Liza Gardner Walsh shows you how to add a dose of magic to your family’s summer by building your own fairy dwelling.
Excerpted from Fairy House Handbook by Liza Gardner Walsh. Down East Books, Camden, Maine; hardcover; 84 pages; $14.95
Photograph by Amy Wilton
You’ve found your perfect site and gathered your materials — you are now an official fairy house construction worker. The bark you have collected can now be turned into a wall. The giant clam shell can now be turned into a bathtub. Your nook, hollow, or hidey-hole will now become a home for a delighted fairy. As much as I could tell you exactly how to build a fairy house, there isn’t just one way to build a fairy house! They are like snowflakes- — never were two fairy houses exactly alike.
The best thing to do is to dive in. Look at your site and your materials and start putting things together. Those twigs and long pieces of grass can be woven together to make a roof. The sheets of birch bark can stand on either side. The perfectly flat rock becomes a patio for the fairies to watch the sunset. What you want to achieve is some house-like form. A-frame or teepee shape. Cabinesque. Hut-like. You want a place where fairies can fly in and rest a while. As one friend said, “I think fairies like medium–size houses because if it is too big they will get lost in it and if it is too small they won’t be able to move around too well.”
Once you have some walls and a roof, you can begin building the other features: a chimney, windows, and a door. Walkways are fun and since most of you have gathered countless pebbles, seeds, little shells, or small pinecones, you will have plenty of materials for a grand entrance. Think about your own house — the shingles on the roof, the trim of the windows, the siding. What could you use for shingles — maybe pinecone bracts? (Bracts are a fancy way of saying the leaves on a pine cone.)
Not every fairy house needs a door and not every way of constructing will allow for one. But say you found a piece of driftwood with a hole worn through the center — well, use it as your door. Another technique is to find a V-shaped stick and use that to form an archway into your house. Some fairy house builders spend a lot of time constructing their doors. One friend weaves twigs together to make a rectangle and then rests it up against the house. Personally, I think fairies value a little privacy. Being a fairy is hard work and they might just need a nap away from the peering eyes of woodland creatures.
Another aspect to consider is the landscaping around your house. As I said earlier, fairies love order. Clearing out the area around your site promotes this sense of tidiness and makes room for a fairy garden or outdoor dining area. A nicely laid out garden or pathway is as important as your actual structure.
A Few Simple Steps:
Location, Location, Location
Here are some of the places where you might want to build a fairy house. You can add to this list as you imagine your own backyard or neighborhood.
1. Tree Hollows
2. Tree Roots and Uprooted Trees
3. Stone Walls
6. Deserted Animal Holes
7. Flower Gardens
While preparing to build your own fairy dwelling, look for the following items:
Mica: Fairies are famous for being vain, meaning they really like to look at themselves. Fairies use mica as a mirror to see themselves, therefore, they love it!
Poppy petals: Fairies use poppy petals to make clothes. That is why these petals are often called fairy shawls.
Moss: Okay, one more time — only if it is already separated from the ground.
Pine cones: Little ones, big ones, they all come in handy.
Bark: Birch bark is especially useful in fairy houses as it usually has a nice, curly, silvery quality to it. Other types of bark are great for structural elements of your house.
Seaweed: This material works well for floors or pathways. Skate egg sacks or mermaid purse’s serve as great doorways.
Sticks: You can never have too many of these. They are the real foundation for your fairy house.
Feathers: Fairies love feathers and they have many uses in your house to soften things up. They are also great for decoration on the outside of your house.
Sea glass: Here is your natural sparkle. Sea glass, although not originally from nature, has been tumbled by waves, making it naturally weathered. It is wonderful for decorative accents and windowpanes.
Shells: Another essential ingredient for furnishing your house. Shells make great bathtubs and chairs, and small shells like periwinkles make great borders.
Rocks: Like sticks and bark, stones are vital to your fairy house. They can be used for walls, floors, pathways, tables, and much more.
Acorn caps: When acorns begin to fall from oak trees in the fall, you would be wise to start a collection. There are so many uses for acorns, but my favorite is using the tops for bowls and plates.
Cattails: Cattails usually grow in swampy areas, so be careful when gathering them. You want to harvest them in the late fall when they are dried and ready to die off for winter.
Rose hips: Ripened rose hips can be hollowed out to make bowls and teapots. You can bend a thin stick and make it into a handle. Rose hips, with their ruby red color, are also lovely as decoration to bring some color to your fairy house.
Eggshells: You can crush eggshells to make a white floor or pathway, or wash them out and use them for fairy containers.
Abandoned bird’s nests: They must be abandoned! If you are lucky enough to find one of these treasures, a fairy would love to have it as a bed. Fairies and birds are very close friends. The best time to gather nests is in the fall.
Berries: Never eat a berry in the woods. Fairies love berries. Berries, like rose hips, add some color to your house.
Grass: A supply you may overlook, but one that is indispensable for weaving floors and camouflaging houses.
Poppy pods: When the poppy flowers wither, they leave wonderful pods that have a silvery color and an urn shape. This is a great decorative element.
Milkweed: Gather these milky, fluffy husks for fairy beds in the fall. The whispery insides are called “fairy wishes.”
Corn silk: Fairies love this fiber from the husks of corn on the cob. They weave all kinds of clothes and blankets from this material.
Reeds: Like sticks and bark, you can never have enough of this indispensable building material.
Petals and flowers: Petals make wonderful fairy clothes, blankets, and rugs. Flowers do wonders to spruce up a drab fairy house and make it festive.
Beans and seeds: Fill acorn caps with seeds for a fairy feast. Fairies like sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds. They like to eat beans, but beans can also be used to line pathways and borders.
Pussy willows: In the spring, gather pussy willows for fairy pillows.
Lamb’s ear: The leaves of the lamb’s ear plant are like cashmere to a fairy. They are super soft and luxurious and make excellent blankets.
Hosta leaves: These gigantic leaves are great for making roofs, blankets, and bathtubs.
How to make a stained glass window
1. Heat your glue gun and remember to work with an adult when using a hot glue gun.
2. Select pieces of sea glass that are flat and square.
3. Find either thin branches or dried reeds to use for the window trim. I like using dried daylily or hosta shoots because they can be cut with scissors.
4. Make a cross out of two reeds or branches and glue them together in the center of the cross.
5. Take your first piece of sea glass and put glue on the right angle of the sea glass and then fit it into the cross. Repeat with the other three pieces of sea glass.
6. Use scissors to trim any of the extra reed or branch that extends past your sea glass.
7. Now measure the width and length of your window and cut your reeds or branches so that they outline the edges of the window. Depending on the shape of your sea glass, you might need to bend the reed or branch to fit.
8. Voila. You have made a window for your fairy house! You can make birch bark shutters by simply cutting two rectangles the same length as your window and gluing them to either side.
If You Go:
The Maine Fairy House Festival takes place August 3 to 5 at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. 207-633-4333. mainegardens.org