Archives for posts with tag: Craft
Truffles with nuts and chocolate dusting in de...

truffle magic!

The pinnacle of the dark, dreary days of winter is a purgatory that rests between Christmastime and Spring… February. Installed into February is a day that is supposed to be a celebration of “Love”. Many lament the commercialisation of Valentine‘s Day, and resent the high expectations and sadness that come with so many of our holidays.

Traditional Valentine’s expectations dictate that one should enjoy chocolates, give expensive gifts, and be in love. Well, let’s take some of the good from those traditions and embrace them! Even if you are single, you deserve some chocolate. Actually, you deserve more chocolate. Feeling a bit bloated after a winter’s eating? This is an opportunity to sharpen your skills in making HEALTHY treats. Herbal-infused organic chocolate truffles, anyone? Or perhaps a cup of Healthy Hot Chocolate? True love. Love is in a good cup of tea, a soothing bath that invigorates the spirit, or a beautiful hand-made gift box to hold treasures.

The brains behind the Fleurbain concept, Tammy Schmidt, Clinical Herbal Therapist and Natasha Henderson, visual artist and arts instructor, are offering an Herbal Creativity Spa Weekend workshop in February. There is an option to take one or both days during the Herbal Creativity Spa Weekend, on Friday the 11th from 7 to 10pm and Saturday the 12th from 1 to 4pm.

Friday night, we will enjoy a relaxing glass of wine (or herbal tea) with some dessert treats and fine cheese. Participants will learn how to make an herbal Love Potion. The Love Potion is a special euphoric herb that is distilled in a vodka base. Everyone will get to take home a sample of this to try themselves! Tub Teas are all the rage, and for good reason. What could be better than infusing your entire body in an organic, herbal bath that is designed to soothe the body, mind, and spirit? Participants will learn some of the properties of the herbs used in this special Valentine’s Tea Bath, and take home a sample. Finally, we will make a Boudoir Gift Box, a gift box made from scratch that will be decorated with fine fabrics, papers, lace, and beads. It will be suitable as a gift box for chocolates, jewellery, fine treasures… and can be re-used to hold your favourite special things.

Saturday afternoon starts off with a healthy, delicious beginning. Participants will learn how to make Healthy Hot Chocolate (yes, this version is truly healthy), and enjoy a cup. While sipping our treat, we will make organic chocolate truffles, which will be flavoured with high quality, organic herbs for unique flavours. These are perfect to tuck into the Boudoir Boxes made the previous evening. Then we will think about the physical and mental well-being that a good bath brings, and make a felted soap loofah for our next bath. These soaps combine sheep’s wool with a high-quality Ginseng or Evening Primrose soap to be an exfoliating and moisturising addition to your bath. Finally, we will create a batch of Love Tea to take home and enjoy.

All courses use the finest quality, pure and organic ingredients. Take one afternoon or evening for $75, or treat yourself (or a friend!) to both sessions for $135. Location of workshops will be in a Montreal artist’s studio, converted to a Valentine’s Factory for our workshops. Please email fleurbain(at) for information and registration.

You need: -Paper  -Good solid cardboard  -Scissors or cutting edge  -Gluestick  -White glue or rubber cement  -Cheesecloth or similar fabric  -Pretty paper or fabric for covering  -More pretty paper for inside of covers -Thread and needle

As I mentioned once before, I managed to take a book-making course during my final year of art-school. We learned various techniques to make books, and some of the simpler ones I’ve outlined here. I did promise to go over the method of making a “real bound book”, though, and now it’s time to deliver on that promise! Happy New Year… let’s make us some books!

A classically bound book has a few elements. There is a cover, there are the pages, and there are the things that hold them all together.

The little parcels of paper pages that are sewn together to make the body of the book are called signatures. When I make a book, I make my signatures first. I decide on how many sheets will be in a signature, and then I decide on how many signatures will make up the book. In some situations, you might only have so much paper available, so this guides the size and number of pages in the book. A single piece of paper that is in a signature is actually four pages, if they were numbered within the finished book. A paper-piece in the signature is the height, and then twice the width, of the finished page, folded in half. You can layer two pieces of paper, or three, or four… or many. It depends on how thick your paper is. Normally, for “art-grade” paper (thicker) I would layer about two or three pieces of paper in a signature. An older book in my collection has about ten very thin, but strong, layers of paper in each signature.

In the inside of a signature, you will see the stitching. This is an old book, finely crafted.

Once you have decided on your layered papers for a signature, you fold the pages in half, re-layer them, and sew a little stitch or two down the centre. I recommend knotting at each stitch on the outside, binding edge of the work. This will add strength and stability to the binding, and to the signature. Use about three or four strands of thread to add even more durability. Make your stitches on the “inside” of the signatures about a half-centimeter, and make the stitches on the “outside” about two centimetres. Don’t worry about the outside, binding edge of the signature, it can be messy. You won’t see it later! If you were to rip the outer binding off of a finished book, though, you would see a mix of knots, threads, glue, and something similar to cheese-cloth covering the whole mess.

When you have a number of signatures ready to be bound, the next step is in to bring them together. I can’t show you this in person, unfortunately. But simply put, just weave a threaded needle between the threads that are on the “outside” of the signatures. Knot. Tie. Weave. Make it sewn together… keeping the thread OUTSIDE. Don’t puncture the papers again. This will all be hidden, so don’t worry if it looks bad. Just try to keep the inside of the pages neat-looking!

As soon as the signatures are bound together, you have the basics for a book. The next step is to make the cover. Cut two pieces of good cardboard to a little bit larger that the size of the inside pages. Good, solid cardboard is normally found in craft stores. If you don’t have any, use your imagination. You’ll want a material that is pretty tough, that you can cut, and that won’t roll up with a bit of moisture from something like glue. An old piece of rubber or plastic could be interesting…

Once you’ve cut the outer covers, you can cut a binding-cover, too. This is big enough to cover the ugly, outside edge of the bound-together signatures. It’s ok if it is a little thinner than the depth of the book. This piece just basically provides a little structure and protection to the sewn-together signatures. In some books this piece is rolled back and forth to form a rounded-binding, in others it is straight and flat. For your first book, though, perhaps just leave this piece flat.

One of my early books: Signatures, Three cardboard pieces to make the cover, Decorative covering. Note I also sewed some pretty gold thread along the edge of the bound signatures.

You need an outside surface for the covers… a piece of fabric, a piece of decorative paper… and old fancy pillowslip, a shiny satin skirt, anything that is pretty will do. You just need enough of this to cover the outside edge of the entire book. If your decorative paper or fabric is thin (like satin or fine paper) you should glue it to another piece of good, strong and flexible paper (such as rice-paper) first. Lay this piece out on your table, pretty-side down. Lay the two covers and the little binding-cover next to one another on this piece. Keep a small distance of about 1/8″ between the covers and the binding-cover. This space is important so that the covers can open and close… this is a hinge. Make sure that this pretty covering extends at least an inch past the edges of the cardboard covers. Rub a bit of glue-stick on the surface of the cardboard covers, then place them again on this pretty covering. Press flat with your hands, just making sure there are no “bubbles” or lumpy bits of glue. Fold the edges in, glue down to the inside of the book-cover with white glue or rubber cement. What you are doing is sort of like wrapping a present, and you are doing the outside first.

Next, take your bound signature-pages. Using a bit of cheese-cloth (or similar fabric… I’ve used a number of woven, light-weight fabrics at hand for this task), cover the ugly outside edge of the bound-together signatures. Make sure there is about two inches extending past the edge, as though the cheese-cloth wants to grow into a book cover. Rub white glue or rubber cement glue over the cheese-cloth, so that it is truly adhered to the outside edge of the binding. Let this set. Good time for a coffee or tea. Cake. A film. Really let THIS glue set.

Here you can see the "decorative inside page" that is glued to the front cover, and slightly glued to the front page of all those signatures.

FINAL ASSEMBLY: Once this signature-set is dry, take the cover that you’ve previously prepared, place the signature-set in place, and glue the cheese-cloth to the inside of the covers. It helps to know that there will be a final, decorative piece of paper attached to cover all the mess. I recommend using a bit of glue-stick, then closing the book to set for a few minutes. Open the book, and rub in some white glue. Close it again, and leave it at least half an hour to really set. You can check it a couple of times to make sure it hasn’t shifted, but be careful.

Once it is dry, the very last thing is to add a thicker, decorative paper to the inside of the covers. This paper is cut to just a little shorter that the original “double-page” size, and you need one for each inside cover. The function of this decorative paper is to cover the inside of the cover (remember the “wrapped present”?), and also to be a decorative front and back page. Glue (with white glue or rubber cement) one side to cover all the uncovered-part of the inside covers. Glue a little bit on the first page of the signature-bundle, so that it is stuck to this decorative paper… about 1/4″. This way the book is solidly made, and is held together by the cheese-cloth as well as the decorative paper. Set it aside… let it dry thoroughly. Press it between some heavy books, leave it overnight. It’s all in the layering…

This old book is made with a gently rounded binding-cover. You can see the importance of leaving space between the three pieces of cardboard, so that the covers can hinge.

When you examine an old book from your shelf, or look at my photos here, you will see the basic elements to a bound book. Don’t be afraid… my first bound book was a gluey mess. The binding-cover was cut too big. I used an ugly fabric to cover it. However, by making my own book, I was then inspired to work out a fun comic to live inside the book. This developed into the first storyline for my “Cluck and Lurt” comic series! Drawing in my own book was inspiring for me. I hope that you are inspired to try some book-making yourself.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Crafting something from basic materials is a rewarding activity for anyone. When you have made something “from scratch”, you develop a sense of intrinsic accomplishment and pride. In addition to the pure joys of making, there is the final physical object that you can use and display. Crafting and art-making is good for you, and can be used in a therapeutic manner.

A child makes a piece of felt.

When people make new things, they need to focus. When people learn new crafting skills they coordinate their minds, hands, and memory to work in synch. People with short attention spans, various levels of learning abilities, or who find it difficult to connect with the world can develop their focus and connections. I have seen this seemingly magic process in classrooms, where I have taught workshops in felt-making and sewing. Little children with major problems really do love learning, and hunger for the sense of accomplishment achieved when they learn a new skill and have something exciting to share with their parents after class. This sort of craft-therapy is useful to increase children’s engagement with the idea of learning. Focus is a skill that can be exercised like a muscle. The more a child uses the “focus muscle”, the better they are able to use this “muscle” in “sports” other than crafting… it really becomes one of their skill-sets.

A child shows off his weaving.

Crafting in a therapeutic manner also increases a person’s ability to connect with others, to adapt into the role of being a student (or a teacher, for that matter). Problem-solving as one navigates learning the new (yet often traditional) techniques of crafting creates team-building, forms human connections, and encourages storytelling. An example: A group of teenagers get together to learn how to knit. There are problems at first, some of the kids don’t want to be “Grannies”. One of the kids becomes a bit of a leader, saying “Well, I loved my Granny. She was cool.” The kids settle down, reminisce, share some stories, and help one another with their knitting. They have formed connections with their past and with one another, and are acting both as students and teachers as they learn their new (old) craft.

Very young children learn how to sew by hand.

Development of fine motor skills and hand/eye/mind coordination is another benefit to crafting and art-making. Obviously, if one takes a pencil or paintbrush in one’s hand and applies it to paper, there is a cause and effect. The artist is making something. The artist sees what happens when they move their hand a certain way. They try it again, a little bit differently this time, and see the changes. They register this change, and with practice the movements and effects become skills of which they are more in control.

Through art and craft therapy, people learn new skills, feel pride, and reconnect with traditions and a sense of history. They develop hand/eye/mind coordination and learn to focus. Crafters can work in teams or groups to teach others their skills. Crafting is social, fun, and a beneficial activity. As a person who has led several arts and crafts workshops with all sorts of people, I must say that the idea of a career as an Art Therapist is an exciting one!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Last Christmas one of my favorite gifts to receive was a set of handmade fridge-magnets. My pal made these with old bottlecaps (never throw them away again!), glue, magnets, images, and glitter. Remarkably simple, and completely fantastic. This link provides clear instructions on how to make them, but basically, you just need to apply those objects together in a way that makes sense. One good note is that “you want to glue the non-magnetic side so to the bottle cap and leave the magnetic side exposed so it adheres to metal.” Yup!!!

My friend gave me a Catholic picture to remind me of her, and two Simpsons images chosen especially for me.

Natasha Henderson in Montreal

A few months ago I taught felt-making and other craft techniques to a large group of students. The project was massive, and very rewarding for me to see what the kids could do. While working there I received a pretty neat book as a gift. If you are really motivated to learn a new craft right now in time to make “stuff” for Christmas gifts, you could try some of the projects in this book: “Felt (Handmade Style)“, by India Flint. A worst-case scenario would be to buy this book, and then give it as a gift (or a promise of gifts… “I’ll make you what’s on page 36!”) if you just don’t have time.

Kids really love felt-making.

The idea of a promise is a good one… I have a few people on my gift-list who I have promised specific things to this year, and they will receive a rain-check on them. If I don’t have time to devote a whole morning to someone’s gift right now, then they will receive it later! That holds especially true for experimental gifts… trying to make a fitted hat for a friend who lives across the country, or trying to design a massive piece of felt that would be light enough to wear as a head-wrap. These things take time and creativity.

CRAFT TIP FOR NOW: If you want to do one craft that is mentioned in the book that you can do right NOW without referencing the book… well, you can make some wool beads! It’s easy. If you have a small amount of wool roving (or batting) then you can do it. Take a pinch of wool, use a drop of dish-soap and some warm water, and start to roll it around in your palms. Over time this will form a ball, and you can keep rolling it in your hands or on a bamboo mat or piece of bubble wrap. Experiment adding different colours to it, experiment with different sizes. A little wool bead normally takes about 5-10 minutes to do. It’s a good craft for kids, because it takes up time, keeps their hands busy, only involves soap and water as the “messy” stuff, and for some magical reason all kids like to do this! In the end you can use your wool beads for jewelry, as decoration on other things like tuques or mittens, for Christmas decorations… the sky is really the limit what you can do with them.

Last year I gave my family all a variation of the same thing for Christmas… Coasters. They were Cute felt coasters,  decorative and waterproof!  Real wool felt is great for this project, because wool is a natural insulator from temperatures and also moisture. I like to line the felt with cork, for an added layer of insulation.

Cork for the bottom of the coasters can be very thin.

Take some felt, a bit of cork-board (available at many stationery stores), glue, and something for “edging” (like a scrap of leather, a bit of twine or ribbon, sequins…)

Make a circle out of paper as your template. No-one likes a miniature coaster, so be generous. One time I used a plastic thing that was headed for the recycling-bin, another time I used the top of a huge mug I have (keeping the pen-tip away from the cup, of course).

Use this template to trace onto the cork, then cut out the cork circles. Next, cut circles out of the felt. Simply glue together, and then glue your edging around to look all pretty.

My personal coaster, after a year's HEAVY use (every day at least twice, still holds up!)

I used home-made felt, but store-bought felt would do, as would any non-fray or cute-fraying fabric (other wool, denim…) Keep in mind that most “felt” sold at craft stores is actually made from synthetic fibres, unless they mark it clearly to be wool. Real wool felt is more expensive than synthetic; however, it provides a real barrier for heat, cold, and moisture so it’s better for coasters. Happy crafting!

I have a small, possibly boring (no! Don’t leave!) story to share. A couple of years back, I had a job in “The Fashion Industry”. One of the little perks they’d give us was access to a mass Sample Sale twice a year.

This one has the beautiful Indian ribbon sewn to it.

Leftovers from the stores, samples that were made and discarded, and assorted wearable rejects were sold to employees of this nameless corporation by the pound. It worked out to about $1 per garment, and somehow everyone would score some nice stuff. I got my yoga-pants from one of these, and believe me I’m wearing them to the ground. Anyhow, during one of those sales I came across a bag of black polyester-fleece gloves with little pom-poms sewn on the wrists.

Quite cute already, but I thought “I’ll do something with these…” A year or so later, I did! I stuck with a colour theme for each pair, and used embroidery floss and sequins and beads that I already had.

So cool they're hot; so hot they're cool. Fire and Ice...

The most popular gloves have turned out to be the ones on which I simply sewed a colourful ribbon around the top. This ribbon was imported from India many years ago, and at the time was rare to find in mainstream shops. Since then, thankfully, many of the craft and sewing shops have similar ribbons available.

You could sew on a fringe, a bit of cord, some braided leather, some leftover bits and pieces of most anything. I would like to do something similar with old gloves I find in the fripperies and second-hand stores!

A couple of technical pointers: if the gloves are stretchy, either use stretchy thread or make certain that you stretch the material as you sew on the decorations. Try to not sew where there will be a lot of wear. This way your threads won’t be in immanent danger of breaking when the gloves are worn. You might notice that I stuck to decorating just the cuff area. Another suggestion is to tie knots often, so that if a thread does break, all your work will not come undone.

Happy decorating! I glove Christmas!

Decorated Gloves

Natasha Henderson in Montreal


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