Monthly Archives: December 2015

Socks: Just in time for summer!

What with travel time and a conference to knit in, I’ve finished another pair of socks for a dear friend with BIG feet. Just in time for summer!

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This is some Bendigo sock yarn I had at the back of the cupboard. And here is all that was left when the socks were done.

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I do love stripes!  And so does he…

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And here they are, being tried on at a picnic.

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And this is bonus bark for your viewing pleasure…

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Silk hankies

No, I don’t mean I have been making hankies out of silk.  Silk hankies are one preparation of silk that you can spin.  But apparently it’s an intimidating kind of preparation, because I’ve had these few silk hankies for years without attempting it.

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At the Guild weekend away, I decided to try it.  I peeled one of my little stack and pulled it into a long loop, then attenuated it until it seemed about right, and then I spun a single.

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The single was so fine that I didn’t finish and had to bring the rest home to finish the job.  Even three plied, this is quite a fine yarn, and there isn’t much of it.

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But it’s pretty!  And not too difficult… and perhaps that is good, because I have been gifted more of these, undyed, by a friend at the Guild.  So perhaps I could dye them and spin some more… you just never know!

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Summer in the dye garden

Summer is a brutal time here in South Australia, and as I was writing, we had just had a record breaking heat wave where we were up over 40C for four days. In my case, however–not facing bushfire, and I feel for those who have and who will.  People have already died and summer is young.

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I took some photos before the heat wave… Hollyhocks, whose flowers have been going into the freezer as they fall.

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This year’s woad looking splendidly leafy.

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Last year’s woad flowering and seeding for all it’s worth.

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Our very own E Scoparia.  Last year, skeletonising caterpillars left just the veins of every single leaf in a lightning fast attack, but it has come back.  2015-12-13 12.11.31

Weld in flower (with rhubarb beyond).

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Japanese indigo seedlings, now blessedly in the ground.

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Cotinus looking like it will make it.

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The madder looking the worse for wear.  In Spring it was more like this…

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And the pansies, may they rest in peace (they didn’t make it through the heat wave), which have given a splendid collection of tired old flowers to the freezer.

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There is more… and I have been roaming the neighbourhood collecting bark and fallen hibiscus flowers and considering the other options too…

 

 

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Summer festival of mending 3

I have a rather lovely woollen blanket that came to me from a op shop (thrift shop) years ago.  It came with a lot of little holes that haven’t stopped it being a great warm blanket.

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I have had it in mind to mend them or embellish them for years.  This time I have actually done a little mending.

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I even blanket stitched some of the unravelled edges.

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Well.  Someone enjoys it!  She is a visitor who spent some weeks with us but has now been on a road trip to her new home in Tasmania with her usual people.

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It did seem funny to be mending a woollen blanket when we are verging on summer… I give you a local eucalypt in full bloom!

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Gift slippers

There is no end to the slipper making.  I just have to embrace my fate!  My brother-out-law let me know he wouldn’t mind another pair a while back, and perhaps he rigged the family Kris Kringle, because I ended up with him as my Kris Kringle. I knew what to do.

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It’s the ever popular Fibertrends Felted Clog pattern by Bev Galeskas.  Knit from Bendigo Woollen Mills alpaca blend, which works extremely well.

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Here they are, knit and ready to sew together.

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Sewn and ready to felt.

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Partway through felting at 65C.

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Ready for recipient, just in time for our departure!

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Happy unbundling

Before I went to Mansfield, I had a moment of imagining what it would be like to return from a sewing circle and re-enter the world of work at the crunch point of the year.  So I took some steps to create things to return home to. I gathered leaves and retrieved saved leaves.

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I decided on a well used round table-cloth I’d been given.  Much loved and much washed and presumed (by me) to be linen.

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No round tables here.  It was destined to be ripped and turned into something new.  I added in woad leaves and seeds as well as E Scoparia leaves and continus nipped from a tree that hangs over a fence.  Here is a stuff, steep and store jar of woad seeds where the silk thread within is turning purple, with a continus leaf for colour comparison.  Wow!

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The bundles went into the dye pot on the day I left home.  Just as I headed out to a laundrette to deal with a laundry crisis that reorganised my last day at home and shall not be detailed here.

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I pulled them out of the dye pot as I went to the airport. Finally, some time after I returned, unbundling time arrived.  The Euc prints are wonderful!

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I just love linen!

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The woad leaves and seeds left traces of green and burgundy and purplishness. But only traces.  The bundle may have been a bit too loose. Ah, but those few continus leaves gave purple!  Who knew?  Well, I didn’t!  But now I am glad I bought one on special at a nursery last winter.  It had lost its leaves and was not a prepossessing looking plant at the time, but now… well… I need to let it keep growing, clearly…

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Guerilla gardening resumes

It was a modest week in guerilla gardening, some weeks ago.  Action on one of my patches that was barren for years and then suddenly mulched and given a watering system seems to have stopped.  So I decided it might be safe to do some more planting.  Bladder saltbush, which has a lovely silver leaf, was the plant of choice, and I decided to try another creeping boobialla.  All those previously planted here were lost in the mulching.

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They look small in this big space right now.

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However, the weather is warm and this is growing season.  Some of the plants I put in during the cooler months are now a lot larger.

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Someone else seems to have planted a few things in this patch too!  This is all I took home.

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Then–a weekend planting spree after a long break.  We have already had out first day over 40C and there are more coming.  These little plants need to get into the ground.  So, there was pricking out of nitraria billardiera and dianella seedlings.

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I gathered up ‘old man’ saltbush, creeping boobialla, seaberry saltbush, water, and headed out.

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Baby seaberry saltbush went in in front of some I planted about a year ago. Thanks to the council for putting in a watering system, and connecting it to water (hence that brown pipe you can see)!

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Creeping boobialla went in beside a tall fence where some ruby saltbush are coming along.  Here is the close up:

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And here is the fence!

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You can see the new ‘old man’ saltbush in the darker patches near top right.  I have planted everything you can see growing in this patch.  An elderly man leaning on a walker came past, doing what must feel like a marathon through the neighborhood to him.  He congratulated me on my cleverness, bless him.

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With the summer weather, these plants are visibly growing despite the council not having connected the new watering system they put in here to any water source.  Three cheers for the hardiness of native plants!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Sewing Circle 3

This time: garment construction.  It was a  sewing circle, after all!

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To begin, for those who haven’t worked this out for themselves, let it be understood that I am a pretty plain sewer.  I like sewing, I have some skills, I’ve been doing it a long time. But, I tend to use patterns, amend patterns created by others,  make changes driven by sheer lack of cloth or my own mistakes, or construct a pattern from an existing garment.  I don’t just look at a piece of fabric, form a concept and apply scissors.  India Flint does, and she has written a new little book about the underpinning concepts which I hope will be available to others at some stage… I’ve been kindly gifted a stapled copy. Some of her approaches to creating new garments from old (‘refashioning’ to some) are also set out beautifully in Second Skin.

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But the thing is, having the concepts doesn’t get me from here to there.  Practice would be needed, of course!  But confidence, too–and these two things have a relationship to one another.  I know when I went to the first workshop I did with India I listened and watched and was inspired as she demonstrated and explained.  I remember wondering why I hadn’t organised my life so I could do exactly this every day. And then I had my own expanse of cloth and my own scissors and my heart sank just about immediately.

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It’s a statement of the extremely obvious that India has spent a lifetime thinking about art and garment construction and honing her skills at all related things, and I have not. This knowledge and experience cannot be transferred from one mind to another like a thumb drive plugged into a hard drive. For one thing, it would be more like the hard drive being plugged into the thumb drive!  But more than this, I experience doubt that my mental architecture could ever equip me to do this kind of design work.  Which is fine.  The rich diversity of human minds and creativity is part of what makes life wondrous.

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I noticed all manner of things.  I have a few good ideas and only so much time, so while I get stuck on some things, I have more ideas than I can carry out already.  India had so many ideas about what I could do with the few things I had with me, that my mind boggled.  I couldn’t come close to carrying them all out.  But when it came to deciding which ones to act on, I found myself up against all kinds of things, from sheer inability to believe that I could carry that idea out, confidence that I would not wear the resulting garment, and sheer inability to conjure up what that would look like or how it could be done, in my own mind.

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I have the concept that many of the sewing ‘rules’ I have been taught are the kind that a more skilled person can adjust, skirt around or safely ignore because they know the exceptions and have superior skills. But I can feel myself clinging to them like some kind of misplaced sense of a lifebuoy. It’s only fabric, after all!

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Well. The thing is, a learning experience is about expanding your mind. Even if you can feel the strain!  So here I am modelling a linen shirt from the op shop, in the process of becoming–an apron?  A frock? I thought apron, but by the time it came home, my beloved felt that it was, essentially, a frock.  I can’t say she’s a real expert in frocks, but she has an opinion.  I am continually being struck by my own inflexibility about what I’ll wear.  I have courageous moments of branching out, but I am just nailed on to some core concepts.  For one thing, when India thinks of an apron, she thinks this (you’ll have to scroll down, but Sweetpea’s blog is a special place, so don’t hurry over it).  When I think of an apron I think of a rectangle of black cotton with two tape ties.  I have two, and have had them since I was making my living cooking, long ago!

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Anyway, back to the main story.  This strategy for shape shifting (shirt to apron) is set out in Second Skin, and I’ve read it a few times without feeling any inclination to try it out.  But here it is!  It ended up with some recycled raw silk sewn on so it became longer and more flowing.  More and more frock-like, one could say.  I finished sewing it in Mansfield and it has been sitting quietly at home waiting for the transformation of the dye pot.  I am still trying to figure out whether there is any chance of my wearing a shirt-apron-frock.  But you never know!  And if I can’t, well, I am sure someone else will.

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This process really made me think that when I run my fingers through the choices at a garage sale or op shop, I see something that could be taken apart ready to begin again.  Where I see a shaped garment that could become flat pieces and then from flat pieces be converted into something else, India seems to me, to see one three dimensional thing that could become other three dimensional things.  While we were working in Crockett Cottage, she was taking two pairs of men’s trousers and turning them into one long, glorious skirt of many pockets.  It was a thing of wonder to behold this process, let alone the insertion of a silk lining.  There is a sample of the finished glory here. Below, a garment made from hemp and cotton knit and the sleeves from the linen short that became a frock, with  sheoak leaf prints.

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On my way home I had enough time in Melbourne betwixt the bus from Mansfield to the Melbourne central railway station and the Airport shuttle to nip out and see some of Blue at the National Gallery of Victoria.  Let it be said that this adventure involved taking my public transport courage in both hands: two trams each way and half an hour at the Gallery.  It was so worth it!  I could not take pictures.  But see images here and here and here. There were fragments of Egyptian garments from many, many hundreds of years ago.  Examples of indigo work from a wide variety of weaving and embroidery traditions from China, Japan, Indonesia, India and Europe.  At one point I was surprised to find myself answering another wanderer who was asking out loud whether something was woven or embroidered.  Clearly I have acquired some knowledge about weaving from hanging about with weavers!  Garments ranged from elaborate finery to those constructed entirely from rags in the boro style, and a rather extraordinary rain- and wind-protective cape made of two layers of cotton or hemp, with a layer of waxed paper sewn between them.  They were constructed from cotton, linen, hemp, silk, elm fibre.  If you have the chance, I recommend this exhibition highly.  It can’t help but inspire and amaze to see such evidence of the skill and ingenuity and sheer hard work of peoples from past and (in some cases) continuing traditions and to learn a little about the significance of indigo and the creation of cloth and clothing to them.

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Spring Sewing Circle 2

This time, a little more about dyes and dyeing at the Spring Sewing Circle.  In the main street of Mansfield, there was a great two colour display of pansies.  I am not sure what the passersby made of me deadheading the purple pansies… I suspect no one noticed from their car. I took them along to the day’s sewing circle with me after they had spent a night in the freezer and this produced an impromptu class in dye chemistry from India.

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Once a selection from the three kinds of water available had been made, I tucked the remainder of the blooms into some raw silk (the pocket bag from an op shop suit).

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Into a clean yoghurt tub they went with some silk thread.

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The colour got bluer…

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Overnight it became turquoise.

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It came home in my bags, and surprise!  The water at home really does have the capacity to create greens.   My last experience of this was not an accident or a one off. Thread that had been quite blue and fabric that had been purple and blue went green immediately on rinsing.  I’m not complaining–these are great colours!

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There were many incidental marvellings at the beauty of plants and fabrics…

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I had a lesson in mordants I hadn’t used before, and some help with my issues with milk.  Very exciting.  Sure to lead to all manner of future experiments.

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I had an unexpected visit to a laundrette (laundromat?) on the day I left home, and found one just doors from a rather good op shop that benefits Medecins Sans Frontieres.  I spent the time my quilt was washing there and scored a long sleeved t shirt, which was the subject of these experiments.  Greens… oranges… iron…

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Using this technique for all-over colour and pattern is something I notice others doing to great effect but often don’t attempt.  I’ve realised that when buying fabric I tend to plain colours or picture prints, and evidently I have carried this over into my own dyeing. Workshops are for learning so I tried stepping away from my habits a bit.  It’s interesting to observe how entrenched some of my habits are.

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The back of the t shirt.  These last two photos show the garment laundered and dry.

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For those who can’t resist the idea of pictures of food… picture this as afternoon tea!  Extraordinary.  India turns out to have the kind of fine cooking skills capable of making everything delectable.  She also has the capacity to turn a few ingredients that might be mere sustenance in other hands (I am not knocking sustenance) into something irresistibly delicious.  Macaroni and cheese much better than a restaurant meal.  Just saying.  We have an onion, garlic and dairy free household and India was kind enough to load me up with garlic and butter and other fabulous things we can’t share at home for the duration.  Such happy pleasures for me and such generosity and skill from her.

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Spring Sewing Circle 1

Ah, Mansfield.  I was privileged to go to India Flint’s Spring Sewing Circle in this lovely Victorian town not so long ago.  I have been itching to write about it–but overcome by my day job.  Mansfield was full of fabulous plants for dyeing, including eucalypts that are hard to find in my dry, hot hometown. This is a stunning E Crenulata that was just hanging over the caravan park fence.

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There were catalpas and prunus trees that were so full of little plums that possums were harvesting all night, leaving leaves all over the ground for the enterprising dyer.  There were cotinus trees, and berberis plants, maples and E Polyanthemos… and there was St John’s Wort in quantity, which India harvested to share with us.

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I loved wandering the streets with enough time to admire the trees and expect to be able to use these leaves if I collected a few. I even found this one sunning itself at the edge of someone’s front fence!

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With all this bounty, people’s bundles were packed full of amazing windfalls and all kinds of leafy wonder.  I had come with some serviceable garment plans: I brought along a singlet with all its main seams machine stitched and hemmed it by hand, finishing all the edges.  It used up all my scraps of silky merino.  Then I made another one completely by hand.  I really didn’t think I could be converted to making garments by hand, but India has turned me round.  I still love my machine–but this is another pleasure altogether.  One of them got wrapped around a piece of copper and given a long, mild cook.

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Out came greens and purples and pinks and a little apricot.  The St John’s wort was a spectacular dye plant I have never had a chance to try before.  This dyeing process taught me that I’ve been reading and not understanding.  More experiments will surely follow as I try to consolidate all I learned from this bundle.

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I loved that St John’s wort!  If weeding has to be done, this is a rather glorious outcome.  Others had made wonderful silk bloomers and nighties that also got the St John’s wort treatment.

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The catalpa greens and maple leaves were fun too… and prunus leaf pink and purple… well, so much bounty.

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The other singlet had a hotter time in a dye bath that had already seen a lot of iron- and eucalypt-rich bundles, the things of which lovely string resist marks are made. I always love watching other people bundle up and unbundle.  This is a deceptively simple process that different people use to achieve gloriously different effects.  Finally I had E Polyanthemos I could be confident in, and E Crenulata, and so much more!

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Here’s the E Crenulata on the back, with some string marks on show and fresh from the dye pot.

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And here is the front, with those wonderful almost-round E Polyanthemos leaves. I am looking forward to wearing these come winter!

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Eucalyptus magic.  Sensational!  I see over on India’s blog that she is advertising a new Australian class for 2016 and some tips for the new leaf printer.  There is so much to learn from someone whose dye knowledge, love of plants and capacity for design are so extensive.  And so much pleasure in learning from someone so generous, creative and imaginative.  Do not get me started on the food…  I may have started out with plain and serviceable garments, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t be stopping there, and… I was right.  More instalments to come as time allows, my friends!

 

 

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