Tag Archives: think globally

A little light mending

In our house, one of us likes to hang onto things as long as possible and mend them as needed.  The other one is less enthusiastic about mending and naturally holds different opinions about which things are so special they should be mended rather than thrown away or repurposed.  This towel had lots of pile left on it but the selvedges had given way and frayed.  A lot. That was good enough for me!  I happened to have some binding left over from a previous such project and it was just the right amount for the job.  And now–no more frayed edges… and quite a pretty edge.

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Bags… you know how this goes!

I had another breakout of bags recently.  You know how it is with me and bags–I start one and make more than you can imagine! Some were made from offcuts, some from eco prints.  An entire pair of RM Williams pants that had made it to the bargain rack at the op shop met their new destiny too.

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Here they are with bag bodies and bag linings in position (mmm–mismatched seams in evidence) and (RM Williams) straps cut and stitched and ready to be stitched on, waiting for another day.

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This one was made from the offcuts of a shirt I made last year, and it found a new home very quickly as such a fabulous print should.  Hence the hurried photo.  A rather striking E Scoparia print went to the same happy home, but my picture of it was so blurred I have decided to spare you.  And here are the rest: a bark cloth print that somehow found its way into my stash second hand and well loved which is also currently covering my ironing board–and–leaf prints on cotton and silk.

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Epic jeans mending

So my gardening jeans are many years old and have long since passed out of being suitable for  wear in polite company.  But my jeans do tend to wear through in places that I don’t really want to draw attention to. They have reached the point where I’m at risk of the fabric suddenly and dramatically parting company. But these are comfortable and fit for purpose otherwise. And won’t be easier to mend if they do rip dramatically.

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I kept thinking it might be time to let them go, but one night I decided against that.  What to do?  I made a paper pattern of the section I decided to try patching, so I could make the patch go all the way onto the seams. Then I cut patch pieces from the leg of another pair of jeans.

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I now hold my grandmother’s pinking shears, so I decided to pink the edges of the patching.

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I am a slacker so I pinned them on and then tacked by machine.  I know that hand stitched patching can be a lovely thing, but I have tried it in this part of a pair of jeans and the stitching wore off on the outside!  And, the less obtrusive the better.  This is not a situation for the visible mending programme, though I am in favour of it, in general.

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I did some early stitching to hold the patch in place and then stitched around the perimeter. This was followed by a lot of straight stitching up and back again in the most worn sections.

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And–the finished item actually looks slightly better than the original did, with lots of machine stitching in grey–the colour that was the best match to the fabric at this stage in its decay. These jeans will never return to their prime and don’t need to look glorious.  That’s probably part of why I was prepared to do an epic mend: I love a low stakes project.

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And now, we see how that wears! They will be back in the garden on the weekend for sure.

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Transformations: Blind to Banner

I think some of my earliest sewing projects were mending and banner making.  I see no reason to change now!  This week the household is preparing to head out and let CommBank know we want them to rule out funding the Adani coal mine.  This mega-mine would mean that Australia could not hope to meet its obligations under the Paris agreement on climate action, let alone claim global leadership on addressing the most serious threat facing the planet, all species, and humanity.  We are part of the national movement to stop the money going to this project, and our strategies include going to the banks and singing about our hopes and expectations. We also want the passersby to know what we are doing–and that is where the banner comes in.

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A few weeks back I saw an old holland blind abandoned on the verge/nature strip.  I took it home because it was crying out to become a banner.  Nice, firm, neutral coloured fabric that won’t bleed through–and otherwise destined for landfill. I cut off the really sad parts that were coming apart through UV light damage and long use.  Then I washed off the surface grime (it had been out in the weather when I came across it).  Next, discussion about how big the banner should be, and snip!  In with the scissors.

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Next, collaboration on the engineering aspects, and construction of the pole pockets, with me on the sewing machine and my friends supporting the weight of the fabric.  We agreed on the message and design, then ate a delicious dinner!  I roughed out the text with a pencil and then we got to colouring it in, and called a friend for resources.  She came over with paint and brushes and I outlined the black sections in texta/sharpie/permanent felt tip pen. Then  everything went quiet for a while.  It’s more fun than you think to collaborate on a thing like this. And it doesn’t have to be a work of art, it just has to be a communication.

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Ready to go… but not quite… next day, off to the local bamboo clump, with some admiration of guerilla gardening success en route.  Here, I planted everything except the tree.

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Here, my friends and I planted everything, and there is so much cover now a friend planted a eucalypt in there with me one day–the site is protected enough that it might make it now!

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Then I made my bamboo selections, cut a spare one or two, stripped the leaves and headed home for breakfast and work.  We are ready to go!  If you are in Adelaide and want to join us, see you at 10 am outside the Commbank branch on Gouger St City, beside the market, for an hour of songs about why renewable energy is preferable to coal, the need for climate action, our determination to dump banks that won’t see sense and stop investing in fossil fuels, and some very fun new songs about stopping Adani. Feel free to swell our numbers whether you sing or not.  There’s a banner you could hold… or bring your own!

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More winter guerilla gardening

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Early one morning this week I went out with an Olearia, a ruby saltbush or two, and some bladder saltbush plants.  Really, I wanted to do some more weeding, still hoping to stay ahead of the poisoner on my culvert plantings, which are still small and therefore vulnerable.
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I’ve planted out some areas in the neighbourhood with ground covers and small shrubs in an attempt to stop car drivers from perceiving the root zones of large trees as places they can freely park.  Several large eucalypts have died in our area in the wake of works that had large heavy machinery parked right up against their trunks.  I want to stop that happening again, and crowd out the places people park illegally during the Royal Show (when pressure on parking is at its peak for the year), doing lots of damage to shrubs and saplings as well as ground covers.  The Council eventually responded to calls to put in barriers that would prevent some of that parking, and I’m building on that protection and gradually reducing the zones people and dogs choose to walk through and enlarging those where plants can grow and birds, animals and insects can get on with their lives.  We have plenty of roads and paths already to my way of thinking. These saltbushes should grow to further reduce a throughway on this corner.
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Then it was weeding, litter picking (gardening gloves mean I can pick up anything!) and home to breakfast and work.

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Making trousers

Over the holidays I decided to sort out a pair of shorts I made some time ago.  I copied a pattern from some shorts I had bought at the op shop and made the new pair very carefully.  And from an unsuitable fabric.  They parted way at the seams in crucial places almost immediately and I pouted and put them away.  I took them out in summer and realised I could easily mend them.  They were a great fit–I loved them and wore them all summer, and decided right away that I could use the pattern to make summer weight trousers.

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This appears to be the only in-progress shot.  Setting up for topstitching the fly on the ironing board, using a sticker from a campaign I spent a lot of time on, in the 1990s.  I was still not sure about letting that sticker go–but the stickiness doesn’t last forever.  The fabric is a silk that my mother-out-law gave me.  She keeps claiming to have given up her lifelong sewing career, but I don’t believe her.  I was intimidated by the gift and have never owned silk pants.  Suddenly I knew how to use it, and I now have silk pants!

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I regret that I don’t know how to make an image of trousers that looks any good, as they are so much more complex to create than anything else I make!  One pair was not enough.  I looked at some hemp fabric I bought years back and all of a sudden–I knew what to do with it.  I am sure I always planned something like this for the length of fabric I bought…

I used an old shirt (the apple print) for interfacing.  I used a sunny fabric I already had  for the inside waistband and the pockets.  My stash, as you must have realised, is far too large.  And I used a zip I already had rather than buy another one.  In doing that, I may have made a bad call–it does sometimes peek out  little! One less zip–yes–but this one is really not a match.  I also used thread on hand rather than buy more. It’s not a perfect match but it is just fine.

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The hems used some of my former tie bias binding.  I had to laugh when I went to look for that post–because ‘beguiling details’ is just what I did with the bias binding–using the yellow and black binding in the second-last photo.  I am really happy with these trousers.  The fabric is lovely and they are a pleasure to wear.

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Scrap patchwork bags

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The more sewing there is, the more scraps there are.  The more garments get cut up and converted into other things, the more bits and pieces of old clothing are lying around the place.  I notice there are waves of action around here.  Waves where things come apart–clothes get cut up ready to convert, dyeing creates new opportunities, fabrics come out of cupboards, sewing clothes creates leftover pieces of cloth… and then there are waves of coming together, sometimes driven by a sheer need to clean up and manage all those bits.

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Having made one round of bags with printed patches on them, I began to piece onto the remaining patches and to sew scraps together for linings.  Perfectly good pockets coming from clothes that have passed the point of no return (as garments of one kind) were sewn into bag linings for future use.  Eventually, they all came together into four lined bag bodies in search of straps, and all the pieces of old clothing and exhausted tablecloth that had been through one indigo vat or another started to come together as well.

In the end, I decided more denim would really help and invested $4 on the bargain rack at a Red Cross op shop.  Anything that has made it to half price at an op shop is likely on its way to rags or landfill.  If you’re feeling tough minded, or you would like to know what happens to clothing that is donated to op shops in this country, here!  Read this.

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Two bags got linen straps. This one, I think I will send to a fellow climate change activist, someone I met in Newcastle at a protest last year.  I’ve become her friend on facebook and I can see how hard it is for her to be constantly trying to explain how serious the issue facing us all is–and how urgent, while she deals with her own feelings on the subject.  This is a bit of a long distance hug for her, ’cause she’s awesome.

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This one is going to another friend who lives in the country.  She and I go way back.  I can see it’s tough being so far away from so many people she knows and events she might want to attend–though of course there are great things going on at home too. She’s a musician and knitter and gardener and feminist. Also pretty awesome.

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This patch is so like something she wrote a few weeks back I decided as I read–that it should be hers. And in case you’re wondering… there are two still bags to finish!

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It’s that time of year…

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…the time of year when the calendars get turned into envelopes.  I was a bit surprised to find that we had three calendars kicking around the house.  Admittedly, one of them had been on the wall for two years with scant attention to the dates because the pictures are glorious but the seasons are for the other side of the planet.  The seed saving envelopes are especially good looking this year…

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And since I had the Trees for Life calendar, which I loved all year long, I now have seed-themed envelopes as well as envelopes for seed-saving. Somehow that’s a happy thing! If you are longing to make your own, there is a tutorial above under the How To tab.  Enjoy!

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Plumbing the depths of indigo ignorance

Now for something totally out of its logical place in the order of things. Before I went to Allansford, I decided to go all out in exploring the depths of my ignorance.  It’s my observation of learners that many of us over estimate what we know.  We haven’t grappled with our own ignorance sufficiently to realise what a teacher has to offer us.  We haven’t applied what we think we know enough to realise where its outer edges are.

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I decided on an all out attempt to use my stock of knowledge and supplies to find the limits of my own understanding. I’d been itching to dye and unable to find time, so holidays were a gift.  I had multiple attempts to dye with woad and then turned over to dyeing with what indigo I still had.  I used up my remaining fructose, and couldn’t find more.  So I experimented with sad fruit from the bargain pile at the local shops. I also collected fallen fruit and such. I read all the books and instructions again.  I had no joy with the woad no matter what I did and in the end composted two vats.

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I tried a yeast vat.  It was quite something watching it fizz! In the end, I weakened and bought another package of colour run remover and rescued some indigo with that. between all these vats, I overdyed leaf prints I hadn’t liked much.  I dyed scraps and offcuts from old shirts that had been turned into drawstring bags.  I even tore up a very worn, patched and mended damask table cloth from the stash and dyed that.

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I achieved only soft blues, but soft blues are beautiful.

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I went to Allansford convinced that I was struggling with achieving reduction, and maintaining temperature, and quite possibly other things besides.  And it was really helpful to go, knowing this, and to be able to see that I had been aiming (mostly) at the right things, checking (mostly) the right things, and had some concepts right, but was applying them in wrong places.  It gave me a really strong sense of the limits of my own judgment.

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Some of the bits and pieces have already begun to re-form… a bit like my understanding of how to dye with indigo!

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Patch bags

My beloved returned from a trip abroad with a gift for me.  Patches made from recycled clothing scraps!  I love them!  And then, a familiar tale unfolded.  Long time readers will feel like they have read this post before.

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I realised that a bag was called for!  Apparently my year of scrap patchwork cross pollinated with my bag lady tendency, and behold.  These patches spoke to me of a friend who describes themself as non binary–not enthusiastic about being understood as male or female.  Disinterested in the whole sport of there being two rigid ideas about how to organise humanity.  You know.  ‘There are two kinds of people…’.

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As a person who wants to be able to do anything–knit and fix the washing machine, embroider and ride a bike… be soft and be loud and be courageous and … you know!  I support my beloved friends in their journeys outside the box.  These bags include scraps from trousers and shirts I’ve made, leftover denim from making jeans, fabric that has been ‘stuff steep and store’-d with madder root, leftover quilt fabric.  You know.  Then some of the patches called to me about another friend and their journey lately.

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I like the denim aesthetic for a nice solid bag, and soon I was digging into the cupboard where garments that are ripe for their next incarnation live.

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Pretty soon the linings were getting pockets. I used to do this with jeans in the 1980s! (More or less).

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A pair of jeans went past the point of mending and were cut up and added to the pile of bag materials.  An old pair of hemp shorts got the cut. Some webbing from goodness knows where became a strap for this zippered bag. You know, variety.

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And, I admit it, I gave one bag away before I took its picture. I loved seeing my friend wearing it on his bike!

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And… I still have some patches and some ‘blocks’.  Watch this space!

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