Things learned 3

Have I made it sound as though there was no real making at Second Skin, and it was all about the thinking?  Well, I was surprised by how pleasurable hand stitching and the odd spot of thinking were, but of course, there was making.

It began with string. This was part of an extremely cunning method of having all your measurements to hand without any numbers attached to them.  Hand twined string is further evidence of human genius, from my point of view.  I first learned how to make it from a basket weaver and was delighted and intrigued from that point forward.  Usually I make it from daylily leaves.  But this application of it struck me as further genius.  I know I always hate the part of pattern using where I have to compare my measurements to those contemplated by the pattern drafter.  Let me tell you, “The Vogue Body” and the one I am getting around in have little in common!  So many women’s feelings about clothing are really just feelings about our own bodies in the context of an environment where very few of us have the idealised shape and there is a lot of unwanted critique of female bodies.  What genius to sidestep a large part of that drama and along with it, simplify the process of design.  My string is made from tired old cotton that didn’t improve in some dye bath or other, but there were glorious examples of silk string, beautifully crafted by my fellow workshop participants.


Then there was the infinity scarf.  I made two, because when I modelled a plain cream version for my daughter she liked it so much I stitched all evening to hem hers and bundled it next day along with the frocks… and promptly forgot to take a picture.  Mine, of course, still needs one hem!  But it has been touched by indigo as well as leafy goodness of other kinds:


I like it very much!  I’d better finish the hem…

We had the good luck to be at Beautiful Silks in the aftermath of workshops on Indigo.  The bag below has also been dipped…  India said that this style of bag revels in the name tsunobukuro (I hope I have that right), which evidently translates as ‘horn bag’, because, of course, it has horns, which you tie together to create a handle.  Japanese design is so often beautifully economical–I did not fully grasp the geometry of this bag, but made it anyway and finished it a few nights ago.

I am not sure I can explain the feeling I have about ‘hornbag’ as an Australian…  and perhaps people who haven’t encountered Kath and Kim won’t be able to understand even if I try to explain this Australian phenomenon.  Those want to try could start with Wikiquote’s take on it.  I won’t trouble you with a critique of Kath and Kim right now, after all, we’re talking about things learned and things made!  Anyone in Melbourne could still take advantage of the fermentation indigo vats at afternoon sessions using them at Beautiful Silks.  The vats were set up when master indigo dyer Aboubakar Fofana was there recently.  Our getting to use them was an unexpected bonus.


And finally, there was a dress.  It features E Crenulata leaves, happily found in a park near where I was staying.  India said: ‘everything will be beautiful in the end.  And if it isn’t beautiful, it isn’t the end.’  I think this is a beautiful piece of fabric, and I learned a lot from turning it into a dress.  Partly because of my feelings on the subject of myself in a dress, and partly because of the inevitable features of a first attempt (in my case), I think this isn’t finished.  Or perhaps it is finished, but I haven’t found its true owner yet.  But I am still glad to have made it and learned from it.  That’s enough for me.


My eyes popped out when I saw the number of hits on this blog for today, (it’s usually a friendly but low traffic part of the glorious online universe) and then I realised there was a link in from India’s blog.  Thanks for stopping by if that is what brought you here.  If it wasn’t, and this workshop sounds like it’s for you, India Flint is running this workshop in Victoria later in the year, and there may still be places if that sounds like the holiday for you!


Filed under Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

35 responses to “Things learned 3

  1. SubmarineBells

    That dress looks great! Since we seem to be having a bit of unseasonal warmth at present, why not wear it to Night Owls this week? It’d be perfect weather for it, and I’ll make a special effort to attend if there’s the prospect of seeing you model your creation!

    I had Lots Of Thoughts about your previous post, but then my brane fell out and all the thoughts flew away. Suffice to say that your ideas about memory and learning and stuff like that are pretty much spot-on. Memory works nothing at all like videotape, popular wisdom notwithstanding. :-7


    • Aww, shucks. Let’s see if you’re definitely coming, and then I’ll give it some thought… the frock suffers from my apparent inability to understand (or respond to) my actual size (for example, by making clothes that fit me a little bit, somewhere). All the more puzzling given that I used measurements, but honestly, not the first or only manifestation of this phenomenon. I thought I was getting better at this, but apparently my senses desert me in the face of a frock. When making pants, I get closer sometimes!

      Your brane fell out? That does not sound like the woman who has been texting me about ph controlled dyeing experiments, my friend! Clearly the parting of ways was only temporary, phew! I know my memory is nothing like videotape 🙂


      • SubmarineBells

        Oh, the stuff about pH-controlled blah blah blah was just residual scrapings left in my branepan when my grey matter decided to fly north for the winter. I’d actually been planning that before the migraine-induced decortication, and so I just had to recite what I’d already figured out previously. It’s my ability to actually think new things that seems to have deserted me today, which is why you’re getting the Cliff’s Notes version of the comment I intended to write for your other post.

        Regarding fit… well, I’ve not seen the dress on you, obviously; but the dress in the pic above looks a bit like Ye Olde Sack-like Sun-Dress, which is a loose and comfy style that fits anyone whose circumference is smaller than it is. So assuming you cram your shapely form into it at all, I’m guessing it’ll do just fine. Of course, if it’s actually intended to be be a more fitted style, all bets are off! I look forward to seeing you in it later on. 🙂


      • Oh, I could fit two of me into this dress, and that means it can be modified to good effect. You’re right, it reminds me of one of my grandmothers who was always wearing a sacklike frock in the part of her life I knew her. The other one made her own clothes (and I have her overlocker) and one of her faves in later life was a floor length caftan, preferably in 100% nylon. I almost kept one when she died, for old time’s sake!


  2. Your dress is amazing! You should definitely wear it, even if you aren’t normally a dress person…… it’s not girlie, it’s a piece of art for your body 🙂
    And dresses like this are so comfortable, and free feeling (as the air whooshes up your skirt and cools your summer sweaty body).
    I eco printed a sarong for a guy friend last summer…. he loved it! And for those very reasons….. it is cool, and liberating.


    • You’re so kind! I think it looks great too–it’s a glorious piece of fabric! And yes… I do agree that dresses have the qualities you’re describing, and that this one is comfy 🙂 I just seem to have a blind spot. There were many worked examples of women looking awesome in dresses (and skirts) at the workshop–India included–but other women had examples of their handmade and/or hand dyed frocks that were just splendiferous too. I suspect I am a dag all the way to the core of my being! And far less flexible about what I wear than seems necessary!


      • I can understand that….. we wear what we feel most comfortable in.
        I personally feel so free in a dress such as this……. it allows me to be ‘me!’, forgetting about my outward appearance and allowing my inner self to come out.
        This is urging/teasing me into the making of my milky merino dress!


      • That’s just what I wish I felt in a dress! It’s quite some thing I have going if even this dress can’t win me over 🙂 But I did know that before I went to the workshop!!

        Good to hear your milky merino dress is edging closer. It will be great, especially after what you’ve said about you and dresses. The stretchy flowy factor with these fabrics will be a delight to you, I think!


      • I’ll be sure and post a photo if and when it is done!


      • I’ll look forward to seeing it 🙂


  3. I adore the dress.
    Love the ‘hornbag’. I’m having trouble typing that with a straight face, but it really is lovely.


  4. alex madden

    lovely work from a really interesting sounding workshop. Great idea about the measuring tape without numbers and really like the words from India about everything being beautiful in the end.


  5. josoandsew

    Is that Maz of the beautiful bags? I would love to see some photos of them on here…. cheers, Jo


  6. Love the dress, love the bag, love the dyeing—but what really got me excited was that you made cordage! I never thought of making cordage with daylily–such a great idea. I learned how from a basketweaver (we did a native plant called Rattlesnake Master), as a small part of a project we did in class, and despite taking a number of other basketweaving classes from her, it remains my favorite skill learned. I’ve been trying to convince her to teach me a project (like a birdhouse or something) that is all cordage and twined. She thinks I’m NUTS. 😀

    I have LOVED reading about this workshop—both the thinking and the making. So wonderful. And your writing is so thoughtful. I think your dress is beautiful, and even if you don’t end up wearing it (I’m with you in the no dresses camp), I’m sure you will find something wonderful to do with it. You will have to keep us posted on what happens.


    • Ah, cordage! It is one of the lovely things, for sure! I had never thought of making it from scrap fabric. Think of what overlocker ‘waste’ could become! Thanks for your lovely compliments… I try that dress on every couple of days for a new think about it 🙂


  7. zumbida

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your thoughts & creations from India’s class. Lovely work! I’m more of a trousers girl, myself, tho I do like the way frocks look, especially all layered. & me, too, even being an experiences sewist, often create garments that are way to huge. What’s up with that? Anyways, I’d consider cutting your frock up the front and transforming it into a long vest. Then it could be worn with pants!


    • Thanks for that thought about the vest, and your your compliments. I’m all blushes here! I like the way frocks look on other people… and the layered look is great too. So we’ll just have to see how I go. It’s 36C here today and I have managed a skirt. So anything could happen!


  8. having a wee struggle with wordpress here, at last it has allowed me to log in, but then lost my first attempt at a comment 😦 I wanted to say how I am enjoying virtual participation in India’s workshops in various ways, and I loved your thoughtful posts. also enjoying reading around all your dyeing spinning and tree conserving activities and wondering how you have time, especially as you seem to post quite a bit here! here in the UK eucalyptus trees seem to produce green colours (I noticed India commented on this somewhere) my friend’s e. gunnii which has to undergo periodic pollarding gives me pretty green leaf prints – or purplish grey with iron. I have planted a tiny gunnii which tried to do orange, but very faded, having spent it’s short life in a pot. in my garden i am expecting green. I tried eucalypts in Spain – there are forests of them – and got goldy colours – i think the most likely species that this could be is nitens. very difficult to identify them
    looking forward to more posts here! 🙂


    • Sorry to hear of your struggle with wordpress. It is so good at so many things–but the login is a high barrier to commenting, specially across platforms. Spam, on the other hand, has its own problems! Thanks for your persistence. I am always amazed to see those images of green eco prints. Clearly there are explanations in terms of mineral content and Ph, and I plan to try to produce them by creating those conditions one day–but so far I’ve had little success. I haven’t had the chance to try E Gunnii yet–but feel sure I’d get orange here if I did. These things can differ even between dyers. There is one at my guild who always gets brown from eucalyptus and can’t really believe I get orange. If he feels his colour isn’t exciting enough he adds green food colouring! I’ve tried to explain to him why I think there is such a difference in our dyeing outcomes, and even given him leaves–but it turns out we can be pretty attached to our own sweet ways. Thanks for stopping by and putting all that effort in to leave a comment. I appreciate it.


      • well worth the persistence! it’s strange because I comment without trouble on another WP blog – my own is WP, and WP says I’m logged in.
        food colouring! good heavens! perhaps he’s over-cooking it. I am doing quite well on the greens at the moment (I always use my well aged rain-butt water which is quite acid, usually with iron scraps, a dash of vinegar and some thick eucalypt leaves which otherwise don’t print but do the black thing in the boil up, but I assumed that inside the bundle was pure steam … maybe not). I got grey green on iron soaked milky merino from big fat dark pink alder (alder is a water loving tree that has tannin) catkins last week, and a pale copper green print from a friend’s tree fern that she insisted I tried, on cotton, as well as the gunnii light green. how fast any of these are is yet to be proved though. My local ilex oak windfalls do great purple greys and grey greens with iron, and that does seem pretty fast. rather envious of Aussie eucalyptus colours but they seem to be absolutely part of your landscape, don’t they. if someone asked me for my impression of Australian landscape colour that orange red would be high on the list … not that I have ever visited…..


      • I think one of the things that is so interesting about this process is the opportunity to investigate what’s local to you. But yes! I feel really blessed to be surrounded by eucalypts. They form a huge part of my sense of the Australian landscape. They are beautiful trees, they smell great and they are very exciting dyeplants. On the other hand, many a dye book extols to virtues of all that is English and/or European 🙂


  9. Oh, the fabric in your dress is just gorgeous! I love it, love it. Your scarves and horned bag are beautiful as well. India is teaching this May on Whidbey Island in Washington state, USA, which is not too far from me. I understand that the class sold out in minutes. I didn’t learn of it until too late. Maybe someday I will have that blessing. In the meantime, I treasure her books Eco Colour and Second Skin, and recently tried my first leaf bundles. We don”t have eucalyptus trees here, so I just used what leaves I had, not knowing what to expect. While I didn’t get any crisp leaf prints, I did get some interesting color and design, with the help of some found objects. A few pictures are posted on my blog. I am excited to try more!


    • Thanks, Pallas! I loved your post. Sometimes spaces become available in a class that is booked out–you might want to ask to be on a wait list if you’re keen, just in case. It seems to me that this technique works more readily on protein based fibres… which you might like to try too. But the patterns you got with those first bundles are really interesting, and I think they’d make great parts of a quilt (which seems to be your intention). One of the things I’ve realised about my own taste is that I love those leaf shapes! But that there are a lot of dyers using this process to get a colour and texture effect–a different goal, producing fabrics which can be used for different applications to really good effect. I made a quilt with my early efforts on cotton and linen (follow the link if you want to see it). They looked totally different to yours, but were much more pattern effects and much less obviously leafy prints. They weren’t what I had hoped for, but like you I was just so excited by the possibilities I kept experimenting. It’s clear from your blog that you are a persistent type, and so am I 🙂


      • Thank you for your encouragement. I love your quilt and all your little bags as well! They look like a great use of smaller pieces. I have an interesting small cloth bag which I purchased last year at a bazaar, and I plan to use it as a pattern for making a bag from at least one of my new fabric pieces. It is the perfect size for carrying a sock knitting project.


      • I love a little bag. Or a big one. Or a medium sized one! Such a great use of little pieces. I was thinking about you overnight Pallas. I don’t think you have to abandon all your dyeing knowledge in taking up eco printing. You can use your understanding of which plants have leaves that give colour, on which fabrics/fibres, with which mordant processes–and apply that knowledge to the process. Those that require heat to dye will still require heat (or a huge amount of time, perhaps), but all your stock of dyeing wisdom can provide you with clues toward success–or at least, that’s what I found.


  10. These 3 posts have captured your time with India in a thoughtful manner. Thank you for sharing your experience.


  11. fabulous! So happy to read of your wonderful workshop experience, and to enjoy it vicariously through your posts.


  12. that hint of blue in the fabrics is so lovely


  13. Pingback: Whatever became of the dress? | Local & Bespoke

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