Petalplum

natural dye

Dye Garden Notes for Autumn - April

Botanical DyeEllie Beck1 Comment
Japanese indigo flowers in the early morning dew. I love the way the spiders creep in at night time to make their little homes.

Japanese indigo flowers in the early morning dew. I love the way the spiders creep in at night time to make their little homes.

Japanese Indigo in flower, polygonum tinctorium

Japanese Indigo in flower, polygonum tinctorium

I am slowly slowly getting my garden becoming more of a thing. The dahlias, cosmos and zinnias from Summer’s garden are still blooming quite abundantly, but it’s all looking a little overgrown and end-of-season-ish. A couple of weeks ago, we made a new garden bed, and I planted out the indigo and woad. As well as some other things that needed to from pots to the ground.

We created a layer garden bed, using old palm fronds and some of our composting toilet compost / soil, as well as soil that we’d previously gathered from the forest - from an old abandoned bush turkey mound. Perfect amazing soil, those bush turkeys sure are wonderful at making soil. But it’s a lot of hard work digging it all up from the forest and bringing it down into our yard, barrow or bucket at a time. That’s why the garden work is slow. The long work of it all. The raised bed idea is easiest for us, on our land, as the ground is full of rocks and quite clay-ish. Creating a raised garden bed is fairly easy to do. I learned from a workshop I did last Spring, but also Milkwood book has some great help and ideas.

Tote bags made using fabric dyed from my garden (except the blue from indigo vat). Purple is from elderberries, oranges from dahlias, pink from avocado, greys from iron over dahlia. In the back ground you can see the beginnings of the pokeweed starting to ripen - the birds got them all this year, so no dye experiments alas.

Tote bags made using fabric dyed from my garden (except the blue from indigo vat). Purple is from elderberries, oranges from dahlias, pink from avocado, greys from iron over dahlia. In the back ground you can see the beginnings of the pokeweed starting to ripen - the birds got them all this year, so no dye experiments alas.

  • Currently the Japanese Indigo (polygonum tinctorium) is in flower. I did put it in late in the season, so I’m hoping it’ll go to seed and I can collect that and then grow fresh next Spring. It hasn’t really grown big enough for me to pick any leaves. Not enough to make any sort of dye experiments, thats for sure.

  • The ‘true’ indigo (indigofera tinctoria) that I planted all died before I could even transplant them into the garden. I’ve read that they are fussy with water - don’t like too much, don’t like not enough. I saved some seeds from the batch I bought and will try again in Spring. And I’ll keep them out of the rainy weather so I can control the watering situation.

  • The woad (isatis tinctoria) is growing slowly, but healthily. I’ve no idea if it’ll flower before Winter, or simply die. Or just keep going through, that would be great wouldn’t it.

  • I planted blackk hollyhocks, but not sure that I know / knew how to get the best out of them. I’ve since read that they don’t flower until the second year, and need a lot of tending. So we’ll see. One batch started flowing over, and growing along the ground. The other batch - in a different section - is still just a small plant. I had expected them to be tall by now. Anyway. All lessons.

  • I did put some seeds in of ‘dyers marigold’ (which is different than the regular marigold that I have growing), but none came up. Which is strange as marigolds are generally very hardy. But I’ll try again in late Winter. Or perhaps I’ll run out a poke a few in the soil now. I’m an eggs in all the baskets, seeds in all the seasons type of gardener. I have found the marigolds I have (the regular orange and yellow ones, small heads) don’t give as vibrant or regular colour as I’d expect; so I think I do need a different marigold. What’s your experience or thoughts on this?

    • I got my dye seeds from All Rare Herbs, they have an excellent selection of dye seeds / plants, if you live in Australia - I think it’s the best I’ve seen in any one place. They also sell plants at certain times of the year, so I might try that too - especially madder, which takes many years to grow before ready for harvesting. I have seen people selling indigo seeds via Instagram and Facebook as well, if you’re after some.

    • I’ll add to the dye seeds before Springtime. Dyers Chamomile, tansy, henna, madder, and Syrian Rue I have already.

This weekend past I planted rannunculus, anemones, freesias, jonquils and garlic. As well as a few different seeds that I put in randomly - some old poppies that I’m crossing my fingers will grow, and some dark deep purple pansies. Last year I dyed with the dark purple rannunc I was given and they were amazing. So I’m hoping to be able to experiment more with that come Springtime. I’m not sure if I’ll try the jonquils in the dye pot - I know that daffodils are amazing, but they won’t grow here very happily (without a lot of extra tending), so I’m not going to bother planting any. I have dyed with them in the past, when I managed to get some from a market in Sydney. Stunning amazing yellow - if you have daffodils growing, do try them in your dye pot. And we’ll see if I get enough jonquils to plunge them into water.

The orange cosmos has made an amazing print on my linen. I haven’t tried it on silk, because I have none to work with, The seeds are popping up everywhere in the new garden patch, so I think I’ll have lots to test with over the coming year. For some strange reason I never dyed fabric with the purple cosmos - they were stunning on paper. So, I’ll have to wait until next Spring and hope my self-collected seeds grow.

I have to share an updated dahlia dyeing journal - because I’ve been getting lots of lovely varieties of colours and tones depending on dye process. But the deep purple ones that I was gifted last Spring are still going so strongly. The little orange ones have died down now - probably mostly due to their end of the garden becoming a little overgrown. I have some sown from seeds as well that are much slower and littler, but might be bigger next season.

I’d love to know what you might want to learn, read, know about natural dyeing and gardening and fabric and such. Is there a plant you’ve wanted to dye with, but not sure how. Do you want me to write a little dye notes on using dahlias - and share my colours? Let me know….

Dahlia bud - this one is a special that we’ve had only two of. From the same plant as all the dark deep purples, it’s given some of these white petals. Dark coloured dahlia flowers gives yellows, oranges and even gentle browns in the dye pot.

Dahlia bud - this one is a special that we’ve had only two of. From the same plant as all the dark deep purples, it’s given some of these white petals. Dark coloured dahlia flowers gives yellows, oranges and even gentle browns in the dye pot.

Pink zinnia and orange cosmos

Pink zinnia and orange cosmos

Woad - isatis tinctoria

Woad - isatis tinctoria

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

natural dye notes : sorbet sherbet colours from January

Botanical Dye, Creative ProcessEllie BeckComment
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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.

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in the garden - gathering flowers and plant dyeing and feeling abundant

Slow & Sustainable Living, Botanical DyeEllie BeckComment
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Every year we try to plant a garden, of some sort or other. Some years we’ve had flourishing garden, picking veges and flowers, other years barely anything at all. Some years it’s determined by the floods or the lack of water. I’ve done a lot of hand watering, carrying buckets from the creek to the garden over the years (especially when we first moved here to this land, and didn’t have water plumbed in yet). Some years I’ve watched all the soil and the plants washed away by a giant flood. Or the seedlings eaten by possums or wallabies, or the fruits picked off by bush turkeys.

But this year I have this. Three raised beds (metal frames) and a raised no-dig garden bed. And a whole lot of flowers that are blooming and thriving - despite our low-quality soil, but perhaps due to all the love and watering and conversations I am having with the little plants.

The dahlia tubers were gifted to me, from my dear sister-in-law and also a dear woman who I met recently, and makes magic with flowers. The cosmos keep getting taller and taller, and gifting us new blooms each morning. The tomatoes have grown past the bamboo teepees we built for them, and are giving us sweet little pops of deliciousness every day at the moment.

Having a small space right outside out home, that I can see from my kitchen window, makes me so so happy. The pure joy and pleasure of waking each morning, to water or tend or talk to my plants begins my day with a nourishment and uplifting feeling of possibility.

We planted more seeds this week past, including some woad and indigo. Next year my dye garden, flower garden and even perhaps vege garden will grow and expand. But for now it’s helping me to grow and expand, to nourish myself in simple small slow ways.

A feeling of abundance & garden metaphor for creativity ~

My garden, for me, is a very visual representation of the way we can feel about ourselves and the world, and how we can respond and react. Tending baby seedlings is like tending to the creativity inside us, the more we watch, water, talk to, nourish, spend time with the better the plants grow. Same as giving yourself the permission to nourish your self - giving yourself good soil (materials or time or simply kind words), and time. Watering a garden everyday is necessary in our climate here. When I’m watering, I’m also watching for weeds or bugs that might each the plants.

If I spend time with my creative practice, I am noticing the things that guide me towards blooming more openly, more rawly. I can start to spot when something is wilting or something is getting ready to bloom.

Tending weeds, in the garden, or choosing to pull them up is a lesson, for me, in allowing things. Some weeds are good (especially for my dye pots), whereas other weeds I don’t want to encourage at all. If I encourage weeds in my creativity I have to look at what they’re bringing to me - do they nourish my soil in a way I might not have imagined, but actually need. Or are the weeds taking away from other things growing more happily. So.. looking at this - letting some plants develop is like letting some ideas develop and grow. Pulling a weed out is like saying no to the wrong things in my life.

You can choose, in life, in creativity, in the garden, to be happy and content with one small simple garden bed and help it to grow and bloom. Or you can wish for more, constantly spreading yourself thing tending many things, many garden beds… and nothing quite blooms the way it could.

GO plant some seeds. A tiny pot is all you need. Some herbs or flowers. Sometimes to bring a joyful feeling when you water it, watch it, pick from it, eat from it. Plant a herb pot to gift to someone else, or a little patch of sunflowers.

I’ll be sharing my new dye garden journey over the coming year - from seedling to plant, to the colours they make on my fabric… but for now I wanted to share these photos of our little garden and this tumble down tea-house that will one day be a studio space, and extra bedrooms for my kids.

PS - If you’re looking for some books* to help in your garden… these ones are on my book shelf, and I refer to them often - for different reasons. I’ll do a separate review of them in the coming weeks, if you’re interested.
Milkwood by Kirsten Bradley & Nick Ritat - so much excellent info about tomato growing, as well as foraging, wild foods, seaweed, mushroom growing and bee-keeping. I can’t wait to see what their next book might be about.
Grown & Gathered by Matt Purbrick & Lentil Purbrick - this book has SO much info about gardening, growing, eating locally.
Floret by Erin Benzakein - I am referring to this regularly at the moment. Mostly to work out at what stage of bloom should I pick a certain flower, and how best to help it last longer in the vase. A beautiful book for any flower grower.

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  • If you purchase through these links I receive a small commission from Book Depository. It doesn’t cost you any extra, it simply means a small contribution to my family income - which can go towards paying my internet bills. I thank you for your support.

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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Dyeing Sunshine : Natural dye with coreopsis flowers

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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Nothing ever stays the same : process of my textile art-making

Fabric, Creative Process, Botanical DyeEllie Beck2 Comments
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I am working on some new pieces, with the hopes to get myself together to have a solo exhibition next year. I need to put the entry in by the end of this month.

Nothing ever stays the same > Pondering the way that my visual voice shifts & morphs, but I think still similar. Do you think? Do you see ‘me’ in my weavings and my stitch work? 

I guess the only way is just to listen to my whisper, the quiet soulful voice of working with the muse and making my work. And if I make it with my own voice, then it must be my voice. 

These pieces look totem-ish to me. They feel like trees of memories. I know what the exhibition will be called (I’m going to keep that quiet to myself for a little while). But it’s about memories, motherhood, self, ideas, thoughts, the shifting shadows in our souls & minds ... and other stuff. Haha.

Thought I should finally start using this blog to document my process as I happens. Small quick snippets of work. Would you be interested in seeing that? 

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Its raining here today. Again. Yesterday was pure glorious sunshine and now we are back to the moody skies, those feelings of internalising a day. It’s been raining for weeks. But the grey clouds have a good way of talking to me. 

I saw the moon last night. A moment of wakefulness. 

Heres the fabrics - naturally dyed with a combination of eucalyptus, iron-y water, seedpods & leaves gathered, bark (eucalyptus), silky oak leaves, rose leaves, onion skins. And the pinks are ranunculus & anemone flowers - the darkest purple ones. I can’t wait for more of them next Spring!  

I’m using a combination of vintage kimono silk, scraps of other fabrics from my collections and also a little bit of new silk or linen. 

 

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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
 

 

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. 

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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Ellie Beck Petalplum golden rod natural dye.JPG

How to dye with golden rod flowers:

You need to pre-mordant your fabric with your desired mordanting technique. I used to use alum, but nowadays I'm moving towards no mordants at all, and allowing the colours to shine themselves through longer dyeing time. Though, alum does often make dye colour brighter, so do keep this in mind. I've noticed also that alum brightens dye colours more than soy mordanting does - from my experience. But the beauty of golden rod is that a whole lot of flowers make a brilliant colour on their own. *also remember that alum, if not used correctly, can colour shift yellows towards the green spectrum.

If you use the flowers when they're still closed, in bud form, you'll get more of a green-chartruese hue, whereas if you pick (or use) the fully opened blooms you'll get more of a clearer brilliant yellow. Don't use any leaves in the dye pot, only flowers.

Fill a saucepan with as many flowers as you have - separate the buds from the open blooms into two dye pots for different tones of colour. Cover with water and gently simmer to extract the colour. Don't boil your dye pot, but allow it to come to heat slowly, until just before simmering. Leave it at this point for about 15 minutes or so, and then turn the heat off and allow to cool. Check the colour - if you think you've extracted as much from the flowers as possible strain the coloured dye water into another saucepan or bucket. 

If the flowers still have some colour left in them you can do a second dye bath, but it will be much paler. 

Put the dye water back into your saucepan and add your pre-mordanted fabric. Remember that fabric and yarn doesn't want to be plunged into boiling water as it can felt wool, make silk loose it's shimmer, and affects cotton slightly too. Bring the saucepan back up to just-under-simmer point and leave there for about half an hour. Watch the colour on your fabric. If you're happy with the depth of colour you can remove it from the dye pot, or otherwise turn the heat off and leave the fabric in the pot to cool. 

Allow the fabric to dry fully before washing it out. In our climate two days in the shade is good for 'curing', but you might find you need a little longer. Then gently wash, with a ph-neutral soap (or I use no soap) until the water runs clear. Hopefully you won't have much run-off if you've left the drying stage for long enough. 

How to determine what colour you want when the fabric's wet? This can be hard, and takes practice to recognise, but think about when you do your washing and the clothes are darker when they're wet. Silks keep their colour a lot more, whereas cottons can be up to half the depth of colour from the wet stage. So, I always err on making my colours stronger than I think I want, rather than paler. 

You can find out more about Natural & Botanical dyeing through my online course here, or follow along my Dye Diaries here

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craft as therapy : different crafts for different moods

Creative Process, WeavingellieComment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

I like mountains & rivers

WeavingEllie BeckComment

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

A sail of colour

My PoetryEllie BeckComment

I took my thread & a sail of colour,

Stitch by stitch I reminded myself

how to breathe again.

Across the wild sea of life,

The storms of parenting.

 

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

Until I patched the holes worn ragged,

And made it home in time for tea

And a cloth to lay my head.

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? 

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. 

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!