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.
August 19, 2015 § 1 Comment
About the time we were given notice to vacate our old home, I began this weaving. Almost every evening during the intense six week period of packing and procuring a new home, I could be found sitting on the lounge, hot chocolate beside me, weaving.
I made the frame myself from some simple planks of wood, some nails and a lot of string. At first I envisioned a simple blue/green theme, but then green led into yellow and the weaving itself began to lead me into unknown territory. The soft glass piece comes from one of my favorite places in Sydney to visit: Reef Beach. The leaves come from some awesome trees on the side of the road where I park to visit the chiropractor! Not so special in location, but more for the fact that for me they embody Sydney and the sandstone landscape that shapes it. This weaving is now incorporating the elements: two stones are next, from the garden of our old home, and then hopefully some feathers that will lay in my path one day.
I love the depth of weaving. The lines, the warp and the weft, the repetitive action going back and forth, back and forth. I love it that as I was weaving this piece, I was also in the process of weaving new elements together in my life….elements that even I did not know I was dreaming into existence back then.
I knew the weaving was to have pride of place in our new home. I had hoped to finish it before moving, but of course that did not happen. It is now six weeks since we have moved, and it sits, still unfinished. In those six weeks I have been in despair, feeling that the creative part of my life would have to be packed away as my physical crafting materials were. I could not see the path ahead, as our new home situation quickly made it clear to me that the way I was operating before was now redundant.
I was sitting fallow. Not knowing what to do, so doing nothing.
But as the cycles of life continue unabated, so my own cycles kept turning too, and I began to catch some new threads – so different from what I expected out of my life at this time, but so rich and satisfying.
The weaving is calling to me, ready to be finished now that the shoots of my new life have sprung.
To be continued…..
April 5, 2015 § Leave a comment
As time goes by, and as my life experience accumulates, I find myself in an interesting space in regards to religion and spirituality. I have moved on from the religion to which my mother introduced me as a child, and find myself gradually moving still further from any expression of organised religion. However my spirituality runs deep, and is intertwined with nature, in which I increasingly find the purest expression of the divine, but despite this depth of feeling I do not yet feel fully immersed in any other category of spirituality, which sometimes leaves me feeling a little adrift.
These issues are on my mind right now as it is Easter, and this Easter finds Sydney a somber, rainy, dark place to be (kind of fitting really, if you follow the religious meanings of this time). Frankly I find Easter confusing: with the Christian version of Easter, the Pagan roots from which the Christian version supposedly arises, and the seasonal aspects which are woven into this holiday too.
It is not Spring where I live, it is Autumn, and the time of the Harvest. We don’t normally have pumpkins here at Halloween time in October as is traditional in the Northern Hemisphere; they are in abundance now as the weather takes its turn towards to the colder months. It feels strange to celebrate with eggs, a symbol of new life and new beginnings.
In previous years, I played along with Easter and all its stereotypical accompaniments, planning an Easter Egg hunt for Easter Sunday but adding a homemade, soulful touch with handmade bunnies for the children to keep, to become part of their daily playthings.
In recent years my enthusiasm has waned in sync with the waning of my connection to religion. Our children learn about all religions both at home, at school, and from their extended family, but I was not keen to play a part in something that lacked meaning for me. For years now our family members have been asked not to give us chocolate eggs, and the holiday has passed with us camping, or staying close to home and treating it as some special family downtime.
Now that my daughters are getting older, they bring home an awareness of these festivals and the dilemma has arisen again for me. This year I plan to straddle both the fun of Easter (for fun’s sake!), whilst somehow acknowledging the themes of renewal that Easter carries, as well as the seasonal Harvest time we find ourselves in, and the imminent descent into winter.
To accomplish most of these ideas in one go, I use the Nature Table. In Steiner Education, the aptly named Nature Table is a point within the home that holds a connection to the seasons and happenings of nature outside. I recently made space for a rather large nature table, right in the middle of our living space, and as this weekend progresses it will display the bounty of nature at this time of the year, here, where we live in our place on this Earth.
We will acknowledge the season and its gifts with some eggplant lasagne and pumpkin soup. We may talk, as a family, about what new beginnings we are facing, as well as the gifts in our lives for which we are especially thankful. And the table will hold, on Easter Sunday morning, the bounty that magically occurs at Easter. No matter my own spiritual dilemmas, I am determined for this Easter to hold some energy of reverence, and depth, and just that little touch of magic.
April 1, 2015 § 1 Comment
Six months of dreams and applications, and six weeks of intense preparations and discussions culminated on this weekend past with two Crafting the Sacred Yoni workshops held at the Seven Sisters Festival.
It was my first time attending this festival for women. Over 1500 women converged in a wild and somewhat remote location south of Melbourne. When my companion and co facilitator, Yia, and I arrived, we emerged from the car to a frigid and powerful wind that made setting up my little tent tricky, and had us both wondering how we would manage to craft successfully in such conditions.
The energy of this gathering gradually gathered us up in its movement and by the time of our first workshop the weather was all but forgotten. Forty women came, crafted and left with their own unique Yoni. I always suspected this workshop had the potential to be both powerful and healing, but I was deeply moved by the depth of creativity and journeying that each woman took in the ninety minutes we spent together.
I found it extremely interesting how the Yonis were influenced by both which life cycle stage a woman was in, as well as a more subtle influence of her monthly cycle point. By the time of our second workshop, the last time slot of the entire festival, the process felt deeper still as the participants seemed more deeply opened to themselves through other workshops and events they had attended.
Yia and I facilitated just over eighty women crafting their own Yonis this past weekend. It was exhilarating, exhausting, deep, tender, raw and so powerful. Not sure what is next for this little workshop idea but I am already so filled with wonder and gratitude for the journey so far.
And now, for some snapshots…..
March 16, 2015 § 2 Comments
In my burgeoning professional life, I wear many hats. I run a Playgroup, craft groups both for children and women, make and sell items for women and children, and blog for http://www.mothering.com as well as for this humble personal blog.
An increasingly large part of my role as Craft Teacher for women has been the project depicted above: Crafting a SacRed YONI! Yes, Yoni refers to the vagina. Yes, this project is about crafting a vagina art piece to hang on one’s wall at home.
Really, this project is the perfect fusion of my crafting skills and passion for women’s mysteries and empowerment. It began as one humble Yoni fibre art piece, made for a dear friend for her Harvest Ceremony. I don’t really know why I chose the Yoni, it just seemed relevant for this Wise Woman and mentor in the realm of women’s cycles. Of course she loved it and soon another wonderful woman asked me to make on for her.
And so something began.
Like all good ideas, the idea to make this art piece into a workshop was one that simply floated into my consciousness one day. I needed a co-facilitator, and Yia, for whom I made that original piece, excitedly stepped into the role. We have been fastidiously gathering all the elements needed to make the Yonis unique and creative. Pictured above are some of the results of the trial run we did for this workshop at a Red Tent event last week.
Now we are ten days out from the Seven Sisters Festival, held in Melbourne, Australia, where the workshop Crafting a SacRed YONI will be experienced by up to one hundred women. To say I am nervous is rather an understatement. I know I will rise to the occasion and that the workshops will be a success – the nervousness has many levels, from leaving my children for four days, worrying about how they will manage without me, to wondering how I will manage by myself, in a totally new setting and experience. I am sure there will be lots to write about when I return!