If you go down to the woods today... you'll find everything you need for natural Christmas decor.
I've always been affected by the changing seasons, it's both physical and emotional. After a long hot summer, it's like my body first rejoices, and then rejects the cool autumn that quickly becomes a winter that is probably going to last many months. The world is turning away from the warmth of the sun, mornings are frosty and like almost all of us, I lack energy, struggle to feel jolly, need more sleep, and find it almost impossible getting out of bed. It's natural and I guess it's just they way we're made.
I've found over the years that fresh air and long walks always help with seasonal melancholy. When I lived in a city I used to happily walk home through parks on cold evenings after work. When I was studying I spent my weekends walking in the woods close to Epsom in Surrey listening to a strange mix of Mozart and the Andrews Sisters on my Walkman. I loved those days.
Luca is a dog who loves the cold and taking him for his daily walk is the perfect excuse to go out and breathe in the fresh air. However, being dragged through the undergrowth by a seriously large Black German Shepherd is many things, but it's not relaxing and you don't really get time to look around. So I decided to take some time to myself. Walk Lu in the morning and then enjoy nature and venture out into the woods alone in the afternoon. This way I have a chance to collect my thoughts, plan projects and find some inspiring materials with which to decorate the house this winter.
Making natural Christmas decorations is something I really enjoy and try to do every year. It's a challenge to make something out of nature's leftovers but it's also very exciting and is an opportunity to have some creative fun. Making something from the materials others discard is the From No 19 philosophy. All the bags I make are almost totally constructed out of leftovers, factory off cuts, and end of rolls of fabric that I mainly buy in England. Maybe it's something about having a limited choice of materials that forces you to think more carefully about what you make and how you make it. And when it comes to nature, there is quite a lot to choose from, but you have to be prepared to look.
There are hundreds of pine cones in my garden from the tree behind the house and every one of these is perfectly fantastic. The forest is full of mosses, piles of twigs and lichen covered branches.
There are also seed heads and many other kinds of pine cones covering the forest floor. Although there's not an endless choice at this time of year, you can find so much if you look in the right places. There're not going to be pine cones in an area where there are only oak trees, and you're not going to find acorns where there are only pines. But once you start looking around it's amazing what there actually is. Mushrooms, types of fungus growing on fallen trees, and beautifully shaped leaves in shades of gold and green. Ferns, decaying wood, barks and even bones are some of the things found in this magical place.
What I love about the forest here is the amount and diversity of lichen on the fallen branches. This is something I often use to decorate the house and why not use it in the home at Christmastime.
I took some inch thick twigs that had lichen growing on them and put them into my bag to take home. I also found a length of Birch with beautiful white papery bark. These were going to be my first hanging tree decorations. Some of the beauty of nature is impossible to bring home like the frosted apples still clinging to their branches... I guess they just have to be enjoyed at that moment.
As I don't have enough time to make everything at once so I've decided to work on some different projects every week and slowly add to the seasonal decor. I'd like to somehow use the beautiful leaves that are everywhere, but that's going to have to wait until another week.
One thing I liked about the forest is the many tree stumps that are now overgrown with mosses. These are so magical and remind me of the story books I read as a child. So this is what I've decided to make with my twigs... miniature mossy stumps that hang from the Christmas Tree... just smaller and a little more bling!
My tree is going to be in the hall upstairs and I want to use gold, green and maybe some pink so it fits in with the room and the decorations there.
I have an idea about how it's all going to look, but I'm giving myself some flexibility to change my mind as the decorations evolve.
I started making my stumps by sawing the twigs into two inch lengths and then painted them with gold acrylic artist's paint mimicking the patterns of the lichen on the twigs.
I dried the painted lengths of wood by the stove along with some of the pine cones I'd found in the forest. Once dry, I took them and attached a clump of moss along with a tie made from garden twine and secured them both by nailing a tack through them and into the wood. It was as simple as that and I had my first mossy Christmas decoration! Just a few more to make and the tree would start taking shape.
As I hung the first few natural ornaments onto the bare Christmas Tree the cats started taking notice and gathering around to play.
I'm not sure how long my natural decorations are going to last in a house full of cats, but if I have to make more, I just have to go down to the woods.