Saturday, 29 December 2012

The adventurer's essentials

Every year we had make most of our Christmas gifts. My nieces and nephews are getting to an age where we can really really enjoy making stuff for them. I wanted to make a den building adventure kit for my oldest nephew. I had some ideas but I knew the Forest Education Initiative Facebook page would come up with more. They are a real source of inspiration and support for lots of people who work outdoors with children. 

I didn't use all the ideas they came up with as I would have needed a truck rather than a bag to put them all in, but check out the thread here if you would like some ideas too. 

But what's in the adventure bag?

Every adventurer needs a wind up torch...

...and some binoculars. We made these binoculars together on Christmas eve.

To go with the note book and twiggy pencil

Some flags to decorate your den,

A really wide selection of fastening; like ropes and pegs, carabiners and those really practical bungees with bobbles on the end. These are just some of the selection. 

 A really useful tarpaulin made from half of an old tent. It already had lots of zips and eyelet holes, hooks and Velcro fastening points. I added a few more eyelets to make it even more flexible and it is waterproof too, which is a bonus. I also added a piece of parachute silk which was a drogue  from a larger parachute. I added lots of eyelet holes to make good fastening points. You can also see the 'instructions' and the corner of the fleecy sit-mat I made using  a bit more of the tent as waterproof backing.

Every explorer needs a treasure map. This one was embroidered with my sewing machine. 

We made an indoor den on Christmas day and cooked the dinner on the fire...

...and we hung up this sign until dinner was ready. 

Luckily it is a  reversible sign so we could welcome people in too. 

Of course any adventurer needs a useful bag to keep all his supplies in... 

...and interesting things to discover.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Only made from wood; a daily advent of festive winter crafts part 1

I have set myself a creative challenge over on my facebook page. Every day in December so far I have added a new winter festive craft made from things from the woods to a folder full of photographs. 

Here's a round up of my daily ideas so far. 

 I got this lovely idea for a tree made from threaded sticks from 'Michelle made me'  this is now hanging in my office and looks great! 

I learnt to make stars from bendy willow withies a few years back, I saw Alan from Birch Forest School make some of these stars from bramble which works really well and helps clear some of the bramble from the woods. I love making baskets out of bramble and it weaves really well as these stars show. 

I saw this idea for a Christmas tree on Handmade Living Frugally and I really wanted to try it this year. It looks really effective and doesn't fill my living room! I also love that it acts like little shelves for some of my favourite things like the little wooden horse and some of the keys I got in a recent freecycle triumph. 

I've been making little versions of these gnomes with different colours, These festive ones have just gone to live in a school where I was working last week. I found it was much easier for children to carve if you leave the stick longer and cut it to length after the whittling is done. Inspiration for these came from GardenMama.

When I made the two trees above I was left with lots of the really fine birch twigs. When they are fresh they are so bendy and I we playing with a pile of them. They are twiddled together to hold this decoration in place. The random weaving is strong enough that I could poke fairy lights through from the back. 

Here is one of the decorations from my tree, this is made out of woven birch bark. There are some great tutorials out there, they are quite fiddly to make but so worth it. Look out for fallen birch trees to take the bark from. 

I managed to get other people involved in my advent challenge. Hannah was one of the participants on my most recent Level 3 Forest School training course. She was exploring the potential of the woods for creativity and found that dead bracken makes an excellent base for wreaths. 

This is another skill I teach on the Forest School course, lashing and knot tying. For smaller children I sometimes give them elastic bands to hold sticks together with instead of tying knots. These stars do look great with a bit of extra festive foliage.

There was a thread about festive ideas on the FEI facebook page recently where I read the phrase 'elder candles' I found some red bramble leaves which inspired me to have a go at trying to work out what an elder candle would look like. The leaves stuck into the soft pith of the elder and with some of the bark peeled away they look quite effective. You could press the leaves to make them last longer.

I hope some of these ideas have inspired you to have a go at making something this winter. Look out for the next few advent crafts coming up. 

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