Monthly Archives: November 2015

Summer festival of mending 2

I followed all that mendbroidery up with replacing the pocket bags on a pair of pants I made, apparently in 2010 (there is a cryptic note in my notebook but no fabric scrap stapled beside it).  They are Vogue 2698, though I have no aspiration to the studied ennui of the model on the envelope, nor her slenderness.  I butchered the welt pockets when I made these pants, and haven’t made a welt pocket since!  Just the same, there are some nice touches, like the home made bias binding made from recycled ties. I went all out on some of the finishing.

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The pocket bags were made from one of my grandma’s many scarves.  No one wanted them after she died.  So I took her scarves home and have since used them for all kinds of things. I am not close to running out, and years have passed.

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She had some real commitments in fashion of which her dedication to scarves worn with a gold coloured ring to hold them in position at her throat was only one.  In her lifetime she was an accomplished dressmaker and had trained in millinery.  She had made many a lovely outfit as well as curtains and every other household requirement.  In my lifetime, she loved things that didn’t crease above all else.  She adored crimplene from the point of its becoming available (she was an early adopter!) and made herself 100% polyester caftans.  Perhaps some of those long shapeless dresses were even muu muus!  As she lost her sight she kept sewing until it became impossible for her.  Even after she became unable to use her machine, she had a friend thread needles for her and kept a stash in a curtain in her bedroom where they were easy to find with her fingers, for little jobs.  She taught me how to hem a handkerchief when I was a small child and set me to English (paper) piecing with her scraps.  After she went blind, she gave me her overlocker, which I am still using (she’d love that, and expect no less).  She had taught left handers to crochet, and it was a lifetime achievement she mentioned to me more than once.  She had made more coathanger covers from polyester ribbon than anyone else in her town.

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But I digress… The pockets had given way most spectacularly in places. There was nothing for it but a complete rip out and retrofit.  Not my idea of a good time, I confess.  Off with the belt loops!  Out with the pocket bags!  And on and on it went until I had nice, plain, bottle green, intact pocket bags.  The mending doesn’t remedy any of the original defects of the garment, but that’s a pair of work pants for summer I can wear without showing off parts of me that shouldn’t be on display.  I did a quicker, less dramatic mend on the other pair I made the same year to address small holes in the pockets, and that’s some big items off my list.  But there are more, my friends.  There are more.

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Filed under Sewing

Summer festival of mending 1

Since the weather began to turn, it has felt as though every second piece of clothing I want to wear requires mending.  One of the good things about having this place set up for sewing is that I can mend seams that have come apart while the iron is warming up, and put a stitch here or a stitch there, replace a vanished button or stitch down a hook or eye very quickly and easily.  However, some of my favourite things require quite a bit more attention.  I warmed up on a calico bag that turned out to have unfinished seams fraying on the inside.  How many years has this been kicking around?  I have no idea, and my beloved who presumably brought it into our mutual stash didn’t either.  Brisbane community radio’s little image of radio  lovin’ will be with us for some more years yet.

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Then there is the dingo flourbag shirt, made from Fremantle flour mill flourbags that once had red dingoes printed on them.  It took some effort to track down my notes–I made this shirt in 2004 from bags a friend gave me when she left for the US for some years of international peace activism and adventure.  So long ago!  Before I learned to spin.  Before socks took over my notebooks!  No sign of the red dingo anymore, it washed out years ago.  McCall’s 9579 in M is now a gardening shirt with a collar that has worn right through.  I didn’t really want to turn it because the other side is thin too.  I added a strip of well worn, soft kimono fabric and stitched it down.

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Then there was the matter of the upper fronts.  This is where the flour bag was stitched closed with a large gauge needle and string.  Just the same, it has lasted for many years, but I think not much longer.

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So, I basted down some patches on the inside (this one is part of a threadbare napkin) and started stitching.  Thanks to Jude Hill for this fabulous basting technique.

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And kept stitching with madder and eucalyptus dyed thread.

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Then moved over to the other side and kept going with carrot top thread and eucalyptus and madder dyed thread.  I am rich in lovely thread!  It makes me want to stitch!

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In all honesty, I am not sure I’m finished stitching.  But this is the prettiest mending I have ever done!

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Filed under Sewing

Dyes from the freezer

It was a lovely weekend afternoon–my beloved in the shed with a friend, woodworking, and myself and another friend figuring out a few dyestuffs that had been saved in the freezer. I started out by cleaning up.  I regret to say this is a pattern!  Mohair locks had been steeping in a cold alum bath and it was into the cochineal exhaust with them!

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The remains of two bunches of lilies that had been at my friend’s Mother’s funeral had made it into our freezer for this occasion.  We consulted the dye manuals and found no really obvious approach to take for lilies.  We started conservatively and tried pouring over hot water and steeping.  Nothing magical.

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We put the second bunch into a saucepan and heated it.  Meanwhile, pansies from the parklands, deadheaded when I was support crew for a half marathon back in April or May, finally got their day in the dyepot.

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I tried India Flint’s iceflower method and the dye bath was quite extraordinary.

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Overnight, it deepened further still.

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Following a post on India’s blog, I tried the same method with the leftover Japanese Indigo from last summer, but no blue resulted this time.  These plants felt tired and sad when I harvested them for the next crop to go in, and perhaps they just were!

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After drying, here we have pansy on the left and JI on the right

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Even overnight steeping and being kept warm didn’t produce anything of great moment from those lilies, so I settled on Stuff, Steep and Store-ing them (India Flint’s preservation dyeing method).  I have a jar of daylily blooms that has dyed the silk embroidery thread that is also in it–so I have some confidence in daylilies, but these may be a different kind of lily, and the ratio of dyestuff to silk is different too.

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While I was preserving, I was curious as to what the pansies might produce after that luscious green, so popped them in a jar, and created two others with seed pods from a wattle (Acacia Baileyana) and a small native tree I haven’t been able to summon up a name for as yet.  Now, we watch and wait.



Filed under Natural dyeing

Ruby saltbush and rain

One overcast day recently I went out into the neighbourhood with my bike and trailer and 24 saltbush plants.

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There was a council worker watering the plantings in the area I’d planned to add ruby saltbush into.  I considered turning around and going elsewhere but then decided against it, so I approached her and thanked her for watering and for clearing up some branches that had fallen or been snapped off and dumped.  That saved me clearing them up!

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I told her I had been planning to add more saltbush and asked if she would mind.  She thought it over and said that would be OK and did I have water with me.  I did, so she kept watering and I planted 24 more little saltbush.

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My phone was pronounced dead that same day, and the phone company I had hoped could fix it looked upon me with pity and explained the obvious irrationality of my wanting to keep my too-old, superseded model phone.  They explained the benefits of the new models in terms that utterly failed to convince me.  This seems to me such a wasteful approach to anything, let alone a high tech device that will never biodegrade.  It made me think about all the clothes I have that have lasted so much longer than three years (the life span of my phone, I think) and that will eventually biodegrade.  This same phone was entirely repaired a year or two ago and they wanted me to upgrade then.  Too much upgrading.

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Anyway, later the day these plants went into the ground, we upgraded to some actual rain.  Unseasonable in November but ever welcome.  This little message to passersby who may not have noticed the plants beneath their feet or tyres had fallen down.  It was found by my beloved and taken home for a wash and now, is back up.

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Filed under Natural dyeing

Workwear for a suburban guerilla gardener

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Some months ago I had an idea.  I thought I would embroider my gardening shirt, or one of them. Once I had the idea, I couldn’t let it go.

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I had my beloved’s gift of Japanese indigo dyed thread and it felt so perfect for the job…

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But when I spoke with a friend about it she gently suggested that investing so much time and effort in something on the verge of falling apart might not be wise use.  She is a wise woman and gentleness is her way.

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I began thinking of the fabrics I already had, offcuts of linen, canvas and stout cottons.  It occurred to me that I had a Merchant and Mills pattern (The Top #64) that struck me as pieced, and that called for quite stout fabrics.  I thought over a kind comment here on the blog about using more than one type of fabric as a potential feature rather than a problem (thankyou!).  I started dyeing more fabric.

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And so two sets of offcuts from different generous friends found their way into various dyepots.

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I found that I didn’t have pieces big enough for the pattern pieces anyway–even with front and back each being made up of 4 different pieces of fabric, some parts of this garment were still pieced together from smaller segments.

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And now, here it is.  Embroidered with dye plants of the neighbourhood and the names of plants I have been propagating and planting.

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And a few other phrases of note.  There may be more yet to come!  And now you know how I came by so many scraps that I needed to Make patchwork as I went…

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

More local planting

It was another beautiful pre-work morning…

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So I chose fine-leaved creeping boobialla and headed out into the neighbourhood.

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I was accompanied by a neighbour who spends a lot of time on the street and he talked a lot about what he thinks needs to happen about the place.  I kept planting.  He appreciates the plants, though he has a lot of grievances.  I guess we both think things could go better and we have different ways of trying to achieve improvement!

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I weeded out some of these patches, as it looks to me as though the plants that have died have been lost to poison and not natural causes. Those that were larger and further from the kerb have mostly made it.  The Olearias are bushing out.

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My earlier boobialla plantings are mostly doing well.

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Some of the rhagodias look good too.  I gave this one some company.

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It’s pleasing to see the places where my friends and I have been at work on this project for longer and there is now a leafy understorey.  The E Scoparias we have planted have all lived thus far too!

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Home again after some weeding and litter removal.

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I even scored some local lemons on my way home.  Extra good!

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Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Scrappy patchwork

In the strange cauldron that is my mind, what Block Party calls ‘wonky log cabin’ and what Slow Stitch calls ‘distorted log cabin’ suddenly became very compelling recently. This was the first one.

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I think the triggering factors were some dyeing that really didn’t work out as I had hoped (as you heard in my last post)–some of which became the foundation for foundation piecing and some of which became strips for the log cabin itself–and cutting out and piecing a garment.

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I don’t know what it is about offcuts that is so distracting to me that they take precedence over the garment or project that they are offcuts from… but this has become a theme.  I think I am beginning to understand that these themes in making are not problematic and don’t require resistance.  They might instead be what makes my work my own and not someone else’s.  I love that this piecing strategy lets me use the odd triangular shapes that I have been struggling to use, and sometimes regretfully trimming off in the creation of squares or rectangles.

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Here, they are perfect.  In fact, they drive the effect in a rather lovely way.

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The other happy feature is that instead of sighing and thinking ‘this is all I have left of that piece of fabric’, I can think…

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‘Here is the start of something wonderful’!  It is also an opportunity to use really well worn fabrics.  In this case, a cotton kimono sent home from my mother-out-law.  She clearly struggles with throwing away treasured threadbare fabrics and so I have been receiving gifts from her more and more regularly as the wish to have her cupboards clear has been growing in her.  High quality fabrics that have seen decades of use.  Damask napkins that have worn right through and which I’ve been using to interface embroidery.  Cottons that make a great foundation fabric but no longer have enough integrity to become a smaller garment or even a lining.  And the occasional treasure that she just can’t figure out how to use.

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I am really not sure what she would make of these blocks!  She loves the eco prints and has an eco print bag I am told she uses a lot.  But it might still be tough to see her cherished kimono become an underlayer!


Filed under Natural dyeing, Sewing

Dye bundle results

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My recent dye bundles came out less well than I’d hoped.  Some went well…

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I got some great string resist marks on others…

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Still others were delicate and pale.

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This rather promising looking print of sheoak in flower largely washed out, and so did several others.

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I think there is something about using a dairy milk mordant that I have failed to understand.  I have tended to use soy more and so this was a bit of an experiment.  Or perhaps part of the trouble was that these were new fabric offcuts, and I am used to using well washed and worn recycled fabrics, which present a different kind of substrate for dyeing.  But I have been using them nonetheless… and finding places where these prints work for me.  More soon!  So much more 🙂


Filed under Natural dyeing