There has been far too little dyeing in the last few months–we have had a full house and a two year old living with us at times, with plenty of other things to do! I’ve managed to overfill my own personal plate, as is my wont, or failing, or superpower. Or perhaps all three. And there have been big events, house painting, all kinds of things going on. But I did have a trip to visit my friend Marion at Beautiful Silks who had new products she wanted to try out for dyeing. We had so much fun! Her garden is a place of wonder, and the now-closed dye studio has been a place I have passed many a lovely, learning-filled day.
It’s so much fun to dye fabrics I wouldn’t necessarily chooose, combine fabrics and leaves I might not, and use plants I don’t have ready access to at home. Watch what Marion decides to do or ask for. And… we just stretched out into hours of playtime.
Dear reader, I thought you might enjoy a little success story. When I started work on this spot, it was a weedy spot covered in broken glass and rubbish. It’s a culvert near a railway station.
Summer and woolly scale, and a neighbour with his own opinions about the management of this space, have taken their toll, but even so, this space is green now. It is no longer a place people go to smash glass. The first post I can find with images of this site is in 2016. It has changed a great deal!
It is now possible for larger plants like wattles to sprout of their own accord in this spot, though they do not all survive human intervention. I’m still weeding and picking up rubbish. But no longer do people pass and tell me that nothing will grow here. Instead they can tell what I am doing, and in some cases they have seen me there often, weeding and choosing sedge starts to propagate in pots at home. Some pass positive comment, and I wave at passing train drivers as they gaze down on me in this spot stopping by the weed on my way past from a run or train trip.
This is just a gratuitous koala photo. We went for a bush walk with friends and once back at the car park–saw this!
This is me ready to go to yoga, with my non-standard bolster in one pannier, and four bunches of parsley for the Grow Free cart in the other. They were all gone by the time I pedalled back!
I am loving the traffic of books in and out of the street library my beloved has made (with help from my father and the gift of a cabinet from hard rubbish from a friend).
This is what I’ve been doing with yoghurt pots and excess seedlings over summer.
Meanwhile, public art! Gratitude to those who have the skill to adorn, and to local councils who fund projects like this.
I managed to give all these things away on Buy Nothing, to people who were glad to have them. I really did not hold out hope for the (new, removed) insoles. And I am sorry other folks need jumper leads as much as I needed them in the past! Those nappies… given to my daughter and left with me, now gone to where they will at least be used before being disposed of.
And a few more parsley adventures. Since we are rich in parsley!
The first pair of overalls went well enough that my friend was keen for another pair! I had been given a huge quantity of fabric, most of it upholstery weight; and I re-homed it to a new asylum seeker sewing project through STTARS; friends who sew; some Boomerang bags; a kindergarten… you name it, I organised fabric for it! And still had some left. One of the things I love about making clothing is being able to put little personal secret details into it, like giving my friend chicken pockets soon after they have started keeping hens!
It’s a gorgeous fabric, though heavy enough I think they are going to be winter overalls.
I faced the bib and the braces with a pair of capri pants from the op shop I happened to also have… also linen.
I think they really need a human inside them to look good finished, but this is my best offer for now!
The next pair used up some of my vintage cotton thread and feature sunny yellow pockets on the inside…
Hrm. Here is another image that isn’t going to make the front cover of Vogue [sigh!! obviously my lifelong dream–not]. Colour me happy that I got a request for overalls from someone else, who had seen the first two pairs, and here is her pair almost finished…
Here’s an early summer guerilla gardening outing… I can say from the vantage point of Autumn that these saltbush babies are thriving and much larger! Also, that the blue watering can fell apart completely at some stage over summer!
Here is another. Documented with just this one image. The saltbush are so hardy: these look like rhagodia. The prostrate wattles have not all made it, but some certainly have survived summer.
And a different day. I think this was a solo venture into the local creekbed where it runs between back gardens. I seem to remember taking a phone call at some point while I was there, and maybe that’s why I didn’t take other pictures. A fig and an apricot join the random selection of trees growing along the edge of Willa Willa.
In a different part of Willa Willa, running through a park, myself and my friends are planting out Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes (the sedge, cyperus gymnocaulos). Here are shots of babies about to be planted as well as some from previous plantings that I weeded the same day.
More fruit trees destined for public lands, and some water to give them once I have weeded out a place to plant them and put them in.
Bladder saltbush headed out into the big, wild world!
It has become a bit of a tradition to do guerilla planting walks after dinner when people come for dinner with us. It’s so fine to be able to show entire areas that are now covered in native plants or shaded by trees, where once there was only weedy land and broken glass and a regular council poisoning regime.
After the previous post, I found a little dress at the local op shop. It seemed to fit the kind of measurements I was working with. I drafted a pattern from it, modifying it quite a bit to create a fairly plain shirt. Then the fun began and it was a bit addictive.
This one is new fabric from a shop I prefer not to frequent, on the whole… with binding from a Buy Nothing gift of the remains of a high quality men’s shirt.
Then this. Not my finest hour in pattern matching (OK–so I only thought about pattern matching after the fact and focused entirely on getting the whole thing out of the small yardage I’d bought). “Baa baa black sheep” is a favourite for this little person…
Then the chicken prints–I was amazed by what Tricia’s discount fabrics had tucked away in animal prints. Our chickens are so important the grandbub has been known to list them as family members, says good night to them, and visits regularly (every time she comes over).
These buttons have been sitting in my admittedly multi generational button collection for many a long year and finally met their [next] destination!
And this, from two stash fabrics. Cotton body and linen sleeves, with buttons of varying shades of red.
I am happy to say that these outfits have been in constant rotation… often in the style statement known in our household as “mix and clash”.
Well, dear reader, another long silence has passed. Occasionally someone says they have been worried about me because of the silence on this blog. Please don’t worry, I am not ill. I just don’t seem to be feeling to urge to write for the blog. World events (and those closer to home) sometimes have me feeling that I should write about something more important, and at a loss as to what to say without extended ranting… And my lifelong efforts to warp the space/time continuum seem to be continuing, meaning that I am destined always to be a busy person. Anyway, here I am today, In Brisbane under lockdown, sharing an apartment with my beloved and her elderly parents, and suddenly everyone is sleeping, and here am I looking at something I drafted in about October. Maybe this blog is destined to end sometime this year, but let’s see how things unfold for now… with this months-old post. For those outside Australia, we are now in our autumn and this post was written before our summer began in all its heat.
My daughter has turned down almost all offers to make things for the beloved grandbub, until very recently, when she said she wasn’t able to find cool, sun protective clothing (long sleeves, pants with long legs), and the grandbub is on the tall and slim side for much store bought (and hand me down) clothing. So, I started with a pattern I already had, and a pillowcase that came my way via a Buy Nothing group interaction.
These were the same kind of thing: a pattern I had, and some fabric I’d been given. I sent them over, and the shirt pretty clearly was not ideal, while the pants were “perfect” (with maybe a bit less elastic). This was stash elastic too–an elderly friend who died left me some of her stash and each time I use her seam binding or elastic, I send Joyce a thank you, wherever she may be.
As the pants worked out well, I knocked out some more. The top two pairs are made from the edge of a high quality doona cover I was given by someone on Buy Nothing–we were talking about something else when she offered me fabric scraps for Boomerang Bags. I think she would approve of some of it going to this! But the two on top. Well. I do not need more fabric, and I was interested to see that I felt ungenerous making all the grandbub’s clothes from what I already have. None of it is especially cute. None calls out “small child”. So I, um, bought some more. Not rational. But there it is, I invested in some more fabric in small quantities because I want my daughter to know I think she is special and her child is special. Even though, if she does not know that already–it seems unlikely this purchase will solve the problem!
In a period when covid restrictions had eased some, rebels from Extinction Rebellion organised a bike swarm. It was a pretty fun experience! My daughter and the grandbub came along. The grandbub is a real bike lover. She had a great time for most of it, (greatly aided by my daughter’s high quality skills in entertainment and the prediction of needed snacks and such). Then it all got too slow and boring for her and we rode off for some quality time in a park.
This is the briefing before we set off, because I can’t ride and take pictures at the same time…
And here are a few of us outside Town Hall taking our message to the city council–they have voted for a ‘driver’s month’… which makes no sense at all when we face a climate crisis and the need to encourage cycling and walking has never been greater. If you’re interested in the concept of the bike swarm, our media and messaging team put together a cute little video to give people a sense of what we do at these fun events with a serious purpose. And there is a great image of us all at Town Hall (not taken by me!) here.
I got another “commission”. This time, for a pair of bib and brace overalls for a friend who works as a gardener. After some consideration they chose Simplicity 8165, which is a vintage pattern with updated photos on the packet. I felt the “vintage” part really showed in a few places… like the patch pockets at the front! But these things are soon remedied. They brought round their favourite workwear and I did my best to create pockets that match their favourite shorts. They chose a green cotton fabric, and off I went!
[Yes, that’s just a random garden image from our backyard.] I’ve never made overalls before. I just tried to assume I could, since my friend did! The pattern was clear in almost every respect–and it’s a common thing for me to hit a snag in a sewing pattern. I think it is pretty often a place where I am unaware that I have such a strong picture of what is or should be happening–that I can’t actually really see what the instructions say. Mmm. That really only happened once, in a part of the garment that regular pants don’t have. Recently I have begun to think that I should just embrace these places, and provided it will be retrievable–act on my mental model (tacking the seam if necessary to reduce the pain involved) and then, when I see it doesn’t work–ripping it out and going again. Recently I tried this when I was making a friend two “U pillow” covers and it was quite satisfying to puzzle over the detail less, and resolve it more quickly, by doing what I really wanted to believe would work. I could see it did not work very quickly, and rip it out without regret. Perhaps I have identified a new part of my sewing fantasy life?
Apologies for the poor colour. This fabric and my camera did not get on, and I do not understand why. After reconstructing every pocket in the garment and adding a few, I moved on.
Eventually I had both the front and back constructed.
Then they were ready to fit! This image does better on the actual colour. To my dismay the vintage quality of the pattern showed when I tried to get hardware. Bib and brace overalls are just not an item made at home much anymore–with corresponding limited choices in hardware and none in the size required. I was none too sure of my capacity to revise fit but we did seem to get by!
And there the story ends. Apparently I finished these overalls and handed them over without taking another picture. My friend had not been able to buy any that fit. Now they have overalls that fit, that they wear a lot… so much so that they asked for a second pair. We are swapping gardening for sewing. I love it!
In the time since I studied an online version of The Alchemist’s Apron with India Flint, in which I was introduced to the use of a rusty-object-solution iron mordant in a way that I understood freshly… there has been some time where I still felt no interest in using it. I have created some very black items with it, and some not so great prints. And then, there have been times when I thought that perhaps, I could put some effort into coming to grips with it and build my judgement. This apron was a turning point for me, where I began to see I might be able to do exciting things with it. And, I love any approach to textile dyeing where the main components are found, free and non toxic–which is why I enjoy India Flint’s approaches so much. Over time I have done quite a few experiments, including some where I created my mordant on holiday from found local objects and any leftover parts of lemons we happened to have, and combined it with the leaves available where we were staying and some calico from the local op shop. Ah, the pre-pandemic age. Maybe not my best work… but the time scale was ambitious!
What often happens as I accumulate various bits and pieces of bundle dyed fabric is that over time, a thought about what they could become forms. At first, I thought a shirt would be perfect. I asked a sewing friend and I don’t think she liked the idea as much as I did–after all it would be a grey shirt. I reconsidered. More months passed, and one day I was at The Fabric Store trying to get fabric in a specific colour for a beloved niece, and there it was, hanging on the wall in the perfect colour of a beautiful linen: The Lucie Robe. The kind of sample garment that must sell a lot of patterns and fabric, I reckon. I thought about the 20 year old terry toweling dressing gown hanging at home (a gift from my beloved now well past its best), and how many times in the last year I’ve thought I should try to make a new one. I considered the glorious (and of course, expensive) linen and then thought… I might use my iron mordanted cottons instead.
I did have to do the epic jigsaw-cum-collage that is assembling a pdf pattern. But then it was done and I was off, cutting out where the shapes of the dyed fabric worked for a pattern piece; patchworking together enough fabric for larger pieces as needed. Bits of old sheet and cast off calico, fast becoming a garment.
Somehow even the not so glorious bits work, I think–and what if they don’t? This won’t be out on the streets.
I like the E Nicholii leaves from the tree I planted myself! I also like the generous, elegant pockets.
But for me the bit that pulls it all together is the rose-leaf collar. I’m a fan. When I saw it, I had to check whether this was a silly whim. I did all that thinking about whether I really need another pattern, and even more than that–whether I need more fabric. I don’t need more fabric! But I am very happy about having chosen this to make with the fabric I already had.