This time of year brings about imagery of twinkling lights and tall trees covered in brightly colored baubles. You can, however, decorate your home entirely from items found in your own backyard.
Most of the materials we used this year were foraged entirely around our home, yet we did make a special trip to the grocery store for a few supplies. Cranberries can give your creations that extra pop of color, while dried orange slices naturally catch the light in a way nothing else can quite mimic.
Starting with the simplest of all - something you may even remember from childhood - stringing cranberries makes a beautifully bold garland that can be wrapped 'round your tree, or hung across a window. You need but three simple things to make this magic: a bowl of fresh cranberries, along with a sturdy needle and thread. You may find that waxing your thread helps it glide much easier, but these will string up in no time and have you feeling festive with as little effort as possible! The fresh cranberries usually keep up to two weeks before starting to dry out. I toss mine in the dehydrator at this point and then store them away for the following year.
Speaking of drying fruit, this next craft is just as easy with only a bit more prep work. I like to check the discount section for fruit of all kind that is near the end of its shelf life; pears, apples and oranges are all great choices, but experiment with whatever calls to you. Slice your fruit up in roughly quarter inch thick slices and then pat dry. If you have a dehydrator then go ahead and load it up, but these can easily be prepared in an oven as well. Lay the slices out on a wire rack or baking sheet lined with parchment, and place in the oven on low heat, around 200°F, for 2-4 hours until translucent. After your fruit is dried, gently make a hole using an awl or needle and string them on whatever you wish to hang with. I like to use natural jute twine, as I can then toss them in the compost pile, or safely hang them out for birds after the holidays have passed.
Gather a handful of sticks and you've got yourself the start to so many holiday projects. Anything thicker than a couple inches can be cut down in slices and painted or drawn upon in any manner you wish for rustic ornaments that will suit any decor. Smaller twigs can be lashed together to create stars, glued together to create runes or tie a bit of grass on and you've got a mini besom perfect for the tree!
Wreaths can be made using just about anything you have growing in your yard. I like to use the wild grape vines as we cut them back in the fall and have plenty of trimmings to clean up. Willow branches and Virginia creeper work a treat as well, but experiment with whatever you have access to. I find soaking thin branches in water will help them bend easier; just leave them in your tub over night and you'll be ready to get wrapping the following day. Bend the branches into your desired size and then continue to wrap them around themselves in a loop until all loose ends have been tucked in. You can use twine or wire to help hold it together if you wish. Once your wreath base is finished, add sprigs of fresh greenery and some of your dried fruit for color, even just a big bright bow from scrap fabric or leather can be all you need to make a beautiful wreath.
A traditional yule log is a wonderful way to use up any left over foraged finds. If you don't know where to find a suitable log, ask a friend who has a wood stove if you can pick through their wood pile, or just take a walk in the woods and pick up whatever calls to you. Growing up, we always used hot glue to attach our decor, but as I began to craft my own as an adult, I found dripping candle wax was a much more ritualistic experience, while keeping things plastic free and more fireplace friendly; notable if you intend to burn your yule log. Any greenery works great for this purpose, as well as pine cones, cinnamon sticks, herbs, berries or anything else you feel drawn to. This arrangement has no rules, so have fun with it and create something meant just for your home.
The tree will always be my favorite spot to decorate, and this year I reached my goal of entirely handmade adornments. From the many leather creations, a healthy scattering of fruit slices, and a growing collection of treasures from other artists to the tips covered in usnea, a wrapping of bright red cranberries and the lovingly crafted topper featuring a set of antlers from my fathers hunt, this years' tree is one to remember.
These are but a few suggestions of things you can make this year. Your only limit is your imagination. Add a few sprigs of cedar and cinnamon along a string and you've got yourself a lovely scented garland to hang anywhere you like. Stuff a handful of fresh greenery and a few twigs in whatever vessels you have to spare and there you have an instant holiday arrangement.
With access to lots of leftover leather supplies I was able to make a lovely little Nisse using completely recycled materials I already had around my home. I tackled a long overdue project and finished up my scrap leather pine cones, I even sewed a handful of leather stockings using salvaged pieces from old couch cushions. Look around your home and see what treasures you may have lurking, you never know when inspiration may strike!
Wishing you a wonderful season of celebration and be sure to tag me, @hammerthreads if you get up to any crafty adventures after reading this blog, I would love to see what you make!