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Your backyard, some nearby woods, or a beach vacation all provide natural items perfect for unique crafts. Some of the benefits of getting creative with nature are:
Our comprehensive lists of nature items to get creative with has many easy and fun projects that provide an enjoyable crafting time for you and your family.
Twigs and Sticks
Readily available and often considered garden trash, dried twigs and sticks are easy to use for a variety of simply crafts.
Gather straight sticks of the same dimension and trim them all to the same length. Lay the sticks on a surface to make a square. Tape the sticks to the work surface with half their length extending off the table. Begin weaving by tying colorful yarn in a knot around the first stick 1 inch from the end. Wind yarn around the stick several times, then weave over and under across the rows. When you reach the opposite end, wrap the yarn a few times tightly around the last stick. Then continue weaving the next row under and over in the opposite direction from the first row, repeating the pattern until the stick ends are woven. Finally, remove the tape from the sticks and the table and continue weaving with yarn until all the sticks are secure.
Measure some snapshots and break or cut dry sticks to form frames. Use hot glue to secure the sticks in the shape of your frame and attach twine for hanging.
The propeller-shaped seeds from maple trees form perfect wings for these delicate flying creatures. For each dragonfly or butterfly, place four maple seeds on your work surface with their ends meeting. Add a drop of glue to each end where they join and rest a small, thin twig on top. You can add a line of color with a marker or add glitter to the edge of each “wing.” Finish with two small glass beads glued on for eyes. These can be used on centerpieces, as magnets, or to decorate a dried flower or glass arrangement.
Use a purchased wood slice as a background and create an autumn scene. Hot-glue 5 or 6 thin twigs to form the shape of a tree. Finish your design with acorn parts, mini pinecones, and dried flowers for the foliage of your twig tree.
For this project, you will need a clean food can or straight sided glass jar. Cut a piece of colorful felt long enough to fit around the jar with a small overlap. Cut sticks slightly taller than the height of the container you have chosen. Glue the sticks to the felt as close as you are able. If there are spaces, the felt will show, adding attractive accent. After the sticks adhere to the felt, glue the felt to the container. The finished container makes a good pencil holder and can also be used to hold dried flowers.
Collect acorns of every size, both whole and separated nuts and caps, in late fall for clever craft projects.
Paint acorns any color you wish and use contrasting glitter to coat the caps or acorn body while the paint is still wet. Use them on wreaths, in a bowl with pinecones or rocks as a centerpiece, or as ornaments or gift embellishments during the holidays.
A plain, woven basket becomes a work of art when the rim is decorated with tiny pinecones and acorn caps. Add a colorful ribbon to the side or handle.
Use an acorn cap and small strips of colorful felt to form a tiny flower. Secure the felt with glue. Attach to a hair clip, magnet, or safety pin for a fun accessory.
Purchase an inexpensive craft store frame or recycle one you have with a trim of acorn caps. Simply affix the acorn caps around the frame edge with hot glue. Use dried leaves or twigs on one corner to complete the rustic look. Use for a picture or printed text.
Dried Leaves, Grass, and Flowers
One fall my daughter discovered the beauty of dried grasses. I still have a vase filled with one of her creations about twelve years later. Many grasses dry naturally and need no additional preparation for use. You can collect dried leaves in the fall or press them between the pages of a heavy book. To dry flowers, choose clean blooms and leave the stems attached. Tie bunches of the same variety with string and hang the bunches with the blossom ends down in a warm, dry place. You should allow four weeks for drying before you use flowers for a project.
Find an inexpensive wood frame at a craft store. Choose a fall color spray paint and paint the frame. Cut scrapbooking paper or wallpaper to fit inside the frame. Use cloth or a coordinating color of construction paper to cut out “Welcome” so it fits on the paper. Using double-sided tape, adhere pressed leaves around the word. Put the paper inside the frame and reassemble for a festive fall welcome sign.
Use your pressed framed leaves to create this quick craft. Print the name of your pressed leaf on a piece of neutral card stock in a fancy font, or hand-write it with black ink or marker. Use craft glue to adhere the leaf and attach twigs to the edge of the cardstock. Hang with a ribbon or rattan cord attached to the upper back with glue.
You will need small, flat- topped soap for this attractive project, pressed flowers and leaves (carrot tops work well). Look for trial sizes of soap in your drug or specialty store. Use a paintbrush to coat the soap with 4 or 5 coats of gloss sealer on the side to be decorated, to keep the soap from discoloring the flowers. Allow the sealer to dry between coats. Add one more coat and position the flowers and leaves on the soap, making sure there are no air bubbles under the flowers and leaves. While the sealer is still wet, paint another coat on top. After it is completely dry, add another 3 coats of sealer, allowing the sealer to dry between coats. The final coats help the design to stay on the soap during use.
Purchase heavy craft wire, and a wreath base, and a 2 feet piece of sheer ribbon in any color you wish. Cut the stems from ten or so dried dahlias or hydrangeas. Place them on the wreath to see where they look best. Attach the dahlias with pieces of craft wire or hot glue, and adhere them to the wreath with hot glue. Loop the sheer ribbon around the wreath, using the ends to make a large bow.
Herbs and Spices
Gather dried herbs and spices from your fall garden to make scented crafts and gifts. Try one or more of the following:
Bowls with or without lids, netting, or a basket make excellent containers for homemade potpourri. You can dry the flowers and herbs in an oven or a cool, dark, place.
Roses, scented geraniums, carnations, lavender, orange blossom, violets, honeysuckle, jonquil, chamomile, and jasmine all work well to name a few.
Try lemon verbena, basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and mint.
Try dried lavender or rose petals for fragrant drawer sachets. Tie the dried leaves in colorful cotton squares and secure with yarn or ribbon.
Sage, oregano, and thyme are perennial herbs that can be dried and put into decorative bottles.
Dried leaves of catnip, mint, and lavender all work well for tea.
Rose Hip Jelly
Fresh rose hips make delicious jelly high in vitamin C. This is a simple recipe that will make 5 cups of jelly, plenty for you and to share with friends.
4 quarts ripe rose hips
2 quarts water
1 package of pectin crystals
5 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Simmer rose hips in water until soft, crush to mash, and strain through a jelly bag. You
should have about 4 cups of rose hip juice. Put in a large sauce pan, add the lemon juice
and pectin, and bring mixture to a hard boil. Stir in the sugar and bring to a full, rolling oil.
Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove the jelly from the heat, skim off the foam with a metal spoon, and pour into hot, sterilized jars.
2 cups firmly packed mint leaves and stems (3 to 4 bunches)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed, strained lemon juice
3 1/2 cups sugar
3 ounces liquid pectin
2 drops green food coloring
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Place mint in the jar of a blender with 2 cups water and blend for 10 seconds until mint is chopped finely. Place in medium saucepot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit and steep for 45 minutes to infuse flavor. Strain into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer lined with damp cheesecloth, squeezing out all the liquid to yield 1 3/4 to 2 cups liquid. Return the mint water to a clean saucepan and add the lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, and then skim the surface. Add the pectin, return the mixture to a full boil and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat and stir in food coloring. Skim the surface again. Pour into sterilized jars and let cool.
Shells and Driftwood
A visit to the beach provides awesome items for crafting. Smooth stones, shells, and driftwood provide the materials for our choice of beach-inspired crafts. Remember that a simple bowl of shells or cleverly placed piece of driftwood is attractive on its own. A super simple craft to complete with young children is attaching larger shells to magnets for use on the refrigerator.
Use a recycled or new picture frame and paint it with spray paint in any color you wish. Use wood glue to adhere shells to the frame. Use a variety of sizes and shapes and fill in with small shells or sand particles. If you wish, you can add a sprinkle of gold or silver glitter while the glue is still tacky to fill in the holes between the shells. Your finished frame can hold a picture or some special text printed on your computer – maybe a Bible verse. You can also use this method for around small accent mirror for your bathroom.
Use driftwood, shells, and string to make a beach-inspired mobile. Drill small holes through the driftwood. Thread colorful string or yarn through each hole and tie a knot at the driftwood end. On the other end, tie shells or small pieces of driftwood. Hang in a corner to remember that special beach visit each day.
Rocks are everywhere and come in every size, shape, and color. Small rocks are perfect as “pets,” medium rocks can be used as clever paperweights, and large rocks serve as garden decorations and markers.
Choose round or oblong rocks that will fit in the palm of a child’s hand. Wash the rocks and let them dry thoroughly. If you like the color of the rock when it is wet, coat your dry rock with clear spray varnish. You can also use tempera paint to put color or design on your rock – try stripes or dots. Next comes the fun part. After the paint or varnish dries completely, decorate your pet rock with small eyes, pom-poms for a tail, felt ears, or use colored paper for features. Do not forget to name your pet!
Choose large, flat rocks and use spray enamel paint so your markers will be weather-resistant. You can make stencils, tape them to the rocks and use spray paint, or use a permanent marker to write the names of your plants. Another idea is to use the pictures from seed packets, adhering them to the rocks and coating with spray enamel. Additionally, you can choose a very large rock and paint your address or “Welcome” for a unique and informative garden marker.
Whether you choose rocks, shells, or dried leaves, flowers, and grasses, there is no limit to the creative uses for these gems of nature. Enjoy!