Petalplum

A garden bouquet ~ from my natural dye diaries

Craft Tutorials, DIY & How-tos, Natural Dyeellie1 Comment
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
IMG_7596.JPG
IMG_4704.JPG

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

Natural & Botanical Dye, DIY & How-tos, Craft TutorialsEllie BeckComment
Ellie Beck - Botanical dye pot - golden rod flowers .jpeg
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

Ellie Beck Petalplum blog natural dyeing with golden rod flowers styled image with scissors and string.JPG
Ellie Beck Petalplum blog naturally dye fabrics.JPG
Ellie Beck Petalplum golden rod natural dyeIMG_1549.JPG

just make something - finding your way to creativity

Creative ProcessEllie BeckComment
IMG_6583.JPG
IMG_6581.JPG

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. 

IMG_6577.JPG
IMG_6582.JPG

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. 

IMG_6580.JPG


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?! 

IMG_6578.JPG
IMG_8848.PNG
IMG_8849.PNG

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

Creative Process, Tutorials & Crafty makes, Natural & 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. 

Ellie Beck Petalplum web sizeB37880F2-5837-4711-B8CE-59B4A2924C26.JPG
Ellie Beck Petalplum web sizeIMG_7663.JPG
Ellie Beck Fearless Quilt 6.jpeg
Ellie Beck Petalplum web size9DD46F74-AC70-471D-BDDE-B2E74FE739D9.JPG
Ellie Beck Petalplum web sizeIMG_4845.JPG
Ellie Beck - Slow stitch pouch bag - web size.jpeg

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

Slow & Sustainable Living, Tutorials & Crafty makesEllie BeckComment

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):

plastic free July : simple easy ways to start your low-plastic journey now

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

Are you joining in Plastic Free July this year? Even though we live a relatively 'plastic-free' lifestyle "compared to regular people", I know that there's so so much more we can do in our family. Little changes to make big differences.

The aim of #plasticFreeJuly is to reduce or refuse all single use plastic during July. Of course, the hope is that you'll start on a new journey of seeing how easy it is and continue on. But having one month to reset your ideals is pretty cool - cause I find despite my best best intentions we still end up with single use plastic in our shopping and home.

I've got some really cool and easy tips to share with you

it's almost Plastic Free July again.... are you ready for the challenge?

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie Beck3 Comments
Ellie Beck Petalplum butterfly in hand

Plastic Free July has been the catalyst for many people to change their whole (plastic-free) lives, or has simply been a wonderful and easy way to create small change within your life. For me, I grew up minimal-plastic (not zero or free), and live with less plastics than many but more than some. I enjoy using Plastic Free July as a great way to reset some of our ways, to challenge ourselves to take a step further along our journey and also to spread the word about how easy it can be to start the plastic-free / low-plastic living.

As everything, it's a scale of what feels right for you and what fits into your life, your family, your home, your work. It's about doing what you can without feeling guilty that you're not doing more.

This year it's good to remember to start slowly and simply. Often it's super overwhelming trying to do it all at once - so choosing 1-2 (or 3-4) things is a really great way to ease into what can be a big change at the time, but soon will feel simple and everyday. Rather than trying to do it all at once, choosing one or two things for you to reduce will make you feel like you've succeeded rather than failed the challenge.

Remember that every small action has a reaction - your small tiny steps create a revolution in your life. The little (environmental) things you do DO add up. I know. And when you start this journey, you're likely to talk about it with people - and spreading the word is the best form of environmental revolution, isn't it!

A few myths about going plastic free:

  • You need to throw out everything you own that's plastic! Nope, don't do that.. that's silly. Going plastic free is about making small changes over time. Replace things with a non-plastic option as they break or wear out, but don't throw it all out at once.
  • It's expensive. Yes I guess it can be, in some ways, but it can be cheaper in other ways. It depends on how you look at it, what products you choose to buy or not buy, and how you generally live. I'm going to talk about that next week.
  • People will think you're crazy! Maybe they will - that's ok "all the best people are crazy" - Alice in Wonderful (spoken by Alice's father). But maybe they'll be inspired to make changes themselves.
  • It's hard and you'll fail. Like anything it can be as easy or hard as you make it. With the right attitude and mindset it's not hard, with the right help and advice it's not hard. Some aspects might be hard, but you won't fail.
  • Your kids will hate you for it. Hmmmmm perhaps there'll be a few times they're a little disappointed that you said no to their usual plastic toys / packaged food / etc, but it's our role as parents to guide our children and show them alternative ways of living. Ultimately they'll come to agree with you and happily convert. Read this to give you hope.

I've talked about simple plastic free tips in the past here, so today I wanted to open the idea of starting the challenge and seeing if you're up for it. And most importantly what hand-holding help you might need. I want to work directly with you - via email or Instagram or comment below - as a helping guide for you along the way. So, please reach out with any anxious thoughts you might have about starting a plastic free journey.

To begin choose just one thing you're going to give up. Of course you can choose more if you feel comfortable with that.

Anything from the "top 4 plastic baddies" is a good place to start:

  • Plastic Water Bottles:  Buy yourself a a reusable drink bottle and take your own water with you. Not only will you be saving the money, but you'll be saving thousands of plastic bottles from landfill. My kids all have their own, including River, who loves having his own special bottle. It also seems to make us remember to drink more water. Choose from any of these pretty designs available. We use stainless steel ones, but Ari recently got one of these glass bottles and he takes it to school everyday. Make sure you choose stainless steel or glass, or if you do choose a reusable plastic one check that it has no BPA - and please don't reuse the throw-away bottles because the plastics in them leach out and aren't designed to be reused.
  • Plastic Shopping Bags: This is one that drives me crazy. How many times do you see someone buy something from a shop, walk outside then throw the plastic bag in the bin! Why didn't they say "no thanks, I don't need a bag". Or you get home and unload all the shopping - simply throwing the plastic bags into the rubbish (straight into landfill). What it takes is a few simple tricks for reminding yourself: + Put your shopping bags straight into your handbag, car, pram or bike basket as soon as you unpack your shopping. + Put a reminder notice at your front door so you don't forget as you're walking out the door. + Practice saying NO to plastic bags - if you only have a few items carry them in your hands if you've forgotten a bag. + Remember to say No bag at the start of the shopping transaction, and often you'll have to remind the sales person again at the end (especially at clothing or boutique stores more so than supermarkets). + Use reusable produce bags as well as shopping bags.
  • Takeaway Coffee Cups: There's so much about our takeaway coffee industry that makes me mad and sad. When did we become so busy that we can't sit down to sip our coffee? Did you know that takeaway coffee now accounts for almost 40% of coffee sales? Woah hey! What can you do?! Firstly plan to sit in and use a proper cup, and really take time enjoying your coffee not having to sip it on the go (or re-heat it in the microwave as I keep hearing people doing). Secondly if you do need it takeaway then get your own reusable coffee cup and use it. Keep it in your handbag or with your car / house keys so you never forget it. Many coffee shops actually offer a discount if you use your own cup, so ask your local barista to join the War on Waste by supporting the use of reusable coffee cups.  I particularly love these glass coffee cups (and have never broken one in my bag!), and these glass tea flasks are excellent for taking your own tea from home.
  • Plastic Drinking Straws: This to me seems outrageous that such a tiny and so briefly used item can create such a massive impact on our environment. These, out of any of the top 4 baddies, are simply laziness, habit or appearances. I mean everyone wants to look like the cute girl in the soft drink ad..... Say no to plastic drinking straws, and put the cup up to your mouth! Or if you do really like using a straw, and sometimes they are handy with a small child, you can get sweet stainless steel ones here or these fun bamboo ones (we've tried these are a market stall once, but don't have any ourselves - though I really like the idea of them). Make sure you also get a straw cleaner at the same time.

If you've been on a plastic free journey for a while, these might already be on your no list - so I'd love to hear what plastic you're saying no to this year. We're aiming to cut down even further on our food purchases - particularly cheese and tofu packets, and other things that mostly occur when we're not planned or prepared. Most of our plastic purchases seem to happen when time is stretched or we're out of the ordinary - such as camping or we're sick and running low on parenting energy.

A Few Plastic-Free things you might choose to give up this month:

  • Toothbrushes - try these bamboo ones instead.
  • Biscuits in packets - make your own
  • Individually packaged chips or popcorn
  • Individual mini yoghurts or cheeses
  • Soft drinks in glass instead of plastic (or give up soft drink altogether!)

Let's do this together, help each other out and create the change we want our children to grow up watching. One of my favourite quotes is:

"Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals will make a difference, Indeed they are the only ones who ever do" - Philanthropist Margaret Mead

* some links in this post are affiliate links - that means I earn a small percentage if you purchase anything. Biome is a shop that I wholeheartedly love supporting, purchasing from, and recommending. They walk the talk in a way that many businesses don't - right down to sending their postage orders with as minimal plastic packaging (and lots of recycled boxes); which just feels right to me. I love that they have an affiliate program to support bloggers as well. Thank you! {Even if you're a returning customer to Biome, they still give a slightly smaller % to me - so I truly value you using my links to buy your lovelies}.

craft as therapy : different crafts for different moods

Creative Process, WeavingellieComment

Being a creative maker can be hard. Being an artist. It's not easy. Well, let's be honest. Being a human is actually hard isn't it. Showing up every day again and again, and trying to do our best. Some days we just want to stay in bed, yet we can't. Some days I just want to write all day, other days I just want to walk in the forest, or cook nourishing warm yummy things. 

I find that with my moods, my emotional ups or downs, those flimsy ebbs & flows of life sometimes I don't want to do any creative work at all. I want to sit in a slump in the sun drinking tea. Or gin. Gin would be good sometimes wouldn't it! 

But there's only so long that I can indulge in this. Some times I need to push and propel myself out of this feeling. Force myself to start the process of climbing out of the hole*. I do find that by forcing some form of creativity upon myself it does help. Craft as therapy, in a sense. 

But not everything I do (I'm a multi-creative, so I DO A LOT) works in every situation. I just wanted to share a few different ways I work through a creative slump, or a down moment... using my creative skills to help me. 

  • Things that don't require patterns or perfection are good, nor counting of stitches.
  • Things that are repetitive, such as my basket making (pictured) rather than my loom weaving
  • Things that give an outcome are sometimes good; like cooking a meal, or making my lunch look extra special, but not like needing to present a perfectly styled photo for a client
  • Hand stitching lots and lots of straight lines work for me. Not patterns or shapes or anything particular, but just straight stitch on and on, back and forth across my fabric
  • Something that doesn't have a deadline, or even need to be finished; but could indeed sit in a basket of things waiting for the next 'slump' moment
  • Something you know how to do, and don't need to look up the how-to instructions
  • Something that connects you hands and head, and makes you stop over-thinking everything, makes you slow down into the moment again.

What things work for you? What do you do when you're feeling down?

You can learn simple basket weaving here, and add it to your basket of makings, for when you need. It's also lovely for sitting on the verandah in the sunshine with the kids playing beside you. My raffia is dyed using avocado, turmeric and my not-working-so-well indigo vat (just another temperamental fermenting thing really...). And I do wish I had a photo of my little ones with their Lego spread out around them, but I was too in the moment to even think about that!

* I am very aware that my holes are much smaller than many other people's. Some people need help, to talk with someone, to be given a shining bright torch. If you are someone who needs are torch to shine you way through a fog please DO DO ask for help. And don't listen to the friend who says 'they don't do sad', find someone who is there for you. 

Weaving Journal Notes :: The Space Between

Creative Process, WeavingEllie BeckComment

Many of my weaves over the past few months have had a lot of feelings of angst, dealing with internal issues, working through ideas, overcoming emotions / working on emotions. You might not see or feel that when you look at my works, but that's what I know I'm weaving. The stories that evolve while the threads are pulling through my fingers. 

That's the way I weave.... a story telling itself to me, bit by bit. Thread by thread. It unfolds on my loom. Sometimes it changes during the weaving process, it resolves itself, has a beginning, middle and ending. Sometimes it's just a section of the story, and the story continues on in my mind. At any rate, I know when I'm weaving that it's not just stitches and yarn - for me... it's so much more. 

This piece -- I spent three full days ( as full as full time mother with a child beside her can) at the loom. I've tended the yarn, listened to the story, thought about the end image... what it might look like. At the end of the day, regardless of how much I talk about process, I need to finish these pieces and remember that I'm hoping for someone to love them enough to buy them. That really is what it comes down to - alas my financial life doesn't really allow for much languishing of weavings and yarn.

These whites and naturals and blues are feeling much less angsty than previous works. A little more resolved in themselves. Of course, not all smooth sailing as such... but gentler somehow. And then I realised how and why. 

I am weaving myself. Well, always I'm weaving myself. A version of myself. A story of myself. A story of how I view the world, how my emotions and thoughts and feelings and ideas fit into it. I can't help but do that. My art is a self-portrait I suppose, to a degree. Well, this self-portrait I'm currently weaving is a good one. She's content, she's at peace with herself. She's feeling sad and that bittersweet emotion of the looming death-date of her moth. But she's also feeling good about her space in her environment. 

Life is not easy, golly it never will be, but somehow things are in a settled space in herself. Even with external issues (children, friendships, finances, vulnerability about 'being an artist'), there's something that is right inside. There's something that is glowing, and blooming. The depth of the blue that I'll be dyeing in my indigo vat is the depth of my soul - it's a good depth... it's not scary or wrong or too deep. It's the space to feel things, to know things, to discover things. It's the space to feel connected to self, to space, to earth, to landscape. 

journey lines : no map of me

My PoetryEllie BeckComment

journey lines, 
there's no map of me.
I'm unexplored, undiscovered.
I'm foreign, lost to those who fear the unknown or the wrong way, the difficult path. 

I'm hard. I'm challenging.
But I won't alter or sway or bend. 
I won't.

Just so someone can reach me.

You have to want to try to know me. 
And be prepared for hardness.

There's beauty, but there's harsh & wild as well.

If you can't be with the wild, or cope with the harsh,
you lose the beauty.

The whole soul. 

Natural Dye Journal : eucalyptus leaves & seedpods

Natural & Botanical Dye, Tutorials & Crafty makesEllie Beck1 Comment

Here's some pieces from my dye pots lately. I created this piece using fresh eucalyptus leaves and the green unopened seedpods that had fallen (due to a lot of wind and rain) on my dad's driveway. I started thinking about a piece of cloth my mum had, with lots of little bumps all over it. A Shibori pattern, that I didn't know the name of then, but which I think is closest to kanako shibori.

I do wish I knew the different species of eucalyptus trees around our property, but there's a lot. And sometimes I don't know which leaf has fallen from which tree. But this is one my goals for the coming years, to better document and understand the trees in my region. It does make it a bit hard when often I only get versions of brown and brown and brown from the eucalyptus leaves. 

But then - of course, that makes the oranges and purples that much more dramatically wonderful and exciting. 

Here's what I did:

  • Gathered windfallen leaves and green unopened seedpods
  • Arranged them in a pretty pattern, which to be honest doesn't really matter too much as it shifts about, but some version of a pattern still evolves in your final piece, so do keep that in mind. 
  • Roll the bundle very very tightly, the tighter it is the better because you get the direct contact of print onto fabric. 
  • Place it in a pot and simmer for quite a while, sometimes it might take an hour, often I leave it (heat turned off, lid on to contain the heat) over night for the colour develop more. Other times I'm too impatient and simply have to peek at it after an hour or so. *It is generally always better to leave it overnight, allow it to cool down before opening. You get better colour and print transfer, but a few hours is enough as well. 
  • Hang it up to dry, with the leaves and seedpods still on it - they'll fall off as they dry. Don't wash it straight away, once it's dried then you can wash it. I find this helps the colour to set a little more, rather than washing it out straight away. 

Eucalyptus works best with animal fibres such as silk or wool, rather than plant fibres, but it doesn't mean you don't get some results on cotton or linen. Give them a go, but don't expect the colours to be as vibrant or dramatic. You can also experiment with thick (watercolour) paper for fabulous contact prints. 

If you'd like to try more natural & botanical dyeing I have a whole online course, with videos and downloadable pdfs, as well as unlimited email access to me for any extra help you might want. I talk about mordants, local colour, different dye techniques. 

I like mountains & rivers

WeavingEllie BeckComment

My daughter came into my room, with a cup of tea for me, she looked at this new piece and said ‘it makes me think of mountains & rivers’. I said, ‘is that ok’. She said, ‘yes, I like mountains’.

This piece is called “We are standing on the edge of this World”. The names seem to come to me before I begin the piece. I don’t know if that’s because I’m spending more time writing words, and allowing words to come - in a vague sort of poetic sense.

When we exercise a muscle it gets stronger, knows what to do. The brain is the same as any muscle. So the more I think in poetic words, the more that is what my mind wants to keep doing.

 

This piece for a local art-prize exhibition. I would love to have a work at our local gallery. Which is actually an award-winning, well respected regional gallery. It will be due at the Gallery on 17th May. I think I’m giving myself enough time, around life and other work. 

 

I am not sure if I actually want it to be as representational as ‘mountains and rivers’, so we will see how I feel once it progresses. I am thinking perhaps I’ll display it sideways - which will change the look / feel, but will also mean logistics of weaving & warp strings, and we’ll (Sam & me) need to work on that. But easy enough I think. 

If the piece needs it, we’ll / I’ll make it work.

 

The name comes (again) from a song, from Robbie Robertson. But it makes me think of our beautiful region where I live, and of our Earth, our World. So it’s a love weave to Mother Earth. 

 

 

 

 

A sail of colour

My PoetryEllie BeckComment

I took my thread & a sail of colour,

Stitch by stitch I reminded myself

how to breathe again.

Across the wild sea of life,

The storms of parenting.

 

My sail of colour, my silver mast & the wind whipping through the threads.

Until I patched the holes worn ragged,

And made it home in time for tea

And a cloth to lay my head.

Things about today ~ the ocean as metaphor for life

Creative ProcessEllie Beck2 Comments
Ellie Beck Petalplum blog - waves, ocean, sunshine, beach, girl in water.JPG

It's Tuesday today. It's raining today. My (youngest) son is home from preschool today. I thought I'd share some things that are happening at the moment, not so much these actual "things", but perhaps more the thought and emotion things that are happening..... 

I feel like I'm on the edge, watching the ocean pounding around me and trying to find the right moment to jump in without being washed out to sea of thrown back on the shore. That elusive somehow middle space, the balance that doesn't actually exist. 

At the moment I'm blocking things out, in my head and my to-do list. Like a blinkered horse I'm ignoring the things aren't calling as loudly as the other things. I'm pushing things away that I know will either wait, or slip by and be forgotten. I'm trying to remind myself to do the things that matter the most, I'm trying to remind myself to make sure I don't overcommit and that I follow through. I'm trying to remind myself, above all else, that what I am doing is just the very best I can do. And that in being just the very best I'm sure to let some people down, to forget some things, to take longer doing something that I reasonably should but actually have to. 

I'm trying to remind myself simply to breathe.

When you don't plan, and let yourself drift about lovely things can happen, but also other things take over from the important things. Other things push their way in and make themselves feel important. Or yell at you more than the whispering things. I think I want the whispering things..... 

Here's what whispers to me, and what I want to pay more attention to:

  • my loom weavings
  • my daily stitching - particularly Fearless Quilt
  • being present with my children, in a joyful & honest way
  • communicating with my community in a real & raw way
  • quietness for self - mind & body
  • walks in the garden or forest
  • daily writing - be it small and simple poems or longer parts of prose or whatever shows itself

Here's what's talking quite loudly to me that I would very much like to not partake of much more:

  • the daily arguments about washing up, with my children
  • feeling like if I don't upkeep my Instagram I'll loose something (a certain 'following' you might become paying customers is the biggest worry, rather than other things... but other things creep in)
  • doing all the other things because they're important and necessary to some aspects of our life - ie P&C commitments at both preschool and school can't happen, aren't viable
  • guilt at friendships and not staying on top of keeping in touch
  • body issues about having a little more weight than I'd currently like
  • our house endlessly being messy
  • the giant list of things I want to do down the track (have a studio space people can visit / workshop / stay at being a big one)
  • money issues... always, again and again

So - how do we work around and past and through things. How do we make important things important and other things not so. How to we tune into the whispers when the loud talking and yelling gets too loud? Finding space, time, energy, motivation, momentum to have breathing space in life is important. I know when I don't give myself that space then I spiral out of control. Lately - with workshops in Melbourne and Sunshine Coast, being away two weekends in a row... it's hard for us all. River didn't want to go to preschool because I think he needed to give himself breathing space. What a wise little creature - the tears this morning when I went to drop him off where what I knew I needed to shed as well. I'm glad he is wise enough for both of us, to give us both space. And I'm glad my parenting journey how shown me it's ok to drive into town to drop him off at preschool (Which he usually loves), and then bring him home again. 

Listening to whispers. That's what I'll be doing this week. What about you?
What's whispering to you? 
What's yelling at you, that you'd prefer to not be hearing? 

hot pink + inky blue // the greater the artist

ellie1 Comment

I made this crochet bowl / vessel last week*. It just started and happened, I added pieces and cut scraps to size and crochet-worked them in as I went. I love this. I'm going to say it again. I LOVE THIS! If you want to make your own, it's similar to this tutorial I shared here.

I am so loving the inky blue at the moment. It's scraps from my screen printed fabrics, that were sewn into purses and cushions - the edges of stitched and snipped corners, the left over snipplets / scraplets. I am always collecting scraplets from my sewing floor. I love the raggedy frayed edges and the half unraveled stitching.

I make a lot of little bits of things in my making time. Some bits sit unfinished, half finished, not complete. Ideas formed and run off before they fully evolved. I know that's an okay thing. Totally ok. It helps other ideas to progress. Sometimes ideas don't form and work through to the end for a while. But when they do. When it happens as my mind's eye imagined. 

Isn't that just like the biggest thing ever. It's ego-boosting. And I mean ego in a good way. I am not afraid of my ego, when it's being good. I think and artist ego has a sharp edge to slip either side to full-on ego "I'm better than you", or real-ego "I'm the best me". I aim for that one. The other-ego of me, the best of me. It's sometimes a hard line to walk. Between loving what you do, and showing off and then gloating. 

And then. The other option is the doubt. I love this quote about an artist having doubt. It's taken me a long long LONG time to slowly, quietly, sometimes, call myself an artist. I wonder if I am an artist, or a maker, or just a wanna-be. I wonder what's the difference. Anyway. This quote makes me feel like I must be an artist, Robert Hughes is a man who knows his artists.

*This post was originally published on my old blog (which is now lost in past domains) in July 2013. I still love the colours of this piece, and how it makes me feel. Sorry the formatting is a little wonky, importing my blog posts meant that the images come in as they are and I can't re-format the look of it.

The Artful Mum - advice, words, thoughts and essays with Creative Artist Mothers. A new book by Rachel Moodie.

Ellie BeckComment

Motherhood and maker. Mother & artist. These are intrinsically linked in who I am. People talk often about the balance or the divide of being an artist vs being a mother. I'm not sure there is a balance, and I'm not sure I like the idea of dividing those two aspects of myself. I do, by way of keeping some sanity about my work and my self, set boundaries and limits on where and what and how, but by nature of my work, the way I live, my creative outlets and self, as well as who my children are and their own creativity.... well - it's a jumble sort of colour crazy mess some days, while other days it's beautifully combined to create one of those moments that all creative mamas long for. 

Some time ago I met, online only so far, a beautiful woman who was pregnant with her second child. As all mamas, we're reaching out and looking for ways that other mamas work through and around and within this big vast difficult amazing way of being a mother, being a person, being an artist. How we make it work. The real logistics of it, the daily rhythms and rituals and routines that work or don't work to help us out. Rachel and I chatted, via email, about many things... but mostly about being artist mothers. She was curious, as was I, how we each did over. 

Over a few months, we chatted out some ideas. And Rachel told me she was wanting to write down, in book form - that other mamas could hold and reference and connect with - about artist mothers. And she has. I am so honoured to have been involved in this project, and to be asked to be included as one of seven mamas in the book The Artful Mum

In this self-published book, Rachel has asked different Australian creative mamas about their life, their practice, their mama-ing... and how they somehow make it all fit together. There is so much inspiration and information, little snippets and ideas of mothering and arting. 

Rachel is self-publishing this book, which means as creatives and mamas and makers and artists.... let's support her. While also getting something very thoughtful, beautiful, meaningful, inspiring. Pre-orders are available for The Artful Mum now. If you use the code ARTFULMUMELLIE at the checkout you'll receive 10% off the price of the book. 

The other mother artists in the book are Fiona Barrett-Clark, Emily Besser, Kirsten Duncombe, Bianca Harrington, Emma Simmons, and Rachel Moodie, and me Ellie Beck. 

We'll also all be part of an exhibition in Sydney opening early May - that I hope you might be able to come to. I'll share more about that later.

*below is just a small snapshot of some of the pages. You can see more on Rachel's website too, or better yet buy the book, support an artist mum.