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:

Books Read in 2018

Slow Clothing Jane Milburn
Phantom Islands of the Atlantic Donald S. Johnson
Craeft Alexander Langlands
Indigo Catherine McKinley
The Perfect Red Amy Butler Greenfield
Deep Survival Laurence Gonzales
Superfreakonomics Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt
Obsidio Aime Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Turning the Tide on Plastic Lucy Siegle
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Marie Kondo
Zero Waste Home Bea Johnson
Wear No Evil Greta Eagan
Waste Not Erin Rhodes
Raelia Lynette Noni
Draekora Lynette Noni
Graevale Lynette Noni
We Three Heroes Lynette Noni
Grandma Knows Best Jane Maple
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Deceit Alison Goodman
A Life Less Throwaway Tara Button

Twenty books. Five from the to-read pile and fifteen new. Six fiction books and fourteen non-fiction. The novels were new books by author friends. Many of the non-fiction were books mentioned in a previous book I’d read. I also started three more books but lost momentum, abandoning one and putting the others on hold.

My favourite fiction for the years was Lady Helen and the Dark Days Deceit, and Craeft was the most enjoyable non-fiction book. Wear No Evil may be the most useful – specifically Greta’s method of choosing clothing to buy. The only book I disliked was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying, which I read only to see if it was truly like what I’d been told (it was).

This year I hope to read a bit more fiction. I’m not sure there’s much more to gain from reading more ethical fashion and waste reduction books. What I’ve already read covered a lot of the same ground. I have plenty of books in the non-fiction to-read pile to take me in other directions. It’ll all depend on what I am doing after I finish working on The Book, as I find it hard to read fiction when I’m writing it.

The Big Craft Room Tidy of 2019

It’s been hot in Melbourne for several days now. Dry hot then humid hot. Too hot to go outside. Too hot to even work on mosaics, as the studio is the warmest room in the house and I only run the aircon unit out there if I really have to – say, we have visitors.

Somehow my brain decided that this meant a big clean out of the craft room would be a good idea.

My aim was to get everything but looms, furniture and the rubbish bin off the floor and into the wardrobe or bookcase. Not only was I sick of the clutter, but I also know that if I do get another floor loom I’ll have to do this anyway.

First I dragged everything on the floor into the kitchen. Baskets, tubs and felt storage buckets covered the dining table. Most of the contents were t-shirt material, jeans, cotton fabric to be repurposed. One basket was overflowing with sewing and refashioning projects. On top of that: three square pillow inserts waiting to be given pillowcases.

Looking in the wardrobe, I mentally added all this to all my sewing supplies and a question immediately sprang to mind:

Why the heck do I have so much sewing stuff when I’m really not that keen on sewing?

So I culled.

And I culled HARD. At least a third of my sewing stuff went into a pile to get rid of, including the mini sewing machine and a quarter of my fabric stash. I then culled some embroidery yarns, stretchers and books, keeping supplies for kinds of embroidery I reckon my eyes can cope with.

The jewellery-making supplies were reduced next. I culled most of my seed beads since they’re hard to see now. I removed beads I didn’t love. (Then I got distracted and lost half a day trying to make a bracelet… but once I realised my mistake I decided there would be NO MORE GETTING DISTRACTED!)

Lots of swapping of plastic tube contents followed to make best use of the wardrobe shelving. I was determined to avoid buying more plastic stuff. The only container I wound up needing to buy was a replacement sewing box – the lid had finally broken off the one I’ve been using since I was a teenager and though I’d duck-taped it back on it was only strong enough to store sewing patterns. I took a morning off and visited several op shops until I found an old cane picnic basket that was the exact dimensions to fit the space for the sewing basket in my wardrobe. A cane document tray I already had fitted inside. I did end up buying two small plastic boxes to hold my sewing threads, as the tray only sits loosely and I could see myself being a clutz and spilling spools everywhere.

Headway had been made, but much more work lay ahead. I hardly ever touch my paper and card stash, so it needed to be culled too. The space dedicated to it needed to be more efficiently arranged, too. A trip to Bunnings and Officeworks sorted that.

The bookcase was scrutinised, too. Knitting books, macrame books and art books went OUT. This gave me two shelves spare to put weaving and drawing tools on.

Finally, a week after I began, I’m finished. There are still some areas that need work. I have bags of yarn that won’t fit in the stash in bags hanging from door handles, and the sack of cotton fabric for a rya rug has nowhere to go but the floor, so I haven’t achieved 100% of my aim. But it’s a LOT less cluttered in the craft room now.

And all I have to do to get to 100% is tackle couple of big projects: a couple of recycled denim patchwork pillowcases and a giant rya rug.

All I need to do for the latter is work out if I can do it on the floor loom, or if I’ll need to make or buy a rug loom.

Continued/Discontinued

When I had my long bout of finishitis last year, one of the items on the WIP list that I failed to eliminate was the Swimmers Clock. There was simply too many hours of work left to do, to get it done by Christmas. But I did find time to work on it, and my enthusiasm for it and mosaics returned.

Pretty soon, however, I hit a snag. I ran out of blue tiles for the background. They weren’t available at Bunnings, so I headed to the manufacturer, Johnson Tiles. There I learned that the colour was discontinued. The girl at the front desk said there were a few boxes left at the warehouse and ordered them for me, but when I rang on the day she said to call on, she found no order and the person I spoke to said there were none left. This is where the clock is up to:

In the meantime, I started another project: a house number. Seeing Paul with his large tin of obsolete keys, I had the idea of using them in the background. I finished the mosaic just after New Year.

The cream tiles are the same type I was using on the clock. However, I ran out of that colour, too. But it isn’t a discontinued colour, and I was able to get a couple from Bunnings. But these did not break as easily or in a predictable way as the old ones. I looked on the back and saw that the old ones say “Made in Britain” while the newer ones says “Made in Malaysia”.

Fortunately I was able to finish the mosaic by simply cutting and breaking until I had the right shapes, making a lot more wastage in the process. But I was kind of glad the blue for the clock was discontinued as it would be a much more frustrating process filling in the last of the background.

I had bought a bunch of duck-egg blue tiles hoping to just transition into another colour on the clock, but they didn’t match very well and the cutting problem put me off trying with any other colour. Googling, I found that the colour is still available in the UK. I can’t tell from the websites if they are made in Britain or Malaysia, however, so I posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew someone over there who could ship some to me.

A few days later, at a party, a friend said the tiles sounded a lot like what he and his wife used on their bathroom. Later he sent a photo, and they do look very much like the ones I need. I just need to get hold of them and see.

In the meantime, again, I’ve started another mosaic. I’ve been meaning to tile one of our bird baths, as it has a hole in the bottom that needs filling. Wondering what I’d do with the hard-to-cut duck egg blue and leftover cream tiles, I realised that if I smash them up with a hammer and use them as random shapes they should work okay. The smaller the pieces, the easier to fit them together.

Of course, I then ran out of cream, but that’s okay, I know I can get those ones at Bunnings.

Happy New Year

This time of year always has me thinking more about where I’m at, have been and want to be. Usually I’m happy to think back with gratitude for the good and be philosophical about the bad, and have no trouble being optimistic and enthusiastic about the future. This time, however, I struggled to be positive as the year crawled to an end, and so I’ve been trying to put my finger on why.

Looking back, I can’t point to any particular big bad thing that happened last year. There were annoyances, frustrations and ongoing worries. There were successes and moments of joy, too. But all in all, I rated it 4 out of 10. As I’ve been saying to friends, 2018 has been a little bit shit. Not terrible, not great either.

So I examined all the different parts of my life and concluded that most of my anxiety concerns the future. Some of the activities that used to give me joy no longer do or are becoming too physically challenging. Our health and fitness needs more attention. I worry about my elderly parents. I’m concerned about our friends. I fear for the planet.

My priorities shifted. Health move to the top because my back doesn’t have to get much worse than normal before it affects everything. Work and family are next, thankfully not yet conflicting. General domestic and financial chores, house and garden maintenance follow. Only when I’m satisfied these things are in order do I think of art and hobbies. It’s not that I don’t recognise that art and hobbies are good for my mental health, they just shouldn’t come at the cost of work, family and generally having my shit together.

Fortunately, once the new year arrived my mood lifted. Without seasonal obligations creating such a mental load and time suck, I’m finding time to be creative again (more about that in the next post). These words popped into my head a few days into the year:

“Don’t expect everything that gave you joy in the past to do so in the future.”

Gosh, I can apply that to so many things. Work, hobbies, friends… And thinking about how some things may be heading out of my life, I wondered what was coming in. It stirred up favourite saying of mine:

“There are enough unwanted challenges in life, so it’s nice to add a few wanted ones.”

So I considered what new challenges I could set myself for 2019. I decided on two things: to try arranging a pool party for every warm weekend, and to start going to workshops at a local artist society/association. The first idea pretty much flopped on the first weekend thanks to what I call the New Rude. (In this case, people accepting invites then either not turning up, or telling you at the last moment that they’ve got something else/better planned now). Oh well, maybe challenge #2 will prove more successful. I’ll have to wait until the new term starts to find out.

Time for the Yearly Review

Time to sum up what I made in 2018!

January
In the beginning of the year I posted a lot about Vari Dent reed projects, most of which I had done in the previous year. Then I did a Sewing for Handwovens workshop at the HWSGV and…

February
… that led to me tackling two past projects and two wips. First improving the Glamour Shawl, then turning the Olive Handspun Jacket into the Greta Cape.

I finished weaving my first floor rug using rug yarn.

I made mosaic patches for the gaps where the old heating system vents went in the kitchen.

March
I finished the Taupe Jacket

The Kay Plus Fun weaving workshop I’d organised happened, and much shibori fun was had by all.

April
I wove the Honeycomb Shawl

And started a sampler containing all the drafts in the first chapter of Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns.

May
I sewed up a doorstop.

And remade some straw hats.

And I finally used the weaving sword to make a cowl.

Then finished the Pinstripe Skirt.

June
By then I had the sewing bug, and made a black denim skirt out of two pairs of jeans.

I bought a cheap circular knitting machine, and saw the potential of them so I ordered the two Addi machines.

July
And got the knitting machine bug. I made the Green Stripes Jacket and Dusk Jumper on the Bond and some scarves and hats on the Addis.


I did a stash review and discovered I had waaay too many cone yarns. I decided I had to get my stash down to 35 kilos before the Bendy Show. I did manage it, by culling and machine knitting and winding warps. Then I noticed that some of the culled yarns looked great together, so I wove a Stashbuster Shawl.

I went to the Bendigo Show.

August
I finished the Chequerboard Rug.

The first sampler came off the Katie loom.

The War on Waste got me and many of my friends inspired to reduce, reuse and recycle.
The Fancy Log Cabin Baby Blanket came off the loom.

September
Twill Sampler 1.2 came off the loom.

I helped out at the weaving open day. In preparation I’d made an upsized pin loom for weaving rag strips. Using it, I went on to weave lots of seat pads.

October
I finished the Gardening Hat and turned a bag I’d woven into a cowl that matched rather nicely.

I made a chunky recycled yarn hat on the larger Addi.

And I finished the Red at Night Cardigan, after many weeks of sewing up.

Finishitis struck. I finished spinning and plying some yarn I hadn’t touched in ages…

November
… and started working on the Swimmers Clock again. I made a silly Christmas Tree out of a hose, plant stakes and car wheel.

And wove a cowl for a friend’s birthday present.

It was a time of much reflection and contemplation… of quitting Facebook and retiring.

December
Still working on the Swimmers Clock, I ran out of blue tiles and discovered they were discontinued. So the only creativity I expressed was in Christmas party decorating, where I made bunting out of drop sheets and ways to display a whole lot of wrapping paper trees made by a friend.

I did start a house number mosaic, but it probably won’t be finished until after New Years Eve.

Art
This year, once I finished a couple of larger portraits, I started painting heads-only smaller portraits. I got eight done over the year.

And while I was on Flinders Island I did some painting.

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!