My beloved ran in the Mothers’ Day Classic fun run this year. It’s a fundraising run for breast cancer research, which is great. However, as with many such events we have participated in, it comes with a lot of marketing merchandise. We are not fans of acquiring stuff we don’t want or need. So at an in person event, we have become quite good at bringing anything we need with us, so that if it’s on offer in a wasteful way (like water that comes in zillions of plastic cups) we bring our own. And we are better and better at saying “No Thanks!” to offers of merch. Under pandemic conditions though, all this came in the mail with no way to turn it down! What to do? I first trued offering it on our local Buy Nothing group. No interest at all. Then, I gave the backpack to a friend who swims a lot. Perfect for the pool. The ribbon/sash went to a kindergarten teacher. Anything capable of being recycled, to the right bin. Then I turned the scarf into four hankies. The best I could do. At least it’s cotton!
Three cheers for the roll hemming foot, and the return of the humble hanky.
This morning [well, it was a morning in October 2020–] I headed out with Bulbine lilies (Bulbine bulbosa) I was gifted from a neighbour who runs a project called Grow, Grow, Grow Your Own. They arrived as many seedlings in a single pot and I grew them on. Some thrived and some did not, and I am not able to say why, yet. I’ve never grown this plant before.
Here I am preparing to head out into the street… you will be glad to know that I asked for a metal watering can for my birthday and now have a glorious watering can. I bought another second hand, but it was crushed when a huge bough from our neighbour’s lemon scented gum dropped on our side of the fence. Given the size of the bough and the beauty of the tree, I was sad to lose the watering can but felt I had experienced a miracle! One of these has since fallen apart and gone to rigid plastics recycling.
I decided having researched online that they may need more water than our area usually gets, so I settled on a spot with a watering system, and chose a partially shaded spot, creating a massed planting around some of the pomegranate trees I have put in. If there is ever a grove of pomegranates surrounded by a carpet of yellow flowers? How amazing would that be!
This is one of the bulbine lilies in the ground beside the council watering system.
For context, these are salt bushes I planted earlier, thriving nearby.
And this is a bad image of one of the pomegranate trees! And below–the classic heading home shot, complete with only a little litter picked up…
Now, dear readers, it has been some time since I posted. Thanks for your patience, if you’ve been patiently waiting (I’ve been surprised to discover that some people have been). Thanks to those who signed up during the pause I turn out to have taken. Apologies if you have been concerned for my wellbeing (I did not expect that but ralise I should have–as I have seen blogs stop suddenly and then realised that the blogger has been facing cancer, or divorce). My life has had its ups and downs, to be sure. But in the year that has just passed, with all the suffering and trouble it has brought for so many people, I feel lucky and privileged. I just somehow stopped posting!
This post was begun in October 2020 and I can now update it and tell you that only two (2) bulbine lilies have survived to this point but they are about four times the size they were, and have flowered. I will see if I can propagate from them so I can keep trying for that massed planting! All four pomegranate trees have survived, though, and that makes me very happy. I’ve weeded this site both on my own and with a friend, and it is looking so much better since I found where the council water system was leaking and fixed it with part of our garden hose, during an early stage of the pandemic when calling the council seemed…surplus to requirements. No longer is part of the site in drought while part of it is flooded regularly!
And now, let’s see if I keep posting or not. And how random the sequence of posts becomes 🙂
Have I mentioned the mending? Sometimes one item a day, sometimes two! This is the sole of my beloved’s favourite slipper. But there is so much more.
The winter underthings have had a lot of mending. Some are now pretty ancient and well worn.
This one had a lot of mending after a m*th attack some time back, but this time… so much more.
This is the under arm seam of a long sleeved t shirt. Just a tiny hand stitched patch!
There are also the maxi-mends, this set on another undergarment. These are silky merino patches cut from sewing scraps, hand stitched onto a stretch wool garment. The speckle-stitches are on the right side, and the long stitches are on the inside.
Then there was mending a favourite old jumper for a friend. She had started mending it in red, and I had some matching sock yarn so…
Naturally, that’s just the start! Repeating the cycle of repairing ladders, stabilising holes and then knitting in a patch…
Until finally… and after some a blanket stitch intervention to stabilise threadbare and unravelling cuffs, followed by some crochet crab stitch over the top…
More maxi mending with patches inside… (and old mends clearly visible).
One day I realised these otherwise comfy socks had two threadbare patches and a big hole and were well past darning really, so stitched in some silky merino scraps to keep them in service (this is what happens when you have a lot of Zoom meetings and a lot of holey clothes, I reckon).
And beside all this there has been regular old brown on brown mends in jumpers and the restitching on facings onto collars and all the usual. Mend on, my friends!
My friend requested a replacement for his much loved bike bag. I was happy to oblige! One day the bag arrived in a post pack with two pairs of black moleskins/jeans, the sleeve from a high vis shirt complete with the reflective strip, and some added fabrics for good measure.
I set to work drafting a pattern from the original and applying my wits to reverse engineering it. The strap goes all the way around the bag. Zipper on top, zip pocket on the side. I found two zips that I thought could do the job from the stash, ripped the sleeve and scavenged the reflective strip, and cut the jeans up ready to go. I’m quite proud of that pocket, which uses things I’ve learned about how to create a welt pocket.
The top zipper is pretty stout too.
And there you have it, ready for the road. Or ready to post back, as the case may be!
There have been times in this lockdown when it felt like I’ve mended every day. Sometimes just adding a few stitches so that the underwire doesn’t peek out of there, or stitching a button back on. Or re-sewing the seam that keeps Mum and Dad’s shopping bag in use instead of it hitting the bin. Or sewing the binding back onto the edge of the gardening gloves. Darning my beloved’s slipper sole…
This much mended shirt began as flour bags from the Fremantle Roller Mills, with a big red dingo as well as the name of the mill and the weight of the bag. That was a long time ago! The front edge had worn down to fraying and the corner of the pocket had become a hole. So I covered the worn edge with some handkerchief fabric complete with rolled edge hem–it was in the scrap pile so must not have made the final cut for a hanky!
For those wondering how the patches on the inside are wearing–here’s the inside. The madder dyed thread has been through many washes, some focused more on getting out the grime than protecting plant dyes.
The back is now so thin the patches from my mother-out-law’s kimono dressing gown can be seen right through it. But I love wearing this shirt… it feels so soft and lovely and is such a good gardening companion. I’m just going to wait and see when the time comes that I don’t want to mend it again.
Under that indigo dyed thread is a small patch taken from the scrap pile to reinforce the pocket corner. The time for this shirt has not come yet!
I see a lot of pictures of mending on instagram and some of them are so pretty. My gardening jeans are not like that. I may have mentioned it! And they are not getting prettier. But I was a bit shocked when I happened to look inside one sunny day and realised how much of them has become translucent!
The much mended area above isn’t looking great, and the cuffs are sad too.
For the curious, here is how those hand stitched mends are faring on the inside.
Mmm. Well, I’ve decided that given how much time I’ve been spending in the garden lately, I need two pairs of gardening jeans, and there are lots of choices at the bottom end of my wardrobe. This pair have gone from one torn knee to two.
So here is the second knee mend on the other pair–the hole, the patch pinned in place–and the patch finished and pulled a little too tightly (at the bottom of the picture, in case you can’t tell). I loved the look of the larger stitches but they were a bit vulnerable. And all my gardening wear has had a lot of use since we have been spending so much more time at home!
After a very painful injury that took a long time to recover from, my physiotherapist impressed upon me that I should be doing yoga. It was harder than I thought to get myself into a class, and once I’d done that and finally made it to my first class, a series of unfortunate events occurred, and one of them was a global event that has closed yoga studios! (Yes, first world problem).
So, one beginner class in, I was back to my own devices. I tried an online class run for free through my council with an actual teacher on Zoom. I discovered the other participant did not have their video or sound on. I can only imagine that was a bit tough for the teacher, who was running her first or second Zoom class and had children in the house. I, on the other hand, felt a rush of surprise and relief, as my memories of doing yoga in my jeans in the 1980s when body shame was my constant companion and I could not afford yoga specific clothing, and the comments people made… rose up and then receded. No one can see me! Not great for guidance but very relaxing otherwise.
Next I tried some YouTube classes. Not bad. But probably not the level of explain-y a complete beginner like myself might need, especially when I’m not going to a live teacher for correction. So I went to the www site of the place I had hoped to go to in person, and they recommended a couple of sites. I did the trial video and signed up. I need a bolster for this! Happily I’d had that one live class, so I’d seen one in the touch-and-feel world; and happily the internet is full of proposals. And my sewing room contains a number of pairs of secondhand jeans. Perfect.
I started with a pattern from Instructables and decided I wanted a drawstring at one end rather than stuffing the thing and closing it up for good. I made some modifications and started cutting up jeans and patchworking them together. As usual, I was finished before I thought too hard about the design of the patchwork. Next time!
Once I had the denim all stitched up and I’d constructed the bag, I raided the blanket cupboard and rolled up one of the ancestral (and very tatty) wool blankets and one of the cotton op shop picnic rugs and packed them in. I’m pleased to say that I trialled this with my new yoga class last night and all went well. No one complimented me, no one suggested that I might need a better one either. No feedback at all. It’s all pre recorded video with loads of explanation at beginner level, so zero interaction. There was a moment when I realised that it wasn’t just that this was the final pose and it was going longer than I could enjoy. The internet was groaning and buffering was occurring. No wonder the commentary had stopped. I called a halt eventually and rolled off my bolster. Totally fit for purpose, nothing new, no plastic. Win-win-win.
Sometimes it seems there is some kind of barrier to commencing a project. I got myself over a hump of not knitting slippers while quite a few people wished I would recently–and I did it by making all the decisions on one day, and starting the next. I gathered wool leftovers in about the right quantities, bagged them up, located needles and pattern, found stitch marker and darning needle… and while I was there, made 4 kits, each in its own bag. This decisively tipped the balance away from other activities and toward slipper knitting in the evening, and slippers are still piling up as a result.
Yesterday my covid 19-best informed and most rigorous friend essentially made the case for my shutting the gate and not going out at all from here on for some time. This is a contribution we can make, she said. We do not need to go out, and we can make sure we are not cases clogging up very much needed health care resources, and nor are we vectors for the virus to spread. Protecting the health care system (and need I say, health care workers, some of whom I am glad to have as friends) is a crucial goal at this time. And I won’t share all else that she said, bracing as it was.
That took some processing, but made complete sense, which is more than can be said for some of our government’s actions. Yesterday was a day on which 1000 people died in Italy alone, in a single day. Also the day I first heard that this virus has reached the Gaza strip. And on which news of lockdown in India reached me. Others face much larger challenges than I do. So I’m sitting with that decision, that has already been made by, or enforced on, so many others already. And I finished a sock.
And I thought, maybe I should make sock kits as well as slipper kits–because I do not own even one single ball of sock yarn anymore, and hours of spinning will be required to create one. I’m sure it will happen. But for now–sock kits that will mean I have simple knitting for all those Zoom meetings and calls. Knitting for long phone calls, maybe, sometimes. And for whatever other situation calls for sock knitting as a reassuring, soothing, fidget-managing, pleasurable activity.
Tough realities lie ahead. And if having a sock ready to go helps me manage them better–that would be a good thing. Anything that helps with rising above, is to be welcomed at a time of global crisis.
I feel sure there are many such stories out there. If you wish to share yours, please do!
For those interested in using up scraps, I have found the series #yearofthescrap at The Craft Sessions blog enchanting. I can only aspire to creating such beautifully designed gloriousness from scraps. I can’t bring myself to care enough to thoughtfully design, rip and design again. And regular readers know, I’m more likely to just charge in and make stuff. For me that works out! But for those who feel differently, or perhaps aspire to better designed scrap projects, or simply seek inspiration for their stash busting hopes–please do wander over.
And–I am thinking it might be good to share resources for when you want to think about something else. When you can’t turn the radio on and hear more about the pandemic. When you can hear your own anxiety about climate change keening alongside the anxiety about the virus. And so forth. Last night I watched Inhabit. It is now available for free–though of course, donate if you are able. It is an exquisitely beautiful film offering a permaculture perspective on preparing for the future. It showcases particular North American practitioners and projects, and it is rather wonderful viewing.
This is an image of my Dad’s trailer. When my parents return from their annual journey as “Grey Nomads” across the wide brown land, they always have a lot to do to get their garden into its usual neat and tidy state. That leads to a trip to the waste transfer station some years, and this year it led to a trip to a commercial composter. They asked if I wanted anything and of course, if I wanted to some along. So this is my Dad’s fine handiwork. He knows how to knot and I live in awe, without having enough practice in my life to be able to really learn his skills. I believe this is what he calls “the truckies’ knot”.
Naturally I was participating in an efficient trip to the composter (that’s how my family roll), so I was untying the load and unloading the cuttings on arrival and then loading up and… the long and short of it is, not many photos. The scale of this place is rather amazing, and the equipment they use to tumble and grade the compost is impressive.
Here is the display of all the grades of compost they sell, outside the office. A load of compost for me, a few bags of potting mix created onsite, some pea straw and some organic seeds and we were back on the road toward home! A most interesting place.
This morning I felt quite unwell and scaled back my expectations of the day. But, I decided on a quiet stroll to the Farmers’ Market nearby as a pleasant undemanding outing. I’m blessed to love walking distance from this weekly market. I love that it sells local produce; I love that packaging is much less of a feature here than at a supermarket. I love that there are small organic producers selling here. It’s spring, and on the way I saw another woman walk up to a bottlebrush and run her hand over the flowers with evident pleasure–we had a lovely conversation about their beauty and she said she had seen streets full of jacaranda but never a whole street where the street trees are bottlebrush. A sister!
So I set out and decided to litter pick on my way. A few weeks back I bought three kilograms of rhubarb from the farm gate when I was out and about, and it came in three rhubarb–length bags with holes punched in them. They’ve gone to the litter picking bag stash rather than into the re-use for food stash because of the holes. One had already been used to pick litter when I was out on my bike. So I put the other two in a calico bag with my garden gloves and set out. I filled one bag on my way there. In my neighbourhood, I pick up a lot of cigarette butts, bottle lids of all kinds, advertising, confectionery packaging, fast food containers, straws, cable ties and tissues. The tissues make me want to continue with the [making and sharing] hanky project! On the way there I also picked up a beer bottle. In my experience it is always a mistake to leave a glass bottle on the street because the next time I see it, it is usually shattered. I arrived at the market, put my litter bag in the bin and the bottle in the recycling. I got a lovely smile from a woman pushing a child in a pram just as I arrived–looked to me as though she could see what I was doing and wanted to share her approval.
First stop, cheese. I ran into a friend and complimented him on his photos of the School Strike for Climate, which massive here as in so many parts of the world. The woman running the stall joined in the conversation, and when my friend said we just have to keep the momentum building, she said she thought there was an event coming Monday week–and what do you know? She was referring to one of the events for the Extinction Rebellion Spring Rebellion–which is a global week of action–and I’m part of the organising team for our city. As he stepped away, I told her I was an organiser and we had a chat about what she might do, and about the local group near where she lives. That was very cheering!
Next I bought some seeds for my spring garden and had a lovely chat with the seller who also had a gorgeous selection of flowers.
Then I decided on a treat from a stall that sells apples and delectables featuring apples and other home grown fruit. I have been bringing my own bag to this stall for years, and the couple who run it have always expressed their delight when I bring my own bag. When I buy a tart or brownie from them I bring my own container and they love that too! It’s so nice to have people respond positively, especially as some folks will refuse to co-operate in this strategy. Many will embrace it, however, and I now use it for sushi, cheese at the Central Market, one of the few places I can still find cheese being cut from a block and not pre-packaged, and all manner of things that need a container but don’t need a single use container. This stall provides paper bags, and has moved to cardboard trays for squishy fragile delectables, but clearly the owners are still hoping for a non-single-use strategy, so we talked over some of the possibilities, including just advertising that you can bring your own tub.
And then I walked home and filled another bag with litter. But I felt quite heartened by today’s chat. It made me think, yet again, that you do not know the ripples your efforts might have. I often think that individual efforts, while educational and ethically significant, are not especially impactful–and that is one reason I focus my effort on activism when I am able. Yet the apple-store woman said she had been prompted to go further in her quest for less waste by my bringing my own tub week in, week out. Our conversation held one new idea from me and one new idea from her own imagination. The cheese-store woman is one step closer to coming along to an Extinction Rebellion event because she has had a warm conversation with a customer. And the neighbourhood has less plastic going into the storm water system.
For those who don’t recognise it–the title of this post is a reference to “From Little Things, Big Things Grow” by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly, two giants of Australian songwriting. It is a tribute to the movement for Indigenous land rights in this country, and in particular to a key leader of the Gurindji: Vincent Lingiari, who led the walk off at Wave Hill, a key moment both for land rights and sovereignty. It was also a key moment for the right of Indigenous Australians to be paid equal wages in a period when some white landowners were still “paying” Indigenous Australians in rations–just one appalling practice in a lengthy history of exploitation which has continued into my lifetime.