Not all of my crafting endeavours go to plan. I tend not to mention the pear-shaped ones in this blog, I’d rather focus on the things that turn out reasonably presentable and/or useful. But we can all learn from our mistakes, and sometimes we can learn from others’ mistakes too. So I’m sharing not one, but two recent disasters.
Firstly, I was seduced by an episode of Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas into drying citrus peel. The Brits amongst you may have seen the programme which showed attractive Christmas tree decorations made from orange peel. How wonderful, I thought, to hang something on the tree that smells delightful and looks charmingly rustic but is made from skins that would normally be thrown on the compost heap. I’d already seen some wreaths that incorporated dried oranges in a very posh shop and decided I’d have a go at drying whole fruits like this for next year.
Having a dry run with mandarin peel, based on the TV programme’s instructions, seemed like a good idea. I carefully cut out 20 stars using two different canapé cutters, pierced a hole in each with a cocktail stick and then hung them up to dry. Although they are tiny, I thought they would make nice additions to an evergreen wreath, perhaps hanging from short lengths of twine or fishing line.
As you can see, the stars have shrivelled up and are totally useless for any sort of decorative purpose.
I briefly considered trying to iron them flat before concluding that ironing citrus peel is several steps along the route to madness, along with ironing your own hair à la Bridget Jones. If I do this again I will use larger shapes cut from orange peel and try pressing them in the “old school” way – between sheets of blotting paper under a heavy book – to keep them flat. I have no idea if that will work, but clearly hanging little shapes up to dry doesn’t.
My other grand failure of the New Year is an attempt at making a papier maché ball. I was trying to cross off one of last week’s New Year crafting resolutions: make some simple papier maché shapes. The aim was to create a body for a little bird that could then become a Christmas tree decoration for next year. (I’m clearly still in a festive mood, despite the fact that we are in the middle of dark, dark January.)
I pinched a small plastic ball from the cat to use as a mould. Petroleum jelly is generally recommended as a mould release agent, but I didn’t have any so I coated the outside of the ball with cooking oil instead. This was a mistake.
After plastering the ball with several layers of small pieces of paper soaked in heavily diluted PVA and letting the layers harden, I cut around the equator and tried to remove the paper shell in two halves.
Unfortunately, it is stuck firmly and I cannot budge it at all. I’m going to have to soak the whole thing in water and scrape off the papier maché to give the cat his ball back. Another fine mess …
My only modest success in the last week has been completion of the second granny square tray cloth. It’s the upper one in this photo, with the yellow edge that’s still wiggly from being blocked.