I don't know about you but when we set off on a nature walk I can guarantee we'll find a few treasures that will inevitably find their way home with us. In the past these treasures have included pebbles, sticks, leaves, & shells, but recently we've been collecting feathers we've found on the ground. On a recent walk by a local river we were lucky enough to find some beautiful duck feathers scattered by the pathway, so Minnie carefully collected them & took them home with her.
(I should add that we checked for any obvious dirt, & those that were mucky we left by the river. We also washed our hands thoroughly when we got back home.)
These fabulous feathers were the perfect shape & size to make quill pens, so with a quick hunt around for some scissors, ink & paper we were set to make our own pens from nature.
Minnie started by cutting the end off the base of the feather to create the nib. We used an old pair of baby nail scissors to do this job as they're nice & sharp, & an ideal size for little hands to manipulate.
If you're not using feathers from a duck, you may find you need to remove small feathers or fluff from the base before cutting the nib. These can easily be removed by gently scraping the scissors along the base of the feather.
To help the ink flow we made a small cut up one side of the feather which created a simple ink channel. As the nib moves across the paper this is where the ink will gradually flow from.
When Minnie was ready to try out her quill pen she dipped it into a pot of washable ink a couple of times, & then she was ready to write. The art of writing with a feather takes some getting used to, & learning which way the nib works best took some practice, but soon Minnie was writing & drawing confidently with her new quill pen.
The simple flat nib Minnie made produced a nice thick line when writing, but for more fine lines you might like to try the technique below. This would be a great project for older children, but younger ones might need help when it comes to using the craft knife.
To make a round nib we made a diagonal cut at the base of the feather & then cut a slit in the centre to make the ink channel. Using the craft knife I shaped the pointed ends into a rounded shape & one which looked more like a fountain pen nib.
We dipped the nib twice in the ink again & the results were amazing. Minnie wrote numerous messages on the paper, & skillfully dipped the nib in the pot of ink when the channel in the feather became dry.
She had soon got the hang of manipulating the feather to create smooth & controlled marks. As you can see she made quite a selection of quill pens each producing a different mark, & had much fun creating with them.
Writing with these gave us a neat opportunity to discuss which people in history would've used writing implements like this & why. It enabled us to think about how skillful people must have been to use them & produce the magnificent manuscripts they did, & how long it must have taken them to complete them. We also talked about the value of nature, & how amazing it was to turn a discarded feather into a useful object.
Such a simple & fun nature craft for a variety of ages. I'm sure we'll be using these again very soon.