I have accumulated scraps of knit fabrics that are precious–lovely, but also in some cases, expensive. And you know, I always want to use the last scrap, no matter what the fabric is! Anyway, I had the thought that I could attempt the Fingerless Gloves Master Pattern from Natalie Chanin’s Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
Unfortunately, I fell at the first hurdle, enlarging the diagramme provided by 317%. It was during the period when I was not going out, so when I could not arrange this I guessed my way through it. The first one was too small. It had to go to a very petite friend.
Soon, though, I had a workable pattern and found this was a great use for leftover fabric from my run of undergarments.
So, I started turning them out! I used up a long sleeved t shirt and a pair of leggings that a friend had given me to use, once she had worn them out. Perfect linings for two layer gauntlets!
Once my leftovers were gone, I had the thought that some of my long sleeved home made tops that have shrunk too much to be dignified… could be transformed into these.
It was quite liberating to give up those shrunken tops, which I have been wearing under other things, for years in some cases. I kept the hems where I could.
And, that’s not really the last of it! I’ve not taken photos of some, and others I have made more recently. Some have been made more recently still… I pieced some together from smaller parts! But it might be enough for now.
I have been astonished to realise that one of my friends who feels the cold profoundly has forgotten about the part where you wear a close fitting garment against your skin.
As a child, this was the way I was always dressed in winter–with a sleeveless underthing below my other layers. We called this garment a singlet. So I asked my friend whether she was wearing wool against her skin and her eyes popped. I went home and went to the dye pot with some knit silky merino. It dyes like a dream. I sewed the main seams with the overlocker and then hand finished the hems.
Here is the view from the back.
I made it nice and long, the better to keep her warm. She was so astonished by the difference this made, that I got a message asking how long she could wear it without washing it! So I made some more.
These two are both dyed with E Scoparia, but the two trees have very different leaves, as you can see. My friend’s beloved sent me a message to say she loves these so much she had created a gallery and hung them on the wall, and she is wearing them every single day. And feeling so warm!
In this period a clean up in the front room turned up a wool knit singlet bought from a chain store. Now, did a different friend buy it and give it to me to dye? Did I find it in an op shop and save it for later? Neither of us could remember, but here is the outcome (and I yes, gave it to her).
Back before March, maybe even last year! I took out a silk cot quilt kit I bought from Beautiful Silks remnants section and dyed the silk cover. I’ll be honest with you, Marian (the fabulous proprietor at Beautiful Silks) persuaded me to buy this kit and I didn’t know where it would go. Then the moment for me to give it to one pregnant friend passed without it being finished.
I was very happy with how the dyeing turned out.
I was intimidated by the next steps. It was just too beautiful. Silk is just a bit too precious for me to relax about. In about March, still not sure where it would go, I decided to add the silk batting and stitch the quilt edges together. Then I safety–pinned and tacked the quilt layers together before losing my nerve again.
Then it emerged that my daughter was expecting! She wanted to wait until after the third month before being really confident that it would, as she put it, “stick”. And when that date passed and all was well with the foetus, I started to think about this quilt again. I didn’t know how to quilt it, and to be honest, I like the patchwork part of making quilts but not the quilting part. I’ve never made a whole cloth quilt. Finally I decided to stop waiting for it to be perfect and just stitch.
Suddenly I made my peace with this cone of thread that really wasn’t what I had thought I was buying on some previous mail order, and chose a needle. I finished the stitching after we arrived to visit my daughter, now visibly pregnant and beginning to multiply plans for her life as a parent. She did rather seem to love it, wonky stitching and all, to judge by all the stroking and patting and cheek-placing–and we’ll have to see how it stands up to the rigours of an actual baby. Or perhaps it will end up as a new mother’s comforter!
This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.
In the last weeks, I’ve turned out some skeins of three ply, high twist, 100% Suffolk sock yarn. And apart from the indigo dyed yarn, which I dyed first and spun afterward, I’ve been spinning the fleece in its natural state. Which could only lead to dyeing!
Some time ago, one of my Guild buddies shared some betel nut with me, together with instructions on how to use it. So I followed the instructions and got a lovely deep red colour in the vat… which just did not fix onto the fibre. By sheer luck, I had the chance to take the advice of dyers who know better, while I still had that good looking vat–but even after trying their suggestion, the result was still pretty lacklustre (and they had suggested it might be too late–). Here is is being hardly pink.
Dyeing with the betel nut did constantly ear worm me with a song from South Pacific (the musical)–I was in the chorus in high school. As an adult I do wonder about having no memory of being given any historical context… and having checked Wikipedia I see I was an incurious young person who did not ask what US military were doing in the Pacific in the musical and may or may not have noticed the progressive anti racist narrative which evidently caused scandal when the musical first made it to the stage! On the other hand, I had a namesake in this musical, played by a friend who was great in the role. We could not believe she was called Bloody Mary (how times change–in 1980 that seemed scandalous to me). As we had never met anyone who was ‘always chewing betel nut’ and for that matter, didn’t know what a betel nut was, or that its juice would run red… the reason she was called Bloody Mary was not at all obvious. It just sounded like a slur, and of course, perhaps it was. So I hoped for red yarn but it was not to be.
The other skein went into a dye bath with dried, saved eucalyptus leaves, mostly E Cinerea. With time and heat, it was just the reverse of the betel nut bath. The dye bath looked pale and the yarn gained colour.
Some years ago, I made an apron at an India Flint workshop. It’s an ingenious design India has created which starts with a shirt with a collar and ends with a coverall with straps that cross over at the back. This model also has some stitched-on panels creating a generous length at the back.
I brought this garment home to dye it, and it would be fair to say that I never loved the outcome (friends who were consulted recently liked it more than I did). And, it had some large holes for which I was responsible and which I had a lot of [bad] feelings about having created. In short, this garment has been in the naughty corner (the place garments go to wait when I have been naughty) for some extended time. But then, India put up an online course called The Alchemist’s Apron. It is further supported by an online community of eager stitchers and dyers from all round the world on facebook. I was lucky enough to be gifted an enrolment (Thank you India!)–and this turned out to be the trigger for getting the apron out of the naughty corner and into my hands again.
First step, give it a wash and soften it up a bit (soy mordant no doubt was responsible for starching it a little). Second step, mending. Mending is an evening occupation for me, thus the mood lighting… I have learned some things about mending since these holes appeared and decided to use several different strategies.
Some mends went over the hem (they were the most discouraging). These round-ish mends I especially like.
Once that was done, a second pass through the soy mordanting process, a wander around my neighbourhood by bicycle collecting leaves, and a bundle up with home made string (hems and seams left from cutting up and recycling clothing, in this case).
I do love eucalyptus.
The mends still stand out but I think that is OK, because #visiblemending! I had chosen linen patching and cotton thread, which did rather guarantee they would stand out as the patches are mostly in the added border at the back of the apron which is cut from a recycled op shop raw silk pant suit a friend gave me.
I like the new apron much more!
And here is the back view… with the button placket still sporting buttons. It’s a bit glorious now, I think. Do you have things waiting in the naughty corner? How do they get there, and more importantly, what motivates you to get them out again?
The springtime brings on fleece washing, carding and seed planting, apparently!
I’ve spun up all kinds of tragic fleece dyed last year, lawnmowing crossbred sheep’s wool, alpaca, blends, cochineal dyed fleece, natural fleece… there has even been some eucalypt dyeing (the orange skein in the foreground).
I’ve spun batts created from logwood exhaust and woad exhaust and where did that even come from? batts.
Anonymous roving from my friend’s stash. Alpaca gifted from another friend. Local fleece blended with dark grey alpaca with far too many burrs in it. Possum and wool blended together.
My winter of knitting was lovely indeed but I am loving being back to spinning as well, so it seems…
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.
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.
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.
A while back, I managed to find second hand woolen blankets, many of which were partly felted and sold for the warmth of dogs. I am in favour of the warmth of dogs, but was delighted to take some home. A couple have gone to the dye table where they insulate dye vats (today there is an indigo vat wrapped up in wool out there in the chilly morning). This one, though, was a perfectly good blanket, if a little threadbare and dating back at least to the 1960s. I can’t fit a whole blanket in any of my dye pots, so I had to take scissors to it in order to dye it, and this seems to have been a high barrier to clear. Clear it, I now have.
This piece dyed with E Cinerea leaves, (and a little of something else I don’t remember) has become needle books. I left the edge stitching in position because I like it, then added my own blanket stitches in plant dyed threads. The string is hand twined silk fabric dyed with madder root. I learned string making from Basketry SA and applying it to fabric rather than leaves from India Flint. She recently posted a video of stringmaking 101 here. I know someone will ask, and the video is beautiful: it manages to convey the peacefulness of stringmaking somehow.
One went to my mother. She is on her way north for some months of warmth and adventure with my Dad (in Australia we call people such as my folks ‘grey nomads’). When they were over for dinner last week, Mum said she would like to take a project.
She liked one of the projects I have underway and she soon had a version for herself! I have a little stack of tins I have been saving to make mending kits. She chose one, chose a needle book, and then I gifted her an indigo dyed bag to stitch on and some embroidery thread to stitch with, and some needles. I hope she uses her little kit, but even if it was a passing whim, she will enjoy having it with her. I’ll be keeping her company in some small way. Another needle book and mending kit went to my daughter when she was passing through recently and turned out not to have amending kit (!!) The other needle books are destined for mending kits. Their time is sure to come.
Dear and lovely readers, it has been a while. I’ve been on holidays and blessedly away from the keyboard. But it hasn’t all been holiday blessedness… I’ve missed you! And of course, much has happened in our world. It is going to take a fair few posts to catch you up on what has happened in localandbespoke land since last I wrote. But that should be fun, yes? Welcome and thank you to those who followed the blog while it was sleepier than usual! Let’s count our blessings as we roll up our sleeves to face the times we are in with courage and among friends.
A dear friend came to visit us over the holidays. I met her in the peace movement in the 1990s and it has been my privilege to have her in my life through many changes in both our lives, since.
I bought some shawls and scarves from Beautiful Silks last year and have been dyeing them as gifts. I decided she might like one and set about giving it layers of walnut leaf and eucalyptus. I had a fairly major fail on getting good images of it before gifting it away. Summer sun here can be pretty brutal! Pictures aside, my friend loves this big, snuggly piece of merino wool.
It has gone to live at her beachside home. She sent a lovely picture of it on her bed in a sunny room, with morning light flooding in and the rich colours of eucalyptus lighting it up in a different way.
What a treat to be able to share these colours and images and touches of what is local and lovely to me, with people who live in other beautiful places, with other trees and other views. It’s one glorious opportunity to share the love in a tactile way. I hope it will give her joy when times are good and comfort when it’s chilly and times are less kind. She is a woman of courage, persistence and such an awesome intelligence and wit! Long may she be surrounded by love and good company (and the odd snug woolly item)…
There was just a strip of towel left from my previous effort in towel transformations. One day I was looking at our very sad pot holders (we call them pot grabbers here!) and it occurred to me that we could have some new ones. Pretty soon I had two layers cobbled together from my towel ends.
The old ones were made the same way and in the end I washed them and re-covered them. This one obviously had a moment in the flame, and a hard life!
The first one got a new cover stitched by machine and hand finished with some embroidery thread that was a really good match!
The next one got a new cover with E Cinerea prints. You can see what an improvement it would be…
Then finally, in a week focused on finishing things… and after my beloved asked if we would ever get them back…. I covered the final pot grabber.
I know it’s traditional to have a loop or a ring on a pot holder’s corner. Last time I sewed on curtain rings. This time I have faced the reality. We are slatterns who just throw the pot grabbers into the cupboard with the saucepans. We have no hook for them and clearly we’re not bothered by its absence. So here they are, done at last!