Category Archives: Natural dyeing

Guerilla mass planting: Bulbine lily

This morning [well, it was a morning in October 2020–] I headed out with Bulbine lilies (Bulbine bulbosa) I was gifted from a neighbour who runs a project called Grow, Grow, Grow Your Own. They arrived as many seedlings in a single pot and I grew them on. Some thrived and some did not, and I am not able to say why, yet. I’ve never grown this plant before.

Here I am preparing to head out into the street… you will be glad to know that I asked for a metal watering can for my birthday and now have a glorious watering can. I bought another second hand, but it was crushed when a huge bough from our neighbour’s lemon scented gum dropped on our side of the fence. Given the size of the bough and the beauty of the tree, I was sad to lose the watering can but felt I had experienced a miracle! One of these has since fallen apart and gone to rigid plastics recycling.

I decided having researched online that they may need more water than our area usually gets, so I settled on a spot with a watering system, and chose a partially shaded spot, creating a massed planting around some of the pomegranate trees I have put in. If there is ever a grove of pomegranates surrounded by a carpet of yellow flowers? How amazing would that be!

This is one of the bulbine lilies in the ground beside the council watering system.

For context, these are salt bushes I planted earlier, thriving nearby.

And this is a bad image of one of the pomegranate trees! And below–the classic heading home shot, complete with only a little litter picked up…

Now, dear readers, it has been some time since I posted. Thanks for your patience, if you’ve been patiently waiting (I’ve been surprised to discover that some people have been). Thanks to those who signed up during the pause I turn out to have taken. Apologies if you have been concerned for my wellbeing (I did not expect that but ralise I should have–as I have seen blogs stop suddenly and then realised that the blogger has been facing cancer, or divorce). My life has had its ups and downs, to be sure. But in the year that has just passed, with all the suffering and trouble it has brought for so many people, I feel lucky and privileged. I just somehow stopped posting!

This post was begun in October 2020 and I can now update it and tell you that only two (2) bulbine lilies have survived to this point but they are about four times the size they were, and have flowered. I will see if I can propagate from them so I can keep trying for that massed planting! All four pomegranate trees have survived, though, and that makes me very happy. I’ve weeded this site both on my own and with a friend, and it is looking so much better since I found where the council water system was leaking and fixed it with part of our garden hose, during an early stage of the pandemic when calling the council seemed…surplus to requirements. No longer is part of the site in drought while part of it is flooded regularly!

And now, let’s see if I keep posting or not. And how random the sequence of posts becomes 🙂

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The madder harvest

This year I went wild and dug a lot of the madder patch.

There was the soaking, rinsing, weighing (TWO KILOGRAMS, just quietly) and picking over. There was potting up some plants in case others want some.

There was mordanting (with alum).

There was the grinding up.

Then the heating begins. I am proud to say that for once I did not boil my dye vat. Really, the list of my dyeing crimes is too extensive to list! So I rate this a bit of a triumph.

I must say, that despite the amount of root, and the amount of dyeing (and the difficulty of getting a picture that captures it properly)… there was not actually a lot of red. Grey yarn became terra cotta (not that you can tell in the image), there is a lot of lovely orange, there is fabric that is various orange shades. Red silk embroidery thread and some red fleece. It’s not terrible, but it isn’t quite what I hoped for, either. It may be that it is time for some more research! If more experienced folks have insight to offer, do feel free! This year I really tried for long, slow heating, and came closer to achieving it than previously. But still…

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The Purple waistcoat project

Dear friends asked me whether I would be prepared to make their son a waistcoat for his birthday. After some efforts to access a paper pattern second hand, I used the free pattern from mesewcrazy.

I managed to cut the main pattern pieces from a pair of jeans of the right colour. Then I chose some silk I was given for the lining. It was given to me by a friend whose friend had destashed this and other fabrics.

I found buttons that were just right at The Adelaide Remakery.

This waistcoat is an ode to the recipient’s favourite anime character.

The main pattern pieces incorporate seams from the original jeans they were made from. They look quite good, I think.

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Eucalypt dyeing

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.

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And another thing

I made another pair of moko trews. This pair are lined with an indigo dyed t-shirt…

Which I thought worked rather well!

These ones did make it onto the grandbub (pictured here miraculously sleeping), hooray!

And another thing… There were offcuts, so a few more gauntlets happened.

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Climate change scarf

I bought some ‘climate change scarves’ from Beautiful Silks a while back–items that had been damaged in the hurry and chaos of escaping flood. I am just going to assume that I don’t need to explain that the climate crisis is here already and the world’s most vulnerable people are the first to suffer. But if you would like to know more about how this is resulting in floods in India (where these scarves were made): here you are.

As winter set in I decided to dye one of these scarves for my daughter. First I mended the tear in one end using what I know as tent stitch (because I learned it when I learned how to mend torn canvas tents, as a Girl Guide)! Then I looked at the place where a fringe was doubtless the original intention. At first I thought, well, it is OK as it is. And then, I decided I could twine the warp threads to create the kind of fringe I’d prefer. After all, I know how to make string! I am sure I’m not as dextrous, skilled or fast as the folks who wove this beautiful fabric, but I did create a fringe.

Then it was into the dyepot ready for transformation. I have seen this scarf on her several times since so I am going to pronounce it a success. Eucalyptus has even made my mend look rather lovely.

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Long sleeved knit top

With all this cutting up of my winter layers going on, I decided I needed to make some new long sleeved layers. And to think I used to be puzzled what I could make from knit fabrics!

I’d removed the zips from the old ones carefully, so I chose one for re-use.

There it is, in its new location. I didn’t think to dye my thread so I chose contrast. I just couldn’t wait once I’d started.

The back view.

And here is the front! For those who are interested: Vogue 9904. I’ve made this pattern more times than I can exactly count.

Is it perfect? Certainly not. Do I care? Not at all.

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The gauntlet series

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.

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Underwear stories

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).

And there is the end of this underwear story!!

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So much mending

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!

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