It’s well and truly spring, Our native orchids are in bloom.
So is E Torquata, the Coolgardie gum. The bees are happy about the whole thing.
I’ve been out demanding action on climate change, with people all over the world (and hundreds locally).
Fledging birds are getting in strife all over the metropolitan area (and many more are flying without difficulty, I hope)!
The nettle harvest is in, such as it is. I have gathered the largest nettles from our backyard, my parents’ garden and the local verges.
And the silkworms are growing. The small ones are still very small, and there is still only one mulberry tree with enough leaves to pick in the neighbourhood. I’m picking fruit as well as leaves.
The silkworms are stripy in some cases and creamy in others, just like last year… and I still have no idea why. We’ve done our 12km City to Bay run!! And work has been overwhelming. Hopefully, less so from this point forward–so there might be a bit more crafting and posting.
The bag making has been continuing. This is a simple, unlined bag made from recycled heavyweight garment fabrics–parts of an old pair of hemp shorts and some recycled men’s cotton twill trousers. Last year I went to a huge Red Cross sale where entire secondhand garments were $1 or $2. I acquired all kinds of stained and/or worn pale coloured garments which I have been transforming.
This, on the other hand, is a lined bag made of silk. When I first bought and read India Flint’s Eco-Colour, I was immediately inspired and keen to try out her ideas and techniques, but finding silk and wool fabrics was quite a challenge. I had been dyeing sheep fleece and woolen yarns. I started out eco-printing with some fine gauzy silk and that was exciting enough to keep me going, though I was less than clear about how I could use it. Then I found a length of Thai silk clearly purchased in Thailand and brought home to Australia which had somehow found its way to an op shop I like to comb through. Many experiments followed, and they have been sitting rolled up in the sewing room for years now.
The darker colour on some sections is red wine. The splotchy random pattern–clearly not a leaf–on one piece really had me puzzled until I ironed it. The smell was a giveaway. Ah! Onion skins! That is what you can see on the top right of this bag.
And the other side (with red wine on the strap)…
I have constructed the linings from samples and less successful printing efforts on cottons…
It’s very satisfying finally to put these samples to use.
Last year, I bought five silk worms at a school fair and raised them into moths. Later, when I was wondering what to expect next, I had quite a conversation with a delightful woman in the Button Bar in the Adelaide Arcade, as you do. I can’t remember how we got from the tea cosy she was knitting to silk worms, but somehow we did. She told me to expect the eggs that resulted from a dalliance between a couple of my moths to hatch in September. I remember thinking about this on 1 September. Then on Friday 13 September I realised I had taken no action and sprinted down the hall to check on them and lo! There were tiny black creatures wiggling around! I made an immediate mercy dash to the nearest mulberry tree. Can you make the hatchlings out?
The hatchlings are the tiny black lines. Those spots on the cardboard are eggs. Today I conservatively estimate I have 50 silkworm hatchlings, and I have started working on finding some of them new homes.
Meanwhile, I have been on a bag jag… sewing loads more bags and taming [some of] my scrap collection. I decided to photograph a lining in progress on the weekend, because what is more thrilling than a lining?
Well, one of our chooks seemed to think so. She could tell whatever was happening on the table was worth looking into, so she flew up immediately to check into it. Regrettably, this was not an edible thrill from her point of view.
Thrills come in very disparate packages, all depending on perspective… or so it seems to me! Audrey finds earwigs a lot more thrilling than I do.
Meanwhile, I have taken the nettle stems back out of the retting bath (which this time certainly did go to the garden–) and set them out in the rain to rinse. Since so much of my crafting takes place in crevices of time and is ordered by whim rather than a linear plan, I hope you’re managing to follow all these emerging themes …
The other day I was at an exercise class in a park. One if the trees was helpfully labelled Lagunaria patersonia (pyramid tree). It turns out to be native (to Australia, though not to this part of it). So… I decided to take a sample and test its dye properties.
I am here to report to you, dear reader, that this is not one of the stellar dye plants of our time. That smudge on the right of the linen square with the questionable machine embroidery is the best I can show for a leaf print after an hour and with teh presence of iron and soy mordant. The only fibre on my swatch showing any colour after an hour of simmering is wool + alum, a delicate shade of yellow-green.
On the other hand, I made these cushion covers from leaf-printed cotton and linen. They are for friends who invited us to a holiday house they share near Mittagong. I hope they’ll accept these as thanks for the lovely relaxing time we had with them.
They are custom fit to the cushions on the verandah of their holiday house, whose covers have seen better days.
Remember my modifier experiment? I have two jars of wonder, based on Jenny Dean’s instructions. One contains offcuts of copper pipe from my Dad, vinegar and water. It’s been steeping for months. My first effort at iron water didn’t work out as I’d hoped, more like a science experiment! This one is based on my friend’s collecton of bent nails. He has been turning pallets into furniture, so he has removed a lot of nails. They got left out in the rain and, bless him! He thought of me. Here they are, left to right:
Mystery Science Experiment, Rusty Nail Water, Copper Pipe Water.
Here are my E Torquata samples on hand spun wool and commercial wool/hemp blend:
Unmodified at the top, Iron modifier next, Copper modifier at the bottom. I have to admit, this isn’t a deeply exciting result.
And here are my E Torquata leaf prints on recycled linen (the darker one was the side against the cast iron pipe):
Here are the prints from my ‘is it E Scoparia?’ experiment. The answer is a tentative ‘yes!’ Recycled linen on the left, recycled silk on the right. I included the very young, soft, green foliage you can see printed toward the bottom partly because I have been asked whether it is true you need to use young foliage to get good leaf prints. My experience is that you don’t (though of course, you can).
Finally… a gratuitous photo of an E Torquata flowering very pinkly in a car park in my place of work. One of my co-workers came out of the building to see me with a pile of papers in one hand and my phone in the other, and said: ‘What are you doing, Mary?’ As you would, really.
This is E Torquata, the Coolgardie Gum. In my area it is a popular street tree. It is a relatively small gum tree with a showy lovely flower and distinctive bud caps. Being native to Western Australia, it tolerates the dry conditions that a street tree in Adelaide can expect to have to manage.
I find Coolgardie Gum easy to identify. When I was a child we lived in the goldfields in WA where this tree is from. We lived in Kalgoorlie for a while, and this tree grew there as well as over to Coolgardie, which we used to visit. The other town Wikipedia mentions as within its range is Widgiemooltha. When I was a kid you could hardly call Widgiemooltha a town, but there was a dam there that someone had set goldfish free in. We went there once and came home with 15 goldfish, all different! It was a fantastic day out, picnic plus new pets–what more could a young person want? We used to break the beak off the bud caps from this tree and string them to make necklaces. They are distinctive.
This particular tree has relatively yellow flowers, but most nearby have flowers that are closer to orange. There is a big infrastructure project happening in my suburb soon, and some of the local trees are going to go, including this one. So I decided to harvest a little. I have tried it as a dye plant before and I wasn’t impressed (I don’t invest time in natural dyeing with the intention of gettng tan), but I know someone who has achieved green from this tree using modifiers. These leaves are destined for my sample pot. I’m aiming to try them with modifiers myself. I have some rusty-nail-iron-water and some copper-pipe-water, and I’m finally going to try them out.
I have also wrapped up some leaves sandwiched between some recylced silk and some recycled linen to see what happens. I also put some samples in from some trees I found near a friend’s house in another part of the city just in case they are E Scoparia… the leaf shape and bark are right, the number of valve sin the fruit is right, the flower colour is right, and the bark is colouring up the way the ones in my neighbourhood are, but I trust the dye pot more than I trust my capacity to identify Eucalypts. I’ve cooked my leaf bundles for 3 hours and I’ll unwrap in a day or two.
While I’m on the topic of Eucalypts that don’t have long to live… RIP this beautiful Corymbia Citriodora (Lemon Scented Gum). At the community information day on the weekend I was told it would be cut down this week or next. Right now it is in full bloom. There are thousands of bud caps showering down and the road is covered in a dusting of yellow stamens. Lorikeets are screeching and flying in and out of that tree all day long. They start before I’m out of bed in the morning.
Farewell beautiful trees.