Windfall Scarf workshop with India Flint

I’ve just spent a lovely weekend rummaging around in hedges, picking up plants and leaves, but not for my usual food foraging, but for plant dyeing.  The weekend course was run at my usual textile haunt up in Newburgh. Alison did her wonderful lunches catering to a variety of dietary needs, including a locally made gluten free bread, which is actually proper bread, and tasty! I really should take a picture of the lunches sometime, a wonderful buffet banquet 🙂 India provides a mix of words, teaching and practical work. We start by centering ourselves and making mixed poems with words and sentences we’ve all shared as a group.

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We made a Tsunobukuro  bag out of silk to hold our finished scarf in. The circles stitched on it are a mix of merino and silk knit and were cut out of the wool/silk knit tube that we were given. The bag is roughly translated as ‘horned bag’ because of the ‘ears’ or ‘horns’ that form the handles. There’s some lovely antique ones here .

IMG_5923 The lovely kit we were given; loose weave silk (which made the bag), silk and merino blend knit tube and a mix of different threads, little silk squares (to sew onto our bag) and silk threads, to embroider lines, words, or whatever came to us from our walks.

IMG_5936 India leading her ducklings to the park on a foraging mission. IMG_5938 Our embroidered silks decorating the local park

Once we’d collected some leaves we went down to the river where we daubed and decorated the would- be bags with oozing, thick, silky river mud. It took me some time to realise why all the bags smelt of brine – duh! that would be the estuarine river mud…


when we came back we folded the silk in half lengthwise and then folding from the middle outwards, we folded into either squares or triangles. Plant material was sandwiched between the folds and the top and bottom ‘clamped’ with aluminium squares and wrapped up in string or twine. India was great and gave us each a pair of the metal square to take away with us. The bundles were put in a a dye bath with windfall leaves, tea bags, onion skins and a mix of whatever we hadn’t used up.

IMG_5955Bundle ready to go in to dye bath

IMG_5957 just put in

The bundles were left to boil for 20 mins and then simmered gently before being turned off. It’s important not to lift the lid and let the steam out as it’s doing the work.

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The bundles were left to drain and cool before being tentatively opened. It’s like unwrapping a present, never sure what will work. In general the rose family gave good prints – Rose, Raspberry leaves, Bramble leaves, Rowan, Meadowsweet, Whitebeam, though I didn’t have too much luck with my Potentilla. The dark headed grass, and Buddleia gave very good results – not ones I had chosen, that’s what’s great about sharing experiences in a class or group, I get to learn from all the others too.

IMG_5973 IMG_5974 Rowan leaving an imprint

IMG_6013 Yellow from Buddleia

IMG_5926   IMG_6005  Nice colour from the reeds.

IMG_6012     Holey scarves hanging out to dry

I made the holes that we cut in the actual tube scarf too large and plan to sew most of them up again but I can see that it gives a good effect. They can also be used as armholes to create vests/ tank tops! No pics of those as mine looked very strange – I’ll see how it looks after some more stitching before I post a picture of it 😉

We also experimented dyeing threads and using water from different sources, in different pots and vats (one aluminium, the other a nice wee ‘jeely pan’, brass jelly pan for those not familiar with the term ‘jeely pan’.) This was very useful for me as I’ve got several different pans to cook up my dye baths in, but I’d forgotten how crucial the water component can be. Rain water, stream, or loch  water is good – try not to use tap water, the water there had a surprisingly  high pH (10!) and smelt chloriney. This will definitely affect the colours coming through as we want it to be fairly acidic for the animal fibres to open up their scales and take up the dye.

IMG_5959 Berberis berries (black ones) in brass jelly pan, threads wrapped round paper and left to steep.

IMG_5980 Threads drying, blue from Berberis in aluminium pan and different water. IMG_5988 Paper from threads, unwrapped and drying. Stronger colour was thought to be from higher Kaolin content in that paper.

Miscellaneous other pictures below – took about 100 in just 2 days! You’ll be relieved to hear this is just a sample of them 🙂 IMG_5975 unmade bags drying


IMG_6007St John’s Wort leaving small red dots, almost like stitches, the cluster of red is where the flower head was

IMG_6020 Maiden hair(?) Fern – you could even see where the spores were! IMG_6023IMG_5953IMG_5949IMG_5935 IMG_5963 IMG_5970


Molds and how to look after them – Polycarbonate

I have quite a selection of different types of molds and thought it might be interesting to look at each type.

I’ll do several posts to cover them all but today I’m going to look at my favourite, and the one I work most with – my polycarbonate molds. While I have different shapes in these the ones that I use most frequently are my 100 g bar molds.




The ones I use are from Keylink and you get 3 of the shapes in the one mold. They have proven sturdy and long lasting – which is good as they’re not cheap, particularly when you’re looking at the 3D molds for Easter eggs and the like. If you take good care of them they should last a lefteime.


In the above picture you can see some of mine stacked and ready to go.

When I’ve been to other chocolate venues where you see the chocolatiers at work you’ll see the molds left unwashed and left with chocolate all round them and looking really unclean. There’s a reason for this; the chocolate lifts cleanly from the mold and leaves the mold clean (as least it is if it’s properly tempered, it can stick and leave residue if not tempered properly) and any left will prevent the next lot sticking to it, a bit like a wok building up a good working layer.



The issue I have is that :

(1) I don’t have a huge quantity of molds to work from, and you’d need to keep each colour of chocolate being used consistent with your molds (as you scrape off the sides of the mold to clean it up before letting the chocolate in it to cool.) If you didn’t you could end up having white in with dark – thus making dark chocolate have dairy in it when you might not want to due to allergy reasons, unless you have a policy to only use one type of chocolate in a set of molds.

(2) I work with strange flavours, so even keeping like with like in regards to type of chocolate being consistent, I’d have to extend this to flavour of chocolate being used having to be consistent; I’d end up needing an extra room to store all my molds!

This just isn’t practical for me, so I wash my molds between batches. This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds – there’s a knack to this. If you put molds in the dishwasher they come out blotchy – this stops the chocolate looking smooth, shiny and professional when it comes out of the mold.

I tend to hand wash mine, in approved detergent, then rinse well, then dry. I only wash 2 at a time because you have to dry them quickly – or they get blotchy looking. So wash, rinse dry, 2 at a time, 2 by 2, much like the animals in the Ark, or for those with a sci- fi bent of mind, like River in Firefly (“Hands of blue, two by two”).

Even the cloth to dry them makes a difference to a good finish, I find that the toweling ones are great for drying into all the corners and give a good polish and shine to the mold.


The linen ones work well for a couple then tend to smear I find, don’t know why, but they do. You don’t want to scratch your molds as any scratches will show up in your finished bars, that’s why polycarbonate is good as it is resilient. If you’ve used a dishwasher you can always polish up the molds with kitchen roll. I tend to use couch roll as I already have it due to the massage side of my life!

When making the bars, the mold is tapped at its’s sides or underneath, with your scraper to release air bubbles, so you want a strong mold that won’t scratch or shatter.

You know when the chocolate is ready to come out of its mold as it contracts as it cools, leaving a slight line like a crack between the chocolate and the mold, you might see it in the picture below…?



Simply up end the mold, tap it out gently and the chocolate should release easily and fall out.

Simples 🙂

I found this great YouTube demo with Jacques Torres of filling the mold and discussion of the molds at the start, it also show the tapping to release bubbles, have a look here and here  (the latter links shows Chef Derrick Tu Tan Pho demonstrating chocolate molding technique at the eGullet Candy and Confectionery Conference 2011.)