A window well-dressing

a Buxton stream – we’re waiting for a well picture!

For decades now, the Well Dressings of the Peak District have been one of the features of the summer. In Buxton, various wells would be Dressed, most especially St Anne’s Well at the foot of the Slopes. This summer will be different. “The Buxton Well Dressing Festival organising committee have decided to cancel this year’s festival that was due run between 5th to 12th July 2020. In the light of coronavirus, and the uncertainty this creates, we have decided to cease preparations to avoid unnecessary expenditure.” (from the Buxton Well Dressing site). Now our friends in Two Left Hands are creating an alternative, more domestic, more home-made version with Well Dressing flags for gardens and windows – or as fabric panels added to a collective spectacular banner. We thought we’d offer another variation with a miniature activity

Two Left Hands in action

Here is a tiny Well Dressing for a shelf or a window ledge perhaps

Traditional Well Dressings use flowers and leaves pressed into clay to make their decorations and you could easily do this if you have a flower-full garden. If that is not possible, maybe you’d like to try this…..

Your “well”. In our example here, we have used a small mirror to give an impression of water. You might do the same, or maybe use a nightlight in a jamjar (watch the heat and make sure any flame cannot reach the card!) or even a small bowl of water. In Buxton, maybe you could collect some water from one of the wells to go into your Dressing in a bowl or jar


You will need

  • A sheet of card – we used grey card like cereal packet card, about 30cm x 20 cm
  • A cutting mat and a craft knife
  • Some strong sticky tape
  • Glue – PVA or gluestick
  • A ruler
  • Pencil
  • Pens
  • Scissors
  • Coloured paper, tissue paper or a magazine for decoration

1. Making the shapes

The main dressing has three sections: a centre (in ours, 12 cm wide and 16 cm tall) and 2 sides ( 8 x 16cm). Draw these onto your card. The top might be arched (like ours) or square-topped or pointy or zig-zag. It’s up to you. It is good, however if the sides are slightly wider than half of the centre so that they overlap when the Dressing is closed.

Cut the sections out and lie them down with the bases aligned and a gap of about 1cm between each piece.

2. Hinges

Position the sections: side, centre, side – with gaps of about 1 cm between them. Turn them over and stick a strip of sticky tape along those inner edges to join the sections, keeping that 1cm space. Stick both sides to the centre. On the front, place another piece of tape on top of that first tape to make a strong hinge with no sticky surfaces showing. There will probably be extra tape at the top and bottom of each hinge. Trim it off with scissors or the knife. Make sure the pieces will fold closed and will stand open like 3 sides of a box

3. Decorate!

drawing, sticking, having fun, making a mess

Do the inside and outside panels separately letting the glue dry between sessions

If you want windows cut through your card, maybe do that now – or decorate, wait until everything is dry and then cut them out: either way works, just don’t try cutting when the glue is wet or everything tends to tear

Draw? Paint? Colour? Stick? If you have used grey card like us, it might be better to draw your decorations onto other paper and then stick those onto the plain card as colours often don’t show up very brightly on the grey.

There might be sequins and glitter and shiny stuff.

There might be words.

Finished? Maybe add a little more shiny stuff? There! Done!

Set all that on one side to dry.

Then do the other side…remember that the outside panels could be like the covers of a book. Do you need a title? And do you need to decorate the back of the centre panel?

4.  The Well

mirror well on cardboard

While the main panels are drying you could look at your “well”. In our example we made a small panel decorated with magazine pictures and stuck our mirror on that. We then hinged this onto the centre panel so that the whole dressing can fold up and be easily moved around

What would suit you?

5. Final touches

When it is dry, have a good luck at your Dressing. We added some touches with gold and silver pens. Or you might use gel pens. You might want to trim the edges of your panels. Does it need a light? Maybe a couple of LEDs to reflect off the “well”? Does it need to sit somewhere where light can shine through the any windows cut in the panels?

Maybe you just need to set it up and enjoy it. Maybe put it facing outwards so that passersby can enjoy our garden, wall and window-ledge well-dressings in this year when our actual wells haven’t been dressed?

evening, with extra plants and a tiny LED !

Send us a picture!

Keep in touch:

Facebook: Stone and Water or Two Left Hands

Email: stoneandwater@btinternet.com

a Well Dressing folded for easy storage or for exciting secrecy and a big “reveal”

In our Window Well-Dressing, we used lines from a poem called “As Long As Waters Run” by Gordon MacLellan of Creeping Toad. This was written about the wells of Buxton for Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

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