Tag Archives: local trees

Beloved trees

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?



Filed under Craftivism, Sewing

We are all part of one another

I was out gardening before work again a few mornings back. The weather is changing, the first of our chooks is moulting… some things need to happen now and soon!

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The vegetable and flower seedlings have been growing quickly.  In went rocket, lettuce, kale, broccoli and hollyhocks. Not quite done, but well on the way.

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The native plants have continued to sprout and grow, with ruby saltbush still the big success story. The biggest went into the ground this morning.  Here they are in a bucket ready to travel.  Those I planted earliest in the season are quite a good size now.  In the site where council watering has helped them on, only one seedling was lost.  In the drier site (further from home), about half have made it.  Many non plussed cyclists passed as I planted.

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One woman with a dog stopped to thank me and express her concern about all the newly planted natives that died when cars kept parking on them.  We talked about what could be done.  I was planting in a spot where over several nights someone stole the plants out of the ground–about 12 in all! So we talked about that, as she passes with her dog every day and notices things I also notice.  She spoke of the bunting and how she had been maintaining it.  It’s good to know and to remember that for every person who tears it down there might be several like this woman stopping to maintain it and being made cheerier by seeing it and understanding they have company in loving trees and plants.

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Then it was clean up time.  People dump stuff in the common land.  Why is it so?  Well, I extracted the plastic sack that was coming apart from its contents (old horse manure and sawdust, could be worse) and took it to the bin.  If only those degradable bags were capable of decomposing in the sense that dead plant life decomposes.

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Then I towed all the dead branches someone had piled around the base of one of my beloved trees home.  Happily our ‘green waste’ bin for council collection is almost always empty.  We’re big mulchers.  We have worms and chooks and compost systems.  So the green bin is there for rescue missions, and its contents can go to be composted by council.

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Last time someone dumped in this spot, They left a huge pot in several pieces.  Only one small piece was missing, so I heaved it home and glued it together.  It seems to be holding, so one big ugly plastic pot that is doing a great job of holding a plant, got placed inside.  Definitely an improvement.  While I did these things I thought about what it means that people dump things on common land here.  Is there something about this site I could change, that would make this a less favoured location, for example.

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I have been thinking a lot about the injunction in Indigenous law to recognise that we are interconnected–earth, animals, plants, sky, humans, stars, wind… I’ve been wondering what would follow for non Indigenous people if we tried to live by the core principles of Indigenous law in this country (as best we can understand them–and recognising this will always be partial) instead of thinking of Indigenous principles as a curiosity.  A bit like a religion you don’t really understand but that you can acknowledge exists and holds meaning for others. This is preferable to outright hostility, and growing up in this country I have seen that hostility and disrespect for Indigenous Australians since I was a small child.  But it is still pretty impoverished as a way of thinking our relationships to the land, its people and its law. Continuing with this thought experiment, I was trying out in my mind what it would mean to think of this tree as a relative in some profound sense. I am sure it would mean I wouldn’t choose this spot as a place to put rubbish. Respect would surely be part of that relationship. I have been thinking about relationships and what they can mean. I wondered whether I could draw strength from that tree as well as plant an understory that might protect it a little and clean up the mess passing humans leave. I thought that I could and that I do.

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If we are all part of one another (and this is something I believe on many levels), surely it follows that I don’t get to pick and choose.  I have often thought one of the profound things about Indigenous life prior to colonisation is that an Indigenous relationship to land is a profound and permanent thing: each person who belonged to a place would have expected to live there for their entire life and die there.  Something so profoundly unlike contemporary Western lives lived with the capacity to leave your relatives, your place of birth, everyone you have ever known and choose not to return.   If there was no picking and choosing, if we are all interconnected: what is my relationship to these people who leave what they don’t want on the commons of our suburb?  What obligations do I have to them?  How should I think about them?  I don’t have any answers, but some days I think I might be on to some decent questions.  That I’m wondering in a productive direction. I hope so. So I gathered more saltbush berries and kept thinking.

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Filed under Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Quilt finished at long last!

It has been a long time coming, but toward the end of my first burst of holiday time I finally got a proverbial wriggle on and made some serious quilt progress. I have created a series of blocks that each showcase leaves from a specific eucalypt, and embroidered the name of the eucalypt onto the block with eucalyptus-dyed silk thread. Who knew I had it in me?  I thought I had decided against embroidery as a child, never to go back.  I tracked the old posts on this project because I wondered just how long I have been working on this quilt (or not working on it, which is the routine case, of course!)  Just between you and me, this post in July 2013 is my first intimation on the blog that this project was in my mind.  Blocks sitting waiting for courage here.  Blocks finished here.  Sashing attached with help from a visiting friend here. Dyeing the border here.  Back finished here.  Finally, it was assembly time!  Here is the back, pinned out flat on the floor, wrong side up.

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I love the wrong side.  Of most things. The back is made of a mix of recycled, inherited and thrifted fabric.  Next, the minimal batting option for women of a certain age in a warm climate: an ancient flannellette sheet, well past its prime.  It’s hard to tell it was ever blue now.

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The top, pinned out over the rest, is made of stash black fabrics and a mix of recycled and thrifted fabric again:

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All layers pinned together, I decided on machine quilting, coaxed by a friend. The quilting part has never gripped me.  My last quilt was tie-quilted and not really ‘quilted’ with stitching much at all. Clearly the patchwork is my main interest, and the dyeing, of course.  Then, time to make the binding.  There were plenty of leftovers.  I made metres of binding and followed the instructions in Block Party by Alissa Haight Carlton and Kristen Lejnieks.   As usual, with less precision than the authors suggest might be warranted.  Just the same… here it is, kept tidy until stitching-on time…  Second Skin was right behind the ironing board, and seemed perfect for multiple reasons…

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I do understand bias binding, and there are places for it, but I can’t see the point when binding a straight edge, so I went with on-the-grain binding and contrary to the instructions, sewed seams straight across at 90 degrees (okay, it creates less bulk to use 45 degree seams–that part, I concede). I made an exception when I had a moment of curiosity and finished with a lovely 45 degree seam–seen under sewing-machine-mood-lighting below.  Because who needs seams that match?  Maybe next time I’ll give all the binding that treatment, you just never know.  I followed the instructions for mitred corners.  Simple and effective!  Much better than my own past efforts at reverse engineering without instructions.  Done!

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Apart, that is, from the metres and metres of hand stitching required on the back.  And here it is, midsummer!

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But all such jobs come to an end, and now, finally, I have a quilt I love.  I am surprised by how much I like the embroidery.  It just glowed in the sunlit window the day I tried for pictures.

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I like all those blocks with their Latin names and motley prints.

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And I like its all-over-leafiness and the nicely bound edge.  I expect this quilt will be a companion for many years to come, and this is such a happy thing!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Week 4 Silkworm update

It’s well and truly spring,  Our native orchids are in bloom.

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So is E Torquata, the Coolgardie gum.  The bees are happy about the whole thing.

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I’ve been out demanding action on climate change, with people all over the world (and hundreds locally).

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Fledging birds are getting in strife all over the metropolitan area (and many more are flying without difficulty, I hope)!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Neighbourhood pleasures

Sheet bundles

There has been some more bundle cooking for my friend.  She handed over these massive bundles–they are bedsheets. We’d walked over to visit with a bale of straw for our friends’ hens… and walked back with the bundles and cartons of fabric.  I spent time helping a friend clear out her Mum’s sewing room recently and since then have been finding new homes for sewing machines, yarn, fabric and a wide array of other items.  Some of my fellow guildies were delighted to take possession of tapestry bobbins…

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Here are the parcels going into the pot, packed with dried leaves.  My friends have an E Scoparia at the end of their street, and that’s what was inside the bundle… leaves and some bark, too!


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Some time later…

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And being unbundled!

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One had remarkably little in the way of distinct leaf prints.  I am amazed that there was enough dye in those leaves to colour so much fabric.  Unrolling…

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Flapping about over the lawn, wet from the dye pot…

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The second one had some prints in closest to the centre of the bundle. 

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Glorious!  A third immense bundle has gone home with my biggest pot, for some time on a gas burner.  I love that big pot but it just doesn’t work with my electric burners.  This is going to be one fabulous set of sheets!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Neighbourhood pleasures

Peach leaf dye

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It seems a long time since I was admiring the rather lovely green another dyer on Ravelry had achieved using peach leaves.  She sounded a little apologetic when she explained that the leaves she used had fallen–but I was delighted, since that meant we were both Australians, experiencing autumn at the same time–and my peach tree was also dropping its leaves too.  We moved here less than three years ago and planted about 8 fruit trees in the first autumn, so our trees are, as yet, on the small side and my leaf harvest was similarly small.  Then I became distracted.  It is now midwinter and those leaves have been hanging off a chair in the dyeing area in a calico bag since then.  They are now quite dry.

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Recently, I spent time bagging dried leaves, sweeping and cleaning up–and it seemed like the right time.  Into the pot they went with some of the lovely rain that has fallen lately.  It is always wonderful to be blessed with rain here.  The leaves gave a rather soft and beautiful yellow, which you can just about see through the steam in this picture.

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Now for the next step.  I added about 50 ml of copper water.  This jar sits in the garden along with my rusty iron water jar and a few other chemistry experiments.

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There was nothing of the dramatic change in colour I observed with the Choisya Ternata bath, which made me wonder if I added more copper water to that bath and had simply forgotten quantity.  I returned the heat to the dye pot and added another sample card.

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I tried longer heating and more copper water–and the dye itself turned greenish–but the wool hardly moved from yellow.  Perhaps fresh leaves next time?

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Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Garments to bags…

The time has come for some of my clothes to find new uses.  These worn out jeans have had years of use as jeans…

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I made these shorts from a length of linen I found on a pile of hard rubbish on a Brisbane kerb when I was there one summer.  They have had years of hard wear and been re-dyed once or twice.  Surprisingly enough the screen printed design on the pocket details didn’t take dye!

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They are now completely threadbare in places that would create embarrassment if they were to fail, further evidence of the hard wearing qualities of linen.

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I paired the jeans up with some leftovers from past sewing adventures, which finished out the lining.

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The jeans pockets went on the inside, retained for future use.  The outside features the pockets of a pair of hemp shorts that hit the dye pot some time ago.

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I teamed the linen shorts up with the remainders of a pair of men’s twill cotton pants bought for a dollar from the Red Cross.

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I love a beautifully executed pocket, and there are two of them featured on the outside of this bag, while the back pockets of the shorts are still on the inside of the bag.

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In between the sewing, I spent the weekend mordanting fibre and continuing to try to exhaust dye baths from the workshop a fortnight ago!  By the end of the weekend I was down to pastels… And there was the odd Stuff, Steep and Store jar to be going on with.  Using the microwave has lowered the barriers to taking an opportunistic dye find or something that seems promising but whose dye properties are unknown to me and putting it up for future reference.  Here, rat-nibbled pomegranate remains collected off the ground… as no edible pomegranate would be turned to dye at our house!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

In preparation for a natural dyeing workshop

As I write, I’m preparing to run a workshop at my Guild.  I’m counting down and there are only a few days left.  Preparation has been going on for weeks now! I’ve skeined beautiful organic wool and mordanted some.

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I’ve washed fleece in two colours and two breeds, and mordanted some.  I’ve decided being able to mordant cold in alum is a real benefit to preparing unspun fibres.  Less opportunity for felting or simply mooshing the fibres.  Three cheers to Jenny Dean, who introduced me to the idea of cold mordanting with alum.

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I treated some merino roving to a cold alum bath too. Later I decided that past unlovely experiments with paj silk could go in the mordant bath with a view to being overdyed.  And added silk embroidery thread.

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I have been packing things into bags and writing lists. I’ve begged milk bottles from coffee carts and turned them into sample cards. Finally, on the weekend, I wandered the neighbourhood on my bike gleaning leaves, and finding some damaged pomegranates that might be used for dyeing–the rats that were scampering along the fence nearby had clearly been having a banquet!  It was overcast, but can you see these two E Cinereas forming an arch at the end of this street?  Cute as a button!

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Ironbarks were oozing kino, which is their main strategy for avoiding pest attack.  This one seemed to have gone a bit too far…

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Some ironbarks were in flower. Gloriously.

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In some streets there was a carpet of flowers on the ground where lorikeets and rosellas had been partying.

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Some of the neighbourhood E Cinereas have recovered from the most recent attack of the chainsaws a bit.

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I stopped off at my favourite E Scoparia on my way home.  It now has some leaves I can reach for the first time since a bough was lopped a couple of years ago.

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So, I came home fully laden.  I even found an E Cinerea branch that had been cut some time ago but must have fallen to the ground more recently. Needless to say, it came home with me.

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Hopefully, my preparations are nearing completion.  I had a dream the other night where my workshop went terribly wrong… for one thing, there were two workshops and I had not prepared for the first one at all… and the Guild hall, which is a bit of a rabbit warren, had several rooms that I had not previously seen!  Perhaps it is the idea of using cochineal for the first time acting on my overdeveloped sense of responsibility…


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

For the love of mending: Make do and mend afternoon

We had a make do and mend afternoon with friends recently.  We’re investigating actions we might take about climate change, and we’ve begun with some conversations about consumerism.  Who knows where that might lead?  I began by stitching up a torn out seam for my partner and tightening all the screws on the clothes rack so it works properly. Meanwhile a rusty frypan was rehabilitated, an electrical plug was replaced, and the endless chewing of moths on fine wool was darned in by others.

I have a wardrobe which is heavy on the bottom end.  I always have more clothes suitable for gardening and doing filthy jobs than I have clothes for best.  And my favourites are usually my gardening clothes.  Things that are no longer suitable for wearing to work or to visit my mother, unless I’ll be weeding while I’m there. My father is a bit like me.  When I knit him socks he puts them in the drawer until he has worn out a previous pair.  My current favourite jeans are well past their best, and weeks ago they went through in the knee.  I kept thinking I would turn them into a bag, but then I kept taking them out of the reuse pile and pulling them on.  So with a crowd of friends who were mending and repairing too, and a pot of pumpkin soup to keep it cheery, I patched them.  Maybe one day this patch will be part of a bag!

For those who wish they knew how to patch the knee of jeans, step one for a simple mend is to rip out whichever seam is less complicated.  Leave the flat felled, beautifully topstitched seam intact and rip the other one, if there is a choice.

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Choose a nice patch.  This one was once part of a pair of cotton twill pants and is now eco printed with E Cinerea leaves.  Trim back the hole to some solid fabric, and shape it.  My mother taught me this mend and always created a straight sided shape, like a rectangle.  I decided to try something rounded.  Put the patch on the inside, and turn the edges of the jeans under all around, attaching to the patch fabric. Tacking would be a great way to proceed, but I prefer pins.  Call me a daredevil!

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On the inside, turn the edges of the patch under, toward the wrong side of the jeans.  Stitching the first seam and then turning the second would have been a good idea, but I was having an interesting conversation and didn’t want to leave the room to use the sewing machine yet!

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Stitch around each edge.

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Apologies for the indoor pictures on a rainy day–but here is the patch, being a mend on gardening jeans, in the garden, with the sun out, however weakly!

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One of my treasured friends brought some socks with him.  It’s a shame about the lighting, but never mind.

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I made these from Cleckheaton 5 ply crepe in pure wool (not the best possible choice for socks) in 2009. Here they are on my desk at work in all their glory in 2009.  Who can believe I managed to find the photo (or understand why I took it at work?)


The stripes at the tops are all my samples for the previous period–a metre or two of yarn dyed with samples of local eucalypts and other plants.  The rue dyepot was the worst ever–but a triumph of neighbourhood cooperation involving a rendezvous at the local train station where my friend handed a bag of rue prunings out the door and I stood there ready receive them as he continued on his way on the train relieved of his pungent burden!  One of the socks is all in orange tones and the other tans and greens.  Rue.  The ordinary kind does not give red, my friends, take it from me (or sort me out if you know how to get red from it–seems like there is a Siberian kind that might give red–but only from the seeds–or some such).  I digress.  These socks have been worn a lot, which is very flattering, and my heart’s friend wanted to keep them, though perhaps only for in-slipper wear.  We consulted about whether it was feasible to darn these holes.  I wasn’t sure.  He can darn but has not kept up his knitting skills in a period when carpentry has been needed more at his place.

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He has the biggest feet on my knitting roster.  These holes are BIG.  I wasn’t sure about darning them.  He went off to tend to a bicycle (there were others people dealing with wood and still others entertaining children with the wheelbarrow and others still darning).  I thought it over, no doubt drawing on things I’ve seen and read, and wondered if I could just pick up and knit on a patch.  I pulled out 4 ply patonyle dyed with eucalypts.  I’ve learned a few things about getting a strong colour since I dyed these socks.  the original wool in the socks has worn thin and the 4 ply was fine for the job.  I decided on a visible mending aesthetic.

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At first, I wasn’t sure how to join on the sides on.  Then it dawned on me… pick up a further stitch and knit or purl it together with the edge stitch.  What could be simpler?

Put your sunglasses on, I must have changed the settings on the camera.

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When I got to the end of each hole, I decided to graft.

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I picked up more stitches and kitchener stitched (grafted) them together.  And in the end… the conversation was so good I mended all three of the big holes.  Comfy socks to wear when your feet are up.  Eat your hearts out!

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Milky merino: Second effort

I decided to use the scraps from my milky merino to make a singlet for a small friend. One inspiration was the discovery of another E Cinerea nearby on a suburban street.  It is beautiful.


It is covered in new growth, whose leaves are larger and teardop shaped rather than the rounder heart shape that is usual for mature leaves.


I have to say milky merino is a glorious fabric to use for eco-printing.  It takes colour in a most spectacular fashion.  I bundled up one night and unbundled a day or so later.


I love the way the fabric took on a golden creamy colour where it did not absorb a direct print.


Action shot!


I created a pattern from an existing garment and set about cutting and sewing it from the fabric.


The finished garment is sooo cute, and so tiny I need to find a different recipient for it.  I should have recognised the difference in stretch between the garment I measured up and the milky merino…!




Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing