Monthly Archives: August 2018

A Symphony in Sepia

“Pressed for posterity, a symphony in sepia.”

I spent a lovely day with Annie at Dragonfly Studios in Skye during my honeymoon.  As well as working on my spinning technique (which certainly needs a lot of work!) I also tried my hand at dyeing yarn using plants found on Annie’s croft as well as printing some really unusual leaf and flower paper.

 

Mr HoneyB had won a competition that Annie had been running, and she’d made him a beautiful notebook as a prize using some of her flower and leaf paper, and I was really intrigued to see how it was done!

 

 

 

 

First off we took a basket and picked a selection of leaves and flowers from around the croft.  We then retired to the kitchen with a cuppa, spread out our goodies on the table and the fun began!  As well as the foliage we’d collected, we had a pile of paper (all sorts of different thicknesses and quality, but roughly the same size) ready to hand.

The technique is basically to make a flower and leaf ‘sandwich’, so it’s simply a case of laying out the items on a sheet of paper in a way that appeals to you.  There really is no exact science to this – you may decide to simply place one flower in the centre of the page, or you may prefer to cover the paper with a whole variety of bits and pieces – the choice is yours!  Once you have your first piece of paper complete with flowers, place another piece of paper on top (trying not to move anything on the sheet underneath) and repeat the process.  Continue in this way until you have around a dozen sheets completed, remembering to press them down after each sheet.

Once you have your paper and flower sandwich, the next step is to wrap it all up in some more paper (as if you were wrapping a present) then tie string around it to keep all the layers of your sandwich pressed together, and to stop any of the leaves escaping.  Use plenty of string to do this as it’s important the papers are properly squished together during the printing process.

Next the paper sandwich is placed in a  bath of plain water to which a good slosh (I did say this wasn’t an exact science didn’t I!) of white vinegar is added.   Weigh the paper parcel down with some heavy stones, pop in a few old rusty bits and pieces (the rustier the better so raid the garage) and simmer for at least an hour and a quarter.  We did this outside on a camping stove, but it would work just as well on the cooker indoors.  After an hour and a quarter you can take the bath off the heat, then leave it overnight.  The following day, remove the parcel, undo the string and carefully separate out the individual sheets of paper removing the wet leaves and flowers which can now be discarded, and leave the paper to dry on a flat surface.

Eh voila!  You should have some beautifully patterned paper, with the imprints of your leaves and flowers.  The amazing shades of yellows and browns you should get are the result of the vinegar acting with the rust.  It’s worth experimenting with different foliage as some work much better than others.  You’ll notice that some produce the most wonderful colours too and you might be lucky enough to get some blues and reds.

The only thing left is to decide what to do with your paper!   As one of the main purposes of my ‘Fifty Two and Thrifty Two’ project was the opportunity to make things for myself for a change, I decided to turn one of the prints into a picture for the living room.  It was simply a case of deciding which of the papers would fit best into the old frame I had.

Once I’d cut my chosen print to size and popped it in the frame, I realised there was quite a big scratch on the front of the frame (bottom right).  As I didn’t have any others, I needed a Plan B.  The lovely Mr HoneyB had written me a few different verses that I was going to include in the picture, but decided instead to put the shortest of the verses on the front of the frame to cover up the scratch.  I really love the print and the colours are just gorgeous!  I’m still not sure I’m happy with the verse being stuck on the front of the frame though, and I may yet need a Plan C.  However, I think the best way to make my mind up is to keep the picture on the windowsill and live with it for a few weeks to see how it ‘settles in’.

In the meantime, I still have all the other prints too that I can use for future projects 🙂

 

    

Liberty Bag

Which ones to choose?!

Well, I’m ashamed to say that it’s not just wool that I seem to acquire, I’ve got a fair old stash of fabric too just waiting for the right project!

As well as larger pieces, I’ve accumulated a fair amount of smaller pieces, including lots of Liberty cotton, and decided the time was right to make a start on using them up!  Now that I’m back in the swing of regular crafting, I thought a project bag would be the ideal thing as it’s always handy to have somewhere to store current wips (that’s ‘works in progress’ for the uninitiated!)  Notice the use of the plural form there too – it’s universally acknowledged amongst crafters that you can never have too many projects on the go at any one time!

After a flick through my various sewing books, I decided to go for a simple lined drawstring bag and let the fabric be the star of the show.  Basically all you need to do is cut 2 rectangles of fabric, one slightly longer than the other (this piece will be the lining).  The extra length is used to fold over the front of the project to make the channel through which you’ll thread the ribbon or cord used to close the bag.    You fold each rectangle in half and hem around them both (making sure you leave a gap on either side at the top of the lining piece) pop the lining inside the main bag and fold the casing over to the front.  You can then thread your ribbon or cord through the opening on either side of the casing.

 

If you’d like to have a go yourself, just let me know and I’ll send you full instructions, or there’s a lovely tutorial here which will show you how to make a simple, unlined bag. 

The pattern I was following was taken from The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing.  In addition to the fabric, the pattern called for 2 metres of ribbon and 4 beads.  After an extensive root through my ribbon box I realised I would have to buy some as I had nothing long enough, but I managed to find some I liked for 60p a metre – so that’s another £1.20 of the budget gone 🙁   I did however discover some lovely wooden beads in my many bead jars that would be just perfect.  I cut the ribbon in half and, using a safety pin, I carefully threaded it through the casing.  Once I’d pulled the ribbon so the ends were the same length on both sides I went to thread the beads on, only to discover the hole in the beads was too narrow for the ribbon to pass through!  At this point I was determined not to spend any more money on the project, and keen to get it finished, so decided to simply make some ties from the same fabric as the lining, and sew them directly on to the ends of the ribbon instead.

Ta dah!

 

I’m really pleased with the result.

All I need now is another project to put inside it! 🙂

What to do with a Wedding Bouquet?

Signing on the dotted line

I was determined not to get carried away and spend too much money on flowers for my wedding, so decided to make my bouquet myself.  Initially the plan was to order specific flowers from a local florist, but then I thought why not just go along to the local supermarket the day before the wedding and buy a few bunches of whatever was available?   I was delighted with the result and ended up with flowers I’d never have chosen otherwise, including some beautiful bright sunflowers.   I also picked a pale pink peony rose from the garden to include, and my Mum brought me some gorgeous blue cornflowers as they’re a particular favourite of mine, so they got added in too!  Basically I just arranged them as I would for a vase and tied lots of twine up and down the stems to make sure they would hold, which they did thankfully! 

I really didn’t want to leave my bouquet behind when we left for honeymoon but knew there was no way I could take it with me, so had to find some way of preserving it.  I read up a little on the best way to dry full bunches of flowers and found lots of articles suggesting they be hung upside down in a cool, dry place.  Never having tried this before, but with no time to experiment with another bunch of flowers first, I decided to give it a go and hung the bouquet up in the garage once we were home from the wedding.

On our return from Skye 3 weeks later I took a peek and was delighted to find the flowers had dried perfectly.  I was really worried that the petals might have dried and fallen off the stalks, and that I’d come home to a pile of petals on the floor, but thankfully they were all still attached to the stems!

 

The colours had faded and were now subtler shades rather than the bright vibrant colours they had been, but i don’t think there’s any way to avoid this happening.

The dried flower heads cut and ready

Pot pourri seemed to be the best use of the flowers and I decided to carefully cut off the flower heads and keep them intact rather than detaching the individual petals.  After Googling several articles on how to make pot pourri, I knew I needed some sort of fixative as well as something to provide fragrance.  The most common fixative it seems is Orris powder (which I didn’t have needless to say!), but it turns out that powdered cinnamon works too, so that’s what I went with.

 

Purchase number 2!

Unfortunately I didn’t have any essential oils to give the flowers a lovely smell though, so knew I’d have to use some of my budget to buy a bottle.  The cinnamon I’d used made me think of Christmas so thought I’d team it up with some orange oil (which always makes me think of  Christingles).  As it happened, Holland and Barrett had some in their sale, so I’m now £2.74 down.

 

 

Whilst I didn’t have any oils at home, I did however have a spare lemon left over after my first attempt at home-made lemonade, so I decided to have a go at drying some lemon slices to add to the potpourri mixture.  As well as being able to dry the slices in the oven on a very low heat, it’s also possible to dry them in the microwave on half power, or using the defrost setting.  I have to say it took considerably longer than the 6 minutes the instructions I’d found stated, and after about 25 minutes I decided to just spread them out on a  fresh plate and leave them on the windowsill to finish drying.  3 days later and I had some beautifully dried lemon slices and a lovely citrus smelling kitchen!

 

The potpourri, complete with lemon slices, is now in an airtight container that gets a little shake every day to help the powdered cinnamon and orange oil work their magic on every petal before it’s time to turn it out into a bowl in a few weeks time!

A wonderful reminder of a wonderful day 🙂

My first purchase!

Finding a project to take with my on my journey up to Skye was a really easy decision – it had to be socks!  They’re such a lovely portable project and knit up quickly too – satisfaction guaranteed!   However, deciding on which pattern to go for was not quite so straightforward – you wouldn’t believe how many different variations on the basic sock pattern there are – long leg, short leg, ribbed cuff, roll cuff, cable pattern, lace pattern – and that’s before you consider all the different heel and toe variations!!  The socks were going to be a present for my Mum, so I chose a pattern I thought she would like – a simple ankle sock with a roll cuff  – and I raided my stash for a really pretty self-patterning yarn.   You can find the pattern here if you’d like to have a go yourself.

The Journey Begins …

The Hearth at Horsley

I cast on my 64 stitches for the cuff of Sock 1 at our first stop-off, which was for coffee and cake at The Hearth in Horsley, Northumberland.  I often knit socks with 4 double pointed needles (dpns) but decided to try 5 this time as that’s what the pattern suggested.  One of the many things I love about knitting socks is the fact that there are so many different ways to make them, so lots of opportunities for experimenting, which is always great fun!

 

Picking up the Heel Flap

 

Some 70 miles later and we’d arrived at Dumfries where it was time for lunch.  By this point I’d knitted the cuff and heel flap so was able to pick up the heel stitches over a sandwich at Nona Lou’s in the Old School (I reckoned it was safer to wait until we’d stopped rather than attempt picking up stitches in the car)!

 

Now that I was back to knitting in the round again, it was just a case of completing the gusset  decreases to get my stitches back down to 64.  After that it was just plain knitting until the toe shaping – perfect knitting for a car journey!

Admiring the view at the Skyeburn Teapot

We always stop for a cup of tea at the Skyreburn Teapot at Gatehouse of Fleet (you’ve probably realised by now that coffee and cake feature quite heavily in our lives!).  As it’s only 30 odd miles from Dumfries I didn’t get much more knitting done, but by the time we reached Stranraer (our destination for the evening) Sock Number One was really taking shape.

 

 

Stranraer, and time for bed …

Ben Nevis

After a lovely evening with friends at the Stranraer Folk Club, we made our way to Fort William which would be our base for the next two nights.  Sock Number One was finally finished that evening and here it is, outside our b&b, with Ben Nevis in the background.

 

 

 

Sock Number 2 started life the following day on the Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig.  The views were incredible but it was soooo hot!  Thank goodness we’d managed to find two little hand fans as I think we’d have expired otherwise!

 

 

 

 

Deer spotting at the cottage

Once we arrived in Skye Sock Number Two knitted up in no time (with the help of more coffee and cake obviously!) and before I knew it I was ready to Kitchener stitch the toes on both pairs to finish them off.

 

 

 

Purchase Number One!

 

Imagine my horror when I sat down that evening to sew them up only to discover that I’d forgotten to pack my darning needles!  The only thing for it was to buy some, and thankfully there’s a wonderful shop near the cottage called the Handspinner Having Fun, that had just what I needed.

 

 

Sock Number One finds his mate

 

When I set myself a budget of £52 for my Project 52 Challenge, I never imagined that my first purchase would be for something that I already had!   I was so keen to get the socks finished though to give to Mum on our return, that I bit the bullet and splashed out the princely sum of £1 for 2 lovely needles!

 

I must admit that using up one ball of sock yarn hasn’t made much of a dent in my yarn stash which was one of the major inspirations in embarking on this project.  However it’s a start, and it’s really making me think twice before buying anything new.   There are several times when I’ve been seriously tempted (I mean there is just so much gorgeous yarn out there!) but I’m finding real enjoyment in making use of what I’ve already got.  I’m conscious it’s still early days in my project, so here’s hoping I can hold out for a little bit longer!! 🙂