Archive for ‘crafts’

December 20, 2012

Hanna’s Stars – A guest blog by my wife

by Ciaran Burke

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Hanna has been very busy being crafty this Christmas, she ran a workshop earlier this month on creating Christmas Wreaths, paper lanterns adorn our mantle piece and over the last few days the view from our windows is of stars, both at night and during the day. Stars of red shine bright by day light, in the evening the glow to the outside world by the warm light of the living room.

Everyone who sees them admires them, and they are asking me how to do them. Well that is for Hanna to tell, she is the crafty one in our house…

16-pointed star

Materials:

  • Coloured or white transparent paper, also called kite paper. (Coloured tissue paper doesn’t give same glowing effect.)
  • Set square
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Liquid craft glue (water soluble is always better)
  • Small brush to spread the glue

Coloured transparent paper can be ordered on Internet. It is better to get large sheets. The stars are usually more effective with one colour or 2 colours, which are near to each other. That way the geometrical pattern of the folds shows clearer. Coloured tissue paper does not work as well in more complicated stars. It doesn’t let enough light through. It is also too soft, and therefore more difficult to fold exactly.

To make stars is not complicated, but some love of accuracy and patience is needed. Some people have these naturally. We others can develop it. An excellent way to prepare yourself is to introduce the star making to a classroom full of 14-15-years olds, to convince yourself, that this is going to be something great and fun, until you believe you have the power to show that the effort is worth making not only for useful things, but for beautiful things too. After couple of hours of a struggle one is quite happy to retire and can actually enjoy the quiet and solitude of slow-going activity of tens and tens of repeating folds.

It is good to lock yourself into an inaccessible space, put some Christmas music on, and fold without thinking how many pieces are still unfolded. With this attitude the star making can really become quite an enjoyable, almost meditation-like activity…

Instructions for a simple 16 pointed star:

  1. Draw with pencil, and with the help of the set square, 16 rectangles of for example 4cm x 15cm. (different measurements give different looking stars). The more exact you do this, the happier you are later
  2. Cut carefully along the lines to get 16 pieces. Again: the more exact, the better.
  3. Rub carefully the pencil lines away. This is especially important when the star is made from a light colour.
  4. Start by folding all the pieces lengthwise in half.
  5. Then open the fold. You will have a centre line. Fold the corners in both ends against the centre line. You will have “arrowheads” in both ends of the piece.
    Fold the corner into the centre

    Fold the corner into the centre

    Second fold- corners fold to the centre line

    Second fold- corners fold to the centre line

     

  6. In one end, open the corner folds. You will have a new line running from the centre of the end of the piece to the side of the piece. Fold the corners again against this new fold, and then close the original folds, so that the new one stays inside of them. Then fold the corners once more to the centre line to get narrower arrowhead.
    Open the fold and fold the corners to the line

    Open the fold and fold the corners to the line

    Second fold is inside the first one

    Second folds are inside the first ones

    Fold the corners once more into the centre

    Fold the corners once more into the centre

     

  7. In the other end of the piece fold the corners two more times to the centre line. You will have an even narrower arrowhead in this end.
    Fold the corners the second time into the centre

    Fold the corners the second time into the centre

    Fold a third time into the centre

    Fold a third time into the centre

     

  8. Repeat this for all 16 pieces.

    Individual piece folded

    Individual piece folded

  9. When all the 16 pieces have been folded, glue them together. Use the glue only very thinly. The wider ends are joined in the middle, the narrower ends form the points of the star. It is important that the centre ends come neatly together in the middle. In this model the side of each piece runs exactly in the middle line of the piece under it.
    Centre points are placed exactly together

    Centre points are placed exactly together

    Line the edge of one with the centre of another

    Line the edge of one with the centre of another

    Glueing process

    Glueing in process

     

10. The last piece is tucked under the first one.

Tuck the last piece under the first

Tuck the last piece under the first

11. If some folds are sticking up, brush a drop of glue under them.

Once this basic model is learned, the possibilities of variation are limitless: different folds, different sizes of pieces and different numbers of the points will give new shapes and patterns. Also a smaller and a larger star can be joined together etc. Let your imagination flow, and your stars will shine!

Finished Star

Finished Star

December 2, 2012

Deck the halls with boughs of Holly – Christmas Wreath Workshop

by Ciaran Burke

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Not just holly! Laurel, redwood, ferns, hawthorn, spruce, cotton lavender, ivy, heather, artichokes, alder, willow, spruce and many, many more.

Getting it just right....

Getting it just right….

Take a sprig of laurel, no ordinary laurel, Otto Luyken’s low growing one. Add a spray of a bronze  leaved conifer wearing its winter clothes, darkened from summer green, Microbiota decussata from Vladivostok. A spruce shoot or two from the felled trees from behind the house and a plump bunch of creamy green flower buds from the fragrant spring flowering Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’. Tied with tender care and lovingly crafted into a Christmas wreath. Take a break, sip some hot glögi, a Finnish Christmas punch, have a nibble on a mince pie or Tunisian orange cake and back to work. Creativity filled the air, mingling with the warm chatter and yummy smell of home baked cakes. Just the way a Christmas Wreath workshop should be.

A finished wreath

A finished wreath

This was the first workshop to take place in our newly built classroom. Over the last two weeks my Dad and myself have been busy hammering and sawing. The wooden building had been installed, it was our job to insulate the structure, wire it for electricity and finish off the inside with tounged and grooved wood panelling. We had a deadline to meet. 1st of December and Hanna’s Christmas wreath workshop.  We finished on time, ahead of time, last Thursday we had our first class, the RHS Level 2 course took place there, and on Friday a Christmas tree was added, decorated with lights and Hanna’s advent wreath was placed on the table. We were ready.

Sequoia sempervirens 'Adpressa'

Sequoia sempervirens ‘Adpressa’

The workshop was about making Christmas wreaths, using plant material from the garden and hedgerow, there were also cakes and Christmas punch, glögi a Finnish spiced grape drink. Homemade mince pies started the day with tea and coffee, later there was cranberry and orange tart, Tunisian orange cake and Finnish style Christmas pastries filled with delicious prune jam. Our classroom was filled with happiness, a vibrant buzz and by the end of the day everybody had created a beautiful Christmas wreath to bring home with them. Thank you to all the wreath makers for making this a memorable 1st of December and bringing good cheer to our classroom.

Links to recipes for cakes and glögi

Cakes for the workshop

Cakes for the workshop

 

In the gallery below are photos from our christmas wreath workshop and also some photos of some of the plants that were used in the making of the wreaths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 12, 2012

Come on baby, light your fire…

by Ciaran Burke

Now that the winter is here, hardly a day goes by when we don’t light the fire. It is almost the first thing I do when I get up in the morning. I push the red embers from the previous evening’s fire in the grate and add a layer of new peat briquettes. To get the fire started quickly I usually add a firelighter. I hate them, they are smelly and messy, and not very good for the environment. For the most part, they are made of paraffin wax. Some manufactures add small amounts of kersosene or other light fuel to the wax in order to make the product more flammable, yuck!

There are a couple of brands which are Eco-friendly versions, they smell much better and work well, but they are not easily found in supermarkets in the west of Ireland. So it was with great interest that I viewed the pictures on a Finnish blog that Hanna showed me. Home made firelighters that used old egg cartons and old candles, that when made looked like roses. Made completely from recycled materials, stuff that is otherwise waste. Too good to be true? Or maybe they actually work. Well, we decided to give it  a try…

Possibly the prettiest firelighters ever….

Rose Firelighters “Recipe”

Ingredients:

  • Old egg cartons
  • Cardboard centres from toilet rolls (optional)
  • Old stearin candles
  • Water

Egg cartons transformed into firelighters, next dip them into the melted styrene

Method

  1. In an old sauce pan heat up some water. Meanwhile cut an old egg carton into pieces but retain the individual compartments that hold the eggs. Separate the compartments and fill the shredded cardboard into each piece, placing them vertically. When finished they look like cardboard roses. (Note: not all egg carton compartments have a wall all around. In this case, take a centimeter of toilet roll cardboard and insert the egg carton into it to hold it.
  2. Take a strip from the egg carton about 10cm long and roll it into a spiral to make the centre of the rose. Then rip small pieces of the cardboard and insert them vertically between the spiral and the outer wall. Pack them so that they hold together and resemble a rose flower. We got four from a 6 pack.
  3. When the water is boiling add in pieces of old candle wax, candle wax is usually made from stearin and not actual wax. The stearin will start to melt and form a layer on top of the water.

    Dipping the cardboard “rose’ into the pot of melted styrene

  4. Use a tongs and carefully dip the cardboard rose into the liquid.  You dont want it to get too soggy and fall apart.
  5. Remove from the liquid and allow the excess to drip back into the pan.
  6. Set aside on a piece of paper and repeat the process for each cardboard rose.
  7. Dip each rose into the styrene liquid three or four times each to ensure a enough has soaked into the cardboard. Allow them to dry on some paper.
  8. When the styrene has dried onto the cardboard they are ready to use ( a few hours).

The prettiest firelighters I have ever seen…

So this morning as I wandered to the fireside I was greeted by the sight of four of the prettiest firelighter I have ever seen, looking much more like ornaments than pyrotechnical materials. So I prepared the fire with peat briquettes in the normal manner and inserted one of the firelighter roses into the middle. Lit it with a match and waited to see, flames took hold of the rose and ravenously licked the dark peat briquettes, smoke lazily rose toward the chimney, it was looking good. I went and put the kettle on, checked my various social media and then returned to the fire place. Yes, we had smoke and flame, we had fire. They work!

The fire is going well after being lit with our home made rose firelighters

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