Category Archives: Natural dyeing

Guerilla gardening success

Dear reader, I thought you might enjoy a little success story. When I started work on this spot, it was a weedy spot covered in broken glass and rubbish. It’s a culvert near a railway station.

Summer and woolly scale, and a neighbour with his own opinions about the management of this space, have taken their toll, but even so, this space is green now. It is no longer a place people go to smash glass. The first post I can find with images of this site is in 2016. It has changed a great deal!

It is now possible for larger plants like wattles to sprout of their own accord in this spot, though they do not all survive human intervention. I’m still weeding and picking up rubbish. But no longer do people pass and tell me that nothing will grow here. Instead they can tell what I am doing, and in some cases they have seen me there often, weeding and choosing sedge starts to propagate in pots at home. Some pass positive comment, and I wave at passing train drivers as they gaze down on me in this spot stopping by the weed on my way past from a run or train trip.


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Sharing economy

This is just a gratuitous koala photo. We went for a bush walk with friends and once back at the car park–saw this!

This is me ready to go to yoga, with my non-standard bolster in one pannier, and four bunches of parsley for the Grow Free cart in the other. They were all gone by the time I pedalled back!

I am loving the traffic of books in and out of the street library my beloved has made (with help from my father and the gift of a cabinet from hard rubbish from a friend).

This is what I’ve been doing with yoghurt pots and excess seedlings over summer.

Meanwhile, public art! Gratitude to those who have the skill to adorn, and to local councils who fund projects like this.

I managed to give all these things away on Buy Nothing, to people who were glad to have them. I really did not hold out hope for the (new, removed) insoles. And I am sorry other folks need jumper leads as much as I needed them in the past! Those nappies… given to my daughter and left with me, now gone to where they will at least be used before being disposed of.

And a few more parsley adventures. Since we are rich in parsley!

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Overalls #2: Linen edition and #3 Heavy Duty Cotton Drill

The first pair of overalls went well enough that my friend was keen for another pair! I had been given a huge quantity of fabric, most of it upholstery weight; and I re-homed it to a new asylum seeker sewing project through STTARS; friends who sew; some Boomerang bags; a kindergarten… you name it, I organised fabric for it! And still had some left. One of the things I love about making clothing is being able to put little personal secret details into it, like giving my friend chicken pockets soon after they have started keeping hens!

It’s a gorgeous fabric, though heavy enough I think they are going to be winter overalls.

I faced the bib and the braces with a pair of capri pants from the op shop I happened to also have… also linen.

I think they really need a human inside them to look good finished, but this is my best offer for now!

The next pair used up some of my vintage cotton thread and feature sunny yellow pockets on the inside…

Hrm. Here is another image that isn’t going to make the front cover of Vogue [sigh!! obviously my lifelong dream–not]. Colour me happy that I got a request for overalls from someone else, who had seen the first two pairs, and here is her pair almost finished…


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Early summer guerilla gardening

Here’s an early summer guerilla gardening outing… I can say from the vantage point of Autumn that these saltbush babies are thriving and much larger! Also, that the blue watering can fell apart completely at some stage over summer!

Here is another. Documented with just this one image. The saltbush are so hardy: these look like rhagodia. The prostrate wattles have not all made it, but some certainly have survived summer.

And a different day. I think this was a solo venture into the local creekbed where it runs between back gardens. I seem to remember taking a phone call at some point while I was there, and maybe that’s why I didn’t take other pictures. A fig and an apricot join the random selection of trees growing along the edge of Willa Willa.

In a different part of Willa Willa, running through a park, myself and my friends are planting out Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes (the sedge, cyperus gymnocaulos). Here are shots of babies about to be planted as well as some from previous plantings that I weeded the same day.

More fruit trees destined for public lands, and some water to give them once I have weeded out a place to plant them and put them in.

Bladder saltbush headed out into the big, wild world!

It has become a bit of a tradition to do guerilla planting walks after dinner when people come for dinner with us. It’s so fine to be able to show entire areas that are now covered in native plants or shaded by trees, where once there was only weedy land and broken glass and a regular council poisoning regime.


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More grandbub outfits

After the previous post, I found a little dress at the local op shop. It seemed to fit the kind of measurements I was working with. I drafted a pattern from it, modifying it quite a bit to create a fairly plain shirt. Then the fun began and it was a bit addictive.

This one is new fabric from a shop I prefer not to frequent, on the whole… with binding from a Buy Nothing gift of the remains of a high quality men’s shirt.

Then this. Not my finest hour in pattern matching (OK–so I only thought about pattern matching after the fact and focused entirely on getting the whole thing out of the small yardage I’d bought). “Baa baa black sheep” is a favourite for this little person…

Then the chicken prints–I was amazed by what Tricia’s discount fabrics had tucked away in animal prints. Our chickens are so important the grandbub has been known to list them as family members, says good night to them, and visits regularly (every time she comes over).

These buttons have been sitting in my admittedly multi generational button collection for many a long year and finally met their [next] destination!

And this, from two stash fabrics. Cotton body and linen sleeves, with buttons of varying shades of red.

I am happy to say that these outfits have been in constant rotation… often in the style statement known in our household as “mix and clash”.


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Clothing for the grandbub

Well, dear reader, another long silence has passed. Occasionally someone says they have been worried about me because of the silence on this blog. Please don’t worry, I am not ill. I just don’t seem to be feeling to urge to write for the blog. World events (and those closer to home) sometimes have me feeling that I should write about something more important, and at a loss as to what to say without extended ranting… And my lifelong efforts to warp the space/time continuum seem to be continuing, meaning that I am destined always to be a busy person. Anyway, here I am today, In Brisbane under lockdown, sharing an apartment with my beloved and her elderly parents, and suddenly everyone is sleeping, and here am I looking at something I drafted in about October. Maybe this blog is destined to end sometime this year, but let’s see how things unfold for now… with this months-old post. For those outside Australia, we are now in our autumn and this post was written before our summer began in all its heat.

My daughter has turned down almost all offers to make things for the beloved grandbub, until very recently, when she said she wasn’t able to find cool, sun protective clothing (long sleeves, pants with long legs), and the grandbub is on the tall and slim side for much store bought (and hand me down) clothing. So, I started with a pattern I already had, and a pillowcase that came my way via a Buy Nothing group interaction.

These were the same kind of thing: a pattern I had, and some fabric I’d been given. I sent them over, and the shirt pretty clearly was not ideal, while the pants were “perfect” (with maybe a bit less elastic). This was stash elastic too–an elderly friend who died left me some of her stash and each time I use her seam binding or elastic, I send Joyce a thank you, wherever she may be.

As the pants worked out well, I knocked out some more. The top two pairs are made from the edge of a high quality doona cover I was given by someone on Buy Nothing–we were talking about something else when she offered me fabric scraps for Boomerang Bags. I think she would approve of some of it going to this! But the two on top. Well. I do not need more fabric, and I was interested to see that I felt ungenerous making all the grandbub’s clothes from what I already have. None of it is especially cute. None calls out “small child”. So I, um, bought some more. Not rational. But there it is, I invested in some more fabric in small quantities because I want my daughter to know I think she is special and her child is special. Even though, if she does not know that already–it seems unlikely this purchase will solve the problem!


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The bike swarm

In a period when covid restrictions had eased some, rebels from Extinction Rebellion organised a bike swarm. It was a pretty fun experience! My daughter and the grandbub came along. The grandbub is a real bike lover. She had a great time for most of it, (greatly aided by my daughter’s high quality skills in entertainment and the prediction of needed snacks and such). Then it all got too slow and boring for her and we rode off for some quality time in a park.

This is the briefing before we set off, because I can’t ride and take pictures at the same time…

And here are a few of us outside Town Hall taking our message to the city council–they have voted for a ‘driver’s month’… which makes no sense at all when we face a climate crisis and the need to encourage cycling and walking has never been greater. If you’re interested in the concept of the bike swarm, our media and messaging team put together a cute little video to give people a sense of what we do at these fun events with a serious purpose. And there is a great image of us all at Town Hall (not taken by me!) here.

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The dressing gown

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.


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News flash: still knitting socks!

One of the things that made blogging less attractive this year was that there were periods of being conscious that we in South Australia had a long period of pandemic luck and consequently, freedom to do things–that was not being shared by loved ones and strangers very close to home–let alone by people in the rest of the world. This is a sock in progress, the first time I went out to a cafe after many months.

Here it is again, on a bus after a long time of no public transport. Unlike all those who lost work in this period, I was offered a few weeks of work, and I see from the trousers in this picture that I am on my way to work rather than being my usual scruffy self.

This is the day I walked the grandbub to sleep in the pram, and then sat in the park for two hours while she slept. That’s how precious the naps of the grandbub are, my friends! My beloved is such a treasure that she responded to a call after some considerable time in which I enjoyed the park, basked in having had any role in the nap at all, and admired the sleeping sweetheart, the trees and the birds… and brought my knitting to me so that I didn’t need to move the bub.

Here they are, ready to be an early birthday present for someone who treasures her handknit socks. They are the latest in the scrap socks odyssey, and happily the recipient likes them. And for those who like details… here are some!


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Recycled Jeans

In 2020 I began to receive what I have been laughingly calling “commissions”. It began with some socks and some mending, but it seems to be increasing in a rather interesting and pleasing way!

It is a rare kind of person who asks if you will reproduce their favourite cotton shirt, but in denim from old jeans. Yet, this happened! I admit, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of constructing plackets from denim, for a start. But I called to ask the questions I needed to reassure myself about attempting the task, and then I began. I ripped a LOT of jeans into component parts. I ran out of those I had been given and called out on the local Buy Nothing group, and got a pile of someone’s husband’s cast off jeans.

Step 1: draft a pattern. This is not my first attempt to draft a pattern from a finished garment, but it is always instructive to make things for other people. It tells me about the limits of my confidence, for a start. And, it is fair to say I don’t make perfect things! After a lot of checking and re checking (I love how I’ve written my reasoning on the pattern as I go here), I had a pattern. Step 2: cut out the component parts from jeans, and then patchwork jeans together to create pieces big enough for the bigger components. This is not a small shirt, it’s a really big one.

Eventually it started to come together. One of the big design decisions was settling on how to finish seams inside, to prevent fraying and ensure strength–but also, given the huge number of seams–to ensure they would not be too bulky. Solution: zigzag the layers of the seam allowance together, then topstitch flat. Honestly, another design decision was taking the person whose shirt this was to become seriously. Taking seriously what they wanted and what they cared about. Surely this is at the heart of a bespoke garment…?

Then began the construction process. I have never made a shirt with this kind of front placket, but I figured it was essentially just like the one on a cuff, only larger. Reverse engineering the plackets gave me a lot of pause (by which I mean, anxiety!) But succeeding in generating the pattern and then creating them made me feel highly competent. Just as well I’m not too convinced my emotions should be in the drivers’ seat of my life, or I’d stay in bed every day and sew only simple stuff forever, apparently.

I warmed up on the sleeve plackets.

Then the front placket and the pocket and such…

On with the sleeves… then on with the cuffs. And pretty soon, it was all done. The time consuming jeans-acquiring and -ripping part was a significant part of the entire time I spent making this garment.

I can’t say that I managed a good image of the whole thing. I’ve struggled with images at times on this blog: the things that take most time and effort to create in sewing and knitting are the hardest to photograph well. But here are attempts. I have to say that I admire the grunt of my machine (and the effectiveness of a jeans needle) in getting through pleats set into a cuff in denim and other similar feats.

Happiest moment of all was the review from the recipient, however! What a grin.

And I am all the more confident… because he wanted a second one. Here it is from the back…

And from the front.


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