Category Archives: Sewing

Mending the mending

Recently the pile of mending on my mind reached a point where it became the weekend’s project. But–I realised that there was only one thing I was mending for the first time.  I’ve reached the mending on mending stage.  This knitting bag has been waiting for a few more stitches into the base–the fabric the base is made from has just worn through over time.  But I don’t want to let the bag go.  It was made by one dear friend and embroidered by another and it was a birthday gift from years back.  It’s a treasure.  This time I fully embraced the idea of stitching the outer and lining together because I think this bag is at a stage in life where more mending is inevitable and not too far away.

Then there was the raincoat.  This op-shop find has had years of living on my office door for emergency wear because it is shower proof and has a zip-out wool lining. It’s a high quality garment!  If I am caught by wind or rain on my way home, I can grab it and run for the bus. It had this sophisticated arrangement for hanging on a hook (and I do hang it on a hook) and it has been broken for quite a while.

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This week I was caught by sudden wind and rain and wore it home.  The hanging arrangement is now stitched back with waxed linen thread.

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And I did some mends to the wool lining.  Yes, visible mending it is. Check out the fringe on the wool liner!

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My leafy linen bag, patched together from offcuts of my earliest eco-printing experiments on recycled linen shirts had worn through in several places again. Here it is  in use in 2014 and being mended in 2014.  The fading shows. Could I bear to let it go?  Not yet.  The new patches are all from one piece of dyed cloth that took up a lot of yellows.

Then there was the mighty flourbag shirt, which was mightily mended in 2015.  The patches on the inside fronts had not been stitched to the seams in every single place, and now there are holes right where I missed that rather crucial step in mending a garment that has been worn this much.  here are some of the holes and frayed parts…

And here are the mends seen from the inside and outside:

Sometimes when I mend people post asking why I bother.  Which is a decent question.  In a case like this raggedy shirt I think the only explanation can be that I love this shirt so much I don’t want to give it up.  Even though I wear it for gardening and such (let me be clear, I love having time in the garden).  the fact that I made it is part of it, but I make other things that I don’t love this way.  I love the feel of the calico and I have come to enjoy patching it up.  There are more places that have worn through where I am not going to bother at this stage–like where some layers of the collar have worn away but there are others still holding together.

And speaking of gardening, here are my gardening jeans.  Another case of thinking you have patched out to where there is some fabric with integrity and finding that a hole wears through just beyond the patch.  Never mind, just add on!  These jeans are comfortable for grubbing around in, and although I have another pair that are beyond use in polite company, they are made from poor quality denim that won’t bear a whole lot of mending.  They had a twin pair and I tried–but sometimes I can’t mend something back to wearable.  How do you decide when to mend your mending and when to let it go?

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Plant dyed silk stitching threads

A little while back, I decanted some silk stitching thread that had been steeping in dye for a year or two or three–using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store preservation dyeing method.

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  1. hibiscus flowers
  2. daylilies
  3. woad seeds (mature and immature)
  4. unidentified wattle seed pods from the tram line
  5. dried coreopsis flowers, citrus peel water
  6. avocado peel (fresh), bicarbonate of soda
  7. mock orange leaves (Murraya paniculata)

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These jars have been sitting out in the rain and the sun, and I’m rather impressed by how well pencil on cardboard has lasted, never mention how the woad dyed wool, eucalyptus dyed yarn and handmade leaf string typing label to jar lasted.  I have already begun applying thread to some of those little jobs that just need doing…

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Of Aprons and Alchemy

Some years ago, I made an apron at an India Flint workshop.  It’s an ingenious design India has created which starts with a shirt with a collar and ends with a coverall with straps that cross over at the back.  This model also has some stitched-on panels creating a generous length at the back.

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I brought this garment home to dye it, and it would be fair to say that I never loved the outcome (friends who were consulted recently liked it more than I did).  And, it had some large holes for which I was responsible and which I had a lot of [bad] feelings about having created.  In short, this garment has been in the naughty corner (the place garments go to wait when I have been naughty) for some extended time.  But then, India put up an online course called The Alchemist’s Apron.   It is further supported by an online community of eager stitchers and dyers from all round the world on facebook.  I was lucky enough to be gifted an enrolment (Thank you India!)–and this turned out to be the trigger for getting the apron out of the naughty corner and into my hands again.

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First step, give it a wash and soften it up a bit (soy mordant no doubt was responsible for starching it a little).  Second step, mending. Mending is an evening occupation for me, thus the mood lighting… I have learned some things about mending since these holes appeared and decided to use several different strategies.

Some mends went over the hem (they were the most discouraging). These round-ish mends I especially like.

Once that was done, a second pass through the soy mordanting process, a wander around my neighbourhood by bicycle collecting leaves, and a bundle up with home made string (hems and seams left from cutting up and recycling clothing, in this case).

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I do love eucalyptus.

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The mends still stand out but I think that is OK, because #visiblemending!  I had chosen linen patching and cotton thread, which did rather guarantee they would stand out as the patches are mostly in the added border at the back of the apron which is cut from a recycled op shop raw silk pant suit a friend gave me.

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I like the new apron much more!

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And here is the back view… with the button placket still sporting buttons.  It’s a bit glorious now, I think. Do you have things waiting in the naughty corner?  How do they get there, and more importantly, what motivates you to get them out again?

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Beloved trees

As so often happens in my case, one project leads to the next.  The scraps left from converting unwanted trousers into bags were the biggest scraps sitting on the small scraps pile when I felt the pull to make “beloved tree” banners.  I decided that this might be a fun Womadelaide project–there I would be over a long weekend, sitting under beautiful trees listening to music.  What could be better? It was going to be way too hot for substantial knitting projects.  I decided if I took needle, thread and some calico or sheet offcuts–that would be a good start, and that is how I began.   Before I went on day 2 I made some “frames”.

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You can see how this goes.  It’s simple but it gives a sense of framing the words that I like.  It somehow draws in the idea of that-which-is-framed being important, precious in some way.

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And there I sat–I have inherited a small embroidery hoop.  I usually don’t use one, but it seemed like it might help and it caused several conversations with smaller people interested in the whys and mechanics of things, which were also fun.

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Afterward, I found more calico/scraps/leftover bits of ancient sheets or tablecloths and stitched them on to create a backing and a neat edge around the frame.

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There are six in all, some with linen frames.

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Some framed with offcuts of denim jeans that have passed into new incarnations as bags. And now they are ready to be applied to trees.  I do feel as though a tree needs no adornment.  However, I feel all too conscious that trees are not universally beloved.  After the last big storm in which trees came down on cars and the tram line in our neighbourhood, I put up two earlier banners, and one was removed almost immediately.  I don’t know whether it was souvenir-ed or whether it was taken down by someone who didn’t accept the message.  But I do know that at such times trees around me face higher degrees of threat, and this is one thing I can do.  Maybe this weekend of earth hour is the time for some to go out into the world?

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Culling the cupboards, AKA Upcycling

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As people who read this blog regularly already know, I make a lot of bags, and I almost always give them away.  So when Boomerang Bags started up in Adelaide (and it wasn’t started by me–woot!) it seemed entirely logical to join their end single use plastics interventions by making bags for them.  I made an initial 6 and gave 5 away.  This time I committed to making bags for a stall on World Environment Day and one of the sweethearts from the local group dropped 12 labels at my place.

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Some of the labels were apple green (hard to colour co-ordinate), and I’ve noticed that many of the bags the group creates are made in floral prints.  I’m going out on a limb assuming there are other folk like me who would prefer a not-so-floral bag.  So–I checked to see what relatively plain fabrics I might have and decided the time had come for some unloved trousers made by me over ten years ago.  I’ve worn them a lot over about a decade, even though I had to face the hash I made of the welt pockets every single time.  Never again! Here they are cut into their constituent parts, and below–as bags.

A pair of hemp pants that have never really fit, and are so badly made I’ve mended them several times in a life of few washes and wears.  A couple more pairs of trousers that I won’t wear again.  Two pairs of op shop jeans saved for a day I need denim, and a pair of op shop linen pants, ditto.  Orange linen picked up at the tip shop outside Hobart for a song (because who wouldn’t take their mates to the tip shop if you were passing?) Some repurposed canvas cushion backing dyed with eucalypts.

Oh, the pockets!  It’s a shame to let a well constructed pocket go, so these are now features!

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Needless to say there was constructive piecing on the outside, and where the outsides were pieced together, there are linings (often pieced too).

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So now my thirteen bags have gone to Boomerang Bags, and I have more labels.  I inherit fabric and have fabric dropped off at my place faster than I can re-home it.  I still have unloved wardrobe items and clothing past use by date.  I have clothing that is upwards of 20 years old, some parts reclaimable and op shop items salvaged for repurposing.  So, I believe I can keep at this project for the foreseeable future without concern for supplies and with benefits for my cupboards.

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Triennial, National Gallery of Victoria

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When we went to Melbourne for the end of year family shindig, we went to the National Gallery of Victoria.  I wanted to go  to see something in particular… and, how embarrassing is my ignorance…  it was showing in a completely different art gallery. So I saw this exhibition instead.  I think it must be clear to regular readers that I am not art-knowledgeable.  But there were some things I thought might be of interest to you, dear readers. This image is part of an exhibit by Richard Mosse criticising and commenting on the Australian government’s policies on asylum seekers, which really do beg to be criticised.  It was interesting to see so many people stopping to watch these works, showing images of the offshore detention centres our government has taken many steps to stop us seeing.

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There were some serious design works of extreme fashion, like these rather amazing pieces of engineering by Iris van Herpen.

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There was an entire room full of couture dresses and accessories by Guo Pei, called Legend.  They were inspired by a visit to the Cathedral of Saint Gallen in Switzerland.  The room was dark so it was hard to do justice to these completely different but equally extreme pieces of fashion.  I grew up in a place where Christianity was the dominant religion and for much of my life heard other religions commented on largely or only from a Christian and Western perspective. It was taken for granted that a Christian, Western perspective could speak to/about every other global context.   I found it really interesting to see the way the artist commented on and allowed their imagination to run through the cathedral as a source of inspiration–without having it as a religious heritage first and foremost. Commenting on it from a completely different perspective and making use of this imagery.

This room full of taut strands of yarn by Pae White was pretty entertaining!

These two outfits were some of my favourites.  They are Nick Cave’s Soundsuits. I loved all those buttons…

Alexandra Kahayoglou’s Santa Cruz River is a huge textile work–a rug with mirrors–that intrigued people, as you can see. I found Kahayoglou’s commentary of climate change heartbreaking.

I loved these basketry pieces.  I was a little taken aback at their use of the plastic PET bottle as a starting point.  They were so complex and interesting, and the use of mirrors and lights made them all the more splendid.  This is a collaboration between Alvaro Catalan and the Bula’bula Artists.

These images by Louisa Bufardeci are stitched into a mesh background. They depict in needlepoint the sites where boats of asylum seekers have sunk and people have died at sea trying to reach Australia, as they appear on Google Earth images. No comment needed. I think.

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Bags 2

Did you really think I could stop at… oh… ten or twelve bags (especially as I was on holiday)?  Naturally, I could not.  I went to the Guild and there was a pile of denim offcuts.  You know how it is.

They all turned out to be different denims, each one reasonably narrow but the width of the bolt.  No concern to me.  I paired some with a yellow open weave linen (I think) I have inherited.  I made several of these and they look quite elegant.

This patch was found on the footpath in Melbourne in December. It seemed wrong to leave it there to the wind, rain, mud and passing shoes and dogs, until it found its way into the stormwater drain.

And this bag is made from a piece of fabric my mother-out-law passed on to me in the last year.

On the inside, all manner of scraps and bits and pieces, and of course–more pockets!

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Bags 1

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One day at Guild, one of my friends gifted me two pairs of worn out cargo pants, in case I’d like to find a way to reuse them. Some people really know you!  They were made of tencel or some similar wood pulp based fibre.  They had been much worn, like a favourite garment.  And they had so many pockets!  Ones with zips, some that were more of a welt pocket… some that were stitched shut and had never been ripped open for use–lots to play with.  So I cut them up, extracted the cotton drawstring cords for later use, and began piecing the intact fabric into bag linings and likewise, the pockets.

There was an entire series of bark cloth curtain fabric bags.  I used up the boomerang bags patches I was given by one of the Adelaide organisers a while back pretty quickly.  Then I did a series with the remaining secondhand IKEA fabric my daughter gave me a while back (the orange and white stripes).  They match my ironing board cover and they are extra large.

Finally, I converted some fabric I remember buying at Paddy’s market in Melbourne at least 20 years ago (cough, maybe it was 30 years ago) into about 4 more bags.  I must have been reliving my childhood as an admirer of ancient Egypt when I bought this, I think.  I vaguely remember feeling obliged to buy something even though I couldn’t spare the cash at that time (it must have been the nature of the interaction with the stallholder).  The print gestures in that direction, but I really can’t see it as a garment.  Some of these bags have already gone to friends, and others await their ultimate destination.

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Mending the blanket

I have this blanket.  It doesn’t have a family history of emotional attachment; I found it in an op shop.  I can’t say what made me bring it home, it’s quite a strong shade of orange which isn’t entirely lovely.  It’s not in good repair.  It has fade lines from being left out in the sun too long on a washing line.  Some of its stitching had come undone when I brought it home.  Moths (well, moth larvae) had nibbled on it before it came to my house.IMAG5839

In a way, it is even more odd that I feel driven to mend this thing.  The holes are small enough they they will not lead to unravelling or any serious consequence.  I want to mend them anyway.  My beloved offered me a robust critique of this project one night recently, and there wasn’t a thing she said, that I didn’t accept.  Yet, I started mending it in 2015.  I notice in that post I think the blanket is rather lovely! Apparently I have been less sure of its loveliness recently… but no less attached to it.

These holidays, I sat the sewing kit on my bed and mended a few more holes each day until I had a big evening session and finally mended all the little holes the moths left. Things I’ve noticed: how lovely it is working with the silk embroidery thread from Beautiful Silks, and in colours I’ve dyed with plants.   That I have settled on the number of strands I like using best.  That my sense of how to use thread, and how to work with colour,  has changed.  How comfortable I feel with these odd little grids in mismatched colours sprinkled over my blanket.  How confident I feel that this blanket and I will spend many more years together, and maybe in that time, there will be more mends, or simply more stitching.  So I guess the reality is that this blanket from the op shop now does hold emotional resonance of some kind, even if it’s hard to say exactly what or why.  It’s a blanket, after all.  I don’t really feel like there has to be an accounting for these things.  Though I like its warmth very much when the season calls for it.

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Needlebooks

While I was on holiday, I finished sewing a batch of needle books made from scraps of blanket dyed with various plants.  Now they are waiting to become part of mending kits!

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