Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Yarn Along

Great to be joining Ginny and the gang over at small things for this weeks Yarn Along. Last one of 2011, right?
 Many thanks for all your sweet comments on last week's post.
Hope you had a wonderful, warm time over Christmas. Hard to believe that the heart of it has passed for another year. Over the next few days I'll be posting favourite vignettes, makings and doings from mine : )

Since the weather's turned cold I've been craving a cosy neckwarmer. I was delighted to find this Cardiff Cowl pattern on Ravelry, it looked so wearable and do-able. But it threw me when I read the reviews, as they are very mixed indeed. The pattern seemed to confuse many. I consider myself at the intermediate stage with crochet, so it felt a bit daunting. Having completed it now here's what I think, it's rated Easy and I do think it's a deceptively easy pattern once you get going, but the pattern is poorly written and unclear in parts. I worked it out from looking at an image one of the reviewers had posted of her finished piece, once I saw that all the shells and other motifs simply lined up, mystery solved.
From my favourite local Yarn shop this Manos fairtrade Merino has become a firm favourite in our Woollygatherings. It falls outside my budget but is indescribably soft, and I needed something festive...the marbleized colourway is lost in translation here. And as these pieces are all for me to learn and experiment on, I couldn't resist adding my own edging. I've just worn it for the first time and did not want to take it off : ) I've just finished a second one now in different yarn, more on that in an upcoming post. Thinking what a lovely present this would make in two evenings work, if you knew someone well enough to know their colours. 

Still reflecting my way through The Four Temperaments which I wrote about previously here.

I look forward to seeing what y'all are up to this week. Thanks for visiting : ) M

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Yarn Along

In festive mood, joining Ginny and the gang over at Small Things for this week's Yarn Along. I am crocheting for small felt babes. I made a collection of these, most of which you can see in a recent post here. Just working through the last couple of orders for these 'Child of Christmas' in the white, and beside her one of my leaf babies I'm making for my niece... I'm working on a design where children can wear these as a pouch : )

Along with the Christmas decorations, we've hauled our little collection of treasured Christmas books out of the crawl space. We bought Little One, We Knew You'd Come for smallie for Christmas a couple of years ago now, it's a beautifully produced book, one of our favourites for this time of the year. The tender illustrations rendered in watercolour and gold leaf are magical and evocative.. Perfect for snuggling up and reading with your wee ones on Christmas Eve. 
I look forward to seeing all the lovely gift-projects being finished up out there. Wishing you all a warm time with your loved ones at this special time of year. M x

Saturday, 17 December 2011

This Time

Truly hoping that this is my last couple of days of intense work before the Christmas break. Got some late orders that I need to fill. Ever grateful for the work, but so looking forward to slowing down, catching up with my siblings and their children. I have some fun handwork projects planned for the little ones : ) their handmade presents sit waiting to be finished or put together.
My head has been so full, with lesson plans, trying to meet orders...crochet projects, while trying not to think too much about the ever-increasing pile of laundry that waits, the piles of wool scattered around our living room and the Christmas cards written in my head and heart, but not actually making it onto paper ; ) It may well have to be new years cards this year, and how bad. Time to let go of certain things and focus on the fundamentals. 
We've been invited to a glam new years eve party this year...know what I really want to do? Sit by the fire and crochet.

 I am struck these days, reading through my favourite blogging-sister's words, how far we working moms tend to push ourselves. The deep need to do our creative work for many reasons, fulfilling our role as mothers, and domestic tasks that simply have to be done sooner or later ( later in my case ; ) ) and how to strike that balance.What a fine balance, one I've coped better with this year than last, one I hope to manage even better next year, for that I wish.

Have I said that pretty much my all-time favourite thing to make in felt (apart from grandmothers of course) are little gnomes? Wish I'd known to make more of these ones, at the fair there was more demand from mothers and teachers than I could meet!

The kindergarten needed a duck and duckling for their puppet play..

This is part of  our seasonal table in the handwork room. I set it up thinking it would bring something really elemental to the space, I realise now how important it is also for the teacher. While teaching or preparing for a class, I get a glimpse of it and it so helps me remember the magic of this time of year, and what an honour it is to be working in the world of the child. 

Thank you for reading, and every warm wish for the Christmas season. M

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Child of Christmas 

You know that feeling when you get a real kick out of something you've just made, because it's a little departure from what you typically create, a bit of a stretch..? And it's your own design from start to finish...
I haven't felt that in a while, but it happened with these : )

I love to combine fibres that are at different stages of processing, so I really enjoy integrating stitching and felting in my pieces. Spun and unspun side by side. This yarn is actually cotton. I've been combining crochet with needle felting in my work for some time now, and I still love to switch between the needle and the hook.

These babes were part of my Christmas collection this year, I wrote in the previous post about making work for this years Advent Fair. I had a snow-white moment while working on these, stabbed my finger and red blood threatened the white wool ; ) I know this is what turns many crafters off the process of needle felting but I just take a deep breath and needle on : ) I couldn't keep my mind from wandering to this though, and how the image imprinted itself on my mind as a child:

Once upon a time in mid winter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a beautiful queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed, she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow.
 The red on the white looked so beautiful...

I always have to haul myself back to the present moment ; ) such a daydreamer.

And back in my present, I was
asked to make a fox for the kindergarten to accompany the story happening there at the moment. I'd never attempted a four-legged creature in felt before and this one had to be really robust, hardy enough for play. It took a lot of felting but I got there in the end.

There are lots of these elusive red foxes around these nights, we've been lucky enough to spot a couple, much to smallie's delight. Having made this I will look with a much keener eye next time!

.. I'll be back here later this week to share photos of the rest of the gang, gnomes and other characters recently made. 

Thank you for reading : ) M

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Yarn Along 

Happy to be joining Ginny and the gang over at Small Things for this weeks Yarn Along.
I'm very in love with crochet these days. It's a madly busy time, and as I'm working away to fill orders, what I really want to be doing is this. This is another simple project I'm trying out to test its suitability for students. The bag pattern is so easy it's a seaming whatsoever, you just crochet into both sides of the foundation chain. Magic, perfect for beginners. This is of course Noro yarn and these would not normally be my colours of choice at all. But this random ball has been lingering in my wool basket and I was curious. I plan to make a spiral braid for the strap, I've not yet tried this technique so I'm interested to see how effective it is and wonder how the children would do with it. I'll post when its all done. I've a mad notion to add long fringes and wooden beads to the end. The closet cowgirl in me ; )

I'm excited to get stuck into this little book The Four Temperaments by Rudolf Steiner, where he discusses how inner self and inherited traits combine. I do find it fascinating to observe how the various temperaments manifest themselves, and how as parents and teachers we can meet and respond to them. I'm just beginning, I'll let you know how it goes.

Looking forward to seeing what y'all are stitching and reading out there. M 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

March of the hedgehogs

 My son and I moved to County Clare three years ago expressly so he could go to the Steiner school. (They are few and far between in Ireland). I so wanted that for him... I'm not sure I ever imagined how much it would bring to me, on many levels, and the countless quiet ways in which we have grown towards the ethos, and settled so naturally and comfortably within its folds.
  A whole new chapter of my life, of our lives began with this move. 
Marked by a very tough first year of missing the Dingle Peninsula we'd left behind, the stunningly beautiful coast and good, old friends. To top it all I was driving a car independently for the first time, something I had avoided 'til then, something that scared me. Initially I felt land-locked and isolated. But never once considered going back.
After that first transitional year passed, my boy had come of age to be welcomed into the kindergarten. A whole new like-minded community seemed to open up before me, a feeling that has only deepened since. How blessed do I feel. 

I arrived here as a painter. I had not yet been touched by the world of craftwork, the wonders of wool, of felting needles and embroidery thread. All that changed with my association with the school, initially through my enthusiasm and commitment to the parents craft group and eventually through our woollygatherings and my own personal journey with it all, beavering away, overcoming blocks and limiting beliefs like 'I can't sew' and 'I don't know how to knit'. It completely renewed my love of learning...I now find myself a part-time handwork teacher at the school and learning ever more. It has enriched my life, incredibly so.

 Knitting needles lovingly crafted by the children in the first of our handwork lessons, yarn   
kindly gifted to us by one of the teachers

I used to feel an element of guilt that I did so little art with my small child at home. It amazed me how people presumed, that as I was an artist it was a natural activity for us at home. But it wasn't at all. For I felt so desperate to make my art, and child-free time was so so limited and precious, that it was a separate thing for me. Gladly, that too has changed. Now my son is older and (most of the time!) I'm more relaxed about creativity happening at home, it seems to happen quite naturally. Who knows exactly why or how or when these small changes come. But through osmosis...witnessing fleeting scenes of the children crafting at the kindergarten, working around the table with other moms showing each other how to make things, standing before a group of children learning how to help them learn, how to knit or crochet. Small changes bring great changes, that I have seen.

The annual Advent Fair happened on the day that I write this, and its a funny thing for me because I feel like I've never really experienced this wonderful event and all its child-centred ventures, as I am a stall holder on the day. My kindly family come quite a way to join in the day's activities and care for smallie. 
And gladly I run my stall in one little area. Leading up to this year I really wondered, questioned, doubted whether I could pull it off, if it was worth it, whether during an already busy time it would send me over the edge into total overwhelm. I am prone to feeling overwhelmed on the average day! And wouldn't it be lovely to spend the day wandering with my own child..? Yet I couldn't seem to let it go : ) It traditionally provides a timely boost to my income at a spendy time of year. But there's much more to it than that. The work I make meets a a niche market. I know all you artists and craftworkers out there can relate to the deep feeling of wonder and satisfaction when you see someone walk away from your table with a bag containing something you've handmade, that they've handpicked. 

There is something very meaningful in being part of those who, like the wonderful parents craft group, provide natural toys for children that encourage imaginative play. Not easy to find in these parts and not always affordable.

All told, between the jigs and the reels what with teaching and other commitments, I found myself with all of two weeks to make new work in the lead-up to this. And out of the blue I was smacked with a brutal toothache that lasted a week.Yikes! Funny how that happens. Work began nonetheless, with the making of a community of hogs ; ) I wrote about these in a previous post. And with my partner at sea for these few weeks, I had wondered what would smallie do all this time as I beavered away all the rainy weekend under my work lamp. Why, he did what all six year olds are wont to do. Imitate : ) He got busy with his own pom pom production. 

He matter-of -factly moved a small table right beside mine and asked for a lamp of his own. And when he'd made a pom pom in every size his holders would allow, he went off and played contentedly with them : )

 I try to be cool about mounds of coloured wool moving in and taking over our living room as smallie and I dine off the very end of our long table and work takes over the rest ; )

There was magic about on that fair day, smallie had a brilliant time with loved ones, and me..? I was pretty much in my element : ) With me hard-earned christmas money in my pockets
I am already dreaming up next years stock ; )

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be posting more photos of some of the rest of the new work I made, thankfully mostly gone now.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who visited and supported my stall that day.
And to all of you reading this. Wishing you a wonderful Advent season. M 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Yarn Along

Happily joining Ginny and the gang over at small things for this week's Yarn Along.
I've never tackled a big project in crochet...made mostly small practical things. I would say that I'm ready for something finer. something wearable. for me.
And so it was that I began to make myself a cardie. Once I got the neckline done, I tried it on to double-check the tension and when I glanced in the mirror I saw a crochet collar.
I have for some time been wanting to make myself one of these curiousities. I love the vintage feel of such an accessory...timeless really. Hence, I've abandoned said cardie pattern for the moment. Going to have fun playing around with this idea for now. I made up the red border. I've also made up my mind to rip this part back and re-fashion the next row(s). Funny how plans change ; )
I'm loving this departure from wool.
The blue's pure cotton, the red's pure silk. (So friends, the latter's Debbie Bliss right, but what's not so blissful about it, is that it has that really over-spun feel and I continually have to straighten it out as I go...any ideas...? You can see the 'twisties' in my photo)

This is my busiest time of year work-wise so I'm not reading anything at the moment. Rumi still graces my bedside table though and I love to flick open a page now and then, it helps me remember to breathe : )
Look forward to seeing what you're up to and thanks so for all lovely comments on last weeks post. M

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Yarn Along

Happily joining Ginny and the gang over at small things for this week's Yarn Along.
Following on from last weeks post, my head and hands are still full with small projects, with young beginner crochet students in mind. Inspiration for this red envelope came from here. Great fun : ) I'm enjoying this break from knitting and
 I do so love doing crochet with pure cotton...makes for quite a strong, hardy  piece in the end too.
  Clover make my all-time favourite hooks. I picked some up when I was in my old stomping ground of Ashland, Oregon last summer and my dear aunt sent me some more this summer. Hooks widely available here at home are uniformly grey. And being that we see a lot of grey out our windows I rather see a glint of gold as I stitch away. 

And for some rejuvenation...Rumi.

First, lay down your head
then one by one
let go of all distractions.
Embrace the light and let it guide you
beyond the winds of desire.
There you will find a spring and 
nourished by its sweet waters
like a tree you will bear fruit forever.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Yarn Along

Happily joining Ginny and the gang over at Small Things for this weeks Yarn Along.
My thoughts have turned to crochet as I plan the next weeks handwork projects for class two. Having explored it I settled on bookmarks and envelopes. Knowing they need to learn to make a square, but yearning to move away from the traditional pot holder ; ) I remembered happening upon this tutorial. I've longtime been in love with handwritten letters and with envelopes... and the promise they hold. Never crocheted an envelope though!
I'm thinking these will make lovely holders for cherished photos, notes and other treasured items. Made from a simple square using only double crochet stitch, it sure was fun to make and is perfect for beginners. I practically had to tie myself to the chair to hold back from my natural desire to embellish. My mind was already away making a stamp from felt and embroidering it with tiny love details : ) Within the context of this work though, I need to keep it simple and pure somehow, so the emphasis now for these beginners is on the craft itself, on the flowing gesture, the one that works quite literally hand-in hand with the cursive handwriting they will simultaneously learn.

Lucky enough to get a loan of this book from one of our kindergarten teachers, Handwork and Handicrafts by Hedwig Hauck from indications by Rudolf  Steiner. It seems an old copy with its musty smell and pages that look like they've been plucked straight from the typewriter. Within those pages is recorded how Steiner spoke about the importance of a child's handwork having beauty and practical purpose. That feels right to me.
And I am learning. I feel the doors of my mind thrown open in a way that I have not felt for years now. 

And for that I am very.grateful.indeed : )

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Yarn Along

Happily joining Ginny and the gang over at small things for this week's Yarn Along.
So, another veil of mystery lifted for me in this amazing journey of learning, knitting in the round.
I could never imagine how that worked, looked fascinating though. I get it now : ) and am growing mighty fond of stitching with four needles...loving these birch dpn's. It is slow, but the perfect small project for working on while you're out and about, or on the go.
One thing's for sure, it will not be a perfect sock but I will get such a kick out of wearing these and how could those colours not warm the heart on a grey day and we're sure to have many of those coming up.

Life's been full and hasn't left much time for reading, but Simplicity Parenting is still the book very much on my mind. The last chapter 'Filtering Out the Adult World' strikes a chord. Notions like 'you increase your chances of being heard when you talk less' are well worth turning over in the mind and already bringing a fresh conciousness to how I am around my small boy. It was Yarn Along that drew my attention to this invaluable book, so thanks girls and I look forward to browsing through more of your reading and knitting inspiration this week. x M
P.S. If you have little ones in your life, my previous post on fingerknitting might interest you.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The zen of finger crochet

 A pair of hands and a ball of wool. For this, that's all you need... that simple, and in a complicated world, boy do I love simple!
If I could capture one tenth of the quiet wonder of this little journey, that would be something.

It started, when beginning to teach crochet to class two last month at our local Steiner school- finger crochet seemed a wise warm-up activity. I'd never done it myself before, but my son is a dab-hand. They do this 'two finger knitting' in kindergarten and he loves it. We made these simple flowers at home from the finger crocheted cords before doing it with the class.

I thought back to a 'social saturday' we'd had over the summer as part of our woollygatherings. A visiting mama joined us with her small boy who goes to a Waldorf school in America. And as we all sat around knitting, he nonchalantly began to crochet on all fingers of one hand. Wow, I was impressed with his focus and dexterity. He laughed as I tried to follow along with his movements but couldn't keep up. Before I knew it, and with the greatest of ease he was wearing a headband he'd just fashioned. That done, he ran off and joined the other children to play : )

Got me thinking about lots of things, chiefly how lovely to have a wee one 'knitting' at your side while you knit. And I remembered reading that Rudolf Steiner once said
 "the child's most ardent wish is to imitate the work of grown-up people, whether it is done with a spade or with a knitting needle."
 And while this five-finger knitting is actually crochet and not knitting, the process is a wonderful experience of the mechanics of how a stitch is made.
I wondered about a scarf that a child could easily make, a child who cannot yet knit. I made one this way for fun to see how it might work.

I connected the rope into a big loop and added a couple of those finger knitted flowers. It falls into a different configuration every time I put it on : ) The only use of a needle in the making of this was in stitching the flowers in place, the rest all done on the fingers. Somehow I've grown quite fond of this cosy neckwarmer.

What I'm really chuffed about though... is that my small boy took this photo!

At six, he has not yet learned to knit...feels like he will be ready soon and I am excited to teach him, but I'm biding my time. I taught him this five-finger crochet and he took to it easily and quickly. Amazing for me (and for him!) to see that thick, crocheted rope getting longer, and longer.

 The day he got to the end of the yarn, I helped him to fasten off and he promptly wrapped it about his neck, and with quiet satisfaction headed outside to play. And I have never succeeded in getting him to wear a scarf all this time ; )

Here's the thing...for a child's hands to become skillful is vital to their holistic development. And in ways I'm only beginning to learn about- handwork supports literacy and numeracy skills later on... Steiner wrote of how 'knitting begets thinking'. It is as much of course about joy and peace, for the practice of handwork offers many therapeutic benefits.
 We have a basket now in smallie's patch of our living room where he's got a few different finger crochet projects on the go. I see him go to it at various times of the day... or hear him say 'I want to do some finger knitting now' especially once home from school, tired, and I'm busy in the kitchen. Often I'll notice a quiet has descended on the living room, and when I look he'll be sitting there stitching away contentedly. He settles in to it quietly and I see something universal in that. I too go to my knitting or other handwork when I need to throw off the shackles of the day, to shed the cares of the outside world. I see the deep personal satisfaction for him when he produces and finishes something, especially when he gets to use it in some fun way.

On the practical side, you can take this anywhere easily, its a perfect low maintenance, clean activity for long journeys or trips away. Half of a 50g ball of yarn is probably plenty, I would go for chunky weight and variegated colour for ease and fun. You'll find a tutorial here.
And what to do with all these fine finger crocheted cords I hear you ask? The kids will come up with endless possibilities I've no doubt, but here's some I've come across so far;
 as straps for bags
for tying and binding toys in different ways in play
for making the boundary of a field or pond in a play scene or puppet play
for use in weaving projects
for making necklaces or bracelets
And the lengths produced in the more sophisticated five-finger crochet;
Worked in hemp or twine, these make great skipping ropes
mighty fine scarves or neckwarmers, or a very sweet scarf for a teddy bear
garlands for decorating at home
hairbands and belts
And though I've not tried it yet, you can make a basket by coiling the rope around and stitching in place.

Speaking of stitching in place, and on a seasonal more glossy conkers to be found around our favoured chestnut trees last time we looked. Shucks, all over for another year. But before the ones we'd gathered dry and harden, I just had to make them part of the place somehow.
Made a simple garland to honour a favourite sculpture... (Once I'd placed it there I kept seeing 
India, and how I often happened upon a Hindu statue decorated just so when travelling there.) 

And who could resist making a conker cobweb? Smallie and our little friend loved making these.

The wonder of
  fingers and yarn... and all you can do with them : )

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


There is a little river walk that winds through our local village. We stop there sometimes on the way home from school, especially when I've had a harried morningtime or if smallie's restless in the car. Yesterday we ambled through there, and were enchanted by all the treasures lying in the grass and in the river...all in that one small place.

My son remarked how 'its a great year for conkers this year' and promptly started to fill a bag with the best. Indeed we stumbled upon loads of really big ones. When it was time to go and I was trying to round him up, he said 'I just need to say goodbye to the chestnut tree' wrapped his arms about the trusty trunk, gave a little kiss and a 'thanks for the conkers... see you next time' : )
 I keep thinking of this beautiful little children's verse we just sang at a parents morning at school
There is sunlight in your hair
See the colours grow golden

 That evening, inspired by Svenna over on Stitch and Purl, and with Michaelmas still in the air we thought we might make a conker dragon. It was a hasty, joint effort between the three of us at home before bedtime. Smallie loved using the awl to pierce, and was thrilled with his finished beast, who has been taken up mountain and down dale.

It jogged some fun memories for my partner about his wild boyhood, he reminisced about how as children, there was a big rush at this time of year with jaunts to their favourite chestnut tree, to search for the biggest hardest conker they could find. A length of baling twine was strung through it, knotted at the end and all hopes would ride with that conker, for much fame and glory followed the bearer of the prize-conker that would outlast all the others : ) There were tricks and theories about how to prolong them with soaking in vinegar or painting with clear varnish. He said those conkers burned holes in their pockets at school, with the anticipation of the next round of battle in the yard at lunchtime!
 He recalled playing 'helicopters' with sycamore keys, climbing the tree and letting them drop... and
'Truffing' apples from the nuns, a planned escapade with two or three of them in a gang for there had to be a 'look out'. And the others had to be fast on their feet when chased by the gardener, with handfuls of robbed apples gathered up in their shirts ; )

A generation later, children still love to play with such simple things as that which falls from the trees around us.