5 Craft Projects Using Things From Your Yard

By: Juliet Kaman

A slew of crafting supplies can be found in nature, including the dried leaves and petals used in potpourri.
A slew of crafting supplies can be found in nature, including the dried leaves and petals used in potpourri.
iStockphoto/Darlene Sanguenza

Do you ever find yourself frustrated by the changing seasons? Just when it seems like you have gotten your grass to that perfect deep green, the leaves begin to turn and, suddenly, all you see covering your yard are shades of oranges and reds. Then you spend an entire weekend raking the fallen leaves from your yard, only to find a sheet of snow covering it the next morning.

It's true; Mother Nature can bring forth frustration and headaches for many of us. Ten feet of snow, rain for five days straight and gusts of wind raging at 40 mph (64.37 kph) are just some of the not-so-pleasant things nature can bring us. But nature isn't always our enemy.


Think of those wonderful days when the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the air is filled with the fragrance of blossoming trees and flowers. It's then that you wish you could gather all that up in your arms and carry it inside to save for a rainy, stormy or snowy day. It turns out that, in a way, you can do just that.

Nature crafts have been common projects for young children for decades. Come on, you're bound to have memories of gathering pinecones, twigs and leaves for a school art project. The teacher added some glue and glitter to the mix and you had a creation you just couldn't wait to take home to show the family. But did you know that nature crafts aren't for elementary school kids only? Art and craft projects created from nature can be sophisticated, decorative elements that can add beauty to any home.

Whether you are in the mood for bright, colorful flowers or prefer the more earthy tones of fall leaves, you will learn to appreciate everything Mother Nature has to offer with these simple craft projects.

5. Pinecone Crafts

Pinecones are incredibly versatile crafting items.
Pinecones are incredibly versatile crafting items.
iStockphoto/Mark Fairey

Every time you place that glittered pinecone ornament on your Christmas tree, you remember the day your son gave it to you as if it were just yesterday. But that was more than 20 years ago and now he has a child of his own -- a child who could soon be making a pinecone ornament of his very own to bring home to your son.

While pinecones are certainly a natural fit for ornament making, they don't always have to end up on your Christmas tree. There are many coniferous-crafting projects, such as making your own pinecone picture frames, greeting cards, napkin holders, wreaths and potpourri. Only your imagination can set the limit on what you can create using pinecones.


To make pinecone potpourri, gather a collection of pinecones of varying sizes. If you're anxious to get started, you can use a hair dryer to dry and clean your pinecones. If not, grab a cookies sheet, line it with foil and preheat the oven to 200 or 250 degrees Fahrenheit (93 or 121 degrees Celsius). Place the pinecones on the cookie sheet and bake them to dry up the sticky sap [source: Fedder]. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Remove the dry pinecones from the oven and let cool.

Next, raid the spice cabinet for your favorite ground and powdered spices -- cinnamon, cloves, orange peel -- and set aside. In a well-ventilated area, spray a pinecone with clear-drying spray adhesive and sprinkle it with spices. You can use just one spice or a mixture. Continue until you have scented all your pinecones. Let them dry and then arrange them in a pottery bowl or decorative basket.

If home fragrance isn't your goal, why not make a pinecone wreath. For a small, lightweight wreath, cut off the top of a wire coat hanger. Using the remaining wire, form a circle and wind the two ends together. Secure the entire circle by wrapping it in duct tape. Gather several small pinecones. Glue each cone to the circle with hot glue until pinecones cover the entire circle. If you want a natural look, spray the wreath with a clear-drying varnish. For something more festive, spray with glitter. For a larger wreath, use a pre-made wreath form. You can find one at your local craft store or online. And instead of gluing the cones to the wreath, use floral wire to attach them.

If your yard is devoid of pinecones, don't worry -- the next page will show you another nature-inspired craft that can be accomplished sans pinecones.

4. Nature-Inspired Photo Frame

A homemade seashell frame, like the one pictured here, is the perfect mate for a beach vacation photo.
A homemade seashell frame, like the one pictured here, is the perfect mate for a beach vacation photo.
iStockphoto/Robert Churchill

Have you ever bought a picture frame only to be disappointed by that decision later? You're not alone. Regrettable picture frame purchases clutter garages, attics and closets worldwide. Instead of wasting space or trashing something that's still useful, you could give those unwanted frames a nature-inspired makeover turning them into gems to keep in your home or give as gifts. All it takes is some found items, a little effort and time. Soon, your only worry will be finding a picture worthy enough for that refurbished frame.

To get started, the next time you head out for a walk, pretend that you're on a treasure hunt. Take along a medium-sized tote bag and some tissue paper (for wrapping fragile items). Gather anything that catches your eye -- leaves, twigs, rocks, bark and even feathers. If you're a beachcomber, you might find seashells, sand dollars, pebbles and sea glass. Any of these items could turn a tacky frame into a stylish treasure.


After you have a collection of perfect items, break out the glue and go to work. For heavy, oddly shaped items, a hot glue gun might work best, but other glues and epoxies should work OK, too. A little glue and a lot of imagination can turn that old frame into something you will love.

If you're feeling especially craftsy, you could use fallen branches or driftwood to build your own frame from scratch. Just cut four lengths of wood, either all four the same size, or in matching pairs. Use a hammer and nails to secure them into a square or rectangle. Place your picture on a spare photo mat, or cardboard, which should be cut slightly larger than the window of the frame. Secure the mat to the frame with thumbtacks or hot glue and you have your own unique, homemade picture frame.

Next, find out how you can use natural items to dress up your table.

3. Nature-Inspired Napkin Rings

Handmade, nature-inspired napkin rings are the perfect table accessory when dining al fresco.
Handmade, nature-inspired napkin rings are the perfect table accessory when dining al fresco.
iStockphoto/Mark Coffey

To get started on this nature-inspired craft project, you'll need to go on another treasure hunt. Unless, of course, you gathered so many interesting items for the photo frame that you have plenty to spare. And, like the photo frame, you can use your found items to refurbish an existing item, or you can create something completely from scratch. What's the project? Napkin rings.

Gather up any old or boring napkin rings from your buffet and get the glue gun or epoxy you used on the photo frame. Additional supplies that would also be good to have on hand are floral wire (having a variety of 16- to 22-gauge would work well), heavy-duty scissors or wire cutters, and a pair of needle nose jewelry pliers.


To refurbish existing rings, simply use hot glue or epoxy to affix a variety of your natural decorations to each ring. After the glue is dry, you can spray the napkin rings with varnish.

To create new rings from scratch, use an old napkin ring as a guide to figure out what size you want your ring to be. Let's say your ring is 8 inches (20.3 cm) in diameter and you'd like your new rings to be roughly the same size. Take the 16- or 18-gauge floral wire and measure out a piece that is 16 inches (40.6 cm) long for each new napkin ring you plan to make. Bend the wire in half and twist it. Bend the twisted wire until it forms a circle and twist the ends together to close the circle. Repeat this process until you have the desired number of rings. Next, use small pieces of the 22-gauge wire to affix the natural items to your rings.

As you can see, napkin rings don't have to be expensive, especially when you make them yourself. So before you plan your next dinner party, remember that the dinner doesn't have to be the only homemade thing at the table.

If your dinner setting is still looking a little bare, keep reading for another craft to spruce up your table.

2. Nature-Inspired Placemats

With the right supplies and a little time, you can create your very own nature-inspired placemats.
With the right supplies and a little time, you can create your very own nature-inspired placemats.
iStockphoto/pamela burley

Whether you're looking to dress up a casual dinner party or you want a craft project for the entire family to enjoy, you'll find this project practical and fun. Making nature-inspired placemats can be a great way to show off your nature-inspired craft skills.

To get started, venture outside with your family and spend an hour or so gathering leaves, flower petals, and other items from nature that can lay flat. Once you and your family have found a surplus of items, follow these simple steps to create a craft you can enjoy at the dinner table for years to come:


  1. Peel the wrappers off old, broken crayons. You can tear the wrappers into pieces to use them in the placemat as well.
  2. Place the crayons in a plastic bag, and using a small hammer or mallet, crush the crayons.
  3. Using an existing placemat, trace and cut several sheets of wax paper to the size of the original placemat. (You'll need two sheets of wax paper for each new placemat you're making.)
  4. Give each family member two placemat-size rectangles of wax paper, and have everyone arrange crayon crumbs, nature items and the wrapper bits as they want on the waxy side of one of the pieces of wax paper.
  5. Place the other piece of wax paper, waxy side down so it's facing the first piece of wax paper, on top of the creation.
  6. Pull out your ironing board and iron, and set your iron to a low or warm setting.
  7. Sandwich the wax paper between two pieces of blank newsprint or white craft paper, and iron the packet for two to three minutes.
  8. The crayons should melt, and the wax paper should laminate itself together [source: Nick Jr].

If you enjoy putting your family's artwork on display, this nature placemat craft is perfect for you. And perhaps your children will enjoy eating on their own handmade placemats so much that they'll surprise you by actually eating their vegetables.

Looking for another fun family crafting activity? Read on as we go retro with the next nature-inspired project.

1. Pet Rocks

Stones found at the beach that have been worn smooth by the waves are ideal pet-rock candidates.
Stones found at the beach that have been worn smooth by the waves are ideal pet-rock candidates.
iStockphoto/Amanda Rohde

Placemat crafts might provide you with an afternoon of fun, but what if you want a craft with a little more staying power? Why not create a nature-inspired craft that can provide days, months -- maybe even years -- of entertainment.

Long before children played with Tamagotchis, today's virtual pets, children (and many adults) had Pet Rocks. Traditional pets can be high maintenance with the added expense of food and health care. Pet Rocks, like other virtual pets, bypass these issues altogether.


Originating in the 1970s, Pet Rocks were designed as a clean, inexpensive and obedient pet for kids. California Advertising Executive Gary Dahl created the idea when his children wanted a dog for Christmas. Not interested in the care and cost of a regular pet, Dahl created this stone pet as an alternative, and even created the "Pet Rock Training Manual" [source: Mondout].

The Pet Rocks of the 1970s were created from stones from Baja, Mexico and sold for $3.95 each [source: Mondout]. A pet of stone stature today does not have to be that complicated.

To create your very own stone companions, grab the family and go in search of the perfect pets to be. Once each member of your family has found the rock of his or her dreams, wash it and let it air dry. Meanwhile, gather every imaginable craft supply you have on hand -- markers, glitter glue, yarn, string, eyes, pipe cleaners, sequins, beads, paint -- the options are almost endless [source: Formaro]. Cover your workspace with newspaper, grab the dried stones and start crafting. When all the stones are sufficiently decorated, spray them with a clear-drying spray varnish; this will protect your new pets.

Though not all of these crafts will last a lifetime, you've no doubt had fun creating them. And who knows -- maybe raking won't seem like such a chore when you're on the prowl for the perfect leaves for your next project.

To learn more, visit the links on the following page.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Links

  • Beal, Susan. "Holiday Button Napkin Rings." Craftstylish. 11/23/08. (Accessed 4/20/09)http://craftstylish.com/item/26031/holiday-button-napkin-rings.htm
  • Bowling, Mary Jo. "Natural Napkin Rings." Goliath. 11/01/03. (Accessed 4/49/09)http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-1175556/Natural-napkin-rings-Tabletop-Ideas.html
  • Clement, Jennifer. "Make a Picture Frame from Nature." 3/22/08. (Accessed 4/20/09)http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/426629/make_a_picture_frame_from_nature.htm
  • Fedder, J. Ellen. "Make a Peanut Butter Pine Cone Bird Feeder." 3/30/09. (Accessed 4/20/09) http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1596490/make_a_peanut_butter_pine_cone_bird.html?singlepage=true&cat=24
  • Formaro, Amanda. "Pet Rocks." Kaboose. 2009. (Accessed 4/20/09) http://crafts.kaboose.com/pet-rocks.html
  • Mondout, Patrick. "1970s Fads: Pet Rocks." Super70s.com. 2009. (Accessed 4/20/09) http://www.super70s.com/super70s/Cultue/Fads/Pet_Rocks.aspx
  • Nick Jr. "Nature Placemats." Nickelodeon. 2009. (Accessed 4/20/09)http://www.nickjr.com/parenting/activity_finder/crafts/seasonal-crafts/leaf_placemats.jhtml
  • Show Kids the Fun. "Homemade Nature Placemats." ShowKidstheFun.com. 2/21/09. (Accessed 4/20/09)http://www.showkidsthefun.com/activity/homemade-nature-placemats.htm