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.
One of the things that made blogging less attractive this year was that there were periods of being conscious that we in South Australia had a long period of pandemic luck and consequently, freedom to do things–that was not being shared by loved ones and strangers very close to home–let alone by people in the rest of the world. This is a sock in progress, the first time I went out to a cafe after many months.
Here it is again, on a bus after a long time of no public transport. Unlike all those who lost work in this period, I was offered a few weeks of work, and I see from the trousers in this picture that I am on my way to work rather than being my usual scruffy self.
This is the day I walked the grandbub to sleep in the pram, and then sat in the park for two hours while she slept. That’s how precious the naps of the grandbub are, my friends! My beloved is such a treasure that she responded to a call after some considerable time in which I enjoyed the park, basked in having had any role in the nap at all, and admired the sleeping sweetheart, the trees and the birds… and brought my knitting to me so that I didn’t need to move the bub.
Here they are, ready to be an early birthday present for someone who treasures her handknit socks. They are the latest in the scrap socks odyssey, and happily the recipient likes them. And for those who like details… here are some!
In 2020 I began to receive what I have been laughingly calling “commissions”. It began with some socks and some mending, but it seems to be increasing in a rather interesting and pleasing way!
It is a rare kind of person who asks if you will reproduce their favourite cotton shirt, but in denim from old jeans. Yet, this happened! I admit, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of constructing plackets from denim, for a start. But I called to ask the questions I needed to reassure myself about attempting the task, and then I began. I ripped a LOT of jeans into component parts. I ran out of those I had been given and called out on the local Buy Nothing group, and got a pile of someone’s husband’s cast off jeans.
Step 1: draft a pattern. This is not my first attempt to draft a pattern from a finished garment, but it is always instructive to make things for other people. It tells me about the limits of my confidence, for a start. And, it is fair to say I don’t make perfect things! After a lot of checking and re checking (I love how I’ve written my reasoning on the pattern as I go here), I had a pattern. Step 2: cut out the component parts from jeans, and then patchwork jeans together to create pieces big enough for the bigger components. This is not a small shirt, it’s a really big one.
Eventually it started to come together. One of the big design decisions was settling on how to finish seams inside, to prevent fraying and ensure strength–but also, given the huge number of seams–to ensure they would not be too bulky. Solution: zigzag the layers of the seam allowance together, then topstitch flat. Honestly, another design decision was taking the person whose shirt this was to become seriously. Taking seriously what they wanted and what they cared about. Surely this is at the heart of a bespoke garment…?
Then began the construction process. I have never made a shirt with this kind of front placket, but I figured it was essentially just like the one on a cuff, only larger. Reverse engineering the plackets gave me a lot of pause (by which I mean, anxiety!) But succeeding in generating the pattern and then creating them made me feel highly competent. Just as well I’m not too convinced my emotions should be in the drivers’ seat of my life, or I’d stay in bed every day and sew only simple stuff forever, apparently.
I warmed up on the sleeve plackets.
Then the front placket and the pocket and such…
On with the sleeves… then on with the cuffs. And pretty soon, it was all done. The time consuming jeans-acquiring and -ripping part was a significant part of the entire time I spent making this garment.
I can’t say that I managed a good image of the whole thing. I’ve struggled with images at times on this blog: the things that take most time and effort to create in sewing and knitting are the hardest to photograph well. But here are attempts. I have to say that I admire the grunt of my machine (and the effectiveness of a jeans needle) in getting through pleats set into a cuff in denim and other similar feats.
Happiest moment of all was the review from the recipient, however! What a grin.
And I am all the more confident… because he wanted a second one. Here it is from the back…
This morning [well, it was a morning in October 2020–] I headed out with Bulbine lilies (Bulbine bulbosa) I was gifted from a neighbour who runs a project called Grow, Grow, Grow Your Own. They arrived as many seedlings in a single pot and I grew them on. Some thrived and some did not, and I am not able to say why, yet. I’ve never grown this plant before.
Here I am preparing to head out into the street… you will be glad to know that I asked for a metal watering can for my birthday and now have a glorious watering can. I bought another second hand, but it was crushed when a huge bough from our neighbour’s lemon scented gum dropped on our side of the fence. Given the size of the bough and the beauty of the tree, I was sad to lose the watering can but felt I had experienced a miracle! One of these has since fallen apart and gone to rigid plastics recycling.
I decided having researched online that they may need more water than our area usually gets, so I settled on a spot with a watering system, and chose a partially shaded spot, creating a massed planting around some of the pomegranate trees I have put in. If there is ever a grove of pomegranates surrounded by a carpet of yellow flowers? How amazing would that be!
This is one of the bulbine lilies in the ground beside the council watering system.
For context, these are salt bushes I planted earlier, thriving nearby.
And this is a bad image of one of the pomegranate trees! And below–the classic heading home shot, complete with only a little litter picked up…
Now, dear readers, it has been some time since I posted. Thanks for your patience, if you’ve been patiently waiting (I’ve been surprised to discover that some people have been). Thanks to those who signed up during the pause I turn out to have taken. Apologies if you have been concerned for my wellbeing (I did not expect that but ralise I should have–as I have seen blogs stop suddenly and then realised that the blogger has been facing cancer, or divorce). My life has had its ups and downs, to be sure. But in the year that has just passed, with all the suffering and trouble it has brought for so many people, I feel lucky and privileged. I just somehow stopped posting!
This post was begun in October 2020 and I can now update it and tell you that only two (2) bulbine lilies have survived to this point but they are about four times the size they were, and have flowered. I will see if I can propagate from them so I can keep trying for that massed planting! All four pomegranate trees have survived, though, and that makes me very happy. I’ve weeded this site both on my own and with a friend, and it is looking so much better since I found where the council water system was leaking and fixed it with part of our garden hose, during an early stage of the pandemic when calling the council seemed…surplus to requirements. No longer is part of the site in drought while part of it is flooded regularly!
And now, let’s see if I keep posting or not. And how random the sequence of posts becomes 🙂
The “DIY baby shoes that are too cute to pass up” pattern from Spoonflower is just as good as its name. My daughter is so keen, this is my second attempt to grade it up a little to fit growing little feet. Also, she loved this fabric so much, this is #2!
This attempt was a better fit (despite them looking so little alike, *cough*), so here is another pair, made from pre-loved jeans fabric.
I did a little embroidery, and raided the stash of leather scraps and samples for two more different-coloured soles!
Progress shot of the hardest part, getting them right-side-out.
Out in the thyme patch.
In the sand pit! (this pair came to an early and appalling end, but they did their job, protecting precious little feet)…. the denim pair are clear favourites at the moment. I have been highly entertained to hear my daughter refer to them as “the Van Goghs”!
This year I went wild and dug a lot of the madder patch.
There was the soaking, rinsing, weighing (TWO KILOGRAMS, just quietly) and picking over. There was potting up some plants in case others want some.
There was mordanting (with alum).
There was the grinding up.
Then the heating begins. I am proud to say that for once I did not boil my dye vat. Really, the list of my dyeing crimes is too extensive to list! So I rate this a bit of a triumph.
I must say, that despite the amount of root, and the amount of dyeing (and the difficulty of getting a picture that captures it properly)… there was not actually a lot of red. Grey yarn became terra cotta (not that you can tell in the image), there is a lot of lovely orange, there is fabric that is various orange shades. Red silk embroidery thread and some red fleece. It’s not terrible, but it isn’t quite what I hoped for, either. It may be that it is time for some more research! If more experienced folks have insight to offer, do feel free! This year I really tried for long, slow heating, and came closer to achieving it than previously. But still…
Dear friends asked me whether I would be prepared to make their son a waistcoat for his birthday. After some efforts to access a paper pattern second hand, I used the free pattern from mesewcrazy.
I managed to cut the main pattern pieces from a pair of jeans of the right colour. Then I chose some silk I was given for the lining. It was given to me by a friend whose friend had destashed this and other fabrics.