Petalplum

kids craft

Naturally Dyed Eggs for Easter - a tutorial

Botanical Dye, Craft Tutorials, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment
Naturally dyed easter eggs tutorial by Ellie Beck Petalplum

Dyeing eggs for Easter is a traditional craft that has it’s origins in pagan Springtime festivals. Like many things, different religions have appropriated aspects and now today we in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate an Autumn-Wintery version of renewal and new growth after the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter’ dark. I like to try to teach my children about the traditional aspects of what gets celebrated in the Christian calendar, and we also have conversations about the commercialisation of it all as well. In the end, it’s just a long weekend of chocolate, family and resting (or lots of cooking for my mother-in-law).

Over the past few years I’ve actually stayed home alone while Sam and the kids visit his parents and family. I concentrate on my writing and art-making, and being able to make whatever meals I want whenever I want. And eating chocolate too, of course!

Which means that I haven’t made any naturally dyed eggs or Easter crafts for a couple of years now. Combined with the fact that the big kids no longer have Easter hat parade at school (oh the beautiful hats we’ve made from forest gatherings), and the little one not yet big enough for those school activities. But I did realise that this beautiful naturally dyed project that I created a few years ago wasn’t on my blog. And now seems like the perfect time to find the photos in my archives and share a simple, fun tutorial with you. Perhaps we will make some, because our local farmers market has an egg seller with glorious white eggs - often hard to find. These make the colours more vibrant with natural dyeing.

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How to make Naturally Dyed Eggs:

You’ll need:

  • Eggshells from Free Range Eggs (please), as white or pale as you can find. I blow out the insides and use for baking. You could also crack the eggs to create little nests. Whatever you do - save the eggs for eating.

  • Dye colours are made from:

    • Turmeric - makes yellow

    • Red cabbage - makes blues, purples & pinks

    • Onion skins; brown & red ones - makes yellows, reds & goldens

    • Hibiscus tea - makes pinks

    • Coffee or tea - makes various browns

    • Spirulina - makes green

    • Avocado seeds or skin (washed very clean) - makes pinks

    • Beetroot - makes pinks

    • Blueberries - makes blues and soft greys

  • Vinegar

  • Bicarb soda

  • Saucepans and vessels for the eggs to soak in

  • Small leaves and flowers from the garden - soft herbs are good

  • Old stockings and string or rubber bands

What to do:

  • Blow the eggs out of the shells by putting a pin hole in the top and bottom. This is time consuming and a little hard, but not terribly hard. You could also hard boil the eggs and eat them. Or crack the eggshells and use them this way in your displays. Wash the shells well.

  • In a small saucepan bring water to a gentle simmer - don’t boil. With each individual ingredient make a dye bath - a little like brewing soup or Turkish coffee. Some colours might take longer to brew than others, depending on the depth of colour you want. Cut the beets and cabbage into small pieces. Use about a teaspoon or so of turmeric and the teas. A handful of onion skins should be good, and 3 or so avocado seeds gently simmered.

  • Put each different dye bath into a container, a bowl or glass jar that’s big enough to hold how many eggs you’ll be dyeing in each colour. Make a few containers of each colour, because you can now shift the colours using the vinegar or bicarb

  • Red cabbage is particularly excellent for colour shifting - the anthrocyanins in red flowers, leaves, vegetables is very sensitive to different pH. Start with your first purple bath, then add vinegar to one jar, and bicarb to another. Watch the colour change straight away.

  • Using your leaves and flowers lay them onto the clean dry egg shells, and tie them in place with the pieces of stocking into small pieces. Make sure you tie it as tightly but gently as possible. This creates a resist for the dye, so you’ll get patterns of white egg where the colour can’t reach.

  • Now immerse your eggs into the dye baths, pushing them in until all the air bubbles come out and they’re covered in the warm dye. Leave them there for at least half an hour. Then allow to dry, and re-dip if you want the colour darker. Let them fully dry before you remove the stockings.

  • At this stage you can also over-dye, putting one dyed egg into another colour. Natural dye colours mix in the same way as paints - so create different hues by building up the colour.

  • Once they’re dry you can rub with a little cooking oil to make them shine if you wish. Try not to touch the eggs when they’re still wet as the colour can come off or your finger prints can make marks.

Naturally dyed eggs with ferns and leaves and Easter crafting tutorial by Ellie Beck Petalplum
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Naturally dyed eggs for Easter how to make by Ellie Beck Petalplum
Naturally dyed easter eggs in a nest tutorial by Ellie Beck Petalplum

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 garden bouquet ~ from my natural dye diaries

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

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

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

You'll need:

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

Here's what you do:

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

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

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

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. 

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!