The past week and a half, have been a busy time of working with dandelion petals.
I have been waiting for the arrival of dandelion season, since the end of spring last year. Like lots of you, we foraged for dandelions in 2020, to make dandelion jelly. It was delicious, but better still was the discovery that I made whilst preparing it.
While straining the dandelion liquid through a piece of muslin, I noticed how well the petals stuck together. I decided to make them into a ball and try drying it out. To my delight (and everyone else’s amusement) it worked really well and it has lived on our bookcase ever since. I was convinced that I could use the petals to make paper sheets, but I didn’t have any equipment and dandelion season was coming to an end.
The idea stayed with me all year and as spring got underway, I made sure to get all of the equipment that I would need.
Snow in early April, held up the arrival of these sunniest of flowers, but as April was coming to a close the island was suddenly full of them. I didn’t waste any time and my kids were keen to help – they love a bit of foraging. There is something about heading out together with buckets and baskets, to collect what nature has to offer us, that feels like walking straight into one of those delightful children’s literary classics, like Milly Molly Mandy or the Famous Five.
We gathered a really good crop, because I wanted to make sure that I would have enough petals. We went out over a few days, to different locations only taking a few here and there. We were very conscious of the need to leave plenty of flowers to make seeds for next years crop and also for the thousands of bees that share the island.
I spent a long evening removing all of the petals from the sepals and stalks, which were then covered with water in a large stockpot and simmered for half an hour. Then, I left the petals in the water overnight, ready to use the next day.
I had to add quite a lot more water, to get the depth needed in my paper making tub, but I was glad to see that it was still thick with petals.
To my delight the whole process went really smoothly, with the petals forming nice thick sheets on the mould and deckle and couching easily and cleanly.
I really could have done with some nice warm weather to help the drying process at this point, but 2021, seems determined to keep us in the cold. That meant finding space to dry them indoors and having some patience.
By the following day, I decided that they were dry enough to press, which for me involved stacking them and piling up heavy books on top.
I couldn’t have been happier with the results. The colour and texture captured the spirit of these happy flowers, that bring so much joy after winter and seem to be woven into memories of childhood.
The last sheet to be made, had been incomplete (as there were no longer enough petals in the water), so I moulded it over a small bowl while it was still damp.
This process also worked well and is something that I would like to experiment with more in the future.
I love using up scraps, so I really didn’t want to waste the remaining petals. I remembered the dried ball that started the whole idea, so I thought I would have a go at making some beads. They were incredibly simple to make – the already soaked petals, just need to be squeezed together a little and then rolled in the palm of my hand.
After being left to dry, they were easily threaded together with a needle and some thick cotton.
It’s such an easy, but delightful spring craft for children and I think that making both these and the paper, will become a family tradition in our house.
I am looking forward to seeing where paper-making takes me this year. I am hoping to incorporate it with my basket weaving and some sculptural work, but this year is very much a year of experimentation for me and I shall try to go with the flow.
If you get the chance, do try out some dandelion crafts while they are still around in plentiful supply – it’s a lot of fun!