It’s a Given

Post accessory overhaul, I had lots of repurposing and rehoming to do. Mostly rehoming, but I had put aside a few things to frog, unweave, or refashion. I also kept finding more scarves! All were in the craft room, already awaiting refashioning or frogging.

I didn’t want to add a pile of yarn to my stash. Neither did I want to turn everything into new accessories for me. I was fine with making some to give away, so that’s mostly what I set out to do.

One very long scarf was shortened to make two. A scarf, neckwarmer and two pairs of wristwarmers were frogged. A scarf was unwoven. Out came the circular knitting machines. I turned the neckwarmer and wristwarmer yarns into a beanies to give away:

I bought an extra ball of yarn so I could add pompoms to the ends of this scarf:

And I brought out the Knitters Loom and warped up to weave a honeycomb scarf using handspun from a frogged scarf as the feature yarn:

That left me with a ball of very colourful handspun and a batch of blue speckled alpaca to repurpose.

The blue speckled yarn has already been knit on the circular machines several times, and is beginning to feel a bit worse for wear. Though I love the yarn, I’ve just not loved anything I’ve made from it so far. Time to try weaving it, I think.

Creative Fidgeting Consciously

So my thoughts about the sustainability of making had me opening my visual journal and exploring the “eco-ness” of four of my hobbies: craft, art, cooking and gardening.

Gardening was the least worrying, as I like to repurpose things, grow food, buy organic weed killer (in bulk to reduce packaging) and put plastic pots in the recycling. I’d already decided to switch from plastic to cane or fabric carriers for weeds. I think I’m doing okay there.

Cooking produces a lot of packaging, but I’m already reducing that as much as possible and making my own nut butter, crackers and other things you can’t easily buy without non-recyclable packaging.

Craft has some issues – mainly the use of toxic dyes and inks – but I probably buy second hand materials and repurpose things as much as, if not more than, new. In fact, reusing, repurposing and refashioning is pretty much a hobby in itself. Even my mosaics have mostly been about fixing or repurposing something.

Art is… actually quite problematic. Natural pigment isn’t always better than synthetic – cadmium is carcinogenic, for example – but (I think) synthetic comes from petrochemicals. Stretched canvasses are so cheap these days I wonder if, like cheap clothes, they’re made by underpaid workers, I hate to think where the wood comes from as most cheap wood is stripped from old growth rainforests, and I have no idea what the fabric is made of (probably plastic – and the surface coating repels watery paint, so it isn’t gesso). Then there’s waste. I’ve alway struggled to decide what to do with artwork that doesn’t turn out well. Doing something frequently enough to get good at it can leave you with lot of unwanted work headed for landfill.

Thinking about this, I realised that working on paper more might be better, as it can be recycled. Oils are still better than acrylic, since I work with a spatula mostly and wipe the excess on rags. When I do use brushes I let the turps I wash them in sit until the paint particles settle, then tip off and reuse the turps. I keep old brushes for rough work, then stirrers. In the past I’ve taken the canvas off unwanted paintings and sewn it into bags, then recovered the frame with new cotton or linen canvas, which makes stretched canvasses more reusable than canvas boards. However, making my own canvas boards may eliminate the possibility I’m using wood stripped from rainforests or plastic fabric. I even thought about weaving my own canvas fabric, but it would be slow and occupy the loom when I want to weave other projects.

After my brainstorming session, I went out into the studio and considered the art supplies I have. I realised it will take quite a while before I need anything new. So there’s not a lot I can do to make my art practise more sustainable right now. I’ll keep these ideas in mind for when I do run out of materials, and reach for paper based art methods over canvas more often.

Thinking Time

So it turns out I have tennis elbow as well as a return of RSI. The term ‘tennis elbow’ annoys me somewhat, since it makes it sound like I developed it because of a recreational activity, not work. I got to thinking, after a friend suggested I come up with better names, that I would rename my maladies more accurately. So I have Writer’s Wrist, Editor’s Elbow and Novelist’s Neck.

Or maybe that should be Weaver’s Wrist. Hmm.

Resting my hand and arm meant finding occupation that didn’t use it. I turned it into planning time. Getting out my entire stash, I plonked it on the office floor. Then I printed a pile of project sheets. Then I went through the ‘ideas’ section of my weaving folder, my stash spreadsheet, visual journal, notebook on my phone and the Craft To-Do list on this site, and wrote a list of projects, ideas and weaving structures I wanted to try.

A big mix and match session followed. By the end of the second day, I had twenty project sheets partially filled in and a list of 15 less developed project ideas.

Part of the motive behind this was that I never did get all my stash to fit in the wardrobe after my big craft room cull, and I hoped a reshuffle would fix that (it didn’t, but there’s now only one bag of yarn hanging off a door handle). Another part was a feeling that’s been growing these last few years, as I learned more about issues with ethical clothing and waste in general, that there’s an obvious conflict between constantly making stuff and not filling the world with more trash and toxins.

Both had me determined to use what I have. Also, as I considered each project, I asked myself the same question I do when considering buying clothing: “Do I really need this?”. It was a sobering question, as the answer was pretty much ‘no’ for all of them. So I asked: “Could I gift/sell it?” but that was followed by: “Am I then just filling the world with stuff nobody really needs?”.

I’m a creative person. I’m not going to stop making things. If I gift or sell them, I can’t know if the person who owns them really needs them. Heck, I can’t guarantee if a gift recipient, whether from me or a buyer of my things, will even like them or, if not, pass them on to someone who will not toss them. But I can try to reduce the impact of the making of those things by making sure the materials, tools and methods are as sustainable as possible.

Fortunately I don’t need to change much to do that. Since my interest in fibre arts began when I was broke, I have a long-standing habit of seeking out second hand materials. I prefer natural fibres and, when not second-hand, I go for as locally made as possible. The challenge will be to do this with the fine cotton yarns for weaving, as there’s not a lot of choice new and I’ve rarely seen them selling second hand. Hmm, time to do some googling…

At Last!

The first half of the rya rug is off the loom:

It’s cushy and weighs more than it looks like it’s going to.

I had to buy even more fabric: four shirts and a pillowcase from an op shop. The rug was still 5cm too short, but I’d had enough. 5cm won’t make much difference to the overall size of the finished rug.

I’ll be finishing the edges after I attach the second half. I wove several rows of 8/2 cotton to fold under and encase the knots. First time I’ve tried that. Will see how it goes.

Trying it on for size:

The second half should go quicker, since I have already torn and cut the strips.

Stretched for Fabric

Here’s the rya rug from underneath the loom, showing what the top will be like:

When I began weaving it I pinned a piece of cotton tape to the start and put a knot at the length I wanted the rugs to be, so I would know where to end the first one, leave a gap and start the next. When I had nearly finished knotting in all the strips of fabric I’d cut, having estimated from the knot on the tape and the rows of knots I’d done already that I should have enough, I found the rug was about 15 cm too short. I wondered if the tape was stretching and the rug was actually longer than the tape was saying, so I decided to loosen the warp and measure what I’d woven so far with a measuring tape.

I discovered it was actually 40 cm too short!

Perhaps the tension of the loom was stretching the warp quite a bit. Perhaps the thick fabric it was creating was pulling in the warp quite a bit as well. Perhaps I didn’t measure the tape properly. Whatever the reason, I needed many more strips. So I tore more from the leftover fabric given to me by my friend, and went on a hunt for more fabric. Two other friends had volunteered some fabric scraps, so I made arrangements to visit and raided their stash.

This is the collection of strips set aside for the second half of the rug. I reckon I’ll have the whole table covered by the time I’ve finished the first half.

To fill in the time before the visits I’d arranged, I went back to working on the mosaics. The tiles I’d got from a friend weren’t the same blue as the ones I needed, but complimented the hue. In my earlier hunt for other ways to finish the mosaic I’d picked out some round glass tiles. They looked a bit like bubbles to me, so I figured I’d put some between where the old and new tiles changed.

I needed more, so I ordered them. The shop also had some 10×10 tiles in blue, so I ordered one of each of the three colours on the odd chance they’d match the one’s I’d run out of. It turned out, they did.

There’s the slightest difference, so I’m still going with the glass ‘bubbles’. But before I could do that, I needed to stick down some tiles on the bird bath. Well, once I got started I kept going.

I’m using a mix of grout, water and glass mosaic additive as glue, which is what we used in the class. It’s frustratingly fast setting, so I have to mix up a tiny bit at a time and the last few tiles I attached usually come off again. I’m hoping that the final grouting and sealing will keep everything in place.

Ts & Jeans

It’s been four and a half months since I downloaded the Stylebook app, and I’m still having fun with it. Mixing and matching clothing in the Looks section has led to some really good outfit combinations, and is a more entertaining distraction than social media and games if I’m filling in time on a train, in a waiting room or car.

Every day I log what I wear on the calendar. It’s not something I want to do forever, just until I’ve worn everything in my wardrobe at least once. I’ve learned that I can’t truly judge whether a garment fits and I really do like it unless I wear it for a day. (Holding it and seeing if it sparks joy just isn’t going to cut it.) Since my initial review while photographing clothes for the app a few more garments have been removed, and some I’d culled have actually made it back out of the rag, pj and gardening clothes boxes and into my wardrobe again.

This has been most true with my t-shirts. T-shirt and jeans have been my default ‘personal uniform’ since my teens. I have a lot of t-shirts as a result. (Though not many pairs of jeans – I’ll get to that next.) I culled quite a few ts when I first photographed them for Stylebook. The remaining ones went into two menus in the app: t-shirts and convention t-shirts. Making myself wear them all revealed something that I kinda knew but was ignoring: I don’t like wearing con t-shirts. It’s not that they’re geeky, or even that some of the designs aren’t great, but it’s not that far from wearing a vender t-shirt and I generally refuse to be a walking billboard. The ones I really don’t like have big, plasticy designs that are hot and icky to have against my chest or back. So all but one con tshirt is heading off to new owners or purposes.

Then there’s jeans. I love jeans… when they fit. But it’s been 20 years since jeans styles fit my body shape. As I’ve worked my way through wearing everything in my wardrobe, I’ve culled the jeans that aren’t comfortable. The hardest has been the ‘straight leg’ jeans I bought a year ago. They are the first somewhat ethical purchase (the elastic fibre content is made from recycled plastic and they’re dyed with indigo) that I’ve regretted. Weirdly, I found them too stretchy. Jeans normally only stretch horizontally, but these stretch vertically as well, making me feel like the ‘mid-rise’ waistband is going to slip off my butt at any moment.

Once they’re gone I’ll have a very old pair of comfy jeans, one black pair for when I’m a bit skinnier than normal, and one blue pair for when I’ve put on a bit of weight. What’s a jean-loving girl to do? Well… nothing. Unless I find a super-comfy second-hand pair, I’m done with jeans. I have cotton, hemp and linen pants in my wardrobe that do just as well.

Weaving At Last

On the Australia Day weekend it finally happened: I warped up the floor loom.

I had thought the craft room tidy up might get the creative juices flowing again, and I was right. It was the push I needed. Not in the way I expected, though. I thought clearing space for the looms would declutter my mind. Instead it was the need to do projects in order to make space that spurred me into action.

The project is the rya rag rug, which is not only using up the old shirts, sheets, fabric scraps, table cloths and pajamas I’ve been collecting for this project and the craft yarn I bought for it over ten years ago, but also a pile of shirts, sheets and a skirt I’d but a side for possible refashioning. And an excess of rags in the rag bag.

I cut everything into strips first, then dressed the loom with rug warp, making it twice the length of the rug I wanted so I could make two then join them together. I cut up each pile of strips into 15cm lengths as I weave, then collected them into batches of 34 – one to weave now, one for the second half of the first rug (to make sure the colour spread was even across it) and another two batches for the second rug. This was very slow work, but it told me that I needed to acquire more fabric and now that I’m on the second half of the first rug the rya knot rows seem to fly by.

I had a minor panic at nine rows of rya knots in, as the fabric wasn’t growing as fast as I’d calculated and I was worried about running out of craft yarn. So I did a whole lot of internet searching for another yarn to pair with the craft yarn to bulk out the weft. Then I redid my sums and realised I’d forgotten a step, and I still had enough yarn anyway. Me and my absent-minded maths.

At 25 cm I’d done enough to know I’d run out of rags less than halfway through, so I put out a request for old shirts, sheets and such from friends on Facebook… and got almost no response. Guessing that everyone had done their end/beginning of year cull and tossed the excess already, I searched the garage for old sheets to use as drop sheets and found one that was perfect. One of the two friends who responded let me rifle through her pile of fabric scraps, which gave me a good sized pile of fabric that mostly didn’t need seams cut off. That turned out to be enough to cover the whole rug.

Now that I’m not running around looking for more fabric, and cutting up endless strips, it’s settled into a relaxing weave. I’m hoping it lasts through most of February, giving me something creative to do in work breaks. I’m also liking how it’s coming out, all thick and stripy.

And I’m now thinking about other methods of weaving rags and fabric, as I think about what I will weave next.

Patchwork Pillow

The first of the big post-craft room tidy up projects was finished last week:

The usual law of using up stash applied: there will always be something new you have to buy in order to use up the old. In this case, two zippers. But it enabled me to remove several pairs of jeans and two large pillow inserts from my sewing stash.

The next big post-craft room tidy up project is the rya rug. I have been strangely reluctant to dedicate the floor loom to it since it’s going to occupy it for a while. I say ‘strangely’ because the loom has been empty for months and I’m not exactly anxious to make anything else in particular right now.

But it’s time to kick myself in the posterior and just get on with it.

Lady Finishers

Back when Paul was doing his Batchelor of Photography he needed old wooden frames, so he bought some through eBay. One had an embroidery from 1992 in it. He was going to throw it away, but I figured I could probably make something with it one day.

Recently (but probably not so recently that I’m being all that trendy) I noticed there was a fashion for denim jackets with embellishments on the back. I thought about putting that embroidery on the back of mine as a kind of fast, cheats way to get the look. In the meantime, a corduroy jacket I’d bought second hand lost a button. I went on a long and fruitless hunt for a replacement that would match the rest, but it being your typical metal shank button I couldn’t find anything even similar.

Eventually I settled on a plastic shank button in my stash that has a pearlescent effect that looks remarkably like the metal buttons from a distance. I sewed it on when tackling the mending pile after my big craft room cull. The embroidery was in my ‘not sure if I should toss or keep’ pile and I decided it was time to decide whether to sew it on my jacket or toss it out. I took out my denim jacket and laid the embroidery out on the back. Since it was there I also tried it on the corduroy jacket – and it matched that one better. So I decided to go ahead and sew it on.

I’m so glad I did! When I removed the backing board from the embroidery I had quite a surprise.

Whoever had framed the embroidery had used the photo that was originally in the frame – from the late 1800s we think. On the back was a rather amusing note from the photo studio:

As for the embroidery… I used iron-on fusing to attach interfacing to the back then sewed that onto the jacket. I’m rather chuffed with the result:

Buy Nothing New Decorating

Having volunteered to host the extended family Christmas bbq and tackling the lack of tree by whipping up this…

I set myself the challenge to buy nothing new when decorating for the event. A friend had made a whole lot of wrapping paper cones to decorate an op shop window, and when she heard about my challenge she asked if I wanted them. I said an eager ‘yes, please!’.

When I got them I realised that they would blow away if I didn’t find a way to anchor them. I used a circle cutter to make lots of small discs of card, then speared those with bamboo sticks from the kitchen. That gave the cones something to sit on. Then we rescued some scrap wood from the ‘stuff for the tip’ pile and Paul drilled holes in them. That got me two long rows of trees that happened to fit perfectly along the kitchen windows:

And four small ones for the tables:

The rest I stuck into the ground of the shade garden next to the deck to make two little forests:

A few days before it had occurred to me that the trees, large and small, still would make for a rather sparse amount of decoration. I brought out the ‘chalkboard’ bunting I’d bought for another party, which you can see in one of the pics above. More bunting would be good, but I didn’t have much fabric or time. Then I remembered that I had some leftover drop cloth fabric from when I’d made a canopy for our pergola-ish-thing. It was lined with plastic and wouldn’t fray, so I only needed a seam on the top to thread string through. Draggin it out, I realised I had just enough to make flags to put around the other three sides of our deck. So I cut it into two strips, sewed three more seams, made a flag template and marked out the shapes on the back:

Then I painted the fabric red, blue, green and yellow:

When I was done I cut up the flags and threaded them onto some craft string. Immediately there was something not quite right. The bunting reminded me of car yards. I asked Paul and he said it did the same thing for him. Looking at it critically, I realised two things: the yellow flags made the colour combination too ‘primary school’ and all the colours were too flat.

So I got out my printing supplies and used white paint and a plastic lace drawer-liner to add a bit of pattern to the flags:

Re-threading the flags without the yellow fit better with the colours in the Christmas paper trees, too:

So I grabbed the red, green and blue lanterns from a party I had a few years back and hung those up too:

Now we were ready to party.

The party went well and one of the first guest to arrive was heard to say “awesome Christmas tree!”. We used reusable plastic plates and cutlery, provided cans and bottles of soft drink to reduce plastic, everyone separated their waste into the ‘recycling’, ‘compost’ and ‘rubbish’ bins I’d set out, and nobody expressed any surprise, let alone a grumble, at it all. Some guests brought gifts in reusable bags, so maybe they are already on board with low-waste.

The bunting will definitely be used again – maybe a different colour combination next time – and maybe the Christmas wrapping trees. But the hose and stakes tree will be dismantled after New Year. If I need one again, I’m sure I’ll find another creative way around buying something new. I had too much fun not to try again!