Category Archives: Craftivism

Beloved trees

As so often happens in my case, one project leads to the next.  The scraps left from converting unwanted trousers into bags were the biggest scraps sitting on the small scraps pile when I felt the pull to make “beloved tree” banners.  I decided that this might be a fun Womadelaide project–there I would be over a long weekend, sitting under beautiful trees listening to music.  What could be better? It was going to be way too hot for substantial knitting projects.  I decided if I took needle, thread and some calico or sheet offcuts–that would be a good start, and that is how I began.   Before I went on day 2 I made some “frames”.

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You can see how this goes.  It’s simple but it gives a sense of framing the words that I like.  It somehow draws in the idea of that-which-is-framed being important, precious in some way.

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And there I sat–I have inherited a small embroidery hoop.  I usually don’t use one, but it seemed like it might help and it caused several conversations with smaller people interested in the whys and mechanics of things, which were also fun.

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Afterward, I found more calico/scraps/leftover bits of ancient sheets or tablecloths and stitched them on to create a backing and a neat edge around the frame.

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There are six in all, some with linen frames.

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Some framed with offcuts of denim jeans that have passed into new incarnations as bags. And now they are ready to be applied to trees.  I do feel as though a tree needs no adornment.  However, I feel all too conscious that trees are not universally beloved.  After the last big storm in which trees came down on cars and the tram line in our neighbourhood, I put up two earlier banners, and one was removed almost immediately.  I don’t know whether it was souvenir-ed or whether it was taken down by someone who didn’t accept the message.  But I do know that at such times trees around me face higher degrees of threat, and this is one thing I can do.  Maybe this weekend of earth hour is the time for some to go out into the world?

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Culling the cupboards, AKA Upcycling

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As people who read this blog regularly already know, I make a lot of bags, and I almost always give them away.  So when Boomerang Bags started up in Adelaide (and it wasn’t started by me–woot!) it seemed entirely logical to join their end single use plastics interventions by making bags for them.  I made an initial 6 and gave 5 away.  This time I committed to making bags for a stall on World Environment Day and one of the sweethearts from the local group dropped 12 labels at my place.

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Some of the labels were apple green (hard to colour co-ordinate), and I’ve noticed that many of the bags the group creates are made in floral prints.  I’m going out on a limb assuming there are other folk like me who would prefer a not-so-floral bag.  So–I checked to see what relatively plain fabrics I might have and decided the time had come for some unloved trousers made by me over ten years ago.  I’ve worn them a lot over about a decade, even though I had to face the hash I made of the welt pockets every single time.  Never again! Here they are cut into their constituent parts, and below–as bags.

A pair of hemp pants that have never really fit, and are so badly made I’ve mended them several times in a life of few washes and wears.  A couple more pairs of trousers that I won’t wear again.  Two pairs of op shop jeans saved for a day I need denim, and a pair of op shop linen pants, ditto.  Orange linen picked up at the tip shop outside Hobart for a song (because who wouldn’t take their mates to the tip shop if you were passing?) Some repurposed canvas cushion backing dyed with eucalypts.

Oh, the pockets!  It’s a shame to let a well constructed pocket go, so these are now features!

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Needless to say there was constructive piecing on the outside, and where the outsides were pieced together, there are linings (often pieced too).

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So now my thirteen bags have gone to Boomerang Bags, and I have more labels.  I inherit fabric and have fabric dropped off at my place faster than I can re-home it.  I still have unloved wardrobe items and clothing past use by date.  I have clothing that is upwards of 20 years old, some parts reclaimable and op shop items salvaged for repurposing.  So, I believe I can keep at this project for the foreseeable future without concern for supplies and with benefits for my cupboards.

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A little quiet neighbourhood activism

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A few weeks back, I set out for a meeting with some extra items in my bag.  I had made these little banners and after a night of gale force winds, in which fallen trees had crushed cars and stopped public transport (no humans injured), I was thinking about the hostility trees get at such times, and decided it was time for them to go out into the world.

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In this second image, all the understorey has been guerilla planted by my friends and I, establishing native plants in place of the bare weedy ground that used to be there, constantly being poisoned by the council.  Much better!

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Triennial, National Gallery of Victoria

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When we went to Melbourne for the end of year family shindig, we went to the National Gallery of Victoria.  I wanted to go  to see something in particular… and, how embarrassing is my ignorance…  it was showing in a completely different art gallery. So I saw this exhibition instead.  I think it must be clear to regular readers that I am not art-knowledgeable.  But there were some things I thought might be of interest to you, dear readers. This image is part of an exhibit by Richard Mosse criticising and commenting on the Australian government’s policies on asylum seekers, which really do beg to be criticised.  It was interesting to see so many people stopping to watch these works, showing images of the offshore detention centres our government has taken many steps to stop us seeing.

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There were some serious design works of extreme fashion, like these rather amazing pieces of engineering by Iris van Herpen.

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There was an entire room full of couture dresses and accessories by Guo Pei, called Legend.  They were inspired by a visit to the Cathedral of Saint Gallen in Switzerland.  The room was dark so it was hard to do justice to these completely different but equally extreme pieces of fashion.  I grew up in a place where Christianity was the dominant religion and for much of my life heard other religions commented on largely or only from a Christian and Western perspective. It was taken for granted that a Christian, Western perspective could speak to/about every other global context.   I found it really interesting to see the way the artist commented on and allowed their imagination to run through the cathedral as a source of inspiration–without having it as a religious heritage first and foremost. Commenting on it from a completely different perspective and making use of this imagery.

This room full of taut strands of yarn by Pae White was pretty entertaining!

These two outfits were some of my favourites.  They are Nick Cave’s Soundsuits. I loved all those buttons…

Alexandra Kahayoglou’s Santa Cruz River is a huge textile work–a rug with mirrors–that intrigued people, as you can see. I found Kahayoglou’s commentary of climate change heartbreaking.

I loved these basketry pieces.  I was a little taken aback at their use of the plastic PET bottle as a starting point.  They were so complex and interesting, and the use of mirrors and lights made them all the more splendid.  This is a collaboration between Alvaro Catalan and the Bula’bula Artists.

These images by Louisa Bufardeci are stitched into a mesh background. They depict in needlepoint the sites where boats of asylum seekers have sunk and people have died at sea trying to reach Australia, as they appear on Google Earth images. No comment needed. I think.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Persist

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.

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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.

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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.

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Happy International Women’s Day!

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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!

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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!

 

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#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!

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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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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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After:

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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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