Seasonal tasks for the guerilla gardener

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A long, record breakingly hot summer has come to an end–almost.  So I’ve been out in the streets, saving eucalypt leaves that have fallen in the heat of summer, and that would be headed into the drain if there was enough rain to wash anything down a drain. I’ve taken it as a bit of a project to gather what I can, prioritising leaves destined for waterways and sewers when they could be mulching my garden instead. And that bag? Each time, I take a bag with me.  I have a little stack of them that have held greasy filthy fleece and that will not be washed and re used in the kitchen–and they are being used to pick up rubbish.  Because when you’re out in the neighbourhoood with gardening gloves on, you will never be better prepared for the job. And because, when you come from  a colonising people and live in a colonised country, opportunities to care for this place are opportunities to take up.

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Saltbush are fruiting and all kinds of native plants are seeding so it’s seed collection time too, and when what I hope is the last of the big heat passes, I’ll be planting out seedlings and taking cuttings.  I’ve made a start on planting out sedge offsets into pots already (but you know, I didn’t think of taking a picture).

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Adelaide has had the Fringe, the Festival and WOMAD recently and I had a dip into all of them (well, maybe not the Festival proper). I got to see Pussy Riot! And Yothu Yindi! And Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping! And so much more–but these acts in particular had me enlivened about the importance of doing things that are not expected.  In places where they may not be welcomed.  And yet are so important. Somehow that seems like cultural guerilla gardening to me, planting seeds where they may and may not germinate.  I take my inspirations where I find them and with gratitude.

And meanwhile, I gather leaves and pick up rubbish! And since I didn’t post this draft when I wrote it… still more… and several barrow leaves of falling autumn street tree leaves too.

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More pink socks!

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I had enough cochineal dyed yarn for a second pair of socks, and in a moment where I just didn’t have time to wind more balls, I cast on.

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I knit quite a bit on one of our long and lovely walks.  That is my beloved striding out ahead of me making the bridge undulate ever so slightly!

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There was quite a game of yarn chicken going on at the end–for the non knitters, this is where the knitter messes with their own mind trying to outwit the ball of yarn in an effort to make it last to the end of the project.  There are just a few metres left here.  Though in all honesty, these socks are yet again not quite the same length despite my best efforts!

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And now they are on their way to a friend whose last pair wore through without warning at an inconvenient moment–a report of which reached me when I was about one and a half of these socks in!  Long may her feet be cosy and her legs be strong.

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The rebellion begins

Needless to say, every big day takes preparation by many people. I can’t completely imagine the preparation that has gone into the thousands of people who have joined the Extinction Rebellion and converged on London, blockading streets and bridges in an effort to compel their government to act on climate change and ecological breakdown. In our relatively little place, though, I can say some of what’s been happening behind the scenes.

As high vis vests continue to trickle in, (for marshals to use in keeping people safe on the streets or when doing banner drops) and patches emerge from the screen printing (and stitching) rebel, I’ve been stitching them on to keep our collection growing.

Then there was doing a quiet recce at parliament house, where I can highly recommend the tour. It is informative and there are some beautiful things to be seen as well as some evidence of the corruption that featured in the colonial period to be heard of!  Above, some of the suffragists responsible for our state granting women the right to vote (after Aotearoa/New Zealand led the way) as well as the right to stand for parliament (included in the Bill as an amendment, expected to sink the Bill and defeat the suffrage–there has to be comeuppance sometimes!)  The women’s suffrage centenary tapestries in the lower house of parliament were woven by local weavers as a community arts project and there are many members of my Guild listed as weavers.

Here, the red line in the carpet over which a white gentleman (Indigenous people not even recognised as citizens in this period, let alone as able to stand for parliament or vote) must not step with a sword.  Yes, a throwback to English history.  Then  there was the preparation of a rebel outfit for a certain poster child, at the request of her mother.

And then came the big day.  Inspired by Scottish rebels, 13 of us who had trained and prepared for the role went on a tour of parliament and then declined to leave the lower chamber, where we formed our own citizens’ assembly and each delivered a speech about our fears for future generations if our governments do not begin to tell the truth and act on it by taking emergency level action on climate change and the ecological crisis. Here our police liaisons explain the situation to our charming and very informative guide. He was astounded that we would pass up the opportunity to see the upper house!

Here one of us is on the phone to the Premier’s office.

A lighthearted moment with a possum who survived two boys’ childhoods and told me “if we don’t get action on climate change, and soon, we’re all STUFFED” at which I had to point out I thought the possum was (just barely) stuffed already.

I suggested rebels bring a pack of cards or their knitting just in case of a long wait.  Then I left my knitting at home–oops–but others were better prepared!

And then eventually we were, as the TV news put it, “forcibly removed” with our suffrage foremothers looking down on us.  I think they would have understood. And Joyce Steele (in blue on the wall in the image below) the first female MP in the state, elected in the 1950s–she was looking down on us too. I have a soft spot for her, having encountered her reading Hansard. She spoke to the Bill that eventually decriminalised abortion in our state in 1975, the first time in the history of the state that a woman had been able to speak to this matter in parliament in the period since English criminal law was imposed over Indigenous law through colonisation. Though clearly not a big fan of abortion, Joyce Steele was equally clearly unable to remain silent.  She had heard the terrible stories of the women in her electorate who had come to see her on this issue over her life as an MP, as well as being prepared to speak to the lack of sexuality education and access to contraception in her time.

With Joyce looking down, we were removed from the chamber and taken out to the stairs where our fellow rebels and some media and my beloveds were waiting. And may others join us as a result.  ABC TV coverage from 8.05 here.  Local news here.  More at xrsa.com.au.

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A report on recent climate action

There was a great report on the Australian government’s climate action on national TV this week. And lest I be misunderstood by people who are not from around here, what I mean is our government’s virtually complete inaction.  The barrier our politicians represent to real action. The world’s scientists have declared that we need 12 years of emergency level action on an unprecedented global scale to avert catastrophe, and the Australian governments federal and state are doing the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears, chanting “rhubarb rhubarb”, pushing cash in a brown paper bag toward the fossil fuel industry, and behaving as though there is nothing to worry about.

Meanwhile, the schoolchildren of the world and supportive adults are organising in the streets. #climatestrike. Because schoolchildren know the gravity of the situation.  That is how smart they are; that is also how transparent government inaction is. So I added myself to their number in solidarity, and when I had to squeeze myself onto the train to get to the rally, I already knew it was going to be BIG!  My pictures don’t do it justice. I love being able to stand behind children’s leadership on this issue.

Extinction Rebellion in four states of our country delivered our demands to our governments in March.  Here in South Australia we read out our demands and hand delivered them (yes, we did it by email as well just in case) to the government, the parliament and the Advertiser as a representative of the media.  I realise it’s a lot to ask when the planet is at risk (cough)–but we are demanding government and the media tell the truth about climate change and take serious, emergency level action. Our collection of upcycled high visibility vests for marshals and police liaisons have been screen printed by an awesome friend; cured in the hot sun (the photo) and aired out after use ready for a good deal of future action.

And then there was Paddle Out for the Bight, an action designed to let Equinor (a Norwegian fossil fuel giant) know that we do not think drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight is a good idea.  Because–whale sanctuary and wilderness–oil spill modelling shows unbelievable damage would result from a spill in these treacherous seas–and, you know?? CLIMATE CHANGE is a mighty good reason to keep it in the ground. See you on the streets and on the beaches, my friends.

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Boomerang Bags

The most recent stack of Boomerang Bags were made over a considerable period. Here are some in progress–straps being interfaced with shaggy leftovers of flanellette sheet well past last use on a bed, and a shirt being turned into a bag lining.

I made linings out of all manner of bits and pieces. The Remakery had a sale and I went in and bought upholstery samples and scraps of cotton fabrics. Here are some of them being pieced together for linings.

And eventually, there were bags–spot the upholstery samples!

And more bags…

Still more bags…

And yet more.

And in due course, I handed them over and the amazing BB volunteer I see most often exchanged them for more labels!

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Cochineal dyed Frankensocks

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Back in December, I began another pair of Frankensocks. Merino-silk legs made from commercial yarn, with a tough foot and sole made from handspun Ryeland wool gifted to me by the wonderful Rebecca from Needle and Spindle.

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I began knitting on a day of respite from what was, for my beloved, six weeks of intensively caring for her parents after one more health crisis threw the fragile balance of their lives together into complete disarray. We spent a blessed day and night at the home of one of her precious high school friends. The company was excellent, the conversation flowed freely, and needless to say, they are contemporaries with their own stories to tell about difficult times such as this one. And thus I had a cuff knit.

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That first sock went pretty slowly. Most of the time we were the care crew, I wasn’t able to knit,and needless to say, knitting was not a priority. And so it was January and the first sock was still in progress when I went to Melbourne hoping to be there when a certain babe came into the world. Here I am with a heavily pregnant woman (not in the shot-) at a splendid cafe where chocolate is the main attraction.

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It turned out my cochineal dyeing matched the flowers there one day! A lot happened in the gap between that photo and the finished object–but not one photo of a sock.

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The whimsically cabled leg on the first sock went more or less as usual. But then the second sock. I was knitting the leg on the return trip to Melbourne when my daughter had gone into labour. Almost two days later, I pulled out my knitting as I sat beside her. Nothing about that labour went smoothly or to plan, and on day 3, she finally had pain relief that allowed her to get some rest. While she was resting and the final stage of labour was approaching,  this sock kept me company in the quiet and darkness. I can knit in the dark, but cabling in the dark–not so much. If there was a visit from a midwife involving light, I’d cable. Otherwise, I just knit. As a result, there is a long stretch with no cabling at all. I considered ripping it out, on the basis it had served its purpose.

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But then I thought about the intended recipient, who is one of those awesome humans who have given birth, herself. And I thought she’d likely be happy to have a sock recording this moment in the life of myself, my daughter and her daughter. And so here they are.  #tuffsocksnaturally that accompanied me through supporting my daughter in her courage, determination, pain and joy and the awe inspiring process of birth. I hope the recipient will wear these with a light heart in happy times. But I can attest to these socks being good companions when things are not going to plan and not going easily, when things are messy and difficult. And yet the prospects for the future remain excellent.

 

 

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Fibre preparation

Back in January, I did some fibre preparation. This beautifully deep grey alpaca was part of Joyce’s stash. My goodness, the vegetable matter and the filth! In the end, I decided I needed to flick card every handful.

That improved it a good deal and made me feel that it was unquestionably  worth the effort. And then I washed it, because it was still very dusty–otherwise I have one long “hayfever” attack for the duration I am spinning.

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And no wonder–look at the drift of soil and seeds left behind! Here is the washed fibre, and some of the carded batts I made.

After this, I moved on to washing  part of a coloured Polwarth fleece, also from Joyce’s stash. It’s hard to make fleece washing interesting, but here is the fleece spread out on a sheet for skirting (or at least a good looking over) and some of the rather beautiful locks. They are packed away, clean and waiting for spinning…

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Where was I?

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Dear Readers, I am sure you’ve noticed my absence. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes at localandbespoke. My partner’s parents have entered a new phase of their lives in which they have required more support.

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The long standing upheaval in my workplace that slowed me down a lot outside work in the last 18 months or so has resulted in my taking a voluntary redundancy in order to spend more of my time on climate activism.

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A small group of us inspired by activists in the UK have set up Extinction Rebellion in our state. Already, we are a very active and much larger group. Thus far, it’s a wild ride.

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My daughter has become a mother and I’ve become a grandmother.

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I am sure it’s not stretching your imagination too much to picture this as a time of emotional and practical upheaval in which I’ve been more than usually buffeted by the tides of life. There has been awe and amazement and joy.  There has been grief and pain and exhaustion. There have been a lot of mixed feelings–complicated situations give rise to complicated reactions. And I’ve spent some time recently feeling profoundly exhausted and with my friends letting me know of their concern for me.

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In situations of difficulty and complexity, I often find myself holding my friends and beloveds in my mind–sometimes asking what they would do; sometimes drawing solace from their love for me, their confidence in me or their preparedness to forgive me; sometimes remembering things they have said or done; mentally sharing an experience that I know they have had before me; drawing on their courage and wisdom or their capacity for integrity and compassion; or simply holding them in my mind as companions in complicated moments. In recent times I’ve found myself mentally writing blog posts and thus holding you in my mind.  Thanks for the company. I hope I might write some of those posts, however belatedly.

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Mending–above and beyond edition

There came a time recently when some pretty major mending came along. First this shirt was found in a bag in the shed (where to judge by the company it was keeping, it was intended, for a time, to be a rag) and it came back into the house as a much beloved shirt of my beloved, which it certainly had been for many years prior to its trip to the shed and long stay there. Could I mend it, because the holes were substantial?

Yes, I could–in this case by machine stitching a thin piece of reinforcing fabric on the inside, in several places.  With the end result on the right, above.

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Then, this pair of linen trousers. I got a new job a while back, and it demanded some smarter clothes (it’s one thing to be judged less than stylish personally, but it’s another to let the team down). The Salvation Army and other op shops, plus some home made tops got me through winter, but summer was a whole other issue. So these pants (and a blue shirt to go with them) were a rare new purchase, and this is how they are faring after one and a bit summers. Not as well as you’d hope given price tag and materials. Not as well as the linen pants I made myself (though they have their faults)–just saying.

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I decided on another machine mend–in which there is a lot of stitching that will show, so choice of thread matters more than it would in a seam. Sometimes when it comes right down to it, you have a preconception about the colour of the garment that you need to discard to do a good mend that won’t yell out. Sometimes using two different colours is the right thing to do. Choice made with thread laid across the fabric on the right side, I chose some thin fabric that will reinforce but not make the patch rigid (once stitched–the stitching adds some bulk).

Patch 1 pinned, tacked and then stitched, patch 2 begun. Here I’m using a three step zigzag as my mending stitch.

And, finished.  The texture and colour are slightly changed, but I’ve asked my beloved if she can tell me where my pants are mended and she can’t (when I have them on). Because the truth of the matter is, my friends, that the reason my pants wear out in this spot is because friction. And the reason there is friction is because two surfaces are in contact. And because they are in contact with one another–they don’t show a whole lot. These pants are no longer for best, sure.  They are still comfortable and shapely though, and will last a bit longer.  The big job is done with and the clothes I bought for it and didn’t care to keep have returned to the op shop for some other woman trying to pass herself off as a professional.

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Finally, a drum case.  Being a drummer involves hefting a lot of kit, and doing it regularly, and doing it ingeniously.  In the case of the wonderful drummer in our band, I’d noticed the snare drum case was looking pretty sad. So I offered to mend it. I threaded up a leather needle, the most sturdy needle I can use on my machine.  First I trimmed off the frayed sections. Then unpicked the binding. Then realised I could not insert three layers (especially tatty layers) into it neatly, especially because the edge had shortened through fraying and disintegration.  I found some black seam binding tape in the stash (thanks Joyce!) and neatened up the edge, then finally reinserted it with considerable difficulty, into the binding.

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It’s far from perfect.  But it is much better.  If this fails I told my friend the awesome drummer I’d be prepared to try again.  But for local readers it has occurred to me that the industrial strength option would be The Luggage Place, 108 Gilbert St, Adelaide. I’ve had various repairs done to suitcases there and they do a good job. They are not paying me–there are just so few places left where you could get something like this repaired, every one is worth sharing. In one instance, I’d given up completely and bought a new suitcase, and then realised I could take it to The Luggage Place. They sewed the carry handle back on a fair sized suitcase and in fact that case has kicked on for some years since then. They also replace wheels and suitcase innards!

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And there you have the above and beyond edition. As all manner of lovely books on mending come out, Tom of Holland’s Visible Mending programme becomes a hashhtag, and the beautiful, ingenious work of India Flint in converting one garment/s to another/s and such spread more widely, mending is having a resurgence. It’s a wonderful thing!  And with the encouragement and occasional shock response to my mending of you all, dear readers–I’ve continued to be a prosaic and practical mender in the main.  But I am now more able and more likely to look for a lovely way to mend garments and items that are not quite so thoroughly damaged as these!IMAG2337

Just a little public service announcement. Age no barrier.  Striking school students are calling out to everyone to join them. In Australia, University students are coming. Grey Power for Climate Action are coming. Parents are coming. Our Climate Choir and local Extinction Rebellion will be there, honouring the leadership of the student strikers and standing behind and beside them. I will certainly be there.  So join us!  Wherever you are!

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Festival of handkerchieves

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I love the humble hanky. The way it accompanies me through life in a pocket, ready to assist when pollen is too much, when I’m moved to tears, when the wind is chilly enough to make eyes water or when genuine misery leaks out of me. The way it supports me through illness time after time. The way it saves me from single use napkins, means I never find a tissue that has gone through the washing machine, and rescues entire trees from being turned into tissues. I love the way it can be called upon to wipe up spills, deal with sticky fingers at unexpected moments, prevent chafing, or (if clean) wrap a small item at short notice.

The latest festival of the hanky was generated by a friend whose hanky collection had shrunk to zero. But needless to say it didn’t stop when I’d made a collection for him. Soon I had some made from cotton voile and some made from muslin that had a past life wrapping a baby. Then a fine cotton scarf which has been in the cupboard unused for over a decade became four lovely hankies. Then the main parts of a striped shirt that belonged to a friend, who gifted it to me, which had a superpower of making people in shops address me as sir for many years–was converted from a very worn thin shirt to some lovely fine hankies.

And then some fine cotton I’d dyed… and some brand new fine cotton voile… and there it stopped for the time being.  And now I have so many opportunities to share the hanky love…

 

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