Crafting with Nature: Grow or Gather Your Own Supplies for Simple Handmade Crafts, Gifts & Recipes

Crafting with Nature: Grow or Gather Your Own Supplies for Simple Handmade Crafts, Gifts & Recipes

by Amy Renea


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An Inspiring Collection of Handmade Crafts Using Materials from Nature

Fuse your love for crafting and the outdoors with this incredible compilation of DIY crafts, recipes and gifts made with natural materials you can grow or gather yourself. Gardening and crafting expert Amy Renea takes you on a journey to collect plant materials from the woods, the backyard, the garden and even the pantry, then craft those items into something special yet easy to do. She provides detailed tutorials and recipes for things like making solid perfume, crafting wooden buttons to accent a hat, preparing natural dye for easy paper flowers, canning your own fruit jam, handcrafting wreaths, using seed pods to create beautifully rustic earrings and even making your own coconut oil for lotions or sea salt for hand scrubs! And throughout the book, you’ll learn new crafting techniques like wood burning, imprinting leaves onto clay and how to infuse oil with herbs for culinary and cosmetic delights.

Each chapter starts with a common plant and a beginner-friendly guide to growing or gathering it, then dives into ideas for what you can make with it. With this book packed full of tutorials, ideas and Amy’s lovely photography, you’ll be inspired to craft with nature all year long.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781624141980
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication date: 03/22/2016
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 567,776
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Amy Renea is a crafter, gardener and photographer. She is the creator of A Nest for All Seasons—chosen as the “best gardening blog” in the Better Homes & Gardens Blogger Awards. She has written for Houzz, Hobby Farm Home, Celebrating Everyday Life magazine and Amy and her family divide their time between central Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.

Read an Excerpt

Crafting With Nature

Grow or Gather Your Own Supplies for Simple Handmade Crafts, Gifts & Recipes

By Amy Renea

Page Street Publishing Co.

Copyright © 2016 Amy Renea
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62414-198-0



When you want to begin crafting with natural materials, you should pick plants that are readily available, easy to grow and easy to maintain. Moss is a perfect candidate. In this chapter, I will give you an introduction to the plant itself, and then dive straight into the world of fairy gardens, moss rocks and miniature décor. Let's start with the plant though, shall we?


Moss is as old as sin. Hanging with its woodland bedfellow, the fern, moss has quite possibly been around since the dawn of time. It is different from most plants in several ways.

» It grows very, very slowly.

» Moss does not have roots that penetrate the soil. Rather, it connects to a substrate via short rhizoids. Think of these like little pieces of Velcro holding the moss onto a rock or tree trunk, rather than feeding tubes for the plant.

» Moss gets most of its nutrients through its leaves and from the water it absorbs, not from roots in rich soil.

» Moss has no flowers. (Sad, I know!)

» Moss reproduces via spores–not seeds. You will sometimes see moss with what looks like tiny stems and flowers, but those are called "capsules" and they contain the spores. Moss relies on wind to burst open the capsules and transport the spores to create new colonies.

What does all of that mean for you, the beginner gardeners, the fairy aficionados and the natural crafting crowd? Well, it means you have to give moss what it wants, and what it wants is often much different than a typical plant. When you want to collect moss for a project, there are two very important things to remember.


There are two basic methods to collecting moss: slice or scrunch. When moss is very wet, slicing works best, but when dry, it can simply be scrunched off its rock or bark. To slice, simply take a trowel or hori-hori and horizontally detach the rhizoids near the soil, bark or rock. Attempt to keep the moss clump as intact as possible. Immediately transport the moss to a similar planting environment and water it in.

To scrunch the moss, use a gentle pressure with your fingers on the top of the moss, as if you were shampooing your hair. Many mosses will detach very easily and scrunching helps to keep the clumps intact. Again, move to a new environment quickly and water well.


Though moss is often considered a weed and certainly not lacking in my woods, I still have a responsibility to leave the woodland environment with as little damage and loss as possible. Therefore, I collect from "weedy" locations first, like the lawn. I also try to go by a 10 percent rule for each variety of plant while collecting. If there are 100 clumps of cushion moss along the stream, I will take 10 or so. If there are only 10 clumps of fern moss, well, I only get 1. If you are collecting moss from an area that is about to be demolished or developed, feel free to collect all that is available.


There are thousands of species of moss, but we will focus on a few common types crafters and gardeners love — especially those that are good for fairy gardens.

1. Rock-cap moss. These are tough mosses that grow directly on rocks. (See more about moss rocks on the next page.) Use them directly on rocks as accents in the fairy garden or use large moss rocks to anchor a scene.

2. Fern moss. This moss predictably looks like a carpet of ferns that spreads laterally over the surface of the soil. Fern moss makes a fabulous forest floor base for fairies, mimicking human scaled ferns on a woodland path.

3. Cushion moss. These adorable little clumps that look like fairy cushions are my favorite! Use these little puffs of moss in mini-gardens, as accents against flatter mosses and in groups to look like rolling hillsides of grass.

4. Spoon moss. Use this moss in "sheets" to cover soil, drape over fairy rooftops or to create a tiny "lawn."

5. Tree moss. This moss has little "trees" that grow out of a flatter base layer, making it perfect for creating a bit of height in a fairy garden. This type also absorbs quite a bit more than other types of moss, making it perfect for small containers that you are worried about overflowing.

6. Log moss. Contrary to tree moss, log moss does not look like trees. Rather, it grows on trees — particularly dead, rotting logs. It grows quickly (for moss), so if you find some, you can take more than what my 10 percent rule usually allows. It can be weedier than most moss, so craft away heartily!


My favorite way to collect moss is to collect its full habitat. Mosses often grow on beautiful rocks or on bark, typically on the forest floor. Collecting rocks and bark with moss already growing is an easier way to get instant atmosphere in your fairy gardens as well as maintaining the environment where the moss is "happy." Most "moss failures" occur when moss is collected and then placed in an environment where it cannot thrive. Lack of water, lack of light and the change of host environment can really deal a deathly blow to moss. Whether you collect moss rocks for fairy gardens or simply as accents to your garden pots and paths, they are a charming addition.

Gloves (optional)

Large bucket

Water source or gallon jug of water

NOTE: Some moss rocks have tiny little colonies just beginning while others have thick, thriving moss. Try a combination of the different types for a varied garden landscape or stick with one type for a striking planter! Also, remember to take small amounts of the current moss colony when collecting, leaving plenty of each variety in the woods to continue propagating naturally.

1. When you decide to hunt down moss rocks, it's a good idea to bring gloves along so that the rocks don't fall out of your hands and onto your feet! The rocks are very slippery! This is especially true if little ones are assisting to gather the moss rocks. You also want a large bucket for hauling your rocks with water to keep the moss moist. If you are not going to be gathering the moss rocks from a place near a natural water source like a stream or lake, bring along a gallon jug of water.

2. Look for moss rocks in a shallow creek bed, under little "coves" on creek banks and throughout cool woodland terrain. Look for very large colonies of moss on and nearby the rock, and only take a small portion (up to 10 percent) of that colony.

3. Once you find your moss rocks, lift up gently from the bottom without touching the moss on top. Place gently into your bucket and keep moist with a small amount of water. The rocks do not need to be submerged, but should stay moist to the touch.

4. After collecting moss rocks, give them a home that mimics their environment in a cool, shaded place. Moisture is a must, so a pot that is watered daily, a fountain that sprays its surroundings or even a man-made stream are all good options! Remember that if you are using an acrocarp, the moss must dry out once a week or so and cannot constantly be wet.

5. To maintain your rocks, check every other day or so that there is moisture getting to the moss. There is no need to feed the moss. If the moss starts to turn brown, that is a sign that it is getting too much sun and/or not enough moisture. Change the location or add additional moisture to green it up again!


Moss suits itself perfectly as the base for fairy gardens. Fairy gardens are themed gardens that operate under the assumption that imaginary fairies have taken up residence. They can be made in a portion of a traditional outdoor garden or set up as tiny miniature gardens in a pot. The basic components are typically moss, twigs, branches and bark structures, moss rocks and tiny accessories.

Fairy gardens need not be complicated, time consuming or expensive. While you can spend hundreds of dollars collecting fairy garden "supplies," I think the most rewarding fairy gardens are often the tiny ones. Little hidden fairy hideouts are unexpected, inexpensive and easy enough for children to assemble.


Enough potting soil to mostly fill container

Collected moss specimens and moss rocks (see here)

Collected bits and baubles

1. Start with a simple container. It can be anything — natural cavities in a chunk of wood, a thrift store ceramic find or a recycling bin rescue. It can even be broken or chipped, though beware the tiny hands of children around sharp edges. The only requirement fairies dictate is that it must be cute.

2. Fill 3/4 of your container with potting soil and then add in complementary moss and/or moss rocks. Think of your moss and containers first and foremost as shapes. Are you connecting two pieces of a circle with a rounded bowl and cushion moss? Are you creating an arching bridge of moss over a bent bark log? How will the moss continue or complement the lines of your container?

3. Once you have arranged your moss so that it is pleasing to the eye, give the planter a good shower of water. I typically give new planters a few waterings in the sink or outdoors with a watering can, so that they can get a good dunking with water saturating the moss and the soil, eventually running out the bottom of the planter. If your container does not have a drainage hole, you can use a power drill or hammer and nails to create several small holes in the bottom for drainage. If that's not possible, you still want to give it a good soaking, but make sure there is no water sitting in the bottom of the container. Allow it to dry out before watering again.

4. The third and final component of these miniature gardens is perhaps the most fun — decorating! Collect various little bits and baubles from the woods, the junk drawer or the toy box to adorn the garden and attract fairies.

Acorn tops, twigs, bits of rope, shiny marbles or little charms are all a good place to start. Consider creating furniture sets out of twigs, housing out of chunks of bark and fairy home accessories from the dregs of your child's toy collection. Keep in mind that fairies love all things tiny and adorable! Refer to the provided photos for super easy and fun decorations.

Consider your fairy to be a bit like Mr. Elf on the Shelf. Fairies can be whimsical and ridiculous, cute and flirty or plain old petulant. It is fun to create environments for different fairy personalities. Why not create a fairy farm? Perhaps a tiny fairy tends a "farm" of dinosaur eggs! Weird? Yes. Fun? Yes! Consider the glamorous and Oz-loving fairies that might create an Emerald City. Complete with green glass bottles, painted glass and moss accents, a miniature Emerald City speaks to a more ambitious and beauty-seeking fairy, don't you think? Of course, there are the utilitarian fairies who prefer good old cement. Perhaps these fairies set up housekeeping in small cement planters all stacked in a row!

The opportunities and ideas are endless and this open-ended creative environment is perfect to allow children to exercise their imaginations! Whichever kind of fairy inhabits your garden, make sure the moss stays moist.

Once I have created these tiny hideouts, I like to place them where they are completely unexpected. A bright blue teapot with moss spilling off all sides finds a home just off the garden path while a ten-cent bowl filled high with cushion moss makes the perfect seat for a fairy finding room under a bench. Rather than broadcasting their location to the world, fairies like their privacy!

These mini-gardens are beautiful in the home, too. Of course, place them in partially hidden parts of a room to be mindful of the fairies' privacy. Your children will love the idea of inviting fairies into your home and trying to catch a glimpse of glitter or the whisper of their wings as they fly out of sight!

NOTE: You need not be limited in creativity or by cost when building fairy gardens! Here are a few ideas to kick-start your creativity using natural (free!) materials for fairy garden accessories.

Acorn Cap + Twig = Fairy Mushrooms or Trees

Double Acorn Cap + Marble = Fairy Sconce

Acorn Caps + Acorn Caps = Rain Chains or Rooftops

Maple Seed "Helicopters" = Fairy Wings

Two Large Branches + Tiny Sticks = Fairy Ladder

Jenga Pieces + String = Fairy Bridge

Wood Slices + Wood Pieces = Fairy Tables


If you have access to a woodland environment or creek, you can really go all out with a fairy "hub," so to speak. All those little fairy hideouts are for individual fairies or small families of fairies, but when the fairies get together, they can create quite a city! Moss rocks, large ladders (for those who have broken their wings), cobbled pathways of acorn caps — these are all signs that you have stumbled upon a fairy hub!

Suitable site (see note below)

Various types of moss

Hand trowel and garden fork

Old kitchen spoon, knife and fork (optional)

Various sizes of twigs

Acorn caps, seed pods and other woodland detritus

Old toys, game pieces and/or fairy garden furniture and accessories

NOTE: Fairy gardens can be created anywhere you please, but I think they look best in a woodland garden near a water source. Whether that is a creek, a small pool, a waterfall or a tiny trickle from a crack in a boulder, the sight and sound of water makes things a bit more magical. A water source will also make sure the moss in your garden does not dry out and die. It also makes your garden a bit more prone to flooding, so make sure you locate your garden on slightly higher ground near the water source. For my fairy garden hub, I chose a little island poking out of a small creek. You also want to consider foot traffic from both humans and animals. You want visitors to be able to see your garden without accidentally stepping on it!

1. After choosing a suitable location, assess the topographical qualities that are already available in the space. Is there a notch in a tree that looks like a fairy door? Is there a mound of virgin soil where moss could easily drape across and form hillocks? Are there rocks covered in moss that could be repositioned to make a garden wall? Use your imagination to see with "builders'" eyes.

2. Once you have taken stock of the area, decide what your basic layout will be. Will you have a central fairy house with various outbuildings, or will you make a small city with many small fairy huts? Will your garden extend up into a tree or stay on the ground? How will you use the water source? Use a twig to make a general outline in the soil of your rough city plan.

3. Once your outline is complete, you must consider the water source a bit more carefully. Are there already clues to how the water expands when it rains? Check for bare spots or collections of rocks with just one or two small plants. Check for trees with exposed roots on the creek banks. These are signs that those particular areas will flood when it rains. Alternatively, big patches of grass indicate that flooding does not happen very often.

4. Start building your garden literally from the ground up. Transplant the mosses you have collected onto bare patches of soil or create bare patches by using the trowel to clear the soil and a garden fork to gently rake it. If you do not have garden tools, a kitchen knife can cut moss to transplant, a kitchen spoon can scoop soil and a kitchen fork can rake the soil. Water in all moss thoroughly.

5. Once the basic "land" is laid out, it is time to consider fences and large structures. Fencing gives a more defined look to your fairy garden and can be created from a variety of materials. Little twigs or wood skewers make great posts and basic cotton string or hemp can be added to create crossbeams. Lash twigs together with string to make ladders and bridges, which make strong vertical and horizontal lines within the garden. If you'd like to make large "bark houses" or other significant structures, now is the time to site them.


Excerpted from Crafting With Nature by Amy Renea. Copyright © 2016 Amy Renea. Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

How to Use This Book 9

Section 1 Beginner Plants to Gather, Grow & Croft 11

Chapter 1 Moss Histories & Fairy Mysteries 12

How to Gather and Transplant Moss 13

How to Collect and Maintain Moss Rocks 14

Miniature Fairy Gardens 15

The Fairy Garden Hub 19

Chapter 2 Rosemary For Remembrance 22

How to Grow and Care for Rosemary 23

How to Make Rosemary-Scented Salt and Infused Olive Oil 23

Seven Quick Steps for Rosemary-Scented Salt 24

Rosemary-Infused Olive Oil 25

DIY Rosemary Hair Rinses 26

Rosemary Soap Bars 29

Chapter 3 Edible Climbing Vines & Canes to Snack & Craft 30

How to Grow and Guide Edible Climbing Vines 31

Create Your Own Grapevine Trellises, Trees, Wreaths and Décor 33

Amy's Red, White and Blue Jam 37

Classic Grape Jelly 38

Section 2 Gathered On a Woodland Walk 41

Chapter 4 Gathering Cones & Corns for Fall Crafting 42

How to Gather and Prepare Cones for Crafting 43

What About the Acorns? 44

DIY Firestarter Cone Cupcakes 45

Fairy Sconces and Mini Mushrooms 47

"Acorn Heads" Peg People 48

Easy Woodland Scent Pots 51

Chapter 5 Gathering Twigs & Branches for Woodland Crafts 52

Do's and Don'ts for Woodland Gathering 53

How to Make Wooden Buttons 54

Loom Knit a Slouch Hat with Wooden Button Accents 55

The Basics of Wood Burning 55

Wood-Burned ABC Magnets 59

Section 3 Gathered From your Pantry 61

Chapter 6 From Your Pantry-Beet Tops 62

How to Grow Beets (and Why You Would Want To!) 63

How to Make Natural Beet Dye 64

Frozen Rosemary, Cranberry and Beet Juice Christmas Wreaths 67

Beet-Dyed Coffee Filter Paper Flowers 68

Chapter 7 From Your Pantry-Ginger 70

Ginger Fingers and How to Make Them Grow 71

Three Ways to Roast Up Your Ginger 72

Ginger Hibiscus Bath Salts 73

Fragrant and Fresh Ginger Soap Bars 74

Chapter 8 From Your Pantry-Potatoes 76

How to Grow Pantry Potatoes 77

Grow Fancy Fingerling Potatoes from Trimmings 77

Potato Crafts for Pennies 79

Potato Candy 82

Chapter 9 From Your Pantry-Onion to Eat & Dye 84

Four Types of Onions and Why You Want to Grow Them All 85

Onion Dyes and Other Natural Colorings 86

Quick Onion-Dyed Muslin Bags 89

Section 4 Growing the Backyard Garden Mainstays 91

Chapter 10 The Most Classic Herb in Crafting - Lavender 92

How to Grow Lavender from Seed and Keep It Alive! 93

Create Lavender Wreaths in Several Stunning Shapes 94

DIY Lavender Solid Perfume Eggs 96

Chapter 11 Rugosas, Rosebuds, Rosehips & Rose Crafts 98

The Rose for Beginners 99

Rosehip and Rosebud Gift Tags and Toppers 100

Rose Dust Glitter 100

DIY Rosewater Face Toner 100

Simple Rosewater 102

Healing Rose Infusion and Salve 105

Crafting Rose Beads 106

Rose Bead Necklace 106

Chapter 12 The Cuddliest Plants-Lamb's Ear & Sage 108

How to Grow Lamb's Ear and Sage 109

Simple Lamb's Ear and Sage Crafts 110

Lamb's Ear Straw Wreath 116

Chapter 13 The Great Dame of the Veggie Plot-The Tomato 118

Which Tomato Should I Grow? 119

Native-American and Amish Tomatoes 120

Growing Tomatoes-Basics and Tips 121

Tomatoes for Kids, Crafts and Gifts 122

Sweet and Sour Sungold and Peach Preserves 123

D1Y Vintage Fabric Tomato Pincushions 124

Ginger Pickled Tomates 127

Section 5 Gathered From the Grocery Aisles 129

Chapter 14 Crafty Citrus 130

How to Grow Citrus in a Pot 131

DIY Dried Citrus Ornaments, Garlands and Light Catchers 132

Citrus Lotion Bar DIY 135

Chapter 15 Coconut, Coffee & Other Tropicals 136

How to Grow Giftable Tropicals-Canna, Jade, Coffee and Coconut! 137

Growing Canna Rhizomes 137

Growing Jade 138

Growing Coffee 139

Growing a Coconut Palm 139

DIY Coconut Oil 140

Coffee and Coconut Soap Bars 143

Coconut Whip-Three Variations 144

Beach-in-a-Jar Coconut Whip 145

Shea and Coconut Fait Whip 146

Lemongrass, Coconut and Aloe Healing Whip 149

Mango, Coconut and Beeswax Lotion Bars 150

Chapter 16 Sugar & Salt 152

How to Grow Sugarcane 153

Sugarcane Swizzle Sticks and Skewers 154

How to Harvest Sea Salt 157

What Kind of Sugar or Salt Is This? 158

The Salts 159

How to Create Basic Flavored Sugars and Salts 160

Vanilla Sugar 160

Cinnamon Sugar 161

Almond Sugar 161

Use Sugar and Salt to Create Luxurious Bath and Body Products 162

Turbinado and Brown Sugar Base Scrub 162

Turbinado Almond Sugar Scrub 164

Almond Joy Coconut Créme Scrub 165

Spiced Chai Sugar Hand Scrub 166

Candy Cane Sugar Scrub 169

Luxurious Lavender Salt Scrub 169

Section 6 Grow a Hand-Crafted Christmas Celebration 171

Chapter 17 From Sea to Shining Sep, there is a Magnolia You Can Grow 172

The Many Varieties of Magnolias 173

Growing and Caring for Magnolia Trees and Bushes 174

Crafting with Magnolias 174

Magnolia Pod "Trees" 175

5-Minute or Less Magnolia Leaf Crafts 176

Magnolia Seed Earring Drops 177

Magnolia Vases 178

Creative Christmas Wrappings and Trappings 181

Chapter 18 Pines, Fir, Spruce & Other Needled Evergreens 182

How to Care for Needled Evergreens 183

Crafting with Evergreens 183

DIY Pine Candle Melts 184

Bleached Pinecones and Other Natural Findings 185

Chapter 19 A Celebration of the Garden-Handmade Gifts 186

How to Imprint Leaves onto Clay and Concrete 187

Imprinting Clay Jewelry Pieces 187

Clay and Leather Bracelet 188

Acorn Charms 190

Claynuts Tutorial 190

Cement, Concrete and Hypertufa 191

Geometric Hypertufa Planters 193

Lace and Nature Crowns 194

Resources 196

Acknowledgments 198

About the Author 199

Index 300

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