dead to me...

i am snacking on a bowl of concord grapes—the first bowl of many in the coming weeks—on what is shaping up to be a cool, crisp day here in métropolis nord. everyone has a breakfast of coffee and grapes, right?

no exaggeration... i spent most of the last few weeks looking forward to this day. my lips are already itchy, as i am mildly allergic to the skin of the grapes, but it is totally worth the itch.

for the uninitiated, concords are a "slip grape", which basically means that the skin is significantly thicker than the more common types of table grapes. they are usually eaten by sucking (or squeezing) out the pulp, but you can totally eat the skins if you like.  i always leave them behind, however. itchy lips are one thing, but an itchy throat could end in a trip to the emergency room, and i am not willing to take that risk. seriously... why am i allergic to all of the things i love?

there is a plus side to all those discarded bits. the skins of concord grapes make for a great natural dye, producing a color that looks like the stain you get from spilling red wine onto light-colored fabric. makes sense, no?

i made a wall display some years ago of metal canisters mounted on a pair of metal panels through the magic of super-strong magnets. it is home to some of my hand-dyed and hand-spun yarns...

and one of those repurposed hot-chocolate canisters contains two hanks of yarn i dyed (more than four years ago) using concord skins that i had saved for several months in plastic bags in the freezer.

that yellow yarn was dyed around the same time using onion skins as the dyestuff. not bad, eh?

i am going to skip all of the relevant chemistry, but as i noted at the time, i was curious to see how the choice of mordant would alter the end product, so i pre-treated one hank with alum, and i post-treated the other with citric acid. they have both been sitting in that canister on the wall in my light-filled living room for a few years now, and i have to say that i am pleasantly surprised at the staying power of concord skins as a dye. [note: the colors appear much lighter than in that old post, as our old place had very little natural light, while our new place is flooded with sunlight most days].

it is a bit difficult to see with the camera, but upon closer inspection, the alum-treated yarn does show some discoloring along sections of the hank that were sticking out of the canister, which suggests that is it not especially lightfast. therefore, i would not consider that to be a good long-term color choice.

however, the citric-acid-treated hank appears to be consistent all the way around, and the color is a lovely non-girly shade of pink.

i plan to collect the skins from this Autumn's inevitable grape-gorge, and use them to over-dye both hanks, this time using only citric acid as the mordant. i will then try to find a pattern (maybe for a large shawl) that would take advantage of the slight difference in color between the two hanks.

overall, i think we can categorize this one as a win for kitchen experimentation. Science rules!!! and now i will have the "Bill Nye the Science Guy" theme song playing in my head for the rest of the day.

so, there i was with my lips growing increasingly itchy as i pressed one concord after another against them, when inspiration struck.

me: you know the painting i was putting off getting done because it was too sticky and hot to be handling a paint roller with sweat dripping into my eyes?
him: yes...?
me: well... i think i might get back to that now that it's nice and cool.
him: that's a good idea. 

and, just like that, it became official. so long, Summer... Autumn is here!

and just in time too, as August proved to have been the most miserable, soul-draining month i have had in years. i will spare you the details, as most of it falls well outside the range of absurdity i usually talk about here. however, i will say that it got off to a lackluster start and got rapidly worse somewhere toward the middle. then, as i was holding my breath in hopes of getting through that last week with some measure of sanity intact, the universe saw it fit to destroy that plan.

i admit that there were a few moments of humor (like our trip to a fiber festival, and the debacle with a dress that has since been marked for destruction by fire). but mostly it was stress, heartburn, sleepless nights (more than usual), and a whole lot of tears.

so.. yeh... bon adieu, August! may we never meet again. 

and, yes... i do realize that said month will (probably) come around again next year, but i will be referring to it as Jultember. August is dead to me!

now, i get to look forward to Autumn... my absolute favorite time of the year.

there are all sorts of lovely fruits and veggies coming into season, so there will be lots of food adventures in the coming weeks. i have two dozen jars waiting to be sterilized and a massive bag of beets that need pickling. we have been watching "The Big Painting Challenge", so the Wednesday Watercolor Society will likely resume semi-regular meetings... just never on a Wednesday. and, after mostly neglecting my knitting during the extended heatwave, i am so enthusiastic to pick up my needles and get going again.

hopefully i can (finally) finish that cardi for mom during this long weekend... unless i am making pickles... or halfway up a ladder painting walls (although, to be fair, he does all the bits that require a ladder, as my vertigo kicks in after the first rung)... or sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by watercolor paint and paper... or spinning yarn... or washing fleece... or reorganizing my stash as i plan for future knitting... or just hanging out on my favorite sofa with a cat (or three) for company while i sip many steaming cups of tea and alternate between watching k-dramas and documentaries about ancient civilizations.

i love this time of year!


  1. I, also, love concord grapes. I'm in Missouri, USA and I can get them here with a little bit of effort. I just put a grape pie in the oven. A first for me, hopefully will be delicious. I enjoy your blog.

    1. hi Cindi, and welcome. they grow a lot of concords in upstate NY, so i was always able to get them around this time of year when i was living back home in Brooklyn. they also grow them around the Niagara area in Canada, so they are usually plentiful here in Montreal. however, they seem to be scarce this season, so i buy plenty when i find them.

      i have never had a grape pie, but that definitely sounds like something i need to investigate, because grapes and pies are two of my favorite food groups.

  2. Grape pie was good, but not great. I am not sure it was worth all the effort. I think I will stick to eating them fresh.