Monthly Archives: September 2015

Jaywalkers in osage orange and indigo

First, there was some undyed wool and silk yarn.

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Then, there was osage orange sawdust. The colour was so sunny and lovely I considered leaving it at that.  But there was an indigo plan.

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The fructose vat, no less.

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So one fine day there was  variegated yellow-green-green-blue yarn.  (Yes, that is madder on the left).

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Jaywalker seemed the obvious pattern for the job.  Here we are at the bus stop after work.

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And at a coffee shop waiting for a delicate operation to be performed on my guitar across the road.

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And out for dinner at the central markets with our friends.

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We even went to a conference in Melbourne.

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This Melbourne arcade was so splendid I took photos just for the pleasure of it.

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Here is the sock in the foyer of the unglamorous conference venue, with its best feature (the flower arrangement).

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And here, at last, are the finished socks!

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I like the way this pattern zigs and zags.

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I like to use a reinforced heel stitch.

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And I’m pretty happy with the dyeing.  Hopefully the recipient will like them too when she returns from her current extended travelling.  They’re going in the mail today, with about 2 metres of leftover yarn.  Phew!  Just made it!

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Local dyepots

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E Torquata in flower…

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E Acaciiformis (I think).

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In flower right now but not in quite such a lush way.

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One of the local E Scoparias.

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Under attack from some kind of small insect… and with so much rubbish dumped all around it, including an entire innerspring mattress.

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And another E Scoparia.

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I also sampled small amounts of all kinds of native species from public plantings and over the odd fence.

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And threw in some woad leaves and woad flower stems.  Curious minds and all that!

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I love the transformation from this…

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To this…

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and this.

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Now I’m going to try some waiting!


Filed under Natural dyeing

Stitching up a storm

It began with a beloved tree banner for a tree that lost its long standing banner during the Royal Show.  Hopefully it went to another beloved tree.  The whim took me one night, so I found some calico gifted by a friend and interfaced it with a handkerchief that had passed the point of no return.

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Pretty soon, I had a banner ready to tie on. The silk thread was dyed a little while back, wrapped around a piece of E Scoparia bark from the very tree this banner is destined to adorn.  Before:

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And here’s the banner!

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Somehow the same night I machine stitched the banner together I decided to finally break out the glorious Japanese indigo dyed cotton thread my beloved brought home from a recent trip to Japan.  With pictures of the master dyer and his family, and of the workshop.  And some hand woven indigo dyed fabric.  Oh my!  It could take me years to decide what to do with it!

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Pretty soon I’d made this panel and started to have all kinds of ideas about what might happen to it next.

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But in the meantime I was keen to make a gift for a friend who had recently given me all the linen, canvas and cotton left from her days in art school.

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It’s lined with part of a raw silk suit a different friend found for me at an op shop.

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Done just in time to see her today!

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And… here is the banner in situ.

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The tree is in the process of shedding bark right now.  And just as beautiful as ever.

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Filed under Craftivism, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

14 more ruby saltbush plants

Gentle readers, there has been knitting and spinning and stitching going on but there has also been an overwhelm-ment of day job and a distinct lack of photo taking. I will try to sort myself out soon.  Meantime, post-work planting began this week.  The days are lengthening and I have seeds coming up ready to be pricked out, but no empty pots to plant them into. The queue seemed to require I get onto the planting!

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14 ruby saltbush ready to go into the ground.  Plus my leaky watering can.  In the end I stood it next to a plant so the fine but steady stream of water squirting from its side could go to use while I was digging!

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The darker patches are the places where I have watered and planted.  They are around the edge of my previous plantings.  This is a patch where people and dogs can choose just to walk through (and of course, people walk through at night when small plants are not so obvious), so I am trying to allow the existing plantings to be larger and then for the planted area gradually to grow wider and wider. I am hoping that I’ll manage to sprout some larger shrubs this spring and summer that I can plant into this understorey.

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At one end of this patch my earlier plantings are now quite a decent size.  Some of the conversations I’ve had while working here have started to show that people can tell what I’m trying to do.  The Olearias along the wall further toward the street are now quite a good size and the leaves are a pleasing silver grey.  The E Nicholii is still alive!

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Home again after a little weeding.  Time for dinner and music…


Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

This week in guerilla gardening the neighbourhood

This morning I headed out before going to work with some fair sized ruby saltbush and a bucket of earth.  The spot I had in mind has been thickly mulched, which is great–but it means there is little soil for small plants to get their toes into.  2015-09-22 07.30.25

The last round of planting here (by myself as well as by council’s contractors) did not do well, and I think the lack of soil was one major reason.  So this time I brought my own to help things along.  In the six months or so that have passed, the mulch has begun to convert to soil and that might help too.  The earth beneath is compacted from being parked on and contaminated with concrete components.

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It doesn’t look promising, does it?  But I think it will be lovely in time. There are trees here and more understorey will help.

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I came away with empty everything.

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But then I realised I had missed the rubbish, so I brought that home.

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Fingers crossed for long term success.  If this patch of twelve can make it, I can spread out from here and provide cover for ground that now only grows weeds.  I like that idea.

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Meantime, it is spring here and the garden is really showing it.  Woad and weld are coming along and the madder is up again.  I have been sharing plants at the Guild and planting vegetables and flowers.

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So, I decided to put in the native plant seeds I collected earlier in the year and late last year.  Let’s see if I can grow enough propagating skills to stop the neighbourhood turning into a ruby saltbush monoculture!  I make my tags from a yoghurt tub.  I quite like the look of the bit that’s left.  But have been carrying the thought that plastic is forever higher than usual lately and finding that hard knowledge instructive.

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I’ve noticed that lots of gardeners are keen re-users and recyclers, and I am among them.  I do love using this method for growing seedlings learned from Linda Woodrow’s book on backyard permaculture.  It uses milk bottles and styrofoam from hard rubbish.  So at present I am still a re-user with aspirations.

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Cross your fingers for sprouts!


Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Can I spin a rainbow?

I have already had a vote of confidence in my abilities.  A brother and sister (plus Mum) team of my precious friends made me a little book of knitting. Their confidence in my capacities is exceedingly high!   If I can knit a rainbow, maybe I am good for dyeing and spinning one first?

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And I have been dyeing and dyeing.  Viola the sheep wouldn’t know herself.  Eucalypt with tamarind, rhubarb leaf, citrus peel brews (thanks to India Flint for genius on this front).  Madder exhaust.  Coreopsis, osage orange, indigo overdyes, woad, madder with iron, alkanet.  It has been a fun few months with the dye pots.

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And now… I am spinning up a rainbow and loving it.  Watch this space!


Filed under Natural dyeing, Spinning

Learn to spin day

We have friends with a farm they are revegetating and rehabilitating in a most thoughtful and wonderful way.  They have alpacas keeping their sheep safe, and the time came for shearing.  And the question came whether I would be able to teach people to spin.  Of course!!  I love sharing the joy and the skills, so my friends organised the event and eventually informed me there would be 14 people.  Some of the alpaca was washed and picked in advance, and I brought along sheep fleece in case the alpaca proved a bit challenging for beginners.

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We considered all the possibilities from spinning straight from the animal’s back (in the case of alpacas, this brings me out in hayfever, so I don’t do it anymore), through carding and dyeing and such.  The carder got a fabulous workout. Some people created their very first ever batts.

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We ran a dye pot of eucalyptus leaves in the background and pulled it out to show off at the end of the afternoon.  I mostly forgot to take pictures of most things and also forgot to ask permission for people’s images to be on the internet!  I organised a display table so people could get a sense of how different preparations and fibres look and feel and behave.

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We separated out guard fibres and talked about wise use of different fibres.

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Big people had their first attempts at spinning.  Some had spun years before and rehabilitated their wheels after years of disuse.  One father hadn’t spun since the day his son was born (a few years ago now).

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Some small people had their first attempts at spinning too.  Spinning is made a lot harder when you can’t keep yourself on the chair and reach the treadle at the same time and have to choose between these two activities.  I clean forgot the spindles, which would have simplified this process…

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There was spinning…

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And more spinning… and cups of tea and cake and baby snuggling…

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And in the end, there were first skeins of yarn of all manner of types…

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Plain and fancy!  Lots of people made yarn.  And I have to say, lots of people made alpaca yarn even without prior experience of spinning. I have been told that alpaca is too hard for beginners… but maybe, like everything else, it all depends.  I am always interested by talk of what beginners can and should do at my Guild.  Because I learned so much by myself before I found the Guild and joined up, I didn’t know what was easy and what was hard.  I knew I was a beginner, and therefore I expected to find things difficult at first.  But I didn’t have preconceptions about which skills were basic or advanced and as a result I learned some things quite early on that other people think are hard to learn or should only be attempted by advanced spinners.

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It interests me that people bring so much to the learning process, and so much of what they bring is unhelpful to learning. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we could leave more and more of that fret and fear of failure and worry and impatience and feeling stupid out of it, what learning would be like.  Perhaps it would be like learning to yodel was for me. Charley Pride did it on Mum and Dad’s records, so clearly it could be done.  I don’t remember wondering why I had never heard anyone else do it.  I just assumed that I would be able to do it.  I didn’t ask anyone else’s opinion, so no one told me it was difficult, and as a result, I’ve been able to yodel since I was a small child with a lot of land to wander about in singing at the top of my voice, yodelling optional…


Filed under Natural dyeing, Spinning

Stranded colourwork–just as cute as ever

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At last!  I have finished a larger version of the Rhode Island Red hat.  It took some doing.  I cast on at least three times. I was clearly having some problems with sizing, and thinking straight. Plus, inexperience with provisional cast ons.  I cast on once at home and knit the entire band… enormously…

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Then twice more in a hotel in Melbourne. It was a comedy of errors!  But I started to lose my sense of humour by the time I had knit the band three entire times, instead of knitting the whole hat!

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I may have put the hat in the naughty corner for some weeks at that point, as th0ugh the hat was the one creating the trouble.  But now, it’s done and it’s glorious!

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Last night it headed out into the world to warm the head of a delightful friend who is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a chicken fancier with an entire flock of hens to tend to in all weathers.  Plus, more plans for rare breeds.  And, it’s her birthday any minute now.  She has a wonderful chuckle, and this hat brought out the chuckling.  And she liked the softness of this lovely pet polwarth sheep a lot too.

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Ribbons! And other exciting things…

Well, I went to the Royal Adelaide Show on the weekend to see what I could see.  So many people!  Such weird food!  So many rides!  So much award winning fleece!  I could only wish there was a way to buy one.  But the show is not set up to facilitate this.

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I discovered what happens when you approach a creature as curious as an alpaca quietly and rest your camera on the edge of the enclosure.

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A very warm and gentle whuffling….

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There were many glorious animals…

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There was a big exhibit called “Women of Empire” with Australian women from World War one represented by a banner about their lives and a period costume.  I was delighted to find Vida Goldstein (suffragist, pacifist, parliamentarian) represented.

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Not only is she campaigning against war and conscription here–look at that lapel!

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And her rather fine tie and button.

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Far from being a pacifist, next  I discovered a woman who wanted to be a soldier so badly that she impersonated one, more than once.  Maud Butler.  Here she is dressed as a boy.

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And here is something like what she would have worn, including the women’s shoes that gave her away.  She didn’t get her wish.

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Somehow this made it all the more funny when five minutes later I was hailed by some firefighters who were selling one of those fundraising calendars with lots of partially clad men in it.  ‘I know it wouldn’t be for you, sir…’!

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My quilt was hanging among many extremely splendiferous examples of the art.  Here is one of the major prize winners:

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Just look at that stitching!

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The cookery and craft sections were full of all kinds of outrageous… I always find the egg artistry section a thing of amazement.  Here are the tea cosies!  I had a lovely chat with an award winning knitter in the over 80 category who happened to be wandering about knitting a sock and admiring the view.  One of my species, I thought. I showed her my sock too.

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Of course, there were also a lot of examples of elegance.  Here is one of the winning entries in the apiary categories:

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I had a lot of trouble capturing decent images of anything indoors and behind glass, but I had a very fine time tracking down the entries of my friends and guildmates.

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In the foreground, the glorious spinning perfection entry of one of my friends, and in the background, mine.  And below, here’s the newspaper yarn, in the ‘best in show’ cabinet!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Sewing, Spinning

In guerilla gardening this week…

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It was another big day in local guerilla planting!  😉

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I planted a Eucalyptus Nicholii for the sheer nerve of it.  If it grows it will shade a bench council have installed.  It’s a big ‘if’.  But evidently I can dream.

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Fine leaved creeping boobialla propagated in autumn.

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Needless to say, plenty of ruby saltbush.

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These plants are being added to a place where I have already planted boobialla, olearia and several varieties of saltbush.  Some are coming along very nicely in this spot, and while a few are struggling, very few have been killed.

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On the homeward trip, very little rubbish and a bucket full of weeds.  The last round by the council poisoner resulted in several plants being killed elsewhere nearby (those I planted and some of Council’s plantings too).  I have drawn the conclusion that I should target weeds growing among plants I would like to see live, for early weeding.  And… I am still enjoying weeding and revegetating the neighbourhood, and the sooner I plant before the height of summer, the better the chances these plants will make it through high summer.  Time to plant seeds!

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Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures