Petalplum

botanical dye

natural dye notes : sorbet sherbet colours from January

Botanical Dye, Creative ProcessEllie BeckComment
Fabric sorbet Febrary 2019 web size.jpeg
Naturally dyed fabric with hand. Purple orange. By Ellie Beck Petalplum
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I spent a good many days during the hot of January and into early February dyeing fabric. Using local colour (mostly) to creates a bundle of fabric that feels like Summer’s sherbets and sorbets. I’m trying to keep better notes and journals of my dyeing; who knows why… it’s never the same next time is it!

Anyway - here’s what I created and what I used to dye it. Flowers and berries from my garden. Fallen tree bark from the forest. And a few powdered dyes as well, mostly because I still have them from a few years ago and trying to use them up.

  • Dahlia flowers - both dried and fresh in the pot. They created yellows, oranges and warm goldens. I also later - after this photo - made some very lovely warm browns. More dahlia dye notes coming soon.

  • This divine purple is from elderberries. This is the first time our plants have ever produced berries (all the heat?) and while there is only a small handful, I’m so glad I tested it out. There’s a few more ripening so hopefully I can have a play again next week. Not sure yet about the lightfastness of it; berries are known for fading.

  • This beautiful eucalyptus tree outside dropped all it’s bark recently. I had as much fun playing with the bark, as with dyeing. I did have wishful hopes for some pinks, but we rarely get that from our trees around here, so it was more a pale brown. The addition of iron (rusty nails) created a very very beautiful grey.

  • Madder powder gave me these purples and pinks. No reds - I think the powder was quite old, not sure if that effects it or not. I am on the look out for a madder plant or seeds, as I’d love to add this to my slowly slowly growing dye garden.

This stack of fabrics was dyed for my Little Moments of Creative Fabric Kits. I made a tote bag with mine, as well as some of the scraps went into this piece I am slowly working into a quilt. If you’d like your own bundle of dyed fabrics, I have just a few left in my current pre-order for Little Moments of Creative.

You can read more of my Natural Dye Notes here. And my online course shows you how to dye and create colours.

Fabric stack January 2019 - botanically naturally dyed_ web size.jpeg
Naturally dyed tote bag in the garden -January 2019 Ellie Beck.jpg
MIshi in garden with naturally dyed tote bag web size.jpeg

Dyeing Sunshine : Natural dye with coreopsis flowers

Botanical DyeEllie BeckComment
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Ellie Beck Petalplum_coreopsis flowers natural dyeing_web size7061C37F-2FF8-46B1-B855-6D1552D749E1.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think? Do you agree?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • making mistakes.

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

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

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

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

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
 

 

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. 

The Fearless Quilt : as story unfolding for life

Creative ProcessEllie BeckComment

The Fearless Quilt came to be quite unexpectedly, as does the nature of some things. Divine Inspiration, being open to the muse, listening & actioning, being guided..... or simply following along a path (however wonky & meandering it has been & will be) that you set out on some time ago. It doesn't matter how a thing comes to you, I think what matters is how to receive it and what you do with it, and where you take it, and how you hold it. 

I began on the first of the new year by writing a letter to my future self. I have planned to put it away and read it again in a year's time. What I wrote was nothing too dramatic, but just the putting into words - onto paper - what I have been telling myself all the past year. That I want to make art, create art, practice art, do art. So I wrote - every day this year I will sit and practice art. I will not worry what "art" means, or by what medium I work with. But I will practice at something artfully every single day. 

So, then I sat down with my fabrics and my stitching. And starting my hand sewing. I started slowly, simply enough. The beginnings of a quilt that I have been toying with for a little while now. The fabrics have be unfolded and folded, piled and stacked, sorted, placed, arranged, re-arranged, some stitched over, others the scraps from dye pots. Some ironed, others crumpled. But a smallish collection to begin something, with an intention. 

As I sat working, my mind started pondering. Making art for me starts to work towards the reality of what and where - where does my art go? I live a simple life, in a small home. We do not have space for more things. In my life I often ponder of putting more "stuff" out into the world, of people needing it (I always come round saying people want it, why shouldn't they have my beautiful stuff instead of shop bought stuff). But never-the-less there is that overarching ponder-ment of what happens to it afterwards. Which is why I decided on a quilt. Because a quilt is practical. The bed or person it drapes on becomes the wall for showing off the artwork, but the work takes on a new life by being used, loved, enjoyed. Not simply hung on a wall and looked at (I know that that too is good and important .... but we have so few walls I can't keep making wall things!). 

And as my brain oft does... it starts to ponder how will I be able to support this art making. How will I support my family through this art making. Making art everyday is vital and necessary and good for the soul - but the body and tummy needs nourishment too... which comes in the way of selling the art. And my mind goes off on tangents of selling art quilts... which I would so love to do. To have someone using, loving the work I create with my hands. But the realist in me knows that there's no way I can hand sew enough quilts to make a living, without wearing my fingers raw. 

And while I'm stitching - most importantly - I'm realising that the process with which I'm working / using isn't giving me the scope for the vision I have talking to me. The way that a quilt (bits of fabric sewn together) must work, weren't giving me the right format / blank space for the art aspect. I come across this in my loom weavings sometimes too - where the process of warping and then weaving means that I have to negotiate the vision, that it can't always be as I see it. A painting on canvas is a different way.... a quilt or a weaving has a different structure.

I had wanted to hand quilt the whole piece, but then... due to this aspect I decided to machine sew some sections together, which I can then hand quilt. This putting together will give me a different 'canvas' structure to work with, to begin with. The base plate will give me space for the vision, in a different way. I am not sure if this makes sense at all.... perhaps it doesn't matter ---- because it's all the underpinning for what came next, and then what came next from that. 

So : yesterday, I got out my sewing machine. I laid the backing piece down and started creating the pieces of the quilt top. I worked the colours, patterns, shapes, pieces - like a puzzle. But in small sections only, not like a traditional quilt that thinks about the whole piece as one thing... indeed just a bit here while I worked on that. Then I'll add more while I work on the next bit. And some sections I've left blank at the moment, until I come back to them - to add in other bits as needed. To build the vision, the story slowly slowly as it evolves. 

I am sewing fabrics together with different weights and weaves - some soft flimsy silks beside thick velvet, linen beside wool felt. And the pieces are not the same size or shape, and as in the traditional way of sewing seams and edges of fabric together -  some extend past others, some stop short. The structure of sewing seams together means this is a little wonky, and tricky, and totally "wrong" in any sense of how you machine sew. 

And this.... right here is where it all began!!! The magic of just jumping in. Of starting without an end picture in mind, I do not even have enough fabrics to complete it at the moment, I do not have space on my table to lay it all out. I do not have the inclination to lay it all out as one whole - but in fact to work on one section,  machine sew those pieces together, then hand sewn them onto the quilt backing (Which is a piece of linen). Then add on the next sections, and some will be hand sewn and some machine sewn. And some bits will be wonky, overlapping, there's gaps where the fabrics won't join or match up - I'll simply sew another piece over that to fill the space. 

A combination of all that I am, and all that I know. The straight lines and "rules" of machine sewing, the patched mendedness of boro or kantha, the quiet solitude of sashiko, and the wild fearlessness of my mother!

This morning I got up, the quilt on the kitchen table. (Remember I am home alone for three whole days - no-one to ask me for things, no need to push aside my projects for family meals). And I began playing with the fabrics again. An excitement welling up. But my mind is not one to quietly sit by while my hands work..... 

And so - from there... the notions of pulling my scraps, my precious saved collected stitched loved hand dyed fabrics, combined with my wild notions of making mistakes and just giving it a go, added to my underpinning of understanding the structure of making a quilt / sewing something, joined with the quietness of days at home alone... And I come to this ::

The Fearless Quilt is the story of my life. We all know that quilts are stories of things, and lives.. Traditionally the way they're made, stitched by women around family, life, hardship, joy. Quilt patterns have names that relate to something. Well - here's my quilt pattern, and here's what it relates to.

My life this year will be fearless. I will take all that I know, and jump headfirst into all that I do not know. I will take the precious saved things from our of the boxes and use them, love them, make mistakes with them - maybe even ruin some of them. I will take the knowledge combined with the emotions and create things. I think this is how I run my business, and how I creatively work. But to have the word form in my head - to show me what I have been doing without realising. This year I will take everything and put it together. It will take time, it will be slow and sometimes hard. There will be bursts of inspiration, and moments of having to push through. I'll have to make some new pieces to add in, and borrow some pieces as well. I'll have to find extra bits, ask for help, teach myself things again and anew. 

I received an email this morning that added to all this. That was perhaps like the binding on a quilt - showing me how to make it all as something that can be used. I have an quilt with binding... it's usable but not so practical or pretty, and it looked a little funny, and didn't fold up neatly. And always felt not quite loved enough to be finished. This year I will bind my Fearless Quilt and I will bind my Fearless life, ready to be used, loved, perhaps worn a little, enjoyed, appreciated......

Right now - there's the working it all out. Seeing how it can happen. But the ideas are bubbling. And so here's what I know how :: this year I will write two books. One I already have begun, and have an editor and publishers for. One I will write myself... I will hope to find someone - but maybe publish it myself. It will be based upon my Fearless Simple Creative living, and based upon my Unfurl & Bloom course, and based upon the notions I have inside me that I have so much to give to others... to help them find their creative selves.

weaving process photos & dyeing with eucalyptus leaves

Creative Process, WeavingEllie Beck3 Comments
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This is the weaving that's been on my loom for over a month now. I keep coming to it, to finish it, and being dragged away by something else. I long for the day when my loom weaving can be my full time income, but the truth is I also know that I have lots of other stuff that I need to share with the world as well. 

I thought I'd talk a little about my process of beginning a weaving. I feel like my loom weaving has come to a point in my creative outlet where it's more than just weaving. To me, for me, it's my voice speaking out. My artistic creative voice. Sharing itself with the world. 

Some of my work is my craft, some my writing & photography & teaching. Weaving is my artistic voice. It's not about stating it's goodness or quality in the art world, it's simply how I feel about the work.

Mind you - some one just received one of my weaves in the post and her thank you message was utterly mind-blowing in she felt upon looking at my work. Comments like that make me truly feel like a real artist. Whatever a real artist actually is!

I spend a fair bit of my creative process actually in my head. Due to be a full time mother, with a 3yr-old, 10 & 13yr-old needing me regularly constantly emotionally physically... Well.... due to that, and the fact I don't have full time set aside for loom weaving (or any of my creative practices) I do much of the pre-planing, thinking, emotional work in my mind. 

A story comes to me, an idea, a vague visual reference. Or often an emotion that refers to something. It's never solid or concrete, but also fleeting . Very emotional I think. Very possibilities, potentials, maybes.. 

I start with a colour theme. Because I dye almost all of my yarns myself, I begin my process with the colours. That in itself is a long process of gathering the dye materials, wrapping & binding my threads and yarns, extracting the colour from the plants or flowers. I have an idea in mind, but I know that natural dye is never an exact outcome - so I am open to allowing the process to evolve and be part of the work. 

With this piece I knew I wanted deeps darks greys, blacks, purples, mottled effects. I used eucalyptus leaves gathered from around my property and with the addition of rusty iron (nails and bits of rusty metal), I knew I'd get some blacks or deep greys, with a purple-ish undertone. Maybe a few pinkish underhues if I was lucky. Lots of browns came through - very predictable from the eucalyptus from my region (I don't get much reds or oranges as you can achieve down south). 

Without going into full emotional detail about this weaving, it's a story on the ongoing dramas of life with my daughter. Wonderful, wild, crazy, emotionally big, black, white, pure innocence combined with the depth of drama of troubles & challenges. On the brink of teenage hood, yet still in fairyland. 

I find weaving to be very meditative as well as emotional therapy. For me, a lot of my weaves have this feeling of working through my stories, emotions, challenges, joys. Sharing that in a visual, textural, tactile way. 

My girl has this way, that I've read in some books about sensitive children, of being pure beauty & joy when we're out in public. What she shares with the world vs what she allows her family to see. The exterior of white, and inside this depth of learning, unknowing, discovering, challenges. A darkness. 

Perhaps the darkness that we all keep hidden from everyday society. 

In my current work I'm using a lot of exposed ends, rather than weaving the tails in. There isn't a finished neatness in the life. My woven stories are about life. About those realness moments. Where we have rough parts beside smooth refine areas. 

Using finer threads combined with some fluffy roving, I also like the combination of soumak alongside plain weave. The way they sit together. My soumak is never neat and tidy, I like the way it can be large and messy, or small and neat, pushed together or stretched wide to give space. 

The gaps in the weaving - where you can see warp only - are those parts where her light gets in. I feel like there's the jagged edges of a crystal, the beauty that is formed deep inside the earth, that's often hidden beneath the smooth shell. 

I barely every draw my designs down on paper. I have an idea in my mind - a visual, but mostly a story. I'm weaving the story stitch by stitch, colour by colour, the same way I'd write a poem or a book or a letter. ..... an idea of what I want to say, but until I get to that part I'm not entirely sure how it'll look, sound or feel. 

With this style of weaving I start anywhere, add bits here and there all over. Not in a lineal manner, but a haphazard process... as the story shows itself to me. 

Through this weave, which is almost but not yet finished, I've gone through some deep thoughts on being a mother to a wild emotional daughter. Also, on not having my own mother around to question her, or ask advice (I'm sure her story will always come up in my weavings). I've also found I've come to a peace about my daughter, about her emotions and her depth of character, her challenges in who she is and who she'll become. 

You can view some short videos of me weaving this piece on my ellie.beck.creative Instagram account here. I'll see if I can get videos to upload to this page as well (I'm thinking one day my Instagram account will cease to exist and I'll have everything saved there and nothing anywhere else...).

gift wrapping - environmental impact and sustainable (beautiful) options

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie Beck2 Comments
hand painted fabric Websize.jpeg

When we were growing up wrapping paper was a special thing in our house. By this I mean - we didn't buy endless rolls of wrapping paper just because, my parents bought beautiful special paper and we made it last. Every gift that was given was wrapped with care (often without sticky tape), and unwrapped with even more care. There was none of that tearing paper open on Christmas morning; we'd gently unwrap and then fold the paper ready for it's next use. I remember one particular special piece of paper that lasted in our family - being gifted around and around - for years, and by years I mean more than 10 or 15 years. 

This is just one small part that makes my family different to many other families, but it's something that my siblings and I appreciate and respect (then and now), and now our own children follow the same 'care for the wrapping paper' ways. Yay for that!

It's these small, and often un-thought-of environmental changes that you can make in your daily life. They don't take a lot of extra effort, just a new way of thinking, training your brain in a different way. Change like this is good, slow and small, but hopefully long lasting and trickles down to the next generation. 

Another way of wrapping your gifts with a sustainable and environmental underpinning is the Japanese art of Furoshiki. Those Japanese are super clever aren't they - with their origami ways, their artful ideas, their simple beautiful thoughts.

Furoshiki is, in essence, a piece of cloth used to wrap and tie around an item. We have a book in our bookshelf called How to Wrap 5 Eggs! Fabulous. Basically using the right size you can wrap a present for a friend, lunch for your kids, a bottle of wine to take for dinner, a pot plant, even make yourself a handbag or a new top to wear. 

I will admit that gifting special fabric to everyone in your life might not work, especially school friends who won't even know what to do with it; but if you re-think the whole gift then the wrapping can be part of the present. 

Gifting environmentally thoughtful presents sparks a conversation. It allows you to educate your friends or family on how small things can make a big difference. I did a little googling, just so I could shock you a little.... 

            Environmental effects of wrapping paper - The UK alone uses more than 8,000 tons of wrapping paper a year, that equates to 50,000 tress being cut down. In the USA about half of all paper products consumed is wrapping paper, which is thrown away after one use. Consider also that many gift wraps (especially cheaper bulk buy ones) come wrapped in plastic wrap, and many gifts are secured with sticky tape and plastic bows and ribbons, while some wrapping options aren't even paper but cheap foil that isn't or can't be recycled. Attach a gift card and you're looking at more than 100,000 trees being cut down (in USA) each year just for throw away gift wrapping. (I'm not even going get into the environmental impact of the gifts that come inside the wrapping paper!).

But it can be different. t's estimated that the average American gives 42 gifts each year, if only 3 of those are wrapped in recycled options it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! This shows that small change is effective and powerful. That your actions do in fact help. And that as a community - or country - we can make change.

Here's a few simple alternatives for gifting:

  • A scarf and use that as the wrapping for some chocolates or flowers
  • A sewing kit and use a piece of linen as the wrapping and also as the project
  • A toy and use the wrapping as a play mat or a doll blanket
  • Homebaked biscuits in a upcycled jar with a tea towel as the wrapping
  • A bottle of wine with a tea towel or linen placemat as the wrapping
  • A bunch of flowers with fabric wrapping that can be reused for flowers again
  • A book or CD (remember those things?!) with fabric that can become the book bag

 

You don't need to use expensive linen or beautiful silk scarves, but can indeed op-shop (thrift-store) some sheets, tea towels or fabric pieces for very little money and cut it into sizes suitable for various objects. You could pre-make some furoshiki wraps or make them as needed to match the size of the gift. 

Here's some ideas to customise the fabric - art it up perhaps:

  • get the kids to paint a giant sheet before you cut & hem it, or leave the edges raw
  • dye it - simple kitchen scraps make beautiful dyes. (I'll share my onion skin dye recipe in a few days, once I get all the pictures finished)
  • do some fun random stitching on the fabric - either by hand or machine. Random machine stitching in bright colours is super fun to do and very effective
  • find some of that crazy funky fabric you'd never use for clothing; I bet it's perfect for gift wrapping
  • make sure you include a printed instruction sheet for people to pass on the wrapping tradition to someone else. Here's a great downloadable from the Japanese government website. (until I find or make a better one). 
  • If you want to learn how to make some like I have pictured here, I share the how-to on my fabric printing online course

naturally dyed fabric and reasons that I blog

Botanical DyeEllie Beck2 Comments

Sometimes I wait for the right story, or perfectly composed messages to share here. Once upon a time I used to just share words and images, as they happened. I didn't worry about them needing to be 'on brand' or fit within a theme or category. I just wrote what I felt, thought, saw, made, wanted to make... You can still read my old blog  from all those years ago. I am planning on bringing some of my old blog posts over here, but as always time is time and mostly I want to play in the garden with my little ones or sit and sip tea and stitch or weave. Or chat with my husband. So... it might take a while, or it might never happen. 

At any rate. Here's some lovely photos I took of some of my botanically dyed fabric pieces. And they're so pretty I thought I should share them here, rather than only always sharing things on Instagram. 

I dyed these with a combination of my bundle dye method and hot dye methods (both of which I talk about in my online course). Using gathered flowers and leaves, as well as kitchen scraps. I wish I could tell you what each one was individually coloured with, but this is a selection over time, and my dye note keeping isn't that excellent.

The piece below (on the right) was dyed wrapped around an old tin can (we barely ever buy these, so I've not had them to experiment with before. Now I'm saving whatever I find, because I love the way it dyed - the colours and the patterns). The yellow through the middle was from dried sweet pea flowers. I didn't get them in the dye pot while they were still fresh, but I'd like to try that because I think the purple blooms might have given a purple colour. One fell, while still fresh and juicy, onto a piece of cloth and coloured it .... a stain or not, I'm not sure. 

These were all bundled up, tucked into the fabric and then wrapped around the metal tin (what metals do they put in those tins?). And then cooked on and off over a day. This silk had no mordant, the metals in the tin and the iron (rusty nails) that I had in the water would be enough mordant, especially on silk. Plus I won't be wearing this fabric or heavily exposing it to sunshine.

I took these photos as part of some styling videos for my upcoming Unfurl & Bloom online course. I shared some of the ways I style my creative work, especially for Instagram. I'm thinking of writing a little ebook thingy as a free download, would you be interested?

I've been looking back at my old blog this past week, and it made me sad that I don't blog regularly anymore. And that all the "rules" of being in business, combined with an increasing want for privacy, I don't share photos or stories of my little ones any more. Especially as they're getting bigger. My blog used to be a diary; I don't keep a paper diary, or have a very effective photo archiving system. My blog did a good job of that. 

So... I might start blogging again, maybe less of the kids, but more of my thoughts and processes and the things I'm making / made / working on. And not worry too much about the rules of blogging for indie business that say you must tag all your photos to be pinterest worthy, or you have to think about seo in the post heading and first sentence. And you have to be on brand, or why would people visit. My favourite blogs to read (not that I read as many as I used to), are simply the ones that share the stories and life and what we're all going through as humans together in this funny world.