Category Archives: Craftivism

Tuff socks, naturally: The project

My friend-in-blogging-and-making, Rebecca from Needle and Spindle, has had the exciting idea of a shared project on handspun socks without superwash treatment or nylon.  They would make use of the properties of breeds of sheep that were preferred for socks [by those who wearing wearing socks at all] in the swathe of human history in which nylon did not exist, superwash had not been invented, and the merino had not yet become the overwhelming giant of industrial wool production.  I give you the Suffolk!

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Adele Moon will be joining us for some sock spinning and knitting and posting. As you know, I love to knit socks, and I love to spin, and I’ve often thought I should be doing more spinning for sock knitting.  And of course, like a lot of people who read this blog, I think a lot about the industrial production of textiles and the pollution it causes, the permanence and harmfulness of plastics of all kinds (I’m considering nylon just this moment), and about the burdens of my own decisions on the earth and all who share her. There can’t be any pretence, in my case, to having all the answers; or to proving up to the challenge of making right decisions on all occasions.  I should think my readers all know that I can’t do that yet.  But I don’t think that can be a reason not to look for solutions or to make the changes we can figure out how to make.


Full solutions to the issues of pollution and plastics require change on way more than personal level.  There’s no real point, to my way of thinking, in getting overinvolved in our own feelings of self-blame or failure, on these questions. Better to keep focused on how to move forward, and how to spread awareness and action more widely.


At my place, the recently acquired Suffolk fleece will be part of the experiment.  I’ll be sharing what I know about knitting socks that last, and maybe we can spend some time on what to do when they disintegrate too!  I have begun to call in surviving socks that I hand spun and hand knit for friends and relatives so that an inventory (and some mending) can be undertaken. I’ll be spinning, and of course, dyeing with plants and knitting socks on public transport and in meetings.

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The tech minded spinners will have company in Rebecca, and there will be somewhat less well planned spinning at this blog, as you may have come to expect.  It sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  Feel free to offer your tips and inspirations!

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This is an open project, anyone can join in. If you are interested in being part of the Tuff Socks Naturally Project, please share your experiments or link to your project pages on this blog in post comments, or on Rebecca’s blog, Needle and Spindle, or with any of us on Instagram: @rebeccaspindle, @localandbespoke or @adelemoon and use the #tuffsocksnaturally tag.



Filed under Craftivism, Knitting, Natural dyeing, Spinning


The hat jag didn’t stop with those shown in the last post, but there came a day when I was ready to try something new and I chose Donna Druchunas’ Persist Hat. Well, mostly.  Needless to say I modified it a little.  The design features the word persist, naturally.  And the sign for infinity.  I chose to feature the word more and the infinity sign a little less.


The first one made me think my colour knitting had improved a bit!  I used some lovely soft local Polwarth yarn I had spun from the stash, and some leftover equally soft alpaca rich commercial yarn that was lying about.


After that, I made another one, because… repetition seems to be in my blood.  And “persist” is a concept I embrace.  And I liked the first one and had ideas for further mods.  I went with a contrast cast-on and a twisted rib brim.  I like it. One of these hats was always planned for the daughter of friends who is a high school activist.  I chose this pattern with her in mind. She has been in a protracted campaign to establish a gay-straight alliance at her school.  She and I talk about it every time we meet up, and I am constantly holding out for the need to build our capacity to persist in the face of injustice.  I hope she might enjoy a soft and snug reminder of that principle.


Filed under Craftivism, Knitting

Happy International Women’s Day!


Happy international women’s day, my friends!  I am feeling grateful today for all the women who came before me and put in such hard work to see that future generations (me included) would have the benefit of the vote, the right to run for parliament, and something much closer to equal pay than they ever knew.  And access to the professions, and to choices about marriage and family life.  And education.  And meaningful responses to violence in all its forms.  And so much more!


These images are of two of the champions of women;’s rights in my own little part of the world, Mary Lee and Dame Roma Mitchell.  I am celebrating today by going to sing I Can’t Keep Quiet in the International Women’s Day March.  We did a lovely flashmob a few weeks back with MILCK’s song, so some of us have practised up!  And in preparation for today, I knit some pussy hats.  I began with cochineal dyed wool.  I had been wondering when I would ever use it, and recognised this as the time!

Soon, I was off!

I decided to knit my pussy hats in the round, because, you know.  That’s how I roll on anything that could be knit in the round, and I’m not afraid to graft (Kitchener stitch).

Knitting while blogging?

Knitting on the train, because I usually do.  I just kept churning them out until I ran out of wool. Then I had some pinky purple-y handspun and it was a faster knit than the 8 ply (DK) commercial wool.  Finally, I had 4 pussy hats and a lot of conversations with people about what I was knitting that led to raised eyebrows and then conversations about contemporary politics and the inappropriateness of bragging about sexual assault.  I popped them in the mail to an Education Union in Victoria that was calling out for women to wear them in their IWD march.  I’m a member of a different education union, so that seemed completely appropriate to me.  I hope some women in Victoria will be stepping out in handmade pussy hats tonight and feeling fine!



Filed under Craftivism, Knitting, Natural dyeing

#MenditMay Mending workshop

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Last night the second mending workshop went off at our local hub, The Joinery, supported by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty ranges Natural Resources Management Board. Diane from the Adelaide Sustainability Centre did a wonderful job of organising.  She has more events coming up!

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The first workshop was a cosy, small affair with two mother/daughter teams who worked on learning to darn, mending torn jeans and hemming some pants.  It was just delightful to watch their mutual support and love for each other as well as their mending skills.

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The second workshop brought in quite a crowd of lovely people and loads of garments in need of buttons, hems, patching, darning, seam repairs, zippers, and repairs on rips. There was a lovely warm atmosphere as we set to work repairing the efforts of moth larvae and the impact of hard work and long wear on clothes that are practical, treasured or simply available to be practiced on.

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The mending kits went to happy new homes.  It was wonderful to see those needle cases opened out and people figuring out which needle to use for which job.  I got to share the joy of ‘magic eye’ or ‘self threading’ needles with people whose eyesight isn’t up to needle threading for the moment. Several people worked on their jeans and one generous reader was working on her daughter’s partner’s jeans.

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There were patches plain and fancy (this one has a decorative silky top layer and some denim patching underneath doing the heavy work). Some people were working on their very first mends but several had aspirations to make their own clothes.

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One lucky person had been to a workshop with India Flint and was wearing some beautiful plant dyed clothes she had made, while she had others well-worn and ready for repair.

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There were some much-loved garments in for mending.  It was a real pleasure to be in the company of other people who like to make things last!  There were some strategy conversations about how to make special things go further.

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There was fancy mending too.  Here, a patch from a worn out black t shirt has gone on the inside of a merino top, with some decorative stitching holding the layers together.  No one will ever recognise this as mending… and I think there will be more spirals to address other places where wear and moth larvae have done their work.

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Here, some great pants from the op shop are being taken up by a new wearer who is not the same height as the previous owner.

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People learned darning, decorative patching, patching that won’t show so much and how to wax thread.  It turns out I know a simpler way to replace a button than some folk had figured out for themselves, and there were people sewing buttons onto leather as well as people sewing statement contrast buttons on with alacrity.  Some of my friends came along.  And, I got to meet some lovely blog readers for the first time! Thanks so much to everyone who came and made it a great night.  If you’re looking for guidance, please do go to my directory of mending tutorials.  Happy mending!


Filed under Craftivism, Sewing

Hard rubbish provides

I believe it was one of my nearest and dearest who coined the phrase ‘hard rubbish provides!’  This week there was a little hard rubbish about. It’s spring here and clearly some people have been moved to clean up and clear out. Hard rubbish (I am sure it doesn’t go by this name all over the world, even the English speaking parts) is when you put rubbish too big for regular collection out for council to pick up.  Depending on your council area, there is either a time of year this happens and there is hard rubbish all over the neighbourhood, and people cruising around looking for loot–or, as in our area–you call the council and request a pick up.

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I was very surprised to find the water well pictured above on someone else’s toss outs. This is a device invented in Australia for making sure that a newly planted tree gets water to its roots.  Here is one in use on our baby quince tree.

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I mostly make my own from large plastic pots (because hard rubbish provides those too).  or, just build up soil around the trunk in a suitable small dam shape and call it done.  But the proprietary version has handy features, like a seam that comes apart for removal from a large tree.  So all I need now is a tree to plant, and as it happens I have one of those I prepared earlier!

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BUT this is the real reason for the hard rubbish post.  This is a window blind I picked up off hard rubbish years ago.  I remember thinking it would make a great banner, and finally it has!  A beloved friend drew the lettering and we painted it in.  So for a while it was awaiting a picture she has the skills to draw.  And then, our crew of climate change activist-singers Rise Up Singing Adelaide took it along to a controversial bike lane in the city (in case you are wondering, the bike lane is awesome!), and sang to the cyclists to thank them for doing their bit to reduce our collective carbon footprint.  It was fun.

And did I mention that it is spring?

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Filed under Craftivism, Neighbourhood pleasures

Stitching up a storm

It began with a beloved tree banner for a tree that lost its long standing banner during the Royal Show.  Hopefully it went to another beloved tree.  The whim took me one night, so I found some calico gifted by a friend and interfaced it with a handkerchief that had passed the point of no return.

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Pretty soon, I had a banner ready to tie on. The silk thread was dyed a little while back, wrapped around a piece of E Scoparia bark from the very tree this banner is destined to adorn.  Before:

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And here’s the banner!

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Somehow the same night I machine stitched the banner together I decided to finally break out the glorious Japanese indigo dyed cotton thread my beloved brought home from a recent trip to Japan.  With pictures of the master dyer and his family, and of the workshop.  And some hand woven indigo dyed fabric.  Oh my!  It could take me years to decide what to do with it!

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Pretty soon I’d made this panel and started to have all kinds of ideas about what might happen to it next.

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But in the meantime I was keen to make a gift for a friend who had recently given me all the linen, canvas and cotton left from her days in art school.

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It’s lined with part of a raw silk suit a different friend found for me at an op shop.

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Done just in time to see her today!

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And… here is the banner in situ.

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The tree is in the process of shedding bark right now.  And just as beautiful as ever.

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Filed under Craftivism, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Beloved tree banners

I am a tree lover.  If you’ve been visiting for long, you already know this about me. This week these banners went out into the world.  Framed by eco-prints and embroidered with eucalyptus dyed silk thread… perfect for the job, I think.

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The first went to a river red gum we managed to save during railway works in the neighbourhood.

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It is immense.

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But the second banner went to a much larger tree.  This one has been here since the Kaurna people were the only people living here: since before colonisation.  It is now in Wilberforce Walk, and it is threatened by flood mitigation works which will widen Brownhill Creek, in which it stands.  It has a massive trunk.

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Friends and neighbours have been at work on making sure this tree stays safe.  We have been writing letters and submissions. We have been lobbying.  One ingenious friend has commissioned a beautiful painting of this tree by local artist Laura Wills which he is planning to give to Council.  Other ingenious friends had a famous eucalypt specialist come and examine the tree to assess its age and state of health and write a report.

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This banner has been requested several times by various other people who love this tree, and now it is in place.  I don’t think it can hurt for passersby, or the Council’s arborist, or whomever might be charged with deciding how to treat this tree, to know that it is beloved.  It has been wonderful to meet with so many people who love this tree after years of visiting it and treasuring it myself.  Along with the other tree lovers: in this case, friends, neighbours, insects, honeyeaters, sulphur crested cockatoos, bees and tawny frogmouths.

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Filed under Craftivism, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Beloved trees

My very local tree loving friends and I have had a plan for a little while to plant more trees around here, and we decided to plant E Scoparia.  An opportunity came to buy some, so my friends bought some, and they were on special for $1 each!

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We took them, and some saltbush and boobialla… and even parsley.

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While we were out planting, and singing the tree planting blessing, this little banner went back onto its tree.

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It had been home for a wash and reapplication of string. It had fallen down or been pulled down.

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It is a huge tree!

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One of us had to climb it.

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When it was all over there was another shared lunch (I am blessed with generous friends!) and chicken happiness, and bit less rubbish in the neighbourhood.

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Filed under Craftivism, Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Students of Sustainability

The national Students of Sustainability conference is in our own city this year, and I was asked to present. I did a few things, and one of them was a workshop on craft.  Once I started putting together what I thought I might take, my imagination went wild, as it so often does.  pretty soon I had made up a stack of mending kits.  So many other women’s haberdashery has come my way in the last decade or two, and I have been such an op shopping pack rat–that I have surplus.  Tins from my mother-out-law.  Tins from gifts.  Boxes from lovely stationery.  My friend’s Mum’s huge collection of machine sewing thread.  Needles from my grandma.  Buttons from everywhere including three generations of my own family.  When I went looking for the embroidery thread of my childhood, I found there wasn’t much of it, but there was a motherlode of darning wool and leather samples, all in a big tin with a little embroidery equipment and some English piecing left over from a quilt I began in primary school, finished as an adult and gave away the night I finished it–replete with 900, 3 cm squares of treasured fabrics gifted by my mother and grandmother for my fidgety little fingers to work on.

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Hopefully these kits will find happy homes with environmental activists whose stashes are not quite as replete as my own–they all went to new homes at the end of the workshop.  I took a couple of beanies to give away too.  Then I ironed some bunting that spent months in the street and came down when council decided on a permapine barrier to stop cars killing the plantings by the tram line (happiness!).  It’s a lesson in colourfastness (in which indigo dyeing beats commercial black dye and dress and quilt fabrics hands down and a second hand sheet fares very well).   The attendees had their own ideas about what bunting might be useful for, some of it became patches, flags, a bandanna, a bag and interfacing.

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Here I am packed and ready to go.  After this I added very warm clothing, and a big thermos of ginger tea with lime leaves and other good ingredients.  The basket on the left was apparently made by my Mum’s mother.  I borrowed it in Mum’s absence, carrying home fruit, veg and flowers when they were away, and it feels like good company somehow.  So I have both grandmas coming with me, dear as they both were. Along came the bundle book in case people wanted to know about the eco dyed fabrics we might stitch on (they sure did!  How did you do that?  Was asked and answered over and over again as I had leaf-printed fabrics for people to use and enjoy).  People also appreciated the very inspiring Little Book of Craftivism2015-07-11 16.04.39

This enthusiastic participant is modelling one of my beanies as embellished by his Mum.  ‘Lock the gate’ is a campaign against fracking in farming land.

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A few people learned how to sew for the very first time.

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There were some unique pouches and bags… people had some needed gentle time in their big week.  A few folk had a nap in the corner at some stage (camping out in the high wind and heavy rain the previous night must have been pretty tough).

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I was blessed with the support and company of a friend who is a fabulous maker and activist.  She came along as support crew and brought her many fine qualities to the event. And her mending, too!


Filed under Craftivism, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

…because there can never be too much plant-protective bunting

I have been tidying up the bunting we set up to protect recently planted and small native plants as I pass, adding a few pennants and re-tying after wind and rain.  I am surprised it has lasted so long.  But there are other plants in need of protection.  A woman had a long chat with me as we each tried to figure out what to do about cars parked in ‘the garden’, as she put it, in another nearby newly planted patch.  She confided that there was bunting across the way and it was wonderful and effective and she wished there was some in her street.  I confessed I’d made it and explained how in answer to her questions.  She asked for some.

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We discussed the council and what we might be able to do. I encouraged her to call them.   In the end, I made some more bunting.

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It’s low-fi bunting, this.  I have made some that is labour intensive and lovely, but in the case of bunting that suggests people should stop going where they feel entitled to go–through experience I have learned that sometimes metres of it will be ripped down and vanish in a single night.  I’m not up for that when I have spent a lavish amount of time and care.  This is bunting made from scraps, with minimal effort.

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I cut fabrics to shape, and then sew onto recycled string.  Here, two strands of cotton yarn from an unpicked second hand jumper.  I dyed them years back, inadvisedly, but here they are, coming into their own.  The fabrics include a second hand napkin, what is left of a thrifted sheet (considering most of it became a shirt for a friend years back), remainders of a bag made for my mother, little bits from the cupboard, a panel from a thrifted skirt…

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I piece together little bits, and don’t worry about grain and such.  They just need to flutter in the breeze and offer a tip that this is not a parking bay.  Drape is not a big concern!

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My very patient beloved agreed to come and help me put it up.

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And here we are, admiring our handiwork as the sun goes down and passersby come past with their dogs, too polite to ask. As you can see, the plants we are trying to protect are still small.  Those that haven’t already died must be hard to see from a car.   There is still another spot near here where people park… so there may yet be more bunting!


Filed under Craftivism, Sewing