How to Make All Natural Flower Tattoos for Children

Read dried flowers for temporary tattoos

When flowers are blooming over the spring and summer, the children and I are constantly picking up fallen petals and blossoms for little projects. We press them, dry them, make mandalas and do all sorts of creative things. Something both kids love to do is wear flower petals as an alternative to face paint. I’m fairly particular about what goes into and onto their little bodies so I generally discourage face painting and temporary tattoos because I’m not sure of what’s in them. A fun, easy and beautiful alternative has been using flower petals applied to the skin with a little coconut oil or a salve (I used this one). We just apply a little to the face and then the petal adheres easily. Depending on the rigidity of the petal they stay on for longer or shorter periods of time – but no matter what they have fun with it! We’ve found that more supple, flexible petals work best because they can easily ply to the contours of the face.

When I was on Pinterest a few months ago I came across a photo of an arm covered in flowers. The tattoos looked so realistic I clicked through the link and discovered that a makeup artist, named Verity Cumming, had in fact used real flowers as temporary tattoos. For her process, she had dried flowers and then applied them to the arm using synthetic glues, such as eyelash glue, to keep the flowers in place. I knew a glue would not feel great on the skin, especially for children who tend to be more touch sensitive, but also that glue isn’t the healthiest on the skin, so I decided to develop my own technique to affix the flowers as temporary tattoos.

Real dried flower temporary tattoos soft star shoes

Real Flower Temporary Tattoos Soft Star Shoes Hippie in Disguise

First, there were a few failures. (I thought I’d share them here, so you don’t repeat my mistakes) I tried using some flowers that we had pressed and dried and no matter what we tried they were simply too brittle to hold together on the skin – they crumbled. I realized they were too dry. Next I tried using some fresher flowers and petals, but these were either too heavy (from water content) or not supple enough/too rigid (from water content). They needed to be drier. But, have you ever noticed that if you let flowers air dry they tend to dry from the outside to the middle? I knew that if I let them dry naturally they would still crumble at the edges from being unevenly dried. So I tried to accelerate and even out the drying process. I adapted Verity’s technique of drying the flowers with paper towels in the microwave (using fabric dish towels instead of paper towels, because zero waste is a good thing right?).

Through trial and error I figured out the best way to make all natural temporary flower tattoos. Here’s what worked:

1)      Gathering: Gather fresh flowers and petals of any and all sorts available to you. We don’t generally buy cut flowers or pick them, but we still have an abundance of sources of fresh flowers. Do not pick! Be resourceful! You can find fallen flowers and petals in gardens all the time. In the winter I visit the florist and ask if I can pick up blooms from the floor or use their floral “waste” from bouquets. They are always happy to share and curious about what I plan to do with the flowers. An opportunity to have a conversation about using flowers creatively!

2)      Preparing: Cut as much of the stem off as possible, this is easy with flowers like hydrangeas and pansies. You want to end up with a very flat flower for application. For flowers that have a hard or thick stem I recommend pulling the petals off and drying them individually.

3)      Drying: Lay a fabric dish towel over a large plate. Lay the flowers out on the dish towel. Place another dish towel on top to sandwich the petals between dishcloths. Then place a second plate over the dish towel. This will help to flatten the flowers. (The layering is: plate, towel, flowers, towel, plate). To dry them evenly I heated the plate and flower stack in the microwave for 40 seconds. I found that some flowers needed longer. If you are using many different types of flowers I recommend drying similar flowers together, they are more likely to require the same amount of time, and therefore you have less risk of over- or under-drying some flowers. To know that they are dry enough, just lift up the plate and towel and do a visual check, you will probably see some wet spots (flower sweat!) on the towel. Touch the flowers: if they feel limp and look flatter than before they are good. If they still seem rigid, then heat them a little longer. Once they are flat and limp, lay them out to finish drying in the air. They will still feel somewhat soft and moist, but I found they can’t be completely dried, they need some moisture for them to stay intact when tattooing. It sounds complicated, but once you try it I think you’ll see it’s pretty easy.

  • Warning: Some flowers will transfer their colour to the dish towel, so use a towel that you don’t mind getting a little stained.

4)      Applying: I used a beeswax salve with lavender oil in it (because I know it’s soothing on my children’s skin and they love the smell!), I applied it to the skin where the flower would go, then gently applied the dried flower, gently smoothing the flower onto the skin and letting it adhere to the salve. For most flowers and thin petals this is enough. In some cases you might want to add a little salve to the exposed part of the flower (the part facing out/visible) to help smooth the flower onto the skin more.

The flowers and petals stay on pretty well like this. The smoother the petal is to the skin the longer it will stay in place. These are certainly not as long-lasting as a temporary tattoo that is glued on but it’s still lots of fun for the kids (and yourself!) and provides a fun way to decorate your child that is natural and encourages them to learn about flora. You could try experimenting with using natural glues like honey, agave, or syrup, I’ve heard these work well too. The advantage of salves is that it’s good for the skin.

Flower tattooing is a great opportunity to learn about flowers with your children, for example:

  • You can teach them the names of the flowers as you apply them
  • You can talk about which flowers retain their colour through drying and which change
  • You can feel and talk about the different petal textures

As with all of my “how to” posts and DIYs please feel free to ask questions in the comments or share your feedback, there’s always something I’ve forgotten to include in my explanation!

UPDATE: This tutorial was recently included in the publication Project Calm: A magazine for mindful creatives. You can read more about it here!

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If you are interested in Ro’s shoes they are from Soft Star and are available through this link. Soft Star is an American shoe maker (men, women, children and baby shoes). All Soft Star shoes are handmade, using end-to-end environmentally friendly processes and materials. Ro’s shoes are the Hawthorne model (adults). Sen has the Swift model from the children’s range.

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Mother Nature Leaf Dress Hippie

Make Your Own Mother Nature Leaf Dress

Mother Nature Leaf Dress Hippie in Disguise Danielle Chassin

Ro’s finished Mother Nature Leaf Dress, not perfect, but we learned from the process how to make a better one next time (see instructions below). But we did have a great time innovating to make a costume that is completely garbage free and compostable!

Halloween is Ro’s favourite day of the year. Her love for imaginative play and dress up, in combination with her outgoing personality make it far more fun than birthdays or Christmas. She just loves dreaming up a costume and then bringing it to life.

Ro is fortunate to have two grandmothers who are talented artists and very handy in the sewing department. Matt’s mother is a visual artist, she illustrates, paints, sculpts, sews, makes fibre arts, and gives an artistic flair to everything she touches. My mother is multi-talented, she went to school for fashion design, so she can design and sew up a storm of beauty. She has also put her talented hands to pottery, knitting, furniture, gardening and many more projects of beauty over the years. With these two creative grandmothers not only capable, but interested, in helping bring Ro’s visions to life, she has had some pretty extraordinary costumes over the years.

I should mention that I can sew, and while I’m not nearly as capable as either of them, I can certainly sew a Halloween costume. But, I loved that Ro and her grandmothers had a special project each fall, starting with a chat about her idea, maybe some sketching, a trip to shop or gather materials from a thrift shop, and then sewing and assembling the costume. It was a lovely tradition and a great bonding experience. At the same time, I didn’t want Ro to think that we were not capable of making her costumes ourselves — self-sufficiency is an important thing to me. I hoped the time would come, naturally, when we would make her costume ourselves.

Ro starts thinking seriously about Halloween in late summer, when her mind turns to the return to school and she sees the signs of fall start to show in the natural landscape. Last summer, we had beautiful weather and spent nearly every full summer day outdoors enjoying nature in forests, by the river, and everywhere in between. While both children have an innate interest in the natural world, I was intentionally trying to cultivate their interest by, not only spending time in nature, but also encouraging them to use natural objects for art. Ro loves fashion, not for the sake of trends, but for the creative self-expression. My mind hadn’t turned to Halloween yet, when one day in late August Ro announced that she wanted to make an ombre dress out of leaves and be Mother Nature for Halloween. To say my heart was singing to hear her say this would be a modest statement. She had, unknowingly, married her interests and mine and I knew this was the perfect year to shift to the two of us making her costume.

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Many people have since asked us how we made her dress and so I thought I would share our method here. This is just one, very simple way to make the dress, by using a braiding technique and affixing the braids to the base garments using safety pins, but I thought some process photos might help those of you who may need a visual guide. I hadn’t expected to be asked how to make the dress, so I didn’t take any photos when we made it, so I’ve recreated a few below for the sake of this post.

Without further ado, here’s how we made the dress:

  • After sketching the dress she wanted (a full length, tank dress), we found a suitable tank top and long skirt from her existing wardrobe to use as the base to pin the leaf braids onto.
  • In the weeks leading up to Halloween, we tried a few techniques, braiding and tying with string, and found braiding to be the least fussy.
Leaf braiding using simple three strand braiding technique, closed off with a safety pin, which is used later to affix the braid to the garment.

Leaf braiding using simple three strand braiding technique, closed off with a safety pin, which is used later to affix the braid to the garment.

  • On the day of Halloween, we spent about 3 hours walking around our neighbourhood gathering leaves, trying to find a range of colours to get the ombre effect. Especially looking for leaves with long stems, which makes braiding much easier. I highly recommend maple leaves. We used some oak leaves, because Ro loved the colours, but they were very hard to work with for braiding, and in some cases I had to pin the leaf itself to the garment. This can be avoided by using leaves with longer stems.

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  • It is important to gather your leaves freshly when you make the dress, because they will not last more than 12-24 hours before drying and becoming very brittle and crumbling off. We did not pick leaves fresh from trees, but rather gathered from the ground, so if you are someone who picks leaves then they may last longer. Although, I’m sure you can find plenty of leaves without the need to pick live ones from trees!
  • Next, we organized the leaves into colours: purple, red, orange, peach, yellow, lime, dark green, brown. Ro wanted a fade from purple to red through to green and brown, so we arranged the colours to make braids in this order.

Just a simple example shown above, our leaf chains changed colour more gradually as the garment was full length.

  • Once we had a braided chain of leaves about the length of half the shirt, we would stop and pin it closed to keep the braid from undoing. Chains longer than this tended to pull apart with wear. We continued to make chains and lay them on the shirt, until it appeared to be enough to cover the top. Keep in mind the garments will stretch when worn, so allow space for the braids to overlap.

Leaf braiding using simple three strand braiding technique, closed off with a safety pin, which is used later to affix the braid to the garment.

  • I was set on making the costume in such a way that would not create any garbage, so we used pins to attach the braids to the top and skirt. None of the pins opened while she wore it, but if you are concerned you could tape over the pin on the side that contacts the body, or wear a second garment underneath as a barrier.

Try to pin through and around the braided stems. You can trim off the extra stems or tuck them under another braid.

  • We repeated the same process of braiding and laying out the braids on the skirt, and then pinned them in place. Note that the direction of the braids was reversed on the skirt, meaning the braids pointed down to the ground. This helped to have a smoother, more comfortable waist.

Leaf braids on the tank pointing up, leaf braids on the skirt pointing down. Separated here to show technique, but you would want to have the ends of the leaves touching to hide the stems.

  • The braiding and pinning for the top and skirt took about 5 hours. Partly because we were developing the process as we went and partly because Ro wanted to try the top on at every step of the way!

  • The last piece we made was the hair piece; Ro wanted a fascinator. So we took a left over chain of red maple leaves and braided them. I closed the braid with a regular hair elastic. When the braid was laid over the top of her head, draping down, the leaves fanned up for an interesting look. Held to the head with a few bobby pins.

If we’d had more time, I would have filled in those peeks of white fabric with some shorter braids, but time and patience ran out. Ro wanted to skip around the neighbourhood in her dress!

By the end of the evening, Ro’s dress was dried out and starting to crumble. We had a trail of leaf crumbs all around the house. As I swept up, I noticed that the most beautiful pile was gathering at my broom.

A leaf heart made from the crumbled leaves from Ro’s dress. The rest went into the compost.

Please feel free to ask any questions about process or technique if my guidance wasn’t clear. Good luck and have fun getting creative with natural materials and please share your results with me!

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Love Your Mother in Luv Mother

“We wanted a name to represent more than just the collections we put out, something that truly defined the spirit, integrity and intention behind the brand. The two words ‘love’ and ‘mother’ are packed with positive meaning and we tip our hats to all moms, mother earth, the mother of invention and the idea that with a little luv anything you put your mind to is possible.”

Kevin, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Luv Mother

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We were fortunate to receive samples from a new Canadian brand, Luv Mother, just before our trip to the United States, where we travelled to big cities, small towns, a peninsula, an island and beaches. I know, from my husband’s experience that merino wool is a very versatile and a durable material for clothing, and that it also transitions well from cold to warm weather. So I was excited to test it out with the kids, especially for our beach days when the warm sun would give way to cool windy evenings on the beach, best enjoyed with a bonfire, s’mores and good friends.

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Luv Mother makes merino clothing for children. My husband, Matt, has worn merino almost exclusively for his tops for the last decade. Having read about the durability of merino wool, and some of the amazing stories of people wearing a single piece for 40 or more days straight without washing (or 100 days in a wool dress shirt), he was sold on their light environmental touch (imagine how much water and energy are saved when you can wear something 10, 20, 100 times before washing it!), which was only made better by the durability of wool. Add to all this, that being a natural fiber, wool is biodegradable once there is no life left in clothing, it gives new life by nourishing the soil.

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Luv Mother’s clothing is designed and sewn in Canada, and the merino is sourced from Australia and New Zealand. As many of you know, I am very particular about bringing animal products into our home. But I also consider the durability and environmental impacts of my purchases. This is why we opt to buy durable leather shoes over plastic or foam ones that may be kinder to some animals, but breakdown more quickly from use and yet ironically live on in landfill forever (plastics will eventually breakdown into plastic ‘dust’ but they don’t actually biodegrade), thereby harming many animals in the long run. Wool is another animal by-product that we include in our home, on occasion, when we can be assured that it is from an ethical source, where the sheep are free roaming, are treated well, are not mulesed, and are from farms that are monitored and certified to treat their animals according to animal welfare principles (RSPCA and the New Zealand Animal Welfare Act). Fortunately Luv Mother is a company that sources exclusively from ethical producers.

It makes sense, then, that Luv Mother’s tag line is “sourced in earnest.” For them this phrase is all about being conscious about every decision they make. And they really do follow through on this, every aspect of sourcing and producing their clothing is done sustainably and ethically. For example, Luv Mother: has carbon neutral shipping (they purchase carbon offsets/credits for the emissions resulting from shipping their clothing); all paper products and hangtags are printed on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper; working with their clothing factory to reuse and upcycle fabric scraps through creative partnerships.

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In addition to the sustainability and great usability of the clothing, I love how “packable” their merino clothing is. The clothing is  very lightweight and easily packed into my minimalist travel bag (an oversized purse from Nena & Co). What little wrinkling occurred while the clothing was in the bag fell out quickly as the children wore it. Great, because fussy clothing is banned while on travel! (Merino is machine washable and can tumble dry on low, but really it dries so fast it’s easy to air dry it and save some carbon emissions). Oh and did I mention the merino is soft? The kids didn’t complain of itching at all. Win-win-win-win.

The merino proved itself to be an exceptional fibre. But, then again, nature doesn’t often get this stuff wrong. Thousands of years of evolution has led to smart hairs growing on sheep. They are able to keep you warm when you need it, but keep you cool when the sun is out. We used the tops to transition from afternoon to evenings at the beaches, on windy ferry rides, and even an impromptu dip in the ocean — I forgot Sen’s swim suit on one occasion, so he went in with his merino top on. I would have let him swim naked, but he was too quick to run into the waves. I was delighted to find that his top had completely air dried within about 30 minutes, his cotton pants, on the other hand, were still soaked hours later. It was a good lesson for me: on those occasions when the kids might get sweaty or wet, dress them in wool!  While I didn’t know it at the time, I’ve since learned that wool is also considered a firesafe fabric and is self-extinguishing, it won’t melt or stick to your skin. Winning!

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All in all, we loved the clothing and found the brand name quite apt. The children played in  the sand and sea, climbed rocks and dunes, enjoyed the wind on a blustery ferry ride, enjoying the elements mother earth offered them in this part of the world. While their spirited childhood hearts would have fueled the fun and enjoyment no matter what, I’m pretty sure comfortable clothing helped them extend their fun a little longer.

Clothing details: Ro wears top and skirt from Luv Mother; Sen wears top from Luv Mother and organic cotton leggings from Mabo; best, most durable and stylish sandals around Salt Waters from Mini Mioche.

Find Luv Mother on Instagram @luvmthr

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Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and their families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activites, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code:HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off and read more about it here.