Beach tote from old paintings

So, I guess I don’t have enough to do with organising the house for Eugenia to take over while I’m in Mexico, and besides, I’m not leaving till this afternoon and I needed an excuse to spend more time with my flowers, I decided to make myself a beach tote to take to Mexico with me.


Now I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and finally got around to it. I have a collection of old paintings. Either ones I’ve painted which I no longer love, or thrift shop finds, (because I get some idea or other in my head). In this case, because, as usual I have very little idea of what I’m doing or how it’s going to turn out, I used two thrift shop finds and leather straps from a thrift shop purse, (which was bought for the straps and purse was recycled.)

Total cost: seriously under $10.

Ran the paintings past C and we both liked a West Coast mountain one and a rich Mexican colours one. A sort of yin-yang balance.

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I’m sure you all know that my sewing skills are very limited by now, but a basic tote pattern is easy as pie and there are loads of how-tos out there. I winged it somewhat. No paper pattern, very few straight lines, and my wonderful little Bernina sewing machine chugged away straining a little to get thru the thicker parts of the canvas, but I managed.

C and I took turns sewing the handles back on by hand. The wonderful thing about re-purposing leather is that someone probably already made convenient holes in it for you. :D

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And, so here you are, our wonderful new beach tote is all ready.

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I’m glad I used cheap thrift store paintings because all paintings aren’t made the same and all canvas isn’t the same either.

The thick, chalky “Mexican” side is sturdier canvas and a better quality of paint and didn’t peel or crack, (although some of the heavy bits did break off), but the “West Coast” side was probably painted with thin acrylics and maybe not a great quality, and in the turning right side out, a lot of the paint powdered and fell off.

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Not that that bothers us in the slightest. We love the well used/aged/loved to death look, and want this tote to show its wear and tear.

Next stop: THE BEACH! :D

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Ok, one more shot of those amazing flowers before we go. :D

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Silversmithing advanced class…spinner rings

So this was the most fun!!!!

Remember when I took the basic silversmithing course a few weeks ago?

Remember I told you I would be a repeat offender in Walt’s class?

Well, guess what? Walt decided to hold a spinner ring class with slightly more advanced techniques and I jumped at the chance.

Do you know spinner rings? Fun, fat rings with an outside ring which can spin freely around the inner ring. So lovely, so handy when you’re nervous, so dress up unusual when everyone is wearing plain old “rings”…so what I have to make right now. (Below are a couple Walt made for demonstration.)

But you know me…I’m so not colouring within the lines, by the way…lol.

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So come see how these are made, it’s not too hard, I promise. But I would still recommend a class before you try any silversmithing on your own and, if you’re in the Lower Mainland, you can’t do better than Walt’s almost one-on-one, private studio classes, and, he’s running a basic class in a week or two again.

So this ring needs a thicker inner ring which means I got to design, measure and cut out a custom sized piece of silver.

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Silver is pretty easy to cut out using these metal cutting shears at this stage, so a saw isn’t necessary for this step.

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Next, that whole palaver of adjusting the ends so they fit completely smoothly and snugly begins with endless filing.

Remember, if you decide to become a silversnmith, it’s useful to say, “I love filing…filing is my friend!” over and over again. You can also see how badly I cut this piece of silver with one end slightly wider than the other. You guessed it…more filing. :D

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I’m skipping over the basic flux and solder of the inner ring…you can refer to the earlier post…but let’s just say that after the ring is filed and soldered and in the “pickle”, it’s time to begin work on the outer ring, which will spin around the inner ring.

Now let me tell you why Walt is one in a million.

I think I said something like, “Walt, I’d like to make a wavy branch and have a jewel on that branch in a bezel, kind of like a flower, and I’d like some leaves and maybe a bird on that branch, and I know that this class will finish by 4:30pm and I know that this means hours of custom work which I don’t know anything about, and I also want to make a second spinner ring for Clove, which I haven’t even designed yet but it won’t be simple,…but it’s what I really want.”

And Walt said, “sure, go ahead!” And then! He encouraged me in my crazy designs and showed me short-cut techniques and introduced me to new tools.

So my outer ring began with a length of silver wire. I cut it to two sizes larger than my inner ring size and, after soldering it together, I bent it into a wavy pattern. Then I filed a smooth spot on the branch and soldered the bezel cup to it.

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Next I thought about the leaves. I took a little piece of silver, drew three leaves with a sharpie and cut them out with my saw. Then filed them smooth and to the irregular shape I wanted, and used a heavy sort of screwdriver thing and my rawhide hammer to make the leaf veins on the leaves. You can see by the tip of my finger just how tiny these leaves are.


Then I took the edge of a thicker gauge sheet of silver and drew a tiny bird on it and cut it out with my saw.

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Then the nightmare of soldering all those bits on my “branch” outer ring began. Whew, they took a fair few tries to get that straight remembering to use the solder in the hard, medium, easy and extra easy steps so not to melt the previous soldered piece with each subsequent heat-up and solder.

From such humble beginnings as scrap bits of silver to fitting the little carnelian gem took hours but I was so proud to be using the burnishing tool and doing that almost final step of fitting the gem.

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The very last step to my ring involved slipping the outer ring over the inner ring and gently hitting the ends of the inner ring with a ball-shaped tool to spread them out and keep the outer ring trapped on the band of the inner ring. I’m sorry but I was so excited to do this that I forgot to take a photo. :( My bad.

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For C’s ring I wanted to make her a tree. Not just any tree, a tall, majestic and slim sitka spruce. Walt suggested I learn a new technique or sawing inside a bar of silver, like lace, or cut work. I knew the minute he said that, that this would be the best ring for C. The way to do this is by using this new tool to make a small hole thru the silver and then treading the saw blade thru the hole and gently sawing out the tree shape.

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So C’s ring began the same way with a bespoke inner ring, a bar of silver, shaped, filed and soldered together, filed some more and polished, and the outer ring began the same way as the inner, with a bespoke bar of silver, slightly narrower than the outer ring, shaped to make sure the size was correct and then flattened out again.

As with everything, practice makes…well…a better mess the second time than the time before, and after a prototype on some copper, the bar of silver was relatively easy, even if very time consuming. (by the way, filing silver must be a good work out for your upper arms because mine are killing me!)


I got home around supper time and gave C her ring and showed her mine. She absolutely loved them both and immediately gave me a big hug and Instagramed it. LOL. I’ll take more photos in the day time so you can see the rings better but if you have any questions at all I’ll very happily find answers for you.

Oh, and by the way, C has asked for a sitka spruce necklace now…lol. A mother’s work is never done. :D

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Sharing with Mary at the Little Red House and with Create with Joy and Amaze me Monday

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A prelude to Valentine’s (aka how to make more work for yourself)

The other day Chloe suggested that we make some heart shaped bunting to help celebrate Valentine’s Day.

“It would look lovely with the big red rose wreath beside the front door”, she said.

But why is it that I always forget when C says “we” she means “me”?!?

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Yesterday at our local treasure trove thrift store, I spied a bit of lovely bit of vintage curtain for $1 and made the huge mistake of saying, “Look Clover, this would be great material for “your” bunting!” And so guess what…yup, I bought it.

I spread the fabric out on the table and cut out a nice, large paper heart and folded it in half, and then proceded to trace and cut out 20 hearts.

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Ironed and right sides together, I got my little sewing machine from the craft room in my studio…

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And sewed the little hearts up.

Now I’m not a very good seamstress, but this basic sewing is really quite easy. Each time I do a bit of sewing I wonder why I don’t do more of it, it’s quite fun.

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Pretty soon I had ten little hearts.

OK, just in case you thought C got away with the royal “we”, she was really great at turning the hearts right side out and making us some tea.


Then we were a bit stuck as to how to nicely tie them up as bunting, and got the idea that maybe they would look nice stuffed with a bit of stuffing, so I stuffed them all and hand stitched the opening closed.

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Then this morning I got the idea of sewing on some vintage buttons and got a couple done before I had to run out and C finished sewing the rest of the buttons on.

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So how about that! Ten fat little hearts and a length of velvet ribbon. Nine hearts fit the ribbon and the left-over one I tied around the living room door handle.


Then I sent C up on the railing and she tied our happy bunting to the Christmas light supports. (No, it’s not summer here yet…lol, she was just trying to decide on a dress to wear out tonight.)

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So here we are, it’s tea time and my house is decorated for tomorrow. Now it’s time for me to relax before supper and some friends this evening.

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Hope you all had a lovely day today and are ready for a wonderful Valentine’s Day tomorrow. (Hope you all get/give roses, chocolate, hearts, hugs and kisses, to the one you love and/or for yourself. You deserve it!)

Great big Valentine hugs!

Painting cookies for Halloween

On top of my kitchen cupboards are two old baskets at either end of my duck decoy collection. These ducks count the amount of times I’ve been in Quebec, because I buy one each time I visit, and the baskets hold my collection of vintage and antique cookie cutters, presses and other cookie tools.

Every time I get these baskets down and open them, they remind me of lovely, special times in my life.

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Ah, here’s the one I’m looking for. It’s a ceramic mold made by The Brown Bag Cookie Company. I’ve had some of these molds for millions of years, but they are still available.

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The recipe is a simple sugar cookie recipe, sugar, butter, egg, flour, a dash of vanilla, and these cookies are rather huge, so only about five from 1/2 cup of butter and 2 cups of flour. (but five is all we need this year for a handful of special friends)

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Painting cookies is really easy, but you need specific food colouring. The kind you need is the kind that colours icing. It comes in little pots and is creamy thick so it doesn’t dilute the icing. You should use a toothpick to put some on a plate because the stuff will stain your fingers like nothing else…lol. I bought a selection of four in a kit. They are green, blue, rose and orange, and, with them, I can easily mix browns, purples and a black, so I find that’s all I need.

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I asked C to join in and we sat down and started painting.

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There have been times when we’ve had several children painting their own cookie and times when we’ve made over 20 for us and our neighbours and taken them to the cabin for a party, but big batch or small batch, everyone has the best time painting cookies. It’s really satisfying.

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Ok, had to show you this photo: C trying to organise her Halloween party shedule, (I think “Scaryoke” is winning out over a private party”, but this is party planing 2.0…have cell phone, will paint cookies… :)

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And here they are, all painted and waiting for our special trick-or-treaters to show up.

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Linking with Kathy, Kim and Katherine

Countdown: Make a special sewing basket


Most of you, my friends, already know I’d rather make a special prezzy for someone than buy something.

The other day I was at Costco where they had Halloween decorations down one isle and guess what was down the other isle! Yup!!!

So I was thinking, there really isn’t a lot of time before Christmas and maybe we should get going on a few prezzies.

Something I love to do is repurpose something old and vintage into something new and useful. I’d much rather do that than buy something new.
Here is one of my favourite things to make; an old fashioned sewing basket. I’ll show you how I do it.

My inspiration for this project is my grandmother’s old sewing basket. It’s seen better days…lol…but I love it.

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Any basket will do. Here is a lovely, small 1940′s basket.

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Measure down the inside and measure the circumference. Cut some lovely fabric; here I chose a bit of chartreuse velvet.

Cut a strip of the fabric longer and wider than your measurement. Turn a bit of fabric over the top and that will be the top edge. It helps to press it into place.

Sew up the seam, and now you have a tube. Turn the top edge over and sew a seam 1/4 inch from the top to make the seam look pretty and finished.

Cut the bottom into notches to fit the tube into place inside the basket.

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The simplest thing to do now is to glue the tube lining into place with a hot glue gun. The simplest thing to do about the bottom is to cut out a circle of light cardboard, like a piece of cereal box, line it with a little quilting and a circle of fabric cut larger than the cardboard. Turn the edges of the fabric over the cardboard and glue into place.

Do the same thing for the lid. Sometimes I like to quilt a lovely vintage button thru the centre of the top lid lining.

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Now prepare your goodies. One thing I always love to have in my sewing baskets is a bit of bee’s wax. For people who quilt and embroider, bee’s wax is amazingly helpful and it smells soooo good.

Here is a precious little mouse my daughter Chloe hand sews and a little clover my daughter Kerstie makes using vintage fabrics and buttons.

Don’t worry about filling it with whimsical, lovely non-sewing things. Your loved one will cherish everything in this basket, and who doesn’t love lovely things.

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Something I always make for the basket is a special pin cushion. Here I made one from cotton batting and a circle of velvet inside a walnut shell half. (this idea came from a children’s story book from my childhood) It’s a bit tricky but once you get the hold of it, it gets easier to hot glue the velvet ball into the shell.

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And there you go! I’ve made this sewing basket inside vintage baskets with vintage materials and inside new Ikea baskets using store bought fuchsia silk. Any basket will do and the principal is the same. Wouldn’t you love a gift like this? I know I would. :)

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Would you like to learn how to emboss paper? I did, it’s not that hard.

I love paper and paper products.

I love to design, craft, save, collage, draw on and collect all sorts of papers.

Imagine my delight at being able to learn how to emboss paper.

This was a very quick and very fun experiment at Art in Action. Lin Kerr, of Limetrees Studio was on hand with her “light” press to teach embossing.

And I made this lovely card with the letter C for Chloe.

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Here are the steps:

You need a template, the mirror image of the thing you would like to have embossed on your paper. Lin made some fantastic letters to chose form. This template is made from layers of heavy cardstock. Here is the link to how Lin made these templates. Just requires a bit of patience, imagination and a sharp scalpel.

A card of 100% cotton is used to emboss the letter on.

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The press is a “light” press, but don’t be fooled because it still weighs 100kg!

There are three sheets of felt between the base and the roller.

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The press is rolled back, the felt lifted, and the template is laid on a grid to make sure it is straight.

Then the card is sprayed down with water in a fine mist. Not too wet, just dampened and laid damp side down on top of the template. It is very important to get the card and the template aligned just right because, once the press is rolled, there’s no going back.

Then the three sheets of felt are layered on top of the template and card sandwich.

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The press is rolled across the bundle.

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Really, that’s all it takes to make this kind of magic.

Now I know that probably no one is going to run out and buy a press for hundreds of dollars to make these beautiful cards, but I’ve come across a YouTube tutorial for doing this with a rolling pin!!! Hey!!! Affordable. :) I’m not sure how well this works though, but as soon as I make a template I’ll give it a try and report. :)

(but I really want a press like this!)

Enamelling a necklace! Would you like to learn how? I did, it’s not that hard.

I made this beautiful, complicated pendant in a practical class at Art in Action. I went into the class not knowing a thing about enamelling techniques and came out wearing this lovely piece of original wearable art and best of all, I made it myself and now I know how to enamel.

I’m not suggesting that we all run out and buy these supplies for enamelled jewellery making and go for it from my small demonstration, oh no! And I do think a small course may be very helpful to some people, while others could pick up on this right away by watching YouTube videos and such, but if you ever wanted to know a little bit more about it, then here is how I did it and it’s not that hard. :)

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Let me take you thru the steps:

There are a very few tools one needs for this process.

Actually, the only tools I used were the fine strainer, the tweezers and a pop bottle cap. Apart from those few tools, one needs supplies.

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The supplies are: A small kiln, or access to a small kiln, a metal pinwheel shaped holder for holding the piece while it goes into the kiln, a long fork to slide the pinwheel into the kiln and an old ceramic tile to put the very hot product down on.

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Some copper shapes, (you can enamel silver shapes too but starting with copper is supposed to be much easier), and some crushed glass enamelling powders. (These powders go a long, long way)

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Here is my lovely teacher, Bonnie Mackintosh, from the Guild of Enamellers giving a demonstration.

The first step for me was to take my copper disk, place it on the upside down bottle cap, and chose a base colour. Then I ripped up a bit of newsprint and wet it down and placed a couple of pieces on the disc. I chose a deep cobalt blue as the first layer, sieved a small amount on the disc and lifted the wet paper off from under the blue. Then the disc was placed on the pinwheel holder and fired in the kiln for a minute or two. Apparently it is better to underfire rather than overfire and each substance has its own time frame. (This might be a case of a bit of experimentation)

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When the disc was cool enough I chose a funny sort of plastic spatula as my next textured layer. I lay the spatula on my disc and used the comb edge of the spatula as a feature. Then I sieved a bright yellow-green pattern thru it and again it was put into the kiln for a minute or two. (The good thing about these powders is that they are dry and if you don’t like the pattern you’ve sieved, or if something goes wrong, then you can simply shake the powder off the disc onto a piece of paper and start the pattern again.)

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Here is my jewel after two firings. You can still see the copper thru the blue, thru the yellow-green.

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For my next layer I chose a very pale blue and screened that thru a fine stencil of leaves. I put the disk on the bottle cap and placed the stencil on top, put some powder on the side of the stencil and screened it on by moving the powder over the stencil using a piece of card. Again the disc got fired in the kiln.

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Here is the disc after the third layer before the final one. For the final layer I chose a gold mica based powder which just gave my jewel a shimmer. This was dabbed on thru a stencil of flowers using a cotton ball. You can see the stencil on the left side. Honestly, you can use anything as a stencil. Some people found great results with a hair net!

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Here is the disc after the fourth firing.

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And here is my new jewel on a jump ring and leather strap. I’ve been wearing it for days. I love looking into the rich depths.

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So if you’ve been wondering, give this a try. At best you might find the start of a wonderful new business, at worst you might make yourself a lovely piece of original wearable art. :)

How to make a lavender wand

Now is the season for lavender in the Pacific Northwest and my three shrubs are completely resplendent with beautiful blossoms.

Now is the time to make some beautiful lavender wands or cages to give as gifts, keep with your lingerie or decorate your home and keep the fresh smell of summer all year long.

It’s really easy, I’ll show you how.

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Gather some longer lavender stems in full blossom. It’s pretty important to chose an odd number of stems for this process. I like 13, Chloe likes 15 stems.

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Lay them on your work surface and make sure they are all pretty well the same length. That is, don’t have some 12 inches long to some 5 inches long.

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Strip off the bottom leaves and some of the mid flowers. Any hitchhikers must be gently lifted off and coaxed over the garden fence.

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If you’d like a fat wand then place the blossoms all together, if you’d like a long wand the stagger the blossoms somewhat.

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Choose your spool of ribbon, one of those narrow spools from the craft store is ideal.

Don’t cut the ribbon from the spool.

Tie your bunch together just below the blossoms taking care to leave the end long enough that it reaches maybe 6 inches or more past the blossoms for the tie at the end.

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Use the back of a spoon to gently bruise the stems just below the ribbon. This will help to bend the stems back without breaking any. The lavender is fresh and pliable so the stem probably wont snap, but if one does snap, don’t worry, the ribbon will hold it in place.

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Now gently bend the stems back on themselves. Some people will tie the bundle off at this point. That makes a lavender cage and cages are really charming. But let’s go on to a wand.

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Hang the cut end of the ribbon thru the flower centre and take the spool end and start weaving the ribbon thru the stems. Go over and under and over and under just like your first ever weaving you did as a child.

Now is when the importance of the odd number of stems comes in. When you finish the first layer and come back to the first stem you began at, you will find that the natural progression will continue with the rhythmic over and under instead of having to deal with two overs or unders beside each other.

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Pretty soon you will begin to see the beautiful ribbon weaving take shape and all that lovely lavender goodness protected within.

You’ll soon find a style of your own. I tend to make tighter weaves…

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…while C makes them looser.

It’s all good, do what ever you like, it’s your wand. :)

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When you weave past the blossoms, pull the ribbon tightly and wrap it around the stems. Use the end you’ve let hang from the blossoms as one side of the tie, the spool end as the other side of the tie and tie yourself a pretty bow. Now cut the ribbon from the spool end and admire your lovely wand.

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People say that it’s pretty important to let the wand dry out before you put in into a drawer or beside clothing as it could stain fine fabric, so that may be a good idea, and, besides, it gives you a chance to put all your lavender wands into a lovely bowl and have them hanging around on tables for no reason at all. :)

Dandelion crowns, a tutorial

I promised a few gals that I would show a tutorial for dandelion crowns next time I make one, and since I really have to mow the lawn, here’s a (long winded) how-to, with a much easier diagram at the end…so you can skip over the boring photos…lol. Dandelions have beautifully bendy stems, except for the super thick stemmed ones, and make fantastic, sunny ephemeral crowns.

Step one: pick a handful of dandelions with as long a stem as you can manage.
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Pick up one with a very long stem in your left hand. This will be your base line. Pick up a second with a reasonably long stem in your right hand. Cross the stem of the right hand one over the stem of the left hand one at the flower heads. 037 copy

Hold both flowers at the “cross” of stems with your left hand and bend the right-handed dandelion stem behind the left-handed dandelion stem.041 copy

Now bend the left dandelion stem, which is now perpendicular to the right one, towards you, between the two flowers.
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Bring the bent stem parallel with the right stem.
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Hold both the flowers in your left hand, pick up a third flower and loop the stem of the third flower over both the first two flower stems and between the second and third flower heads and parallel with the first two stems.
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Continue with another, and another…see how the chain is starting to form?
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Longer and longer it goes, careful not to choose dandelions with stems which all end in the same place. Try to vary the stem lengths.
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Within a few minutes you’ll have a lovely long chain.
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Cut a length of twine, grab a twist tie or even some sturdy grass blades and tie the beginning to the end of the chain.
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And find a freckle-faced princess. (Joking, she doesn’t need to have freckles, any old princess will do)
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Just not a Morgan princess!
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Here’s a quick diagram. Now go out and have some fun. When I was a child my cousin and I chained a dandelion chain all around our summer cottage. Took a month, the beginning was fluff by the time we got the end to it…but hey, we didn’t care.
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PS: this crown is very ephemeral, only lasts for a few hours.
PPS. Works with English daisies and clover too but takes a lot longer.
PPPS: Take loads of photos. :)