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).
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!
I made another pair of soft shoes, with leather scrap soles from the stash, and a nice old pair of tracksuit pants providing insulation. I guess-graded up the Spoonflower pattern to the growing foot of the grandbub…
These seemed to be some kind of sample–each labeled with a colour, like a paint swatch card! I figured the bub wouldn’t care. The outers are little scraps from a hand printed table runner I bought at Oxfam and converted to a beautiful bag. Now the final scraps have gone to a lovely use too.
At an early point in lockdown, a passing superstar delivered patches for a new round of bags. They came with a hand folded envelope of marigold seeds! And it was quite a big pile. I decided to deal with it ten bags at a time. Sometimes I lose my mind and have dozens of part finished bags lying around for extended periods.
Then I started in on a friend’s mother’s stash. Her dear and lovely mother has now been gone for long enough that her stash can be passed on.
This also has allowed me to use up some of my offcut pile, pieces so small even I usually don’t use them for patchwork. Some is becoming interfacing for bag straps.
So there it is, the first ten. It might have been eleven at some stage….
The lovely Marion from Beautiful Silks sent me two sets of blanks for “moko trews”–trousers for the grandbub. One layer in cotton (the lining) and one in silky merino (the outer).
They were just so glorious! I dyed the outers and set about constructing them. It took a little while and then they were just SO cute!
Into the very slow mail service they went. Weeks passed. At the time, this was not surprising.
Australia Post says they were delivered and left in a safe place, but apparently not, because they have utterly vanished. And so, my friends, has a second parcel.
I made some more baby shoes–graded up in size, insulated for warmth, and hand embroidered, with nice stout soles. Let’s overlook their defects…
I very much hope that these two parcels ended up with people who could use these items so lovingly made and involving such a kind gift to me… and not just in someone’s bin by the side of a road. I wish they could at least have left my cards to the dear ones that I have now not seen in person for months, whose comfort I’ve been trying to raise in times of challenge. But I guess I’ll never know.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!