Tag Archives: silky merino

Handmade plant dyed workwear

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On my little holiday in Allansford, I dyed up some knit silk and some silky merino from the Beautiful Silks odds and ends department–much better fun than the remnants at a big chain store.

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I had to do some creative work to find this entire garment from the pieces.  In the end, I settled on silk sleeves and a silky merino body.

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A friend agreed to take some pictures for me one day but she evidently couldn’t do anything about my embarrassment! And she offered the view that this top would work better if it were a little longer.  She may well be right.

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You can see I’ve got leaves running in one direction up my back and down the other… I just couldn’t get the pattern to fit any other way.  And–I’ve enjoyed wearing this most of the winter.

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Leafy Clothing

I had a little holiday in Allansford in the middle of the year, and since I stayed at Beautiful Silks–it involved stitching and dyeing.  Perfect.  I also broke my commitments against buying stuff and invested in a pile of fabric from the scraps and oddments department at Beautiful Silks and some silky merino. And there was some op shopping too!

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Some fabrics hit the dye pots while I was still in Victoria!  The ever-generous Marion showed me some of her favourite local dye trees, including plants I had not been able to coax much colour from or simply didn’t know.  And some wonderful greens resulted.

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I have a very basic home made singlet pattern, and managed to get the front from a silk knit and the back from silky merino after cutting a larger garment out.

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So now I have this machine seamed, hand finished piece of splendid. The front:

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And the back:

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It’s a bit sad so few people will ever see it.

 

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Filed under Eucalypts, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Winter wardrobe: from white to wow!

Before I went to Mansfield (… a year ago!) I cut out a long sleeved knit top.  The last one I made, a few years back, was nibbled by moths before I even sewed it together, so this one has been safely in a ziplock bag for its quiet year in pieces.IMAG2026

In the end, it took me only an evening to sew it together.  Why did I wait so long? Last time, I had a lot of trouble with this top and hand finished a lot of it, hand inserting the zipper and hand sewing the hems. I think I was a bit intimidated by the job, sorry to admit.  This time it all came together on the machine although the zipper is not lying terribly flat.

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Next morning, I was out in search of dye plants and visited one of my favourites (E Scoparia). The whole time I was collecting leaves I could hear clicking and popping sounds.  Eventually I realised there was a rosella (maybe more than one) very high up–more than 10 metres up) in the sugar gums on the other side of the street, nibbling on the gumnuts and then letting them fall onto the surface of the road (so that was beak clicking and the popping sound of gumnuts dropping on the hard surface)!

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There has been so much wind and rain I hardly needed to cut anything from this tree.  I have learned enough to be able to pick the leaves of this tree out from all the others in the gutter (which I could not always do dependably in the past–I have learned some things!)IMAG2039

Deciding how to fold and wrap is always intriguing…

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In the end I decided to dye a woven wool scarf at the same time. I spent time with a friend I don’t see very often recently and thought I might send her a gift. This will be part of it if it turns out well enough! I tucked some more leaves from my stash of dried leaves into the dye bath.

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I love the transformation… and wish I could be more patient…

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And I love the outcome!  Here is the front…

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Here is the back… (the zipper looks pallid now but it was what I had, recycled and saved).

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This has motivated me to make another, as my stock of winter warm work clothes is becoming pilled and threadbare, and I’ve had some lovely encouragement from friends lately.  Sometimes I think it is a shame I can’t get away with just wearing the same thing every day, as my tendency is clearly to make the same thing over and over again…

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Filed under Eucalypts, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Adventures at Mount George

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Recently I was invited for a walk and blackberry picking at Mount George with dear friends.  We began by going past the ‘fairy’ homes.

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Clearly some small people have had a lot of fun here.  There were even letters for the fairy folk.

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Then we were passing through the creek where the blackberries ramble.  They are an awful pest in Australia, intentionally introduced initially (and still a source of free food) and then spread by every bird and beast, by water and trouser cuff and so on.

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I have many happy childhood memories of searching for free food of various sorts.  Clearly my parents had special talents in this area!  We picked many blackberries along the banks of the Yarra when we lived in outer Melbourne and there was a suburban block sized bramble at the end of our street, where Melbourne then ended.  And since then, in so many national parks and otherwise beautiful spots.  They are delicious but horribly invasive.

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Then, off up the mount to a favourite picnic spot of my friends’ in a rock formation.  I found evidence of other spinners at work.

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Right at the top, some austral indigo (indigofera australis) which I did not realise was native to our state.  And a spectacular picnic!

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Then on the way back, a stand of St John’s wort.  I picked a big bunch, and probably should have done the bush a favour and taken it all.

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It was a week of time poverty, so after some days in the fridge, I decided it was now or never and bundled up my St John’s wort, wrapping some thread in with the fabric for later use.

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On a whim, I put dried prunus leaves in the bath, and then began some days of cycling between slow cooking and wrapping in my trusty dog blanket in time with my schedule of many other things to do.  I am delighted to say that I think I really learned something from India about dyeing with this kind of plant, at Mansfield.  Where once I was experiencing an awful lot of mystery, now I’m able to apply a little knowledge and judgment–even if cramped a bit by other commitments.  With understanding, I find I can often manage those to my advantage.

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When I finally unbundled, there was some lovely purple and green.  The prunus bath was less exciting and quite brown (not a bad effect, but not purple either).  I decided to replenish the leaves and go again with some alum mordanted wool and see what happened.

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My hurried bundle has left a landscape of wrinkles and plant prints on some parts of the fabric.  I think I can have some fun times sewing this into something snug for winter…

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Filed under Dye Plants, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

Spring Sewing Circle 1

Ah, Mansfield.  I was privileged to go to India Flint’s Spring Sewing Circle in this lovely Victorian town not so long ago.  I have been itching to write about it–but overcome by my day job.  Mansfield was full of fabulous plants for dyeing, including eucalypts that are hard to find in my dry, hot hometown. This is a stunning E Crenulata that was just hanging over the caravan park fence.

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There were catalpas and prunus trees that were so full of little plums that possums were harvesting all night, leaving leaves all over the ground for the enterprising dyer.  There were cotinus trees, and berberis plants, maples and E Polyanthemos… and there was St John’s Wort in quantity, which India harvested to share with us.

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I loved wandering the streets with enough time to admire the trees and expect to be able to use these leaves if I collected a few. I even found this one sunning itself at the edge of someone’s front fence!

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With all this bounty, people’s bundles were packed full of amazing windfalls and all kinds of leafy wonder.  I had come with some serviceable garment plans: I brought along a singlet with all its main seams machine stitched and hemmed it by hand, finishing all the edges.  It used up all my scraps of silky merino.  Then I made another one completely by hand.  I really didn’t think I could be converted to making garments by hand, but India has turned me round.  I still love my machine–but this is another pleasure altogether.  One of them got wrapped around a piece of copper and given a long, mild cook.

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Out came greens and purples and pinks and a little apricot.  The St John’s wort was a spectacular dye plant I have never had a chance to try before.  This dyeing process taught me that I’ve been reading and not understanding.  More experiments will surely follow as I try to consolidate all I learned from this bundle.

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I loved that St John’s wort!  If weeding has to be done, this is a rather glorious outcome.  Others had made wonderful silk bloomers and nighties that also got the St John’s wort treatment.

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The catalpa greens and maple leaves were fun too… and prunus leaf pink and purple… well, so much bounty.

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The other singlet had a hotter time in a dye bath that had already seen a lot of iron- and eucalypt-rich bundles, the things of which lovely string resist marks are made. I always love watching other people bundle up and unbundle.  This is a deceptively simple process that different people use to achieve gloriously different effects.  Finally I had E Polyanthemos I could be confident in, and E Crenulata, and so much more!

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Here’s the E Crenulata on the back, with some string marks on show and fresh from the dye pot.

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And here is the front, with those wonderful almost-round E Polyanthemos leaves. I am looking forward to wearing these come winter!

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Eucalyptus magic.  Sensational!  I see over on India’s blog that she is advertising a new Australian class for 2016 and some tips for the new leaf printer.  There is so much to learn from someone whose dye knowledge, love of plants and capacity for design are so extensive.  And so much pleasure in learning from someone so generous, creative and imaginative.  Do not get me started on the food…  I may have started out with plain and serviceable garments, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t be stopping there, and… I was right.  More instalments to come as time allows, my friends!

 

 

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Bundles of the week

One of the things I noticed at Tin Can Bay was that some people identify that something is less lovely or less suitable than it could be, and go about transforming it into something lovely or suitable.  I have been known to do this… but it made me conscious that often I just live with the ugly version or wish that thing was different every time I wear or use it.  I also realised I don’t have a lot of confidence I can improve on things.  What if my intervention makes them worse?

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So it occurred to me that I could change the little calico drawstring bags I have acquired full of soap nuts and the odd other item.  They are useful but ugly right now.  Why not dye them?  This idea happened along in a week when there was cow milk in the house (unusual these days), so I decided to try using it as a mordant.  If it doesn’t work–it won’t be too late to use soy another day, I decided.  Duly treated, I applied E Nicholii leaves.  The leaves my friend gave me are full of buds, splendiferous materials for leaf printing goodness.

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There were three bundles in all in this dye pot, and I chose this one to unwrap.  Nothing special had occurred.

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I’m not sure whether this was due to the mordant (poor application, for instance!) or whether I just paid too little attention and the bundle didn’t have a long enough, hot enough time in contact with the dye.  I had left it dyeing and gone out to play guitar and sing and generally be a flibbertygibbet–occasionally something suffers through this kind of neglect (but I had a good time)!  I was undeterred, because if at first you don’t succeed, try again later with tried and true processes you understand on a day when you are paying enough attention.

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I rewrapped, and decided to reheat the other two bundles as well rather than disturb them, when their companion had not done well with careless treatment.

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The other bundles were another calico bag and an infinity scarf destined for a friend who loved the one I made at India Flint’s Melbourne workshop.  I am seeing my friend soon and I have another gift for her too.

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This time, E Cinerea and E Nicholii…

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The other milk soaked calico bag–had rather nice beads on its drawstrings. Here are the bundles prior to heating.

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Here they are after the first heating–the silky merino looks good–but I had hoped for deeper colour.  The filthy artisanal plastic bucket in vibrant green is an extra special touch, I feel.

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After some further cooking, the calico bags all looked darker but still pretty awful and the whole bucketful was strangely blurred (joke, Joyce!).  Back to soy mordanting for now.   However, that big bundle in the middle is the infinity scarf–looking good.

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The calico bags still require improvement.  They look better here than in real life!

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I really like the way the scarf turned out.  The colours are rich.  There are some nice ochre and deep grey sections for contrast.

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I really like some of the details–as I had hoped, the E Nicholii buds have left their mark as part of an overall pattern.

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Now to see if my friend likes it–but I have some quiet confidence that she will…

 

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Returning home

I decided to celebrate returning home from Tin Can Bay with some local bundles… and knitting, and a visit to the saltbush plantings… and time with my beloved and our friends, and music… but here I’ll focus on the bundles!  If I can restrain myself that far…

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I took my new found knowledge and experience of bundling paper, which built on my reading of India Flint’s Bundle Book.  There is a cheap and simple e-book version available –or go for the glory of a solid object!  I tried a different kind of paper, acquired in the last few weeks, and I used scrap metal my Dad cut me.  I tried op shopping for flat metal with remarkably little success in previous months.  But there are quite a few priorities on my personal list and some progress slowly.

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Happy results!  These are E Cinerea leaves–different to what I would get on fabric and very lovely. Like all bundle dyeing, part of the mystery and part of the joy is trying out what is local and seasonal. Everyone’s selection is different.  My garden is heavy on calendula and marigold right now and I had some lovely little geranium flowers and all sorts of local leaves to try too.

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I decided to use my flanellette string for bundles despite it being unnaturally dyed.  I loved seeing some of my retreat companions loving their bundles enough to use handmade string to tie them.  And my much re-used string collection is getting to the end of its tether.

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I used all kinds of fabrics–raw silk from a recycled garment, calico, linen offcuts, and a little piece of silky merino given to me by a retreat companion (should she be reading, thankyou again!)

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The silky merino gives such vibrant colours, but actually the linen was a bit of a standout too.

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Meanwhile, the string making continues.  I have decided to try using this process of making string as a point of reflection on my obligations under Indigenous law–and of so many principles of earth care that might come under that set of principles.  The importance of things that will biodegrade and that will not last forever, the way plastic will.  The intertwining of all life.  The cycles by which nature does its magic.  Our dependence on plants and water.  the way things and beings come into closer relationship with one another.  I keep sharing the string–as people admire or ask about it, I have a little stash right here by my hand and I can give them some.  Sharing is a primary principle too.

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I have in mind something like what Grackle and Sun might call atheist prayer.  But different, of course.  Do read her post and be inspired.  I love her idea of chantstrands, but my experiments along those lines didn’t work for me the way taking a few wet leaves out to a tree to twist together into string and considering things has so far.  So I have taken inspiration from her and begun to make cordage from it…

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A few people have been asking about how to make string.  I have put a link to an online tutorial in the How To tab at the top of the blog, but you could learn from a basket weaver (as I did) or from any basic basketry text.  Or put yourself near India Flint, who shares string making everywhere she goes, as far as I can tell (having learned how from Nalda Searles).  Or go to YouTube and be among survivalists who do something similar!  Meanwhile, the garden is growing as rain begins to fall.

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The first poppy of the season is out and beyond lovely.

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And I had a new insight about this especially beautiful saltbush which I have so far not managed to propagate.  It has taken a lot of observations to figure out when I might be able to collect seed, but one day at work recently I pulled out a seed envelope I happened to have with me (as you do) and amused bystanders by rubbing the ends of these silvery stems gently into it.  Who knows what might come of that?  I have high hopes…

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