Tag Archives: Steep and Store

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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Alyogyne Huegelii

Alyogne Huegelii is a spectacular flowering shrub that is native to Western Australia.  It is drought hardy but blooms profusely, and this very much explains its popularity in gardens here in Adelaide.  There are a couple of these shrubs flowering spectacularly in my neighbourhood at the moment.

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One of the things I really like about natural dyeing is the fact that you can enjoy flowers, gather them as they fall or pass their best, and have the joy of the flower as well as your dyepot.  So I have been stopping by to collect fallen flowers from the footpath and the gutter, and pulling withered blooms that will not re-open.

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I crammed the dried petals into my jar along with some vinegar, foil, water and a woolen sample card.  For those who are not familiar, this is India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store process.  I have no idea if these flowers will yield dye–they are from the same plant family as hibiscus (and hibiscus petal yield dye)–so they do seem promising–but they are free and readily available and there is nothing but time to be lost by trying them out.  I might learn something!

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After cooking, I had a deep purple dyebath in my jar.  So I gave it a label, added it to my collection, and now we wait.  It belatedly occurred to me to check my reference books.  The Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria’s Dyemaking with Australian Flora (1974) reports that they achieved pink-fawn using cream of tartar as a mordant (I haven’t heard of cream of tartar being used without alum, so I have learned something already).  They also achieved green and pale lemon with chrome, which I am not prepared to use.  My sample card has alum-mordanted and rhubarb-leaf mordanted sample yarns, as well as an unmordanted sample–and the jar contains aluminium foil.  Joyce Lloyd and India Flint’s books are silent on the matter.  So–we’ll just have to see what happens.

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I later decided on an alkaline jar, since hibiscus dyes are ph sensitive, and created another.  It leaked green liquid when I heated it, but the jar as a whole doesn’t look green (yet).

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Oh.  And, we have moths.

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Slippers–and camellias–again!

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Every time I think I can’t make another pair of Bev Galeskas’ Felted Clogs… I turn out to be wrong.  I made two purple pairs and a blue pair… one purple pair were felted as dinner entertainment in order to be a good fit for the recipient.  One blue pair await felting.  And this pair await a recipient.  I think the kicker is the number of people who speak to me about slipper love when it’s cold!  And perhaps, how quickly I can whip out a pair of these nowadays.  Long gone are the days when row 2 took me twenty minutes and I had to lie on the couch for the rest of the evening afterward.  Have I said before that I hope Bev Galeskas is a rich woman?  When I went to the web to get that link to the pattern, Ravelry said ‘Would you like to see 10525 projects made from this pattern and much more?’  I hope Bev did a great deal on royalties and that she isn’t facing the difficulty of some of those songwriters whose work only made other folk rich!

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And, not to be deterred by the comedy of errors of my recent camellia experiment, I decided I may as well pick up the remaining fallen camellias and preservation dye with them (the first such jar is looking good).  Some days, my goals have to be small!

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Dyeing with camellia flowers

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It’s camellia season here.  We have two camellias, a red flowering variety and a more compact white flowering variety.  I put up a jar of camellia flowers a while back using the Stuff Steep and Store method… I couldn’t resist trying!  For those who don’t know what I am talking about–this is a method of ‘preservation dyeing’ developed by India Flint and published in this book.  There is also a rather wonderful online pantry of people’s dye jars to peruse and become inspired by, should you wish.

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However, I had no idea whether camellia flowers give reliable dye when I stuffed those blooms in the jar.  So I felt heartened when I found Aphee showing her camellia dyes on Ravelry.  She has posted about them on her blog a few times, too.  She was inspired by a Japanese blog.  My French is not very good, but my Japanese is non-existent: I enjoyed the pictures though!!

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Aphee’s posts suggest that camellia flowers give colour, that the contents of my jar are a promising combination, and that the nature of the dyestuff is exactly the kind India Flint says Stuff, Steep and Store works especially well for.  This, I had hoped for, but not expected.  I decided that while the camellias were blooming, I may as well try dyeing by more usual methods.

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I gathered all the fallen blooms and tried to rinse the mud and mulch from them.  Meanwhile, our chooks were out wandering the yard–and the camellias are their favourite dust bathing spot.  The edge of the bed must be in the rain shadow of the verandah, so the soil there is still dry while the whole garden has been generously rain watered lately.

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They left big circles of earth on the paving where they shook out the dust once they were finished!  The camellias soon turned brown though I kept the heat low.  This is one of the reasons the preservation dyeing method seems so promising for dyestuffs like these.

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Well… the result in this case was not impressive.  This test sample was barely nudged out of the cream and white it was before dyeing.  Longer heating didn’t change that at all.  So–let that be another example of the mysterious in natural dyeing for the time being.  Aphee is doing something differently to me and I have no idea what it is!  I’ll put the next clutch of fallen blooms in jars until I have a new thought… who knows what I might learn between now and next camellia season?

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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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