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Natural Crafts for the Home

You can use and enjoy essential oils from herbs in craft projects for your home, such as potpourri, sachets, dream pillows, and perfumes. Essential oils are the oils in the plant that are extracted through a process known as distillation. You need special equipment to carry out this process-equipment that the perfume industry uses and huge quantities of herbs. So, needless to say, I won't be telling you how to make essential oils, but you can still enjoy the therapeutic effects of essential oils by purchasing them in an herbal store.


The best herbs for potpourri are lavender, scented geranium leaves, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and mints. Dry them, and then make your own mix. Sprinkle with essential oils to extend the life of the potpourri. I make small sachets out of scraps of fabric I have left over from bigger projects, and I give them as gifts at holiday time and stuff them in my drawers and linen closet to freshen clothes and bedding. Lavender and lavender essential oil are perfect for a sweet sachet. On bad weather days when I'm not hanging the wash, I even throw a lavender sachet into the dryer with my clothes for a fresh scent. A mix of lavender, lemongrass, and rosemary works like mothballs to repel moths from my stored winter clothing over the summer. It beats the smell of those toxic mothballs. With larger scraps of cloth, I make dream pillows filled with a blend of chamomile, hops, mugwort, lavender, and rosemary. I even embroidered my grandchildren's names on their own pillows, and they loved them so much they begged me to make duplicates for home.


You've probably heard about this aspect of herbal therapy, but what it is may be a mystery. The theory goes that essential oils are carried through the circulatory system to all the organs and eventually through the elimination system. Healing takes place through massaging with essential oils, bathing with them, and inhaling them. The entire process takes between 30 minutes and 12 hours. To test the theory of essential oils, try your own experiment by rubbing the sole of your foot with garlic and then smelling your breath several hours later. It really does travel through your system, stopping on the way to give each organ what it needs.

Herb Wreaths

An herb wreath is another way to bring in the essence of the summer garden. As you harvest your herbs throughout the season, dry and put aside some for wreath-making material. I grow some things especially for making wreaths. Plants that dry well for this purpose do not lose their color or scent. These wreaths are stunning on a white wall, and you'll feel the presence of the herbs as you smell their fragrance.

Once you have your plant material, choose your base. It can be of straw, moss, wire, or grapevine. I like grapevine the best. If you have a grapevine, you can make a wreath any size you want. The other bases are pre-made and come in set sizes, available in hobby and craft stores. You also need floral spool wire. When choosing spool wire, keep in mind that higher numbers indicate thinner widths. Use 22-24 gauge wire for wrapping materials to frames like the grapevine. You'll find a glue gun and wire snippers come in handy, too.

To start the wreath, wrap the wire around once and twist the cut end around the wire securely. Make up little bundles of herbs, and wrap the wire around to hold the stems to the base. Repeat, facing all the bundles in the same direction, overlapping the herbs. Keep the wreath lush and full. After you wrap your last bundle, fasten the wire to some wrapped wire to form a loop so that you can hang it.

Here is a list of herbs that are especially suitable for wreaths:

  • all Artemisia, especially sweet Annie. Harvest it after it flowers. It makes a beautiful base for any combinations of herbs.
  • lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) is another good base plant.
  • annual clary sage (Salvia horminum) is one of the best for deep blue and pink
  • the flowering tops on thyme, oregano, mint, and dill
  • the seed pods of love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)
  • hops strobili (flowers of the hops plant)
  • yarrow (Achillea) flowers, especially the ornamental variety called Goldsticks
  • tansy (Tanacetum) flowers, sage, globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) in various colors
  • any statice , bee balm (Monarda), anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), lemon mint
  • coneflower (Echinacea) seed heads, to name a few.

Home Fragrances

There are many ways to use essential oils to fragrance your home.

  • You can scent candles by using ½ oz. of oil for each pound of wax. Try bayberry, clove, mint, or lemon.
  • Add essential oils to soaps. They not only increase the pleasure of the shower or bath, but they have therapeutic value.
  • You may have seen diffusers in herbal stores. There are several different types on the market now. These will disperse scents throughout your house.
  • Make a simple incense by powdering dried herbs and setting them aside in a sealed jar. When you are ready to burn them, just sprinkle them over the fire, or charcoal.
  • Especially for those who heat with a wood stove-If you are like most who heat with a wood stove, you probably have a pot of water simmering on the stove to add some humidity to the very dry wood stove air. Mix herbs you like and add a handful to that simmering pot. Even if you don't heat with wood, you can put some herbs in a foil and put them in the oven when you are roasting or baking.
  • You can make good quality perfumes and toilet water from essential oils, alcohol, (rubbing alcohol is OK to use if you strain it through horticultural charcoal, which removes the scent, or you can use denatured ethyl alcohol or vodka) and a fixative, either storax oil (Liquidambar styraciflua) or sandalwood oil (found in herbal stores).

Here are a few recipes for perfumes:

Lavender Cologne
2 cups alcohol
½ cup distilled water
2 TBS lavender oil
1 TBS storax oil

Put all these in a jar. Let them sit for at least 4 weeks. Shaking them occasionally will improve the fragrance.

Lemon Perfume
1 cup alcohol
2 TBS lemon oil
1 TBS citronella oil
1 TBS lemon verbena oil
1 TBS storax oil

Put all these in a jar. Let them sit for at least 4 weeks. Shaking them occasionally will improve the fragrance.

Herb Scent Perfume
1 cup alcohol
1 tsp basil oil
1 tsp sage oil
1 TBS sandalwood oil

Put all these in a jar. Let them sit for at least 4 weeks. Shaking them occasionally will improve the fragrance.


I read somewhere that potpourri is to an herb lover what cooking is to the gourmet, and I agree. It is easy to make and is a treasure that lasts a long time. Potpourri is one way to capture the essence of your summer garden and bring it inside. It is a blend of flowers, herbs, and spices that appeal to the eye as well as the nose. I remember before making my own, buying a pretty jar in a store. It was lovely to look at, but when I opened it, the aroma was heavy and artificial. I soon discovered upon making my own, the vast difference in the quality of a good potpourri made with essential oils rather than synthetic perfumes.

The word pot-pourri comes from the French meaning "rotten pot". This refers to the moist method of making the blend. (See below for how to make a moist blend.) This method requires more time and is not visually attractive, but the scent lasts longer.

A basic dry potpourri is made up of dry flowers for scent and color, aromatic leaves, spices and peel, and a fixative to preserve the scent. When you are making the potpourri, go light on the spices and use whole and crushed leaves. Don't cut plant material with a knife or scissors.

Common fixatives are: balsam tolu (gum or oil) and balsam Peru (gum or oil). These come from evergreen trees in South America. The gum must be made into a tincture before you can use it. They go well with vanilla, heliotrope, honeysuckle, and hyacinth. Benzoin (gum resin) sometimes referred to as Styrax, comes from a tropical spice bush of the genus Styrax. It is a powerful, balsamic aromatic that goes well with sweet floral scents like lilac. Orris (root) comes from the root of Iris florentina. It has a violet scent and goes well with lavender, cloves, and vanilla, or woodsy blends. Sandalwood (chips, oil) comes from trees that grow in Asia. Use it to hold the scent rather than to bring out a scent. It goes well with rose, lavender, sweet or woodsy scents. Tonka (beans, oil) comes from trees that grow in South America. They smell of vanilla and will intensify the blend. It is also a good moth repellent. Vetiver (root) comes from a tropical grass in India. It has an earthy scent that goes well with rose, violet, and clary sage. It is also a good moth repellent.

To make a good potpourri, choose a theme-woodsy, citrousy, floral, spicy, or fruity. Assemble and blend your flowers and leaves. Mix the fixative with the spices. If you are using coarse ground orris root, you need to add the essential oils to the root and let it sit for a few days. Sprinkle the essential oil one drop at a time, stirring after each drop is added. Blend well, seal, and store in a warm, dry, dark place for 6 weeks to "cure". Choose pretty containers, jars and bowls, to display. A clear jar will show off layers of color. I always keep my eye out at yard sales for pretty containers for my potpourri.

Other ingredients and their purpose: Rose petals add fragrance, color, and bulk to a mix. Salt absorbs excess moisture and acts as a preservative. Brown sugar sweetens the mix and acts as a preservative. Alcohol acts as a solvent. Cognac stimulates the perfume, giving it "zest".

Basic Rose Potpourri
Blend 1 tsp of rose essential oil to 3 TBS coarse ground orris root and let sit, covered for a few days. For a spicy scent, add 2 TBS each of ground cloves and cinnamon. For a sweet floral scent, add 2 cups lavender and ¼ cup ground tonka bean. For a musky scent, add 1 cup patchouli leaves and ½ cup sandalwood and vetiver root. For a fruity scent, add 1 cup each of dried citrus peel, rose and lemon scented geranium leaves, and lemon balm or lemon verbena. You will soon find yourself adding a little of this and that as you become familiar with the process and begin creating your own blends.

Balsam Fir Potpourri
1 cup balsam needles
¾ cup sweet woodruff leaves
1 cup dried violet blossoms
1 cup lavender 2 TBS salt
¼ cup bee balm blossoms
1 oz balsam Peru tincture

Seal and let set to "cure", occasionally shaking the mix.

Christmas Potpourri
1 cup each: cut and sifted: whole allspice, star anise, ginger root, and sassafras bark
2 cups each: orange peel, lemon verbena leaves, and rose buds and petals.
30 drops allspice oil, stirred into the mix 5 drops at a time.
10 6" cinnamon sticks.

Seal and let set to "cure", shaking occasionally.

Citrus Blend
4 cups lemon verbena leaves
2 cups lemon balm leaves
2 cups orange mint
2 cups lemon, lime or orange scented geranium leaves
1 cup apple mint
4 cups ground citrus peel
Add other flowers for color if you like
4 cups marigold or calendula petals (or other yellow and orange flowers)
2 cups orris root, mixed with 1 TBS orange oil and 1 TBS lemon oil

Seal and let set to "cure", shaking occasionally.

Lily of the Valley Potpourri
1 cup dried lily of the valley petals
2 cups dried violet and viola flowers
¾ cup dried rose blossoms
4 tonka beans broken into pieces or 1 tsp vanilla extract
3 TBS orris root powder

Seal and let set to "cure", occasionally shaking the mix.

Moist Potpourri

Rose petals are the primary ingredient, but any flower petals will work. Add any oils or spices to the petals you wish, and layer them with uniodized salt. Compress the potpourri under a weighted dish. Set the potpourri aside for several weeks, but do stir the mixture every day. Once fermentation of the mix begins, let it sit for 2 more weeks without stirring until a cake is formed. Break the cake into small bits, and combine with spices, oils, and fixatives. Let it blend a few more weeks, and then put it in a decorative container. It isn't attractive, so you may want to put it where it can be smelled, but not seen.

Sachets and Dream Pillows

Sachets differ from potpourri only in their presentation: herbs are crushed and stuffed into fabric bags or pillows. You can use the same mix in a sachet as in a potpourri, but you will need to crumble the leaves and flowers, and grind up the roots and bark. It does not take much fabric to make small sachet bags, so you might want to choose luxurious, decorative fabric for your sachets. In southern France, there is an entire culture around lavender, and a special fabric pattern that is used for lavender sachets.

Use sachets to freshen a clothes drawer and clothes closet. Hang them in you vehicle. Flat pot holders stuffed with allspice, cinnamon and cloves (whole) will release their apple pie smell when a hot dish is set upon them. Sprinkle some in an envelope to scent a personal letter. Pin a small sachet to your underwear to enjoy all day long. I like to combine all types of basil that I can spare from my cooking with thyme, sage, apple- and nutmeg-scented geranium leaves, and lemon verbena for my kitchen in winter. It does smell delicious.

You can make a sachet base to use in making lots of different scents. Vary the herbs and essential oils, and use the base as a fixative. Use 3 TBS base to 2 cups of herb.

Sachet or Potpourri Fixative Base
4 oz orris root powder
4 oz sandalwood powder
1 oz cedar powder
1 oz lavender flowers
2 oz rose petals
2 oz patchouli leaves
1 oz vetiver powder
1 oz benzoin powder
½ oz tonka bean
1 tsp clove powder

Dream Pillows

These are large sachets made of herbs that help you sleep. Sleep-inducing herbs are hops, chamomile, valerian, skullcap, and lavender. Hops has a very pungent scent, so if you make a pillow using hops, add other fragrant herbs to mask the smell. Keep the pillow flat for comfort. I find an 8" x 8" pillow is plenty big. Fun-shaped pillows like animals and hearts are great for kids, and long, narrow pillows can be held over the eyes to induce sleep.

Tussie Mussie

this is a very Victorian tradition that carries with it the lore of herbs and the Language of Flowers. These were known as talking bouquets, and lovers exchanged these nosegays of herbs and flowers to express their feelings to each other. Dozens of dictionaries were published to help decipher the coded messages. When individual plants were held together in one nosegay, all the meanings came together to form one complex thought. They became the discreet messengers for a daring but proper suitor, the inarticulate but sympathetic friend, or for the polite guest. How clever …and romantic those Victorians were!

There are lovely holders made of heavy white paper that look like cones with the tapered end cut off, and that are edged with inches of doily-like lace you can use to put them together. I have seen antique sterling silver cones in stores as well as reproduction silver cones in florist shops. If you have the inclination, you, too, can put one together whenever there is something special for someone special. Make sure to include a note about what the plants mean in your gift, as this is a lost art.

Leaves are the base. Arrange the flowers in the center. The flower symbolizing the most important sentiment goes in the middle. Groups of three flowers always seem to work well. Secure with a rubber band. If you don't have a special cone-shaped holder, cut an X in the center of a doily and slip the stems through it.

Here's an abbreviated glossary of definitions:

  • basil = best wishes
  • dill = irresistibility
  • lemon verbena = responsibility
  • rosemary = remembrance
  • pineapple sage = hospitality
  • scented geraniums = comfort
  • mint = warmth
  • sweet marjoram = joy & happiness
  • garden sage = domestic virtue
  • St. John’s wort = protection
  • lavender = devotion
  • purple sage = gratitude
  • parsley = festivity
  • thyme = courage
  • strawberry = goodness
  • lemon balm = sympathy & understanding

You can plan a theme garden centered around a message or plant a garden specifically for cutting flowers for tussie-mussie messages.

Try these combinations for gardens or to send messages:

Happy Birthday to a Close Friend
Peach leaves for longevity
Plum leaves for longevity
Rose, pink (in the center) for congratulations, friendship
Lavender flowers (around the rose) for luck, success, happiness
Basil (Spicy globe looks nice) for best wishes
Chrysanthemum for joy, long life
Statice for never-ceasing remembrance

Thank You
Bellflower for gratitude
Pink hydrangea for remembrance
Daisy fleabane for thank you
Parsley for gratitude, festivity
Purple sage for gratitude
Rosemary sprigs for remembrance

Valentine's Day
Red tulip for declarations of love
Honeysuckle for bonds of love
Red carnation for passion
Larkspur for ardent attachment
Silver King artemisia for silver moonlight and unceasing remembrance.