Category Archives: Natural dyeing

Small projects, big plans

A while ago I went to The Drapery to buy zippers, and The Drapery is far more tempting to me than the chain alternatives, so I came away with a fat quarter (or something like that) of Liberty lawn.  My Mother-Out-Law loves Liberty prints, so I tried to inhabit her aesthetic and chose this one.  She is a rather petite woman, so I made four small handkerchieves and I am reliably informed that she loves them! Naturally (in her case–the other gift she enjoys is stationery) she sent me a lovely card, and observed that only another sewer would recognise the rolled hems as a special achievement.  I feel so lucky to have out-laws who are so kind and lovely.

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Then there was the very last of these bags.

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This time I chose madder and indigo dyed threads.

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The madder dyed silk in the centre of this circle was dyed at my house, (the madder and indigo purple by Beautiful Silks), and it is SO red!

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There have been other small projects piling up, but there has also been a development.  We went to the Royal Show again this year and Suffolks were the featured sheep breed.  This beauty evidently didn’t stand still (or perhaps it was me who did the wriggling).

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I tried to speak with breeders in hopes of acquiring a fleece and discovered again that I’m really quite shy.  My beloved was much better at it.  We spoke to breeders from WA and Tasmania who did not bring fleece, and then found one from Kangaroo Island who was happy enough to sell me a fleece if I was sure I wanted to spin from a meat sheep and did I realise this is sold as carpet wool? It’s so sad to think that the long history of this breed as a source of wool for specific uses such as socks, has been all but lost even among lovers of the breed.

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Malcolm called me on the weekend and we had a chat.  We agreed on one fleece and a price that I thought was too low, and what do you know?  I put one and a half times the price in an envelope and he delivered two fleeces, or is it three?  He threw in a “black” fleece because these sell for even less than the $3 or $4 per kilo that Malcolm gets for white Suffolk fleece.  Last night I skirted it at the Guild Hall and it is grey and dark brown, cream and white (I suspect, under the dirt).  I can only confirm that I won’t need another delivery in October: this is a LOT of wool.  I’ve never raised a sheep, and it’s entirely possible Malcolm doesn’t know how long it takes to spin sock yarn!  However, the fleece I skirted last night is lovely. I’ve had little access to Suffolk to date and spun what I had suspected was poor quality fleece with a very short staple.  This has a high crimp staple of at least 8-10 cm in places, and while the coloration lowers its value for industrial processing, for me it is a real asset.  I washed a small quantity before work this morning, I’m so keen to get spinning…

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Garden colours jumper

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This is the Orphans for Orphans sweater from Knitting for Peace.  This is the third time I’ve knit this design and it is an ingenious, easy pattern that lends itself to wool in odd amounts and various colours.  This one is made from handspun local wool and dyed with plants from my garden: woad, coreopsis, eucalyptus, woad + coreopsis.

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Where the woad vat was running out, the natural grey of the wool shows through. I cast it on, on an excitable day of knitting confidence when I decided it would fit someone I know!  I think in fact the likeliest candidate is the daughter of the sweethearts who gave me Knitting for Peace. She is no orphan but a delightful and extremely well loved small human.  And if not her, then some other treasure…

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Sometimes it happens that I look at a random selection of yarns and suddenly see what it could become.  This was one such case.  It has some wonkiness to be going on with, but quite frankly, any jumper that isn’t wonky before it goes onto a small person hopefully becomes wonky through sheer activity soon afterward. I’m reliably informed that the recipient is a fine appreciator of knitwear and that she held it close all the way home.  That’s a lovely start!

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

The Island Book with India Flint

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.

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In the beginning, there was poetry and chat, thread and tea and blank paper.

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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).

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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!

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Then, folding.

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Cutting and tearing and demonstration of other book structures.

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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!

 

 

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

New knitting bag

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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!

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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.

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And the lining was set into an eco print on silk left from dye camp summer 2017.

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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.

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Indigo and cochineal Jaywalkers

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A while back I acquired some merino-silk 4 ply (fingering) yarn to use as a no-nylon sock yarn.

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Of course, it all started out white.  Over time, some was dyed in legacy logwood.  Some with legacy cochineal, and some with indigo.  Then I decided on overdyeing the cochineal to create stripes and spots, creating some deep pink-purple and some blue sections where I had tied resists during the first dyeing in cochineal.

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There was hospital knitting, nursing home knitting, public transport knitting as ever, meeting knitting.

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There was even knitting during an experimental opera!

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And now there are socks.  The pattern is an old favourite, Jaywalker, by Grumperina.  It doesn’t stretch much but it stays up and it looks great.

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They are destined to be added to India Flint’s collection… bless her creative mind and nimble fingers and keep her toes warm, I say!

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Bags… you know how this goes!

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.

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Leafy Clothing

I had a little holiday in Allansford in the middle of the year, and since I stayed at Beautiful Silks–it involved stitching and dyeing.  Perfect.  I also broke my commitments against buying stuff and invested in a pile of fabric from the scraps and oddments department at Beautiful Silks and some silky merino. And there was some op shopping too!

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Some fabrics hit the dye pots while I was still in Victoria!  The ever-generous Marion showed me some of her favourite local dye trees, including plants I had not been able to coax much colour from or simply didn’t know.  And some wonderful greens resulted.

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I have a very basic home made singlet pattern, and managed to get the front from a silk knit and the back from silky merino after cutting a larger garment out.

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So now I have this machine seamed, hand finished piece of splendid. The front:

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And the back:

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It’s a bit sad so few people will ever see it.

 

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Filed under Eucalypts, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Needlebooks

I made another little stack of needlebooks.  I have been accumulating tins that can become mending kits as I assemble all their elements over time.  I figure I will be teaching mending again sooner or later.

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I love how these little pieces use tiny scraps (in this case, blanket offcuts) and yet turn them into something that is useful and perhaps also lovely.  I also enjoy choosing plant dyed threads that work with the section of print I am using.  Sometimes I change thread colour as I go or as the thread remaining in that colour runs out.

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I made an exception here and used indigo dyed thread my beloved brought home from Japan for the coreopsis flower print, because–the print itself seemed to call for it.  I can feel the time drawing closer when I will need to open my stuff, steep and store jars and see what new silk thread options they offer.  How have I managed to wait so long?

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Standing here

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Last week I sent off a small collection of squares for the Standing Here public art installation.  I was just delighted (even if also saddened) to hear that the location for the installation–Tree Place–commemorates the place an ancient tree was felled.  I am glad others recognise this as something to be marked and responded to.

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This one is a patchwork of raw silk scraps I dyed at Summer Dye Camp.  The very last of a raw silk suit a friend bought me at an op shop.  I added one of the indigo dyed–bedsheet–napkins for good measure, and this piece, which is a piece of hemp/silk with borders of cotton, dyed with eucalyptus leaves in different ways.  Wishing Jenai Hooke and Anne Harris every success with this project!

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Transformations: Blind to Banner

I think some of my earliest sewing projects were mending and banner making.  I see no reason to change now!  This week the household is preparing to head out and let CommBank know we want them to rule out funding the Adani coal mine.  This mega-mine would mean that Australia could not hope to meet its obligations under the Paris agreement on climate action, let alone claim global leadership on addressing the most serious threat facing the planet, all species, and humanity.  We are part of the national movement to stop the money going to this project, and our strategies include going to the banks and singing about our hopes and expectations. We also want the passersby to know what we are doing–and that is where the banner comes in.

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A few weeks back I saw an old holland blind abandoned on the verge/nature strip.  I took it home because it was crying out to become a banner.  Nice, firm, neutral coloured fabric that won’t bleed through–and otherwise destined for landfill. I cut off the really sad parts that were coming apart through UV light damage and long use.  Then I washed off the surface grime (it had been out in the weather when I came across it).  Next, discussion about how big the banner should be, and snip!  In with the scissors.

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Next, collaboration on the engineering aspects, and construction of the pole pockets, with me on the sewing machine and my friends supporting the weight of the fabric.  We agreed on the message and design, then ate a delicious dinner!  I roughed out the text with a pencil and then we got to colouring it in, and called a friend for resources.  She came over with paint and brushes and I outlined the black sections in texta/sharpie/permanent felt tip pen. Then  everything went quiet for a while.  It’s more fun than you think to collaborate on a thing like this. And it doesn’t have to be a work of art, it just has to be a communication.

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Ready to go… but not quite… next day, off to the local bamboo clump, with some admiration of guerilla gardening success en route.  Here, I planted everything except the tree.

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Here, my friends and I planted everything, and there is so much cover now a friend planted a eucalypt in there with me one day–the site is protected enough that it might make it now!

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Then I made my bamboo selections, cut a spare one or two, stripped the leaves and headed home for breakfast and work.  We are ready to go!  If you are in Adelaide and want to join us, see you at 10 am outside the Commbank branch on Gouger St City, beside the market, for an hour of songs about why renewable energy is preferable to coal, the need for climate action, our determination to dump banks that won’t see sense and stop investing in fossil fuels, and some very fun new songs about stopping Adani. Feel free to swell our numbers whether you sing or not.  There’s a banner you could hold… or bring your own!

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Filed under Activism, Natural dyeing, Sewing