Midsummer bees

Last Friday we celebrated the Summer Solstice by spending time in our garden, making bees, eating over an open fire, and making a fairy tea party.

Our seasonal table (we will move the candle before we light it!)

The bees were such fun to make. I was inspired by ideas from the book All Year Round which I review in an earlier blog post. The bees have really added to our seasonal table – it is looking lovely and summery!

This tutorial is two parts. The first half tells you how to make naturally orange sheepswool for your bees and the second half is how to make the bees.

Step one: dying the sheepswool

We dyed the natural sheepswool orange using onion skins. It’s so easy – I’ve never used a natural dye before but this is so simple.

All you need to dye the wool is:
– onion skins
– an enamel or stainless steel saucepan (nothing too precious just in case)
– a muslin bag to put the skins in
– water
– clean sheepswool/fleece

First weigh your dry onions skins (we collected ours over a couple of weeks) and then weigh out an equal amount of sheepswool.

We had 19g of onion skins so weighed out 19g of sheepswool

Pop the onions skins in the muslin bag and tie securely. Put them in the saucepan with water and leave overnight.

We used one of our homebrew bags to put the onion skins in.

Add the sheepswool to the saucepan with the onion skins in the bag and bring to the boil very very slowly (take about 45mins). Then simmer for another 45 mins.

The colour is starting to develop already!

Take the wool out of the saucepan and allow it to cool slowly before gentle rinsing in lukewarm water. Once dry you should have beautifully orange sheepswool ready to make bees!

It was the same colour is my daughter’s hair!

Step two: making bees

What you need:
– cones (we used alder ones)
– orange sheepswool (if you have no time to dye you could replace with yarn)
– black cotton thread
– tissue paper

We collected Alder cones off the ground on our dog walk. They are perfect as they are round like a bee and tiny – but any cone can work.

Visit the Woodland Trust website to find out how to spot an Alder tree —>

My daughters loved wrapping the sheepswool around the cones.

First wrap tiny bits of the sheepswool around the cone to create the stripes on a bee.

Cut out tiny wings from tissue paper and (this is the fiddly bit) tie them to the bee with black cotton thread. Use the ends of the thread to create a hanging loop.

Making the antennae is serious work!

Bees need antennae and we used pine needles cut down to size and poked in the scales of the cone. Anything natural can work – so see what you can find!

Hang your bee and enjoy!

They are so adorable and effective!

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