Category Archives: Natural dyeing

Box pouches

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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!

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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.

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

An outbreak of hats

The recent period of incapacity and pain has somehow led to an outbreak of hats.  I was talking it over with a considerably older friend whose mobility is now quite restricted and whose everyday life has become a challenge in its own right.  Formerly a proficient and very adventurous knitter (when I first met her she was knitting an extremely complex cabled jumper in a traditional style), she has been knitting the same hat over and over for the last few years.  When I said to her that I had been feeling as though perhaps I just didn’t have the mental space to attempt anything more complex than a beanie and then another beanie, she said that was how she felt.

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First there was this.  It is closer to Jared Flood’s Turn A Square than any other I have made more or less following the pattern, but it’s handspun and the colour change in the yarn turned out to be almost at the crown!

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Then there was an alpaca-dyed-with-eucalyptus hat.  Then I knit up a ball of possum wool that remained from a trip to Aotearoa/NZ. But somehow the casting on kept happening… in this case oatmeal corriedale hand dyed by The Thylacine and spun into yarn by me, cast on on the train.

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And pretty soon, there was a pile.

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Suri alpaca… oddments of eucalyptus dyed wool, two colours of eucalyptus dyed + naturally black alpaca, corriedale!  It was about then that the colour work began: a sign that the pain has been abating and also that the casting on keeps occurring. It’s great to have whisked through some of the small quantities in my stash, and it is also a happy thing that the cold weather has arrived and we are going to a shed warming where many people with all kinds of head sizes and tastes and tolerances for fibres will be there.  I can feel a beanie giveaway coming on!

 

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Simple, pleasurable embroidery

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I have been embroidering some small bags.  They came with crowd sourced underwear (organic, fair trade) in them, with all the good information about the product printed onto unbleached calico.  Seven bags in all!  I decided to convert them to loveliness and started with dyeing them in indigo.  They are all slightly different shades of blue, some having been dipped more times than others.

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I am not a sophisticated embroiderer.  But I keep being given cast off embroidery thread, so there was no shortage of thread and no shortage of portable canvases for stitching.

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So I trued several patterns and admit I still enjoy the spiral most of all.

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One of the bags went travelling with my Mum when she was looking for a simple project, so then there were six.

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And after all these adventures in stitching, there is yet one waiting to be embroidered.

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I learned some things about how to store embroidery thread from the heritage items that have come to me, some of them in tangles, some in the original skeins, and some wrapped on cardboard shapes that keep the thread neat without taking up a lot of space and using something that comes into the house all the time.  Thank you to those women whose hands have held these threads already and whose minds have touched mine however distantly in this way.

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In the middle of all this my mother-out-law sent me her stash of embroidery threads in pastel colours, so some of them have gone into the project too.  So much pleasure from running stitch…

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Sewing

Needle books

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Basketry, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Yarn bombing

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Sometimes a person spins a yarn but there isn’t anything sensible to knit it into.  Perhaps there isn’t really enough of it, or it was an experiment.  Or it’s badly spun.  or too… something… to ever be a garment.  This is banana fibre and wool dyed with madder exhaust, being knit on an evening in Warrnambool a while back. Not enough for anything I can think of.  What to do?  Well, the title of the post gave it away.

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I’ve been working my way through all kinds of leftover weirdness in my stash (and needless to say, creating more weirdness as I go).  One fine day over Easter I went for a walk with these.

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Here is the banana fibre.

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This is combing waste from spinning sock yarn.

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All those short ends and grass seeds, so troublesome in a sock, won’t bother anyone now! While I was applying this one to a pole, a local sculptor pulled up on his mozzie bike and had quite a chat about what I was doing and what he was doing and the importance of treating one’s neighbourhood as a shared place for beautification, care, thought and cleaning up.  I’d seen his sculptures around and he’d seen my “beloved tree” banners.  Now we’ve met.

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This is lock spinning over a core, leftover from knitting a tea cosy (another good use for weird wools). Now it is over by a tram stop.

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Badly spun coils that won’t hold together for long unless felted.

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Now adorning a pole… where they will felt in the weather.

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Core spinning–it made a great tea cosy, but there were just a couple of metres left!

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Indigo dyed carding waste.

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What even is that?? Well, now it’s a blur of colour as you ride your bike past!

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Leftover strips of indigo dyed worn out t shirts the main parts of which are slowly awaiting conversion to their next life (cut out and partly stitched).

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Close up…

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This one is at a tram stop.  I wonder how long it will last? Finding out is part of the fun of yarn bombing…

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Spinning

A little bag of cards

I have been very much enjoying adding to India Flint’s Wandercards.

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One of my beloved friends said something about them that made me think she might like a set of her own.  Well, they won’t be a set of India’s lovely cards, but nevertheless, a set of plant dyed cards with quotes that might help her to keep her heart full and her courage blazing through tough times.

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I wish I could make cards as beautiful as those India selected,–beautiful paper with rounded corners and such–but I decided to embrace the imperfection and do what I could.

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Then there was the question of a suitable bag.  I thought I’d make one, but then I realised I already had a perfect bag.  Here I am on a train, embroidering on it and listening to an audio book.  Audio books and podcasts make public transport so pleasurable!

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And so, a set of cards and a little bag for them to live in, packaged up and ready to send to their new home!  I know my friend will add quotes from her favourite poets and sources of inspiration.

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Prints on silk

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While I was at dye camp, I had access to plants I usually would not be able to use, and silk fabrics that I don’t usually have, and so of course, experiments occurred…

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I thought you might enjoy seeing them!

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Fleece processing, dyeing and spinning

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Over the holiday, more local fleeces arrived.  This is the view down into a chicken feed sack full of greasy fleece.  I washed, I dried wet fleece in summer heat, I even managed to do some carding. I now have various wools dyed with woad or indigo exhausts as well as good old naturally brown or grey wool. I have taught a few beginners to dye at our evening spinning group at the Guild in the last while (or at least, I’ve been one of the people helping them to learn) and sometimes people are just so overcome at being given wool.  In the future they will know that the real gift is time and effort. But I do try to let them know that I have a lot of wool and that I am happy to share.

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People were generous to me as a beginner spinner, and I love to share spinning (as well as wool).  I finally spun some llama fleece a friend at the Guild gave me in the spirit of adventure.  It came out OK but it did have a lot of guard hair in it, so I’ll have to give thought to what it might become.

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Here’s a another skein–woad on grey, I believe.

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And here are indigo and indigo dyed over yellows. I realise it is better practise to dye blue first and yellow after, but, well, I didn’t like the yellows too much and just decided to dye and see!  I love these colours. But my thoughts are beginning to turn toward eucalypts and their oranges and reds again…

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Making friends with the roll hemming foot, or Transformations: Torn sheet to napkins, hankies and string

When I bought my sewing machine, it came with two free sewing lessons.  They are the only machine sewing lessons I’ve had since half way through my first year in high school, when home economics and tech studies diverged and I was in the first cohort of girls allowed to do tech studies.  At that point home economics had stretched to making a gingham pillowcase and learning how to van dyke an orange.  It wasn’t looking promising to me. So I learned how to use a band saw, and how to solder and weld instead.  And how to stare down a queue of boys who all want to see you fail on a big piece of machinery!

I remember some of the demonstrations in those sewing lessons.  The teacher had extremely firm views and a level of competence and confidence my mother never had (I am sure she had a lot more training than my mother and she definitely had a much better sewing machine).  I saw feet demonstrated and techniques shown that I had never imagined possible.  Mostly because they were not possible on my previous and only other machine.  Well, this one came with a roll hemming foot that I could not imagine having a use for.

The use appeared a while back when I decided that making handkerchiefs and napkins might be a thing I could do, and when I was looking at an entire bed sheet as the fabric to be converted to handkerchiefs, I decided I wouldn’t be doing it by hand like my grandmother taught me.  She must have been so delighted by the hours of silence when she gave me a square of fabric to hem nicely into a hanky!  I don’t think my sisters were quite as excited by the task as I was.  Well, since that bed sheet gave up the ghost as a sheet, it has been hemmed, dyed in woad and indigo and euc leaves, and shared widely.  Over the holidays I went to a big chain fabric store and failed to leave without more fabric–two 40cm strips of fine cotton came home with me and you can see them above, now turned into hankies.  It had me thinking that having a whole sheet to practise on had really built my confidence.

Now, another sheet has called it a day.  You know when fabric parts company with itself so comprehensively that no amount of sewing edges together will sort it out, and the size of the patch needed to hold that fitted sheet together will be almost as big as the mattress top?  Soft, delicious, well washed cotton.  Ready for transformation. If you would like to make friends with a roll hemming foot (and you can sometimes buy they separately if your machine didn’t come equipped with one)… here are my tips.

Step 1. Read the manual.  Maybe it’s just me, but on my machine the process is not intuitive and the instructions are a big help.  I read them four times before finally following them correctly.  I think I have mentioned the role of user error in my life a few times on this blog!  If you don’t have a manual, it’s worth searching online, even for old machines.

Step 2. Prepare to be patient with yourself and the machine. Music?  Silence?  Stretch? Cup of tea?

Step 3. Make sure you have matching thread in the bobbin and in the upper thread.  Or maybe you don’t commit such crimes against sewing.  Clean and oil the bobbin race while you’re at it.

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Step 4. Make sure you have an appropriate needle in place for fine fabric and that it is sharp.  Don’t be using one that has already had a lot of use, or one made for stretch fabrics, because it will push your fabric into the down-below in a most frustrating manner when you try to take your first stitches.

Step 5. Find a scrap of fabric, preferably an offcut from your intended fabric, and fold it so that it has as many layers as your hem will have and is about the same thickness. Run a line of stitching across it until you get to the edge.  Leave it in position.  This will let you do two things: make sure the foot is level as you begin if you are stitching over a hemmed edge, and make sure you have something to hold on to if you need to maneuver your napkin fabric into position.

Step 6. Plan your sewing.  It might just be me, but I find beginning the hem the hardest part.  If I can hem a long piece of fabric all at once, I will always choose this strategy, and then cut it into napkins and have two shorter hems to manage, not four.

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Step 7. Having prepared your fabric as the manual dictates, and ironed the edge you will be hemming nice and smooth, reduce your stitch length to very small (1.5mm works for me).  Work a couple of stitches. If your fabric descends into the machine, raise the needle and the foot, and gently pull everything taut, with one hand on your napkin-in-construction and one on your scrap fabric.  Check everything is in the position you want it in, lower the foot and begin to sew.  If at first you turn out to be sewing in one spot, stop again.  Raise needle and foot. Pull taut again, and move the fabric fractionally.  Do not pull while you are stitching.  If you don’t know what happens when you do this, I salute your good habits and patience. Take another stitch, until the feed dogs engage and the machine is moving the fabric.  Then you can get your rolled hem going smoothly, and you’re off!  Finish with some more tiny stitches, because back stitching is unlikely to work out.

Step 8. Once you have one napkin or length of fabric hemmed, leave it there and use to to maneuver the next piece you need to hem, much as you used the scrap fabric the first time.

Step 9. Once you begin to need to create a hem over a hemmed edge, clip the hemmed edge on the diagonal at the beginning and end of your hem ever so slightly.  You will have less of a hump at the start (which will make getting your stitching started simpler) and it will reduce the chance that your fabric gets stuck in the roll hemmer at the end.

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Step 10. Practice, practice, practice! And pretty soon, you will have a stack of napkins, a stack of hankies, some cotton string from torn off hems, and a few bits of rag/interfacing/foundation for patchwork!

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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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Filed under Craftivism, Knitting, Natural dyeing