I do follow people who do lovely mending. I read their books and follow their blogs or instagram accounts. I admire Tom of Holland. I appreciate Katrina Rodabaugh. I’ve enjoyed Jessica Marquez and Hikaru Noguchi. I love that mending is coming back into regular use, at least in some circles. But I am definitely not an upscale mender of my own clothing. My own clothing gets worn out in places I’d rather not show off. My gardening jeans get worn fulsomely, and because my back is a weak point, I kneel in the dirt to garden and dress accordingly.
It follows that you wont be getting styling advice from me!
On the left leg here, you can see indigo dyed thread (look closely) which was the first mend of the knees. The white thread is a second mend. And I seem to have taken this photo in the driveway as I set out guerilla gardening some months back, having recently completed a second mend on the right leg, because the fabric had worn through there.
I’m not entirely sure why I’ve stuck with these so long and mended them so much. I often decide that if I’m up for the job then I’ll do it and who cares why. These jeans are like a catalogue of my hand mending skills over a period of time (definite improvement, in case you are wondering). They are comfortable because they are stretch jeans, something I bought at the time and might not choose again. They are also a cotton polyester blend, which I remember being appalled at when I first washed them and realised–I had been too naive to read the label back then. So the longer they stay out of landfill the better–but the bottom end of my jeans drawer has plenty of contenders for gardening jeans in it. Just not quite yet. I am not yet ready to lose these.
And in this picture, a quiet celebration of guerilla gardening success. Ruby saltbush that has made it through a scorching 40C + heatwave, between a concrete path and a corrugated iron fence. Council have begun to trim it like a hedge, bless them. And bless you, ruby saltbush.
A while back, I tried a new mordanting strategy I read about and tried some plain dyeing of cotton fabric. Scouring and mordanting processes completed, I took advantage of dyes as they presented themselves. Above, dried out pomegranates picked from under the tree at my hairdresser’s place.
Alder cones, picked up from the footpath and driveway outside the house with the alder.
Then I pruned my tansy. And here are my dyed cottons. I’m not a huge fan of the pastels, and I don’t usually set out to create them–but I thought I’d try stretching myself! Now I need to work out what I’ll do with them. And quite possibly, I’ll return to my previous cotton preparation strategies.
In the image above, from top to bottom we have: pomegranate rind; Virginia creeper berries; acorn (second extraction); alder cones and tansy leaf. The Virginia Creeper was a total experiment I should have researched further. I found research on this plant in the Threadborne blog, for those who may be curious.
My Mother-out-law (perhaps I should call her my Mother-in-love?) is a delightful, kind and generous sort, who has recently turned a spectacular 92. Life is holding some challenges, as you might expect. And one of them is staying cool in a tropical climate. For this, she has an entire category of clothing she calls “the survival dress”. This is a pattern she has made again and again, and that she now feels unable to make.
Here is one she made. I know with the confidence a person has when she has done the washing and ironing during times of especial difficulty, that this dress is in constant rotation. And because I ironed it several times, I was able to put aside tales of my dear Mother-in-law’s stern sewing teacher, and concerns that my sewing might not be up to standard. Like most garments I make, this one has a few fudges on the inside that clearly do not cause trouble to she who wears it. And so, when the version that had been pinned on to a lovely cotton print fabric was unearthed in a drawer, I agreed to make it up. Just bring me the pattern and the instructions and all, and I’ll sew it up, I said.
I always make a few adjustments, she said. I’ve made them on the pattern, she said. Then it arrived. A startlingly small number of pieces pinned to some fabric with pins that had been holding for long enough to rust. No pattern packet. No instructions. No sign of any adjustments. Happily, I had asked for the completed item to be sent. So first I worked it over and wrote an account of how I thought it might have been constructed (reverse engineering, you know). Step by step. Then I drafted the skirt. Then I drafted the pocket. And then I went far enough to think I could check for likely adjustments–sure enough, the neckline had been narrowed. I gave this my best shot!
Well. I wasn’t sure at all. But bless her heart, she has received this frock with gratitude and applied ribbons to the inside shoulder to keep her underwear out of view, and apparently it has entered rotation. I’m going to claim success and apologise for having shown you every photo I took. And thank the crafty friend who was over for a sewing day and whose presence bolstered my confidence. Maybe I could have done it without you, but I sure am glad to have company instead!
Once I finished stitching one apron… I was keen to keep going! I had trouble dyeing my other candidate apron so in the end I cut one from some hemp I had prepared for dyeing with soy milk. Hrm, very stiff for stitching. However–I took it with me for a week in Melbourne and constructed the whole thing by hand, then began stitching for sheer decoration.
Here is the top front, with leaves stitched into it using a variety of undyed threads. And here is the apron prepared for dyeing, with onion shells arranged over the embroidery.
And here it is after dyeing…
And in more detail…
It has gone to one of my beloveds–we make bread together quite regularly and he is often to be seen at our house sporting one of the kitchen aprons.
It all began with a linen shirt from an op shop in Warrnambool. A lime green linen shirt. Then I added India Flint’s online class The Alchemist’s Apron and stirred.
I overshot my goals on the elimination of lime green and produced a very dark grey shirt on the first attempt. Never mind, I dyed it and it was still deep grey with some leafy marks on it. I wanted to take it with me on holiday… and so I sewed it into an apron shape more or less, found some cereal packets to cut to size and tuck into pockets, added thread and scissors and my trusty needle book, tucked them into the inside zippered pocket and tucked the lot into my bag. Not quite what The Alchemist’s Apron proposed, but definitely using it as a point of departure!
I had a quote in mind, and stitched it in: ‘a needle is a tool for reparation’ Gina Niederhumer. Then the serious stitching began… and just kept going while my beloved was having her dream holiday swimming 5 km every day and I was often spending time sitting on a boat. It’s a funny thing. I have never fancied embroidery, and undoubtedly, this is embroidery of a type. And yet, I just kept going and going. At first, with threads I’d dyed (and some undyed too). And after I’d cruised a lot of plausible looking places in Athens, I finally found a really old fashioned haberdashery. And did not take good images of it! I could not find a way to ask the women running the shop if that would be OK with them, and it sure was sunny outside. I could have spent hours in there but my enthusiasm tried the patience of others… I came away with single strand cotton thread in two colours.
And when I came home, I kept going for some time. I bought some pre-Euro Greek coins in the flea market in Athens and added them, and a yellow washer I’d picked up on a French Road we were walking along. I stitched in the places I’d sewn in, including the sea.
I stitched watery lines.
And eventually there was an entire apron covered in rather a lot of stitching, with a lot of pockets.
… which tinkles as I move! I find I rather like it.
I do love wearing it. And I like the way it demarcates time when I’m dyeing and stitching and crafting and whatnot, from time when I’m occupied with other things.
The latest round of Boomerang Bags have been driven by thrifted bedlinen. There was one quilt cover that I acquired simply because it was pretty and had owls on it. But then there have been others bought as a set where what I really want is the sheet or one side of the quilt cover (which is a good green for Extinction Rebellion patches) and the remainder of the set is looking for a use. Oh my. Some of this bedlinen is just about new and already at the op shop. IKEA is the leading label and it makes me sad.
Then there are the places I use fabric that I can’t use any other way. This strap is being made sturdy and thick with a piece of cotton blanket I found on the path where I was walking. I took it home and washed it, and then decided it could be used here.
Then there are some clothes I can’t reuse as bag outers or linings, like this pair of pants. Bought at the op shop, they were one of the first pairs of half lined trousers I’ve had the luck to wear. Now I have decided they can’t keep going–I removed the buttons and salvaged lining and fabric. Some of this will go into straps too.
There have been pockets added into some bags from a pile of jeans pockets I bought for a song at the Adelaide Remakery sale–lovingly removed from jeans being upcycled into mats.
Oh, and there was this. A garden umbrella lying discarded and broken by the side of a road I pass most days. I often pick litter along here. This time I removed the canopy, took it home, washed it, and calculated which parts could be re-used.
One of a kind–two from sample fabrics from the Remakery. One from a great print from an op shop. The large image, a dress from the op shop.
Acorn and iron dyeing experiments…
These are the bedding bags… The two linen bags bottom right are lined with IKEA sheets.
Doona covers with a complementary print on the reverse side and/or the sheet. I guess it’s a long time since I bought a doona cover. But the design opportunities are excellent.
And finally, a nostalgia print my friend could find no use for. 44 bags in all. Whew.
Dearest Reader, it has been a long time. I was traveling for six weeks, and managed to create so many posts there were posts the whole time I was gone. And since then almost nothing! I have been feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of catching up or maintaining a sense of timing or order. I think it’s better I let that go, and just create posts in any order that works. There is always a bit of poetic license going on here in any case!
Here is a little make I enjoyed–I could not resist this beautiful print, and I always want to make the best use possible of fabric. So I made three sizes of hanky. One for small people with small noses, and more to the point–small pockets. One for medium size and one in the generous size I prefer.
I love that I have made friends with my roll hemming foot sufficiently that I just make hankies now. Since I returned I’ve been on a roll with finishing things, and I am noticing that so often I stopped something because I was afraid of the next step. It’s a confidence thing. But my skills are actually fine, and where I do not have skill, all I really need to do is spend some calm time working something out, asking for help, or seeking instruction online. It’s good to notice, and I am happy to find that I’m working through a backlog of items in progress. Thanks for reading and thanks for being patient. Maybe you notice that confidence and lack of confidence play a role in your making too? I’ll be interested to hear how this works for you.
Some time ago I made a Very Hungry Caterpillar shirt, while under the delusion that I am twice my usual size. Or something. Anyway, the fit was appalling, so that even I was not prepared to wear it much. So there came a day when I pulled it apart and cut out a different shirt from the pieces, with a bit of creative piecing together in places. And the shirt was reborn as Lotta Jansdotter’s Esme Shirt.
And the back… and now we wait to see if this one gets more wear!
My mending adventures just keep rolling. In between the boring old mending that I do regularly–stitching fastenings back on, repairing falling hems, re-stitching seams that have popped… these mends are much more fun.
I did also take up these hiking pants for my beloved (by about 6 cm). They have those zip-off legs that allow you to convert the pants to shorts, and a complex arrangement down by the hems. In the end I took them up just below the zippers and the change did not show at all.
There have been stretch pyjama mends…
Torn dress mends…
Mending of beautiful pillowcases so soft and buttery and thin I used most of an old linen shirt in an effort to keep them going…
Hand stitched patch on a floaty fine dress.
Worn, exquisitely soft quilt cover mending. I used a hand stitch I learned in Girl Guides (for canvas tent mending) to pull the edges of this tear together, then applied a reinforcing patch on the inside and machine stitched it into place.
One day, some time after the conversation that triggered it, the mending arrived. A LOT of mending! In fact, I’ve taken to calling this “a big mending commission” just for fun. Friends handed over their mending pile and I’m working my way down through it gradually.
There is darning (and in this case, I took in the side seams and sleeve seams–gulp). First the side seams…
Then the actual darning.
Lots of jeans patching…
Skirt zipper mending….
Serious feature patching: on small jeans I rip out the side seam, apply the patch, turn the edges on the right side, stitch in position and then re stitch the side seam.