of knitting was lovely indeed but I am loving being back to spinning as well, so it seems…
The guerilla gardening is going on–with seeds sprouting and plants that have grown slowly through the cold months or those which were propagated from cuttings in autumn going into the ground as I am able.
Bladder saltbush (atriplex versicaria) in the foreground–I have been gradually creating some drifts of silver foliaged plants in this spot, as well as the ruby saltbush (enchylaena tomentosa) you can see growing in the background. There is a place here where people walk through the bed and not along the concrete paths, and I’d like more vegetation, while there is plenty of concrete already. I am hoping eventually to crowd out the path people and dogs are using through the bed at the moment, so that one day it will cease to seem the obvious pathway.
Some of my seedling eucalypts finally went into the ground!
Pigface (carprobrotus edulis) is a winner even in very dry places.
I’ve had to laugh abut how I’m spreading some of the plants in our garden into the neighbourhood. This bladder saltbush went in at least 6 months ago. I don’t think there is any risk of violas becoming a serious weed around here however!
And here’s a task for the weekend–entire branches ripped and cut from nearby trees and dumped on top of other plants. I don’t know why or or by whom, but I think I might just remove these myself (and plant a more prolific understorey so that this does not appeal as a place to dump things). On the up side, every time I plant here now, there is so much soil compared to even a year ago. Things are moving in a positive direction!
One of my darling friends has hit a rough patch in life. Maybe the last she will have to face, but you know how hard those things are to predict. You may have detected this from the knitting in hospitals that I’ve mentioned a few times. But now we’ve passed that stage. Her family decided to move her to a nursing home nearer where they live, and far from where I live. It’s one of those tough situations where my friend isn’t able to make big decisions for herself at present, and she has been fragile and struggling for too long. It’s likely she will not be able to live independently again, and supporting her from far away has been very hard for her family, while many of her friends have struggles of their own that make it difficult for them to visit her. Some of them are no longer very mobile themselves. In this way she will be nearer three generations of her family and meet great grandchildren she has never been able to see.
I met her at handspinners’ guild, and when I first met her she was knitting a complex Aran sweater for one of her sons (her sons are about the age of my parents, some of them are older). In recent years she has knit the same distinctive hat over and over again, and then sometimes I’ve driven her to Guild and she has enjoyed the company and sat with her knitting in her hands. She has been unable to spin for a few years now, and couldn’t face knitting in the recent times I’ve visited her in hospital wards and nursing homes.
Finally one of her sons and one of her daughters-in-law came here to clear out her beloved and now empty home. They were overcome by the task of figuring out what to do with her fibre stash and it was something I could do to help, to figure out how to manage that. I spoke with her a couple of times about what she would like to happen but she couldn’t bring herself to care much. Those wishes that she expressed to me or to her family, were all honoured. I met that part of her family, we shared a little of our mutual grief and some of our happy experiences of our shared human treasure, and then I took away fabric, spinning equipment, wool in every stage from raw fleece to rovings and batts to spun yarn, and so much more. Like the inside of her home, everything was impeccably organised and meticulously stored.
I’ve organised for equipment to go to people who can use it or to the Guild for resale. Yarns have gone to knitters–the vibrant rainbow-dyed yarns she favoured creating in the last few years to people who love colour; the mohair collection to someone who delights in mohair; fleeces were sold at the Guild to people who will appreciate and spin them; and equipment for all manner of crafts she enjoyed over the decades has been passed on to people who will use and enjoy it. Her sewing machine is in the shop for repair prior to rehoming. The electric spinner she never really made friends with has gone to someone else who is finding treadling harder and more painful (just as she did) and who can return to loving spinning as I result, I hope.
In the meantime, I’ve found myself spinning all kinds of fibres from her stash, starting with small quantities of things that didn’t seem sensible to try to re-home. I’ve also been knitting hats from smaller quantities of her undyed handspun and some of the small balls of rainbow dyed yarn that didn’t fit into the packs that went to people who love to knit. It has felt like a way to hold her in my mind in these times when she is suffering and yet hard to reach. She has suffered a further injury and is back in hospital far away and in such difficulty she is hard to understand on the phone. So, here’s to Joyce, her sense of humour, her enjoyment of wool and her love for a snug hat.
You know how I was making half of a discarded blind into a banner a while back? Well, my beloved committed to our creating a banner for an inclusion initiative at her workplace recently. A banner to be carried into a rally we went to recently in favour of changing Australian law to allow people of the same sex to marry. It took a lot of measurement and higher order mathematics due to the sheer amount of text. But in the end the banner looked pretty good. And it had glitter! And it was quite good to go home to a project about ending homophobia and being inclusive, after sending time at a bus stop several times that same week where I realised that the church which has a space in the adjoining shopping centre is supporting the “It’s OK to say no” position. It is OK to say no. Of course. People can do as they please, in the context of the faith they follow. I am less convinced that they should be able to impose these views on others’ choices, and faiths are multiple in our world. But I feel I am in the presence of people who do not believe that me and mine deserve equality before the law, when I am at that bus stop and their neon sign advertises their views to all who pass. So here we are expressing our views, albeit to a much more limited audience. With a big thank you to whomever abandoned their unloved blind on the footpath.
I posted a picture of these socks while in progress on Instagram and a friend said that the word “lurid” came to mind. Well, yes! Nothing naturally dyed going on here. She also asked if they were a statement on the times–for those outside Australia, our nation is currently debating whether the law should be changed so that people of the same sex can marry. And despite the well-established reality that more than half the nation supports this change (as established by opinion polls) we are having an expensive but non-binding postal survey on the matter at the moment. It has been a time of some very heart warming moments but also some thoroughly unpleasant public debate.
I admit, I had not been thinking of that when I cast on. But–really–my friend was right on both counts. These socks are going to live with a friend whose favourite colour is lurid (bonus points for neon or dinosaur prints), who has been in a same sex relationship for over 20 years. She isn’t enthusiastic about marriage, in the way that those of us who spend a lot of time thinking about the history of women’s rights, domestic violence and such like often aren’t. Of course, we know people who have wonderful marriages. But we’ve seen a lot of the ways that marriage can go wrong, and that sure makes marriage as an institution less romantic. We remember its role in treating women as property and limiting women’s rights to bodily autonomy, working rights, equal pay, voting rights, engagement in the economy and so much more.
However–right here right now, for many people who support same sex marriage this is really a debate about whether everyone should have the same legal rights. That’s a very easy question to my mind.
Meantime, the socks are packaged up with laundry requirements and darning thread and ready to go to their new home. I cannot control the national debate, but I can show the love to y near and dear and keep people’s toes warm in their gumboots, shoes and boots!
On my little holiday in Allansford, I dyed up some knit silk and some silky merino from the Beautiful Silks odds and ends department–much better fun than the remnants at a big chain store.
I had to do some creative work to find this entire garment from the pieces. In the end, I settled on silk sleeves and a silky merino body.
A friend agreed to take some pictures for me one day but she evidently couldn’t do anything about my embarrassment! And she offered the view that this top would work better if it were a little longer. She may well be right.
You can see I’ve got leaves running in one direction up my back and down the other… I just couldn’t get the pattern to fit any other way. And–I’ve enjoyed wearing this most of the winter.
In our house, one of us likes to hang onto things as long as possible and mend them as needed. The other one is less enthusiastic about mending and naturally holds different opinions about which things are so special they should be mended rather than thrown away or repurposed. This towel had lots of pile left on it but the selvedges had given way and frayed. A lot. That was good enough for me! I happened to have some binding left over from a previous such project and it was just the right amount for the job. And now–no more frayed edges… and quite a pretty edge.