Hopelessly addicted to cabbage …

Our local fruit and veg barn couldn’t believe how much cabbage I was buying.
“Wow – you really love your cabbage don’t you!” they said.  So, I tried to explain.
Which probably made the situation worse.  I’m sure they now think I’m some sort of obsessed fibre munching, cauldron boiling witch 😊

I will admit that over the last few weeks, things got just a little bit out of control.  I became rather hooked on the purple cabbage eco-print process. Almost every morning I ventured out into the garden to gather plant matter to be layered between papers of various weight and texture – tracing paper, swing tags, serviettes … anything I could lay my hands on really.

Into the pot with purple cabbage and mordant to simmer for forty minutes, and then the impatient wait overnight for the dawn (well, almost dawn) unbundling.

I experimented with alum and copper mordants. Copper seems to result in a clear pale blue background with some shades of pink …

Whereas Alum gives a darker, smoky greyish blue …

I’ve amassed quite a pile of dyed papers, and thrown more than a few on the compost heap.


I’ve framed several of the better papers …

And I’ve made this year’s Christmas cards …


I’m putting together an artist’s notebook which I’ll bind, when I’ve refreshed my memory on the Coptic binding method.

If you’d like to read my relatively foolproof method, Purple Cabbage eco-print recipe

Purple Cabbage, an eco-print recipe

 

I am in no way an expert on the eco-print process, but over the last few weeks I have worked out a relatively fail-safe method of printing plant images on to paper using purple (red) cabbage. Keep in mind that you will never get the same result twice – it’s just the way with nature – so expect the unexpected …

If you’d like to see some of the results I’ve achieved using this method, Hopelessly addicted to cabbage.

Preparation …

Gather up a bucket of foliage, leaves and flowers of different textures, shapes and colours.  Avoid large soft leaves as they can turn to mush when they are simmered – geranium leaves are an exception.  Gather more than you think you need.

Some of the leaves and flowers that I used were – lilly pilly, geranium, tree fern fronds, red camellia, tulipwood, lemon myrtle, salvia, grevillea, bamboo and eucalyptus.

Make up a spray bottle of vinegar spritz – I used approximately 70% water/30% cheap white vinegar.

Gather up your paper – try 80/110/180 gsm paper or swing tags or whatever.

The Process …

Start layering your paper and plant matter.  Spritz the paper, then lay down the plant matter and spritz again.  Use plenty of plant matter because some will leave colour, some will interact with each other, some will just leave an outline and others will do absolutely nothing.  Keep layering until you have a thick but manageable bundle.

I use a piece of ordinary 80gsm computer paper for the first and last layers of the bundle – this protects the paper from excess colour.

Use bulldog clips or string to secure your bundle so that the paper and plant layers are pressed firmly together.

Put the bundle in your container of water and bring slowly to a simmer – NOT a boil.  Then simmer for 20 minutes.

Then for a small container, add approximately half a small purple cabbage, chopped into smallish chunks, and ½ a tsp of either alum or copper.

Simmer DO NOT BOIL for 20 minutes and then TURN OFF THE HEAT.  This is really important because if you continue to simmer the cabbage it can “de-nature” which will turn the dye brown and give your paper a muddy look.

Now the Hard Bit …

Step away from the pot and don’t open the bundles until the following day.

The Next Day … (or longer)

Remove your bundles from the pot and stand them in the sink for about half an hour to drain.  Then untie your bundle and carefully peel away the layers, watching out for plants that give a particularly nice outline or colour.  Then leave them to dry on a towel – I don’t wash my papers.

The Day After that …

Do it all again😊

The cabbage experiment …

For the last week, my house has smelt like a sauerkraut factory. In fact, unless you are partial to the smell of boiled cabbage, the word you would probably use would be stink rather than smell.  The aroma of stale boiled cabbage is NOT nice.

What was supposed to be a quick eco-dyeing experiment with Purple Cabbage, iron and eucalyptus leaves, turned into a week long obsession quite by accident. On discovering that I had run out of plain cotton fabric to insert between the layers of fabric and leaves, I decided to improvise by inserting sheets of ordinary copy paper before wrapping it around bamboo and simmering it in a pot of cabbage water and iron.

I expected that the paper would be a soggy mess destined for the compost pile, but no, there were some really lovely outlines of leaves on a soft aqua background …

So then of course I was hooked. I had to continue, with different weights of paper – 80gsm, 110gsm and 250gsm, and fresh leaves, dried leaves and leaves soaked in iron water. Endless possibilities.

At the same time, and in the same pot, I was trying fresh and dry Eucalyptus citriodora leaves on linen …

And some unidentified dry eucalyptus leaves on Raw Silk

Every morning I bounded out of bed to see what unbundling suprises awaited me. But eventually, I had to stop, clear everything away, and simmer some citriodora leaves for a few hours to get rid of the stale cabbage aroma.  I’ll be at it again as soon as I’ve caught up with my garden jobs.

Burnt Citrus Syrup recipe …

I have recovered from my tasting session – so here is the printable recipe from my previous post

Ingredients

  • You will need a selection of sweet and sour citrus – orange, mandarin, cumquat, grapefruit, blood orange, lemonade fruit etc – this is a great way to use up ugly, misshapen or blemished citrus.
  • A selection of herbs and spices, for example – coriander seeds, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cloves (not too many), star anise (ditto)
  • Two or three large wide mouthed jars – sterilised with boiling water
  • Enough sugar syrup to fill the jars and cover the burnt citrus. There are plenty of recipes for sugar syrup on the internet. I used two parts sugar to one part water dissolved over low heat. Warm the syrup when you are ready to fill the jars.
  • Optional – ½ tsp each of Tartaric Acid and Citric Acid for each jar to help preserve the fruit.

Method

  • Chop the citrus into chunks, pop them on some baking paper in a large roasting pan and sprinkle over the herbs and spices.
  • Slow roast them in the oven at 130C (260F) for four to five hours. It will look a bit like a baking disaster but never fear, it’s all good.
  • Allow to cool and then split the citrus pieces and herbs roughly evenly into the sterilised jars. Add the Tartaric and Citric acid, fill with warm sugar syrup, seal and wait for one month. This is the hardest part.
  • Spoon the syrup and a piece of citrus into your glass and add sparkling wine, gin and tonic or just plain sparkling water for a mocktail. Unless you like crunchy spices in your drink I would suggest leaving them out.
  • Eat the sozzled piece of citrus when you have finished your drink.

Notes: This makes a very sweet, unctuous syrup which can be diluted. The citrus pieces will probably only last for a few drinks after which they will become a bit soggy and you’ll need to throw them out.  Prolong the life of the syrup by storing it in the fridge.

Warning: This is completely deadly when combined with alcohol – so be careful!