I’ve had jars of dye and thread or fabric sitting about outside and on bookshelves for years here–they have been created using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store method. And I’ve been interested to see that I can let them be for years! A stitching friend was keen to start a stitch journal and so I thought I might contribute and made her a parcel… beginning by opening a pile of jars. Some put by in 2014!
For once I took the effort to make sure I could line up labels with contents… and hopefully my friend’s stitch journal will bring her joy. She’s a wonderful sewer and thinker and feminist and all-round, an upwelling of glorious energy and action.
Needless to say all this dyeing excitement led to more jars…. I love this method. I don’t come across jars big enough to use it on huge quantities, but I am blessed with small batch amounts of some dyes, such as flowers, that work really well with this method and I can process seven at a time, saving energy and drama. And it’s pretty!
Some years ago, I bought India Flint’s little book Stuff, Steep and Store. I stuffed a lot of jars with all manner of small quantities of dyestuffs, and set them to steep. Some have been out of doors with their cardboard labels tied on with woad dyed wool, or with string made of leaves.
Some are still sitting on my bookshelves patiently waiting. Recently I opened several of these jars and washed off the contents.
And here are the results.
It’s a bit sad that this thread dyed with weld was the entirety of my weld crop! I came out one day and found that it had fainted. Some critter or another had severed it below ground.
On the other hand, the colour from the black hollyhock flowers is stupendous. I will certainly save them again this summer for a future jar of dye. This method is fantastic for small quantities of plant material. But I must admit I was interested so long after the fact to see how risk averse I’d been in setting up all these jars of dye and yet dyeing so little fibre. Maybe next time I could be just a little bolder…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hibiscus flowers, daylily flowers, hollyhocks, and clean, scoured avocado peel (fresh from lunch). Into the jars with pre-mordanted silk embroidery thread they went.
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!
Summer is a brutal time here in South Australia, and as I was writing, we had just had a record breaking heat wave where we were up over 40C for four days. In my case, however–not facing bushfire, and I feel for those who have and who will. People have already died and summer is young.
I took some photos before the heat wave… Hollyhocks, whose flowers have been going into the freezer as they fall.
This year’s woad looking splendidly leafy.
Last year’s woad flowering and seeding for all it’s worth.
Our very own E Scoparia. Last year, skeletonising caterpillars left just the veins of every single leaf in a lightning fast attack, but it has come back.
Weld in flower (with rhubarb beyond).
Japanese indigo seedlings, now blessedly in the ground.
Cotinus looking like it will make it.
The madder looking the worse for wear. In Spring it was more like this…
And the pansies, may they rest in peace (they didn’t make it through the heat wave), which have given a splendid collection of tired old flowers to the freezer.
There is more… and I have been roaming the neighbourhood collecting bark and fallen hibiscus flowers and considering the other options too…
I’ve been collecting for a while now… as flowers finish or petals fall.
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.
My friends have hollyhocks, some almost black and some a little more pink and purple.
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.
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!
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.