Long, long ago (the 1980s) I was a university student in the days before voluntary student unionism. Everyone paid a student union fee, and a lot of student services were paid for in this way, that no longer exist on university campuses in Australia. On my campus there was a craft studio. It was a thing of wonder to me that there was a space with a part time staff member where you could go and make stuff for free or for cheap. The woman who ran it would teach you things at a basic level and let you go. As a young activist, I learned how to do basic screenprinting, and in the days before photocopying and laser printing were freely available and good to look at, this is the way we created posters for events or occasionally, t shirts.
There is nothing fancy about my skills and lack of practice has not improved them, I’m sure. But to my surprise sometimes at Extinction Rebellion crafternoon I’ve been the one teaching screen printing, because others don’t know how, at all. The embrace of imperfection in Extinction Rebellion is a good fit for my lived imperfection. Before we went to lockdown, I had borrowed one of the very much preloved and probably 1980s era silk screens that had been donated to us and a friend’s squeegee. I had op shopped up sheets in good colours (and some that are less good)… and now I’ve also had time for digging around for stencil artwork and creating some of my own. I made this screen with stuff from an art shop (that was not available in the 1980s!!)
Plus the traditional one, cut in this case from a roll of second hand wallpaper from the Adelaide Remakery.
Between them, my first effort resulted in a lot of patches and my second, in patches and some bag blanks…
And some of them turned out quite well, especially considering the less than perfect combination of a very much used screen and my basic skills.
I received a copy of Make and Mend by Jessica Marquez for Christmas, and I just can’t resist a bag, apparently. I loved the idea of a feature embroidered pocket, and did I ever have jeans in need of transformation. Some from op shops and some from friends who have heard I can make something from their dead clothing.
I found a nice sized tin for the needed supplies and well before we hit this current period of staying home, I was stitching my way through train trips and visits and such like.
I liked the first one so much it grew into a series (those who have followed this blog for a while will recognise this phenomenon). Eventually I batched out the straps and the bags and the linings, several of which were made with last summer’s indigo experiments.
Eventually I had a series of bags. My father actually commented that one of these was quite elegant. Coming from him, an astonishing compliment!
And the view from the back. A project so thoroughly satisfying that as I write this post I have started stitching some more pockets!!
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!
Some time back, I dyed the last of my Tonne of Wool Tasmanian cormo handspun yarn. It is soooo soft I decided to make for the grandbub with it.
And with little knits, there just isn’t a long story to tell! This person now has an 11 cm long foot, bless her. These are the Baby-Hausschuhe from Ines Sttrickt (available for free, and in several languages).
I have now received a video of the grandbub rolling around on the floor with these on her little feet. And I get calls with narration sometimes, like “now she is throwing them in the air”… “now she is banging them together” and “sometimes they stay on for hours!”
In one of the patches I garden, there has been flooding in one part and drought in another for an extended time. I noticed it quite some time ago. I couldn’t figure out why, and chose plantings accordingly (as both flood and drought had caused the original plantings to die off).
Recently I figured out the problem.
It’s a nice, clean cut. I can’t see any way this can have happened, other than someone cutting it, with a tool, in two places. Mind you, that might be my limited imagination.
A friend helped me understand the way the watering system was constructed in a way that made me understand that I could fix it. Now maybe I should just have called the council. But actually, I call them pretty regularly to report things like this, and this time I couldn’t bear to. Instead, today I put my tools in my bucket, took a feed sack, and went to sort it out myself. Not pretty, but I used what I had. Not perfect, but surely an improvement. I just removed the century clips the way Dad taught me, subbed in a generous length of garden hose, and tightened up the clips again. Let’s see how the cycle of flood and drought goes now!
Remember the sock kits I made? Here’s the first one. Something about the rambunctious glory of these leftovers made my fingers tingle, so I just made a start and…
I have been knitting through Zoom events where I’m not taking minutes or some other central role… I admit I am surprised to find that I am watching very little TV in this period.
And the other sock…
These are going to their new happy home tomorrow on the return trip of the person who delivers vegetables from our friends’ organic market garden. They will have some company on their trip… Felted Clogs, from the Knitted Slipper Book By Katie Startzman.
So remember those slipper kits? I made a LOT of slippers. These are Felted Clogs, from the Knitted Slipper Book By Katie Startzman, pre-felting.
And these were not all… These are the Felted Clogs (not yet felted) by Bev Galeskas, may her legacy be a blessing.
So many wools here–handspun alpaca, legacy naturally coloured handspun and millspun left by a friend’s mother when she died. Handspun that had been in a logwood exhaust bath or three. Grey handspun that had been through an indigo vat. All kinds of bits and pieces of handspun in all kinds of blue to purple colours. Leftovers from that vest my mother-out-law made from 4 ply alpaca. Actually there were some more that were vibrant green, from m*th damaged wool that a friend gave me.
Here’s where I confess though, that I forgot to take photos of some parts of the process! Some of these looked so odd that I overdyed them to create a better match.
Here is a random image of one pair on the clothes rack… These next ones hit a dye pot because… well, you can see why!
And there the path ends. I decided to get on and dye and felt these because there are just so many unfinished projects in this house right now it’s becoming an issue for me! And then I waited for them to dry and… one pair went in the post to a friend who feels the cold extremely, together with a random pair of socks that were in the back of a cupboard awaiting darning. Darned up and ready to go, she will receive them and the slippers with glee (I’ve checked). Another pair of slippers have gone to a friend who mentioned she’d always wanted a pair of my slippers–by mail, which could take a while right now. A third pair went to another darling in my life who has already sent a picture of his feet up, looking very green and very snug! He was going to the Farmer’s Markets, so he took the logwood pair and the coloured fleece pair to gift on to friends who are organic farmers. And now I have just one pair left, and I have a thought about them too… but no more pictures!! Now you see them, now you don’t!
A little gentle, socially distanced guerilla gardening has continued over the last while.
Sedge planting went first–in co-operation with others who have a more authorised relationship with the Council. There was a man playing his clarinet in the park the day these went in beside Brownhill Creek.
These are Cyperus gymnocaulos, Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes. Do follow the link to hear Aunty Ellen Trevorrow share her wisdom about the rushes and the basket weaving, its deeper meanings and Ngarrindjeri weaving traditions. The Aunties gave all of us who did a workshop with them years ago some starts, and these rushes are propagated from plants I’ve established from those starts.
These saltbushes went out into a new spot I’m gardening where a lot of the original planting died a long time ago. Here’s where they have gone into the ground…
And here’s the traditional shot of what I brought home!
Then more saltbushes… in a different part of the same area.
Here they are tucked in alongside the watering system. It seems to me part of the watering system has died and part of it is flooding an area of the planting area–and that is contributing to what has died and what has lived, so I’m planting drought tolerant species in the very dry area and those that might enjoy the water in the spot where the water struggles to drain away, and we will see how that goes.
But wait! There’s more!
This time sheoak as well as saltbush…
This roll of very quiet planting has been driven by the welcome arrival of rain. So heavenly. I have just a few plants left now and need to get cuttings in for next planting season!
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!