Craft: Knitted T-Shirts

My children’s school, Silkwood, has a very unique uniform: a different colour for each day of the week. We love it! It helps the little ones move through their week, marking the days by the colour shirts they are wearing. It helps them mark their activities too – different things happen on different colour days. And it makes things colourful. A new adventure every day. Our week moves in this rhythm:

Monday – purple day

Tuesday – red day

Wednesday – yellow day

Thursday – orange day

Friday – green dayIMG_3194

Did you notice it doesn’t exactly follow the rainbow? I do admit that it bothers me too that yellow comes after red, but there is a deeper meaning behind the colours and the days, and they don’t stop at Friday. The weekend days have their colours too. The colours are related to the energies of the planets, and each day is in tune with the energy of a particular planet. This is ancient philosophy, and the colours were chosen for our school uniform years ago when Silkwood identified with steiner education. I am very glad that the colours have remained to brighten our school environment, to keep things interesting, beauty-full and rhythmic. Here are the planetary connections and (my interpretation of) their energies:

Monday – Moon – Purple – reflection/rhythms

Tuesday – Mars – Red – decisive action

Wednesday – Mercury – Yellow – communication/thinking

Thursday – Jupiter – Orange – judgement/wisdom

Friday – Venus – Green – feeling/emotional balance

Saturday – Saturn – Blue – wisdom/lessons of the past

Sunday – Sun – White – balance / wholeness

In any case, this is a post about craft … so back to the shirts. What do you do with all these shirts when they are too grotty to pass on to someone else? My sons shirts were quite revolting at the end of last year. They were hand-me downs to begin with, and then he wore them for another three years. The yellow shirt, in particular, becomes very grimy and grey. I love yellow day at the beginning of the year, everyone is sparkling in their brand new yellow t-shirts, but at the end of the year Wednesdays start looking a little dull!

I had enough rags at home, and I didn’t want to throw them away … so I knitted them. I cut his t-shirts into long strips and knitted them on chunky size 10 needles. 40 stitches across the needle in garter stitch. I had to knot the strips together where I cut over the seams, but I like the look of the knots in the knitting, it adds interest.IMG_3172

They made a beautiful mat, soft to stand on, and so pretty. Even the yukky yellow turned up looking colourful again when it was knitted in with the other colours. I added a few more colours from my husband’s old shirts (yes, I did ask first!) and I had a whole rainbow. What I love most is that inside this mat are knitted some wonderful memories: my son’s first day of school, the friends who gave us the shirts in the first place, special new friends made, and wonderful memories of the time I taught at Silkwood too. There in my mat. I couldn’t throw those memories away.

It was so quick, easy and satisfying to knit that I have no almost no t-shirts left in my drawer as I’ve started cutting them up for more mats ….

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Valentine Craft: Envelopes for Essence Statements

Yay! Playgroup is back!! Soooooo much has happened in the eight weeks since we last had playgroup, and I’ll tell you about that soon, but for now … Lavendilly Sunshine Playgroup is back!! Hooray!IMG_3259

I can’t say how much my heart fills with joy when my house is filled with these beautiful people. Children and adults alike, I love them all and they are an important part of my life. How fortunate for us that Valentines Day falls at the beginning of term. Valentines is not a big celebration here in Australia, not like it is in North America … I remember my grade four class in Canada around Valentines Day. Writing everyone cards and letters was serious business!

Today we made little felt envelopes. They are not new. They pop up on blogs everywhere around Valentines Day, and I’ve made them before in my teaching days, and children love to have them in the home corner to post each other letters. Today, however we filled them up with essence statements about each other.

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Essence Statements are something we use often in our work at Sacred Essence. A gift to another person to share something you’ve noticed about them, a kind observation, a reminder of their special qualities, a summary of something you just heard them speak about. They are not always messages of love, sometimes they are reflections of us. We forget our own special gifts sometimes!

The morning was spent in happy stitching and chatting and playing, and while the children were eating their playgroup bread the adults fell quiet, thinking of and writing their essence statements for each other.

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Valentines Day need not be a big showy affair  (although every now and then that’s really nice!!) I feel nurtured and strengthened by the essence statements gifted to me today. I must say it was pure pleasure to see my little envelope filled with messages of friendship and love from my people. Even more so – the quiet moment spent with a cup of tea, reading through them while my little one slept beside me.

We made them with a single strip of felt, rounded at one end, folded into thirds and stitched on three sides. The rounded end becomes the flap and it can be tucked inside the envelope. Every one made theirs the way they wanted to … some with more decorations than others. As individual as the people who made them. We all had fun cutting out stamps with the pinking shears and stitching those on too … I chose to put an ‘address’ on in symbolic stitching. As an early childhood teacher, early literacy in children’s playthings is important, but literacy development also happens when we play with symbols and behaviours that surround literacy … for two-year olds, some lines that look like letters on an envelope serves the purpose, and their own writing fills the letters inside. Play and imagination leads to a love and interest in literacy … and that is as important as the letters themselves.

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As soon as my kids came home from school (yes! There are two of them at school now!) This one started making an envelope for herself. She is five. Her eight-year-old brother got her started and the rest she has done on her own. Her brother is making letters to go in them. A perfect team. Love simple crafts.

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Lavendilly Doll: Stawberry Baby

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Meet Strawberry Baby. Strawberry Baby is our new Lavendilly Sunshine Playgroup friend and is going to visit all the children’s homes and play with them, each in their turn. We can’t wait to hear about the fun everyone has together! Until then Strawberry Baby can have lots of playing at Lavendilly House.

Strawberry Baby is neither boy or girl, like Lavender Baby from my daughter’s kindy, Finger Prints. This means that any child can enjoy the company of our new friend. Lavender Baby became such a special part of the kindy experience and I think Strawberry Baby will be too.

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Strawberry Baby began life as Red Baby. Red Baby is about 13 years old at least. Possibly more. Red Baby was made by Valerie, the Facilitator at Silkwood School, who taught all the staff how to make dolls while I was a teacher at Silkwood. I learned how to make dolls from Valerie and I’ve been holding on to Red Baby for years because of this connection. Red Baby was one of the original dolls at Silkwood and she came home for repairs. A few repairs later, she was still here at Lavendilly House, well-loved by my own children. Red Baby’s hand fell off again and has been waiting in my sewing room for repairs for some time … and this week I walked in there determined to repair as much as I could before packing up my sewing room. Red Baby was first and I got rather distracted, so all the other things needing repairs are still there.

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Red Baby’s face had chalk on it that hadn’t washed out, an eye was loose and the hair was all felted after years of play and cuddles. So fresh skin, bright new eyes and a trip to the hairdressers brightened Red Baby up quite a bit. New skin to cover the hands too so that Red Baby was all clean and happy again. But Red Baby didn’t look like Red Baby any more, even though the hair was the same colour and style. Red Baby wanted a green beanie and then started to look like a strawberry, and so Strawberry Baby was born.

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Strawberry Baby loves the bright red strawberries on the green belt, and little strawberry flowers are sprouting from hat and red tunic. Strawberry Baby immediately went outside to enjoy the sunshine and start some brand new adventures.

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Advent Week Four: The Blessings of the Human Kingdom

This is the last week of the Four Kingdoms of Advent, and we celebrate the Kingdom of Humans. I have written about the Mineral Kingdom, the Plant Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom individually, and we as humans carry the blessings of each of these Kingdoms in our bodies: in our bones and bodies we have the strength, structure and physical condition of the Mineral Kingdom. Our life force and sense of vitality is a gift from the Plant Kingdom, who also share with us the gift of adaptation, nourishment and beauty. We share skills of social interactions, behaviour, instincts and feelings with the Animal Kingdom – all of these blessings combine and have allowed us to develop something that makes us different.

The Human Kingdom contains the power of creative knowledge and the ability to transform ourselves and our world around us. As Amber Greene described it, “we are CALLED to use this gift!” It is the eternal wrestle of mankind to be something more than we are, and those with hearts that are called to beauty, truth and goodness in the world will find out how best to use their creative intelligence.

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The Advent tells the story of the birth of the Christ Child, who was recognised as one who would grow to be a great teacher and leader – a king among men who had access to divine wisdom that he would share with the world. Putting ‘religion’ aside, I still see this story as one that is important and very accessible to us all. Whether or not you believe in Heaven or God or Jesus, in the Advent Story that has been unfolding over these last few weeks we have everything in place for us to birth ourselves anew, and with consciousness. To me this is a story that perfectly describes the potential within each of us to be great and to use our creative potential in the world in wonderful ways, no matter how ‘humble’ we feel our talents are.

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Mary, in her pregnancy, carries the idea and the potential for something wonderful, and looks for the blessings in life even when life was not be making it easy for her.  She represents the power of birth and creative transformation – a divine gift given to her by the Holy Spirit. Joseph is an old man who has lived a long, hard-working life. He realises this child Mary bears comes from something ‘beyond’ him. I know that feeling – of not really being my children’s mother. I look at my children in utter wonder at where these spirits came from, and feel humble and proud that they chose me to be one of their parents. In this relationship Mary has connection with Heaven, wonder, beauty, spirit, positivity, gratitude, creative power, while Joseph has connection with the Earth, goodness, values, wisdom, work, perseverance and loyalty and together with their love they share their gifts with another human being – this Christ Child who stands with one foot on the Earth and the other in Heaven.IMG_0058

I think the Advent Story tells us that WE are the Christ Child. We have the potential to grow into something beyond ourselves because at the moment of our births we are given the gifts of Mary and Joseph, and the blessings of the Mineral, Plant and Animal Kingdoms. We are human, and we have faults but through divine gifts we have the potential – ALWAYS – to look for something better, brighter and more beautiful in ourselves.

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THE BLESSINGS OF THE KINGDOM OF HUMANS

Written by Jennifer McCormack

Old man Joseph, Mary and Donkey have travelled far together,

Through all kinds of landscapes and through all kinds of weather.

And yet no matter how rough their ride, they went with gratitude,

For they knew that journeys are easier with a positive attitude.

They were closer now than ever before, to their destination,

And when they reached Bethlehem there would be a celebration.

For Mary carried the Holy Child who soon would be birthed,

and this Babe was destined to be a great Teacher on this Earth.

They’d been travelling through villages, lots of little towns.

It was lovely to see some other people about and all around.

When they finally arrived, their lengthy journey at an end,

They were surprised to see how busy was the town of Bethlehem!

Travellers like them had taken rooms at all the available places.

People turned them away from their doors with the saddest faces,

“I’m sorry we have no room for you, but you could try next door,

Perhaps they’d have a place for you to sleep upon the floor?”

A child had been watching poor Joseph and Mary growing in distress,

They were weary, hungry, so very tired and having no success.

He said “I know a little place, it really isn’t the best.

But it’s warm and dry and it would be a place for you to rest.”

He took them to his father’s inn and asked if they were able

to rest a while with their donkey in a corner of the stable.

The innkeeper looked at them with kindness on his face

and said, “Of course, my rooms are full, and it is the only place.

It’s clean and dry and very warm, you’ll rest well with my cows.”

He brought them blankets, food and water and left them with a bow.

And that night Mary birthed her Babe, in that quiet shed

With Joseph at her feet and the Donkey by her head.

They were all spellbound by the beauty of this tiny Holy Child

Mary slept a healing sleep and when she woke she smiled.

“This Babe was born upon the ground, and a great teacher he will be,

I shall teach him all I can, and then he shall teach me.

I am grateful for friends and families and for places filled love,

and for this special little Babe I thank the Holy Spirit above.

I give thanks to the kindness of others, when they see a need

who can see that inside another lies potential, like a seed.

We all have the ability to grow and learn, to open up our hearts,

and try to be and do the best we can, its the greatest way to start.

For every parent anywhere knows the awesome power of birth

That love and trust and honest work will transform this Earth.”

Story: Gramma Sun and the Summer Solstice

This story was written as a shared progressive story on my Lavendilly House Facebook page. It was a lot of fun – I began the story and a few friends dropped by to keep it going. Occasionally I got a bit excited and kept it going all by myself … I was very surprised with the direction the story went in (it wasn’t the story I had in my head!!) This is what happens in community – sometimes the story you have in your head is a part of something bigger, and shared ideas offered in the spirit of openness can lead to an even better scenario than was originally conceived. Synergy 🙂 It was very exciting to be a part of an unfolding story, as if it were alive on its own (which is often how I feel about stories) and I am grateful to the contributors for helping to write a very magical Creation Story to explain the Summer Solstice. I have edited it a teeny tiny bit, just to help it flow in story form.Fire Altar Mat (2)

Gramma Sun and the Summer Solstice

Written by Jennifer McCormack, Hollie-B Lunation, Lorrie-Corrie Clemato, Victoria Edmond and Elizabeth Murray.

  Gramma Sun stretched out her arms, her embrace was hot and warm. She rose high in the sky and looked down at all her grandchildren on the earth and smiled. In her children she saw the potential of everything that could be on the Earth. She had deep gratitude for the many possibilities her children could achieve. Her eye was caught by a little girl with pig tails who was sitting in the branches of a shady tree.
  This tree had low branches that could be easily climbed and invited you to come up. The little girl often came to sit there and sing to herself. When she sang her heart would lift and sometimes it felt as if the very tree was listening to her. Today, however her song broke off because she heard a tiny voice from below.
   “Why is it so hot?” this tiny voice cried. She looked around to find where the tiny voice was coming from and to her surprise she spied a wee man, dressed in brown, orange and bright green leaves.  On top of his head sat a very large nut, it appeared as though he wore it as a hat!
  The little girl with pig tails reached down her hand and invited the wee man to climb on and up into the tree with him. She leaned against the trunk of the tree and placed the man on a branch above, in the shade. “Hello. My mum told me it is so hot because it is the summer solstice and Gramma Sun is dancing.”
  “Oh dear child” said the wee man, bowing before the little girl with the pigtails. ” your mother must be absolutely correct! Gramma Sun is so hot because she is dancing!  Do you know why she is dancing?”
  “I don’t, but would you like to find out together?” She replied to the little wee man.
  “Well I suppose we could,” replied the wee man, “Just let me rest a while in this shade. Its going to get hot before long!” He took his seed pod hat off and inside it was a small flask which he drank deeply from. “Ah, that’s better!” He said, “I think you should have some too, it will help you stay cool where we are going. We have to go high and visit the Giant Catfish that lives in the Crystal Pool on top of the mountain.  It is said that the Giant Catfish will answer truthfully one question for those who pay their gift. When it cools down we will first climb the mountain and then we must find a special boat. I have been told that it is moored to the Grandfather Willow Tree, but before we board the boat we must first eat a mushroom, 2 pieces of apple and 13 grapes.”
 “Why ever should we eat those?” giggled the little girl with the pigtails, thinking that a mushroom and a few pieces of fruit would not be enough food to help them climb a mountain.
  “Because the mushroom is magic and will make you small like me, the apple has a star inside that will help us speak the star language and the grapes are just so refreshing, and it is quite a hot day you know!”
  The little girl thought it would be very fun to be small like the wee man, but it might also be difficult to eat the 13 grapes when she was so small … so she ate those first. Feeling refreshed she shared the apple with the wee man and immediately she could hear a faint singing. It was an ethereal music that filled the space around her and yet did not appear to come from anywhere at all. It was above her and below her and all around her. It was as if this music, which felt like a kind of singing was breathing through every living thing. It felt as if her own heart was keeping time to this divine song. Her skin tingled with goosebumps. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed, “Who is singing?”
  The wee small man nodded his head so enthusiastically his seed pod hat nearly fell off, “Yes! Yes! You can hear it! I knew you were special. It is the stars. You can hear the language of the stars, who only speak in song. They are sure to help us talk to Gramma Sun. She is too hot to get too close to but she dances to the songs of the stars, just like every living thing does, so they will be able to help us ask her questions, now eat your mushroom and let’s be off!”
  The little girl with pigtails nibbled on the mushroom and immediately began to shrink. Her pigtails and her clothes shrank with her until she was so tiny she was no bigger than a willy wagtail, and also smaller than the wee man, who was not very tall to begin with. He nibbled on the mushroom too and the little girl with the pigtails watched as he and his seed pod hat shrunk to match her size.
  “Let’s go!” said the wee man with the seed pod hat, “The Grandfather Willow Tree is at the top of the mountain by the lake, to get there we must break off this leaf, hop on and hold on tightly, then call for the hot wind to blow us to the top of the mountain.”
  This they did, and a warm gust picked up the leaf and before they knew it they were spinning away, riding the wind. Below them they could see the stream they must follow, and that clever wee man held his hat up and steered them with the seed pod! They flew low, they flew high, and once the breeze nearly stopped!! Before too long though, they floated to the top of the mountain, and it was there that they saw a sight so magical, it took their breath away!
  Beneath them they saw the crystal pool with water so still it reflected the light in the sky and the trees all around. Grasses on the banks of the pool leaned over the edge and looked at themselves in the mirrored surface. It was as if everything was spellbound by the breathtaking beauty of the crystal waters. Above the pool, in the sky, Gramma Sun danced and danced to the music of the stars and her movements reflected on the waters as sparkling sun sparks. Little fire fairies from Gramma Sun’s golden dress danced with her, moving too fast and hot to be caught, flitting across the water and over the trees. Beneath the water the only thing that moved was the Giant Catfish, dancing as smooth and slow as Gramma Sun danced furiously and fast. “As above, so below” whispered the wee man, “they dance together.”
  The wee man used his seed pod hat to guide the leaf down the edge of the Crystal Pool, right at the feet of the Grandfather Willow Tree: an ancient tree that grew with his roots deep in the earth and over the bank of the Crystal Pool. His branches hung low and graceful, some dropping gently into the still water of the Crystal Pool. Grandfather Willow Tree had stood connected between sky, water and earth for an eternity and all who lived in him and about him felt his peace with the world. As the little girl with the pigtails and the wee man with the seed pod hat stepped out of their leaf they felt their breath soften and they became aware of the stillness all about them. Here the music of the stars was clear and bright and it felt as if every living thing swayed with joy to the melody.
  Among the roots of the Grandfather Willow Tree which were growing down the banks of the Crystal Pool and into the water, there was a little boat moored. It was so so tiny that if the little girl and the wee man were not so small themselves they may never have come across it.
  The little girl with the pigtails and the wee man with the seed pod hat untied the boat from its moorings, climbed inside and pushed away from the bank. They used a long leaf each to row with and they made barely a ripple as they rowed to the centre of the Crystal Pool.  The water was like glass and as the little girl with the pigtails leaned carefully over the side of the leaf she could see the Giant Catfish’s entrancing underwater dance. She felt that she ought to feel a little afraid, for the Giant Catfish was an awesome sight: an enormous fish gliding rhythmically to and fro to the music of the stars as if he were performing a spell upon all who watched. He could have swallowed them in one bite and not even noticed, but like everything else in and around the Crystal Pool he moved beautifully and gracefully to the star music and she felt very safe.
“What do we do now?” she whispered to the wee man, because it felt somehow wrong to talk loudly and disturb the peace. All the same, the wee man with the seed pod hat jumped a little when she spoke, for he was also so awestruck by the magical place that he had forgotten she was in the boat with him. The leaf boat rocked upon the surface of the Crystal Pool and made ripples that also began to dance up and down to the music of the stars as they spread out over the Crystal Pool. “We have to give the Giant Catfish a gift, and he will grant us the answer to one question”, replied the wee man.
   “What do we have to give the Giant Catfish? I have nothing with me to offer him as a gift,” the little girl with the pigtails began to feel worried they had come this long way and would not be able to ask their question.
   “Hmm, let me think,” said the wee man with the seed pod hat, ” I don’t think he wants presents. The Crystal Pool has all he needs and he doesn’t look like the sort of fellow who wants treasure. I would think that he would want us to do something for him instead.”
   “But we are so small!” cried the little girl, “Whatever would we be able to do for a Giant Catfish?”
” Give him a gift of ourselves!” said the wee man with the seed pod hat, “what are you good at? What can you share? What do you do that makes you feel happiest? I like to dance,” and he did a little jig in the boat that made his seed pod hat wobble and nearly fall off. He fell backwards, giggling, into the little boat and the ripples on the surface of the Crystal Pool splashed and danced around them joyfully once again.
  The little girl with the pigtails thought about when she was happiest: sitting in the shady tree singing her songs, and she began to sing the one she was humming when she met the wee man with the seed pod hat, before she began this adventure. As she sang, the wee man got up to dance again, jiggling the boat with his steps and soon they began to have such a good time jigging and singing, with the water about them rippling and splashing, that just for a moment they forgot about the Giant Catfish who had glided closer to their little boat to listen.
  “Little People,” said the Giant Catfish, in a surprisingly gentle voice, “why are you here, breaking the peace of the Crystal Pool?”
  The wee man with the seed pod hat and the little girl with the pigtails fell backwards into the boat in surprise. They quickly righted themselves and peered over the edge of the boat at the Giant Catfish, whose face was right up next to their boat and just under the surface of the Crystal Pool.
  “We didn’t mean to break the peace,” said the wee man.
  “No,” said the little girl, “we wanted to give you a gift so that you could answer a question for us.”
   “You have given me a gift,” replied the Giant Catfish. Travellers come creeping here in silence and throw coins and treasure into the pool, and what use are those for me? Nobody has given me such entertainment, and forgotten themselves in the joy of their gift. When you do something you love then you are making the music of the stars, and when this happens all the hearts of all the living things in the world beat to the same rhythm, and just for a moment you were making the music for Gramma Sun.”
   “That is why we came!” cried the little girl, eagerly, “we want to know why Gramma Sun is dancing so fast and so low and so long and so hot! Our days are so much hotter and brighter and longer than ever before, what is she doing? My mum says it is the summer solstice and we want to ask Gramma Sun what is happening.”
  “Gramma Sun cannot speak to you child, but with her warmth she can hug you and help you grow. She watches you all the time and loves to dance while you sing your heart’s song. Sing again, and see what happens.”
  So the little girl with the pigtails thought about how happy she felt when she sat in the shady tree and sang to herself, and she began to sing again. The wee man began to dance again, the ripples of water from the boat began to splash again, the Giant Catfish began to glide around the Crystal Pool again and even the Grandfather Willow Tree looked as if he were swaying his drooping branches while she sang. The little girl with the pigtails sang of climbing trees and drawing pictures, of picking flowers and playing with her friends. She sang of her favourite foods and hugs with her family. She sang of books and bikes and beautiful things that made her heart beat with joy … and then a wonderful thing happened …
  She felt warm all over, and light dazzled her eyes. She felt lifted up as though she had wings and she thought she saw the swish and the sparkle of the sun sparks from Gramma Sun’s golden dress. She was singing for Gramma Sun and Gramma Sun was dancing with her and the stars accompanied them with their celestial orchestra. She saw the wee man dancing in the boat, and the boat dancing on the water, and the Giant Catfish dancing under the Crystal Pool, and it seemed as though all living things danced in sheer joy together.
  She saw the Earth beneath her turn as if it too were dancing with them, and she saw plants and animals and whole landscapes change as the seasons came and went, and sometimes the Earth swung close to Gramma Sun and at others they spun away in their circular, spiral dance. She saw her tree burst into bright green leaves and flowers when the Earth danced close, and then as the Earth moved away the tree began to bare its branches and the light faded, only for the greenness and flowers to return as the Earth and Gramma Sun danced together once more. Sometimes it was as though, even in their dance, that time stood still for a moment, a slight pause when the light was brightest and air was warmest, as though all were taking a rest …  and then the Earth would begin to spin and dance away again.
   Then she understood.
   Gramma Sun danced for the beauty of the Earth and all the Universe. She danced to the music of the stars and the star music expressed the wonder and the magic of creation just perfectly, and while she sung her heart beat in rhythm with all living things. She danced to keep the Earth turning, to keep it alive with wonder and beauty and change.
   It felt as though her song must never end, but once she understood why Gramma Sun danced she had no more words and she danced for a while too, until she and Gramma Sun danced and spun together so furiously and fast that everything about her spun and swirled in a haze …
  Gramma Sun stretched out her arms, her embrace was hot and warm. She rose high in the sky and looked down at all her grandchildren on the earth and smiled. In her children she saw the potential of everything that could be on the Earth. She had deep gratitude for the many possibilities her children could achieve. Her eye was caught by a little girl with pig tails who was sitting in the branches of a shady tree, smiling and singing softly to herself and playing with a little seed pod in her hands.
 

Craft: Fabric Garland

I saw the most beautiful fabric garland – a HUGE one in lots of colours – stretched across the width of the Prep classroom at my children’s school. I just fell in love with it and couldn’t help inspecting it to see how it was made: SIMPLE! One of my favourite words. Short lengths of fabric, about 2cm wide and 12cm long tied on a length of rope and pushed down nice and tight. That’s it.garland2WM

What a brilliant idea –  and what a fantastic way to use up those little bits of fabric I have stored in my craft room. I knew I was saving them for something! I bought my rope from the hardware store and tied a loop at each end (for hanging). I began tying the fabric just under the knot so it was nice and neat.

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It didn’t really take that long to make and it was very meditative tying little bits of stuff onto rope. I got into the rhythm of pattern-making and colour blending and before long the garland started appearing. I put in some shiny and sparkly bits of stuff and I’m relieved to have found an alternative to tinsel garlands at Christmas this year. Every year I get tired of stepping on tinsel, vacuuming up tinsel, finding scraps of tinsel still sticky-taped somewhere months after Christmas has been and gone.garland3WM

My daughter loved the fabric scraps, and my son helped too (he even worked out my pattern), and at another time a friend began a section and we spent a happy hour talking and tying. I loved thinking about the fabric pieces that went in, and where they came from: scraps from my priestess cloak from my initiation, one of my husbands worn work shirts, fabric given to me from a friend, bits I was saving for another project that I had to be honest would never happen. Now I want to make a rainbow one, and one in various shades of colours. One for my daughters’ room, one for my son …. well, how about I just start with a couple of Christmas ones?

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Celebrating Play: Boys and Building and Loose Parts

My son has always needed to build. It has been one of the tricky things, living in a rental home, to find a place where he can dig and climb and build in the back yard. To have some independence in his play so that he can safely explore and create without creating too much havoc. In the days that I was offering Family Day Care at home the sand pit was invaluable – for all the children who played at our house, girls included, but for my son it was an absolutely necessary feature. A big pile of soil waiting to go in a garden was a big pile of pure joy.

When not digging in the sandpit he’d wander around the place and find all kind of loose parts. Then, seemingly in the period of time it took for me to duck inside and answer the phone, he would have all kinds of bits stacked up on top of each other in sometimes very precarious arrangements, and sometimes with his younger sister inside or on top. I learned to let go and trust. I had to because when I worried about the dangerous arrangements they would happen again anyway. It was actually a great way to learn about safety, balance, strength. It would often take all my self-control to go out there and respect the construction and the experience by quelling my fear and panic and then quietly offering some observations that led to conversations about how to make things safer. The need to build led to the need to tie things down, which led to the need to have play ropes and octopus straps readily at hand. The kids didn’t have many accidents at all – certainly not as many accidents as I had heart tremors each time I looked out the window. And what really amazed me was the sheer strength he needed in order to lift the heavy garden benches, chairs, tables and random pieces of wood he used in all his constructions!

One of the best pieces of play equipment we added to the backyard were a collection of plumbing pipes and connecting pieces. This was actually his gift for his fifth birthdayNo explanation was necessary … he just went straight outside and began to connect – then he began to experiment by pouring water and sand and small bits and pieces down the pipes, zooming cars through the pipes, working out how to keep them upright, learning what happens when water and sand pool in the bottom. There was so much problem solving involved in this simple gift. The pipes were an awesome addition for outside play, but they didn’t quite cut it as a gift – after spending hours with his pipes he came back in and asked when he could have his birthday present 🙂 All the same we had the pipes in our backyard for a couple of years and they served their purpose.

Rocks are great too. Provided they are kept clear of climbing structures (he’s learned that the hard way too). Rocks can be stacked and arranged. They can be markers, walls, designs, weights. Here we found a cache of rocks in a nearby park and couldn’t help ourselves. He and I spent a good half an hour shifting rocks to make a double-ended spiral. At home he and his sister have enjoyed finding rocks that they can polish, or crack open, or grind into powder to make paint. I’m a bit wary of the rock-cracking because of the small sharp bits that fly everywhere … but then again both our children have learned through experimenting (and with some adult guidance) how to engage in this play safely.

Then of course there are boxes. After we moved house I re-taped a few of our boxes together for some large-scale building on the verandah. Everyone enjoyed this, but we had to let the toddler work through her natural instinct to deconstruct stacked blocks before any serious building could begin.

For building that required a more stable construction material there is also straw bales. These were bales of mulch ready and waiting to go on our large garden … but the children found them first and the entire household just had to respect the sheer strength and effort and cooperation it took for the kids to build themselves a fort from those heavy bales. We kept the fort up until the rain dampened them, and with the threat of mould growing on the inside the fort was deconstructed, but that was ok too. The children took almost as much pleasure spreading the mulch everywhere too.

Our backyard has always been full of loose parts and tools. The ‘toys’ we have for outside play include a trolley for carting things around, shovels, rakes, hammers, gardening gloves, ropes and buckets. We have a few structured toys in the sandpit (dinosaurs etc) but even still those are ones that facilitate creative play.

Loose parts in the backyard means: creativity, strength, cooperation, problem solving, innovation, persistence, resilience, adventure, experimenting. Having unstructured playthings rather than commercial toys in the backyard also means you have children who can play for lengths of time anywhere, with anything. It means you have children who have the chance to show leadership, caring and consideration. It means you have children who are open to fresh ideas and new ways of thinking. It means you have children who can cope well with failure and set about finding another way.

I don’t regret the lack of ‘toys’ in our backyard at all.

Pattern: Knitted Nappy Soakers

I’ve been making these little soakers since my first child was born eight years ago. I explored a lot of nappy options, but by far the cheapest option at the time was square cloth nappies and a woollen cover. They are very satisfying and slightly addictive because once you have knitted the waistband then you drop a stitch every row until you have none left – so each row is shorter than the last. The main part is finished very quickly, then it is just a matter of knitting up some leg bands for a snug fit, stitching up and adding elastic if you wish.

You can knit them plain, in stripes or work out a pattern. I’ve only ever done that once …gave them a big heart bum :).  I love to knit these in order to use up my yarn scraps in random colours and stripes. I also like to vary my stitches to give them an interesting texture, which looks great when knitted in a plain colour. I’ve even needle felted yarn on to the bum in a pattern (because I was too lazy to stitch it ) you can see that in the photo below of the orange pants with the spiral on them. I’ve also picked up the stitches at the base of the waistband, doubled them and knitted a frilly skirt over the top. Those took a while but were worth the effort! My baby girl looked so sweet in those.

 

Knitted Nappy Soakers

Use 3.5 needles and 8 ply 100% wool

Cast on:

88 stitches for newborn

92 stitches for medium size

Knit 2 stitches, purl 2 stitches for approximately 8 rows, or until your work is about an inch wide.

Knit one row, this will make a ridge-line along all the purl stitches in your work – this ridge will be used as the fold line for the waistband.

Continue to knit 2, purl 2 for another 8 rows or so;

Making sure that the ridge line for the waistband is facing you, begin to use stocking stitch (knit a row, purl a row). Stocking stitch for about 10 rows then begin to decrease:

Decrease by knitting together the first two stitches on every row. Your work will gradually decrease in length until you come to one stitch left. Break the yarn and thread it through the last stitch.

MAKING THE LEG CUFFS

You can either knit a ribbed cuff for the legs before you stitch it all together, or you can stitch it together first and then crochet a cuff on afterwards. The ribbed cuff gives a nice snug fit, which is useful for those moments when the contents of the nappy may overflow! The crochet edge gives a pretty lacy look which is very sweet on baby girls.

To knit the ribbed cuff fold and pin the soakers together to see where the leg cuffs need to go. Mark where the seams meet on one side, unpin the soakers and pick the stitches up between those two points. Knit 8 rows ribbed ( knit 2, purl 2) and cast off. Do the same for the other side, making sure that each side matches.

To crochet the cuff follow the direction to stitch up the soakers then crochet a few rounds of loose double stitch on the leg holes to form a neat cuff. For frills do one round of double crotchet and then crochet three doubles into each stitch to make the ruffles.

STITCHING UP

With right sides together stitch from the top of the waistband to the point where the work begins to decrease. Fold waistband over and stitch down, with the ridgeline showing on the right side, leaving a gap to thread the elastic through. Stitch up gap once elastic is secure.

Position your work so that the seam is in the middle of the front. Bring the point up to meet the bottom of the front stitched seam. Pin in to place so that there are two gaping holes either side of the pin. Estimate half-way from the pin to the end of one of the leg holes and pin slightly above that point. Stitch. Same on the other side. Just be wary of chubby thighs….don’t make leg openings too small!

WASHING AND CARE

Soak the pants in a solution of warm water with a small amount of lanolin dissolved in it. These will give the pants a light waterproofing which means when wet they will only need an airing in the sunshine, which will neutralise any germs and smells from urine.

For soiled pants wash by hand in warm soapy water, lanolise as above and dry flat.

If these pants slip into the hot wash cycle they will felt and shrink! You can do this on purpose if you want thicker pants….just make them bigger to start with. I can tell you from experience that medium nappy covers shrink to newborn size when felted!

 

 

Celebrating Community: The Free Neighbourhood Library

This is Little Alexandria. It is a free library for anyone who wants to come and borrow a book. You are welcome to sit and read, to borrow a book for a while or swap it for another. My friend made it for the pleasure of her neighbourhood community. One of her neighbours built and installed it and I think many have contributed books.

It sits outside the front of her house, built to withstand the weather, waiting for people to come and immerse themselves in literacy. With some comfy chairs to spend some time sitting and getting to know the neighbours too.

Isn’t this a great way to build community? I think it is also another wonderful way that children in the neighbourhood can have access to books, access to people who love books – and learn the joy of reading. Reading doesn’t have to be solitary!

 

 

 

A Birthday Present In a Jar

We were recently invited to a little girl’s 4th birthday celebration. Oooh! We were looking forward to it for weeks, but of course left the actual gift to the last minute! The intention was to make a fairy peg-doll to go with a little book of fairy poems from our own bookshelf that my daughter so generously wanted to gift her friend. However that same day we were also having my son’s 8th birthday celebration in the afternoon and in the preparations for that, the little gift was forgotten.

It’s ok though! We know how much 4 year olds love to make things by themselves, so we put everything she needed to make her peg-doll fairy into a jar: two peg dolls, ribbons, lace, some bits of fleece. Then we wrote a little card to explain what it was for, and slipped that in the jar with all the bits. With a lace doily to top the jar we thought it was very pretty! My daughter thought it would be nice to make one for herself too 🙂

We like to wrap our gifts in little draw-string bags made from scrap fabric. These can be used again to hold all kinds of treasures and is part of the gift itself. What else could you put in a jar for a present?