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)…
Could I stop at … ahem… was it twelve? I lost count of the bags I had already made…and no, as usual, I couldn’t stop. I had one more piece of silk that started out a pale blue and ended up more like this.
There were a few pieces of cream or bronze fabric left and they were pieced in.
The first has already gone to a lovely friend I was lucky enough to visit with when I went to Brisbane, and the second to a house warming. And I love the buds, especially! Well. I am ready for any number of occasions for gifts now! In the meantime I am still trying to work out how to wind back the Christmas gifting obligations in my family. How to honour the ideas of generosity and reciprocity and love that perhaps moved this tradition to come into existence, but to detach from its wasteful and consumerist present. Maybe I have to begun by asking that I not be given gifts. Or perhaps talking about how my daughter has clearly decided that from now on she will only buy me second hand gifts. She reached this decision without discussing it with me specifically–and it has really made me feel that she sees me! Well. One step at a time.
Some time ago I dyed some silk I found at the Guild trading table. Just recently though, I stopped looking at it, draped around the place, and realised what it could become. I am hoping these little bags will be pleasing gifts, and in some cases, replace wrapping paper in the coming season of compulsory gifting, which I prefer to involve as little waste as possible, as I have not managed to convert my family to thinking perhaps this is not the best possible way to show our affection for one another. I love giving people gifts, but I find the compulsory nature of it and the set date, just leads to waste, and giving and getting things that are not always wanted or needed.
You knew where this was going, didn’t you? I couldn’t possibly stop at one or two.
I think it is partly the satisfaction of figuring something out and routinising it. Practising it. Being able to create a little system. This wouldn’t satisfy every mind, but evidently there is something in it for me.
I think it is also as simple as getting on a roll and being able to make maximum use of a piece of fabric. Again, not something that has an inherent logic that would work for everyone. And clearly the attitude of a person who has an outward bound stash rather than just one precious piece of fabric. I enjoyed piecing together some of the fabric so I could use it all, as you can see.
I also made one from one of the fronts of a linen shirt dyed some time ago. The bronze-coloured fabric became two larger bags with double draw strings. And so here I am, hours of pleasurable bag making behind me and happy times of gifting ahead! I hope your plans for the gifting season are going well…
We went for a birthday holiday on a house boat on the Mighty Murray River. I’ve never been on a house boat before and it was pretty funny to be in something with six bedrooms, but on the water! We set out on a sunny day and it was just lovely. And then, hours before sunset, the sky turned dark. The river was anything but calm. My capable companions decided it was time to find a mooring, and that the green tinge in the distant clouds was a sign of hail even though it is November. And we moored just in time for powerful winds, amazing rain… the whole thing.
Eventually things calmed down and for those feeling nauseous, that part subsided, and the sun set over beautiful river red gums.
Last week I finally stitched these two little eucalyptus dyed needle books together with madder-dyed thread and they were in my sewing tin along with everything else, so they found new homes among my companions. Here they sit on the obligatory holiday puzzle.
It wasn’t all wild weather… there were naps and songs and stories and birthday cake and lots of delicious food and company, and beautiful views. There were so many birds… cormorants, pelicans, ducks and ducklings, superb blue wrens, raptors of various kinds… fabulous!
On our return we discovered that every single car (and a lot of houseboats) had been hit by hail the size of golf balls. In November. We’d had a summary phoned in on our first night out, but it was quite a sight in person. After a safety check, we drove home slowly, with the light dancing off all the cracks from 17 major hits on the windscreen. Too many dents in the car to count! Just as well there were needle books to keep things a little bit sensible in between times. A person needs evidence of the ordinary in these challenging times.
First there was a walk home from a distant railway station. Cotinus (smoke bush) growing through a fence….
Then there was a walk home from a bus stop on a major road further from home than the one I usually use. And the amazing discovery of a HUGE maple with finely ferny leaves. Hanging over a high fence.
Well. It was only a matter of time… a recycled linen shirt and a wool scarf…
A couple of bundles…
I love the transformation!
Some of the maple leaves came out pale.
Those closest to the iron at the centre of the bundle…
Perhaps I chose the wrong side of the cotinus as the one likely to give colour, because…
And the scarf, mmmm!
This one is destined to become a birthday gift.
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.
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.
I think the bag is much improved. The way these prints turned out is so interesting–almost like an out-of-focus photograph.
And the shirt front stands ready for its next incarnation.
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]!
It’s spring! Well, maybe not where you live. But it is where I live! the first poppy came out!
Bark is peeling…
My part of the country is better known for droughts than flooding rains, but we had a close call and neighbours on our street were flooded. This is just round the corner…
And this is one of my planting sites, with salt bush to the right and water pouring down the bike path to the left!
So I planted out sheoak seed of two kinds.
And the last few months’ collection of E Scoparia seed. I’ve been tucking all the gumnuts I find into this bowl and there is a satisfying drift of tiny seeds at the bottom.
And there were, needless to say, also saltbush seeds involved. And now, we wait!
In not-so-recent dye baths, I included a wool scarf for a friend.
I love the way it turned out. I hope she will too. I bundled up E Scoparia leaves and some windfalls from a tree I think might be E Nicholii. It branches (what I mean is it that it has been brutally pruned) very high so these windfalls gave me leaves to try that I otherwise could never reach.
Love the string resist marks…
Then I returned to the E Cladocalyx bark I harvested weeks back which has been steeping.
Calico mordanted in soy and lots of clamping was the choice of the day.
The wet fabric next day (I know, patience is the dyer’s friend, but my friend was out for the day).
I do especially love the buds!
The overall effect… suggesting my fold-and-clamp technique may require more practice!
I was so excited by my recent winter wardrobe success, that I decided to go again. So I made another turtleneck using the same pattern from milky merino. This time, I made it longer than required. I’ve had serious shrinkage with this fabric–whether it was my carelessness or the fabric is yet to be clarified. I expect it was my carelessness… This time I used a red zipper from the stash, which looked pretty amazing on the undyed item, but apparently I took no photos. And either I followed the instructions on the pattern (just for something completely different), or perhaps it was luck, but zipper insertion went smoothly.
Then I decided to sort out one of my spencers (long sleeved underwear for warmth). It shrank in dyeing as well as being perhaps a little short to begin with. It rides up, the reverse of what clothing worn for warmth should do. So I added some serious length to it. I love the dyeing on this garment–details here. But it just wasn’t working for its intended purpose.
I went out for a walk and then bundled up.
The bundles came out of the dye pot looking splendid.
The spencer came out a very good length and is much more useable. I did prefer the print before, but this one is pretty lovely too.
Here is the new turtleneck. I like it! If anything it is a little loose.
The red zipper works fine.
E Scoparia is in bud, which also works well.
I tried a different folding strategy. I love the colour and pattern, less sure about the location. And now I am happily wearing my new top for the rest of the cold weather.
I finally decided to plant out the Eucalyptus Scoparia I manged to grow from seed. I have been planting out an area near the railway line for some time now and it has gone from bare and weedy to bushy and well covered. There is plenty of protection for a tiny tree now!
I planted some more ground covers and was surprised to find that the seafoam statice that had been doing so well there had vanished, with some holes left behind. I hope it has been dug out and replanted somewhere where it was wanted.
The E Scoparia went in behind a bench where I’m hoping it will be safe to grow.
Later in the day I headed over to a new place I have been thinking over. It is a barren space adjoining the railway station in my neighbourhood, with an open drainage route running through it. I have been wondering whether the rushes might grow in the drainage channel, which is quite mossy in places at this time of year. I thought I’d start with the sides of the space though.
I took over some native pigface (Carprobutus glaucescens) which has grown readily from cuttings, some saltbush, a hop bush and a eucalypt (unknown species).
In they went. There was some soil here and a lot of sandy unpromising material as well.
And, there was so much broken glass. It looks to me as though someone/s must have had fun smashing bottles against the bridge walls here at some point. So I collected all I could.
I took my haul of rubbish home and tucked the rusty wire into my iron water jar for later use in dyeing.