Tag Archives: think globally

Mending the mending

Recently the pile of mending on my mind reached a point where it became the weekend’s project. But–I realised that there was only one thing I was mending for the first time.  I’ve reached the mending on mending stage.  This knitting bag has been waiting for a few more stitches into the base–the fabric the base is made from has just worn through over time.  But I don’t want to let the bag go.  It was made by one dear friend and embroidered by another and it was a birthday gift from years back.  It’s a treasure.  This time I fully embraced the idea of stitching the outer and lining together because I think this bag is at a stage in life where more mending is inevitable and not too far away.

Then there was the raincoat.  This op-shop find has had years of living on my office door for emergency wear because it is shower proof and has a zip-out wool lining. It’s a high quality garment!  If I am caught by wind or rain on my way home, I can grab it and run for the bus. It had this sophisticated arrangement for hanging on a hook (and I do hang it on a hook) and it has been broken for quite a while.

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This week I was caught by sudden wind and rain and wore it home.  The hanging arrangement is now stitched back with waxed linen thread.

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And I did some mends to the wool lining.  Yes, visible mending it is. Check out the fringe on the wool liner!

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My leafy linen bag, patched together from offcuts of my earliest eco-printing experiments on recycled linen shirts had worn through in several places again. Here it is  in use in 2014 and being mended in 2014.  The fading shows. Could I bear to let it go?  Not yet.  The new patches are all from one piece of dyed cloth that took up a lot of yellows.

Then there was the mighty flourbag shirt, which was mightily mended in 2015.  The patches on the inside fronts had not been stitched to the seams in every single place, and now there are holes right where I missed that rather crucial step in mending a garment that has been worn this much.  here are some of the holes and frayed parts…

And here are the mends seen from the inside and outside:

Sometimes when I mend people post asking why I bother.  Which is a decent question.  In a case like this raggedy shirt I think the only explanation can be that I love this shirt so much I don’t want to give it up.  Even though I wear it for gardening and such (let me be clear, I love having time in the garden).  the fact that I made it is part of it, but I make other things that I don’t love this way.  I love the feel of the calico and I have come to enjoy patching it up.  There are more places that have worn through where I am not going to bother at this stage–like where some layers of the collar have worn away but there are others still holding together.

And speaking of gardening, here are my gardening jeans.  Another case of thinking you have patched out to where there is some fabric with integrity and finding that a hole wears through just beyond the patch.  Never mind, just add on!  These jeans are comfortable for grubbing around in, and although I have another pair that are beyond use in polite company, they are made from poor quality denim that won’t bear a whole lot of mending.  They had a twin pair and I tried–but sometimes I can’t mend something back to wearable.  How do you decide when to mend your mending and when to let it go?

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Beloved trees

As so often happens in my case, one project leads to the next.  The scraps left from converting unwanted trousers into bags were the biggest scraps sitting on the small scraps pile when I felt the pull to make “beloved tree” banners.  I decided that this might be a fun Womadelaide project–there I would be over a long weekend, sitting under beautiful trees listening to music.  What could be better? It was going to be way too hot for substantial knitting projects.  I decided if I took needle, thread and some calico or sheet offcuts–that would be a good start, and that is how I began.   Before I went on day 2 I made some “frames”.

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You can see how this goes.  It’s simple but it gives a sense of framing the words that I like.  It somehow draws in the idea of that-which-is-framed being important, precious in some way.

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And there I sat–I have inherited a small embroidery hoop.  I usually don’t use one, but it seemed like it might help and it caused several conversations with smaller people interested in the whys and mechanics of things, which were also fun.

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Afterward, I found more calico/scraps/leftover bits of ancient sheets or tablecloths and stitched them on to create a backing and a neat edge around the frame.

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There are six in all, some with linen frames.

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Some framed with offcuts of denim jeans that have passed into new incarnations as bags. And now they are ready to be applied to trees.  I do feel as though a tree needs no adornment.  However, I feel all too conscious that trees are not universally beloved.  After the last big storm in which trees came down on cars and the tram line in our neighbourhood, I put up two earlier banners, and one was removed almost immediately.  I don’t know whether it was souvenir-ed or whether it was taken down by someone who didn’t accept the message.  But I do know that at such times trees around me face higher degrees of threat, and this is one thing I can do.  Maybe this weekend of earth hour is the time for some to go out into the world?

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Culling the cupboards, AKA Upcycling

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As people who read this blog regularly already know, I make a lot of bags, and I almost always give them away.  So when Boomerang Bags started up in Adelaide (and it wasn’t started by me–woot!) it seemed entirely logical to join their end single use plastics interventions by making bags for them.  I made an initial 6 and gave 5 away.  This time I committed to making bags for a stall on World Environment Day and one of the sweethearts from the local group dropped 12 labels at my place.

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Some of the labels were apple green (hard to colour co-ordinate), and I’ve noticed that many of the bags the group creates are made in floral prints.  I’m going out on a limb assuming there are other folk like me who would prefer a not-so-floral bag.  So–I checked to see what relatively plain fabrics I might have and decided the time had come for some unloved trousers made by me over ten years ago.  I’ve worn them a lot over about a decade, even though I had to face the hash I made of the welt pockets every single time.  Never again! Here they are cut into their constituent parts, and below–as bags.

A pair of hemp pants that have never really fit, and are so badly made I’ve mended them several times in a life of few washes and wears.  A couple more pairs of trousers that I won’t wear again.  Two pairs of op shop jeans saved for a day I need denim, and a pair of op shop linen pants, ditto.  Orange linen picked up at the tip shop outside Hobart for a song (because who wouldn’t take their mates to the tip shop if you were passing?) Some repurposed canvas cushion backing dyed with eucalypts.

Oh, the pockets!  It’s a shame to let a well constructed pocket go, so these are now features!

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Needless to say there was constructive piecing on the outside, and where the outsides were pieced together, there are linings (often pieced too).

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So now my thirteen bags have gone to Boomerang Bags, and I have more labels.  I inherit fabric and have fabric dropped off at my place faster than I can re-home it.  I still have unloved wardrobe items and clothing past use by date.  I have clothing that is upwards of 20 years old, some parts reclaimable and op shop items salvaged for repurposing.  So, I believe I can keep at this project for the foreseeable future without concern for supplies and with benefits for my cupboards.

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Guerilla saltbush plantings of summer

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I have all kinds of plants that I planted as seed in spring that are waiting for cooler weather to go into the ground.  Saltbush are the hardiest, and in a break in the summer heat I decided to plant these out.

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They are mostly going into areas where other plants have died or been cut down–there was the loss of another dead tree recently and unfortunately it was carried out in such a way that not only did the dead tree get cut down, but its understorey was also lost.  Council don;t re plant and by listening to their workers and asking questions I’ve understood that they won’t.  So I’m planting these sections as things die or get killed, trying to protect the earth here and create an environment in which larger plants can go in.

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Once I plant and water, I weed and collect rubbish.  And then it’s time for breakfast and work!

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Bags 1

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One day at Guild, one of my friends gifted me two pairs of worn out cargo pants, in case I’d like to find a way to reuse them. Some people really know you!  They were made of tencel or some similar wood pulp based fibre.  They had been much worn, like a favourite garment.  And they had so many pockets!  Ones with zips, some that were more of a welt pocket… some that were stitched shut and had never been ripped open for use–lots to play with.  So I cut them up, extracted the cotton drawstring cords for later use, and began piecing the intact fabric into bag linings and likewise, the pockets.

There was an entire series of bark cloth curtain fabric bags.  I used up the boomerang bags patches I was given by one of the Adelaide organisers a while back pretty quickly.  Then I did a series with the remaining secondhand IKEA fabric my daughter gave me a while back (the orange and white stripes).  They match my ironing board cover and they are extra large.

Finally, I converted some fabric I remember buying at Paddy’s market in Melbourne at least 20 years ago (cough, maybe it was 30 years ago) into about 4 more bags.  I must have been reliving my childhood as an admirer of ancient Egypt when I bought this, I think.  I vaguely remember feeling obliged to buy something even though I couldn’t spare the cash at that time (it must have been the nature of the interaction with the stallholder).  The print gestures in that direction, but I really can’t see it as a garment.  Some of these bags have already gone to friends, and others await their ultimate destination.

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A new ironing board cover

The old ironing board cover was made from a lovely but pre-loved piece of bark cloth that had begun to wear right through to the previous cover.  It was time.  I might be taking this ironing board to a workshop, so I want it to be in good shape! I had a big piece of stout orange and white striped cotton fabric my daughter gave me for a birthday.  It bears an IKEA label but she has begun to give me only second hand gifts, which I just love!  It makes me feel… that she sees me somehow.  So this item, perhaps a table cloth, has passed from hand to hand a few times in its lifetime with apparently little use, and in the right hand image I’m tracing around the ironing board before cutting out.

Next steps: finishing the edge and creating a casing, discovering a tool for threading cord through a very long casing in my sewing table, and inserting recycled cotton yarn into the casing.

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Then, fitting damp cover over ironing board, tightening cord, and massaging into position.  Ta-da!

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Guerilla gardening and hoping for rain

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This evening, we are coming down from several days of hot weather, and rain is predicted.  It hasn’t happened yet, so I’m hoping for rain. Because, this seems like a good time to plant! I’ve got creeping boobialla, my first snakebush successes, my first hedge saltbush cutting successes, some bladder saltbush.

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I also have some of my first successes at propagating correas, and some scrambling saltbush.

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My parents have decided this wheelbarrow is surplus to their requirements.  For now, it’s living with us.  It’s lightweight and I managed to get all my plants and some water into it, ready to go.

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The first plants went in here. I’ve planted a lot of the low growing plants on the left here, but there are still some barren patches.  Some are barren because so much heavy machinery was parked here for the two years of infrastructure development. I think that is why we’ve lost some of the big trees here.  Too much root damage, and the soil is as hard as rock.  Still, it’s improving, and there are now seedling trees coming up in among the groundcovers and shrubs.

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As I planted the bladder saltbush near the spot where some were pulled out, I was approached by the woman who lives on the other side of the street. We’ve spoken before but clearly my persistence has impressed her.  She had seen me weeding, planting and watering and came out to give me a hug.  She thought she might have pulled out some of the plantings thinking they were weeds.  So  I invited her to water them instead, and kept planting and weeding.

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This is the plant I call “scrambling saltbush”.  One day I’ll identify it properly.  But it is growing well around the neighbourhood where council have planted it, so I’ve been collecting seed and adding it into my plantings.

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Home again after collecting the rubbish that has been bugging me on my morning walk to the train station and doing some more weeding.  Now, we hope for rain!!

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Handspun socks in use 1 & 2 PLUS Knitting in a patch

I thought one thing I could do to complete the feedback loop on the toughness or otherwise of my sock spinning would be to ask people I’ve given handspun socks to whether they could return them for inspection.  One of the hard things about the fact that I–gasp–can no longer wear handknit socks, is that I don’t have the capacity to see and feel for myself how my handspinning fares in daily wear inside a shoe or boot.  In return for people showing me how their socks have worn, I’m offering to mend socks that come back to me to close the feedback loop.  So if you happen to be reading this and you think you have a pair of handspun, handknit socks I gave you, bring them in and if they need darning, I’ll do the honours!

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I think it is worth considering the question of wear.   It is a striking feature of most conversations I have with people about how hand knit items are wearing, that they feel they need to apologise if something I knit has worn out or worn through.  I don’t think so.  Sometimes it is obvious enough that the fault was with the spinning or knitting or fibre choice (so if anyone should apologise it should be me; or perhaps there could be shared acknowledgement of how wonderful the alpaca socks felt, but that they were never destined to last decades).  On the whole, though, I tend to think that it is rather flattering that people like things I made enough to wear them until they fall apart.  And unless I know what happened to them, sometimes I am not in a position to learn what might make me a better sock spinner (for example).  Nylon is permanent, it will never biodegrade, and therefore we should think seriously before we use it.  But the flip side of this recognition is awareness that socks without nylon will not wear as well as those with nylon.  There is a reason it came into use in the context of socks.  And–now that I have lived long enough to understand how a plastic bag will “degrade” into squillions of little bits of plastic, I think it may be time for a thoroughgoing recognition that when your #tuffsocksnaturally wear out they will biodegrade, so the compost or the worms can take them, especially if you dyed thoughtfully too.

But I digress.  This sock came home recently with only one hole!  I made these socks a little over a year ago (follow the link for details),  so they have not had a huge amount of wear.  But the hole was quite big, and clearly resulted from the fabric wearing right through in a large area. Given the fact that the other sock had not worn through in the same place, I’d say there was a weak patch in the fabric, likely caused in this case by the blending of the fibres (Suffolk, mohair and silk) being uneven, or by the spinning being on the thin side, or underplied.  I decided on a knit-in patch rather than a darn.  So I picked up stitches at the base of the heel flap (above) and began to knit, joining on by picking up a stitch on each side of the patch each row, and knitting it together with the edge stitch of the patched section.  The under-heel section will be thicker than the surrounding fabric, and the patch is generous, but I think under the heel is about the least sensitive place to put a patch and clearly reinforcement is needed!

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To finish the patch, I picked up the same number of stitches , knit right up to them, and grafted them together (kitchener stitch, if you prefer).  If you’d like to see that mending strategy again, I’ve blogged it before here and here (on cardigans) and here (another pair of socks!)

Another pair of handspun and handknit socks came home the same day.  These had two tiny, neat darns in red thread, a lovely application of visible mending (and I think I found the remainder of the skein in my stash subsequently, which may explain the yarn choice another way).  One darn was up by the cuff, where it may have been a breach in the spinning or perhaps a munch from a m*th.  The other is here on the toe, where wear is to be expected, in my view.  All our feet (and shoes) are different, of course!

 

I found the post about knitting these socks here.  They were knit in 2014 and have gone from son to mother in their lifetimes thus far.  And yest so little obvious wear??

I spun them from… Superwash Merino/Bamboo/Nylon blend.  I bought it at a spinning workshop as the recommended blend for sock spinning, and did a class on spinning for socks.  the other thing I note with interest is that I knit them on 2.75 mm needles.  I think that was partly because the yarn was finer than I anticipated, but it dies also suggest a  finer gauge than my usual, and that is another long-wearing-sock-strategy handed down through the ages. So–the combination of nylon content, tight gauge, machine prepared fibre and handspinning produced a higher wear sock–but not a nylon-free sock, and let’s not pretend that industrially produced bamboo fibre is kind to the environment–though I do assume it would biodegrade at least.  So there you have it!  My first two worked examples of handspun handknit socks in wear for review.  What are you learning from reviewing your spinning and knitting?

 

 

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Tuff socks, naturally: The project

My friend-in-blogging-and-making, Rebecca from Needle and Spindle, has had the exciting idea of a shared project on handspun socks without superwash treatment or nylon.  They would make use of the properties of breeds of sheep that were preferred for socks [by those who wearing wearing socks at all] in the swathe of human history in which nylon did not exist, superwash had not been invented, and the merino had not yet become the overwhelming giant of industrial wool production.  I give you the Suffolk!

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Adele Moon will be joining us for some sock spinning and knitting and posting. As you know, I love to knit socks, and I love to spin, and I’ve often thought I should be doing more spinning for sock knitting.  And of course, like a lot of people who read this blog, I think a lot about the industrial production of textiles and the pollution it causes, the permanence and harmfulness of plastics of all kinds (I’m considering nylon just this moment), and about the burdens of my own decisions on the earth and all who share her. There can’t be any pretence, in my case, to having all the answers; or to proving up to the challenge of making right decisions on all occasions.  I should think my readers all know that I can’t do that yet.  But I don’t think that can be a reason not to look for solutions or to make the changes we can figure out how to make.

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Full solutions to the issues of pollution and plastics require change on way more than personal level.  There’s no real point, to my way of thinking, in getting overinvolved in our own feelings of self-blame or failure, on these questions. Better to keep focused on how to move forward, and how to spread awareness and action more widely.

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At my place, the recently acquired Suffolk fleece will be part of the experiment.  I’ll be sharing what I know about knitting socks that last, and maybe we can spend some time on what to do when they disintegrate too!  I have begun to call in surviving socks that I hand spun and hand knit for friends and relatives so that an inventory (and some mending) can be undertaken. I’ll be spinning, and of course, dyeing with plants and knitting socks on public transport and in meetings.

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The tech minded spinners will have company in Rebecca, and there will be somewhat less well planned spinning at this blog, as you may have come to expect.  It sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  Feel free to offer your tips and inspirations!

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This is an open project, anyone can join in. If you are interested in being part of the Tuff Socks Naturally Project, please share your experiments or link to your project pages on this blog in post comments, or on Rebecca’s blog, Needle and Spindle, or with any of us on Instagram: @rebeccaspindle, @localandbespoke or @adelemoon and use the #tuffsocksnaturally tag.

 

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Local mending circle

One Planet Market 2017

Local readers may like to come along to a mending circle at the Sustainable Communities SA One Planet Market in November.  Please do bring your mending and get some of it sorted out–and by all means bring mending questions for me to help you problem-solve.  This won’t be a speech so much as a hands on session–and look at all the other fun things that will be going on to attract you…

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