Add sparkle to your winter garden with these homemade ice suncatchers. Made from natural materials, they are bird-friendly and simply beautiful on a cold, sunny day.
For more ideas also see Naturally Crafty: Stuff To Make From and For the Garden.
Ice Suncatchers For Winter Decor
When winter temperatures dip below freezing and the snow is glistening, it’s time to make homemade ice suncatchers.
Filled with natural materials, these easy-to-make ornaments are safe for birds and add beauty to the garden.
The supplies are simple, starting with common kitchen containers like pie plates or ice cream tubs to form the molds.
If you want to provide bird treats, use as assortment of fruit slices and berries. Some also include birdseed but I’m not certain it won’t sometimes turn to mush so be careful with it.
Otherwise, various natural treasures like leaves, twigs, seed pods, and pine needles are always good choices. See what your backyard has to offer and stick with natural, compostable materials since the ornaments will gradually melt and return their contents back to the earth.
The process is simple. Arrange the fruit or other natural items in a pan, cover with water, freeze, add a hanger, and within hours your suncatcher is ready to display in the garden.
How To Make Ice Suncatchers
Supplies & Materials
Everything should be safe for wildlife and the garden. Do not use food color to tint the ice.
- Fruit theme | Sliced oranges, lemons, grapefruit, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds, and so on.
- Nature theme | Leaves, twigs, flowers, acorns, pine needles, berries, pinecones, seed pods.
- For clear (or clearer) ice, boil the water first and allow to cool to room temperature before adding to your creation.
Freezer-Safe Kitchen Containers
Basically any container that will not break when kept in the freezer should work:
- Thick glass pie plates
- Aluminum pie plates
- Baking pans
- Cake pans
- Plastic food storage containers
- Yogurt, margarine, or ice cream tubs
- Silicone molds
- Bundt pans (good for a wreath-shaped ornament)
Material to Hang The Suncatcher
- Twine or ribbon or pre-twisted rush
- Electric drill with 3/16-inch and ½-inch drill bits (to make a hole for twine)
- Watering can with a narrow spout (helpful for carefully adding water to an intricate design)
- Freezer | Make sure you have room for the containers (sitting flat) before you start. Otherwise, freeze your suncatcher outdoors.
Before You Start
- The perfect time to make suncatchers is during a cold spell when temperatures are expected to remain at or below freezing (32°F / 0°C) for several days or longer.
- You can create the actual suncatcher indoors and use a freezer to set it or place it outdoors and let nature do the freezing for you.
Prepare The Fruit (or Other Natural Materials)
For my fruity ice suncatcher, I used slices of various colorful fruits as well as some pomegranate seeds.
The fruits were sliced to approximately 1/4-inch thick.
Create Your Design
In most cases, the bottom of the container ends up being the “front” of the suncatcher where the design looks best.
It’s handy to use a thick, glass pie plate so you can try different layouts and preview everything by looking at the underside of the pie plate.
Test out designs until you like what you have.
How to Make Clear Ice
You’ll notice that most ice suncatchers are opaque, not clear.
The most common tip for getting water to freeze clear is to boil it ahead of time (or use distilled water) and let it return to room temperature before freezing it.
Others say they freeze the water while it is still boiling hot.
I’ve tried all sorts of combinations and results are hit and miss so there must be more to it.
From what I understand, both impurities in the water and excess air contribute to cloudy ice.
Science pages suggest doing what is called “directional freezing.” There are gizmos for this that gradually force the excess air out of the water by freezing it from one end to another.
If you really want clear ice from home, you might want to run some tests first with different water temperatures at time of freezing.
Before Adding Water…
If you’ve created a design with fruit, it can help to place a second pie plate over the design and weigh it down while gradually adding the water so the fruit doesn’t move around.
Slowly pour enough water into the pie plate to cover the fruit (or natural materials) plus one-half inch or so.
Freeze The Suncatcher
Place your suncatcher in the freezer or outside (if temperatures are below freezing) on a flat surface. It should be as level as possible.
This is your last chance to double-check that everything is how you want it before the water starts to freeze.
It should take a few hours for your suncatcher to freeze. Thicker suncatchers may take longer.
When completely frozen, it’s time to remove your suncatcher from the container.
If it doesn’t easily pop out, you can sit the base of the frozen container (pie plate or whatever you used) in a shallow pan of warm water until the suncatcher slides out. Work quickly so you don’t melt more of the suncatcher than you need to.
Hang It Up
If you want to hang up your suncatcher with twine or ribbon, drill a hole in the ice.
You may want to do this outdoors to prevent the suncatcher from melting while you’re working.
The closer the hole is to the middle of the suncatcher, the longer the hanger will stay intact as the suncatcher gradually melts over the coming days (or weeks).
I like to drill a pilot hole first using a 3/16-inch drill bit and then create a larger hole with a ½-inch bit.
Add twine or ribbon and hang up your ice suncatcher.
A shady location will buy you more time than a full-sun site.
Depending on the weather, your decoration may last days or weeks.
Be sure to remove any twine or ribbon just before the suncatchers are completely melted in case they are not bird-safe.
There you go—another way to add some creative beauty to winter days.
Creative Garden Ideas
by Melissa J. Will
Make cool stuff with natural materials from and for your garden.
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~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
How To Make Ice Suncatchers
- 3/16-inch drill bit (for pilot hole)
Supplies & Materials
- 1 piece (each) various fruits (oranges, lemons, limes…) optional
- 1 assorted leaves, twigs, pinecones, seed pods, flowers optional
- 24 Inches Twine or ribbon
- Slice fruit into 1/4-inch slices.1 piece (each) various fruits (oranges, lemons, limes…)
- Arrange design as desired in container like a glass pie plate.
- Cover with water. To encourage the water to freeze clear (not opaque), pre-boil it and return to room temperature before adding it.
- Place everything in freezer or outside (if temperature is below freezing). Keep everything level during the freezing process.
- Work outside to avoid melting. Remove ice suncatcher from container. Submerge base of container in warm water if necessary to make it slide out.
- Drill hole for twine hanger. First drill pilot hole using 3/16-inch drill bit and then drill with 1/2-inch drill bit.24 Inches Twine or ribbon
- Add twine and hang up your suncatcher outside. Avoid hanging in full sun to make it last longer.