Sheri Ann Richerson's exotic gardening, elegant cooking, crafty creations, food preservation and animal husbandry... all on two and a half acres in Marion, Indiana!

arts and crafts for adults

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Unique and beautiful - tea bag favors are an ideal holiday gift for friends, family and co-workers.

There is no better way to share your love of the garden than to give gifts made from products that you grew in that garden for the holidays. Dried flowers, herbs, barks and berries combine beautifully to create a variety of unique teas sure to satisfy the taste buds. Recipes are everywhere, but why not create your own unique blends using equal parts of some of your favorite flavor combinations?

For this particular tea bag, I used a blend of 50% chocolate mint and 50% spearmint. I store my blended teas in sealed canning jars in the refrigerator.

Some of my favorite combinations are spearmint and chocolate mint; passionfruit, spearmint and raspberry leaves; raspberry leaves and spearmint and – my very favorite – rose scented geranium, lemon balm, black stem peppermint and pineapple sage. I usually use equal parts of each ingredient but that is not a hard-and-fast rule. You can use the ingredients in any amounts you prefer. Taste test your combinations, keep accurate notes and see what you prefer.

These pre-made tea bags are easy to use - just fill and press with a warm iron to seal.

Once you know what ingredients you are going to combine, go ahead and grind the dried leaves up. Put them into a canning jar with a lid. For those who prefer not to make their own tea, you can buy pre-made tea bags that will work with the tea bag favors or buy pre-combined tea leaves and scoop them into your own bags.

The next step is to create the outer shell of the tea bag favor. All you need is paper and glue. You can be as creative as you want and add ribbons, glitter, whatever suits your fancy. Here is how I created mine.

The Cricut paper cutter makes cutting straight edges a breeze.

First, I chose my paper and cut it down to size using my handy Cricut paper cutter. This way all the edges were perfectly straight. I chose to cut all the paper to size first.

This tool - free from Papercraft Magazine - makes creasing paper so easy. I honestly don't know how I lived without it!

 

Once the paper was cut, I need to create folds at the top and bottom of the paper that would go on the outside of the tea bag. To make sure I chose the right places to fold, I laid the tea bag inside the paper where I wanted it to lay when I was finished. My paper was marked inside too, so that made it easy to use my finger on one side to mark the spot where the crease would go.

The outer paper is folded and ready for the next step.

 

Once the creases were made, I folded the paper and made sure the tea bag would fit before I moved on to the next step.

I'm using a Spellbinders die to create an opening so the tea bag is visible.

 

Next I wanted to create an opening in the middle of the paper so the tea inside the tea bag was visible. To do this, I used a Spellbinder die in my Cuttlebug machine. This particular die created a large opening and a lacy stand alone piece. I knew right away that I wanted that piece added back to the front of the tea bag for the overall effect.

The outer cover of the tea bag favor.

 

I turned the paper over and glued a piece of vellum paper to the inside of the tea bag favor. Then I turned it right side up and glued the cut-out lacy piece back in place making sure the markings on the paper all lined up. I then set the entire piece aside and allowed it to completely dry. During this time, I filled and sealed the tea bag.

The filled and sealed tea bag fit perfectly inside the tea bag favor as you can see.

 

Once the glue was dry, I put the tea bag inside and folded the bottom flap up, then folded the top flap down.

This butterfly sticker is securing the back flaps of the tea bag favor.

 

I chose a butterfly sticker that looked good with the paper to secure the flaps. You could use a sticker, ribbon, tape or whatever you wanted as long as the flaps remained closed. I found that my tea bag favor held the tea bag tight enough that I did not need anything on the sides of the favor to keep the tea bag from falling out. This may not always be the case, so be sure to turn your tea bag favor from side-to-side to make sure you do not lose your tea bag.

Have fun with this project and do feel free to share photos of your homemade tea bag favors. I would love to see them!

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Some of my handmade cards.

Learning to make cards seems simple enough, but developing your own style takes time. I spend hours online looking at pretty cards – and just about as much time combing through card making books and magazines – but I am still perfecting the technique.

I love the look of vintage cards – especially Victorian era cards. I love lace, old fancy buttons and nature. Gathering just the right supplies takes time – even if you can buy most of them. Pressing flowers, leaves or other natural materials to use on cards simply takes time. You can choose to use a microwave to speed up the drying process but somehow I have not managed to convince myself I really want to do this. Allowing plant material to dry naturally is far more appealing to me.

Since we are heading into winter – and the garden season was a bust for me, I am using materials I have on hand or that are readily available to buy.  Here are step-by-step instructions for one of the cards I recently made. Feel free to duplicate this card or change it to suit your tastes.

A plain card and Tim Holtz distress ink.

 

The first step was to choose a plain white card and the color of distress ink I wanted to use. I chose tumbled glass because of the blue color. I began by rubbing the ink pad itself around the outer edges of the card.

Adding ink using an inking tool.

 

To help spread the color into the center of the card, I covered my inking tool pad with more of the same color of ink. I began at the edges where the darker color already was and worked the inking tool in continual circles. This gave the card a blue swirling pattern.

Adding glitter.

 

Once I was satisfied with the amount of blue on the card, I gave the top of the card a quick spray with Perfect Pearls Mist in heirloom gold. I was sure how much the distress ink would run, but it was dry enough by that point to not react to the spray. I gave the card a quick once over with my heat tool to help it dry faster. I also sprayed the gold ink on the inside of the card just to add some color.

Handmade lace.

 

Once the ink was dry to the touch, I chose a piece of handmade lace. I made sure the piece I chose was the right size for the card, then I saturated the back of it with spray glue. I waited about 30 seconds, then pressed the glued side of the lace against the card. Some of the edges wanted to roll a bit so I added some Elmer’s glue to them to make sure they were secure. I added a bird on a hibiscus which I had sprayed with Perfect Pearls Mists perfect pearl spray. I then dabbed at the moisture with a kleenex to create a unique look. I also added a birds nest with eggs – which was also sprayed with the perfect pearls spray.

The finished card.

Although the card didn’t turn out quite like I had envisioned, I think it is ok. Here are a few other cards I made.

In addition to making this card, I also made the flowers.

 

I really like using flowers, birds and butterflies on my cards.

 

Look closely at the butterflies. I used two different stamps to create the effect.

 

Love the lacy look!

 

My first attempt at a pop-up card. I think it looks pretty good.

 

I absolutely adore Hello Kitty!

 

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I’ve been playing around with various craft ideas over the past few months, plus I now have a craft room, so I thought it would be nice to just share some photos of what’s been going on. I intend to make these “pictorial posts” from time to time.  Please feel free to comment on the photos in the comment section below. We’ll get started with pictures of my new

My new Slice machine along with a couple of cartridges. I'm looking forward to seeing how it cuts handmade paper.

 

A 3D rose I made with the Slice machine and some seed beads.

 

Seahorses anyone?

 

The Raggedy Ann is made up of handmade paper colored with watercolors. This card is really cute!

 

Another handmade card.

 

A handmade gift tag.

 

A sneak peek into one corner of the new craft room!

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If you’re like most gardeners you can’t wait for the first flowers to bloom in the spring. Throughout the summer months you eagerly slip into your garden every chance you get to see what is blooming or maybe just to savor the scent of the garden. You know fall will arrive way too soon, then winter, so you want to get as much out of your garden as possible now.

There are many ways to preserve the harvest this summer so you can continue to enjoy the scents and colors of your garden all winter long. Drying flowers is a technique that has been happening for many years and is a great way to preserve flowers. In addition to hanging the flowers to dry, try making your own flower press with instructions you can find in my new book “101 English Garden Tips.”

Other great ideas include making potpourri with flowers and botanicals right from your own garden. Choose fragrant rose petals, pine cones, acorns, straw flowers, citrus peels and herbs. Dry these and combine with a bit of essential oils or make a moist potpourri by layering the individual scented material with layers of salt and sealing in a jar. After several months the scents will blend and you will simply have to remove the jar lid to release the aroma.

If potpourri is not your cup of tea, try using pressed flowers to make bookmarks or lamp shades. Then again, if you are drying edible flowers and herbs, why not try combining them to make a unique cup of tea or herbal vinegar? The ideas are endless!

Looking for other cool craft ideas? Check out “101 English Garden Tips” for great ideas on creating poinsettia trees and succulent wreaths.

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IMG_7420webThe oldest-known method for extraction and preservation of flower essences is known as enfleurage. This method, which involves pressing the flowers into some type of lard or oil, is used for delicate flowers whose scent cannot be preserved well using typical methods such as distillation or tincturing.

Delicate flowers such as lilac work well using this method. This is easy to do at home and the resulting product can be used in a variety of ways.
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Lard is the typical fat used for this process, but a variety of oils can be used including the one I chose, organic cocoa butter. Cocoa butter can be added to a variety of homemade body products. Lilac infused cocoa butter will be the perfect addition to my goat milk soap I will be making soon.
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The first step is to pick the lilac flowers early in the morning right after the dew has dried. Remove most of the stem.

Set up the double boiler, which is two  pans, one set inside of the other, that is used to melt chocolate, oil, candle wax and a variety of other products that could burn or catch on fire easily if they were set directly on a stove burner. The pan on the bottom should be filled about half-full of water. The smaller pan which will set inside the larger one should contain the oil. I chose organic cocoa butter.
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Bring the pan with the water to a rolling boil. Set the second pan containing the oil of choice inside the first pan. Keep an eye on it so it does not get too hot. As soon as the oil begins to melt, lower the heat and keep the oil stirred.
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When the oil is melted, pour it into the pan you will be putting the flowers into. Begin filling the pan with the flowers.
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You want the flowers completely submerged in the oil. To make sure they do not float on the oil when you are done, set a smaller glass pan inside the larger pan that contains the oil and flowers.
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Be sure to remove the pan before the oil begins to dry or you may have  a problem seperating the two. You can cover the pan with a lid or plastic wrap to keep debris out while the oil finishes hardening.

Allow this to sit for a few days to absorb the scent of the flowers. This process can take up to two weeks or longer. Keep removing the spent flowers and adding new ones as necessary until the oil takes on a strong enough scent to suit you.

Gently heat the oil back up if it has hardened, using the double boiler method. Stain the flowers using cheesecloth. Be sure to squeeze all the oil from the cheesecloth so you do not lose any scent.

You may use the product like this, or go one step further and make an absolute of essence.

To make an absolute of essence, soak the drained and scented hard oil in ethyl alcohol, which is pure wood or grain spirits. Allow the fat to soak for several days, then remove it.

The fat will be slightly scented and able to be used in bath and body products such as soap.

Do not cover the absolute. The alcohol will evaporate over time and the only thing left will be the absolute which can be used in aromatherapy, natural medicine or natural perfume making.

 

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The yarn I am spinning in this video is 50% mohair from Leonardo, the angora buck and 50% wool from Johnny, the Leicester Longwool ram.

Leonardo is an angora goat and Johnny is a Leicester Longwool sheep. Both animals reside here at Exotic Gardening Farms & Wildlife Habitat.

The yarn making process requires shearing the animal, washing the fiber and removing all the vegetable matter. Vegetable matter may include hay, animal feces around their rear ends, mud and other natural materials that have embedded themselves in the animals fur.

Once the fiber is clean, it must be carded. Carding fiber involves using either a drum carder or a set of hand carders. The fiber is brushed several times until all the hairs are going in the same direction.

I use hand carders right now, so once the fiber is brushed or carded as it is called, I roll the fiber into a rolag which looks somewhat like an empty toilet paper roll minus the hollow center.

The rolag is then drafted, or gently pulled into thin pieces of fiber. The length of the fiber and the elasticity of the fiber will determine how thin the un-spun yarn can be pulled.

This un-spun yarn that has now been drafted can be spun into yarn. The thinner the draft, the thinner the yarn. The thicker the draft, the thicker the spun yarn will be. Do not worry about spinning the yarn so it is perfectly even. There are no imperfections in hand-spun yarn.

Every thick and thin spot, every area that is not as perfect as store bought yarn will prove to you and others that what you are spinning is a perfect artisan yarn that machines are un-able to duplicate!

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Here is a basic recipe for creating a natural perfume.

Natural Perfume Recipes

2 cups distilled water

3 tablespoons vodka – or a tincture that you made with vodka

5 drops of an essential oil or fragrant tincture of your choice

10 drops of an essential oil or fragrant tincture of your choice

10 drops of an essential oil or fragrant tincture of your choice

 

Before you begin mixing the scents together, try them out on a scent stick to see if you like them. If the fragrance is enjoyable to you, add the distilled water to a dark glass bottle with a lid, then add the fragrances, one at a time, making sure to shake the bottle well after each addition. Be sure to write down the amounts of each fragrance so you can begin compiling your own natural perfume recipes collection.

When all of the fragrances have been added, shake again to mix the ingredients well. Sit the capped bottle in a cool, dark place. Shake it daily. You can check the smell after two weeks. If it suits you, go ahead and use it as you would any perfume. If you are not happy with the way the perfume smells, set it aside for up to a month.

Feel free to add other scents after that if you are still not happy, but do try the new combinations on scent sticks first.

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There are many ways to get natural materials to make dried potpourri. You can collect plant material from your own garden or go for walks in the wild to forage for interesting pods, cones or other materials.

If you wild collect, make sure you have permission to do so. Look for materials that have been grown as naturally as possible. If the plant material has been sprayed you will be bringing all of those chemicals into your home with the plant material. Dried potpourri is easy to make.

The first step is to choose what plant material you wish to work with. Interesting natural bark, seed pods, pine cones, acorns, dried leaves and dried flower petals all make good choices.

The next step is to decide what you would like the potpourri to smell like. Choosing natural fragrances that compliment the essential oils you will be using is a good idea. You will also need a fixative to help retain the scent of your potpourri such as orris root or benzoin gum.

Once your potpourri is mixed up, put it in a large glass container with a lid. Set this in a cool, dark place and allow the potpourri scents to mix. Shake the container from time to time. When you are happy with the smell of the contents, go ahead and put some out.

Here are a few homemade potpourri recipes to get you started. Feel free to add or subtract botanical materials until you have a potpourri you are happy with.

Victorian Lavender Potpourri

1 ounce orris root

1 ounce lavender

1 drop vanilla essential oil

1 drop bergamont essential oil

 

Asian Potpourri

¼ cup camellia blossoms

1/8 cup rose petals

1 vanilla bean, cut up

1 tablespoon pine needles

 

Dream Mix Potpourri

1/8 cup lavender flowers

1 ounce cedar shavings

1/8 cup sage leaves

1 ounce orris root

¼ cup violets

¼ cup maidenhair fern fronds

 

 Moist homemade potpourri recipes are a little different than making a dry potpourri. The scent can last for years.

Before beginning choose a pretty glass or ceramic jar with a lid. You will need one that is fairly large for the recipe below. Gather your ingredients together before you begin.

10 cups rose petals

2 cups lavender buds

½ cup orrisroot, powdered

8 bay leaves

2 cups sea salt or kosher coarse salt

½ cup allspice, crushed

½ cup crushed cinnamon sticks

½ cup cloves, crushed

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup brandy

Begin by combining the rose petals, lavender buds and orris root in a large bowl.

In a second bowl, combine the bay leaves, the salt, crushed allspice, cinnamon stick pieces, cloves and the brown sugar. Mix well.

Once the contents of both bowls have been well mixed, get your glass or ceramic container.

You will begin by putting a layer of the rose petal mixture in the bottom of the container.

The next layer will be the brown sugar mixture. Continue alternating layers of materials until both bowls are empty.

The next step involves pouring the brandy over the top of the mixture.

Then lay a sex stone, which is just a large rock, on top of the potpourri material. Put the lid on the container.

Over the next six weeks, you will need to stir the contents of the container every two to three days. You can add additional essential oils during this time such as rose, cinnamon or whatever scents you prefer.

When the potpourri is ready to use, simply remove the lid and allow the scent fill the room.

To keep the moist homemade potpourri recipes going, simply add ½ cup of brandy yearly, making sure you stir it into the mix.

Another way to make a moist potpourri is to layer semi-dry plant material, add a layer of salt, then a layer of plant material.

Keep alternating layers until your container is ¾ of the way filled.

Put a sex rock on top and let it sit undisturbed. When the mixture begins to form a moist cake, remove it, add the fixatives, mix well and put back in the covered container.

Release the smell by removing the lid.

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Making necklaces out of rose petals is a very old fashion idea. Not only are these rose bead necklaces beautiful but the scent is delightful as long as you choose roses that have a strong fragrance to make your beads with.

Begin by picking lots of rose petals early in the morning as soon as the dew dries. Choose roses that have just opened if possible. In order to get enough petals you may need to do this daily for several weeks. Just keep adding the new petals to the older ones and eventually you will have enough rose beads to make a necklace.

Once you have picked the petals and are sure they are dry, chop them as finely as you can. A nut chopper works well for this task. If you do not have a nut chopper, use a food processor or knife.

Once the petals have been chopped, put them in a cast iron skillet or an old black skillet. You want to rose petals to take on the black color of the skillet. Cast iron is best if you have it.

Cover the pan and set it in a cool, dark place. You will repeat this process every day for seven days.

Check the pulp every day to make sure it is not getting too dry. If it is, sprinkle a little water on it. You want to keep it slightly damp.

On the seventh day, cut the top off a thimble. Fill the inside of the thimble with some of the pulp. When the thimble is completely filled with pulp and the ends leveled off, push the pulp out.

Roll the pulp into a ball and set it aside. Repeat the process until all of the pulp has been made into beads.

You will roll the balls every day for three days.

At the end of the three days, stick a straight pin with a large head into the center of the bead. In the old days, hat pins were used.

At this time you may draw pictures or lines on the beads to make them more ornate. You can also embellish the beads with decorations.

Set the beads aside to dry. Be sure to rotate the beads so they dry evenly on all sides. It is also a good idea to remove the pin from time to time to make sure the bead does not stick to the pin.

Once the beads are completely dry you can sting them. Add glass or metal beads between the rose beads if you like. Add a clasp and your rose bead necklace will be ready to wear.

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With the economy in the slump it is in, selling handmade craft items has not been easy. Items like goat milk soap still sell of course, but the rag rugs did not, which really suprised me. I gave them as Christmas gifts with the exception of the one pictured above, which I still have for sale.

The people whom I gave the rugs too really enjoyed them and made quit a fuss over them. In the spring, once the sheep are sheared, I will spin their fiber into yarn. With that yarn, I think I will make a rug. One to keep – maybe one to sell.

Of course, the loom is not empty. There is yet another rug on it being made. The economy will improve. These items will sell again. I have thought of joining Etsy. Anyone have any experiences with them to share?

Sheri

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