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.


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!


Although I have several projects on the verge, none are quite finished to show you. Boat-building is almost done, and I was delighted to get the proper foot for free-motion quilting on my antique singer. A few ceramic pieces have been bisque fired, but must wait through the spring break to be glazed. Even the earth seems to be just bursting, almost there, tiny green leaves dotting the hedges. So, an almost-finished project.

homemade jug © elisa rathje 2012

I may have shown you my first jug, I’m ever so proud of throwing this one. I love it for wooden spoons but I may swap them for daffodils now that the hundred-odd bulbs I planted in the autumn are beginning to bloom.

country jug

I came across a gorgeous jug and got it for a fiver at a country fair a year ago. I have been dreaming of making one inspired by it, ever since. I love its flamboyant curves and the elegant handle. My tall girl loves to fill it with her lemonade and edible flower concoctions. Just now it is holding more utensils that I must keep out of cupboards, where the mice still reign.

homemade jug © elisa rathje 2012

A raw clay jug, finished today, a study in reference to the country jug. It is a little more reserved and its spout was a struggle, but I think it should serve us well. One can never have too many pitchers, particularly on beautiful spring days like this one. Such a week of illness we’ve had, I’m keeping it simple as I’ve been devoting lots of time to helping the children feel better, and eating good, cleansing food. I hope to have some finished things to show you in April. In April! Have a lovely weekend.

(Update: If you loved these pitchers, have a nose around the shop, or if you’re in Victoria, BC, come by the lakeside studio & shop to see my latest work.)

hand puppets

Birthday parties. I find the task of throwing one a breathlessly hectic event, but I love an opportunity to make something we might not get into everyday. After the great fun we had bookbinding at my tall child’s tea party, we decided to gather a small crowd of friends into the studio to sew hand puppets.

hand puppets © elisa rathje 2011

We pulled out the antique hand-crank sewing machine and figured out how to thread it, between helpful friends and old manuals. They began the puppets with a doubled bit of organic cotton that I’d cut into a simple figure. With a little help the children sewed a seam round the edge.

hand puppets © elisa rathje 2011

Oh, that sewing machine! It is not only gorgeous, but an exquisite machine, such a pleasure to use. The small children never guessed that sewing isn’t always so effortless and in control! Some of the older ones did a bit of wild driving on my younger vintage machine, using the electric pedal. More on the hand-crank another day.

hand puppets © elisa rathje 2011

The children turned their work and stuffed the head and hands of the puppet with a soft filling. A few of them decided to close it into a doll instead. Then the delights of studio fabric scraps, buttons jars, a yarn stash, and a bowl of ribbons. Pure invention! A bit of dressmaking, a bit of patchwork.

hand puppets © elisa rathje 2011

The resounding success of the day was needle-felting, it was such an effective way to attach wool for hair or features, even the smallest had a go at it. Fulling. We love this and simply must do more of it. The burred needles are awfully sharp, but everyone was careful, and well-supervised by our wonderful friend Molly.

hand puppets © elisa rathje 2011

So much fun, we almost forgot the cake and presents!