Monday, 29 October 2012


It is pomegranate time again, one of my favourite fruits which I eat on their own or with a mixed leaf salad. I also loved drinking fresh pomegranate juice while I was in Turkey last year. The pomegranate, Punica granatum is a shrub which grows to between 5 to 8 metres. It has been mentioned in the Book of Exodus and the Quran. The fruit is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diarrhoea and intestinal parasites and the seeds and juice are considered a tonic for the heart. In Ancient Egypt, the pomegranate was a symbol of prosperity and in Ancient Iran it was a symbol of fertility, it is a also associated with the myth of Persephone. I bought some pomegranates a few days ago but forgot to eat one, so as I hate waste, I boiled up the whole of the rather rotted fruit and made a dye. To the dye bath I added Alum and then mixed fibres and cloth such as carded cocoon strippings, wool threads, calico and cotton thread. Each fabric and thread took the colour in a different way, the calico turned a soft pink, some quilting wool turned yellow and surprisingly the carded silk became a dark chocolate shade with areas of ginger.
I created a piece of work for my Amulets and Talismans exhibition. The design was produced using sketches of tiles from a courtyard in Granada. The wool was dyed with Brazilwood and then hand stitched. Some beads were recycled from a necklace, a lucky find as they closely resembled the seeds of pomegranate. This can be seen above. This piece os now sold.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

october U3A Nettles

We had a very informative meeting with a talk on nettles by our group member, Claire.
She covered a wide range, from nettles in literature through medicinal uses and growing, to a most interesting and indeed scary section on nettle type plants in other countries. Some of the latter for example the Stinging tree from Australia and the Little nettle from the USA could have very severe consequences to humans and animals when touched.
A Modern Herbal by Mrs. Grieve provides us with some further information. It states that the juice of the nettle provides an antidote to its own sting; it being applied brings instant relief. Rubbing the affected part with rosemary, sage or mint leaves is also claimed to be beneficial. The Anglo-Saxon name for nettle is said to be derived from Noedl {a needle] either due to its sharp sting or in reference to the fact that it was this plant that provided the thread used in former times in Germanic and Scandinavian nations before the introduction of flax. Its fibre is very similar to hemp or flax. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Nettle fibres were still being used in Scotland for weaving the coarser household napery. The nettles need to be retted like Flax but is a stronger, more hard wearing fibre than Flax and not as harsh as Hemp.
Clothes and camouflage nets made using nettle fabric and dyes were produced in the two great wars by both Germans and British. Ramie, the fibre of the grass Boehmeria nivea, a tropical nettle, was widely used in the wartime to make gas masks.
Nettles are again being investigated as an alternative fibre plant for the manufacture of eco clothing. The fibres are hollow allowing them to trap air and thus provide insulation. For summer clothing the yarns are twisted to reduce this insulation. The juice from nettle stems can produce a good green dye while the roots give a yellow colour. See the website for further interesting information on Nettle as a clothing and fibre plant. A most excellent book, Hedgerow medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, provides us with many more interesting uses for nettles.