Fun, Cheap Crafts for Making Gifts
Bird Feeder Wreath
Hand Made Gifts are Treasures
Fall crafts for kids are great fun and there are many natural and/or free materials available. Bird-feeder wreaths and bird houses made with dried gourds are two of our favorites.
You might want to take a trip to the country to gather materials. Wild grape vines make wonderful wreaths, just be SURE there are no poison ivy vines in the mix (that's a whole other story). Gather clusters of acorns, only found under very, very large old Oak trees. On second thought, forget the acorns as deer and squirrels love them too. Rose hips, the pretty red 'berries' on wild roses (and all roses) are great and birds love them. Pick up some colorful leaves, Sugar Maples offer gorgeous leaves and you can soak them in glycerin water or iron them between wax paper to make them more durable. Oak leaves hold up really well. Pine cones, especially the smaller ones, look great on the wreath.
Sunflower seed heads are often available at farmers markets or roadside stands. They are the entire sunflower flower with the mature seeds still in place. Amaranths seed heads are beautiful shades of maroon and red, and you can grow them as well as the sunflowers. Strings of cranberries add a festive touch and the birds will love you.
Enough grape vines to make a 10" circle. This should be the older, brown grape vines. Straw wreaths are sold at a craft stores. Wreaths made out of something natural are best. Although I haven't tried it, willow branches will probably work well too.
Floral wire and wire cutters
Hot Glue gun and glue sticks.
Natural seed items.
Start out by making the wreath form or with a purchased form. Trace the shape onto paper. A paper grocery bag or newspaper are fine. Use this pattern to arrange your seed heads and other materials in a pattern so you'll have the placement figured out before you stop gluing. This insures you have enough materials and can add or subtract materials to make sure the form is covered evenly.
Make a hanger out of ribbon and tied it around the wreath for a hanger before you start assembly.
Affix the items onto the wreath form one item at a time. Use the floral wire and hot glue to insure the items remain on the wreath form when birds land on it. The adults should do the hot gluing.
Hang them out when the weather turns cold. The best places to hang them are on the trunk of a large tree, a porch post, a gate or even a front door.
These make great gifts, especially
grandparents who complain that they 'already have too much stuff' - believe me the wreath will be picked clean by spring!
BIRD HOUSE GOURDS
You can also grow these in your garden or buy them at farmers' markets or even on-line for very little money.
Harvest the gourds you've grown when they're mature, which is when the leaves start to die back or after the first frost. Leave a section of stem to help secure the hanger. Don't let them freeze. Place them on a cool dry place, a basement or garage floor works well. I dry mine on wicker paper-plate holders turned upside down. They sell these at the dollar store. This lets the air circulate and helps them dry evenly. A white mold might form on them, don't panic (unless you're allergic). Once this mold dries, it leaves a beautiful natural pattern on the gourd.
They should be dry by spring nesting season. They will be very light and you'll hear the seeds rattle around inside when you shake them.
Carve a 1" hole in the middle of the bottom section or globe a paring knife. An adult should do the carving. Dump out the seeds or pull them out. They'll come out in clumps. You don't have to take them all out. I've left the seeds in and still had wrens nesting in them.
The kids can paint them with acrylic paints, color them with markers, or clear-coat the natural colors.
Twist a thin wire or tie fishing line around the middle, then run it up and around the stem and hang it from a tree, shepherd's hook or overhang. It should hang between four and five feet from the ground near trees or shrubs so the birds have cover to fly to for protection from predators.
One year my kids and I collected autumn leaves and spray painted them silver and gold. We purchased inexpensive small wicker baskets and sprayed them silver and gold as well. We lined the baskets with the gilded leaves and used them for gift containers that Christmas. Oak leaves worked best as they are quite sturdy. Maple leaves work well also. You can also add glitter or little silver and gold Christmas tree ornaments. Let your imagination run wild!
Making dried arrangements in small gourds or pumpkins is also fun. Go to your back yard or the woods and collect twigs, pine cones, pretty leaves, cattails, acorns, etc. This part of the project is great fun on a sunny fall afternoon. Bring them home and make sure there are no critters lurking among your treasures. One year I put everything into a plastic bag and sprayed a little bug spray inside and sealed it up, just to make sure. My daughter mentioned the word 'spider' and I didn't want to take any chances. Purchase some small round gourds or miniature pumpkins, cut the top off, scrape out the seeds, etc. and arrange your collection inside. These are really nice as table decorations at Thanksgiving.
SMALL DISH GARDENS
Many folks love having something 'alive' around them. Make a small dish garden and plant it with a few succulents, which need very little care.
1 small container (a thrift shop is a great place to find vintage dishes or glass bowls)
Cactus Potting soil
Small stones (for drainage - the Dollar Tree sells small bags of these)
3 small succulents
Place a layer of stones in the bottom of the bowl
Add about 3 inches of cactus/succulent potting soil
Plant the succulents (which is basically setting them in the soil and pressing them in genly)
cover with the rest of the stones, decorative glass stones, or sea shells.
You can also add a small figurine if your loved one likes cats, dogs, frogs, etc.
I hope you enjoy trying one of these ideas, or maybe you've been inspired to come up with some new ones using