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.
The latest round of Boomerang Bags have been driven by thrifted bedlinen. There was one quilt cover that I acquired simply because it was pretty and had owls on it. But then there have been others bought as a set where what I really want is the sheet or one side of the quilt cover (which is a good green for Extinction Rebellion patches) and the remainder of the set is looking for a use. Oh my. Some of this bedlinen is just about new and already at the op shop. IKEA is the leading label and it makes me sad.
Then there are the places I use fabric that I can’t use any other way. This strap is being made sturdy and thick with a piece of cotton blanket I found on the path where I was walking. I took it home and washed it, and then decided it could be used here.
Then there are some clothes I can’t reuse as bag outers or linings, like this pair of pants. Bought at the op shop, they were one of the first pairs of half lined trousers I’ve had the luck to wear. Now I have decided they can’t keep going–I removed the buttons and salvaged lining and fabric. Some of this will go into straps too.
There have been pockets added into some bags from a pile of jeans pockets I bought for a song at the Adelaide Remakery sale–lovingly removed from jeans being upcycled into mats.
Oh, and there was this. A garden umbrella lying discarded and broken by the side of a road I pass most days. I often pick litter along here. This time I removed the canopy, took it home, washed it, and calculated which parts could be re-used.
One of a kind–two from sample fabrics from the Remakery. One from a great print from an op shop. The large image, a dress from the op shop.
Acorn and iron dyeing experiments…
These are the bedding bags… The two linen bags bottom right are lined with IKEA sheets.
Doona covers with a complementary print on the reverse side and/or the sheet. I guess it’s a long time since I bought a doona cover. But the design opportunities are excellent.
And finally, a nostalgia print my friend could find no use for. 44 bags in all. Whew.
Planning for a six week trip, you can bet I packed knitting, socks especially! This is the story of one pair. In the first picture, a miracle has occurred: we have one night in Montpellier, France, and instead of staying downtown we stayed a long way from town (the reasons are complex but the booking has been made in advance from Australia), right near the stadium where the FIFA women’s soccer world cup is under way and our one night is the Australia v Brazil game!! My beloved is a former soccer player, so we had to go. The French couple beside us were charming. Eventually as she high fived my beloved because Australia scored, he turned to me, and said: “so she’s the soccer loving one and you’re the one who knits?” and laughed heartily when I said “You have worked it out–but how?? I was trying to keep this a secret!”
In the picture below, I’m on the train from Montpellier, France to Milan, Italy, en route to Rome. It was a big day, livened up by being mistaken for a man in the women’s toilets in two countries, three languages, three cities. Who can say exactly why this happens–but somehow we got to Rome. These socks began as a bag of somewhat orange leftover sock yarn, left over after pairs I’ve knit over the last 10 or 15 years. Apologies for the refusal of style involved here!
The second image was taken in Rome. I’d been to the Museum of the Liberation [of Rome from occupation by Nazi Germany]. It now takes up a building that was the headquarters of the SS during the occupation. A place where leaders of the resistance were imprisoned, tortured, killed or sent away to be killed. It was both educational and harrowing. I hope that under circumstances of fascism I would be part of the resistance, and I am interested in educating myself about how resistance can be undertaken, how it succeeds, how it is responded to. I wept. As I write, I am watching a documentary about the Myall Creek massacre (of First Nations Australians by white people]. Just to be clear, resistance is not just something that only happened or happens in other countries.
So after the Museo della liberazione, I found a bakery that had a buffet lunch option. I studied Italian for four years in High School in the 1970s and 1980 (! how have I become this much older?) and all I have left, even after a tune up with an online language app, is some words and some transactional communication. I decided to brave it, and through a combination of pointing, asking as nicely as I could, expressing gratitude as best I could, and the generosity of the gentleman on the other side of the counter, I ended up with this sensational plate for a very reasonable price, including a drink and fresh bread. It was the best meal I had in Rome.
These socks have gone to a friend who has told me many times she doesn’t care about colour, just use up the odds and ends! I received her mother’s knitting stash after her Mum died and I could see what a thrifty woman she was. It is not the kind of stash people on Ravelry talk about. It was only stub ends, not even one entire ball. As you can see, these socks are in no way a regular pair. On the other hand, they sure will keep my friend’s feet warm when she is out feeding rescue donkeys these chilly mornings in her gumboots. I understand she received them with chuckling I can hear in my mind! Perfect.
Sometimes when I do massive mending, I ask myself whether it’s really worth it. This time I certainly considered retiring the gardening jeans. They were not fabulous jeans when they were new. Apart from being comfortable, there is little to recommend them now they have moved from best jeans to workaday jeans to only at home jeans to gardening jeans over many years.
Even if I am not asking myself, I do get other people asking me why I mend. Especially on very worn out garments. And honestly, a lot of things might go into considering whether it’s rational to mend something. Like what other options you have available to you, and what the ultimate destination of that garment might be if not mended (landfill? worm farm?), how concerned you are about that; and especially, how much you love the garment.
I’ve been so interested by the big mending commission and the series of decisions it reveals on the part of my dear friends about what should be mended. Some things clearly very much loved and much worn whether they might have been cheap or expensive when originally purchased, for example–something I very much recognise in my own decisions. I was intrigued by this mend from my friends–a t shirt worn to a very soft degree of thinness (which is the best attribute of some t shirts after all) with a tear in the front. I hand applied a patch to the back from one of my very worn t shirts–and that was the best I could do.
Sometimes I decide I must mend because I have nothing else suitable to wear and I need that garment right now; or because I have some plan I can carry out if this garment lasts a bit longer (like making a new one). I just mended my summer pyjamas for travelling, because I didn’t manage to make new ones in time and I’m not going to buy pyjamas. And of course, people mend because they have no other option.
As the mender though, I also make decisions based on whether mending will be fast or slow, fun or annoying, or whether I happen to have a free evening and something interesting to listen to or watch right now.
This gardening shirt you are looking at here is years old and has spent years in the rag bag. My beloved found the rag bag (not the main one–this one must have moved houses!) and pulled out one of hers and one of mine, and insisted I mend hers (done) and that this one was too good to throw out. Well, the cuffs look like they encountered acid. Lots of holes in them. A hole in the front pocket. Another beside the button band… and on and on. Maybe my one long ago encounter with paint stripper hit this shirt? Or did I wear it blackberrying? Or did it come to me like this (from the thrift shop)? It has paint from that time I painted the pink ceiling white finally. It has mismatched buttons. It has been stitched (both constructed and mended) in several colours already. When to stop?
After and before images. Apparently it is not time to stop yet! Rational or irrational? I’m not sure. I don’t really care much and no one else suffers. Patches from the small scrap stack beside the ironing board, all offcuts from eucalyptus-dyed apron making. Any old and all greenish threads, and all kinds of bobbin threads that needed using up. And back out into the muddy neighbourhood one more time for guerilla gardening. It’s rough and ready mending but utilitarian and functional. A bit like the shirt!