Syrian Oregano

Origanum syriacum, origan de Syrie, syrischer Oregano, orégano sirio, oragán siriach

Syrian oregano1I grew some seeds of this a few years ago, about the same time that I was looking for za’atar. Some seed catalogues list them as one in the same, but with some research I found that za’atar can be Thymbra spicata, Origanum syriacum, Thymus vulgaris, Micromeria spp. or Hyssopus officinalis – depending on where you live and what grows locally.

Back to the oregano… one plant survived from the seedlings and grew strongly, and has given me several offshoots since, and last season a harvest of seeds and subsequent seedlings. What I noticed this afternoon was that the plant was not only growing Syrian oregano2strongly, but also has a couple of stems – on the one plant – with larger than usual leaves, so big that I had to run my finger down the stems to their origin to check they weren’t mint.

Huge. I don’t know whether this is how the plant now wants to grow, or if it’s due to the weather that is constantly up-and-down at the moment, but will certainly try and take a cutting to see if the leaves stay that large.

And the taste? Spicy. Like some fellow herb growers, I’ve found that the alternative Greek oregano Origanum vulgare var. hirtum, just doesn’t grow well (perhaps dodgy original stock?). The Syrian variety is also more upright and the silvery foliage provides contrast.

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Reproduction colours

Des couleurs reproduites, nachgebildete Farben, colores reproducidos, dathanna macasamhla

Talking of Otavalo market (see the previous post), the colours I remember most are browns and reds – earthy colours – as well as white, black, grey and other browns, presumably natural (undyed) colours apart from the reds.

Many a conversation with a Chilean friend on all things cultural led to the idea that I might be able to reproduce some of those colours in a scarf-cum-birthday present for her. At that time the only woollen yarn I was weaving with (I was still a beginner) was a very fine blue-grey, plied double at 24epi. Why blue-grey? I’d bought some old 1kg cones of Wangaratta Mills yarn from someone who’d be given it but was unable to use it for handknitting. It overdyed well in most colours, so why not…

photo4The photo shows just how well it turned out using two shades of brown and a red at half strength (all Landscape dyes). Several small samples of that experiment remain, but very little of the blue-grey yarn. The solution? Grey handspun?

 

Backstrap Weaving workshop

No posts for a long time… organising workshops, giving workshops and finally participating in one. We were lucky enough to have Laverne Waddington come to Adelaide last week to teach us about setting up a backstrap loom and complimentary pick-up weaving.

display.jpgThe day began with a display table (photo used with permission) that was a true feast for the eyes: braids and straps in all colours and designs and even some balls of yarn in traditional colours. This reminded me of Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez on the Interweave dvd Andean Spinning talking about keeping balls of yarn until they were “hard”. Laverne showed us a warp set up using freshly-spun yarn; the threads were all spiralled around each other and didn’t want to sit straight. The “aged” yarn on the other hand was “hard” and as straight as can be.

Apparently the traditional, earthy colours that I remember from the Otavalo market in the early 90’s are no longer favoured by the artisans – the brighter colours have taken over. Progress? Maybe the former will be considered “retro” in a decade or so…

Two days of expert tuition produced three warpswarp.jpg to take and finish at home as well as an introduction to various designs and techniques, and a thirst to practise everything and try out all the fascinating designs in Laverne’s books – we were able to purchase a couple of these as well as a dvd for the Guild library. Needless to say, there’s already a waiting list!

Laverne is a fantastic teacher – knowledgeable, patient, interesting and clearly enthusiastic about sharing the craft. I’d seriously recommend signing up for one of her workshops.

Madder socks

Des chausettes en garance, Krappsocken, medias en rubia, stocaí madar

Finally, a pair of socks. These were knitted to Kieron Pegg’s Toe up Twins on socks2Ravelry. They’re a little big, but as they’re for winter wear at home, we can get away with a bit of Nora Batty. The yarn was Bendigo Mills Luxury 4-ply, dyed with the two madders – see previous post.

They’re my first magic-loop-two-at-a-time project, but I don’t know if I saved any time with this method. The 40″/100cm cable was perhaps a little too long and the needles didn’t have a no-twist function…

’Ελα ρε πάιδι μου! can you imagine someone knitting socks in the 1940’s reading this? When it comes to problem-solving, or “first-world” problems, I just think, “What would they have done in the Blitz?’ Not sat around crying about twisting cables, that’s for sure. So let’s just say I’m up for trying different needles until I find the right ones from the wonderful selection we have these days that suit me. More on that to follow…

Is fearsaid me…

dealganWell, maybe not, but I’ve got one.

The latest addition to the spindle collection hails from Wales (rhyme on purpose – it’s from NiddyNoddyUK) and is made of pear, is smooth and well-balanced.

I’d read and heard that dealganan/fearsaidí (Help with the plurals? Anyone?) wobble a lot. Hmm… well, yes, but not beyond anything that can’t be controlled with a more central spin with the fingers. I find the same with notchless top whorls (and indeed with notched), and maintain that this makes them especially suitable for beginners, a bit like learning to drive in a manual as it teaches you more control.

Overall, I’m hooked on the dealgan and am thinking now that a Portuguese spindle would be an unnecessary luxury (he says).dealgan2

An added bonus was that the dealgan came well-packed, and cushioned amongst layers of combed Lleyn fibre – a breed that I thought I’d never get the chance to spin.

ps …pun in the heading

De-stash woollen blanket

couverture en laine, Wolldecke, cobija de lana, blaincéad olla

I’ve been doing some serious de-stashing of late, more out of necessity than anything else. But it’s produced some good results – mainly that I can see the floor again. I’d bought some weaving yarn from another de-stasher a few years ago, and with it came a bag full of homespunblanket1.jpg. Most of the yarn was from a fleece in all shades from beige to chocolate, and no doubt from a crossbreed sheep and a beginner spinner; the yarn was spun unevenly and had clearly been done by the same method as my own – stick your hand into the bag and spin whatever comes out, rather than separating the fleece into colours and textures.

blanket2The yarn was singles, so this was plied double, with the resulting average wpi at around 8, so I chose a four-shaft, 3-1 twill at 6epi. At first this seemed as though it may have had to come down to 4 or 5 epi, but the finished item confirms 6 epi was right. The size was calculated at using most of the yarn, although after weaving most of the blanket, I decided that the last ball looked too felted compared with the rest and cut the project short. It had obviblanket3ously come from the short-and-fuzzies of the fleece, while the rest was noticeably coarser and slicker.

And the result? Overall a successful project, and one that has made me want to do more single-colour, larger-scale projects.

Now, if anyone out there can translate “stash” and “de-stash” into French, German, Spanish and Irish… there’s some things they just don’t teach you at school or in the text books.

Madder and madder

Rubia tinctorum & Rubia cordifolia, Garance de teinturiers et garance ?, indische Krapp u.echte Färberröte , rubia ? y rubia rota, dó madar

Now I really need help with the other languages! Anyone?

I decided to try both “regular” madder and also R. cordifolia (as the latter’s cheaper). I purchased some powdered samples of both varieties and tried them on commercial yarn, mordanted with 10% alum and also with some calcium carbonate added to turn the dyebath alkaline. I couldn’t be sure of this, as the pH paper didn’t change colour, but I added more than the 6g per 100g dyestuff to make sure.madder.jpg

The R. tinctorum is on the left and the cordifolia on the right. From bottom to top it goes thusly: 50% wof, 100% wof, exhaust bath. The cordifolia at full strength gave what I’d call “Indian red” after seeing this tone on so many throws and other items from the sub-continent; the colours in real life are a bit deeper. The top ball was thrown into two exhaust baths, as the dusky pink wasn’t so much to my liking.

With the tinctorum, the full strength gave me what I’d expected, or near enough.

All skeins needed a fair number of rinses to get the particles out of them (it went on the garden); their individual shade was probably twice as dark when coming out of the dyebath, due to the particles sticking to the fibre, but the rinse water was only coloured by the waste particles and no waste/unattached dye.

So, will I use madder again? Not unless I buy a larger quantity from overseas to make it economically viable. When hanging the skeins to dry, the following came to mind: “Avocado skins… avocado pits… Eucalyptus sideroxylon… Eucalyptus cineria…” However, a worthwhile experiment with usable results.