Introduce your children to nature’s wonders

by Kathena A Posted on April 11, 2010

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April is nesting season for the birds in my back yard, which means it’s time to provide them material for their nests. Dyed wool is one of their favorites – and mine too. I love to color the wool so that I can easily see when it’s carried off and used for nest building.

My dyed wool project is an ideal activity for the whole family – and also a great way to introduce your children to nature’s wonders, right in your own backyard. Small children can hang the wool in trees so the birds can easily take it. You can also encourage them to watch for the birds as they grab the pieces. Your older ones can help you dye the wool – or they can capture the process on camera and/or video. The dyes are all natural and will not be harmful to the birds or your children.

DYING WOOL WITH NATURAL DYES

MATERIALS NEEDED

  • Raw or spun 100% wool fiber
  • Dish pan
  • Aluminum or steel cooking pot
  • Slotted spoon
  • Salt
  • For Dye Color you may choose: coffee grounds, tea leaves, yellow onion skins, red cabbage leaves, cut up beets, cranberries, blueberries or carrot juice to name a few

HOW TO DYE WOOL

  • If using raw wool you may want to wash out the dirt and dried grass, although this is not necessary when it is to be used for nesting material. If you are using yarn, cut a few 10 to 12 yard lengths. Use your thumb and pointing finger on one hand as posts for wrapping each yarn length into a figure eight. Remove the yarn from the finger posts and tie the center of the figure eight with a short string.
  • Heat the water in your pot on the stove to warm and add one of the dye materials listed above.
  • Keep the heat level at low, drop the wool into the dye bath and stir. Allow the yarn to absorb the color for 20 to 40 minutes or longer. If you wish to keep the wool in the bath longer set the heat very low or turn off the heat and allow the wool to soak in the dye bath.
  • Remove the wool and rinse it in cool water once. Some color will be lost.
  • Place the wool into a clean glass bowl with cold water. Add a tablespoon of salt  to set your dye.
  • Cut up one of your lengths of wool into 3 or 4 inch lengths and hang the lengths in the bushes and trees in your yard for the birds to find. If you are using raw wool stuff bits of the wool into the “Y” shaped joint of the branches.

If you are using spun wool, be sure to save at least 10 yards of it for my next dyed wool project. Stay tuned…

What family projects do you enjoy? Let me know by commenting on this article.

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  1. Earl J Says:

    Outstanding photograph.

  2. AnnAbbott Says:

    Wow….what a fab idea. That would really be something to see. Thanks for such a creative idea!

  3. Joey Says:

    This is a really cool idea. I may have to try it myself as I’m trying to take photos of birds. This would be a fun project to do with kids.
    Great idea!

  4. curicogirl Says:

    what a fun project! What is so funny is that we have a bird nesting in one of the birdhouses we have in our front yard… and I have a little puppy who loves to chew things up. So, needless to say, my little pup tor apart the blanket we got for her and all the cotton filling is all over the backyard! WELL… just yesterday I peek in on our resident bird nest and there are 3 little eggs nesting right on top of some cotton filling from the torn up blanket! Nature is very admirable!

  5. Tiffany M Says:

    We don’t have any fun family projects just yet… my son is just 2.5 yrs old. But I love wool and often thought about dying it. And that is so cool to donate it to the birdies! I would love to see how pretty their nests are! Neat idea.

  6. ElleSnaps Says:

    I have a 2 year old granddaughter and I can totally see us doing this fun activity. Love it!! Thanks for the article, I can imagine the great pictures that could come of it too.

more about Kathena A

I grew up in the Bay Area where I soaked up all of the advantages that places like Berkeley, San Francisco and Marin could offer. During the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I taught grammar school here in California. Over the years I managed to teach all the grade levels and thus I have gained an arsenal of art projects and writing tips, which I would like to share with you. I work as an artist and metal smith now but my former students often visit me and, as you may imagine, some of them now have young children of their own. We often reminisce about a favorite art project that we did at school together. In some cases the original project has been preserved. I recently visited with a former student of mine who is now a college professor in the field of nanotechnology. I was amazed to see an art project that he had done in third grade on display in his parents’ home. Together, we admired his work all over again. With the arrival of Shutterfly’s photo storage capabilities parents can now photograph and preserve those memories and store them online. In addition, they can easily create beautiful memory books as future keepsakes for their children. With this in mind, it is my hope that together, you and I will create some new projects and family memories for your child’s scrapbook.

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