Monthly Archives: December 2014

Leaf print experiments

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I’ve been trying leaves I don’t usually use and some different strategies for cooking them up. Prunus leaves, kindly contributed by this block of flats.  I am sure they wouldn’t mind!

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Maple… I think this is Japanese maple.

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I have tried several different sheoaks.

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Some of the results are really spectacular.  My favourite is quite green, very exciting.

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Here it is beside the prunus prints.

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They are pretty pale…

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The maple leaves were interesting, and I love the impression of the string ties.  And this sheoak came out better than any other so far.  I tried 6he leaves out on a linen collar, and wrapped it around a rusty spring I found in my leaf gathering travels.  This bundle was so small I overlooked it, so this one had a long time in the pot, which is no doubt a clue for future experiments.

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Some results were less exciting.  I did get a pale green print from our birch leaves, which is a first and might be promising.

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I went back for more juvenile E Polyanthemos and this time, not so great prints resulted, but I did get some that were quite green, and that’s promising too.

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Meanwhile, the saga of the neighbourhood bees continues.  The lorikeets moved out of this nesting box, and the bees moved in weeks ago.  There is now honeycomb visible in the opening.

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Filed under Dye Plants, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

Bark dyes

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What with all the bark collecting there’s been… there have been some bark dye pots too.

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I  smash the bark up small, the better to create a nice, strong dye.

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After heating, I get something more like this…

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For some reason the light out the back is making things look less spectacular rather than more spectacular (as is my camera’s usual tendency) as we head into summer–but as you can see I have scaled up to colour separation… grading the colours and carding them separately.  One of my friends put me onto this strategy and I just love it.  She’s very clever about colour and I feel lucky to have the benefit of her wisdom.

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And then carding…

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And more carding… and finally spinning, which is underway.  I hope your holiday season has treated you well and the new year is looking promising.  I think this kind of preparation, time consuming and sometimes boring as it is, always makes me think that promising things are in the future, and this is a year in which the collective project at our place involves focusing on optimism.   I will gratefully accept tips!


Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

‘Tis the season for bark collecting

It is the season when a lot of eucalypts shed their bark here.  It’s impressive…  here are a couple of local and spectacular examples… E Scoparia:

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And closer up:

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Corymbia Citriodora:

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Needless to say there has been some collecting, though I haven’t done as much as I thought I might so far… often it’s just a bagful when I pass.

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But one time when we went to visit for dinner with some saltbush to plant out we just brought back the wheelbarrow full!

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It has led to dyeing, especially now I’m done with work for the year!

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Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

Pecan leaf bag

Some time ago I acquired some pecan leaves from a tree grown by my friends.  They were always destined for the dye pot!  Some prints turned out crisper than others, but overall I loved these prints.  They were printed onto leftovers from a skirt lining and some other plain cotton fabric I bought at a church fete… it clearly had a weaving defect of some kind that meant none of the selvedges and none of the grain in the fabric ran straight.  Best not used for clothing, perhaps, but I have had a great time taking it from plain white to all kinds of other treasures.

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Once I had pieced all the oddly shaped sections together, I had four decent sized panels, and the challenge of choosing which I would prefer on the outside and which for the inside.

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In what turns out to be just about a signature of my sewing, I preferred the pieced together panels to some of the whole leaf prints.

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But the whole leaf prints were good too.

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I decided to give this bag to some friends who live locally.  I often see them in the distance with one calico bag or another in hand or over shoulder… so it seemed likely this would be useful to them.  And I love that they live nearby and that they are fellow carers for the neighbourhood and its people.  I slipped it in their letterbox with a little card…


Filed under Leaf prints, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Guerilla saltbush planting–and more solace pennants

The latest round of saltbush seedlings have gone out into the big, wide (hot, dry) world.  With the occasional alyssum seedling carried along for the ride.  We loaded up the wheelbarrow and headed out with our well soaked seedlings.

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There was precious little soil to plant them in, in places… but we will just try them out and see how far they get.  We were planting by a pedestrian and cycle crossing, and I was a bit surprised by how many people thanked and congratulated us, perhaps giving us credit for planting that has been done by the council, as well as the 20 or so plants we were setting out.

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Once they were watered in, we wandered off down the road to spread a bit more mulch and pick plastics out of the mulch council has supplied.  Since planting we have realised that the council workers who are watering the council plantings are also watering the ones we put in–awesome!

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There have been yet more pennants for Solace… I went to a conference and spent the quiet evenings, of which there were few, stitching away on these.

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Some are double sided… I told my sister (we had dinner one night while I was conferencing) about the project and she asked what I was writing on the pennants.  When I said ‘ladybirds’ she laughed and said she felt that way about ladybirds too!

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‘Weeding and revegetation’ seemed an appropriate one to show in this post… but when I made this pennant I was thinking of dear friends who weed and care for precious places in the Blue Mountains and beyond… and of pulling out caltrop in the new plantings in our street, which is part of the route of a bikeway!  Caltrop produces the ‘three corner jack’, a vicious spiny seed capsule more than capable of piercing a thong (flip flop) or deflating a bicycle tyre.  For another contribution to the project, you might like to go here and be inspired.



Filed under Leaf prints, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Jars of summer’s glory

I’ve been collecting for a while now… as flowers finish or petals fall.

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After re-potting, the daylily had a bumper season, flowering for weeks.  The maroon pelargonium also did well, and I picked up all the dead flowers as their petals fell.

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My friends have hollyhocks, some almost black and some a little more pink and purple.

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They’re patient or even encouraging when I collect spent blooms… and realise that they will end up being stuffed into jars for steeping and storing following India Flint’s method of preservation dyeing (more or less).  This is my new favourite way to dye embroidery thread.  I never thought I could be converted to embroidery, no matter how simple.

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And, it is hibiscus season again.  I went along for a ride to West Lakes for others to do open water swimming.  The dog and I found an entire hedge of red hibiscus (we’re temporary dog aunties again), and I just happened to have a bag with me.  I know–how fortuitous!

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Closer up…

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And here is the dye jar result of picking up all those spent flowers.  Hollyhocks on the left, hibiscus on the right.  The jars that have come to me as a result of Mum having a favourite brand of mayonnaise are all finding good uses despite being a bit too big for jam.  these jars of summer’s glory will now sit and steep in all their jewel like colours for about a year.

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Filed under Natural dyeing

Bag making

There came a point in the end of year crazy-pants where I couldn’t stand all the bits and pieces that were lurking around my office/sewing space. Finally, I decided to take action.  Who needs a potato sack in residence in their work space for months?  It went the way of so many potato sacks round here.  This one was a particularly nice sack, with quite a complex weave structure (for a hessian sack).  The printing was even less wash fast than usual (for a hessian sack) but hopefully it will now have another life being appreciated for its carrying qualities.

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Then there were all the small pieces of fabric left over from other things.  I created patchwork from them and soon had enough for a bag (or two!) lined with eco-prints I like less.

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These are mostly small pieces of pre-loved garments that have been turned into other things, with or without prior leaf prints.  This one has already gone to a happy home with friends who use bags all the time.

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And then there was the ongoing bag patching ritual.  There were three or four new holes… so my favourite bag got yet another patching job.  From this:

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To this!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Sewing

Three cheers for the Goody Patch!

We have a wonderful local community garden (there are several locally, but this is the neighbourhood treasure).  It’s called the Goody Patch–partly because it’s attached to the Goodwood Primary School and partly because it is a source of goodies (good things).  Here’s the welcome mosaic.

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Recently it had a birthday party.  There were early zucchini (courgettes).

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There were herbs, and beds celebrating the cuisines of particular communities.

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Intriguing shade structures and indications of ingenuity with repurposed hard rubbish…

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And flowers!

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There was some vertical gardening…

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And all manner of gardening gloriousness, together with the odd bit of yarnbombing (look at the fence in the background below).  It was a great celebration of this garden, which has gone from humble beginnings in a small area to its current much bigger size and range of activities.  If I am able to go past during the schoolday, there are schoolchildren in there excitedly learning to propagate.  On the weekend there are adults and children working together.  There is always plenty to look at and admire.  I went home munching on a chocolate chip and fresh mint biscuit (it was green and delicious) and carting  a few additions to our garden from one of the many stalls.  So here’s to a neighbourhood treasure and all those who initiated it and sustained it until, as one friend said, it reached a critical mass.

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Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

More ‘Solace’ pennants

I still think the idea of India Flint’s Solace project is wonderful.  Having made some contributions that were not to specifications recently… I felt moved to make some that were.  I’ve been piecing together scrap fabrics from other projects as well as using small pieces of treasured fabrics.

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I often think that growing plants from seed is so wonderful that it couldn’t be any better, more exciting or more awe-inspiring if it were magic.

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I am not sure anyone could be who they are without being among, being with, being part of a community.  I know this is true of me.  So friends are at the heart of all that gives me hope and capacity in life.

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And then there is kindness.  Kindness imparted or received. Kindness observed.  Even the kindness of strangers.  Kindness between strangers may be a special kind of treasure.

I found another contribution to Solace,  from Mo Crow, here.  You might want to visit and be inspired.


Filed under Leaf prints, Sewing

Guerilla planting

Long term readers will know that our neighbourhood was at the centre of a major piece of infrastructure development in the last few years. One of the things this meant was the loss of 173 trees in a small part of our metropolitan area, and since the project ended we have lost still more.  In the last few months (way too late for it to be a good time for new plants to establish themselves) there has been a lot of mulching and planting.  Good as this is–and parts of it are great–the trees that have been planted are a lot smaller than those we lost, and they always will be.  In our street, where more than 20 trees were removed, not a single tree has been planted.

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The plantings in our street are a little more regimental than I probably would have chosen, but they are hardy, native species that might make it through summer, and that is a start.  There are lots of spaces though, and in time this will mean that as the mulch layer becomes soil, weeds will rise.  I’ve decided on direct action of a smallish sort.  I soon discovered why some parts of the ground had been left bare.  There is concrete so close to the surface that my trowel reached it.  I put larger saltbush species in where there was enough soil to give them a chance, and smaller species in where they might make it but little else will.  I propagated them from seed some time ago and have been waiting a long while to get them in the ground.  This felt like such a small contribution–but as I knelt there digging, a chap on a bike went past and called out ‘good girl!’  This was so clearly intended as encouragement I decided to receive it as such and press on.

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I also planted some of these.  I don’t know the name of this plant.  I collected seed when we went to Wilpena Pound
a few years back and these plants are spreading in our front garden even without being watered–they have what they need to be able to survive unwatered on public land.  They are among the species being planted in the neighbourhood, so I decided to add some in our street.  They have a little pinky-purple flower followed by a pleasing little puff of seed head.  Here is the way they look full sized right now.

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Well… I have begun planting out my current crop of seedlings and put in a lot more of last summer’s seed collection.  They aren’t trees… but we need everything we can get to soften the landscape here and give solace to the smaller creatures.  Trees, we won’t be able to consider planting until autumn.


Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures