Having published a commitment to log some of the things we’ve made out of recycling in the MJMnL house, I’d better keep to it or I’ll have at least 3 people digging me in the proverbial Twitter-ribs. Hell hath no fury than a Crafter’s persistence! But where to start? Well, I guess I’ll begin with the latest first – it’s the freshest in my mind, and if work continues to allude me as it has for the last week, I will endeavour to go back in time and jot down some of our other creations. I hope you enjoy reading!
So, we – myself, my 3yo son, surrogates #1 and #2 and a couple of other kiddies doing structured English Play with us, have spent a lot of time in the woods over the last month. The sun finally came out after hiding behind a monumental raincloud the whole summer and we have been blessed with the most stunningly beautiful autumn … well, for 3 weeks anyway – snow forecast on Friday!
Like many other families, we love foraging and ‘never go down in the woods…’ unless we are fully armed with big, sturdy plastic bags. Unfortunately for my 3yo, there is no supermarket carrier large enough or strong enough to transport his findings and we usually have to wait hours in the cold, hopping from one foot to another, blowing on our hands, while he drags, pushes, lugs, heaves, throws or just groans and moans under the weight of the most insanely large log of wood he can find, just because it has one mushroom growing out of the top.
I digress. In our autumn basket this month, we have a plethora of the mandatory cones, as our woods are predominantly pine and fir, but we are also lucky in that we have many deciduous trees in our direct village, so the ‘gathering’ of autumn leaves has been a novelty too, especially given that, until this last week, they were also dry!! Great for crafting with! We also have sticks a plenty, nuts, bark, upturned mushrooms which we look at (and which I then shh! secretly dispose of as I really don’t know my shrooms and most are horrifically nasty) and the odd crisp packet (at 2yo, Surrogate#2 is learning that discarded rubbish dropped by others is “bleugh” and he wags an accusatory finger at it, before picking it up with his fingertips and popping it in his bag. “Müll !” … Yes. Lovely.) I digress again.
The question then, of course, is what to do with all the things we have collected.
Last week I had an idea, based on an original comment from the 3yo. I sat down and started enthusiastically twining wire and binding cones together in an attempt to surprise him … but my ‘thing’ morphed into some’thing’ else mid-create. I guess that’s ok. What actually came out of it was our little Autumn-Leaf Dragon and, in fact, L was so taken with it that he forgot all about the original plan. I haven’t and am resolved to go back to that one and try again … Plan B … but in the meantime, here he is, in his full coneage:
The Autumn-Leaf Dragon:
If I make another with the Surrogates, I’ll take pictures in stages, but for now, if you want to have a go, you will need:
3 good-sized sturdy DRY pine-cones
A few solid (not flaky) sticks
A large thick rubber band
Several freezer-bag twisties (stripped of the white casing so you have bare wire)
Some dark cotton thread (pref not bright blue like mine!)
2 Sycamore leaves – of relative size to the cones
Two eyes – you can make them and stick them on, or use googlies, or stickers …
Some strong glue
A little paint – colour of choice. We used red, but you can paint your dragon whatever colour you wish.
How we did it:
1. Bind two similar length cones together at the wider end and as close to the end as possible with the rubber band, ideally wrapping around at least twice.
2. Twist 3 freezer-bag twisty wires together to form a long length, wind in the sharp ends and use this to wrap around and pull the cones in together firmly at the back. If the wire is too long, leave the remaining end dangling for the moment, you can use it later. This is the body of the dragon.
3. To make the head, you will need either a very small cone, or you can break up a longer one in proportion to the length of body you have just created.
4. Break two lengths of a sturdy but quite narrow stick – one very slightly longer than the other if possible – to make the neck. Depending on the length of body, the length of neck required will vary … ours was about 5 cms long.
5. Bind the two sticks together at top and base with two freezer-bag wires. The uneven lengths of stick at the top should now form a slanted, solid end.
6. Push the bound sticks down between the doubly-wrapped rubberband. If the base is of even length, the neck should now be held firmly in place, with the peak of the slanted top towards the back of the dragon (this will give the head a slight tilt forwards and will also provide a wider area for gluing the head to the neck).
7. Pull out the inner flakes from inside the head to form as much as a ‘hole’ as possible .. not easy without it falling apart!
8. Place the head onto the neck and assess the best position. Glue a small area inside the cone and also the top of the neck then press the two together. Your dragon now has a head!
9. As a security measure, I wrapped a length of cotton around the head, doubled it back underneath and tied it firmly around the ‘neck’ to keep the head in place.
10. Break off 2 different very small lengths of stick to use as horns on the nose. Stick them in place with glue.
11. From the discarded piece of unused cone, break off a few flakes and choose two of desired ‘pointiness’ to use upside-down as ears. Stick them in place with glue.
12. You can use some of the remaining flakes to glue to the body to hide the rubber band / wires
13. Place and stick on the two eyes
14. Take the two sycamore leaves and push the stems diagonally downwards between the two body cones. Once you have placed the dragon on a board you can rearrange the ‘wings’ as you wish and, if the stems are long enough, they should stay in place with no need for gluing.
15. The glue used to attach the ‘horns’ and ‘ears’ should now be dry (if not, you may need to wait a little while longer), so you can now paint them the colour of your choice, using a very fine brush. Be careful! Not an activity for a 3yo unless you want him/her roaring that all the bits ‘fell off’ !
16. Choose a stick to use for the tail. Paint it whatever colour you like. This is a good activity for very young children for whom the previous stages was too complicated. You could even set them up to do this as you start to build the body – keep them entertained while you do the fiddly bits! This will need to dry for a few hours, so pre-warn them that the dragon probably won’t be quite finished until tomorrow.
17. Once the tail is dry, push one end down underneath the wire binding the two cones together at the rear. If the tail wobbles, you can use the remaining length of that wire (remember you left it dangling earlier on :-) ) to wrap around the tail and hold it in place.
Bingo! One verrry cute Autumn-Leaf Dragon :-)
If you do make one, we’d love to look at the pics, so please, link back to this and let’s see if we can make a family of them. My little one would definitely love to see if his red dragon has a blue or a green cousin out there somewhere …. :-)