Autumn is known as the season of 'mists and mellow fruitfulness', when there is an abundance of warm colours and varied textures. But is can also be a bittersweet time of year - although the turning leaves may put on a glorious display, there is also a sense of sadness that the long summer days are drawing to an end. Yet longer evenings do give you the opportunity to indulge your creativity and pleasure in the abundance of life enjoyed over the summer. Autumn's the time for projects for home decoration and gifts for friends and family - and the season's own particular energy can be reflected in the themes of harvesting and preparation.
A Tasselled Affair
One project that can be adapted to suit differing styles and situations is making decorative fragrant tassels. Elaborate, beautiful and sometimes extremely expensive, tassels can be bought at haberdashers or in furnishing departments, to be hung from keys, doors and cupboard or drawer knobs. Adding fragrance to these tassels will give just a subtle nuance of aroma as you brush past them, rather like walking past a fragrant plant in the garden.
Not all shop-bought tassels will be suitable generally speaking, those made from natural materials seem to cope with essential oils better than synthetic fabrics. Before taking any risks, experiment with some inexpensive tassels you can make yourself. You can use cotton cord, raffia or even strips of natural fabric. If you make your own soft furnishings, tear the off-cuts into strips approximately 1cm x 25cm. You will need at least 10 strips like this for each tassel.
Lay the strips side by side and then tie them in the middle with a narrow ribbon, from which the tassel will hang. Fold the strips in half so that the tied ribbon is at the centre and sew another piece of ribbon around the bundle about 2cm down from the fold. When you have made several tassels like this, prepare an aromatic 'bath' for them by mixing up a strong dilution of essential oils in water.
Depending on the oils used, you may like to add up to 20 drops of essential oil to 100ml of water. Mix the oils into the water as much as possible and then swish the tassels through the mixture, making sure they are thoroughly soaked. Leave to dry naturally before hanging them from your furniture. The tassels can be refreshed with a mister as often as necessary, or you can even put drops of essential oils directly onto the fabric strips.
Another project to try is particularly useful if you like to make up bath or body oils as Christmas gifts for friends. You will know that essential oils should be protected from light for maximum shelf life, so they are invariably presented in amber or dark blue glass bottles. It isn't always easy to find large attractive bottles in these colours so it helps if you can create your own.
You will need
- A selection of clear glass bottles in attractive shapes and different sizes. Ideally they should have well-fitting lids, if not, you may be able to buy corks from a shop selling wine-making equipment.
- White spirit and a soft clean cloth
- A fine paint brush or soft clean sponge
- Glass paint - choose the colour to harmonise with the action of the blend, e.g. red for energising, blue for relaxation and green for balancing.
- Outline relief paste
Start by making sure that the bottle is free of grease and finger marks by cleaning it with white spirit and a clean cloth. Then paint the bottle as evenly as possible, following the paint manufacturer's instructions. You can use a brush for this, or try sponging on the paint to give an attractive stippled effect. Decorate the bottle with the outline relief paste.
Work directly from the tube to create a design or write the name of the person to whom you are giving the gift, or perhaps a name for the blend of oils.
Jam Jar Cover-up
If you are lucky enough to have a garden and enjoy growing fruit and vegetables, you will know that the autumn can be a busy time for harvesting and making use of your produce. Traditionally this was a time to make jams, pickles and chutneys. If you enjoy doing this, you could make a few extra jars to give away as Christmas presents.
To make your gift of the fruit of your labours extra special, decorate the pots by covering the lids with circles of pretty material tied with raffia or ribbons. Before tying it in place, spray the fabric with a water-diluted mist of an appropriate essential oil. Choose from lemon, clove, lemongrass, bay, cinnamon leaf, or basil as appropriate.