Monthly Archives: July 2015

Make way for the seedlings!

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In the spirit of experimentation, I have been planting seeds and seeing what happens.  There are resources available on propagating native plants, but they are not so detailed that it is possible for me to draw on other people’s experiences of propagating bladder saltbush in my area (for example)… and I have been trying things out in order to learn.  A couple of weeks ago I planted seed of 4 different types and to my surprise, ruby saltbush (top left) and bladder saltbush (bottom right) are coming up in numbers!

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It is a sign.  It’s time to keep planting out!  The little patches of disturbed soil in the picture below are the places I have added to plantings made by a contractor.  My trowel tells me that the contractors are not planting where there is too much rock or bluemetal below.  We will see how the saltbush take to it.

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Next stop, the park, where we planted quandong trees some years ago.  The quandongs didn’t take to it, but the fine leaved boobialla we planted to be their host (quandongs are parasitic, to simplify, and need a host plant)–have gone really well.  So here I am coming home with lots of rubbish, empty pots, and cuttings.

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On the way home, I stopped to admire one of the beloved neighbourhood trees and listen to the birds that were there at the same time.

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I am still not sure whether putting the cut ends in honey helps them take or not.  But I have lovely honey from friends who run a bee centred beekeeping operation and are such sweethearts… so honey it was.

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So many cuttings! Oh.  I forgot I needed to make way for the seedlings!  I guess I have to keep planting….

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And also, that I need to face that the time has come to mend the fingertips of my favourite gloves.   The dirt is gettting into my fingernails in a very big way!  I mended one gappy fingertip by hand and that was so hard I put a thin layer of cloth beneath the other one to catch remaining soil and stitched it on my machine.

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Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

A little more embroidery

My needle and I moved on to another little indigo dyed bag that arrived at our house as a printed calico bag full of bath salts. Here it is on a table in a coffee shop, in progress.

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I love the way the silk thread has a little sheen over the matte background of the calico.

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This one is stitched with silk thread dyed with cold processed austral indigo (silvery grey), indigo, eucalyptus cinerea exhaust and plum pine.

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I like these subtle colours, even though some of them felt really disappointing when first they emerged from the dye. They work beautifully in this context, I think.  Another lesson in life from the dye pot!

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Sewing

Beautification through embroidery

Somehow I have fallen down another rabbit hole… I seem to be stitching.  A lot.  Still with the project of making what is merely functional, more beautiful.  I started out with three calico drawstring bags that had held bath salts and soap nuts.  I had a spectacular dyeing fail using eucalyptus.  Go figure.  Certainly not an improvement!

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I dipped them in the indigo vat a few times, a while back.  Better.

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Then one day I suddenly saw what to do.  I started and then kept going.  Here I am with it in progress on my lap on the bus to work.

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Threads dyed with madder, grevillea robusta, and eucalyptus.

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It’s so much better!

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Last night it went home with a friend.  It is going to become home for a deck of tarot cards.  And I have started on the others…

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Sewing

Bundle of beautification

I am still thinking about the difference between my toleration of ugly but functional things–and observing friends and companions at Tin Can Bay who instead, make everything within reach more beautiful. I have a perfectly functional merino underlayer that is a fairly ordinary shade of mauve, and as I wear it every week at this time of year, I have had it in contemplation.  I finally decided that the time had come, only to find a little ladder.  That was quickly mended with logwood dyed thread.  This picture gives a fair sense of the colour of the garment.

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I have mended this top quite a bit due to the monster season of m*th activity a year or two back.  The darns are in various colours, some quite tasteful.  These ones are still pale blue and pale purple, as they were after early washfastness testing in 2013.  I dyed these threads with plum pine.

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Others are a lot more random!

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Having darned over breakfast, I set out to plant boobialla and saltbush, with a plan about collecting dyestuffs.

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I feel sorry fr these plants going into such sad looking land…

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But I have not lost a single plant in this patch and if they all grow it will make such a difference.  Those that went in a few months ago are much bigger already.  Someone stopped as I planted and said ‘You are such a good public person!’

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Plants in, weeding done, I headed out to this E Scoparia.  It’s a beauty with particularly slender leaves. The people whose fence it overhangs don’t like it tickling their hair as they pass and resent it hanging over their fence.  So hard to understand!  I selectively cut to minimise their struggle with it when I want to use this plant. I make it shorter over the footpath and then trim the lowest hanging parts over their fence.

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Home again, home again!

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The tree is in flower, but the flowers are small.  Love those pliable red stems.

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I settled on a pot full of dried E Cinerea leaves.  This rainwater tank finally has rain in it again.

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Then for the bundling part…  I always think I’ll be neater this time, and then make the usual scruffy bundle.

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Some time later, the leaves have  had  a head start and in goes the bundle.

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Well, I think this is an improvement!  Here is the front.  The logwood didn’t really survive the dye pot very well, which works. The eucalyptus dyed threads have stayed their previous colours, but now blend in. The indigo dyed thread is still blue!

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And this is the back.  No regrets from me!

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Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

A little light grafting

I have a friend who also likes to knit socks.  For some reason she prefers it if I graft the toes, though.  I think she must have been saving this pair for some time.

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She has retired and knows every good place for coffee and lunch for miles around.  This was one I had never heard of, a short distance from home.  It was indeed delectable, and her company is always a fine thing.

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So after the hot chocolate and before the mushroom and barley soup with goat curd–I started in…

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…did the little magic trick that makes the two sides of the sock become one…

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And snuggled those stitches in so you couldn’t tell the sewn row from the knit rows.  It has never lost its thrill for me.  The first time I grafted a toe, I was catching a train from Port Adelaide to the city (so I had a while) and I had three books in my bag to consult… as I had a failure of understanding with one, I would switch to the next, and then eventually back to the first having garnered a little more knowledge.  It didn’t go terribly smoothly, but it was the first time.  Now I can graft in public or in a meeting or while holding a conversation.  I love that warm glow of having acquired a skill but still being able to remember when it was an utter mystery or a very immense challenge.


Filed under Knitting

More hats…

I made a Turn a Square.

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It travelled all kinds of places and some of it was knit in Sydney.  Here we are waiting for someone else’s lunch to be ready. 2015-06-28 13.10.12

And here we are with muesli and yoghurt.  Who knew???  Muesli and yoghurt don’t look this awesome at home! 2015-06-28 12.01.10

There was yarn left from this skein, so I reverse engineered Turn  A Square and knit it from the centre out so I could use the whole skein.  It seems like the right season to be making a few hats… and Students of Sustainability seemed like the right people to give them away to!

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Filed under Knitting

Coast daisy-bush

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A friend came over with a gift!  She lives beside the Aldinga Scrub conservation park and she grows endemic species at her place–and lots came up in her driveway where she felt obliged to dig them out.  She has potted them on for me to plant.  So this is Olearia axillaris–Coast daisy-bush.  A silver-leafed, tall and bushy shrub well adapted to drought.  We will see how it goes in the suburbs…

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And we won’t be waiting long, because I’ve been out planting.  We finally had rain in the driest winter I remember (and the driest since records began in some parts of the state).

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Olearia, boobialla and a few saltbush went out onto this spot where I reckon I have planted 30 plants at least… and council decided to put a recycled plastic bench.  Those are creeping boobialla in the foreground, just in case you missed them.  While I was planting, a neighbour who spends a lot of time on the street came over to keep me company.  His opening line was ‘so you’re out praying again!’ Not far from the mark, I think: this might be the closest I come to prayer.

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Olearia up near the railway barrier wall.  While I planted these I suggested to him that he could help the plants I have put in near his house to live by watering them as the weather warms up.  He said he would give it a try.  He clearly does like the fact I’m planting nearby.

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Then over to a new spot.  One of my friends suggested this place, where three beds have been created but nothing has gone into them.  To my surprise and delight there is actual soil beneath a generous layer of mulch.  I had my first sighting of a worm in all my guerilla plantings… There are worms in some of my pots that go out into a challenging world, but I haven’t found one already in situ until now.

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Two olearia over near the fence and another boobialla in the foreground.  Railway tracks in the background.

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I found two patches of these… eggs?  Intriguing.  And came home with a bumper amount of rubbish.  Happily rigid plastics are recyclable here, so at least some of this will be recycled and the broken glass, dead shoe, straws and suchlike will at least be off the street.

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Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

More local planting


Dear readers, it has been a busy time lately… what with the day job, and a couple of conferences, and some music… and my general tendency to cast on too many things and noodle along (one recetn effort had to be cast on three times and this means ripped out twice as well)… and the Tour de Fleece.  The Tour involves spinning every day for the duration of the Tour de France.  I missed a few days travelling but have mostly been sticking to it. But… it is hard to make one day’s spinning look exciting.  Trust me on this, especially, if I only had half an hour to commit!  Meanwhile, the cold, wet weather is ideal for planting out natives and I have been going all out.

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Out into the big, cold, wet world went these plants.  Some ruby saltbush and some fine leaved creeping boobialla.

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One poor little boobialla straight into bluemetal. It’s the only way to find out what can make it!

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The council had dumped a modest pile of mulch near one of the beloved trees in the neighbourhood, burying some of our beloved saltbush.  My friend and I got to work.  He shovelled and spread mulch.  I weeded and planted.  We both got a bit damper than was really part of the plan, but rain is the best. Here we are, finished, splattered in mud.  Next we headed to his house and there was hot lunch and fine company!

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And chicken happiness!  What is there not to like about birds who greet weeds with such delight and give you eggs and compost back?

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Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Students of Sustainability

The national Students of Sustainability conference is in our own city this year, and I was asked to present. I did a few things, and one of them was a workshop on craft.  Once I started putting together what I thought I might take, my imagination went wild, as it so often does.  pretty soon I had made up a stack of mending kits.  So many other women’s haberdashery has come my way in the last decade or two, and I have been such an op shopping pack rat–that I have surplus.  Tins from my mother-out-law.  Tins from gifts.  Boxes from lovely stationery.  My friend’s Mum’s huge collection of machine sewing thread.  Needles from my grandma.  Buttons from everywhere including three generations of my own family.  When I went looking for the embroidery thread of my childhood, I found there wasn’t much of it, but there was a motherlode of darning wool and leather samples, all in a big tin with a little embroidery equipment and some English piecing left over from a quilt I began in primary school, finished as an adult and gave away the night I finished it–replete with 900, 3 cm squares of treasured fabrics gifted by my mother and grandmother for my fidgety little fingers to work on.

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Hopefully these kits will find happy homes with environmental activists whose stashes are not quite as replete as my own–they all went to new homes at the end of the workshop.  I took a couple of beanies to give away too.  Then I ironed some bunting that spent months in the street and came down when council decided on a permapine barrier to stop cars killing the plantings by the tram line (happiness!).  It’s a lesson in colourfastness (in which indigo dyeing beats commercial black dye and dress and quilt fabrics hands down and a second hand sheet fares very well).   The attendees had their own ideas about what bunting might be useful for, some of it became patches, flags, a bandanna, a bag and interfacing.

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Here I am packed and ready to go.  After this I added very warm clothing, and a big thermos of ginger tea with lime leaves and other good ingredients.  The basket on the left was apparently made by my Mum’s mother.  I borrowed it in Mum’s absence, carrying home fruit, veg and flowers when they were away, and it feels like good company somehow.  So I have both grandmas coming with me, dear as they both were. Along came the bundle book in case people wanted to know about the eco dyed fabrics we might stitch on (they sure did!  How did you do that?  Was asked and answered over and over again as I had leaf-printed fabrics for people to use and enjoy).  People also appreciated the very inspiring Little Book of Craftivism2015-07-11 16.04.39

This enthusiastic participant is modelling one of my beanies as embellished by his Mum.  ‘Lock the gate’ is a campaign against fracking in farming land.

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A few people learned how to sew for the very first time.

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There were some unique pouches and bags… people had some needed gentle time in their big week.  A few folk had a nap in the corner at some stage (camping out in the high wind and heavy rain the previous night must have been pretty tough).

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I was blessed with the support and company of a friend who is a fabulous maker and activist.  She came along as support crew and brought her many fine qualities to the event. And her mending, too!


Filed under Craftivism, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing


There has been less mending this winter because after the attack of the m*ths last year, stringent measures have been taken round here. M*th proof storage and pheromone sticky traps, and a cleaning programme that gets into the corners.  This is the first mend I’ve needed to make to a woollen undergarment this season, and this garment is years old and has seen a lot of wear.  It’s underwear, so I decided to trial an external patch, as well as an internal patch.  The internal patch was almost invisible from the outside. Here’s the outside view of the external patch:

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Silkymerino eucalyptus-print patch sewn on with eucalyptus dyed silk thread… and here is the inside–interior patch on the left and exterior patch on the right.

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I also have a favourite T shirt.  It’s a fine bamboo shirt with a design by the wonderful Nikki McClure. It has worn some small holes in front.  In the region of the belly button (or perhaps the belt buckle), to be exact!  Hence the trial of internal and external patching.  Conclusion: a feature external patch in this location… will not be flattering when the garment is on, though it could look great if it wasn’t actually on me!  The patched place is at the centre bottom of this image, looking slightly puckered.

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Here is the inside view–silkymerino stitched with madder dyed cotton/silk thread.  The little holes show red and so do all the tiny stitches… so there is a little speckled area on the front of the shirt.  In the spirit of the visible mending programme, this patch is visible… but not too visible!  And I personally will enjoy the internal view.

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And… some rough and ready patching on my gardening jeans has also been needed.  The second knee finally gave way.

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And when I went to mend the knee, one of the back pockets pulled away from the seat.  Better than this happening while I’m out on the street!  I decided against anything fancy because there isn’t much left in the way of strong fabric in these jeans any more–the hem has worn right through, the belt loops are pulling away from the waistband, and the next pair in the queue are more than ready for a permanent move to gardening wear.  In the meantime, some reinforcement on the inside and some machine darning over the most threadbare section will keep them going awhile longer…

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Filed under Sewing