Thursday, 15 October 2015

Shades of Gold

My friend Celia keeps a small flock of Ryland sheep.

They are friendly, inquisitive creatures and will come up to the fence if you walk past their field, curious to see you. Celia uses them for both showing and breeding but in the past couple of years she has also had their fleece spun into yarn.

We were chatting about the different weight yarns produced and the possiblity of mixing it with other yarn from different breeds to get different colours and eventually got onto the subject of natural dyes. Now I am no expert by any means but I have had success using onion skins to dye yarn in the past.

I got our local farm shop to save me all their loose onion skins and then I dyed one of the balls of yarn. I did take photos of the process but to be honest, pots of murky looking liquid bubbling away on the stove are not that picturesque! (And not a great advert for my cooking skills!)

But to cut a long story short... this is the result and this is what I have knitted from them.... a pair of very warm and cosy chunky mitts. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a selfie of your own hand? Let's just say there were several out of focus shots of my thumb!

They really are the most wonderful shade of deep gold. And talking of gold (she says neatly segueing into a completely unrelated subject)... I also picked these fabulous quinces from an absolutely fully laden tree outside the gym that I go to very occasionally. Fortunately for me I decided to go for a swim on Monday!

Much as I enjoyed looking at a bowl full of them just like this, I thought I ought to make something with them. The first small batch I made up into a quince jam, using a recipe from the Honey & Co Baking Book. If you have ever cooked quince you will know that they are rock solid, even when ripe and the job of coring and peeling them was a bit of a faff even though the end result is a lovely dense pink jam. So after my Pilates class on Tuesday I picked some more and turned these into quince jelly, which doesn't require the removal of skin and core... but in the interests of recipe development I had a little play around and came up with a fragrant quince and orange jelly.

I had about 1.5 kg of quinces which I chopped up into small pieces... core, skin, the lot! I then added the juice of one lemon and the juice and rind of one large orange. This was all bubbled together with 1.5 L water until everything was soft and mushy. This was then let to drip through a jelly bag overnight.

I then measured the juice (which wasn't as much as I had hoped so maybe I should have used more water) and added 500g of granulated sugar for every 600 ml of juice. This was then heated slowly to dissolve the juice and then boiled rapidly until it reached setting point. This didn't take very long as the quinces are so full of pectin. I then skimmed off the scum that had formed on the surface, added a few tablespoons of orange liqueur and then potted it into sterilised jars. It made almost three full 1lb jars of wonderful rose gold jelly.

Which goes very nicely with my new golden mitts!
(Did you see what I did there!)

In between knitting and playing around with recipes, I'm still teaching machine embroidery and this week I've been getting ready to go back to Missenden Abbey for the weekend. Looking forward to seeing what my students have produced over the summer. (No pressure if you are reading)
Have a good weekend!


  1. Gina, I love every single bit of this post and the way that you have collected various topics so smoothly.

    The those mitts are wonderful with their tricky stitches and natural onion skin dye. Cosy, definitely. I think I might also have spied some pretty multicolor embroidery next to them?

    Qunce season! I've just seen Sue's post and now see that you've also put the beautiful fruit with its distinctive flavor to good use. That rose gold jelly must be incredibly delicious.

    As always, you've made me feel a bit of a lazy bones...while inspiring me to get going on some creativity.


  2. Fab post. Love a good link! Plus that colour is amazing. I started reading & wondering where on earth we were going to with onion skins. I did not expect such a beautiful colour. Got any good 2 needle sock patterns? Got new boots & want fancy socks to go with them.

  3. That wool colour is lovely as is your quince jelly.

    Do you know The Quince Tree blog, written by Sue?

  4. What beautiful yarn Gina and the golden colour is gorgeous as is your mitts!
    Love that jewel coloured jelly too. :)
    V x

  5. Your mitts are gorgeous!!!!! I adore the colour of them!!!! Oh, and yes, I do know how hard it is to get a selfie of your hand, I had great difficulty trying to do that a year ago myself! It is a lot harder than you imagine it will be isn't it. The jelly looks and sounds fabulous too! xx

  6. Yes, I see what you did there! But seriously, it's a golden blogpost in all respects. Those sheep look so solid and stocky! xCathy

  7. What a lovely lovely colour you achieved with humble onion skins. I use them to dye easter eggs, the result is almost chestnut brown on egg shells. I am really disappointed that my quince tree didn't carry any fruit this year. Not a single quince. Your recipe sounds really good, maybe I can pick some up from a market to try it out. x

  8. What a gorgeous colour!
    It's wonderful that you've been able to use a locally produced yarn.
    Have you been following the discussion about British wool on My Life in Knitwear blog?

  9. What lovely sheep - such friendly faces. Your quince jelly looks beautiful. I had a go at making quince jelly a few years ago with some quinces that a neighbour gave us, but if I remember rightly the full jelly bag slipped from my hand splattering the entire kitchen with pink puree!

  10. What fascinating looking sheep - and that golden yellow is absolutely marvellous.
    Quinces are among my favourite fruit, but I wish I could find a way of making them less like a brick to cut into! We don't get to see them much here in the tropics, but when I was growing up Mum used to stew them as well as making quince jelly. Stewed quinces and thick cream (no thought of cholesterol in those days) was to die for.
    Do you ever sleep? I think I have asked that before, you are such a busy, busy person. Cheers

  11. What a fab post! I would like to try natural dyes one day, and have never used quinces either so will be bookmarking this for future fun :)

  12. Oh yes, I saw what you did there ... left us all with a warm and fuzzy feeling with visions of golden jelly, golden fingerless gloves and oversized stuffed lambs snuggling around us. I think I smell woodsmoke and gently playing music ...

  13. What a fabulous colour! And how wonderful to have a friend who owns sheep. Quince jelly looks gorgeous too.

  14. Those Ryeland sheep are such a lovely sturdy shape. I love the shades you can get from natural dyes. Although they are soft and gentle compared with the chemical ones, they seem to glow. Your mittens are beautiful and quite unique.
    I've never tried quince, but the jelly looks wonderful.

  15. Beautiful little mitts Gina! The color is perfect for Autumn!

  16. I used to love dyeing with onion skins. Such deep shades of gold and perfect for autumn! You didn't say but I assume you mordanted with alum? What a gorgeous effect it would have on paper too. As for the quinces, I have to admit to never tasting quince jelly so I have no idea what it is like but I could look at the jars with the light shining through them for ever. Jewel bright colours. Just fab.

  17. I haven't made jelly this year -still got jars from last year and the year before. I'm glad someone is making quince jelly though. Yours looks fabulous as do the mitts. I'm about to cast on some green mitts.

  18. I love your mitts! That is such a perfect onion gold. And being Ryeland I imagine they're incredibly warm.

    Good luck with the kitchen. It's eight years since ours was last done and I'm still saying never again!


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