Fall is my favorite gathering season. The weather is mild and the plants are beginning to go dormant and offer up their bounty as crafting material. Leaves and grasses, flowers and vines all seem to don lovely rich bruised colors, and I can’t resist drying them for future projects.
This is the perfect time of year to gather up materials for creating nests. Weaving nests is something I discovered how to create on my own, so I’ll share my process here. Although I’m unsure how easy it is to duplicate!
I like to create my nests from found plant materials and without wire which ensures they are easily given back to the Earth at the end of their life. So every nest begins with a walk.
I look for two types of materials as I wander my Pacific Northwest home: what I call clumpy stuffing and long binding bits. The stuffing is used for the interior of the nest and the binding for holding it all together. I prefer to use fallen or dead plant material since it’s already been released by the live plant, and it will shrink less as it dries since it tends to have a more fibrous consistency. As always I begin by asking permission before gathering.
I’ve found different areas yield different kinds of material.
By the slough and wetlands, I find clumps of dried grasses laying along the path that work as stuffing, and dried cleavers that work for binding.
In the forest I find fallen mosses and lichens and root clumps all good for stuffing.
At home I cut flowers for decorative stuffing and pull up dead bindweed for binding bits. Bindweed is one of my favorite materials for binding nests, and this time of year, when the vines become brown and tough, is the perfect time to gather it.
I like to gather small bits of materials over a long period of time so I can make quite a few nests at once. After harvesting I bring everything inside to dry and store.
Once I have enough materials, I put them into a wide bucket for soaking and pour boiling water over them to sanitize and moisten them. This is a standard weaving technique to ensure your tough woody materials are pliable enough to shape without breaking.
After the bucket has cooled and the materials feel pliable enough, I sit down to weave. I begin by grabbing a large clump of material and shaping it into a bowl using my thumbs to form the inside of the nest and packing the stuffing tightly around the outside.
Holding this general shape in one hand, I grab a long binding bit and begin coiling it around the outside of the nest to hold everything together.
There’s no specific winding technique I use. I try and stay loose and not become exact with my passes. This ensures the nest looks more natural in the end. Even after only one or two passes with the binder, the nest will begin to stay together.
It may take 2 or 3 binding bits to get the shape I like, and I just tuck the ends of these into the nest under the windings. Throughout binding the outside, I keep molding the inside of the nest with my thumbs to create a nice bowl shape, and at the end I’ll press my knuckles around the inside to firm this up.
Each nest takes its own amount of crafting time, depending on materials and what kind of shape and unique items I want to include. I try to allow them to be as messy and individual as they like. Once complete, I allow them a week to dry, turning them over frequently to allow good air flow.
Let me know if you decide to try and create one yourself!