Archive for September, 2012

As mentioned earlier, my experiment with birch bark dyeing last week was a complete failure, but I already had some wet wool so I decided to play. One of our camp children was having some challenges with wet underpants, so we saved the wash water in an aluminium pot, in hopes of there being a bit of ammonia. There was almost certainly not enough, and we hadn’t fermented it to extract the ammonia, but we were amused by the experiment. I added some onion skins that I had brought along, and then set the pot on the fire. I had forgotten my alum, and didn’t have enough onion skins in the pot for the amount of wool. The result was a pallid pinky beige.

Undaunted, I brought it home and redyed it using the proper proportion of onion skins, plus alum and cream of tartar. I remembered to mordant properly by soaking the wool in the water and mordant, then heating everything for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I had been cooking the onion skins for the same amount of time. I added the wool to the onion skin bath and let it cook for another hour or so, then allowed it to sit for approximately 36 hours. The end result was darker than my first onion dye experiment: https://siglindesarts.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=746&action=edit

Here is a picture of the new wool:

Here they are together, for comparison:


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Melomel Mix-Up

Whew! The Strawberry was actually bottled last year, as I discovered when I went through my notes to put a date on the label. That explains a lot about why the stuff I just bottled tasted like blueberry. As I mucked around with the bottles, I noticed that my bottling skill has improved significantly from the first efforts. Both the strawberry and blueberry melomels are much cleaner, with no lees in the bottom of the bottles, unlike the meads.

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It is time to begin labelling my bottles! I thought that the stuff I have had sitting in my basement for the last year was blueberry melomel, but according to my notes it may have been the strawberry. Anyway, I just bottled it up. I got four very nice clear bottles and one that I’m not so sure about. Now to go downstairs, look carefully at what I have, put some labels on things, and build my new wine rack so I can store everything properly.

The elderberries are now draining, so I should be able to put the mead into a carboy later this evening (with a label!).

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Pit Fired Spindle Whorl

While at l’Anse aux Meadows, I got to make a clay spindle whorl that we fired in the cooking fire. It turned out fairly well, with only one small portion exploding due to an air bubble. I filled in the hole with beeswax at the same time as I coated the whorl to protect it, then made a spindle out of a broken arrow I had laying around. The result was a very light spindle that produced an incredibly fine thread, once I got the hang of keeping it spinning. It tends to stop spinning much faster than a heavier spindle. Here is a picture of the spindle in action, and a close-up showing the thread I was able to produce. The wool was dyed with comfrey.

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The Battle of Baron’s Howe is one of my favourite events. I tend to get very enthusiastic about projects in preparation, spend the weekend experimenting, and come home full of inspiration and new ideas. This past weekend was no exception. My first project was a new tag for my dog. Kaboone is rather elderly (also partly deaf, blind and possibly senile). He has a tendency to wander into other peoples’ camps or the woods, and forget how to come home. In the past, he has been particularly mocked by my friend Sylard, so I used up a piece of bone from my basement, carved it to an appropriate shape, and practised my runes:

Here is Kaboone wearing his new ornament:

Oddly, although he did wander off several times, when found, he was never returned to Sylard as requested.

On a more serious note, I spent a lot of time collecting lichens from various dead trees and stomped on areas.  Now I need to identify them and learn more about fermenting lichens for dye production. So far, I think I have a parmalia sulcata (wax paper or hammered shield lichen), and I definitely have caribou lichen. The third plant (little pink dots scattered on the bark) is a complete mystery. I also played with a bit of onion skin dyeing (not terribly effective without alum), and tried the birch bark dye, which was an utter failure. The birch bark was too old, I think, so my friend Wilfrid will try to remember to save me some from the next fresh birch wood he collects for his lathe. Also, I forgot my iron pot.

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