Tag Archives: prunus

Flowers at my Fingertips Hussif

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In another radical transformation of vintage woolen blanket, I (more or less) followed the instructions for the Flowers at My Fingertips hussif/sewing kit from Christine Vejar’s The Modern Natural Dyer. You can have a sense of what she did (and some pictures of her hussif) by following this link. Above are prints from maroon coreopsis flowers I had in the garden at the time I was dyeing. I bought the plant at the Seed Freedom Festival and have just loved it. It is not enjoying winter though.

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These are prunus leaves from a neighbourhood tree.  I cut binding from some linen pants that entered their second life some time ago.

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Some parts of the binding went more smoothly than others, but in the end the edge was reasonably neat.

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So now I have a sewing toolkit that rolls up.  I really just wanted to make this pattern and try the dyeing strategy out, at a time of year when I had African marigolds, Mexican marigolds, Alyogyne Huegelii flowers, salvias and more to try out, and then realised that I also had something close enough to woolen flannel to try them on.  I’ll figure out where it will go to live later!

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A little bag of cards

I have been very much enjoying adding to India Flint’s Wandercards.

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One of my beloved friends said something about them that made me think she might like a set of her own.  Well, they won’t be a set of India’s lovely cards, but nevertheless, a set of plant dyed cards with quotes that might help her to keep her heart full and her courage blazing through tough times.

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I wish I could make cards as beautiful as those India selected,–beautiful paper with rounded corners and such–but I decided to embrace the imperfection and do what I could.

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Then there was the question of a suitable bag.  I thought I’d make one, but then I realised I already had a perfect bag.  Here I am on a train, embroidering on it and listening to an audio book.  Audio books and podcasts make public transport so pleasurable!

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And so, a set of cards and a little bag for them to live in, packaged up and ready to send to their new home!  I know my friend will add quotes from her favourite poets and sources of inspiration.

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Spring Sewing Circle 3

This time: garment construction.  It was a  sewing circle, after all!

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To begin, for those who haven’t worked this out for themselves, let it be understood that I am a pretty plain sewer.  I like sewing, I have some skills, I’ve been doing it a long time. But, I tend to use patterns, amend patterns created by others,  make changes driven by sheer lack of cloth or my own mistakes, or construct a pattern from an existing garment.  I don’t just look at a piece of fabric, form a concept and apply scissors.  India Flint does, and she has written a new little book about the underpinning concepts which I hope will be available to others at some stage… I’ve been kindly gifted a stapled copy. Some of her approaches to creating new garments from old (‘refashioning’ to some) are also set out beautifully in Second Skin.

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But the thing is, having the concepts doesn’t get me from here to there.  Practice would be needed, of course!  But confidence, too–and these two things have a relationship to one another.  I know when I went to the first workshop I did with India I listened and watched and was inspired as she demonstrated and explained.  I remember wondering why I hadn’t organised my life so I could do exactly this every day. And then I had my own expanse of cloth and my own scissors and my heart sank just about immediately.

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It’s a statement of the extremely obvious that India has spent a lifetime thinking about art and garment construction and honing her skills at all related things, and I have not. This knowledge and experience cannot be transferred from one mind to another like a thumb drive plugged into a hard drive. For one thing, it would be more like the hard drive being plugged into the thumb drive!  But more than this, I experience doubt that my mental architecture could ever equip me to do this kind of design work.  Which is fine.  The rich diversity of human minds and creativity is part of what makes life wondrous.

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I noticed all manner of things.  I have a few good ideas and only so much time, so while I get stuck on some things, I have more ideas than I can carry out already.  India had so many ideas about what I could do with the few things I had with me, that my mind boggled.  I couldn’t come close to carrying them all out.  But when it came to deciding which ones to act on, I found myself up against all kinds of things, from sheer inability to believe that I could carry that idea out, confidence that I would not wear the resulting garment, and sheer inability to conjure up what that would look like or how it could be done, in my own mind.

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I have the concept that many of the sewing ‘rules’ I have been taught are the kind that a more skilled person can adjust, skirt around or safely ignore because they know the exceptions and have superior skills. But I can feel myself clinging to them like some kind of misplaced sense of a lifebuoy. It’s only fabric, after all!

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Well. The thing is, a learning experience is about expanding your mind. Even if you can feel the strain!  So here I am modelling a linen shirt from the op shop, in the process of becoming–an apron?  A frock? I thought apron, but by the time it came home, my beloved felt that it was, essentially, a frock.  I can’t say she’s a real expert in frocks, but she has an opinion.  I am continually being struck by my own inflexibility about what I’ll wear.  I have courageous moments of branching out, but I am just nailed on to some core concepts.  For one thing, when India thinks of an apron, she thinks this (you’ll have to scroll down, but Sweetpea’s blog is a special place, so don’t hurry over it).  When I think of an apron I think of a rectangle of black cotton with two tape ties.  I have two, and have had them since I was making my living cooking, long ago!

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Anyway, back to the main story.  This strategy for shape shifting (shirt to apron) is set out in Second Skin, and I’ve read it a few times without feeling any inclination to try it out.  But here it is!  It ended up with some recycled raw silk sewn on so it became longer and more flowing.  More and more frock-like, one could say.  I finished sewing it in Mansfield and it has been sitting quietly at home waiting for the transformation of the dye pot.  I am still trying to figure out whether there is any chance of my wearing a shirt-apron-frock.  But you never know!  And if I can’t, well, I am sure someone else will.

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This process really made me think that when I run my fingers through the choices at a garage sale or op shop, I see something that could be taken apart ready to begin again.  Where I see a shaped garment that could become flat pieces and then from flat pieces be converted into something else, India seems to me, to see one three dimensional thing that could become other three dimensional things.  While we were working in Crockett Cottage, she was taking two pairs of men’s trousers and turning them into one long, glorious skirt of many pockets.  It was a thing of wonder to behold this process, let alone the insertion of a silk lining.  There is a sample of the finished glory here. Below, a garment made from hemp and cotton knit and the sleeves from the linen short that became a frock, with  sheoak leaf prints.

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On my way home I had enough time in Melbourne betwixt the bus from Mansfield to the Melbourne central railway station and the Airport shuttle to nip out and see some of Blue at the National Gallery of Victoria.  Let it be said that this adventure involved taking my public transport courage in both hands: two trams each way and half an hour at the Gallery.  It was so worth it!  I could not take pictures.  But see images here and here and here. There were fragments of Egyptian garments from many, many hundreds of years ago.  Examples of indigo work from a wide variety of weaving and embroidery traditions from China, Japan, Indonesia, India and Europe.  At one point I was surprised to find myself answering another wanderer who was asking out loud whether something was woven or embroidered.  Clearly I have acquired some knowledge about weaving from hanging about with weavers!  Garments ranged from elaborate finery to those constructed entirely from rags in the boro style, and a rather extraordinary rain- and wind-protective cape made of two layers of cotton or hemp, with a layer of waxed paper sewn between them.  They were constructed from cotton, linen, hemp, silk, elm fibre.  If you have the chance, I recommend this exhibition highly.  It can’t help but inspire and amaze to see such evidence of the skill and ingenuity and sheer hard work of peoples from past and (in some cases) continuing traditions and to learn a little about the significance of indigo and the creation of cloth and clothing to them.

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Spring Sewing Circle 1

Ah, Mansfield.  I was privileged to go to India Flint’s Spring Sewing Circle in this lovely Victorian town not so long ago.  I have been itching to write about it–but overcome by my day job.  Mansfield was full of fabulous plants for dyeing, including eucalypts that are hard to find in my dry, hot hometown. This is a stunning E Crenulata that was just hanging over the caravan park fence.

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There were catalpas and prunus trees that were so full of little plums that possums were harvesting all night, leaving leaves all over the ground for the enterprising dyer.  There were cotinus trees, and berberis plants, maples and E Polyanthemos… and there was St John’s Wort in quantity, which India harvested to share with us.

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I loved wandering the streets with enough time to admire the trees and expect to be able to use these leaves if I collected a few. I even found this one sunning itself at the edge of someone’s front fence!

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With all this bounty, people’s bundles were packed full of amazing windfalls and all kinds of leafy wonder.  I had come with some serviceable garment plans: I brought along a singlet with all its main seams machine stitched and hemmed it by hand, finishing all the edges.  It used up all my scraps of silky merino.  Then I made another one completely by hand.  I really didn’t think I could be converted to making garments by hand, but India has turned me round.  I still love my machine–but this is another pleasure altogether.  One of them got wrapped around a piece of copper and given a long, mild cook.

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Out came greens and purples and pinks and a little apricot.  The St John’s wort was a spectacular dye plant I have never had a chance to try before.  This dyeing process taught me that I’ve been reading and not understanding.  More experiments will surely follow as I try to consolidate all I learned from this bundle.

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I loved that St John’s wort!  If weeding has to be done, this is a rather glorious outcome.  Others had made wonderful silk bloomers and nighties that also got the St John’s wort treatment.

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The catalpa greens and maple leaves were fun too… and prunus leaf pink and purple… well, so much bounty.

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The other singlet had a hotter time in a dye bath that had already seen a lot of iron- and eucalypt-rich bundles, the things of which lovely string resist marks are made. I always love watching other people bundle up and unbundle.  This is a deceptively simple process that different people use to achieve gloriously different effects.  Finally I had E Polyanthemos I could be confident in, and E Crenulata, and so much more!

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Here’s the E Crenulata on the back, with some string marks on show and fresh from the dye pot.

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And here is the front, with those wonderful almost-round E Polyanthemos leaves. I am looking forward to wearing these come winter!

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Eucalyptus magic.  Sensational!  I see over on India’s blog that she is advertising a new Australian class for 2016 and some tips for the new leaf printer.  There is so much to learn from someone whose dye knowledge, love of plants and capacity for design are so extensive.  And so much pleasure in learning from someone so generous, creative and imaginative.  Do not get me started on the food…  I may have started out with plain and serviceable garments, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t be stopping there, and… I was right.  More instalments to come as time allows, my friends!

 

 

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Workwear for a suburban guerilla gardener

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Some months ago I had an idea.  I thought I would embroider my gardening shirt, or one of them. Once I had the idea, I couldn’t let it go.

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I had my beloved’s gift of Japanese indigo dyed thread and it felt so perfect for the job…

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But when I spoke with a friend about it she gently suggested that investing so much time and effort in something on the verge of falling apart might not be wise use.  She is a wise woman and gentleness is her way.

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I began thinking of the fabrics I already had, offcuts of linen, canvas and stout cottons.  It occurred to me that I had a Merchant and Mills pattern (The Top #64) that struck me as pieced, and that called for quite stout fabrics.  I thought over a kind comment here on the blog about using more than one type of fabric as a potential feature rather than a problem (thankyou!).  I started dyeing more fabric.

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And so two sets of offcuts from different generous friends found their way into various dyepots.

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I found that I didn’t have pieces big enough for the pattern pieces anyway–even with front and back each being made up of 4 different pieces of fabric, some parts of this garment were still pieced together from smaller segments.

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And now, here it is.  Embroidered with dye plants of the neighbourhood and the names of plants I have been propagating and planting.

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And a few other phrases of note.  There may be more yet to come!  And now you know how I came by so many scraps that I needed to Make patchwork as I went…

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Eco-printed scarves

I was rifling through some of the wool and silk items that I packed away protectively during summer, (when clothes m*ths are breeding) and realised I still have three scarf blanks that were given to me by friends. One is a wool gauze, I think.

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One is probably silk scrim.

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And the other looks like a finer grade of still quite open-weave silk.

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I had an idea for how they might find happy homes, and after some days of wishing but not finding time…

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These leaves were collected in the neighbourhood as they fell from trees lining a driveway.  And of course, eucalyptus!  One pot had a madder exhaust in it, because madder is never really exhausted as far as I can tell.

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Out they came…

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The silk scrim will need another dye bath, I think. The other two made me very happy–and this is good, because I planned for them to be part of my daughter’s birthday present.  I tried a different folding and wrapping strategy on the wool and love the way it came out.  The tie resist marks were great–

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There are leafy parts and abstract parts, parts that are burgundy or grey-black and others that are more orange.

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I tend to get more muted colours on silk, and this was no exception.  Still lovely, and just as important in this case, different.

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I hope she will like them both.  She lives in a colder part of the country and she does love a good scarf.

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And now… they have been folded, wrapped, tied with hand made string and placed in the post!

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Himeji Gardens in autumn

I love the Himeji Japanese gardens, which are in the parklands that surround our city, on the southern side.

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I was passing on my way home from something, in the daytime, by myself (no passengers to convince)–so I pulled over and went in to see what I could see.

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The gingkos had turned yellow and begun to drop their leaves.

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The maples were in various stages of colouring and falling.

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The camellias had begun to flower (the same is true at home).

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The water features were as glorious as ever.  I managed to glean a few dead daylily leaves which made lovely string.

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I collected fallen leaves and the odd twig that had come down in the wind.  At home, I added prunus leaves from trees in the neighbourhood and some dried eucalyptus leaves… and rolled experimental bundles too.

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I love the maple prints on linen.

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The prunus leaves came out pretty too–and in some places I did get gingko leaf resist prints.  If you look carefully!

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This bundle was an experiment–maple/prunus/eucalypt on some gifted silk fabric.

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I tried woad leaves (and japanese indigo leaves and the odd soursob leaf for good measure) but clearly I’ll have to try that again!  The fabric is wet here and by the time it dried there was almost nothing to see.  On the other hand… the woad is leafing up, and my woad seed is germinating!

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Autumn leaf prints

I went to a wedding in the hills recently… a very pleasantly relaxed and extremely celebratory occasion.  On the way home, I stopped in a small town because… many European trees grow in the Adelaide Hills and it’s wonderful to see.

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And of course, I had hopes and plans.  If you don;t want to look at pictures, stop now.  This is a post of MANY pictures.

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I collected leaves…

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I made bundles…

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I made experiments…

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I tooled around the neighbourhood on my bike collecting tried and true leaves.

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I unwisely tied my bundles with coloured string for the first time ever.  I sorta kinda knew this was stupid but did it anyway and was rewarded with blue lines, most of which happily washed out!

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I applied heat as the sun set…

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And the next day! These images are of fabrics still damp and freshly unwrapped.  Even the flannel rag I had used to create a bit of ‘padding’ on one bundle took dye.

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Oak leaves on silk

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Maple leaves on silk.  So green!  they are still green after washing and ironing.  This silk is from a pantsuit a friend scored for me at an op shop. It is well washed and work raw silk.

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The ever faithful E Cinerea on linen.  A friend gifted me linen offcuts and these are the first that have made their way into the dye pot.  Am I ever blessed with generous friends!

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Maple leaves on linen.

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E Scoparia is awesome yet again on cotton.

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Sheoak from the neighbourhood on linen.   This has so much potential…

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A happy day all round!

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Leaf print experiments

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I’ve been trying leaves I don’t usually use and some different strategies for cooking them up. Prunus leaves, kindly contributed by this block of flats.  I am sure they wouldn’t mind!

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Maple… I think this is Japanese maple.

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I have tried several different sheoaks.

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Some of the results are really spectacular.  My favourite is quite green, very exciting.

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Here it is beside the prunus prints.

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They are pretty pale…

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The maple leaves were interesting, and I love the impression of the string ties.  And this sheoak came out better than any other so far.  I tried 6he leaves out on a linen collar, and wrapped it around a rusty spring I found in my leaf gathering travels.  This bundle was so small I overlooked it, so this one had a long time in the pot, which is no doubt a clue for future experiments.

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Some results were less exciting.  I did get a pale green print from our birch leaves, which is a first and might be promising.

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I went back for more juvenile E Polyanthemos and this time, not so great prints resulted, but I did get some that were quite green, and that’s promising too.

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Meanwhile, the saga of the neighbourhood bees continues.  The lorikeets moved out of this nesting box, and the bees moved in weeks ago.  There is now honeycomb visible in the opening.

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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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