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 stashless.createmore@gmail.com

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.

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

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? 

Why I’m teaching ‘a creative year’ ecourse

I thought you might like a little background on my new online course, and why I’m sharing a whole year of Creative Making. For me making is an everyday “need”, and I know I’m lucky to be able to get my fix every day; but I also work hard to keep it that way, and make sacrifices to indulge in my passions. I’ve also learnt many ways to work creative living into everyday life, around children & daily errands, and other jobs as well as regular life.

I wanted to show you how you can change a few a things and learn some new skills to change your outlook on your own creative self. I’m so passionate about people finding their creative voice — I truly believe that every single person is creative in some way or other. And it makes me sad when people feel blocked to discover their artistic side. Shame or guilt or simply being told you’re not good enough has stopped many an amazing creative – putting standards of quality on ourselves dimishes the journey, the feel and the processes of making. Looking only at the outcome, rather than revelling in the doing & being with creativity, often makes people declare ‘I cant’. I’m all about letting you know that you can! You might never be perfect, but you’ve started and that’s the best thing ever.

Filming my basket weaving ecourse using my broken phone (cracked screen) & elastic bands to hold the phone onto the tripod. But the quality of the film is all sorts of lovely – well….I hope you think so!!Filming myself teaching & talking is totally new to me, & a little bit scary, but I’m so eager to learn it all, but also just to have a go even if it’s not perfect.

I love teaching & sharing my skills & knowledge, and this ecourse is such a fun way for me to connect with more people than only those of you who live nearby. It’s available to anyone with a computer & Internet, and anyone who ever was told they weren’t creative…. This isn’t about copying Pinterest worthy art projects, this is about jump-starting what making actually means & feels like to you. And it’s about finding a meditation within your making. About making time for yourself in a day or a week.

My aim for this whole year is to guide you through different projects, skills, techniques that build upon each other, but work independently too. While each month is a finished project, there’ll be an underlying hope that what you’re actually doing is discovering your creative voice, delving past the need for perfection into the feeling of what using your hands, heart & hand can do for your mental & physical beings. I truly believe that craft can heal the soul if you give yourself the time to talk internally with your inner child (the child who may have always made amazing things or the one whose parent always told them they weren’t good enough).

I’m putting heart and soul into this course, and I’m hoping you notice that. I really do want to make a difference in some small meaningful manner.

And in the spirit of being honest, I also want to mention that I do truly think this course is value for money. I’ve priced it at a rate that I hope it doable for people’s budgets, so that everyone can benefit. But I also hope it pays me for the time it will take to create each months content. So >> if you love the course, I would love you to suggest it to your friends, family, colleagues & community. To support me as a Creative Maker in my business, I truly do value your kind words. (And if you don’t love something about the course — PLEASE tell me….I’m always wanting to learn and understand new ways of doing things, and I’m open to different ideas. I value constructive criticism…rather than you not being happy, please do speak up!).

The course starts on 1 Dec and runs for a whole year. Each month you’ll receive a new set of videos with instructions for different projects and crafty skills. December is basket making and using kitchen scraps to dye your raffia. More details can be found through my teachable ‘school’ where the Ecourse is based.

create slow

I absolutely believe in the power of slowing yourself down, through most any way possible. For me, one of the best, most beautiful and also practical ways is by creating and making.

I use craft to meditate. And I know I’m not the only one.

What I mean by this is, that when I dedicate and focus to sitting and making or creating something – arts or crafts, you may call it – I find that I naturally slow down. The rate of my breathing slow, I feel a steadier deeper breathe. My mind stops chattering so much, and quietens to be with the project in my hands. My whole body is generally / mostly, by the very nature of craft, sitting down and still or calm (though of course, not always).

For me there’s some crafts that slow me more than others, some that really work their magic immediately. Some crafts or arts require a bit more skill, or technical know-how to move past before you can really fall into the mediation of the making. Knitting or crochet, to begin with, can be tedious and sometimes fraught with tension at learning the stitches, or making mistakes – of course, once you’re skilled then the slow becomes part of the process with these techniques. Loom weaving is a little easier to learn, to pick up, to make mistakes in – while you do need to know the technique, I find that I (and the students I teach) slip into a softer more contemplative mood very quickly.

Through my years of crafting, I’ve found that hand stitching is perhaps one of the best and easiest to pick up. Simple stitches, running stitch – in/out/in/out – in a straight line across the cloth. While I have been stitching my whole life, I’ve seen others slip into slow stitching easily. Slow Stitching, for me at any rate, is the sort that doesn’t require an outcome, or perfection of seam lines, or to be holding fabric together. It’s a decorative stitch, a simple pattern running along the cloth. Drawing with thread perhaps.

The tangent lines of a thought process working itself out with needle and thread on fabric.

Sashiko* and Kantha* -style stitches are most closest to what I’m talking about. And while Sashiko particularly, coming from Japanese culture, can be tied down with needing to have structure, rhythm and perfection to your stitches and patterns, in it’s simplest form it can be easy. I say ‘style’, as I work to my own methods, and don’t necessarily follow the stitches or rules of either Sashiko or Kantha. I best define it as Slow Stitching.

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

I’d love you take a journey with me, even if you declare loudly that you can’t sew. Would you allow me to hold your hand and together we’ll slow our days, steady our breathing and in the process create a beautiful, mindful work of art. The quality and perfection of your stitches doesn’t matter – it doesn’t matter if your lines are straight or wonky (mine are always wonky), or if the stitch distance is even or random. To use this process as mediation, as a slowing to your everyday regular life – you need to stop looking at the end result, and start sitting with the joy of the process, and the quiet of the making.

Over the next few days I’m going to share a project that I’m making, and I do hope you can join me too. Those of you who have never sewn before, I’d love to have you join. I’m starting a # on Instagram – #thecraftofslow – and I hope we’ll build a space for people to connect, share, support and all learn to slow through our stitches (be they knit, weave, crochet, sew or more…..). This will be a little like a knit-along… let’s call it a slow-craft-along!

This here, is a piece indigo dyed linen, with simple shibori marks upon it. And stitches slowly slowly building up upon it. I’m going to turn it into a cushion for our couch, when I’m finished, but while I make it – I’m sitting and slowing, I’m breathing deeper… and you know what – my family (those crazy noisy people of mine) are running around me while stitch, life is living. I’ll pick it up, and put it down. And while I have the needle running through the fabric I’ll be breathing. and slowing.

This is my form of meditation.

*I’ll talk more about Kantha and Sashiko soon, as well as share some of my favourite stitch books.