Sunflower seeds

sem. Helianthus annuus, graines de tournesol, Sonnenblumenkerne, semillas de girasol, síolta lus na gréine

I’ve had a jar of sunflower seeds, var. “Van Gogh”, sitting in the cupboard for about two years now, so high time to use them. The plants grew to just under 6’/2m tall and had large heads. Fortunately for me and the dyepot, they were sterile so the birds and rats sunflower seedsleft them alone.

The seeds are blacker than black, and I think I used 2 x WOF, but didn’t write it down. A few more grammes were added to offset any non-dyestuff (the brown bits), and then the whole lot was simmered for about 45 minutes, producing a deep, purplish-black liquor.

After straining the liquor on to the mini-skeins, the yarn was simmered for another 45 minutes. If there was any smell, I can’t remember, so probably not. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything marvellous, so was more than pleased with the results.

sunflowerseeds2

Skeins 1 and 5 (left to right) gave red-brown with no mordant (5 had a vinegar modifier), while mordanting brought out the browns (2, 4 & 6). Skein 4 was modified with bicarb, which turned it an interesting shade of green-brown. And the end use? Going on results of light- and wash-fastness (to come soon), I can see a pair of socks using several of the colours together..

 

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Drying the harvest

I choose wine by the quality (together with the price), but when the bottle comes in an organza bag, that’s an added bonus. I now have a sizeable collection and there’s always at least one hanging on the washing line at any time of the year. In summer there can be baga good half-dozen.

Leaves are generally tied in a bundle to hang off the laundry door for a week or so, but when flowers are plucked one or a small handful at a time, they go into the wine bags (gift bags, not goon bags) on the back wire of the clothes line where they get shade 24/7. This also goes for tagetes heads which would otherwise shed hundreds of seeds over the floor.

I originally spread some wire fencing over the “rafters” in the shed, placed flyscreen wire on top and spread dahlia flowers over that to dry. Now I find that if there are not too many in one golemon myrtle, they too can go into a wine bag. This is only practical in summer, where they can dry within a day; in winter the tree dahlia heads go mouldy when piled into a bag.

And avocado pits? When a colleague donates them on a daily basis, they stay on my desk shelf at work and dry well without going mouldy. Easy! At home they get put into a bag along with the skins – after going over both with a nail brush to get rid of any remaining flesh.

On the right: half-a-year’s harvest of lemon myrtle from the 50cm-high specimen in a pot. I remember buying 100g of these about 18 years ago when they were $50/kg! Although they’re not native to SA, they’re really easy to grow both in pot and in open ground.

Walnut leaves

Juglans regia, feuilles de noyer, Walnussblätter, hojas de nogal, duilleoga gallchnó

It’s the time of year when I remind myself that if I don’t go and pick some green walnuts soon, they’ll be too hard to cut for nocino. Only last week we found two more “wild” trees while out walking doggie and another one on the way bacwalnutk from harvesting, so now that makes seven. Sounds like the making of a poem or song.

I also gathered enough leaves to experiment with dyeing. The results were interesting, even though at first I confused my mordanted with unmordanted samples. The unmordanted yarn was clearly “marked”, but produced slightly lighter shades. Ethel Mairet wrote that mordanted yarns produce a “brighter and richer colour”. I’ll definitely try again, and also with dried leaves.

From the top: unmordanted, mordanted, unmordanted + alkaline modifier, mordanted + alkaline modifier, unmordanted + acid modifier, mordanted + acid modifier.

The alkalinewalnuts2 (bicarb) brought out more brown, whereas the acid (vinegar) brought out a redder tone.

When the leaves were simmering, they smelled surprisingly like rhubarb leaves and did not take long to yield their colour into the water.

And the nuts? They’re already turning the vodka dark and bitter. After steeping for a month or so, the liquor will be strained and bottled and ready to drink this time next year. Well worth the wait!

Mixed bag

Foeiniculum vulgare et Verbascum thapsus, fennel and mullein, fenouil et molène, Fenchel und Pyramiden-Königskerze, hinojo y  gordolobo, finéal is coinnle Muire

Fennel is quite a weed in the Adelaide Hills, and every day on my way home I’ve eyed a large patch from the train window. Unfortunately it’s along the stretch of the line where mobile reception is bad, so I can never get an exact fix on its location. Still, there wamullein2s a smaller bunch growing near my local station, so a-harvesting I went.

The result was not good at all – maybe because I’d included stem instead of more leaves and flowers? I can try again next week. Rather than waste the yarn, I decided to overdye with mullein.

mulleinThe mordanted yarns came up more yellow, or rather a more intense (albeit slight) shade of the same mustardy-yellow. I wonder if the texture of the yarn had anything to do with refraction (the yarn is now at the end of the ball and is a lot more open, like singles rather than plied).

I first came across the German name for mullein in one of Horst Bienek’s novels; a boy collects the flowers and sells them to the local chemist. Interestingly, the name translates into English as King’s candle, whereas the Irish name is Mary’s candle. Other English names are Aaron’s rod and Adam’s rod… not to mention Cowboy’s toilet paper.

Trip to Clare

The main reason for going to Clare Valley is dog-friendly holiday accommodation. The wineries, historic townships and change of scenery all add to the experience. Then there’s a shop that sells, amongst other things, spinning and weaving equipment…

shop2I’d “chatted” to Tracy a few times by email about workshops, so it was a pleasure to finally meet in person. Her shop, Knit Spin Weave is a yarnaholic’s treasure trove, complete with working looms, spinning wheels and numerous smaller items that you see on websites, but rarely up close and touchable. Added to that is personal, friendly service from someone who clearly loves to share the enthusiasm.

I could have easily spent more time there, but did return after a brief lunch to buy a SampleIt loom so that I could start playing around with more textured yarns and colour combinations. I had to forgo the offer of a free set-up and play lesson as partner and doggie had already been patient enough. Still, now I don’t have to drool over pictures of shops interstate and abroad where you can walk in, see & touch before you buy, then walk out with your purchase in hand.

Evening shawl

warpEvery year I tell myself I won’t enter the Royal Show this year, but then make a last-minute decision to put something in. This year I decided I needed to get back into weaving (hadn’t done any for at least six months), so bought two entries and ended up entering one.shawl1

It had to be something different this time, or at least bigger than a scarf… a shawl. Maybe not the most adventurous step-up, granted. The idea came from Handwoven Sept/Oct 2013 which featured a moebius wrap. I didn’t want to risk ruining the item at the last minute with  dodgey sewing, so settled for a flat version, and also changed some of the yarns.

ribbonsThe warp was black wool (plied, commercially spun at a sett of 16 epi) and silver-grey and lake combo 8/2 tencel (24 epi). The weft was black 8/2 tencel. The original draft required a sett of 27 epi, but 24 epi and the use of wool made for a lighter, airier and more wrapable shawl. I’ll definitely be using this combination again.

Mint fibre

mint fibreAlthough there’s still plenty of fibre in the stash, I had to try this. Just believe the ads when they say that it doesn’t actually smell of mint.

So what is it, then? Some retailers describe it as rayon, whereas others say “cellulose-based”. Tomayto/tomartoe, but I think I prefer the latter as it doesn’t bring to mind shinymint spindle2, clingy things from past decades, or the fabric seller in Ecuador who once tried to flog me some as “silk” then after a nonchalant stare from me, added “seda de rayón…”

And the mint? Mint-infused.

One source described it as being similar to soysilk, but I found it more like real silk to handle and in appearance. From what I remember, tmint yarn2he soysilk (and it was a few years ago) had more drape and less loft. The mint fibre, however, opened itself from the tops and spun finely with no great difficulty. The yarn actually has some stretch to it, too, quite a bit. I haven’t made anything with it yet, or tried dyeing it, but will see how it goes as weft. It certainly has the look and feel of silk. I reckon the fibre would blend well with wool, too.