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.

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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.

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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.

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lilac-flower-scent-extraction-2-300x200

 

The 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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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.

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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.

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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.

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SAVE0076

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.

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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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