Dear Readers, I am sure you’ve noticed my absence. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes at localandbespoke. My partner’s parents have entered a new phase of their lives in which they have required more support.
The long standing upheaval in my workplace that slowed me down a lot outside work in the last 18 months or so has resulted in my taking a voluntary redundancy in order to spend more of my time on climate activism.
A small group of us inspired by activists in the UK have set up Extinction Rebellion in our state. Already, we are a very active and much larger group. Thus far, it’s a wild ride.
My daughter has become a mother and I’ve become a grandmother.
I am sure it’s not stretching your imagination too much to picture this as a time of emotional and practical upheaval in which I’ve been more than usually buffeted by the tides of life. There has been awe and amazement and joy. There has been grief and pain and exhaustion. There have been a lot of mixed feelings–complicated situations give rise to complicated reactions. And I’ve spent some time recently feeling profoundly exhausted and with my friends letting me know of their concern for me.
In situations of difficulty and complexity, I often find myself holding my friends and beloveds in my mind–sometimes asking what they would do; sometimes drawing solace from their love for me, their confidence in me or their preparedness to forgive me; sometimes remembering things they have said or done; mentally sharing an experience that I know they have had before me; drawing on their courage and wisdom or their capacity for integrity and compassion; or simply holding them in my mind as companions in complicated moments. In recent times I’ve found myself mentally writing blog posts and thus holding you in my mind. Thanks for the company. I hope I might write some of those posts, however belatedly.
I have a pile of projects that need to be finished. But this week I finished someone else’s project. My mother-out-law has entered a stage of life where pain and confusion are her almost-constant companions. She let me know that she had a denim skirt cut out in the chest of drawers. Twice. I talked it over with my beloved and we decided that I would offer to finish it for her.
She was delighted! Happily the skirt was not denim but perhaps chambray. I couldn’t immediately follow the way she had cut it out but decided in the end that she had adjusted the pattern (and it worked very well, by the way).
There was some ribbon apparently intended as the interfacing for the waistband. I was really not sure it was appropriate, but since it was her choice, I adjusted the width of the waistband to fit and went with it.
The feature pockets were a must! I figured them out in the end after some initial puzzlement. Sometimes you just have to follow the instructions and trust them and wait for the penny to drop (for understanding to arrive).
Once the skirt was all but complete, it was an overnight hang prior to hemming as the skirt was cut on the bias. I have not encountered her strategy of weighting the hem with pegs before! A second try-on was out of the question on the day so we chose another skirt with a length she liked and similar fullness, and I matched the hem to it and machine sewed it in hopes of being able to complete the skirt.
I didn’t actually manage to hang it straight to take this picture–and although pronouncing herself delighted she did not try it on. But–whether she ever wears it might not be the main thing as we accompany her through this stage of her life.
At some point in the #tuffsocksnaturally project, I had a point of anxiety where I just couldn’t imagine being able to spin enough sock yarn to keep up with my constant sock knitting. A person with more capacity for consistency might decide on knitting something else. Or focusing on spinning more. I didn’t do that this time. The future is unwritten so I’ll see how it unfolds and aim to move in a positive direction! Instead, I decided on harm minimisation and bought some all-wool sock yarns from a destash on Ravelry.
I managed to buy some undyed yarn, but while I’ve avoided yarns containing nylon, AKA plastic, I haven’t completely avoided chemical dyes. So, there’s an ongoing project. These socks for my beloved are shown above, on some form of public transport or another.
Here, having a superb hot chocolate with my daughter and a pretty serious conversation if I remember right!
On our way to a climate action protest (by train). Sock and backpack in foreground, banner for our climate action choir in its vaguely indigo-dyed bag laid along the bench! And here they are, done, dusted and ready for winter which feels very far away here at this time of year.
Dear and patient readers, I hope that you have been enjoying the festivals you celebrate and the holidays that you are able to arrange. I am sorry to have been absent so long–it has been a time of massive transformation at our place and other commitments have needed to take priority. I am hoping I might now be entering calmer times. However–there has been some making going on in between things… One of my sister-out-laws was my Kris Kringle this year–in that family, there is a cap on the amount you can spend on a gift and you are responsible for a gift for just one person. It’s a very sensible arrangement that results in a small number of carefully chosen gifts, that I wish I could convince my family to take up. My sister-in-law requested a eucalyptus-dyed shawl. What a pleasure it was to create that!
My favourite neighbourhood eucalyptus tree contributed the leaves, and the shawl is made from wool–ever the perfect match, as India Flint says. I also dyed a smaller silk and wool scarf that seemed to me perfect for a dear friend. You can see how much more readily the wool takes up colour (left) than the silk blend (right).
This gift made it into the mail in plenty of time, which was lucky because our plans were eclipsed by events in my partner’s family that have seen us spending time in Brisbane providing all manner of care to her beloved parents rather than at home hosting my family’s end of year celebration. Needless to say there as been a little quiet sock knitting involved…
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.
These socks may look a little familiar. L: cast on at a train station; R: cast on, on a train, backdrop of my new jeans–post soon about making them! I had part of a hank of commercial merino/silk yarn and the first part went on an earlier set of Frankensocks. This time I weighed out and divided the remainder with a view to knitting it all into sock legs and then added handspun Suffolk feet also dyed in eucalyptus, to a stunning shade of orange that can only mean I had cleaned my dye pot assiduously (I refer to washing soda and boiling water).
Grafting a toe any minute, on a different train. These socks felt like they went on forever, because I’ve had an illness that went on and on, and darlings–I didn’t feel up to knitting! There is no point saying this at work, but seriously–no counting, no cabling and mostly just no knitting. And, they are quite large as socks go.
The legs are long, so I went with calf shaping. Women have calf muscles, my friends!
I began the reinforcing stitch for the heel toward the bottom of the leg.
The foot is decidedly rugged by comparison with the leg (and I do enjoy the variegation in the dye). And there you have them, in all their glory. This morning they went to the post office and on to their new home!
The last of autumn’s cuttings went into one of my favourite patches. I now have only correa alba cuttings left and I am not convinced they have established good enough roots to set them out into the wild yet.
This patch was my first, and it looks great. But, there is an invasive grass coming up there that is seeding. So I pulled as much as I could and tried to rogue the rest (yanking off the flowering heads to reduce the seeds that will be produced). One of the large saltbushes had died so I took that out too, and started to wonder how to remove my pile of green material! I planted rock roses here–cistus–and now I ave looked them up I find they are not actually native (well, they are native to the Mediterranean!) There were cistus growing here when I first moved into the area but they died long ago.
My friends close by couldn’t help me out with my pile of weeds this time. Along came a couple of women, one farewelling the other to a nearby train. I asked if the fareweller if she lived nearby and if so, whether she would mind if I filled her green waste bin. I must have been having a bold morning.
She told me where she lived–not that close! And then offered to come and pick it up in her car if I’d pull it into a pile. I checked whether she really wanted to do that and she said she appreciated what I was doing and we are both part of one community. I love meeting people who feel this way, while I’m out and about doing guerilla gardening. It helps my hopefulness a good deal. Twenty minutes later I had broken all the saltbush into small sticks and finished panting, and she arrived in her car and we filled up the back with weeds and dead bush.
Here is some of the bigger picture–everything apart from the tree planted by my friends and I. And of course, this isn’t really the end of the spring planting, because I’m putting seeds into pots as soon as I can free them up. A friend gifted me two containers of seed she saved over and above whet she could use to add to my own collection. So I made some tags from a yoghurt tub… and wrote on them with a pencil, and put some more seed in ready for autumn planting-out…
Dearest readers, there I was full of good intentions for more regular posting when I was struck down by illness! Fret not–I am recovering, but all too slowly for a restless individual such as myself. In the meantime, I am going to try finishing off outstanding posts and sharing them with you, now that I have a little more brain and a little less cotton wool between the ears…
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 (which you can now follow on instagram, a rather sweet feature).
Here is a post at a mystery location (undoubtedly somewhere where waiting was leavened by knitting and idly thinking of the friend for whom these socks are destined).
This looks more like travelling to or from a work engagement by public transport…
I reached the final toe just as we were about to leave for Japan so I made a tactical decision to leave these at home and start another pair to maximise knitting relative to weight carried.
Here is grafting going on, on the train. Out of focus.
The whimsical cables have not lost their charm (for me at least).
The subtle bands of colour created by the spinning are rather sweet I think–when I bought the roving I did not imagine it being so homogenised by the spinning, a sign that I was a naive spinner at the time!
And for a clearer sense of the actual colour:
It all began with a visit with friends, who took us for a trip through part of Tasmania, months ago. We went to a country market and right beside it was Wafu Works. What a place! Full of all kinds of Japanese paper, textiles and tools. I ended up with some thread an sashiko needles, and bought a kit to make a rice bag with some gift money… Indigo dyed fabrics on the outside, a red lining and a drawstring cord.
I was so intrigued. I learned a new stitch and a cunning construction. I loved the vintage fabrics. You know what happened next, right? I paired the leftover fabric with some of my own indigo dyeing, and cut up a mauve linen shirt I remember buying about 16 years ago for the lining, and pieced the scraps together…
In the end I made three, and I’m now itching to make more…
I decided to raid my stash of pockets. They have been cut out of garments I am turning into other things (like bags!) and here they are now, stitched to the inside of Boomerang Bags.
What bags? I hear you asking. These bags. Historical cotton, and upholstery fabric left for me by the charming BB volunteer organiser who collected my last lot of completed bags (she apparently does not understand the supply issue at my place is oversupply).
Oh, and I mean these bags too.
And these! I have now reached the end of the 1980s eye-bleeding fabrics from hard rubbish and moved back to whittling away the back catalogue of fabrics I have inherited, bought, thrifted, or upcycled from garments and manchester. Scraps are getting thinner in the cupboards. My love of tablecloths shows less. The ancient pairs of trousers and jeans ran out and I have acquired some jeans through the op shop so I have sturdy fabric for places I need it (handles, for example). In fact, I have started reorganising the supplies in the room I use to sew, and I’ve also decided to release some fabrics into the wild. Some were needed for a friend’s school project, and he liked some fake fur scraps so much they went home with him too. I took some more to the Guild last night because… I am reaching layers of my own stash that I cannot imagine ever using and there is no obvious reason I should keep them instead of taking them to places where other people might enjoy them! And… twelve or more fully lined Boomerang bags are under construction and moving gradually to the finish line right now.
I’ve been wanting to knit socks for a friend for some time–she feels the cold and her beloved has let me know knitted gifts would be welcomed. But to be honest, I think that I’ve been worried somehow that I wouldn’t do a good enough job. At the same time, it’s obvious that if I said that to her she’d laugh. She has faced immense grief this year and I wanted to give her something comforting. I decided that tuffsocks would not hit that mark and one day as I was passing the Button Bar I stepped in and purchased some commercial yarn.
I do love the old colour changing sock yarn, and with hours of meetings several days in a row, and some lengthy bus journeys, the first one grew like topsy.
Here is the second, parked on my coat on some bus or other. Now in all honesty, I planned to finally make two socks that were alike. But in the end, when I finished one in a meeting, I was quite prepared to graft the toe but quite unprepared to stop knitting, and it would have been super inappropriate to sit in a meeting trying to find the right stage in the colour sequence.
So–I hope she can enjoy these quite mismatched socks. The yarn quite frankly made me think my handspun has advantages–this yarn was splitty, contained a knot, though with the colour sequence maintained better than sometimes happens, and was tangled and messy and hard to manage for almost the entire duration.
But the colour sure was fun.