Tag Archives: hibiscus

More adventures in plant dyed embroidery

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I still have some upholstery fabric left from having some chairs re-covered.  It is natural linen, a lovely fabric.  I have been wondering what to do with it.  One day I went to an exhibition of Papunya artists in the City Gallery of Flinders University (on the ground floor of the State Library) and I came home longing to embroider.  I can’t exactly say why.  Perhaps it is partly that some of these glorious paintings are such clear manifestations of the principle that many tiny marks can make a whole that is sheer wonder.  I marvelled at the capacity of these artists to hold entire desert landscapes and the stories of these places in their minds, and from these to create spectacular images which somehow communicate the story and the place. Even if I cannot begin to grasp all that they might have in mind in creating these works, I can still stand in awe.

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I don’t need to be able to create wonder.  I don’t expect to, and I don’t mind.  But stitches are tiny.  Perhaps the immediate thing was simply the invitation to begin.

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These threads have been dyed with indigo, pansy, hibiscus and eucalyptus.  I love their subtlety and the slight sheen of the silk thread against the matte texture of the linen.  I love the effects of uneven dyeing, as it turns out.  Even dyeing is overrated!  Once I had decided I was done (which is a com0plicated thing in itself, I find), I settled on yet another bag.

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The lining is made of patchworked silk scraps dyed with all kinds of plants.

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And then, just because I can never make just one… I made another with a different piece of upholstery fabric and some scraps of recycled fabric of different weights.

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More summer preserving

The harvest is continuing round our place.  One friend dropped a bag of figs and grapes on the front doorstep.  I took a bag of plums over to hers on a run!

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Then I went to visit another friend who is house-bound after surgery, taking a care pack of salads and mains.  She asked me to deal with her nectarine tree.  It was so heavily laden!  I collected a huge bucket of fallen spoiled fruit (things such as this are known at our house as ‘chicken happiness’).  Then I picked fruit for my friend and another visitor, and then two more buckets.  Then I cleared fruit out of her neighbour’s gutter!  The tree was still covered in unripe fruit.

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I shared nectarines with two other households and then put our share in jars, since we have a young nectarine tree which is bearing enough to keep us in fresh fruit.  Oh, and there were more plums. Just one jar this time.

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There was also a handover of a HUGE bag of frozen hibiscus flowers from a dedicated friend, bless her heart!  They had to wait a couple of days, and then I decided it was time to use the only dependable looking big jar I had for them.  I wasn’t sure they would all fit, but in the end, with defrosting and squeezing … they did.

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In went fermented citrus peel water and aluminium foil water (thank you to India Flint for yet another ingenious use of kitchen discards that are neither worm happiness nor chicken happiness)… fabric, threads, and so on… (last week’s batch are here for size comparison).

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I filled another, smaller jar with kino from an E Sideroxylon I had been saving, and another (slightly less) large jar, albeit with a rusty lid which might not seal, with my mother’s dried coreopsis flowers. That was all the dye pot would take for processing.

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Three more for the pantry shelf.  It is so interesting to see such a deep green already developing in the hibiscus flower jar…

 

 

 

 

 

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Seasonal preserving

Here in the wide brown land it is high summer and stone fruit is in season.  Settle down, all you folk in midwinter on the far side of the planet!  There has been an outbreak of illness and surgery in my extended family, and it was with regret that my father informed me that their blood plums would be ripening while my parents were away visiting and supporting those in need.  I draw your attention to the basket, evidently made by either my grandma or my grandpa on Mum’s side.

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My parents can really grow things.  Fruit, flowers, vegetables, ferns, natives… these plums are enormous!  They already had more than they could use, so I pulled out my Fowlers Vacola bottling outfit and set to work.  I think I now understand that this is what folk in North America call canning.  As a child, I was amazed to think people in the US had a way to put things in cans at home.  North American supplies are now available here along with those from Italy and other parts of Europe.  But this is what I grew up with.  I now understand it was quite an Anglo-Australian thing.  Friends with families from other parts of Europe sometimes used different processing and preservation methods and sometimes just used jars from anything consumed in their household to bottle fruit.

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I love that food preserving is becoming hip at the moment–a bit–but when I was a child it was viewed as a necessity by my family, along with making jam.  Now, this kind of equipment is readily available second hand and cheaply.  For my parents it was a huge outlay and we had the smallest, most basic kit available.  I scored the next model up (bigger but still basic) for a few dollars at a garage sale, something that could have saved my mother hours of what she clearly experienced as drudgery.

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Well, this time she can have some glowing ruby jars of stewed plums without any drudgery at all, bless her.  And while I was on the project I decided to clear the freezer out a bit and do a round of dye jars using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store Method.

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Hibiscus flowers, daylily flowers, hollyhocks, and clean, scoured avocado peel (fresh from lunch).  Into the jars with pre-mordanted silk embroidery thread they went.

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In the whole scheme of summer preservation, I also collected mizuna seed, woad seed and some ruby saltbush seed and set up to save them.  There was such an abundance of woad seed, and purple dye is so amazing, I put up a jar of that too.  I am looking forward to trying the agrimony seed that Wendi of the Treasure has sent when the time is right.  And to opening these jars in the future!

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Opening the first experimental jars

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:

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And here are the contents! Including some respectably orange-brown silk embroidery thread.

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2. Hibiscus flowers from the Himeji gardens. The trees in Himeji gardens have purple leaves–very pretty.

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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).

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This is the most unappealing looking of all my dye jars.

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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.

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Actually the colour on that silk thread is pretty good. But nothing like the colour of the flowers from whence it came.

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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.

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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!

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Jars of summer’s glory

I’ve been collecting for a while now… as flowers finish or petals fall.

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After re-potting, the daylily had a bumper season, flowering for weeks.  The maroon pelargonium also did well, and I picked up all the dead flowers as their petals fell.

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My friends have hollyhocks, some almost black and some a little more pink and purple.

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They’re patient or even encouraging when I collect spent blooms… and realise that they will end up being stuffed into jars for steeping and storing following India Flint’s method of preservation dyeing (more or less).  This is my new favourite way to dye embroidery thread.  I never thought I could be converted to embroidery, no matter how simple.

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And, it is hibiscus season again.  I went along for a ride to West Lakes for others to do open water swimming.  The dog and I found an entire hedge of red hibiscus (we’re temporary dog aunties again), and I just happened to have a bag with me.  I know–how fortuitous!

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Closer up…

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And here is the dye jar result of picking up all those spent flowers.  Hollyhocks on the left, hibiscus on the right.  The jars that have come to me as a result of Mum having a favourite brand of mayonnaise are all finding good uses despite being a bit too big for jam.  these jars of summer’s glory will now sit and steep in all their jewel like colours for about a year.

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Weeds, seeds and dyestuffs around the neighbourhood

When roaming my neighbourhood in the suburbs, I am sometimes just wandering and only incidentally finding dyestuffs I might want to collect and take home.  Sometimes, though, I go out with a concrete plan.  I was out and about one weekend in April looking to collect saltbush seed for propagation and dyestuffs for stuffing, steeping and storing. I had success in a couple of places with hibiscus flowers that had bloomed and shrivelled away, so I deadheaded a few neighbourhood hibiscus.  They went into a jar for dyeing purposes… and folk on Ravelry inform me that these are tropical hibiscus and not hardy hibiscus, from a North American point of view (good to know, as I have North American dye books and ‘hardy hibiscus’ is not a category I have heard here).

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I also managed to collect saltbush seed, but by then it was too dark to take a picture.  Mostly because I was waylaid by caltrop.

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I find this weed especially loathsome because it has vicious, large thorns which help spread its seeds around, and they are cunningly organised so that they break apart and lie on the ground with the spine of the thorn pointing toward the sky,  Which is to say, just about every thorn on a caltrop plant will come to maturity pointing toward any passing foot or bicycle tyre.  I have spent a lot of persistent effort eradicating it from a local park which sees a lot of barefoot children and passing bike traffic.  This was the first time I had seen it in this particular location, so I pulled out every single plant I could find and carried them away to the nearest bin I could find.  Three cheers for bin night.

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On the up side… the caltrop was growing beside some miniature statice in a spot so unpromising that only tough customers like these two plants could make it there.  So… I gathered seed from the statice which I’ll try to propagate in due course too!

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I’ve had my eyes open and it looks to me like it is time to plant these seeds–little plants are emerging in this unpromising spot.  The seasons are turning toward spring.

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More stuff, steep and store jars…

The last hibiscus are only just still flowering…

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And being packed into jars…

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And the prunus trees are getting more and more bare…

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but not all those leaves are going to compost immediately…

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Since a friend introduced me to this book: Five Minute Microwave Bottling–I have been experimenting with that.  Yes, the bottles seal.  No, there is no obvious cataclysm despite the metal lid being in the microwave (and the book explains why).  Yes, my friend is successfully bottling fruit this way.

So, as well as having a few items in India Flint’s online pantry, (what a fabulous idea that is), I have a little pantry on my shelf at home…

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More jars for the pantry!

I’ve been making the most of the end of season fruits and flowers to create more Stuff, steep and store jars.

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This jar contains pomegranate rind (and a few seeds)–somewhat dried out after contributing to more than one salad earlier in the week:

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Then I made another with hibiscus flowers, and since I was sorting through dyes from the Guild that day (on a large sheet to catch escapees), a few cochineals and kermes left on the sheet with dust and dirt and leaf fragments.

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Finally, why not try madder root, as I now have quite a bit of it in my possession?  I figure if this does not go well–though I can honestly see no reason it should fail–I can heat it and dye with it when it comes out of the jar.

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Before sealing…

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And some days after…

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Many more images of what people are doing with this process over at The Pantry.

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Opening some jars and filling others…

Once upon a time, I used to make ginger beer, recycling glass beer bottles for the purpose.  We had some with us one time years ago when I was travelling by (even-then-antique) Kombi.  We stopped at a wonderful national park, near Hattah Lakes.  There was a long walk in intense dry heat.  We walked much further than we planned, perhaps having failed to fully understand the map on the sign before setting out.  The water in the lakes was so low that we eventually realised we were not seeing eels in the lake, we were seeing the spines of large fish as they swam in water so shallow that it was barely as deep as the fish were tall.  We got back to the Kombi, and since we’d been walking for hours, and we were on holiday, opened up the back of the van and lay down on the bed for a nap.  We’d been there a little while when there was an almighty bang.  We sat up pretty quickly, because to our untrained ears, it sounded like a gunshot.  There were no other people in sight and only one car in the distance.  All fell quiet.  No dramatic action.  Eventually realisation dawned on one of us, and the three way (gas–electric–car battery) fridge was opened.  Inside it were the remains of a bottle of ginger beer which had exploded under the pressure of its own contents, sprayed though the vegies and suchlike.  Three cheers for the fridge keeping the glass shards safely contained.  Long story short–all bottles of ginger beer stashed under the bed were emptied right there and then, and I never put ginger beer in glass again, except once the lid was off!

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In case you can’t tell, this is a sideways introduction to my circumspection about the state of my steeping jars of dyestuff.  I’ve had some difficulty getting a good seal with with the Stuff, Steep and Store method.  The first time,  I think I raised the temperature too quickly.  It’s a vice I’ve been known to indulge in (or a problem I’ve suffered from, depending on source of heat) when preserving fruit, too.  I resealed some jars and took additional steps to ensure a good seal.  But several of the lids began to dome up again (or just plain leak). This one (pelargonium petals) leaked, as you can see.

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Luckily I had stored it on top of another jar.  Ahem.  So much dye lost!

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The very reverse of a vacuum seal (which is the intention), all of this suggested to me the contents were fermenting.  Perhaps the lids were damaged.  Perhaps my thermometer was actually faulty… I went off and checked when I had this thought on the weekend.  Yes, the thermometer was faulty–the little glass blob that should have held it in a fixed position had clearly broken away unnoticed, allowing the whole business part to slide down by about ten degrees.  So… back to the drawing board.  I am glad I didn’t use that thermometer for preserving peaches and plums!  The jars of fruit all came out just fine, which leads me to think that Stuff, Steep and Store should work for me, as it undoubtedly does for others.  Clearly I can manage a vacuum seal under favourable circumstances.  The good news on my jars of dye is that it looks like I got colour even though these jars haven’t steeped as long as I planned.  Here they are wet from their baths… and not smelling especially fermented.

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From left to right, pelargonium petals (greyer and less blue than the image);  dyers’ chamomile,  brown onion skins, and E Scoparia exhaust dye bath on various silk threads.  Since it’s my patience and my thermometer and not the method that are at fault… I decided to try again.

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From left to right (below): red hibiscus flowers, dried prunus leaves and fallen flowers from an unusual, purple-leaved hibiscus I found almost at the end of its flowering season when I visited the Himeji Japanese gardens on the weekend.  Each with vinegar, sea water, silk/cotton thread and aluminium foil.  Wait and see!

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Hibiscus Flowers

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Until recently, there was a house near us that we were told would be demolished within the next week (it’s gone now).  The inhabitants moved out in a hurry, leaving the tide of unfinished business you might expect in the circumstances: the gate and doors open and unwanted stuff everywhere.  I picked all the grapefruit they’d left on the tree and gave it to a friend who loves grapefruit, saved the water lily and goldfish for another friend with a pond, with the help of friends, I put out the bins and piled their recyclables into our recycling bin and their recycling bin and a crate or two, ready for collection the next day.  I decided to harvest the flowers from their red hibiscus, which was in full bloom.   I followed the instructions Jenny Dean gives in her very fine book Wild Colour, up to a point…

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I decided to use more rather than less dyestuff, 125g flowers to 50g washed unmordanted polwarth locks to begin with.  I began as Jenny Dean suggests but decided to try solar dyeing.  You can see the wool in the top of the jar wrapped in a couple of yellow onion nets.

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Two days after beginning the dyebath, I picked a whole extra round of flowers, sieved out the ones that had been steeping two days, gave them to the worms in our worm farm and added a fresh lot of flowers to my dye jar.  The dye liquid was a plum colour and a little thicker than water.  I took the second round of flowers out after they gave their colour up.

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Well, after a good fortnight in the jar, almost no colour on the fleece.  So I returned to Jenny Dean’s instructions and heated the dye bath.  The fleece still didn’t take up colour, but my sample card gave green on alum mordanted wool.  Green???  I have dyed with hibiscus before and achieved a rose pink on unmordanted washed fleece, which I spun up three-ply and knit into socks for my mother.  Green isn’t even on Jenny Dean’s horizon.  Deep, olive green (checked against a couple of friends with decent eyesight).

So, I put a skein of alum mordanted, commercial superwash in the dye bath, heated again and my skein turned steely grey.  This picture gets the colour right despite its defects in the focus department:

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To me, this is quite bizarre.  I can only think that the fleece failed to take colour because it was inadequately scoured, though it didn’t feel at all greasy or sticky.  Polwarth is a high-grease breed.  But how I can explain the green and grey outcomes?  Well, I can’t–and I await your thoughts.  Dye pots which had been inadequately cleaned might mean there was some iron in the dye bath, but Jenny Dean suggests purple to pink would still be the outcome.  And after all this, the dye bath was still full of colour–red-purple colour.  Mystery!

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