Petalplum

in the garden - gathering flowers and plant dyeing and feeling abundant

Slow & Sustainable Living, Botanical DyeEllie BeckComment
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Every year we try to plant a garden, of some sort or other. Some years we’ve had flourishing garden, picking veges and flowers, other years barely anything at all. Some years it’s determined by the floods or the lack of water. I’ve done a lot of hand watering, carrying buckets from the creek to the garden over the years (especially when we first moved here to this land, and didn’t have water plumbed in yet). Some years I’ve watched all the soil and the plants washed away by a giant flood. Or the seedlings eaten by possums or wallabies, or the fruits picked off by bush turkeys.

But this year I have this. Three raised beds (metal frames) and a raised no-dig garden bed. And a whole lot of flowers that are blooming and thriving - despite our low-quality soil, but perhaps due to all the love and watering and conversations I am having with the little plants.

The dahlia tubers were gifted to me, from my dear sister-in-law and also a dear woman who I met recently, and makes magic with flowers. The cosmos keep getting taller and taller, and gifting us new blooms each morning. The tomatoes have grown past the bamboo teepees we built for them, and are giving us sweet little pops of deliciousness every day at the moment.

Having a small space right outside out home, that I can see from my kitchen window, makes me so so happy. The pure joy and pleasure of waking each morning, to water or tend or talk to my plants begins my day with a nourishment and uplifting feeling of possibility.

We planted more seeds this week past, including some woad and indigo. Next year my dye garden, flower garden and even perhaps vege garden will grow and expand. But for now it’s helping me to grow and expand, to nourish myself in simple small slow ways.

A feeling of abundance & garden metaphor for creativity ~

My garden, for me, is a very visual representation of the way we can feel about ourselves and the world, and how we can respond and react. Tending baby seedlings is like tending to the creativity inside us, the more we watch, water, talk to, nourish, spend time with the better the plants grow. Same as giving yourself the permission to nourish your self - giving yourself good soil (materials or time or simply kind words), and time. Watering a garden everyday is necessary in our climate here. When I’m watering, I’m also watching for weeds or bugs that might each the plants.

If I spend time with my creative practice, I am noticing the things that guide me towards blooming more openly, more rawly. I can start to spot when something is wilting or something is getting ready to bloom.

Tending weeds, in the garden, or choosing to pull them up is a lesson, for me, in allowing things. Some weeds are good (especially for my dye pots), whereas other weeds I don’t want to encourage at all. If I encourage weeds in my creativity I have to look at what they’re bringing to me - do they nourish my soil in a way I might not have imagined, but actually need. Or are the weeds taking away from other things growing more happily. So.. looking at this - letting some plants develop is like letting some ideas develop and grow. Pulling a weed out is like saying no to the wrong things in my life.

You can choose, in life, in creativity, in the garden, to be happy and content with one small simple garden bed and help it to grow and bloom. Or you can wish for more, constantly spreading yourself thing tending many things, many garden beds… and nothing quite blooms the way it could.

GO plant some seeds. A tiny pot is all you need. Some herbs or flowers. Sometimes to bring a joyful feeling when you water it, watch it, pick from it, eat from it. Plant a herb pot to gift to someone else, or a little patch of sunflowers.

I’ll be sharing my new dye garden journey over the coming year - from seedling to plant, to the colours they make on my fabric… but for now I wanted to share these photos of our little garden and this tumble down tea-house that will one day be a studio space, and extra bedrooms for my kids.

PS - If you’re looking for some books* to help in your garden… these ones are on my book shelf, and I refer to them often - for different reasons. I’ll do a separate review of them in the coming weeks, if you’re interested.
Milkwood by Kirsten Bradley & Nick Ritat - so much excellent info about tomato growing, as well as foraging, wild foods, seaweed, mushroom growing and bee-keeping. I can’t wait to see what their next book might be about.
Grown & Gathered by Matt Purbrick & Lentil Purbrick - this book has SO much info about gardening, growing, eating locally.
Floret by Erin Benzakein - I am referring to this regularly at the moment. Mostly to work out at what stage of bloom should I pick a certain flower, and how best to help it last longer in the vase. A beautiful book for any flower grower.

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  • If you purchase through these links I receive a small commission from Book Depository. It doesn’t cost you any extra, it simply means a small contribution to my family income - which can go towards paying my internet bills. I thank you for your support.

Making & weaving baskets - these sweet ones my daughter made and other options for you

Creative Process, Weaving, Craft TutorialsEllie BeckComment
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MY daughter made these sweet little baskets this weekend. She’s tried in the past, and given up after only a few minutes - but as I always find with learning things, making things, and with parenting… you just need to leave the supplies there ready for when they’re ready.

I try to never push my kids into learning or doing the things that I do. They each have their own skills, passions, interests, and talents. My big two kids are both quite talented in their own creative practice; so why force my loves onto them, when they have their own!

But of course it makes me so very very happy, when they sit down beside me and pick up whatever I’m working on. Sitting beside me making, asking questions, learning, going off and trying it themselves. And boy oh boy - I think she’s got the basket-making bug! And ain’t that the best.

If you’ve never made a basket yourself, perhaps it’s time to learn.. because the basket making bug is fabulous. The look of joy and pleasure on her face when she tied off the last stitch, and snipped that raffia. Oh golly.. enough to make a mama’s heart burst. You could get that look on your own face, or see it on the face of someone you love.

It’s such a worthwhile thing to learn, if only to get our kids and ourselves off an electronic device for a short while, but also to learn an appreciation of how baskets are made, the immense amount of work that goes into all those baskets we see lining the selves of the health food or newest trendy shop, or being filled with veges at the farmers market.

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So - how do you make your own basket? Easy actually. And you might even have some supplies at home, without having to go and buy more. Of course, these one my girl stitched up are made from raffia. I buy mine from String Harvest, and then dye it myself using natural plant dyes, kitchen scraps and such, but you can also get it from Etsy or Ebay, or even your local craft shop. Do look into the ethics of your raffia, because like everything these is the sustainable option or the fast, cheap option - not that sustainable raffia is actually that expensive.

But if you don’t want to buy raffia, unsure if you’ll even love the craft, then you can use fabric, string, twine, embroidery thread, ribbon. Almost anything like that will work.

Using the exact same method as my videos show, but different materials, textures, weights and weaves you get very different outcomes and looks. It’s a wonderful way to change things up, but not have to keep learning another how-to.

This piece below was made using some string (a few strands of hemp twine that I’ve wrapped together into one fatter strand) and crochet cotton that I’ve been dyeing in all the dye pots I’ve been making lately. The cotton came from the op-shop, and the twine you can get from a hardware store, but mine is again from String Harvest.

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You could instead get some pieces of cloth and cut them up into strips, using thread or string the weave / stitch / wrap around strips of fabric. This does make a softer, less structured basket shape - but you could always use a length of thicker string or rope wrapped into the fabric to give it more stability.

All of these options make beautiful baskets, some are more structured than others, but with time, practice and patience you can learn how to manipulate the fibres to work under your hands how you’d like.

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My basket weaving class available here, takes you step by step on how to dye raffia as well as how to weave up your own baskets. The videos are filmed in such a way that you feel like you’re sitting beside me in the studio, sipping tea together and chatting about making things. Usually the online course is $45, but in the lead-up to Christmas I have put all of my making courses as a Pay What You Can Option. I would love to give access to anyone who wants to learn to make… so have decided this is a way I can give back, and help you to slow down a little, learn something new and gift something beautifully handmade.

I’d love to see what you create. Below are some baskets made by other people, students at my workshops (photos by me).  If you’ve been a student of mine, either in a workshop or from my online classes and would like to share your baskets here, please email me - I’d love to add them to this gallery page is beautiful baskets.

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Simple gifting ideas for an eco Christmas

Craft Tutorials, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment
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Let’s be truthful here, if we wanted to have a truly eco Christmas we’d probably not even celebrate at all… but I love giving gifts, and I love any excuse for family to gather around a special meal together. And if once a year we all make the extra effort, perhaps it’s worth it. Also - it’s absolutely and totally possible to celebrate without forgetting the ethos that you live with the rest of the year, and also a great time to share that with others in your family through your choice of gifts (that you either give or ask for).

I thought I’d share a few ideas of what we work through each year. And to be truly honest here… every year is different, some years I get it more right, other years I throw up my hands and let some things go. Every year is a learning lesson for me, in being more humble in my opinions, guiding my children through the crazy drama of the world, and their expectations, and other people’s expectations. In learning what to push my ideals and wishes on, and what to step back on. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you might work through it too - in a gentle way…

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Gifting:

  • Make something. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you make, it’s the made item that really matters. That fact you took the time to create something with your hands and heart, rather than picking something off a shelf. It’s a good way to talk about your environmental, political, socially-responsible ethos with friends or family… perhaps a simple note on the gift, so they could look into it later, rather than heated discussions on special days.

  • Gift special food items - jams, chutneys, pickles. If you can’t make your own, don’t worry, there’s lots of little markets around at the moment where people are making lovely things to share like that. This way you’re also supporting someone else in their making. Imagine a whole box of cherries, mangoes or stone-fruit gifted - something that might be out of the financial reach of your giftee.

  • Buy handmade, from a local market or artist or gallery. Or find a local online person - searching on Etsy local is a good way to find your community.

  • Gift an experience or a voucher to help them around the house or garden, or the commitment to take them somewhere special - even a picnic at a local creek might be something they don’t do very often.

  • Plants are always a beautiful gift, in my mind. Think about the space they live in, and what time they available to care for the plant. Sometimes a pot of living herbs is enough, or a fruit tree and the promise to help plant it.

  • A family photo or art work by your children - framed perhaps. Older family members often don’t need more things, and artwork is a beautiful and special memento for them.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The best gifts, in my heart & mind, are the ones thoughtfully gathered for that person, rather than the mad dash to a shop to meet a specified budget. (I used to work in retail, and saw way too many people on Christmas Eve doing that horrible mad rush - it made my heart sigh and huff while I tried to guide them to the best options on the almost empty shelves).

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Gifts to ask for:

While it would be ideal sometimes to not have to give gifts, I know my children would not be happy with that option. And my in-laws love giving gifts too. And, actually I love gifting things as well. So.. if you know you or your kids will be receiving gifts, then pre-empt the plastic throwaway junk, by getting in early with some suggestions.

  • Beach towels

  • New sheets - send links to beautiful organic or thoughtfully made items, rather than a vague suggestion

  • An experience or membership to somewhere.. local art gallery, museum, music, drama or sports lessons for a year (or a term), a ticket to a concert or live performance

  • A voucher to an art or book shop - let them know the details of your local shop, so you can support local businesses

  • While it’s not entirely personal, teenagers often seem to want vouchers for music downloads

  • We asked for a tent as our family gift one year - so think about one big purchase that would help your whole family

  • And if you know they’ll want to purchase a toy or a ‘thing’ let them know about easy options for places that fit your ethos. Biome* is a great online site with so many options for everyone in the family. I particularly love many of these wooden toys.

  • Or suggest something very practical, from a shop they’re more likely to feel comfortable shopping at, such as a trampoline which will last for years and be a great addition to any family garden.

Wrapping gifts:

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I’ve shared a few ideas here, that will guide you along a more sustainable path, but also make for unique and beautiful gifting. And it’s likely you or your children will receive cheap throwaway wrapping paper and cards - a few options are to try and save the paper to reuse (talk with your children about how to carefully unwrap gifts prior to Christmas Day), or make sure that it’s recycled rather than lumped into the rubbish bin with everything else. A few extra moments to remove sticky tape and plastic ribbons, and put them in the right recycled boxes or bins depending on your local council. Sometimes you doing this, quietly in the corner on Christmas day, sparks a conversation that might make a small change in others.

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Food Waste:

I suppose the simplest I can say about this is; if you’re part of deciding what food you’ll have for your family or friend celebrations remember that less can be more. Choose locally grown where possible, less packaging, order organic meats from your local butcher (we don’t eat meat - but I know that lots of butchers have this option, if you keep on asking them), make less food.

Make a menu plan, and talk with your family about who will bring what. Don’t over cater - children seem to eat less when they’re running around playing, and adults seem to overeat when there’s too much food sitting in front of them.

If you do have left overs, keep in mind the excess plastic that many people use for putting food away, and look into these alternatives - beeswax wraps (buy these beautiful handmade ones here, or learn to make your own here), or invest in some reusable containers. Or simply put things in the fridge, in a bowl with a plate over the top. Or I love the idea of these linen covers.

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Simple Days & Slow Moments:

The lead-up to Christmas and the final weeks of school term, and even the year, can be full with events, gatherings, stress of things to buy, places to go, things that we need to do. Try to look at your diary, and say no to some things. While there might be some guilt around not going to the neighbourhood party, it’s also important to be gentle with yourself and give yourself and your family quiet down-time. A Do-Nothing Day really is the best thing for everyone in these full and busy days. Especially if you live anywhere near me, where it’s hot and tiring and the weather seems to sap all energy from you.

Choose what feels most important to you, and work with that. Don’t be forced into a full 24-day Advent Calendar of events, perhaps try a simple tree of moments instead (I’ll share more about this soon… my girl is making one this weekend). Write letters and cards, rather than needing to drop in on everyone in your address book.

Hop off devices for a little while, and spend time in the garden or looking through books for inspiration. Sit and make some gifts, instead of spending every weekend at the shopping malls - I promise that you can make gifts almost in the same amount of time as it takes you to drive, park and trawl the aisle of the shops… And you’ll be much saner for it.

And if finding / making / creating time just isn’t happening - remember to breathe. The simple, yet often rushes past, practice of deep breathing nourishes our bodies in the best way. Breathing through your nose, gently and deeply slows our bodies and minds down, and allows us to think clearer and be a little more peacefully in the moment. Exhaling, though your nose (not mouth) in a mindful intentional manner let’s go of so much pent up stress and energy. Try it at the supermarket, when you’re in the middle of a busy stressful morning or  ‘negotiation’ with children, or when life is making you feel overwhelmed and anxious. It’s the simplest way to reset yourself.... I’ve been practicing it more than usual lately and feeling the benefits immediately. 

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 *I receive a small commission if you purchase through this link; it doesn’t affect what you pay, it’s just a way for Biome to thank me for spreading the word about the good that they do. Thank you for supporting me in this way. 

Conscious Creativity by Philippa Stanton @5ftinf : a book review

Book ReviewsEllie BeckComment

My editor sent me this beautiful book to enjoy. Wow - I have an editor, and get sent books before they are available to the general public. I must admit, that is not something I really ever thought might be me… Just goes to show, doing your own thing, and being on your own journey can lead to remarkable things. Soon I’ll have my own book too!

Anyway, back to this one. Conscious Creativity* by Philippa Stanton, better known as uber-talented @5ftinf on Instagram. This beautiful book is a perfect format that take with you in your bag, to have on your bedside table, to pick up around everything else that’s going on.

I’ve been dipping in and out of the pages, soaking up bits of information and wisdom here and there. I’m very keen to have time to sit down and read the whole thing, but I think Philippa has cleverly made this book perfect for use in our busy days. Where we can tap into the creativity we so desire, without having to set aside hours and hours of time for reading the actual resource material first. Know what I mean?!

I love the feel and layout of this book. Since stepping into the very early stages of my own book (still very very early stages), I’m looking even more closely at covers, page layouts, feeling of the paper, text, chapter headings, content pages, the ‘with thanks page’, and more. I already did that, but perhaps more subconsciously than I am now, where I’m actively picking out the bits I like about books.

But of course the contents are really the most important. Even in this age of pretty books. We want to be able to read and take in information, be educated while enjoying what we’re reading, to expand our horizons, stretch our creativity, find new ways of looking at things.

Conscious Creativity does all that, and so much more. Broken into chapters that build on each other, talking about looking and noticing, light and shadow, composition, and our own personal practice and projects. I love the way Philippa brings her own story to the pages, while being open enough that we can all see ourselves in her examples and her ideas. That her suggestions fit within so many different creative genres, that you don’t need to be a photographer, artist, crafter, or even an Instagramer to appreciate and find so much interesting information to send you out exploring and looking at your surrounds in new ways.

I’ve always been fascinated with synaesthesia, since i saw it on Philippa’s Instagram account many many years ago. And the fact that she talks about it in her book is a lovely addition to the pages; her own viewpoint and way of seeing the world, which I must admit I’m guessing is quite rare and a special thing to share with us.

The little ‘Daily Practice’ and exercises in the book would be perfect for a child or teenager, as well as for a full time practicing artist, and anyone in-between. They’re little ideas to stretch you past your usual way of thinking, but simple enough to catch onto how to implement them into your days.

Conscious Creativity is due for release later this month (in the UK, at least - as far as I can tell), so you’ll have it in time for Christmas gifting. I’m thinking ideal for teenagers or pre-teens, and for your friends who might need a little extra prompting to tap into their own Little Moments of Creative.

I recently found out that pre-orders of a book help immensely for the writer. It puts their book in a good place, before the official publish date, which makes the publishers very happy. Most writers (unless they’re full time best-sellers) don’t really make money from their books, but when we pre-order their book it shows the future success of it, and means that publishers are more likely to promote / push it themselves.

I didn’t realise that so much of the selling of a book comes back to the author themselves. While the publishing house does promote and sell the book, the best success from any book comes from the author doing book tours, online promotions, their own audience and more. So - when we pre-order a book … and then have to wait weeks or even months before it’s release date - we’re helping that author to sell more copies, hopefully make a little more money, and the publisher be happy so they’re more likely to want a subsequent book. It’s a funny business for sure, and I’m slowly learning lots of things about it. From now on I’m pre-ordering any and all books that I know I’ll buy.

(If you can’t pre-order, perhaps you could ask your local library to get in a copy. My library does that if the books fit in with what they think are needed for their audience. And you can share on your social media account about the author and their upcoming book).

*I receive a small commission from Book Depository, if you purchase through my link. I only ever share things on my blog that I personally use and enjoy, or would love to own myself. This small commission doesn’t mean you pay any more, but it’s a small way for me to offset my internet bills. And I thank you so much for purchasing through my links.

Dyeing Sunshine : Natural dye with coreopsis flowers

Craft Tutorials, Botanical DyeEllie BeckComment
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Dyeing with coreopsis is like making sunshine. I haven’t even pulled the fabric from the dye pot, and I’m already in love. I’ll be honest and say I’ve been on the lookout for coreopsis flowers around me for a long time. When I saw some pots of colour at the little local nursery, I had to bring some home, as it seems there’s none growing anywhere nearby for wild picking.

This is pretty much one of the easiest dyes around. Flowers like this are full of colour, just waiting to imbue their warmth onto your cloth or yarn. You do need to prep your materials first, pre-mordant and all that. But apart from that you really can’t go wrong with dyeing with luscious blooms like this. I have the details of how to dye with flowers on online ecourse (and I’m working slowly on an ebook as well, join my newsletter list if you want to know when).

In the sunshine warmth that we have at the moment, solar dyeing is the best option. Any chance that I have to reduce the resources of my dyeing process, I’m happy to go that way. I wish I could solar dye everything, and often I do a lot, but some things do need direct heat, and some days the sun just doesn’t come out. But I am ever conscious of the impact of my dyeing - the gas used to heat the dye bath, as well as the water needed, and the mordants that I use. Not to mention the fabrics and yarns themselves.

Is this important to you, in your practice? The whole process of how you dye, where the materials come from, and what they’re used for?

I’ll be back with the results of the dye pots next week. Once the fabrics have soaked up all that colour, and have dried. For now, I really wanted to share these photos because they make me so happy - such glorious colour.

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If you want to try it yourself, here’s a quick how-to dye with coreopsis flowers :

  1. Scour, then pre-mordant your fabric or yarn*

  2. Gather as many flower heads as you can. I’m using fresh flowers, but dried works as well. I’ll be adding extra flowers to the jar all week, as more bloom and are ready for picking. But aim to use at least 50%, ideally 100% weight of flowers to fibres. With most dyes (fresh flowers) the more dye stuffs you have, the more intense the colour, and the better results you get.

  3. Fill a large glass jar with the flower heads, then pour kettle boiled water over it. Just like making tea. The colour will show itself straight away.

  4. Put your rinsed material straight into the jar, on top of the flowers and give it a little stir. Close the lid and leave the jar in the sunshine for at least a day, and up to a week. Depending on a) what depth of colour you want and b) how much sunshine you’re getting. Move the jar around to get the most light / heat.

  5. Stir the fabric every day, so that it is more evenly dyed. Or otherwise you can leave it, and the folds create little landscapes, patterns and designs. A very beautiful way to dye.

*(I use alum, but not sure if I’ll buy more once I’ve finished this batch up, but I don’t know that soya beans are any better. The ethics of it all is a bit much for me sometimes).

NOTE: If you’re dyeing yarn, it’s best to the put the flowers into a fabric mesh bag - like a large muslin tea bag or even a produce bag. This way you can add more flowers, and build up the colour over the days, but not have to worry about the petals getting stuck in your yarn. No need to worry about this with fabric, but you still can do it to create more of a consistent dye without patterns, if you’d like.

I used three different types of coreopsis. Also known as tickseed, they’re actually part of the daisy family. As far as I can tell there are a lot of different varieties - I’d suggest looking out for the yellow ones, especially these bigger fluffy ones. While the smaller two (in my photos) looked yellow-red tinged when I poured the water over them, the cloth so far is looking more brownish than the brilliant yellow of the larger coreopsis. Waiting to see if they turn out blugh-brown or ahhh-brown…..

Keep your eyes peeled for those bright yellow flower heads - I hear of people finding them on roadsides, council plots and cemeteries. You can pick them and freeze or dry them, while they’re in abundance. They like being deadheaded, so don’t worry about taking them from the plant. Leave one or two heads for the bees. I’m pretty sure they’re easy to grow in your garden, but this being my first time I can’t tell you from experience.

If you want to read more natural dyeing tips, how-tos or processes, these ones might interest you: eucalyptus & rust dyeing, garden bundle dyeing, dyeing with golden rod flowers (perfect for late-Summer foraging), and dyeing with turmeric (while not very lightfast, it’s such a satisfying & easy dye for simple projects).

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Nothing ever stays the same : process of my textile art-making

Fabric, Creative Process, Botanical DyeEllie Beck2 Comments
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I am working on some new pieces, with the hopes to get myself together to have a solo exhibition next year. I need to put the entry in by the end of this month.

Nothing ever stays the same > Pondering the way that my visual voice shifts & morphs, but I think still similar. Do you think? Do you see ‘me’ in my weavings and my stitch work? 

I guess the only way is just to listen to my whisper, the quiet soulful voice of working with the muse and making my work. And if I make it with my own voice, then it must be my voice. 

These pieces look totem-ish to me. They feel like trees of memories. I know what the exhibition will be called (I’m going to keep that quiet to myself for a little while). But it’s about memories, motherhood, self, ideas, thoughts, the shifting shadows in our souls & minds ... and other stuff. Haha.

Thought I should finally start using this blog to document my process as I happens. Small quick snippets of work. Would you be interested in seeing that? 

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Its raining here today. Again. Yesterday was pure glorious sunshine and now we are back to the moody skies, those feelings of internalising a day. It’s been raining for weeks. But the grey clouds have a good way of talking to me. 

I saw the moon last night. A moment of wakefulness. 

Heres the fabrics - naturally dyed with a combination of eucalyptus, iron-y water, seedpods & leaves gathered, bark (eucalyptus), silky oak leaves, rose leaves, onion skins. And the pinks are ranunculus & anemone flowers - the darkest purple ones. I can’t wait for more of them next Spring!  

I’m using a combination of vintage kimono silk, scraps of other fabrics from my collections and also a little bit of new silk or linen. 

 

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Artwork Process : Cocoon | Emerge

Creative Process, Botanical Dye, FabricEllie BeckComment

Last week I went to Sydney, with my teenage son, to attend the exhibition opening which my work was in. Being part of a textile award exhibition was wonderful - in a room full of other textile artists, and textile work. Seeing loom weaving, basket weaving, stitching, quilting, fabric dyeing, felting and more being shown side by side, being promoted and loved, and enjoyed. I want more of it, I realised.

I wanted to put this work up here to share with you too. Because I think one day I’ll wake up and my whole Instagram account will be lost and gone, and I’ll have nothing much to show on the internets of what I’ve done, my journey these past years. Do you ever feel like that might happen?!!

I made this piece, called Cocoon | Emerge {self} using the silk offcasts from spinning the threads, they’re called silk rods. They came from my fabric supplier and as soon as I looked at them, they started talking to me. The rough bark-like texture, the soft silky feel, the depths of them, the way they called out to be stroked. They took beautifully to the colours in my dye pots - being like raw silk and all. Of course they’d take amazingly to natural dye.

This work feels, to me, like the ripe opening - the pulling of my soul. The near-whiteness of the external with the colours hidden underneath.. like caves of colours, pockets of what we keep hidden to protect us, to protect our internal thoughts, emotions, feelings. I wanted to share these pockets - to be opened up.

Society isn’t always ready to see the colours we keep in our depths. Society wants to see the outside being a little more neutral. We can of course show some of ourselves, but once we start sharing too much — people get afraid. That’s what I’m experiencing anyway. That’s the journey I’m going through. Maybe my colours are too much.

But, in Emerge I wanted to open up. To not hide behind the bark-like exterior. I wanted people to reach in, to look closer, to ponder what’s behind, underneath. To accept and express joy in that.

While it looks bark-like and tree-ish, it also has a wing shape. The flight of the cocooning. Those opposites of self…… staying closed and metamorphosising towards flight, freedom of self. I think that’s what we exist in : all aspects of who we are, as humans. We are neither fully sealed off, nor are we fully able to be 100% ourselves.

The exposed copper pipe, to hang the piece, feels to me a little like some of Frida Kahlo’s paintings of her spinal cord, wrapped in bandage. The journey and the process of healing herself. That’s what I went through - not physically of course, not so dreadfully painfully. But emotionally, spiritually.

During making this piece, which was both machine and hand stitched, my family went about their own days. Walking past me, making comments and noticing things about the work, giving their ideas and interpretations, shedding light - for me - on different viewpoints. Often I wouldn’t want something like this, viewpoints and expressions of someone else’s ideas about my work, especially not before it’s finished. But my work takes place around my family, with my children a physical part of the process. I stop and start at their whims, and their timetables. And I’m able to work because they take for granted that this is what I do. They sit beside me and draw, or chatter, or play. And their words, their feelings, their thoughts shared become part of me, and part of my work. So - for this reason I will always value the thoughts, and small noticings from my family of my work. And I will always cherish it.

This piece is currently available from the Seed Stitch Textile exhibition, at Australian Design Centre, in Sydney’s Darlinghurst. You can purchase it from there directly, or if comes back home to me unsold then it will be available through my website. I’d love to make some more of this work, in this feeling….. am open to commissions if you feel like something for your walls.

thoughts on my process making : stitching colours, making tea quilts & breathing

Creative Process, Botanical Dye, Weaving, Words & poetry thoughtsEllie BeckComment

This is the colour palette that I’ve been working with lately. It’s so very different than what I’d usually use or work with, and maybe that’s the reason I’m loving it so much. It’s always good to mix things up isn’t it - to push ourselves in a new direction. Maybe it’s just because seriously, look how good it all looks together.. So shimmery and lovely. I’m making tea quilts out of these pieces of my naturally dyed fabrics.

The goldens and yellows were all dyed with onion skins - if you’ve never dyed with onion skins before (either red or brown onions), they’re seriously the most satisfying to dye with. So much colour, so much depth and variation with different fabrics, weights and weaves, and different processes in the dye pot.

The greys are eucalyptus which was overdyed with iron. Here’s a little how-to if you wanna do this; it’s a great way to ‘fix up’ a piece that wasn’t so spectacular in the first dye pot, because sometimes that happens. And over-dyeing is the best ways to rework a piece of naturally dyed fabric or yarn.

Anyway - tea quilts. Ain’t that a sweet name. I’m not sure where I first saw it (somewhere on the vast amazing internet of inspiration - though I just did a teeny search and most images come up as quilts with tea cups on them… so mine isn’t that). These are lovely little placemats just for one person, for you to sit and enjoy your quiet moments of sipping tea.

A dreamy little moment we can all hope for. Quiet tea sipping and pondering some thoughtful words.

Lately I’ve been asked about my ‘process’, and sometimes it’s hard to articulate exactly what and where and how. Mostly - it comes in spurts and bursts. Keeping on trying, feeling and catching teeny glimpses of inspiration and working with that. And then pushing on without the inspiration. I feel like we have to be here ready and waiting, and working and always working, the inspiration comes and goes, but if we’re not here working then it will most probably slip on by without stopping beside us.

What do you think? Do you agree?

My process is mostly based on the materials themselves, and the pockets of time that I have to work within. I am learning to not limit myself to one form or one medium or only one ‘style’. Sometimes words come out, sometimes images, sometimes simply lines and rows of stitching.

The process of these pieces mostly came about by the dye pot colours. I have a vague idea of what colours or what dye stuffs (plants / flowers / etc) that I want to work with, but then I allow things to evolve. Once the colours showed themselves to me… quilt ideas started forming. The greys particularly keep talking to me and leading me somewhere further and further.

A lot of my work is a journey towards the next thing. While I’m working on something, ideas are forming and evolving and becoming more articulate, easily to recognise and put into form (rather than vague images / dreams in my head). The process of making a piece guides and informs the next piece.

I don’t often use a sketchbook or plan out what I’m making, because the piece becomes the sketchbook for the next piece. If that make sense at all.

So - my process for my creative making & art-making is :

  • having materials that inspire me - natural materials, in colours of the earth & sky & ocean (ie - naturally dyed. I am being drawn more and more to the more muted hues of things lately, as a general rule - but not always, of course!).

  • grabbing any and every moment when something sparks in me - and making it happen. Or writing little snippets of words down to guide me at a later time.

  • always having materials on hand - even just a small pile of fabrics, needle & thread. In my handbag, in the car, beside my bag, little baskets around the house

  • being open to what evolves. Not doing a lot of self-editing while the inspiration is flowing. Just moving with it, trying to listen and hone in my own voice.

  • when the inspiration strikes I get offline (no Instagram or Pinterest to distract me, or pull me away from my own voice), and I settle into where I am.

  • making mistakes.

  • having lots of unfinished pieces. This is ok, because these often form and spark ideas down the track. Nothing is every complete.

  • remembering that I am ever evolving, as a person, as a creative, as an artist - and it’s ok for my work to keep evolving.

  • and just doing the work. Keeping on doing it, showing up again & again & again.

Ellie Beck - Petalplum - Process making - natural dye & tea quilts. Pinterest graphic.png

What my husband did today so I could finish writing my book

Motherhood, Words & poetry thoughtsEllie Beck3 Comments

Every morning my husband gets up early, before 5am, which is dark during these Winter days. He makes sure the fire is still burning, or he starts it again, so that when we get up later the house is warm and cosy. This is what he does almost every morning, for us - his family. He also likes the quiet time in the house, all on his own. 

He makes me coffee every morning, and wakes the kids up. He mostly makes breakfast for River, and sometimes the big two if they're communicative about what they actually want (sigh - teenagers / pre-teens!). All five of us somehow each morning manage to get everyone ready and out the door, lunches made, bags packed, dramas and lost notes and unbrushed hair, and unwashed faces. Mostly almost on time every day. 

Sam does the school drop off. Every day, while I've been writing my book, he gathers the kids into the car and takes them to town. Monday and Tuesday are preschool days, so he drops River off too. Some days he'll check the post, go for a skateboard at the park, visit the hardware, or the healthfood shop, or the op-shop, or library, or get some more milk for our elevenses coffee. 

Then he heads home (it's a 20 minute drive from our house into town). It's lucky he likes driving, because he does the trip into town often two times every day, for drop-off and pick-up.

When he came home today, me writing the final words on my book, pushing to get it sent before tomorrow's deadline, he cleaned the breakfast and lunch making stuff. He washed up - the epic mess from yesterday's meals (six people in one rainy day create a LOT of washing up). Then he made the coffee, which I drank while still writing. He drank while sitting down for a moment. 

Before he left, to get the kids again, he brought me tea, and spilt extra firewood. I'm here writing a newsletter, and blog posts, and checking my emails to see if my editor has received my words yet (of course not because I live in Australia and she lives in UK, which means she's still asleep, or only just waking up right now... having her morning coffee). 

Sam will take the big kids to drama class, he'll take the small kid to feed him (pre-school is hungry work for a three-year-old), and then do the shopping, visit the library, deal with a tired child, and the time frame of a kids' drama class, before he has to come home again. 

Meanwhile, here I am... writing words, wondering about how to continue generating an income, tending the fire, and pondering my second cup of tea, perhaps a spot of sitting on the couch with some stitch work; my fearless quilt.

I ponder again and again life -  the usefulness we each have, for our family, our community, what we give and what we get. Do we remember to say thank you, to look at someone when they bring us tea, or run up our goods at the supermarket, or re-new our overdue books at the library, or fill our car at the petrol station (yep, we have one of those local petrol stations in our town - amongst about 4 others that don't), or teach our kids be it in school or after school. The way that what we contribute has nothing to do with money, in a family or a community or society, or the world. What we contribute is more than that, bigger than that, outside of any financial countings. 

And yes - there I said it. I sent my words to my editor today. 20,000 words. It will be some time before it becomes a book. This is the first edit, so I'm sure there'll be rewrites and such necessary. But there.... I'm on the way to becoming an author!

eucalyptus and rusty iron dyeing :: natural & botanical dye how to

Botanical Dye, Craft TutorialsEllie BeckComment

Last week most of my dye pots were giving me brown and more brown, which you know is sort of pretty, but can get a little tedious. Especially when I'm trying to get beautiful, fun, exciting colours to send out for my Little Moments of Creative fabrics. When I dyed with eucalyptus, or gum leaves and seedpods, gathered from around here a little while ago I got these lovely purples, with orange hints. But this time, just some brown with the very faintest orange-brown prints through it. So, I did what only i knew to do, and that was over-dye with iron water. Which I made from rusty things gathered from the shed and some vinegar. 

I put the fabric and the rusty water, and all the old rusty nails and bits and pieces into a glass jar, filled it up to the top with tap water (we use rain or creek water) and left it in the sun for a few days. I only need a couple of days of solar dyeing here, and it warmed up quite a lot, more than I thought it would on these short Winter days. 

Here's the beautiful results that I pulled from the dye pot. I wish I'd photographed the before-browns, but of course life doesn't always allow for the camera to capture everything.

Making iron water is pretty easy, and a great way to colour change your dye pots. You can make your own using white vinegar and whatever rusty things you can find, or you can buy iron as ferrous sulphate from a garden centre (or from a dye place, there's a few different ones online depending on where you live). Take care with using iron on wool because it can weaken the fibres, so don't leave it too long (ie not more than a day really). Homemade iron water, using rusty metals, will be gentler than ferrous sulphate, so if possible I'd suggest gathering and making your own. 

Of course you can also dye directly with the rusty things, in a bundle dye, and get marks and patterns upon your cloth or paper, without needing to make an iron water mordant / colour modifier. Gathering rusty nails, bits of wire, unusual shapes and layering them into your fabrics when you fold or roll or bundle, then dye using any method you prefer (check out my course for different methods possible). I've used tins from our recycling box as a colour shifter, and while I know there's no iron in the tin, the metals created beautiful patterns and colours on this cloth, when heated in a dye pot. 

This is just another way to create different colours from one dye pot. Iron is often 'saddens' or darkers the colours, but also shifts the ph somewhat. Pinks, reds and oranges can turn to purple before they change to greys. Sometimes blacks are possible, but do take care of how long you leave your fabric in the iron to achieve this black as it will weaken all fibres.

How to make iron water:

  • Put as much rusty things into a glass jar as you can find. Add more over the days and weeks when come across them. Once you start looking I'm sure you'll find them in the streets and the gutters, or hiding in the garden, or the shed, or if all else fails perhaps the demolition yard or op-shop, or a tip-shop.
  • Fill the jar with 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water (or thereabouts; you don't have to be too accurate), and put the lid on (or cover it up somehow).
  • Leave for at least a week or two then add as an after-mordant / colour shifter.

 


I'd love to see what you've been dyeing lately. Or hear if there's anything else you'd like to read about on this blog, more tutorials, more mindful thoughts or parenting, or.... ?

You might like to read more from my Botanical Dye how-tos here, particularly
Eucalyptus leaves & seedpods - check out that purple!
Eucalyptus Dyeing for weaving
 

 

quietly, slowly, simply, gently - finding ways amongst the noise {slow living}

Slow & Sustainable Livingellie2 Comments

I realised quite recently that the slow down that I thought was what I wanted isn't exactly what I want.need.

I realised that quietly is what I'm aiming for.wishing for.needing.

Quietly quietly.

The slow living of the country life isn't as a real a thing as is imagined. Oh yes, in a certain way, for sure. There is a slowing - and not just the internet or the Sunday driver in front of you - a slowing of a lot of things.

But I'm finding my mind is moving at the wondering speed it always does. Jumping and flittering and mercurial. The way I am. The way I always am. always will be. That's my mind. My body has slowed, but my mind wants lots. And that's ok.

So - it's quietly I want.

Some days I find that I have three people talking at me all at once. Yes. Three people wanting to have conversations with me with, needing answers and responses and thoughts and ideas and opinions and .... I suppose all mother's know that. Some days all I want is no-one talking to me, no-one needing me, wanting me, calling me, asking me, demanding of me.

So. In order for me to find this quiet amongst the noise of life I decided that firstly I need to want it. To know I wanted it was the best direction in finding it and having it. If you're after quietly in your days, you need to realise that's what you want.

Say the word in your head. 

Say it softly over your tongue. 

Maybe, if no-one's listening speak it, whisper it.

Is that the word you want? Really? 

Know it before you find it.

For me to find quietly throughout my whole day, I've found that I need to make it happen in small pockets of time. To actively seek quiet. And then to bring it into the other noiser aspects of my day. For me to be better equipped to have three people talking at me.to me, wanting and needing me I need to find quiet amongst that; within that. To know the quiet spots in my mind, my heart, my soul.

The first ever so tentative steps are to spend 10minutes being quiet. This, for me, doesn't mean meditation, as that's a different sort of quiet. For me, this means boiling the kettle and making a pot of tea. Real leaf tea in a tea pot. There's the quiet moments of rinsing the tea pot and waiting for the kettle to boil. Of finding which cup I will use today. And listening to the sound of the water as it heats in the kettle on the stove, the gas on the metal, the water moving in the metal kettle. And filling the kettle.

Sometimes my quietly might include some crochet or stitchwork, or putting fabric in jars for dyeing. Sometimes it might be sitting, with the sun across my shoulders and my tea cup in my hands.

Always just me being within and without whatever is around me. Actively hearing the sounds around me. And really tasting the tea as I drink it, feeling it, thinking about it. Not rushing.

No phone or computer or reading or music. Those aren't part of my quietly moments. You must actively make quietly happen to start, to find it.

This is my journey to find quietly. It began with the last ten minutes, and now I will try and share quietly over here too. 

Ellie Beck Petalplum Finding Quiet within the noise raindrops on flower head

A garden bouquet ~ from my natural dye diaries

Craft Tutorials, Botanical Dyeellie2 Comments
Ellie Beck Petalplum - Naturally dyed shibori pinks, oranges styled photo with camellias and scissors.JPG
Ellie Beck Petalplum Natural dyeing bundle dye how to tutorial dyeing fabricIMG_7445.JPG
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Do you want to learn how to make the most beautiful colours on fabric, using gathered garden treasures? Here I've got a simple, yet ever so magical, tutorial so you can create your own. I love the whole process of this project, from the quiet joy of gathering your supplies through to the patience of waiting of it to 'cook' and be ready, through to the marvel of opening up the treasure that you've created. 

Each time you dye in this special manner, you get different results, depending on the flowers, leaves and seedpods, and even the fabric that you use. To me, that's a big part of the whole natural & botanical dye process. I don't want things repeated exactly the same, but love the nuances that come out of working with nature, with variations of technique and the simple alchemy of cooking.

You can learn all about this in my online ecourse about Natural & Botanical Dyeing, but here's a little how-to for you, if you want to make your own this weekend:

You'll need:

  • Some fabric - silk or wool works best, but cotton is good too, something not too heavy or too sheer. You can use small pieces or one large piece, it doesn't matter at all
  • Flowers, petals, leaves, bark, seedpods gathered from the garden or nearby fields*
  • Kitchen scraps such as onion skins (brown and red), coffee or tea left overs, passionate fruit skins, avocado skins and seeds (I'll share a full tutorial for this alone soon).
  • String and scissors
  • An old saucepan - it's best to use one that you won't be using for cooking again. A second hand one from an op-shop is fine - stainless steel or aluminium.
  • White vinegar

Here's what you do:

  • Gather your supplies from the garden. This can be a beautiful way to get kids outside exploring and enjoying the sunshine, and noticing the beauty all around them.
  • Lay out your fabric and arrange your petals, leaves, bark, onion skins, etc in a pretty pattern. Don't be too worried about the pattern as things shift a little when you roll it up, but what we're hoping will happen is colour and prints (leafy marks) will transfer to the fabric, so keep this in mind when you're arranging. This is a mediation in itself - don't rush this part. (see photos). Don't overfill the fabric, leaves space. 
  • Roll and bundle your fabric as tightly as you can. If you have one large piece you could fold it in half, then roll it up. I've had people aliken this technique to trussing meat, but being a vegetarian I don't know about that. If you roll the fabric into a log-shape as tightly as you possibly can, then you should be good. 
  • Take the string and tie it, super tightly, around your bundle. I've included a few photos to show you the different tying options possible. The string needs to pull the fabric even tighter, because this is the way you'll get contact prints with the leaves. The string will make a mark on your fabric too, which I think is one of my favourite parts of the result.
  • Put your bundle into the saucepan and cover with regular water **, add in about a cap or two of vinegar and put the lid on. Allow the whole piece to gently simmer for a couple of hours, keep making sure the water is covering your fabric - top it up if necessary. Three or so hours of simmering should be enough, turn the heat off and leave it (lid on) overnight to stew in it's own juices. 
  • The next morning you can unwrap the present you've made yourself. Don't wash straight away, but allow to dry in the shade (the pieces of leafery and petaly loveliness will fall off as it dries, so don't worry too much as picking it off). Once your fabric is fully dry you can gently wash under the tap; I don't use any soap, but you can use a ph-neutral soap if you'd like. You may find some colour runs off, so wash until the water runs clear, then line dry in the shade again. (Why do I dry, then wash? Because I find that the longer before I wash off the colour the more chance it has of embedding itself into the fabric, as it dried rather than washing it all away straight away). 

+ The vinegar acts as a mordant (which helps to bind the dye colour to the fabric), but it's also a ph-colour changer, which means it will shift / alter some things in your dye pot. This is totally ok, and very wonderful, but just something to keep in mind. You can do this without vinegar, but you'll need to either be happy with the fact that some flowers might fade quicker, or know a little more about mordants. Adding some rusty nails / metal to your dye bundle helps a little too, as do other certain plants (barks contain tannins that act as mordant, as does avocado seeds).
+ The fabric in the top picture was bundle dyed in a pot of coloured dye water - so the parts that would have been white got dyed pink. Do achieve this you could add avocado seeds to your cooking pot, and you'll get some pink, apricot, brown-ish hues. NOTE: do not boil the avocado seed dye pot, as this will turn it brown.

If you want to know more, or delve deeper into Natural & Botanical Dyeing I have an online video course available here, or a downloadable Kids Dyeing booklet. And make sure you read my Natural Dye journal posts, which shares more tutorials and how tos, as well as notes from my dyeing. 

Natural Dyeing with Golden Rod flowers

Craft Tutorials, Botanical DyeEllie BeckComment
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Ellie Beck natural dye with golden rod flowers.jpeg
Ellie Beck Petalplum Natural dye flowers golden rod and threads.jpeg
Ellie Beck Petalplum golden rod natural dye.jpg

One of my all-time favourite local weeds to dye with is golden rod, solidago. Which is funny cause yellow isn't usually my colour, but the brilliance of golden rod in the dye pot is enough to entice anyone towards to sunny disposition of life. Each year I wait, with an eager patience & delightful anticipation, for the flowers to grow and bloom. Dyeing in this manner, as things are in season, is for me one of the joys of natural dyeing - watching the landscape around me and waiting for things to be in their prime.

The first workshop I picked these for, quite a few years ago, was in Brisbane. My family and I cut stalk after stalk of the showy stalks and loaded them into the car with all the other workshop supplies, alongside three kids and their luggage too. Little did we know that the flowers were filled with teeny tiny greeny-white spiders, that over the course of the drive overtook our car! It took quite a long time for my family to forgive me, and they still remind me to this day. If you buy golden rod from a local florist or the flower market I'm sure it's been grown commercially and isn't covered in little bugs, but every time I pick the flowers now I make sure to give enough time for the spiders and grubs to crawl off before I load up the car!

Golden rod is a weed in our country, and I've noticed it growing along fencelines where the farmers can't mow them down. They die back after their flowering season, and grow up again each year. They're often used a filler in flower bouquets, so you can get them from a florist or ask your local garden centre to get a bunch in for you. 

Ellie Beck Petalplum golden rod natural dye.JPG
Ellie Beck Petalplum golden rod natural dye.JPG

How to dye with golden rod flowers:

You need to pre-mordant your fabric with your desired mordanting technique. I used to use alum, but nowadays I'm moving towards no mordants at all, and allowing the colours to shine themselves through longer dyeing time. Though, alum does often make dye colour brighter, so do keep this in mind. I've noticed also that alum brightens dye colours more than soy mordanting does - from my experience. But the beauty of golden rod is that a whole lot of flowers make a brilliant colour on their own. *also remember that alum, if not used correctly, can colour shift yellows towards the green spectrum.

If you use the flowers when they're still closed, in bud form, you'll get more of a green-chartruese hue, whereas if you pick (or use) the fully opened blooms you'll get more of a clearer brilliant yellow. Don't use any leaves in the dye pot, only flowers.

Fill a saucepan with as many flowers as you have - separate the buds from the open blooms into two dye pots for different tones of colour. Cover with water and gently simmer to extract the colour. Don't boil your dye pot, but allow it to come to heat slowly, until just before simmering. Leave it at this point for about 15 minutes or so, and then turn the heat off and allow to cool. Check the colour - if you think you've extracted as much from the flowers as possible strain the coloured dye water into another saucepan or bucket. 

If the flowers still have some colour left in them you can do a second dye bath, but it will be much paler. 

Put the dye water back into your saucepan and add your pre-mordanted fabric. Remember that fabric and yarn doesn't want to be plunged into boiling water as it can felt wool, make silk loose it's shimmer, and affects cotton slightly too. Bring the saucepan back up to just-under-simmer point and leave there for about half an hour. Watch the colour on your fabric. If you're happy with the depth of colour you can remove it from the dye pot, or otherwise turn the heat off and leave the fabric in the pot to cool. 

Allow the fabric to dry fully before washing it out. In our climate two days in the shade is good for 'curing', but you might find you need a little longer. Then gently wash, with a ph-neutral soap (or I use no soap) until the water runs clear. Hopefully you won't have much run-off if you've left the drying stage for long enough. 

How to determine what colour you want when the fabric's wet? This can be hard, and takes practice to recognise, but think about when you do your washing and the clothes are darker when they're wet. Silks keep their colour a lot more, whereas cottons can be up to half the depth of colour from the wet stage. So, I always err on making my colours stronger than I think I want, rather than paler. 

You can find out more about Natural & Botanical dyeing through my online course here, or follow along my Dye Diaries here

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just make something - finding your way to creativity

Creative ProcessEllie BeckComment
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I find my creative outlets in many ways. I am not only a weaver, or writer or photographer or stitcher, or or or.. I am all those and something else too. I find that when I want to do something I simply pick it up and do it. I don't have to define my skills or talents in this outlet, but I do notice my artistic voice follows through with many different mediums. 

So, if you're one of those people who thinks they're not creative. Then what I'm saying is... just do it. Just try something, and don't worry too much about it being perfect, or right, or that you're following the rules. Do what feels right for you, do what seems right at the time, do what looks right with your eyes. 

Sure, there's some crafts or arts that require some certain ways of working to make them work, but in the bigger scheme of things I think it's so much more important to not get hung up on it having to be right or not, and simply just doing it. Going ahead and having a go. Making mistakes, learning lessons, throwing away someone else's rule book to create your own non-set of rules. 

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A couple of months ago my sister and I went to a term long clay class. Learning the very very hard craft of wheel throwing. I'm pretty sure to get to the art of wheel throwing you need to invest hours and hours and hours (years) of your life into this practice. But whatever, I'm not talking about the qualifying of it being good or bad wheel throwing. Just the doing of it. In fact many pieces were bad, they barely made it off the wheel. But that's part of the process, of the learning, the doing, the mistake-ing, and the pushing through. 

I've had my fired pieces in my home for a few months now. And well... I actually freaking love them. Their imperfections, their wonkiness, their too heavy-ness, or too fat, or too thin parts. The glaze being messy and not applied right. All of it. Ok... some bits I love more than other bits, but that's good too. 

They are not pieces I would ever sell. In fact ceramics would never be something for me (at this stage of my life) that I would make for selling. It's not my journey. But, hand crafted clay ware holds a special place in my heart, soul, memory, mind. I grew up with it, surrounded by it. My mum in her studio, at her wheel. My half-sister & half-brother's* dad being a full time potter. Our shelves and washing up stand as a child was full of pieces made by people we knew, or who my parents respected as potters. And our shelves now have as much as we can afford bit by bit slowly growing. 

What I'm writing about is that it doesn't matter what you do, as a creative outlet, just do something. Teach yourself something new, go to a class, or an online school. Ask your kids to teach you what they're learning, or your neighbour, or your friend. Be ready and eager to make mistakes, to make a fool of yourself, to get upset and throw away the clay, to give over to the ideas in your head of what you might make. 

And simply enjoy appreciate notice acknowledge what you do make. What you did make. 

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Some creative makings that I did wrong:

  • I taught myself how to do bookbinding -- following some books from the library, some help from some people I know, but mostly my memories of making them with my sister when I was younger, and my own ideas of what I wanted. I pushed aside the fussy rules, and the strict ways of it having to be right, and just did what made me happy.
  • I made some funny wonky pots. I had the memories of my mother at her wheel, and her frustrations and joys. And also a very good teacher, Todd, at Byron School of Clay (highly recommend if you live in the area). And I just kept on being content with what I made.
  • I made some quilts that aren't really proper quilts, because they don't have a binding as such, and only lightly quilted. And they're wonky, and have bumps, and the wrong fabric used. And the corners don't line up neatly.
  • Oh... yeah, I'm making (continually evolving) a business that has so many wrong things I must have turned back the corner to 'almost right'. Haha.
  • I made cakes without following recipes and they were some of the best cakes I've ever made. Some were terrible and couldn't be even eaten. 
  • ....... I'm sure there's at least a hundred more things, and then some more... maybe you can remind me and I'll tell you why they're actually ok, and didn't need to qualify for being perfect.

*we don't call my brother & sister "half", we're all simply one big family. But some people find it a bit confusing to think about.

What are you going to make that might be wrong, wonky, funny to look at? But will be deliciously nourishing for the soul.

What are you going to just make, without over-thinking it? 

And more importantly how is it going to make you feel?! 

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Slow Mindful Stitch - how to sew slow into your days & a free tutorial

Creative Process, Craft Tutorials, Botanical DyeEllie BeckComment
Ellie Beck Petalplum blog Mindful stitching for slow living

If you've spent much time around my blog, my Instagram, or my days then you'll know I do live a little slower and simpler than many people. That my days are focussed around thinking mindfully about bringing slowness into my life everyday. I talk a lot about it. But I do actually think I live it a lot too. Some days not so much, other days more so. Mostly through my creative work and my intentions with my days.

Being a multi-passionate creative I do have many different skills & techniques that I work with, but over the years I've found some that are more inclined to make me breathe deeper and think slower (in a good way!). Hand stitching work is one of those processes that really brings me back to the moment, to my self, to my thoughts, to my environment.

And I wanted to share that with you too. Because while some crafts are harder to learn, stitch work is something that I'm pretty sure at least 90% of you could pick up fairly quickly, if you wanted (I'm being generous, I truly actually think that 97% of people could learn to sew if they took the time and overcame some prejudice about it). You don't need much more than some fabric scraps and a needle & thread. The scraps could be worn out clothing, a linen tea towel, an old scarf, a piece of special child's clothing.... anything. The lovely thing is it doesn't matter what your scraps are. Just collect them and start creating.

I have a whole video session available for free on my online course teaching site, but I've also managed to work out how to embed a snippet of one of those videos here for you... a little preview to get you started..... and you can find the rest over here (*you do have to 'join' my teaching school, but that's a free sign up and gives you access to this FREE slow stitching video course).

Here's a few reasons why I think Slow Mindful Stitching is perfect thing to bring into your busy days and guide you towards a Slower & Simpler Living Journey:

  1. It's fairly easy to learn, so once you've overcome the "it's not perfect" aspect you can be stitching within a very short amount of time.
  2. You can create something useful & practical, or something simply just for the joy of creating.
  3. You can stitch at home, with children or family by your side. In bed, at the kitchen table, in the garden.
  4. You can put it all in your bag and take it with you for the day - stitching while watching kids at sport, or art lessons. Or on a picnic or at a school assembly, or waiting for the doctor or public transport.
  5. You can stitch while sipping coffee with friends at a cafe, or slurping tea at home. Both bring you back to the moment; stitching while talking actually has this excellent magical way of making you truly present in the moment, not thinking about something else.
  6. You don't need to invest in many or expensive equipment, and can fit a few stitches here & there around your day.

You can see some more of my stitchwork over here if you'd like a little of my messy inspiration. The first two pictures below are what I create in the free online video course, but you will probably make something a little different, check out #petalplummakers and #theCreativeYear to see what others have been making. And please share with me any that you make yourself. I'd love to have a little gallery on this website of 'made by you' collections. 

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A little honey .... a recipe for when you're sick

Recipes, Slow & Sustainable Livingellie2 Comments

There's colds and coughs here at the moment. And rainy coolish days. Perfect weather for gathering lemons from our trees, lemongrass from my friends garden and raw honey and organic ginger from the farmers market.

A remedy my mama used to make for us to nourish our bodies and warm our hearts. Holding a cup of warm lemon, honey & ginger is almost like a hug.

{a recipe} 

You'll need:

•fresh lemons, any sort will do. At least 1 per person or more if you like it tangy.

•honey, about 1-2 teaspoons each. Please use raw and local honey - it's better for your body as it still contains all the real nutrients (not stripped bare like from the supermarket), and supports a local farmer and his bees.

•a small knob of fresh ginger.

•some fresh or dried lemongrass (optional).

Squeeze the lemon into a cup, smash the ginger to release the flavour and add along with the cut lemongrass. Pour over not-quite boiling water and add honey to taste.

Cosy up with your favourite handknit or crochet blankie and snuggles with your little ones.

Crochet string bag - how to make your own : perfect for plastic-free living

Craft Tutorials, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie Beck2 Comments

Crochet string bags are perfect little additions to a simple living home - useful for taking to the farmers market, when visiting the library, carrying kids extra everythings about, finding scrunched at the bottom of your handbag when you get a few extra supplies at the supermarket. Simply put - they're sorta useful for a whole lot of things. Throw one over your shoulders full of Summer's beach supplies; carry wet towels and swimmers home, while the sand falls out the bottom of the bag on your walk back home. Load it up with fruit from your own trees, or while borrowing some from that roadside tree that everyone's been spying.

Make your own with my FREE crochet pattern.

my dad's chickpea dahl {a recipe}

Recipesellie3 Comments

Today I made my dad's chickpea dahl. My dad is one of the best cook's I know. ......maybe the best..?? Anyway, he's a pretty excellent cook. We grew up eating his good healthy real made-with intention, thought, care, love meals. My mum was a great cook too, one of the best I know too! They cooked different things, which makes me not have to compare them. 

I think childhood memories of food and cooking and being in the kitchen with your parents are some of the strongest memories I have. I think maybe my siblings have similar strong food memories.

Wanna make channa masala…..

Plastic-Free or Low-Waste Living : Is it expensive or hard?

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

Today marks the beginning of Plastic Free July, a worldwide challenge to encourage us all to minimise our plastic usage, look at our daily habits, and make small but significant changes. It's not about overhauling your whole life or home, but about making actionable changes to your days, that can carry on easily through the year. 

Like any trends, starting on a plastic-free, zero-waste or low-waste lifestyle could be expensive, but let me tell you it doesn't have to. I suppose it comes down to your way of living and the way you choose to action on certain plastic-free ideas. Of course, to make some changes might cost you an outlay to begin, but sometimes this counterbalances by making savings in the long run.

Here's a few simple tips on how to begin your plastic-free journey without it costing the world (or your wallet):