Quintessential Texas Vacation

Porch time…

Overlooking Lake Buchanan.

Overlooking Lake Buchanan.

Rocking chairs in the shade.

Rocking chairs in the shade.

Swimming holes…

Spring fed Blue Hole in Wimberley.

Spring fed Blue Hole in Wimberley.

Or rivers, in town…

San Marcos River.

San Marcos River.

And out of town…

Pedernales River.

Pedernales River.

Dance halls…

Our beloved Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas.

Our beloved Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas.


Waiting for the show.

Waiting for the show.

Larry Joe Taylor, Cory Morrow, and Roger Creager

Larry Joe Taylor, Cory Morrow, and Roger Creager

And don’t forget to hit all the thrift stores and fruit stands for souvenirs!

Road trip treasures.

Road trip treasures.

My husband had the idea for us to do a throwback vacation – to do all the things that meant “summer” in our un-air-conditioned childhoods.  It was wonderful!

The Cloth Antiquary

The Cloth Antiquary

What do you do when there’s no Wikipedia page?

In my last three posts, I have given you some small samples from the 1936 book, The Romance of French Weaving.  There are so many fascinating stories in this book – misappropriated inventions, stolen designs, forbidden dresses, government intervention, even 17th century royal “product placement”.

Throughout the book he referred to himself as a “cloth antiquary”, a descriptive term I liked.  I began to wonder about the author, and how he came to know so much about textiles.  The author bio on the book cover says only “Head of the great House of Rodier, internationally known manufacturers of hand-woven fabrics.”  I think I am pretty familiar with the names of famous design houses, but this was one I didn’t know, so I started to hunt.

There are no complete biographies of Rodier on line, but what I am finding suggests a man with a multifaceted career.

Paul Rodier was born in 1867 into a family with a textile firm that is still in business, mostly in knitwear.  The fact I see most often repeated about the company is that Coco Chanel used their silk jersey fabric for a popular line of fashionable women’s wear.

In the 1920s and 30s, stories and ads featuring Rodier designs can be found in periodicals like French Vogue, Monsieur, and Les Modes.

Pyjama fabrics from Monsieur magazine, 1921.

Pyjama fabrics from Monsieur magazine, 1922.

Casual menswear from Monsieur magazine, 1920.

Casual menswear from Monsieur magazine, 1920.

Scarves from 1920, in Monsieur magazine.  Notice the Greek warriors!

Scarves from 1920, in Monsieur magazine. Notice the Greek warriors!


During the same era, I can find many mentions of Rodier on the boards of textile industry organizations.

In the March 1924 issue of French Vogue, writer Marjorie Howard wrote about spending a whole day with Rodier, touring the homes of the weavers in the towns of Bohain and Seboncourt.  Here are some excerpts (translated by Google Translate and me):

Old craftsmen, trades of yesteryear
how French manufacturers produce their marvelous fabrics

A company that extends over an area of over 150 kilometers is certainly important thing! Well! there had to be the big surprise for me: namely that a fabric factory in France does not look anything like a factory as we usually imagined, providing a powerful driving force and bringing together in the same place several hundred workers.  This, indeed, is composed mostly of villages and small towns where all the inhabitants live and work in their own homes, with business belonging to them and under the daily supervision of “rondeurs” responsible for providing each with essential raw materials, to be converted into woven pieces. And I discovered there, not without astonishment, why the French industry remains unequaled in all  luxury products.

Rodier …and [several other French design houses] wisely abandon other nations’ intensive production of upholstery materials, to turn their attention to novelty, and stay primarily creators, adept at taking advantage of the dexterity and the inventive power that are the prerogative of the French craftsman.

Across the threshold of the first house, a surprising spectacle awaited me: four generations living under the same roof, three of which presently occupied in weaving, and a fourteen-year-old looking forward to his turn enter into the profession! A large room on the ground Floor, with, in the corner, a stove on which steamed the soup for the next meal; near it, disdainful and indolent, the inevitable cat, companion of the entire household, and against the immense floor-to-ceiling windows, two looms, so the appearance of the interior was airy and light.

Before one of the looms, the son, a boy of sixteen, was weaving a blue serge with a complicated design of a wide red border: for only two years has he handled the shuttles, but is already entrusted with hard work. On a wooden bench polished by long use, before the second loom, the grandfather on his side ended a large red and green flower design; on a natural background, with, on each side, a red border along the fabric; and sitting beside him, an old woman with white hair and rosy cheeks – his wife – was helping to follow the complicated movement of the shuttles of different colors.

“And how long do you work each day?”

“From six in the morning to nine at night, and sometimes even up to ten o’clock when I want to end the flower I started”.

And the old man did not doubt that his simple answer summarized in a few words, the point of view of the artist for whom time is relative and that counts only the success of the work undertaken. What a contrast to the plant operator, whose working hours are measured for each minute!

The Rodiers, moreover, never use the term “worker”, but “artisan”, or “designer” for the weavers who work for them, while managers and foremen are not “employees”, but “collaborators”.

Bohain and Seboncourt are in northwest France, and were on the path of the German invasion in 1914, and Rodier and his foreman Quersonnier told Howard stories of how their business fared during the war.  Rodier took a suitcase of samples down to Lyon in the southeast, and worked with weavers there.  His foreman stayed in Bohain, hid the company’s documentation and patterns, and endured regular visits from a German officer who threatened to destroy all the fabric samples.  Towards the end of the war, Quersonnier made a list of all the damage the Germans had done, and got an officer to sign it, saying he wanted it “as a souvenir of the war.”  Then, when Armistice was declared, he brought the signed list to the Committee on Repairs to get reparation.

Even in 1924, it was apparent that things were changing:

A striking detail to the visitor is the age, usually advanced, of Bohain workers. Young heads are rare, and in only one of four houses at Seboncourt visited, we found young generations training to replace their elders. This evil is born of war, and other, less obvious, factors [are causing the change], it is nevertheless regrettable: the days of old, the son naturally succeeded their father; but youth learned during five years of life off-kilter, how easy it is to leave his native village; he found himself tempted by the existence seemingly easier, by the distractions of large cities. To remedy this situation, it is envisaged, with the cooperation of the government, the foundation of a weaving school that Messrs. Quersonnier father and son would be responsible for organizing, where a solid technical education would be given to apprentices, and love of their trade, one of the most interesting ever, would be passed on.

In the introduction to The Romance of French Weaving, Rodier writes on this theme as well:

When after the war we were, all of us, in a turmoil trying to come to a decision as to the bst way to take up the burden of industry and commerce, th choice between quantity and quality production seemed to be inevitable.

Was not the new age opening before us — an age to which we must adapt ourselves if we were to march with the times?  And was it not the Age of the Machine, to which all of us — no matter what our occupation was before the war– must now bow with respect?

But before I could make a final decision a piece of cloth came off a handloom in Picardy… Something had been decided.  The work had begun upon the handlooms, just as it had always begun upon the handlooms of France after every great catastrophe.  There was no other decision for me to make, an instinct of self-preservation had expressed itself and been put there before me!  (p. vii)

Rodier says that this is when he had the idea to write about all the French weavers who had left behind either a written or a woven record.  (And he thanks an anonymous woman who collaborated with him on the book but declined to be named!  Could it have been Marjorie Howard from Vogue?)

If you would like to see some of his more complex designs, there are some available to view online:

  • Here is a silk curtain fabric at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
  • The V & A Museum has two Rodier textiles, both still under copyright.  Here is a beautiful dress material of cream silk embroidery on cream silk crepe from 1928.  I love how the scale of the design motif changes across the fabric.  And while this furnishing sample from 1930 doesn’t look like anything special, I learned on this page that Rodier designed fabrics for the luxury liner Ile de France, and from some Picasso designs.
  • These four designs at The Art Institute of Chicago ® , also from the 20s and 30s, are much more interesting.

Paul Rodier died in 1946, so he made it through WWII, but I have not been able to find out any more about his later life. Yet.

He may have thought of himself as a “cloth antiquary”, but he also wanted to keep weaving alive and handloom weavers working in the modern age.  To achieve those goals he designed fabrics for all kinds of uses, and even wrote a book to educate and charm an audience of consumers.

A Treasury of Textiles

A Treasury of Textiles

Today is Bastille Day, and while the crowds outside are celebrating with music and fireworks, let’s slip down a cool dim hallway to lose ourselves in a treasury of French craftsmanship.

From 1732 to 1737 Marshal Richelieu (a great-great nephew of the famous Cardinal Richelieu of Three Musketeers fame), collected all the textiles he could find, that were made or sold in France, along with their prices, and contracts concerning them.  Unlike many collections which limited their samples to the finest brocades and velvets, Richelieu collected everything, from samples from the royal wardrobes to rough cloth being woven by galley slaves.


There are 205 pages of the Echantillons des tissus  available on line at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and many of the pages have multiple samples.  The website is a joy to use, the pages load quickly, and you can zoom in to your heart’s content.

And because the Bibliothèque allows them to be shared on non-commercial sites, here are just a few of them.  Remember, this was the 1730s.  All of these samples are handspun, hand-dyed with natural colors, and handwoven.  No one had yet thrown their sabot (wooden shoe) into a new, labor-saving device, committing sabotage.  The fly shuttle was 8 years in the future, the cotton gin wouldn’t be invented for 50 years, and chemical dyes wouldn’t appear for another 120 years.



A close-up of the previous so you can see the colors.

A close-up of the previous so you can see the colors.

From the royal wardrobe.  The bottom sample is a design of bunches of celery!

From the royal wardrobe. The bottom sample is a design of bunches of celery!


I love these funky little butterflies.

I love these funky little butterflies.

And Happy Bastille Day!  Vive le France!

And may all our textiles last long enough to give joy to others!


Rules, Routines, and the Restraint of Initiative

Rules, Routines, and the Restraint of Initiative

Today I am going to let M. Paul Rodier show us The Romance of French Weaving with a little tour of Paris on the thirteenth century.  The king, Louis IX, later known as St. Louis, has appointed Etienne Boileau as prevost over commerce and industry.

Drapers' Row, an illustration from The Romance of French Weaving

Drapers’ Row, an illustration from The Romance of French Weaving.  I can’t find its original source.

Along Draper’s Row, the apprentices, with a great clatter, are opening the heavy wooden windows; the upper half serves as an awning over the ledge with the lower half becomes; upon the ledge the bolts of cloth will soon be piled ready for the day’s selling.  It is an excellent counter at which to stand, if the buyer is not too tall, for the jutting second story of hte house will protect him from the rain; if he is tall, he is likely to bump his head against rafter and beam.

Downstairs, the family are at breakfast around the fireplace in warm obscurity.

It is not a small family, for there are, besides the two sons and a daughter, the apprentice and the valets, as the assistants are called to have finished their apprenticeship… While they sit there talking of what enters into the day’s work and into the city’s life, a horn blows at the corner of the street.

You might believe it is a summons to battle, so quick is the change of spirit, for this is the horn of the night watchman blowing “broad daylight” before he goes off duty; it is a sign that work may begin.

And work begins!

The house is full of looms; the weaver is permitted to have three for himself — two for broad cloth and one for narrow — and three for each of his sons.  At five of these nine, the men are at work while the apprentice does the running up and down stairs for the yarns … stored up in the attic, there where the apprentice has his room.

The looms which a weaver may have are limited by rules in order that no one may try to get the monopoly of weaving just because he can afford to hire weavers to work for him.  No one may have any loom outside his own house; if a man has to step outside his door to reach another workshop he is considered to have transgressed the regulations.  His looms will be confiscated, and he himself ostracised.

The noise of five looms all going at once is enough when you think of each house adding its quota of click-clacking, and the “criers” at their daily clamour, advertising their own wares or those of others.  Paris is a lively place on a spring morning!

Suddenly the noise increases to a perfect pandemonium!

The cause of this tumult?  that man who has come around the corner and stopped in front of our draper’s window to look at the cloth.  Drapers’ Row, by some sixth sense, has recognised the presence of a customer.  And as there is a chance of persuading him to come to another window, every draper, standing in his own door, shouts the virtues of his own cloth and very often — I am ashamed to say — unfriendly remarks about the cloth of his neighbor!

Yet there must be some personal reason which brought the man to our draper rather than to any other, for all the cloth along the Row much measure up to the standard set down in the “statutes” as the rules of the Trade were called.  There are rules to control the raw material which enters into the cloth; the way it must be prepared for spinning’ the number of threads set up in the warp; the nature of the weft; the width of the piece when finished; the number of aunes [a unit of measurement which varied from town to town] in the length of the piece before the weaver may take it from the loom; the methods and colours of the dyers!  Nothing is left to the imagination of the weaver, fuller, or dyer.  The consumer’s interest is well guarded, and the reputation of the Paris draper.

…the drapers, willy-nilly, must shut up shop on Saturday, every one of them, and come to the market to sell their cloth and make their purchases for the ensuing week.  This rule was due to the fact that the King got his best tax from the sales at the market-place; and since he protected it this was deemed fair.

The vesper-bell echoes through all the Middle Ages!  What silence falls upon Drapers’ Row after it has rung!  For the work must stop at once; only the folding of cloth and the putting away of tools is allowed.  If a loom is heard then, or later in the evening, in any house, the neighbors look into the matter at once: they send for the inspectors called jurés, who must come, either two or more of them, to inquire into the activity…They must knock at the door and confiscate the cloth and impose a fine — unless it is discovered that the weaver is at work upon a piece of cloth for his own or his family’s use.  Then there will be apologies, since that sort of work at night is permitted.

The same jurés must inspect all cloth before it can be put upon he window-ledge for sale.  First of all they must be certain that it has been woven in this house and nowhere else.  Then the piece which came off the loom must have a certain length — which differs for different sorts of material.  And there must be a certain width, which is regulated by the number of threads in the warp and the width of the selvage.  Al this is written in the book of rules and is taken as the standard without any question….And the judgement of the jurés is usually a sure one, for the reputation of Paris cloth is their greatest concern.

Excerpts from pages 57 – 61

The 1301 manuscript of Etienne Boileau's Book of Trades, from Bibliotheque nationale de France.

The 1301 manuscript of Etienne Boileau’s Book of Trades, from Bibliotheque nationale de France.


Here is the first page of regulations for “Weavers of Cloth” from Etienne Boileau’s Le Livre des Metiers from 1301.  The regulations for French artisans set down in this book lasted for 500 years, and it is available online at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

If you’re interested, but you don’t read medieval French, in 1879 (perhaps for the Paris Exposition?) a print version was available.


The print version of The Book of Trades.

The print version of The Book of Trades.

If you would like to read the rules for yourself, they are available here.

If you would like to read the rules for yourself, they are available here. We textile-types are in Group Four, page 54 (image 82).


Okay, so back to the thirteenth century for one more quick look, one that really sums up the business attitudes of the times:

An enterprising man of Troyes had had the very practical idea that since the kerchiefs used for the head — they were called couvre-chefs — were always cut a certain size, it might be well to weave linen of that width, instead of the usual sheet and tablecloth width.  What more natural?  But this innovation was looked upon as a direct blow at the traditions of the linen-weavers, probably because he was having great success in selling this new sort of linen.  And the merchants appealed in a frenzied way to the King to put a stop to the enterprise.

The manufacturer himself was heard by the kind and he said that he could not understand how this departure from the usual width could do any harm to the line-weavers of Troyes.  Then came the witness for the merchants… The results was in favour of the conservatives!  The kerchief-weavers had to see the work they had begun prohibited!  Initiative, as we can realize from this, was likely to restrain its impulses thereafter in Troyes.  And in all other cloth-towns.

p. 126

This may be the answer to something that puzzled me when I was learning about the Bayeux Tapestry — why it was cut from a wider piece of cloth instead of being woven the right size to begin with.  Maybe that was just the way things were done.

I enjoy the story-tale voice of this book and these layered glimpses of the past, and I hope you have too!


The Mystery of Charlemagne’s Missing Textiles

Here’s a little puzzle to start things off:

La chaine est soie, la trame poil de chèvre, matiere qui fournit la chèvre du Thibet et que nous connaissons sous le nom de cachemire.

Some hints: it’s from 1836, and it is talking about a sample from the year 800.  Translation at the end of the post.

Yes, I have spent a week trying to translate old French documents.

It started when I picked up a book from 1936, The Romance of French Weaving by Paul Rodier.  It covers French weaving from the dawn of time until the time of Napoleon, and it is told in a folksy, story-tale fashion that makes for easy reading.  Since the author is comparing past weaving to his present day, I thought I would do a simple post, updating some of his information from resources available to us now.

Like this — a page from the book:

The caption reads, "The chapel of the good Queen Blanche, still to be seen, Rue de Gobelins, Paris, and vats (now filled up) for dyeing."  Opposite of p. 74 in book.

The caption reads, “The chapel of the good Queen Blanche, still to be seen, Rue de Gobelins, Paris, and vats (now filled up) for dyeing.” Opposite of p. 74 in book.

Contrasted with this –the modern day appearance from Google Street View, Chapel of the Good Queen Blanche in the distance.

(If we could look behind the gate in that view, I think we would see that the building now extends over those vats.)

But it is never that easy, is it!

Rodier highlights the old buildings, documents, and textiles that were still available to be seen in his day, and naturally I would like to see them too.  Here is one– Rodier says is the cope or mantle of Charlemagne, given to him by the caliph of Baghdad, Harun-al-Rashid; made of silk brocade, with figures of eagles and griffins.

The caption reads, "We can still see this cope of Charlemagne at the Cathedral of Metz."

But when I went looking for it on the web, all I found of it was this illustration from 1871:

Die Gartenlaube (1871) b 417

The caption reads, “The Coronation Mantle [word unknown] of Karl the Great in Metz.”


(And you will notice that this illustration shows the cope without the band of religious pictures that are on Rodier’s picture.)

(And from this point on, you don’t need to check out the links unless you get interested in this too and want to follow the trail of clues for yourself.)

And that is all I can find!  The Cathedral at Metz doesn’t have anything about it on their website, and if you had a piece of Charlemagne’s clothing, it seems to me you would mention it.  The big exhibitions in Aachen for the 1200th anniversary of Charlemagne’s death didn’t mention a mantle among their artifacts.

I can find a lot of references to the Cope or Mantle of Charlemagne, but they all refer to a completely different one, one that was woven for Roger II of Sicily in the year 1133/34 ( a few years after his coronation), and was not called the Cope of Charlemagne until about 1350 AD.  Here is an interesting video about that one —

and I am never going to turn up my nose at a textile video.  But what I really want to know is, what happened to the one in these pictures?  Is it still in the Treasury at Metz, but they just don’t talk about it?  Did they lose it in WWII?  Was it just incorrectly attributed all those years?  Did Rodier know that Roger II’s cope was also called the Cope of Charlemagne?  Or was he not interested in that one because it became part of the official coronation regalia of Germany, and he was more interested in promoting a local treasure?

So.  On to the second mystery.

Rodier also talks about a Bishop Theodulf from Charlemagne’s time, who placed samples of fabrics between the pages of his Bible, to protect the gold letters.

He left sixty-six of these pieces of cloth; thirteen have been either stolen or lost, but of those what are left there are several of pure silk in light colors — amaranth, purple-green-blue; there is a crêpe de Chine with a border of cashmere, a cut velvet on a diagonal ground.  Several others have the warp of silk and the weft of camel’s hair, or goat’s.  There is only one piece of cotton, a very fine piece, the colour of golden flax.  The designs in some of the borders are Persian, and brocaded.  (p. 39)

He makes it sound like the fifty-three samples from the year 900 made it to the 1930s, right?  Of course I want to see those!

Theodulf is well known, and his Bible is still with us.

A page from Theodulf's Bible, from the Bibliotheque nationale de France

A page from Theodulf’s Bible, from the Bibliotheque nationale de France


But the samples are not with it.  It was placed on view at the 1878 Paris Exposition, at which time scholars decided that the samples should be kept in a separate album for better study.

The University of Pennsylvania has a record of one digitized sample but it is not available to the public, and I think that actual sample is in Puy-en-Velay in France.

Fortunately, in 1836, M. Philippe Hedde had described all these samples, in a book with the lovely title of Essai paléographique sur un manuscrit enrichi de tissus du IXe siècle.  But, of the three copies of that book in libraries in England and France, none of them are digitized.  (An article about that book was written in 1993, but all I can find is the abstract.  All of the other back issues of that bulletin are for sale, but of course the one that I want is out of print.)

But!  In 1879, his brother Isidore Hedde wrote a 32-page letter to a journal, defending Philippe’s work.  It seems that some scholars were claiming that the Bible of Theodulf and its samples were not from the 9th century at all, but from 1511!  And obviously, if Philippe couldn’t recognize that, he was not much of a cloth expert.

So with a combination of Google Translate, a French-to-English dictionary, and my knowledge of textiles, I have been working on translating this letter to see if I can figure out where the samples went.

I really love the language of this letter.  There is a lot of “you did me the honor of informing me, ” and “I took the liberty of addressing you,”  and “I protest with all my strength your adoption of a conjecture you find plausible!”  Here’s a line I can’t wait to use: “So we may regret that a writer of your value could adopt a futile conjecture!”

Here is the pertinent information, from a footnote on p. 31 of Isidore’s article, to the best of my translation abilities:

Today, these fabrics which, at least some were probably from an earlier time to the manuscript, added great palaeographic value, assured the conservation of its interior ornaments, no longer exist in their original position. They were removed and placed in a separate album, by authorization of the hand of Monseigneur Le Breton, bishop of Puy, on the date of 13 December 1878, on the advice of very competent paleographers (Barthelmy and Leopold Delisle), as a result of the Exhibition. It would appear, they say, that this would have been decided, because of the poor condition of the fabrics. Currently unrecognizable, rolled on themselves, and threatening to destroy the drawings and characters inside the book. Note indeed a deplorable state of degradation over the entire surface of the leaves, increased by traces of wax, which we must attribute to the carelessness of officers responsible for showing this Bible to foreigners.

This is particularly unfortunate in that in 1839, Mr. Ph. Hedde was delighted by the perfect preservation of fabrics, which had kept the brilliance of their colors, and had guaranteed almost intact leaves and ornaments that were covered. Would not it better to put them in their original places, where the traces of stitching offer an easy way to restore? It would be desirable that the manuscript was deposited in the City Library, in the care of responsible Conservator.

Ah, all the lovely dependent clauses.

What I gather is that at that time, the samples had been removed from the Bible, but their whereabouts were still known.  And there the trail goes cold.  Rodier’s book doesn’t give any sources, so I can’t pick up more clues from him.

In a touching aside, Isidore says that his brother “had, throughout his life, collected samples of fabrics, ribbons, laces (all the kinds, of all materials and all countries). He had left, at the time of his death in Nimes; in 1858, a collection considerable of these various products, with notes in his hand, in a number of large volumes which unfortunately were scattered and lost.

“In 1847, Mr. Prosper Meynier, of the Chamber of Commerce of Lyon, which was near to Mr. Hedde, tried to get him to decide to give this collection to this establishment: despite my urgent entreaties, he did not do it. How this example serves as a lesson to future collectors!”

I love that last phrase in French — Que cet exemple serve de leçon aux collectioneurs futur!

In the main body of his letter, Isidore reviews his brother’s notes the samples, so at least I can find out their descriptions. I am having fun translating those notes.

Il surpasse en beaute… toutes nos mousselines modernes.”  “It surpasses in beauty all of our modern muslins.”

Étoffe brillante offrant tour les reflets miroitants de la soie cuite.”  “Brilliant stuff with all the reflections of shimmering silk.”

So did you figure out the quote I started with?  “The warp is silk, the weft is goat hair, material furnished by the goat of Tibet that we know under the name of cashmere.”  Luxury is luxury, whatever century it is from!

Mustang Grape Jelly 2015

Mustang Grape Jelly 2015

Or How to Go from This …

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 pounds of grapes.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 pounds of grapes.

to That…

43 pints of mustang grape jelly.

43 pints of mustang grape jelly.

With Some Sort of Efficiency.

Three years ago we had a good year for wild grapes, and I made mustang grape jelly for the first time.  It turned out tart and fruity, not like commercial jellies that just taste like sugar, so it was very popular with friends and family. With all the rain we have had this year, we have a bumper crop.  And now that we know how delicious it is, and that good crops don’t come every year, we were determined to get as many as we could reach.  In three hours, we picked 70 -80 pounds.

My husband, the Intrepid Grape Picker, with the ladder he bought just for this crop.

My husband, the Intrepid Grape Picker, with the ladder he bought at auction with this crop in mind.

When I made the jelly last time,  I extracted the juice by putting all the grapes through a juicer, but that was very time-consuming, and also left a lot of sediment in the juice.  My dad told me that when he was little, his mom just cooked the whole clumps of grapes and then strained the juice, so this year I decided to try that.

It is still a lot of work, but it is so worth it!  So this post is an update on my technique, to walk you through the juice extraction, and then I will return you to my previous post on the actual jelly-making and canning.

Washing the Grapes

  •  three big bowls full of water
  • a bowl to hold the cleaned grapes.

Drop big handfuls of grapes into the first bowl.  Don’t crowd them, let there be plenty of water around them.  I washed two pounds (one kilogram) at a time.

As the dirt starts to float off the grapes, grab them and dunk them in the second bowl, then the third.  Do not drain the water off the grapes, or the dirt will stay on them; just keep moving them to a clean bowl and leave the dirt behind.  Don’t leave them to soak; you don’t want them in the water too long.  I pulled out all the leaf bits, and any sticks and pine needles, but left them all attached to their stems.

Put the grapes in the last (dry) bowl.  Then change the water in all the bowls for a fresh batch.

Extracting and Straining the Juice

  • stock pot, at least 8 quart size
  • measuring cup
  • old towels or newspapers to cover the counter
  • large pitcher
  • strainers
  • ladle
  • big bowls for grape pulp

Put about 4 pounds of grapes in the pot with 1 cup of water.  Heat until it comes to a simmer, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the grapes start splitting.  Remove from heat and let settle for 20 minutes.  (The book I used for a resource, Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt, said to be sure not to let them boil or they will lose their flavor.  Some batches got away from me and boiled for a few minutes, and I don’t think it hurt their flavor at all.)

Do the first straining of the juice.  Set up a big pitcher with your choice of strainers.

Wire sieve strainer, colander-type strainer, coffee maker strainer.

Wire sieve strainer, colander-type strainer, coffee maker strainer.

Ladle the juice and pulp into the strainers. ( I like a small colander-type strainer, the middle one in the picture above, set into a wire sieve strainer — that way I can put one ladle-full into the colander strainer and press the pulp with the ladle, then easily dump the dry pulp into the big bowl to take out to the compost heap later.)

Don’t mash the grapes too hard  – it will just make the juice cloudy, and then it looks opaque and brownish in the finished jelly.  From 4 pounds of grapes you should end up with 4 -5 cups of juice.  After this first straining, put the juice in the fridge and let it settle for a few hours or overnight.

Multiple Batches

If you have a lot of grapes, you can easily clean one batch and start it heating to extract the juice, then clean another batch and set it to heating in a second stock pot.  Clean a third batch and set it aside.  By then Batch 1 should be ready to strain.  You get the idea.

Second Straining

  • more pitchers or big jars
  • sieve strainer and fine-meshed strainer

After the cooled juice has settled, strain it again.  Lots of books recommend using cheese cloth, but I don’t like it.  It is expensive and impossible to rinse clean between batches.  I have a little strainer that came with a coffee maker as a reusable filter, but I never used it for coffee.  It works really well for additional straining of the grape juice.  Some books say to use the paper coffee filters, but that is painfully slow.

You can strain the juice for a third time if you want crystal clear results.  I wanted to be done with a cooler full of grapes, so I did not stress over clarity.


Amounts and Timing – Four pounds of grapes will give you 4 cups of juice, which, after being cooked with 7 cups of sugar, will end up being 4 pints of jelly.  I estimate 1 hour to clean and do the basic juice extraction for a 4-pound batch, 1/2 hour to strain the juice a second time, and 1 hour to cook and hot-water process the batch of jelly. Some of these jobs can be overlapped if you have lots of grapes to process.

If you have your own Cherished Neighbor Liz, get her to come over and help.  You can get a lot of chatting done, and it is also acceptable to drink some wine during this part of the job, as it does not require any sharp tools or much thought.  Promise her lots of jelly — her help will be worth it.

This takes a lot of water.  You are constantly rinsing out bowls, pots, and strainers.  I would not do this in a drought year, but probably the grapes would not grow in a drought year either.

And, before I send you to my post on how to make the jelly, I have learned some options to avoid the canning kettle hassle entirely:

  • the brand Jel-Ease fruit pectin does not require hot water processing.  You boil the jelly two minutes, put it into jars, invert the jars for five minutes to seal them, turn them up and you are done!  We did a taste test and the jelly tastes fine.  It can be hard to find this brand in stores, though.  As a matter of fact, I was going to link to the company (Williams Foods is what it says on the package), but they don’t have any information about this product on their website!
  • you can use the liquid pectin, and then keep the finished jelly in the refrigerator.  (Liquid pectin can also be hot-water processed if you prefer.)

So!  A lot of work, but it is so scrumptious!  I consider this year’s Christmas shopping to be all taken care of — my family will be happy with their jars of jelly!

Pretty and delicious!

Pretty and delicious!


Through the Day with Roy G Biv

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “ROY G. BIV.”

Summer Tanager.

Summer Tanager.







Indigo Bunting in the sunlight.

Indigo Bunting in the sunlight.

Indigo Bunting in the shade.

Indigo Bunting in the shade.

Butterfly pea and Dun Skipper

Butterfly pea and Dun Skipper

The beetle and the grasshopper were from last week, but all the other pictures are from today.  I cheated a little bit by using the same bird for blue and indigo, but this is the first year I have had Indigo Buntings here and I am excited to get good pictures of them!

(I had to update because I forgot to tag and categorize!)