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Three children (17, 15, 13)*** Two parents *** one dog *** Country loving *** Cottage dwelling in the South-West of the UK. That’s us!

We’ve been blogging since January 2010, about everyday happenings that bring us joy.

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“A moment spent in wonder is worth a lifetime spent in awe.”

 

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craft activities inspired by nature

A dozen nature craft ideas

I’m feeling nostalgic. Harking back to when my teens were tiny. Enthusiastic to join in every craft project, I had on the go. Happy voices and determined faces as they worked. Surrounded by mess and chaos, but they were happy people. Not that they’re not now. They just have their own projects to take up their time.

I’m blaming putting up the autumn garland over the fireplace this weekend. On my own, this time. Sigh. My little helpers have grown and now only offer useful help such as “it looks nice“, when prompted.

Never mind, I enjoyed seeing the handmade decorations we’ve made over the years. I’d forgotten how soft the knitted pumpkins feel. We used alpaca yarn. I couldn’t help putting one against my cheeks. Or the little hedgehogs we made one year. They still look as fresh as the day we made them. Thankfully not as sticky though!

It really was satisfying to see the autumn decorations out. A bit sad to put away the crocheted, summer daisies and knitted hearts, but time moves on. The wheel turns. It got me thinking about crafting these pieces with my children over the years. They feel like time capsules from the past, that explode in my hands as I dig them out of the box.

It got me thinking of all the other autumn nature crafts we’ve tried and tested over the years. A range of projects that has seen them from toddlerhood to teens. No expensive craft materials. Some are even free. I’ve pulled out a handful to share.

I’m putting the crafts in age appropriate order. Starting with the toddlers and moving through to the teens.

 

Painted acorns and maze

You need: acorns, paint, cardboard, scissors and sticky tape/glue
More information: here

 

Painting with acorns

You need: acorns, paint, paper and a tray
More information: here

 

Painting pumpkins

You need: papier mache pumpkins and paint
More information: here

 

Seed and twig dragonflies

It catches me out each year. We see more dragonflies in our garden and along our lane in September than any other month. Coincides perfectly with the helicopter seeds falling

You need: short twigs, sycamore seeds or similar, paint and glue
More information: here

Printing tissue paper

This could be printed on paper or fabric and used to wrap presents. A great way to reuse the wrapping, especially if you tie it with a ribbon rather than sticky tape.

You need: tissue paper/fabric, potato or sponge and paint
More information: here

 

Hedgehogs in pumpkins

There are plenty of beech nuts and their casings around at the moment. They almost seem made to be hedgehogs. We used egg boxes to make pumpkins for their den. The pumpkin flips up to reveal the hedgehog.

You need: beech nut casing, egg box, paint, tissue paper, sticky tape
More information: here

Toadstool cookies

If you are anything like me, you’ll probably have a whole clutch of cookie cutters. Most can be flipped upside down to make another shape, such as gingerbread man and a reindeer head or a tulip and a ghost. I’ve used my toadstool cutter for rockets and fish too.

You need: a cookie cutter, biscuit mix and icing
More information: here

 

Waxing leaves

This one can get hot, so best for slightly older children. Using a peg and keeping a close eye is definitely on the required list for this craft, but it is fun and the results are brilliant, so I’m including it.

You need: fresh autumn leaves, wax, a tray, peg and tray
More information: here

Felted acorns

A recent project.

You need: acorn cups, felting wool and a felting needle
More information: here

Felt toadstools

You need: red and white felt, needle and thread, stuffing
More information: here

Knitted pumpkin

These are really easy for beginners. The pumpkin is made of a flat rectangle of knitting. The short sides are gathered with a simple running stitch. Once the long sides are sewn together and the pumpkin stuffed, then thread is used to divide it into the characteristic sections.

You need: orange and green yarn, knitting needles, stuffing
More information: here

Knitted ghost

Okay. Not officially inspired by nature, but they jumped into this list. What can I say? They are fun. A great way to introduce decreasing in knitting to beginners.

You need: white wool, knitting needle and black yarn or embroidery thread
More information: here

I hope you found something to inspire you. A chance to build a few time capsules of your own, for future years. Nature has so much to offer at this time of year. Most of these projects still come out each year. I’m even crafting with my failed popcorn from last year. This project is just for me.

Felted acorns – how to make them

Hands up who wants to make a felted acorn or 10?

Aren’t they adorable? The perfect nature craft, using natural materials. Most of it can be picked up for free. I used sheep’s fleece for the base and needle-felted dyed merino wool over the top, for a splash of colour. Added a dab of glue to hold it in place, inside the acorn cup, and I soon had a handful of felted acorns.

These are going to be added to an autumnal wreath, but they could be used anywhere as decorations. Maybe a string of them above a fireplace, or individually hanging from a twig as a table centre decoration. I like to put a few on our nature table, among the real acorns. These are purely decorative and must not be used as toys.

Want to make some?

What do you need

wool scraps (merino, sheep’s wool)
acorn cups
felting needle
glue
soap (Any soap will do. I use olive soap or wool soap, but that’s me.)
hand hot water (needs to be hot to start the felting process)

To start with, you may be surprised to realise that not all acorns and their cups are the same. Different oak trees produce different size and shape cups. On our dog walk, each morning, we pass several oak trees and the lane is sprinkled with acorns, at the moment. I can pick up small acorns from one tree, big ones from others and, further on, I’ll find a tree with acorn cups which are more like pancakes, or flat plates. There are so many different variations.

The oak trees I pass, are growing in hedgerows and would originally have been planted as hedge oaks. While the rest of the hedge was controlled by cutting or hedge laying, these trees would be left to grow to their full potential. They were harvested eventually as building materials.

Fun fact: oak trees have to be about 20-30 years old before they produce acorns, but they don’t reach peak production until about 50 years of age.

Oak trees are fairly easy to find in the UK, otherwise various craft shops do sell the cups, including online ones. I’ve seen them on Etsy too.

I like to use a tougher fleece as the base. You can use the coloured merino for the whole project, but it does cut down the cost if you use the plain fleece underneath. I find lots of wool snagged on barbed wire in sheep fields, when we’re out walking. You need to ask permission of the farmer before you take it, but in my experience of rescuing sheep (a fairly regular¬†occurrence), it can be near on impossible to find the owner when you need them.

Once home, give the snags of fleece a very gentle hand wash, remove any debris and leave to dry.

I use merino dyed rovings for the top layer. I have a collection of odd scraps from previous spinning and felting projects. It’s much easier to find these in craft shops now, as more shops stock felting materials. Alternatively, I buy online from Wingham Wool Work.

How to make the acorns

To start with, the base acorns are made. There are two ways to make it. Either using wet felting or needle felting.

Wet felting

Take a clump of the sheep’s wool and dip it in soapy, hand hot water. To start with, roll the wet wool gently, in a circular motion, between your palms to make a slightly, elongated ball. Like when you make a ball out of clay or plasticine. As it takes shape, increase the pressure as you roll it between your hands. Keep going until it feels firm and is acorn shape. Your hands will get quite soapy.

It may be necessary to work the wool between your finger tips of both hands, to start it off.

If the acorn is not big enough, wrap more wool around it and repeat the hot, soapy water and rolling. Remember, this is the base layer. The top layer will make it bigger again, so do check that the base acorn will rattle in the acorn cup and is not snug.

Wash the soap out with cold water and let the acorn dry.

Or needle felting

Use a single needle felting needle to stab a clump of sheep’s wool into an acorn shape. Bunch it up into a ball to start it off. Mind your fingers as you use the needle. Move the acorn around, as you work, to cover all the surface, fixing it in place. Here again, keep going until the acorn is firm. Add more wool if you need it.

I roll it briskly in my hand at the end. It helps to give it more shape and firmness, as well as smoothing out any puncture marks.

Add the colour

Take the merino and spread it out flat. Wrap the base acorn up in the merino.

Use the needle to work the acorn into shape. Or you can use the wet felting method again.

Both methods

Fix the acorn into one of the acorn cups, using a spot of glue to keep it in place.

Repeat until you have all the felted acorns you can handle.

These make great gifts. Add a clutch of three as decoration to a pot of homemade jam, as an autumn gift. It can be fun to blend different colours together. I’ve blended yellow and orange, also blue and green, in my latest batch.

I’m adding my acorns to a willow wreath I made a few years ago from our willow tree. It’s lasted well. My next step is to make oak leaves. The question is whether to knit, felt or some other method.

I hope you give the felted acorns a go. Please remember that these are not toys and shouldn’t be given to children to play with. I have used the wet felting method to make the acorns with older children and they’ve all loved making them. Added bonus is that their hands are perfectly clean and ready to make bread afterwards.

From little sheep, great acorns grow. ūüėÄ

If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Leafy cardigan, Sirdar 9428

Hello again. Seems like a while since I’ve written a post. No apologies. Half way through the summer holidays and I’m facing the fact that it’s¬†proving a monumental task to do everything. Who knew? All work and play, leaves no time for blogging. I’ve also fallen into the trap that it’s quicker to post a photo up on¬†Instagram, but then I go on and gabble away, which rather undoes the quick part.

Talking of which, if you¬†do follow me over on Instagram, you’ll have seen that our summer has been filled with sun and crafting. I have so many projects to share here. Starting, as it’s as good a place as any, with my latest finished knit. I finished my leafy cardigan, on one of¬†the hottest days of the summer. It’s remained too hot to wear, except in the evenings.¬†Sirdar 9428, which is not a catchy title, so I’ll stick with leafy cardigan.

I loved this knit. The leaves only go on either side of the centre front, but I was actually bottom-lip-pouting sad when I finished the front panels. These leaves are good to knit. At the start, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get the hang of this stitch pattern, but perseverance won out, as you can see. Otherwise I’d be calling this project, my teal or modern art/abstract/slightly messy¬†cardigan, I guess. Or not showing it at all. Anyway, here it is. It took one repeat of the rows, before I was liking it.

I was impressed at how the leaves almost look like they are about to grow out of the garment. One curly stem at a time. A slight breeze and they could almost flap elegantly and lazily. Eldest Teen even exclaimed that she didn’t know you could make something like this with knitting, which I take as a compliment.

I wanted to avoid the cardigan looking too homemade. It kind of knocks my enthusiasm to wear something if I’m greeted with “Did you make that?” everywhere I go. Self doubt creeps in. Not a good feeling. I find my ribbing always gives the game away, so I purposely chose a pattern that did not use a knit one, purl one rib. This one is knit three, purl three and it does seem to give a smarter finish.

The pattern also calls for one, lone¬†button at the top, which looked fabulous on the pattern’s front cover model. ¬†Once I tried¬†the finished cardigan¬†on, I realised that this style does not suit me. The front opening makes diagonal lines across my front, not almost straight down like the model. The diagonals were doing no¬†favours to my midriff. Seriously, not a look I need.

Instead, I decided to add two more buttons. I’ve not added buttonholes to a finished knit before, but I’ve seen it done.¬†When it came to the point of cutting into one of my stitches, I took a deep breath as there was no going back. The other fly in the ointment was that the knitted rows meant that the two new buttonholes would be vertical rather than matching the top button’s horizontal alignment. No choice but to go for it and I’m not sure anyone could really tell unless they got close up and invaded my personal space.

The buttons are 23mm Knit Pro wooden buttons. My sister gifted me the first one, a few years ago. Fortunately, I found two more. I love how they look against the teal wool. I used Hayfield double knit with wool, which is the same type as I used for the two hoodie’s last summer. I’m not sure it shows how vibrant this colour is in the photos.

I made it in the fifth size. I wish I’d gone down to the fourth as it’s a bit too big. All that running and giving up crisps since I started knitting it, has made a difference.¬†Optimistically, I washed it straight away, but it still feels a little looser than I’d like. I’ve also found I prefer to wear it with more figure hugging, plain¬†dresses, as it’s more flattering if it’s not competing with anything else.

I tried it on with my brown, linen, sheath dress today, for the photos, and it makes a perfect combination, I think.

Only other change I made was to make the sleeves, slightly longer. I had plenty of yarn. Ah, yes. OK. I’ll admit. Between you and me,¬†I managed to over order the yarn again.¬†Again! When will I learn.¬†I really don’t know how I do it. I probably have enough left over to knit another in a smaller size, but I won’t.

One is enough.

I’m very happy with my new leafy cardigan. It is warm and comfortable. I’ve cast on a different jumper already. Struggling with the first row, as the ribbing is complex, to say the least. I will get there. Just got to keep going. I’ve opted for a smaller size, too. And less yarn. Definitely less yarn, this time.

Right. Back soon with my next summer crafting project. It’s a doozy, as they say.

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