While I was on holiday, I finished sewing a batch of needle books made from scraps of blanket dyed with various plants. Now they are waiting to become part of mending kits!
Tag Archives: sheoak
The winter plantings are continuing. Here I am setting out for the neighbourhood tram stop with the trusty bike trailer and a future sheoak grove tucked into a bucket.
They went in one by one, among the plants remaining from council planting, those that survived from my previous efforts, and some succulents another guerilla gardener has put in.
Little but lovely, I hope they will make it!
At the moment they are dwarfed by the platform, shown here as a tram stops.
Then I picked up the rubbish and headed home, watering can and pots ready for refilling!
This time: garment construction. It was a sewing circle, after all!
To begin, for those who haven’t worked this out for themselves, let it be understood that I am a pretty plain sewer. I like sewing, I have some skills, I’ve been doing it a long time. But, I tend to use patterns, amend patterns created by others, make changes driven by sheer lack of cloth or my own mistakes, or construct a pattern from an existing garment. I don’t just look at a piece of fabric, form a concept and apply scissors. India Flint does, and she has written a new little book about the underpinning concepts which I hope will be available to others at some stage… I’ve been kindly gifted a stapled copy. Some of her approaches to creating new garments from old (‘refashioning’ to some) are also set out beautifully in Second Skin.
But the thing is, having the concepts doesn’t get me from here to there. Practice would be needed, of course! But confidence, too–and these two things have a relationship to one another. I know when I went to the first workshop I did with India I listened and watched and was inspired as she demonstrated and explained. I remember wondering why I hadn’t organised my life so I could do exactly this every day. And then I had my own expanse of cloth and my own scissors and my heart sank just about immediately.
It’s a statement of the extremely obvious that India has spent a lifetime thinking about art and garment construction and honing her skills at all related things, and I have not. This knowledge and experience cannot be transferred from one mind to another like a thumb drive plugged into a hard drive. For one thing, it would be more like the hard drive being plugged into the thumb drive! But more than this, I experience doubt that my mental architecture could ever equip me to do this kind of design work. Which is fine. The rich diversity of human minds and creativity is part of what makes life wondrous.
I noticed all manner of things. I have a few good ideas and only so much time, so while I get stuck on some things, I have more ideas than I can carry out already. India had so many ideas about what I could do with the few things I had with me, that my mind boggled. I couldn’t come close to carrying them all out. But when it came to deciding which ones to act on, I found myself up against all kinds of things, from sheer inability to believe that I could carry that idea out, confidence that I would not wear the resulting garment, and sheer inability to conjure up what that would look like or how it could be done, in my own mind.
I have the concept that many of the sewing ‘rules’ I have been taught are the kind that a more skilled person can adjust, skirt around or safely ignore because they know the exceptions and have superior skills. But I can feel myself clinging to them like some kind of misplaced sense of a lifebuoy. It’s only fabric, after all!
Well. The thing is, a learning experience is about expanding your mind. Even if you can feel the strain! So here I am modelling a linen shirt from the op shop, in the process of becoming–an apron? A frock? I thought apron, but by the time it came home, my beloved felt that it was, essentially, a frock. I can’t say she’s a real expert in frocks, but she has an opinion. I am continually being struck by my own inflexibility about what I’ll wear. I have courageous moments of branching out, but I am just nailed on to some core concepts. For one thing, when India thinks of an apron, she thinks this (you’ll have to scroll down, but Sweetpea’s blog is a special place, so don’t hurry over it). When I think of an apron I think of a rectangle of black cotton with two tape ties. I have two, and have had them since I was making my living cooking, long ago!
Anyway, back to the main story. This strategy for shape shifting (shirt to apron) is set out in Second Skin, and I’ve read it a few times without feeling any inclination to try it out. But here it is! It ended up with some recycled raw silk sewn on so it became longer and more flowing. More and more frock-like, one could say. I finished sewing it in Mansfield and it has been sitting quietly at home waiting for the transformation of the dye pot. I am still trying to figure out whether there is any chance of my wearing a shirt-apron-frock. But you never know! And if I can’t, well, I am sure someone else will.
This process really made me think that when I run my fingers through the choices at a garage sale or op shop, I see something that could be taken apart ready to begin again. Where I see a shaped garment that could become flat pieces and then from flat pieces be converted into something else, India seems to me, to see one three dimensional thing that could become other three dimensional things. While we were working in Crockett Cottage, she was taking two pairs of men’s trousers and turning them into one long, glorious skirt of many pockets. It was a thing of wonder to behold this process, let alone the insertion of a silk lining. There is a sample of the finished glory here. Below, a garment made from hemp and cotton knit and the sleeves from the linen short that became a frock, with sheoak leaf prints.
On my way home I had enough time in Melbourne betwixt the bus from Mansfield to the Melbourne central railway station and the Airport shuttle to nip out and see some of Blue at the National Gallery of Victoria. Let it be said that this adventure involved taking my public transport courage in both hands: two trams each way and half an hour at the Gallery. It was so worth it! I could not take pictures. But see images here and here and here. There were fragments of Egyptian garments from many, many hundreds of years ago. Examples of indigo work from a wide variety of weaving and embroidery traditions from China, Japan, Indonesia, India and Europe. At one point I was surprised to find myself answering another wanderer who was asking out loud whether something was woven or embroidered. Clearly I have acquired some knowledge about weaving from hanging about with weavers! Garments ranged from elaborate finery to those constructed entirely from rags in the boro style, and a rather extraordinary rain- and wind-protective cape made of two layers of cotton or hemp, with a layer of waxed paper sewn between them. They were constructed from cotton, linen, hemp, silk, elm fibre. If you have the chance, I recommend this exhibition highly. It can’t help but inspire and amaze to see such evidence of the skill and ingenuity and sheer hard work of peoples from past and (in some cases) continuing traditions and to learn a little about the significance of indigo and the creation of cloth and clothing to them.
My recent dye bundles came out less well than I’d hoped. Some went well…
I got some great string resist marks on others…
Still others were delicate and pale.
This rather promising looking print of sheoak in flower largely washed out, and so did several others.
I think there is something about using a dairy milk mordant that I have failed to understand. I have tended to use soy more and so this was a bit of an experiment. Or perhaps part of the trouble was that these were new fabric offcuts, and I am used to using well washed and worn recycled fabrics, which present a different kind of substrate for dyeing. But I have been using them nonetheless… and finding places where these prints work for me. More soon! So much more 🙂
I went to a wedding in the hills recently… a very pleasantly relaxed and extremely celebratory occasion. On the way home, I stopped in a small town because… many European trees grow in the Adelaide Hills and it’s wonderful to see.
And of course, I had hopes and plans. If you don;t want to look at pictures, stop now. This is a post of MANY pictures.
I collected leaves…
I made bundles…
I made experiments…
I tooled around the neighbourhood on my bike collecting tried and true leaves.
I unwisely tied my bundles with coloured string for the first time ever. I sorta kinda knew this was stupid but did it anyway and was rewarded with blue lines, most of which happily washed out!
I applied heat as the sun set…
And the next day! These images are of fabrics still damp and freshly unwrapped. Even the flannel rag I had used to create a bit of ‘padding’ on one bundle took dye.
Oak leaves on silk
Maple leaves on silk. So green! they are still green after washing and ironing. This silk is from a pantsuit a friend scored for me at an op shop. It is well washed and work raw silk.
The ever faithful E Cinerea on linen. A friend gifted me linen offcuts and these are the first that have made their way into the dye pot. Am I ever blessed with generous friends!
Maple leaves on linen.
E Scoparia is awesome yet again on cotton.
Sheoak from the neighbourhood on linen. This has so much potential…
A happy day all round!
I’ve been trying leaves I don’t usually use and some different strategies for cooking them up. Prunus leaves, kindly contributed by this block of flats. I am sure they wouldn’t mind!
Maple… I think this is Japanese maple.
I have tried several different sheoaks.
Some of the results are really spectacular. My favourite is quite green, very exciting.
Here it is beside the prunus prints.
They are pretty pale…
The maple leaves were interesting, and I love the impression of the string ties. And this sheoak came out better than any other so far. I tried 6he leaves out on a linen collar, and wrapped it around a rusty spring I found in my leaf gathering travels. This bundle was so small I overlooked it, so this one had a long time in the pot, which is no doubt a clue for future experiments.
Some results were less exciting. I did get a pale green print from our birch leaves, which is a first and might be promising.
I went back for more juvenile E Polyanthemos and this time, not so great prints resulted, but I did get some that were quite green, and that’s promising too.
Meanwhile, the saga of the neighbourhood bees continues. The lorikeets moved out of this nesting box, and the bees moved in weeks ago. There is now honeycomb visible in the opening.