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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Lotta Jansdotter’s Esme Top

I found I could not resist a delightful print from The Drapery.  I saw it when I went there to buy denim for the jeans making project and I did resist it twice (as I really do not need more fabric) before investing.  The Drapery don’t give me anything, by the way–I am just keen to support such a lovely, local, independent business when I can.

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I decided I would make the Esme top from Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter. First tracing off the pattern, then cutting out… and finally, after a long wait, the sewing.

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I love the watercolour look of those big dots! And I have no idea how I selected these points in making it up to photograph. It is a delightfully simple and quick top to make compared to my classic long sleeved, buttoned down the front shirt with collar stand, collar, cuffs, buttonholes, plackets and all. Which is also to say it is a departure from a lot of other garments in my wardrobe.

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Now that it is complete I can say two things with confidence: for once, I did not make it too large.  If anything, it could be a little broader in the shoulders and a little wider across the back. Perhaps I’ll make the next size up, next time. But it fits much better than many of my clothes because I do tend to wear roomy and baggy. And, it has attracted a lot of positive comments, which is rather lovely…

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Sashiko samplers

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While I had shingles earlier in the year I spent a lot of time doing very little, sitting in front of the TV for hours at a time too unwell to do much.  There were weeks when it was hard to choose what to watch and I couldn’t knit. Subtitles were too much.  I had so much trouble planning that I didn’t see one kind friend who offered because I couldn’t imagine being able to do any of the things we usually do together (or something!).  But eventually I remembered I had sashiko samplers I had bought in Japan, and I turned out to be capable of following the dotted line.

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I also braided my sashiko threads with some kind (online) help from India Flint.

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It’s quite inexpert sashiko but I found it very satisfying and spent hours and hours stitching this way without having to plan or decide on colours or anything.  Eventually I realised that I had bought two cushion cover blanks, not just random samplers.  So I decided I may as well turn them into cushions.  The op shop provided as always:

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(Eeek!  Not my thing)–covers stripped off and contents washed, I have two cushion stuffers without any new plastic being created. Polyester fibrefill is not good stuff–and this is my current solution to having more of it come into existence on my account. I’ve given up making cushions stuffed with fabric scraps as I did in the past because it just couldn’t be plainer that there are industrial scale amounts of this material already in existence and headed for landfill.  This is a small diversion. And yes, wash them in their covers or in a guppyfriend if you have one or in a bag to keep plastic waste out of the sewerage system.

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A little bit of simple stitching and–

 

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Yet more socks

Remember that destashed sock yarn I wrote about a while back? Well, here are the second pair… in a colourway called ‘Champlain sunset’. I admit, not my personal favourite colours.  But I have a friend I knew would love them. And for those who care, this picture shows the colours much better than the one in the last image below.

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Here they are at my beloved’s parents’ home.

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Here we are on the ferry on the Brisbane River, off to #stopadani.

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And the ferry again, outside this time.  (I am sure people take photos of their socks-in-progress on the ferry all the time).

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And here they are, done!  Ouch!

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A little holiday spinning

In the quiet times that did appear at home in December, there was some spinning. I found some small packs of dyed silk top from years ago and blended them with alpaca(left) and wool (right).

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There was some random eucalyptus-dyed wool mis-filed. Now yarn.  And there was some spinning of natural fibres that had been previously carded. I’ve tried for a little inventory of the stash of unspun fibres and there is a lot of raw fleece in my shed, with more having arrived this week. So stand by for tales of wool being shared and fibre processing!

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Wasting less while travelling

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The last few months have included some travel for various reasons. I think it’s obvious that air travel raises my carbon footprint and should be avoided when possible. But perhaps I’ve already mentioned that my life is full of contradictions?  I’m trying to do what I can, when I can. When I went to Brisbane I was lucky enough to be able to buy vegetables and fruit at the local farmers’ market.  It was luck!  I had no idea it would be close to where I was staying.  I’d selected accommodation so I’d have less traveling each day I was there, and so I could travel by ferry when I needed public transport. In another spot of luck, I’d been saving my peelings and pits in the fridge for a few days trying to figure out whether my only option was to put them in the bin, when I realised I was walking distance from New Farm community garden.

I was convinced a community garden would have a composting system I could sneak my scraps into, but imagine my delight to discover a community composting hub! I went back a couple of times because it’s mango season and there I was making cold rolls for dinner and eating a mango every day.  And because the community garden was brilliant. My other travelling with less waste discovery was in Melbourne, where the lovely out-laws took us to Coburg Farmer’s market. There was live music, there was delicious food–and there was a no single use policy on cups, plates and utensils.  So there was a serious washing station with clearly explained steps, and lots of people large and small using it.

My other big carbon footprint management strategy is to protest when travelling whenever possible.  Brisbane is the heart of opposition to the Adani coal mine–which is a bad idea on so many fronts–Indigenous owners oppose it, we already know we need to keep existing reserves of coal in the ground to have a hope of keeping climate change to tragic rather than catastrophic levels, the water this mine will take is shocking, coal will be shipped out right by the Great Barrier Reef–you know what I’m saying.  I’m saying Stop Adani!

It’s also good to see what people in other places do–I caught up with an activist I met over 20 years ago and we talked up using music in protest (and did some singing, of course). And it was fun being deputised by my beloved and her parents to be the one going out to save the world while they stayed home providing loving care and being unable to get out much, respectively.  They needed to check that I would make sure I came home again.

I managed to come home both times–and there were some very funny stories of members of the family opposing Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war, and being arrested during the Premiership of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, when the right to assemble and the right to march were themselves the things people were protesting to achieve, because they were criminalised by Joh.

And in closing… some photos of fabulous Brisbane wildlife!

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