Monthly Archives: November 2013

Handwoven cotton shirt

I have had a shirt in progress for a few weeks, and recently it reached completion.


I bought this handwoven cotton at Beautiful Silks in Melbourne some time ago.  It takes quite some skill to go into that treasure trove of beauty and colour and come out with something so plain (and not made of silk), but apparently that is one of my superpowers.  I didn’t have quite enough for all the pattern pieces, so used some scraps from my skirt for the inside cuffs.  I have made this shirt in order to have more than one top that works with the skirt, so I think this is a great feature, rather than a flaw.

The pattern is Vogue 2592, purchased many years ago. I worked back through my records, such as they are, and found I first made it in red linen (it turned out to be stretch linen–which I did not appreciate in the shop at the time)–in 2004.  I am still wearing that shirt with just one hand mend where the lower edge of the button band had come adrift.  Turns out I am still wearing shirts I made as far back as 2002, though some have worn through or gone to other owners in that period .

The buttons came into my stash from the op shop.


Not only had they been saved from a shirt that has presumably gone to become rag, but they had been lovingly stitched onto recycled card.  I think the women who tend the Save the Children op shop on Goodwood Road must have been responsible for this thorough act of rescue.  The craft supplies section of their shop is organised and priced by people who know what they are dealing with and who value recycling.


I appreciate their efforts.  I didn’t have enough of these buttons for the cuffs, but it’s likely no one will ever notice that the cuffs have round buttons unless one of us tells them…

I ran out of thread just about buttonholing time and so had an unexpected trip for more thread.  In case anyone from southern Adelaide is reading (I know there are a few!)… only blocks from Spotlight Melrose Park (near Castle Plaza) and just off South Road is the independently owned Tricia’s Discount Fabrics.


In case you don’t know it and want to–Tricia has been running this shop a very long time.  It no longer focuses on dancewear and knits (though there are neon and metallic look knits and chiffon to be had).  Instead she caters to quilters as a priority, though there are plenty of other fabrics too.  She has a gigantic range, far bigger than Spotlight or Lincraft (these are our ‘big box’ stores, if you’re reading in North America).  She’s in an old industrial building, one of several she has occupied over the years, with a suitably glamourous entry:


She also has a huge range of notions and quilting gear, quilting books and thread.  She rivals any quilting shop I’ve been into in our city for range but without associated glamour.  And she gave no glimmer of a frown when I just purchased my reel of thread.  She is knowledgeable and I live in hope her conditions of work and pay are a whole lot better than those notorious at Spotlight.  I guarantee the queue is a lot shorter!

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Filed under Sewing

Drawstring bags

I have been using up smaller scraps of indigo dyed fabric. I decided on lined drawstring bags. The kind I like to use when carrying small knitting projects around. The linings allow the use of all kinds of little scraps.


These outers use some of the hemp I dyed with indigofera australis as well as the last of my wax resist indigo dyed fabric, and some with a delectable Australian designed print.


Here is the other side:


And here they are with cords drawn through their casings:


I also made some larger bags with small pieces of leaf printed recycled linen and another Australian print.


Surely this is the last of the famous brown ramie shirt and those hemp jeans! And I have found use for some pre-loved cord as well.


Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Sewing

An appreciation of Eucalyptus Cladocalyx, the Sugar Gum

Sometimes I travel in and out of the city through the parklands.  My favourite part of the route (when travelling on bike or on foot)  is this pathway lined with sugar gums.  They are yet to reach their full height but they are still impressive, majestic and beautiful trees.


The City of Adelaide is famously circled by parks.  In our harsh summers, the parklands become dry and brown well before summer reaches its height. You can see in this image that the crisping of the parklands has begun already. The trees branch too high for me to be able to photograph the canopy, but this branch had fallen and dried.


Friends have spent months of the last year trying to save an avenue of sugar gums  that are twice this size, at least, and much older.  Our campaign to save them succeeded, but the sugar gums are growing along a railway line that is being electrified and a few days ago they were scheduled to be ‘pruned’ in a way that will render them lopsided amputees.  I am glad the railway is being electrified (it is diesel powered now, polluting and unsustainable).  Its impact on local trees is less welcome.  I haven’t been able to bear to go and look yet.  It was a huge achievement to save those trees and I am hoping the pruning has not been too brutal.  And that this avenue of trees in the parklands will stand tall for decades, or even better, centuries to come.

Oh, and have I mentioned the silk moths?



Filed under Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Downsides of upcycling

Quite some time ago, I made a quilt.  It was a project I decided on when I began to experiment with India Flint’s eco-printing technique on cotton and linen.  Her book Eco-Colour (see the left hand sidebar of her blog if you’re following the link–her books are there) mostly focused on wool and silk, but offered some guidance about cotton and linen.  I followed that guidance as best I could and at first I could achieve only pinkish smudges.  I had become pretty decent at dyeing wool by this stage, but only some of these skills proved transferable.


Leaf printing or eco-printing was clearly a whole other skill. I teach for a living and observe the process of learning almost daily both in those I teach and in myself.  It is very rarely possible to read instructions and then successfully and immediately carry out a process someone else (that would be India Flint) has spent years figuring out and becoming exquisitely good at.  Nor can the outcomes of a process with so many variables always be confidently predicted by a novice (that would be me). Indeed, just plain carrying out instructions accurately is not always possible on the first attempt.

The amount of fabric wastage that might be involved in learning and practising made me think I would have to give up and just admire the work of others.  India Flint, for instance. This was the point at which I thought of the quilt.  If I made a log cabin style quilt, I could frame whatever leaf-ish smudges were my then best efforts, and the smudgy parts could simply be borders.  Standards are not always high round here.


By the time I came to halfway through the back of the quilt, I had been experimenting for about a year and I had some breakthroughs–in understanding the process, in refining my skills at using it, in mordanting, in identifying eucalypts, even growing a few.


I made this entire quilt from recyled/upcycled linen garments from op shops and garage sales, most of them having gone there because they were stained beyond rescue.  Needless to say, I couldn’t bear to waste a scrap.  So even the tiny leftovers of the log cabin quilt were turned into other things.  Including bags–which won’t surprise regular readers!


This bag has had a lot of use, because I like it so much.  Which is to say it has been treated roughly, stuffed full, rammed into other bags and rubbed against all manner of things.  And although parts of it are still glorious… including what must have been virtually my first really exciting E Cinerea, E Scoparia and E Nicholii prints:

IMAG2754 IMAG2753

There are also some points of real wear.


I often think that a well made, long lasting garment or bag is highly desirable. But a thing that will stand the test of time is only a good thing when the item remains one you (or someone else) want to keep using.   I own things that I wish would reach the end of their useful lives because I’m tired of them even though they don’t need replacement, or because a better version exists 20 years later.  I have things I wish I had never acquired or that don’t have the capacity to biodegrade.  I now think about the benefits of things that can break down and won’t last forever to burden coming generations.

This bag, though, has had a short life as a bag because of the hard life some parts of it had as clothing, and it certainly will biodegrade.  I polled some of my near and dear and they thought the bag should continue even if it required lots and lots of mends… So here it is, reworked considerably.


And the other side…


Ready for more years of hard use, I hope! For those who are wondering, the quilt is doing fine so far and I remain happy to use it.


Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Eucalyptus dyed gradient yarns

Some time ago I blogged about dyeing with windfall eucalyptus leaves. I had been dyeing over white corriedale and had quite a range of colours in the range of ochre and caramel through flame orange and… opinions differ about whether that really is red. Here it is, wet from dyeing and ready to be rinsed:


I divided my fleece up into colour groupings, carded it and pulled a roving straight from the carder drum with a diz.  What a great technique.  You can find it on YouTube, but it was watching a friend from the Guild demonstrate it that really convinced me to try it out.  This Youtube video has an explanation of the same simple homemade diz my friend has made, so maybe she was inspired by that video.  Here are my rovings.  Creating these made me feel like I have learned a few things about fleece preparation.


Then I created bumps of roving with segments of each colour, lined up to create a gradient from ochre through to reddish. Then, there was spinning and plying and skeining and washing–spinning being a craft of many stages–and now…


I am so happy with this yarn! I can’t wait to share it with the friends whose sheep this wool came from.  Coincidentally, the week I finished this yarn, they invited me to their place for shearing time.



Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

So much for nettle fibre processing!

Finally, I returned to the harvested and then  twice retted nettle stems. I began by rolling a pipe over them to make the stems easier to split.


I have been putting this task off because these stems looked so little promising.


The stems mostly shattered without fibre becoming evident in any significant way.


I gathered just a little fibre for a lot of effort.


After carding, I was left with this. So I cleaned my handcards on the garden, added the stems to the mulch in the garden, and now… I wait for next year!

A image

A belated postscript: there is a wonderful community flax growing project reaching the spinning stage on the other side of the planet.  So for stories of bast fibre success, please go to visit Sharon Kallis here.


Filed under Fibre preparation

Local yarnbombing…

Some of the recent trash batt yarns and some other odds and ends have begun their life in the wider world as yarn bombs. I set out for a stroll with three swatches.


This was the first to go up.  It’s an all trash batt–including overlocker waste. As I began to attach it to its wonky, leaning pole, a father rode past on his bike accompanied by a child, also on a bike.  He called out to the child: ‘Look, there’s someone yarnbombing!’ and stopped to tell me about the best yarn bomb he ever saw (on Kangaroo Island).  I admit, I had not expected to be the subject of instruction to small children.  Since I was in my own neighbourhood, next came a friend who lives nearby, and then another (I introduced them) and there was speculation about the Viva La Broad Bean yarnbombers/guerilla gardeners and other yarnbombs in the vicinity.  The Broad Beans were appreciated and complimented in their absence.


This one has gone up on a pole which is topped by a mirror to allow visibility around a tricky corner.  It turned out the tea cosy I made from this yarn contained all but the last few felted bits and bobs, so this is mostly a natural grey yarn bomb.  Yes, the stitching is going in two directions. In a moment of whimsy I decided to pick up and knit the second half at ninety degrees to the first, partly so the felted parts wouldn’t all be along an edge.


Finally, this is on one of the main access points for the local train station (yes, that is a suburban train in the background).  This yucky greenish paint is the one preferred for public transport infrastructure and fencing in our area, and it could certainly use improvement.  These colours are from coreopsis and indigo.


I have placed these friendly emblems on either side of the Viva La Broad Beans’ guerilla garden and yarnbomb festival in hopes it will encourage the Broad Beans and contribute to the neighbourhood cheering up programme. The evening I saw the Broad Beans’ handiwork for the first time, a neighbour engaged me in a painful, heartbroken conversation about all that has happened locally in the last year.  I took her to see the guerilla garden to cheer her up. As I left home this time, and before I could apply crochet hook to pole, she chased me down the street and I had a long conversation with her about anger and grievances, loss and grief.

As one of the friends who came by and stayed to chat while I was applying knitting to pole said, there has been a lot to contend with and a lot to make people feel discouraged in our area over the last year.  She said the Viva La Broad Beans’ handiwork had made her feel a whole lot better and uplifted her.  I hope I can make a small contribution by their side.

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Filed under Knitting, Neighbourhood pleasures

Of silkworms and socks

The very last silkworm went to silk yesterday, so there’s an end to silkworm updates for this year.  I can’t pretend to be sorry.  There have been a lot of weeks of feeding the hungry caterpillars multiple times a day and foraging on their behalf, and I’m happy to wait until next September to do that again.  I found an extra two cocoons under the guitar case on the floor below the silkworm raising station.  They must  either have crawled there to pupate (music loving caterpillars?) or fallen after chewing off the piece of leaf that connected them to the rest of their mates. Happily, I don’t think we  lost a single silkworm, which is good, since stories of silkworm tragedy came back to me from some of the people who took them home from the Guild! 

Meanwhile, a breakout of meetings and presentations at work has enabled the completion of these socks in Naturally Waikiwi Prints.


I have only had them on the needles since August!  While the other hemisphere is celebrating Wovember, here we have had our first days over 30C.  These socks will be waiting a while to go onto a foot. They contain possum fur, which makes them delectably soft, while making use of the oversupply of possum fur in New Zealand/Aotearoa. Possums are incredibly cute, and as an Australian I am in a good position to know this because the possums in Aotearoa are feral.  They are native to Australia.  Without intervention, they would be well on their way to denuding those lovely islands and making life impossible for the plants and animals native there.  Since Australia also struggles under the weight of feral animals (including cute ones like rabbits and cats), the damage that can be done is very obvious even if the sadness of having to cull them is equally clear.  My apologies to any Kiwis who might be reading, for the introduction of our cute but damaging possums to your lovely land!


Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting

What to do with art yarns/textured spinning

The other night, treasured friends came round for dinner and brought with them someone I hadn’t met before.  She saw the display of tea cosies and loved them.  She collects.  The honest truth is, I don’t even drink tea.  Nor does my beloved.  I just buy random teapots at the op shop and make them cosies for my own entertainment and the joy of giving them away.

Naturally, I said ‘would you like to take one home?’  She struggled to choose and I offered that she take two, but that wasn’t happening… it is difficult to make people understand just how far I am from having a yarn or tea cosy shortage.  So a particularly ugly teapot was disrobed and a corespun cosy with recycled sari silk threads went home with her.  That had me in a tea cosy frame of mind… So I delved into the stash and came out with this the very next night:


The yarn is felted wool blobs spun onto crossbred wool from a sheep known by the glorious name of Macchiato the Mongrel.  I believe the epithet was added after Macchiato ate the neighbour’s pea crop and had to be found a new home.  That fleece came to me from a friend of a friend who lives in the hills. The pattern is a fast and loose adaptation of Funhouse Fibers’ Fast and Fun Tea Cozy.

This twining vine yarn (commercial wool top, felted leaves) was in the same bag.  I started in on a cosy and the audience decided it was too cute and really should be a child’s hat.  I guess we’ll wait to see who it fits come winter!  I started with a three stitch i-cord and made the rest up, ending with a stitched cast off for stretchy edge…



And, some silk cocoons went off to be reeled by a friend with a  lot more patience than me, and here are the rest.  I have no idea why they are in two colours, but if anyone else knows, please tell.  I keep thinking I will finally get back to the nettle stems, but I fear it won’t happen today…



Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting

Silkworms: 7 week update + more wild textured spinning

Well, here are the late bloomers. Yes, only 5 left.


Everyone else is in here now in another form…


And meanwhile I decided to try a spinning challenge set up on Ravelry… a yarn generator based on a date system.  What genius on the part of its originator! Sounded like fun to me… I put in the date for my birthday and that meant creating a yarn that incorporated autowrapping (see that rayon thread over the white section?), metallic elements (there are strange and peculiar glitter pompoms from the op shop as well as sparkly gold fibre and gold recycled ribbon)…


Yellow is required too, so there is some of the coreopsis dyed corriedale, some yellow preloved ribbon (there has to be fabric spinning too), and last year’s silk cocoons…


Then there is chain plying and the ever present eucalyptus dyed merino… and one mighty strange yarn overall!



Filed under Fibre preparation, Spinning