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.
In the garden and in the shop
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hello, etsy store!
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.)
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.
Halloween craft: eeire orbs
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
How to organize your bed sheets, the crafty way
I’m not even close to being a super organized mother, as in, the kind of mother who maintains a color-coded family calendar, impeccably organized pantry, and foolproof system for managing the constant stream of children’s artwork coming home from school. But I do have my moments.
One thing I can’t stand is a jumble of bed sheets, mixed up sizes (twin? full?) in unmatched sets. (A pillow case from 2008 with a brand new top sheet?! the horror!) When my children where younger, I solved this problem by buying printed sheets: sheets with trucks, robots, airplanes. I would buy whatever it took to get them to love their beds, with the added bonus of easily organized sets.
Now that they are older, my sons are ready for unadorned sheets. Even my 7 year old requested plain white sheets after having slept on hand-me down robots, trucks, airplanes for his entire life. With a sigh of resignation, I imagined lots and lots of undistinguishable white sheets heaped in a laundry basket and waiting to be folded and organized into sets for each bed.
Then, it dawned on me: this is a crafty opportunity! This is a chance to put my newfound craft of embroidery to practical use.
To distinguish among identical sets of sheets, I embroidered a symbol in the corner of each sheet/pillowcase, one symbol per set. Since this was more funcational than decorative, I stuck with a single color motif in a tucked away location – just inside the pillowcase, at the upper hemmed edge of the topsheet and at a single corner of the flat sheet.
I started with a set of sheets for my 7 year old who is currently obsessed with Harry Potter. We dithered about how to reduce the whole Harry Potter saga to a single essential motif – a lightning bolt scar? wand? Hogwarts crest? In the end, we settled on the pair of spectacles you see here.
Transferring the motif was as satisfying as ever and stitching was a breeze. (I used back stitch this time.) In the end, this was a speedy and satisfying project, though I’m not sure if it qualifies as a craft project, or merely clever housekeeping.
P.S. I’m no Martha Stewart, but I do love this sheet organization idea from her website. Even more clever housekeeping!
Amos and Boris and an Embroidery Project
For me, one of the biggest pleasures of being a mother is reading bedtime stories. As I snuggle in each night with my youngest child, I often find myself re-reading old favorites – The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Gruffalo, Frog and Toad. And I often find myself inspired, transported, bewitched, not just by good stories, but by captivating illustrations.
One such inspiring book is Amos and Boris by William Steig. It tells the story of a friendship between a whale and a mouse and the illustrations are loose and alive, emotive and humorous, absorbing and appealing. I know this story so well now, that I read the words aloud without comprehension, while my mind dwells on the images, roaming over the rooftops of a castle on the horizon, basking in light shining from a boat’s cabin, floating in the swells of the ocean.
Inspired by the quirky and cheerful seascapes in this book, I recently sketched a whale in the ocean, a design I decided to use in an embroidery project. I chose three shades of murky blue-green for the sea, an earthy whale grey, and a white cotton drawstring bag. I stitched the lines of ocean swells, darkest blues toward the bottom, lightest towards the top for an ombré effect. (DMC #s 924, 926, 927, if you care for specifics.)
My whale, outlined in a split stitch, seems a bit washed out compared to William Steig’s beautiful illustrations. When I am a more experienced and more confident embroiderer, I’ll have to revisit this project and try filling and shading the whale with stitches.
At the edges, I extended the ocean waves (stem stitch) around the side seams of the bag and across the back too. This reverse side might just be my favorite part of the project. The open blue ocean, embroidered version.