Textile Talk: 1year1outfit

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Last night I went to the Victorian Handweavers & Spinners Guild to hear Nicki of This is Moonlight and Rachel of ReduceReuseRecycle talk about Fibreshed and 1year1outfit.

Your ‘fibreshed’ is the area within 500 km of your home, and all the products grown, processed and made within. Nikki describes the 1year1outfit on her blog as:

One Year One Outfit is a challenge to make a locally sourced outfit in a year. Anyone interested in garment making is welcome to join in. Most participants record their findings through social media and use the tag #1year1outfit to keep in touch with the group.

The outfit must be made from natural fibres sourced from your fibreshed, dyed with non-sythetic dyes, and be constructed to last.

After seeing the flyer, I investigated the various sites and Facebook pages related to the challenge. It became pretty clear that it would be very difficult for me to participate, because I can’t wear animal fibres against my skin and no silk or plant fibre is being spun in my fibreshed, and I don’t spin. It might be possible if I moved away from fabric. A quick search online brought up a leather tannery using ‘natural’ methods in Melbourne. I could even try basket-making techniques using locally-grown plants.

The talk was very interesting and I learned more that what I’d found out in my investigations. I think the most exciting is that there are now ‘mini mills’ where small batches of fibre can be spun. They didn’t say if those mills were spinning silk or plant fibre, but I imagine it requires different machinery.

Today my thoughts had shifted to a video I saw recently of Hmong women weaving hemp. I found it again and another that showed how they attach strips of hemp together before spinning it – a method that appeals to me because it does not involve drafting. I got lost in researching plant fibres, and how to make cord and baskets with Australian native plants.

It all reminded me how I’d like to make baskets out of materials I’ve grown. And that I need to get those lomandra seedlings in.

And how there’s still so much work to do in the garden.

Oh – and I nearly forgot: the talk will be repeated on Sunday August 28th, at 2pm. I highly recommend it.

Projects of 2015

January:

First project finished in 2015 was the Bunny Mink Scarf with inlay.

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It was a good month for weaving. We finally got the pedals on the table loom, which made weaving much faster.
However, the next rigid heddle project, the Memory Scarf, was tortuous to weave.

February:

Paul and I put together a pair of Bedside Bookcases.

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Not a project, but it felt like one: I left Pinterest. And never looked back except with relief.

March:

I twisted my ankle badly, which is probably why the only project I managed for the month was the Stitchy Shirt.

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April:

I made a Shoe Modification ready for my trip to Europe.
A little less work and more down time on this trip, so I managed to stitch a
Beetle Pendant while I was travelling.

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May:

I made a Flamingo Pendant as a thank you present for a friend.
A post-trip bout of finishitis took hold, where I finished the Ribbon Scarf

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Fair Isle Beanie
… and Paua Ruanna Collar.

June:

A simple tweak turned my stiff I-cord Scarf into a relaxed, loopy scarf.

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I finished the Silk Stripe Placemats.
Some knitwear and scarves were spruced up on Overdyeing Day.
I went a little overboard making a Gingerbread House.

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July:

Giving up on altering it yet again, I turned the Origami Bolero into the Origami Bolero Scarf and the sleeves of the Gift Yarn Jacket into the Gift Yarn Scarf.
After a sudden and intense love affair with a pin loom, the Neon Blue Blanket was born.

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More weaving produced the Silksation Scarf.
And I replaced the sleeves of the Gift Yarn Jacket to make it the Blue Sleeves Jacket.

August:

Craft Day among friends was Refashioning Day (dress & two tops) for me.

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I tried a little simple knitting to make Capucine.

September:

With the leftovers I made a Capucine Cowl.
An experiment with circular weaving resulted in the Tapestry Hat.
And my determination to try weaving with fine yarn meant I finally produced the Scary Tea Towels for my Mum.

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Then I lived up to my blog name and, perhaps triggered by all the landscaping preparations, became a little obsessed with jewellery-making, refashioning old pieces to make the Washer Necklace and Tiger Tail Bracelet.

October:

I finally used some paper beads to make Paper bead jewellery.

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But the weaving continued, with another pin loom project, the Hunky Hank Shawl.
Colourful beads suggested to me a Tinkle Bracelet for a friend.
While for myself I made Seed Bead earrings & necklace, though by then the landscaping was nearing its end and the jewellery-making obsession had run it’s course.

November:

A simple solution led to me finally finishing the Art Necklace.

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I started 50 Cards by Christmas 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-9, 9-10.

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December:

While way on a solo writing retreat, escaping the beginning of the new garage foundations work, I made some Inkle bands.
For the New Year, I bought myself a Katie Loom!
And I embellished a cardigan:

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Overall, it feels like I got less craft done this year than usual. RSI and a sprained ankle held me back in February and March, and I was away for most of April and part of November. Then there was all the landscaping and garage preparations and ongoing tasks that ate up mornings and weekends.

Thanks to the latter, I was exhausted by the middle of November and behind schedule with work. I reconnected with both writing and craft during my solo writing retreat week. In fact, I learned something useful. Because I wanted to avoid a sudden increase of typing, which would lead to RSI, I did craft in the mornings – weaving and card-making which didn’t work my hands too much. By the afternoon I was relaxed and my mind had been working over the story while I crafted, so the writing went well. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been doing the same, with varied success. I can’t help that the garage build and various chores are a distraction, but I can avoid spending mornings stuffing around on the internet – which just adds to the wear and tear on my hands and back. It is hard to switch into work mode, however, when the craft project sucks me in and I don’t want to stop.

A lot of refashioning, modification and reusing of materials were part of projects in 2015. When I did try something new, it was in weaving mostly, and also a few jewellery projects. In both I finally tackled and/or finished a few very long term projects – the scary tea towels and art necklace.

I only finished one portrait this year thanks to starting classes two months late, though the second is close to finished. That’s disappointing, as I was aiming to do four.

This year’s aim with the house was to take a break from big projects and stick to small ones while the pool fence, landscaping and garage preparations were done. The pool fence was ridiculously stressful and complicated. The actual landscaping was fast and stress-free, but the preparations before and pre-mulch preparations afterwards took up far more time than I’d expected.

The garage project is slow and ongoing, but mostly Paul’s task so I’m free to chase the work deadline and craft in 2016. I’m in a much more optimistic frame of mind than I was six weeks ago. In fact, the silly season, which I usually find distracting, stressful and a bit lonely, felt like a welcome break and opportunity to get everything back on track.

Happy New Year!

My Garden Rocks

We got the landscapers back in for a bit of rock tweaking recently. When they built the retaining wall there were a few rocks left over. They put them behind the old tennis court wall rather than install a sleeper garden edge there, as we’d originally planned. It seemed a good idea at the time. It’d cost more to take the extra rocks away.

But afterwards I realised the rocks would be difficult area to mow up to, and it was, really, a waste of good rocks. I called them and discussed a better place for them – at the front, next to the end of the drive.

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When the soil in front of the house is dug out to extend the driveway it’ll go in behind them, to extend the existing garden bed, which doesn’t have any existing edging so it’s a constant fight keeping the grass out.

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We’ll need to bring in a few extra rocks to link these to the new and old driveway, too. That won’t happen for a while. The driveway can’t be done until the sewerage is connected because that’ll go under it, and that can’t be done until the sewers go in along the street. Which was supposed to happen last month, but now apparently will happen in January.

That’s fine. We’re in no hurry. The rocks at the front will look odd for a while, but eventually it will all come together.

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Where the rocks were, there’s now a sleeper garden edge. Any soil from the drive that’s left over can go in here.

While the landscapers were working, we got some garden chores done. Along with tackling blackberry shoots, spraying weeds, repotting plants and filling the green waste bin with tree trimmings, we topped up the garden bed in the cat run garden with some soil from the front, then brought in some of the fake turf to place around it.

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The hope was that the cat would use the bed for his toilet rather than the one patch of ground beside it, which has been getting very smelly, and attracting flies. Thankfully, it seems to have worked.

Stress…… Relief

Last Friday morning WeBlow blew 45 cubic metres of mulch on the garden.

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This means I can ignore the garden for six to seven months, apart from tackling weeds. There are still smaller jobs around the garden to do, but nothing on this scale.

What a absolute, profound relief.

After some work gigs on Friday and Saturday, I spent Sunday sitting in a chair, aching with exhaustion after sleeping for 12-13 hours. Thinking back over the last three months, we’ve done a heck of a lot of physical work. We’ve done it on weekends around social occasions and on weekdays in the mornings, pushing my usual morning work and domestic tasks into the afternoon and shrinking the time I have to write and putting me behind schedule.

It’s been stressful, too. First waiting for a planning permit, then preparing the site for the landscaping, then preparing the site for the mulch. Plans were made then constantly altered. Each day I either pushed us both to get out and do the work, or if sickness or inclement weather prevented us I used that time planning and organising. So many times I felt a bit desperate as I realise each job is going to take two, three or four times as long as I’d estimated. We did 8 to 10 hours of raking and digging over the embankment, post-landscaping, about that much just sweeping the muck off the court surface, and at least double on other tasks all together. All the while I was only too aware that the only way anything could be done by each project deadline was by taking time away from important things, like visiting my parents and work.

We also had a housewarming, two birthday parties and two dinner parties in that time. I guess we didn’t have to, but the housewarming happened early on, it would have been a shame not to celebrate Paul’s 50th, and I’d arranged the dinner parties when I’d given up on getting the permit. Thankfully we have good friends who offered to help out during the 50th, which made it less exhausting. It’s going to be a long time before I feel like having people over again, I suspect. Not because I don’t want to see my friends, but just thinking about the hour and a half of dishwashing I did after the last party makes visiting friends them rather than inviting them here far more appealing.

Now the organising and stressing falls to Paul, as the garage build begins. The concreter is one of these “we’ll start some time next week” kinds of tradies, which would drive me nuts. But Paul doesn’t seem bothered.

I slept for 9 1/2 hours last night and I’m feeling more rested, though I haven’t a lot of energy. I’m off to Supanova at the end of the week, which I’m looking forward to. Two of those to get through and I’m done with publicity and can concentrate only on writing.

Though there’s Christmas to get through. Actually, I think this is the first time in decades that it feels like I’ll be less busy rather than more – and I might not mind working through the holiday season so much either. It’s going to feel like a holiday, compared to the last year and a half!

The Best Laid Plans

I took two weeks off recently, starting when the landscapers started work and 3000 title pages of my next book arrived to be signed. So not really a holiday, but a break from the writing routine. My mind needed it. My body… well, I don’t know.

Recently I asked my doc to investigate pain I’ve been getting in my hip and lower back, that my physio couldn’t explain or treat. An MRI later and it turns out I have a perineural cyst. The good news it isn’t life-threatening. The bad news – at least according to Doctor Google – is they don’t go away. I’ll be seeing a neurologist in a few weeks to get the official lowdown.

General advice out there is to avoid prolonged sitting or standing. I’ve found that I’m quite comfortable while being active. In fact, I’d noticed for a while now that I get very fidgetty when I try to sit and work. I want to be active, and I figured that was a good thing.

At the beginning of my break I injured my right hand while sweeping, so to ensure I’d get the title pages signed I had to avoid using my hands as much as possible. So no using hands, no sitting or standing for long periods… I nearly went out of my mind with boredom by the end of the first week.

I had to find something to occupy my mind. Once the landscapers were done I could leave the house, so I went to the Horticulture and Gardening Show on a very humid Friday. The next Sunday we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens to take portrait reference photos of another friend. I’d forgotten how fabulous the gardens are and now want to go back and wander around some more. The following, much cooler Friday I joined friends on an op shop crawl.

Trouble is, all that activity was also wearing me out. My body started begging for a rest.

By the end of the second week I’d figured out that I could occupy my mind with researching plants for the courtside garden. This involved sitting at the computer, but also lots of getting up to grab books or photograph things, and not a lot of typing.

First I took six photos of the courtside garden and got Paul to create a panorama. Then I went virtual plant shopping. Once I found a suitable plant that I liked, I’d find it on Google Images, take a screen grab, open the file in Photoshop and delete the background. That would be inserted into a layer of the panorama file at around the right size, with a label added. Then I was able to duplicate and move the plant around.

This is what I ended up with after a couple of days:

Courtside Plant Plan

It’s very roughly done, but it doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to give me something to play with between now and next autumn, when planting can begin.

Turf Out, Rocks In

A couple of weeks ago we had landscapers here. They removed the rest of the tennis court surface.

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They removed our old rotting sleeper wall and the brick drain below it, and cleared the weeds and dead plants in the garden bed.

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That’s my kind of weeding.

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And they built a new rock retaining wall at the edge of the court slab. Some of the rocks were pretty big:

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The final result looks amazing.

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Though a visitor decided it needed an extra little something:

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We now have a pile of bricks to clean…

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And a garage to build.

On the gardening front, this ticks off most of the items in the first part of the to-do list – “A Garden With No Structural Issues”. We’re in the process of digging swales into the courtside garden bed, which is the last item.

The second part of the to-do list is “An Easily Maintained Garden”. We’ve covered the poolside garden with plastic in the hopes of solarising all the weeds before the mulch goes on, including hundreds of little blackberry seedlings coming up. I’m hoping well have this and the courtside bed covered in mulch by December. Then the garden goes into summer mode: watering and weeding only. It’ll be too hot and dry to do anything else.

Courtside Garden Plans

A month or so back I made a rough panorama photo of the courtside garden, traced it in Photoshop and identified as many of the existing plants as I could. Then I did another layer and sketched rough outlines with the weeds and some plants removed, and new ones added:

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It helped me decide what was going and what staying when the landscapers arrived. But mostly it’s so that when I’m ready to plant next autumn, I’ll know roughly how many plants of each size I have space for, as well as a rough idea of whether each position gets more or less sunlight.

In the meantime, it gives me a framework on which to dream…

Permitted

We finally got approval of the planning permit amendments for our garage last Monday, and I got straight onto the landscapers to book the tidy up of the embankment garden. They’ll be here in two weeks. In the interim the old tennis court needs to be demolished.

I’d like to recycle as much of the court as possible. Many of the fence posts will become a shorter fence, a pergola and a cat run frame. Some of the mesh will be reused on the new fence if my idea for recycling it works, and a friend of a friend is interested in taking some for her property. I wanted to put the fake turf on the embankment gardens to suppress weeds until next autumn, when conditions are better for planting, but by the end of the weekend I had to abandon that idea.

Two much-needed helpers provided invaluable extra hands:

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While Paul tackled the fence:

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He made better progress on the fence and posts than I expected – they’re almost all down and stacked away. The turf was my target. However, lifting one big piece to use on the garden turned out to be impossible, as the stuff is very, very heavy. It’s embedded with sand, and though a good blast with a high pressure hose gets most of it out, to have any chance of moving it it had to be cut into 30-50cm wide strips.

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We’ve done maybe 10% of it and spent at least 12 hours on it now. When we stopped yesterday, and considered the size of the garden beds it’s meant to cover, we realised we’d need almost all of what’s on the court. That’s just not going to happen before next Monday.

Once autumn arrives and it’s taken off the garden beds, we’re going to face the same problem all over again. And next autumn we won’t have landscapers here with excavators to make light work of moving it.

So we’re going to keep what we’ve lifted, and the rest will go to the tip. We have kept a square of it under what will be the pergola, too:

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It’d make great door mats, too. But we don’t need THAT many door mats!

And, of course, I’ll have to find other ways to suppress weeds in the garden until autumn. Black builder’s plastic is recommended for this. It isn’t too expensive, and I have an idea for what I can do with it afterwards.

So while I’m sad that we can’t reuse everything from the court, I’m happy that we’re going to be making something out of most of the non-turf parts.

Turning a Corner or Three

Spring is definitely in the air, despite it still being technically winter. Plants are waking up. Weeds are sprouting everywhere. Two weekends ago we put in what I hope will be the first plant that doesn’t end up dug up again: a mandarin tree a friend gave us for our housewarming. We also transplanted some rhododendrums and, the weekend after, spread half of a huge pile of mulch.

Last week I decided that I was tired of waiting for the garage planning permit and would focus on getting the kitchen garden finished, so we felt like we were getting something done. It was last on my list of areas to landscape, though in my original plan now was when I’d planned to tackle it – I just expected to have had the rest of the garden sorted by now.

So I made a list of tasks to be done and began with sourcing raised garden beds. I did a whole lot of online searching and I tried to buy corrugated iron ones from two companies, but the website of one didn’t work and the other never rang me back. I wound up buying cheap pine beds from Bunnings and got Paul to cut down some drums he’d bought for a photography project a year or so ago.

Of course, the day after I wrote out my plan and bought seed potatoes, some herbs, soil, compost and pine garden beds, the permit came through. With some amendments, but we essentially have approval to build a garage.

So I cut the kitchen garden plan back to doing only what I bought materials and plants for. That is: potatoes and mint grown in the drums, and herbs in the pine beds. The paving and gravel will have to wait.

Then Paul checked a few details with the council yesterday, and it turns out that we can’t start on the garage – and the garden beside it – until the amendments have been stamped.

So I figure I’ll get to work in the kitchen garden and see how far I get. Today I filled the first of the potato drums, which I’m setting up as wicking beds. I didn’t have enough scoria for the base of the second one, so that’s top of the to-do list.

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In the bases I planted two kinds of mint: spearmint and common. They can spread out and aren’t in danger of infesting garden beds.

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I dug a big square hole to set the first of the three pine garden bed into, loosening up the soil and covering it with straw mulch for now.

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Being inside the cat run, their main function is as cat toilets. We finally had a cat door put in a few weeks ago. Since then we’ve had the litter box sitting outside as the first step of training him to ‘do his business’ outside.

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So far just getting him to go outside at all has been a bit of a battle of wills.

From the Ground Up

Our new property is a full acre. When I stop to think about that I think I must be nuts taking on a garden that size. Yet the majority of it is laid out in the easiest way to maintain: large trees that don’t require work and grass a mowing guy takes care of.

The rest is far from ideal: a difficult-to-access weed infested embankment. 20% of the property will require 95% of the time, energy and money to fix and maintain.

I’ve entertained plenty of ideas about what I’d like to do here: native gardens to attract birds, productive vege beds, pergolas covered in grape vines and more fruit trees. But the gap between what I have and what I dream of is pretty wide, and I need to consider what I can physically do now and as I get older.

I’ve been struggling to tame what we have. Having gone away for a while, I can see that the philosophy of dividing work into smaller, manageable tasks isn’t working. Too much of the work required has to be done everywhere at the same time, to keep the costs down and prevent weeds spreading.

I’m now taking a step back and looking at the garden from a different viewpoint and asking myself: what do I want to achieve here?

1) a garden with no structural issues
2) a garden we can easily maintain
3) an attractive and usable outdoor spaces
4) a productive garden

So I’m setting my sights on numbers 1 and 2 for now. Drainage, soil, weeding, mulching. That’s more than enough to keep us busy for quite a while.