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From little things…

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.

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Boomerang Bags

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.

These are the umbrella bags–I found two more yesterday…and the colour is wrong but never mind.

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.

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Odds and ends socks

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.

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The rational and irrational in mending

The legs of a pair of dirty, worn, baggy jeans with patched knees and a pair of black shoes poking out at the bottom.

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.

close up of a patched jeans knee stitched by hand with white cotton thread using running stitch.

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.

Inside view of a green short sleeve with eucalyptus printed fabrics stitched on as patches with machine zigzag.

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.

Patch on the inside of a green short beside front button band.

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!

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Guerilla sedge planting

I have been propagating Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes (Cyperus gymnocaulos) from the plantings I made in a local culvert, which are now quite established. Here are little starts I’ve planted in pots.

Sedge starts sprouting in little pots--about 24 pots in a styrofoam box.

I’ve decided in consultation with friends to plant them in Brownhill Creek.

A culvert exit with gabion walls, and a lot of weeds growing in leafy, rocky creek bed.

Where it has been rerouted to suit human infrastructure near us, there is suitably wet ground and it has just been getting weedier and weedier since rerouting.

Weeds growing in a creek bed which runs under a bridge, with gabion walls and concreted sides.

So out I went with a bucket in each hand, and some tools.

Then planted them at the edges.

And in they went–about twenty on this occasion–and then it was all litter picking, all the way home.

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Guerilla gathering

Finally we are getting autumn leaves and not leaves that have fallen in the dry heat of summer, so I’ve been out collecting them from the gutters and byways.

Collecting ruby saltbush seeds…

Bladder saltbush seeds, now being collected from third generation guerilla plantings.

In my wanderings I found these around the bike path–it looks to me like another rebel for life has decided to commemorate the plants that died over summer. This one was between the railway and the street.

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More mending adventures

My mending adventures just keep rolling. In between the boring old mending that I do regularly–stitching fastenings back on, repairing falling hems, re-stitching seams that have popped… these mends are much more fun.

I did also take up these hiking pants for my beloved (by about 6 cm). They have those zip-off legs that allow you to convert the pants to shorts, and a complex arrangement down by the hems. In the end I took them up just below the zippers and the change did not show at all.

There have been stretch pyjama mends…

Torn dress mends…

Mending of beautiful pillowcases so soft and buttery and thin I used most of an old linen shirt in an effort to keep them going…

Hand stitched patch on a floaty fine dress.

Now replaced!

Worn, exquisitely soft quilt cover mending. I used a hand stitch I learned in Girl Guides (for canvas tent mending) to pull the edges of this tear together, then applied a reinforcing patch on the inside and machine stitched it into place.

It’s piling up a little…

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Mending adventures

One day, some time after the conversation that triggered it, the mending arrived. A LOT of mending! In fact, I’ve taken to calling this “a big mending commission” just for fun. Friends handed over their mending pile and I’m working my way down through it gradually.

Black jeans with ripped knee..
Finally, I get to mend jeans knees!
Black jeans with patch.

There is darning (and in this case, I took in the side seams and sleeve seams–gulp). First the side seams…

Then the actual darning.

Lots of jeans patching…

Skirt zipper mending….

Serious feature patching: on small jeans I rip out the side seam, apply the patch, turn the edges on the right side, stitch in position and then re stitch the side seam.

And yes! There is more! For another day…

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Seasonal tasks for the guerilla gardener

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A long, record breakingly hot summer has come to an end–almost.  So I’ve been out in the streets, saving eucalypt leaves that have fallen in the heat of summer, and that would be headed into the drain if there was enough rain to wash anything down a drain. I’ve taken it as a bit of a project to gather what I can, prioritising leaves destined for waterways and sewers when they could be mulching my garden instead. And that bag? Each time, I take a bag with me.  I have a little stack of them that have held greasy filthy fleece and that will not be washed and re used in the kitchen–and they are being used to pick up rubbish.  Because when you’re out in the neighbourhoood with gardening gloves on, you will never be better prepared for the job. And because, when you come from  a colonising people and live in a colonised country, opportunities to care for this place are opportunities to take up.

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Saltbush are fruiting and all kinds of native plants are seeding so it’s seed collection time too, and when what I hope is the last of the big heat passes, I’ll be planting out seedlings and taking cuttings.  I’ve made a start on planting out sedge offsets into pots already (but you know, I didn’t think of taking a picture).

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Adelaide has had the Fringe, the Festival and WOMAD recently and I had a dip into all of them (well, maybe not the Festival proper). I got to see Pussy Riot! And Yothu Yindi! And Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping! And so much more–but these acts in particular had me enlivened about the importance of doing things that are not expected.  In places where they may not be welcomed.  And yet are so important. Somehow that seems like cultural guerilla gardening to me, planting seeds where they may and may not germinate.  I take my inspirations where I find them and with gratitude.

And meanwhile, I gather leaves and pick up rubbish! And since I didn’t post this draft when I wrote it… still more… and several barrow leaves of falling autumn street tree leaves too.

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The rebellion begins

Needless to say, every big day takes preparation by many people. I can’t completely imagine the preparation that has gone into the thousands of people who have joined the Extinction Rebellion and converged on London, blockading streets and bridges in an effort to compel their government to act on climate change and ecological breakdown. In our relatively little place, though, I can say some of what’s been happening behind the scenes.

As high vis vests continue to trickle in, (for marshals to use in keeping people safe on the streets or when doing banner drops) and patches emerge from the screen printing (and stitching) rebel, I’ve been stitching them on to keep our collection growing.

Then there was doing a quiet recce at parliament house, where I can highly recommend the tour. It is informative and there are some beautiful things to be seen as well as some evidence of the corruption that featured in the colonial period to be heard of!  Above, some of the suffragists responsible for our state granting women the right to vote (after Aotearoa/New Zealand led the way) as well as the right to stand for parliament (included in the Bill as an amendment, expected to sink the Bill and defeat the suffrage–there has to be comeuppance sometimes!)  The women’s suffrage centenary tapestries in the lower house of parliament were woven by local weavers as a community arts project and there are many members of my Guild listed as weavers.

Here, the red line in the carpet over which a white gentleman (Indigenous people not even recognised as citizens in this period, let alone as able to stand for parliament or vote) must not step with a sword.  Yes, a throwback to English history.  Then  there was the preparation of a rebel outfit for a certain poster child, at the request of her mother.

And then came the big day.  Inspired by Scottish rebels, 13 of us who had trained and prepared for the role went on a tour of parliament and then declined to leave the lower chamber, where we formed our own citizens’ assembly and each delivered a speech about our fears for future generations if our governments do not begin to tell the truth and act on it by taking emergency level action on climate change and the ecological crisis. Here our police liaisons explain the situation to our charming and very informative guide. He was astounded that we would pass up the opportunity to see the upper house!

Here one of us is on the phone to the Premier’s office.

A lighthearted moment with a possum who survived two boys’ childhoods and told me “if we don’t get action on climate change, and soon, we’re all STUFFED” at which I had to point out I thought the possum was (just barely) stuffed already.

I suggested rebels bring a pack of cards or their knitting just in case of a long wait.  Then I left my knitting at home–oops–but others were better prepared!

And then eventually we were, as the TV news put it, “forcibly removed” with our suffrage foremothers looking down on us.  I think they would have understood. And Joyce Steele (in blue on the wall in the image below) the first female MP in the state, elected in the 1950s–she was looking down on us too. I have a soft spot for her, having encountered her reading Hansard. She spoke to the Bill that eventually decriminalised abortion in our state in 1975, the first time in the history of the state that a woman had been able to speak to this matter in parliament in the period since English criminal law was imposed over Indigenous law through colonisation. Though clearly not a big fan of abortion, Joyce Steele was equally clearly unable to remain silent.  She had heard the terrible stories of the women in her electorate who had come to see her on this issue over her life as an MP, as well as being prepared to speak to the lack of sexuality education and access to contraception in her time.

With Joyce looking down, we were removed from the chamber and taken out to the stairs where our fellow rebels and some media and my beloveds were waiting. And may others join us as a result.  ABC TV coverage from 8.05 here.  Local news here.  More at xrsa.com.au.

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