The autumn cushions are becoming a tradition for us at our school (Here’s last year’s samples). We have done them every year for as long as I can remember now. A parent even asked me if we were going to make them again this year as she wants a full set. I am teaching her third child this year. Another parent said she seems to have misplaced the one belonging to the eldest of her three and was wondering if we had a spare (I usually do a sample to show the children what to do so there’s a spare or two lying around). I figure they are much loved and cherished if I am getting comments like this so the tradition will continue for many more years to come.
Of course we get smarter each year and try to figure out what worked and what didn’t. To get a really good leaf print the leaf has to stick down onto the calico. Soft leaves like those from the hibiscus or flat leaves like the gum leaves work best for this. The leaves have to be green also. We had a few “sticky-uppy” (That’s a technical kindergarten term) leaves so we decided to put blocks on top of them this year to weigh them down. This also helps if the weather is windy. Obviously if the leaves blow away the sun dye print doesn’t work either! The blocks worked well on those leaves that were big enough to house them. They did create a bit of a square shape around some of the smaller leaves though. The other problem that we had had in the past was using way too much dye. We alleviated that problem by presoaking the calico with water. We spritzed it with the spray bottle and then applied the dye. This made the dye go a lot further. We’ve been using those same two bottles of dye (We had a third, magenta, but it ran out 2 years ago) for the last 4-5 years for this project. We’ve now got three new bottles ready for next year’s lot with a little left in the orange and yellow. We get a really good print if we do this activity outside also. The more sunlight the better. This year we couldn’t have asked for better weather. The wind was barely blowing and it was a good 35C. The calico dried in about half an hour. In the past we’ve had to wait a couple of hours. One year we had to do it inside as it was raining and windy. We set the tables up next to the window and crossed our fingers. It worked fine, it just took a little longer to dry.
Once the calico is dry I take them home, iron them to set the dye and then sew them up leaving a hole to stuff them with. We stuff them with plastic bags for a number of reasons: 1. It’s economical, 2. It’s recycling and 3. It makes the cushions sound like autumn leaves crunching under your feet. In the past we have also added some dried eucalyptus leaves or sprayed them with eucalyptus oil so that they not only look and sound like autumn but they also smell like autumn.
** Special mention to my part time EA, Janice, who kindly offered to hand sew up the rest of the cushions for me **
Here’s a few close up pics of the leaf prints on our completed cushions.