Guerilla planted weaving rushes


There is a culvert in the neighbourhood where I have been on a project of restoration over some time now.  I planted some pigface (a native succulent) with initial success, and then it all died back partly because scale insects have targeted this plant across the suburb.  I have cleared rubbish and broken glass and spent time weeding, trying to keep the poisoner from spraying indiscriminately and killing these plants.


There are now some large saltbush plants and a few ground covers doing well.  The poisoner has destroyed all evidence of life in the culvert in the rest of its path though the neighbourhood, but this section has escaped.  I am particularly happy about this plant though.  It’s a Ngarrindjeri weaving rush (a native sedge) used for basketry. Here they are going into the ground in 2016, after a flood took out my first round of plantings.  In the previous post you can see how bare it was previously.  I planted at least nine sedges here after bringing them home from a weaving retreat and observing my neighbourhood closely for suitable spots to plant them as they grew to a suitable size. There are a couple more that haven’t died–but this one is thriving at last.


So much so that I am propagating from it so I can try again! Since this picture was taken I’ve potted up ten plants and I’m growing them up so they can go into the ground over winter.



Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Guerilla saltbush plantings of summer


I have all kinds of plants that I planted as seed in spring that are waiting for cooler weather to go into the ground.  Saltbush are the hardiest, and in a break in the summer heat I decided to plant these out.


They are mostly going into areas where other plants have died or been cut down–there was the loss of another dead tree recently and unfortunately it was carried out in such a way that not only did the dead tree get cut down, but its understorey was also lost.  Council don;t re plant and by listening to their workers and asking questions I’ve understood that they won’t.  So I’m planting these sections as things die or get killed, trying to protect the earth here and create an environment in which larger plants can go in.


Once I plant and water, I weed and collect rubbish.  And then it’s time for breakfast and work!



Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures



In the absence of being able to create a longer post… I knit some more beanies with the leftovers from a jumper I knit a while back, with worsted weight (10ply) merino.  These are the TinCanKnits Barley hat pattern.


In the end, I sent them to my daughter, who has taken up yachting and therefore needs more snug hats than ever, likes a slouchy fit, and has skipped right over the rumours that redheads shouldn’t wear orange (happily–who makes this stuff up?).  I did not intend to knit them in two colours apiece but that was the yardage I had.  She has sent me sleepy happy photos of herself wearing them but I am not sure she is ready to be an internet sensation so you just get the hats!  I sent two other parcels of hats off–one to a fellow climate activist who is in Canada and needed warmth of all kinds.  The other to friends in Tasmania who will wear some and share others on.


Filed under Knitting

Dyeing and knitting Suffolk socks

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion, share pics and projects on this blog or the glorious Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

Once upon a time there was some raw Suffolk fleece.  And then, it was spun into a 3 ply yarn.  And then, it met several eucalyptus dye baths… and then a nice gentle soaking rinse or three…

A series of small skeins arose.

They were weighed and wound into balls by hand and prepared for hand knitting. This picture captures the colours best, I think.


There was knitting on public transport.


there was knitting on the road to Warrnambool.


There was knitting on the way back.


And finally… on a day so overcast as to leach colour from the knitting:


There were socks long enough to go all the way to the top of a gumboot (wellington, galosh) on a chilly morning feeding donkeys.  These socks are bound for a lovely friend who keeps a small farm with a lot of chickens and some rescue donkeys.  She had some specific requirements!  She wasn’t the least bit concerned about socks that would not be silky soft.


On top of the 3 ply, Suffolk yarn with high twist (and on the thick side for socks), I reinforced heels and toes with silk/cotton thread.  I dyed some in eucalyptus but underestimated how much I was going to need.  When I ran out while on the road (to dye camp!) I wasn’t prepared to stop.


I think the reality about these socks is that they have been knit at a dense gauge that will hopefully result in long wear even in a gumboot, but it is not very stretchy!




Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Indigo and woad


Over summer I worked on my indigo dyeing skills.  In case it isn’t obvious–there will be some time travelling blog posts, because there is a lot I did over December and January that we haven’t discussed, my friends.  Here is my Indigo fructose vat on day 1. The indigo vat went quite well but I felt I still didn’t manage to extract all the blue from it.  Most weekends I dream of cranking it back up, and fail to manage the time.


This is my latest attempt at a fermentation woad vat.  It does look promising!  I used all of this summer’s  woad harvest (admittedly it was small this year) and one of the hottest weeks of summer and still failed to get the vat to reduce.  I do think constant heat is the thing I really need to sort out for this method–but Jenai Hooke gave me a gift indigo ball at summer dye camp which might kick start the process when I am ready to try again!


I dyed washed fleece and some fabric, but the main project for the indigo vat was to dye some knitting a dear friend had done.  She describes herself as having a midlife crisis which she is managing, in part, by knitting a lot, I mean A LOT of beanies.  In the last six or twelve months she has scaled up to knitting gauntlets (arm warmers) and sharing the love of those.  She gave me natural white knits and asked if I would indigo dye them and at last I’ve done it.  They are, she said, knit from wool from sheep who grazed in the fields of France where many fascists died.  I think these are for herself.  Since I put them in the mail, I have received a great photo of her wearing them, grinning spectacularly and with a message saying she is taking them to Berlin.  Berlin!  The rest of my pile of beanies has headed out into the world too. Some to a climate activist I know who is studying in Canada and finding the snowy winter and the prospect of climate catastrophe very challenging (she can choose one and gift the others), and a big pile to my dear friends in Tasmania.  When I saw them recently, one of then was wearing a very stretched out eucalyptus dyed beanie that only I could have spun and knit, and clearly wears beanies all year round.  And, they know a lot of cash strapped people in Tassie who might feel the same need.  I figure they will know what to do with a pile of hand knit happiness.




Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Triennial, National Gallery of Victoria


When we went to Melbourne for the end of year family shindig, we went to the National Gallery of Victoria.  I wanted to go  to see something in particular… and, how embarrassing is my ignorance…  it was showing in a completely different art gallery. So I saw this exhibition instead.  I think it must be clear to regular readers that I am not art-knowledgeable.  But there were some things I thought might be of interest to you, dear readers. This image is part of an exhibit by Richard Mosse criticising and commenting on the Australian government’s policies on asylum seekers, which really do beg to be criticised.  It was interesting to see so many people stopping to watch these works, showing images of the offshore detention centres our government has taken many steps to stop us seeing.


There were some serious design works of extreme fashion, like these rather amazing pieces of engineering by Iris van Herpen.


There was an entire room full of couture dresses and accessories by Guo Pei, called Legend.  They were inspired by a visit to the Cathedral of Saint Gallen in Switzerland.  The room was dark so it was hard to do justice to these completely different but equally extreme pieces of fashion.  I grew up in a place where Christianity was the dominant religion and for much of my life heard other religions commented on largely or only from a Christian and Western perspective. It was taken for granted that a Christian, Western perspective could speak to/about every other global context.   I found it really interesting to see the way the artist commented on and allowed their imagination to run through the cathedral as a source of inspiration–without having it as a religious heritage first and foremost. Commenting on it from a completely different perspective and making use of this imagery.

This room full of taut strands of yarn by Pae White was pretty entertaining!

These two outfits were some of my favourites.  They are Nick Cave’s Soundsuits. I loved all those buttons…

Alexandra Kahayoglou’s Santa Cruz River is a huge textile work–a rug with mirrors–that intrigued people, as you can see. I found Kahayoglou’s commentary of climate change heartbreaking.

I loved these basketry pieces.  I was a little taken aback at their use of the plastic PET bottle as a starting point.  They were so complex and interesting, and the use of mirrors and lights made them all the more splendid.  This is a collaboration between Alvaro Catalan and the Bula’bula Artists.

These images by Louisa Bufardeci are stitched into a mesh background. They depict in needlepoint the sites where boats of asylum seekers have sunk and people have died at sea trying to reach Australia, as they appear on Google Earth images. No comment needed. I think.


Filed under Basketry, Craftivism, Sewing

Bags 2

Did you really think I could stop at… oh… ten or twelve bags (especially as I was on holiday)?  Naturally, I could not.  I went to the Guild and there was a pile of denim offcuts.  You know how it is.

They all turned out to be different denims, each one reasonably narrow but the width of the bolt.  No concern to me.  I paired some with a yellow open weave linen (I think) I have inherited.  I made several of these and they look quite elegant.

This patch was found on the footpath in Melbourne in December. It seemed wrong to leave it there to the wind, rain, mud and passing shoes and dogs, until it found its way into the stormwater drain.

And this bag is made from a piece of fabric my mother-out-law passed on to me in the last year.

On the inside, all manner of scraps and bits and pieces, and of course–more pockets!


Filed under Sewing

Bags 1


One day at Guild, one of my friends gifted me two pairs of worn out cargo pants, in case I’d like to find a way to reuse them. Some people really know you!  They were made of tencel or some similar wood pulp based fibre.  They had been much worn, like a favourite garment.  And they had so many pockets!  Ones with zips, some that were more of a welt pocket… some that were stitched shut and had never been ripped open for use–lots to play with.  So I cut them up, extracted the cotton drawstring cords for later use, and began piecing the intact fabric into bag linings and likewise, the pockets.

There was an entire series of bark cloth curtain fabric bags.  I used up the boomerang bags patches I was given by one of the Adelaide organisers a while back pretty quickly.  Then I did a series with the remaining secondhand IKEA fabric my daughter gave me a while back (the orange and white stripes).  They match my ironing board cover and they are extra large.

Finally, I converted some fabric I remember buying at Paddy’s market in Melbourne at least 20 years ago (cough, maybe it was 30 years ago) into about 4 more bags.  I must have been reliving my childhood as an admirer of ancient Egypt when I bought this, I think.  I vaguely remember feeling obliged to buy something even though I couldn’t spare the cash at that time (it must have been the nature of the interaction with the stallholder).  The print gestures in that direction, but I really can’t see it as a garment.  Some of these bags have already gone to friends, and others await their ultimate destination.


Filed under Sewing

Finnish tough socks naturally?


It all began when I finally managed to pick up a parcel that a friend who now lives in Denmark had left for me when she had passed through our town while we were away.  The contents were truly astonishing. Better than Christmas.  She had chosen some lovely wool, a book and a chocolate treat, all wrapped up in a bag! She delivered another Danish knitting kit as well. The yarn is Finnish wool dyed with plants and cochineal.  I couldn’t wait. I’d just finished a rather plain coloured sock and I wasn’t finished preparing my next Suffolk sock yarn.  I cast on!


Here, a sock poses above Port Willunga beach on a summer outing. Is it just my imagination, or was this shot so peculiar my beloved took a snap of me taking it to preserve for posterity?


Here, it graces a completed summer holiday puzzle.  My daughter brought Christmas gifts that were all second hand, wrapped in newspaper and tied with binder twine, designed to entertain us while in Melbourne.  One of the puzzles was unpacked immediately!


Here we have the second sock with many extremely ripe strawberries after a heat wave visit to the Farmer’s market.  And, on the side of a triathlon where I was cheering on my very fit beloved.  And now we have the frivolous images out of the way, here”s the lowdown.  I loved this yarn so much I wanted to knit it right away.  It’s the right weight for socks (4 ply/fingering) but I have no reason to think it is especially sock-worthy in terms of the breed or construction of the yarn.  On the other hand, my experience is increasingly telling me that adding silk into sock yarn is not an especially winning strategy.  As a beginner spinner I was so surprised to be told that silk was strong.  I had always thought of it as a rather fragile fibre.  But here’s the thing.  It’s both.  Silk has a high tensile strength.  If you try to snap a silk thread, it is really strong.  But I don’t think that tensile strength is matched by its capacity for abrasion resistance.  I’ve tested this by mending high abrasion areas of clothing with silk thread sashiko style–with lots of running stitches across the area of the patch.  The silk thread rubbed right off, and quite quickly.  I think that the high wear areas of a sock require a lot of abrasion resistance, and perhaps silk is not the best choice.  This was an experiment with doing all the engineering I know about to strengthen this pure wool sock.

I knit these socks cuff down, and I decided not to rib the leg.  I am not sure whether this wool will be a good match with the wearer’s skin.  It isn’t merino soft or silk soft, so I decided not to add any texture that might create unwanted friction.  Instead, I created a shaped calf.  These socks are for a woman who walks a lot.  So, since I made them quite long, some room for walking muscle.  As I reached the end of the leg, I started heel reinforcing stitch above the heel.  I notice this is a place where socks can wear through and there is nothing technically difficult about reinforcing the section of the leg immediately above the heel proper, where some boots and shoes rub.

When I reached the heel, I used heel reinforcing stitch as I usually would, and added some (ecru–offwhite) cotton/silk stitching thread in for reinforcement.  You can see the stitch and colour changes in the image above. The last time I received feedback on a pair of socks for this specific person, I saw she’d worn through the sole under her heel first.  So when I got to the heel turn and began the sole, I continued the reinforcing thread, through the heel turn and then running it across the sole and snipping it off when I came to knitting across the gusset and top of the foot.

I think the idea for treating reinforcing thread in this way came from something the wonderful Elizabeth Zimmermann (wise and ingenious fairy godmother of English speaking knitters) wrote, though I think she was using woolly nylon.  She wrote in a period when nylon blend sock yarn was not available or widespread as it is today, and she was needless to say, interested in a hard wearing sock.  I think she wrote a pattern for a re-footable sock, which I read once and found beyond me.  It might be time to look it up, because perhaps by now my knitting skills will meet it.  Here is how this strategy looks on the inside of the sock. Lots oof loose ends.  But they will be barely detectable to the wearer’s heel and will not work their way out of the knitting.

I changed down a needle size for the sole to give it more durability without impinging on the wearer.  That might be one of EZ’s ideas too.  The toe also received reinforcement.

And there we are.  I purled the recipient’s initials into the back of the calf for my own amusement and hopefully hers!

And there you have it.  A sock of unknown toughness, engineered for better wear, gloriously coloured and gleefully received.  When I am listening to the former knitters I meet on public transport, in cafes, at bus stops, in meetings, I am often saddened that they know no one who would welcome a hand knit and especially not a hand knit requiring hand washing.  That is the most common reason I hear for their abandoning knitting (followed by arthritis, scourge of knitters).  My goodness!  I am blessed by many lovers of hand knits, and while for me, knitting is its own reward in some respects… it is also like cooking someone a delicious dinner.  People who enjoy and appreciate are those for whom I’d cheerfully cook or knit again given the chance.  There is nothing like being really confident that someone loves that meal or sock or slipper or jumper so much that if you made another, they’d love that too… and I am especially blessed to know folk who will happily wear experimental garments.



Filed under Knitting

Possum wool beanies

Hello dear and patient readers! It’s been so long!  In short, I returned to work and ran out of scheduled posts.  I missed you, too.  So here is a little news about what I was doing in late December…


We spent the holiday period with my beloved’s entire family, three generations of it.  I took plenty of knitting… and the beanie department of holiday knitting included a skein of handspun possum/wool blend and some eucalyptus dyed wool for contrast stripes.  The possum/wool appeared in my friend Joyce’s stash and came to my house when she was moved into a nursing home by her family.  Since last I wrote she has died, aged 92.  So there has been grieving to be done as well as the certain recognition she was living a mercifully short stage of her life that she never would have chosen for herself.


In the top picture, casting on while enjoying sushi with one of my beloved’s nieces–that family have embraced me in a truly lovely way and it”s  privilege to be among them. Then in the second image, this is a family who love to play scrabble in a manner entirely different and far higher scoring than anything my family have ever done, and if you look closely I’ve improvised a stitch marker from the spring of a peg.  The other one might have been an elastic band.  Needs must!  The kind of distracted knitting done while playing scrabble goes well with a little nudge about when to decrease.


In the end I had three beanies, one child size.  All based on Jared Flood’s Turn A Square, my go-to beanie pattern.  And while spinning the possum wool wasn’t all that lovely because the preparation was a bit strange and there were very many little bits of waxy cardboard carded into it… the yarn was wonderfully soft and will be very snug.  And one more part of Joyce’s fibre legacy is ready to go out into the world and keep heads warm, something she would have thoroughly approved of (though perhaps she would have asked me why no pom poms had been added to complete these hats!)


Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing, Spinning