For my second foray into Amy Renea‘s book, Crafting with Nature, I decided to stick with the natural dyes theme, and try dyeing with onion skins. Finally! A use for all the discarded onion skins floating around in my kitchen ‘onion’ drawer.So, following the directions in the book, I gathered and boiled all the onion skins I could muster. I added a couple of plain white cotton napkins and a little cotton drawstring bag (after soaking them in warm water first) and let them boil in there for about an hour, stirring occasionally. What a thrill it was to pull the fabric from the water and see how it turned out. Even better, I adore the final product. Though I was never a big fan of the color orange, I love the resulting soft, dusty semi-orange color. The transformation almost feels magical and I find myself dreaming of embarking on new adventures in dyeing with all kinds of found and foraged materials, like Mathilde Master. That dream lasts until I consider the array of carpooling, baseball/soccer games, and orthodontist appointments on my calendar, and the long lists of updates I have planned for my etsy shop. The less said about the former, the better, and I’ll tell you more about the latter in my next post.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Remember 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.
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?!)
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.
The 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!
Before the summer is over, I thought I might post a few more photos and tid-bits from our June family trip to Scotland. I’m not going to be setting the world on fire with this post, but then again, I’m pretty sure that if you wanted that kind of excitement, you wouldn’t be hanging around my blog. So here we go…
First stop: St. Andrews, Scotland, where the lucky tourist may visit a castle, a university, a catherdral, and historic golf course, all in one day. And that, my friends, is precisely what we did.
Though technically a ruin, the castle was possibly my children’s favorite castle of our trip. While they always enjoy learning about battles between the Scots and the English (and the visitors center was amazing), they liked getting free reign in the castle itself. They clambered over all available surfaces, and they still haven’t stopped talking about the 16th century mine shaft that runs under the street, which they happily climbed through, while I did not.
My favorite spot in St.Andrews was the University, where the landscape was groomed and ready for their graduation ceremonies, some of which were happening the very day we visited. I will not go into any history or detail we learned about the university because (a) I would embarrass myself, and (b) you’d be better off just googling it. Suffice it to say that to the American eye, it was an assemblage of picturesque courtyards, impossibly historic buildings, and there was even a bit of pomp and circumstance present to add gravitiy to our visit.
We also visited the golf course, because my late father-in-law was an excellent golfer, and former member of the USGA who spent much time there. I can say that and not be bragging because (1) he was my husband’s father, not mine, and (2) I know next-to nothing about golf.
Next Stop: the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh
You knew there would be a garden in here somewhere, right? We spent most of a day at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, and I consider myself lucky that my family tolerates, and in fact, even enjoys visting gardens wherever we go. (Hat tip to Catherine at Knotted Cotton for advising me that it was not to be missed!)
My children probably loved the glasshouses best. There were so many varied climates represented, and so many separate houses and spaces. We spent well over an hour exploring them all, and the Amazon water lilies (pictured above) did not fail to impress.
We also really loved visiting the Queen Mother’s memorial garden, with a (still growing) labyrinth in the center, and the plants of different continents on in the four corners. It felt like there was something new to discover around every corner, and so, I failed to take photos because we were just having too much fun.
Likewise, the rock gardens were filled with unexpected delight – beautiful plants nestled on rocky outcrops, sloping hills and in hidden corners. It was quite inspiration!
All in all it was a wonderful trip, though, there is no photographic record of me driving on the left side of the road, an omission which I most defnitely regret, as driving on the left felt like quite an accomplishment. I’ll just have to cross the Atlantic and get behind the wheel again soon. Consider yourself warned, my UK friends.
Its been busy times for my Bottle Branch business. In addition to taking my shop on the road to a few craft fairs, I’ve been updating photos, adding items to my online shop, labelling card sets, and setting up a digital newsletter.
I added the “Pretty Tea Time” cards pictured above after they sold well at the SoWa Open Market. They’re sort of a spring season compliment to the autumn “pretty tea time” cards I put together a few months ago.
I’ve also listed a new set of summer flower cards. I pushed myself to work outside of my usual color palette by using orange, yellow, and purple and I’m pretty happy with the way they came out. The yellow just might be my favorite.
One of my biggest recent ‘accomplishments’ was to print labels for my card packs, so that anyone can pick up a pack, flip it over, and see a preview of all the cards inside. (Helpful!) Adding those labels has also enabled me to think about wholesale with some of my popular cards. So, if you know any small independent retailers looking for something fresh and botanical, send them my way! (email@example.com or via etsy wholesale)
Finally, I’m starting an email newsletter. I won’t be sending it very often. I’m calling it my quarterly newsletter and lets be honest, I’ll be lucky to get it out that often.
The first edition (ready to go out any day now) will feature a few blog and other social media highlights, esty shop updates, and news about upcoming craft fairs. If there are other items you’d like to hear about, I’d be delighted to know! My favorite Pinterest accounts to follow? Etsy finds? Or just more pretty pictures? I’m all ears!
If you signed up to receive my blog posts by email (thank you!) you’re already on my newletter list. If you haven’t signed up before, I hope you will consider joining my email newsletter list. You can opt in right here. I know we’re all overwhelmed by emails these days and I respect your time, so I promise to make it short, sweet, and hopefully worth your while.
And thats it for both news and newsletters. Happy July!
I had a great time last Sunday at the SoWa Open Market in Boston, and so it seems the novelty of craft markets has not worn off.
The best part was the people. I chatted with flower lovers, photographers, print makers, gardeners, and even ran into an old friend or two. I also loved hearing from customers about favorite plants, trees, other craft fairs, and of course which card designs they preferred and more importantly, why.
On etsy, I offer the option for customers to pick a custom set of five cards and I did the same at this weekend’s market. I put out a tray with all the individual designs. (You can see it in the middle there – if only I had chosen a greater depth of field for that photo!) Customers could rifle through all the cards, selecting favorites and creating their own set. It was really fun to see the combinations they created.
Some designs are perennial favorites, while other are loved by only a very few people. I have a special place in my heart for the customers who like some of my personal favorites which prove to be less popular, like the adorable customer who selected this autumn leaf design, now discontinued.So, I’m hooked. I’m not going to be running off to markets and craft fairs every weekend, but I’ll definintely be back. In fact, I’m already scheduled to be back at SoWa on Sunday, July 31st. And next time, I’ll take some better photos. Hope to see you there!
One thing I noticed on my trip to Scotland was that Mary Queen of Scots seems to have visited/lived in/spent some amount of time at many historic sites. (A little like hearing “George Washington slept here” up and down the U.S. east coast.) In the case of Falkland Palace, it was quite true, as Falkland Palace was a favorite spot for hunting for nobility of all types from the 12th until the 17th century, and Mary was no exception.
In the early 16th century, the old castle was tranformed into a renaissance palace by James IV and James V (Mary’s father) who added a royal tennis court, which I know is called “court tennis” in the USA and apparently called “real tennis” on the internet. (Looks like a lot of fun to play!)
The palace later fell into ruin, but in the late 19th century, the property was partially restored by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute. These days, Falkland Palace is maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, and is a delight to visit.
The Royal tennis court is still there, and still in use, though I did not take any photos. I was too distracted by the sparrows dipping in and out and all around, and by all the beautiful gardens outside.
I also missed a photo of the giant outdoor chess set, which kept my children busy, enabling me to take all these photos, and making it a great place to visit for all ages.
When I started this blog, my plan was to stick with a narrow focus – creative projects and inspiration. But now, a few years later, things are different.
I’ve started a small business and a lot of my creative energy is going into that – keeping my online shop fresh, coming up with new cards and prints, and best of all, keeping interesting plants in my garden so I always have fresh botanical inspiration. Aside from my garden, those other creative endeavours don’t lend themselves to thoughtful blog posts, and besides, they have their own little space on the internet.
So, I’ve decided to open up this space a little, and post about other topics, and today, I’d like to share a little about my recent family trip to Scotland. I’d be honored if you’d stick around – there are landscapes, castles, and, of course, gardens and plants.
With a home base in Stirling, we were in the thick of some of big moments in Scottish history, including the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert Bruce defeated King Edward II of England in 1314, and the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which was woefully misrepresented in the movie Braveheart as we learned more than once. With boys in tow, we visited both sites, of course!
We also regularly enjoyed the dramatic views of Stirling castle and the highland cows grazing beneath it. Sadly, I did not get a good photo of the castle which is quite dramatic in the landscape, perched high up on a crags. (Its easy to find one online.)
Dating mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries, Stirling castle served at royal residence to James IV, V, VI of Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned there and Bonnie Prince Charlie beseiged it. (Not exactly in that order, of course!) So I’ll stop there – having me try to recount Scottish history will do none of us any good. Suffice it to say that Stiring castle played a key role in much of Scottish history, and it was a delight to explore; my boys spent a lot of time discussing paraphets, keeps and murder holes.
We also visited the museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders within Stirling castle. They could have easily landed one new recruit, but for the barrier of his being only ten years old, and a US citizen.
We also took several day trips, visiting St. Andrews, Falkland Palace and Garden, and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, among other places. Stay tuned, if you want to hear more … I’ll be posting those later in the week. In the meantime, here was my favorite personal discovery in our adventures in and around Stirling: wild woodland foxgloves growing along the path to the Wallace monument.
Happy June, my internet friends!
May is possibly the busiest month of the year. At least, for me it is, as motherhood demands blossom, and I find myself filling out camp forms, digging out summer clothing and trying to replace what no longer fits, and shuttling around to end-of-school-year presentations, recitals, parties. And all the while, my garden is also calling to me for attention.
In my May garden, I dream big, get ambitious, and have been known to go a little crazy at the garden center.
Thankfully, as in motherhood, there are also rewards in the May garden. My tree peonies thrill me every year, and I silently thank whichever previous owner of my house planted them.
This year, thing were even busier, as I spruced up my etsy shop, adding a new logo, cover photo, and ‘about’ section. I even asked a talented friend to come over and take photos of me ‘working’ and added some of those. (It still makes me cringe a little to post photos of myself.)
And now, this week, I’ve been preparing for my first appearance at a local art fair. Taking my work live and in person is something I’ve been dreading, but also, somehow feels inevitable. Why I decided to take that plunge just now, I have no idea. (If you’re local, I would love, love, love to see you there!)
Thankfully, there have also been a few moments of calm, and more than a few cups of tea. Happy June!