Petalplum

Craft Tutorials

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. 

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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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
 

 

A garden bouquet ~ from my natural dye diaries

Craft Tutorials, Botanical Dyeellie2 Comments
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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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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. 

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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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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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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.

Natural Dye Journal : eucalyptus leaves & seedpods

Craft Tutorials, Botanical DyeEllie 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. 

tutorial :: weaving on sticks and walks in nature

Weaving, Craft Tutorialsellie4 Comments

"Teeny twiglet loom weaving using hand dyed silk thread"

For me, creating with my children is a natural extension of my own making and we do lots of crafting, but even I can be known to think of crafting with them as too annoying. Often we put crafting with children into the too hard basket because we think we don’t have enough time, it’s too messy, a perceived lack of skill, or it will be expensive.

I have some news to share with you – crafting with children can be as simple and beautiful as tying some yarn around a stick and hanging it in their bedroom window, or outside in a tree. Sitting beside you with your full attention is just as important as the project itself.

This is a simple weaving project which uses found and low cost or recycled materials. Children as young as three or four will enjoy being able to master the technique while older children and adults can make their designs more complex or personal. It's a great way to explore colour combinations and textural differences - it's fun to mix and match different wools, cottons, fabrics and found objects.

To start this project you’ll need:

  • some twigs or sticks :

While paddle pop sticks will work, it’s much more fun, environmental and prettier if you use twigs collected from the backyard or a walk around your neighbourhood. Choose sticks that are not too thick but are strong enough they won’t break easily (eucalypts work well). If they have a wiggly shape or interesting details this will add to your finished piece. To make the most of spending time with your kids, think of the twig gathering as an activity in itself and enjoy the walk in the Winter sunshine, exploring and taking time to stop to look at things instead of the usual school-day attitude of hurrying curious children on. Take a gathering basket with you!

For our weaving we found some sticks with a natural fork in them, and used that as the edges of the loom. If you can’t find a forked stick you can create one by tying three sticks into a triangle. Your twigs can be as long as you like; experiment with different sizes, and shapes; try four sticks to make a square weaving loom.

  • some yarn, thread, wool cotton for weaving :

I use whatever yarn I can get my hands on, though I do prefer natural fibres. Children appreciate using beautiful crafting supplies – you will all enjoy the look and feel of interesting colours and textures. At markets and op-shops keep a look out for bags of wool, cottons or yarns. You can also make your own yarn using old sheets, fabric or t-shirts. I often find great yarny supplies at my local Environment Centre as well. 

  • a sewing needle :

You can use a larger eyed embroidery needle with a blunt nose, or find some plastic needles for children, which are excellent for learning to weave.

Tie the warp thread tightly onto your twig, then wrap around and around to create your loom.

Once your warp thread is fully wrapped and tied tightly at the other end, start your weft thread (the yellow thread above) and weave under and over. Depending on the thickness of your stick, you may find this easier or harder to get a smooth finish.

  • What to do:

Tie one end of the yarn to the bottom of one of the forks of your branch. Stretch the yarn across to the other fork and wrap it around once so you have bridged the thinnest part of your triangle. Take your yarn back to the first side and wrap around about 1-2cm above the first wrap (the thickness of your yarn will determine how far you make these strings/wraps). Continue wrapping the yarn between the two sides, until you get to the top of the fork. In weaving terminology you have now created the warp. Then, taking a new length of yarn (called the weft) weave across the warp threads. Start by knotting your weft onto the bottom warp yarn and threading the yarn over one warp thread then under the next one, then over and so on. When you get to the end, reverse direction and take your weft back down going under the warp that you previously wove over and over the ones you went under.

You can change your weft colour to create patterns or a random effect. Tie each new weft colour yarn onto the previous colour or onto the warp so the whole lot won’t unravel. You might also weave in leaves, feathers, grasses or flowers you found on your walk; or ribbons, lace or other found string-like items. There are no rules. 

I used a needle as the shuttle for these tiny twiglets that I worked on. It was so much easier than pushing the weft through the warp. You can also use some flat cardboard cut into a long 'needle-ish' shape with the end of your weft yarn sticky taped to it; this helps kids have something to work over and under the warp threads, and then pull it all through. 

The more you practice, the more even your tension will be – which means that the weaving will be tight and firm, not too floppy and not pulled out of shape. My children and I are slowly filling the bare Winter branches of a special tree in our garden with hanging weavings and yarn wrapped twigs. It makes me smile each time I look at it, and I'm wondering what the kookaburras think of it all! I think one of the most important things about being creative is not if it’s perfect or neat, but if you feel joy in the making of and looking at it. And if you can share your making time with someone special you just

might multiply this joy. It's important for children to learn that mistakes in creativity aren't a bad thing, and to be able to enjoy their artworks in all their wonky amazingness!

This one, made of op-shopped wools and fabric yarn, lives outside under our tree.

I can't wait to see your tree filled with yarn wrapped wonderful-ness. Please do share! Please contact me if you need any more pictures or extra info. {the children took over my creative space so the photo session was cut short......}..

I love the shadow play that was happening on the sunny day I was a-making. This makes me think of a weedy seadragon; one of my favourite of all animals is a sea horse.

*this was originally written / published on my old Petalplum blog, July 2013. You can still read my blog there, and see sweet photos of my kids as little ones. This weaving still hangs in my studio. 

Crochet basket FREE tutorial and how I film my videos

Creative Process, Craft TutorialsEllie Beck1 Comment

I finally have my giant crochet basket tutorial up ready for you to make your own! Yay. And I thought I'd share a little of the behind the scenes of how I film my video tutorials. As much for keeping it real, but more to remind you - and show you - that you don't need fancy or expensive equipment, you don't need to know everything or be the most best at something, you don't need technical skills, and you don't need to wait around for someone else to help you. You can do what you want right now, with the simple tools that you have. 

 

Do what you can,
with what you have,
right where you are.
— Theodore Roosevelt

 

This past year and a half I've taught myself how to film videos and get them uploaded to my website. How to make sure they're the right format, size and all that. I spent a little while wondering if I might need some help, some better equipment, some know-how from someone experienced in such technical aspects. But only a little while pondering and wondering. Because - like a lot of things I do.... I know I can do it; I just have to jump in and try. 

I continue to surprise myself by the things that I can do. By simply trying, by making mistakes, learning as I go. Many things do not work out, many are wonky and totally "not professional", many have my own personal quirks, many are not what most people might put into the world as part of their business. But - you know what. I will not, ever let that stop me. I am not many, indeed I am not even a few. I am just one, just me. And if I wait around for the perfect everything, for the perfect filmed how-to video with all the right edited moments and perfect overlay of music or slide-ins of my logo or something.... If I wait for that - then I know it'll never happen. I mean; the whole tutorial in general will never end up on line. 

I am very much a 'done is better than perfect' person. But I am also, in my business as well as my creative practice, eager to show that things don't need to be perfectly edited, slickly finished, immaculately presented to be right or beautiful or interesting. That the world in fact needs more 'do it your own way' or 'make mistakes happily' attitudes towards getting things done. That a downloadable template needn't be so pretty that it goes viral, or gets all the re-pins. It just needs to meet its purpose of inspiring someone, showing someone, sharing something, offering something.

Anyway.. all that. Here's a couple of behind the scenes of the way that I film my videos. I use my phone, because I can't get the microphone on my camera to do anything (it films, but it's all silent), and using my phone makes it easier to then get it onto my computer to edit and upload. The tripod I have is for a camera, not a phone - so I need elastic bands and some rigging up of different systems to make it work. I need to legs of the tripod anchored with whatever to hand; sometimes a pile of books, sometimes an old metal tin. Sometimes my phone memory runs out, and the video stops filming before I'm finished talking - I have to either re-film or add another video, or simply write some extra bits and notes for you. 

I hope that these funny behind the scenes moments can remind you to go off and do things that you've been a bit too scared to try..... that you've worried you don't have the right tools, or the right knowledge to make it work. Just go ahead give it a go, make that mistake, step over the bridge. I promise that once you start you'll find it gets easier and easier to keep on going. 

Here's the FREE tutorial for my crochet basket. If you love my online work, and would like to support me in a financial manner, I have a Patreon page where you can donate as little as a $1 every month to help me create my artworks, write my writings (blog posts, stories, etc etc), film my videos and more. 

I'd love to hear about your just making it experiments. What went wrong? What went right? What did you learn? Did you have fun? 

slow & simple Christmas traditions : hand stitched Christmas stockings

Motherhood, Craft Tutorials, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment
Ellie Beck Petalplum web size Christmas traditions tutorialIMG_9333.JPG

Part of my slow & simple seasonal Christmas was to make some new traditions. Or more like - redefine and place more ritual around them. Something like that. With my little one now big enough to understand all the Christmas magic, the big kids have been talking to him about a lot of how it all works. And we're bringing it into our everyday for these weeks leading up to Christmas. I decided to do away with the pillowcases and make some hand stitched stockings for the kids - hopefully next year we'll be able to find them to keep the traditions going!

I must admit I did take a little longer to come around to the Christmas magic this year, but then with a few twinkle lights in our life, and going out together to collect a tree (really it's a fallen branch, with no leaves filled with our special decorations). The kids made treats to gift their friends - which I much prefer than just buying a packet of candy canes, I must admit. It makes me happy seeing them in the kitchen baking for other people, and then packaging it all up and writing notes to everyone.

Ellie Beck Petalplum web size Christmas traditions tutorialIMG_9023.JPG

So, this week I pulled out some felt fabric scraps and some strands of embroidery thread, and sat down to stitch the stockings for my three babies. I thought it would take a whole lot longer, but I kept it simple and these only took a few hours - with many get-up to see what Little One wants to read, eat, play, do, show me….. My girl is on holidays already, so she sat beside me and stitched her own; which made me immensely happy. Because really Christmas isn't about stockings, or things, it's about the creating of those things, the time spent together, talking while you're making, thinking about the joy of reaching your hand inside on Christmas morning. Hanging them up along a beach-found branch. And nibbling on chocolates while you're doing it. That's why I love using felt. These are actually made with some organic cotton quilt batting I had little scraps of. It's soft like lambs wool, but perfectly easy to sew and won't fray. Felt, old blankets, anything like that is great for kids to do their own stitching with, because you don't need to worry about the edges fraying, so you can simply sew the sides together. And is it's a little bit wonky, and some stitches go astray it doesn't matter. One day in 3, or 5 or 10 years you'll look at those stitches with the biggest smile and a pang in your heart.

Ellie Beck Petalplum web size Christmas traditions tutorialIMG_9332.JPG

Make your own HandStitched Christmas Stockings:

You'll need: 

  • Felt or an old blanket

  • A needle not too small, not too big

  • Embroidery thread in assorted colours

  • Ribbon or string or wool to make a hanging loop

  • A scrap of other fabric - we had some bird fabric, you could use flowers, Christmas trees, or even hand embroider whatever shapes you want. Stars, snowflakes...

What to do:

Draw the shape of your 'boot' on scrap paper - make it bigger than you think, because a) the edges take up seam allowance, & b) more space for Santa's gifts!

Trace the pattern piece onto your felt and cut out two pieces. It doesn't matter with felt which side is the outside/right side and which side is the inside/wrong side, but if you're using something with an obvious outside/inside then make sure that you place the two layers together when cutting, with the wrong side facing each other.

With a light pencil draw the child's initial on the front side of the stocking - if you have space their whole name can be lovely too. I'm working with simple and finished before Christmas! Using whatever stitch you like - mine is a simple running stitch - hand stitch the name letter. Fancy lettering is pretty. Have you seen this amazing stitched alphabet? Again, I'm working on a time-frame + toddler-time… so simple letters still look beautiful and work well.

Cut out and stitch on the design. I used running stitch that you can see, but you could also stitch it on with a hidden stitch. Once you've added all the decorations you want to the outside pieces, lay the front and back pieces together and pin. Then blanket stitch around the whole edge. Make sure you stitch in the loop as you're going. Maybe a few extra stitches on that part to make sure it doesn't come out when the kids are enthusiastically pulling at their stockings!

Now - put on some twinkle lights, light some candles and hang those pretty stockings up ready for Santa. We leave home baked biscuits, some milk for Santa (who am I kidding, Santa gets beer in our home!), and of course some carrots for those hard-working reindeers who need as much energy as we can all give them!

Naturally dyeing fabric with Turmeric - a how to tutorial

Craft Tutorials, Botanical DyeEllie Beck4 Comments
Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum
Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

The smell of turmeric naturally dyed on fabric takes me straight back to when my mother made fairy costumes for my sister and me. She dyed white singlets and endless swathes of tulle in a big pot of turmeric. I can remember that we both smelled like that wonderful spice for the whole party. What sweet flower fairies we were!

Turmeric is fabulous and super easy for special events such as a party dress, to decorate a wedding or event, to show children how to make colour in a safe manner, and even great for dyeing eggs for Easter time. Turmeric is what's called a fugitive dye; this means that the colour will fade pretty quickly regardless of anything you do to it (mordanting wise). But please be aware that the colour will fade in the sunshine and run out in the wash really quickly. Despite that it's a magical colour to dye with and makes me smile every single time!

Some notes before you start: remember that natural dyeing and some natural plant based dyes can be toxic. If you intend to boil and dye in your kitchen, please only do so in a well ventilated space and use a pot you won't be using for food purposes. Do some research before you head out foraging for plant material. Wear gloves to protect your hands from any chemicals or chemical reactions.

Also, the process of natural dyeing is such that results vary with materials and quantities used. You cannot expect to achieve perfection or repeat performances; you will instead be surprised and amazed each time you unfold your fabric - and that is better than perfection any day!

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

You will need:

  • Some plain undyed natural fibres. You can use linen, hemp, cotton, wool or silk. Silk is often the easiest to achieve brighter colours than plant based fibres; but you'll find through experiments that different fibres give different results. Use pieces of fabric, as well as lengths of yarn.
  • Turmeric powder, from your health food shop or the spice section of your supermarket. Find the brightest freshest powder you can find. Or freshly grated turmeric root if you can get that.
  • A big saucepan, glass jars with lids, rubber bands, pegs, string.

:: 4L of water and 2 heaped tablespoons of turmeric.

To start with: Soak your material in cold water, so that it is totally wet. This allows the dye to permeate all the way through. Half fill your pot with tap water, add the turmeric powder. The amount of powder you use will depend on how much you are dyeing and how vibrant you want the colour. I don't measure. Bring the water to a gentle simmer, and add your wrung-out materials (you can strain off any un-disolved powder before adding your fabric, but I don't bother). At this stage you can either let it simmer on the stove top until the desired colour has been achieved, or you can fill your glass jars with the fabric and the dye water and place it outside in the sun to continue dyeing for a few days. This is called solar dyeing.

{I love solar dyeing as it gives you the chance of watching the colour develop over days to a week. You aren't using gas or electricity to dye your items, just harnessing the heat of the sun (you could even build a solar oven if you wanted to boil your water that way!). And those colour-filled jars sure look pretty sitting in your garden. (Just make sure the lid is tightly secured and your jars are away from children and pets). }

Once you are happy with your colour, rinse out the fabric. Hang to dry in the shade; your piece will fade in full sun.  Turmeric is a fugitive dye, which means it doesn't last as long as some other natural dyes; but I have found that some fabrics take the colour and keep it better than others, so testing your own fabrics is the best thing. The excellent thing is that it's so easy to re-dye once the colour fades, and it gives us a new appreciation of colours and dyes.

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum
Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum
Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum
Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

To achieve the different patterns on my fabrics I use the following techniques: Shibori folding: This is an age-old Japanese technique of folding or stitching fabric to achieve amazing patterns and shapes. This is an art-form in itself. At this stage, I have neither the time nor inclination to be stitching work just to unpick it (though I crazily admire those who do!), maybe one day I will...

For this pattern, I simply fold and continue to fold the fabric into squares onto itself, in a concertina manner. Then secure it tightly with pegs or clips along the edges, or wrap it with twine (which will also dye).

Dip dyed: An easy and beautifully effective way of allowing the natural process of the coloured water moving up the fabric. This always reminds me of the marks left on sand by waves - you know that slightly transparent line left behind. Ombre continues to be popular - so why not try your hand at making mountain peaks. Start with one end of your fabric in the dye, and the rest hanging out. Leave for at least half and hour. Then slowly move the fabric down into the water a little bit more. Do this as many times as you want, each time leaving it for about half an hour in between. The amount of time you wait before you lower the fabric in, will determine how dramatic the colour change is. Being a natural dye, this process will not be as predictable as with chemical dye.

Scrunch effect: I simply tightly scrunch and then tie (with string that will become coloured as well) or peg the fabric. Place it into the glass bottle and cover with dye. Put a stone on top to weigh it down if need be. Leave this for at least a few days, without agitating or moving it about. The dye will settle into different sections of the scrunch to create the marks; if you move it too many times it won't be as dramatic pattern.

If you're interested in doing any natural & botanical dye, be sure to check out my online natural dye course filled with natural dye love.

 

* this is my most popular blog post ever from

my old blog, Petalplum

with over 20,000 hits on the one post. Wow - you guys really love sunshine colour!

crochet bowls :: the glint of the golden

Creative Process, Craft Tutorialsellie2 Comments

I have been making these lately. My nature is to become wrapped up in the making of one thing, with endless variations, until I no longer want to make that. I think crochet stones are still a love, but I haven't felt the urge to make one for a while, of course I would if someone asked me nicely!

But here - this is a similar process, with different evolutions. Crochet vessels. Some are more bowl shape. Some are part of my "embrace my wonk" shape. I love the little ripples and curves that happen along the way. 

I'm loving loving the golden threads I'm weaving through most of them. It's feeling so satisfying to have this sparkly jump out. Especially when they sit in the sunshine and glimmer and glint.

My mums hair used to do that. She had strands of coppery hair in amongst her darker (and they greying) hair. I loved the way that at certain lights, the sunshine would catch these copper hairs and her whole head would glint and glisten and glow. Lately my kids have been noticing the same in my hair. And oh boy, doesn't that make one happy. My girl has the same too - I can see it in her. 

So, here. I've come around again to talk of my mama. I think the more I envelop myself in my craft/art making the more I feel her deeply happily in me. I also feel the appreciation and support from my online friends (here and on instagram) to be so much what my own mother wanted for herself, and often wasn't able to find. Oh. I think that's another topic altogether. 

This is about how I love these crochet vessels. Them forming in my hands. And being a practical thing for our home. To gather and catch our keys, spare change, trinkets, though mostly my more crochet supplies and other crafty bits! Now that's pretty sparkly and golden itself isn't it!!

always with the crochet :: beautiful v useful

Creative Process, Craft Tutorialsellie3 Comments

Last week I sent these small crochet doilies off to their 'owner'. I wrote about it

here

. And with that project gone, I can move onto new and different crochet works. But the strange thing is, this pattern is now (finally) stuck in my head and I want to stitch this again and again. Ah ha - the mind is a funny thing. 

Anyway, I have some important pieces I need to get made and posted, for an Instagram Swap I organised. Life took over, and I haven't been able to make the pieces I want. I'm guessing my swap partners will receive some doilies and such. 

While I love making doilies and crochet covered stones, I keep asking myself the "importance" of them. Usually I have a thought/feeling/inclination to produce.make.create practical things. I question myself on why I'm adding more and more to this world of things that aren't practical and useful. I remind myself often of this quote; which I believe rings true for myself (and probably for many of you also):

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" William Morris

So, while my crochet stones may not be useful (except as little paper weights), they are indeed beautiful. Thank you William for your words.

Having said that - I am enjoying working on

crochet bowls

and vessels and having them become useful (and beautiful) things to hold the useless yet beautiful items.

* I gather a collection of crochet inspiration on my

Pinterest board

, if you're in need of some hookery. 

1000 crochet doilies & connections stitched

Creative Process, Craft Tutorialsellie3 Comments

This week I am finally sending off the 30 doilies I have crocheted for

Lisa Solomon

's 1000 Doilies project. I have loved working on these for so many reasons, the main being the connection to all the other people who were making them as well. 

How wonderful for someone to put the word out, and ask for people to follow a pattern and crochet some pieces to add to an installation of her work. 

You can read a little about Lisa's

art piece here

. I love the thread colours and the 10 doilies x 100 colours = 1000.

I first "met" Lisa through Instragram, I think.. I can barely remember anymore. Does it actually matter? Nope, not really. I was immediately drawn to her use of colour in a methodical and thoughtful way (I mean, look at those colours up there - this project is about tonal gradation and hues), and to her dangly tangly threads that I saw in her work. The finished yet unfinished aspect of it really captured what I myself felt I was working on - or maybe a bit of how I work. I urge you to go and have a look through her

website

and find some lovely.

Lisa is also super-cool. And I love that. Cool in a real way. She is an art teacher and a practicing artist, and a mama. I love her instagram feed with the view points of shape and colour and line. I love

her book

. I also love the way Lisa seems to be collaborative - she has connections with other artists, and gathers people in. She shares skills and advice. 

Mostly I love that Lisa trusted me enough to be part of this amazing project with her. With everyone else who is making. All these lives that we've stitched into our doilies will be gathered together into Lisa's hands and displayed. And most people who look at the art work (in real - I'll only see it in pictures) will probably see the beauty that is there. The colours and lines and shapes. They won't know the stories of the people who made these pieces. The way that I carried a little fabric pouch with my thread and hook and pattern, the way I never fully remembered the pattern, so had to carry it with me. The way I sat at cafes with threads in front of me, and other customers asked about the teeny little work I was making - and were surprised that I was making it to send to an artwork on the other side of the world. The way my family knew it was an important thing I was working on, for an important project, and helped me along the way - let me count that one row of stitches where I couldn't talk or I'd have to start again. 

And you know what. I love the fact that two of my very special instagram friends also made doilies.

Kate

(blog) /

foxslane

(IG) and

Cyndi

(blog) /

elf_girl

(IG). We encouraged each other and enjoyed sharing where we were up to. The way I thought maybe Kate and I could sit and crochet together one day, and somehow here we are are working on one big thing together. 

You can see the doilies here on the instagram hashtag

#1000doilies

. I'm following along to see the final work with all our stitches and those colourful doilies talking together in one room. Thanks Lisa for letting me crochet with my far-away friends. xxxx

*bottom image of threads stacked is from Lisa Solomon's blog.