Flower/Foliage Easter Eggs

Flower Easter Eggs

After our success with the Tie-Dyed Easter Eggs last year, Cait and I decided to make it a tradition, just like our Christmas baking, and do it again this year. Obviously, we would do something different  (the tricky thing about this blog is I can’t ever really do the same thing twice).

Flower Easter Eggs

So after looking at this post and this post on dyeing eggs with natural dyes and using plants to make impressions on them, I knew this was something we needed to try – FOR SCIENCE. However, with Indy now part of the family and requiring our 100% attention at all times to avoid him being eaten by Gren, I knew we didn’t have time to set up natural dyes for the eggs. We would do that next year.

Flower Easter Eggs

I had some Ukrainian style pysanky dye that I purchased when Cait and I had a different plan for science-y Easter eggs (maybe we’ll do that another year as well), so I figured we’d use that instead.

Flower Easter Eggs

So all you need for this is whatever dye you’re going to use, some rubber bands (again, leftover from the Tie-Dye incident), some cheap or old pantyhose (the Pie bought this for me at the Dollarama and said it was an odd experience), and some flowers or plants. The plants that work the best are really floppy ones that are thin and pliable.

Flower Easter Eggs

Use scissors to remove the legs from the pantyhose and cut them into small sections large enough to wrap around whatever eggs you’re using.

Flower Easter Eggs

You can either leave them as a tube or slice them open – I found it was easier to open them up.

Flower Easter Eggs

Although I left the toes as-is.

Flower Easter Eggs

Oh and you need eggs, did I mention that? We’re going to hard-boil them in advance. Don’t worry if your eggs have those pink date stamps on them — that dye will come off in the boiling process.

Flower Easter Eggs

Set all your eggs in a pot of water and bring it to a boil, then turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner and leave it with the lid on for about twenty minutes.

Flower Easter Eggs

Now you can work on your dye. Cait and I picked out four colours to use.

Flower Easter Eggs

I followed the instructions on the packet, using distilled water (leftover from our soap extravaganza) and vinegar to prepare my dyes.

Flower Easter Eggs

Then I had to let them cool. And just a warning, powdered dye gets everywhere, as I learned during my Tintex experiment.

Flower Easter Eggs

Then all you need to do is take a piece of flower or leaf and put it on your egg. This is some cilantro that I’m growing on the kitchen table.

Flower Easter Eggs

If you dip the leaf in water first before you smooth it on it will stick better. Cait and I also suspect that the thin layer of water between the leaf and the egg provides a bit of surface tension or something science-y that will serve as a barrier for the dye later on.

Flower Easter Eggs

Then all you need to do is wrap it tightly in a piece of the pantyhose.

Flower Easter Eggs

The tighter you wrap it the wider the spaces between the strands of nylon and the easier it will be for the dye to get through – also it will press the plant closer to the surface of the egg and be a better dye blocker.

Flower Easter Eggs

Secure the ends with a rubber band.

Flower Easter Eggs

We tried it with some bigger flowers.

Flower Easter Eggs

And some wee small flowers.

Flower Easter Eggs

And just the petals of other flowers.

Flower Easter Eggs

Flower Easter Eggs

Flower Easter Eggs

This is less easy than they make it look on the internet.

Flower Easter Eggs

Into the dye. Leave it for however long you are supposed to according to your dye.

Flower Easter Eggs

We hauled ours out after a while and gave them a rinse – we probably should have let them dry in situ but we were under a time constraint.

Flower Easter Eggs

As you can see the ones with the floppy thin plant materials worked the best. The one on top here is a few sprigs of tender rosemary and we were both quite pleased with how that turned out.

Flower Easter Eggs

All in all, though, this experiment could have gone better. Part of the issue is that we couldn’t really find any nice slender foliage as Ottawa is still covered in snow. This is definitely an activity better suited for a more southern climate.

Flower Easter Eggs

Impressions Ornaments

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I saw this leaf imprint necklace at Happy Hour Projects and I thought it was neat. While I wasn’t that interested in the jewelry aspect of it, I thought that the technique would make for some great Christmas ornaments. What you need to do this is simply some oven-bake polymer clay (like Sculpey) and some leaves or other items to make impressions in the clay. Everything else, the silicone work surface, the craft paint, the bits and bobs, those are all up to you. A note on polymer clay – it is not food-safe. Whatever you use to cut or otherwise work the clay should not be used for food items.

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So. Grab your clay. I used a plain white. Work some of it between your hands to soften it and then flatten it onto your work surface. I’d aim for a thickness between 1/8″ and 1/4″.

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Then take a leaf or whatever else you’d like to impress, and place it on the clay. This leaf is about 2″ wide, to give you an idea of scale.

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Press the leaf into the surface of the clay so that it leaves a full and detailed impression. You won’t get as much detail with the small leaves on polymer clay as you would on natural clay (like with the clay leaf bowls) simply because the substance is more resilient.

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Carefully remove the leaf and then cut it out with a cookie cutter or knife. You can cut it off-centre or however you would like. I’m not grading you on these.

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Use a skewer or some other pokey object to put a hole through for stringing.

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We even got Grenadier in on the action, though he wasn’t happy about it. If you want him to step on something, suddenly his paw is a delicate flower and he can do no harm. If you don’t want him to step on something, he will immediately put his full 40lbs of weight behind it.

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So these impressions were not as deep as I would like.

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But they worked out well enough that I figured they’d do.

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Place your finished items on a sheet of parchment and bake at 275°F for 15 minutes per 1/4″ of thickness of your clay. Let them cool completely before handling.

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Done.

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Now we paint. If you want. I used some craft paint  and a small paintbrush to swipe colour over the impression.

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This one I used a dry paper towel to wipe it off, which left the colour on the majority of the ornament.

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This one I just filled in the leaf part as close as I could.

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Then I used a wet flannel cloth to wipe it gently off.

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The Gren ones took a few applications of paint.

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Then I strung them with some hemp line and some wee bells.

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These would make a great addition to your gift wrap arsenal, a cute personalized stocking stuffer, or you could give a few to a person just starting to collect their own Christmas ornaments.

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Clay Leaf Bowls

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My mother is an artist and as such has a lot of artist friends. When I was a kid, a couple of them ran various art schools and camps and to show support, my mother sent me. I have very little artistic skill, but I loved the camps, because I got to learn new techniques and work with my hands. I especially loved working with clay. I once made a beautiful pistol replica (I was a weird kid) but it blew up in the kiln so I never saw the fruits of my effort. My lack of skill hasn’t stopped me in the years since, and when I saw these beautiful dishes from Urban Comfort, I thought, “I can do that!” So I did.

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First, you need to gather yourself some leaves. Go for the fresh ones, as they’ll be the most flexible. In these sorts of projects everyone seems to go for the beautiful fig leaves and things like that. Well, figs don’t grow in this Arctic wasteland. So I went with what was available: various forms of maple (it is Canada, after all), some ornamental grapes, random roadside vegetation … What ended up working the best, however, in terms of creating easy dishes, was from my own backyard: hostas, nasturtiums, and the gorgeous morning glory that has been tumbling over my fence all summer.

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Then grab yourself some air-dry clay (this means you don’t have to shove it in a kiln, though if you have access to a kiln, you should probably use it for these as it will make them much more durable). I picked up a 5kg block of it for $17.49 at DeSerres (actually, I had a gift card, so it was FREE).

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Grab a hunk of it and roll it out to your desired thickness. I used a fondant roller to get a smooth surface. The leaves look better in clay about 2mm (~1/8″) thick, but that makes it much more fragile to handle, so you probably want to aim for around 5-7mm (~1/4″). I use this Kitchenaid silicone mat as a work surface for anything non-toxic, including pies. It’s amazing and portable and easy to clean.

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Now, I did find that if I went straight to leaf pressing and cutting from this stage, my clay was too firmly stuck to the surface to get a good result.

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Accordingly, I carefully peeled the clay sheet off the mat and flipped it onto a piece of parchment paper and went from there. It was just easier and made sure both sides of the sheet of clay were smooth.

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Then you grab your leaves and flatten them into your clay. I used the fondant roller again to get them in there nice and good.

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These ones I am not turning into dishes – I just wanted to see what effect they would create.

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It’s neat.

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Use tweezers to get tricky ones out of the clay and pick out any stray bits of debris.

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You will have some folds and wrinkles in your leaf, just because it’s hard to press something flat that isn’t naturally flat. But don’t freak out – it just adds to the texture.

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Once you’ve gotten your leaf carefully removed you end up with this lovely impression, veins and blemishes and all.

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Use the tip of a small sharp knife (Xacto, paring, whatever) to cut along the edge of the leaf and carefully peel away the excess clay.

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This was way easier to do with round leaves than with the pointy ones, as you can see, and the round ones made better dishes anyway.

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Make a little ring out of aluminum foil and pick up your clay leaf. Bend the leaf into a more natural shape (which it will want to do anyway) and set it inside the ring to dry. Feel free to play with curling the edges up and down, in the way that the leaf would do in nature. I left mine to dry overnight, then I flipped them over (with support) to dry on the bottom for another night.

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Now you’re done! It’s up to you what you do with them next. They’re pretty fragile still, so nothing hardcore. My biggest morning glory ones broke along their vein fault lines just from picking them up wrong.

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But they make pretty neat little dishes for small items, such as jewelry.

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This leaf with a stem makes a nice holder for rings.

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The larger nasturtiums make neat bowls for pocket change. In Canada we recently got rid of our penny, but with both our $1 and $2 denominations in coin, we still have plenty of change kicking around!

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And these grape leaves make a good place to keep your spectacles, if you’re the type of person who forgets where you put them.

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Because the clay is uncured, it tends to scrape off and leave a residue, so I wanted to finish them off a bit. I used an ultra-fine sandpaper to smooth off the edges of each dish. Make sure you do this outside in a well-ventilated area. Not only does the clay dust get everywhere, but you’re also likely to inhale a bunch of it if you’re not careful. Dust off each piece completely before you do anything else. Compressed air is handy for this, but make sure to do it outside.

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I then painted each piece with an outdoor satin sealer that adhered pretty well to the clay surface. I like the soft shininess of it and the fact that it didn’t sink into the porous clay and discolour it.

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Some of the finished dishes. The one on the left is my favourite, because it’s so thin and delicate. I’m betting good money that whomever I give it to will break it within a week, and it won’t even be that person’s fault.

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And some of the bigger ones. I made so many that pretty much everyone on my gift list is getting at least one. And because of that handy gift certificate, this cost me nothing but time!

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Fall Leaf Wreath

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I’m not sure how it came about, but making wreaths from scratch has become one of my favourite DIYs in recent years. I love coming up with an idea  and seeing it come to fruition – sometimes better than I’d planned.

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I spent about 20 minutes gathering these leaves from the local park. They all came from the same tree, so they were the same general shape, but they had a good variance of colour, which I liked. I divided my pile in half, and set one half aside.

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Then I got out my craft paint and paint brushes.

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Then I started painting the other half of the leaves. Nothing too elaborate or detailed – just something to make the leaf still interesting to look at once it’s shriveled and turned brown.

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I did this for a while.

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Like, an hour or so.

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My favourites are the ones I painted with glitter paint, so the leaf colour shines through but then the light catches on the glitter and they’re just lovely.

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Then I cut out a half-assed circle from some scrap cardboard. Yep, that’s freehand. No sense in being perfect on something that doesn’t need to be perfect.

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While the painted leaves were drying, I took my hot glue gun and started attaching the unpainted leaves to the cardboard ring.

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I tried to line it up mostly along the edges, with the larger leaves on the outside and smaller ones on the inside.

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Then I filled in the centre a bit, because I knew the leaves would get wrinkly as they dried up over time.

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Then I started inserting the painted leaves under and over and around.

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Finally got every single one on there.

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The whole thing, in poor lighting.

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A snippet of one side, for the detail.

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I tacked it to my front door, which is sheltered from the elements. I’m interested to see how it’s going to look in a week or two once the leaves go brown – you can see that just after one day they’re starting to curl already. I’ll add a photo when it gets there.

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***EDIT***

And here it is, fully shriveled. I like how it turned out!

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Leaf Skeletons

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A little while ago you may recall that we did some MAD SCIENCE in the kitchen and created our own washing soda.  Well, today, I’m gonna tell you what I made it for: skeletonizing leaves.  I found some ancient leaves while walking in the park a few months ago, and they had been rotting for so long that only the skeleton of the veins remained.  Two of them were complete enough that I took them home and stuck them in a book to keep.

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Then I reasoned that, if you could buy leaf skeletons in craft stores (dyed all sorts of colours), that it must be relatively simple to speed up the natural decomposition process, right?  Well, yes.  And the internet came through.  The easiest instructions I got came from The Idea Room, though I didn’t end up cooking my leaves for as long (because mine were much thinner, I think).

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So anyway, here’s what you do.  Step one: go outside (it’s okay, you can do it).  Step two: pick up some leaves that you like.  Greener ones are better the ones that have already changed colour, just because they’re less brittle and usually more complete.  You will likely have some that you think will work perfectly and they fail in a spectacular manner.  I tried this with some smoke bush leaves, a large hosta, and some grasses and they did not work at all.  Elms, ashes, oaks and maples seemed to work out best for me, but those are the sorts of trees that grow in my area.  If you’ve got some different climate going on in your neck of the woods, then feel free to experiment!

Leaf Skeletons First Test 1

Take a large pot, and dump a handful of your leaves in the pot, so that they’re all lying flat (they can lie on top of each other, just not crumpled up).

Leaf Skeletons First Test 2

Dump 3/4 cup of our handy dandy washing soda on top of that.

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Dump 4 cups water on top of that. You’ll likely need more water as it evaporates, but if you’ve got a glass lid for your pot you can peek in and minimize steam loss that way.

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Bring that pot to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer and just let ‘er rip for a while. Your leaves will undergo quite the transformation, from something like this:

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through this sort of “tea-like” stage:

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to this icky stage:

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That’s about when you can consider most of your leaves as being done. For my leaves, with their relative thicknesses, it was between 45 minutes and 75 minutes. Use a large flat spatula or slotted spoon to carefully transfer your leaves, one at a time, into a flat dish filled with warm fresh water. You can see that this leaf has already started to come apart.

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Be very careful as you transfer them because they are fragile and will do everything they can to tear on you.

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Using a soft toothbrush or a very soft small paintbrush, give your leaf a little scrub to gently wipe away the leaf material from the skeleton. On some leaves, you’ll find this easier if the leaf’s surface is face up; on others, it will be easier when the leaf is upside down. Sometimes you’ll want to go with the “grain” of the veins, and other times you’ll want to do something different. There’s definitely a process of trial and error.

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If you are doing more than one leaf, make sure you are comfy — this takes a while.

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When your leaves are skeletonized to your preference (just remember that the longer you boil them the more fragile they will get), transfer them to a paper towel to dry. I would recommend weighting them as they dry as well. I didn’t do it for this one and you can see that it wrinkled when it dried out.  It’s a simple matter, however, to re-wet them and bung them in a book for later.

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So this is the large maple leaf I did with the washing soda. You can see that it’s not as complete a skeleton (there’s still some tissue remaining) as the one I picked up in the woods in our opening shot at top here.

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Here’s the two next to each other:

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This one, despite some tearing, turned out really neat, as I only brushed out one half of the leaf:

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You can do whatever you want with your skeleton leaves. I saw a bunch of projects where artists had dried them into the shapes of bowls and other things, but I ran out of sucessful leaves before I had enough to make a bowl, so I decided to do the simple thing and just frame them. I got these floating frames from Michaels and DeSerres.

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They make a great housewarming or host/hostess gift, or feel free to keep them for your own personal use.

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Leaf Skeletons Final 10You can also bleach the leaves if you want them to be whiter, or you can dye them using food colouring.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  I’ve also seen them pasted to the outside of hurricane lanterns to act as luminaries, and used in scrapbooks.  What would you do with them?

The Glycerine Trick

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I love fall in Ontario.  The changing colours of the trees all around me are something I can never get tired of.  And I love doing things with the beautifully-shaded leaves I pick up from the ground — such as forming those pretty little maple leaf bouquets that Tego and I made last year.  But of course, fallen leaves tend to be somewhat brittle and are likely to fade after a week or two. To make them last longer, shove them in a bowl or other container.

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Then, add some glycerin.  Not even kidding. One part glycerin …

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… to two parts hot water.

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Put something on top to keep them submerged and leave them at least a day.  The longer you leave them the more glycerin the leaves will absorb and the longer they will last.  When you’re ready, take them out, dry them off, and do whatever it was that you were going to do!

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Adding Festivity, the Lazy Way: Paper Wreath

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Seeing as we’re in Ottawa and not St. John’s for the majority of the holiday season, the Pie and I rarely trouble ourselves to decorate Elizabeth for Christmas.  But this little thing was so easy, and so quick, and the days here in St. John’s have been so very gray, I needed a little festivity … but I was too lazy to do anything too complicated.

So I have here some rolls of wrapping paper that I picked up from IKEA about seven years ago, and which I rarely use (seeing as I still have a chunk left).  The nice thing is that the wrapping paper, since it came on a roll, has a natural curve to it that I used to my advantage.  I also have a large paper plate with an extremely ugly design on it.  I don’t even know how I came to own these things, but I was cleaning out a cupboard and there they were … You will also need a pair of decent scissors and some tape.  Any kind, really, as you won’t see it.  A ribbon is optimal but also optional.

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First, we need to make a wreath form out of the paper plate.  If you want something bigger (or less ugly), you can make your own ring out of cardboard or whatever is handy.  With the paper plate all I had to do was cut out the middle section.

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Then I cut about a 5″ wide strip from the roll of wrapping paper.  I folded it in half lengthwise, so it was then about 2.5″ thick, and then folded it across itself widthwise a couple times, until I had a small rectangle about 2.5″ x 5″.  Or whatever works for you.  This just makes it easier to cut a bunch of leaves at once. This is where having a nice sharp, strong pair of scissors comes in handy.

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Then I cut a leaf shape out of the rectangle, leaving the bottom a little flattened (for optimal tape-age), and ended up with a handful of little leaves.  I did this twice for each colour of wrapping paper I used, so six times in total. I have no idea how many leaves it was, but it was exactly enough for the size of my project, which was pretty convenient — almost like I had a plan.

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Then I started taping them onto the plate, putting a wee bit of tape at the flattened end of the leaf, and making them kind of flow around the circle.  Don’t worry about making them arrow straight, and try to pick up different colours at random.

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When you put on the next haphazard row, it overlaps the first and hides the tape (this is called imbrication – like the layering of scales or roofing shingles).

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Imbrication … (I learned the word today so it’s rather convenient that I have this project for you)

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When you come full circle (and I don’t mean that metaphorically this time), just fold up the leaves already there and tuck the new ones into the space to fill the gap.

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So that’s the whole thing.

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I had a scrap of blanket binding leftover from the baby blanket I made for the Incredibly Little Hulk way back when, so I tied that on as ribbon.

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Then I added another ribbon to hang it on my door.

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This took me half an hour, from start to finish.  Change the colours of the paper leaves and I’m sure you could apply this wreath to any season (black and orange for Hallowe’en, purple and green for spring …).  Easy peasy, blamo kablam, it’s done!

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Imbricaaaaaaaation: an overlapping of edges as in tiles or scales.