Crafting with Nature and Beets

beets bottle branch blog

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.

crafting with nature book bottle branch blog

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.

growing beet tops bottle branch blog

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?

beet dye and beet tops bottle branch blog

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.

 

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!

Spring flowers and white line prints

spring bulbs cards celebrate bottle branch

I don’t want to jinx it , but its been a mild winter here in Boston and I’m feeling like spring is in the air. So I’m celebrating with new photo cards of spring flowers in my etsy shop. I’m offering a set of five cards depicting tulips, jonquils and hyacinths in whimsical arrangements, with plans to add individual cards sometime soon.

spring bulbs bottle branch blog

I wish I could say the flowers were from my garden, but as of right now, my bulbs are just slowly poking their way up through the ground. Still, its much earlier than last year.

white line prints in process bottle branch blog

Also, as I hinted in my last post, I’ve finally added some of those white line woodcuts I keep chattering about. So far, only two designs are listed, both originals and fancy reproductions. I’m all ears if there are any requests to see others listed. I have many designs, but somehow, my motivation to list them is low.

In truth, I’m much more excited about the upcoming gardening season, so this is where I’ll be: sitting in my kitchen, drinking tea, planning and dreaming about my garden.

seeds and garden dreaming bottle branch blog

 

New year, new projects

frost on window bottle branch blog

Hello! Happy New year! I love January, because it feels like a blank slate. With cold, cold, weather here in Boston, I’m forced inside and have a chance to explore the indoor projects that often get put on hold when there are weeds to be pulled, perennials to be moved, or flowers to be cut.

Right now, I’ve got lots of projects cooking happily in my creative kitchen, and I’d like to tell you a little about each of them.

white line wood cuts on bottle branch blog

First of all, I’ve returned to white line woodcuts and started trying out new designs. With a few tips from Lisa Houck and Amy MacGregor Radin, I’m feeling a little more confident in my execution so I’m working on some final, best prints to submit to an upcoming show. The deadline for submissions in February first, so wish me luck!

cosy blue embroidery bottle branch blog

Second, I’ve started a new embroidery piece. Life doesn’t feel complete unless I have something to stitch, especially in winter. But since I’ve been busy with other projects, I haven’t designed anything myself. Instead, I decided to buy this adorable sea captain design from Cozy Blue on etsy. It was one of the first things I ever pinned on pinterest in 2012, so I’ve been waiting a long time to give it a try.

garden planning on bottle branch blog

Third, after mooning over seed catalogues for a few weeks, I’ve just ordered flower seeds for my 2016 garden. I chose a few familiar stand-bys, like snapdragons, cosmos, and nigella. But I’ve also added china asters, sweet peas, and globe thistles. Pretty soon, my sunny windows will be filled with trays of sprouting seeds. So excited!

Finally, I’m working on new photo card designs. I am trying to bump my tiny new business along, even if I don’t have any flowers or foliage from my garden for inspiration. If you’re with me on instagram, you’ve probably seen some of them already, but I’m also planning to reveal my new cards in an upcoming post. So, stay tuned!

 

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.

Seaweed inspired printing project

detail seaweed towel bottle branch

I’ve mentioned that last summer I was enthralled with seaweed. I collected seaweed on the Maine coast, and I fell in love with its alien shape, texture, color scheme. I like to imagine it waving and billowing under the sea. So of course, I posted seaweed photos on instagram, and made an animation of seaweed movement. (Please do click on the link to see the animation in instagram – I was trying embed it here but couldn’t make it work!)

I also used seaweed as inspiration for a silkscreen.

seaweed towel spread flat bottle branch

I used water soluble screen printing inks and a flexible film screen and printed on a linen tea towel, as I’ve done in a few previous projects. I printed up a batch and then let them rest until last week, when I decided to pull them out and iron them. I’m toying with the idea of printing them in a pale blue-grey next time around, but first I need to finish organizing and cleaning out my work area, clean up my garden, and so on. So, who knows? It might be summer before I revisit this project again.

seaweed towel with books etc bottle branch

Tutorial: bargello needlepoint iphone case

bargello iphone case completed

Finally! I’m posting a detailed tutorial on how to make a needlepoint iphone case. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know I have a thing for hand-stitched iphone cases, and it won’t be a surprise to know I recently made yet another one.

This phone case was a present for a beloved babysitter and this time, I took photos of the process. Now, several months later, I’ve finally managed to edit the photos and string them together to make this tutorial.

If you’re here because you’re a loyal reader, friend, or possibly because you’re my mother, you are excused from wading through the rest of this post, which will consist of diagrammatic photos and pragmatic text on constructing a phone case from needlepoint canvas. (Thank you for reading! I promise to try for something more entertaining next time!)

If you’re here because you want to see how to make a phone case like this, please, read on!

1 iphone case tutorial

Start by cutting two rectangles of needlepoint canvas. I cut mine rougly 8 inches by 5 and a quarter inches. This includes extra canvas to hem the edges.  I like to use interlocking canvas, but if you want to know more about canvas types, here’s a little description of a few types of needlepoint canvas typically available in the USA.

2 iphone case tutorialCut notches in the corners and then fold over the edges, lining the holes up.

3 iphone case tutorial

Stitch down the folded edges, but be careful not to block the holes since you’ll be stitching them later.

4 iphone case tutorial

Then, stitch away with you favorite needlepoint pattern. I copied this bargello pattern from a piece I made last year: you can read more detail about this Jonathan Adler inspired pattern in my “Beginner’s Bargello” post.  I like using a bargello because you don’t really have to worry about the number of squares in the canvas, or finding an exact center to begin stitching.

5 iphone case tutorial

Make sure the patterns on the two sides work together, since they’ll be connected in the end. In this case, I made the halves mirror images of one another. But it might also be fun to have them be related but different, like same exact pattern but with the colors switched around.

6 iphone case tutorial

Once the two needlepoint canvas sides are stitched, Its time to sew the lining in. Cut two rectangles of lining material the same size as your stitched panels. (I used wool felt.) Then use regular thread to baste the lining panel to the stitched canvas along the edges. Don’t worry if this stitching is sloppy – you’ll cover it up in the end.

6.5 iphone case tutorial

The next step will be to apply binding material. I used 1″ red wool twill tape for this piece. I’ve written before about the reproduction needlework at Colonial Williamsburg, and how it inspired me to seek out natural materials. I found this wool twill tape  at William Booth, Draper, though I might also try Wooded Hamlet Designs another time.

7 iphone case tutorial

Starting with what will be the upper edges of the finished case, pin strips of binding along the edge, leaving a few inches sticking out on either end.

8 iphone case tutorial

Stitch this binding down, making sure the binding tape covers the unstitched white canvas along the edge.

9 iphone case tutorial

You can see that I wasn’t too particular about the extra length of binding. I probably could have saved a little material by allowing only an inch on either end.

10 iphone case tutorial

Next, tuck the binding ends in between the lining and needlepointed canvas. (You may have to undo a little of your earlier basting – I did.) Make sure it folds more or less symmetrically so it looks intentional, rather than haphazard. Sew the tucked end firmly in place.

needlepoint phone case tutorial

You’re almost there! Once all the ends are tucked and sewn, its time to sew the two sides together with the binding tape. First, take the two sides of the phone case and sandwich them together, with the lining inward, and needlepoint canvas on the outside. Then, you’ll need to pin the binding tape around the outside edges, covering the white canvas edges of the needlpoint. The starting end is a little bit tricky. (Shown below.)

12 iphone case tutorial

Take one end of your roll of binding tape and notch the corners. Not shown: I also ran a few stitches through the end to prevent raveling.  Pinch the two havles of the phone case tightly together and take your folded binding tape end, and wrap it around the two sides, with the notched end folded to the inside. Be sure to line the top of the folded binding tape up with the tucked corners of the top bindings. Pin that in place but don’t start stitching yet. Its super thick, as you can see, so I used a safety pin to keep it in place while I pinned arround the rest of the edges.

13 iphone case tutorial

Wrap the binding tape around the two halves of the piece, pinning it in place as you go. I used safety pins for the corners and straight pins for the sides. Repeat the same folded over end and pinning at the other top corner. (Described above.) Once its all pinned, you can stitch the binding down. Make sure your thread goes through all four layers – Needlepoint canvas, lining 1, lining 2, and needlepoint canvas 2. Also, make sure the binding edge reaches the stiched canvas edge so that the white edge of canvas doesn’t show through. It can require a firm hand, but you can do it!

14 iphone case tutorial

Now, there it is, almost done! There are lots to ways you could finish it off now, but I’m going to share what I did.

15 iphone case tutorial

I always like to have a loop for a caribiner clip, so I can clip my keys to it and clip it to my purse. I made one here with a double strip of binding tape, sewn together and then sewn into the top opening. I used a double strip because in my expereince that is the thing that wears out first, especially if you like ot have it dangling from a clip a lot.

16 open phone case

While sewing in the ring, I also sewed the opening shut at that point and a tiny bit at the other end, so the opening would not be the full length of the case. I hope that will keep a phone from falling out.

Now comes the only part I can’t remember – what I used as a closure. To hold it closed, I sewed either a few snaps or some velcro just inside the lining. Either would work just fine.

There you go, one iphone case complete. I hope you’ll give it a try!

bargello iphone case completed for pinning

 

 

Bargello pocketbook

close up modern bargello

Remember this? Last October, I stitched this bargello – a modern, multicolored, aspiring-to-be-Jonathan Adler bargello. After I posted it, I tucked it away for later, not quite sure what to so with it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had a vague vision of a clutch purse type of bag, but it turns out, I don’t need a fancy needlepoint clutch. (Already have one and I’m not fancy enough to use it very often.)

Wool needlepoint pocketbook.
Wool needlepoint pocketbook from colonial williamsburg.

Only when I revisited my photos from a summer trip to colonial Williamsburg did I know why I had this idea was lodged in my brain. Look at this hand-stitched 18th century pocketbook (photo above), used by the ladies of colonial Williamsburg to store scissors, needles and other sewing notions.

That was when I knew I had to make my own 21st century version. As someone who typically throws an extra needle and a pair of scissors in the bottom of a canvas tote bag, drops her needlework on top, and then periodically struggles to untangle metal bits from thread, I found the idea of having an organized case for the small notions deeply appealing.

needlepoint bargello pocketbook

I particularly liked the idea of stitching it entirely by hand and using all natural materials, as in the 18th century, so I used wool twill tape to bind the edges, and 100% wool felt to line it. The only place I cheated was in using a lighter, thinner rayon to form the gussets that allow the pocketbook to open a bit wider. (I was hoping they would fold in more easily for closing.)

opened up sewing case

When it came time to engineer a method to keep it closed, I hemmed and hawed again. In other projects, I have used magnetic snaps or velcro. I like the convenience of both of these closures but each has their drawbacks, too. (Velcro obscures a large area of the needlework and can also snag threads if not carefully placed; Snaps sometimes open too easily.)

So, again, I consulted the work of the Williamsburg ladies and decided to try twill tape ties for closure. They are certainly not as convenient, but they leave no mark on the needlework and can always be removed and replaced with some small miracle of the 20th century like velcro.

There it is, tied up and ready to go. Now, I am excited to put this pocketbook to use and move on the new projects. The first of which might just have to be a needlecase, so I can get rid of the plastic bag I’m currently using to store my needles.

tied up needlepoint pocketbook

 

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!