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.



Punica granatum, écorce de grenade, Granatapfelschale, cáscara de granada, craiceann pomegranáit

I’ve had quite a stock of dried pomegranate peel sitting around in the larder (I refuse to call it a “pantry” as most Australian-born do – sounds too much like something out of Upstairs Downstairs and we don’t have a maid) thanks mainly to a colleague with the appropriate tree – thanks, Fariha! So, after obtaining a beige tone on alpaca yarn some time ago, I wasn’t expecting anything more.

I used 200% wof on wool, and chose the bits of rind with the reddest colouring. The alkaline pomegranate1.jpgmodifier (skeins 3 & 4) darkended the colours, whilst the acid modifier (5 & 6) lightened them. Skeins 1, 3 & 5 demonstrate that no mordant is required. Each shade obtained is, however, worthy in its own right and in real life all are far more vivid.

I had read somewhere that pomegranate, being high in tannin, is also worth consideration in making turmeric more light-fast… Wonder what it will do for alkanet? I just had to try, so in the dye bath mentioned in the previous post, six doppelgangers (that doesn’t seem right without the umlaut, aber ich bin sicher, Ihr konnt es mir vergeben) were thrown in for an overdye.


The original shades of pomegranate alone were strong and I suppose I should’ve repeated the experiment with yellow rind, and maybe at 100% wof. Oh well, let’s just shove some skeins in the pot and see what we get…

…more interesting shades with pinky (and perky) overtones. The light-fast testing will be interesting. Tomorrow’s been downgraded to 41oC (how cool…) whilst Sunday is still forecast to be 42oC. Even if it stays below that, there’s plenty of UV around for the tespomegranate3.jpgt.

Just as an aside, I “marked” the pre-dyed pomegranate skeins with some bits of other wool. How did they emerge from the alkanet bath? GREY AND PURPLE! Grr!!!

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.

Oakworth scarf

“Oakworth! Oakworth Station!” Remember The Railway Children? Yet anOakleavesother Victorian/Edwardian children’s story that didn’t need much apart from a few eccentric characters and the English countryside to hold your attention. The spooky parts (the carriage driver and the landslide) seemed much spookier on the LP; I recall someone lending it to us when I was ill and advising Mum not to let me listen to it alone. No fear!

Back to the scarf… the leaves were made with the same yarn as Wuthering Heights, and I see that there’s still enough for a third and maybe even a fourth project. There was no real plan apart from the leaves, but they were knitted together, end-to-end in one, long strand and then finally stitched randomly so that the different strands would hold together to form a loose loop. It can be doubled-wrapped for extra insulation, or left open.

The leaves are a little parallel, but considering the scarf self-evolved, it’s good to have one more thing finished and ready to be adopted. Who needs flannel petticoats?

Avocado pits and skins on cotton

I’ve been saving avocado pits and skins for a number of months, but the contribution from a colleague (thanks, Rhonda!) far outweighed – literally – the amount that I got through over the summer.

The pits were halved, sliced, then either dried or frozen; the skins were ripped into smaller piece, then dried. The dye liquor was made by soaking the relevant parts in water, then adding either bicarb or ammonia, then steeping the cotton yarn in this for a few days.

The photo, as always, doesn’t really show the true colours, especially as we’re in autumn and the sky is overcast, but the bottom row were all attained by adding bicarb to draw out the red. The yarns all turned out various depths of pale pink.


With the two on top, the left was from 20g dried skins (purple ones) soaked for a few days, then for a few days more with ammonia, then a few more again with the yarn. In real life, it’s slightly darker.

The one on the right was from 100g frozen, sliced pits following the same method above. The ammonia definitely brings out a deeper shade.

Now, what to do with with five balls of cotton in antique pink? Actually, I’ve thought of one use, but that’ll have to wait.


ditchling-sign-2Last time I was in Sussex, two years ago, the Ditchling Museum was only just getting ready for opening. I’d been through the village so many times in the car before, while and after I lived in the county, and spent the brief passages through gazing out of the car window at the beautiful, old, timber-framed buildings. So, time to actually go there and wander round, looking at the buildings up close and exploring the few lanes behind the main crossroads and, of course, the pond.

This time I’d heard that the Museum was now open and had an exhibition of Ethel Mairet’s works – a handweaver and dyer who joined the artists’ community in Ditchling early last century, soon afterwards publishing a book on dyeing (even though you can download it, an actual published edition in the museum shop was too good to miss) and later teaching weaving aditchling-signnd dyeing. It was a short train ride to Hassocks, then a half-hour walk along a country lane full of brambles, hemp agrimony, chamomile, wild carrots and other dye plants, not to mention the drying buddleia heads in the gardens and alongside the train tracks. The museum itself is small enough that you don’t get tired walking around, but with just the right amount of exhibits that you feel you’ve spent a worthwhile and very educational trip. Yes, I’d go there again!

After lunch in one of the village pubs (I’d recommend the elderflower beer to wash it down), I sat on the green, doing a bit of drop spindling. After a while, a girl who’d been sitting a distance away came by and asked in a delightful Sussex accent, “Whaat are you doin’?” Truly a day in the country!


shopI took advantage of cheap airfares to go to Dublin for a few days. It’s always been an ambition of mine, also to walk into a pub an order a pint of Guinness in Gaelic. I managed to do a lot of sightseeing – not all that I’d planned – but that leaves plenty for the next visit – and Dublin is a very walkable city. It was as I was walking to St. Patrick’s Cathedral that I passed, by pure chance, The Constant Knitter. I’d seen it online, so didn’t think twice about entering for a look around.

Rosemary was extremely friendly, welcoming and informative, and also gave a hint on where I might actually be able to order that pint. I could easily have spent a couple of hours there. I guess I’d describe it as a well-stocked shop with everything you’d need, one that invites you to linger while you think of projects to come. Also, no funny looks or even the hint of suspicion for being a male in a yarn shop. I’d whole-heartedly recommend The Constant Knitter as part of any trip to Dublin. Thanks, Rosemary!

I came away with two balls of Donegal Aran Tweed in white and some hand dyed Galway Cheviot fleece in greens and blues for some drop-spindling. That’s Cheviot fleece from Galway, not a cross-breed, we decided. There were other gadgets that I could have acquired, save for security restrictions on pokey, metal things on flights.

And the Gaelic? The guy behind the bar clearly understood me, but answered in English. If you’ve seen No Béarla, you’d understand my frustration. I had a slightly more linguistically rewarding experience in the Gaelic bookshop An Siopa Leabhar, so all was not in vain. I think my request for bilingual books was a little shaky, but is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla clíste.