Sadly I'm not making dandelion wine - 'summer on the tongue', to borrow from Ray Bradbury - but I am hoping to have dandelion-yellow silks and wools for a spot of summer stitching*. At the moment I'm boiling up the dandelion flowers in one pan while the threads are being mordanted in another. Without a mordant, in this case alum, the fugitive dandelion dye wouldn't 'bite' and would quickly fade.
Mordants are used in such tiny quantities when working with small amounts of fibre ... 3/16 of a teaspoon of alum (aluminium potassium sulphate) is sufficient for the six skeins of silk thread I intend to dye. So I've bought myself a handy set of itty-bitty spoons that measure a dash, a pinch, a smidgen, and a nip. Or 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 and 1/64 of a teaspoon, should you wish to get technical about it. And I've fallen down something of an etymological rabbit hole.
Convinced that the words 'dash', 'pinch', 'smidgen' and 'nip' all pre-dated 'tea-spoon' I consulted the Oxford English Dictionary. And they do. Tea drinking became fashionable during the 1600s when tea was pricey stuff and was measured using small 'tea-spoons' equivalent in size to an apothecaries' dram. Yet pinch denoted the much smaller, 'amount taken up between finger and thumb', at least a century earlier, and Shakespeare wrote about dashes and doses of this and that. So who decided that a pinch was half a dash, a smidgen half a pinch, and a nip half a smidgen? I'm guessing either Fannie Farmer or an early measuring spoon manufacturer, but does anyone know different?
Back in the kitchen the thread and dye liquor have been united. I'll let you know how I get on! And meanwhile ... know any dialect names for dandelions? They were 'piss-a-beds' in Somerset where I grew up, or 'one o'clocks'.
* Dandelion roots are reputed to yield a magenta dye, but I've yet to hear of a dyer who has achieved anything more exciting than a mucky fawn.
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