I finally decided I could open some of my stuff, steep and store jars. I have to say that all three of the first I decided to open are experiments–not just my experimenting with India Flint’s preservation dyeing process (I have shown myself a poor follower of instructions many times so everything is an experiment in one sense)–but using this method to try out plants that have no dependable dye properties I know about. India Flint seems a genius to me, but even she can’t convert a plant with no exciting dye properties into a gem on my behalf. I find India Flint’s process exciting, and I am loving using it with experiments using small quantities. But naturally, India hasn’t stood by my side and saved me from my own mistakes. Speaking of my mistakes, I want to say: One total sealing failure which resulted in mould. So far, 24 jars that sealed in spite of some of them being re0used many times.
1. Rhagodia berries. These are the fruits of the seaberry saltbush, gathered on holiday. I learned a lot from this jar. Its contents began to ferment while we were on holiday and before I could get it to a place where I could try to seal it. Ahem. Next time, I’d put it in the fridge while it waited, because this was totally predictable. I failed to think of these berries as essentially, just like a jar of any other fruit. After all, they are a (small) fruit. And it was summer. Next, I had sealing trouble and decided in the end that we re-use jars a lot, and that if I want a really good seal, perhaps I should try using jars I know won’t have lids that have been bent out of shape. India kindly assisted with a re-sealing strategy (I’d forgotten about it, but there it was tucked inside the lid!). 13 months after they went into the jar:
And here are the contents! Including some respectably orange-brown silk embroidery thread.
2. Hibiscus flowers from the Himeji gardens. The trees in Himeji gardens have purple leaves–very pretty.
By coincidence I found these trees growing at West Lakes when I was there supporting three friends doing a triathlon (there is a lot of waiting if you’re a spectator)–a man saw me taking a photograph of his tree and told me it was a cottonwood hibiscus (H tiliaceus–more here).
This is the most unappealing looking of all my dye jars.
The contents are no more spectacular but the thread in this jar is quite a deep brown colour.
3. Finally, the camellia flowers. Hope springs eternal! I had all kinds of experiments with the camellia flowers when they were plentiful. This jar looked almost grey. This one had only been in the jar since August 2014. Not really enough time for a full result, maybe.
Actually the colour on that silk thread is pretty good. But nothing like the colour of the flowers from whence it came.
If you are curious, there is a lovely post on using this method here. Another here. Another blogger has some glorious results to show here. Go visit and be inspired! There is a wonderful online pantry of people’s experiments kept by India Flint with links to the book and all here. You can find my jars as they looked once sealed up there. Now to wait until some more jars have had a good long wait.
Things learned so far:
- use a jar that has a good chance of sealing–an undamaged lid is a good start.
- treat contents with care if they have to wait for sealing. Duh.
- jars that appear not to have sealed completely may still be fine. I selected three of these jars because I had concern about sealing despite multiple attempts. The contents smelled pleasant. Nothing mouldy, smelly or rank at all. They were not bulging at the lid (which would suggest fermentation) but they didn’t have any indication of having vacuum sealed either. Perhaps I conceded too quickly! I have a madder jar that contains some mould, which Deb McClintock on madder dyeing says can provide good colour even if it happens to go mouldy…I decided to re-heat and leave the steeping madder on the strength of these jars having sealed.
- be bold. What if I’d had a little more boldness and some bigger jars? I would now have more than thread to show for my efforts. Timidity has its place, but not every place!