Our lavender was planted 5 summers ago, and each year I have planned to harvest some for lavender bags.
Every year I have watched it bloom and die back, finally hacking back the dead stems in October. That’s nearly half a decade of missed opportunities.
This year is different, I have seized the moment – possibly a week or two late, but this year I shall have at least one home-made lavender bag.
I must confess that I am not a big fan of perfumes in any form, but particularly in the home. Aerosols and plug in air ‘fresheners’ that fill domestic spaces with chemical aromas make me nauseous. Chemical ‘air fresheners’ can emit nerve deadening agents designed to interfere with the body’s ability to detect smells. Many chemical air fresheners create formaldehyde in the air, classified as a known carcinogen, and some contain phthalates that are known to cause birth defects and male infertility.
I prefer to open a window.
Our senses are easily fooled, and a pretty fragrance can disguise many horrors. Mustard gas, used in chemical warfare, had been described as giving off the faint and delicate aroma of geraniums. Hydrogen cyanide, used in the Nazi gas chambers has the subtlest hint of bitter almonds and peach kernels and the nerve gas known as VX is said to have a sweet and delicate fruity fragrance.
I like to know the origins of the smells in my home and I want my domestic aromas to be straight forward. I love the honest simplicity of lavender, with its old fashioned values and multiple uses.
What could be simpler than a home- made lavender bag, using dried lavender harvested from your own garden? In keeping with the old fashioned charm of lavender bags I hand sewed mine using some pretty vintage fabric.
For one lavender bag you will need:
- A couple of tablespoons of dried lavender. *see below for details on when to harvest.
- A couple of tablespoons of rice. (optional, but it helps your lavender to go further)
- Some pretty vintage fabric. (Ok, any pretty cotton fabric will do – lightweight is best) 2 pieces, about 15cm square would be plenty.
- A piece of card. About A6 size, to cut a template.
- Sewing thread.
- Cotton yarn. For the crochet trim.
- Two sewing needles. One for the sewing thread and one for the crochet yarn.
- A fine crochet hook. About a 2mm (one that suits the weight of your thread)
*Notes on when to harvest your lavender.
You really should be harvesting your lavender when it is in full bloom, Like the picture on the left. However – my lavender is now past this stage and most of the petals have dropped off! See the picture on the right.
The important point here is that the lavender is not at its most fragrant at this stage, but it still smells beautiful and for one lavender bag I’m really not going to fret about it. It will do!
Cut your lavender with nice long stems, tie it into a bunch and hang it upside down in an airy, dry environment, out of direct sunlight. Place a cloth underneath to catch any bits that might drop off.
Leave for about 1-3 weeks to dry out fully then put the bunch inside a pillow case and roll with a rolling pin to separate the dried lavender from the stems.
STEP 1: Making a Template
Draw the shape you want your lavender bag to be onto your card, allowing a 0.5 cm seam allowance. Cut this shape out of the card. I used this teardrop shape, which measures 11.5cm x 7.5cm (at its widest point). This includes seam allowance.
I like to use the hole as a guide to positioning the template onto the fabric, so I can see exactly where the pattern detail will appear on the finished bag.
STEP 2: Cutting and Sewing
Use your card template to cut out two identical shapes. Lay them right sides together, pin and hand sew, using a back stitch, all around the edge and leaving a 1.5cm gap (leave the gap on a straight edge, not around a curve like I did!)
STEP 3: Turning Through and Filling
Turn the work through to the right side and fill with dried lavender. (you could mix your lavender with up to 50% dried rice for a more economical approach). Stitch up the gap carefully turning the edges inside as you work.
STEP 4: A Foundation of Running Stitches
Using your cotton crochet thread work a line of large running stitches (about 0.75 – 1cm) all around the seam of the bag. Aim to make the gaps between the stitches as small as you possibly can. I worked 25 sts in total.
STEP 5: Work a Crochet Trim
You can now work into each of these running stitches with your crochet stitches.
Into each running stitch work 2dc, 1htr, 1tr, 1htr, 2dc. This will create a simple, and pretty, scalloped edge like the one in the left picture.
We will include full crochet instructions for the trim featured on our lavender bag in Issue 23 of The Mercerie Post.
Now find somewhere to keep your lavender bag, and remember to give it a squeeze and a sniff every few weeks to make you feel good, and remind you of summer.