Monday 31 January 2011

heat playing tricks with my mind

sometimes it's nice to wander back through the calendar
to have a look at where i was
at this time last year
pix above reveal moments in Denmark
finding a lovely orange wall in Copenhagen
that beautifully matched an ecoprint wool dress
and of course
lovely blue cool shadows
shot in the park not far from that wall
i'm rummaging in cool climate photos
it's warm here in South Australia
about 47 C
those of you who work in F
can calculate just how hot that is using the following formula
where C is the temperature in Celsius and
[surprise] F the equivalent in Farenheit

F = ( 28 + {[347 x C] + 278} x 512 ) divided by 2

oh and of course add 32 to account for the different freezing point.

pour yourself a nice cold cup of gin
and enjoy

Saturday 29 January 2011

trimming away the bits that don't look like elephant

you know what they say
if you want to make a sculpture of an elephant
get a lump of rock
and trim away all the bits that don't look like elephant

am trying to apply similar principles to making this dress
began with a rectangle about 12 metres x 5.5metres

[unlike Julian Roberts, who works with tubes to make his extraordinary subtraction cut garments] 

used subtraction cutting principles to create two bodices
didn't cut away much cloth
only the neck holes
and some tear-drop shaped "corner turning bits"

so the first try-on
was a bit like standing in the middle of a spinnaker
with your head through a hole
shaping has begun
tucking and stitching as opposed to cutting too much away
bringing shape to the flat cloth

not 12 metres long anymore [now nearer to 9]
but it still takes up most of the sewing room
a bit like that scene from Black Books
where they "cover everything with an Indian Throw"

fortunately the whole thing
tucks neatly into a tidy bag

Wednesday 26 January 2011

sewing and mumbling

sailing on a silken sea
as forms begin to take shape
one huge dress, with space for two bodies

cut from an entire roll of silk
with 'zero waste' principles
stitching with a thread made of 35%cotton 65%silk
loaded into the overlocker
although it could be argued that using 48 metres
of cloth
to make one dress for two performers
is hardly frugal
but then, tis theatre
and the garment will have [i hope]
a long and useful life.
it's one thing practicing frugality at home
there are other parameters at play here
so i use materials that will wear well
be comfortable for the dancers
and are from natural sources
the audience doesn't usually expect
to see people dancing in old newspapers
or random retrievals from the ragbag
[ok. some people do. fine.]

[visit  helen lyôn  to see what she has been doing with a smaller version of such a dress]

the bits above are all that i cut away
two circles and a couple of leaf-shaped morsels
[stamps are there to give an idea of scale]
the only other discards were the shreds from overlocking -
they'll be used for making string

above, the beginnings of an other dress
with coral-like pockets
[for ochre, of course]

while sewing there is of course much thinking time
have been musing over the article written by Germaine Greer 
and sent me by Sophie Munns
i don't always agree with Ms Greer's pronouncements
but this time there's something that resonates

the flooding and the aftermath are awful , there's no arguing with that
while we continue to clear trees and build houses and roads
we can expect more
if the earth is covered with a hard crust there's simply nowhere for the water to go

consider the township of Mount Barker in South Australia
where the population has been expanding by the thousands each year
this year another development of 6000 houses has been allowed
little dogbox houses without rainwater tanks or verandahs
the mean annual rainfall there is 764.3mm [that's about 2 and a half feet]
most of it falls in winter
and swills about the roads already

now, if there were sensible development
communities built around shared gardens
a catchment for run-off
ponds to water the gardens
provision for filtering surplus water
and pumping it into the ground for storage
corridors of forest maintained for wildlife
and for life in the wild

instead we have lots of little dead-end roads
colourbond fences to keep out the neighbours
and lots more lovely run-off into the reservoirs
that supply the good folk of Adelaide
who for some reason don't realise that they're drinking
doggydoos, tyre scrapings, septic overflows and squashed possums
along with the Murray River cocktail that's pumped into those big holding dams each year

good gracious, i've been ranting again.
must be something in the water.

Monday 24 January 2011

drawing for dancing

it's good to be back in the dance studio
working on 'breathe' for Leigh Warren & Dancers
with Frances Rings as choreographer

the costumes will be made from silk and wool and Milkymerino TM

if you're in Adelaide for Womad on the second weekend of March
you can see the production at 9 pm on the Saturday
8.30 on the Sunday

Saturday 22 January 2011

painting on paper with plants

there's been a bit of chatter amongst the interpixies lately
on the subject of plant dyes and paper
and such things as the need for 'fixing'

not something you hear watercolourists musing about...
the beauty of putting colour on paper is that it doesn't need to be washfast
and unlike immersing a precious length of silk in a dyepot
paper is [often] cheaper and far less scary

the ice flower technique [outlined in Eco Colour]
can also be used to create coloured solutions for staining/painting paper
whether for making colourful journals
or painting with your children [avoiding poisonous plants of course]

freeze a handful of flowers overnight
drop into a small amount [half a cup] of water
muddle about a bit to release the colour

for stronger colour, increase ratio of flowers to water
paper can be dipped
or painted
or you can thicken the brew and print with it
[visit Lotta for ideas]

you can also grind up petals or leaves with a mortar and pestle
adding a little water to make a paintable mixture

depending on how much kaolin is in your paper
[they put it on the surface to make it smoother to write on]
you might see pH sensitive colour changes
while you paint...

Friday 21 January 2011


it's hot.

i should be stitching this

and proofing a set of second pages
[am up to pp 46]

instead am dreaming of this

and having a quick dance with the time vampire
where i found this
it's a link worth following if you're curious to see images of the workshop held at the Contemporary Textile Studio Coop in Toronto, Canada
and now back to proofing

Thursday 20 January 2011

wear/where will it all end?

while i'm trotting about the countryside on my high horse
i thought i'd share what i found in the Ecouterre newsletter today

so-called "Pollinator Frocks". i'm sorry, but this is taking idiocy to the extreme. the frocks are indeed pretty [printed with leaf pix and macro-images of pollen] but what they are planning to do
that is
feed bees with sugar
is precisely the opposite of what bees need

why not plant a backyard meadow
instead of [as they suggest] hanging a sugar-impregnated garment on the washing line for bees to have a snack at?

sooner or later some clot is going to wear one of these frocks
and wonder why s/he is covered in bees
or flies
they like sugar too

what is the point? bees need pollen, not refined sugar. lovely as it is, sugar weakens bees. use it to make salt caramel or rum and grow bee-friendly plants instead

it's almost as good as the suggestion somebody made back in 2003
about creating artificial trees to "reduce the carbon levels"

so far as i can tell they look like giant tennis racquets with venetian blinds attached. mmm, attractive. i'll go sit under that one for a picnic for sure

wouldn't it use more non-renewable resources to construct such things?

what's wrong with planting a tree?
and - flash of lightning thought - it might even do something useful for the bees!!!!

here in Oz, it's simple...plant a eucalyptus [think of it as a vertical meadow]. they all have lovely flowers and
might drop the odd windfall for your dyepot as well....

Wednesday 19 January 2011

what are they all going to eat when farmers give up?

the latest brilliant idea from the cunning rats who run our state is to make farmers pay for water used from farm dams.
it's already impossible to make a living from a small-holding such as ours [470 acres] without working off the farm, unless of course you don't mind working 24/7 doing every single task yourself so as not to have to pay someone else.
at 52 that kind of back-breaking labour is getting well beyond me. which is one of the reasons why i wander about the whirled telling anyone who will listen how to get pretty colours out of leaves.

but back to the story.

farmers [and other landholders] already pay water tax. it's called "rates" and these rates are based on the value of the land. this may seem a mere coincidence, but observation shows [quite consistently] that the more rain falls on your property [in South Australia] the more highly it is valued and [consequently] the higher the council rates paid.

installing meters [at farmers' expense] on dams to make us pay for water used [bearing in mind we've already paid for the construction of the dam and all the infrastructure, unlike our city cousins who have it provided for them] is outrageous.

if i'm fortunate enough to inherit the family farm [and this is not a "given", my parents have every right to sell up and go live in luxury on the Queen Mary if they wish] then frankly "farming" is not going to be high on the agenda. i'm thoroughly sick of having to tag each animal with an electronically readable plastic tag. i'm tired of hearing farmers being accused of pillaging the land and emitting excessive rates of carbon [what about all the other industry emissions? the tricky chemicals the politicians can't spell?]
we've just been advised that as stock-owners we'll are required to pay an annual "epidemic tax" [in case some blight descends upon the herd/flock] and i'm not looking forward to the day when we are made to individually weigh our stock and pay methane emissions tax based on their possible gas output [and probably calculated on the basis of feed-lotting as opposed to paddock grazing]. we also had a letter from the MLA telling us that we've been chosen at random to have our "books inspected" to make sure we're not feeding meat products to our stock. what the? if i were stupid enough to feed meat products to ruminants [and unlike the idiots who fed scrapie-infected sheep carcasses to cattle and kicked of the BSE plague i don't], do they really think i'd be writing it all down in a book?

so i'm extremely unhappy about having to pay a water tax on top of maintaining pipes and pumps and associated paraphernalia.

after a cup of tea and a bit of thought, here's the development plan for 'Hope Springs', assuming i have anything to say in the matter.

* discontinue meat production [let the old cows retire in peace for the rest of their days] and only keep a flock of pet sheep [none of whose children will be sent to market]. plant lots more trees and let most of the place become a wild forest, keeping a bit of clear space around the houses so there's a chance of eluding the inevitable fires. [there are plenty of kangaroos to graze under the trees.]

* grow enough fruit and vegetables to feed the family and trade with the neighbours. carrying the water in buckets from the dam should keep us all quite fit, no need to go to the gym so there's another saving [not that i go anyway, he he]

* compose a lovely "nyah nyah i told you so" song to sing when the government starts bleating about food shortages because nobody wants to be a farmer any more

oh and while i'm having a food and farm rant - the next semi-vegetarian who tells me they don't eat meat on principle but DO eat kangaroo because it's a soft-footed native animal that doesn't damage the country might like to have a little think about how that soft-footed animal is "harvested".  these gentle creatures are chased at night by men in 4WD vehicles with spotlights and guns. they die in agony [very rare to knock an animal out with a clean shot to the head] and in terror.
don't tell me that's sustainable meat production.

sorry about the rant folks, but had to get it off my chest. time for a coffee and then back to the sewing room...

one more thing, as my friend from Soewnearth has kindly reminded me [see comments]....the other item on the grand plan is to consider the installation of meters on our rainwater tanks and charge us for usage as well... i may spontaneously combust at some point.

Sunday 16 January 2011

again already

Janet de Boer has asked me to mention that a place has become available in the class I am teaching at Orange in April. apparently someone has had to withdraw...
details here
and you never know
there might be other classes that might be tempting

also i believe there are one or two places left in the May workshop at Bussy sur Moudon [Switzerland]
please email Janet Crowe if interested

a letter and a Good Idea

Hi India,
As you involved with many creative people, I thought I'd tell you what
my reading group (made up of artists and potters) is doing.
We are going to compile handmade goods which will travel well (so no
glass, pottery, etc) and send them up to a small town in the Lockyer
Valley towards the end of the year when they are facing their first
Christmas in drastically changed circumstances. It's no good sending
anything too early when there is so much cleaning up and rebuilding to
be done.
We did something similar with Marysville after the Victorian fires. Last
Christmas we decided to make for carers through a local branch of
Barnardos. We could really go to town as we could deliver the goods
ourselves so we had all kinds of art, textiles, pottery, mosaics,
journals, biscuits and little Christmas cakes. We find it is much
appreciated by the recipients and very satisfying for us.
The Pea Soup blog link below, with the quote from Liz Tilley, a bushfire
survivor, really inspired us to start. There is also a link to Handmade
I really enjoy reading your blog.
Marg Walters.

Sunday 9 January 2011

and another thing

while sorting piles of papers
[in pursuit of rendering aforementioned guest room habitable]
i found various amusing things


a copy of 'Beyond the Bale' , a publication of Australian Wool Innovation

which describes a clever printing process
whereby leaf images can be digitally printed on to cloth
[forgive me, i may have mentioned this before]

i think there may be easier ways to do this

on wool

Saturday 8 January 2011

while on the subject of washing

taking a brief break from attempting to induce some semblance of order in the guest bedroom
i briefly scanned the weekend newspaper

in an article entitled 'how to save money' or words to that effect
i found the following bit of nonsense
suggesting that a cup of sugar or a cup of salt be added to the wash in order to remove greasy stains
[with the justification that this would be cheaper than stain remover]

firstly salt and sugar are two very different vegetables indeed.

salt is a traditional mordant, best avoided as Australia already has a problem with soil salinity

sugar in the wash will also act as a pre-mordant, but not the way that salt might [ie fixing colours or changing them radically in the case of eucalyptus dyes] in that when you come to iron the item anything on the surface that has sugar in it will darken as the heat caramelises the stuff
[that's why you can wash out a sweet stain only to have it bounce back during the pressing process]

in any case, a cup of either [salt or sugar] would cost a lot more than a teaspoon of your average stain remover [assuming you use the stuff].
a drop of dishwashing detergent rubbed into the stain with a fingertip prior to laundering does the trick anyways.

AND using salt in a washing machine will lead to corrosion [just as it does when used in a pasta machine - nothing like a small diversion]

that's enough pontificating for today, back to rearranging those chairs on the foredeck of the Titanic

The Advertiser, Saturday January 8th, 2011

Friday 7 January 2011

scouring, or not

pootled over to the Maiwa pages today and discovered a post about the scouring of cloth before dyeing.
Maiwa are very firm about the need for this.

folks who have wandered with me will know that i don't bother with this process
i am dealing with greasy wool straight from the sheep
i cannot resist something silken from a thrift store
can tell [using my nose and fingertips] that some clot has permitted the garment to be maltreated by a "dry cleaner"
[i use the wiggly bits because the process is not dry at all, it involves having your precious garment sloshed about in a vat full of petrochemicals along with filthy garments belonging to complete strangers who have been doing goodness-only-knows-what in them ... eeeww]

here's why...

if we look at the Japanese system for mordanting cotton ie soaking in soy solution then alternate dips in soy and ash, drying each time so as to build up layers
having a layer of starch on new cloth [they apply it so the fabric will look good in the store]as a beginning could be an advantage.
at least i think so.
and if it's so strongly attached to the cloth that you have to boil it off with dangerously strong chemical assistants then you might as well leave it there.

if you're using thrift store cotton/linen/hemp then every wash that the garment has been through in its life will have helped to build up a mordant layer on the surface [very few washing aids do not contain sodium carbonate aka washing soda, an excellent mordant for yellows...]

and for bundle dyeing aka ecoprint [my preferred method] it doesn't matter...dye is forced into the cloth directly from the plant matter by steam and seems to bond firmly anyway
except of course if things have been drycleaned

in which case a good hot wash with dishwashing detergent is quite helpful

i don't understand why folks have their clothes chemically cleaned anyway. silk and wool can be handwashed. no problem.
treat silk the way you would treat your hair [teaspoon of vinegar in the rinsing water works the same way as conditioner...they just make conditioner gluggy so it won't run out of your hand in the shower]
and as long as you don't vary the temperature of your wash/rinse water by m ore than 5 degrees C or 9 degrees F or jiggle it about too much you shouldn't have any problems either.

here endeth the lesson
have a nice day.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

silly old bear

what if a silly old bear had tipped out the contents
of a dodgy looking pot in the dark one night
just before leaving the country on an overseas
and what if that silly old bear hadn't noticed
there was a bundle in amongst the leaves
having extracted quite a few bundles from the pot
...bundle found on compost heap some time later 

side benefits - slightly amended

i've been fiddling about and trying to make
these pages a bit more interesting
by attempting to add a thingummy
 which is supposed to include
a link to the most recent post of the commenter
so this is a bit of a test post
to see if it's working.
so much gadgetry.

but the idea is to make it more amusing
for readers
so shall persevere

must admit i actually prefer to do my musing
with pen in hand
and lovely ink pot for dipping
a nice way to record thoughts
with happy side benefit
of lovely stains on the facing page
when the writing is up to speed
and leaves are turning at fast pace

apologies to the three people who kindly commented
on the original version of this post
turned out that the gadget was a bit of a dud
didn't seem to live up to its promise
AND made the blog dreadfully slow to load

thank you for bearing with me
had to delete the gizmo
and unfortunately it ate the comments
as it departed the stage 
enough with the gimmickry!

Sunday 2 January 2011

found to be in need of stitching

found to be in need of stitching-
my favourite pair of jeans
of course
from a San Francisco thrift store
lovely bootcut Levi Strauss

i used Japanese sashiko thread
good sturdy cotton
a stitch in time, they say
but i needed a lot more than nine

Saturday 1 January 2011

things to do on NeW YeaR's DaY

gather St John's wort thus reducing
the bio-regional burden of an
introduced weed and boosting supplies
for the dyepot

savour delicious coffee made in
replica Atomic coffee machine
[Christmas present from chillun]
while leafing through ancient Time/Life book from thrift store
and finding images such as that above,
sensitively captioned
"peasants consider washing lines
to be a luxury"

prepare fabric for the 
at Beautiful Silks in Melbourne 
in February

keep stitching

Happy New Year everybody
may blessings and flowers abound
[and of course leaves - that goes without saying...]