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.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Yarn Along

Happy to be joining Ginny and the gang over at Small Things for this weeks Yarn Along.
I'm motoring along with Captain Tank. Glad to be at the stage where I'm looking forward to getting stuck in with the garter stitch V-neckband and armhole borders. Also my first time doing buttonholes on a garment, so it'll be great to know how that works. It's getting chilly around here so this cosy alpaca vest should be right on time : )

I was intrigued when I read what Ginny had written about this book Simplicity Parenting. I finally just got a copy and am loving reading Kim John Payne's chapter on the child's environment. I totally jive with what he writes about toys, and what you allow to happen when you streamline a child's possessions. It reflects a lot of the Steiner approach and I can see it in action in my son's kindergarten. I reckon I simplify a lot in our own home, but this book is a wonderful reminder of the whys and hows of that process and is informing on a much deeper level.  Reading seems like such a luxury in my world though it really shouldn't be. I always seem to prioritise whatever projects I'm working on, during those precious windows of time when I can afford to sit with something awhile. But I do want to absorb this book... let you know how it goes ; )
I look forward to getting some knitting and reading inspiration from y'all. Thank you for stopping by and for lovely comments on the last round. M