Category Archives: 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

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

Making trousers

Over the holidays I decided to sort out a pair of shorts I made some time ago.  I copied a pattern from some shorts I had bought at the op shop and made the new pair very carefully.  And from an unsuitable fabric.  They parted way at the seams in crucial places almost immediately and I pouted and put them away.  I took them out in summer and realised I could easily mend them.  They were a great fit–I loved them and wore them all summer, and decided right away that I could use the pattern to make summer weight trousers.

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This appears to be the only in-progress shot.  Setting up for topstitching the fly on the ironing board, using a sticker from a campaign I spent a lot of time on, in the 1990s.  I was still not sure about letting that sticker go–but the stickiness doesn’t last forever.  The fabric is a silk that my mother-out-law gave me.  She keeps claiming to have given up her lifelong sewing career, but I don’t believe her.  I was intimidated by the gift and have never owned silk pants.  Suddenly I knew how to use it, and I now have silk pants!

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I regret that I don’t know how to make an image of trousers that looks any good, as they are so much more complex to create than anything else I make!  One pair was not enough.  I looked at some hemp fabric I bought years back and all of a sudden–I knew what to do with it.  I am sure I always planned something like this for the length of fabric I bought…

I used an old shirt (the apple print) for interfacing.  I used a sunny fabric I already had  for the inside waistband and the pockets.  My stash, as you must have realised, is far too large.  And I used a zip I already had rather than buy another one.  In doing that, I may have made a bad call–it does sometimes peek out  little! One less zip–yes–but this one is really not a match.  I also used thread on hand rather than buy more. It’s not a perfect match but it is just fine.

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The hems used some of my former tie bias binding.  I had to laugh when I went to look for that post–because ‘beguiling details’ is just what I did with the bias binding–using the yellow and black binding in the second-last photo.  I am really happy with these trousers.  The fabric is lovely and they are a pleasure to wear.

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Drawstring bags

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I had a bit of a roll on drawstring bags while I was on holiday.  I like them a lot.  I use small ones for project bags; I travel with things snugly contained in drawstring bags; I keep clean fleece in bags and I store batts ready to spin in drawstring bags too.  So some suitable sized leftovers of lovely fabric were turned to use in this way.

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French seams and drawstrings made with the loop turner (I am getting better at it).  Some of the Berlin patches made their way on to bags created from a very large black linen shirt I’d bought at an op shop.  The black machine embroidery down the front had not faded, the linen had, and it had worn through in some key places… but so much good fabric left!

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I had to use the last scraps up… and eventually the bag jag came to a close.

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Scrap patchwork bags

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The more sewing there is, the more scraps there are.  The more garments get cut up and converted into other things, the more bits and pieces of old clothing are lying around the place.  I notice there are waves of action around here.  Waves where things come apart–clothes get cut up ready to convert, dyeing creates new opportunities, fabrics come out of cupboards, sewing clothes creates leftover pieces of cloth… and then there are waves of coming together, sometimes driven by a sheer need to clean up and manage all those bits.

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Having made one round of bags with printed patches on them, I began to piece onto the remaining patches and to sew scraps together for linings.  Perfectly good pockets coming from clothes that have passed the point of no return (as garments of one kind) were sewn into bag linings for future use.  Eventually, they all came together into four lined bag bodies in search of straps, and all the pieces of old clothing and exhausted tablecloth that had been through one indigo vat or another started to come together as well.

In the end, I decided more denim would really help and invested $4 on the bargain rack at a Red Cross op shop.  Anything that has made it to half price at an op shop is likely on its way to rags or landfill.  If you’re feeling tough minded, or you would like to know what happens to clothing that is donated to op shops in this country, here!  Read this.

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Two bags got linen straps. This one, I think I will send to a fellow climate change activist, someone I met in Newcastle at a protest last year.  I’ve become her friend on facebook and I can see how hard it is for her to be constantly trying to explain how serious the issue facing us all is–and how urgent, while she deals with her own feelings on the subject.  This is a bit of a long distance hug for her, ’cause she’s awesome.

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This one is going to another friend who lives in the country.  She and I go way back.  I can see it’s tough being so far away from so many people she knows and events she might want to attend–though of course there are great things going on at home too. She’s a musician and knitter and gardener and feminist. Also pretty awesome.

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This patch is so like something she wrote a few weeks back I decided as I read–that it should be hers. And in case you’re wondering… there are two still bags to finish!

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Filed under Activism, Sewing

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Shirt

Some time back I bought the pattern for the Jac Shirt (Tessuti Fabrics).  Finally, the time came to make it.  I chose size XL.  Let it be said that what follows is no critique of the pattern but only of my own ways.  I was defeated by the difference between myself and the listed measurements. I just went for the biggest size and, well, how bad could it be?  I can always make the next size smaller if it turns out this was not the right call. I made some adjustments.  And really, I should have known while I did this… that once again I was picturing myself as even bigger than I am, in real life.  How many garments have I made way too large?  (Ahem, for those new to the blog… a considerable number).

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I cut the pattern out, and sacrificed one of my tablecloths for the interfacing.  In an absolute first, embroidered interfacing.  The tablecloth must have been gorgeous for many years of its life but it is now threadbare and stained, the embroidery coming away. I spent some time figuring out how to feature the large designs on the print and how to use the all-over printed matching fabric I had bought some years ago.

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The pattern has very good instructions.  I descended into mystery in a couple of places where mitred corners were so different to the shirt constructions I am accustomed to that apparently I could not accept the evidence of the pattern at some deep level.

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And finally, I have a very lovely shirt with some recycled buttons.  It is… oversized.  I think no adjustment was necessary, apart from to my own personal beliefs!  I will try to remember that next time and plan to make this pattern again, in a different size. Maybe one of the sizes on the envelope?

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Patch bags

My beloved returned from a trip abroad with a gift for me.  Patches made from recycled clothing scraps!  I love them!  And then, a familiar tale unfolded.  Long time readers will feel like they have read this post before.

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I realised that a bag was called for!  Apparently my year of scrap patchwork cross pollinated with my bag lady tendency, and behold.  These patches spoke to me of a friend who describes themself as non binary–not enthusiastic about being understood as male or female.  Disinterested in the whole sport of there being two rigid ideas about how to organise humanity.  You know.  ‘There are two kinds of people…’.

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As a person who wants to be able to do anything–knit and fix the washing machine, embroider and ride a bike… be soft and be loud and be courageous and … you know!  I support my beloved friends in their journeys outside the box.  These bags include scraps from trousers and shirts I’ve made, leftover denim from making jeans, fabric that has been ‘stuff steep and store’-d with madder root, leftover quilt fabric.  You know.  Then some of the patches called to me about another friend and their journey lately.

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I like the denim aesthetic for a nice solid bag, and soon I was digging into the cupboard where garments that are ripe for their next incarnation live.

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Pretty soon the linings were getting pockets. I used to do this with jeans in the 1980s! (More or less).

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A pair of jeans went past the point of mending and were cut up and added to the pile of bag materials.  An old pair of hemp shorts got the cut. Some webbing from goodness knows where became a strap for this zippered bag. You know, variety.

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And, I admit it, I gave one bag away before I took its picture. I loved seeing my friend wearing it on his bike!

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And… I still have some patches and some ‘blocks’.  Watch this space!

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Wandercards

Some time back, I invested in India Flint’s wander cards for wayfaring wonderers.  I’ve had fine times pondering the packs for ‘in the mind and ‘in the armchair’ and left them in their original state for quite some time, but over summer the time came for the blank ones to slide into the dye pot.

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As always (for me–others have more experience and skill, naturally) some blurred into watercolours and some came out crisp and amazing.

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I like them all very much.

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So now I have a pack of extra lovely cards, and of course I had another look at the silk they came wrapped in.  Once I really looked at it, and at the cards… it clearly needed to become a drawstring bag for them to live in.  And so it now is.

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Here is  the other side, under the cards, looking all chocolate and caramel. Well, that says as much about me as it does about the silk!

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A few weeks after that, when I was writing down yet another quote I might like to embroider, and wondering when I will actually make the time to embroider all the inspirational wisdom I might need to carry me through each and every day of the current times, I had a thought.  I will not abandon the embroidery plans, but now I know what is going onto these cards.  Maya Angelou… Maya Stein… and others, of course!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Blue silk bags

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Could I stop at … ahem… was it twelve? I lost count of the bags I had already made…and no, as usual, I couldn’t stop.  I had one more piece of silk that started out a pale blue and ended up more like this.

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There were a few pieces of cream or bronze fabric left and they were pieced in.

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The first has already gone to a lovely friend I was lucky enough to visit with when I went to Brisbane, and the second to a house warming.  And I love the buds, especially!  Well.  I am ready for any number of occasions for gifts now!  In the meantime I am still trying to work out how to wind back the Christmas gifting obligations in my family.  How to honour the ideas of generosity and reciprocity and love that perhaps moved this tradition to come into existence, but to detach from its wasteful and consumerist present.  Maybe I have to begun by asking that I not be given gifts.  Or perhaps talking about how my daughter has clearly decided that from now on she will only buy me second hand gifts.  She reached this decision without discussing it with me specifically–and it has really made me feel that she sees me!  Well.  One step at a time.

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Drawstring silk bags

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Some time ago I dyed some silk I found at the Guild trading table. Just recently though, I stopped looking at it, draped around the place, and realised what it could become. I am hoping these little bags will be pleasing gifts, and in some cases, replace wrapping paper in the coming season of compulsory gifting, which I prefer to involve as little waste as possible, as I have not managed to convert my family to thinking perhaps this is not the best possible way to show our affection for one another. I love giving people gifts, but I find the compulsory nature of it and the set date, just leads to waste, and giving and getting things that are not always wanted or needed.

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You knew where this was going, didn’t you?  I couldn’t possibly stop at one or two.

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I think it is partly the satisfaction of figuring something out and routinising it.  Practising it.  Being able to create a little system.  This wouldn’t satisfy every mind, but evidently there is something in it for me.

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I think it is also as simple as getting on a roll and being able to make maximum use of a piece of fabric. Again, not something that has an inherent logic that would work for everyone. And clearly the attitude of a person who has an outward bound stash rather than just one precious piece of fabric. I enjoyed piecing together some of the fabric so I could use it all, as you can see.

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I also made one from one of the fronts of a linen shirt dyed some time ago. The bronze-coloured fabric became two larger bags with double draw strings. And so here I am, hours of pleasurable bag making behind me and happy times of gifting ahead!  I hope your plans for the gifting season are going well…

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing