The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A springtime Victorian craft: lavender "bottles".

The Victorians are known to have been lovers of nature and flowers, as well as decorative handicrafts.  Seasonal crafts for spring often included natural elements like fresh flowers, leaves, ferns, as well as twigs and other found objects from the woods and gardens.  Pressed flowers, growing ferns and greenery in terrariums, and making potpourri are some of the crafts mentioned over and over in 19th century magazines, but a slightly less common one involves weaving lavender stems and flowers into "bottles" or "wands".  This is a slightly time-consuming project, but it's a good one for a rainy afternoon or when you're sick in bed for the day.

You need freshly cut lavender for this craft, because you're going to be bending and manipulating the stems, and they need to still be pliable.  Good sources for fresh lavender include your garden or your friends' or neighbors' gardens, as well as commercial landscaping (lavender is a popular landscaping plant in California because it is relatively low-maintenance).
Cut a handful of stems for each lavender "bottle" or "wand", with the buds/flowers on them, and cut the stem as low as possible on the plant so that the stem is as long as possible. Wrap the lavender in damp paper towels to keep it fresh until you can get it home, and use them as soon as possible.
When you are ready to use the lavender, clean the stems by removing all the leaves, and counting out an even number of stems (this helps with the weaving pattern), around 20 stems. 

Trim all the stems to the same length and use a rubber band to fasten the stems together in a bundle, just underneath the lavender flowers.

Next, bend the lavender stems outward from the bundle, at the point where the rubber band fastens them together, until you have them all bent outwards and upwards so that they enclose the bundle of lavender flowers.  Fasten the ends of the stems together, above the lavender flowers, with a rubber band to form the "bottle" or "wand" shape.  

Then, take an embroidery needle and thread it with three yards of baby ribbon.  Tie one end of the ribbon to one of the lavender stems near the first rubber band.  With the baby ribbon on the needle, weave an under-one-over-one pattern, placing the ribbon under and over each lavender stem, going around the bundle.  Continue to weave the same pattern, around and around, keeping the ribbon rows as close together as you can, and weaving carefully so that the ribbon doesn't twist.

Once you have woven halfway up the height of the "bottle" or "wand", remove the rubber band from the ends of the stems (over the flowers) to release them and make it easier to weave the rest of the "bottle". 

Continue to weave, drawing the ribbon closely around the stems and flowers, until you have covered all but the last inch of lavender stems with ribbon. 

Wind the remaining few inches of ribbon a few times around the end of the stems where the rubber band was, and tie in a knot; secure the ribbon with a dot of glue if you like.  Trim the extra ribbon length or use to make a bow, and you're done!  Place your "lavender bottle" near your bed or anywhere you'd like a gentle fragrance of lavender, and squeeze it periodically to release more scent. 

Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.

"Lavender Wands: a Victorian Era Craft"
"Nature Craft: Lavender Bottles" YouTube video
"How to make a Lavender Wand" YouTube video
"Victorian Craft: Lavender Basket" from Victoriana magazine


Laura said...

What a wonderful craft! I have lavender in Our Scented Cottage garden and will certainly give this a try. By looking around your blog, it appears we have much in common!

A wonderful afternoon to you,

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Hi Laura,

I took a look at your blog, too, and I agree! We like a lot of the same things. I hope your lavender bottle turns out really nice. Using baby ribbon made the weaving take a long time, so you may want to try narrow satin ribbon, say 1/4 inch wide, to make it go faster.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Jeevan said...

"lavender bottle" - yah is really amazing.


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