Just say the word?

faffy leaves bottle branch blog

Like many Americans, I admire much about British culture. I admit to devouring British literature, binge watching Downton Abbey, and a somewhat alarming habit of excesive ordering from Boden. Yet, I live in fear of becoming one of those kind of people who peppers her dialogue with pithy British expressions, in a flat American accent. Or worse, in a fake accent that vaguely echoes of the British Isles.

Still, I find myself closer and closer to uttering aloud a word so unfamiliar to your average American, it might as well be a foreign language. If I were to use this word in my daily life, I would likely receive a polite but blank look in response. Or worse.

crabapples and oak leaves bottle branch blog

But it is not the BBC, or all those Ian McEwan novels that have catapulted this word into my lexicon. Oh, no. I blame instagram for introducing me to the term faffing.

I have spent many (too many) hours arranging and fussing and organizing little bits of nature, flowers, and leaves,  photographing them and then posting them. And in the process, I have found my people — others who like to do the same. They are a global bunch with one thing in common: the use of the term faffing. Check out this hashtag #fridayfaffingcompetition to see what I’m talking about.

I realize the term can be used more generally to mean ineffective activity, or wasting time, but I think of it mostly in the context of ephemeral arranging, because that is where I run across it in my daily life. Only, I can’t quite bring myself to use the word without feeling pretentious.

autumn fruits and bowls bottle branch blog

My iphone voice-to-text does not recognize the term faffing, and alternately substitutes laughing, chaffing, faxing, fat thing,or fat fame – this last one is my personal favorite. Obviously, there are better substitutions I could make, though I struggle to come up with one that doesn’t make my inner teenager giggle at a double-entendre: Piddling? Messing around?

So, my dear readers, perhaps you can offer a better substitute? Or, should I bravely move forward and start dropping “faff” or “faffing” into general conversation in hopes that it will take root on this side of the Atlantic? After all, it really is a great word for one mof my favorite activities!

autumn arrangement with mums bottle branch blog

 

More botanical photo cards: Autumn leaves

autumn leaf photo cards bottle branch blog

Well, now. This is turning into quite a boring blog. Here I am posting about new photo cards in my etsy shop. AGAIN.  These latest are botanically inspired patterns, ombre arrangements of autumn leaves. And they’re printed on the same soft, touchable card stock.

Its been so much fun to make these, that I’m working on more. The resizing, editing, and general fiddling does take longer than one might hope and so it has been keeping me quite busy. Not to mention, taking photos of the photo cards. Fun facts about this photo: (1) I’m left handed, so my right hand holding a pen looks awkward and hilarious to me. (2) I’ve had that silver pen since I got married – 19 years.(!) Its not the most practical pen, but it is pretty – perfect for a photo.

autumn leaf cards in use bottle branch blog

So, that’s all the news in my world of making things. I’m hoping to be back with something new and different soon. In the mean time, if you haven’t been to visit my etsy shop, I hope you’ll go take a look! And if you have already visited, and liked or even bought some items: thank you so much! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!

Botanical photo cards

cards ready to write bottle branch blog

Its been quiet here, in my little corner of the internet. I’ve just been soooo busy. Yes, the usual tasks of motherhood – carpool, dinner, nagging – have kept me busy, but I’ve also been prepping more items for my etsy shop.

So, I’m delighted to post these new additions to my store – photo cards! Printed on soft, 130# card stock, that’s both acid free and Forest Stewardship Council certified, these cards turned out to be more lovely than I had hoped.

Each design is available in a separate etsy listing: autumn leaf ombré, hydrangea ombré, an array of summer flowers, and an array of green leaves.  I’ll shamelessly remind you that these cards would make a wonderful present for the avid gardener, plant lover, or anyone who just loves pretty things. I hope you’ll go take a look!

first four cards 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.

Dahlia daydreams and a little bit of printmaking

dahlias by ephpyle

If you’re addicted to looking at flower photography on instagram like I am, you’ll know it’s still dahlia season. (See #dahliaseason.)  My own garden dahlias disappointed me this year. I picked up the plants at a local garden center without paying much attention to the variety and I ended up with these short, mottled white and magenta flowers.(above) They still look pretty enough, but I found the high contrast of bright pink and white together a bit jarring and I didn’t like the way they looked with other flowers.

dahlias of 2014 by ephpyle

In past years, I’ve grown softer pink and yellow dahlias, like these flowers from 2014 (above and below).

bright dahlia by ephpyle

So, I’m already dreaming about what I’m going to plant next year. So far, I’m thinking about ‘café au lait’, ‘apple blossom’, or some type of pompon dahlias like ‘Eveline’, all pictued below. (Photos are not mine – they’re from wikimedia commons, details and links at the end of this post.) If you have any particular favorite dahlia varieties to recommend for growing next year, I’m all ears.

My daydreams also led me to make some dahlia-inspired white line wood cuts.

dahlia white line print by ephpyle

Clearly, pink dahlias have been on my mind. I wanted these prints to be softly colored but now, when I look at them in comparison to photos of real dahlias, they look positively washed out and I’m not sure what I want… Other than to grow more and different dahlias next summer.

dahlia white line print 2 by ephpyle

Photo credits for dahlias I’ve never grown:

Cafe au lait dahlia:  Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia ‘apple blossom’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia “eveline’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Hello, September!

new england wild flowersHello. Its been a while. Turns out, I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to spend a lot of time on instagram, rather than blogging. I hope you had a lovely summer. Despite my silence here, I had a wonderful summer, filled with garden puttering, flowers, plenty of beach time, and a few fun projects.

cosmos wreath

I did a little bit of silk screening, and some more white line printing.

succulent white line prints

I developed a temporary obsession with seaweed.

sea weed collage from bottle branch

I enjoyed a Japanese wood block printing class, as well as a trip to Japan. I am a lucky girl, I know.

This summer also felt transformative. I spent some time thinking about where to go with my creative endeavors, and where to go with this blog. I’m still figuring those two things out, but for now, it feels good to be back. I hope you had a wonderful summer and thanks for sticking around!

lilliput zinnias from bottle branch

Making the most of summer abundance and instagram

plum island phototaker ephpyle

Every summer, I  develop an obsession with Instagram. Last August, I found myself rising early to catch the morning light, planning family outings to picturesque locales and filling my instagram feed with landscapes.

This summer, the photography passion has returned, but instead of landscapes, I’ve been focused on flowers and gardening. I’ve been snapping photos, editing photos, posting photos and dreaming of photos of flowers, plants, gardens.

gathered bouquet ephpyle

I cannot stop thinking about how to best capture my garden flowers in bouquets…

hydrangea and ferns ephpyle

… in styled scenes…

dramatic flowers ehpyle

…in dramatic lighting…

garden puttering ephpyle

or on site, in the garden.

I am astonished at how many hours I can fritter away snapping photos of flowers and plants, dreaming up creative projects, and quite honestly it makes my head spin. I’m happy to know I’m not alone, as, photographer Kim Klassen recently posted. Kim suggested it might be the longer days. I wonder if the lush, vibrant plant growth and bright summer light stir something within us, a primal need to make the most of the abundance of summer(For me, it might also be related to my children being off at camp for a few weeks, but that’s so… practical.)

My current instagram obsession has pushed some of my other projects to the back burner, but like all true summer romances, I know it can’t last. For one thing, I’m taking a printmaking class next week. That should help shift my focus if nothing else. Until then, see you on Instagram!

stewartia blossoms ephpyle

Hello, Spoonflower!

pinwheel flower fabric samples hanging

I know. I left you hanging in my last post. Possibly even consumed with suspense. I promised to explain how this embroidery project led me to a totally different creative venture. And now, here I am, ready to divulge.

It started with Spoonflower. Do you know this custom printing website? If not, you are in for a treat. Any user can upload their own work and have it printed on a variety of fabric, wall paper, or gift wrap. Even better, anyone can browse and shop from thousands of independent, user-created designs. If you like surface design and/or textiles, Spoonflower is pure enchantment.

lattice embroidery

After dreaming, clicking and generally wasting time on Spoonflower for years, I knew a lining fabric for this embroidery was the excuse I needed to attempt fabric design. I had a definite vision for the lining fabric – delicate aqua-colored pinwheel-shaped flowers on a white background, almost an inverse of the embroidered design on the outside.

I borrowed a few books on fabric design from my local public library, painted several designs with watercolors on paper, and got to work.

watercolor fabric designs

I used photoshop to clean up my artwork and turn it into a repeating design. (A Field Guide to Fabric Design by Kimberly Kight offers an excellent tutorial on how to turn a design into a repeat, by hand or with phtoshop.) It took some time to clean up the design, orchestrate the repeat and generally fiddle around with all the details, and in the process, I gained a new appreciation for photoshop.

pinwheel flower fabric samples 1

Once I uploaded my designs onto to Spoonflower, I adjusted the scale, and then I ordered test swatches. (I chose to print on the cotton poplin fabric.) There they are, freshly laundered and pressed. Now, I just need to choose which design I will use as lining fabric for my embroidery project. For now, I’m leaning towards the scattered, random flowers, though I’d love to hear your opinions.

In the weeks since, I’ve been tinkering with my Spoonflower shop interface where all these designs are now available for anyone to order. Please go visit – I haven’t had many visitors! I’ve also been working on a few unrelated designs. To keep up the suspense, I will tell you about those designs another time.

P.S. Spoonflower also offers a color changing feature, where you can alter the color ways of a design. Of course, I had to try it! The result: a few designs originally rendered in shades of aqua, now in shades of periwinkle. In truth, I am happier with the designs in their original color. To alter the colors, I had to reduce the number of shades. Since the charm of the watercolor depends in a large part on the subtle variations of color and shade, I found these version a bit boring. But still, It was a fun exercise.

periwinkle pinwheel flower samples

Giveaway winner!

kitchen table giveaway

Wow! Giveaways are fun. I loved hearing from everyone one who entered last week’s embroidered phone case giveaway, even if I feel that I’m bribing you, my friends and readers, to speak up and show yourselves. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to leave a comment – it was so fun to read your responses!

I’m happy to hear there are other tea-drinking, home-organizing, idly snacking, book reading procrastinators out there. Also, so many of you are knitters… who knew?! I see the appeal of those fluffy and colorful yarns and the cozy things one can knit, though knitting has never been a strength for me.

I wish I could send something to everyone, but alas, that level of crafty output is out of my reach. So, I’ve picked one winner.

wrapped giveaway

I made a list of the 14 entries (social media shares were listed twice), numbered them, and then used a random number generator to pick a number… and the winner is Grace! Thank you all for reading and participating. Have a great weekend everyone, hope you find lots of time for knitting, taking photos, crocheting, procrastinating and talking about good books.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 2.31.21 PM