In the time since I studied an online version of The Alchemist’s Apron with India Flint, in which I was introduced to the use of a rusty-object-solution iron mordant in a way that I understood freshly… there has been some time where I still felt no interest in using it. I have created some very black items with it, and some not so great prints. And then, there have been times when I thought that perhaps, I could put some effort into coming to grips with it and build my judgement. This apron was a turning point for me, where I began to see I might be able to do exciting things with it. And, I love any approach to textile dyeing where the main components are found, free and non toxic–which is why I enjoy India Flint’s approaches so much. Over time I have done quite a few experiments, including some where I created my mordant on holiday from found local objects and any leftover parts of lemons we happened to have, and combined it with the leaves available where we were staying and some calico from the local op shop. Ah, the pre-pandemic age. Maybe not my best work… but the time scale was ambitious!
What often happens as I accumulate various bits and pieces of bundle dyed fabric is that over time, a thought about what they could become forms. At first, I thought a shirt would be perfect. I asked a sewing friend and I don’t think she liked the idea as much as I did–after all it would be a grey shirt. I reconsidered. More months passed, and one day I was at The Fabric Store trying to get fabric in a specific colour for a beloved niece, and there it was, hanging on the wall in the perfect colour of a beautiful linen: The Lucie Robe. The kind of sample garment that must sell a lot of patterns and fabric, I reckon. I thought about the 20 year old terry toweling dressing gown hanging at home (a gift from my beloved now well past its best), and how many times in the last year I’ve thought I should try to make a new one. I considered the glorious (and of course, expensive) linen and then thought… I might use my iron mordanted cottons instead.
I did have to do the epic jigsaw-cum-collage that is assembling a pdf pattern. But then it was done and I was off, cutting out where the shapes of the dyed fabric worked for a pattern piece; patchworking together enough fabric for larger pieces as needed. Bits of old sheet and cast off calico, fast becoming a garment.
Somehow even the not so glorious bits work, I think–and what if they don’t? This won’t be out on the streets.
I like the E Nicholii leaves from the tree I planted myself! I also like the generous, elegant pockets.
But for me the bit that pulls it all together is the rose-leaf collar. I’m a fan. When I saw it, I had to check whether this was a silly whim. I did all that thinking about whether I really need another pattern, and even more than that–whether I need more fabric. I don’t need more fabric! But I am very happy about having chosen this to make with the fabric I already had.
I love a good bundle… in this one, silky merino shows its capacity to take up eucalyptus dyes again. In this dye pot, a cowl that was ready for a dye bath, and a garment that had shrunk enough that I decided to turn it into other items…
My partner had requested a deep, narrow cowl that could be pulled up over her head and ears under her bike helmet. Her friend had made one from cotton knit, so I copied its dimensions. You can see all that remains of the neckline in the image below.
I have accumulated scraps of knit fabrics that are precious–lovely, but also in some cases, expensive. And you know, I always want to use the last scrap, no matter what the fabric is! Anyway, I had the thought that I could attempt the Fingerless Gloves Master Pattern from Natalie Chanin’s Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
Unfortunately, I fell at the first hurdle, enlarging the diagramme provided by 317%. It was during the period when I was not going out, so when I could not arrange this I guessed my way through it. The first one was too small. It had to go to a very petite friend.
Soon, though, I had a workable pattern and found this was a great use for leftover fabric from my run of undergarments.
So, I started turning them out! I used up a long sleeved t shirt and a pair of leggings that a friend had given me to use, once she had worn them out. Perfect linings for two layer gauntlets!
Once my leftovers were gone, I had the thought that some of my long sleeved home made tops that have shrunk too much to be dignified… could be transformed into these.
It was quite liberating to give up those shrunken tops, which I have been wearing under other things, for years in some cases. I kept the hems where I could.
And, that’s not really the last of it! I’ve not taken photos of some, and others I have made more recently. Some have been made more recently still… I pieced some together from smaller parts! But it might be enough for now.
I have been astonished to realise that one of my friends who feels the cold profoundly has forgotten about the part where you wear a close fitting garment against your skin.
As a child, this was the way I was always dressed in winter–with a sleeveless underthing below my other layers. We called this garment a singlet. So I asked my friend whether she was wearing wool against her skin and her eyes popped. I went home and went to the dye pot with some knit silky merino. It dyes like a dream. I sewed the main seams with the overlocker and then hand finished the hems.
Here is the view from the back.
I made it nice and long, the better to keep her warm. She was so astonished by the difference this made, that I got a message asking how long she could wear it without washing it! So I made some more.
These two are both dyed with E Scoparia, but the two trees have very different leaves, as you can see. My friend’s beloved sent me a message to say she loves these so much she had created a gallery and hung them on the wall, and she is wearing them every single day. And feeling so warm!
In this period a clean up in the front room turned up a wool knit singlet bought from a chain store. Now, did a different friend buy it and give it to me to dye? Did I find it in an op shop and save it for later? Neither of us could remember, but here is the outcome (and I yes, gave it to her).
Have I mentioned the mending? Sometimes one item a day, sometimes two! This is the sole of my beloved’s favourite slipper. But there is so much more.
The winter underthings have had a lot of mending. Some are now pretty ancient and well worn.
This one had a lot of mending after a m*th attack some time back, but this time… so much more.
This is the under arm seam of a long sleeved t shirt. Just a tiny hand stitched patch!
There are also the maxi-mends, this set on another undergarment. These are silky merino patches cut from sewing scraps, hand stitched onto a stretch wool garment. The speckle-stitches are on the right side, and the long stitches are on the inside.
Then there was mending a favourite old jumper for a friend. She had started mending it in red, and I had some matching sock yarn so…
Naturally, that’s just the start! Repeating the cycle of repairing ladders, stabilising holes and then knitting in a patch…
Until finally… and after some a blanket stitch intervention to stabilise threadbare and unravelling cuffs, followed by some crochet crab stitch over the top…
More maxi mending with patches inside… (and old mends clearly visible).
One day I realised these otherwise comfy socks had two threadbare patches and a big hole and were well past darning really, so stitched in some silky merino scraps to keep them in service (this is what happens when you have a lot of Zoom meetings and a lot of holey clothes, I reckon).
And beside all this there has been regular old brown on brown mends in jumpers and the restitching on facings onto collars and all the usual. Mend on, my friends!
The lovely Marion from Beautiful Silks sent me two sets of blanks for “moko trews”–trousers for the grandbub. One layer in cotton (the lining) and one in silky merino (the outer).
They were just so glorious! I dyed the outers and set about constructing them. It took a little while and then they were just SO cute!
Into the very slow mail service they went. Weeks passed. At the time, this was not surprising.
Australia Post says they were delivered and left in a safe place, but apparently not, because they have utterly vanished. And so, my friends, has a second parcel.
I made some more baby shoes–graded up in size, insulated for warmth, and hand embroidered, with nice stout soles. Let’s overlook their defects…
I very much hope that these two parcels ended up with people who could use these items so lovingly made and involving such a kind gift to me… and not just in someone’s bin by the side of a road. I wish they could at least have left my cards to the dear ones that I have now not seen in person for months, whose comfort I’ve been trying to raise in times of challenge. But I guess I’ll never know.
Now here is an old post… I think it had been waiting for the very final change I wanted to make, which happened weeks ago! Here it is at last.
Eventually (after a couple of aprons), I decided to return to the Alchemist’s Apron and check my grasp of the fundamentals. Sure enough, I immediately learned something that helped… and finally I got a result I really liked using an iron mordant. Gratitude to India Flint! This had been a large white linen shirt. But now–some great prints from a Eucalyptus Nicholii sapling a friend and I planted in the guerilla garden.
Here it is being bundled for the dye pot. And below, close-ups of the parts of the garment I like best.
I sewed on some old coins I’d brought home from a shrine sale in Japan. And some beads I found in an op shop (thrift store). Then buttons… India Flint has made some wonderful works with lots of buttons on them, and I have a LOT of buttons, albeit very few of them especially beautiful in their own right. Why not? In the end I had more than I liked and cut a block of them off again! Then the serious stitching began and again I found I just wanted to keep going.
In the end, I added and then removed buttons, decided the skirt was too short and added panels of cotton calico dyed with some dried leaves, and adjusted the neckline a couple of times until I liked it.
I created some funny pockets and misjudged some pocket placement vs construction details. But it doesn’t matter.
The threads are all silk and silk cotton dyed with plants. Madder, eucalypt…
I am so interested that now I can look at madder dyed textiles and tell the difference in the shade between madder and eucalyptus, because I remember when I couldn’t.
Here is the whole thing. On its early outings I realised it was really loose, and bagged out at the back. In the end, I added a second button and button hole so that I can have it close enough to my body to be comfortable and to do its work. It also means that those beads don’t drag the whole apron down on one side like they did. They may yet be removed! And the coins make it tinkle. Which I am surprised to find I rather enjoy. Fabulous. Thank you, India!
I had a happy moment dyeing at my daughter’s place in Melbourne–where the local park contains a Eucalyptus Crenulata. Too exciting! I had a small piece of silk noil with me in preparation, and loved the outcome.
One silk noil pillowcase made some time ago finally gave way completely, so I decided to continue the tradition of silk noil leafy pillowcases–and this one is now in my bedroom.
A while back, my computer reached the stage in its life where I needed to go and make a cup of tea after I turned it on and before it started to be capable of doing anything other than finding its own fingers and toes. The new one is a lot smaller than the old, and needed a protective cover.
The plant dyed blanket stash came to mind yet again, and this is the rather plain and simple sleeve I made.
And a close up of my rather basic blanket stitching! I am loving the way all the plant dyed thread I’ve been gathering keeps getting put to use along with the fabric…