In the garden and in the shop

garden tulips bottle branch blog

Despite my best intentions, I seem to be blogging once a month these days. What can I say? I’m just like everyone else: spending more time on social media, less time on blogs. Still, it’s been an exciting month since my last post, so here what’s been going on in my garden, and in my shop.

happy tea card set from bottle branch blog

Bottle Branch Shop: 

I’m trying out a new shop site via pattern by etsy. You can see it here, or if you look at the top of this page, you’ll see a direct link under SHOP. Adding that little link/tab felt like an exciting accomplishment in and of itself, and I have to thank my dear friend Kristen for telling me how.

making gift tags bottle branch blog

I’ve also added some new items to my store: notably pretty tea time cards (see previous post) and foral gift tags. The gift tags have been so much fun to create. You know I love a good project and this one was just right for me – photography, a little bit of computer/printer/photoshop wrangling, combined with cutting and stringing the tags up. Not surprisingly, I’ve got more designs in the pipeline.

larkspur seedlings bottle branch blog

In my garden: 

The most exciting garden decision I made this year was to plant my entire vegetable patch as a flower cutting garden. I started seeds indoors (strawflower, cosmos, gomphrena, zinnias) and outdoors (echinops, stock, larkspur, nigella).  Fingers crossed I get lots of flowers to share this summer and fall!

tulips in the garden bottle branch

While I wait for those, I’m happily enjoying the bulbs I planted last October, inluding T. ‘Christmas Sweet’ and T. “Pink Diamond” (above) and T. Montreux, T. rejoyce, Narcissus “sweet love” in the photo at the start of this post.  I’m already planning what to plant for next year.

Honestly, I’m so excited about all my plans for shop and garden, it was hard for me to take the time to finish this post. I hope your world is similarly abuzz with plans, activities and dreams. Onward and upwards! Happy spring!

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

 

Bold geometric iphone case

 

plastic canvas iphone case

If you know me in real life, you’ve probably seen me carrying around my phone case clipped to my keys with a carabiner. Its a strategy to keep from losing either phone or keys. Yet, this strategy failed one day in December when my needlepoint iPhone case fell off the clip (thankfully without my phone inside).

When I discovered my loss, I re-traced my steps, searching, but came home empty-handed, and quite sad to lose something so personal and that I had made myself. So, I decided to make a replacement right away, hoping that a quick replacement would help me move on.

In the interest of speed, and inspired by Diane at Crafty pod, I used plastic canvas, cotton yarn and a geometric pattern from one of my favorite vintage needlepoint books.

plastic canvas iphone case open and closed

I’m mostly happy with the way it turned out and I do like how the striped sides have a kind of 70’s or 80’s vibe.

I love working with plastic canvas because its so geometric and speedy. Plus, no hand sewing with thread – I used a glue gun to secure the flanel lining.  One of the benefits of using inexpensive materials is feeling no compunction whatsoever for using a glue gun.

Yet, with the finished product hanging from my key clip, I didn’t love it. It was either too plastic, or too brightly colored, too boldly geometric, or just not an adequate replacement for my lost needlepoint case.

So, I was ecstatic when I received a voicemail from a stranger, a local real estate agent, who had found my lost case and tracked down my home phone from a scrap of personalized stationery inside. Never mind that he referred to it as “macrame” (Macrame?! that’s for old ladies!) I am so grateful he took the time to find me and return it, because as it turns out, a soft ombré suits my personal style better than the bold geometric, however much I admire it.

keys and phone case

New creative obsession: Painted plaid

bright painted plaid

I haven’t been posting lately because I’ve developed a new obsession: painted plaid. A fashion trend, painted plaid seems to be trickling down and popping up lots of places. I am delighted by the softness, the regular irregularity, the nuanced colors. So I decided to give fabric plaid painting a try. I bought a few yards of habotabi silk, a brush, and a few bottles of silk paint, and got to work.

bright colors, 2 scales, painted plaid

I’ve been experimenting with scale and strong colors.

soft silk painted plaid

I’ve been experimentaing with softer, more muted colors and leaving unpainted spaces.

painted plaid in purples

And I’ve tried some colors in between.

Variation of color combinations, scale and rhythm of the lines makes pattern possibilities feel endless. Everytime I work on one, ideas of future patterns and projects fill my head. Its heady, exhillarating, irresistible.

Some of these swatches are so small, I’m not sure what I’ll make with them. Others are large enough I might hem them for scarves. Safe to say that friends and family might see some variations popping up at Christmas time.

Its also safe to say that that as the busy season between Thanksgving and Christmas rolls around, I won’t be posting much, but I’ll hope to get caught up in the new year.. Happy Thanksgiving, my American friends and readers, and happy December to everyone else!

Halloween craft: eeire orbs

yarn ballooons for halloween

With Halloween on the way, its been a crafty time at my house. We’ve been working on costumes, decorating and generally enjoying the season of spookiness.

We also made these orbs out of webbed yarn. Inspired by pinterest, these yarn balloons were super-easy to make. I took cotton yarn, dipped it in paper mache paste made from elmer’s glue, water, and some flour, and wrapped it around balloons. After letting them dry for a few days, I poked holes in the balloons and gently deflated them, while making sure to unstick the yarn from the balloon.

deflating balloon

Thorough instructions can be found on Instructables, but really there’s not much to this project. Only be sure to use 100% cotton yarn, no matter how tempting a sparkly or hairy synthetic yarn might seem. The synthetics just don’t hold the shape once the balloon is deflated. Trust me, I know this from experience.

I liked the simplicity of the orbs on their own, but my children had other ideas. They wanted to add cobwebs, spiders, skeletons. You know, make them spookier, kookier, more eerie. I confess to a few judicious edits of their adornments before hanging them above our kitchen table and taking this final photo. Happy Halloween, my friends in the blogosphere!

yarn.balloons.all

 

August break: painting by bubbles

Every August, we head to the coast north of Boston, to spend a few weeks at the beach.  Since we don’t have much planned, I always troll through pinterest when packing, and plan a few portable crafty projects to do with my children. So far, this year, we’ve only managed to try painting by bubbles, and it was a wild success.

To paint by bubbles, we added a few drops of food coloring to bottles of bubble solution, rolled out some plain paper, weighed the corners of the paper down with rocks, and then blew the colored bubbles onto the paper.

coloring bubbles

bubble painting

When the bubbles pop, they leave a ring of color. And, as the drips and rings of color build up on the paper, it creates an effect similar to marbleized paper.

bubble painting 1

bubble painting 2

More gratifyingly, bubble painting is flexible and open-ended. It engendered free play, experimenting, and creative problem solving. Once we set it up, my children took over, adding colors to the bubble solution, experimenting the direction at techniques for blowing the bubbles, observing wind direction, types of bubbles, effects of layering colors on the paper.

Before we started, I harbored fantasies of saving the resulting bubble-painted paper and using it for wrapping paper or some other crafty project, but it truth, the colors faded after a few days and the results were uneven.  No doubt there is a way to do bubble painting with a beautiful end product in mind, but in this case, we just enjoyed the process. Process over product.

Paper circle garlands

Photo and paper circle garland by pomtree - click for link
Photo and paper circle garland by pomtree – click for link

I’d been eying these paper circle garlands on pinterest for a while. So, this weekend, when we welcomed one of our sons home from sleep away camp, I decided to use some to decorate.

They were super simple to make: cut circles from paper, then stitch. (Look here for a really great tutorial.) Or, if you’d rather just buy some handmade paper circle garlands on etsy, look here or here.

jumbled garland

Since I spaced the circles a bit too far apart, I did struggle a bit with keeping the garlands from getting tangled up in themselves. So, when I discovered that my husband had taken the garlands down without my supervision, I gasped in horror, imagining a heap of tangled thread and paper circles. What I discovered instead, was his very simple solution to the problem: a clip. Bravo, dear husband!

stacked garland

I know I could do better if I did it again (less thread, more circles) but it was altogether a fun and easy project.

P.S. If you’re a pinterest user, I’d love to connect with you there! Here’s where you can find me. 

Dreaming and December Projects

Contrary to what you’ve seen here, my house has been a hive of creatve activity over the past few weeks. I love holiday craftiness and usually dream up way too many extra little projects in the month of December.

Some projects, I haven’t shared because I intend them to be Christmas presents and don’t want to run the risk of them being glimpsed by the intended recipient. Some projects, like the tulle tutus I’m making for my nieces have been posted on many, many blogs. (Check them out here, on pinterest.) Other projects, I’ve neglected to post because I’ve been just too darn busy. I’m hoping to post a few of them over the next week or so.

In the mean time, to back up my claim that my household has been actively creative in recent weeks, I’ll share the little guy, made by my 11 year old for his youngest brother’s 5th birthday earlier this week. Happy December, my friends!

bowler.hat.guy

DIY reversible play tent

I have always wanted an excuse to buy something from the adorable Ikea Torva series and last week I finally found one.

tent.materials

With a niece turning two, I decided to make her an A-frame play tent, one of the many projects I’ve pinned and been hankering to try. The Torva Blad duvet cover would be the tent material.

finished.tent.detail

Last summer, I made an similar tent for my children, using a twin bed sheet and doing absolutely no sewing. By cutting, tying and scrunching, we made the sheet fit a frame copied from this helpful tutorial. Without sewing the sheet to fit, though, the resulting tent was not particularly present-worthy, photo-worthy, ikea-textile worthy. This time, I wanted to make a playful and pretty tent to thrill and delight my niece and her big sister.

finished.tent4

Of course, it turned out to be a little more than the few quick seams I’d imagined, and at one point, I did have to stop and run out to the store for more ribbon. But it was worth the effort.

The resulting tent is sturdy and sweet and managed to shelter 6 children at once when we celebrated my niece’s birthday. It reverses to green and white gingham, breaks down quickly and can be rolled up and stored in a matching bag (made from the pillow cases that came with the duvets). Yes, this tent is present-worthy.

If you are reading this because you are a friend, family member, or because you are my mother, thank you for reading, you’ve probably seen enough of this project. If you think you might have the time/energy/love of Ikea textiles to want to try this, or are just curious about the nitty grittiy details, read on!

I’m not really much of a tutorial maker, but in this case, I feel the need to present the details in the (unlikely) event that I want to attempt this project again, or someone else does. Plus, I have a hankering to try out the wordpress slide show feature. Enjoy!

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