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Monday, 29 October 2012

Merino Dyeing

This is the last of my lovely merino fleece which I bought last summer at Le Lot et La Laine wool festival up near Cahors.  It's been a beautiful fleece (from Maco Merinos), so soft and easy to spin.  Hopefully I'll get up to the festival again next year (they only run it every two years) to buy some more.

The first photo is the result of ALL the weld I had growing in the garden.  I harvested it a while ago but was not ready to dye with it, so I hung it in the greenhouse to dry.  I wonder if it would have given more colour if the plant had been fresh.

It's the first time I've dyed with weld (Reseda luteola), but probably not the last.  It's supposed to be one of the most light-fast of the yellow dyes, which can be rather fugitive (i.e. they fade in sunlight).

This next one turned out brighter than I'd thought it would.  The dye was made in the spring from some fresh, young, green bracken and then stored in a plastic bottle until I found time to dye with it.  It didn't seem to suffer at all, i.e. no traces of mould, so I put some more merino in a pan with the dye and heated it for about an hour.

At the same time as I made the green bracken dye, I also tried some of last year's old, brown bracken.  Think this one is a candidate for over-dyeing!  I won't bother with that again.

Not very impressive, eh?

Here it is next to the young bracken dyed merino just for comparison :-

Rather dull and dismal next to the other one.

I have some walnut hulls soaking in water at the moment, so may use that to overdye it, or maybe I could use the pomegranates a friend brought for me the other day.  Some of them are a bit damaged, and not really edible, so I could use those.

The last photo is an accumulation of dyeing projects this year, all using merino.  I really need to find the elusive green, or overdye some yellow with woad.  That's really the only colour missing.

Top row, from left : red dock seeds, lichen, young green bracken;
Middle row, from left : black beans, madder, apricot bark;
Bottom row, from left : weld, woad, blood peaches.

Now I just need to find a project to use all of these colours!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Tammy's New Sweater

Remember this?

This was Tammy's very first ball of wool, spun on my spare Ashford spinning wheel.  She was (quite rightly) very pleased with herself.  She's kept on spinning over the summer months, and even bought her own spinning wheel last month.

She's even more pleased with herself now, as she's turned the wool into this :-

her very first hand-spun sweater!

You'd better start on your floor sweepings next Tammy!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Peachy October

September is usually our month for peaches.  We only have one tree, but last year it was absolutely laden with peaches.  The peaches are "peche de vigne", or blood peaches, and ripen later than the usual white or yellow fleshed peaches.  Last year I bottled so many of them we still have a "bottled glut", so this year I thought I'd do something different with them.

They were a bit later this year, and there weren't quite as many, but still lots.  So far I've made peach jam (Queen of Jams) which stated in the recipe "crack open the peach stones with a hammer, remove the kernel, skin it, and put this in the jam". Have you ever tried to shell a peach kernel?  Well neither had I, and after hitting them as hard as I could at least 5 or 6 times, the first two or three exploded in a shower of shell and kernel, all over the garden.  After that I started to use my brain and realised there was "just the right place" to hammer it in order to get it to split cleanly.  Then I had to skin them!  The whole procedure took as long as it did to make the jam.  Anyway, I never intended to go on quite so long about a pot of jam!

The other thing I've been making is peach fruit leather.  This is very easy to make - basically, chop the peaches (removing the stones) and blitz them in the food processor with a tablespoon of honey, spread it in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put it in the oven on it's lowest temperature for 6-8 hours.  Yeah right!  After 6-8 hours mine was maybe half way through.  The idea is not to cook the peaches, but dry them.  If you have a dehydrator you can use that instead.  Anyway, it is delicious when finished, and a very healthy snack too.  The fruit leather will keep for quite a while in an airtight container.

As I still have about three large bowls of peaches in the fridge, I'm planning to make more fruit leather, more jam and maybe some peach chutney.

However, this was not the point of today's post.  The point is, the other day I was clearing underneath the tree as there were quite a lot of windfalls which were damaged by ants or just starting to rot.  I filled a bucket, walked across to the compost heap and stopped . . . what was I doing?  There's lots of colour in these peaches.  I must be able to extract some dye from them surely?  Having searched Ravelry and the internet to see if anyone else had dyed with peaches, I came up with absolutely nothing!  Apart from using the peach stones for dyeing.  The only option was to try it and see for myself.

That very day the whole lot was dumped into the dyepot and covered with water.  I heated it to boiling pot and then reduced to a simmer for about an hour.  After straining, I had what looked like a very nice pan of peach juice.  I didn't fancy using it for anything else though because there had been so many ants in there!

To cut a very long story short, I mordanted some merino fleece with alum and cream of tartar, and threw it in the dyepot.  This is what came out :-

It's a really rich colour.  But what colour?  What would you call this?  Eric says it's tan.
Tan is boring, it can't possibly be just tan.  It's got to be something more exotic - light chestnut, or auburn - I used to know someone who had hair this colour.  What do you think?

Now, I wonder what colour I'd get from figs . . .

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Blogoversary the Second

Two years today since I started this blog.  At the time it was quite a little adventure, but I really didn't think about how long I'd be able to keep it up.

For those who've been reading along with me, thank you for putting up with all the prattle and useless information.  Hopefully you've liked some of the photos though - I like my blog to be colourful at least.

Here's a cake and some meringues Tammy made for our weekly Knit and Natter (previously known as Stitch and Bitch) - help yourselves to a slice!

And here's to the next 12 months - hope you're all still with me then.

Friday, 12 October 2012

New Project Revealed

This is "Leftie", a sweet shawlette pattern which uses up leftover balls of wool.  Or at least, that's the idea.  I haven't used leftovers though, I've used the "floor sweepings" I told you about the other day.  There were lots of smallish amounts of different colours in the bag, so I chose the ones I liked best and spun them up for this project.

I'm not sure I have enough of the white wool, but I'll use this up before I decide if I need to spin some more.  Tammy, who got the other half of the floor sweepings (must stop calling them that!), walked up on Wednesday and brought me her share of the white wool, just in case I didn't have enough.  I'm hoping to give most of it back, but we'll see how it progresses.

The "fat" coloured bits on the edge are leaves and are formed by knitting short rows, quite easy to do, and very effective - but look at all the ends I'll have to weave in when I've finished!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Spinning Floor Sweepings

Last week Tammy and I invested in some floor sweepings.  At least, that's what Tammy calls them.  They're actually botany lap waste (whatever that is) from World of Wool in the UK.

I'd already taken out a lot of the white fibres and spun them before I took this photo, so it does look a bit duller than when it arrived.  I haven't a clue what most of this wool is, but there's some very nice fibre in there.  The only problem we had was when it arrived. Tammy had ordered 3 bags with 500g in each bag - two for her, one for me - but when it got here, it was all in one large bag!  It was a bit difficult to split this lot 3 ways, so we split each colour in two and had half each (good for me, not so good for Tammy).  Quite a task!

There was quite a lot of white wool in there, and some of it was partially blended with silk and, I think, bamboo (or milk protein fibre, or banana fibre).  I couldn't wait to spin that as I have a project I want to do, and this is perfect for it.  I also need small amounts of various colours, and this parcel had lots of those.

This is a very full bobbin of the white :-

And here it is after skeining and washing :-

This doesn't really do it justice - it's got a beautiful sheen when the light hits it just right.

The skein on the left is actually five different lots, I just put them together in one skein for ease of washing.  I just have two or three more colours to spin before I can start my new project.

Monday, 1 October 2012

To Whom It May Concern

This is a very tongue-in-cheek (and cheeky!) letter to a botanist friend based in the UK.  Don't know if he'll still speak to me after he's read this!

In a few days he will receive a package containing a cotton boll and a card with the address of this blog written on it.  So, here goes :-

Dear John,

Do you remember, two years ago, issuing me with a challenge?  You probably didn't realise at the time that you had, so maybe I'll fill you in with a few more details.

A few years back, whilst you were visiting France, I very proudly showed you a plant pot which contained some small seedlings I'd managed to grow - cotton plants.  Do you remember laughing and saying (maybe not your exact words, but close enough) "You'll never grow that here!"?

Well, I'm one of those irritating people who, when faced with someone saying you can't do that, just has to try and prove them wrong.  It's taken me two years, mainly because last year and the year before the seeds just weren't planted early enough.  So this year I started them off in March, in the greenhouse admittedly, but so were all my seeds, so nothing different there.

1st day flower

I think you might agree that they've grown pretty well since then, and although they probably wouldn't win any prizes in a horticultural show, I think you'll find that this is cotton . . . grown in France . . . grown by me . . . that irritating person who just can't bear to be told "you can't do that"!

This is the point where, If I were being extremely childish, I'd poke out my tongue and chant "na na na na na!".  But, of course, I'm far too adult for that.

Anyway, see you soon (if you're still speaking to me).  Love to Sue,

best regards,


P.S. (serious hat on now!) Thank you for issuing this challenge - hopefully on this occasion you'll be quite pleased at being proven wrong.  I'm now looking forward to next year when I can plant more!

P.P.S.  PLEASE don't tell me I'll never grow pineapples or bananas here!

P.P.P.S.  You can get your own back in the comments section below!