A Flower a Day

While it is mid-winter and there is not much going on in my garden at the moment to document in my garden journal, I decided to practice painting watercolour flowers. I have begun A Flower a Day project, challenging myself to paint a different flower every day. I paint them onto watercolour paper, referring to photos taken of my garden last summer, then I stick them into my journal. It is a good way for me to practice using watercolour paints and I am loving the process. Sometimes I like to add mixed media embellishments, such as washi tape or fibres, to my mini flower paintings.

This is what I have painted so far.

lavender

pansy

poppies

foxgloves

daisies

echinacea

 

Treasure The Memories

This is one of my favourite photographs of my grandmother. It would have been taken in the 1930s when she was in her twenties, before she married. I love her dress; I wish I knew what colour it was. Although when I think of my grandmother, I always think of her as old, I can see her in the face of this young woman, gentle and reflective.

For this scrapbook page I used ribbon, lace, paper flowers and butterflies, and beads from a broken vintage necklace. To honour my grandmother’s love of gardening, I added pressed flowers from my garden – alyssum, feverfew and pansy.

 

Book Review: 101 Easy Homemade Products For Your Skin, Health & Home

I have always tried to live a healthy lifestyle, conscious of what I put both into and onto my body, and the effect that household products have on us and on the environment. For many years I have used cleaning products that have no nasty chemicals, and body care products that are natural and organic.

Recently I bought a book called 101 Easy Homemade Products For Your Skin, Health & Home by Jan Berry. I have followed Jan’s blog The Nerdy Farm Wife for a while now and was excited when I saw that she had written a book. It is full of projects for making skin and hair care products, household cleaners, health remedies, and pet care products using natural ingredients and common herbs, flowers and oils. The book is perfect for the beginner with easy-to-follow directions and lots of lovely pictures.

101 Homemade Products

So far I have made three projects from the book. The first one I tried was a lip balm. Jan teaches you how to make a basic lip balm, then gives lots of ideas on how to customise it using different herbs and essential oils. The first one I made I used avocado oil infused with lemon balm from my garden, and the next one I used olive oil infused with lavender flowers. It was so easy to make, I will never buy lip balm again!

lavender lip balm

Next I made the calendula lotion, which had a few extra steps and ingredients, but it turned out really nice. I didn’t have any calendulas flowering in my garden, so I bought a packet of dried calendula flowers from a health shop and infused them in organic avocado oil. I’ve planted a load of seeds in my garden so that I will have some on hand for using in creams and lotions when I need them. Now that I know how to make a lotion, I can’t wait to try out some different recipes. There are recipes in the book for face cleansers, face creams, eye creams, body butters, soaps, and much, much more.

Calendula Lotion

I made the orange pine floor cleaner, using pine needles collected on our walks, and oranges from our garden. It cleans the floors well and leaves a lovely refreshing scent.

orange and pine floor cleaner

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in making their own herbal products and in living a natural, chemical-free lifestyle.

Crazy Patchwork Cushion

Crazy Patchwork Cushion

I have been doing patchwork and quilting for a few years now, mostly making quilts and table runners, but I always wanted to have a go at doing crazy quilting. This creative art form was popular in the Victorian era, when fabrics were pieced together in irregular shapes and sizes, then embellished with embroidery, ribbons, laces, cording, beads, buttons, and appliqued motifs. They were like art quilts, often made with beautiful fabrics and luxurious threads.

I decided to start with something small and make a cushion cover. I chose some lovely fabrics from my stash, in my favourite colours of green and purple, with some creams added for contrast. There are several methods for piecing, but I chose to use the traditional hand-pieced Antique method. I embellished my cushion with embroidery, ribbons, lace, buttons, vintage trim, and small pieces cut from vintage doilies.

I bought this vintage floral trim at an antique fair.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any embroidery, so I decided to stick to simple stitches like blanket stitch and French knots.

I found J. Marsha Michler’s book Crazy Quilting, The Complete Guide very useful. It has instructions for piecing, embellishing, and more than 100 embroidery stitches. Being left-handed, I particularly like that she shows how to do the left-handed version of all the stitches. It also has a gallery of beautiful projects. The book is hard-covered and spiral bound, making it easy to have it open on the table while working from it.

I really enjoyed sewing everything by hand. I found it quite therapeutic, stitching while listening to music, and am looking forward to working on another crazy quilting project.

Herbal Moth Repellent Sachets

herbal moth repellent sachets

I just finished making some herbal moth repellent sachets to put in cupboards and drawers. The moth balls that you buy are made from toxic ingredients, so it is much better to make your own. They smell much nicer, too! You can use any strong smelling herbs to repel moths, so I used what I had in my garden – rosemary, lavender, mint, and thyme. I hung up bunches of the herbs in my studio and left them for a couple of weeks to dry, then stripped off the flowers and leaves and mixed them all up together in a tin. I also added some whole cloves for an extra strong aroma.

Lavender

rosemary and mint

dried herbs

herbal sachet bagsMaking the little fabric bags is a good way to use up scraps of fabric. You can use pretty cottons, muslin, organza, cheesecloth, or really whatever you have on hand. Fill the sachets with the dried herbs, then tie a piece of ribbon or twine around the tops. Hang the sachets in cupboards or place in drawers to keep the moths away from your clothes and linens. Scrunch the sachets once in a while to release the aromas, and once the aroma has faded, empty the bags and replace with some freshly dried herbs.

Update: I have since discovered that it is not a good idea to use organza for the sachets as, when you scrunch them, dust from the herbs escapes through the loose weave of the fabric, and you don’t want plant dust all over your clothes.

A New Favourite Author

Don’t you love it when you fall in love with a book by an author you haven’t read before, and then find they have written several other books, and you can’t wait to read them?

I discovered Susan Branch while browsing on the Internet for a calendar for 2016. Her Heart of the Home calendars feature recipes, quotes and her charming watercolour illustrations. Then I discovered that she had written a book called A Fine Romance: Falling in love with the English Countryside. It immediately caught my attention as I have always dreamed of travelling to England and exploring the picturesque country villages. I bought the book and it is just amazing, not only to read, but there is so much to look at, too!

The book is Susan’s account of her and her husband’s trip to England to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Based on the diaries that Susan kept of the trip, the book is handwritten and tells the story of their voyage from America to England on an ocean liner, and then of the two months they spent exploring the English countryside, visiting historic homes such as Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, and the tea rooms, pubs and antique stores they discovered along the way. The beautiful hardcover book with a red ribbon bookmark is full of photographs, recipes, and Susan’s delightful watercolour illustrations. Her warm, friendly prose makes you feel as though you are right there with them on their journey.

Susan has also written two prequels to A Fine Romance. Memoirs of her life, The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreamsare also handwritten, with lots of photographs and watercolour pictures. These beautiful hardcover books recently arrived in my mailbox and are eagerly awaiting to be read and devoured!

Susan is an amazing watercolour artist. As well as her memoirs and calendars, she has a Heart of the Home series of books that celebrate cooking, gardening, homemaking and entertaining, and a range of products that feature her watercolour illustrations including greeting cards, journals and recipe keepers.

You can learn more about Susan, her books, and her life on the beautiful Isle of Martha’s Vineyard at her website www.susanbranch.com.

Wildflower Meadow

I hope all the mums out there had a lovely Mother’s Day on Sunday. It was a beautiful autumn day here, continuing our run of amazing autumn weather.

I made my mum this mixed-media picture using watercolour and inking techniques from Jane Betteridge’s book Watercolours Unleashed. After the background was dry, I added pressed flowers and leaves from my garden, and a few butterflies cut from scrapbook paper.

wildflower meadow

Jane Betteridge does the most beautiful watercolour painting, using nature as her inspiration. I was so pleased to have discovered her book. You can see her lovely work on her website at www.janebetteridge.com.