Tag Archives: string

Basketry plans and prospects

Through winter and spring, I gathered some materials for basketry.  One fine day these iris plants were for sale at the Guild for a song.  I planted them in the garden, where they have struggled along but not actually died.  This leaves me with some uncertainty about what kind of iris they are.  I see them in various places about the neighbourhood, and there are some like these at work as well.   

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I decided to keep the leaves in case they might make good basketry supplies (I know varieties of iris are used in basketry), so I cut them off and deposited them in the trusty wheelbarrow where they could air and dry over a few weeks.

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I harvested Aunt Eliza (Chasmanthe Floribunda) growing at a deserted house.

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I dried them too.

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On a bike ride with friends I even gathered some leaf sheaths from philodrendrons at the Town Hall!  I saw these used (and had a go at it myself) at a basketry workshop and it was too good an opportunity to miss.

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Late last year, friends organised a kayak event on the Onkaparinga river, with a picnic. Here’s the river bend where we met. There were pelicans, shags (cormorants), even an egret.

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I volunteered to be on the picnic team rather than the kayak team, in part because a friend who wants to learn basket making was one of the main picnic organisers.  I called and said I could bring basket makings (and a cake)–and she was keen. It had been an inspiring week for basketry because one of our lovely visitors had been making this from weeds and wool.  She has communicated her enthusiasm to at least one other friend who has made a couple more already!

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(Clearly I did not notice the silhouette of my fingers when I took the picture…) So I soaked iris leaves and Aunt Eliza and prepared them, and packed a box of necessaries so we could each move our skills forward–mine, from rudimentary to less rudimentary and hers, from zero to beginner. Here are my efforts.   I taught my friend how to make string, and then we made a start on a coiled basket, each using a different kind of leaf.

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My friend took a big ball of linen yarn, a needle, her string and the start of her basket home, as well as the rest of the leaves… can you see the leaf tip sticking up from her handbag?

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What a lovely day.

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Filed under Basketry

Dyes of antiquity: Carmine cochineal

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Cochineal is another of the dyes I received from the Guild and used at the workshop a while back.  In fact, there was a choice of cochineals.  In what I realise now was my ignorance, I chose ‘carmine cochineal’ because it was ground up and I was unsure how I could adequately grind the whole dried insects I also have.  As you can see, after an initial period of being dull ornage, the dye bath was an impressively shocking pink.  It turns out that ‘carmine cochineal’ is not a shade of cochineal but a preparation of cochineal boiled with ammonia or sodium carbonate.  I borrowed Frederick Gerber’s Cochineal and the Insect Dyes 1978 from, the Guild and found that the deeper red colour I had in mind when I saw the term ‘carmine’ could only be obtained from this preparation with the application of a tin mordant which I am not prepared to use.  the colours we achieved with alum were well within the range indicated by the included colour chart of wool samples (those were the days!)

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The colour range on this card (with madder beneath for comparison) is impressive even without tin. 

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We dyed organic wool. I dyed silk paj and twined string (the orange string was dyed with madder). 

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I brought the vat home with me and dyed a lot more fibre in an attempt to exhaust it.  Here is grey corriedale mordanted with alum and overdyed with carmine cochineal.

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And spun–three plied.  This is my first ever crocus flower, by the way!

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The magenta silk embroidery thread had maximum time in the bath, since I fished it out when removing the dyestuff (in its recycled stocking) prior to disposing of the bath!

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Spinning

Let there be string!

Making string from scrap fabric is so simple and pleasurable (and satisfies my love of using up every last scrap so well) that I’ve found myself making more string this week. I have been thinking, since Second Skin, that it is not so much that I come from the zero waste school of sewing as that I come from the austerity school of sewing.  I do draft so as to avoid creating waste, and I watched my mother dothis as a child, often starting with less fabric than her pattern called for.  Then I take all the remnant fabric from previous projects and turn it into something else, even if this requires a lot of patchwork.  Little of what is left beside my overlocker is wide enough to make string, even. When I tried carding ovwerlocker waste into batts a while back, most of it fell out because there was so much thread cut so short!


Anyway… I’ve been turning a pair of jeans and a pair of linen pants into a bag, and although that process will use almost all the fabric in each (since I’m piecing together even relatively small sections), there are some scraps left.  I cut them all to suitable widths for string making.  It began with this little pile.


By later in the week, I had three lengths of… well… cord?  Light rope?  Very shaggy string?


I’ve been creating small banners for trees in our local neighbourhood, and so string–cord–rope will come in handy.


There’s a plan for these banners… involving other people… and brought into being by the enthusiasm of my fairy godson.  I’ve made several so far from a calico sack I scored from a local business, together with recycled eco-printed fabrics and eucalyptus-dyed embroidery threads.  On the inside, the interfacing is a set of damask napkins which saw their glory days long ago and have been rendered threadbare by long use.  My mother-out-law sent them down to Adelaide last time my sweetheart visited her.  I hope she’ll approve of this way of using them!





Filed under Craftivism, Sewing