Category Archives: Activism

Where was I?

IMAG2111

Dear Readers, I am sure you’ve noticed my absence. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes at localandbespoke. My partner’s parents have entered a new phase of their lives in which they have required more support.

IMAG2113

The long standing upheaval in my workplace that slowed me down a lot outside work in the last 18 months or so has resulted in my taking a voluntary redundancy in order to spend more of my time on climate activism.

IMAG2126

A small group of us inspired by activists in the UK have set up Extinction Rebellion in our state. Already, we are a very active and much larger group. Thus far, it’s a wild ride.

IMAG2118

My daughter has become a mother and I’ve become a grandmother.

IMAG2132

I am sure it’s not stretching your imagination too much to picture this as a time of emotional and practical upheaval in which I’ve been more than usually buffeted by the tides of life. There has been awe and amazement and joy.  There has been grief and pain and exhaustion. There have been a lot of mixed feelings–complicated situations give rise to complicated reactions. And I’ve spent some time recently feeling profoundly exhausted and with my friends letting me know of their concern for me.

IMAG2079

In situations of difficulty and complexity, I often find myself holding my friends and beloveds in my mind–sometimes asking what they would do; sometimes drawing solace from their love for me, their confidence in me or their preparedness to forgive me; sometimes remembering things they have said or done; mentally sharing an experience that I know they have had before me; drawing on their courage and wisdom or their capacity for integrity and compassion; or simply holding them in my mind as companions in complicated moments. In recent times I’ve found myself mentally writing blog posts and thus holding you in my mind.  Thanks for the company. I hope I might write some of those posts, however belatedly.

IMAG2065

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Activism

Mending–above and beyond edition

There came a time recently when some pretty major mending came along. First this shirt was found in a bag in the shed (where to judge by the company it was keeping, it was intended, for a time, to be a rag) and it came back into the house as a much beloved shirt of my beloved, which it certainly had been for many years prior to its trip to the shed and long stay there. Could I mend it, because the holes were substantial?

Yes, I could–in this case by machine stitching a thin piece of reinforcing fabric on the inside, in several places.  With the end result on the right, above.

IMAG2205

Then, this pair of linen trousers. I got a new job a while back, and it demanded some smarter clothes (it’s one thing to be judged less than stylish personally, but it’s another to let the team down). The Salvation Army and other op shops, plus some home made tops got me through winter, but summer was a whole other issue. So these pants (and a blue shirt to go with them) were a rare new purchase, and this is how they are faring after one and a bit summers. Not as well as you’d hope given price tag and materials. Not as well as the linen pants I made myself (though they have their faults)–just saying.

IMAG2213

I decided on another machine mend–in which there is a lot of stitching that will show, so choice of thread matters more than it would in a seam. Sometimes when it comes right down to it, you have a preconception about the colour of the garment that you need to discard to do a good mend that won’t yell out. Sometimes using two different colours is the right thing to do. Choice made with thread laid across the fabric on the right side, I chose some thin fabric that will reinforce but not make the patch rigid (once stitched–the stitching adds some bulk).

Patch 1 pinned, tacked and then stitched, patch 2 begun. Here I’m using a three step zigzag as my mending stitch.

And, finished.  The texture and colour are slightly changed, but I’ve asked my beloved if she can tell me where my pants are mended and she can’t (when I have them on). Because the truth of the matter is, my friends, that the reason my pants wear out in this spot is because friction. And the reason there is friction is because two surfaces are in contact. And because they are in contact with one another–they don’t show a whole lot. These pants are no longer for best, sure.  They are still comfortable and shapely though, and will last a bit longer.  The big job is done with and the clothes I bought for it and didn’t care to keep have returned to the op shop for some other woman trying to pass herself off as a professional.

IMAG2203

Finally, a drum case.  Being a drummer involves hefting a lot of kit, and doing it regularly, and doing it ingeniously.  In the case of the wonderful drummer in our band, I’d noticed the snare drum case was looking pretty sad. So I offered to mend it. I threaded up a leather needle, the most sturdy needle I can use on my machine.  First I trimmed off the frayed sections. Then unpicked the binding. Then realised I could not insert three layers (especially tatty layers) into it neatly, especially because the edge had shortened through fraying and disintegration.  I found some black seam binding tape in the stash (thanks Joyce!) and neatened up the edge, then finally reinserted it with considerable difficulty, into the binding.

IMAG2237

It’s far from perfect.  But it is much better.  If this fails I told my friend the awesome drummer I’d be prepared to try again.  But for local readers it has occurred to me that the industrial strength option would be The Luggage Place, 108 Gilbert St, Adelaide. I’ve had various repairs done to suitcases there and they do a good job. They are not paying me–there are just so few places left where you could get something like this repaired, every one is worth sharing. In one instance, I’d given up completely and bought a new suitcase, and then realised I could take it to The Luggage Place. They sewed the carry handle back on a fair sized suitcase and in fact that case has kicked on for some years since then. They also replace wheels and suitcase innards!

IMAG1877

And there you have the above and beyond edition. As all manner of lovely books on mending come out, Tom of Holland’s Visible Mending programme becomes a hashhtag, and the beautiful, ingenious work of India Flint in converting one garment/s to another/s and such spread more widely, mending is having a resurgence. It’s a wonderful thing!  And with the encouragement and occasional shock response to my mending of you all, dear readers–I’ve continued to be a prosaic and practical mender in the main.  But I am now more able and more likely to look for a lovely way to mend garments and items that are not quite so thoroughly damaged as these!IMAG2337

Just a little public service announcement. Age no barrier.  Striking school students are calling out to everyone to join them. In Australia, University students are coming. Grey Power for Climate Action are coming. Parents are coming. Our Climate Choir and local Extinction Rebellion will be there, honouring the leadership of the student strikers and standing behind and beside them. I will certainly be there.  So join us!  Wherever you are!

5 Comments

Filed under Activism, Sewing

Wasting less while travelling

IMAG1804

The last few months have included some travel for various reasons. I think it’s obvious that air travel raises my carbon footprint and should be avoided when possible. But perhaps I’ve already mentioned that my life is full of contradictions?  I’m trying to do what I can, when I can. When I went to Brisbane I was lucky enough to be able to buy vegetables and fruit at the local farmers’ market.  It was luck!  I had no idea it would be close to where I was staying.  I’d selected accommodation so I’d have less traveling each day I was there, and so I could travel by ferry when I needed public transport. In another spot of luck, I’d been saving my peelings and pits in the fridge for a few days trying to figure out whether my only option was to put them in the bin, when I realised I was walking distance from New Farm community garden.

I was convinced a community garden would have a composting system I could sneak my scraps into, but imagine my delight to discover a community composting hub! I went back a couple of times because it’s mango season and there I was making cold rolls for dinner and eating a mango every day.  And because the community garden was brilliant. My other travelling with less waste discovery was in Melbourne, where the lovely out-laws took us to Coburg Farmer’s market. There was live music, there was delicious food–and there was a no single use policy on cups, plates and utensils.  So there was a serious washing station with clearly explained steps, and lots of people large and small using it.

My other big carbon footprint management strategy is to protest when travelling whenever possible.  Brisbane is the heart of opposition to the Adani coal mine–which is a bad idea on so many fronts–Indigenous owners oppose it, we already know we need to keep existing reserves of coal in the ground to have a hope of keeping climate change to tragic rather than catastrophic levels, the water this mine will take is shocking, coal will be shipped out right by the Great Barrier Reef–you know what I’m saying.  I’m saying Stop Adani!

It’s also good to see what people in other places do–I caught up with an activist I met over 20 years ago and we talked up using music in protest (and did some singing, of course). And it was fun being deputised by my beloved and her parents to be the one going out to save the world while they stayed home providing loving care and being unable to get out much, respectively.  They needed to check that I would make sure I came home again.

I managed to come home both times–and there were some very funny stories of members of the family opposing Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war, and being arrested during the Premiership of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, when the right to assemble and the right to march were themselves the things people were protesting to achieve, because they were criminalised by Joh.

And in closing… some photos of fabulous Brisbane wildlife!

4 Comments

Filed under Activism

Extinction Rebellion, climate change, and a beanie

IMAG1959_1

Hello dear Readers, I have designed a knitting pattern.  You can, should you wish, download it from Ravelry here. You see it here in handspun coloured merino with eucalyptus-dyed wool contrast. But allow me to explain.

IMAG1957_1

It is a big time in the life of the world, with even conservative estimates by scientists telling us that we have less than 12 years to take emergency level action that could keep global warming to below 1.5C.  Even 1.5C warming will have, and is already having, massive impacts on the earth and all who depend on the earth for life. Including you and me. It isn’t as though I’ve been sitting around. I’m doing the little things that depend on my being one straw in a very, very big haystack for impact (online petitions, postcards, letter writing, voting).

Last week I joined the thousands of Australian school children who went out on strike demanding climate action.  Their speeches showed more understanding of climate change than anything coming out of our federal government, which is still supporting coal mining and oil drilling on a massive scale.  The school students had more clarity than our state government, which has only partially, temporarily, banned fracking because it destroys farmland (and thus costs votes though these things certainly do matter in their own right)–not because of the impact of burning fossil fuels on global warming. I sing with a posse of climate singers who were out on the weekend telling the good people of our city about the issue and giving people the chance to write to the leader of the opposition about this issue.

signal-2018-12-01-133906

And yet, on this day when world leaders are meeting in Katowice, Poland, to talk about what to do about this–there is just no coverage in my country of this critically important meeting.  My government is not on track to meet the inadequate targets set in Paris.  And the high pitched screaming sound between my ears when I lie awake in the middle of the night worrying about climate change is not quietening down.

IMAG1914

My heart soared when I saw that a new group in the UK called Extinction Rebellion have served their demands on their government, and that they are framing the climate and ecological emergency like the existential threat that it is.  On their first Rebellion Day they blocked all the bridges across the Thames River and brought central London to a standstill. This is a strategy of escalating nonviolent civil disobedience designed to compel the governments that are failing their people and the future of our world to take emergency level action.

IMG_20180714_132031_357

It may not succeed.  But it has to be attempted, because scientists have been patiently explaining and then explaining in tones of increasing panic, and then explaining with tears as they set out the loss we already face: and governments are not listening nor acting.  Fossil fuel companies are continuing to fund political parties here and elsewhere.  The current federal government is not even close to having a rational policy on climate.  And nowhere are there signs of action being taken that comes close to responding to the grave threat every life form on earth now faces.

So, dear friends, I have decided to commit to being an organiser for Extinction Rebellion. And I also decided to design a beanie, watching all those English folk out being arrested and protesting in the chill weather of their winter as we head into the searing heat of our summer.  I knit it in the week a tornado hit a town in our state for the first time in my memory.  If you have questions about Extinction Rebellion, I hope you will roam their www site, find them on social media, and go here scroll down and watch their briefing on climate change and what we can do about it.  This is an invitation to act with courage in times that demand no less. Let’s step up, for the love of life.

IMAG1889

12 Comments

Filed under Activism, Craftivism, Knitting, Natural dyeing

Guerilla weeding

IMAG1769

This culvert has been one of my patches for a few years now (in this post in 2016 I am not sure I am planting for the first time…), and it is really looking good now.  In fact, today as I weeded, a gentleman in a suit came past and his only comment was “oh, I wondered who had been doing that!”

IMAG1767

Ultimately, my goal is to have native plants out compete weeds, so that no one feels the need for poisoning, and native insects and birds and lizards can have a little more of what they need. In the meantime however, the struggle is on to make sure that effort to poison weeds do not kill my little plants before they can become established. So here is my weeding toolkit and our biggest bucket.

IMAG1777

I filled it to overflowing and at this time of year, a weed the hivemind on this blog identified as a cudweed predominates.  It is probably Gnaphalium affine (Jersey Cudweed) (so far from home!) But look!  The saltbushes (three species here) are really established now.

IMAG1770

There is flax leaf fleabane and prickly lettuce and fourleaf allseed , and even a few fumitory plants have survived past the first heatwave and my best efforts. On the other hand, look at the native plants now.

Even the Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes are looking good at the moment.

IMAG1775

And, here it is afterwards–perhaps you can’t tell iin so small an image.  But hopefully the seed burden is reduced.  Already, the boobialla and saltbushes are crowding out weeds which really can only take root seriously at the edges. I hope the poisoners will leave things be.

IMAG1776

And seedlings for autumn planting are springing up under the regular watering provided by my beloved. Life rises up in its own defence, and so must we rise up for the future of life on earth. Today, with a little local weeding.

IMAG1766

8 Comments

Filed under Activism, Neighbourhood pleasures

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.

IMAG4715

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.

IMAG4718

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.

IMAG4729

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.

IMAG4730

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!

IMAG4732

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!

IMAG4733

5 Comments

Filed under Activism, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Scrap patchwork bags

2017-02-26-15-08-41

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.

2017-02-25-15-08-27

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.

2017-04-01 16.52.51

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.

2017-04-01 16.52.44

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.

2017-04-01 16.52.31

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!

2017-04-01 16.52.23

 

 

6 Comments

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!

knitting-nannas

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.

Grandma skill share

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…

2016-08-28-12-38-32

19 Comments

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.

2016-04-09 15.45.40

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.

2016-04-09 15.43.53

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.

2016-04-09 15.57.12

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.

2016-04-09 16.14.15

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.

2016-04-09 16.13.10

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Activism, Sewing