How to make lavender bags and bath oil with Willow Crossley
Floral stylist and author Willow Crossley shares her top tips for bringing nature into our lives, including how to make lavender bags and bath oil.
When Willow Crossley moved to the south of France to help her boyfriend run a vineyard, she quickly found a new lease of life and realized the incredible benefits that a connection with nature can have on our wellbeing. Here she tells us more, and shares some of her easy tips for connecting with the natural world, including step-by-step guides to making lavender bags and bath oils. The Wild Journal, Willow’s beautifully illustrated guide to harnessing the natural world around us, is full of more practical projects and back-to-basics habits to help you make nature a part of your everyday life.
After a decade in London, I was struggling to cope with city life. So, when my husband Charlie – who was my boyfriend at the time – announced he was leaving the UK to run a vineyard in the south of France, I made the monumental decision to quit London and join him there.
A month after arriving, I realized that I could breathe again. My shoulders dropped, the knot in my chest disappeared and I could actually, properly breathe. I put this new energy down to the fact that I was spending so much time surrounded by nature.
Since we were small, my mother taught us the importance of being healthy and looking after ourselves properly – so I’d always been aware of the need to exercise and eat well – but until this point, I don’t think I had ever consciously realized how strong the link could be between my happiness and the surrounding environment.
The nourishment I took from my natural surroundings made sense, given the fact that connecting with nature is part of our DNA. We are programmed to be part of the natural world. This concept is known as ‘biophilia’, and it was originally conceived by the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in the 1960s. The term is taken from the Greek word meaning ‘love of life and the living world’, referring to our primal urge to connect with the natural world. Here are just a few suggestions for ways to strengthen that connection and bring nature back into our lives.
How to make lavender bags
Lavender is one of the most therapeutic plants to grow. The flowers want to be harvested when they are in full bloom when the essential oils are at their most potent. Hang the bunches upside down to dry for a few days, then the flowers will be ready for you to do as you choose. I love making little lavender bags or just putting them in vases beside the bed to encourage good sleeping.
- Using any scrap or spare material you may have lying about, cut out two identical shapes – squares, hearts and circles being the easiest!
- Place the two shapes right sides together and machine or hand stitch around three sides, leaving a gap for stuffing.
- Turn the bag the right side out and fill it with your lavender. Tip: I use a teaspoon to fill the bag otherwise most of it ends up on the floor!
- When the bag is about three quarters full, turn the raw edges under and whipstitch by hand to close the bag.
- The finished product is a handmade, beautifully scented lavender bag for you or to give as a gift.
How to make your own bath oils:
Making your own bath oils is super-simple. As well as nourishing and softening your skin – and smelling delicious – essential oils are believed to help treat lots of everyday ailments you may be suffering from.
To make a bath oil you need:
- A sterilized, dark glass bottle – one that holds around 300ml.
- 4 tablespoons of a base carrier oil such as castor oil, sunflower oil, almond oil or jojoba oil.
- Add 20 drops of your chosen essential oil. (Lavender is known for its soothing and relaxing qualities. Great for a bath at bedtime, it can calm your nerves, soothe tension and help you fall asleep.)
- Make sure the oils are always 100% pure and of therapeutic grade.
- Leave the bottle in a dark cupboard for around 2 weeks before using.
- Shake the bottle before use.
Tip: You can add baby shampoo into the mix, around 4 tablespoons, which will help the oil disperse more evenly in the water.
Note: Some essential oils are best avoided during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, make sure you check before using a bath oil.
On a walk be mindful of how the season is changing gradually. Look how the wild grasses are growing taller and more golden. Count how many varieties you can pick. They do last surprisingly well in water on your kitchen table where you can really appreciate them. Keep an eye out for the high summer wildflowers – clover, vetch, egg and bacon, rose bay willow herb and the wild honeysuckles, dog roses and geraniums . . . Hunt out the good spots where the blackberries will be ripening in August when walks turn into hunter gathering expeditions.
Collecting seeds is a seriously satisfying business. There's something therapeutic about encouraging the rhythms of nature. Poppies are an easy one to start with; when the heads have turned brown and the seeds inside start to rattle, it's time to start deadheading and harvesting your seeds. Gently break open the pod and store the seeds in envelopes or jam jars to give to friends or scatter where you need more colour. Remember to label them as it's very easy to forget which is which!