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.
I have been very much enjoying adding to India Flint’s Wandercards.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
I had to use the last scraps up… and eventually the bag jag came to a close.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Filed under Activism, Sewing
These socks, made from possum wool purchased in Aotearoa/New Zealand, began slowly and suddenly leapt forward when I travelled to Sydney for a family occasion and then a holiday in December. I think the slowness was due largely to the loss of the previous sock in progress, needles and all. It somehow made me feel like I might be losing my capacities in some way, rather than seeming like an unfortunate accident. I can’t say why I adopted this kind of interpretation but I hope to get over it!
Here is the first sock, in the very incongruous setting of a public lecture theatre at Sydney University. It is in an old building and has all wood seating, all wooden desks and steeply raked benches with wooden doors. But of course it also now has fluorescent lighting and computer projection screens. Outside I wandered off and away past beautiful Moreton Bay fig trees.
Here is the sock in progress beside the beach at Coogee.
And here is a (random, bonus) rainbow lorikeet in Sydney, sighted when I was out for a run. I am not sure if this one was feeling bold or sleepy, but after all the times I have tried to photograph one of these birds and barely succeeded in getting a blur in the distance… here it is!
Some weeks later…
Here they are in all their dark chocolate brown glory, ready for the feet of my beloved, when the summer ends and the autumn begins to ebb. She tried them on, the day I handed them over (yes, it was 41C) and they came off again pretty fast!!!
My beloved returned from a trip abroad with a gift for me. Patches made from recycled clothing scraps! I love them! And then, a familiar tale unfolded. Long time readers will feel like they have read this post before.
I realised that a bag was called for! Apparently my year of scrap patchwork cross pollinated with my bag lady tendency, and behold. These patches spoke to me of a friend who describes themself as non binary–not enthusiastic about being understood as male or female. Disinterested in the whole sport of there being two rigid ideas about how to organise humanity. You know. ‘There are two kinds of people…’.
As a person who wants to be able to do anything–knit and fix the washing machine, embroider and ride a bike… be soft and be loud and be courageous and … you know! I support my beloved friends in their journeys outside the box. These bags include scraps from trousers and shirts I’ve made, leftover denim from making jeans, fabric that has been ‘stuff steep and store’-d with madder root, leftover quilt fabric. You know. Then some of the patches called to me about another friend and their journey lately.
I like the denim aesthetic for a nice solid bag, and soon I was digging into the cupboard where garments that are ripe for their next incarnation live.
Pretty soon the linings were getting pockets. I used to do this with jeans in the 1980s! (More or less).
A pair of jeans went past the point of mending and were cut up and added to the pile of bag materials. An old pair of hemp shorts got the cut. Some webbing from goodness knows where became a strap for this zippered bag. You know, variety.
And, I admit it, I gave one bag away before I took its picture. I loved seeing my friend wearing it on his bike!
And… I still have some patches and some ‘blocks’. Watch this space!
Back in the middle of the year, I invested in possum wool sock yarn. I have been knitting away… though I must admit the experience of losing the last pair on public transport has had me fretful for my own carelessness! The second pair are blue. I clearly didn’t take any really early pictures.
But here we are on a houseboat, where friends have been working on (above) tea and treats and (below) a puzzle. I’ve finished the first sock and here is the ball that is to become the second sock.
The pattern is what my dear friend has named ‘whimsical cabling’.
To put it another way, I cable when I feel like it, in whichever direction seems like a good idea at the time.
And now these socks are off to Denmark, where it is heading into winter as we enter into summer. The world is a rather amazing place…
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.