Reverie Nature Podcast

Cattail Pillow Craft: great craft for ages 4+

June 15, 2024 Chadwick Howard Clifford Season 2 Episode 9
Cattail Pillow Craft: great craft for ages 4+
Reverie Nature Podcast
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Reverie Nature Podcast
Cattail Pillow Craft: great craft for ages 4+
Jun 15, 2024 Season 2 Episode 9
Chadwick Howard Clifford

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  • We'll be diving into the wonderful world of cattails and teaching you how to craft a cozy, nature-inspired pillow using cattail fluff
  • In future episodes, we'll explore more uses of cattails, from edible parts to various crafts like mats, insulation for coats, and natural fiber cordage. 
  • This versatile plant is a bushcrafter's dream
  • Today’s craft can be enjoyed any time of the year, making it a perfect activity for families. 

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Thank you for tuning in to the Reverie Nature Podcast! Your support keeps our adventures alive. Be certain to subscribe for more captivating episodes exploring the wonders of the natural world. Join us on this journey to embrace nature's song and preserve the beauty of our planet. Together, we can make a difference.

Chad Clifford

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

  • We'll be diving into the wonderful world of cattails and teaching you how to craft a cozy, nature-inspired pillow using cattail fluff
  • In future episodes, we'll explore more uses of cattails, from edible parts to various crafts like mats, insulation for coats, and natural fiber cordage. 
  • This versatile plant is a bushcrafter's dream
  • Today’s craft can be enjoyed any time of the year, making it a perfect activity for families. 

Support the Show.



Thank you for tuning in to the Reverie Nature Podcast! Your support keeps our adventures alive. Be certain to subscribe for more captivating episodes exploring the wonders of the natural world. Join us on this journey to embrace nature's song and preserve the beauty of our planet. Together, we can make a difference.

Chad Clifford

Please support the podcast through a donation or subscription at:
Buy me a coffee


Transcribed by TurboScribe.a
Welcome to the Reverie Nature Podcast. I'm your host, Chad Clifford, and today we have a special episode, a craft that is perfect for ages four years old and up. We'll be exploring the wonderful world of cattails and showing you how to create a cozy, nature-inspired pillow using the Cattails Fluff.

So just what are cattails? Well, if you notice in the wetlands, those plants that have the brown sausage-like tops on them. They can thrive in up to two feet of water and spread through seeds and creeping roots called rhizomes. They often form dense clusters, creating wonderful habitat.

In future episodes, we're going to dig into cattail a whole lot more from the wild, edible parts of its uses and all the crafts you can make with these. And we're talking insulation for coats, pillows, making mats from the leaves, you know, there's footwear you can make, there's hats you can make, natural fiber cordage. There's so many uses.

It is an amazing plant. So if you're a bushcrafter or an outdoorsman and you're not familiar with the cattail and all its uses, you definitely want to start getting introduced to this plant because it is a food source throughout the year. And this craft we're talking about today, likewise, can be done any time of year.

I've done it in the wintertime and in the summer. I find that in common language for plants that is, instead of using the genus and species in Latin or whatnot, is people often confuse bulrush with cattail. Bulrushes are different plants.

The cattails that we're talking about are the ones with the sausage-like heads, those brown clusters of heads that open up and send fluff in every direction. So not to be called bulrush, the proper common name, if we can say there is a proper thing, is a common name for plants, it is the cattail. Now my daughter took her cattail pillow in for show and tell one day, and this was, I think, kindergarten or grade one perhaps.

And she said she had a cattail pillow. And the teacher and all the kids apparently looked at her because they thought she was talking about cats and their tails, and she made the pillow out of the tails from cats. So when that got cleared up, that's fine.

Yeah, anyway, great fun activity today. And these cattail pillows, not that you're going to have pillow fights with these pillows, but if you do, you will be the winner because cattail pillows, it's like a down pillow, except more dense and heavy. So yeah, if you swing these around, you might just well knock someone out.

So yeah, maybe you need to ban these from pillow fights. Other than that, though, yeah, just like a down pillow, very comfortable. They do tend to get, I don't know if the word would be matted or a little clumpy later, but yeah, so what, that's just, it goes with the way the fiber responds after use, but great pillows.

And I would also recommend making a small pillow at first. It does take a lot of cattail heads to make a large pillow, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. The first thing we need to do is consider a pillowcase.

And what I did the first time was I got full-sized pillowcases. I can't remember if it was that a craft star or the dollar star, and they had these pillowcases with these coloring kits, an iron-on thing you could do. So you could color within the lines some design on the pillowcase, and then after you do your coloring, you take your iron, you put a piece of paper over the coloring, and you iron that, those colors into the fabric, and now you have a nice design on the outside of your pillow.

From there, with the opening end of the pillow, that's, I just stuffed that part with cattail, and I sewed it up, and that's all we did, and it was done. So, you know, you can use a cover over this cattail pillow or not. We didn't.

And like I said, the first time we did this, it was with a full-sized pillowcase, and I think we needed about 120 cattail heads to fill this case. So, yeah, that's a lot of cattails, and you got to be careful where you're picking cattails. You want to get in an area where there's, like, a field of these cattails or wetland, obviously.

You don't want to go where there's just 20 or 30 cattails because you're way over-harvesting in that situation, and not that you're going to wipe them out or anything, but, you know, those seeds do serve a purpose. So, it's easy to find large open spaces where there's literally tens of thousands of cattails. That's the area you want, and if you don't find one, keep your eyes open.

You probably will find one. These cattails are widespread, and it's not too difficult to find large areas with cattails. So, if not making a full-sized pillow, and you have a couple of kids, for instance, or you want to make two or three at once, consider getting about 60 cattail heads for a half-sized pillow.

The second time I did this, we... I just sewed up some fabric. It was leftover or used bedsheets or whatever it was, and I just, on the sewing machine, quickly sewed three sides, left the one side open, and we went with that. As far as precautions go before you jump into the nearest wetland and start collecting cattails, do be mindful of the younger kids and whatever footwear they're wearing and, you know, potentially falling into deeper water or getting stuck in the mud.

Yeah, if you wear running shoes... I'd say old running shoes are probably best. Why not bare feet? You know, get in there, get wet, get muddy. If you wear rubber boots, even then, you've got to be careful not to lose your boots in the mud sometimes.

You're probably going to get a soaker. So what? It's possible not to get soakers, but it just depends on the wetland you're in. So do know that you're going to be, you know, up to your knees sometimes in the mucked in water, and that's half the fun of it.

Now, if you have a kid who's making you get your feet wet and they're not jumping in there, you know, there's a red flag, right? You know, do your best to motivate them, show them how much fun it is to get in there. Don't worry about getting wet or dirty. You know, you don't want those stigmas to go on for long, right, where nature is yucky and dirty.

And I once worked with a wonderful lady named Martha Weber. And into her late 70s, I think even early 80s, she was taking community youth groups out and getting them into the woods. And she was a wild edible plants expert.

And boy, did she know her stuff. But she also was great with the kids and getting them into nature, identifying things, not worrying about getting mucky or wet. And she would say that, or she did tell me that one time that, you know, if the kids at a young age don't get out there and start getting into the muck and realizing there's nothing wrong with that, if they don't have those experiences, when they grow up, it's so much harder to get them immersed in nature because they just kind of go hands off.

They don't want to get mucky or wet or whatnot. So get your kid in there if they're a little hesitant. Get them in there having fun, and next time it probably won't be an issue.

Now, when you start collecting these plants, you don't have to be that picky, but maybe just a little bit. Let me just tell you quickly about the life cycle of the cattails. In the spring, new leaves grow up.

It's just like blades of grass on your lawn, isn't it? But of course they grow much bigger. And they have a central round stem at the end that this little sausage cattail head grows on, the fluffy part. But anyway, as these plants grow up, that cattail head forms throughout the summer.

And by the end of the summer, fall, yeah, you can get the nice brown sausage head on there. You don't want... And over the winter and then into the spring, the cattail heads from the previous year are still there. And you don't want the ones that have opened up already.

You want ones with a... They still have that sausage shape. And the reason is that in wet weather, dampness rains do whatever it is. The moisture can get in once the heads are opened up.

So unless it's been dry for a few days, you just leave those ones alone. Otherwise, you want the heads that haven't opened up yet. You don't want them while they're still green.

If you're not sure if they're still too green, what you can do is just go pick at the head a little bit. And if it wants to turn into fluff and float away in the breeze right away, that's what you want. So collecting in the winter is fine.

And any time of year, like I said, the hardest time to actually collect is probably spring and early summer and even to mid-summer, because the heads from the previous year are starting to fluff off and blow away. So with that in mind, remember, these plants are dead at this point. They are connected to a rhizome under the muck.

But the stalks are dead. They're brown. You can go up and just break off the stem right below the cattail head and then, you know, have a small bag, collect as many as you can, and, you know, up to about 60 regular-sized cattail heads is about right for your half-size pillow.

And at that point, get back onto dry land and start stuffing that pillowcase right then and there. And this is a lot of fun, too. Have your camera ready for this, because for those of you who have done this, you know, when you start pulling that cattail fluff off, it starts going everywhere.

Keep your mouth closed because you're going to inhale some otherwise. It gets in your hair. It's floating in the breeze.

Yeah, so actually, as you're pulling it off with your fingers, the cattail fluff loosening it off, try and get it into the pillow before too much of it floats away. And as you stuff it into the pillow and pull your hand back out, you know, a quarter of it's going to try and come out with your hand. So, you know, that's pretty fun, especially for the younger kids doing this.

The nice thing about stuffing your pillows right then and there is you quickly know if you have enough cattail fluff to fill your pillow. If you bring it home and realize you're 20 short, then you've got to go back out and do this again. Also, I mentioned sewing your own fabric to make your pillowcase.

You can also just use an old pillowcase and, you know, sew it up, make it a little shorter, whether you have a sewing machine handy or just go buy some dollar store thread and needle and do it the old fashioned way by hand is fine. For the younger ones, I'd say under eight or nine years old, it's going to be a bit of a struggle. They might be able to get out there and collect 15 on their own with you kind of going out there with them.

You're going to have to help them get up to, you know, 60 in number. You know, the older kids, they're going to grab 60 in no time and you don't need much space. So, remember, don't over harvest.

You have to find an area where taking 60 dead cattail heads is not going to even be noticeable. So, do keep that in mind. Show or model proper harvesting to whoever you're with and take the time.

Go to a different area if you have to or if you need to only take five or ten here and then go on to the next pond where there's another patch of a hundred or so. Take another five or ten there. You get the idea.

Now, back to our pillows. So, as you're stuffing your pillowcase and it's starting to look plump, do your best to seal off the top and try and compact it down a little bit. And this will be a little hard to do because it's not compacted at the moment.

It's, you know, completely fluffy and trying to float away on you. So, close that lid. Start packing in as much as you can.

Stuff some more in there because later when all these fibers do condense and it kind of gets matted down to be a smaller pillow. You don't want to be undersized and have it too flat. Options then are either go get more, unstitch it, stuff more cattails in or just sew the cattail pillow smaller, which is not something you really want to have to do later.

So, stuff lots of cattails in there and you're pretty much set. Another little piece of advice I could give you while doing this. Once your cattail pillows are stuffed, the kids will be happy to carry their own pillow home and be ready to sew once you get home.

Or even while you're out there will, you know, give the kids a snack or whatever and get sewing because they're going to want these pillows for the evening. So, make sure you're ready and willing to finish the project all in one day here. Now, for those of you who are camp directors out there, maybe you're the camp craft director, this is not one of those activities where you can do this for a summer camp and, you know, run through a hundred kids to take home cattail pillows.

No, it's just too much harvesting, right? There's very few wetlands where you can grab, you know, thousands of cattail heads and kind of not make a dance. So, yes, it's unfortunate. It'd be great to do this with the masses, but I'd resist that and just, you know, with larger groups, not the best thing.

There are other cattail crafts you can do with larger groups where it actually does not do any harm at all, like, you know, although you are taking the dead parts of the plant, the seeds are dispersed and used and needed, right? So, the dead leaves, not so much, right? Yes, they'll supply a bit of compost, but there's crafts you can use or do with the dead leaves. But in general, bushcraft and this sort of stuff isn't for the summer camp kind of atmosphere. It's for smaller groups who are interested in being taught the respect and all that goes with harvesting in the wilds.

So, that's about it for today, and what's so much fun about this is it makes a great memory. It's a fun activity. It'll take the afternoon, get out there, make some great memories, and enjoy your cattail pillows.

Thank you for joining us on the Reverie Nature Podcast. Remember to subscribe for more captivating episodes exploring the wonders of the natural world. Until next time, may you saunter forth, embracing nature's song, and may the whispers of the wilderness linger in your heart.

Transcribed by TurboScribe.ai.

Intro
Pillow Case
Collecting
Visiting Wetlands
Lifecycle
Stuffing
Not For Groups/Camps
Final Thoughts