Can You Sew By Hand?

Can you sew by hand

Hand-sewn Pirates of the Caribbean costumes

You’re all set to finally start work on that project you saw in the craft magazine a few months back. You pull out the issue and peruse the starting instructions only to realize they require a sewing machine that you don’t have. So you wonder, can you sew by hand instead?
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12 Things Every Crafter Can Identify With…

12 Things Every Crafter Can Identify With...The more a person crafts, the more they realize, there are some things that are just a part of crafting life. While crafting is for the most part a very pleasant experience, there are a few things that strike a chord with those who create. Here are a few things that almost every crafter can probably identify with… starting with the fact that those of us who have used glue guns, can attest that they will indeed burn off one’s finger prints…
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Homemade Lye

Making LyeLye is one of the ingredients used in old-fashioned soap making. I usually make the glycerin soap because it’s safer and pours into a mold more crisply, but once in a while someone puts in an order for good old-fashioned lye soap. The trouble is, sometimes it seems like finding waste from a nuclear reactor would be easier than drumming up some lye. However, this problem can be easily solved with a little homemade lye. Continue reading

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pumpkin

May the odds be ever in your favor

I’m probably not actually quite as obsessed with the Hunger Games as I appear to be (I save that for Legend of the Seeker), but I have to admit that I am having a lot of fun with the mockingjay symbol. I realize it’s not exactly a Halloween image, but I couldn’t resist. It was so perfect, it was just screaming to be carved.

To make the pattern, just print out a black and white image of the mockingjay symbol, then add an extra circle around the entire pattern, leaving in the black and cutting out the white.

Bittersweet and Broomcorn Wreath

I’ve made a lot of broomcorn wreaths over the years, usually using a metal coathanger or the premade 12 and 18 inch metal hoops. This week, however, I had a request for a larger wreath, which I knew would be the perfect time to experiment with adding bittersweet to the broomcorn.

To begin, you will need a 24 inch grapevine wreath to use as the base. Cover it with broomcorn, using 22 gauge wire to secure the broomcorn to the grapevine base. Normally I go around the edges with brown thread (which is pretty much invisible against broomcorn) to keep the broomcorn tight, but since this wreath was so big, I thought it looked better with the edges loose, so I left them alone.

Tie a large, two loop bow from some autumn wire-edged ribbon. I found that plaid looked very nice. Secure it to the wreath with wreath wire.

Make four bunches of bittersweet stalks, each piece being about 4-6 inches in length. Fasten them to the wreath with wire putting two bunches at the top near the bow, and two bunches toward the bottom, but leaving several inches of space in the middle between them.

Make three bunch of dried roses (yellow or red work best as they’re autumn colors). Use wreath wire to fasten the rose bunches on the wreath, in between the bittersweet bunches.

Hang this wreath on an indoor wall or outside under an eave.

Halloween Spider Soaps

My aunt had a cute idea of putting bugs into soap bars for Halloween, so today I went ahead and tried it. It’s a very simple project, and can be done using transparent melt and pour glycerin. You’ll also need some plastic spiders which can be found pretty much anywhere this time of the year. Black is traditional, but other colors look great too.

Start by pouring a layer of glycerin into a brownie pan. Quickly set the spiders in the glycerin layer, making sure their legs poke down into the glycerin. When the first layer of glycerin has hardened, pour a second layer over it, covering the spiders. You can also allow a bit of the spider to stick out the top for texture.

Cut the soap into bars allowing one spider for each bar. Put the bars in a soap dish and warn arachnophobics to be ware!

No spiders were harmed in the making of these soaps.

Mirror Dangler

Ok, this project is sort of an embracing-your-inner-geek kind of thing, and is probably somewhere around a kindergarten level of skill, but I didn’t have a lot of time so it was quick and fun.

Most people hang dreamcatchers or dice from the mirrors in their cars, but I wanted to try something a bit different. My car is named Serenity after Malcolm Reynold’s spaceship in Firefly, and the repeating line in the Firefly theme song is “You can’t take the sky from me.”

I enlisted the help of my sister who has a friend that spent a lot of time in China and knows how to write in Chinese (Chinese being one of the two languages used in Firefly). I asked her if she could translate you can’t take the sky from me into Chinese characters. She couldn’t find that exact phrase, but she gave me the characters for “You can’t take my sky” which is I figured was close enough. While I’m using a Firefly quote, this project could be altered to use any quote in any language.

To begin, take a piece of cardstock big enough to accommodate your quote. Draw out the words in pencil (if you plan to have a quote on the backside as well, write it now. I wrote my car’s name, Serenity, on the backside).

Next, trace the words (a few letters at a time) in glue and sprinkle glitter over them. Do the same to the backside if you wrote on it. Use the same color or a different color glitter to make outlines or underlines to spruce up the quotes.

When the glue has completely dried, bend the strip of cardstock into a circle and secure the ends with glue (if it won’t stay shut, use a clothespin to hold it). Make sure the one you want on the outside is actually on the outside when you bend it.

Finally, punch a hole in each side of the circle, insert a sparkly string, and hang it from the mirror of your car. Nothing special, but a nice way to add a little personalization.

Dried Flower Teapot

I made this little teapot flowerpot as a special request for someone at the farm market. She gave me the teapot and asked me if I could do some kind of dried flower arrangement in it.

To make this project you will need:
An empty teapot
Floral foam
Dried flowers (I used two kinds statis, strawflowers, coxcomb and goldenrod, but dried yarrow would also be a nice addition if you have any)
A piece of brightly colored ribbon
Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Begin by putting the floral foam in the bottom of the pot (I glued my foam to the bottom of the pot so it wouldn’t move around). Start by sticking a spring of goldenrod right in the center. This will be the base that everything else gets worked around.

Continue adding statis, strawflowers, and coxcomb to all sides of the goldenrod, sticking them firmly into the floral foam. Make sure the goldenrod remains taller than the rest of the arrangement. Keep adding flowers until the entire teapot is filled, then add a 3 or 4 springs of whispy, white statis (it looks similar to dried baby’s breath), so that the stems stick of out of arrangement.

Take a thick piece of statis and coat the stem in hot glue. Slide it into the spout and hold it for a moment so the glue secures it to the inside of the teapot spout. Lastly, form a nice bow out of the ribbon and hot glue it onto the handle of the teapot.

Turquois Feather Earrings

I still have some feathers left from a turkey I hit with my sister’s car a few years ago (we ate it, it didn’t go to waste). Mostly I’ve been making dreamcatchers out of the feathers, but some of the feathers are very small, so I decided to try a pair of feather earrings.

These are actually pretty simple to make. To begin you’ll need two feathers. Take a quick walk through the woods or a chicken yard and you should find plenty of feathers lying on the ground. I used French hooks for the actual earring part, as they’re the easiest to attach the feathers to, but you could probably use pretty much any type of earring top that has a loop on the bottom. You’ll also need a few beads and maybe a piece of decorative metal.

I had an old necklace someone had thrown out made of turquoise beads and some kind of white shell bead, so I used those. And for the metal, I’d had some old jewelry scroll-work looking pieces, so I used one of those on each earring.

To put them together, you’ll need some thin wire. I used copper, but any type of thin beading wire will do. Bend the wire in half and wrap it around the the quill of the feather. Wrap it several time to make it secure, then thread the two end of the wire through the metal piece and the beads. Twist firmly several times and trim the wire ends close to the twist. Use a pair of pliers to bend the tiny ends down into the beads they were just threaded through. This will keep the ends from poking into your ears.

Paper Spinners

These whimsical little baubles are quick and easy to make from scrap booking paper.

Supplies needed:
Scrap booking paper
Sewing machine or needle and thread

To begin, cut a piece of 12×12 scrap booking paper into nine equal square sections. Set aside the ninth piece. Stack eight of the pieces back to back (i.e. printed side facing printed side, white side facing white side). Sew a seam right down the center of the stack of eight squares. Tie off the thread ends.

Take the ninth piece and cut it into the shape you want your spinner to be. Lay this piece on top of the stack of eight to use a guide. Cut the stack of eight into the decided shape, being careful not to cut the thread. Set aside the ninth piece again; you won’t be using it any more. Pick up the stack of eight and carefully fan out the edges. Fan only in pairs keeping the white side hidden, while allowing the pretty scrapbook paper to show through.

Run a length of string through the top of each ornament. Hang several together and watch them spin in the breeze. These look great as a garland at summer parties or on a tree at Christmas time.

Sherbet Tie-Dye

I’m not sure what the technical name for this sort of tie-dye is, but I call it sherbet tie-dye due to the fact that it’s part white, part colored, kinda like sherbet ice-cream. This is one of the simplest tie-dye methods to use.

You will need:
White shirts
Colored dye
Rubber bands
Rubber gloves

Start by wetting down a white shirt (this project can also be done with a black shirt for a striking effect). Wring it out to remove excess water, and lay the shirt out flat on a table. Grabbing the very middle of the shirt, begin to twist it in a clockwise direction. Continue twisting until the entire shirt is tightly wound up into the spiral. Secure it with rubber bands.

Next drop the twisted shirt into a vat of dye, and quickly pull it out. (You may want to use gloves for this part to prevent your hands from getting all dye). Without squeezing the shirt and without removing the rubberbands, set the shirt aside to dry.

When the shirt has completely dried, remove the rubberbands and untwist the shirt. You should now have a colored spiral pattern on the white shirt. Wash the shirt on its own the first time to remove any excess dye. After that, the shirt can be washed normally with the rest of the colored clothes.

Rub-on Transfer Garden Wagon

Rub-on transfers can give new life to old wood. They look hand-painted, but are so much simpler.

I had one of those little wooden garden wagons lying around in storage. It was weathered and beat up, not much to look at, so I decided to try a little experiment. The materials required for this project are pretty simple:

Something to paint (in this case I used a wooden garden wagon, but the rub on transfers will work of most surfaces)
Spray paint of your chosen color
Rub-on transfers
Popsickle stick
Spray varnish.

To begin this project, spray your entire item with two coats of paint. You can also paint it with a brush, but the spray paint is much faster, espcially on wood. Let dry overnight.

To use the rub-on transfers (these can be found in almost any craft store, I got mine at Joann Fabrics), cut around the shape you want to rub. It’s ok if you have white around the image because most rub-on transfers don’t transfer the white part. Lay your transfer picture-side down on your item and use the popsickle still to rub the back of the transfer. Use a circular motion and rub the entire transfer. You’ll be able to see through the backside when the transfer leaves the backing paper. Carefully pull off the backing paper.

Continue this process using as many rub on transfers as you need to complete your project. When finished, coat the entire project with a layer of spray varnish. This will help prevent the transfers from getting scratched off. If you plan to you item an an outdoor decoration, the varnish is especially important.

Wheat Weaving: Dreamcatcher

Traditional wheat weavings designs had many meanings in ancient times. Some were used as courting favors, some were meant to bring luck, and many were used to ensure a bountiful harvest in the next year. Traditional designs abound in plenty, but even with the multitude of classic wheat weaving designs, it’s still fun create one’s own patterns. I created this dreamcatcher to blend the Celtic tradition of wheat weaving with the Native American tradition of dreamcatchers.

Begin by soaking a few dozen wheat or rye straws without heads.

Take a length of bailing wire (or a wire of  similar thickness) and bend it in a circle. Cut it to your desired dreamcatcher size. Unbend the wire and slip a piece of straw over the wire, add a second if needed, until the wire is completely covered. Tie five long straws to one end of the straw-covered wire, bend them out at an angle, so that one straw points north, east, west, and two straws point south. Take the left-hand south straw and bend it over the right-hand south straw so that it lies flat next to the straw pointed east. Then take the original east straw and bend it over the new east straw so that it lies flat next to the north east straw. Continue on in this manner, with the left-hand straw always bending out the right-hand straw (rotate the weaving so the straws you’re bending are always south if it makes it easier). When one straw gets short, just put another in its place.

Continue until the entire wire is covered, then bend the entire design in a circle and secure all the ends with white thread. This is your dreamcatcher hoop. To make the “string” peel the leaves off a few straws of wheat or rye and soak them. Twist the wet leaves together to form a string (keep adding leaves into the twist until the string is about 3 feet long). String the dreamcatcher as you would any normal dream catcher. (See here if you need instruction). For the hanger, take two wheat straws with heads and tie them together. Bend them down so they are at a right angle to each other, and proceed to fold the two straws over one another until the chain is two inches long.

Do the same with two more straws. Tie both ends of each chain together to form a loop, then tie it to the top of the dream catcher hoop.

The feathers are each made by braiding 7 straws together, then slowly cutting them off one at a time, so that the ends taper away. Twist the remaining two ends around each other and tie each feather to the dreamcatcher. It’s a bit harder to make than a traditional dreamcatcher, but I’m sure it keeps nightmares away just the same.

Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Wall Paper Valentines

My aunt used to work for a design company and every year, when the new wallpaper samples would come in, she would give us the books containing the old samples from the previous year. I think more than anything we spent time making Valentines out of the wallpaper.

Wallpaper samples offer a great range of creative possibilities. The paper samples themselves are thick and flexible so they don’t rip easily, which is always nice. And the selection of wallpaper usually lends itself well to Valentine’s Day as floral patterns are often found in abundance. A simple heart made of wallpaper cut with decorative shears looks several times more elegant than the same heart made of construction paper.

A simple way to make an attractive Valentine heart is to cut two half heart pieces from different colored wallpapers, but with corresponding patterns. Then cut two slashes half way up each of them like this:

Weave the two pieces together to create a beautiful Valentine heart. (I was looking for a picture of the ones my siblings and I used to make, but can’t seem to find one. If I locate one I’ll post it) This is a great project for children.

Sponge Painting

My mother recently redid her kitchen walls. The paper was getting old and discolored and peeling at the seams, and everyone agreed it was time for an upgrade. The first attempt was a disaster, however, with the solid gold color she chose, reminding us of a kitchen from 1970’s California. The only thing missing was my Gramma’s old Philco refrigerator! The second attempt was an almost cream colored yellow, which left the kitchen looking as stark as a hospital wing. But the third time was the charm when my mother decided to try sponge painting.

Sponge painting a fun and easy way to give new life to any room, all you need is two shades of paint, a roller and a sponge. Reminiscent of the old spackled enamel cookware, it gives walls a country cottage look, and is far more welcoming than a solid colored wall. This is particularly nice for a room such as a kitchen where the formality of a solid color is not necessarily wanted. Sponge painting is a lot easier than trying to deal with wallpaper, but the finished result has a similar feel to wallpaper.

To start, select two shades of the same the color, one being the main color you would like to see, the second being about two shades darker. Paint the darker shade on the walls first. If there is already wallpaper on the walls, smooth the seems with plaster, then paint right over it. It saves the trouble of trying to remove the wallpaper. Use a paint roller to coat the entire wall with the darker color, the same way you would paint any traditional wall. Apply a second coat if necessary.

When the first shade has dried, softly dip a piece of sponge into the lighter color then proceed to dab it on the wall. The object is dab haphazardly, allowing the bottom color to peek through in tiny spots. Don’t try to make it to orderly. Stand back from time to time to ensure there are no large patches of dark color showing through. Keep dabbing until you are satisfied with the result. This is very similar to rag rolling, except that where rag rolling requires a bit of practice, sponge painting is so easy anyone can do it.

The Finished Result


Close up of sponge paint texture

Groovy Jeans

Turn an old pair of jeans into a 60’s flashback.

Hippies and bellbottoms are synonymous with each other. The young generation of the 1960’s counter culture wholeheartedly embraced what had originally been a navy fashion and made it their own. While bellbottoms could be purchased in the 60’s, many stores refused to sell them due to the counter culture fashion statement they were becoming famous for. As such, many flower children took ordinary jeans and turned them into bellbottoms by slicing open the outer seams and inserting a triangular piece of denim or other material. This sometimes led to very large bells.

Today the fashion seems to have returned, albeit in a less wide fashion now called “boot cut.” The jeans are worn by both men and women today. Personally, I have never liked jeans with tight bottoms and I have found that even boot cut jeans are too close around the ankles for my taste. As such, I generally look back to the earlier decades and take a page out the fashion books by making my own. This allows me to be in control of the amount of flare.

These jeans are made “hippie style” so any pair of jeans can be used, straight-legged or flared. Begin by cutting off the outer seam up the knee on the pair of jeans. Sew off the remainder of the seam to ensure it does not unravel. Measure a piece of denim the same height as the jeans from knee to bottom. Cut it into a triangular shape, finishing the top at a point. You can either use the same color denim as the pair of jeans or create a contrasting effect by using a lighter or darker colored denim. You can also go really wild and use an insert of some other heavy material instead of denim. Anything with bright colors will make an interesting fashion statement against the blue denim.

Insert the triangular wedge into the sliced outer seam. Sew the triangle into the jeans. If hand sewing, use a double thread. If sewing on a machine, go over the stitches twice. Repeat on the other pant leg. Hem the bottom of the jeans to finish.

Alova Skin Pouch

This pouch goes well with western or medieval costumes or can be used as an accessory to more modern dress.

Items needed:
Alova fabric
7 inch piece of fake leather string
Stainless steel slotted concho

Alova is at its best when brown shades are used as it truly brings the leather/suede look to life for a fraction of the cost, and no harm to animals. Other shades can also be used for this project if desired. Cut a 34×11 rectangle from the alova. With the velvety side facing up, fold the bottom toward the top so that the velvety sides are facing each other. Leave 8 inches at the top; this will become the top flap later on.

Sew the sides together, but be sure to leave the 8 inches at the top. Turn the bag right side out. Fold the 8-inch flap over the front and use a pair of scissors to cut fringes 3 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. Sew the concho to the center of the flap using the slot to secure the thread.

Take the piece of leather string and run it through the slot of the concho. Tie it off in a knot and let the ends trail down.

Cut another rectangle of alova 48 inches long and 3.5 inches wide. Fold in half lengthwise with the fuzzy sides together. Turn it right side out and lay it flat so that the seam is in the center. Setting a sewing machine to zig-zag, sew a row of stitches all the way across the center of the rectangle over the seam. This will help flatten the handle and the zig-zag gives it a decorative pattern. Sew each end of the long strip to the top flap of the bag, right at the top of the fold.

Due to the long strap, this pouch works well being worn over the shoulder, across the chest. It also lends itself well to Tolkein or World of Warcraft style elf costumes.

Christmas Card Lampshade

Here’s a good way to upcycle old Christmas cards and broken lampshades while ending up with a free decoration for next year.

You will need:
An old lamp shade
Old Christmas cards
Silver or gold paper
Red or green bias tape.

We don’t throw much out at my house, and Christmas cards are no exception. We usually end up with stacks of all the prettiest ones from previous years. The question is, what to do with all the left-over beauties? The answer came this year in the form of a cracked lampshade. I realized there was no better way to give new life to both the lampshade and the cards than by putting the two together.

First find an old lampshade. It doesn’t matter how stained or cracked it is because the cards will cover the surface. If there is fabric on the outside of the lampshade, cut it off. Cut the backs off the Christmas cards; you’ll be using only the fronts for this project.

Glue several cards to the outside of the lampshade, laying them so that the top edges just overlap. There will be 1-2 inch spaces between the card bottoms. To fill those, cut triangular strips of gold or silver paper and glue them to the lampshade covering any open spaces between the cards. Next glue a piece of red or green bias tape to the top and bottom edges of the lampshade.

Next year use the shade to give your lights a holiday feel. You can either change the lampshades for the holiday season, or if your Christmas card lampshade is large enough, just set it right over the other lampshade.

Little Hearts Wreath

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of help in finding shops that will take my craft items. One of my fellow market vendors was very kind in mentioning my name to several people who ended up putting some of my things in their shops. I wanted to do a something for her to thank her for her help, so I made her a little wreath. It turned out kinda cute, so I thought I’d share it.

This wreath is made from nothing more than wallpaper sample fabrics and scrap pieces of quilt batting.

You will need:
2 small pieces of patterned fabric
1 piece of white fabric
Cotton batting
Navy blue ribbon (1/4 inch wide)

My aunt used to work in design, so she ended up giving us several old wallpaper books. Aside from a slew of lovely papers to use as valentines, there were also a bunch of fabric samples in the wallpaper books. I decided to use them to make a wreath.

Choose two corresponding pieces of patterned fabric (they don’t have to be from wallpaper sample books, any scrap fabric will do). Cut a basic heart shape from a piece of paper or card stock, it should be about 2 and half inches at the widest end. Use it as a template to cut five hearts from each piece of cloth. Also use it to cut ten hearts from plain white cloth to use as the backing.

To make each section, put a patterned heart and a white heart wrong sides together and sew the entire edge together, leaving a small half inch section open. Through the open half inch, turn the heart right side out and stuff it with some sort of fluffy cotton. (I always save the tiny scraps left over from quilting, so this is a great way to use them up). Sew the half inch closed. Repeat for all ten hearts.

Sew the hearts together side by side forming a ring. Fashion five little bows from the navy blue ribbon and run two stitches through the center of each to secure them to the wreath. Because there’s nothing fragile on this wreath, it can be put almost anywhere without fear of damage from falling.

Here’s the finished product:

Wreath Front


Wreath Back
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Charlie Brown Iron-on Transfer Paper Shirt

One of my cousins is a Charlie Brown nut. I think he has every line in the Christmas and Great Pumpkin specials memorized. So this year for Christmas, we wanted to give him a shirt from one of the Charlie Brown specials, but store-bought shirts can be so generic. We decided to have a bit more fun and customize one with iron-on transfer paper.

Iron-on transfer paper is one of the coolest things they ever invented in the craft department. It’s so versatile; it can be used on clothes, bags, quilts; pretty much anything made of some type of fabric. It’s easy to use and 100% washable. A little imagination and a half-way decent printer and the possibilities are endless.

First we searched the Internet for screen captures from Merry Christmas Charlie Brown (in particular searching for the “five good reasons” scene). After locating suitable images, we altered them in paint to add the word bubbles, then we printed the two images on a sheet of iron-on transfer paper.

The most important thing to remember with iron-on transfer paper, especially when there are words involved, is that the finished item will have a mirror image of what you see on your computer, so flip the image backwards before printing it onto the paper. (I forgot to print the image backward the first time I used this stuff, but fortunately realized the mistake before I actually ironed it on or my letters would have ended up backward!)

To transfer the image to fabric, place the fabric on a hard surface (not a cushy ironing board) and using dry heat, continuously move the iron around the sheet in circular motions for about one minute total, giving particular attention to the edges. Then you can immediately peel off the paper backing, or if you want a glossy finish, wait until it has cooled before removing the backing.

The transfer area of the fabric usually stiff at first, but after a few washings, it softens up.

Close up of images


Full Shirt

T-shirt Dress

I had a bag of extra t-shirts lying around, so I had either the option to cut them up and make a rug for my bedroom floor or try out a dress idea I had. I went with the dress idea, but as often happens, I gave away the finished product before taking a picture, so you’ll just have to use your imagination for this one.

Most kids have a T-shirt or two that they don’t wear very often. These unused garments can be put to good use in this project. To begin this dress all you need is a simple T-shirt, a piece of material around 2 yards long and one inch wider than the desired height of skirt. Any type of light material such as calico or homespun will do nicely. Choose a well fitting T-shirt, not skin tight, but not too loose and baggy either. (As an alternative for weather changes, a long-sleeved T-shirt or a turtleneck could be used in colder months, and a tank top can be used for hotter summer months.)

The T-shirt makes up the top portion of the dress, all you will have to do is make and attach the skirt. To form the skirt, sew the two ends of the fabric together. Next you will need to make box pleats along one of the edges (don’t cut the bias off the top edge, it will keep it from unraveling as you pleat it). Run a set of stitches through the edge of the skirt, about an inch from the top. Each stitch should be about an inch wide, with an inch in between each stitch. This is best done by hand. Next run a second row of stitches exactly like the first row, an inch below the first one. Do not tie off the thread ends on either row.

Pull the ends of the thread on both rows tight, creating gathers in the fabric. Pull them up until the pleated opening is the same width as the bottom of the T-shirt. Turn the skirt inside out. Turn the T-shirt upside down, but leave it right side out. Slip it inside the skirt so that the bottom of the shirt is touching the top of the skirt. Sew the skirt to the shirt.

Turn the entire project right side out. The skirt and T-shirt should now be fully connected forming a complete dress. Hem the bottom of the skirt to finish the garment.

The fabric chosen for the skirt can make this dress fit into any season depending on the pattern. Calicoes can be good for any time of the year. Floral patterns hearken to the warm, sunny days of spring and summer. Brightly colored fall leaves or pumpkin pattern fabrics would make cute autumn or Halloween dresses. And fabrics that include poinsettia flowers or evergreen trees would work well for the winter months and holidays. The possibilities are practically limitless.

Legend of the Seeker Pumpkin

When it comes to carving pumpkins, my brother, sister and I are maniacs. We spend the entire year collecting silhouettes that will make good new patterns, and carve dozens of the fruits come Halloween. This year was a little different, however. Due to time constraints we carved relatively few. I’ve only carved 5 pumpkins (a huge drop from the 200+ my siblings and I used to carve in a week), and only created one new pattern this year. Even so, I rather enjoyed the new pattern so I’d thought I’d share it.

Legend of the Seeker is the only television show I watch, but I’m basically obsessed with it, so I decided to do a Legend of the Seeker pumpkin. I took the poster silhouette of the confessor, the seeker, the mord sith, and the wizard all standing together and carved the space out around them to make a suitable pumpkin pattern. I thought it was appropriate considering I’m going as the confessor for Halloween. Here’s the finished product; I’m going as the one on the left.

Kahlan, Richard, Cara, & Zedd

This was the poster I used as the pattern; it’s one of the Save Our Seeker campaign posters (somebody please pick up this awesome show). I nixed the rest of the poster and just used the silhouettes of the main four characters as the pattern for the pumpkin. To carve it, just draw a circle around the people and carve out around the figures, leaving them standing in the pumpkin.

Dried Flower Wreath

So when someone gave me the simple request of making a dried flower wreath for them I had no idea these would be so popular, but within 10 minutes of her picking up the finished product, I already had four more wreath orders, just from people seeing her carry it around. Amazing considering that when I first started this wreath, I though it was pretty ugly. The flowers on the partially finished wreath looked like they’d been haphazardly stuck on there. But by the time I’d completed the entire circle, the wreath had come together beautifully. I guess it just needed to be fully flowered to make a show.  

You will need:
A straw wreath hoop
15-20 dried straw flowers (Helichrysum)
Several bunches of dried statice in at least three colors
6 stems of dried baby’s breath
6-7 pieces of dried coxcomb flower
6-7 pieces of dried yarrow
A ball of yarn
A roll of 22-gauge wreath wire

Most of the flowers in this wreath dry pretty well using the air-drying method.

Start the project by tying one end of the yarn to the wreath. Gather a bunch of statice about 2 inches wide (all the same color) and place it on the wreath wrapping the yarn around it to secure it. Take a few straw flowers and put them next to the statice wrapping the yarn around them. Grab another bunch of statice (different colored than the first bunch) and yarn wrap that to secure it to the wreath. Repeat with another row, staggering the straw flowers and the statice so they’re not right in line with the first ones. Next add a piece of yarrow or a piece of coxcomb.

Repeat the steps above making another two rows of flowers then adding a piece of yarrow or coxcomb (whichever one you didn’t add the first time). Continue on in this manner, adding flowers and alternating the yarrow and coxcomb combinations. Also change the position of the flowers around: if one piece of coxcomb was on the top of the wreath, put the next piece towards the interior of the wreath and so on.

Every 4-5 inches, add in a stem of baby’s breath, allowing it to flail out from the wreath in an unruly manner. It adds charm to the finished wreath.

When the hoop is entirely covered by flowers, tie off the yarn. To make a hanger, take an eight inch piece of wreath wire and slip an inch of each end under several pieces of yarn on the back side. Bend the inch back towards the long part and wrap it around itself to secure it. You can also use u-shaped wreath pins to attach the wreath wire to the wreath as an alternative to slipping it under the yarn.

This wreath will last for years if it is kept out of harsh weather. It can also be sprayed with dried flower preserver to make the flowers less fragile.

Peter Pan Costume

The butternut leaves are starting to fall. It can only mean one thing, Halloween will soon be on its way. Yippie!!! So, I’ve started making costumes. This was a Peter Pan costume done in alova, my favorite material of choice. Here are the instructions if anyone wants to try it themselves. The top and hat are pretty easy to make can be worn with any pair of green pants.

Alova is an inexpensive material that has the look of suede or leather, particularly when brown shades are used. Though called alova skin, it is in fact synthetic and is not made of animal skin. Aside from trying to achieve a fake suede look, however, this fabric lends a rich texture to almost any costume. The best part is, this material does not fray so there is no need to finish stitch the edges. I used alova to make this Peter Pan costume.

Trace a large T-shirt (just the body, not the sleeves) onto a piece of dark green fabric and cut two pieces of the green fabric. Widen the dip of the neckline on both pieces. With the right sides together, sew the sides and top of the two body pieces together leaving holes for the sleeves and the neck.

Cut four rectangular pieces a little larger than the sleeves of the T-shirt used for measuring. These sleeves should reach the elbow of the person who will be wearing the costume. Put two of the rectangles right side together and cut one end at a diagonal. Sew the sides of the pieces together leaving both ends open then sew the sleeve pieces to the body piece. The shorter end of the sleeve goes on the bottom side of the sleeve. Do the same with the remaining two sleeve pieces. Now turn the entire shirt right side out.

On the front side of the newly made shirt, cut two inches down the center neckline. Fold the collar open, bending it to each side and secure each side of the bent collar with a stitch. Then continue cutting straight down the center for another 3-4 inches. Cut lace holes on each side of this center slice.

Cut a 1/2 inch piece of fabric and tie a knot in the end of each side. Lace this through the holes on the front of the shirt starting from the bottom and going up. Leave the ends hanging loose. Cut points around the sleeve ends and the bottom of the shirt. Use a piece of green cord as a belt.

To make the hat, cut two pieces of cloth in the shape of a half heart. Sew the two pieces together leaving the straight edge open for the wearer’s head. Turn the hat right side out and roll the edges up, securing with a few stitches. To finish, sew a feather onto one side. A plastic knife or a bow and arrow also make a nice addition to the costume. Wear this top and hat with a pair of green leggings or some other form of tight pants.

On the front side of the newly made shirt, cut two inches down the center neckline. Fold the collar open, bending it to each side and secure each side of the bent collar with a stitch. Then continue cutting straight down the center for another 3-4 inches. Cut lace holes on each side of this center slice.

Cut a 1/2 inch piece of fabric and tie a knot in the end of each side. Lace this through the holes on the front of the shirt starting from the bottom and going up. Leave the ends hanging loose. Cut points around the sleeve ends and the bottom of the shirt. Use a piece of green cord as a belt.

To make the hat, cut two pieces of cloth in the shape of a half heart. Sew the two pieces together leaving the straight edge open for the wearer’s head. Turn the hat right side out and roll the edges up, securing with a few stitches. To finish, sew a feather onto one side. A plastic knife or a bow and arrow also make a nice addition to the costume. Wear this top and hat with a pair of green leggings or some other form of tight pants.

Hoopskirt Making

A hoopskirt is essential for civil war reenactment costumes and some Renaissance costumes. It can also be used to give fullness to a wedding dress. While premade hoopskirts are available, it is much more cost efficient to make your own.

You will need:
2 flat strips of metal, no more than 2 inches wide. Should long enough to make hoops 120″ and 100″
Long pieces of scrap fabric
Strong yarn or string
Needle and thread

This is a 2-tiered set of hoops, and is fairly easy to make. To begin, you will need some long, flat strips of metal. For my skirt I found some discarded strips that had previously been used to bind stacks of lumber. I have also seen such strips in hardware stores such as Lowe’s.

Bend one strip into a circle, measuring it to be 120 inches around. Duct tape the two ends of the strip together. Wind duct tape around the entire strip to prevent it from rusting and staining the gown. (If your strips are made of no-rust metal, you can skip this step). Make a second hoop 100 inches around. Duct tape the ends together, and wind the entire strip with duct tape.

Cut 5 strips of fabric about 4 feet long and 2 inches wide. Tightly sew the the ends of these five strips to the 120″ hoop, evenly spacing them around the hoop.

Cut another strip about three feet long, and tie around your waist, making a sort of belt. Tie the free ends of the five strips to this belt, evenly spacing them. Adjust the height of the five strips until the hoop is several inches above the ground. Untie the belt from your waist, making sure the five strips stay tied to it.

Cut off any excess from the five strips. If you have a mannequin, put the hoops on it. If not, have a friend volunteer to wear the hoops for a moment. Take the 100″ hoop and hold it about a foot and a half above the bottom hoop. Run a piece of yarn through each of the fabric strips and tie them tightly to the 100″ hoop.

If your gown has a thick skirt, the hoop forms won’t show through the dress. If they do, add a petticoat beneath the hoops. This is what the finished product looks like (I sewed my skirt to my hoops for convenience, so I don’t have a picture of just the hoops).
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Gourd Snowmen

These little snowmen never melt no matter what the weather. Made from dried birdhouse gourds, they will last for years.

You will need:
Dried birdhouse gourds
Acrylic paint: white, black, orange and a bright color for the scarf.
Acrylic varnish
Hot glue gun
Black card stock

Mini-birdhouse gourds make the cutest snowmen, as each is only about 4 inches tall, but they can also be made from full size birdhouse gourds for a full size display. To begin, apply a coat of white paint to the entire surface of the gourd. Let set until dry. Apply a second coat of white paint. Let dry.

Using the black paint, add the eyes, mouth, and “buttons” down the front of the snowman’s body. Add an orange triangle to represent the traditional carrot nose. Paint a scarf around the “neck” section of the snowman.

When all the paint is completely dry, coat the snowman in a layer of varnish or sealer. Some craft stores carry a sparkle varnish with the regular acrylic paints. It works great on these snowmen as the sparkly bits give the gourds the appearance of having been made from real snow.

Take the black cardstock and cut a circle about 2 inches in diameter. (If you are using full size birdhouse house gourds, adjust the circle to about 5 inches in diameter). Then cut a 1-inch circle out of the middle of the larger circle. Set aside. Cut a strip of black cardstock an inch and a half wide, and about 5 inches long.

Hot glue the strip of cardboard to outside of the 1-inch circle. Trim the excess length, then hot glue the free side of the strip (which is now curled into a circle) to the inner edge of the 2-inch circle. This is the snowman’s hat. Hot glue the hat to the snowman’s head to complete the wintry look.

Tin Can Luminaries

Old soup containers can be recycled to make beautiful candleholders. The holes punched in the tin exude a warm glow from the candle within.

You will need:

  • Used soup cans with wrappers removed
  • Hammer
  • Nail

To begin, you will need to make the can hard enough to pound without bending. To do this, either slide a tight fitting block of wood into the soup can to support its edges or fill the can with water and let it freeze. Once the can is ready to be pounded, decide on a design. (As an alternative to a soup can, cat food cans work great for smaller candles such as tea lights.)


Designs can either be drawn freehand or printed out from a computer. You may want to put newspapers or towels under the can if you use the ice method, as it will begin to thaw as you pound.

Pound your design into the tin can, one hole at a time. Try to space the holes evenly. When you have finished pounding, remove the block of wood or let the ice melt. (This process can be sped up by running it under hot water). Use the hammer to pound down any sharp edges or areas that may have warped during the pounding. Place a candle inside and watch the luminary glow.

There are many possibilities with this craft, don’t limit yourself to just one nail. Try mixing and matching nail holes of different sizes to create interesting patterns, or add long, thin marks from a flathead screwdriver.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Fleece Scarves

Fleece scarves are a warm welcome on a cold winter day. These scarves can easily be made in under an hour.

You will need:

  • Fleece material
  • Scissors

The following items are optional:

  • Fabric Glue
  • Sequins
  • Fabric markers

To begin, cut a piece of fleece 8 inches wide and 1 yard long (shorter if you don’t like long scarves). Use the scissors to cut slits 3 inches long, at half-inch intervals across both short ends of the scarf to make fringes. To decorate the scarf, use fabric glue to add sequins, or if you have a steady hand, use fabric dye markers (available at most crafts shops, i.e. Jo-Anne Fabrics, Michael’s, etc.) to draw on embellishments.

Other decorative options include embroidery, needle-felting, or iron-on appliqués. Finish decorating and voila! You now have a nice warm scarf to wear or give as a gift.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Scrap Paper Christmas Tree Garland

These garlands are made using the same technique as gum-wrapper chains. Scrap paper offers an alternative to gum wrappers, giving a wider selection of prints and colors, and does not require hours of chewing gum.

You will need:
Scrapbook paper

This is a relatively easy project, though it can be a bit time consuming. The first thing you need to choose is your scrapbook paper. (I have a tendency to use these lovely papers for everything but scrap booking!) Plain colors always look lovely, but if you want a pattern, choose one with a small design so it will not be lost on the garland. An alternative to scrapbook paper is to recycle newspapers by using brightly colored sections such as “the funnies” to make these garlands.

Cut the paper into strips four-inches long and half an inch wide. To begin the chain, cut one of the four-inch strips in half. You will now have 2 two-inch strips. Set one of the two-inch strips aside. Fold the other two-inch strip in half, then fold the sides into each other until they touch the middle fold. You will now have a square.

Fold a four-inch strip in half. Slide the two ends through the folds in the square you made previously. Fold the sides down until they touch the middle fold, this will lock the strips in place. You should now have half an inch sticking out from the first square.

Fold another four-inch strip in half. Slide the ends up through the half-inch. Fold the ends down until they touch the middle fold. A new half-inch will be sticking out. Continue sliding and folding the four-inch strips until the garland has reached your desired length.

At that point, retrieve the two-inch strip you set aside.

Slide the ends of the two-inch strip through the half-inch as you would normally. Fold the ends down until they touch the middle fold. This time there will be no half-inch sticking out, the garland will end with the square. Wind the garland around a tree or doorway for a holiday feel.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Hand-Dipped Taper Candles

Hand-dipped TapersHand-dipped tapers provide charming light in the darkness of winter.

You will need:

  • Beeswax or another type of wax
  • Wicking
  • A tall dipping container
  • A tall container of cold water
  • Washers or bolt nuts
  • Double boiler (or two pans)
  • Newspaper
  • Scissors or sharp knife

To begin, cover the area with newspapers as this is one of the messiest forms of candlemaking. Decide how long you want your candles. You will be dipping two at a time, so measure a piece of wicking twice your desired length, then add two inches. Cut the wicking. Tie the washers, bolt nuts or a similar small object to the wick. These will be used to weigh down the wicking and keep it straight during the dipping process.

Beeswax makes the best taper candles, as it adheres to its own layers very well, however, any wax can be used to produce decent result. Heat the wax in a double boiler, or if you don’t have one, make one by placing the wax in a pan that sits on top of a second pan filled with water. Heat the wax until it is melted. It is very flamable, so if it begins to smoke, remove it from the burner immediately.

You don’t want the wax to be too hot for this project or the dipped layers will be too thin to adhere. As soon as the wax is melted completely, remove it from the heat. Pour it into the tall dipping container; the container should be several inches taller than your wicking.

Holding the wick in the center, dip both ends into the wax, almost to the top; just beware your fingers don’t touch the wax. Wait until the wick hardens. Dip the wicking into the hot wax once again, then quickly dip it into the container of cold water. This will immediately harden the wax. When you pull the wicks from the water, run your hand down them to remove excess water, which could cause bubbles in the finished candles. Continue alternating dips in the wax and the cold water, removing excess water each time. Keep your dipping hand steady as possible to ensure straight candles. Keep dipping until the candles reach your desired thickness. Usually about 25 dunks makes a good candle.

Using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, cut the now wax-covered weights off the bottom of the candles. Once more, dip the candles into the wax, then the water to give them a smooth finish. Drape the candles over a stick or a dowel and leave them to completely harden for a few days. At that point, you can cut the wick in the center. The candles can be made into a lovely gift by bundling several together and tying them with ribbon or raffia.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Broom Ladies

Broom LadiesThese cute little brooms are functional as well as decorative. Made of broomcorn, they are excellent as hand brooms.

You will need:

  • Broomcorn (also called ornamental grass/sorghum)
  • Material for dress, face, and hands
  • Cotton
  • Yarn
  • Markers
  • Raffia
  • Needle and thread
  • Glue

Before the invention of nylon brooms, broomcorn was (and often still is) used to make corn brooms. It is not actually a type of corn, but in fact a very large grass. The nickname of broomcorn was derived from the fact that the grass stems are so large they closely resemble cornstalks.

Begin by shucking the seeds from the broomcorn heads (if your broom will be merely decorative, the seeds can be left on for the colorful effect) Tie several of the shucked broomcorn stalks together with raffia just above the heads, and again about an inch from the broom’s top. Form a raffia loop, and attach this to the top tie.

Cut 2 identical dress shapes from material and sew them together. Make sure the neck hole is large enough to fit over the broom handle. Cut a head and a pair of hands from material. Stuff them with cotton. Sew the head to the front half of the dress. Sew the hands to the sleeves of the dress.

Slip the dress over the top of the broom handle, sliding it down until the skirt part of the dress covers the heads of the broomcorn. Leave about an inch and a half of the broomcorn peeking out beneath the dress. Using the markers, draw a face on the broom lady. Cut a few pieces of yarn and glue them to the top of the head as hair. Embellish the broom ladies with miniature baskets or tiny brooms of their own glued to their hands.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Wheat Weaving: Heart

At the end of the season, I always like to make a few weavings out of rye or wheat.Wheat weavings, also called corn dollies, are traditional end of harvest crafts. They can also be woven from rye, barley, and oats, but wheat is most commonly used due to its flexibility.The Celts used to do this to ensure good luck for the next years harvest. ‘Round here we just doing because it’s fun.

You will need:
10-12 long stalks of wheat, rye, barley, or oats with heads
White thread

(For those without access to grain stalks, these can be woven from plastic drinking straws as well.)

In days gone by, farmers used to take the last few stalks of the grain harvest and weave them into beautiful designs in hopes of capturing the spirit of the grain to ensure a bountiful harvest the following year. These weavings were kept inside all winter. In the spring the weavings were unraveled and the heads were the first seeds sown in the fields, as it was believed they would bring good luck for the growing season. Today most people wheat weave for aesthetic pleasure as opposed to good luck for harvest, but the designs are just as beautiful now as they were hundred of years ago.

To begin, soak the straws in warm water for 20 minutes. Tie four straws together just below the heads. With the heads at the bottom, gently pull down the stalks so they splay in four different directions. Leave one gap wider than the others.

Start weaving by holding the gap away from you. Bend the straw across from the gap (second from the right) into the open space. A new gap will form where that straw was. Turn the weaving so the new gap faces away from you. Bend the straw across from the new gap (now second from the right) into the open space. Continue “filling the gap” until the weaving is about 5 inches long.

Do the same with another set of four straws, making a weaving that is 5 inches long. If you break a straw, just insert one of the extras in its place and continue weaving as though nothing happened.

Tie the two weaving together at the heads. Bend the weavings up into a heart shape. Allow the unwoven ends to drape down into the center. Secure the ends to the heads with thread. To finish, tie the bottom of the heart with a festive ribbon. As grain dries naturally on its own, these will last for many years.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Book Bags

These little bags are named for their construction material, not what they carry. They’re a great way to recycle old hardcover books.

You will need:

  • Hardcover book
  • 1 yard of material
  • Hot glue gun
  • Bag handles
  • Ribbon
  • A large button
  • Cardboard

Start by cutting the pages out of an old hardcover book. Cut a piece of cardboard, the width of the book’s spine, and hot glue it to the inside of the spine. Lay the book out flat, with the inside facing up. Measure and cut a piece of cloth that will cover the entire book. Set aside.

Cut four pieces of ribbon that are twice as long as the book’s front cover width. Loop these pieces of ribbon through the bag handles (for extra stability, you can sew the two sides of the halved ribbon together.) Hot glue the four ribbons to the front and back cover of the bag, allow enough ribbon so the handles do not quite touch the bag.


Cut a piece of ribbon a little larger than the circumference of your button. Form a loop and hot glue this the center of the edge of the back cover. Run a piece of ribbon through the holes in the button and hot glue the ribbon ends to the center of the edge of the front cover. This will form a button and loop closure for the bag.

Cut two pieces of triangular-shaped material. The tip of the triangle, should be as wide as the spine of the book, the bottom of the triangle should be several inches wider than the spine. Make the triangle half an inch taller than the book. Glue a triangular piece to each side of the bag, attaching the cloth to the spine, front and back covers of the book.



Take the piece of material that was cut to the size of the book. Glue the material to the Books Bagsbook, covering all the ribbons. Make sure this is securely glued.

When the glue is dry, the bag is ready to be used. If you want to get really fancy, you can cut a few rectangles of the same material, and glue them to the inside of the bag to make pockets. Once you get the hang of these, they are really fun to make.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Toll Painted Glasses

Toll painting glassware is an inexpensive way to create festive serving glasses for autumn parties. After the party, the paint easily washes off with a little soap and hot water.

You will need:

  • Toll paint (acrylic paint)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Scratch paper
  • Glassware to be painted

When choosing your toll paint, be sure it is not the kind made specifically for glass, as this type of paint is permanent and will not wash off the glassware after the party. Avoid anything that says “Patio Paint” as it is usually permanent. The best paint to use for this project is just the generic acrylic paint available in craft stores.

To make autumn leaves, load a flat-tipped paintbrush with red on one half and orange on the other (you can also substitute yellow for one of the colors). Run a short stroke down the scratch paper, squiggling the brush from side to side to blend the colors a bit.

With the red half of the brush facing out, paint several small maple leaf shapes on the glassware. Use a quick stroke through the center of the leaves to fill in any open spaces. Pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, spiders and webs make equally appropriate glass decorations for autumn parties.

Once the glassware is painted, leave it to dry for several hours before using. After use, simply soak them in a sink full of hot, soapy water, and the paint will easily rub off with a dishtowel.

This project need not be saved only for autumn. It can easily be adjusted for any time of the year. Snowflakes, snowmen, and evergreen trees work well for Christmas. Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. Hearts for Valentines Day. Flowers for Midsummer’s Eve. Almost any time of year presents suitable symbols.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Paper Mache Ghosts

Paper Mache GhostsThe secret to making fabric ghosts hold  their shape is a little flour and water. These are loads of fun to make  and look great displayed as a group or on festive Halloween wreaths.

You will need:

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • A saucepan
  • Paintbrush
  • White fabric
  • Balloon or fish bowl
  • Black marker
  • Cheesecloth

To  begin, you will have to make the paper mache paste. Adding 8 parts  water to 1 part flour, boil the two ingredients together in a saucepan. When it reaches the boiling stage, remove the pan from the heat  and stir in a tablespoon or 2 of sugar. Let mixture set until it is  cool, it will thicken into a paste as it does. When it has completely  cooled, it can either be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator. It will usually last about a week before it starts to mold.

Cut a square of white material; muslin or another similar material  works well. Adjust the size according to what you want to use the ghost  for. These are equally fun as tiny ghosts to decorate a wreath or as large  ghosts to suspend from the ceiling. Paint the mache paste onto both  side of the material. Prop the balloon or fishbowl up on a box and drape  the mache covered fabric over it. (If making smaller ghosts, use an  aspirin bottle to drape the fabric over.)

As the fabric is drying, cut a square of cheesecloth. Don’t worry if  the ends fray, as it adds to the ghostly effect. Paint the cheesecloth  with mache paste. Drape the cheesecloth over the white fabric, turning  it so the ends fall in between those of the white fabric.

Let the ghost dry completely. The white fabric and the cheesecloth  will stick together as they dry. Once the ghost has completely dried,  remove it from the balloon it was draped over. It will hold its own  shape now. Using the black marker, draw two eyes, and the ghosts are  ready. The eyes can also be painted on. They can be reused year after  year.

Cornhusk Dolls

Cornhusk dolls allow the crafter endless possibilities. They can be anything from cute and simple to elegant and refined.

You will need:

Dried cornhusks|
An acorn or other small round object
Wreath wire (optional)

Cornhusk dolls have their origins in Native American culture. The dolls were made as toys for children as well for more serious ceremonies. In later years, the pioneers also borrowed the tradition from the Native Americans and made dolls for their children out of cornhusks.

This project is the basic cornhusk doll. Once this is mastered, a crafter can get very creative dying or painting husks, or using scraps of cloth as clothing. To make witches for Halloween wreaths, just add a pointed hat and a twig broom. For a fairy or an angel, cut two husks into the shape of wings and hot glue to the doll’s back.

Cornhusks have to be dried before they are made into dolls otherwise they will lose their shape and fall apart. To dry the cornhusks, leave them out in the sun for a day then store them in a dry place until use.

To begin making a doll, soak the dried cornhusks in water for about 10 minutes. This will make them pliable enough to use. First take an acorn or other similar object. This will be the head. Lay two wide husks down, forming a cross. Place the acorn in the center of the husk cross. Fold the sides of the husks around the acorn. Tie off the ends below the acorn.

Next take two cornhusks to use as the arms. If you want the arms to be moveable, conceal a piece of wreath wire inside the husks. Lay the husks on top of one another, and tie them off the middle.

Using two cornhusks, lay them on the left arm, sandwiching it. Tie these two husks to the arms about a centimeter from the end of the “hand.” Fold the two husks backward over the tie, concealing it. This will form a sleeve. Tie the ends in the center. Repeat with the right side.

Slide the arms up between the long ends trailing off the neck. Tie off at the waist.

Take two cornhusks and lay them diagonally across each arm. Tie off everything below the arms. This will form the bodice and the waist.

Next take eight cornhusks. Lay four on the backside of the doll, and four on the front side. Point them up toward the head. Tie off at the waist, then carefully fold them down, concealing the tie. This will form the skirt. For a male doll, separate the “skirt” into two legs and tie them at the ankles.

To make hair, glue a bit of corn silk to the doll’s head. For a female, this can be tied off in pigtails with bits of yarn. Traditionally cornhusk dolls have no faces. This is due to an old legend about a cornhusk doll who had such a beautiful face that she grew vain. She ignored her duties and responsibilities, choosing only to stare at her own reflection. The Great Spirit saw this and punished her by removing her face. This is why cornhusk dolls are made without faces.

Gourd Birdhouses

A dried gourd can make a cozy house for some lucky bird and it can make an attractive decoration for a yard as well.

You will need:

  • Dried gourds
  • A dremel, drill, or jackknife
  • Paint
  • Acrylic sealer
  • Eyehooks

The best type of gourd to use as a birdhouse is actually called a  birdhouse gourd. They dry easily, have a sturdy shell, and are roomy  enough for a bird to enjoy. That said, one need not limit themselves  only to birdhouse gourds. A gourd birdhouse is as much decorative as it  is functional and there are many gourds that lend  themselves well to this project. Goosenecks, apple gourds, caveman’s  club, and others all work well as birdhouses. You should select one that  meets your fancy.

First,  you will need a gourd. If you have one dried from last year, it makes  the task easier. Gourds are best dried by letting them get hit with the  frost for several cool nights, just be sure not to let them get too wet.  They can also be dried indoors, but require a very dry area. Birdhouses  can also be made from fresh gourds, but will sometimes become distorted  as they dry.

To begin, scrape off the gourd’s flaking outer skin. Using the  dremel, drill, or jackknife, cut a hole about an inch and a half in  diameter in the lower half of the gourd. Pull out the “guts” through  this hole. In a dried gourd, guts have usually hardened and may have to  be broken into small pieces to come out through the hole. Be careful not  to break the hole when pulling out the guts.

When the inside of the gourd is empty, paint the outside with any design you choose. Using the hole as the center of a flower is always fun. After the paint has dried, spray it with a clear acrylic sealer to make it weatherproof.

Turn the gourd upside-down and drill 3 holes in the bottom. This will  allow for drainage should any rain come in the hole. Carefully screw an  eyehook into the top of the gourd somewhere near the stem. This is  usually where’s the gourd’s shell is thickest and allows for the  strongest hold.

Loop a piece of string through the eyehook, hang the gourd from a  tree branch and wait for the birds to move in come spring. It’s good to  have the houses out several months before spring. Birds don’t actually  claim a house until spring, but they’re searching for good nesting sights well before.

Catnip Sachets

Even older cats appear young and spry when there is catnip in the  air!
Catnip is easily air-dried. Just harvest a few leaves and spread them out in a  dry place for about a week. When the leaves
feel crispy to the touch,  they are ready to be used.

What You’ll Need

  • Dried catnip
  • Fabric scraps
  • Thin ribbon
  • Cotton/stuffing
  • Needle and thread colored to match ribbon


Cut  a circle of fabric 5 inches in diameter. It doesn’t have to be a  perfect circle, just something in a general circular shape. Lay a few  dried catnip leaves in the center of the circle, then place a cotton  ball on the leaves. (These can also be made without the cotton, but will  require a lot more catnip to fill up the sachet. Also, the sachets tend  to lose some of their bounce without the cotton, and the cats love the  bounce so I always add cotton.)

Pull the sides of the fabric up around the catnip leaves and the  cotton, forming a little sack. Tie the sack together with a 7-inch piece  of ribbon. Leave the ends of the ribbon long, as cats love to play with  these.

With the needle and thread, run two stitches all the way through the  ribbon and sachet to secure it all. Tie off the thread ends at the back  of the sachet.

Throw the toy into a room with a cat and watch it go wild!

Flower Preservation: Pressed Flowers

A heavy book is all that is necessary to create beautifully pressed flowers.

Pressing flowers is a fun pastime that requires relatively little effort on the preserver’s part. Not only is the process very enjoyable, but the flowers can be used in a variety of projects such as note cards and stationary. Most any type of flower or leaf can be pressed, but flowers with thick centers such as sunflowers or Echinacea do not turn out as well. On the other hand, flowers like pansies are so easy it’s incredible.

Flower presses are readily available, but not necessary to successfully press flowers. A telephone book, encyclopedia or other heavy book will work just as well. I have a large Audubon book that I press all my flowers in and as it’s bigger than most flower presses, I can press many flowers at one time.

It is best to pick flowers on a dry day to avoid extra moisture accumulation. To begin, lay a sheet of paper in the open encyclopedia (or whatever large book you might be using), to protect the book’s pages. Arrange the flowers on the paper, placing them carefully to avoid overlapping edges. The emphasis here is to imagine what it will like when it is pressed. Petals that end up folded during pressing will remain folded forever. Place another sheet of paper over the flowers and carefully close the book.

One heavy book is usually enough to successfully press flowers, particularly if the flowers are being pressed near the back of the book, so most of the book’s weight is pressing on them. However, it never hurts to place a few additional books on top to ensure enough weight. Flowers are usually fully pressed within a week, though a few may take longer. If you are unsure, it is always better to leave the flowers a little longer. It won’t harm to blossoms no matter how long they sit in the press.

Clamshell Tea Lights

Clamshell TealightsThese little candles will burn brightly for 10-20 minutes. They’re a great way to use clamshells left over from summer cookouts.

You will need:

  • Empty clamshells halves
  • Beeswax or another type of wax
  • Double boiler or two pans
  • Wicking
  • Newspaper

To begin, cover your work area with newspapers, as this is a messy craft. Soak the clamshells in warm water,  then vigorously scrub them out to remove any clam residue. When the  shells have dried, place them on a flat surface to see how well they  set. Most of them will lean forward a bit, but try to use the flattest  shells as they will hold more wax.

I always use beeswax for these candles  as it is the longest burning and it is easy to wick once it begins to  cool. However, other waxes can be substituted for beeswax.

Melt beeswax in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler,  this can be easily done by placing a pan of water beneath the pan with  the wax. Melting wax this way is a safety method, as it keeps the heat  from directly hitting the wax. Beeswax is highly flammable so do not  leave it unattended even for a minute. If it begins to smoke, remove the  pan from the heat immediately.

It is best to melt the wax on a low temperature. It may take a bit  longer, but it also reduces the risk of wax fires. Do not cover the wax  when melting it, but keep a lid handy in case the wax does catch fire.  The lid can be used to quickly smother the flames.

Once the wax has completely melted, remove it from the burner and let  it cool for 1.5 minutes. If you wish to add color, now is the time to  do so. You can also add scent after the color, but it is usually not  necessary with beeswax as it bears a natural honey scent.

Measure a length of wicking 1 inch for each shell candle you have. i.e. 12 candles is a 12 inch wick. Dip the wick into the wax, completely covering it, then set aside and let it cool.

Fill each clamshell to the brim with beeswax, taking care not to  overflow it. While the beeswax is cooling, cut the wax covered wicking  into 1 inch sections.

When beeswax cools, the bottom and the sides are the first to harden.  Watch the shells carefully and when the wax at the edges has hardened  about 2 millimeters from the edge, place a piece of one-inch wick into  the liquid center. Let go and the wick should stand on its own. Repeat  with the remaining shell candles.

After 4 hours, the candles should be cooled completely. At that point, they can be lit or saved for another special occasion
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Making a Dream Catcher

Today was the Granger Homestead old fashion fun day, but unfortunately  the weather didn’t cooperate. It was basically a steady rain, so about  1:00 many of us packed up and went home to dry off. I guess Mother  Nature wanted to prove she still has dominion over us humans. It was  pretty cool seeing so many people walking around in their period  costumes though. Someone even had hammer dulcimers to make music. If  only the sun had been shining! Oh well, we can’t control the weather.

The wild turkey was actually pretty good eating. There was a little  bruising, but most of the meat was fine. It tastes different than farm  raised turkey. It was dryer meat (just the way I like it), and was sort a  mix between turkey and roast beef as far as taste. My grandmother said  she once cooked a wild goose that tasted just like roast beef, strangely  enough.

Well, due to getting ready for the double weekend, I didn’t have time to  post a craft project on Friday, so I’ll post it here. Having gotten  lots of beautiful feathers from the unfortunate accident with the  turkey, I’ve been making dream catchers all week; so naturally, this  week’s project is a dream catcher.

The web weaving is a bit tricky the first time or two, but once  you get the hang of it, it falls into a sort of relaxing rhythm until  you can practically make them with your eyes closed. Ok, maybe not with  your eyes closed, but you get the idea; once you get the knack, it all  falls into place.

The best part is, dream catchers aren’t just a myth, they actually work.  I never have bad dreams when there’s a dream catcher hanging over my  bed. So while I very much apologize to the poor turkey, I do thank her  for the supper and the beautiful feathers.

Dream catchers are both beautiful and  functional. When hung above  one’s place of sleep, they are said to  protect a person from  nightmares.

You will need:

  • A wooden or metal hoop
  • Roughly 3 yards of yarn or leather string
  • 1 yard of white string for the interior
  • Beads
  • Feathers

Dream catchers are a craft originating with the Ojibway Native American tribe. They were often woven for newborns by grandparents, to protect  the children from nightmares. While the traditional dream catcher is  Native American, the concept of objects to protect a sleeper from bad  dreams in universal. Many cultures throughout the world have their own  ways prevent bad dreams.

The  Native American  dream catcher consists of a hoop, within which is  woven a “web,” and  feathers dangling off the ends. This dream catcher  is hung over one’s  bed. Good dreams pass through  the  center hole in the web, trickling down the feathers into the  sleeper’s  head. Bad dreams get stuck in the web and disintegrate when  they are  touched by the first rays of the morning light.

To begin  making a dream catcher, you will need to start with a hoop.   Traditional dream catchers were made with wooden hoops (willow often   works well due to it’s suppleness), but today, many dream catchers are   made on metal hoops. Craft shop carry ready made metal hoops, but a   cheaper solution is to fashion a hoop out of bailing wire (one of my favorite crafting mediums), or another strong wire.

Once  you have your hoop, it is time to wrap the edges. (If you are  using a  wooden hoop, and prefer to have the wood showing, skip this  step). Many  dream catchers are wrapped with leather, but yarn can be  just as  attractive, particularly for a child’s dream catcher as the  bright  colors available in yarn can be quite appealing. To achieve a  leather  look, I often use strips of Avola (a suede like material) as an   inexpensive alternative to real leather. Wrap the entire hoop in your chosen wrapping, tying off the end in a loop.

To  begin the web, tie a piece of white string to the top of the hoop.   Pull it a couple inches to the right (or left if you’re a lefty). This   will form a space between the string and the hoop. Pull the string over   the top of the hoop dropping down behind the hoop, then through the   space. Pull taut. Repeat until you reach the last space.

The  last space should be about half the size of the others. Instead  of  pulling the string through the space, this time, pull it through the   center of the first loop you made. Continue on with the third, fourth,   and so on. A star-like pattern will begin to form.

When you near  the center of the web, slip a single bead onto string,  but continue  weaving the center of the loops as normal. The bead will  fall into  place on it’s own. Some people like to have beads covering the  webs of  their dream catchers, but traditionally only one bead was used.  This  bead represented the spider of the web.

When  you reach the middle, tie off the string. There will be a small  hole  in the center of the web; this is where the good dreams crawl  through.

Tie  three pieces of string to three feathers, sliding a few beads  down  each shaft. Tie these three feathers to the bottom of the dream   catcher. You can add a few feathers to the top of the dream catcher as   well, or wherever else you desire.

Hang your dream catcher above your sleeping place and enjoy.

Lavender Bottles

Wow, is it Friday already? Holy moley, tempus fugit (time flies). Well, this week I noticed that the lavender was on its last legs, so I thought it was time to snatch some before it all withered away for the year. As such, this week’s craft project is a lavender bottle. They smell great anywhere whether it’s hanging in a doorway, or tucked into a drawer to give clothes that fresh lavendery scent. These little things are so quick and easy to make, that constructing them soon becomes addicting! I apologize for the pics being a little fuzzy, but it was a bit of a challenge to take photographs with one hand and weave with the other.

Lavender bottles, also known as lavender wands, are a crafting tradition that was very popular in Victorian days. All that’s required is a little ribbon and some lavender stems.

To begin, tie 11 to 15 lavender stems together, just below the heads. Always use an odd number. Be sure the lavender stems are fresh, as dried stems are difficult to work with.

One by one, carefully bend the lavender stems down around the heads creating a sort of cage around the heads.

Taking the long end of the ribbon, begin to weave it around the stems, alternating over, then under. Continue to weave in the over/under manner until you have woven below the heads. Wrap the remaining ribbon around the stems a few times and tie off.

Trim the stems to the desired length. Form a loop of ribbon and secure it to the lavender bottle with a bow.

The lavender will dry itself with no additional measures and it will retain its sweet smell. These are great to put in with freshly washed laundry, and are simple enough that children can have fun making them as well.

Flower Preservation: Air Drying

Anyone can air-dry beautiful bouquets of flowers.

Air-drying is one of the easiest, least fuss methods of drying flowers. The downside, however, is that many flowers do not lend themselves to air-drying. Often trial and error is the best way to learn if a particular flower will air-dry well. Flowers with firm, woody stems such as roses, lavender, and coxcomb take very well to air-drying, but flowers with smaller, flimsy stems such as asters and daisies do not.

To air-dry flowers, tie a small bunch of the chosen flower together. Be sure not to put too many flowers in one bunch or they may rot in the middle. Hang the flowers upside down to help them keep their shape. It is best to hang the flowers in a dry place with a bit of airflow. In general, a back bedroom or pantry works very well for air-drying most flowers. Some flowers, such as straw flowers, are an exception to the rule and will dry just about anywhere, including my moist, warm kitchen!

Leave the flowers to hang for three to four weeks, checking periodically to be sure they are not molding. They should feel crispy and crackle under the touch when they are thoroughly dried. Once dried, the flowers can be used for a myriad of craft or decorating projects, or they can simply be left hanging from the ceiling for an aesthetically pleasing effect.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Dying Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace, also known as Wild Carrot, must have one of the longest blooming seasons of any flower in the blossoming world. It’s a familiar summer sight, as the large, white blossom line the road sides and glow amidst the open meadows of the cow pasture. The best part about it, however, (aside from the fact that it makes great filler in bouquets when you’re in a pinch for flowers) is that it can be dyed almost as easily as yarn, and with a lot less mess.

I don’t think there are many kids around here who haven’t dyed Queen Anne’s Lace at least once, it’s sort of a country tradition. It’s a summer pastime my neighbor showed me when I was about 5 years old. I’ve been doing it every summer since. Queen Anne’s Lace can be dyed any color of the rainbow with a little food coloring and bit of patients. And no matter how many times a person tries this, it never gets old. It remains just as magical as it was the first time.

The head of a Queen Anne’s Lace flower is made up of hundreds of tiny blossoms. Each blossom unfolds its individual petals to produce the lacy network of the entire flower. These blossoms are very receptive to coloring when they are allowed to drink food colorant through their stems. The resulting effect is a beautiful web of delicate petals brightly displaying any color a person can mix.

To begin, it is important to pick suitable blossoms. All Queen Anne’s Lace will take up dye to some degree, but for truly vibrant color, there are better times to pick the flowers than others. It is best to harvest the flowers when 1/2 to 2/3 of the of the head’s tiny blossoms have opened. The head itself will be opened flat, with the ends rounding down a bit, much like an open umbrella. Flowers picked too early never open fully to display the dyed petals. Flowers picked too late generally wither away before they can take up enough colored water to show. It may take a few attempts to find the right cutting time.

Once you have the flowers, fill a glass with a cup of cool water. Take a bottle of food coloring of your choice and place 10-20 drops in the water. Stir well. I find that yellow and green work the best and require less colorant than reds and blues. You can also dye multiple flowers in the same glass at the same time. Leave the flowers in the water for a few days, sit back, and watch them change color.

Once the flowers are dyed, they can be easily dried by cutting the heads off the stems. Lay them flat upon the ground, with the stem stub pointing skyward. Leave them in a dry place for a week. Once dry, the flowers can be carefully hot-glued to a wreath form, one by one to make a simple, but striking wreath.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Flower Preservation: Silica

Silica crystals offer a wider variety of drying options than traditional air-drying.

Silica crystals are ready found in most arts and crafts shops (i.e. JoAnn Fabrics, Michael’s etc.), they can also be found in some florist shops. Delicate blossoms such as sunflowers and gladiolas can easily be preserved with silica crystals. Silica also allows for color preservation, something that is often lost during air-drying. The colors may darken a bit, but in general, blossoms dried with silica retain most of their color.

To begin, find a suitable container and pour a layer of crystals across the bottom. Place the flower heads on this layer and cover them with more silica crystals. Be sure to fill every nook and cranny of the blossoms to ensure proper drying and preservation of the shape. Cover the container with plastic wrap or a well fitting top to make it as air tight as possible. Leave the container in a place away from heavy moisture for several days to a week.

Silica crystals can be reused many times. Don’t throw them out after the first batch of flowers. Most silica crystals these days are “color coded.” Usually they start out blue and turn pink as they absorb moisture from the flowers within. Once the dried flowers are removed, the now pink crystals can be dried by spreading them on a tray and placing them in a warm oven for a few minutes. As the moisture in the crystals evaporates, they will turn blue once again, signaling that they are ready for use once more.

An alternative to silica is sand drying. In sand drying, flowers are covered with sand and the container is placed into an oven allowing the flowers to “cook.” The heat of the oven dries the flowers while the sand allows them to hold their shape. The sand method is a bit trickier, however, because it is possible to over bake the flowers leaving them brown and crispy. Also sand does not preserve the colors quite as well as silica.

Elegant Roses Wreath

Elegant Roses WreathThis wreath is easy to make, but looks as elegant as one from a florist shop.

Supplies needed:
Grapevine wreath
6 dried roses with stems with leaves
Dried baby’s breath or something similar
3 foot long piece of ribbon; 1/4 inch wide, matching the color of the roses
Hot glue gun

It is best to use roses that are not full blown for this wreath. Choose dried roses that are opened just beyond the bud stage. To begin, pull the leaves off the dried rose stems. They generally come off in clusters of four or five leaves. Glue the clusters to the grapevine wreath. A high temperature glue gun works best for this, but a low temperature gun can be substituted.

Next cut each rose stem about an inch below the head. Remove any loose petals that might fall off later and weaken the glue hold. Evenly space the rose heads around the wreath, gluing each in place. Glue small sprays of baby’s breath around and between each rose head. Use the baby’s breath sparingly for an open, airy look.

When the glue has dried completely, spray the wreath with a dried flower preservative. This will strengthen the dried flowers and protect them from cracking. It will also help prevent discoloration. When the preservative is dried, tie the ribbon into a five-loop bow. Glue it to the wreath, top and center. Allow the long ends to trail down the middle.

Next cut each rose stem about an inch below the head. Remove any loose petals that might fall off later and weaken the glue hold. Evenly space the rose heads around the wreath, gluing each in place. Glue small sprays of baby’s breath around and between each rose head. Use the baby’s breath sparingly for an open, airy look.

When the glue has dried completely, spray the wreath with a dried flower preservative. This will strengthen the dried flowers and protect them from cracking. It will also help prevent discoloration. When the preservative is dried, tie the ribbon into a five-loop bow. Glue it to the wreath, top and center. Allow the long ends to trail down the middle.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf