Saturday, 29 November 2014

'Tis the Season to Get Crafty

Ronnie's rustic wreath with sparkly red Acer leaves.

Practicing weaving the coloured dogwood stems.

Dogwood wreath bases and some Christmas cards made by foot and mouth painters. 

Trimming the dogwood stems.

Preparing materials for making wreaths in our outdoor classroom.

Woodlands Community Garden and Jimmy's rustic wreath with dried oregano flowers. 

Shaun's variegated and plain ivy rustic wreath. 

Ronnie proudly showing two of the finished wreaths.
Bringing evergreens into the home is a very old winter time tradition. The ancient Celts placed evergreen boughs over their doors and windows to ward off evil spirits. The Celtic wood priests, the Druids, used evergreens, holly and mistletoe as symbols of everlasting life during mysterious winter solstice rituals. Ancient people believed that evergreen trees and plants had magical powers that meant they could withstand the cold of winter. Pagans also placed evergreens in their homes but believed that cutting down whole evergreen trees was destructive to nature. The tradition of bringing a fir tree indoors to decorate comes from 16th century Germany. It is said that Martin Luther, A German theologian, was the first person to decorate a tree to celebrate Christmas. One chilly Christmas Eve he was out walking in the woods writing a sermon when he was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens sparkling in the snow under the stars. He wanted to share this with his children so he brought one into his home and decorated it with candles which he lit in honour of Christ's birth.

I love to be outdoors but the shorter, colder days of the winter months mean there is more time to work on craft activities and it's always fun to do with friends or with your children. It is lots of fun wrapping up warm and going on a hunt for natural materials to work with. There are many enjoyable Christmas crafts that cost very little to make that you can give away as presents or keep for yourself. The Common Knowledge Grow 2 group have been learning about rustic wreath making so that they can share what they've learned with their peers. We used willow and dogwood stems for the base of our wreaths because they are very bendy and are really easy to make into a circle.

Dogwood is often grown for winter colour in the garden because of it's beautiful bright red, burgundy and lime yellow stems. Only the one year old stems have the bright colours so shrubs should be cut a few inches from the ground every year to encourage new growth. They are very tough and hardy and are planted in many public places where they grow into large shrubs. I noticed the council had trimmed back a large patch of dogwood shrubs near my flat a few weeks ago, so all I had to do was collect the cuttings from the ground. Instant, free crafting material thanks to the council!

We used florist's wire to attach sprigs of evergreens such as holly, ivy and fir. I had already prepared the red Acer leaves by painting one side with some watered down PVA glue with bronze glitter added, leaving them to dry overnight, then doing the same with the other side. Acer is a deciduous tree species whose leaves turn beautiful colours in Autumn before they fall off. They don't last as well as evergreens so the PVA helps to stop them drying out and losing their colour. We cut the dried oregano flowers from a bush in the garden - which is a good reason not to be too hasty with tidying up dried stems! Red raffia and garden twine were used to makes bows and to make a loop at the back for hanging up which adds to the rustic charm.

Common Knowledge Grows 2 will have a stall at the Southbrae Winter Fayre in Jordanhill G13 1TX on Friday 12th December 10am - 4pm. We will be selling wreaths and other handmade crafts and goods. It looks like a great event: you can watch a video about it HERE.

Oh and if you are ordering any Christmas gifts on line you can raise money for CKUK or over 55,000 other good causes and it does't cost you a single penny extra when you register with You can shop with over 2,700 well known retailers like Argos, M&S, eBay and Amazon. Whenever you buy something on line the retailer makes a donation to your chosen good cause!

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