Category Archives: use for natural stuff: vines, sticks…

How To Make A Bird Nester: Like A Bird Feeder But Contains Nesting Materials

home-style bird nester

I call this a bird nester because it is like a bird feeder but with nesting materials instead of bird seeds. I designed it out of recycled materials and made it look like a charming cottage complete with a chimney that has a wisp of smoke coming out.
How to:

You will need to save a plastic berry basket, a box type milk carton, scrap yarn or salvaged twist ties, and nesting material (see below).

milk carton roof for bird nester

Use a box type milk container to make the roof: cut out two adjoining sides as shown in image.

chimney for home-style bird nester

If you want to make a chimney, print out the chimney stencil I provided. Use the stencil to make a chimney out of the left over piece of milk carton or another scrap piece of cardboard. Add a small piece of white stuffing extending out of the chimney to simulate smoke rising. The chimney stencil makes a nicer chimney than the experimental one in the photo. Use the bottom tabs to glue the chimney to the roof or make two slits (with an exacto knife) in the roof and insert the tabs through.

Fill your bird nester with left-over odds and ends.
Suggestions: bits of left-over yarn, sheep’s wool , wool roving (ask a spinner), dryer lint (especially when you are drying a wool blanket or are felting a wool sweater ; but I wouldn’t recommend using fabric softeners, because the birds don’t need the added chemicals.) You can also use: fur, human hair, horse hair, snake skins(sure why not), leaves, feathers, plant fluff from a cattail plant or from a milkweed pod, straw, tree bark, pine needles, moss… For fun add: small colorful pieces of scrap yarn (4 inches more or less), strips of cloth, shredded paper… Experiment and see what happens.
Use a hole punch to make a few holes in the roof along the edge. Attach roof with a bit of scrap yarn or twist ties (salvaged from toy packaging etc. or from produce).
You may also be interested in checking out a similar post at FunInTheMaking : Bag Of Nest Building Material, Great Gift For Birds Or Bird Lovers
The following is a note I received:
“I’m not sure if you know or not, but dryer lint is not a suitable product for bird nests.
If it becomes wet it is dense and takes a really long time to dry out thus keeping fragile babies cold and wet.
If conditions are not fixed in time, they will perish.
My vet has confirmed and if you search long and hard on the Internet you may also find a stray post or two.
Better materials would be soft WHITE feathers, human, cat, dog or better yet horse hair, thread only 2″ long at most, 100% cotton 3″ long by 1/4″ wide etc..
.”
-Debra
(Thank you for your input Debra.)

Make A Super Cool Tipi Fort Using Recycled Materials

teepee

Although tee-pee is often spelled tee-pee (t-e-e-p-e-e), tipi (t-i-p-i) is considered the correct spelling. Tipi is a Sioux word formed from the word meaning to dwell or live- ti, and the word meaning used to live in -pi. Regardless of the spelling, they make a super cool fort.
Tipi poles:
1. I made my poles out of bamboo from a friend’s property. Start asking around to see who might have some. Bamboo grows quickly and spreads easily. I bet people with bamboo on their property would be glad to have you come by and harvest some. Use a hand saw to cut down and use clippers to cut off any side branches. Alternative: use straight thin trees with few if any side branches. The diameter of the poles should reflect the size of the tipi: a larger tipi will need thicker poles than a smaller tipi. Use your judgment: poles should be thick enough to support the cover without bowing in. You will need 11 or more poles for this extra large tipi; each pole should be 11.5 feet long. If you plan to use your tipi inside, like we do, make sure to make it a size that will fit. I have high ceilings so I was able to make a really large tipi. Smaller tipis don’t need as many poles. The toddler tipi fort I made had only 6 poles that were 64 inches long. Poles for a toddler tipi could also be made out of newspaper. Make long thick rolls of newspaper. Connect these rolls with some masking tape. Then add more layers of newspaper to reinforce the places where the tubes connect.
Making your tipi cover:
1. I used blankets from the thrift store; it took me several months before I found enough for this project. I think I pieced together about four blankets. I thought that these blankets looked vaguely like animal skins and had the benefit of not needing to be hemmed along the edges. To make it look more authentic, I hand-sewed the pieced together with imitation sinew, which is thick waxy cord, using a large upholstery needle. Sinew is what Indians traditionally used to sew skins with; it is made from the tendons of animals.
Sheets would also work well as a cover. The benefit of using sheets is that they are easy to find at second-hand shops; you might even have some old ones around your house. Also, especially if you are using white or another light color, the cover could be painted as many tipis often were. In addition, you may like that you can sew the sheets together with a sewing machine.
2. To make the shape of the cover:
paper tipi 1

paper tipi 2

To make it easier to visualize, I made a paper model. Note that the tipi shown here is in the shape of an inverted cone. Usually a tipi would be in the shape of a tilted cone: the floor would be in an egg shape and when viewed from the side you could see the back was steeper then the front. We ignore this fact for purposes of this play tipi. To make the cone-shaped cover you will first need to decide how big you want your tipi. Remember that the height of your tipi will not be as tall as the poles, ie: make the poles longer than the desired height plus extra to extend out the top. Determine the length of the tipi side (A to B in image). Your fabric can be folded in half like in the image or you can lay the fabric out and cut out the resulting semicircle. I had someone hold a string (cut to the length of the tipi side) at point A. I then marked the distance while swinging the string in an arc.

Add smoke Flaps, for decorative purposes, if you like. Smoke flaps were used to help direct the flow of smoke. If it rained, the smoke flaps could be closed. Also cut a door. A smaller door would have been more authentic but I thought wildly playing kids would have an easier time getting in and out.
3. You can make a door out of some of the left-over cover material and two sticks. Turn over the fabric and sew a channel for the stick (as I did on the top of my door) or slice small holes and weave the stick through (as I did on the bottom of the door).

tipi door detail -sticks

tipi door open

Flip door to the side if you want to leave the door open.

Setting up your tipi:

tipi setup 1
2. Tie four poles together about 18 inches from the top (traditional tipis had a lot more pole extending out the top). Then stand the poles up. (Smaller tipis can have less pole extending out.)
tipi setup 2

3. Arrange other poles (11 or more total) for a x-large teepee.

tipi setup 3
4. Apply the “skin”. (Have your covering folded in half with the good side on the inside of the fold. Placing center back into place first then unfold the other side.

tipi setup 4
5. Arrange the cover. I used large safety pins to close the front (not authentic of course but easy). The next time I set up our tipi I think I’ll try “pinning” it up the front with sticks in the traditional way.

tipi setup5 with door

Fake Christmas trees are perfect for this imaginative play. I got mine second-hand of course.

tipi door detail

Tie the ends of the top stick to the tipi.
I couldn’t capture in pictures how cool it feels being inside. Furthermore, it is surprisingly spacious (an adult can stand in it and sleep inside) yet it has a very cozy feel. Your kids will want to make up their own Indian names like: Eagle Feather, Big Bear, Dancing Deer…

Pretend To Campout: How To Make A Pretend Campfire and Paper Marshmallows

roasting pretend marshmallows

Believe it or not, children can have fun without watching TV. Take out some sleeping bags and let the kids pretend to camp out in the middle of your living room. They will enjoy building this imaginary campfire and pretending to roast marshmallows. Later they may tell each other stories, pretend to hear nocturnal animals lurking about, and imagine they are falling asleep under the stars.

pretend camp fire
How to make a pretend campfire:
Gather enough rocks to make the fire ring. Clean them off before bringing inside. We ripped up a brown paper bag and then twisted the pieces to look like firewood. You could use real twigs and sticks but paper is cleaner. We used scrap pieces of felt for the flames. To make the flames, the kids and I cut up yellow felt scraps (you could use a mix of colors) so that they were a bit like irregular triangles. Then we pulled at the edges to soften the look. Arrange the rocks in a circle and build your fire.

How to make pretend marshmallows:
You will need one-sided office paper, a stick about 2 or so feet long and a little white glue or clear tape.

MYO marshmallow step 1
Take a piece of one-sided office paper. One-sided paper means that only one side is blank. Why use a new sheet of paper when you can reuse another?
Fold the paper in half long ways. You should have the printed on side hidden on the inside.

MYO marshmallow step 2
Fold in half again.

MYO marshmallow step 3

MYO marshmallow step 4
Roll the resulting strip of paper around the stick.

MYO marshmallow step 6
Fold another piece of paper as before. Then add a little glue to this new piece before adding.
Add more layers (strips of paper) until the marshmallow is the size you want it to be. You will want to save the piece of paper with the least amount of stuff on the other side to allow for the whitest marshmallow. Use a piece of clear tape or carefully glue the end of the strip in place. If you choose to glue instead of tape, you will need to put something on top of it to hold it in place while the glue dries.
For a roasted look, be creative. We used watercolors and a sponge to apply paint around the edges.

campfire for girls and dolls

Here are some snapshots. These clever girls inspired me to do this post. They came up with the marshmallow idea.  They used shorter sticks for their dolls to use. The sticks were held on with elastic bands.

Make Your Own Stick Star Ornaments

How to:
Use a good pair of garden shears to cut some straight branches. From these branches, cut 5 stick pieces the same length and approximately the same diameter. Cut the first stick (whatever looks right) and use that stick to mark the length of the remaining sticks. I used sticks that were about 6 ¼ inches long and ¼ to nearly ½ inch wide. The exact size doesn’t matter as long as it appeals to your sense of proportion and all the sticks are the same length. Keep in mind; thinner sticks are easier to bend into place.

Tie two sticks together than tie another two sticks together near the end (see X and Y in photo).
Spread out the non-tied ends and overlay as in photo and tie top of star (see Z in photo).

Tie on the last stick. Play with the sticks a little; some go over, some under. Do whatever works for that star.

Party Craft
I prepared enough for my daughter’s whole class. I made bundles and tied them together with nice red yarn that was used to hang the star ornament after the star was constructed. The ball of wool yarn was used to tie all the sticks together.

Bag Of Nest Building Material, Great Gift For Birds Or Bird Lovers

Help make a bird’s job of nest building a little easier by providing it with wonderful nest building materials. After you make it, hang outside in early spring for the birds to discover. Then keep your eyes out for nearby bird’s nests: you might spot some of your offerings.

How to: Save a plastic mesh produce bag: they are the bags that oranges and onions usually come in at the grocery store. Loosely stuff your mesh produce bag with any of the following:
bits of left-over yarn, sheep’s wool , wool roving (ask a spinner), dryer lint (especially when you are drying a wool blanket or are felting a wool sweater ; but I wouldn’t recommend using fabric softeners, because the birds don’t need the added chemicals.) You can also use: fur, human hair, horse hair, snake skins(sure why not), leaves, feathers, plant fluff from a cattail plant or from a milkweed pod, straw, tree bark, pine needles, moss… For fun add: small colorful pieces of scrap yarn (5 inches more or less), strips of cloth, shredded paper… Experiment and see what happens.
Quick gift for nature lovers of all ages.