Monday, August 8, 2016

Spooky Beach Fairy Garden

My daughter and I were invited over to the neighbors to make fairy gardens, this isn't one of them.  A gang of chipmunks vandalized ours, because chipmunks are little bastards.  Adorable little bastards, but little bastards nonetheless.  They literally left no stone unturned. No stone, no marble, no decorative whatnot. They even violated a fairy princess. Seriously guys is nothing sacred?

I salvaged parts from the originals, added in a few skeletal elements and moved it inside where it's safe. The fence is made out of hands that were a gift from another neighbor.  I've never thought of fairy gardens as a creepy medium, but now that I've had a little taste, I can totally see getting lost in the world of miniature gardens with zombies and tombstones instead of fairies and butterflies. First I'll have to see whether I manage to keep the plants alive. Then maybe I'll figure out how to make a skeleton lounging in a beach chair sipping a fruity cocktail. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Skull Pot and Black Thumb Gardening

 How to Repot a Plant
Step 1: Sorely neglect plant for years.

Step 2: Marvel at plant's tenacious will to survive.

Step 3: Purchase terra cotta pot, saucer and proper soil.

Step 4: Spend infinitely more time painting pot than ever spent on caring for plant.

Step 5: Actually take time to read up on repotting plant.

Step 6: Discover new pot is way too big.

Step 7: Get smaller pot.

Step 8: Quickly sponge paint smaller pot due to mounting guilt over taking too long to repot.

Step 9: Repot plant. 

To paint this pot I used painter's tape as I've done on previous projects.  This was a really simple design that was quick to cut out by hand. If you have a fancy machine, a repositionable vinyl might be the way to go, but I've never used it. For this pot I've spray painted a base coat and layered on acrylics, but I've also done just acrylics with equal results. For the record I went all out with metallics but in the pictures the gold looks yellow, the copper looks red and the silver looks white.  Also I couldn't decide which side I liked best, so you get to see them all whether you like it or not.

At first I wasn't sure about the paint durability, what with watering and all but I have a couple pots that I did years ago and don't seem any worse for wear. All the pots I've done are indoors and out of direct sunlight, so not sure how they would fare under other conditions. 

My grandmother had house plants everywhere. Crowded along window sills, set on small tables, hanging down, on plant stands, and anyplace else you could put a plant. I never really paid attention to them. I couldn't even tell you what they were except for the spider and bleeding heart plants, which fascinated me both in name and appearance. But I realize now they were working a subtle magic in the background, bringing a little life, a little color, and a bit of serenity with their presence. Anyplace populated with plants has that affect on me and I wanted that in my home, except for as long as I can remember I've had a black thumb.  In retrospect my biggest crime has been overwatering.  In my cruel ignorance as I watched them turn yellow, assuming it was from lack of water because plants must need water like I needed air, I watered them more, oblivious to their silent screams.  I was once gifted a big beautiful jade plant, I can't even speak of it.  

The important thing now is that I no longer overwater. But that alone isn't enough to curtail the body count. It's not that I don't have a green thumb it's just that I'm terribly lazy and forgetful when it comes to plants.  I found the key to successfully cohabiting with vegetation is to know thyself. If you are like me, there are tons of plants that more than happy to be neglected by you.   Search on "easy care" or "hard to kill" (Also good qualities to have in a life partner).  As a bonus most of these plants are also some of the highest rated air purifiers (Life partners not so much.  See "dutch oven")

I forget to water, so plants that need to dry out between waterings are good. Also good for me are plants that will tolerate being root bound since it'll be awhile before I repot anything.  Also when I say a plant will put up with abuse, that doesn't mean it will flourish and be the loveliest plant ever.  Although some will, what I mean here is that they will merely stay alive long enough for you to get your shit together. 
Besides being generally neglectful there are a few things I actually do.  When I finally get around to watering, I use filtered water.  I also like clay pots because they dry out faster.  Although slapping a bunch of paint on a clay pot is going to make it less porous, I still have better success with them than a plastic pot. I've also been adding perlite to my potting soil. I originally got the perlite to grow snake plant leaf cuttings, which has been a complete fail even though it's supposed to be so easy. Nonetheless I'm glad I had it on hand to amend my crappy (ahem Miracle Gro) soil. There is some great information at Plants Are The Strangest People about soil that I wish I had read before I ever owned a plant. There is a wealth of knowledge in all things house plant related there and it's also highly entertaining, which is not something I thought I'd ever say about a plant blog, so most of the plant links here lead there.

With the exception of the spider plant which I just got, here are a few plants that I've had over a year and haven't killed:

Snake Plant - It's all those things I listed above and does fine in any lighting.  PATSP delivers the best article I've read on this plant.  I would probably say that about any plant article that managed to reference Gremlins and Kiss but it has loads of good information too. 

African Violet - Another good read at PATSP.  Seems some people take their African Violets very seriously. I should probably keep an eye out for angry mobs with pitchforks and torches after I post this.  There are many complex ways to water them.  I just use a thin spout watering can and water the soil underneath the leaves (you're not supposed to get the leaves wet) until the water runs out the drain holes.  Then I don't water again until the soil is dry, sometimes too dry. Actually this is pretty much the way I water everything. I have forgotten to water them until they were bone dry and wilted and they came right back after watering.  I've had them in areas too shady or too cold.  I recently split my two plants into a half dozen crowns each, like this video, because they were so overgrown. I did buy African Violet potting soil, so I'm not a complete monster.

Pothos - It would probably like better lighting or more water than I give it, but it hasn't complained. When I was a kid everyone had this and spider plants and now I know why, hard to kill and easy to propagate.  Everyone also always had a few slips in water rooting to make new plants, either for themselves or to give away.
Peace Lily - This one needs water more frequently than my other plants, but it's nice enough to go limp when it gets thirsty as a visual reminder.  Even if you forget about it until it's so wilted it looks dead, it's very forgiving and perks right up after watering.  I've since learned that for me plants that need more water have to be either in the kitchen or close to it. Try drinking a glass of water while they are guilting you with their thirsty eyeless stare. Also after the flower dies you have these awesome caterpillar looking things that are definitely going in a potion bottle after I come up with a better name than Awesome Caterpillar Looking Things.


Spider Plant - I haven't had mine long enough to claim that I can't kill it, but I have faith it will survive. I got mine the old fashioned way as a piece off my friend's plant. 

Christmas Cactus - This is the plant I had to repot and it's looking much happier.  I used cactus potting soil this time around, with some extra perlite. It's put up with a lot of hardship and it would definitely be much fuller if I properly cared for it.  From this point forward I will try to be a better plant person.

Besides low maintenance plants, it's also helped me to only get a couple at a time, adding to my brood when I was pretty confident with what I had.

I also have a calathea, which I'm not listing as hard to kill because everything I've read says its a fussy plant, but I've had a gorgeous one for a few years now. I only mention it because it doesn't hurt, (well maybe the plant, but not you) to try something outside your comfort zone once in awhile.

I'm not any better about watering stuff outside either, so I only have a small area for annuals, in the ground not in pots.  That's important because outside pots need regular watering.  "Drought tolerant" annuals are great for those such as myself. Drought tolerant flowers generally need a couple weeks to get established, which happens to be the exact length of my outdoor watering attention span. Marigolds are fabulous at not dying if you are looking for a hardy flower. I have never killed a marigold, they have plant balls of steel. 

Real quick, one more painting method.  Gunmetal base coat.  Silver paint slapped on leaves. Press leaves to pot.  Sponge metallic black on top of leaves to define the edges a bit more. While the paint is still wet peel off leaves. 

The middle one looks more like a flower print than leaves, but it's not.  That's sweet woodruff. Pictured on the left are segmented pieces of one stem. Do be warned this can be an invasive plant. In the plant world invasive means Level 3 Zombie hard to kill. I have it growing in isolated rocked off area.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Carbonized Tofu

It's been a while since I've done one of my potion bottles.  This beautiful little nugget has been in my collection for years.  Yes, this is a genuine piece of tofu, made with real soybeans, forged in the fires of Mount Doom or maybe somewhere close to that.  It's charcoaled appearance is in no way reflective of my culinary skills, and has everything to do with the commitment that the folks at Genuine Artifacts take towards the authenticity of all their products. 
The Genuine Artifacts home office is in Yalgoo, Australia.  According to, "Typically there is some confusion over the origin of the town’s name with some sources claiming that it is derived from an Aboriginal word yalguru meaning blood, thus suggesting that the area was connected with initiation rites. Other sources, however, suggest that the name comes from Eyalgru meaning bloodwood."

The inside of the card reads: Carbonized Tofu, Rare gem excavated from the tomb of vegetarian voodoo priestess, Mambo Kiskeya, who performed all her sacrifices using the blood of turnips, whole grains and virgin tofu.

While I do have a lot of fun with voodoo stereotypes,
I thought I would include this interview to create balance. 
Here's a blank label if you'd like to make your own Genuine Artifacts.  I glue the labels to cereal box cardboard for structure, but any thick cardstock will do.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Star Flower - Palm Weaving

During my recent jaunt into palm weaving I saw exactly two pictures of this pretty star flower thingy here and here, but no instructions on how to do it or even what it's called.  I searched on variations of star, flower, pinwheel, palm, ribbon, and paper weaving to no avail. Did I miss anything? 

I did find what's called a Matariki Star and a Moravian Star, which I also found referred to as a Froebel Star. They have a very different look from the flower thingy, but structurally they have a lot in common, especially the triangle twisted points.

I also found lots of instructions for palm roses of which there seems to be two basic methods.  One starts by creating the outside of the rose working towards the center and the other starts with the center working outwards.  I think the latter is the prettier of the two, although my opinion is questionable.  I prefer roses Morticia Addams style or not at all.  This video uses a wider leaf but I like the way the end of the leaf is used to tie it off.  This video is a little grainy but shows it with a thinner palm leaf and ties it off using string. 

Since I couldn't find what I wanted, I figured it out myself or at least I figured out how to make something that looks like what I wanted.  Either way it works for me. 

To start you will need four strips of palm.  I've found a width of 5/8 inches or 15cm to work the best.  If it's too thin it's hard to keep the points tucked.  Maybe with more practice this won't be a problem? Too thick and well, we'll get to that. For instructional purposes my palm strips are an inch wide. It was just easier to keep things in place while taking pictures. Remember palm leaves can be refrigerated in a ziplock bag with a moist paper towel to keep them soft and pliable if you are not going to use them right away.

I've also included some pictures using ribbon in hopes that the different colors might help with explaining things, but ribbons are a great choice for this if you just like pretty colors.  I used 1/4 inch width curling ribbon. I think wired fabric ribbon would also work, but I can't guarantee it since I haven't tried.  You need something stiff enough to hold form. 

Take a palm leaf, open it up and split it into two pieces.  Remove the hard outside edges. Save those in a plastic bag for later.  If your palms are wide enough, you can get away with splitting each piece in half, otherwise you may need another leaf. 

You want four pieces total, close to the same width.Trim the tips a little this will make the weaving easier. 

Stack the pieces of palm and wrap them together with wire. Here the ribbon is easier as you can twist it together and wrap it really tight. For future reference the colors are; dark pink, light pink, dark purple and light purple.  I know, not the most contrasting colors I could've picked, but they all came together on one spool. 

This flower or star or whatever you want to call it, is built from the bottom or the backside.  To start we are going to make a box.  Spread the palms/ribbons out in a cross with the wired end sticking up.  Pick one side (dark pink) and bring it down over the next (dark purple).

Bring the one we just crossed (dark purple) over both the first one (dark pink) and the next (light purple).

Same thing, bring the one we just crossed (light purple) over both the last one (dark purple) and the next (light pink).

Again, bring the one we just crossed (light pink) over both the last one (light purple) and the next, which is also the one we started with (dark pink).

Then tighten each side to make a little box.  Here's where I ran into trouble with the palm being so wide. You can see it's more of a rectangle and if I made it a square the box would be way too loose.

You can see this isn't a problem with the ribbon or this palm flower using 1/2 inch wide strips.  


So I trimmed the end as much as I could and tightened the box over the end instead of around it. 

This is the front view with the rectangular box on the left and with the squarer box after trimming. 

Here's the back again and we'll start to make the points.  With the ribbon it helps to crease each fold, with the palm keep it pinched as you go.  This next bit is just like those stars I mentioned earlier. Here I started with the dark pink ribbon again, folding it over to the left.

Then fold it back and down, making a triangle  But not a super pointy triangle, you need to give yourself enough room to do the next fold.  

Fold the triangle in half, under itself.  For the next step it really helps to keep that triangle pinched together.

This is also where things deviated from those other stars, instead of inserting the end of the ribbon through the loop directly below the triangle, we are going to go through the loop diagonally across. In the ribbon picture the dark pink ribbon is going through the loop created by the light pink ribbon.

Here is what it looks like from the front.

 Working counter-clockwise, fold the next strand into a triangle and...

...slide the end through the loop diagonally across.  In the case of the ribbons the dark purple has been folded and slid through the dark pink loop. 

Still working counter-clockwise fold the next strip.  There are two strips coming out of the same spot.  The one on top is from the first point (dark pink), it's the one on the bottom (light purple) that you want to fold into a triangle. 

Again, the end of the strip (light purple) is going to slip through the diagonally opposite loop (dark purple).  It's a little hard to see the points in these pictures, the tension is making them pull up.

Last one, for this round at least.  Again there are two strips, you want the bottom one, if I had a ribbon picture it would be the light pink one. 

Make the triangle point and slide it under the loop diagonally across.  This part is a little tricky and best explained with an interpretive dance. Just kidding, but lets take a step back in time.  This is the four square grid or whatever you want to call it, that we started with. The dark pink is going to make a point and go across to the light pink loop.  Then dark purple to dark pink, light purple to dark purple, and where we are now, light pink to light purple.

I say it's tricky because the first point is now covering that loop. Here I've pulled the first point out a little so you can see.  The ribbon picture is a bit deceptive because the light purple loop looks dark pink because of the reflection, but what it's showing is the light pink ribbon sliding through the light purple loop with the dark pink ribbon going over both. 

Here is what a finished round looks like from the front. 

Those four points are locked in, so now we start over for the next layer.  It really doesn't matter which strand you start with beginning each layer as long as you keep moving in the same direction each time.  Again fold it back over to the left. 

Then down and under.

Then fold the triangle in half and under to make a point. 

Slide it through the loop diagonally opposite. 

Continue on counter-clockwise, doing this for the next three points. Remember on the last one to make sure you are going through the loop from the previous set and not just under the first point that you made in this layer. You can see in this picture that each strand should be passing under two layers when all four points in this round are completed. 

Here's what it looks like with a total of four rows.  Note on the backside for the last row each strand is still passing under two layers.  I dressed it up a little with some fake flowers for the very top picture, but I think something natural like baby's breath would look better. 

And here's what the ribbon looked like finished.  I trimmed the ends at an angle to mimic the points. 

This is what the palm flower looked like after it dried out.  Keep in mind the palms shrink as they dry.  Whatever you make, try to work it as tight as possible because it'll loosen up after drying.  In this case the wire was so loose I just took it off.  I added glue to the center ends instead and a little sprig of dried palm bits.

To make the little sprig I looped some wispy bits and bound it together with a thin thread of palm.  Then I folded it in half and stuck it in a book to dry.

This flower I pressed in a book to dry.  There was less curling around the edges than the other one but I think it looks a little too squashed and won't be doing that again. And so ends my adventure in making a palm woven star flower whatchamacallit.