Monthly Archives: April 2020

Sock kits FTW!

Remember the sock kits I made? Here’s the first one. Something about the rambunctious glory of these leftovers made my fingers tingle, so I just made a start and…

I have been knitting through Zoom events where I’m not taking minutes or some other central role… I admit I am surprised to find that I am watching very little TV in this period.

And the other sock…

These are going to their new happy home tomorrow on the return trip of the person who delivers vegetables from our friends’ organic market garden. They will have some company on their trip… Felted Clogs, from the Knitted Slipper Book By Katie Startzman.

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And then there were slippers…

So remember those slipper kits? I made a LOT of slippers. These are Felted Clogs, from the Knitted Slipper Book By Katie Startzman, pre-felting.

And these were not all… These are the Felted Clogs (not yet felted) by Bev Galeskas, may her legacy be a blessing.

So many wools here–handspun alpaca, legacy naturally coloured handspun and millspun left by a friend’s mother when she died. Handspun that had been in a logwood exhaust bath or three. Grey handspun that had been through an indigo vat. All kinds of bits and pieces of handspun in all kinds of blue to purple colours. Leftovers from that vest my mother-out-law made from 4 ply alpaca. Actually there were some more that were vibrant green, from m*th damaged wool that a friend gave me.

Here’s where I confess though, that I forgot to take photos of some parts of the process! Some of these looked so odd that I overdyed them to create a better match.

Here is a random image of one pair on the clothes rack… These next ones hit a dye pot because… well, you can see why!

And there the path ends. I decided to get on and dye and felt these because there are just so many unfinished projects in this house right now it’s becoming an issue for me! And then I waited for them to dry and… one pair went in the post to a friend who feels the cold extremely, together with a random pair of socks that were in the back of a cupboard awaiting darning. Darned up and ready to go, she will receive them and the slippers with glee (I’ve checked). Another pair of slippers have gone to a friend who mentioned she’d always wanted a pair of my slippers–by mail, which could take a while right now. A third pair went to another darling in my life who has already sent a picture of his feet up, looking very green and very snug! He was going to the Farmer’s Markets, so he took the logwood pair and the coloured fleece pair to gift on to friends who are organic farmers. And now I have just one pair left, and I have a thought about them too… but no more pictures!! Now you see them, now you don’t!

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Guerilla Gardening continues

A little gentle, socially distanced guerilla gardening has continued over the last while.

Sedge planting went first–in co-operation with others who have a more authorised relationship with the Council. There was a man playing his clarinet in the park the day these went in beside Brownhill Creek.

These are Cyperus gymnocaulos, Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes. Do follow the link to hear Aunty Ellen Trevorrow share her wisdom about the rushes and the basket weaving, its deeper meanings and Ngarrindjeri weaving traditions. The Aunties gave all of us who did a workshop with them years ago some starts, and these rushes are propagated from plants I’ve established from those starts.

These saltbushes went out into a new spot I’m gardening where a lot of the original planting died a long time ago. Here’s where they have gone into the ground…

And here’s the traditional shot of what I brought home!

Then more saltbushes… in a different part of the same area.

Here they are tucked in alongside the watering system. It seems to me part of the watering system has died and part of it is flooding an area of the planting area–and that is contributing to what has died and what has lived, so I’m planting drought tolerant species in the very dry area and those that might enjoy the water in the spot where the water struggles to drain away, and we will see how that goes.

But wait! There’s more!

This time sheoak as well as saltbush…

This roll of very quiet planting has been driven by the welcome arrival of rain. So heavenly. I have just a few plants left now and need to get cuttings in for next planting season!

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Incredibly cute baby shoes

In these strange times, it was rather delightful to get a call from my daughter requesting baby socks, baby mittens and “do you know what soft shoes are? Could you make them?” I found a pattern on Spoonflower, and off I went!

One pair I cut from some fabric I could not resist and have been too scared to cut, apparently (for some years). One came from the offcuts of an op shop dress the main parts of which have been turned into bags already.

The pattern calls for iron on interfacing. Well, some parts of the upcycled frock already had this feature, so I left it intact and turned it to advantage. For the rest, the scrap stack (offcuts so small they are filed in a pile–too small to fold up!) provided sections of sheet most of which had been turned into hankies and napkins, and tiny offcuts of a linen shirt that has met its next incarnation. The soles? From a dead pair of tracksuit pants, and some offcuts of fabric recently passed on from a friend, from her Mum’s stash. And as for fusible batting? The tracksuit pants provide again!

I certainly could not have dreamed up this pattern. Gratitude to the architect and the instruction writer! As evening fell, I went to bring in the rest of the fabric from my friend’s Mum’s stash which had been laundered and hung to dry, and there right at the back were little offcuts of a black, shiny fabric with a pattern of paint splashes. I cut out a third pair and stitched them up! Elastic came from one of Joyce’s lunch boxes, inherited when she left Adelaide and I helped her family with her crafting stash. As with all the things she left behind, it was impeccably sorted, labelled and stored. If only my standards were so high!

By the time I got to my Virtual Mending Circle, I had three pairs requiring just a little hand finishing.

I think they are just so cute! I hope they will see the grandbub into her first independent steps. Right now she is still hauling herself along on whatever she can grab, but it won’t be long.

What fun! Very satisfying. And now, they are in the post and I await a report!

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And Another Apron

Now here is an old post… I think it had been waiting for the very final change I wanted to make, which happened weeks ago! Here it is at last.

Eventually (after a couple of aprons), I decided to return to the Alchemist’s Apron and check my grasp of the fundamentals. Sure enough, I immediately learned something that helped… and finally I got a result I really liked using an iron mordant. Gratitude to India Flint! This had been a large white linen shirt. But now–some great prints from a Eucalyptus Nicholii sapling a friend and I planted in the guerilla garden.

Here it is being bundled for the dye pot. And below, close-ups of the parts of the garment I like best.

I sewed on some old coins I’d brought home from a shrine sale in Japan. And some beads I found in an op shop (thrift store). Then buttons… India Flint has made some wonderful works with lots of buttons on them, and I have a LOT of buttons, albeit very few of them especially beautiful in their own right. Why not? In the end I had more than I liked and cut a block of them off again! Then the serious stitching began and again I found I just wanted to keep going.

In the end, I added and then removed buttons, decided the skirt was too short and added panels of cotton calico dyed with some dried leaves, and adjusted the neckline a couple of times until I liked it.

I created some funny pockets and misjudged some pocket placement vs construction details. But it doesn’t matter.

The threads are all silk and silk cotton dyed with plants. Madder, eucalypt…

I am so interested that now I can look at madder dyed textiles and tell the difference in the shade between madder and eucalyptus, because I remember when I couldn’t.

Here is the whole thing. On its early outings I realised it was really loose, and bagged out at the back. In the end, I added a second button and button hole so that I can have it close enough to my body to be comfortable and to do its work. It also means that those beads don’t drag the whole apron down on one side like they did. They may yet be removed! And the coins make it tinkle. Which I am surprised to find I rather enjoy. Fabulous. Thank you, India!

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DIY Yoga Bolster

After a very painful injury that took a long time to recover from, my physiotherapist impressed upon me that I should be doing yoga. It was harder than I thought to get myself into a class, and once I’d done that and finally made it to my first class, a series of unfortunate events occurred, and one of them was a global event that has closed yoga studios! (Yes, first world problem).

So, one beginner class in, I was back to my own devices. I tried an online class run for free through my council with an actual teacher on Zoom. I discovered the other participant did not have their video or sound on. I can only imagine that was a bit tough for the teacher, who was running her first or second Zoom class and had children in the house. I, on the other hand, felt a rush of surprise and relief, as my memories of doing yoga in my jeans in the 1980s when body shame was my constant companion and I could not afford yoga specific clothing, and the comments people made… rose up and then receded. No one can see me! Not great for guidance but very relaxing otherwise.

Next I tried some YouTube classes. Not bad. But probably not the level of explain-y a complete beginner like myself might need, especially when I’m not going to a live teacher for correction. So I went to the www site of the place I had hoped to go to in person, and they recommended a couple of sites. I did the trial video and signed up. I need a bolster for this! Happily I’d had that one live class, so I’d seen one in the touch-and-feel world; and happily the internet is full of proposals. And my sewing room contains a number of pairs of secondhand jeans. Perfect.

I started with a pattern from Instructables and decided I wanted a drawstring at one end rather than stuffing the thing and closing it up for good. I made some modifications and started cutting up jeans and patchworking them together. As usual, I was finished before I thought too hard about the design of the patchwork. Next time!

Once I had the denim all stitched up and I’d constructed the bag, I raided the blanket cupboard and rolled up one of the ancestral (and very tatty) wool blankets and one of the cotton op shop picnic rugs and packed them in. I’m pleased to say that I trialled this with my new yoga class last night and all went well. No one complimented me, no one suggested that I might need a better one either. No feedback at all. It’s all pre recorded video with loads of explanation at beginner level, so zero interaction. There was a moment when I realised that it wasn’t just that this was the final pose and it was going longer than I could enjoy. The internet was groaning and buffering was occurring. No wonder the commentary had stopped. I called a halt eventually and rolled off my bolster. Totally fit for purpose, nothing new, no plastic. Win-win-win.

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A book for the grandbub

There is a thing that’s happening a lot lately. Like the day I thought I’d work on a quilt, and then I constructed most of this book. And the next day, when I thought I’d finish the book, but actually made a yoga bolster out of old jeans. Go figure.

But in the end, things get made and it’s all good and no one else cares about what order things happen in, most days!

I think it was just that a memory of a book a little bit like this from my own childhood came floating through my mind, and I’m the kind of person who acts on those thoughts!

So I got choosing and cutting and ripping up old pillowcases and stitching, and ended up with this, which I hope will brighten some days and be impossible to pull apart!

And there you have it, a book for the grandbub, who is way too little to be learning to count. At the moment!

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Fleece washing

Any time I feel like I could bear to wash fleece, is the right time to be washing fleece. I don’t love it the way I love spinning, but I’m prepared to do it so I can spin local fleece. And, I have a lot of fleece right now and have turned more down. Several times! The capacity to wash fleece came upon me, so I made a start.

I am washing a fleece that is Polwarth or perhaps a Polwarth cross. Polwarth is a fine wool, but this sheep mows a lawn, it isn’t a prize stud animal with breeding for fineness–so maybe not the finest Polwarth ever. Polwarth is a big breed. This photo shows the garbage bag the fleece came in, packed quite full. That’s after skirting (removal of the really yucky and really short bits at the point of shearing). In the picture I am 2 kg in, with 1.75 kg of raw fleece still to go. I am washing it 250g at a time. So that is many rounds of soak, wash 1, wash 2, rinse. Big job.

Brown Polwarth locks beside a pair of secateurs

This is lovely fleece–soft, a beautiful colour, and with some very dark sections and some where the sheep’s age is starting to show in some greying. Also, fine fleece is the greasiest and the easiest to felt (that means it is hardest to wash well) and I much prefer washing coarser fleece. However coarse fleece makes itchy hats… so off we go!

Now washing raw fleece is a subject on which much has been written. I have drawn the conclusion that there are many ways to arrive at a cleaner fleece, and that different people have the capacity to manage different methods. It isn’t always obvious why. Most spinners have found a way, even if most of us have felted at least one fleece on the path! Anyway, here’s a small list of my personal suggestions.

Care for your back. Plan for safe lifting and carrying of things like containers full of hot water. Do not do anything in your own home that your union would criticise your boss for making you do. In my case, I carry water in containers with a handle (a bucket, not a dye pot). I lift with care: engage the belly muscles and bend the knees, lift with your big muscle groups and not your back. Consider the carrying involved and plan for safety and comfort.

The water after a cold overnight soak. As you can see, this step really takes a load off the hot washes.

Care for your plumbing. Is it up to this? Is anything going to stop short cuts and entire locks washing into the drain?

The water after hot wash #1 (and the wet fleece)

Expect things to get messy and wet. Set up your work station accordingly. I use gloves, apron, the lot. I always have a couple of the dyeing towels at the ready, one on the floor soaking up spills and one just in case. I like to use colanders or sieves that fit my buckets/dye pots so that I can rest wet fleece in them and squeeze it firmly–I gather everything before I start. In my case, I need an electric jug to raise the water to the right temperature. The hot tap won’t do it. I use scales to weigh my fleece and cleanser. I always have a container for bits I want to remove. Short cuts, seeds, pine cone parts, dead bugs, locks I have pulled out of the drain. I like to remove all barriers to removing anything I don’t want, immediately.

After hot wash #2

Consider your cleanser. I’ve heard of people using just about everything to clean fleece, from grease removing products used in the car industry, to dishwashing detergent, soap, fleece specific products, soapnuts, and fermentation. I’d like to use something clean and green but the green claims of a lot of products are hard to adequately assess, some of them travel long distances to get to me, and others don’t seem to work very well. I’ve been right up to “I will never do this again” at times, too, and I’ve found choice of cleanser can make a big difference to how difficult it is to get fleece clean and how good the outcome is.

Set up and ready to go!

Have a water saving strategy. Saving water and saving energy go together when you’re using hot water. I try to save water by soaking the fleece overnight in cold water before I start. I lift the fleece out, squeeze it to get as much water out as possible (then squeeze some more–wool is super absorbent), and move to the hot water wash. The soak water is full of nutrients so I use it as a fertiliser on the garden. I wash two batches at once. The final hot rinse for the first batch becomes the first hot wash for the second batch. I am on a roll at the moment, so I put tomorrow’s fleece to soak in the rinse water of today’s.

Yesterday I soaked two batches in the final hot rinse water of yesterday’s fleece washing, and two batches in cold water. This morning I was greeted with two very different sights. The batch that had soaked in cold water still looked like wet wool. The batch soaked in hot water allowed to go cold had a layer of grease on top. This is what is happening as your water cools down. Don’t leave it too long!

Congealed grease on top of soaking wool

Have an entertainment strategy. I have about 15 minutes between hot washes and rinses, and it goes so much better if I have something pleasurable but interruptible to do. This time, I’ve been watching 12 minute videos from the Woodlanders series when the internet allows. It is beautiful. It is wonderful. It is inspiring. Basketry, charcoal, mushroom growing, forest care, nut growing and more! It shows several different Indigenous traditions. It includes woodland cultures and traditions from several different countries and continents. Also, crowd funded, so if you love this series all about forests and those who live and work in them–feel free to chip in, if you can.

Wool drying in devices found at the op shop. And a visitor!

Accept feedback. The wool itself will tell you whether what you did worked. In time as you come to spin you will find it felted or you won’t. You’ll find it clean or still too dirty for your taste. You’ll find it a bit sticky from retained greases, or you won’t. Then it’s on you to work out why. I think a lot of us have the concept that wool+ heat+alkalinity+agitation=felt. The wool, the heat and the alkalinity are unavoidable. Agitation is harder. You have to look for your blind spots. Examples include: running water into a vessel that contains wool. Pouring the whole load of water and wool into a draining sieve or similar (water running through wool=agitation). Then there’s good old fashioned playing with the wool while it soaks. I don’t. Submerge it, hold it down, if necessary squeeze and release once or twice to reduce trapped air, walk away.

Close up of my visitor–a blue tongue lizard. Happy day!

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Socks!!

The latest tuffsocks are done. I am spending hours on Zoom at present and it’s great knitting time. I’ve knit these for India Flint, and I had to giggle when I was knitting these while watching one of her online classes, some weeks back. She has a new class all about string making, one of my pleasures in life (and things to do with string). For those who can afford an online class–India is one of the enormous number of folk losing their work at this time and I am sure she would appreciate your support. If you read this blog there is an excellent chance you would love her classes. For those also facing loss of income, or just not able to afford it–there are some lovely free items at the link above too, including a grounding meditation you might enjoy if it’s not too calm at your place right now.

Here they are, finished.

Kangaroo Island “black” merino lamb, dyed with eucalyptus scoparia. And the by-now familiar calf shaping move for inside-boot wear.

The reinforced heel. Silk and cotton blend thread for reinforcement.

Feet knit with Ryeland from Victoria, dyed with walnut hulls. Why did I not reinforce the toe? Mysteries in sock knitting (in other words–I have no idea what I was thinking)! There were a LOT of walnuts from friends who have moved to a house with a huge, beautiful tree. This is the result of my dyeing effort.

Here’s hoping they will warm and cheer India in the winter that is coming under such complicated circumstances.

Are you ready to think about something else? I recommend the EarthHand Gleaners’ Society. They have an entire YouTube channel of awesomeness and storytelling from Canada. The most recent post is Sharon Kallis pitching their central question: ‘how can we be makers without first being consumers?’ and beginning a project of engaging with people who can’t leave home, around what they can make with things that are already in their homes and gardens. It’s quite delightful! She is asking for people to be in touch and tell her what they have to work with so she can help people problem solve what they might like to make. The rest of the channel is full of beautifully produced little films. This one is Sharon Kallis using what she has in her own home and creating her own video, so it has a lovely DIY vibe that is quite different. Maybe you’d like to participate? Her book is just so wonderful, I think this will be fun and include small people and parents beautifully.

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