Monthly Archives: December 2019

Around the house

It won’t come as a surprise to hear that I reckon collective political action is what we need at this point in history. The science says we are now in such profound trouble on the climate emergency front that small scale individual actions, even multiplied many times, aren’t going to sort this out. We need to join together, get active and get vocal.

As I write, large parts of this country are on fire and in drought. Remote Aboriginal communities are living through record breaking temperatures without decent housing or airconditioning, or even guaranteed water supply. Daily life for many people here and all over the world, is hard. And our government has done all in its power to block progress on climate action in Madrid, as well as continuing to support coal, oil and gas mining at home.

Meanwhile, my quiet suburban life is an incredible privilege! While recognising the crucial role of collective action–we are all living day by day, and at that level ethics and educating ourselves form crucial parts of our daily lives. So here are some things I’m doing at home. I love hearing about what other folks are up to, so feel free to suggest!

Eat your weeds! Above are dandelion and sow thistle ready to be added into a silverbeet pie. Delicious, nutritious, easy–and motivating if you’re not a lover of weeding.

Litter picking. For me, this has become an end use for plastic bags that have gone past the point of being used in the kitchen, but have come into the house somehow. I pop one in my bag, along with a pair of gloves if that’s the main purpose of my walk, and pick up the trash I find around the neighbourhood. Sometimes I do it on my bike. Just stop at a messy spot and collect whatever is there.

[I digress to give you an image of a dung beetle. I was so excited when I saw it!! Surely the emblem of the litter picker if there is one…]

Compost it. I deal with our rubbish as close to our house as I can, and when the occasion arises, compost the street leaves dropped on our street, ditto for bark. The worm farm will accept natural fibre items that are beyond repair and reuse. I give a decent burial to the victims of cars and other sudden deaths in our suburb. I know what happens next will not be prettier as surely as I know that leaving a glass bottle in the street will likely lead to smashed glass unless I put it in my recycling bin.

Use it up! I’ve been working harder at making sure the wilted sad fruit and veg get their chance to be delicious dinner. Here, the no longer crisp apples become roasted stuffed apples, delectable (also super easy).

On the use it up front, I’m a maker of stock and have returned to what I used to do at the lowest ebb of income in my life–turning peelings, tops, celery leaves, sad and wilted vegetables and such, into the stock that makes risotto or lentil stew or whatever you fancy, sing.

More using up–as my beloved is on a gluten free diet, I’ve been making GF sourdough bread at home (YES!! Totally Possible). At times the freezer holds quite the collection of stub ends, crusts and such. I’ve discovered I can turn them into crumbs straight from the freezer, and since I make things like spinach pie with no pastry these days, I top them with these crumbs (yes, direct from freezer to dinner via food processor), a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a drizzle of olive oil for a tasty, crunchy topping.

Sharing! I had some serious time on the couch (nothing life threatening–fret not) in the last while and I have been using the local free libraries and book nooks to swap books I’ve read for ones I haven’t, and keep books and magazines circulating. I’ve read books I would never have bought. I now find there are three book nooks like this one (in Penola! where I dropped in a book picked up in Mount Gambier and took away a historical novel) walking distance from my house.

BYO. I know you all do this too. Keep cups and all that. This is me at a stop on a long distance road trip. If I have access to two of these thermos things, I travel with breakfast in one (porridge or “bircher” muesli depending on the weather) and something hot and decent for lunch in the other. Often I grab cutlery from the drawer at home, but if the occasion seems likely to risk losing cutlery we want to keep, we have plastic cutlery that we had no choice about at some stage, saved for just such cases. I often attach it with a rubber band for simplicity’s sake.

Make your own. Sorry, not a food stylist! I know you do this too. I’ve had a breadmaking breakthrough and I love saving plastic that used to come into the house with double wrapped GF bread in particular, by making my own and making for friends.

But above all, take to the streets, and your phone, and your keyboard. Don’t be alone with your fear and despair, or with your longing for something to happen. Gather with friends. Make new friends. We need all of us to take action in defence of life on earth now.

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Filed under Activism, Neighbourhood pleasures

Silk noil dyeing

I had a happy moment dyeing at my daughter’s place in Melbourne–where the local park contains a Eucalyptus Crenulata. Too exciting! I had a small piece of silk noil with me in preparation, and loved the outcome.

One silk noil pillowcase made some time ago finally gave way completely, so I decided to continue the tradition of silk noil leafy pillowcases–and this one is now in my bedroom.

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Dyeing cotton

A while back, I tried a new mordanting strategy I read about and tried some plain dyeing of cotton fabric. Scouring and mordanting processes completed, I took advantage of dyes as they presented themselves. Above, dried out pomegranates picked from under the tree at my hairdresser’s place.

Alder cones, picked up from the footpath and driveway outside the house with the alder.

Then I pruned my tansy. And here are my dyed cottons. I’m not a huge fan of the pastels, and I don’t usually set out to create them–but I thought I’d try stretching myself! Now I need to work out what I’ll do with them. And quite possibly, I’ll return to my previous cotton preparation strategies.

In the image above, from top to bottom we have: pomegranate rind; Virginia creeper berries; acorn (second extraction); alder cones and tansy leaf. The Virginia Creeper was a total experiment I should have researched further. I found research on this plant in the Threadborne blog, for those who may be curious.

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Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Bike swarming

In the spirit of Critical Mass, our Extinction Rebellion group has been organising a bike swarm each month.

It’s a pretty sweet event when all goes smoothly, and lots of lovely folk roll up to ride together through our streets calling for climate action and making the streets safe for low carbon travel by bike.

I’m not up for taking photos while riding, so here you have photos of the friendly opening and closing. For a great photo of our October Rebellion bike swarm–click here!

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The Survival Frock

My Mother-out-law (perhaps I should call her my Mother-in-love?) is a delightful, kind and generous sort, who has recently turned a spectacular 92. Life is holding some challenges, as you might expect. And one of them is staying cool in a tropical climate. For this, she has an entire category of clothing she calls “the survival dress”. This is a pattern she has made again and again, and that she now feels unable to make.

Here is one she made. I know with the confidence a person has when she has done the washing and ironing during times of especial difficulty, that this dress is in constant rotation. And because I ironed it several times, I was able to put aside tales of my dear Mother-in-law’s stern sewing teacher, and concerns that my sewing might not be up to standard. Like most garments I make, this one has a few fudges on the inside that clearly do not cause trouble to she who wears it. And so, when the version that had been pinned on to a lovely cotton print fabric was unearthed in a drawer, I agreed to make it up. Just bring me the pattern and the instructions and all, and I’ll sew it up, I said.

I always make a few adjustments, she said. I’ve made them on the pattern, she said. Then it arrived. A startlingly small number of pieces pinned to some fabric with pins that had been holding for long enough to rust. No pattern packet. No instructions. No sign of any adjustments. Happily, I had asked for the completed item to be sent. So first I worked it over and wrote an account of how I thought it might have been constructed (reverse engineering, you know). Step by step. Then I drafted the skirt. Then I drafted the pocket. And then I went far enough to think I could check for likely adjustments–sure enough, the neckline had been narrowed. I gave this my best shot!

Well. I wasn’t sure at all. But bless her heart, she has received this frock with gratitude and applied ribbons to the inside shoulder to keep her underwear out of view, and apparently it has entered rotation. I’m going to claim success and apologise for having shown you every photo I took. And thank the crafty friend who was over for a sewing day and whose presence bolstered my confidence. Maybe I could have done it without you, but I sure am glad to have company instead!

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Fresh Madder dyeing 2019

I’ve been growing madder long enough to have a good big patch now, and so it came to pass before the weather warmed too much, that I dug out an entire kilogramme of fresh madder root (yes, I weighed it once washed clean).

I didn’t dig out the whole patch and I did propagate more plants for the Guild while I was at it… and then came the washing.

It’s pretty exciting to think I can grow red dye in my very own garden!

Next stage, breaking up by hand or with secateurs, and then–

Then the dye bath… my trusty muslin from the ever delivering op shop lets me strain out all that ground up root.

And then… in with some wonderful soft handspun Tasmanian Cormo from the wonderful Kylie Gusset’s Tonne of Wool project.

In the interests of honesty, I confess that I broke all the rules AGAIN and boiled the madder vat AGAIN. And yet, red. My experience suggests that madder is not as fussy as every single dye book suggests. That I am so bad at keeping a dye vat below boiling point that I cannot be trusted. And that with fresh root it is best to dye a small quantity if you want really really red red, and then many exhaust baths will give orange and then coral and then peach if that’s what you’d like to have.

My goal with this–is to knit a beautifully soft and red beanie for one of my special sweethearts. But as knitting is going slowly at present it might be a little while!

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100% wool socks

I have been knitting a lot less since I stopped having a full time paid job. It has been one of the surprises! This post was started over two months ago and yet these socks were cast off two days ago!

Why is it so? I seem more often to be in meetings where my participation is central, and they are more focused than some of the meetings in my paid job were. I travel less on public transport, and use my phone when I’m on a train to do other things–the mix of online communication in my life has changed a lot. I’m back on my bike, which has been wonderful! And–there does not seem to be a great deal of evening knitting time either. Also–there has been more hand stitching going on. None of it is bad, but a lot less socks are coming into existence.

Ironically enough, these socks were finished at a conference where I was invited to speak about having given up a university day job to organise with Extinction Rebellion–there I was, listening to conference papers and whipping through the ribbing, just as I used to do. They are going to a friend whose beloved let me know she found her woollen socks and slippers an immense comfort through last winter.

They are 100% merino, so not really #tuffsocks… but the yarn has a nice tight twist. By a miracle there was a tag in the bottom of my project bag and it said Posh Yarn Elinor, colourway Grouse. I can’t say I love the colourway , though calling it Grouse sure works! I bought this yarn from a destash and this ball made up the weight necessary for free postage. And–every colour has a place. This one has been approved by the recipient, and here they are ready for a winter that feels very distant as this continent is dominated by drought and by bushfire. I was asked to speak at an event on the Gold Coast, and the smoke from nearby fires was shocking.

In the olden days I dipped into far too much of Game of Thrones (which I personally felt was the pre-eminent depiction of rape in popular culture at the time and as rape law was my research field, I believed I needed to watch and understand). Context is everything, and there is a vast land of ice and snow within the world of GoT. However, as an Australian, I would hear the refrain “Winter is Coming” and feel a sense of wild inappropriateness. I do not dread winter. I dread summer, and I fear it more, all the time.

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