Circular economy households

We have begun participating in a research project on circular economy households, that will be a PhD thesis. It is such a lovely idea, and the research methodology relies, in part, on photography. These are some of the images I’ve sent the rather delightful, very smart and committed researcher.

Bread rising, full of candied peel I’ve made from citrus peels that would otherwise go straight to compost. Bread that doesn’t come in a plastic bag!

Some of the pre-loved bottles that have housed the ginger beer of last summer, waiting for warmer weather. They have been refilled many times at our house and travelled the neighbourhood going to other people’s homes, picnics and dinners.

Uh, oh! The pages of books that have come into our street library and haven’t made the cut. These are culled and used as sheet mulch. They will return to soil in our garden. I hate to say it, but sometimes even books have to go. Books that are so racist or sexist that they won’t be circulating through the support of our household. Proselytising materials. Ancient texts that are so out of date they are really being dumped. Sorry, but there it is. Even though I love books!

Jars that have come from Buy Nothing and will soon be filled with olives.

The crockery bank glasses drawer, ready to travel to events or parties. IT hasn’t travelled much during the pandemic.

My second hand iron on the iron board cover I made from a friend’s mother’s stashed ticking after her mother died. That ticking would have come off a mattress her very thrifty mother unpicked and saved.

The ever loving tea towel collection. Home made bread travelling to other folks’ homes often gets a nice, clean tea towel that isn’t a favourite (in case its journey is long or it enters the vast collection of travelling teatowels, never to return!) So that is a loaf of sourdough ready to be delivered to a friend.

Random beautiful wattle.

Scraps from vegetables ready to be made into stock.

Parsley, seedlings and aloe vera going from our household to other people via the Grow Free cart.

These are some of our stories about reducing waste. Feel free to share yours!


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Stitch it, don’t ditch it: October 17

Our throw-away society is drowning us in waste, and speeding up the climate crisis. Come and join us in reducing waste, at our next Stitch-it-don’t-ditch-it event. As part of the Festival of Climate Action, we will be gathering to mend, stitch, rework and create, from 1-3pm on Sunday 17th October. We will be located at the north end of Tardanyangga/Vic Sq, with time to chat, introduce others to mending, or contribute to the Felt Book being created during the festival. Create a small panel with a message or an image! Help stitch a banner! Teach someone how to mend or repair! With a special shout-out to International Repair Day – ‘Repair lowers carbon emissions’. All welcome, family-friendly.

To book a ticket, please go here. To see more about what is happening over the three days of the festival visit the programme.

Anyone will be welcome to attend any of the sessions running during the weekend regardless of whether they have registered. If a session is over-subscribed though due to Covid limitations for our “indoor” marquee spaces, preference will be given to those who have RSVP’ed.

This is a grass roots community event. Please support us by donating to our crowdfunding campaign:

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This quilt is quite some years old now, and it had sprung a hole.

A few hand stitches fixed it!

It took a lot more for my bike trailer to get repaired. I asked my Dad if he would be my advisor, but that I was happy to do the work. He said he would be happy to mentor me, but after the first discussion he decided it needed to be repaired at his house. I’d already done some of the work of taking it apart, but then–he just finished the job!

Here it is, before. I bought this trailer new from the chap who made it, in the 1980s. It has done a lot of kilometres. In the early years I used it to haul ingredients from Gaganis where it was cheapest to buy them, to the place I lived in, in Prospect in those days. I was making cakes for a living and I wasn’t making much! I would deliver the cakes in it as well–I had a cunning system involving some stout cardboard and a lot of cleaned empty tin cans, that let me transport them in several layers. These days, I am mostly hauling guerilla gardening supplies in it: plants, cardboard, scraps for composting and mulch.

Dad replaced the sad old box that was the main component of the trailer with one he had used a lot in much better condition. He regreased the hubs, and reinforced a part of the tubing that was worn through, with a second hand metal bracket. The missing hub cap has been replaced with the lid from a deodorant (!) He even used some paint he had to make it look nicer and protect the metal of the tubing. I have absolutely loved having it returned to smooth operation, and seeing how he decided to approach this job, makes me feel like a chip off the old block!

This is a stepped through sequence of mending my jeans back pocket. I’ve decided what to cut out, then decided what shape and size of patch I need. I needed to rip part of the seam holding the pocket to the jeans, to get the patch in position and turn its edges under.

Finally, I restitched the pocket seam into position. And there you have it.

Here is the second knee mend on these same jeans. I love wearing them but they were second hand when I started wearing them and they are not such sturdy quality that they will last forever. Meanwhile…

Then, there was a pile of reusable nappies. They needed new velcro. I used some of Joyce’s stash and replaced it. These are going to a family expecting their first child. I’d keep going, but maybe that’s enough for one post? Because the mending rolls on 🙂


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NEWSFLASH #stitchitdontditchit THIS SUNDAY at Festival of Climate Action

Dear Readers, If you are local (Adelaide) and would like to hang out with menders and stitchers (or learn to mend and how to thread a needle), we will be hanging out at the Festival of Climate Action this Sunday 17 October 2021, 1-3 pm. We will be in Tarntanyangga (Victoria Square). Look for us on the hay bales, and bring whatever you would like to mend, or join a collaborative stitching project. Full programme here!

You can find the full programme for the Festival here.

Here is what the Festival has to say about where we are at:

Join us for a family-focused weekend where we can connect, learn and prepare to take action to tackle the climate crisis together. If you’re new to the world of climate activism or already deeply involved then this is the space for you.The festival begins on Friday 15th October after the next School Strike 4 Climate rally. Throughout the 3 days there will be talks, workshops, music, food trucks, art activities and more.

The scale and pace of change to our climate has almost no precedent.

The last time CO2 was this high in our atmosphere was 2 million years ago when rich forests covered the Antarctic.

Immediate, deep and sustained change is needed.

To do this, we need everyone: old and young, people of faith, parents, business leaders, politicians, artists, you.

The latest report from the world’s leading climate scientists is clear: there is still hope.

There is still a narrow path to avoid a climate catastrophe.

But only if we act fast.

From now on every fraction of a degree matters.

Every tonne of carbon matters.
Every day matters.
Every choice matters.

The decisions we take and the actions we make today will resonate for centuries. The next few years will be the most consequential in human history.

What we do with it is up to each of us.

In the lead up to the COP 26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, come along to learn what you can do, be inspired and connect with others who want to make a difference.We choose to come together because we can – on behalf of all those in isolation throughout the country and the world.And we choose to come together because we must.

This festival is a collaboration between many partners. Come and join in!

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I screenprinted some more patches. This time, the endangered spotted quoll. This is artwork that has been given to Extinction Rebellion by the artist.

These are printed onto fabric that is otherwise on its way to landfill, from op shops and the local Buy Nothing group. Then I made some patches specifically for one of our local Extinction Rebellion actions focused on SANTOS.

This is my classic hand cut stencil. I start with unloved wallpaper from the Adelaide Remakery and the XR font, and then move to using it with a screen. This is the way I learned to screen print in the 1980s. Basic, but it does the job!

And here is the Greenwash Cleanup Crew, preparing to clean the windows at SANTOS HQ!

If you would like more of the story, check it out here–and see the cleanup crew hard at work!

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Guerilla weeding, mulching, propagating, planting and admiring rain

This planting in a culvert has been going pretty well. It used to be just weeds and trash and smashed glass! The way to keep it getting poisoned or attracting unwanted attention is to keep it looking good and keep it weeded. I can’t keep up weeding on all the patches, but I do what I can. On the left: what I took going out. On the right: what I brought home.

This is a short sedge planting mission (with a stop to collect glass jars from a Buy Nothing neighbour!) that is the jars in a pannier while I’m hauling sedges and mulch in the trailer… and rubbish back home again. There was a spot by the railway line that became a pool when the winter rains really came down. Eucalypt seedlings had wet feet too long and all but one died. I went and planted sedge there instead. So far it’s going well.

Here is a picture of the same spot after rain, a bit later!!!

This is the local park where we have planted so many sedges in the creek bank, when the creek is really running and quite high. And the sedges are submerged, holding the creek bank, we hope!

This winter there was so much rain, there was an actual waterfall at Morialta falls, where often I have seen it dry.

Meanwhile, back home, sedge propagating using starts from the Mother, growing well in the culvert at the top of the post.

Another mission to the sedge planting by the railway line, this time, mulching. My sister gave me the bamboo she wanted to cut from her place. I saved the bamboo and took the leaves and such (plus cardboard) over to this spot for mulch. Then home with rubbish. The cardboard isn’t visible under the layer of mulch (except when dogs or people lift it up). But it is there, helping suppress weeds.


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Guerilla gardening: kangaroo apple edition

A friend has been propagating kangaroo apples and investigating how they were used by First Nations people in our locations as well as what science has revealed about them. I offered to take some of them and somehow ended up with, oh… thirty! So we loaded up and went to plant.

Some went in by the railway line. Then we went to the park, where some fine birds were sighted!

By the end, the usual empty pots, and collected rubbish.

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Guerilla gardening

I’ve built a relationship with someone from the Council, and one day, they got in touch to ask if I’d be able to plant 125 plants in a local spot. I said yes! Here they are on their way to the banks of Willa Willa, the local creek.

We planted and planted and planted. The creek was still running then.

Two of us put them all in. Afterwards, a bucket of litter, muddy knees, and lots of pots for re-use!


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Embroidery: Oppression to Expression

A while back, I went to the Exhibition Embroidery: Oppression to Expression at the David Roche Foundation in North Adelaide. I must admit, I only realised this private gallery was there some time in the last year. This is the first time I’ve been there. It ran through until 25 September, and inexplicably, I drafted this post and didn’t realise I had failed to post it. Sorry! I was initially attracted to the exhibit because it included a selection of survivalist samplers: part of a project initiated by Sera Waters in response to the pandemic. The example above is Survivalist Sampler: Apron by Kay Lawrence. I was particularly drawn to her use of sewing/sowing and clearly pre-loved materials.

This is Sera Waters’ Survivalist Sampler #2. Rich in details! I have watched this sampler evolve on social media and been a bit fascinated by this concept and the way many so people have taken it up.

And this is Leonie Andrews’ Survivalist Sampler: March 2020 Covid Diary. Again, rich in detail, and I love the inclusion of the pocket bags, the yellow tailed black cockatoos winging through the details of a city life. These works had me noticing how the theme of time appears again and again, whether explicitly (as in Kay Lawrence’s work) or implicitly, in the way that works engage with dailiness and detail; the small picture of the kitchen and garden rather than the world at large, with a time scale to match.

The exhibition contained a considerable selection of historical and contemporary Embroidery, drawn together from private and public collections and those in the hands of religious institutions. This placket sampler attributed to RHAS and dated 1818 is thought to have come from the Netherlands. I’ve seen buttonhole samplers before, but never a placket sampler!

My brother-in-law has framed a buttonhole sampler that has been passed down in his family, and I admire it every time I stay in their home. It’s not as fancy as this one (but it has more buttonholes!) This one is by the well known RAS, also possibly from The Netherlands.

This stomacher is by the famous, long lived and prolific female artist “Unknown”; 1715-1730. The exhibition contains many examples of beautiful garments and garment fragments. This one did have me laughing a little, as I only know what a stomacher is because I read the fabulous book The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, 1660-1900 by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux. Because of the historical period it covers, I learned quite a few new words!

This sampler by Mary Wilkin was one of many on display.

And this is by Charlotte Legg.

The selection of contemporary embroidery was really interesting to me. In particular, Makeda Duong’s works. Above, Sales Tips for the Red Capitalist; and below, Bipolar Disorder.

All in all–a fabulous exhibition! Sorry you’ve missed it though!


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Tent stitch tutorial

Once upon a time, I was a Girl Guide. It was so long ago, that I was a Girl Guide who camped out in the bush under canvas. Yes, in tents made of cotton canvas, and held up with guy ropes made of natural fibres that did not have cleats and required some sophisticated knot tying, to be adjusted into a nice taut surface. In tents that were not waterproof, so that they needed to be taut, and to have a separate (taut) canvas fly also held up with actual rope, to help keep the water off, and a nice trench dug around them to redirect rain if rain fell. In tents that did not have floors sewn into them. In that time, long ago and far away, I learned how to mend tents with hand stitches, and the kind of mending we most often did was to repair rips in the canvas that needed to have their edges drawn together. The canvas was so stout that I don’t remember the kind of wear that creates a bigger hole.

Maybe someone can set me right about the name of the stitch I learned to achieve this: I have always called it tent stitch, probably because that is what my Guider called it!

Example 1: crotch tear in jeans, right along the line of the seam. I have used tent stitch to pull the edges of the tear together tidily so the patch I sewed on inside in the next stage of this mend will not yell out its presence. The wearer of these jeans doesn’t want attention drawn to this part of himself, any more than I would.

This stitch has many uses. I most often use it these days to pull together the edges of tears where there is no real amount of fabric missing, or hardly any “hole”. The fabric is still all there, it’s just that it has been torn in some way. Three corner tears can be repaired this way. Jeans that have torn along a seam can be repaired in this way. I like to start with tent stitch if I want a tear repaired to minimise its visibility, even if I will also apply a patch on the inside for strength. Using this stitch means the fabric is returned to something approximating its previous shape and pattern.

Example 2: this is a wheat bag made of corduroy that has begun to split along the wales and leak wheat. I’ve used tent stitch to mend it in sashiko thread. It’s just late night hasty mending really but it makes the stitch a lot more visible.

How to: begin with your torn fabric.

This is perfect (looks like someone cut it!!): the fabric is basically intact–but there is a tear there that needs the edges brought together to be repaired.

Choose your thread. Thread needs to be strong enough for the job, but not so strong that it will pull through your fabric. I remember mending a sarong that had been hanging on a wall from some map pins. One pin tore through, creating a three corner tear which I repaired with machine sewing thread to match the weight and colour of the fabric.

Here, on medium weight cotton drill, trying to make what I am doing obvious, I’m using sashiko thread (quite thick cotton thread). In the jeans above, 2 strands of embroidery thread, allowing for a strong but colour matched mend.

Knot the end of your thread, and pull it up through the fabric to the right side, beside the end of the tear. You can even “make believe” that the tear is a bit longer and do some reinforcing stitches that extend past the end of the tear, if the fabric needs reinforcing.

Push your needle up to the right side, and then slip it in through the tear to the wrong side. Push it up through to the right side again.

That’s basically all there is to it. Keep going. The needle comes up through the fabric on the right side, on one side of the tear. Then down through the tear and up to the right side again, on the other side of the tear. To spread the load on your mend, alternate between a long stitch and a short stitch (optional but fun). If you want to make this very neat, draw or tack two lines on each side of the tear and parallel to it, and use them as guides for where to push your needle up on the right side each time. I turn the work each time.

You can make it decorative by creating a shape with your stitches. It doesn’t have to be a rectangle (sort of) like this one–you could create an oval or a leaf shape, for example. Just draw the outline on the fabric, or tack it on and use as a guide for your stitches.

Tips for success: as you put your needle in through the tear, shuffle the previous stitch up against its neighbours. Keep the stitches close together for a neat, effective mend. Keep an eye on your tension. Too tight and you will have a permanent pucker in your fabric. Too loose and the edges will not be pulled together, when pulling them together was the whole point.

Finishing off: once you reach the end of the tear, take at least one stitch where you put the needle through the fabric beyond the end of the tear, so that you can tie off on the wrong side and the knot will not pull through. Congratulations! That’s tent stitch!


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