create more :: stash less ~ a community for crafty folks

Do you sometimes look in your crafting / art supplies cupboard and feel a little overwhelmed / guilty at all the extra things you have sitting around, just waiting for the right project. I know I do. I have more fabric than I’ll ever, or my kids will ever use. And my tastes have changed, along with my interests and time doing certain things…. which means I have supplies in my cupboard (and packed in boxes) that no longer have a purpose for me. But I know there’s someone out there who wants it and will make beautiful things out of it. Which is where Stash Less Create More comes into play.

A short while ago, almost on the spur of the moment, I started a new instagram account, along with Fiona (an online friend, with a private account). I’ve been meaning to photograph & sell my excess crafty, crafting supplies (fabric and what-nots), and while I was re-folding fabric Fiona was doing a de-stash sale on her account. Being a private account means that Fiona can only sell to her followers, rather than larger audience; and me being more of a curated(ish) account means that I don’t want to post lots of pictures of fabric for sale on my main account. SO, like a bolt of lighting I came up with the idea of creating a community account where anyone and everyone could sell their extra supplies – in the crafty world called their stash.

But it sorta goes deeper than just that, and I’m keen to work on taking it deeper over time. It’s not just about selling and buying, it’s about thinking about buying second hand before you buy new (and buying ethical before you buy mass produced). It’s about shopping from your neighbours and sharing our supplies. It’s about us all looking at the things we’re hoarding / holding onto and asking ourselves if we really do need them. So – it’s about encouraging people do to more creating and use things up, and if we’re not going to use them then to share them with someone else. It’s part of a simplifying of life….and a re-think of possessions.

Please do join our community – share the word with your creative friends and see what fabulous things you might find lurking in someone else’s craft cupboards – it could just be that perfect piece of fabric (zip, button, stamp, book, yarn, etc) you’ve been looking for! If you’re keen to sell your supplies you can contact me via our Instagram Stash.Less_Create.More or even email me at

Tutorial ~ Naturally Dyed Raffia for Basket Making & a sneaky way to keep it tidy

Naturally Dyed Raffia Tutorial & how to keep raffia tidy for basket weaving

Since I first got my hands on some raffia and delved deep into basket making, and then shared it with you guys through The Creative Year – there’s been a whole lot of talk in my Insta and in my home about how the bleep to keep raffia out of the children’s toys, the bed, the floor, the …. well… everywhere. It sure has a way of getting deeply tangled around life and things, and family members. Because we live in a small home and I do my crafting in our lounge-room or in bed, and take it from room to room I had to work out how to keep it under control. So, here’s my

How to Wrangle Raffia tutorial…..

by tutorial I mean a simply little how-to of written instructions. Sorry I didn’t manage to get step by step photo instructions, if you need that just let me know and I’ll talk some photos. This is what you do ::

When I get a big bundle of raffia fresh from Cass at String Harvest*, it’s always tied up on itself, and has a knot at one end keeping it all together. I undo the tied up strings and keep them neatly to one side, then I tie one of those spare threads around the middle of the whole giant bundle, not too tightly but not too loosely – enough so it random threads can be pulled out. I untie the knot keeping it all together (or cut it as a last resort if it won’t untie).

I now have one giant bundle ready to be broken down into smaller bundles. I grab a section that’s about 50 or so raffia strands, or fits in a handful (like holding a bunch of flowers). Pull this whole bundle out as one section, keeping it all neat and together. Then wrap one strand around the middle. Continue doing this with the whole big bundle, until you have lots of smaller bunches of raffia. These are now ready to tie up and use as natural raffia for your basket weaving or perfect to put into the dye pot so you can have all the pretty colours.

You can then fold this mini bundle in half then quarters and use a spare strand to tie it all up. It keeps neat and looking sweet and lovely while it waits for you to use it. If you make the mini bundles just the right size, then you can have a few in your ‘on the go project bag’ for the one basket you’re working on, and keep the rest stored away until you need them. That way you only have a few smaller bundles in use at a time – maybe 3 or 4 depending on what colours you’re weaving with.

When you need a strand of raffia to add to your basket, you simply pull one strand out of the mini bundle, and it keeps the rest contained and not flying all over the place. If you are careful when you pull each strand out, it really does work by keeping your mini bundle tidy.

Naturally Dyed Raffia Tutorial and how to keep raffia tidy, perfect for basket weaving.

I decided I’d share a little tutorial on how to Naturally Dye raffia as well, because it’s such a fun way to create your own colours and make your work different to everyone else’s. If you want an in-depth look at Natural & Botanical Dye then please do check out my online Creative course which shows Raffia Basket Weaving as well as Natural Dye & Indigo vat.

Naturally Dyeing Raffia for Basket Weaving using things from your Kitchen – a tutorial!

You’ll need:
+ Natural raffia that has been undyed or unbleached. Read this to find out about what to look for when buying raffia.
+ A large saucepan – stainless steel is best if possible
+ Turmeric powder or fresh root grated
+ Tea or coffee remains, ie save your tea bags or espresso coffee grounds. Try black, hibiscus or even rooibus tea.
+ Onion skins – both brown and red onions create different colours.

Fill your saucepan with enough water so that your raffia can float freely. Fully wet your raffia (in the kitchen sink is fine); this helps it take the dye better.

In your saucepan, one dye colour at a time, gently heat the water with dye stuffs (that’s the true technical term of what you’re using to dye – ie the turmeric or onion skins). Immerse your wet (but squeezed out) raffia into the pot. Bring it to a very gentle simmer until you’re happy with the depth of colour, could take an hour or so. Turn the heat off, with the lid on and leave overnight. Depending on depth of colour and quality of your raffia you may need to re-heat again the next day. Raffia can take many days to develop a strong colour, or it can take the colour after only a few hours. It depends on what you’re dyeing with, the quantity of your dye stuff and the quality of your raffia.

Quantity of dye stuffs to raffia can vary depending on each dye, it’s particular strength and what depth of colour you want. But basically the more dye you have the brighter, deeper, clearer the colour will be. Onion skins you’d want same weight of skins to raffia, turmeric will need a good couple of tablespoons of fresh powder to 100g of raffia, tea & coffee might need a lot more to create deep colours.

If you want to dye lots of different colours at a time,  once you’ve done the initial hour heating in the saucepan transfer the raffia and dye water into a large glass jar, while still warm, and with the lid on you can leave it in the sun for a few days to further develop colour. I love solar dyeing – it’s a great way to experiment with colour and dye stuffs, and you have pretty jars of coloured water on your verandah / windowsill / garden.

Wash the raffia well when you’re happy with the colour and allow to dry – which can take a couple of days even in warm weather.

I like my raffia to be dyed in a varigated manner, ie not all one block solid colour. So you can tie some other strands of raffia around the bundle to create simple Shibori marks, which means when you weave your basket you’ll get patterns of colour, rather than blocks of colour.

Naturally dyed raffia tutorial for basket weaving by Petalplum

hand woven raffia basket using naturally dyed raffia, dyed from kitchen scraps & pantry supplies and a tutorial for naturally dyeing raffia

If you want to know more about raffia, the sustainability of where it comes from and more, then you can read this mini-interview I did with Cass from String Harvest.

*this post is not sponsored or anything, I just really do like to support and promote Indie business whenever I can. Cass can post raffia worldwide, but if you happen to know someone outside of Australia selling ethical raffia I’d love to hear so I can promote them as well.

Raffia for Basket Making & the Sustainability of crafting with ‘String Harvest’

An important part of my crafting life is to focus on the sustainability and ethics of where my supplies come from, and where they go after. I use only natural fibres, and aim as best as possible, to support smaller businesses whose ethos matches mine. I’ll be honest and say sometimes this is harder in this industry of new fabrics, mass produced materials and cheap labour. But taking a thoughtful approach to our materials is an honest way to reconcile the overflowing craft cupboard. Often finding a business who goes out of their way to stock, promote and sell only ethical, sustainable, and environmentally thoughtful craft supplies can be hard; so when I do I’m keen to support them in any way possible to make sure this type of business keeps on becoming more of the norm.

Which is why I was exceedingly excited when I first heard about String Harvest a few years ago, and I’ve been so pleased to watch grow and continue staying true to the original ethos (something that is not easy at all in the reality of business). String Harvest is owned, run and managed solely by Cass from her home studio in South East Queensland. In Cass’ own words, String Harvest is:

“… online store, owned by me (Cass) that I now realise reflects my personal style and taste – a combination of staple, classic craft supplies and quirky, interesting vintage yarns. You can find all manner of natural and ethically sourced fibres alongside yarns and materials not easily found anywhere else. I love weird vintage and hard to find! I believe that our craft habits should be done with the conscious effort to reduce our environmental impact, and as ethically as possible. So that’s why I encourage creativity and crafting with the use of low impact and fairly traded fibres – hemp, raffia, linen, jute, paper and so on – they’ll eventually biodegrade and that’s very important. The yarns I supply are both vintage in the sense that they are from estates, retired fashion and textile designers, and other surplus yarns from the fashion industry that make their way into wholesale markets. They are post ‘mass production’ in that sense, so you will not find them in 500 other stores. There are plenty of brands already driving ‘new’ and seasonal production in the global economy and I’m not interested in feeding that demand – I am way more interested in re-discovering and sharing the delights of textiles that already exist”. 

While Cass sells many beautiful rare and vintage fibres, she also sells new strings, yarns and threads all with a sustainable and ethical underpinning. One such product that I use a lot, and many of you have been asking me more about, is raffia. Basket weaving is a beautiful craft that I’m a little bit addicted with at the moment, and based on my current Instagram feed I think I’m not the only one! I’ve had lots of people asking how I store and wrangle my raffia so I thought I’d share some tips and while I was at it, I thought you might be curious about what raffia actually is and what to look out for when you’re buying it. So – who better to ask than Cass. Hence this blog post that is a mini-semi-interview with my favourite yarn/thread/string supplier, who also happens to be a friend in real life as well as online, and a mini how-to for storing your craft supplies.

I love to know the background on my craft supplies, rather than just randomly pulling things off the shelves of shops, and raffia is one of those “what is that” things.

{Ellie} Cass, can you tell us what raffia actually is & where it comes from? 
{Cass} Raffia for craft is made from the mature leaves of the Palmyra palm, Raphia farinifera which is native to Madagascar. Like all palms, the new leaves grow up on the inside and make their way to the outside – they eventually drop off, or can be harvested by climbing the tree and trimming – you would not want theses leaves to accidentally fall on you! As far as fibre crops go, raffia harvesting is quite sustainable because no trees are cut down and it’s a very resourceful use of leaf. (Imagine if we used a fraction of the palm leaf waste from urban environments in this way!) Unlike most crops, it requires no chemical or extra water in processing and you don’t need to water palm trees. (I’m talking here about the natural, undyed stuff only). One of my suppliers sends me photos of the ‘factory’ sheds where they bring in harvested raffia for drying sorting and packaging/binding and I really love that level of transparency. 

It’s not a huge stretch to see what you get, from where it comes from. It’s a giant bushy palm tree – I don’t think we have any species like it here in Australia. The leaves are quite long, up to 10m and over 2m wide! Raffia we use is simply these leaves, dried and shredded. The raffia I currently stock only comes from Madagascar because when we talk about natural raffia I think we should be talking about it coming from this particular palmyra palm. There are other palm species grown in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia which are sold as raffia but they have quite different qualities and we shouldn’t conflate them. 

{Ellie} Are there different sorts or qualities of raffia – and what do we have to look out for when buying it?
{Cass} Yes absolutely! So aside from different species of palm tree giving different kinds of raffia – there are also many grades of Madagascan raffia. Here in Australia our market is relatively isolated so we don’t have the luxury of choice when it comes to grades, although I am always looking for premium quality (even though this also varies from year to year). However, I’m working on something secret to do with that… you’ll have to wait a few months to hear more about it!
You will find different sources for raffia, ranging from floristry supplies, to $2 shops and the mainstream craft supply supermarkets. You get what you pay for, and supply chain transparency varies accordingly. I like raffia that has good structure – where you can see the strong hardened end close to the spine of the palm, not too yellow, good length (at least 1.2m), and reasonable width. The less stringy and stray bits, the better.
{Ellie} What’s your best storage tip? Care to share photos? 
{Cass} My best storage tip is to give your raffia a little space… something it likes to do whether you have the space or not! I have zero advice on how to keep it out of your pets legs… or fellow family members lives. Raffia usually comes bundled at one end, and I try to keep it held together at that end for as long as possible. Rubber bands are also good for this. I also let it sit in a big tub. When you’re using raffia for weaving, it’s best to let it relax a bit so it’s not coming straight out of a compressed and folded up state, the fibres straighten out and it tangles less on itself. The drier, less humid the storage space, the less I find it tangles. 

{Ellie} What do you love using it for? What’s your best project you’ve ever made?
{Cass} I love using it for coiled baskets. I love it as a core because you can shape it nicely and it contrasts beautifully with other fibres. I miss experimenting! The best project I made has a raffia core and I coiled around this with a very fine silk wrapped linen paper. 

And because I’m pretty sure all our families are a little bit over having raffia everywhere they walk (or in bed, or stuck on the couch or the toy box), I’ve written a little how to wrangle raffia’ especially for you. It’s a simple technique that might just change your relationship to this wonderful, but messy, material. This post got pretty long, so you can read the mini tutorial here, including a simple how to naturally dye your raffia using kitchen scraps & pantry supplies.
If you’d love to know more about raffia and basket weaving (like how to make beautiful vessels like these ones that Cass made), make sure you check out my online Basket Weaving Course where I show a different techniques to create a beautiful hand woven piece – all my students are addicted to it!
Make sure you visit String Harvest to check out ALL the delicious fibres & threads she, which include vintage, rare & sustainable. Website Here || Instagram Here.
*all images by Cass from String Harvest.

is there such a thing as too much quiet?

It’s Sunday, my family has been away since Thursday morning. That’s a whole lotta “me time”. And golly am I loving it! But…. is there such a thing as too much quiet? I realised, as I kissed my husband good bye when they drove away on Thursday morning, that I’ve never in all my life been home alone ALONE for so long. One or two nights here or there, but nothing more… When I was younger I travelled overseas on my own, but a young woman in Europe – it’s not so quiet amongst the noise of museums, trains, art galleries……

The thing of having no one to account your daily goings about to. No one needing food, or talking at just that moment when you’re deep in a thought process, no one bickering in the other room. That’s the quiet I do so like, ever so much. But then – no one rushing in on Easter morning with giggles and excitement, no one hugging you for simply no reason except pure love, no one to set the table and sit down and share a meal with. Those things.

I have listened to podcasts, watched dvds, chatting on the phone to my family, but I have not seen a person for 4 days (except the people driving along the road who nod at me when I go for a daily walk). That seems epic doesn’t it! Ha, not!! 4 days without seeing a soul. Wow – I wonder what I’d be like as a little old lady living on my own.

So, anyway…. this quiet thing. I’m finding it’s a balance. Like the motherhood & artist balance. Which isn’t a balance at all, is it. It’s a juggle, a sea-saw, a ying&yang …. or whatever other thing you might call it. Is it divided, I’m not sure that feels like the right word for me. But maybe that’s because I feel like I want to work out how to make it not divided. I want to work out to make the quiet & the noise work together. Is that possible?

How to make the silence & the noise work together. I needed to say that again. For myself. Because I’m realising more and more that that’s journey I’m on. To be able to have one sit beside the other. To delve deep into my quiet reserves while kids climb on me, hug me, moan at me. So I can laugh and play and giggle with them AT THE SAME TIME as I thought process my creative practice. Is that possible?

To turn the noise down, but have it still playing. To turn the creative thoughts up so they speak louder. To be able to write a blog post while someone talks loudly right beside me. Or conversely to tune into those beautiful thoughts and voices and words from my children, and ask the other voices inside me to please be quiet for some time. To tune in & out of each voice > of their voices, and my voices….. I’m sure I can’t solve this in one life time – I know all over that creative mothers are trying to work through this, around this, in this, out of this. To make it work.

To love our children deeply fully connectedly, but also to have space to love our creative practice deeply fully connectedly. Like the way we love each of our children as deep as possible, not one more than the other, all fully with our depth of heart. Each child takes up the whole heart. How can you fit them all it? We just do don’t we! A heart expands to fit in all the love. But sometimes we have more connection, affection, patience, noticing, time spent on one child and then on another. We shift it about moment by moment, day by day, year by year. Is that right? Do you know what I mean? You love all your children, but some days one shines a little brighter, other days another one days. So :: the creative practice, the artist child inside us fits in the same. Some days it’s quieter, other days it’s noisier. Yet the heart expands to fill them all; to love them all as deeply as possible.

Though, for me…. I think the challenge is not the heart, but the head. The mind. The thoughts. Separating a conversation with my daughter or my sons from a conversation with myself or my weaving or my hands {&cloth&thread&….}.

There’s no conclusion for this. For me. It’s a journey. But sometimes speaking it out loud, writing it down is a step along that journey. A slow half-step towards working through it. Understanding it better. In the meantime, here’s a few ways that I’m currently working around/through/in/out of this ying/yang of motherhood & artist ::

  1. Focussing & dedicating time to each: When I’m with the children, I tune into them fully. I focus on them. I listen to them, I fully fully fully take in what they’re saying. I tell those creative voices to shush down a minute please. And yes, that might mean sometimes they flit away. Often they flit away. But truth is my children are flitting away too.
  2. Asking for & taking time alone for me, with me, with my creative practice: This long weekend for example. Not feeling guilty or selfish that I didn’t go with Sam & the kids to my in-laws for Easter weekend. Knowing in myself that this is vital and important. And that loved ones will understand.
  3. Being honest with my children: Telling them & asking them, please right now to leave me in some peace and quiet. Of course I have a toddler who does not understand this (or doesn’t want to agree to it), but the bigger kids do to a certain degree.
  4. Realising and giving in to where I am right now: I have young children. That right now is my life, and my focus. When I settle peacefully into that role then I feel less anxious about the artist role I’m letting sit quietly. I feel fuller as a mother, more connected & connective. I’m realising that now is so brief and short. And one day I’ll be fully at home alone again with my practice and my own quiet voices. Now is the time of my noisy life.
  5. Working with what I have: Quiet moments to delve deeply are rare and few at the moment, but when I get them I jump in and settle deeply in. Sometimes that means I start creating with my immediately, other times it means that I sit quietly and let the thoughts chatter loudly. I take and give what I can when I can.
  6. Store up all the thoughts: Either by writing them down, or holding them securely in my heart. This means that when the time comes to jump into it all, my creative thoughts are ready. I’ve spent many hours of playing lego or reading mindless books on a mindful practice. I can play lego and chatter, while another part of my brain/heart works on other processes. Is this a divided mind? I’m not sure. Perhaps.
  7. Be joyful & content with what I do have, rather than what I don’t have: look around and feel at peace with all I’ve been given. Children & a creative practice together is more than one lifetime of joy. I’m not longing for months of quiet to create a body of work; I’m content & joyfilled with moments of time here and there amongst all of life. The fullness and wholeness of life.
  8. Use one to guide the other: A big part of my creative practice is my mothering story. I would have a different voice, and another way of expressing myself if I wasn’t a mother. Motherhood guides me in the way I think and work. The quiet role of mothering has brought me to the quietness of stitching and weaving. And when I fully immerse in those stitching or the weaving process I feel motherhood talking to me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or ideas on motherhood & artist. Is it a Divided Heart for you, a divided mind, or a ying&yang, a balance, a sea-saw….???

Woven wall hanging loom weaving artwork by Ellie Beck Petalplum

The seasons of our creative lives

Woven wall hanging loom weaving artwork by Ellie Beck PetalplumLast week I sat down at my weaving loom for the first time in well over a year. And bleeping hell did it feel good. Really really good! And I’m suddenly addicted to loom weaving all over again. And it got me thinking about all the creative pursuits I have, and how I fit them into my days. But actually it got me thinking even more about how sometimes I feel desperately like basket weaving, or dyeing fabric, or stitching, or crochet, or loom weaving, or photography…. or sometimes none at all. And how this is all good and ok. How sometimes I simply don’t feel like sitting at my weaving loom, or sometimes I don’t feel like sewing or picking up a crochet hook.

And I started to think about how I personally have different ‘seasons’ for my creative making. And I wondered if you might too? What I mean by this is that at certain times throughout my days, weeks or even in a year I’m drawn to different types of making, different ways of making, different techniques & processes & materials & even outcomes. I realised that rather than ending up being inconsistent in my creative practice, what I’ve been doing is going with the flow of life, and allowing myself to slip easily within the different things that I enjoy and not be held tied up to something that can’t fit into life at that moment.

Being a mother and an artist is a whole conversation of it’s own. Well it’s actually more than one conversation. It’s a motherhood-lifetime of thoughts, words, ideas, anguish, conversations, turmoil, joy, overcoming, working through, pondering. And maybe once or two actually getting down to doing some making. So it’s with this motherhood / artist juxtaposition that I’ve realised it doesn’t have to be a fight, a divide – perhaps it can be more a yin / yang. Finding the unbalanced balance, the imperfect perfect. That idea.

Creative Mess - loom weaving artwork by Ellie Beck PetalplumWoven Wall hanging artwork by Ellie Beck PetalplumSo. The actual true and real reasons I haven’t sat at the weaving loom is because of family life, and the smallest child mainly. When he was a baby he lay quietly beside my loom while I wove (and it made for sweet pictures too!), but as he grew and became more active I couldn’t tied to a loom that sits rigidly still. And as he became quite aware of what I was working on, he wanted to be part of it too. And not having my own proper studio space always meant weaving in the lounge-room, where he loved to pull at my yarns (which of itself is ok), but pulling at my weaving, disturbing the tension of my warp, destroying the stitches I’d stitched. All aside from constantly climbing on me, and dragging me outside to play and jump in muddy puddles. Picking up and putting down my weaving became harder and harder. Eventually my loom sat in the corner of the lounge-room for a few months, with spiders building homes in the fluffy yarn, before I packed it up and stored it away. I tried a few times here and there. But the reality of having children, of being a stay-at-home mother before I’m an artist, meant that smaller more portable crafts and creative moments needed to be picked up.

Which is where the seasonal aspect comes in. Each time in my months as a mother has given new breath for different making. New space depending on the busier or slower aspects of the children’s ages or activities. Sometimes I can only crochet something the size of a pebble, other times I carried around blankets that I crocheted stitch by stitch. Lately (the last 9 months) I’ve been working on basket weaving because raffia is easier to pick up and stitch one slow stitch at a time. Without having to count stitches or remember a pattern, or worry about finishing a row before you’re dragged away.

And like the seasons in each year, when we really stop and simply enjoy where we are, without longing for the past or the future – then the present season is exceedingly special. It brings what we need in terms of nourishment, being propelled outside or brought inside, of quietness or noisiness, of slow or fast. We’re headed slowly into Autumn here, and I love this season as much as the Summer we’ve just left, and the Winter that will follow soon enough. I love it not for being in between, but for being it’s own self. For teaching new things that Summer can’t teach, nor Winter can show. And if I apply this thinking to my different creative spaces I’ve found that being in my season of crochet or my moment of basket weaving, or my year of natural dye – then each one teaches, gives, shows, provides different things.

One of the remarkable side-effects of all this seasonal time, means that when I’m in my off season my brain is thinking and tumbling and processing and pondering. Wondering & wondering. And that sort of thing. So that when I finally sat at my weaving loom last week, with the yarns I’ve been dyeing in my botanical dye pots. And I had the quiet time I so desperately was craving. And the small baby isn’t so small anymore.When all that happened. And the season of weaving came around again. You know what! I think it’s going to be quite an amazing season. I think after all this waiting, and getting on with enjoying all the other makings and time, and realising the other seasons are just as beautiful. Well – suddenly things are blossoming because like the lemon or orange trees in our garden that begin as buds last Spring and spend all year growing slowly slowly slowly. Everything is helping and working with that fruit, towards Winter. The fruits soak up everything the tree gives it, while the tree still nourishes itself. Or the magnolia that seems to take almost a whole year before those buds open to reveal the most magnificent bloom you may ever have seen. A whole year of growth the create something. Where most of the growth is quiet, slow, hidden. And then BOOM! You’re hit with the season when everything is ripe and ready and blooming and glowing.

That’s how I feel. I’ve spent the season of lying breastfeeding River, pondering while slowing slowing growing. And now. I’m ripe. I’m ready. I’m blooming! The weave I just took off the loom feels like something different to me, for me. A few way to working. A new way of expressing myself. Like I’ve been hiding and planning, and then I finally had the right space – the right season – to say ‘hey, here I am. THIS is me!’. Do you ever feel like that? Do you know what I mean? Or am I just rambling again…..?

Loom Weaving art work creative conversation Ellie Beck Petalplum

Ellie Beck Petalplum - from baby to boy - the process of weaning

our weaning story

Sweet baby - on the process of weaning

I’m writing this down as it happens, as we go through this, because I’ve realised I didn’t fully write it down the last two times. Not that that really matters, because women have been & will be doing this long before & after. But our stories are all our own at any rate, no matter how universal. Anyway – our current weaning story is long & drawn out, it’s the sort of saga that you keep on thinking might end soon and then doesn’t. There’s been grumpiness (from me) and crying & kicking (from him), but I’m trying to rejoice in what will possibly be the last feed each time it happens.

Ari (who’s is now 12) weaned fairly easily when he was about 2 or so. I was pregnant at the time, and we’d been talking about weaning and slowly having less & less feeds during the day. Then one day he bit my me and I simply said that’s it. And if you’ve ever been pregnant and had your nipple bitten by a breastfeeding toddler then you’ll know where I was coming from. With Mishi (who just turned 10), I can barely even remember. I know I was in an intense state of tiredness all the time. Over 6 years of being pregnant and breastfeeding sure takes its toll on you doesn’t it. So, I can’t recall what age she was exactly. Not quite 2 perhaps. But she did it herself, very naturally. She pretty much toilet trained herself and started getting herself dressed when she was 1, so you know – one of those kids who just wanted to be doing all the big girl things.

Ellie Beck Petalplum - new born baby - first skin contact - talking about breastfeeding

Well, things are different with River. He’s coming up to 2 1/2 and loves his ‘milkbar’ more than I can even know. Over the past few months we’ve gone through ‘sleep-through-the-night’ to asking for milkbar in his sleep every 20 minutes. My levels of tiredness each night has determined how resolute I’ve been in saying no to all those requests. It’s a bit hard when someone’s kicking you, screaming, hitting and pinching and spends all night groping down your top. I’ve taken to sleeping flat on my stomach so he can’t help himself to the milkbar. You know when they get to the age of self-service! I feel like the only way to stop him some days and nights is with an iron bra.

During the day he lets me know he’s ready for a nap by quietly coming up and saying milkbar in the sweetest but cheekiest little voice. It’s like he knows we’re trying to stop the milkbar, but he also knows he can have it for nap time. I must admit he’s tricked me a few times needing more than one nap a day. ‘Lie down mummy and have milkbar’ and drags me off to bed. Why are toddlers so smart!

A few weeks ago when I went to Melbourne for three nights, River had some extreme crying and tantrums. We’d assumed he’d have been weaned when I booked my Melbourne trip; I had never planned such an intense process for either of them. On the third night Sam reported that River went to bed easily and slept all through the night – so four full days without milk. The moment I came home, he climbed on my lap and pulled down my top. And we were back into breastfeeding again.

Weaning isn’t about cutting off or stopping something, it’s about slowly easing off one thing and easing onto another. So, while I’m drawing back with breastfeeding, Sam and the kids are stepping in with more reading, cuddles, songs and patience.

During the night, with a kicking toddler lying between us, Sam and I take it in turns to sing and pat him back to sleep. To ease his anger and upset feeling with whispered songs in his ear. Some nights he falls back to sleep quicker and easier, other nights it’s more of a trashing battle and we end up black & blue.

I sorta thought I kinda knew this parenting gig, but this little one is reminding me all over again and again that I know nothing. That the best guide I have is to listen to my instinct, and listen to him. Our children really do teach and guide us, if we stop and let them show us the way.

newborn baby breastfeeding - talking about weaningSo, while I feel endlessly tired, I’m trying hard to maintain the joy of breastfeeding. To think of it as a special nourishing bond between us. I look into his eyes, he gazes into mine. In those moments before he slips off to sleep I know that we have something with breastfeeding that cannot be replaced with anything else. And I melt away into the peace of it.

BUT – I have to say that there is a mixture of this joy and pure love combined with a desperate need for it all to be over. And I’m at the point of not wanting to feel resentful of it. Resentful of how drained I feel. I am not sure in traditional cultures, or other women, but I feel like the toll of being pregnant and full time breastfeeding for what ends up being 3 or 4 years (or more if you have a close age gap in your children) changes a woman’s body and her mind. I feel like we’re really meant to live together as a community with other women helping and supporting us – and that modern day world seems to make it harder for women to keep on breastfeeding. Heck – it’s even often referred to as “extended breastfeeding” once you’re feeding past one year old! That’s quite ridiculous, don’t you think.

Update: So, it’s Wednesday today, and his last full breastfeed was last Friday morning. He’s still asking me at different times during day and night, but not demanding. He asks, but knows the answer. Daytime naps have been hard, as he’s so used to feeding down to sleep. We’re having to wear him out and ending up having late day sleeps (unless he falls asleep in the car). Mostly Sam is holding, cuddling, rocking him to sleep because River is mad at me – he pinches and kicks me, whereas he’d doing that so much with Sam.

So it seems the weaning is happening… not fully weaned yet. When does weaning become weaned? When he stops having it, or when he stops asking for it, or when he can go do sleep more easily without it? I’m not sure, it probably doesn’t matter. What matters is we’re working as a family team to create a transition that feels comfortable, loving, open, honest (me needing to say no), no guilt and all instinct.

Ellie Beck Petalplum boy in the grass afternoon lightEllie Beck Petalplum Grasses in afternoon lightEllie Beck Petalplum - from baby to boy - the process of weaning

the beauty of tumbled leaves

In those times when I have an overwhelming list of things to do, the things that clears my mind best is stilling & slowing & simplifying….. playing with tumbled leaves, with fallen (or snipped) petals, gathered mushrooms, collected pebbles, or found sticks. All these things make me feel calm, centred, mindful, present. Turning off outside noise, ignoring incoming messages, shutting my phone and diary. And simply playing. PLAY IS THE BEST, don’t you think?

Firstly, I go for a walk, a meander, a wander, a wonder. In my forest, down to the creek, up to the dam, along the driveway, along a beach, along the road, in a field. Or sometimes I simply drift around little studio room and gathered up supplies, and things that I’ve collected on previous slow outings. Things that call to me to say come and play.

I want to remind you all that I have a 2yr old at home with me full time, but my husband also works from home. We tag team spending time with our little one (and the big ones when they’re not at school), with our own creative work practices. I ask (sometimes not so nicely) if I really *need* 20 minutes on my own. I think, if you have the chance, it’s vitally important to create pockets in your day without your children on you – at you. Give them something to play with beside, something quiet that they’ll love too. Sometimes that might only give you 2 minutes, but sometimes 2 minutes is like eternity if it’s all you get. When River is sleeping I’m trying to make sure I utilise that time for quiet doing jobs, and when he’s awake I do emails and such (which means mostly I’m writing & trying to think, while he’s noisily beside me. I mostly pretty good and writing an email and half-blocking out the crazy family noise, while still keeping an ear open for when I’m needed). So, I’m just reminding you that I have to actually carve out – create – this time that I need for myself.

I’d love to know what you do when you’re in need of some SLOW QUIET MEDITATIVE time. Please let me a comment here or even on Instagram.

you can do anything, but you can’t do everything

Hey Crafty Peeps! Those of you who love trying, testing, experimenting and exploring new things – you’re my kinda people. You know what I mean – you need to try every craft available, experiment with new things, doing a bit of this and a bit of that. Yep. That’s me. Some people call it flimsy, others say unfocussed, there’s some cool names like multipotentalite or Renaissance woman… Whatever we call it, there’s this need to try everything, and somewhere deep down a feeling that we (ok I) must master a fair few most all the things.

But what about when you find the things you’re not so good at? I had a message from one of my Creative Year students saying she was trying and trying the crochet, but that it just wasn’t her thing. And it got me thinking about something I wrote on Instagram the other day –

“You can do anything,
but you can’t do everything”

It’s something I keep telling myself every single time a new idea pops into my brain. STOP brain, stop!

I think it’s excellent to discover the things you don’t want to do, the things that aren’t ‘you’. To be able to cross things off your ‘I want to learn that one day’ list, and know you never have to master that new skill. HOW excellent indeed. So, I decided to write myself a list, to remind myself about the anything, but not the everything – and I thought you might like this little keep it simple list too. It’s a way to rein in all those tumbling thoughts of the things we might, maybe, could, possibly, should one day learn how to do. Cross  crochet (or the nup, don’t need to learn that!) off your list once and for all! I have spinning and knitting on my “one day” list….. I’m leaving them at the bottom of the list, for that time when I’m a little old lady and have spare time to learn new skills. I used to knit when I was a kid, but I know that now isn’t the time for me to invest into learning how to knit.

1: Try All The Everythings – write your giant list of things you might do, give them a go. Hang out with friends who do those things and use their tools, supplies, expertise. Take a mini class at your local craft shop, library, or  guild.

2: Be Ok To Say NO – Once you’ve given things a good and proper go, happily say no. If it’s not for you, but your best friend keeps pestering you about it, tell her you love that she loves it, but you’re letting her be the expert on that one!

3: Be Extra Pleased That You Now Have More Time – Now that you’ve crossed that thing off your list, smile at the fact you now have more time to a) dabble in other perhaps possibilities, or b) become more of an expert at your other loved up crafty skills.

4: Keep Writing That ‘One Day’ List – Never stop thinking about other things you might try, cause golly if we stop learning then we may as well stop thinking or living; don’t ya think?!

5: Know That It Truely is OK to Not Do Everything – being the expert on things is cool, I get that, but truth is you can’t be the expert or even highly skilled at everything. By giving up the things that just aren’t you, you’re leaving space and time to further develop the skills you already have.

Tell me, I’d love to know what are the things on your ‘one day’ crafty list, and what are the things that you’ll probably never ever in a whole entire lifetime get to? 

slow & simple Christmas traditions : hand stitched Christmas stockings


Part of my slow & simple seasonal Christmas was to make some new traditions. Or more like – redefine and place more ritual around them. Something like that. With my little one now big enough to understand all the Christmas magic, the big kids have been talking to him about a lot of how it all works. And we’re bringing it into our everyday for these weeks leading up to Christmas. I decided to do away with the pillowcases and make some hand stitched stockings for the kids – hopefully next year we’ll be able to find them to keep the traditions going!

I must admit I did take a little longer to come around to the Christmas magic this year, but then with a few twinkle lights in our life, and going out together to collect a tree (really it’s a fallen branch, with no leaves filled with our special decorations). The kids made treats to gift their friends – which I much prefer than just buying a packet of candy canes, I must admit. It makes me happy seeing them in the kitchen baking for other people, and then packaging it all up and writing notes to everyone.


So, this week I pulled out some felt fabric scraps and some strands of embroidery thread, and sat down to stitch the stockings for my three babies. I thought it would take a whole lot longer, but I kept it simple and these only took a few hours – with many get-up to see what Little One wants to read, eat, play, do, show me….. My girl is on holidays already, so she sat beside me and stitched her own; which made me immensely happy. Because really Christmas isn’t about stockings, or things, it’s about the creating of those things, the time spent together, talking while you’re making, thinking about the joy of reaching your hand inside on Christmas morning. Hanging them up along a beach-found branch. And nibbling on chocolates while you’re doing it.
That’s why I love using felt. These are actually made with some organic cotton quilt batting I had little scraps of. It’s soft like lambs wool, but perfectly easy to sew and won’t fray. Felt, old blankets, anything like that is great for kids to do their own stitching with, because you don’t need to worry about the edges fraying, so you can simply sew the sides together. And is it’s a little bit wonky, and some stitches go astray it doesn’t matter. One day in 3, or 5 or 10 years you’ll look at those stitches with the biggest smile and a pang in your heart.

Here’s how to make your own HandStitched Christmas Stockings:
+ Felt or an old blanket
+ A needle not too small, not too big
+ Embroidery thread in assorted colours
+ Ribbon or string or wool to make a hanging loop
+ A scrap of other fabric – we had some bird fabric, you could use flowers, Christmas trees, or even hand embroider whatever shapes you want. Stars, snowflakes…
+Draw the shape you want on scrap paper – make it bigger than you think, because a) the edges take up seam allowance, & b) more space for Santa’s gifts!

Trace the pattern piece onto your felt and cut out two pieces. It doesn’t matter with felt which side is the outside/right side and which side is the inside/wrong side, but if you’re using somewhat with an obvious outside/inside then make sure that you place the two layers together when cutting, with the wrong side facing each other.
With a light pencil draw the child’s initial on the front side of the stocking – if you have time / space their whole name can be lovely too. I’m working with simple and finished before Christmas!
Using whatever stitch you like – mine is a simple running stitch – hand stitch the name letter. Fancy lettering is pretty. Have you seen this amazing stitched alphabet? Again, I’m working on a time-frame + toddler-time… so simple letters still looks beautiful and works well.
Cut out and stitch on the design. I used running stitch that you can see, but you could also stitch it on with a hidden stitch.
Once you’ve added all the decorations you want to the outside pieces, lay the front and back pieces together and pin. Then blanket stitch around the whole edge. Make sure you stitch in the loop as you’re going. Maybe a few extra stitches on that part to make sure it doesn’t come out when the kids are enthusiastically pulling at their stockings!

Now – put on some twinkle lights, light some candles and hang those pretty stockings up ready for Santa. We leave home baked biscuits, some milk and possibly a chocolate for Santa, and of course Australian grown reindeer carrots for those hard-working reindeers who need as much energy as we can all give them!


*This post was sponsored by Woolworths Australia. Tutorial and all words are mine.

foundling ~ conversations with fashion

I first stumbled upon foundling in the way we do nowadays on internet land & Instagram… following lovely trails here and there, and coming across beautiful places to stop for a while. Whenever I find something that catches my eye, I often screen-snap (you can’t tell me I’m the only one!), but then I delve deeper into finding out a little more about it. I love to discover and connect and seek more than just the one picture on Instagram. When I first saw foundling, the face they were locals to me was even more interesting because I love to check out the amazing talent in our Northern Rivers region.

I had a little chat with Kim, one half of the sister duo, and love the way their lifestyle and upbringing shows in their clothing. The fact the cuts and fabrics are trans-seasonal fits well within my fashion ethos of wearing clothing for many years. These pieces are designed and made to outlast and become a vintage item in your wardrobe – which sounds pretty good to me!
I am totally drooling over all their pieces – I love my long kimono and wear it numerous times a week (eeekkkk I just noticed it’s on sale too!), but am also coveting this indigo tiered skirt, this maxi dress, martinique button down maxi dress (great for breastfeeding), and I wonder if the kids would let me lounge if I wore the lounge pants!

Can you tell me why you started Foundling? Where did the initial ideas come from?
My sister and I both have a passion for design and having grown up locally, our favourite styles are often influenced by genuine vintage prints, patterns and cuts.  We felt that what was available in the marketplace had become too disposable, the quality that used to exist in garments was no longer evident in all but the most expensive clothes, which are out of reach for most women.  I guess we believed that we could put our own twist on vintage, with an emphasis on tailoring and manufacturing so that our pieces would one day hang alongside the vintage classics.

 You were raised in Byron Bay – hi local peeps! – did your upbringing in this uniquely beautiful place have an influence on your business and your designs?
We actually grew up in a few places ranging from Oberon near the blue mountains, a fairly remote part of New Guinea and then Lismore where we were schooled, which at the time was very alternative and yes, it most definitely influenced the designs and patterns that we gravitate towards.  We also spent alot of time (and now live & work) in Byron, so the surf culture must have been influential as well, the combination of which has resulted in a pretty laid back take on vintage, a love for loungewear and pieces that are perfect for this type of climate.  I think lots of our customers buy their holiday wardrobes from foundling as the fabrics and cuts are just perfect for travel and beach destinations.
You talk about being beautiful on the inside as well as the outside – tell me what this means to you, and to the Foundling business, and how does this affect your business practices?
We are both mothers of children who range from 7 years old to 14 years old and the thought of sweatshop labour is abhorrent to us.  So when we started the label, we spent a bit of time investigating where we could manufacture our range safe in the knowledge that the process would be ethical, hence our enlisting a sedex accredited facility in India.  India was also our choice because of their long and beautiful history with textiles, its a country that celebrates the art of attire, pattern and colour.  Our factory is a family run business with a long history in the industry – interestingly, three years in to our partnership with them, we are now their longest standing client, albeit we are still their smallest by quite a big margin.  Fashion labels dont generally develop long standing relationships with their manufacturers because they shop the business around based on pricing, but we are very committed to growing a relationship and we know that we get the very best from our supplier rather than haggling over small amounts which ultimately results in the manufacturer trying to cut corners.
We also sponsor a number of children in developing countries including Syria and Cambodia.
Can you share a little more about the ethics of Foundling? Why was it so important for you to create a label that cares as much about the environment as the people making the pieces? Was this hard to set up, or to continue working with? Or have you found it easier with time?
I have to be honest and say that we haven’t focussed on environmentally accredited fabrics, albeit this is something we are trying to explore with our manufacturers.  The difficulty we find is that manufacturing ethically naturally comes at a higher cost, a cost which is difficult to amortise over a relatively small production run.  If we then add organic certified materials, the price point will become prohibitive however as the label grows and we can invest in larger production runs, that will definitely change. 
Where do you find your design inspiration? You visit India often, this must be an amazing source of ideas, colour, patterns – do you soak it all in and design when you get back to the relative tranquility of Byron Bay or do you sketch and design wherever you are?
The inspiration seems to come from all over the place, one of our prints for Summer for example was inspired by a very old batik remnant a friend used as a tablecloth, whilst another came about after we both read a book about colonial life in the tea stations ofIndia called ‘coronation talkies'(which was a great book BTW).  Not long after, I visited the tea stations whilst holidaying in Sri Lanka then together my sister (‘Lee’) and I talked about how the pattern should look and what colours would feature.  Lee is a classically trained illustrator so she then brings the idea to life so that we can brief our team in India.  However India is definitely an ongoing source of inspiration – they have a seemingly haphazard use of colour that just works every time. Every time I stroll through markets, you can’t help but be inspired. That often manifests itself in styles like our Namaste pyjamas which is our own block print inspired man-style lounge set, with a pop of neon to give it our own twist.  I also absolutely love their traditional jewellery and we often stop and ask people if we can photograph it so we can replicate the design with our jeweller in Udaipur. 
What’s it like working together as sisters – any tips on collaborating and working with family?
We have pretty much always worked together with the exception of a time when I was working overseas.  I used to work in advertising management and often worked alongside Lee who was at the time, an art director. When I later relocated to Byron and we spoke about ‘foundling‘ as a concept, she not long after bought a house in my street…so our kids play together every day and we work together every day.  Of course its not always plain sailing, when we travel we argue over the temperature of the air conditioning or who gets the window seat…nothing insurmountable.
What’s your favourite piece in your current collection – why?
I have to say our St Malo lounge set because I wear them every night (I have a few pairs on rotation) and without fail, they make me happy every time I climb into them after a shower.  I guess when you wear something so much, it has to be a favourite but aside from that, I love my quilted hippy bindi blouse because its my go-to with jeans and I love the classic print and colourway. 
Anything else you’d like to share with the Petalplum readers about your special brand?
Yes, I think lots of people who choose foundling wouldn’t realise that what they are buying is pretty unique.  Our print or embroidery runs are sometimes as small as only 100 garments total worldwide, which is probably about one tenth the size of even small australian labels, so if you like unique, we’d love you to check out our site foundling.
*all images used with thanks to foundling, from their website & cookbooks. I was gifted some beautiful items of clothing to wear, but this post is written with full love for the foundling brand & clothing range.