Tag Archives: silk thread

Small projects, big plans

A while ago I went to The Drapery to buy zippers, and The Drapery is far more tempting to me than the chain alternatives, so I came away with a fat quarter (or something like that) of Liberty lawn.  My Mother-Out-Law loves Liberty prints, so I tried to inhabit her aesthetic and chose this one.  She is a rather petite woman, so I made four small handkerchieves and I am reliably informed that she loves them! Naturally (in her case–the other gift she enjoys is stationery) she sent me a lovely card, and observed that only another sewer would recognise the rolled hems as a special achievement.  I feel so lucky to have out-laws who are so kind and lovely.

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Then there was the very last of these bags.

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This time I chose madder and indigo dyed threads.

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The madder dyed silk in the centre of this circle was dyed at my house, (the madder and indigo purple by Beautiful Silks), and it is SO red!

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There have been other small projects piling up, but there has also been a development.  We went to the Royal Show again this year and Suffolks were the featured sheep breed.  This beauty evidently didn’t stand still (or perhaps it was me who did the wriggling).

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I tried to speak with breeders in hopes of acquiring a fleece and discovered again that I’m really quite shy.  My beloved was much better at it.  We spoke to breeders from WA and Tasmania who did not bring fleece, and then found one from Kangaroo Island who was happy enough to sell me a fleece if I was sure I wanted to spin from a meat sheep and did I realise this is sold as carpet wool? It’s so sad to think that the long history of this breed as a source of wool for specific uses such as socks, has been all but lost even among lovers of the breed.

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Malcolm called me on the weekend and we had a chat.  We agreed on one fleece and a price that I thought was too low, and what do you know?  I put one and a half times the price in an envelope and he delivered two fleeces, or is it three?  He threw in a “black” fleece because these sell for even less than the $3 or $4 per kilo that Malcolm gets for white Suffolk fleece.  Last night I skirted it at the Guild Hall and it is grey and dark brown, cream and white (I suspect, under the dirt).  I can only confirm that I won’t need another delivery in October: this is a LOT of wool.  I’ve never raised a sheep, and it’s entirely possible Malcolm doesn’t know how long it takes to spin sock yarn!  However, the fleece I skirted last night is lovely. I’ve had little access to Suffolk to date and spun what I had suspected was poor quality fleece with a very short staple.  This has a high crimp staple of at least 8-10 cm in places, and while the coloration lowers its value for industrial processing, for me it is a real asset.  I washed a small quantity before work this morning, I’m so keen to get spinning…

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Needlebooks

I made another little stack of needlebooks.  I have been accumulating tins that can become mending kits as I assemble all their elements over time.  I figure I will be teaching mending again sooner or later.

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I love how these little pieces use tiny scraps (in this case, blanket offcuts) and yet turn them into something that is useful and perhaps also lovely.  I also enjoy choosing plant dyed threads that work with the section of print I am using.  Sometimes I change thread colour as I go or as the thread remaining in that colour runs out.

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I made an exception here and used indigo dyed thread my beloved brought home from Japan for the coreopsis flower print, because–the print itself seemed to call for it.  I can feel the time drawing closer when I will need to open my stuff, steep and store jars and see what new silk thread options they offer.  How have I managed to wait so long?

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Needle books

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Basketry, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Needle books on the Murray River

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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.

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Eventually things calmed down and for those feeling nauseous, that part subsided, and the sun set over beautiful river red gums.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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With words and without words

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I regret to say that this is a report on an exhibition that has since closed.  The wonderful (and local-to-me) Isobel McGarry exhibited during winter at Gallery M in Marion.   Isobel is a dyer who uses eco-prints in her works.

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However, the thing that strikes me as really central to her work is her embroidery.  She uses an extraordinary number of tiny stitches.  She often embroiders on silk, and her work shows a fascination with Japanese textile traditions and culture.  I loved the combination of these gorgeous works with Japanese poetry.

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As always in these techniques, the splendour of lovely details is part of the pleasure.

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Every little detail has been attended to and embellished.

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Isobel’s longing for peace seems to me to be accompanied by meditations on all that war has caused us to lose… and so the themes of fallen leaves and of the crucifix evident in so many cemeteries in this part of the world are persistent.

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A small posse of us who are admirers of Isobel’s work were privileged to go and admire the exhibit together one winter’s weekend, and it was good to spend time appreciating all that detail.

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I am sorry that you can’t go and see this lovely exhibit… but here is our departing view…

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Mending in July

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Because mending never stops… I have not restricted mine to May.  This is a little light darning on some underwear. I know, this is pansy dyed green thread… but this top already has indigo dyed darning (top right) and lots of other mends in all kinds of colours… so when the pansy green took my fancy I didn’t resist.

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This, on the other hand, is  a pair of jeans. I love seeing people’s glorious sashiko style mending on jeans, but these people have the physique and luck to wear their jeans through on the knees.  Not me. And, I think it would be an overstatement of my mending to call it sashiko as well as doing injustice to Japanese sewing traditions…

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Anyway… on the outside this is not too obtrusive.

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Hopefully good enough to hang together in gardening use, in any case!

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Woad in winter

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I realised a little late that I should have picked my woad earlier. But decided I had nothing to lose by picking it now.

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Then the chopping…

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Then the vat. How blue should the froth be, to be blue enough? These are the questions that plague my blue-dyeing!

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Eventually, I had a vat. The wool came out the same colour it was when it went in. The second vat had a lot more leaf to the same volume of water.

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I ended up with some blue-pale blue-bluish wool.

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And some silk thread that is more of a silver grey.  I swear it was blue after the second vat, but either subsequent re-dips stripped the colour back out, or it was fugitive.  Or I dreamed it. Well, they do say that woad doesn’t bear much indigotin, and harvesting in winter is not ideal.  But, am I allowed to be a bit disappointed anyway?

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Madder: the growing and the dyeing

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I have been growing madder for some years now without having enough to use for dye. It had to be transplanted when we moved house.  Then, I heard so much about how invasive it can be, I planted it in a half wine barrel and it really hasn’t enjoyed this spot.  I think people who find it invasive must have more rainfall or better watering practices, or perhaps all of the above and better soil. Then, it is amazing how many critters want to eat it despite the leaves being the texture of rough sandpaper!  I decided to divide and transplant finally.

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Here is the crop. Not too bad, but really, not a huge mass of roots.

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My beloved put three new garden beds in that will get dependable summer watering and generously agreed to one of them being a dye bed. When I had divided one of the rhubarb plants, re planted the resulting crowns and set out the new madder bed, I had a few roots left. I consulted my various manuals and washed the roots.

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Then, out with the dye blender (my parents scored this for me in their travels through second hand shops)!

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It went into the dye bath looking orange, but as I heated it, it became a deeper and deeper shade.

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At this stage, I put some silk embroidery thread in, in a zippered mesh pouch that has seen a lot of dye baths since it left the Body Shop and ended up empty in an op shop (and thence came home with me). This turned out not to be enough to keep out all the particles of madder!

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My goodness! I think this is the red I have been promised from madder!

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One skein dyed quite evenly and one streakily and both will be gorgeous in their own ways.

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After this point, I strained the dye bath through two layers of nylon next curtain, added mordanted grey fleece and got the kind of orange that madder often gives in an exhaust (to me, at any rate).  And now, I can’t wait to see if I can really get this madder thriving!  For other bloggers whose madder growing and dyeing is inspirational I suggest An Impartation of Colour and Jenny Dean and Deb McClintock (so many posts to read from Deb!).

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#MenditMay: Beyond darning

I have a dear friend whose entire family are facing some very tough times.  I’d been wondering what I could do that might bring some comfort to her, and then I had an idea.  I knew she had a cardigan that had belonged to someone she treasured, and that it was showing signs of long wear and lots of love.  So I offered to mend it for her.  She chose some yarn and on some quiet nights last week I set to work.

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Darning is always possible, but sometimes it seems barely adequate to the task, and the result is unlikely to be pleasing.  I have darned holes bigger than this, but I did cover some of them with leather elbow patches afterward!

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In the end I decided knitting in patches was a better idea.  I used needle and yarn to stabilise runaway live stitches.  Then I picked up some stitches, as you can see above.

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In a couple of spots I darned first and then picked up stitches.  See the woven section above the knitting needle?  Then it is really a process of knitting along and purling back, knitting two together at each side with a patch-stitch and a picked up strand from the garment.  There were some places where I added extra stitches or cast some off as I passed.

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One sleeve got several patches.  I tried different ways of casting off (binding off) and decided hand sewing the stitches down was the smoothest finish.

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There were smaller places where I did small darns or just trapped live stitches so that ladders could not spread further.

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On the cuffs, I considered a few options before settling on using some of the silk thread I dyed with Japanese indigo.  The grey was pretty much perfect here and I was able to use a fine enough needle to stop the stitches that are unravelling going further.

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There were four buttonholes but one button.  I couldn’t match it, so I sewed on four that have come off some other garment.

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Because a cardigan can be worn open, I concealed the ends of the stitching, with the initial knot and the tie off under the button rather than on the ‘wrong’ side, where I would happily tie them off on a shirt.

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And here it is.  Visibly mended but in a way I hope will mean this treasured cardigan will have an extended life providing comfort and warmth to my friend through times good and bad.

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I know my friend is surrounded by the love and care of many friends and her family too.  I’m lucky to be among them.

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#MenditMay Mending sewing machines and more

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This sewing machine was found in a shed.  It was unwanted by the new resident, so it came to me for cleaning, oiling and a look over.  You see it here with some of the upper casing removed to allow lubrication. It is now on its way to new users in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yangkunytjatjara lands. Meanwhile at our place, the threadbare flourbag shirt got some more patches added.  Here, the glue stitching I mentioned in my last post holding them in position.

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Here, the inside view.

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And here, the finished–for now–view of the back.

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Threads dyed with pansy, dyer’s chamomile and eucalyptus.

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I took up my friend’s jeans.  I feel like I have almost got top stitching denim sorted!

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Top tips: use a jeans needle.  If using top stitching thread, thread the needle by hand (should you have any other options, don’t use them); and leave ordinary thread in the bobbin. Use a 4mm stitch at least.

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Buttons replaced in position and stitched down so they don’t get away. I had to laugh when one button fell off at work the day of the second mending workshop!

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And another sewing machine cleaned, oiled, tested and ready to go to its new owners.  My grandmother lived in a country town where getting your machine serviced was not easy to arrange (cost may have been an issue too).  She was a fearless tender to her own machine and those of all her friends and told me many times that cleaning and oiling fixed most troubles.  So I am in her footsteps here, but in this case with a manual to guide me.  I took this machine apart and oiled all. the. places.  It really whirs along! It is now headed to asylum seekers who have been released from increasingly notorious conditions in detention on Nauru, who were tailors in their country of origin and will make great use of this well maintained machine.  It came to me because I was working on the mending kits and a lovely volunteer in an op shop asked if I could re-home a machine she knew needed to find a new home. I feel sure its new use would please the original owner very much.

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