Alchemy in the pantry


It all began 423 days ago.

I gathered together these assorted fabric scraps [once all white] and without pre-mordanting,
rolled, bundled, squeezed and cajoled them into glass jars along with pieces of metal
and handfuls of vegetation.
Following the protocol within this little gem of a book,

I began a very  LONG  and interesting canning experiment ...
not only an experiment in patience [wasn't sure I could wait this long for the reveal!]
but in the science - and art - of preserving.

What would grandma say?
Go peek at what these jars looked like when I first put them on the pantry shelf
February 4, 2014 ...
over here

This is what they looked like right before I opened them two days ago.
The liquid had long since turned almost black.  They each contained iron bits 
so that made sense, but I wondered if I'd made a mistake & added too much.
Also, two of the jars had slightly rounded lid tops ...
were the contents rotting, or worse - putrefying into some gads-awful mess?

I need not have worried. And I should certainly know by now
that India speaks true words when she repeats, "Trust the process."

I flung them on the rosebushes in the hedgerow to dry.
There's often great changes between wet and dry so the short wait
to see that happen was almost worse than the entire previous year's wait.

Here they are dried and pressed.

Front & back views of 60/40 cotton/silk blouse remnant,
bundled with rose leaves & metal bolts
with 1/4 c. aged copper/vinegar modifier added to the jar.
[above on far right]

What amazes me: true spring green leaf prints, the smokey black-on-black tones
from the string marks, and that the liquid from the jar smelled faintly of rose petals.

Scraps of two cotton shirts each bundled with dry purple Norway maple leaves
and metal bits - nails & screws - with additional leaves packed around the edge of the glass.
The jar was then filled with leftover - very stinky - lobster mushroom dye bath.
[jar above in middle]

What amazes me: although the jar lid was "puffed up" there was nothing growing inside ...
no bacteria, algae etc. and the smell of lobsters had almost completely disappeared,
replaced by an earthy scent; the cuff, which took color like a sponge.

I've left my favorite jar for last ... although in my earlier post I forgot about
this linen hankie entirely because I stuffed it down the side of the jar
at the last minute as there was plenty of room left
next to the ripped up linen shirt jacket.
[jar above on left]

As for my favorite - the jacket piece - iron bolts
went into the jar bottom, then the cloth was bundled
with purple-black violas, madrone bark & 4 rusty landscape pegs.
Taking a precious cue from the book, I sprinkled a teaspoon of fireplace ash
into the mix.

What amazes me: navy blues from the violas, strong distinct graphics, heavy
saturation of color.  This is a very dense linen that was not pre-mordanted and I venture
to say with a great deal of certainty that I would not have been able to
achieve this result with a one hour boil-up and a bundle opening 3 days later ...

Alchemy in the pantry.  I am smitten.

: : :

There's a wealth of jars awaiting their openings over in India's virtual pantry ...
see everyone's experiments there
Click on 'The pantry' to view the collection.

So, WHO is next?
I'm so excited for the reveals!

Have been kicking myself that I didn't experiment with whole items of clothing
for although the wait was definitely worth it, the 'time price' we pay is quite hefty
and may as well yield more of a product than a torn sleeve & a color swatch, wouldn't you say.

Ah well.  Live & learn.  All valuable, all good.

But ... I'm off soon to find some large pickle jars!


  1. oh myyyyyy - I'm just a little bit in love with all of these xxxxx

  2. absolutely gorgeous :) I got some quite nice results but nothing like this, will have to be more adventurous. one of my jars was pretty stinky due to my poor canning technique, but after hanging outside for a week or so that all went away. love your photos too :)

  3. Oh wow! I should say you ARE kicking yourself for not experimenting on a whole shirt. Think how proud you'd be to show THAT off. These pieces are gorgeous. What a great experiment.
    Happy Easter
    xx, Carol

  4. PS
    I love it when I post a comment and your pooch pops on the screen. Big hugs to her, please.

  5. What beautiful results. Worth the wait!

  6. I am thinking Qi would like to have a go at this although Im not sure I could be that patient!

    1. I just wanted to push it to the outer limits. Think you could probably have some lovely results after six months, especially with the addition of iron bits.

  7. lovely and very good results i wounder you can wait so long , even paper would not have ben good for so long time , i think i have got good result also if i not wait so long time , but your clothes has always such a good colour with your plants and water.every time i have opened a jar the smell are a bit strong ?

    1. No Bodil, I did not have strong smells from any of the jars. But I was careful to add water to within 1/2 inch of the top. Keeping air out is important, I think. The smells were more "earthy" ... like wet soil ... and the jar with rose leaves smelled faintly of roses in bloom!

  8. Absolutely scrumptious, love the pinks that you have acheived .

  9. These are absolutely magnificent! Good on you, Christi! xo

  10. I was so busy sharing this splendid post that I quite forgot to comment. Small samples are never a waste...am already envisaging them as "punctuation" marks on รก patchwork quilt , or pockets on, say, a wanderjacket

    1. relishing that idea of "punctuation" marks ... thoughts of pockets as punctuation marks .... ooooh.

  11. woo hoo out come the jars and rusty bells

  12. Unwrapping this must feel like winning the lottery..............

  13. Oh fabulous!!! I especially love the rose colored fabric (envy strikes here). It was a long wait, but so worthwhile. All this time beauty was becoming in your cupboard.

  14. Oh so beautiful. After reading about all this, I ran upstairs as fast as I could and retrieved two of hubbys white oxford shirts from the "goodwill bag". It's a start on gathering the stuff to try this out.

  15. Simply wonderful ... I keep returning to gaze at these (mere "looking" doesn't begin to express the wonder of them). Thank you for showing what patience can yield.

  16. mmm. scrumpdilly! and kudos for being soooo patient. I barely left mine 3 months and was NOT rewarded. ;)

    1. dang. Well, whenever you make it out here for a visit we're gonna have to have a cook-up, see if we can create you a little dye bliss ;>]]

  17. THANK YOU to everyone, so so much, for all the kind, amusing, informative and downright excited comments ... in particular, those of you who went running for jars & hubby's shirts - let the steeping begin! Give me a shout tho, if at any time you begin to grow impatient & develop itchy fingers for opening the jars prematurely. We can hold group 'jar therapy' sessions & encourage each other not to ;>]

  18. I have been wanting to do this myself. No patience, but your pieces are so exciting I'm going to bit the bullet and go for it. Well Done!!

    1. That's great news, susan, GO FOR IT ... I wish you every success!

  19. Replies
    1. That is a word I would not have thought of for this work, but I thank you nonetheless ;>]

  20. Oh wow, these are so subtle and earthy and I can't imagine how on earth you managed to stop yourself opening them for a whole year!

    1. "Good things come to those who wait ..." or hopes something along those lines ;>]

  21. oh, well done! when i've followed this path it's always good--the longer the better.

    1. Thanks Velma, am looking forward to the next batch already ... feels a bit like waiting for Christmas did as a child.

  22. I am always amazed at the fabulous results once the bundles are opened... I love all of them. I know I would have a difficult time waiting...

  23. Very cool! Love the shot of those jars!