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Sunday, 22 January 2017

New year, new quilt

Introducing the Blue Giant! This quilt has been quietly plodding along in the background for well over a year now – but just as 2017 was getting underway I stitched the last stitch into the binding. Let's face it, a quilt top with pieces that big took no time at all to construct. It was the decision to hand quilt that dragged it out by months and months. I'm so glad I did it though, the larger stitches created with indigo-dyed sashiko thread really suit the aged and worn jeans. I just can't imagine that machine-quilting would have suited it as well.
The quilt front is made entirely from upcycled jeans collected from friends and family or bought at the local op-shop. I'm making a real effort to work with textiles that have enjoyed a previous life rather than buying into the whole cycle of new fabrics released each season.

There were a few jean pieces I wanted to use for colour balance that were worn through, so I patched them to add extra interest. They could just as easily have been patched from behind boro-style and stitched over to create even more texture.
Theoretically, you could make this quilt top from 12 pairs of jeans, and I've created a pattern over in my Etsy store so you can do just that. The quilt pictured here is 85" across (216 cm) and fits nicely on a queen-sized bed (pictured below). To get a quilt this size you need to use extra large men's jeans to make that centre star, but if you have a stash of old jeans and want to try this pattern out, I've provided instructions for you to be able to resize the pattern to suit whatever jeans you have handy.
It's so exciting to finally be able to show you the finished quilt. For the last month or so it's been schlepping backwards and forwards with me from Melbourne to Sydney as I rearrange my life to accommodate more day job work. Luckily it was just about done when I arrived at my Mum's in Wagga (the halfway point when I drove between the two cities), as it was the perfect place to show it off from the back verandah.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy break over the Christmas period. I'm looking forward to a 2017 filled with inspiration and more creative adventures.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Festival fun

Every two years the town of Wangaratta, in the north east of Victoria, hosts the Stitched Up Textile Festival. Part of the fun for 2017 is a group exhibition with the theme of 'Seasonal Stories'. Of course, most of us in my textile gang, Tenfold Textile Collective, signed up to participate when the call went out this past May.

We have to produce a work every three months using our preferred textile technique, with the only requirement being that the pieces must be A5 (21cm x 15cm) in size. The first deadline fell just after our exhibition so we all requested an extension. However, I was determined that Winter and Sprint would arrive in Wangaratta for the next deadline.

I've chosen to make a series of mini quilts – probably no surprises there. I could have gone with embroidery, but the time investment is just too great for me at the moment. I've had a pretty clear vision from the beginning, with the intention of trying out some new textural techniques and having colour palettes reflect the various seasons.
I started with Spring partly as that was the season we were supposedly in (but having reached the end with barely a day above 20ÂșC, I think we skipped it) and partly because I prefer working in colour. This one was really just improvising as I went, and apart from a change in binding approach, it was pretty straightforward.
'Spring Planting' mini quilt detail.
Winter was originally going to go the same way, but the reality of working with such a small size for the first one, made me try plotting Winter out on graph paper first. It's the most formal of the pieces, so it was definitely worth it.
It's been a while since I've been on the sewing machine – I needed a break after the exhibition prep – but these little pieces were a lovely way to get back into it.

I don't think I'll post images of the finished pieces until after the festival, but I promise to keep up to date with progress as I make Summer and Autumn. It's been very satisfying finishing a quick project as I stitch away at the denim beast... More on that soon too.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Keeping my clothes out of landfill

No matter how well I look after my gym T-shirts, they are, inevitably, going to wear out. I've been thinking about how I can keep this kind of textile waste out of landfill for a little while now, along with the textile waste from my making processes. So, I've started a few ongoing projects to ensure that everything can be repurposed.

First off, the T-shirts. Even if they're worn through in areas, or the elastic has gone, they can still be turned into T-shirt yarn for other purposes. There are plenty of online tutorials on how to do this. My favourite is from Mollie Makes. Ignore the bit about needing a T-shirt without side seams – for most purposes, it doesn't really matter if your yarn includes seams.

At the moment I'm making a mat, but I could just as easily knit, or crochet the yarn into something else such as a bag or even a new garment. Again, there are oodles of tutorials and ideas online – you can start here with Pinterest.
Lately, I've been making a lot of toiles (or muslins for Americans) for my pattern drafting class, as well as having quite a few leftover bits from screen printing, so these pieces are being turned into waggas (make-do quilts). They're improvised with whatever is at hand and I'm just adding to them when the mood strikes.
I also have a pair of pyjamas that are about to be worn through across the back. Buttons will be removed and kept for another project; the worn back area will have to be turned into strips that can either be made into a woven version of the T-shirt mat, or perhaps used for weaving; and the still-intact parts of the top will be cut into pieces that will eventually become a postage-stamp quilt.

I also have a pile of long, thin strips, mostly of denim, leftover from a quilt I'm making from repurposed jeans. I have plans for weaving these, but they're a little way down the 'to-do' list at the moment.

Last, but not least are the tiny scraps – too small for making anything useful – along with the thread offcuts, yarn ends etc that are the detritus of making. These, I'm turning into thread beads. The pic below shows the ones made mostly from the leftovers of my exhibition quilt – 10c piece for scale.
I hope this has given you some ideas for repurposing. If you want some background on the reality of the world's used clothing check out this Newsweek article that I found via The Fringe Association (the blog of Slow Fashion October's founder, Karen Templer).

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Slow Fashion October

This month I'm taking part in Slow Fashion October. Started last year by Karen Templar of the Fringe Association, the month is "a celebration of the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe".

For me, slow fashion is about being intentional in all my wardrobe choices. Early in 2015 I decided to see how long I could go without buying any clothes, and I'm pleased to say, except for a gym emergency, I haven't bought anything 20 months on. That's certainly not to say I haven't bought fabric or yarn, and I've also made myself an item or two, but it has made me much more conscious of the lifecycle of my clothes and really look at ways to extend their life or repurpose them for something else once they are no longer wearable.
The hanging part of my winter wardrobe.
Sadly, for me, slow fashion seems to require the luxury of time. At the beginning of 2016 I returned to permanent work for six months and during that period I realised that one of my biggest barriers to being mindful about my wardrobe – indeed being mindful about anything – was lack of time. Working 50+ hours a week, then adding on 8 hours of commuting, leaves very little time for a handmade, mended or thoughtfully purchased wardrobe. Indeed, it was the lack of time that prompted the emergency purchase. In my rush to get to work I forgot to pack my gear for a session with my trainer, so rather than forego the considerable expense of the session, I bought leggings and a T-shirt so we could at least do Pilates (sans shoes!). For now, I'm back working for myself, so I am able to structure my time to focus on my preferred priorities, but it's something I'll need to think about if I return to a more structured work environment.

So, what do I hope to get out of Slow Fashion October?

Well, first off, I really like that the month coincides with the change in seasons. A time when I'm swapping my wardrobe from a largely winter one to a summer one. It gives me a reason to take stock, to see if my wardrobe can stand up to a second (and a bit) season without purchase, and to plan for mending, refashioning, and, if replacing, to see if I can make it myself, or find a quality, sustainable resource for purchasing.
The mending drawer.
Second, I've recently finished a pattern drafting course, and finally have blocks to fit my very long, quite-out-of-proportion shape, so a goal for this month is to choose an item to sew for my summer wardrobe that fits me perfectly! I've been a life-long knitter, but a hit-and-miss clothing sewer so this is the perfect reason to get back into it.

Another thing I'm hoping to get out of Slow Fashion October is a great list of resources and some new tips and tricks. There are people all over the world taking part photographing and writing about their experience with slow fashion, their go-to brands, tips for fibres and sources, favourite patterns and ideas for repurposing. Such a fabulous community to tap into.

Last, but not least – Slow Fashion October is an excuse for a few finishes... A cardigan that just needs seaming, progress on a top I'm making for my aunt, a pair of pyjama pants made from a thrifted flannelette sheet, and, of course, the mending pile and a prompt to get back to my #midmonthmending project on Instagram.

I encourage you to check out the #slowfashionoctober tag on Instagram and get involved however works for you. Happy Slow Fashion October!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

We did it!

'Background Noise', First Site Gallery.
It’s hard to believe that opening night has been and gone. The last few months have been a whirlwind since finding out our application was successful … for a show six weeks earlier than we were hoping for! So much work has gone into every piece, but the results were beyond anything I think any of us were expecting. It all looks so amazing in the space – thanks to Lou, our fellow artist and curator, and the guys at First Site Gallery who helped us hang and then lit it all perfectly.

And opening night was a huge success, the gallery was packed and it went off without a hitch – we were all exhausted, but on such a high and I think it’s taken me most of the week to come down from it.

So, to finally show you my finished piece…
Tara Glastonbury, 'What's your time worth?', 2016. Shot cotton fabric, pieced, embroidered,
hand and machine quilted, 65 cm H x 150 cm W (Picture by Sarah Lay Photography).
“The background noise to my last few years has been figuring out how to make a living from my passion. ‘What’s your time worth?’ is based on the background pattern of a $50 note and is a meditation on surviving as an artist in Australia where the median income for those working on their practice full time is $22,500 per year*. In the textile arts there is then often a perceived layer of illegitimacy, as the work is written off as ‘just craft’ or disparaged as a hobby, particularly as it’s largely undertaken by women, who often undervalue it themselves as a secondary source of income, thereby making it that much harder for makers as a whole.

As a comparison, the estimated hours spent on this piece in my day job would have earned me approximately $15,000.”

This show has been such a learning curve – both as a group, and in my personal practice. We’ll be having a debrief in the next little while but I thought I’d take the time here to document some of the things I’d do differently next time.
Sarah Williams, 'Rose Tinted Glasses', 2016. Linen, wool, cotton, nialin. 8 pieces at 41 cm H x 14 cm W.
(Picture by Sarah Lay Photography).
First off, I’m not usually one for making tests and samples or studies – partly because once I’ve done something, I don’t really feel the need to do it again, but I also don’t like the waste of making samples. Well, that’s all going to change from here on. I did make a few little tests for this work, but I really wish I’d made more. Rather than looking at them as tests or waste, I’m going to see them as studies and small works in their own right. I think it would have saved me enormous amounts of time, especially at the pointy end, and there are certainly things I would have done differently if I’d been able to see them in advance.
Ana Petidis, 'Lost in Transmission', 2016. Dyed cotton/linen, salvaged copper and electromagnetic tape,
600 cm H x 70 cm W.
Second, I’m going to think a lot more about my thread. Machine quilting is my least favourite part, and something I’d normally get someone else to do in a non-art quilt, so I just didn’t think about the thread until it was time to quilt. That really didn’t leave me a lot of room for exploring options, ordering online, swapping to a different weight or changing my mind!

And this brings me to the last thing… Maybe it’s time to get another machine. I’ve really got the most basic of the basic. It doesn’t have a wide mouth for quilting, no option to regulate stitches, no extra bit I can add on to make a quilt rest. If I’m going to keep stitching like this, then maybe it’s time to update the tools? There’s nothing wrong with my existing machine and I’ll certainly hang onto it for sewing clothes, but it would have definitely stopped the nightmares of a machine breakdown!

Rose Kulak, 'Rust Never Sleeps Project', 2016. Back to front 'Mossy Stepping Stones', 'Street Party Pavement' and 'Clay Brick Path', hand woven.
In the grand scheme of things though – these are minor, as were things to do with the exhibition as a whole. I do know that I would never have had the courage, tenacity or resilience to see it through without these awesome women by my side – Lou, Ana, Rose, Jem, Sarah, Lisa, Korina and Morgana – I'm so proud of us!

I’ll be showing you some more of the photos I took throughout the week on Instragram, but if you’re in Melbourne and you get a chance, the exhibition is still on from Tues to Fri this week at First Site Gallery, Storey Hall Basement. Opening hours are 11am–5pm and Ana is doing an artist’s talk on Friday at 1pm.

*Madeleine Dore, ’How artists really make money’, ArtsHub (http://performing.artshub.com.au/news-article/career-advice/performing-arts/madeleine-dore/how-artists-really-make-money-250320)

Average income for full time employment in Australia from May 2015 – May 2016 was $78,832 (ABS)