It all began with a visit with friends, who took us for a trip through part of Tasmania, months ago. We went to a country market and right beside it was Wafu Works. What a place! Full of all kinds of Japanese paper, textiles and tools. I ended up with some thread an sashiko needles, and bought a kit to make a rice bag with some gift money… Indigo dyed fabrics on the outside, a red lining and a drawstring cord.
I was so intrigued. I learned a new stitch and a cunning construction. I loved the vintage fabrics. You know what happened next, right? I paired the leftover fabric with some of my own indigo dyeing, and cut up a mauve linen shirt I remember buying about 16 years ago for the lining, and pieced the scraps together…
In the end I made three, and I’m now itching to make more…
I decided to raid my stash of pockets. They have been cut out of garments I am turning into other things (like bags!) and here they are now, stitched to the inside of Boomerang Bags.
What bags? I hear you asking. These bags. Historical cotton, and upholstery fabric left for me by the charming BB volunteer organiser who collected my last lot of completed bags (she apparently does not understand the supply issue at my place is oversupply).
Oh, and I mean these bags too.
And these! I have now reached the end of the 1980s eye-bleeding fabrics from hard rubbish and moved back to whittling away the back catalogue of fabrics I have inherited, bought, thrifted, or upcycled from garments and manchester. Scraps are getting thinner in the cupboards. My love of tablecloths shows less. The ancient pairs of trousers and jeans ran out and I have acquired some jeans through the op shop so I have sturdy fabric for places I need it (handles, for example). In fact, I have started reorganising the supplies in the room I use to sew, and I’ve also decided to release some fabrics into the wild. Some were needed for a friend’s school project, and he liked some fake fur scraps so much they went home with him too. I took some more to the Guild last night because… I am reaching layers of my own stash that I cannot imagine ever using and there is no obvious reason I should keep them instead of taking them to places where other people might enjoy them! And… twelve or more fully lined Boomerang bags are under construction and moving gradually to the finish line right now.
As people who read this blog regularly already know, I make a lot of bags, and I almost always give them away. So when Boomerang Bags started up in Adelaide (and it wasn’t started by me–woot!) it seemed entirely logical to join their end single use plastics interventions by making bags for them. I made an initial 6 and gave 5 away. This time I committed to making bags for a stall on World Environment Day and one of the sweethearts from the local group dropped 12 labels at my place.
Some of the labels were apple green (hard to colour co-ordinate), and I’ve noticed that many of the bags the group creates are made in floral prints. I’m going out on a limb assuming there are other folk like me who would prefer a not-so-floral bag. So–I checked to see what relatively plain fabrics I might have and decided the time had come for some unloved trousers made by me over ten years ago. I’ve worn them a lot over about a decade, even though I had to face the hash I made of the welt pockets every single time. Never again! Here they are cut into their constituent parts, and below–as bags.
A pair of hemp pants that have never really fit, and are so badly made I’ve mended them several times in a life of few washes and wears. A couple more pairs of trousers that I won’t wear again. Two pairs of op shop jeans saved for a day I need denim, and a pair of op shop linen pants, ditto. Orange linen picked up at the tip shop outside Hobart for a song (because who wouldn’t take their mates to the tip shop if you were passing?) Some repurposed canvas cushion backing dyed with eucalypts.
Oh, the pockets! It’s a shame to let a well constructed pocket go, so these are now features!
Needless to say there was constructive piecing on the outside, and where the outsides were pieced together, there are linings (often pieced too).
So now my thirteen bags have gone to Boomerang Bags, and I have more labels. I inherit fabric and have fabric dropped off at my place faster than I can re-home it. I still have unloved wardrobe items and clothing past use by date. I have clothing that is upwards of 20 years old, some parts reclaimable and op shop items salvaged for repurposing. So, I believe I can keep at this project for the foreseeable future without concern for supplies and with benefits for my cupboards.
Did you really think I could stop at… oh… ten or twelve bags (especially as I was on holiday)? Naturally, I could not. I went to the Guild and there was a pile of denim offcuts. You know how it is.
They all turned out to be different denims, each one reasonably narrow but the width of the bolt. No concern to me. I paired some with a yellow open weave linen (I think) I have inherited. I made several of these and they look quite elegant.
This patch was found on the footpath in Melbourne in December. It seemed wrong to leave it there to the wind, rain, mud and passing shoes and dogs, until it found its way into the stormwater drain.
And this bag is made from a piece of fabric my mother-out-law passed on to me in the last year.
On the inside, all manner of scraps and bits and pieces, and of course–more pockets!
One day at Guild, one of my friends gifted me two pairs of worn out cargo pants, in case I’d like to find a way to reuse them. Some people really know you! They were made of tencel or some similar wood pulp based fibre. They had been much worn, like a favourite garment. And they had so many pockets! Ones with zips, some that were more of a welt pocket… some that were stitched shut and had never been ripped open for use–lots to play with. So I cut them up, extracted the cotton drawstring cords for later use, and began piecing the intact fabric into bag linings and likewise, the pockets.
There was an entire series of bark cloth curtain fabric bags. I used up the boomerang bags patches I was given by one of the Adelaide organisers a while back pretty quickly. Then I did a series with the remaining secondhand IKEA fabric my daughter gave me a while back (the orange and white stripes). They match my ironing board cover and they are extra large.
Finally, I converted some fabric I remember buying at Paddy’s market in Melbourne at least 20 years ago (cough, maybe it was 30 years ago) into about 4 more bags. I must have been reliving my childhood as an admirer of ancient Egypt when I bought this, I think. I vaguely remember feeling obliged to buy something even though I couldn’t spare the cash at that time (it must have been the nature of the interaction with the stallholder). The print gestures in that direction, but I really can’t see it as a garment. Some of these bags have already gone to friends, and others await their ultimate destination.
In December, I’ll be running a workshop hosted by the lovely Susan Schuller. Perhaps some of you would like to come?
Some time ago, I bought two pieces of tapestry (the embroidery kind, not the woven kind) at the Guild trading table, where the cast offs of members go to find happy new homes. It’s one of my failings in the acquisition stakes. There are some things I look at and think–someone dedicated many hours of their life to creating that, and here it is in a thrift store or a garage sale, discarded completely. Sometimes that is enough, they have to come home with me. Finally I had an idea, and I acquired enough $2 pairs of jeans to make it happen–because woollen tapestry is heavy stuff! I made denim surrounds for the tapestries, which, judging by their shapes, might have been intended to cover a seat back and perhaps a stool. Then I worked out some linings, and sewed on patch pockets!
Once I started actually figuring out how to convert them to bags I think I understood how they came to be discarded. They had biased in some way that meant they could not possibly have worked out in their intended applications. the rectangular one was a trapezoid. The one designed for a shaped seat back was not symmetrical. I can only imagine the heartbreak of having stitched these only to discover they were not going to work.
It’s a bit odd even in this context–but unquestionably, it can work as a bag.
In the end I realised I had a third tapestry. It had been reduced from $5 to 40c in an op shop in Warrnambool (country Victoria). I bought it thinking the frame could be re-used. But the badgers? I am not going to hang them on my wall. So I deconstructed the frame ready for its new life and here is the new destination of the badgers. Where will they go next?
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you will not be surprised that I was unable to stop at two of these bags. The pattern is ‘The Wanderlust Bag’ from The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar.
I’ll be honest with you, I often find the projects included in dyeing and other craft books tedious. It seems as though there is a publishing requirement to include them, but often they are uninspiring to me. I guess this makes me an outlier as a reader of such books: I am sure publishers do market research on these things. This pattern, though… oh my goodness. It’s love for me. Vejar has an entirely different dyeing strategy modelled in this project but I am sure she would be untroubled by my putting her design to alternative naturally dyed use.
I have been trying to work my way to the bottom of the zipper collection. I used all those suitable to this project and… had to go and buy more rather than stop or use the bright purple ones. Where did they come from?? (The likely answer is, the op shop–possibly in the 1980s when I did sew purple things quite a bit). Apparently stopping was not an option either. Prepare for more photos soon, because I am amassing a collection, and I am not bored in the slightest….
I’ve had a spell of eco printing onto old woollen blankets. It is extremely rewarding: wool is the perfect fibre for dyeing with eucalypts (as India Flint has said so may times) and the pile of the blanket means that every detail can show!
This one turned out to be the perfect size for my friend’s new and glorious ceramic keep cup. She was struggling with plastic at her favourite cafe; saw my beloved’s keep cup in use, found a lovely ceramic one of her own on a side trip to the art gallery–and all it needed was a little insulation against the bumps of life.
This is a larger model I also like a lot. I think I will make more. The pattern came from Kristine Vejar’s Modern Natural Dyer, which was a kind birthday gift. I am enjoying it very much.
I have been embroidering some small bags. They came with crowd sourced underwear (organic, fair trade) in them, with all the good information about the product printed onto unbleached calico. Seven bags in all! I decided to convert them to loveliness and started with dyeing them in indigo. They are all slightly different shades of blue, some having been dipped more times than others.
I am not a sophisticated embroiderer. But I keep being given cast off embroidery thread, so there was no shortage of thread and no shortage of portable canvases for stitching.
So I tried several patterns and admit I still enjoy the spiral most of all.
One of the bags went travelling with my Mum when she was looking for a simple project, so then there were six.
And after all these adventures in stitching, there is yet one waiting to be embroidered.
I learned some things about how to store embroidery thread from the heritage items that have come to me, some of them in tangles, some in the original skeins, and some wrapped on cardboard shapes that keep the thread neat without taking up a lot of space and using something that comes into the house all the time. Thank you to those women whose hands have held these threads already and whose minds have touched mine however distantly in this way.
In the middle of all this my mother-out-law sent me her stash of embroidery threads in pastel colours, so some of them have gone into the project too. So much pleasure from running stitch…