Knitting and more knitting

May 8, 2018 § Leave a comment

Knitting is my world right now. In a few weeks I am due to present, for the first time, a course I wrote to support teachers in bringing knitting to the primary aged school student.

I have been teaching knitting for years now – to parents of the Playgroup I facilitate, to my own children, to homeschooling groups, to the craft group I used to run, as well as volunteering at the school my children attend when knitting is again on the timetable.

Each class one knits a gnome at the school my children attend. One of the things I love most about handcrafts is the way one universal pattern ends up as a myriad of different results in the hands of each unique individual.

30855971_170582383604577_2960597510629883904_n(1)Four gnomes – four very different children (and one different pattern)

Last year I spent months researching knitting. I knew it was a healthy activity for brain and body, but as I went deeper and deeper I was blown away by what a truly holistic activity knitting is.

Knitting literally re-wires the brain and encourages new brain connections to grow. It connects left and right hemispheres, and the brain-hand connection is so crucial in laying a strong foundation for literacy and speech. The counting of stitches and rows enhances numeracy, and in later years more complex knitting patterns can contain quite advanced mathematical concepts.

As a communal activity, knitting links us to history, culture and community. Knitting dates back as far as the 11th century in Egypt, with a sock found in a tomb. Knitting harks back to pre-industrial times when individuals knitted or made other handmade goods for themselves and their families or to barter with other small communities. Items were made to last, with beauty and functional design inherent in the process. When we knit in today’s modern times, we are connecting ourselves to the history and culture of knitting, and providing a balance to the disposable plastic culture we find ourselves in today.

When children see something take shape before their eyes, something that they created from raw materials, an inner sense of achievement is nurtured. This sense of ‘I can’ translates to other activities in a child’s life and education.

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Research is now continuously emerging which describes how knitting is calming, how it promotes healthy heart coherence and creativity. I have been consciously picking up knitting recently when I feel stressed and the rhythmic movements are relaxing. My fingers, with regular practice, are moving faster and faster lately, allowing my mind to slip into a zone of zen. Try it!

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The Tooth Gnome

April 18, 2018 § Leave a comment

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tooth gnome back

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Years ago I made this tooth gnome, adapting it from some hand drawn notes I was given at a craft group. At the time I had two daughters who were pretty heavily invested in the tooth fairy, so it sat in our soft toy basket, used for many purposes but never teeth.

Then little Robin has come along, and suddenly teeth are falling out regularly. This little gnome matches Robin’s personality so perfectly, and delivers beautiful crystals for him to put on his shelf of special things.

You will need:

~ some felt, approximately A5 size (I always use 100% wool felt). An earthy colour is appropriate for a gnome, since they live close to the earth.

~ some stuffing fleece

~ a little bell or star for the hat

~ some cotton stretch material (tricot, or an old t shirt or singlet will also do)

~ some felt in brown for the knapsack

~ embroidery thread to sew up the gnome, and also for eyes

~ some fleece tops for the beard.

Instructions for sewing:

Take a square of cotton knit/tricot/t-shirt material, and a small handful of stuffing fleece. Be sure to have a long doubled over sewing thread ready to tie. Squeeze the stuffing fleece into a ball and push into the middle of the square of material, then pull the material down and all around it so it ends up as a ball with the ends of the material hanging down. Use the sewing thread to tie it around the bottom (neck), and leave the excess material hanging down. A good size for the head is approximately 3.5-4cm high.

Cut two star bodies out of the felt, and use blanket stitch to sew them together, starting from one side of the neck and going around to the other side – but don’t sew right up to the edge of the neck yet, leave it a bit open with needle and thread still attached and ready to sew.

tooth gnome outline final

The star body is approximately 8.5cm across from arm to arm.

Stuff the star body with stuffing fleece, using a chopstick or something similar to poke the fleece into the corners of the star. The body should be fairly firmly stuffed, but leave a bit of a hole down the centre of the star for the head. Use the chopstick to poke the excess material of the head below the neckline and into the body. Push the head down far enough that the string tying the neck will be below the felt and unseen.

Use the attached needle and thread to finish sewing up to the neck, then go around the neck using running stitch so that the star body is now sewn to the bottom of the head, holding it in.

The knapsack: I made an open knapsack, which needs two rectangles of felt, approx 2.5cm wide and 3.5cm high. Sew them together around the bottom three sides using blanket stitch.

Cut some long strips of felt in the same colour as the knapsack. Place these in the centre of the backside of the star body and stitch a few times to hold them. Then they go over the shoulder, across the front of the body and around under the opposite arm, to meet the same place where they began. Sew them to the rear side of the knapsack then do a few stitches into the body again so the straps and knapsack are held firmly in place.

Take some blue or brown embroidery thread and sew a knot at the rear of the head. Pass the needle through the head to the front and stitch some eyes, tying off again at the back of the head. If you are not confident – use two glass headed pins to place the eyes before stitching to ensure they are not too close or too far apart.

Take some curly fleece tops or fleece for the beard – take a moment to place it and get the right amount. Again, tie a knot at the back of the head and using small running stitches in a colour similar to the fleece, attach the beard to the face of the gnome. It is easy to fluff out the fleece a little so the stitches become invisible.

A gnome hat is essentially a large, long triangle, but it’s exact size depends on the size of the head of the gnome. Take a piece of paper and fold it in half, then draw a line from the fold out to make a long triangle, using the head of the gnome as a guide for how wide the hat should be at the bottom. Cut the triangle out and open out the fold, then test to see if it fits snugly around the head. The hat in the picture above is approximately 10cm long. Use blanket stitch to stitch the hat together and add a little bell or star or charm at the end if desired. Then use running stitch to secure the hat to the head of the star gnome, ensuring the hat covers the entire back of the head (because we have not done hair).

Your tooth gnome is complete! If you make one – do post some pics in the comments.

 

Dyeing Wool with Mulberries

October 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

I have a lot of 100% natural wool felt laying around. And this past week of spring there are suddenly mulberries everywhere.

I have always wanted to delve into natural dyes – lately I have been on a bit of a drive to get to some things on that always elusive to-do list. One Saturday night I decided it was time to dye with the mulberries themselves.

I did a quick google – no fancy chemicals here to use as mordants or fixatives. I’d have to go with the cupboard staples and hope for the best: salt and vinegar.

First I cooked the mulberries till I had some strong, dark, purple juice. I let it cool overnight. I also soaked the wool felt overnight to ensure it was absorbing liquid.

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mulberry dyed felt in strainer

In the morning I cooked the felt in my special dyeing-only pan with some salt – a good handful of salt simmered in the water to dissolve, then add felt and simmer for 5 mins.

mulberry dyed felt plain in pot

In goes the mulberry juice and a good swig of vinegar. Simmer another 10 minutes, then rinse and hang to dry. The felt looked lovely and purple in the pot, but when rinsed it revealed a lovely soft grey color with a hint of purple.

mulberry dyed felt purple pot

Next time I will let the felt cool in the pot overnight again to see if I get more purple in the finished product. However grey is one of my favourite colours at the moment so I am please with the result.

mulberry dyed felt finished

Keep Writing.

February 4, 2016 § 2 Comments

I have journalled for most of my life. I can remember as a girl, writing dreams for my life that involved being a writer and having lots of children (!).

As a teenager I wrote copious amounts of emotional outpourings about friendships and lovers and family tensions.

As a twenty-something I took on The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, purging my mind every morning, and then journalled the pregnancies and births of two children.

In my thirties…well, journalling became more intermittent; for crises or massive moments only. As my family grew and time demands intensified, journalling evolved into more of a luxury than a necessity.

I have written before about the body and the messages it can send to us through imbalance or illness. It is this exact scenario that led me to realise, just today, that I have not journalled for months, nor written this blog or indeed, much of anything. A niggling pain pointed me to the realisation that somewhere along the way in the last little while, I stopped expressing myself.

I intended to visit this blog today to let it be known that I was going through some deep stuff, too deep to share, too deep for me to be comfortable being visible in any way. I intended to publicly give myself permission not to write.

Instead I find myself re-committing to my writing practice, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. See, I do not feel myself unless I write. 

It is true that I am feeling much inner turbulence in recent months. I look at many aspects of this world and think to myself: this is insane. And I do not know how to exist within this insanity I see.

All I can do is write. And keep writing.

Reset

January 5, 2016 § 2 Comments

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Things have been extremely quiet on this blog, for a few months now. Moving home seemed to take most of the year and most of my energy. And then there was a new, exciting job.

With all my energy going into the home and then into my career, I really didn’t have much to say. I just felt fallow, for a while.

Now we are in a New Year and as I write this the rain is pouring down for second day. I love the sound of it at night when I lay in bed. I love staying at home and playing, reading, watching movies with my children. And I cherish the interior space it prompts me to inhabit.

I have spent these past few months just living; being present with my family and with the job I am called to do in supporting people training to become Steiner Education teachers. After many, many years as a stay at home mum or working in very part time roles close to home, I am relishing my new life travelling into the city to work, dressing up and embracing new responsibilities. Of course it is a big adjustment for our entire family and a new sense of balance is still emerging.

Despite not being much of a party goer on New Year’s Eve, my husband and I sat up well into the night, with that musical from the 80’s ‘Can’t Stop the Music’ on TV in the background, writing down some ideas for 2016. I like to follow Dr Demartini’s guidelines in focusing on the seven areas of life, as he outlines in this post. I’m getting better at making plans each year, and it seems each year I realise more and more deeply that whatever I want in my life is something I will have to create.

Writing and crafting are the big loves of my life at present, and I hope to bring more of my gifts in these areas into the world in 2016. Watch this space!

The landscape near our new home is very different to anywhere I have lived before. Today, in the rain, we walked. That New Year energy is still hanging around, and the cleansing, refreshing rain felt like more than just rain.

I’m ready, 2016.

 

Responsibility.

September 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

My eldest child is sixteen.

He drives now. He travels all over our city armed with his transport card and a mobile phone. Right now he is living with my mother because she lives closer to his work experience location, and he has arranged his lunches and everything he needs himself. I have been called upon for one thing only: money.

It doesn’t really matter which child is missing, but one less child means things feel quite a bit more relaxed at home. I use these times to catch up on things, and lately my time is also being spent pondering the larger picture of life. Now that my teenager seems ready to step out in the world alone, I can reflect on the journey of parenthood from the very beginning to this point now – where I feel my son will be fully independent in no time at all.

When I left high school and was pondering career choices, I shied away from many things I was interested in – paramedic, morgue worker (yes, they were what I thought I wanted to do despite having no talent for science and top marks for essay writing and history!). I could not imagine myself doing anything entailing massive responsibility, and I remember that feeling as a conscious thought.

I drifted along in my arts degree, and met my husband literally the week after I finished, providing an escape from having to think about a career. We took off travelling. Then I studied kinesiology – again I shied away from becoming professional. I didn’t want the responsibility of expectation that I could help people.

Ironically, I have embraced the greatest responsibility of all: childrearing. With five children, I have accepted into my life a massive load. When my children were babies and toddlers, it was hard to imagine the worry about teenagers that now keeps me awake into the night. And this is only the first child – there are four more to go!

My son wants a cat. And this extra responsibility, I already know, is too much for me. We always had cats and dogs when I was growing up. It was normal for me. I remember when I was a teenager, left at home for a week whilst my mother went to a spiritual retreat. I came home one night with my older sister to find my beloved ginger cat sitting in the hallway with a puffy, injured eye. That sight was a shock to me, but what was worse is that I was responsible for the cat, and I had no money to take him to the vet. My sister stepped in to save the day but that experience has stayed with me, and not in a good way.

Now we have guinea pigs and our children love them, and they seem just the right amount of work for us to manage. But a cat as well….I would almost rather have another baby than get a cat! The responsibility involved overwhelms me. I wonder about this theme in my life – maybe responsibility is one my major life lessons to come to terms with.

Last night, I held one of our guinea pigs in my arms as he passed away. I sobbed and sobbed over this little animal.

Later, in bed, I asked the angels to help me be strong enough for the responsibilities in my life. I have a deep determination to always be there for my children, but some days things can feel very overwhelming.

Full Moon Rising

September 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

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An early Spring afternoon. A full moon rising. An irresistible pull to the ocean.

It was an impromptu decision to jump in the car and go.

Some children relished the chance to explore the rocks as well as their physical skills. Some of us relished getting our feet wet and watching the moon rise above the swell of the water near the heads.

We stayed well past dark, bushwalking back to the car by the light of the moon.

A much needed family adventure.