Category Archives: Sewing

Bike Bag

My friend requested a replacement for his much loved bike bag. I was happy to oblige! One day the bag arrived in a post pack with two pairs of black moleskins/jeans, the sleeve from a high vis shirt complete with the reflective strip, and some added fabrics for good measure.

I set to work drafting a pattern from the original and applying my wits to reverse engineering it. The strap goes all the way around the bag. Zipper on top, zip pocket on the side. I found two zips that I thought could do the job from the stash, ripped the sleeve and scavenged the reflective strip, and cut the jeans up ready to go. I’m quite proud of that pocket, which uses things I’ve learned about how to create a welt pocket.

The top zipper is pretty stout too.

And there you have it, ready for the road. Or ready to post back, as the case may be!

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Mending

There have been times in this lockdown when it felt like I’ve mended every day. Sometimes just adding a few stitches so that the underwire doesn’t peek out of there, or stitching a button back on. Or re-sewing the seam that keeps Mum and Dad’s shopping bag in use instead of it hitting the bin. Or sewing the binding back onto the edge of the gardening gloves. Darning my beloved’s slipper sole…

This much mended shirt began as flour bags from the Fremantle Roller Mills, with a big red dingo as well as the name of the mill and the weight of the bag. That was a long time ago! The front edge had worn down to fraying and the corner of the pocket had become a hole. So I covered the worn edge with some handkerchief fabric complete with rolled edge hem–it was in the scrap pile so must not have made the final cut for a hanky!

For those wondering how the patches on the inside are wearing–here’s the inside. The madder dyed thread has been through many washes, some focused more on getting out the grime than protecting plant dyes.

The back is now so thin the patches from my mother-out-law’s kimono dressing gown can be seen right through it. But I love wearing this shirt… it feels so soft and lovely and is such a good gardening companion. I’m just going to wait and see when the time comes that I don’t want to mend it again.

Under that indigo dyed thread is a small patch taken from the scrap pile to reinforce the pocket corner. The time for this shirt has not come yet!

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Gardening Jeans Mending (Again)

I see a lot of pictures of mending on instagram and some of them are so pretty. My gardening jeans are not like that. I may have mentioned it! And they are not getting prettier. But I was a bit shocked when I happened to look inside one sunny day and realised how much of them has become translucent!

The much mended area above isn’t looking great, and the cuffs are sad too.

For the curious, here is how those hand stitched mends are faring on the inside.

Mmm. Well, I’ve decided that given how much time I’ve been spending in the garden lately, I need two pairs of gardening jeans, and there are lots of choices at the bottom end of my wardrobe. This pair have gone from one torn knee to two.

So here is the second knee mend on the other pair–the hole, the patch pinned in place–and the patch finished and pulled a little too tightly (at the bottom of the picture, in case you can’t tell). I loved the look of the larger stitches but they were a bit vulnerable. And all my gardening wear has had a lot of use since we have been spending so much more time at home!

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Incredibly cute baby shoes

In these strange times, it was rather delightful to get a call from my daughter requesting baby socks, baby mittens and “do you know what soft shoes are? Could you make them?” I found a pattern on Spoonflower, and off I went!

One pair I cut from some fabric I could not resist and have been too scared to cut, apparently (for some years). One came from the offcuts of an op shop dress the main parts of which have been turned into bags already.

The pattern calls for iron on interfacing. Well, some parts of the upcycled frock already had this feature, so I left it intact and turned it to advantage. For the rest, the scrap stack (offcuts so small they are filed in a pile–too small to fold up!) provided sections of sheet most of which had been turned into hankies and napkins, and tiny offcuts of a linen shirt that has met its next incarnation. The soles? From a dead pair of tracksuit pants, and some offcuts of fabric recently passed on from a friend, from her Mum’s stash. And as for fusible batting? The tracksuit pants provide again!

I certainly could not have dreamed up this pattern. Gratitude to the architect and the instruction writer! As evening fell, I went to bring in the rest of the fabric from my friend’s Mum’s stash which had been laundered and hung to dry, and there right at the back were little offcuts of a black, shiny fabric with a pattern of paint splashes. I cut out a third pair and stitched them up! Elastic came from one of Joyce’s lunch boxes, inherited when she left Adelaide and I helped her family with her crafting stash. As with all the things she left behind, it was impeccably sorted, labelled and stored. If only my standards were so high!

By the time I got to my Virtual Mending Circle, I had three pairs requiring just a little hand finishing.

I think they are just so cute! I hope they will see the grandbub into her first independent steps. Right now she is still hauling herself along on whatever she can grab, but it won’t be long.

What fun! Very satisfying. And now, they are in the post and I await a report!

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And Another Apron

Now here is an old post… I think it had been waiting for the very final change I wanted to make, which happened weeks ago! Here it is at last.

Eventually (after a couple of aprons), I decided to return to the Alchemist’s Apron and check my grasp of the fundamentals. Sure enough, I immediately learned something that helped… and finally I got a result I really liked using an iron mordant. Gratitude to India Flint! This had been a large white linen shirt. But now–some great prints from a Eucalyptus Nicholii sapling a friend and I planted in the guerilla garden.

Here it is being bundled for the dye pot. And below, close-ups of the parts of the garment I like best.

I sewed on some old coins I’d brought home from a shrine sale in Japan. And some beads I found in an op shop (thrift store). Then buttons… India Flint has made some wonderful works with lots of buttons on them, and I have a LOT of buttons, albeit very few of them especially beautiful in their own right. Why not? In the end I had more than I liked and cut a block of them off again! Then the serious stitching began and again I found I just wanted to keep going.

In the end, I added and then removed buttons, decided the skirt was too short and added panels of cotton calico dyed with some dried leaves, and adjusted the neckline a couple of times until I liked it.

I created some funny pockets and misjudged some pocket placement vs construction details. But it doesn’t matter.

The threads are all silk and silk cotton dyed with plants. Madder, eucalypt…

I am so interested that now I can look at madder dyed textiles and tell the difference in the shade between madder and eucalyptus, because I remember when I couldn’t.

Here is the whole thing. On its early outings I realised it was really loose, and bagged out at the back. In the end, I added a second button and button hole so that I can have it close enough to my body to be comfortable and to do its work. It also means that those beads don’t drag the whole apron down on one side like they did. They may yet be removed! And the coins make it tinkle. Which I am surprised to find I rather enjoy. Fabulous. Thank you, India!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

DIY Yoga Bolster

After a very painful injury that took a long time to recover from, my physiotherapist impressed upon me that I should be doing yoga. It was harder than I thought to get myself into a class, and once I’d done that and finally made it to my first class, a series of unfortunate events occurred, and one of them was a global event that has closed yoga studios! (Yes, first world problem).

So, one beginner class in, I was back to my own devices. I tried an online class run for free through my council with an actual teacher on Zoom. I discovered the other participant did not have their video or sound on. I can only imagine that was a bit tough for the teacher, who was running her first or second Zoom class and had children in the house. I, on the other hand, felt a rush of surprise and relief, as my memories of doing yoga in my jeans in the 1980s when body shame was my constant companion and I could not afford yoga specific clothing, and the comments people made… rose up and then receded. No one can see me! Not great for guidance but very relaxing otherwise.

Next I tried some YouTube classes. Not bad. But probably not the level of explain-y a complete beginner like myself might need, especially when I’m not going to a live teacher for correction. So I went to the www site of the place I had hoped to go to in person, and they recommended a couple of sites. I did the trial video and signed up. I need a bolster for this! Happily I’d had that one live class, so I’d seen one in the touch-and-feel world; and happily the internet is full of proposals. And my sewing room contains a number of pairs of secondhand jeans. Perfect.

I started with a pattern from Instructables and decided I wanted a drawstring at one end rather than stuffing the thing and closing it up for good. I made some modifications and started cutting up jeans and patchworking them together. As usual, I was finished before I thought too hard about the design of the patchwork. Next time!

Once I had the denim all stitched up and I’d constructed the bag, I raided the blanket cupboard and rolled up one of the ancestral (and very tatty) wool blankets and one of the cotton op shop picnic rugs and packed them in. I’m pleased to say that I trialled this with my new yoga class last night and all went well. No one complimented me, no one suggested that I might need a better one either. No feedback at all. It’s all pre recorded video with loads of explanation at beginner level, so zero interaction. There was a moment when I realised that it wasn’t just that this was the final pose and it was going longer than I could enjoy. The internet was groaning and buffering was occurring. No wonder the commentary had stopped. I called a halt eventually and rolled off my bolster. Totally fit for purpose, nothing new, no plastic. Win-win-win.

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Gardening jeans mend

I do follow people who do lovely mending. I read their books and follow their blogs or instagram accounts. I admire Tom of Holland. I appreciate Katrina Rodabaugh. I’ve enjoyed Jessica Marquez and Hikaru Noguchi. I love that mending is coming back into regular use, at least in some circles. But I am definitely not an upscale mender of my own clothing. My own clothing gets worn out in places I’d rather not show off. My gardening jeans get worn fulsomely, and because my back is a weak point, I kneel in the dirt to garden and dress accordingly.

It follows that you wont be getting styling advice from me!

On the left leg here, you can see indigo dyed thread (look closely) which was the first mend of the knees. The white thread is a second mend. And I seem to have taken this photo in the driveway as I set out guerilla gardening some months back, having recently completed a second mend on the right leg, because the fabric had worn through there.

I’m not entirely sure why I’ve stuck with these so long and mended them so much. I often decide that if I’m up for the job then I’ll do it and who cares why. These jeans are like a catalogue of my hand mending skills over a period of time (definite improvement, in case you are wondering). They are comfortable because they are stretch jeans, something I bought at the time and might not choose again. They are also a cotton polyester blend, which I remember being appalled at when I first washed them and realised–I had been too naive to read the label back then. So the longer they stay out of landfill the better–but the bottom end of my jeans drawer has plenty of contenders for gardening jeans in it. Just not quite yet. I am not yet ready to lose these.

And in this picture, a quiet celebration of guerilla gardening success. Ruby saltbush that has made it through a scorching 40C + heatwave, between a concrete path and a corrugated iron fence. Council have begun to trim it like a hedge, bless them. And bless you, ruby saltbush.

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Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Blanket projects

I have some lovely pre-loved wool blanketing, and quite a bit of it has been dyed. In my quest to find good uses to which it can be put, I’ve made a goodly number of items over the last six months or so, and I’m still going. I’m afraid I had another series of repeat projects, dear reader.

Yet more box pouches. Using all manner of zippers from stash.

Such a simple and yet satisfying make! And here is an entirely unrelated cherry ballart for your enjoyment…

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Bias binding

For years, I’ve been making bias binding from old ties. I can’t believe I still have ties left to transform, but there it is. Step 1. Unpick them. It’s always a bit of a revelation to see how glorious the sewing lavished on some ties is, and how fine the fabric of the inner layers, while others are interfaced with paper or cardboard and held together with the minimum number of stitches and a bit of a whispered prayer. There’s a metaphor for something or other…

By the magic of a little gizmo called a bias binding maker, I end up with this! And then I had a go at binding the inside of a waistband. You know, like on some of my clothes that came from a shop! Well. Let it be said this waistband was not my finest sewing hour, though it will do the job. So here is the single, moodily lit (by which I mean DARK) photo of that waistband in process, looking quite good. For a few minutes 🙂

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High Vis vests

I’ve found them in op shops across two states… and they keep trickling in…

It’s a bit of recurring task, dealing with the Extinction Rebellion vests! We were given some pre-loved vests last year and Crafternoon gave me some patches… so eventually this job came to the top of my queue and I re-faced the vests. Well, one of them was just too far gone even for my tastes. I could not rehabilitate it even with two washes and trying several stain removal approaches!

Nothing too complicated going on here!

These go on to be used to keep people safe–doing small road swarms or doing banner drops–and here are a couple being used to make small people visible in a bike swarm…

They are also used to make marshals, arrest support and police liaisons visible and identifiable, where needed. And–we even use them at training so people can tell who is in what role in role plays!

Ah, the humble recycled high vis vest….

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Filed under Activism, Sewing