String in Brisbane

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I went to Brisbane for work late last year, and Brisbane is really different to Adelaide.  It’s a tropical place.  On day one I found this pineapple just growing alongside the car park of the place where I was staying!  Public gardens in Brisbane are full of plants that require special treatment to grow in a pot in temperate Adelaide, or grow to only a fraction of the size.

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Strap-leafed plants grow everywhere you look.  Which is good, because I have taken up making string as part of a process for being in a place and thinking about its people and laws; more to the point, considering my obligations under Indigenous laws.  I do this at home, but I also do it when I travel. So I harvested dead leaves from various plants, left them soaking in the hand  basin while I was out, and had quiet contemplative evenings twining string.

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I also managed to visit the Gallery of Modern Art, and it was celebrating a big birthday.  This is one of the works commissioned for it, now located just beside the entrance.  It is by Judy Watson (Waanyi people, 2016) ‘tow row’.

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String was a theme (for me) as I wandered through the gallery.  This is a small part of Lena Kurriniya’s ‘feathered bush string’ (Kunjunwinku people, 2002). The string itself is made from Kurrajong inner bark, with bustard feathers.

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This exquisite mat was very nearly black and hard to capture in the light.  Maraana Wamarasi (Fiji, 2016) ‘Ibe Nauri’ (round mat).

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I loved the way the centre had been constructed.

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Richard Gandhuwuy Garrawurra (Liya Gawumirr people) ‘Waistband’ (1999).

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This string is made of bark fibre, and the entire work also uses cotton thread, human hair, feathers, native beeswax and natural pigments.

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This next work drew me back to ‘tow row’.  Its creator is Dorothy Bienanwangu Dullman (Kunjunwinku/Dangbon people) ‘Wollobi’ (standing fish net) (2007).  It is made from knotted sand palm leaf string and wooden struts rather than metal, but gives a strong sense of what is being referenced in the sculpture pictured above.

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I was utterly enchanted by ‘from here to ear’ (v. 13) 2010 by Celeste Boursier-Mougenot (b. France).

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This was an installation taking up a huge room and a soundscape driven by dozens of finches, making their own sounds but also triggering sounds by landing on parts of the installation. I had a lot of time on my own in the room watching the finches and surrounded by sound as they flew, ate, and nested in little baskets. Delightful!

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Turquoise socks

Back in the middle of the year, I invested in possum wool sock yarn. I have been knitting away… though I must admit the experience of losing the last pair on public transport has had me fretful for my own carelessness! The second pair are blue.  I clearly didn’t take any really early pictures.

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But here we are on a houseboat, where friends have been working on (above) tea and treats and (below) a puzzle.  I’ve finished the first sock and here is the ball that is to become the second sock.

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The pattern is what my dear friend has named ‘whimsical cabling’.

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To put it another way, I cable when I feel like it, in whichever direction seems like a good idea at the time. 2016-12-08-11-40-03

And now these socks are off to Denmark, where it is heading into winter as we enter into summer.  The world is a rather amazing place…

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Summer in the guerilla garden

It had been a cool summer up to the point when I wrote this post.  Quite unlike a usual December in these parts.  So I have been making the most of it and planting away. This time, rhagodia (seaberry saltbush), enchylaena tomentosa (ruby saltbush) and two other varieties I have not identified–one upright silver leafed variety and one that scrambles on the ground.

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I am gradually filling out spaces where the tree was recently felled as it looks like the trunk is there to stay.

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Here’s one I planted earlier (foreground), in case you’re wondering if any ever grow!

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Then over to the culvert. Ruby saltbush at the top edges.

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There are some steep banks, so I am hoping the scrambling saltbush is up to the job.  2016-12-06-07-25-37

Next, some serious weeding.  There is one local patch where most of my losses are to the poisoner.  And, I am trying to avoid the poisoner’s attention arriving at the culvert plantings. I think weeding is the answer for now. It is the best thing I can do to ensure these plants get big enough to make it.  Once the low growing plants are established, I can consider putting in larger ones.  or trees.  I am having sheoak sprouting success right now.

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And now for a gratuitous picture of two maned wood ducks with their ducklings, running downhill toward water as fast as those teeny legs can take them.  Some days walking to the bus is the best part of the working day!

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Colours of woad

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Now that everything is clean and dry, I thought I might show some outcome pictures.  First there was a linen gauze scarf.  I am hoping it might offer some portable sun protection for my neck over summer. Later there was some clamp action.

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These are handkerchiefs I made some time back from a buttery yellow sheet that passed beyond being able to be used on a bed.  I simply did not prepare for woad success and expected far less colour.  Then I remembered that I had intended to stitch and ye them with indigo…

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I do like the way they turned out!  I am still figuring out whether multiple dips actually does give me deeper colour.  If I am at the start of something and not having a – success experience with woad, I will experiment so I can make comparisons.  So far I have not been convinced that multiple dips gives deeper colour.  I am not sure whether my perception is incorrect, I have skipped a vital step, or I have prepared some of my vats in a way that means colour gets stripped out and re-deposited, which is how it seems to me.  It will be simple enough to run a test and figure out whether it’s my own eye and mind.  My technique will surely improve if I keep going.

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And finally, as the Ph of the vats dropped into the zone more suitable for wool and there was still colour, in went grey merino locks.  LOTS of woad dyed wool! So there is woad spinning yet to come.  Happiness!

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Propagating

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A guerilla gardener needs a propagation plan. Mine starts in the chook run, sieving compost and soil turned every day by our six little helpers.

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Then to the endlessly recycled pots, on the potting bench my dad made from an old kitchen sink.  It’s a great height and has a handy drain down into a bucket below.  My bucket can sit in the sink with pots on the sideboards and everything is well.

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This week I planted more saltbush seed, soaked these prostrate wattle seeds in boiling water and planted them, and pricked out the seafoam statice seedlings in the foreground above.  Then, inspired by Rebecca from needleandspindle and PIP magazine, I made some gardener’s hand scrub!  Just what a guerilla gardener needs…

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Blue silk bags

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Could I stop at … ahem… was it twelve? I lost count of the bags I had already made…and no, as usual, I couldn’t stop.  I had one more piece of silk that started out a pale blue and ended up more like this.

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There were a few pieces of cream or bronze fabric left and they were pieced in.

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The first has already gone to a lovely friend I was lucky enough to visit with when I went to Brisbane, and the second to a house warming.  And I love the buds, especially!  Well.  I am ready for any number of occasions for gifts now!  In the meantime I am still trying to work out how to wind back the Christmas gifting obligations in my family.  How to honour the ideas of generosity and reciprocity and love that perhaps moved this tradition to come into existence, but to detach from its wasteful and consumerist present.  Maybe I have to begun by asking that I not be given gifts.  Or perhaps talking about how my daughter has clearly decided that from now on she will only buy me second hand gifts.  She reached this decision without discussing it with me specifically–and it has really made me feel that she sees me!  Well.  One step at a time.

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Mellow blueness

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The woad has been thriving in this time of rain followed by warmth.  (The potatoes aren’t doing badly either, as you can see). And that can only mean one thing, when free time opens up!

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I managed to obtain Jill Goodman’s A Dyer’s Manual recently, and had the benefit of others helping me to grasp the chemistry of fresh woad and how it differs from using indigo that has already been prepared from fresh plants by someone else. I came by the book at the annual spinner’s retreat where there were folk with interest and knowledge–perfect, and very helpful indeed.  So this time I felt I knew why I was adding air in the early stages of the process, only to then remove it in the de-oygenation process required to have the dye become fully soluble and able to attach to fibres.  Previously this has been a total mystery or had me feeling I had done something wrong, or both.

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I still had part of one package of hydrosulphite left.  I am pretty keen to have it be the last.  Hydrosulphite is a substance the earth could do without. But equally, since I have it, better to use it rather than let it become stale and unusable for this process.  So I tried two vats: one with hydrosulphite and one with fructose.  The picture above is grey merino fleece descending through the ‘flower’ on the surface of the hydrosulphite vat and into the yellowy depths below.

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This image is the fructose vat, which involved some guesswork on my part (no way to measure how much woad pigment there was in my solution). I am not experienced enough to have great judgment or to trust my own judgement.  I can measure temperature and I can measure Ph.  The complex part is judging the reduction (de-oxygenation) of the vat. This looked very promising to me!  That said, there were moments when I had realisations that gave me pause.  Jill Goodman, for example, seems to live in England and I suspect her conditions and mine are not the same. She goes from scalding leaves with boiling water through various processes to heating the vat to raise it to 50C (there was a lot of conversion to metric involved for me)… I did the processes concerned and still had a vat at 70C and decided in the end to put the vat in a sink of cold water and ice!

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This linen scarf did the amazing woad magic of going from yellow to green to blue when put out into the air.

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Both of my tied textiles dyed only on the outside and therefore were re-tied and re-dipped. The greeny-blue of the image above converted to blue very quickly on rinsing (you can see an image further down).

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Soon I had dyed my planned fabrics and imagined that the vat would be exhausted, because previous vats have yielded so little.  The next day it was clear that the hydros vat was not exhausted, so I adjusted Ph and temperature and set about continuing to dye. The fructose vat was still not reduced, so far as I could tell with a test dip, though again it looked promising and eventually looked much like the hydros vat.  However, it still had not reduced, and thus, was unable to dye.  In the late afternoon I decided it probably didn’t have any dye in it. Do not read on if you have a weak constitution–but one of the reasons for my belief was that I had accidentally boiled the fructose vat early in the process. Eeek! I had a very little hydros left, so added some to the fructose vat.  Then half an hour later, a little more.  30 minutes later, it came into order and began to dye, and I dyed using both vats until bed time using the only clean fleece I seem to have. The fructose-hydros vat dyed over two more days, as it turned out!

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I threw in more cloth and went to bed, feeling extremely pleased.  On the down side, I used hydros.  On the up side, it can only have been a matter of time before that fructose vat would have reduced.  I just needed to hold my nerve and be patient.  Maybe add more fructose. Admittedly, time is one of my biggest issues because I do have a day job and other commitments.  However, this is by far the most successful woad effort to date.  I now understand that I need to use a vat rather than direct dyeing for the woad to be wash-fast.  I think I now have a sense of how to tell whether there is dye in the vat (at all) as I process the solution.  The low concentrations of colour claimed for woad are not so low as to make it useless, and I have quite a bit of leaf.  One vat with 1.6 kg leaves and one with 900g leaves from one part of the garden where other things have struggled to grow well–and this is my second harvest from them.  I also have the happy sense that my understanding is sufficient to reach success with a fermentation/fructose vat given time.  The pigment from my previous crop of woad is in a different vat which has not shown promise even though I have been waiting for weeks.  But it still may!  And I am confident now that reduction is the main issue and not one of the other possibilities.  Very encouraging mellow blues–and more pictures to come when everything is clean and dry.

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This week in guerilla gardening

As the weather begins to really start to warm, I am increasingly keen to get plants into the ground if I can. I still have weaving rushes (sedges) that need happy homes.  There tubestock pots have become less and less happy.

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Careful observation makes me think the place where they might have enough soil moisture to make it through the summer is in the culvert I have begun planting out.  I added them to edge of the channel, where there is some clay that is still quite wet. Those further up the bank were planted a few weeks ago and have grown quite visibly.  I spent some time trying to increase the water holding shaping of the bank, as you can see water just runs down it despite my efforts.

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Here is the other side of the bank, complete with mystery plants.

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I also planted this scrambling saltbush.  One of them had a stray sheoak seedling in with it.  Fingers crossed!

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A few boobialla up on the top of the banks.

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And here is the bigger picture.  You can barely see my plantings, just the mystery plants, about 30-40 cm high.

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Gnaphalium affine (jersey cudweed)?  Helichrysum luteoalbum? Pseudognaphalium luteoalbum? One source suggests the last two are are the same plant… and that the common name is Jersey cudweed. Thanks for your suggestions! I will keep looking and accepting clues.  Meanwhile, the mystery continues…

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Drawstring silk bags

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Some time ago I dyed some silk I found at the Guild trading table. Just recently though, I stopped looking at it, draped around the place, and realised what it could become. I am hoping these little bags will be pleasing gifts, and in some cases, replace wrapping paper in the coming season of compulsory gifting, which I prefer to involve as little waste as possible, as I have not managed to convert my family to thinking perhaps this is not the best possible way to show our affection for one another. I love giving people gifts, but I find the compulsory nature of it and the set date, just leads to waste, and giving and getting things that are not always wanted or needed.

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You knew where this was going, didn’t you?  I couldn’t possibly stop at one or two.

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I think it is partly the satisfaction of figuring something out and routinising it.  Practising it.  Being able to create a little system.  This wouldn’t satisfy every mind, but evidently there is something in it for me.

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I think it is also as simple as getting on a roll and being able to make maximum use of a piece of fabric. Again, not something that has an inherent logic that would work for everyone. And clearly the attitude of a person who has an outward bound stash rather than just one precious piece of fabric. I enjoyed piecing together some of the fabric so I could use it all, as you can see.

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I also made one from one of the fronts of a linen shirt dyed some time ago. The bronze-coloured fabric became two larger bags with double draw strings. And so here I am, hours of pleasurable bag making behind me and happy times of gifting ahead!  I hope your plans for the gifting season are going well…

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Guerilla gardening continues in spring

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Yesterday I was out and about before work in the cool morning after some rain during the night.  In one spot, I added some tiny saltbush to continue closing the gap between established plants and a pathway.

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On the other side of the path, the same process.  I gave these some little sticks in honour of the neighbour who lives nearest.  He approves of the planting and thinks sticks help.  I am never entirely sure–sometimes they just attract unwanted attention.

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A tree was felled here just recently and the predecessors of these boobiallas were taken out in the hubbub.  I have been unsure how long to wait to discover whether the trunk of this massive ironbark will be collected.  While the canopy of the tree was taken away after it was felled (over two days)… the trunk is lying there and has been for some time now.  The longer I leave it, the smaller the chance of preventing parking on this area will become for the year ahead.  meanwhile the truck is stopping bike and foot traffic through this patch, which creates an opportunity for plants to grow undisturbed.

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The tree had died, and since heavy machinery was parked on its root zone right up to the trunk for two years, I have to say parking might be part of what killed this tree and the one that used to stand beside it. Perhaps I am wrong–but this made me more inclined to plant and try to fend off more soil compaction here.

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A few more ground covers facing the road where some were lost in the flood. In case you might think there is no progress, look at the size of these ruby saltbush planted in the last year, on the same site.

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Then, some weeding.  The last thing I want is for the poisoner to take out these little plants unawares while poisoning the weeds. Then I went round to the new site by the culvert and weeded there. The unidentified plant is doing well and flowering. It is not curry plant.  That really is what my parents have in their front garden, and there are similarities.  But the smell is really distinctive, and missing here.  All clues accepted, dear readers!

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On one small saltbush, I found these little critters.  I hope they won’t take too much… I was rather charmed to find signs of life in this unpromising spot, personally.

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And then home again with weeds galore.

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