Wall of Flowers, Dried Flower DIY project

I confess to being a little bit of a hoarder when it comes to dried flowers. Even with no particular plans to use them, I find the act of cutting and hanging flowers to dry brings much joy and satisfaction during the growing season.

But the truth of my flower drying habit was not always pretty. In fact, it was basically a haphazard mess – a vase of drying hydrangeas here, a bundle of tansy there, and a coat closet filled with little bunches of globe thistles, gomphrena, Joe Pye Weed and more.

Recently, I decided to up my dried flower game. Inspired by Bex Partridge of Botanical Tales, I fashioned a hanging rack for my dried flower bounty. Scrounging around my house, I gathered 3/4 inch dowels from an old project my children have long since outgrown, extra brass curtain rods supports, and a roll of bark covered wire. (Unfortunately, I have no advice on where to find these items, since I don’t remember buying them but they shouldn’t be hard to locate if you want to make your own.)

On a blank wall in my studio space, my husband kindly attached the curtain rods near the top, I rested one dowel on them, then wrapped the wire around the ends, let it hang down and then attached a second dowel about 18 inches below the top one.

Then, I hung the third dowel from a second set of wires. Luckily, dried flowers are lightweight, so everything can hang from just three brackets.

Then, the fun began as I attached bunches of flower held together by rubber bands to S hooks, and hung the bunches from the wooden bars. It felt like it came together in minutes. Voila! Dried flower wall!

To be honest, this method of storing dried flowers goes against most recommendations, as they are exposed to plenty of light in my sunny studio, as well as somewhat erratic temperatures.

But as some one who plans to turn over my stock of dried flower within a year, I’ve decided I’m just not going to worry about that. Who wants to see dried flowers sit around long enough to be dusty? Not me!

Instead, I’m planning to enjoy them this winter and early spring, whether attempting some of the projects in Everlastings, attaching a few sprigs to mid-winter presents, or simply enjoying the feast of soft colors and natural forms as I sit below, and sip tea on a winter day.

Pandemic pastime: Mask making

single face mask in floral pattern

Like many people, I’ve taken up mask-making during the ‘pandemic pause’ time of home isolation, and surprisingly, I have LOVED re-acquainting myself with my (very basic) sewing machine.

simple sewing machine

I’ve also been so happy to use fabric samples I had from my collection on Spoonflower and I will confess the light and bright springiness may have also lifted my mood as I sewed.

blue scilla flower pattern by elizabeth pyle

When I posted my masks in my instagram stories, I received a lot of requests about possible sales of my masks, and I HAD hoped to make a few to sell for the benefit of charity. But in truth, my output is quite small. I’m just not a very speedy sewer, and the demands of keeping my business afloat amdist all the home cooking and dishes has sadly put a damper on my sewing time.

four masks

I also had a lot of questions about which pattern I used and I LOVED this pattern and tutorial SO much, I wanted to share it here. I set the video tutorial up on my laptop, next to my sewing machine so I could watch a step, pause the video, sew, watch the next step, pause the video, sew, etc. – then it was very easy! The elegant design even has a liner/ pocket for a filter and a channel to insert a wire so it fits well across your nose.

reverse side of face mask pandemic 2020

I will be occasionally carving out a little time to keep sewing. I’ve just started sewing a few masks for my boys – not in a floral fabric, but using an adorable orange tenugi I brought home from Japan – a memory that also picks up my mood as I work.mask making orange

Finally, since I feel that no post on face masks would be complete without a photo of someone wearing one, here I am in a very unglamorous selfie, smiling at you, possibly a little unkempt, but ready for the pandemic. Be well, and happy sewing, my friends!

How to wrap presents like you know what you’re doing.

two-wrapped-presents-bottle-branch-blog

Theoretically, I like the idea of wrapping presents perfectly, with crisp corners, perky bows, and well appointed tags and ribbons. I have an entire pinterest board devoted to pretty packages. But in practice, I haven’t always taken the time to wrap things beautifully, and I’ve been more likely to slap it all together in the final hour, with odd angles and prolific tape. But not any more.

Now that I am in the business of making pretty accoutrements of present wrapping, I have a fresh interest in the subject. And I am lucky enough to have something of a gift wrapping  expert in my family. My mother-in-law organized a charity gift wrap station through out the 1970’s and 1980’s, spending hours there cheerfully wrapping presents for others and all for a good cause. And she didn’t just wrap presents, she taught countless volunteers to wrap “the proper way.” Oh, and I can’t neglect to mention, she wraps presents for friends and family without using tape.

Here’s what it looks like to open a package wrapped without tape. So easy! So effortless! No tearing or ripping; the paper falls away like petals from a late summer rose.

Lucky for me,my mother-in-law is a generous person, who not only has graciously tolerated my slap dash wrapping efforts over the years but also recently agreed to come over and share a few of her tips for making your own pretty packages. And now I am happy to share them with you. (With her permission, of course!)

I realize all of you can probably basically wrap a present, so I’ll share with you here the two most important tips I took away from my personalized instruction:

First of all, take the time to measure both the box and the paper, and then the present practically wraps itself.

Second, never, ever twist ribbon on the bottom side of the box – its just sloppy, and makes the box wobbly. 

I’ve put each step in the form of a picture below, so you can quickly scroll and look for specific details.  If you don’t know how to twist your ribbon at the top, take a look and you’ll be glad you did! Its so easy and does make a difference.

w2measuring-tape-text

w3measurearound-text

w4measure-bottom-edge-to-bottom-edge-textw5measurepaper-textw6cut text.jpegw8-wrap-to-center-bottom-textw9-fold-textw11-tuck-corners-textw12-smooth-folds-textw13-fold-in-textw14-extr-fold-text

w16-package-wrapped-duplicatew17-now-take-ribbon-textw18-center-ribbon-with-tail-textw19-holding-center-wrap-textw20-bring-ribbon-back-to-top-textw21-twist-textw22-wrap-carefully-textw23-crossing-on-bottom-textw24-bring-ribbon-back-up-to-center-textw25-tie-it-off-textw26-make-a-bow-textw27-trim-ribbon-text

tie-on-a-tag-textwrapped-and-ready-text

So there you are! The “proper” way to wrap a present, via my mother in law. She also taught me some advanced bow making techniques, but those will have to wait until another post.

Happy wrapping!

Crafting with Nature and Beets

beets bottle branch blog

It probably won’t surprise you to know that, in my kitchen, I have a pineapple plant grown from the top of a supermarket pineapple, a motley collection of house plants, and a red oak seedling pulled from my garden with roots in tact, and now growing in a bottle of water. In short, I’m often tempted to experiment with the bits of nature that come my way, either by way of the supermarket, the garden or the greater world outside.

crafting with nature book bottle branch blog

So, when I first opened up Amy Renea’s book, Crafting with Nature, I was immediately smitten. Want to make a lavender wreath? Here’s how you do it. Want to find something to do with your bumper crop of lamb’s ears and sage? Try this! I was thrilled by the variety and volume of ideas and more than a little tempted to drop everything, and whip up a few all natural lotion bars and luscious healing whips.

growing beet tops bottle branch blog

When I flipped to the section on beets, I knew that would be the right place to start. Beets have long been one of my garden stand-bys, and I was happily surprised with some ideas I had never thought of. How had I never thought to slice off beet tops and keep them growing for baby beet greens?! Or, to boil the skins to make dye?

beet dye and beet tops bottle branch blog

I still haven’t decided what to do with the beet dye (too many choices). Maybe I’ll stick it in the freezer and use it for a frozen cranberry wreath this winter. (Another enticing idea!), but in the mean time, I’ll be happily sprinking those beet greens in smoothies and salads.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of this book to review, but I was beyond thrilled to take a look inside and give it a try. I will undoubtedly be trying out lots of the other ideas/ recipe/ crafts in it, and in fact, I’ve aready got another one in the works. But I’ll tell you about that one in another upcoming post.

 

Embroidery News

embroidered bag bottle branch blogRemember this? If you’ve been around here a long time, you’ll recognize this piece of embroidery I made in March of 2015 and posted here. As part of my campaign to tie up loose ends this summer, I finally turned it into a finished product: a little drawstring bag to hold future embroidery projects.

finished embroidery bag for bottle branch blog

I’ve written before about how I don’t particularly love sewing. So, the irony of my sewing something to hold more future sewing projects is not lost on me. Or, as someone might say, its just “so meta.” (Who, exactly, says things like that?!)

pinwheel flower fabric samples hanging

And… remember these? In April of 2015, I posted these painted watercolor fabric designs I had printed up on Spoonflower. I chose the scattered flowers print, front and center in this photo, to use as a lining fabric.

embroidery bag ready for use bottle branch blogThe final product thrills me in a way that only handmade can, and so I’ve already lined up and started my next needlwork project: learning Sashiko. I’ve been so inspired by the lovely stiching posted by kinomi_5 on instagram, I just had to give it a try. As you can see, I’ve even bought special needles and thread. Wish me luck!

Just in time for Valentine’s day: a card giveaway!

valentine's-ish cards bottle branch blog

I’ll admit that I’m not really big on Valentine’s day. I’ve never liked the sense of forced romance, though I feel lucky to have a husband who remembers to get me flowers. Plus, I do love the colors and visuals of Valentine’s day.  Just when winter hits its bleakest, we are inundated with lots of pink and red – hearts, roses, candy. (Try not to think about the artificial coloring that lends the candy its color.)

photography project on bottle branch blog

So, I couldn’t resist taking photos to make a few valentine’s-ish cards for my etsy store. I’ve used dried and found plant materials – eucalyptus, pink pepperberries, and red crab apples and you can see my not-so-glamourous set up at my dining room table.

The resulting cards might not be likely to ignite a steamy romance, but since when did anyone expect a card to do that? I hope they’re cheerful and perky enough to brighten up your day, and perfect for platonic Valentine’s wishes.

valentine's card set by bottle branch

To keep things interesting around here, I’m going to give a set away. The winner will receive one set of six cards – three have hearts, and three do not, so they don’t all have to be used for Valentine’s day.

You don’t even have to leave a comment to enter. (Though, comments are always appreciated!) All you have to do is share this post and tag me on Facebook (tag:bottlebranch) or twitter (tag: zibpyle). Don’t forget to tag me: If you don’t, I might not know you’ve entered! And, please don’t go to my twitter account and laugh at how bad it is. (Twitter really isn’t my thing, but I’m working on that.)

I’ll pick a winner by random number drawing on Monday, January 25th, so I can get the cards mailed out well before Valentine’s day. International entries welcome! I hope you’ll enter and good luck!

New year, new projects

frost on window bottle branch blog

Hello! Happy New year! I love January, because it feels like a blank slate. With cold, cold, weather here in Boston, I’m forced inside and have a chance to explore the indoor projects that often get put on hold when there are weeds to be pulled, perennials to be moved, or flowers to be cut.

Right now, I’ve got lots of projects cooking happily in my creative kitchen, and I’d like to tell you a little about each of them.

white line wood cuts on bottle branch blog

First of all, I’ve returned to white line woodcuts and started trying out new designs. With a few tips from Lisa Houck and Amy MacGregor Radin, I’m feeling a little more confident in my execution so I’m working on some final, best prints to submit to an upcoming show. The deadline for submissions in February first, so wish me luck!

cosy blue embroidery bottle branch blog

Second, I’ve started a new embroidery piece. Life doesn’t feel complete unless I have something to stitch, especially in winter. But since I’ve been busy with other projects, I haven’t designed anything myself. Instead, I decided to buy this adorable sea captain design from Cozy Blue on etsy. It was one of the first things I ever pinned on pinterest in 2012, so I’ve been waiting a long time to give it a try.

garden planning on bottle branch blog

Third, after mooning over seed catalogues for a few weeks, I’ve just ordered flower seeds for my 2016 garden. I chose a few familiar stand-bys, like snapdragons, cosmos, and nigella. But I’ve also added china asters, sweet peas, and globe thistles. Pretty soon, my sunny windows will be filled with trays of sprouting seeds. So excited!

Finally, I’m working on new photo card designs. I am trying to bump my tiny new business along, even if I don’t have any flowers or foliage from my garden for inspiration. If you’re with me on instagram, you’ve probably seen some of them already, but I’m also planning to reveal my new cards in an upcoming post. So, stay tuned!

 

Fun Family Christmas Crafts

completed winter vignette bottle branch blog

Lest you think that all I do these days is arrange plants and flowers for photographs and promote my etsy store, let me re-assure you that regular old family holiday season is in full swing at my house. In addition to putting up our tree, stuffing an advent wreath full of greens, and un-earthing my boys’ collections of nutcrackers, we have managed to fit in a few family crafty-ish type projects: winter vignettes, gum drop trees, and cranberry garlands.

 

Winter Vignettes

playing winter vignette bottle branch blog

First, we made winter vignettes. The cynic in me feels that this is not much of a craft project, since it was little more than assembling salvaged and bought materials. But it was quite fun, and arranging and re-arranging the trees and houses might have been the best part.

supplies for winter vignette bottle branch blog

I saved a few shallow boxes and bits of styrofoam from packing materials, and then I bought some sparkly blue paper, a package of bottle brush trees, and some fake snow, all items available at your run-of-the-mill craft store .

completed and styled winter vignette bottle branch blog

We lined the boxes with sparkly paper, carved the styrofoam into hills, glued them in, along with some snow, and finally pulled the trees out of their stands and poked them into the styrofoam. As a finishing touch, my youngest went to his box of treasures and trinkets and dug out that tiny little moose. We didn’t glue him in, so now the moose roams free inside his little vignette.

Gumdrop Tree

gum drop tree 2 bottle branch blog

Second, we made a gum drop tree, a project we do every year. Some might see this project as little more than an opportunity to eat those awful spice drops, since it involves only sticking gum drops onto toothpicks and then sticking them into a styrofoam tree.

completed gum drop tree bottle branch blog

But my children love doing this and since they’ve done it many times, it doesn’t really require much supervision. Oddly enough, they don’t even really like those candies. The result is festive and cute, though ours is never nearly so perfect as one you might find on pinterest.

Cranberry Garlandscranberry and popcorn garlands bottle branch blog

The third project was a stand-by of my childhood, which I had forgotten about until I saw this post about cranberry garlands by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees. I was so excited to revisit stringing cranberries! I started stringing plain cranberries on thread and then I dug some popcorn out of the cabinet, took a look at pinterest  and decided to try stringing them together using embroidery needles and floss. These turned out to be much better for little hands.

strining popcorn and cranberries

While on pinterest, I saw a lot about how to preserve your cranberry garlands, but we did what I always did growing up – strung them up on outdoor trees – our present to the birds.

cranberry popcorn garlands bottle branch blog

That’s likely to be all the family crafting we do this year, since the remaining days will be filled with cooking, wrapping, and the excited chatter from my youngest. I probably won’t be blogging until after the new year, but in the mean time, I wish you happy holidays and I look forward to re-connecting in 2016!

P.S. I also made a few of these leafy paper snow flakes, while my children were making their own traditional paper snow flakes. Wow! It was a lot more fun than I would have guessed! If you look here you can see more examples made by others on instagram.

leafy snowflakes bottle branch blog

 

Hello, etsy store!

two tea towels bottle branch blog

Maybe I left you hanging in my last post. I showed you a silkscreen tea towel I made this summer, but I didn’t tell you what I’m going to do with it. Well, guess what?!  I finally got around to opening an Etsy store. I’ve stocked it with these seaweed towels and some new tea towels printed with an old silkscreen of wild grasses. I’ve also added a couple handprinted children’s T-shirts I made a few years ago – extras from a project I did for my children. (I even had to bribe my children to get them to model the shirts for me — photos on etsy, but not of the bribing, just the shirts.)

viking and cowboy t shirts

I hope you will go take a visit. Maybe even ‘like’ some items, ‘like’ my store, and share anything that seems exciting or interesting. I can’t promise it’s going to be a thriving hub of commerce, since my output is quite erratic. But I’m excited to have taken the step, and hope to add new and different printed items, now and again.