Hi there everybody,
Now that it’s November, it’s time to start thinking about the making of Christmas gifts. Many gifts take a fair bit of preparation time, especially if you are going to try and knit everyone in the family a pair of socks. Gifts that involve drying herbs and flowers and cooking also need plenty of preparation time. Since there’s less than 2 months until gift-giving season, now is a good time to make a list of the things you’d like to make. To that end, this week I’ll give some instructions for making pot pourri and pomanders, two things that need about six weeks to complete. Real knitters know that knitting doesn’t stop when the weather warms up so there’ll be a yarn review as well. (Actually, I do more knitting in the hottest part of summer that other times of the year. It’s way too hot to go outside so I sit inside by the air conditioner, watch the Australian Open tennis and knit.)
MAKE YOUR OWN POT POURRI
Pot pourri is a fragrant mix of dried flowers and spices that is put around the house and in wardrobes to be both decorative and air perfuming. I like to make it myself with a mixture of flowers and herbs from my garden, some purchased whole spices, dried citrus rind and a little essential oil or perfumed oil.
Drying the flowers and herbs
Pick a mixture of flowers and herbs from your garden. I used lavender, rosemary, santolina and rose petals. You could also use lemon balm, thyme, lemon verbena and calendula flowers. Tie the herbs up with string and hang somewhere to dry. The rose petals can be dried in a paper or string bag. I find the bags that onions come in to be best. I don’t usually have enough rose petals at one time so I let some dry and then pick some more and so on until I have enough.
To make dried citrus rind, peel strips from citrus fruit with a vegetable peeler. Using a needle, thread the strips onto a string and hang to dry.
Drying the ingredients for pot pourri will take a week to 10 days.
Once the herbs and flowers are nice a dry it’s time to mix everything together. Strip the leaves from the rosemary and santolina and cut the flower heads from the lavender. Put them all in a large bowl with the rose petals and citrus peel.
Other ingredients you might like to add to your pot pourri are star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves and ground spices. The whole spices add interesting texture and the ground spices add significantly to the fragrance. The other vital ingredient is some essential oil or perfumed oil. The oil will be absorbed into the dried ingredients and keep the whole thing smelling good for a long time. You only need a few drops of your favourite. To my mixture I added 3-4 drops each of orange, lavender and rosewood essential oil.
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Put the mixture into an airtight container and store it in a dark place for 4-6 weeks to allow the fragrances to develop and mingle. It is then ready to be packed up as a gift or displayed in bowls around the house.
MAKE YOUR OWN POMANDER
A pomander is usually hung in a wardrobe or cupboard and serves a very similar purpose to pot pourri in that it is both decorative and sweet smelling. The other benefit of a pomander is that the smell will keep moths away from your clothes. They are quite amazing things to make and you’d think it couldn’t work but it does.
What you need
An orange, a handful or two of whole cloves, a knitting needle or skewer, 1 tablespoon of mixed ground spices, a couple of metres of satin or velvet ribbon, a pin (dressmakers pin) .
Take your orange and start sticking the whole cloves into it. If the skin of the orange is a bit tough, poke holes for the cloves with the knitting needle or skewer first. Put the cloves fairly close to each other, not quite touching. (Have a look at the picture). When the whole orange is well covered with cloves, roll it in the ground spices. Put the orange in a paper bag and leave it in a dry dark place for 4-6 weeks. The whole thing will shrink and shrivel and dry, the clove oil preserving the orange inside. When it is good and dry, attach some ribbon as pictured. Secure the ribbon with the pin in the bottom of the pomander. You can now give it as a traditional gift or hang it in your wardrobe.
In the photo below the pomander on the left has been in my wardrobe for a few years. The one on the right is in progress.
SELBY’S YARN PICKS
Live 2 Knit Claudette. 100% Mongolian Cashmere, fingering weight, 55g/375metres, $30.90.
This is the kind of yarn that you buy just so you can hold it next to your cheek and pat it. Pure luxury. I have had the pleasure to knit with and feel a scarf made from it. It is very soft and has a lovely halo when knitted. It is sold as a 4ply yarn but I think it’s closer to a 3ply when knitted up. It has a slight tendency to split so don’t use your pointiest needles. There is a very wide range of hand dyed colours available so everyone should find a colour they like. It isn’t cheap but you certainly get what you pay for with this yarn. This is special occasion luxury yarn, but don’t hide it away just for special occasions! At just over $30 it’s still cheaper then buying a readymade luxury cashmere scarf or going to Mongolia to find one! I think this yarn is best suited for lace shawls and scarves or small luxury beaded hand warmers that don’t need to stand up to hard wearing. You can find it and other beautiful yarns at Live 2 Knit.
That’ll do for this week. My trip to England looms closer (I leave on the 13th) and I’ve got Christmas knitting to do and a sock knitting class to organise. For those living in or near Adelaide, don’t forget the Craft and Quilt Fair is on 8-11 November at the Showground.
Have an excellent crafty week. Sarah.