Tag Archives: neighbourhood dyeplants

Another leafy quilt!

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I am surprised to be able to say this, but I have finished another quilt.

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In December, I was rather inspired  by a comment on the blog from Susan, who put me onto GiveWraps–Australian craft bloggers advocating for the Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts (and everything else, it seems to me) in fabric.  The Needle and Spindle versions are patchworked together in a very lovely way that is an excellent fit with what I like to do.

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I have been trying to use recycled wrapping paper or making bags for gifts to go in for years… so I was rather inspired by the GiveWraps idea and immediately began patching together yet more bits and pieces.  However, ususally I patch leaf prints with other leaf prints, and prints with other prints and plains.  The GiveWrap idea somehow had me mixing them up in a rather liberating way.

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In this case, I patchworked together leaf print offcuts with leftover pieces of garments that have become bags, scraps of sarong leftover from making pants, details from a pair of shorts that finally came apart and scraps from the previous quilt, as well as stash fabrics.

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It went really well, and soon I had two squares the size of the only Japanese wrapping cloth I own.  It’s a generous size, almost a metre square.  We often use it as a tablecloth on a coffee table.  I laid my two squares out on the floor side by side and immediately thought–almost a single quilt there already!

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I had plenty of leaf printed fabric to make the back and the binding. This is the back.

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Admittedly, machine sewing the binding on became a wrestling match between me and the sewing machine, and in the end the machine had to go into the repair shop.  The last little section was sewn on a friend’s machine, and now I have been sadly parted from my machine for weeks.

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This time, I actually did make the binding with the wonderfully beautiful slanted seams t5hat create less bulk in the next step.

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Partway through hand stitching binding to back, a friend who is a tailor and teaches sewing gave me a tip about sliding my needle along the inside of the folded edge of the binding as I handstitched down the binding, so that went extra well too.  Second picture of the binding because… I am proud of actually doing the proper thing with the binding for the first time!  So, from this…


To a finished quilt.

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I even embroidered a little panel with a dedication and the date, as this is going to be a gift for my fairy goddess-son.  A finer appreciator of a handmade item would be hard to find, but he is blessed to be sharing his life with, and being brought up by, two such fine people.  Soon it will be his birthday.  How to wrap the quilt???


Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

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

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

Dyeing with camellia flowers

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It’s camellia season here.  We have two camellias, a red flowering variety and a more compact white flowering variety.  I put up a jar of camellia flowers a while back using the Stuff Steep and Store method… I couldn’t resist trying!  For those who don’t know what I am talking about–this is a method of ‘preservation dyeing’ developed by India Flint and published in this book.  There is also a rather wonderful online pantry of people’s dye jars to peruse and become inspired by, should you wish.

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However, I had no idea whether camellia flowers give reliable dye when I stuffed those blooms in the jar.  So I felt heartened when I found Aphee showing her camellia dyes on Ravelry.  She has posted about them on her blog a few times, too.  She was inspired by a Japanese blog.  My French is not very good, but my Japanese is non-existent: I enjoyed the pictures though!!

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Aphee’s posts suggest that camellia flowers give colour, that the contents of my jar are a promising combination, and that the nature of the dyestuff is exactly the kind India Flint says Stuff, Steep and Store works especially well for.  This, I had hoped for, but not expected.  I decided that while the camellias were blooming, I may as well try dyeing by more usual methods.

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I gathered all the fallen blooms and tried to rinse the mud and mulch from them.  Meanwhile, our chooks were out wandering the yard–and the camellias are their favourite dust bathing spot.  The edge of the bed must be in the rain shadow of the verandah, so the soil there is still dry while the whole garden has been generously rain watered lately.

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They left big circles of earth on the paving where they shook out the dust once they were finished!  The camellias soon turned brown though I kept the heat low.  This is one of the reasons the preservation dyeing method seems so promising for dyestuffs like these.

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Well… the result in this case was not impressive.  This test sample was barely nudged out of the cream and white it was before dyeing.  Longer heating didn’t change that at all.  So–let that be another example of the mysterious in natural dyeing for the time being.  Aphee is doing something differently to me and I have no idea what it is!  I’ll put the next clutch of fallen blooms in jars until I have a new thought… who knows what I might learn between now and next camellia season?

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Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Mock Orange–Choisya Ternata

Choisya Ternata (which I grew up hearing called ‘mock orange’) is appearing more and more as a hedge in my neighbourhood.  It looks very lush at this time of the year… leafy and green and just beginning to flower. Inspired by blog posts I’d read like Aqua and Flora and Debbie Herd, I ran a dyepot with no modifier and got a beautiful yellow. Then, I modified with copper water and obtained an olive green.


The effect of this addition was impressive, to say the least.

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This rated as one of the most delectably scented dye baths ever, and it is certainly one I’ll try again.



Filed under Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

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

More jars for the pantry!

I’ve been making the most of the end of season fruits and flowers to create more Stuff, steep and store jars.


This jar contains pomegranate rind (and a few seeds)–somewhat dried out after contributing to more than one salad earlier in the week:


Then I made another with hibiscus flowers, and since I was sorting through dyes from the Guild that day (on a large sheet to catch escapees), a few cochineals and kermes left on the sheet with dust and dirt and leaf fragments.


Finally, why not try madder root, as I now have quite a bit of it in my possession?  I figure if this does not go well–though I can honestly see no reason it should fail–I can heat it and dye with it when it comes out of the jar.


Before sealing…


And some days after…

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Many more images of what people are doing with this process over at The Pantry.


Filed under Natural dyeing

A birthday gift sewing kit

One of my beloved friends–I think of her as family of choice, really–had a birthday recently.  I love to celebrate birthdays, but to be honest, I prefer to give gifts as they come gleefully to hand or come into existence and not save them up for a specific day.  Perhaps I am just impulsive, or perhaps I don’t have enough gift ideas!  Anyway, near enough to the big day I came to understand that she didn’t have a sewing bag… even though she is such a wonderful stitcher and mender, and even though she is currently spending many hours on public transport where stitching might be a good thing to be carrying.  I started out with making a bag.



The main panel is a superb quality linen which was once part of a pair of suit pants.  At a  guess, they had their heyday in the early 1980s.  I have saved the jacket, but the pants were past use as a garment and long since met the dye pot, bundled with E Scoparia leaves.  My favourite combination, pretty much.  The chocolate brown ramie and linen sections were also op shop garment finds, and there is a leaf printed silk noil lining.  Naturally, I acquired some pretty pins and suchlike… And then made a needlecase.



These prints are pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) leaves on a strip of old woolen blanket, stitched with silk thread dyed in Austral indigo (Indigofera Australis)–but only just!  The thread colour seemed perfect for the job to me, being just to the blue side of grey.  Those pohutakawa leaves have the glorious feature of giving two completely different coloured eco-prints, one on each side of the leaf.


Long ago, another friend gifted me a pile of small leather samples, perhaps from an upholsterer–each one labelled with the name of the colour.  This one met its destiny as a scabbard of the most basic kind, intended to stop these scissors finding their way out through the bag.  In the end, this gift extended the birthday season by some days… the anniversary of my friend coming into the world came and passed–and a bit later, along came this belated present.




Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, 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

More joy of stranded colourwork knitting

There have been two more pairs of Tingvoll slippers. Too much fun!  Unfortunately, without going into boring detail, I have also been having a great deal of trouble with photographs.  My phone  suffered a major episode while I was in Melbourne and is now on its second trip to repair.  The first visit fixed one problem but rendered the camera absolutely unable to focus.  This has meant discovering not a single photo is in focus when it it too late to take another set… having unfamiliar equipment, no equipment, or using the retired cameras and remembering why they were pensioned off!  So, my apologies for photo quality, and my hopes that my capacity to take pictures for the blog at will, and upload them with similar abandon, and access WordPress on my phone, will return soon.


If you have been following along for a long while you might remember my dyeing project using eucalypts over grey Corriedale.  I created two sets of yarn–one where I maintained the colour changes and one where I plied different coloured singles together.  These slippers use the three ply colour-changes-maintained yarn.  Until now, I had struggled to figure out what to make with something so lovely but so chunky.


This first pair were made with 5.5 mm needles, my handspun eucalyptus dyed Corriedale wool and Bendigo Woolen Mills 12 ply, leftover from making slippers for a goth friend.


They have gone to a different friend who is a writer.  She said she might save them to be special writing slippers.  What an exceedingly fine compliment.


This second pair, knit on 5 mm needles, have gone to another dear one who spends her work life assisting people to recover from trauma.


I hope they will gladden her heart!


Having done it three times I began to find the chart so much easier to follow… my sense of following a chart as difficult began to ebb away.  My confidence that I can do colour knitting began to grow stronger.  I began to have that sense of happy familiarity you get with a song you have listened to a lot.  I now have my first set of metal DPNs and I like them very much–I tend to use circulars for most knitting in the round–and I mostly do knit in the round.  But in this case the pattern divides into four sections in a way that I decided very much lent itself to DPNs.  Lovely!  I can only recommend this pattern.


Filed under Knitting