Small projects, big plans

A while ago I went to The Drapery to buy zippers, and The Drapery is far more tempting to me than the chain alternatives, so I came away with a fat quarter (or something like that) of Liberty lawn.  My Mother-Out-Law loves Liberty prints, so I tried to inhabit her aesthetic and chose this one.  She is a rather petite woman, so I made four small handkerchieves and I am reliably informed that she loves them! Naturally (in her case–the other gift she enjoys is stationery) she sent me a lovely card, and observed that only another sewer would recognise the rolled hems as a special achievement.  I feel so lucky to have out-laws who are so kind and lovely.

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Then there was the very last of these bags.

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This time I chose madder and indigo dyed threads.

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The madder dyed silk in the centre of this circle was dyed at my house, (the madder and indigo purple by Beautiful Silks), and it is SO red!

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There have been other small projects piling up, but there has also been a development.  We went to the Royal Show again this year and Suffolks were the featured sheep breed.  This beauty evidently didn’t stand still (or perhaps it was me who did the wriggling).

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I tried to speak with breeders in hopes of acquiring a fleece and discovered again that I’m really quite shy.  My beloved was much better at it.  We spoke to breeders from WA and Tasmania who did not bring fleece, and then found one from Kangaroo Island who was happy enough to sell me a fleece if I was sure I wanted to spin from a meat sheep and did I realise this is sold as carpet wool? It’s so sad to think that the long history of this breed as a source of wool for specific uses such as socks, has been all but lost even among lovers of the breed.

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Malcolm called me on the weekend and we had a chat.  We agreed on one fleece and a price that I thought was too low, and what do you know?  I put one and a half times the price in an envelope and he delivered two fleeces, or is it three?  He threw in a “black” fleece because these sell for even less than the $3 or $4 per kilo that Malcolm gets for white Suffolk fleece.  Last night I skirted it at the Guild Hall and it is grey and dark brown, cream and white (I suspect, under the dirt).  I can only confirm that I won’t need another delivery in October: this is a LOT of wool.  I’ve never raised a sheep, and it’s entirely possible Malcolm doesn’t know how long it takes to spin sock yarn!  However, the fleece I skirted last night is lovely. I’ve had little access to Suffolk to date and spun what I had suspected was poor quality fleece with a very short staple.  This has a high crimp staple of at least 8-10 cm in places, and while the coloration lowers its value for industrial processing, for me it is a real asset.  I washed a small quantity before work this morning, I’m so keen to get spinning…

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Garden colours jumper

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This is the Orphans for Orphans sweater from Knitting for Peace.  This is the third time I’ve knit this design and it is an ingenious, easy pattern that lends itself to wool in odd amounts and various colours.  This one is made from handspun local wool and dyed with plants from my garden: woad, coreopsis, eucalyptus, woad + coreopsis.

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Where the woad vat was running out, the natural grey of the wool shows through. I cast it on, on an excitable day of knitting confidence when I decided it would fit someone I know!  I think in fact the likeliest candidate is the daughter of the sweethearts who gave me Knitting for Peace. She is no orphan but a delightful and extremely well loved small human.  And if not her, then some other treasure…

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Sometimes it happens that I look at a random selection of yarns and suddenly see what it could become.  This was one such case.  It has some wonkiness to be going on with, but quite frankly, any jumper that isn’t wonky before it goes onto a small person hopefully becomes wonky through sheer activity soon afterward. I’m reliably informed that the recipient is a fine appreciator of knitwear and that she held it close all the way home.  That’s a lovely start!

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The Island Book with India Flint

On the weekend I had the good opportunity (due to a cancellation) of being able to attend a workshop with India Flint at the Aldinga Eco-Village, exploring plant dyeing on paper and a book structure called the Island Book.

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In the beginning, there was poetry and chat, thread and tea and blank paper.

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Then there was some drawing with your non-dominant hand.  Well, personally, I was so overcome by DRAWING that I used my dominant hand and didn’t remember the non dominant part (and stuck with it when it was mentioned to me–you have heard my confession, friends).

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Then there was a mighty lot of embellishing and stitching and some distressing (of the paper and fabric, you understand–no salty tears involved).  There was mud in some cases.  And lunch, never forget lunch. Stone soup!

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Then, folding.

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Cutting and tearing and demonstration of other book structures.

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And then wandering and collecting plants to try out and cooking the books!  Finally, there was gleeful and cheerful wandering out into the world with damp books and our handmade tsunobokuro bags to wrap these or other treasures in. A glorious day all round, with thanks to the lovely Susan, our host and organiser!

 

 

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New knitting bag

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I have ethical questions about cutting up garments at times.  For example, should I leave them in the op shop for someone who might use them as they are rather than treating them as raw materials?  Not to mention, how about using what I already have and not getting anything more, even second hand? I have to admit that other days I think about how much textile waste is thrown away in the overdeveloped world and think I should just go wild if I have a good idea.  But my ethical quibbles are completely swept away when I confront the bargain rack at the op shop, where things have failed to sell and the next stop is rags.  Which is how the linen jacket above (and a pair of jeans) came home with me a little while back. The jacket had clearly gone through the washing machine despite its dry clean only tag (I understand, dry cleaning is an evil chemical process and expensive as well), and the interfacing had not shrunk at the same rate as the linen.  And that, my friends, is how I found myself ripping an Armani suit into its component parts!

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This process entertained two friends who don’t share my fascination with garment construction mightily.  I’ve read about the signature Armani interior pocket in my wanderings through Threads Magazine.  And here it is!  Not to mention so much interfacing, of about five different types. In the end some of the jacket lining and the interior pockets became part of this lining.

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And the lining was set into an eco print on silk left from dye camp summer 2017.

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And finally, I have a new knitting bag.  I’ve lost one, and one needs comprehensive mending… and this one has luxury interior pockets for all my little stuff (stitch markers, needles).  I’m a happy knitter!  And the linen has hit a bucket of soy milk, the better to meet its new destiny.

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Rost

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I knit another design by Kit Couture. This design is called Rost.  I admit, I chose it without asking my dear friend if he would like it, but I was very relieved when I checked in with him and he agreed he would like it!  Quite appropriately, I finished it while he was in Norway, much closer to Denmark than usual.

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I love the design.  It starts at the neck and is knit in the round from the neck down, so the yoke is one of the earliest steps.  It was so much fun knitting this part, though I look at designs that are colour work all the way to the hem and that doesn’t seem like fun to me. This was a great match of (pattern) challenge to (my knitting) capacity. I still have some colour knitting tension issues.  My last effort was, if anything, too loose.  This time, it is a little tight.  When he tried it on while in progress, my friend admired the corrugation in the yoke and marvelled over how I could be so clever as to create it.  I decided against making a big issue out of it being a flaw!  But it did not block out (as I had hoped it would) so it’s lucky that he likes it and it looks great unless you’re examining it as a fault in the knitting.  I can live with imperfection, as it turns out. It was reassuring to try it on him a couple of times as it progressed–it is a great fit and looks fabulous on him (in my humble opinion).

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After the yoke, the body is knit down to the hem, and then each sleeve is knit on in the round.  For me, knitting in the round is the obvious way to proceed (because socks), and this is the knitting strategy I have adopted on some garments I have designed myself, learned from books adopting Scandinavian knitting processes.

If I had this design in black and white and had to choose colours for it, I would never have chosen these colours.  I think this is one boon of knitting from a kit (or from a pattern and using the prescribed yarns, something I don’t remember ever having done).  In all honesty, part of what has been so interesting about these two Kit Couture knits has been having almost all the choices made for me.  Knitting with handspun is not like this at all, and knitting these has felt so easy!  It turns out it is not the complexity of the knitting that feels hard for me in making up my own patterns or knitting with handspun, it’s the decision making. This is an extraordinary freedom, but I think I had already noticed that the degree of challenge is sometimes more than I can easily manage.  Either I lack the confidence or I just feel too tired to decide in the pieces of time in which I knit.

Repetitive, simple knitting makes up a lot of the knitting I do, and it has to. In the environments in which I knit,  counting is impossible or rude and referring to the pattern all the time, likewise inappropriate or not manageable.  Colour choice is not my strength either.  I only make wild colour choices where the risk is low.  Garments that won’t be seen (socks–I am knitting some lurid socks right now); things that will not be worn (tea cosies), recipients who make decisions for me or are excited about my random colour ways, bless them one and all.

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The kit is also unspeakably cute: all those balls of wool lined up in cute little rows in a beautiful card board box, with a darning needle, picture, instructions and some Danish liquorice treats.  And this wool was cushy (merino, my friends) and fat and even.  I love knitting handspun and some of mine is very even (while some is certainly not). Cushy is harder to achieve for me, and I haven’t knit a garment on 5.5 mms before.  Fast! Sensational, especially on something so big.  Entertainingly enough this garment required only the same kind of frankenfitting for father as Sotra required for son: everything needed to be longer than the largest size but only as wide as the smallest. This is the simple kind of fitting I can mange without difficulty.  I can’t wait to hand it over, even though today is the last day of winter! And, something about knitting these kits has made me want to knit and knit and built up my confidence for big knitting (jumpers, not socks).  There was a rash of casting on as soon as I finished it…

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Indigo and cochineal Jaywalkers

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A while back I acquired some merino-silk 4 ply (fingering) yarn to use as a no-nylon sock yarn.

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Of course, it all started out white.  Over time, some was dyed in legacy logwood.  Some with legacy cochineal, and some with indigo.  Then I decided on overdyeing the cochineal to create stripes and spots, creating some deep pink-purple and some blue sections where I had tied resists during the first dyeing in cochineal.

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There was hospital knitting, nursing home knitting, public transport knitting as ever, meeting knitting.

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There was even knitting during an experimental opera!

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And now there are socks.  The pattern is an old favourite, Jaywalker, by Grumperina.  It doesn’t stretch much but it stays up and it looks great.

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They are destined to be added to India Flint’s collection… bless her creative mind and nimble fingers and keep her toes warm, I say!

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Bags… you know how this goes!

I had another breakout of bags recently.  You know how it is with me and bags–I start one and make more than you can imagine! Some were made from offcuts, some from eco prints.  An entire pair of RM Williams pants that had made it to the bargain rack at the op shop met their new destiny too.

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Here they are with bag bodies and bag linings in position (mmm–mismatched seams in evidence) and (RM Williams) straps cut and stitched and ready to be stitched on, waiting for another day.

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This one was made from the offcuts of a shirt I made last year, and it found a new home very quickly as such a fabulous print should.  Hence the hurried photo.  A rather striking E Scoparia print went to the same happy home, but my picture of it was so blurred I have decided to spare you.  And here are the rest: a bark cloth print that somehow found its way into my stash second hand and well loved which is also currently covering my ironing board–and–leaf prints on cotton and silk.

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Leafy Clothing

I had a little holiday in Allansford in the middle of the year, and since I stayed at Beautiful Silks–it involved stitching and dyeing.  Perfect.  I also broke my commitments against buying stuff and invested in a pile of fabric from the scraps and oddments department at Beautiful Silks and some silky merino. And there was some op shopping too!

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Some fabrics hit the dye pots while I was still in Victoria!  The ever-generous Marion showed me some of her favourite local dye trees, including plants I had not been able to coax much colour from or simply didn’t know.  And some wonderful greens resulted.

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I have a very basic home made singlet pattern, and managed to get the front from a silk knit and the back from silky merino after cutting a larger garment out.

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So now I have this machine seamed, hand finished piece of splendid. The front:

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And the back:

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It’s a bit sad so few people will ever see it.

 

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Needlebooks

I made another little stack of needlebooks.  I have been accumulating tins that can become mending kits as I assemble all their elements over time.  I figure I will be teaching mending again sooner or later.

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I love how these little pieces use tiny scraps (in this case, blanket offcuts) and yet turn them into something that is useful and perhaps also lovely.  I also enjoy choosing plant dyed threads that work with the section of print I am using.  Sometimes I change thread colour as I go or as the thread remaining in that colour runs out.

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I made an exception here and used indigo dyed thread my beloved brought home from Japan for the coreopsis flower print, because–the print itself seemed to call for it.  I can feel the time drawing closer when I will need to open my stuff, steep and store jars and see what new silk thread options they offer.  How have I managed to wait so long?

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Epic jeans mending

So my gardening jeans are many years old and have long since passed out of being suitable for  wear in polite company.  But my jeans do tend to wear through in places that I don’t really want to draw attention to. They have reached the point where I’m at risk of the fabric suddenly and dramatically parting company. But these are comfortable and fit for purpose otherwise. And won’t be easier to mend if they do rip dramatically.

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I kept thinking it might be time to let them go, but one night I decided against that.  What to do?  I made a paper pattern of the section I decided to try patching, so I could make the patch go all the way onto the seams. Then I cut patch pieces from the leg of another pair of jeans.

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I now hold my grandmother’s pinking shears, so I decided to pink the edges of the patching.

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I am a slacker so I pinned them on and then tacked by machine.  I know that hand stitched patching can be a lovely thing, but I have tried it in this part of a pair of jeans and the stitching wore off on the outside!  And, the less obtrusive the better.  This is not a situation for the visible mending programme, though I am in favour of it, in general.

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I did some early stitching to hold the patch in place and then stitched around the perimeter. This was followed by a lot of straight stitching up and back again in the most worn sections.

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And–the finished item actually looks slightly better than the original did, with lots of machine stitching in grey–the colour that was the best match to the fabric at this stage in its decay. These jeans will never return to their prime and don’t need to look glorious.  That’s probably part of why I was prepared to do an epic mend: I love a low stakes project.

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And now, we see how that wears! They will be back in the garden on the weekend for sure.

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