One of my fondest childhood memories is of my brother and I waking up on Easter morning and rushing to the living room to see if the Easter Bunny had left us a treat. Each year, there would be a gorgeous cedar nest on the stereo cabinet, loaded with jelly beans, chocolate eggs and bunnies. It felt like pure magic.
What I didn’t realize in those early years was that my quiet grandfather was the craftsman behind those fragrant nests. As I got older, he let me watch as he made them. It was our secret -- my little brother still believed in the Easter Bunny, or was at least clever enough to fake it, so he wasn’t invited.
Fast forward 25 years, and I have children of my own. My sweet Grampa is gone now, but his special contribution to Easter lives on in the cedar nests I now make for the great-grandchildren he never got to meet. Here is this year’s version, simple and unfussy, just as I remember them being when I was younger.
These cedar nests are like small wreaths sewn onto a cardboard backing. Here’s a brief tutorial. You’ll need:
- a large piece of cardboard, about a foot across
- twine (I was out, so used yarn)
- a darning needle
- a shopping bag full of fresh cedar branches (the tips of the branch work best, flexible and pretty)
- scrapbook or wrapping paper & glue (optional)
1. Cut circles out of cardboard. They don’t have to be perfectly round, but they should be about 11 or more inches in diameter so the centre part doesn’t get too crowded when the cedar is added.
I had to chuckle to myself about the irony of using a cardboard box that had once held an “Eat Smart” scale to create a vessel to display Easter candy.
2. I glued some scrapbooking paper to cover the pictures. My four year old son has a freaky good memory and would catch onto the fact that I made the nests if he saw anything at all that he recognized.
3. Thread your darning needle with a long piece of twine. You will need several feet to go all the way around the wreath, but if you run out, just tie on a new length and continue. Use the needle to punch a hole through the cardboard, about 1.5-2 inches from the edge. Knot the twine together, so that it is securely attached to the cardboard.
4. Gather up two or three cedar branches and place them along the edge of the cardboard. Secure with needle and twine. This first layer gets covered later on, so don’t fret too much over neatness at this point. Continue adding bunches of cedar, tucking the new stems under the ends of the existing branches, until you’ve completed the circle.
5. Your nest will be looking a bit shaggy at this point. Time to fix that! Cut some smaller lengths of cedar and begin tucking the stems under the twine loops and into the tied down foliage. The idea is to cover the twine and to add substance to the nest.
6. Again, continue adding smaller pieces until you are satisfied with the look and shape of the nest. Give the edges a haircut if necessary, and embellish if you want to (I didn’t).
7. Fill with candy or other treats and watch your children’s faces light up on Easter morning. My parents used to nestle our goodies in that fluffy, shredded filler stuff, but since I used scrapbook paper on the bottom, I skipped this.
Update! Now that Easter is over, we extended the life of our cedar nests by adding some simple foam letters (my youngest loves these, and picked the colours!) and hanging it on the front door. It's not the most sophisticated look, and I don't know how long the cedar will last (it's starting to dry out), but for now it's cheery and fun -- just what my boys and I love!