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Three creative crafts to try this weekend

Fancy trying something new this weekend? Bekki Ramsay shows us three creative crafts to help bring the outside in.

By Bekki Ramsay

Bring the outdoors in by trying your hand at botanical drawing

If you don’t believe you’re ‘creative’, I’m here to confirm that you definitely have an artistic bone in your body! Why not use this time of lockdown to let go of the pressure to be ‘perfect’ and instead focus on trying something different?

You could actually combine this activity with your daily exercise; when out, use the time to try and find an interesting leaf, flower or plant and bring it home to use it as your muse!

If you haven’t drawn since you were in school and are feeling a bit nervous, just use a pencil to sketch out your design before committing to something a bit more permanent. Then if you’re feeling extra wild, why not order yourself a set of watercolour paints and get a bit more creative with colour? Not only will this help you kill an hour or two, but it’s also an easy way of practising gratitude towards the simpler things in life – like nature.

Create pressed flower artwork

If you don’t feel like putting pen(cil) to paper, why not give flower pressing a go? Again, you could find some on your daily walk or if you’re a bit of a green finger, why not pick some from your own garden?

Or, if you’re the sentimental sort and have recently been gifted some flowers from a loved one – you could even go as far as preserving these beautiful booms.

The actual process of flower pressing is incredibly simple. All you need are some scissors, heavy books and your flowers of choice. However, the key to the prettiest pressed flowers is using those that are still fresh. Ideally, they should be in bud or freshly bloomed.

To begin with, you should cut stems at an angle and remove any leaves that are attached at the bottom half of the stem. If these are left on, the leaves will rot and can create bacteria that shortens the life of a flower (which is just as handy to know when you are placing flowers in a vase).

Use your scissors to split any thick flowers in half, such as orchids or roses. Those that have naturally flat faces are the easiest to press.

Next, you should place all of the flowers in the middle of two pieces of paper as if they are being sandwiched together.

Finally add these pages (which of course, still contain the flowers) into the heaviest book you can find – before placing more books or even a brick – on top to weigh down the book once it’s closed.

Change these blotter pages every few days and keep repeating the process for two-three weeks, when the flowers will be completely dry.

When removing the flowers, remember to be extra delicate – try using a pair of tweezers, or your fingers very carefully.

Then the exciting part – arranging them into a glass frame!

Use fruits, vegetables and herbs to give new life to old fabrics

Did you know that you can use certain fruit, vegetables and plants to dye home furnishings (and clothes)? 

What colours can be created through natural dyes:

Pink – use beetroot, cherries, berries or red and pink roses.

Green – use spinach, parsley, artichokes, peppermint leaves or grass.

Orange – carrots or onion skins

Blue – use red cabbage, elderberries, blueberries our purple grapes.

Yellow – use marigolds, dandelion flowers, paprika, or turmeric.

How to prepare your fabric:

Firstly, wash your fabric but do not dry it as it needs to be wet for the process.

Whilst your fabric is in the wash, chop the plant into very small pieces to give you more surface area or if the plant is tough – smash the root with a hammer.

You then need to prepare your fixative for the dye – which will help the fabric take up the natural dyes more easily. For berries, you’ll want to use salt and for other plant materials, you’ll want to use vinegar. Here are the measurements:

  • Salt: dissolve ½ cup of salt in 8 cups of water
  • Vinegar: blend 1-part white vinegar to 4-parts cold water.

Next place, your damp fabric into this solution for an hour before rinsing it cool with water.

Whilst this is drying, you could utilise the time to protect your work area by placing down lots of old newspaper.

How to dye your fabric:

Now, we’re onto the exciting part – dying the fabric! But first of all, you should also wear gloves for the dying process to protect your hands from turning Oompa Loompa orange or Violet Beauregard blue!

You should then place the plant material into a large stainless steel or a glass pot – but remember that the dye could stain the pot so make sure it’s an old one!

Next, fill the pot with twice as much water as plant material and let it simmer for an hour or so until you get a nice dark colour with your dye.

You should then strain out the plant material (just with a normal colander or food strainer) and return the liquid to the pot.

Now, carefully place the fabric in the dye bath and bring it to a slow boil – letting it simmer for an hour or so, stirring it once in a while.

After the hour has passed, check your fabric to see what colour it is. It’s worth keeping in mind that an hour should produce a nice pastel colour but if you want a darker hue, you will have to leave it overnight. But it only needs to be heated for an hour – and can be left to in the warm water for as long as you want it to.

Once you’re happy with colour, take the fabric out and wash it in cold water! And voila – you have your new dye.

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