Turkey Red

Yup, I’m still here—so is Pearl. As a matter of fact, I’ve got some ideas for reviving Pearl the Squirrel. But as the business of life intercedes, these remain mostly ideas.

One thing I’d like to do with this blog is share some of the intriguing textile-related things that pop up in my view. Today is an interesting video about Turkey Red. If you’re at all interested in textile history or quilt history, Turkey Red is a term that you’ve heard, but if you’re like me you don’t know much about it. Thanks to Karen Alexander’s post on the American Quilt Study Group Facebook page, I know a little more. She shared a link from the University of Glasgow’s Textile Conservation program, about PhD student Julie Wertz, who is applying her chemistry background to the study of Turkey Red.

The process to create Turkey Red fabrics was used in Glasgow (where Julie is studying) from the late 1700s to the 1930s. No one apparently knows how the process works chemically, just that it does. She’s created a lovely, super-short video to explain it simply, for those of us who glaze over at the word “chemistry.” Make sure to watch it til the end, where the magic happens.

(If you’re into it, she’s got two more videos, one about Prussian Blue and one about Chrome Yellow.)

And thanks for reading.

Rhubarb Dreams

I have lots of quilt-related photos to post…one of these days. But for today, I’m touting rhubarb.


Short version: Years ago we made rhubarb simple syrup as a basis for rhubararitas—rhubarb margaritas. They were a hit and I wanted to make them this week for my youngest daughter, who’ll be home for a wedding. Yesterday I combined two cups of water, two cups of sugar, and a pound of cut up rhubarb and simmered for 20 minutes, This morning I mixed the “dregs”— the well-cooked rhubarb solids left after pouring off the simple syrup—in my plain yogurt it was deeeelicious! Looking forward to the simple syrup, too. (This drink sounded also sounds like a good way to use it: The Rhubarb 75.)

My dad and daughter toasting with their rhubarbaritas in 2010

Rhubarb is one of those fruits (really it’s a vegetable) that I just can’t bring myself to pay for—it seems to grow like a weed and lines the alleys of old neighborhoods in Iowa City. I haven’t have success growing it at my house though, perhaps because I planted it in the backyard, too close to three huge walnut trees. So if a friend didn’t share rhubarb from their bounteous patch, I often went without.

Last fall we redid some landscaping in our front yard and I realized that the side of my garage—nearly hidden from view but warm and sunny, would be the perfect spot for rhubarb, which once it’s established can be neglected. The big leaves would help keep the weeds down and I’d have all the rhubarb I wanted. I bought two plants and got two from my friend Anne, who has an enormous patch on her farm, and it’s those latter two that have grown like crazy and that I was able to harvest.

My sister with our 2010 rhubarb simple syrup

I didn’t grow up with rhubarb, as it doesn’t do well in southern California, but I learned to love it at my Aunt Marcia’s farm in Minnesota. Her rule was that you could pick it until the 4th of July, and I’m looking forward to more rhubarb this year, and lots more next year, when it’s all better established. My rhubarb dream—an unlimited supply that I’ll never have to pay for—is coming true.