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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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A sail of colour

My PoetryEllie BeckComment

I took my thread & a sail of colour,

Stitch by stitch I reminded myself

how to breathe again.

Across the wild sea of life,

The storms of parenting.

 

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

Until I patched the holes worn ragged,

And made it home in time for tea

And a cloth to lay my head.

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. 

create more :: stash less ~ a community for crafty folks

Creative ProcessEllie Beck2 Comments
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Do you sometimes look in your crafting / art supplies cupboard and feel a little overwhelmed / guilty at all the extra things you have sitting around, just waiting for the right project. I know I do. I have more fabric than I'll ever, or my kids will ever use. And my tastes have changed, along with my interests and time doing certain things.... which means I have supplies in my cupboard (and packed in boxes) that no longer have a purpose for me. But I know there's someone out there who wants it and will make beautiful things out of it. Which is where Stash Less Create More comes into play.

A short while ago, almost on the spur of the moment, I started a new instagram account, along with Fiona (an online friend, with a private account). I've been meaning to photograph & sell my excess crafty, crafting supplies (fabric and what-nots), and while I was re-folding fabric Fiona was doing a de-stash sale on her account. Being a private account means that Fiona can only sell to her followers, rather than larger audience; and me being more of a curated(ish) account means that I don't want to post lots of pictures of fabric for sale on my main account. SO, like a bolt of lighting I came up with the idea of creating a community account where anyone and everyone could sell their extra supplies - in the crafty world called their stash.

But it sorta goes deeper than just that, and I'm keen to work on taking it deeper over time. It's not just about selling and buying, it's about thinking about buying second hand before you buy new (and buying ethical before you buy mass produced). It's about shopping from your neighbours and sharing our supplies. It's about us all looking at the things we're hoarding / holding onto and asking ourselves if we really do need them. So - it's about encouraging people do to more creating and use things up, and if we're not going to use them then to share them with someone else. It's part of a simplifying of life....and a re-think of possessions.

Please do join our community - share the word with your creative friends and see what fabulous things you might find lurking in someone else's craft cupboards - it could just be that perfect piece of fabric (zip, button, stamp, book, yarn, etc) you've been looking for! If you're keen to sell your supplies you can contact me via our Instagram Stash.Less_Create.More or even email me at stashless.createmore@gmail.com

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!