simple wreath

Autumn leaves are just beginning to tumble across the grasses here. It’s been a good twenty years since I first visited this lakeshore and saw it all leafless and cold; now we watch the changes with keen interest. The mosses that dried to a deep orange have brightened green in the rains, and just a few colours are appearing. Each year as the days shorten and winds chill the air, I make a simple, tiny wreath. I’ll make one for the cottage gate very soon.

silver birch wreath

Gather together sprigs of silver birch or some other beautiful, delicate branches, still in leaf. Bend one of the pliable wands in a small circle, hold tightly, and weave more in at quarter turns, starting each new end pointing through the center of the circle to the back. Allow most of the little branches to spray out, weaving just enough to catch and keep the circle strong. Hang the little wreath with a length of ribbon on a gate, door or knob somewhere; the leaves will slowly scatter through the autumn weather. I like to tuck in berries, nuts, or cones as I come across them on walks throughout the season.

This simple wreath featured in last autumn’s newsletter. Read this autumn’s edition here.


Colour is such a pleasure to work with in any material. I love mixing printing inks or chalk paint, plant-dyeing yarn, planning a garden, tying a bouquet, sewing cushions and clothes, glazing pots, drawing pictures. Lately I’ve been making a lot of drawings on my computer, mostly for design clients, and thoroughly enjoying theme and variation in intense colour and texture. The antidote to the cross-eyed effects of too much technology is to get up and work with tangible objects. Colourful quilting fabrics are just the thing. I find finished quilting works quite modern, yet painterly, like early modern art. Here are some of the pieces I’ve designed for learning good old fashioned quilting skills, and making a little piece for your wall or your table while you’re at it.

golden pindot & checked triangles quilt

The triangles quilt, a new golden pindot variation for springtime.

formal flowers & lime stripe nine-patch quilt

And a new nine-patch in sprouting greens.

floral & blue gingham triangles quilt

The original triangles quilt, which I made in the movie tutorial, “Quilting Triangles“;

liberty floral & blue gingham nine-patch quilt

And the original nine-patch, from “Quilting Squares.”


A variation in appley patterns and Liberty fabrics. You might recognise the apple fabric from my little pinnies, it’s a favourite.

chartreuse floral triangles quilt

Chartreuse, such a joyful hue. I love the scale of these tiny prints mixing with larger prints. A small quilt is a great place to get wilder with colour than I might in a frock or in a large quilt. All of these homemade project kits are in the appleturnovershop. I’m looking forward to getting into more colourwork and pattern, making some new clothes using very old patterns, working in leather, revisiting my old friend, the silkscreen, and with some luck, getting back to the pottery wheel!


Making paper is such simple pleasure. A little circle of friends made some together today. We began, like bread bakers, a day or two in advance, ripping a dozen sheets of paper into small pieces and leaving it to soak in a few cups of water. One family cooked theirs up and spun it through the food processor to get a fine pulp; the others just rubbed the soaked paper for a few minutes, til the fibres came apart, to make a rough, porridgey texture.


You’ll need a screen. We had ready-made screens and homemade screens. An embroidery hoop with a pair of fine tights stretched across it works surprisingly well. You’ll also need a tub wide enough to accomodate the screens, and for good measure, a bit of mesh and a sponge to help press the water out.


The children ran round the garden collecting flowers and leaves to add to the paper;

papermaking © elisa rathje 2012

Plucked the petals from their stems and threw it all into the mixture in the tub, with a bit of extra water.

papermaking © elisa rathje 2012

Ready? Here we go. Slip the screen (screen-side-up) under the pulp, and lift it up to catch a layer of paper. If you don’t like the effect, tap it out and try again.

papermaking © elisa rathje 2012

If you choose to, lay the mesh over the pulp on your screen, and press gently with the sponge to release water, frequently squeezing out the sponge. I’m not sure it is necessary, but we admired the look of it after.

papermaking © elisa rathje 2012

Set the papermaking screen somewhere warm to dry for a few hours. It’s far too miserable to leave ours outside, sadly. We’ll pry up our homemade paper with a butter knife, and show you later!

flower press

A flower press arrived in the post, sent to us by a sweet old friend of the family. A flower press! How lovely! Such a delight, particularly as the little girls and I have been dreaming of one.

flower press © elisa rathje 2012

Simply a couple of boards with layers of cardboard and paper, sandwiched and screwed tight with wing nuts. Smart. This is a particularly cute one.

flower press © elisa rathje 2012

For our first try we plucked a few petals from the tulips we’d picked on the farm last week. May flowers from the garden are next. Thank you my friend!

inlaid pottery

Of the decorative techniques I’ve fallen for while I’ve been studying wheel-throwing, inlaying is one I could spend years experimenting with.

inlaying plate © elisa rathje 2012

I carved a detail on a plate, filled it with white slip, simply wet clay coloured with a mineral, and scraped back the dry slip to reveal the ornament. Now I’m trying this on an entire bowl.

inlaying plate © elisa rathje 2012

After throwing a bowl on the wheel, turning the base to reveal the curve and give it a foot-ring, I drew a design and carved it out. I like to keep a project like this covered in my kitchen, and pick it up when I have a moment to work on it. I think I could easily have stopped there, and will on another piece. I like the carving all by itself!

inlaying plate © elisa rathje 2012

Once I was happy with the design I filled it with slip. My teacher made a dark grey slip for me, deepening the colour with powdered manganese. I painted it on in layers, allowing it to dry and building up a thick coating over the carving.

inlaying plate © elisa rathje 2012

And then a bit of delight in scraping away the surface of the slip, not unlike scratching a lottery ticket. This piece of inlaid pottery will be biscuit fired, and then I’m going to attempt a thin white glaze. We’ll see if the pattern shows through, it’s definitely an experiment. I would happily draw on more pieces all day long, but I’ll test this little bowl first.