For my birthday this year, my beloved bought me some kangaroo paws. They started blooming about a week after they went into the ground in march, and they are still flowering.
As I started dyeing fabrics for the Leafy Log Cabin workshop (details here), I decided to try some of the oldest blooms in the dye pot. Too exciting!
Decidedly overexcited by this experience, I wandered out on my bike the next day to deadhead the kangaroo paws at a nearby intersection (there are so many). They were not red–and they did not give a print.
But I did find a couple of mulberry trees in fruit, and I had a lovely ride and collected E Cinerea leaves… so a lovely afternoon just the same. How’s your dyeing and foraging going?
After the recent India Flint workshop on the Island Book, I took home enough paper and ideas to make a second book. In the upper images you can see my post-workshop efforts with dye plants local to me, and in the images at the bottom, some pictures of the Aldinga Island Book.
On my little holiday in Allansford, I dyed up some knit silk and some silky merino from the Beautiful Silks odds and ends department–much better fun than the remnants at a big chain store.
I had to do some creative work to find this entire garment from the pieces. In the end, I settled on silk sleeves and a silky merino body.
A friend agreed to take some pictures for me one day but she evidently couldn’t do anything about my embarrassment! And she offered the view that this top would work better if it were a little longer. She may well be right.
You can see I’ve got leaves running in one direction up my back and down the other… I just couldn’t get the pattern to fit any other way. And–I’ve enjoyed wearing this most of the winter.
On the weekend I had the good opportunity (due to a cancellation) of being able to attend a workshop with India Flint at the Aldinga Eco-Village, exploring plant dyeing on paper and a book structure called the Island Book.
In the beginning, there was poetry and chat, thread and tea and blank paper.
Then there was some drawing with your non-dominant hand. Well, personally, I was so overcome by DRAWING that I used my dominant hand and didn’t remember the non dominant part (and stuck with it when it was mentioned to me–you have heard my confession, friends).
Then there was a mighty lot of embellishing and stitching and some distressing (of the paper and fabric, you understand–no salty tears involved). There was mud in some cases. And lunch, never forget lunch. Stone soup!
Cutting and tearing and demonstration of other book structures.
And then wandering and collecting plants to try out and cooking the books! Finally, there was gleeful and cheerful wandering out into the world with damp books and our handmade tsunobokuro bags to wrap these or other treasures in. A glorious day all round, with thanks to the lovely Susan, our host and organiser!
I have ethical questions about cutting up garments at times. For example, should I leave them in the op shop for someone who might use them as they are rather than treating them as raw materials? Not to mention, how about using what I already have and not getting anything more, even second hand? I have to admit that other days I think about how much textile waste is thrown away in the overdeveloped world and think I should just go wild if I have a good idea. But my ethical quibbles are completely swept away when I confront the bargain rack at the op shop, where things have failed to sell and the next stop is rags. Which is how the linen jacket above (and a pair of jeans) came home with me a little while back. The jacket had clearly gone through the washing machine despite its dry clean only tag (I understand, dry cleaning is an evil chemical process and expensive as well), and the interfacing had not shrunk at the same rate as the linen. And that, my friends, is how I found myself ripping an Armani suit into its component parts!
This process entertained two friends who don’t share my fascination with garment construction mightily. I’ve read about the signature Armani interior pocket in my wanderings through Threads Magazine. And here it is! Not to mention so much interfacing, of about five different types. In the end some of the jacket lining and the interior pockets became part of this lining.
And the lining was set into an eco print on silk left from dye camp summer 2017.
And finally, I have a new knitting bag. I’ve lost one, and one needs comprehensive mending… and this one has luxury interior pockets for all my little stuff (stitch markers, needles). I’m a happy knitter! And the linen has hit a bucket of soy milk, the better to meet its new destiny.
I had another breakout of bags recently. You know how it is with me and bags–I start one and make more than you can imagine! Some were made from offcuts, some from eco prints. An entire pair of RM Williams pants that had made it to the bargain rack at the op shop met their new destiny too.
Here they are with bag bodies and bag linings in position (mmm–mismatched seams in evidence) and (RM Williams) straps cut and stitched and ready to be stitched on, waiting for another day.
This one was made from the offcuts of a shirt I made last year, and it found a new home very quickly as such a fabulous print should. Hence the hurried photo. A rather striking E Scoparia print went to the same happy home, but my picture of it was so blurred I have decided to spare you. And here are the rest: a bark cloth print that somehow found its way into my stash second hand and well loved which is also currently covering my ironing board–and–leaf prints on cotton and silk.
In another radical transformation of vintage woolen blanket, I (more or less) followed the instructions for the Flowers at My Fingertips hussif/sewing kit from Christine Vejar’s The Modern Natural Dyer. You can have a sense of what she did (and some pictures of her hussif) by following this link. Above are prints from maroon coreopsis flowers I had in the garden at the time I was dyeing. I bought the plant at the Seed Freedom Festival and have just loved it. It is not enjoying winter though.
These are prunus leaves from a neighbourhood tree. I cut binding from some linen pants that entered their second life some time ago.
Some parts of the binding went more smoothly than others, but in the end the edge was reasonably neat.
So now I have a sewing toolkit that rolls up. I really just wanted to make this pattern and try the dyeing strategy out, at a time of year when I had African marigolds, Mexican marigolds, Alyogyne Huegelii flowers, salvias and more to try out, and then realised that I also had something close enough to woolen flannel to try them on. I’ll figure out where it will go to live later!
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you will not be surprised that I was unable to stop at two of these bags. The pattern is ‘The Wanderlust Bag’ from The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar.
I’ll be honest with you, I often find the projects included in dyeing and other craft books tedious. It seems as though there is a publishing requirement to include them, but often they are uninspiring to me. I guess this makes me an outlier as a reader of such books: I am sure publishers do market research on these things. This pattern, though… oh my goodness. It’s love for me. Vejar has an entirely different dyeing strategy modelled in this project but I am sure she would be untroubled by my putting her design to alternative naturally dyed use.
I have been trying to work my way to the bottom of the zipper collection. I used all those suitable to this project and… had to go and buy more rather than stop or use the bright purple ones. Where did they come from?? (The likely answer is, the op shop–possibly in the 1980s when I did sew purple things quite a bit). Apparently stopping was not an option either. Prepare for more photos soon, because I am amassing a collection, and I am not bored in the slightest….
I’ve had a spell of eco printing onto old woollen blankets. It is extremely rewarding: wool is the perfect fibre for dyeing with eucalypts (as India Flint has said so may times) and the pile of the blanket means that every detail can show!
This one turned out to be the perfect size for my friend’s new and glorious ceramic keep cup. She was struggling with plastic at her favourite cafe; saw my beloved’s keep cup in use, found a lovely ceramic one of her own on a side trip to the art gallery–and all it needed was a little insulation against the bumps of life.
This is a larger model I also like a lot. I think I will make more. The pattern came from Kristine Vejar’s Modern Natural Dyer, which was a kind birthday gift. I am enjoying it very much.
A while back, I managed to find second hand woolen blankets, many of which were partly felted and sold for the warmth of dogs. I am in favour of the warmth of dogs, but was delighted to take some home. A couple have gone to the dye table where they insulate dye vats (today there is an indigo vat wrapped up in wool out there in the chilly morning). This one, though, was a perfectly good blanket, if a little threadbare and dating back at least to the 1960s. I can’t fit a whole blanket in any of my dye pots, so I had to take scissors to it in order to dye it, and this seems to have been a high barrier to clear. Clear it, I now have.
This piece dyed with E Cinerea leaves, (and a little of something else I don’t remember) has become needle books. I left the edge stitching in position because I like it, then added my own blanket stitches in plant dyed threads. The string is hand twined silk fabric dyed with madder root. I learned string making from Basketry SA and applying it to fabric rather than leaves from India Flint. She recently posted a video of stringmaking 101 here. I know someone will ask, and the video is beautiful: it manages to convey the peacefulness of stringmaking somehow.
One went to my mother. She is on her way north for some months of warmth and adventure with my Dad (in Australia we call people such as my folks ‘grey nomads’). When they were over for dinner last week, Mum said she would like to take a project.
She liked one of the projects I have underway and she soon had a version for herself! I have a little stack of tins I have been saving to make mending kits. She chose one, chose a needle book, and then I gifted her an indigo dyed bag to stitch on and some embroidery thread to stitch with, and some needles. I hope she uses her little kit, but even if it was a passing whim, she will enjoy having it with her. I’ll be keeping her company in some small way. Another needle book and mending kit went to my daughter when she was passing through recently and turned out not to have amending kit (!!) The other needle books are destined for mending kits. Their time is sure to come.