Category Archives: Activism

Transformations: Blind to Banner

I think some of my earliest sewing projects were mending and banner making.  I see no reason to change now!  This week the household is preparing to head out and let CommBank know we want them to rule out funding the Adani coal mine.  This mega-mine would mean that Australia could not hope to meet its obligations under the Paris agreement on climate action, let alone claim global leadership on addressing the most serious threat facing the planet, all species, and humanity.  We are part of the national movement to stop the money going to this project, and our strategies include going to the banks and singing about our hopes and expectations. We also want the passersby to know what we are doing–and that is where the banner comes in.

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A few weeks back I saw an old holland blind abandoned on the verge/nature strip.  I took it home because it was crying out to become a banner.  Nice, firm, neutral coloured fabric that won’t bleed through–and otherwise destined for landfill. I cut off the really sad parts that were coming apart through UV light damage and long use.  Then I washed off the surface grime (it had been out in the weather when I came across it).  Next, discussion about how big the banner should be, and snip!  In with the scissors.

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Next, collaboration on the engineering aspects, and construction of the pole pockets, with me on the sewing machine and my friends supporting the weight of the fabric.  We agreed on the message and design, then ate a delicious dinner!  I roughed out the text with a pencil and then we got to colouring it in, and called a friend for resources.  She came over with paint and brushes and I outlined the black sections in texta/sharpie/permanent felt tip pen. Then  everything went quiet for a while.  It’s more fun than you think to collaborate on a thing like this. And it doesn’t have to be a work of art, it just has to be a communication.

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Ready to go… but not quite… next day, off to the local bamboo clump, with some admiration of guerilla gardening success en route.  Here, I planted everything except the tree.

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Here, my friends and I planted everything, and there is so much cover now a friend planted a eucalypt in there with me one day–the site is protected enough that it might make it now!

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Then I made my bamboo selections, cut a spare one or two, stripped the leaves and headed home for breakfast and work.  We are ready to go!  If you are in Adelaide and want to join us, see you at 10 am outside the Commbank branch on Gouger St City, beside the market, for an hour of songs about why renewable energy is preferable to coal, the need for climate action, our determination to dump banks that won’t see sense and stop investing in fossil fuels, and some very fun new songs about stopping Adani. Feel free to swell our numbers whether you sing or not.  There’s a banner you could hold… or bring your own!

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Filed under Activism, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Scrap patchwork bags

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The more sewing there is, the more scraps there are.  The more garments get cut up and converted into other things, the more bits and pieces of old clothing are lying around the place.  I notice there are waves of action around here.  Waves where things come apart–clothes get cut up ready to convert, dyeing creates new opportunities, fabrics come out of cupboards, sewing clothes creates leftover pieces of cloth… and then there are waves of coming together, sometimes driven by a sheer need to clean up and manage all those bits.

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Having made one round of bags with printed patches on them, I began to piece onto the remaining patches and to sew scraps together for linings.  Perfectly good pockets coming from clothes that have passed the point of no return (as garments of one kind) were sewn into bag linings for future use.  Eventually, they all came together into four lined bag bodies in search of straps, and all the pieces of old clothing and exhausted tablecloth that had been through one indigo vat or another started to come together as well.

In the end, I decided more denim would really help and invested $4 on the bargain rack at a Red Cross op shop.  Anything that has made it to half price at an op shop is likely on its way to rags or landfill.  If you’re feeling tough minded, or you would like to know what happens to clothing that is donated to op shops in this country, here!  Read this.

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Two bags got linen straps. This one, I think I will send to a fellow climate change activist, someone I met in Newcastle at a protest last year.  I’ve become her friend on facebook and I can see how hard it is for her to be constantly trying to explain how serious the issue facing us all is–and how urgent, while she deals with her own feelings on the subject.  This is a bit of a long distance hug for her, ’cause she’s awesome.

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This one is going to another friend who lives in the country.  She and I go way back.  I can see it’s tough being so far away from so many people she knows and events she might want to attend–though of course there are great things going on at home too. She’s a musician and knitter and gardener and feminist. Also pretty awesome.

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This patch is so like something she wrote a few weeks back I decided as I read–that it should be hers. And in case you’re wondering… there are two still bags to finish!

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Filed under Activism, Sewing

Knitting Nannas & Skills fest

I interrupt the regular diet of guerilla planting round here lately, to mention an upcoming event that local folks may wish to attend and people further afield may enjoy hearing about:the famous Knitting Nannas Against Coal Seam Gas (Fracking to some) are coming our way!

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These women are my kind of crafters… they came to the Newcastle Local Court to support those of us arrested at the Break Free protests against fossil fuels recently and I had a great chat with a Knitting Nanna.  I was knitting a sock, which impressed her, and she was a Knitting Nanna who is not a grandmother and can’t knit, which impressed me!  The Knitting Nannas are active all over the country wherever fossil fuel extraction threatens waterways, agricultural land and the climate.  They work with Lock the Gate (to oversimplify, farmers and rural people against fracking).  And for those wondering why the fuss about fossil fuels, I’ll summarise a bit more, on a day where we are facing a once in 50 year weather event right here at home and floods threaten houses on our quiet street for the second time in two weeks.  If we want a viable climate for the future, and we don’t want an escalation in droughts, floods, tornadoes and extreme weather in general, we have to stop taking fossil fuels (coal, gas and such) out of the ground and burning them.  The clock is ticking faster and faster and reaching even the targets agreed at Paris is fast becoming unrealistic. If you’d like more information, here is a very bracing, readily understood summary by Bill McKibben.  If thinking about climate change scares the wits out of you and you need some help with your despair, try Rebecca Solnit on optimism, first.

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And, while we are on the theme of Nannas, it seems that grandparents are the new black!  I taught mending at this event a few weeks back and it was such a pleasure.  I also joined my friend (below) who spent hours teaching small people how to sew a button on.  I was just astonished how many small people wanted to learn from us.  But my friend had such a winning strategy, opening with, ‘You get to choose which button, what colour of thread, and which piece of fabric’!  I followed her lead (she really is a Grandma, and clearly the best sort) and taught quite a few young ones how to sew on a button… and some came back for a second one.  Then my friend would finish up with explanations of how that button-on-fabric could become a brooch… a patch… a feature on your t shirt…

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Filed under Activism, Knitting, Sewing

Mending the earth

Some days seem more surreal than others.  It’s #Menditmay, and part of me is considering ripping out the zipper on that pair of jeans with the zipper that won’t stay up this evening.  Or perhaps re-stitching the lining of a lovely winter jacket that is a treasured gift.

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In my day job today, though, I am thinking about the appalling toll that sexual assault and other forms of violence take on people and what, if anything, the law can do about that.  This has been a project of some decades for me.  And tonight I will be packing for Newcastle to go and participate in Break Free, an international set of peaceful nonviolent protests directed at the major sources of the emissions that cause climate change. I will be one of the people attempting to close the world’s biggest coal port, however briefly, because Australian coal is fueling global warming both here and in the other parts of the world where it is burned.  For this world to survive in any recognisable form, that needs to stop, and stop quickly.

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This morning I read one man’s account of participating in a protest at a lignite mine in Germany in 2015.   While I was reading, I had Bob Marley’s song Three Little Birds playing, because I’ll be singing it as part of a global sing along with other local climate activists.  But I didn’t feel like ‘every little thing’s going to be all right’ today.  I’ve been a bit too focused on coral bleaching, abuse, and the wildfire in Alberta’s tar sands region that is devastating the region already laid waste by fossil fuel extraction.  First Nations have been resisting this damage, and the damage in the country where I live, for generations.  So, I was listening to Bob Marley’s reassuring song, reading about people’s efforts to bring a halt to fossil fuels and weeping.

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Mending garments and other belongings is appropriate and meaningful, and I am committed to sharing these necessary skills.  The first mending workshop was wonderful, and I am looking forward to the second, next week. But in addition, I am trying to work out how to participate in ending the massive damage being done to our beloved planet and every ecosystem and species that depends on it.  I am certainly also trying to work out how to limit my own personal contribution to that damage, including by mending and planting out my neighbourhood with native plants as a gesture of care. But that will never be enough, and here is a sensational 11 minute video that explains why.

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To quote Bill McKibben, ‘The time has come to take action commensurate with the scale of the problem.’  So this weekend I will be doing less stitching and more civil disobedience in the name of earth mending, with many others.  Because I think every mender knows that when something is coming apart at the seams, the first thing you do is stop the damage getting worse.  This is a crucial step if mending is to be possible at all.

If you wish you could be at one of the Break Free protests but you are not able to, you might consider being a digital witness.

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Filed under Activism, Sewing