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

 

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

Friday flowers and hashtags projects

bowl of cosmos

Before I even begin this post, I need to apologize to any of you who get posts automatically by email. You may have gotten something about homecoming at Boston College. Sorry! It was supposed to go on my neighborhood website which is really just another wordpress blog. My fault for not paying enough attention and it won’t happen again!

Now, down to business. This a short post, and, once again, it involves instagram.

I often tag my instagram images for different hastag projects, where one user posts a prompt for a theme/style/subject of photograph and hashtag to go with it. Anyone can post a photo relating to the theme/style/subject and tag it with the appropriate tag. Its quite fun to have a sort 0f assignment, and can be a great way to connect with other like-minded creative types.

Some of these projects are organized by bloggers who then pick a favorite image from the group to feature on their blog. I’ve had a few images featured on other blogs, and I want to give those blogs a shout out, because they are all quite lovely and worth a peek if you enjoy looking at pretty spaces on the internet like I do.

So, I’m listing three blogs below, and linking to the relevant post. I hope you’ll take a look; you won’t be disappointed!

Laidback Living by Doris Lee : Doris posts about creating a comfortable and modern home space, enjoying life’s pleasures, and hosts a weekly #laidbacklivingis photo project via instagram.

The Cabinetmaker’s Love Tale : Jessica hosts a weekly #mymondaymoodboard project, and shares home, craft, and cooking adventures.

Circle of Pine Trees : Laura posts about outdoor adventures, cooking, seasonal beauty, hosts a monthly reading project, and hosted a #makingjuly instagram photo project. She is currently hosting #littlestoriesofmylife for narrative photography and it is equally lovely.

Enjoy! Have a great weekend everyone!

autumn asters on the reservior

 

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

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

Giddy with garden flowers

hydrangeas.2015

I’m giddy about gardening right now. I feel like the expression “embarrassment of riches” was coined for me, for this afternoon, when I came home from Maryland, with an arm full of hydrangeas, and found my yard still filled with peonies.abundant flowers 2015

What lush abundance! What a thrill it was to to gather these flowers together. I also cut a few scabiosa, but my clippers never made it near the foxglove, mountain laurel, or other blooms that had popped open in my abscence. I put down those clippers and went to find my camera instead.

pale pink peony

I frittered away far too much time taking photos of flowers this afternoon, but it was fun. I hope you’ll enjoy these photos half as much as I enjoyed taking them.

blue hydrangeas

I’ll probably post a few more photos of these beauties in my instagram feed, because, like I said, I’m delighted, enamored, giddy with garden flowers. Join me there!

peonies and hydrangea

more pink peonies

 

Springtime garden dreaming

native withch havelJPG

Hello. It’s been a while.

Like everyone else I know, I’ve been busy. I’ve been attending year end performances, cleaning out the garage, transporting children, filling out permission slips, trying to get a squeaky faucet fixed, and so on. And, of course, I’ve also been busy in my garden.

I started seeds, watched them grow, carried them in and out of the house to harden them off, and now, just this week, planted them outside.

I pruned a dozen inkberry bushes and then luxuriated in the resulting clippings and their glossy foliage and even made a wreath from the cuttings. Sadly, the wreath was a failure, as it turned brown about 24 hours after I hung it in my house, and before I took a photos of the final product, but the project was fun.

I’ve been Instagraming the flowers that have emerged in my garden and trying not to get too excited in anticipation of the ones I hope will bloom soon. (You never know when tragedy may stike in the form of a garden pest.)

I’ve been puttering, planting, and scheming about how to keep the rabbits from eating everything that’s not contained in the fenced enclosure around my vegetable patch. I’ve been thinking about moving some ferns and what to plant in their place.

may apple flower

I’ve been admiring my mayapple which came back five times bigger this year than last. In short, I’ve been happily caught up planning and dreaming in my garden, caught up in the spirit of spring. Happily, I am now caught up here on my blog as well. Happy spring my friends! I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.

hot pink peony

Fronds and Umbels Embroidery Giveaway!

embroidered umbels case

Sometimes I spend hours making something, set it aside, and then forget about it. And that’s exactly what happened with this embroidery project. Yesterday, after finding it in a mess of embroidery supplies, I reacquainted myself this little object, which I stitched in December, during an obsession with making small pouches inspired by a project in Aimee Ray’s book Doodle Stitching.

detail embroidered umbels

I’ve been calling this design “fronds and umbels” because, well, the fern-like frond motif, and the umbrella-shaped flowers, which are botanically speaking, umbels, like queen anne’s lace or allium. 

embroidered felt case

Stitching on thick wool felt was both satisfying and liberating. With no way to transfer a drawing or pattern onto the thick fibers, it was true free-hand doodle-stitching, and it was so much fun.

If you’ve beeen reading this blog for long, you will not be surprised to learn I made this piece into an iphone case. (I have a slightly alarming history of making iPhone cases.) I lined it in a soft blue-grey 100% wool felt and added  divider so there are 2 compartments. It closes with a magnetic snap. It is deliciously touchable and cozy and I do love it. The problem is, that I don’t need a phone case. As I recently related, I lost, then found my beloved needlepoint phone case in December. After that tearful reunion, I don’t plan on replacing it anytime soon.

embroidered ihpne case with flowers

So, I’ve decided to give this embroidered phone case away to one lucky reader. It fits an iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and probably a few other make/model phones. (And of course it does not have to be used for a phone.) I’ll even throw in a carabiner clip to go with it.

embroidered phone case with carabiner

For a chance to win this hand-embroidered beauty, leave a comment below. (If you share this post on facebook,  twitter, or instagram, tag me, and you’ll get an added shot at winning for each post.)

No need for flattery in the comments, just tell me your preferred craft, hobby, artistic pursuit, or favorite form of procrastication. If you engage in none of the above, you can tell me your favorite book. (How is it possible to name a favorite book?! More shockingly, how is it possible not to engage in procrastination?!)

I’ll post the randomly-drawn winner on Friday, March 6th 2015. Go ahead, give it a shot – your chances of winning are good!

Botanical embroidery project

embroidery floss, WIP

Last week, I wrote about the beautiful needlework of Gerda Bengtsson. This week, I’m sharing my own copy of one of her designs – embroidery of a bedstraw, or Galium plant.

galium embroidery

Most Galium are wild, frothy, unassuming plants. Their beauty lies in delicate arching branches, leaves that cluster around the stem in whorls, and dainty white or green flowers. Some species can be quite weedy and others, like sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) are both ornamental and medicinal.

This embroidery by Gerda Bengtsson captures the beauty of Galium saxatile growing in a flat form. (It comes from Gerda Bengtsson’s book of Danish Stitchery, published in 1972.) The black and white photos probably don’t do justice to her work, but this project still seemed timeless and appealing to me.

tracing galium

To embroider my own version, I scanned the image from the book, printed it, and then traced the original shape. Since I enlarged the design a bit, I modified in some spots and had made most of the branches shorter.

transfering galium design

I then used a hot iron, transfer pen and tracing paper to transfer the design on to some white linen. Since the design was larger than the 8.5″ by 11” transfer paper, I had to improvise with stapling sheets together and my transfer was a bit light in some places. (Note to self: pin the transfer paper down carefully before ironing.)

embroidery work in process

I stitched away, filling the leaves in with satin stitch and tracing the stems with stem stitch.

It was a big project and took a few months. Over time, my transfer ink began to fade, eventually becoming non-existent. By the end of the project, I’d done enough of these stems and leaves that I was fine just making up where to stitch.

I tried to vary the shades of green, with the tips of the growing branches and leaves stitched in lighter shades. Overall, I’m pretty delighted with the outcome, though I have no idea what I’ll make out of it. Cushion? Wall hanging? If you have any ideas, I’m all ears!

overview galium embroidery