Homemade Wine “Blankets”

By , February 26, 2012

Our home winemaking is bubbling along nicely, with eight 1-gallon batches currently underway. Restarting this process in winter has made consistent temperature an issue on the homestead, particularly during the primary fermentation period.

Unless it’s particularly cold, say below 20°, we don’t burn the woodstove overnight. The log walls hold heat well, and the cast iron stove continues to heat the house long after the fire has died in the evening. By the time we wake in the morning, the cabin usually has not fallen below about 55°, a very comfortable nighttime temperature for us.

However, during primary fermentation, we need the wine to stay closer to 70° if possible. To help with this, Michelle has made wine “blankets.”

wine blankets

Homemade wine blankets to keep fermenters warm (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

These are simple: an appropriate length of insulating, reflective cloth covered by a cotton shell, with a couple of hook and loop sets positioned to accommodate the 3-4 different sized and shaped vessels we use. She puts one of these together in about an hour on our treadle sewing machine; much of that time is devoted to selecting fabrics. When complete, they can easily be wrapped around a jug and fastened tight, to hold the liquid’s warmth overnight.

Besides doing this important job, they’re also somewhat decorative, particularly when used on batches with a must bag—they decorously conceal the weird glob of unidentifiable material looming rather unpleasantly in the jar.

With all the fermenters lined up in a row, wrapped in blankets, Michelle has begun referring to them as my “wine babies.”

6 Responses to “Homemade Wine “Blankets””

  1. Chris says:

    You have to tell me what types of wine you are making there! I’m not much of a wine drinker, but I am very interested in the entire homebrew deal…

    I would love to give beer a shot myself, but I find it all intriguing.

  2. Astrid says:

    Looks good, I always covered them with a fleece blanket, but we used the carboys 23 liter ones.

    I have a treadle machine, restored and everything, but never actually sewed on it…I always see I do that on a cold winterday..but there always seems to be other stuff to do.
    Right now I’m on a deadline for a quilt and use my electric machine…but ONE day…One stormy winterday.

  3. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Astrid, I envy you your 23 liter carboys! As you may have picked up from my wine posts, I’m new enough to the process to limit myself to 1 gallon batches. I find that far easier, less risk of wasting resources, and far kinder to my head if the racking goes wrong. I look forward to working up to bigger batches. Not sure whether Michelle will make me new blankets for those “babies” or not . . . .

    Electric machines are great, but Michelle commented the other day that other than missing the ability to go backward, and the occasional zigzag stitch, the bulk of her sewing can be done just fine on the much quieter, more energy efficient treadle machine. I sew some, but have not used the treadle, personally. I should figure out a project (like, say wine blankets?) and do some of my own sewing.

    Mark

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Chris,

    So far, it’s been raisin, prune, and grape juice concentrate (for juice, not wine concentrate). We hope to expand to others as the growing season allows, such as rhubarb, local berries, maybe spruce.

    I’m interested in trying beer, too, but they say it’s a lot more demanding. Plus, one of our neighbors runs the local brewery, and for my taste, there’s no better beer anywhere, so there’s not a lot of motivation for me to try to match it. Maybe some day?

    I believe vinegar making is a similar process, that might be fun to try if you’re interested in brewing, but not much of a wine drinker. Of course, apparently the easiest way to make vinegar is to make wine badly, so it seems one can’t lose!

    Mark

  5. Astrid says:

    My machine is from 53, so that might be different than the one Michelle is using, but I know buy using the treadle different..the machine should go backwards…and there is an attachement to it..that is supposed to make a zigzag.
    BUT as I mentioned before..I haven’t sewn on mine..so I might be soooo wrong LOL

    I also have an old fashion (antique?) knitting machine, doesn’t use electric..but that too seems to be another winter project…just doesn’t know which winter that will be.
    For now..I stick with knitting needles and my own hands.

  6. Mark Zeiger says:

    I think she might have an attachment that does button holes, which would provide a zigzag. I might be misquoting her. I know that she learned to sew from her grandmother on a treadle machine, so if there’s a way to make this one go backward, she would probably have found it.

    I’m with you–hand knitting seems like it’d be better to machine knitting. Still, winters can be long–you never know what you might learn!

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