July 2, 2018 § Leave a comment
Winter Solstice is a special time, when the shortest day and the longest night occur. At Playgroup, we mark this occasion with a simple spiral walk, featuring lanterns handmade by the children and their carers in the weeks leading up to the solstice.
On the day, children arrive to see the Playgroup space transformed into almost-darkness and with a special spiral laid out on the floor with ivy and stars. Each child takes a turn walking into the spiral with their carer, toward the centre. This walk reflects the days that have been as they have gradually shortened as the darkness of night has lengthened. In the centre, each child’s lantern is lit and are carried on the walk outwards. We carry our inner light and are strengthened as the days will begin to lengthen again.
Activities such as a spiral walk connect children with the seasons and rhythms of nature, as well as with community and sacred rituals which bring us together.
This year we made simple lanterns from a glass jar covered in coloured kite paper, with a wire handle.
Once all the children have walked the spiral, a special story using props is told. It is set in the land of the gnomes, with one gnome making a special journey to find a glowing crystal.
Part of the Playgroup space transformation included a life size crystal cave for the children to peek into:
The day ends with a feast and each child takes home a golden crown as a reminder of the light within:
May 27, 2018 § Leave a comment
Hand dyed yarn is so special – it has a special softness, aliveness and a rich quality about it that industrially dyed yarn does not, especially if it involves graduating colours of one or more.
Recently I experimented for the first time with dyeing some wool yarn at home. I used Landscape dyes for wool and silk, and a stainless steel deep frying pan. These dyes are based on colours found in nature in Australia, and are so easy to use. My aim was to complete a rainbow set of coloured yarns, with some gradients of colour in each skein.
The deep frying pan I used fitted one 100g skein in it perfectly, taking up all the space. I poured 2 cups of cold water over the skein and pressed it until all the water was absorbed, leaving the yarn wet but with no noticeable extra liquid.
Then I turned on the heat, and while it was heating, mixed approximately 1/2 teaspoon of dye into one cup of water. When the dye was dissolved, I poured it onto the yarn – the dye soaked into the yarn completely and did not run much at all. This meant that I could pour more dye into some areas, making those areas darker with dye than others. I did need to use a spoon to massage the dye in at places, ensuring the dye covered the yarn which was sitting at the bottom of the pan.
For red, I only used the grevillia dye, pouring more in some places to create darker patches of red. For the other colours I became a little more adventurous, using the main colour (say, orange), as well as a little golden yellow for more of a gradient.
Once the yarn was boiling I turned it down and left it to simmer for 5-10 mins, then tipped it out into a clean sink and washed it thoroughly with cold water. Then it goes out to dry.
It’s important to ensure the yarn is fully dry before winding into balls.
I felt very pleased with the results for one evenings’ dyeing!
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.
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.
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!
April 18, 2018 § Leave a comment
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
January 5, 2016 § 3 Comments
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.