For the bored, locked-down and lonely

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Activity: Make bird feeder cupcakes to support local wildlife

In the cold months of the year, our local birds need plenty of help to stay toasty and healthy until spring rolls around. Bird feeder balls from mainstream shops often contain cheap or questionable ingredients like palm oil. Much better to make your own and treat your local chirpy friends to some really delicious, energy-dense winter sustenance!

Keep your birds happy with these bird food cupcakes!

What you will need:

A cupcake tin

A microwave proof bowl or large saucepan

Cupcake cases

Vegetable suet, lard or coconut oil

Wild bird seed

You can also add: crushed eggshells, currants, raisins, sunflower hearts, unsalted peanuts, uncooked oats

Do not add: salted seeds or nuts, dried rice or beans that could swell once ingested, bacon rinds, cooked oatmeal (clogs birds beaks), desiccated coconut, avocado, crisps, chocolate, stale, mouldy or dried bread, polyunsaturated fats like margarine.

Birds need good quality fats in their diet. Fats that are solid at room temperature are the best. Coconut fat is high in saturated fats and would be suitable for making vegetarian cupcakes for wild birds.

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Activity: Make homemade ink with household stuff

make your own ink! an image of how it looks

Did you know you can make traditional-style black ink with stuff you’ve probably got in your kitchen?

It’s so satisfying spending time to make something this useful and basic. Bear in mind: this activity requires four days of waiting time between the prep phase and the finishing steps.

You will need
  • 2x empty glass jars (or similar containers)
  • Vinegar, enough to fill one of the jars (I’ve used white vinegar, but normal malt vinegar will work too)
  • Some water, to fill the other jar
  • A steel scouring sponge (the sort you might use for washing up)
  • 6x teabags (anything with black tea, not herbal ones)
  • A saucepan
  • A stove (or similar heat source)
  • A paintbrush or dip-pen (or other tool for writing/drawing with ink)
  • A small jar for the finished ink
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Activity: Making greetings cards with washi tape and recycled materials

Washi tape! The japanese rippable pretty sellotapey kind of stuff! Washi tape has a lot of uses, but I personally like to use it to make fancy, impressive looking cards with very little artistic skill involved. You can use it to make borders, segments, cute mini banners and as an alternative to plastic sticky/scotch tape to jazz up your envelopes and present wrapping. You can also make lots of shapes with strips of tape. How could you create a tree, a landscape or a pile of presents with washi tape? Below are some ideas, but the possibilities are endless! Happy taping.

First of all, you’ll need a blank card as the base. You can buy blank greetings cards for customisation at craft shops, stationery stores and online – or just buy a pack of cardstock and cut out cards in whichever size and shape you like! Scoring a line along the center with the point of a pair of scissors makes the fold especially neat and crisp.

Washi tape is also available from all kinds of craft stores, stationery shops and online, and comes in every colour and pattern imaginable. If the pattern is particularly striking, it could be the focal point of a card:

washi tape birthday card with a pinecone pattern

Combine washi tape with used wrapping paper or gift ribbon to make fun and colourful recycled designs, like this mini bunting:

congratulations card using mini bunting made with scraps of wrapping paper

You could add drawn details with coloured pencil or pen, gel pen and other kinds of artists media to make a motif that exactly fits the occasion:

a birthday card where the washi tape forms the shape of a candle on a cake, with a hand-drawn flame

Washi tape looks fabulous as a border for gift cards – it gives a really ‘premium’ appearance to the cards. You can add a matching border to the envelope for an extra special look! And of course greetings cards are a great opportunity to try out some fun calligraphy basics:

a birthday card with presents and a striped border

You don’t just have to recycle festive stuff like giftwrap and ribbon for your greetings cards:

  • Lots of cardboard packaging, such as milk cartons, has a metallic interior, so you can cut it into shapes like stars and trophies for shiny decorations.
  • Use cut-out motifs from old postcards or dried flowers from our previous tutorials to create a vintage aesthetic for your cards. Stick them onto the card with glue or with retro washi tape!
  • Cut appealing images out of old greetings cards – christmas trees, birthday cakes, party hats… – to make the most of them by giving them a second life on a new card.
  • Cut out photos of people doing cheesy poses in catalogues and magazine ads – then make speech bubbles and get them saying goofy things to make comedy cards!
  • Fold old newspaper into fans, flowers or origami cranes and stick them onto the card for a cool pop art look
  • Pierce holes in the card with a knitting needle or a compass and then thread wool, decorative thread or string through the holes to make a geometric shape with textural interest – for example, with just five holes roughly equidistant from eachother you can string a star shape together. You can secure the ends of the thread with washi tape.
  • Lightly apply glue stick to the card and then dust old eyeshadow onto the gluey parts to add a pearlescent sheen and a swoop of colour to your designs

Activity: Make a Corona-themed pomander to keep things fresh

Sweep away the stink that was 2020 by making your very own Pomander Coronaball!

January is the best time of year for oranges (except not this year for one particular orange who will soon be leaving the White House and will hopefully be ‘donning’ his favourite colour in a Federal prison).

What better way to put 2020 behind us by celebrating the New Year with making a delightfully smelling pomander ball.

A pomander is easy to make. It’s also an activity from which we can squeeze many useful metaphors to help us visualise and articulate how we feel about what we have experienced this past year.

What you will need:

An orange

Whole cloves – lots of them

A toothpick

A thimble

A ribbon in a colour of your choice

Cloves have been used throughout history for many different purposes. The active ingredient in cloves is eugenol, a natural pain reliever; rubbing clove oil on your gums can temporarily ease toothache pain until you can get to a dentist. Cloves were also used in ancient cultures to preserve the dead, not only because they absorbed moisture, but because they masked the stench of decay with a scent that was fragrant and sweet smelling. 

By sticking cloves into an orange, you can prevent its decay but also create an air freshener called a ‘pomander’ which will help to remove those unpleasant odours as we clean out our closets from the detritus of the past.

The word ‘pomander’ comes from the French pomme d’ambre, i.e., apple of amber, a perforated ball, often made from silver or gold, containing fragrant substances such as ambergris (hence the name), musk, or other pungent and pleasant smelling spices. During the Middle ages, the pomander was worn or carried as a protection against infection in times of pestilence.

Method:

Prevent sore fingers by first using a toothpick to poke tiny holes into the orange. Feel free to let your imagination go in the stabbing process, but be careful not to place holes too close to one another or your orange will not hold its shape.

stab orange with toothpick

Use the thimble to press the cloves through the skin. Start at the stem and insert rows of cloves as close together as possible until the fruit is completely covered. At this stage, your pomander should look just like a molecular model of the Sars CoV-2 or better known as the novel coronavirus.

press cloves into the holes

Once you have finished inserting the cloves, let the orange stand in a dry place for two weeks. The fruit won’t rot because you’ve slowed down the decaying process.

If you want the pomander to hang in a closet, tie a ribbon around it and make a loop as a novel reminder of the year just past!

tie ribbon around the orange

Thanks to Caroline Nicholson for this great tutorial 🙂

Tutorial: Make an upcycled belt

Alright pals, I have to confess something: I can’t find my upcycled belt anywhere in the giant wilderness that is my wardrobe, so I can’t show you how cool it looks. You’re just going to have to imagine how cool an upcycled belt made out of an old bike inner tube would look on my child-bearing hips.

Nonetheless, this super-fun project is a brilliant way to make yourself a brand new accessory for FREE or just the cost of a couple of doohickeys.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • A sturdy material that doesn’t fray to make the belt out of, for example: old inner tubes, old leather from a worn-out jacket, heavy-duty shopping bags (the vinyl-coated woven fabric kind), PVC, doubled-up duct tape…even an old waxed tablecloth would work!
  • Sharp scissors
  • Some scrap cardboard (i.e. from a cereal box)
  • Two rings slightly wider than the belt width you want, an old belt buckle or some velcro
  • Some strong glue

For this demonstration I will be using some lime-green duct tape because I mean wouldn’t you if you had lime-green duct tape?