Sunday, 30 October 2011

Natural Dyeing with Lichen

This is something I've been wanting to do for quite a while. Lichen has been used to produce dyes for longer than anyone can remember and in the not so distant past  dye was still made this way commercially.

This is Ramalina farinacea. It was collected from fallen oak twigs and branches in North Wales. It is a soft grayish green and very common. High winds and rain had stripped a woodland of lots of small  twigs many of which were bearing a good covering of the lichen.

Lichen colonies are easily damaged by collecting and  this is the first time I've seen sufficient dislodged naturally for me to pick up enough to try this.

The first stage is to boil the lichen to release the colour. I used the old pan I generally reserve for melting candle wax. I boiled it for an hour and then left the liquor to steep overnight. I personally found the smell of the boiling lichen unpleasant and was glad when the hour was up.

The following morning I strained out all the plant matter and was left with this insipid pale greyish green liquor.

I almost gave up at this point and tipped it away. However I thought I might as well carry on. I brought the strained "tea" back up to the boil and added some white wool gleaned from the Welsh hillside and pre washed.

Doesn't look promising does it? Once it was boiling I turned off the heat, covered it and left it steeping overnight - close to 24 hours.

I was fully prepared to write off this experiment as a complete failure so I wasn't expecting much...

...and certainly not this - once rinsed and dried I have yellow wool! The colour is actually a little stronger and brighter in real life.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Natural room fragrancer

I hate those artificial "air fresheners" and have been making my own gel based ones for a while now. It avoids all the nasty chemicals that would be released into my home and of course the scent is infinitely customisable ( is that a word??)

 Basic ingredients are water, salt, gelatine and some essential oils of your choice.

I use some old glass containers that once held scented candles that I got from someone on Freecycle.

First  measure out how much water you need. Simply fill each container to the required depth with water and pour into a measuring jug. I needed just short of a pint.

 Boil sufficient water and dissolve the gelatine following the packet instructions. I generally like a firm gel so I use rather more than the minimum recommended. Add a couple of teaspoons of salt to the mix  to avoid the gel going mouldy.

Whilst the water is boiling place add the essential oils to the glass jars. The more you use the stronger the scent. It doesn't matter which oils you use if you just want room scenters - just chose ones with a pleasant scent and maybe some of the cheaper ones. If you are using a couple of  containers you can of course use different oils in each  of them

I often have other  objectives so I will use a blend depending on what I want to achieve. This batch contains a blend of patchouli, rose attar, nutmeg, clove and a couple of others. You are going to want 30-40 drops of oil per vessel. If you want a coloured gel then you can also add a few drops of food colouring. I don't generally bother as I like the natural amber colour but each to his//her own!

Once the gelatine has dissolved simply pour the mixture into the jars, stir well with a toothpick ( use a different one for each jar if you have a different blend in each one) and leave in a cool place to set.

I find they last about 4-6 weeks before needing replacing but that will depend on the location and the atmosphere.

Friday, 14 October 2011

A way with CDs

I've managed to collect a lot of old CDs over the years- mostly unwanted freebies from the newspapers. Why do they think we want this crap?

Anyway I've been squirrelling them away pending some inspiration. The new die cutter has certainly given the crafting mojo a new lease of life and finally I have some ideas.

This one is nice and easy. All you need is an old CD, some paint and some peelable stickers. I used the black spray paint I bought for the dark mirror but ordinary acrylic paint will also do. I've seen this done on the web with a design scratched into the paint but I'm drawing challenged so I had to find another way.

Firstly spray the printed side of the CD and leave to dry  - I left it overnight. If you are going to display the CD in a way that hides the back you can skip this stage.

Once it is completely dry, turn over and stick the peelable stickers to the shiny side in your chosen design. As they are peelable you can reposition  them until you are satisfied. I chose some filigree butterflies I found lying around.

Once the stickers are in place simply paint the whole front surface ( over the stickers as well) and leave to dry thoroughly. Peel off and discard the stickers and you're done. Using a pin to lift the stickers off makes this much easier.

If you want to use as a coaster I'd recommend adding a coat of spray varnish over the paint before removing the stickers. The butterflies look rather "flat" in the picture. In reality they flash with colour as they reflect the light.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Halloween crafting

I had a friend staying over this weekend and we had a great time playing with our ( well mostly her!) craft stash....

Here are some of the results:

This is a block of wood, painted white and then covered in stamped tissue paper and decorated with some Tim Holtz dies. The bats are hinged with strips of plastic packaging and the feet are glass beads stuck on with hot glue.

Some cards:

Hand made paper

The paper was first stamped with the plant image and then embossed with the pumpkins.

The witch was cut from grunge paper, painted with black acrylic paint and then the edges sanded clean. They were then stained with brown dye to give a soft contrast to the black. 

This is less successful. Love the raven and the grunge paper flower but not so much the rest of it.

I may remove the flower and have another go. I did cut some spare ravens for future use!

This has proved to be an expensive weekend! I'd already cracked and bought the die cutter machine after seeing the leaves made by it but my friend is a very talented mixed media artist and has given me a good insight into what can be done with my new toy. No plastic packaging is now safe!

Unfortunately I now covet all her cool dies and embossing folders and although the flower cutters, witch and bats are mine, none of the others used were so I feel a shopping trip will be coming up probably sooner rather than later and I'll have an extensive wish list for my birthday! I've already  ordered grunge paper and a  rosette maker...

Oh dear.....
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