These are the results of my last day of dyeing, dried and ironed and ready for use. Some have already gone to new happy homes and the one at top right has become a pocket!
Tag Archives: linen
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?
As so often happens in my case, one project leads to the next. The scraps left from converting unwanted trousers into bags were the biggest scraps sitting on the small scraps pile when I felt the pull to make “beloved tree” banners. I decided that this might be a fun Womadelaide project–there I would be over a long weekend, sitting under beautiful trees listening to music. What could be better? It was going to be way too hot for substantial knitting projects. I decided if I took needle, thread and some calico or sheet offcuts–that would be a good start, and that is how I began. Before I went on day 2 I made some “frames”.
You can see how this goes. It’s simple but it gives a sense of framing the words that I like. It somehow draws in the idea of that-which-is-framed being important, precious in some way.
And there I sat–I have inherited a small embroidery hoop. I usually don’t use one, but it seemed like it might help and it caused several conversations with smaller people interested in the whys and mechanics of things, which were also fun.
Afterward, I found more calico/scraps/leftover bits of ancient sheets or tablecloths and stitched them on to create a backing and a neat edge around the frame.
There are six in all, some with linen frames.
Some framed with offcuts of denim jeans that have passed into new incarnations as bags. And now they are ready to be applied to trees. I do feel as though a tree needs no adornment. However, I feel all too conscious that trees are not universally beloved. After the last big storm in which trees came down on cars and the tram line in our neighbourhood, I put up two earlier banners, and one was removed almost immediately. I don’t know whether it was souvenir-ed or whether it was taken down by someone who didn’t accept the message. But I do know that at such times trees around me face higher degrees of threat, and this is one thing I can do. Maybe this weekend of earth hour is the time for some to go out into the world?
As people who read this blog regularly already know, I make a lot of bags, and I almost always give them away. So when Boomerang Bags started up in Adelaide (and it wasn’t started by me–woot!) it seemed entirely logical to join their end single use plastics interventions by making bags for them. I made an initial 6 and gave 5 away. This time I committed to making bags for a stall on World Environment Day and one of the sweethearts from the local group dropped 12 labels at my place.
Some of the labels were apple green (hard to colour co-ordinate), and I’ve noticed that many of the bags the group creates are made in floral prints. I’m going out on a limb assuming there are other folk like me who would prefer a not-so-floral bag. So–I checked to see what relatively plain fabrics I might have and decided the time had come for some unloved trousers made by me over ten years ago. I’ve worn them a lot over about a decade, even though I had to face the hash I made of the welt pockets every single time. Never again! Here they are cut into their constituent parts, and below–as bags.
A pair of hemp pants that have never really fit, and are so badly made I’ve mended them several times in a life of few washes and wears. A couple more pairs of trousers that I won’t wear again. Two pairs of op shop jeans saved for a day I need denim, and a pair of op shop linen pants, ditto. Orange linen picked up at the tip shop outside Hobart for a song (because who wouldn’t take their mates to the tip shop if you were passing?) Some repurposed canvas cushion backing dyed with eucalypts.
Oh, the pockets! It’s a shame to let a well constructed pocket go, so these are now features!
Needless to say there was constructive piecing on the outside, and where the outsides were pieced together, there are linings (often pieced too).
So now my thirteen bags have gone to Boomerang Bags, and I have more labels. I inherit fabric and have fabric dropped off at my place faster than I can re-home it. I still have unloved wardrobe items and clothing past use by date. I have clothing that is upwards of 20 years old, some parts reclaimable and op shop items salvaged for repurposing. So, I believe I can keep at this project for the foreseeable future without concern for supplies and with benefits for my cupboards.
For my birthday this year, my beloved bought me some kangaroo paws. They started blooming about a week after they went into the ground in march, and they are still flowering.
As I started dyeing fabrics for the Leafy Log Cabin workshop (details here), I decided to try some of the oldest blooms in the dye pot. Too exciting!
Decidedly overexcited by this experience, I wandered out on my bike the next day to deadhead the kangaroo paws at a nearby intersection (there are so many). They were not red–and they did not give a print.
But I did find a couple of mulberry trees in fruit, and I had a lovely ride and collected E Cinerea leaves… so a lovely afternoon just the same. How’s your dyeing and foraging going?
I have ethical questions about cutting up garments at times. For example, should I leave them in the op shop for someone who might use them as they are rather than treating them as raw materials? Not to mention, how about using what I already have and not getting anything more, even second hand? I have to admit that other days I think about how much textile waste is thrown away in the overdeveloped world and think I should just go wild if I have a good idea. But my ethical quibbles are completely swept away when I confront the bargain rack at the op shop, where things have failed to sell and the next stop is rags. Which is how the linen jacket above (and a pair of jeans) came home with me a little while back. The jacket had clearly gone through the washing machine despite its dry clean only tag (I understand, dry cleaning is an evil chemical process and expensive as well), and the interfacing had not shrunk at the same rate as the linen. And that, my friends, is how I found myself ripping an Armani suit into its component parts!
This process entertained two friends who don’t share my fascination with garment construction mightily. I’ve read about the signature Armani interior pocket in my wanderings through Threads Magazine. And here it is! Not to mention so much interfacing, of about five different types. In the end some of the jacket lining and the interior pockets became part of this lining.
And the lining was set into an eco print on silk left from dye camp summer 2017.
And finally, I have a new knitting bag. I’ve lost one, and one needs comprehensive mending… and this one has luxury interior pockets for all my little stuff (stitch markers, needles). I’m a happy knitter! And the linen has hit a bucket of soy milk, the better to meet its new destiny.
Last week I sent off a small collection of squares for the Standing Here public art installation. I was just delighted (even if also saddened) to hear that the location for the installation–Tree Place–commemorates the place an ancient tree was felled. I am glad others recognise this as something to be marked and responded to.
This one is a patchwork of raw silk scraps I dyed at Summer Dye Camp. The very last of a raw silk suit a friend bought me at an op shop. I added one of the indigo dyed–bedsheet–napkins for good measure, and this piece, which is a piece of hemp/silk with borders of cotton, dyed with eucalyptus leaves in different ways. Wishing Jenai Hooke and Anne Harris every success with this project!
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!
Now for something totally out of its logical place in the order of things. Before I went to Allansford, I decided to go all out in exploring the depths of my ignorance. It’s my observation of learners that many of us over estimate what we know. We haven’t grappled with our own ignorance sufficiently to realise what a teacher has to offer us. We haven’t applied what we think we know enough to realise where its outer edges are.
I decided on an all out attempt to use my stock of knowledge and supplies to find the limits of my own understanding. I’d been itching to dye and unable to find time, so holidays were a gift. I had multiple attempts to dye with woad and then turned over to dyeing with what indigo I still had. I used up my remaining fructose, and couldn’t find more. So I experimented with sad fruit from the bargain pile at the local shops. I also collected fallen fruit and such. I read all the books and instructions again. I had no joy with the woad no matter what I did and in the end composted two vats.
I tried a yeast vat. It was quite something watching it fizz! In the end, I weakened and bought another package of colour run remover and rescued some indigo with that. between all these vats, I overdyed leaf prints I hadn’t liked much. I dyed scraps and offcuts from old shirts that had been turned into drawstring bags. I even tore up a very worn, patched and mended damask table cloth from the stash and dyed that.
I achieved only soft blues, but soft blues are beautiful.
I went to Allansford convinced that I was struggling with achieving reduction, and maintaining temperature, and quite possibly other things besides. And it was really helpful to go, knowing this, and to be able to see that I had been aiming (mostly) at the right things, checking (mostly) the right things, and had some concepts right, but was applying them in wrong places. It gave me a really strong sense of the limits of my own judgment.
Some of the bits and pieces have already begun to re-form… a bit like my understanding of how to dye with indigo!