Yarn bombing


Sometimes a person spins a yarn but there isn’t anything sensible to knit it into.  Perhaps there isn’t really enough of it, or it was an experiment.  Or it’s badly spun.  or too… something… to ever be a garment.  This is banana fibre and wool dyed with madder exhaust, being knit on an evening in Warrnambool a while back. Not enough for anything I can think of.  What to do?  Well, the title of the post gave it away.

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I’ve been working my way through all kinds of leftover weirdness in my stash (and needless to say, creating more weirdness as I go).  One fine day over Easter I went for a walk with these.

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Here is the banana fibre.


This is combing waste from spinning sock yarn.

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All those short ends and grass seeds, so troublesome in a sock, won’t bother anyone now! While I was applying this one to a pole, a local sculptor pulled up on his mozzie bike and had quite a chat about what I was doing and what he was doing and the importance of treating one’s neighbourhood as a shared place for beautification, care, thought and cleaning up.  I’d seen his sculptures around and he’d seen my “beloved tree” banners.  Now we’ve met.


This is lock spinning over a core, leftover from knitting a tea cosy (another good use for weird wools). Now it is over by a tram stop.

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Badly spun coils that won’t hold together for long unless felted.


Now adorning a pole… where they will felt in the weather.

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Core spinning–it made a great tea cosy, but there were just a couple of metres left!

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Indigo dyed carding waste.

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What even is that?? Well, now it’s a blur of colour as you ride your bike past!

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Leftover strips of indigo dyed worn out t shirts the main parts of which are slowly awaiting conversion to their next life (cut out and partly stitched).


Close up…

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This one is at a tram stop.  I wonder how long it will last? Finding out is part of the fun of yarn bombing…

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Spinning

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.


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!


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.


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.




Filed under Sewing

Drawstring bags


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.


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!


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



Filed under Sewing

Scrap patchwork bags


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.


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

Prints on silk


While I was at dye camp, I had access to plants I usually would not be able to use, and silk fabrics that I don’t usually have, and so of course, experiments occurred…


I thought you might enjoy seeing them!



Filed under Natural dyeing

It’s that time of year…


…the time of year when the calendars get turned into envelopes.  I was a bit surprised to find that we had three calendars kicking around the house.  Admittedly, one of them had been on the wall for two years with scant attention to the dates because the pictures are glorious but the seasons are for the other side of the planet.  The seed saving envelopes are especially good looking this year…


And since I had the Trees for Life calendar, which I loved all year long, I now have seed-themed envelopes as well as envelopes for seed-saving. Somehow that’s a happy thing! If you are longing to make your own, there is a tutorial above under the How To tab.  Enjoy!




Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Fleece processing, dyeing and spinning


Over the holiday, more local fleeces arrived.  This is the view down into a chicken feed sack full of greasy fleece.  I washed, I dried wet fleece in summer heat, I even managed to do some carding. I now have various wools dyed with woad or indigo exhausts as well as good old naturally brown or grey wool. I have taught a few beginners to dye at our evening spinning group at the Guild in the last while (or at least, I’ve been one of the people helping them to learn) and sometimes people are just so overcome at being given wool.  In the future they will know that the real gift is time and effort. But I do try to let them know that I have a lot of wool and that I am happy to share.


People were generous to me as a beginner spinner, and I love to share spinning (as well as wool).  I finally spun some llama fleece a friend at the Guild gave me in the spirit of adventure.  It came out OK but it did have a lot of guard hair in it, so I’ll have to give thought to what it might become.


Here’s a another skein–woad on grey, I believe.


And here are indigo and indigo dyed over yellows. I realise it is better practise to dye blue first and yellow after, but, well, I didn’t like the yellows too much and just decided to dye and see!  I love these colours. But my thoughts are beginning to turn toward eucalypts and their oranges and reds again…



Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Making friends with the roll hemming foot, or Transformations: Torn sheet to napkins, hankies and string

When I bought my sewing machine, it came with two free sewing lessons.  They are the only machine sewing lessons I’ve had since half way through my first year in high school, when home economics and tech studies diverged and I was in the first cohort of girls allowed to do tech studies.  At that point home economics had stretched to making a gingham pillowcase and learning how to van dyke an orange.  It wasn’t looking promising to me. So I learned how to use a band saw, and how to solder and weld instead.  And how to stare down a queue of boys who all want to see you fail on a big piece of machinery!

I remember some of the demonstrations in those sewing lessons.  The teacher had extremely firm views and a level of competence and confidence my mother never had (I am sure she had a lot more training than my mother and she definitely had a much better sewing machine).  I saw feet demonstrated and techniques shown that I had never imagined possible.  Mostly because they were not possible on my previous and only other machine.  Well, this one came with a roll hemming foot that I could not imagine having a use for.

The use appeared a while back when I decided that making handkerchiefs and napkins might be a thing I could do, and when I was looking at an entire bed sheet as the fabric to be converted to handkerchiefs, I decided I wouldn’t be doing it by hand like my grandmother taught me.  She must have been so delighted by the hours of silence when she gave me a square of fabric to hem nicely into a hanky!  I don’t think my sisters were quite as excited by the task as I was.  Well, since that bed sheet gave up the ghost as a sheet, it has been hemmed, dyed in woad and indigo and euc leaves, and shared widely.  Over the holidays I went to a big chain fabric store and failed to leave without more fabric–two 40cm strips of fine cotton came home with me and you can see them above, now turned into hankies.  It had me thinking that having a whole sheet to practise on had really built my confidence.

Now, another sheet has called it a day.  You know when fabric parts company with itself so comprehensively that no amount of sewing edges together will sort it out, and the size of the patch needed to hold that fitted sheet together will be almost as big as the mattress top?  Soft, delicious, well washed cotton.  Ready for transformation. If you would like to make friends with a roll hemming foot (and you can sometimes buy they separately if your machine didn’t come equipped with one)… here are my tips.

Step 1. Read the manual.  Maybe it’s just me, but on my machine the process is not intuitive and the instructions are a big help.  I read them four times before finally following them correctly.  I think I have mentioned the role of user error in my life a few times on this blog!  If you don’t have a manual, it’s worth searching online, even for old machines.

Step 2. Prepare to be patient with yourself and the machine. Music?  Silence?  Stretch? Cup of tea?

Step 3. Make sure you have matching thread in the bobbin and in the upper thread.  Or maybe you don’t commit such crimes against sewing.  Clean and oil the bobbin race while you’re at it.

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Step 4. Make sure you have an appropriate needle in place for fine fabric and that it is sharp.  Don’t be using one that has already had a lot of use, or one made for stretch fabrics, because it will push your fabric into the down-below in a most frustrating manner when you try to take your first stitches.

Step 5. Find a scrap of fabric, preferably an offcut from your intended fabric, and fold it so that it has as many layers as your hem will have and is about the same thickness. Run a line of stitching across it until you get to the edge.  Leave it in position.  This will let you do two things: make sure the foot is level as you begin if you are stitching over a hemmed edge, and make sure you have something to hold on to if you need to maneuver your napkin fabric into position.

Step 6. Plan your sewing.  It might just be me, but I find beginning the hem the hardest part.  If I can hem a long piece of fabric all at once, I will always choose this strategy, and then cut it into napkins and have two shorter hems to manage, not four.

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Step 7. Having prepared your fabric as the manual dictates, and ironed the edge you will be hemming nice and smooth, reduce your stitch length to very small (1.5mm works for me).  Work a couple of stitches. If your fabric descends into the machine, raise the needle and the foot, and gently pull everything taut, with one hand on your napkin-in-construction and one on your scrap fabric.  Check everything is in the position you want it in, lower the foot and begin to sew.  If at first you turn out to be sewing in one spot, stop again.  Raise needle and foot. Pull taut again, and move the fabric fractionally.  Do not pull while you are stitching.  If you don’t know what happens when you do this, I salute your good habits and patience. Take another stitch, until the feed dogs engage and the machine is moving the fabric.  Then you can get your rolled hem going smoothly, and you’re off!  Finish with some more tiny stitches, because back stitching is unlikely to work out.

Step 8. Once you have one napkin or length of fabric hemmed, leave it there and use to to maneuver the next piece you need to hem, much as you used the scrap fabric the first time.

Step 9. Once you begin to need to create a hem over a hemmed edge, clip the hemmed edge on the diagonal at the beginning and end of your hem ever so slightly.  You will have less of a hump at the start (which will make getting your stitching started simpler) and it will reduce the chance that your fabric gets stuck in the roll hemmer at the end.

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Step 10. Practice, practice, practice! And pretty soon, you will have a stack of napkins, a stack of hankies, some cotton string from torn off hems, and a few bits of rag/interfacing/foundation for patchwork!

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Filed under Natural dyeing

Happy International Women’s Day!


Happy international women’s day, my friends!  I am feeling grateful today for all the women who came before me and put in such hard work to see that future generations (me included) would have the benefit of the vote, the right to run for parliament, and something much closer to equal pay than they ever knew.  And access to the professions, and to choices about marriage and family life.  And education.  And meaningful responses to violence in all its forms.  And so much more!


These images are of two of the champions of women;’s rights in my own little part of the world, Mary Lee and Dame Roma Mitchell.  I am celebrating today by going to sing I Can’t Keep Quiet in the International Women’s Day March.  We did a lovely flashmob a few weeks back with MILCK’s song, so some of us have practised up!  And in preparation for today, I knit some pussy hats.  I began with cochineal dyed wool.  I had been wondering when I would ever use it, and recognised this as the time!

Soon, I was off!

I decided to knit my pussy hats in the round, because, you know.  That’s how I roll on anything that could be knit in the round, and I’m not afraid to graft (Kitchener stitch).

Knitting while blogging?

Knitting on the train, because I usually do.  I just kept churning them out until I ran out of wool. Then I had some pinky purple-y handspun and it was a faster knit than the 8 ply (DK) commercial wool.  Finally, I had 4 pussy hats and a lot of conversations with people about what I was knitting that led to raised eyebrows and then conversations about contemporary politics and the inappropriateness of bragging about sexual assault.  I popped them in the mail to an Education Union in Victoria that was calling out for women to wear them in their IWD march.  I’m a member of a different education union, so that seemed completely appropriate to me.  I hope some women in Victoria will be stepping out in handmade pussy hats tonight and feeling fine!



Filed under Craftivism, Knitting, Natural dyeing