I've been crazy busy since my last post, peeps. What with my day job, and trialling new techniques with dyeing and block printing which hails from India, preparing winter treats from my meagre fruit harvests and herbal teas, creams and lip balms.
So, I was very excited to finally receive my hand-carved printing blocks from India, they're really beautifully made. Then I made the dye pastes of different colours and was itching to try it all out. I will upload a video of "behind the scenes" once I've managed to optimise it. Meanwhile you'll have to contend with a few images.
On the left are the pretty hand carved Indian wooden printing blocks on a blank silk scarf. It took a month until they arrived!
Below is the finished scarf. It took about a week to the finished article. First it was dyed yellow, with Weld. Then printed with the blocks and left to dry for 24 hours. Then it had to be steamed for 30 minutes and left to dry another 24 hours. After that it had to be cured with wheat bran soaked water, which fixes the pigments. And dried yet again. A few days later I over-dyed it with madder, it had to soak for 24 hours. And voila, a beautiful butterfly emerges from the not so pretty caterpillar. I love the multi-toned orange hues, with the prints in different colours. I know, the prints could've been crisper, but it's my first attempt. I'm quite chuffed!
Meanwhile, in between other jobs, I've been playing around with this huge (2m x 2m) piece of hemp & bamboo fleece. It feels like velvet to the touch, and quite heavy. It's an emerging eco-friendly fabric mix, so it's quite expensive and hard to find. But hemp especially is such a versatile plant fibre for fabrics and so much more. I have some grand plans for this piece, but I'm taking my time with it. I've already spent many hours on it, dyeing it and over-dyeing, and folding with the Japanese Shibori inspired technique to get a chequered effect, but it didn't turn out quite as I hoped. Secondly, it's very hard to dye evenly a large piece of fabric in a home studio, in a 10 litre pot. Still, I like it's untamed nature and the surprises it produced. Still a work in progress though.
Then I made a lovely, whimsical T-shirt for my little niece who turned 11 the other day. It was a labour of love, which took over a week. She really loves bunnies, so I went to town on finding inspiration. I came across a very talented and inspired Irish artist, Jane Williams who's work I fell in love with. You can see her work here: https://www.facebook.com/janewilliamspaintings
This is one of the magical hare series painting below, which inspired the artwork on my t-shirt.
And this is the finished tee. She hasn't seen it yet, it's still underway in the mail which is slower than expected. I really hope it didn't get lost!
The hares and moon, threads, etc. are all made of plant dyed silk, I have had these left over from other projects. The white one has been bundled with leaves and left in the sun for over a month in the summer. The photo resolution is not the best unfortunately, in real life you can see the leaf detail better. I love it, it's a proper fairy tale in there.
And now on to a different topic. I did promise in my last blog post some herbal remedy tips for the cold winter months ahead. I had something else in mind but haven't managed to make the herbal teas and fire cider to help boost our immune system. So I'm sharing my tried and tested remedies I turn to time and again when I feel a cold coming on or a sore throat, both of which I had recently, and these little bottles of nature's gifts have again done their magic, and my sore throat was gone in minutes. The Propolis alcohol free tincture did it. Only a few drops on the back of the throat and the pain was gone in less than an hour. You can research these online for more info about where to buy, safety, dosage, whether it's safe for children and so on. The Echinacea is well known I think by many. But what is maybe less known is the dosage for when you actually already noticed a tingle in your throat. I've found this trusted info from the Herbal Academy - http://theherbalacademy.com/ I've been following their blog for years and this info is in one of their books, Herbal support for Cold & Flu season.
You can get a free copy of this eBook if you sign up for their newsletter. I have no affiliation with them, just love their work.
Echinacea, Actions: antimicrobial, alterative, immune stimulant, immuno-modulant
When using echinacea to address a virus, timing and delivery are everything, according to Buhner, who describes echinacea as a definite antiviral (citing its activity against HIV and several flu strains) with the caveat that it must have direct contact with the virus right before or at the moment of infection, which typically presents as a tingling sensation in the throat (Buhner, 2012). Doing so, Buhner says, will allow echinacea to strengthen the cellular bonds in the mucous membranes, preventing the virus from penetrating deeper into the tissues.
Direct contact with 30 drops of tincture must be undertaken every hour until symptoms are reduced.
This approach is best for colds at first onset as opposed to established infections.
Buhner also recommends direct contact at the back of the throat for bacterial infections like strep throat and tonsillitis.
Propolis: What is propolis? Did you know that honey isn’t the only thing that bees make? Bees also produce a compound called propolis from the sap on needle-leaved trees or evergreens. When they combine the sap with their own discharges and beeswax, they create a sticky, greenish-brown product used as a coating to build their hives. This is propolis.
Thousands of years ago, ancient civilisations used propolis for its medicinal properties.
Researchers have identified more than 300 compounds in propolis. The majority of these compounds are forms of polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that fight disease and damage in the body.
What the research says: Propolis is thought to have antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. But scientific research on propolis is limited. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but the bee product appears to provide protection from some bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
These anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties make propolis helpful in wound healing. One study found that propolis can help people who have had traumatic burns heal faster by speeding up new healthy cell growth.
Another study found that a topical propolis alcoholic extract was more effective than a steroid cream in reducing mast cells in oral surgery wounds. Mast cells are associated with inflammation and slowed wound healing.
There is not yet enough evidence to determine whether or not propolis products are safe, but they’re not considered high-risk. People typically take in some propolis when they eat honey. However, if you have an allergy to honey or bees, you will also have a reaction to products containing propolis. Propolis may also cause its own allergic reaction when used for a long time.
And last but not least, some healthy sweet treats you too can make at home, with the kids. The kids will absolutely love this and it's much healthier than shop bought sweets, that's for sure since there's no sugar or anything else added, just fruit.
If you haven't yet heard of this, or never tried some, you might like to give it a go. It takes a bit of time, and ideally a food dehydrator would come in handy, but if you don't have one and rather not spend money on one, an oven does the job perfectly.
All you need is some fruit, such as apples and berries, but really any fruit will do. You need to peel apples which aren't organic. Then you just chop the fruit, put it in a pot with a tiny bit of water and briefly cook it until it's soft enough to mash into a paste. Don't overcook it so as not to destroy the vitamins. Mash it up in a blender or with a fork.
Then prepare a baking sheet covered with baking parchment paper, and spread the puree thinly on it. Put it in the oven, on a low temperature, 40 to 50 degrees Celsius and leave it overnight, or longer, until it becomes leathery. It can take some time, the more water in the fruit, the longer the drying time.
Once dry, peel off the fruit leather, cut it into strips, roll the strip up if you want, like I did, and it's ready to store in an airtight container. It will keep for ages in a dry place.
I made this from my 4 quinces from the garden and a handful of crab apples and 2 regular apples. It's delicious, the aroma of the quince comes through beautifully!
And that's all for now, folks. I hope you find something of interest in this unusual mix. Stay safe, take care of yourself and your loved ones and have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas, despite all the restrictions.