Tag Archives: cotton

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Drawstring bags

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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.

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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!

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

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Scrap patchwork bags

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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.

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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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Plumbing the depths of indigo ignorance

Now for something totally out of its logical place in the order of things. Before I went to Allansford, I decided to go all out in exploring the depths of my ignorance.  It’s my observation of learners that many of us over estimate what we know.  We haven’t grappled with our own ignorance sufficiently to realise what a teacher has to offer us.  We haven’t applied what we think we know enough to realise where its outer edges are.

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I decided on an all out attempt to use my stock of knowledge and supplies to find the limits of my own understanding. I’d been itching to dye and unable to find time, so holidays were a gift.  I had multiple attempts to dye with woad and then turned over to dyeing with what indigo I still had.  I used up my remaining fructose, and couldn’t find more.  So I experimented with sad fruit from the bargain pile at the local shops. I also collected fallen fruit and such. I read all the books and instructions again.  I had no joy with the woad no matter what I did and in the end composted two vats.

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I tried a yeast vat.  It was quite something watching it fizz! In the end, I weakened and bought another package of colour run remover and rescued some indigo with that. between all these vats, I overdyed leaf prints I hadn’t liked much.  I dyed scraps and offcuts from old shirts that had been turned into drawstring bags.  I even tore up a very worn, patched and mended damask table cloth from the stash and dyed that.

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I achieved only soft blues, but soft blues are beautiful.

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I went to Allansford convinced that I was struggling with achieving reduction, and maintaining temperature, and quite possibly other things besides.  And it was really helpful to go, knowing this, and to be able to see that I had been aiming (mostly) at the right things, checking (mostly) the right things, and had some concepts right, but was applying them in wrong places.  It gave me a really strong sense of the limits of my own judgment.

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Some of the bits and pieces have already begun to re-form… a bit like my understanding of how to dye with indigo!

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And now to consolidate the indigo learning…

I came home from the summer dye camp at Beautiful Silks‘ Botanical Studios in Allansford determined to maximise my learning, and with an indigo dye kit in my bags.

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I teach for a living, and it’s very clear from watching other people learn that many underestimate the effort required to really build understanding and judgment.  Not that I don’t!!!  However–I try to be alert to this learning pitfall.  I decided that I’d make use of my last few days of holidays–and the very suitable warm weather–to try to make sure I could make use of the boost in confidence and understanding I received from Jenai Hooke in Allansford to move my dyeing forward.  First step: mixing up my starter.  I know–that’s what you say when you make bread.  Let’s admit between us that I’ve made more loaves of bread than indigo vats.

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I changed the container I was using for my vat and my strategy for keeping it at suitable temperatures, using ideas gleaned from Jenai and some creative problem solving.  I prepared my materials for dyeing properly.  Yes, that’s my reflection with the hat, looming over my soaking materials.

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In short–success!  And even better than that, I dyed over three days and returned the vat to happiness (technical language, this) after that as well.  I’d run out of fructose so decided to experiment with honey.  My beloved is on a low fructose diet so the fruits, vegetables and substances that contain most fructose have been quite a study at our house. Nevertheless, guessing is necessarily involved and I’ll have to do this again to be confident I understand what is taking place and can reproduce it.

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A friend brought a large scarf over and that had a very successful dyeing on the first really good day for dyeing in the vat.  I dyed a cotton scarf I brought home from Allansford too (it was white when I left Allansford).  I did a lot better on achieving a nice deep blue than I did before the workshop, and I was in no doubt extra dips deepened the colour, which had been something I felt didn’t always happen previously.

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As usual, I treated this whole process as an experiment which meant I dyed all kinds of bits and bobs of pre loved linen, overdyed things I thought could bear improvement, and dyed some bags, because bags.

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I cut out a pair of shorts from three tired old T-shirts headed for the rag bag and overdyed the pieces.  Finally, as the vat seemed to be exhausting, I turned the leftover t-shirt strips into yarn and overdyed them too.

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So–success!  I have definitely learned something about the fructose vat.  I know more about strategies for tyng and clamping fabrics for dyeing, even if I am still a beginner.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar Shirt

Some time back I bought the pattern for the Jac Shirt (Tessuti Fabrics).  Finally, the time came to make it.  I chose size XL.  Let it be said that what follows is no critique of the pattern but only of my own ways.  I was defeated by the difference between myself and the listed measurements. I just went for the biggest size and, well, how bad could it be?  I can always make the next size smaller if it turns out this was not the right call. I made some adjustments.  And really, I should have known while I did this… that once again I was picturing myself as even bigger than I am, in real life.  How many garments have I made way too large?  (Ahem, for those new to the blog… a considerable number).

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I cut the pattern out, and sacrificed one of my tablecloths for the interfacing.  In an absolute first, embroidered interfacing.  The tablecloth must have been gorgeous for many years of its life but it is now threadbare and stained, the embroidery coming away. I spent some time figuring out how to feature the large designs on the print and how to use the all-over printed matching fabric I had bought some years ago.

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The pattern has very good instructions.  I descended into mystery in a couple of places where mitred corners were so different to the shirt constructions I am accustomed to that apparently I could not accept the evidence of the pattern at some deep level.

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And finally, I have a very lovely shirt with some recycled buttons.  It is… oversized.  I think no adjustment was necessary, apart from to my own personal beliefs!  I will try to remember that next time and plan to make this pattern again, in a different size. Maybe one of the sizes on the envelope?

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Colours of woad

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Now that everything is clean and dry, I thought I might show some outcome pictures.  First there was a linen gauze scarf.  I am hoping it might offer some portable sun protection for my neck over summer. Later there was some clamp action.

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These are handkerchiefs I made some time back from a buttery yellow sheet that passed beyond being able to be used on a bed.  I simply did not prepare for woad success and expected far less colour.  Then I remembered that I had intended to stitch and ye them with indigo…

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I do like the way they turned out!  I am still figuring out whether multiple dips actually does give me deeper colour.  If I am at the start of something and not having a – success experience with woad, I will experiment so I can make comparisons.  So far I have not been convinced that multiple dips gives deeper colour.  I am not sure whether my perception is incorrect, I have skipped a vital step, or I have prepared some of my vats in a way that means colour gets stripped out and re-deposited, which is how it seems to me.  It will be simple enough to run a test and figure out whether it’s my own eye and mind.  My technique will surely improve if I keep going.

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And finally, as the Ph of the vats dropped into the zone more suitable for wool and there was still colour, in went grey merino locks.  LOTS of woad dyed wool! So there is woad spinning yet to come.  Happiness!

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Mellow blueness

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The woad has been thriving in this time of rain followed by warmth.  (The potatoes aren’t doing badly either, as you can see). And that can only mean one thing, when free time opens up!

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I managed to obtain Jill Goodman’s A Dyer’s Manual recently, and had the benefit of others helping me to grasp the chemistry of fresh woad and how it differs from using indigo that has already been prepared from fresh plants by someone else. I came by the book at the annual spinner’s retreat where there were folk with interest and knowledge–perfect, and very helpful indeed.  So this time I felt I knew why I was adding air in the early stages of the process, only to then remove it in the de-oygenation process required to have the dye become fully soluble and able to attach to fibres.  Previously this has been a total mystery or had me feeling I had done something wrong, or both.

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I still had part of one package of hydrosulphite left.  I am pretty keen to have it be the last.  Hydrosulphite is a substance the earth could do without. But equally, since I have it, better to use it rather than let it become stale and unusable for this process.  So I tried two vats: one with hydrosulphite and one with fructose.  The picture above is grey merino fleece descending through the ‘flower’ on the surface of the hydrosulphite vat and into the yellowy depths below.

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This image is the fructose vat, which involved some guesswork on my part (no way to measure how much woad pigment there was in my solution). I am not experienced enough to have great judgment or to trust my own judgement.  I can measure temperature and I can measure Ph.  The complex part is judging the reduction (de-oxygenation) of the vat. This looked very promising to me!  That said, there were moments when I had realisations that gave me pause.  Jill Goodman, for example, seems to live in England and I suspect her conditions and mine are not the same. She goes from scalding leaves with boiling water through various processes to heating the vat to raise it to 50C (there was a lot of conversion to metric involved for me)… I did the processes concerned and still had a vat at 70C and decided in the end to put the vat in a sink of cold water and ice!

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This linen scarf did the amazing woad magic of going from yellow to green to blue when put out into the air.

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Both of my tied textiles dyed only on the outside and therefore were re-tied and re-dipped. The greeny-blue of the image above converted to blue very quickly on rinsing (you can see an image further down).

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Soon I had dyed my planned fabrics and imagined that the vat would be exhausted, because previous vats have yielded so little.  The next day it was clear that the hydros vat was not exhausted, so I adjusted Ph and temperature and set about continuing to dye. The fructose vat was still not reduced, so far as I could tell with a test dip, though again it looked promising and eventually looked much like the hydros vat.  However, it still had not reduced, and thus, was unable to dye.  In the late afternoon I decided it probably didn’t have any dye in it. Do not read on if you have a weak constitution–but one of the reasons for my belief was that I had accidentally boiled the fructose vat early in the process. Eeek! I had a very little hydros left, so added some to the fructose vat.  Then half an hour later, a little more.  30 minutes later, it came into order and began to dye, and I dyed using both vats until bed time using the only clean fleece I seem to have. The fructose-hydros vat dyed over two more days, as it turned out!

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I threw in more cloth and went to bed, feeling extremely pleased.  On the down side, I used hydros.  On the up side, it can only have been a matter of time before that fructose vat would have reduced.  I just needed to hold my nerve and be patient.  Maybe add more fructose. Admittedly, time is one of my biggest issues because I do have a day job and other commitments.  However, this is by far the most successful woad effort to date.  I now understand that I need to use a vat rather than direct dyeing for the woad to be wash-fast.  I think I now have a sense of how to tell whether there is dye in the vat (at all) as I process the solution.  The low concentrations of colour claimed for woad are not so low as to make it useless, and I have quite a bit of leaf.  One vat with 1.6 kg leaves and one with 900g leaves from one part of the garden where other things have struggled to grow well–and this is my second harvest from them.  I also have the happy sense that my understanding is sufficient to reach success with a fermentation/fructose vat given time.  The pigment from my previous crop of woad is in a different vat which has not shown promise even though I have been waiting for weeks.  But it still may!  And I am confident now that reduction is the main issue and not one of the other possibilities.  Very encouraging mellow blues–and more pictures to come when everything is clean and dry.

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A little dyeing

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The winter seemed to go slowly to me.  I was sick a lot and had weeks of weariness that meant I wasn’t able to put my itchy fingers to use the way I’d like to. So one particular week of wind and spring rain, I decided on a very small project.  The cotton bag a purchase from Beautiful Silks arrived in met the remains of some soy milk that was in the fridge at work for too long.  Then it joined a shirt front previously prepared for dyeing.

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I’ve been trying to walk more, so windblown eucalyptus leaves and opportunistic scores of leaves were added to the mix, and pretty soon I had a bundle.

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I think the bag is much improved.  The way these prints turned out is so interesting–almost like an out-of-focus photograph.

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And the shirt front stands ready for its next incarnation.

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Finally,  since plastic troubles me more and more all the time, I took a leaf from Beautiful Silks‘ book and stitched parcels for these supplies, being returned to another city after use on national divestment (from fossil fuels) day rather than buying new plastic prepaid satchels.   And now to discover what the post office think about parcels that come stitched up in ancient flannelette sheet. [Update: the woman on the counter made a joke about me sending pillows through the post, asked how she was supposed to get stamps to stick to that, then answered her own question by saying that was her problem not mine]!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing