Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Spring berries and blues

The red currants have started ripening.  Usually they all ripen at once and I simply have to strip each little hanging bunch off the branches.  It's fast and easy.  You don't have to take the berries off the stem to make jelly.  This year however, the berries are ripening at different times.   I have to get out there and get them before the Orioles and the Red Wing Blackbirds eat them.  They can strip a bush of it's berries in a day.  So, I've gone out picking individual currants.   Two days of picking has netted a whole 340 g of currants.   I skipped today in hopes that I'll be able to get a larger amount tomorrow.   I'd love  to get a kilo of currants, but I'm not counting on it this year.  The bushes seem to have far fewer berries than other years.  A kilo will make a decent sized batch of currant jelly.

This past winter I started some Dyer's Knotweed seeds much earlier than normal, in hopes of getting seed to set this year.   Usually it blooms in September and there isn't time for the seed to set.   The seed that I started in February germinated nicely.  I transplanted it into large pots and again into planters, though the last one went into the garden.     I noticed that it's starting to flower!   Yay!    However I decided to snip off the stems that weren't flowering in hopes of a) encouraging more growth and b) to see if there was viable pigment in the leaves. 

  I harvested 14 oz or just under 400 g of leaves, which  I weighed once I'd stripped them from the stems.  Although I don't think it's a necessity to do so, it takes less space in the container to cook the leaves without the stems.  I stuffed them into a glass jar, set a trivet in the bottom of a large pot filled with warm water, and set the jar into that pot, making a double boiler.  I cooked the leaves at 160° F for about 2 hours.   As I was lifting out the jar, the bottom sheared off the jar, which was startling to say the least.  Luckily, the entire mixture dumped into the large pot, saving an enormous mess.  I would have added more water to the dye vat anyway, so it was all fine in the end.

I did have photos of the entire process, but some how I managed to lose them when I transferred them to the computer and deleted them from my camera.  Normally I check to make sure they are where I want them before I hit the delete button, but for whatever reason, I convinced myself it was all good today.


At any rate, there was a reasonable amount of pigment.   I don't know if I aerated the mixture long enough though, so it might have been a little more.  I didn't weigh my fibres before I tossed them into the pot, as I was just playing around.   There is Blue Faced Leicester, a Cashmere/Merino/Silk blend and both cotton sliver and spun cotton in there.

1 comment:

Woolly Bits said...

red currants - I've given up on them! for years I had such measly pickings,despite nettings etc. (somehow the blackbirds managed to get in regardless:(), that we took the old shrubs out after all. we did plant new gooseberries and new black currants, which the birds don't seem to like as much! oddly enough you cannot buy red currants here either, they are ubiquitious in germany at that time of the year:(
and another year goes by without me working with indigo - even though we're doing a course in the online guild just now:( you'd think that having no small kids anymore should mean more time - but somehow there's always more work left than hours in the day:) but the blues are lovely - one day I'll start a vat myself again!