Monthly Archives: January 2014

Tree loving craftivism

While I was in Melbourne, I found Sarah Corbett’s A Little Book of Craftivism.  Yes, it is literally small, but inspiring out of proportion to its size.  It is about the work of the craftivist collective, together with proposals about how the reader might engage in their own craftivism.


For those who might be wondering… one definition of craftivism: ‘Craftivism is a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.’ More at the link.

I loved this little book from the beginning. This is activism of a gentle, slow kind.  It isn’t the only kind of activism the world needs.  But every social movement needs a variety of approaches–I’ve participated in many–and gentle is one of them.  This book is packed with organising wisdom, clear instruction, pictures that inspire and make you wish you had been there and examples of projects from the small to the enormous that offer plenty of scope for DIY.


For a view of the book and its content, click here.  For a brief review with links to multiple other reviews and ways to purchase online other than through amazon, click here.  To purchase from the craftvist collective itself, click here and check the sidebar.

Did I mention finding this book inspiring?  I think it’s one of the highest compliments that you could pay to a book of its kind to say that I immediately wanted to go out and make some of the projects in this book and could immediately see places that could happen to good effect. Not only that, I tried my ideas out on my nearest and dearest and then created them.  My ‘mini protest banner’ is a little different to the cross stitched versions in the book–but nevertheless the same concept.


I took:

  • a calico sack from a local business for my banner background (I offered to take the offcast bags from a shop and they accepted)
  • some not-so-glorious leaf print experiments for backing
  • some leaf-printed collars and cuffs for my frame
  • some eucalyptus dyed silk thead and
  • some secondhand bias binding… and…

Before long I had made two banners.  We hung the first one today. One of my friends offered the view that every day was a good day for this kind of event (I guess we’re friends in part because we agree on things like that!) so we had cool drinks of water and cherries and chat and then went out to admire the tree and tie on.  The 6 year old present wants to make more banners, which is additionally promising.


This banner celebrates a river red gum (E Camaldulensis) that we managed to save from being cut down last year, with help from other local people and our local MP, Steph Key.  It has a legally mandated 3 m exclusion zone around it to protect the root zone, but this is not being observed very well lately and I want the people responsible to know that we care.  I had to measure the tree to be sure I had stitched on enough tape:  3.6 m (11′ 9”) around the trunk, well above the ground.  To give you a sense of its size… and the relative size of the banner (which is in the picture), I give you the full view.



Filed under Book Review, Craftivism, Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Bark dyes on alpaca and wool yarn

Here it is… some of my holiday knitting, ready to go!


Last year I ran some workshops at the Guild, and I ended up with quite a quantity of Bendigo Woollen Mills Alpaca Rich in a shade of white called ‘rich magnolia’… which I was never going to use in this colourway.


So… I have been skeining and dyeing it. Unevenly…


More evenly…


And in quite a range of shades.  The one right at the bottom in the picture below is handspun that had been mordanted with alum, dyed in logwood exhaust, suffered some kind of surprise bleaching episode in our laundry and then gone through two eucalyptus baths.  It looks great now, but what a soap opera of a story!


And now… turned into balls and ready to be holiday knitting! Would you believe… slippers?



Filed under Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Leaf printed t shirts

Last year, three t shirts from the op shop (thrift store) found their way into my soymilk bucket.  They have been sitting in a little pile since then, but recently they made their way into the dye pot. This one is for a treasured friend who has been waiting a while since I checked size with him.  The first picture (of the front) gets the colour about right and the second one (further below) is inexplicably different though taken within minutes!


The leaves are from another friend’s Eucalyptus Cinerea.  It needs trimming to keep it out of the hair and eyes of passersby and I have generously offered to help!


Yet another friend (perhaps I should ask my dear friends if they are happy to be named online!) visited on dyeing day so I gave her this next one and she designed its new leafy incarnation.  On the day I am writing I brought it in to work still bundled and tied with string, and she opened it on her office desk over lunch.  We experimented with putting these garments in a dyebath, rather than just into a simmering pot of water, and that is the reason for the overall orange that is strongest up near the neckline on the back where the fabric absorbed the dyebath most strongly.


I think her design is lovely…


The third t-shirt was a pale grey one.  I bundled it up in the morning and gifted it, cooked, but still rolled and tied, to a friend who is completely enchanted by the eco-print process and who has been facing tough times lately.  I’m hoping unwrapping that bundle gladdened her heart in these challenging times. It sure gladdened my heart to have her visiting us.

While we’re talking t-shirts… I couldn’t help noticing that two of the three were made in Bangladesh, a mighty long way from Adelaide.  For anyone interested in viewing the global garment trade from the perspective of a single t-shirt (though not one of these leafy t-shirts!) Planet Money from US National Public Radio has made a series on the subject you might like to check out.

Hopefully that’s three op shop t-shirts that will now have much more exciting second lives, with much less travel involved!


Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints

Knitting for the beloved

My mother-out-law is a charming and delightful woman who is a fabulous seamstress.   (I say out-law because her daughter and I are not married, and not likely to be… and there is no option for our marriage in this country for us even if we were marrying types).  She clearly sewed wonderful garments her whole life and keeps telling me this latest frock will be her last and that she is giving up sewing, now, in her mid eighties.  Knitting she likes less, and has less confidence about.

So it was with some surprise that I saw her decide to knit a sleeveless vest for my father-out-law, who in the usual way of such things is a whole lot bigger than her.  All the more surprisingly, she chose 5 ply (fingering) 100% alpaca for the job, ensuring that there would be many thousands of stitches involved.  I happily cast on for her and knit the ribbing, wondering why she was doing it, especially as they live in tropical Brisbane.

I think the answer is all about love.  The love of her husband of over 50 years, and the love of the friend who can no longer knit who gave her this delectable yarn.

Over the last 3 or 4 years I have had progress updates.  At one point I turned a pesky purl that had slipped into the stocking stitch of the garment–fifty rows back–into the knit it was always destined to be.   The friend who taught me that trick has earned my undying gratitude!  At some stage I cast on the front and knit the ribbing for that.  When they visited recently it was clear that the enormity of the task was grinding her down,  with the back finished and about 1/3 of the the front done.  So I offered to finish it, with some trepidation about whether my skills would be up for the job at the level required.


I chose needles a size bigger that she had been using, because she is a loose knitter and I am a tight knitter, and hoped for the best.  I knit away for some while before I realised there was an added stitch with a companion decorative hole, beginning an additional column of stitches well below the marked line where her knitting ended and mine began.  I ripped back and started from that new point.  After a while I saw that I had made a hole and a new column of stitches exactly the same way, ripped back again and continued up.  I got to the neck with some excitement and then realised it looked wrong.  On closer inspection, and with new respect for the improvements in pattern drafting I have enjoyed having taken up knitting long after this one was printed, I realised I was trying to knit a v neck using the instructions for the crew neck.  I ripped out that side of the neck and then a good 20 cm or so to get to the point where a v neck should begin… and then went again.  I cast off the upper edges too tightly for them to match the back and had to rip that out and re-knit.  Then I soaked it overnight and set it out to dry.


After all that had gone wrong so far, I was immensely relieved to see all the puckering and the line where the baton passed from one knitter to another had vanished and the fabric looked great! Next, for the finishing parts… seaming, neckline and arm bands.  Instructions that go ‘pick up and knit 186 stitches evenly…’ always freak me out a bit!

Toward the end I was being cheer squad at the Moana Beach Triathlon and could not resist a Yarn Harlot shot of the vest at the beach.


By the time you read this, the vest will have been reunited with the first knitter and then with the intended wearer.  I hope they both love it.  I certainly love them profoundly for making me so welcome in their family.



Filed under Knitting