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December Traditions: Pagan Nativity

Afoot our Yule tree stand different characters from your usual nativity scene. Ours represent the rebirth of the Sun God, who’s noted absence brought us self-reflections and slowed schedule. We are thankful for It’s return. We appreciate the lessons that if you want light, there must be darkness. And as we know for sure the Sun will rise on the morning, we are also confident that after this time of darkness, the days will grow longer, the weather warmer and our heart, lighter.

I wanted to make sure the scene would be playable for my young family…And what’s more playable then toys?

Here you see the Sun God on a bed of cedar. I actually cheated to show you the whole pictures; like some does with baby Jesus, we don’t place our baby Sun until the our of the Solstice is passed (it changes every year, this year it’s on December 21st, at 11:12).  After the pictures I carefully place Him in our kitchen cauldron to reside until It borns again. The cauldron symbolize the Pregnant Goddess.

Surounding the Sun God are the woodland animals, creatures and people that came to witness Its birth. I use our regular wooden figures and playscape accessories; Accorn people, felted animals. wooden ones and felt everygreen.

There are tree importants figures that specially came to watch over the Reborn Sun. The Maiden (white) is all that is new and begining. The Mother (red) is what is fullfilled and comited. The Crone (black) is the wisedom gained by living and everything that is ending. They are the Goddess in her Trinity form, and are very dear to me. Their symbol is that everything goes in cycle, that ends are always new beginnings.

There are a lot of people on this picture. Now I only left the animals and the Trinity. Everyone will come back on the Rebirth Day. We will then have cookies and hot cocoa to share together in expectation of opening our stocking!

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Tutorial: Making Simple Felt Tea Bags With Your Child

Southern England is really starting to cool down now.  It rains most days, and when it isn’t raining it looks like it might.  There is a lot of tea brewing in our house.  So much so that our daughter makes make-believe tea more than anything else on her play stove.  We were given two beautiful tins of tea years ago when visiting my family in Canada and I haven’t been able to throw them away.  I decided that it was time to hand them over to the playroom but first, a craft that my three year old daughter could do with me.  Make some tea bags.  I am sure there are many more sophisticated ways to do the following but that wasn’t the point of this craft.  We were sewing, cutting and using up some of mama’s scrap felt pieces.

 

What you will need:

Scissors

Embroidery Thread

Darning needle (very blunt round tip needle)

Scraps of fabric or felt

 

Cut a square of felt the size of a tea bag

Cut another square of felt the size of the tag

Measure and cut a piece of embroidery thread

Help guide your child to pull the thread all the way through the bag a few times then tie off

Repeat for the tag!

Brew

(please pardon our duct taped tea pot)

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Playsilks & Gnome Clothes Pin Tutorial

The best gift I feel I can give my children is the freedom and opportunity to imagine!  This is why I love playsilks!  They are so versatile and fun, they are only limited by our imagination. They can be capes, cloaks, skirts, head wraps, belts, backdrops, plays capes, forts, tents, flaming rocket balls & so much more.  My children play often with their blocks, gnomes, trucks & legos but not a day goes by that they don’t play with their playsilks.

 

Last year I made this playsilk and gnome clothes pin set for our cousins.  The gnomes pin up the silks on a line to make them easily accessible for play.

To read about how I dyed the silks and where to buy them read here.  For a tutorial on how to make your own gnome clothes pins read here. The gnomes could also be a fun project for your kids to make for their friends & family or for you to make one or two to clip to their Christmas stocking.  Such possibilities!

If you don’t care to make them yourself many of our lovely Natural Kids Team members sell playsilks. Team shops like Birch Leaf Designs, Gypsy Forest, Mosey & The Enchanted Cupboard.  & I sell the gnome clothes pins at my shop, MamaWestWind.

Do you have playsilks at home?  What do your children create with them?

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Dyeing Wool with Kids

In our family we love rainbows, and once in a while we wish for rainbow colored wool.  While pure wool yarn is not difficult to obtain here in Kenya, the colored part is the challenge, unless you are into some DIY and crafting with kids. . .

A few years back I learned that it is rather easy to dye your own wool with food color of all things.  Food color easily dies protein fibers (e.g. wool and silk), but not others like cotton and man-made fibers.  This makes it a great craft project to undertake with your kids as most spills in clothes will easily wash out again.

What you need for this project:

  • Wool yarn
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar
  • Plastic gloves (food dye can stain your hands for a day or two)
  • Cling wrap and/or old towel
  • A microwave (alternatively use a steaming pot or the sun)

First, in the event that your wool is in a ball, unwind it and create a skein.  It’s easy to use the back of a chair to do this.  Tie the skein loosely in a couple of places with some left over wool, or another string.

Soak the skein for an hour or longer in a solution of half vinegar and half water.  This vinegar bath is the mordant for the dyeing process and it is important to ensure the bath is completed before starting this craft with your kids.

Select the colors in which you want to dye your wool and mix them with some water to the desired shade.  The amount of ‘dye’ depends on the number of colors and amount of wool you want to dye.  I used five colors and each color was less than half a glass of fluid.

Cover your work surface with cling wrap, or if you are eliminating the use of plastic an old towel will also work well.  Take the skein out of the mordant and squeeze excess fluid gently out of the wool.  Place the skein on the work surface and carefully spoon the dye onto the wool.  Gently squeeze the dye into the wool, ensuring that it gets absorbed well.  Work color for color and be aware that the colors might blend.

Then carefully transfer the wool to a microwave safe dish or plate and cover it loosely with cling wrap.  Microwave the wool for 5 minutes, check on the progress and then microwave it on high for another 3 minutes.  This cooking of the wool will help set the color.

If you do not have a microwave you can also steam the wool in steamer pot, or have the wool covered with the cling wrap steam in the sun.  Do an internet search for the timing and instructions for these steaming methods.

Place the wool in an area where it can dry, but make sure it is not in the direct sunlight.

Once the wool has dried, you can wind it into a ball and it is ready to use.

A fun project to undertake with kids, and there is more fun to be had in deciding together on a new project in which to use the yarn!

Happy dyeing!

Andrea

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Handmade Holidays: Tutorial for Sweater Pants

Pants made out of sweater sleeve is a classic in our house. They are comfortable, cheap and easy to make. I always get compliments on them when my little guy is wearing some. When I explained how easy it is, they all say : What a great idea!

This is a very easy and quick project that the even the I-barely-ever-touched-a-sewing-machine beginner can do.

You’ll need:

  • Sweaters
  • Thin or wide elastic for the waist.
  • The recipiant children’s pair of pants for a guide.

Cut out the sleeves of your sweater. The older the child, the bigger sweater you’d like to use.

Fold guide pants in half and place over sleeve. Cut.

Turn once sleeve inside out. Put the right side out sleeve into the inside out one.

Sew along.

For the waist, Method 1:

Serge the waist or double fold it. Sew along leaving a place to insert the elastic.

The elastic should be the circumference of the waist. Insert, sew both ends of the elastic and close the whole.

Method 2 : this one is less pretty, but it’s useful when you know there won’t be enough room for the butt if you fold at the waist. Some might want to use a coordonating color one. You can easily dye elastics. Ultimately it doesn’t show when there’s a shirt over it.

Take a wider elastic and sew ends together. Place wrong side facing elastic over right side facing pants and sew or serge around.

Now you know what to make of that pile of sweater people always give you ( I know I’m not alone! Someone even gave me only the sleeves…) I always make a pair of those for the Winter Solstice morning and they are always a hit.

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Tools of the Trade: Upcycled is Beautiful

Our family attends a Lutheran church where we live. Sadly it’s a church that is rapidly aging and not enough young folks are joining to replace the older generation. Maybe it’s because the trend in churchgoing in the US is more towards big evangelical churches with large screens and rockmusic being performed live. It’s not my cup of tea…

I am more of an oldfashioned kind of gal. I enjoy a good hymn, and I like to be soothed by old rituals. But Church is mainly a place to reflect, relax, and hang out with family.

One of my best friends at church is an elderly lady named Dorothea. Like me she is of German descent. Dorothea is in her late 80s and talking to her on Sundays feels like being home talking to any other granny in my village back home in Germany. She always asks me about my dolls and if I am still making them. In her younger days Dorothea used to sew and craft quite a bit.

So recently this friend bestowed a wonderful gift to me. I still can’t believe that she chose to give me this amazing box filled with goodies to make doll clothes with.

Want to read the rest of the story and see more photos? Please visit my blog over here.

 

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Dragon Wings Tutorial

My children are really into slaying dragons right now. If you come by our house in the middle of the day, you’re most likely to find them, sword in hand, running around screaming at dragons. And if you saw my toddler’s face when I handed him his very own pair of dragon wings to wear… It lit up! He put them on and off he went…With mama trying to get a good picture of this little beast!

To make one for your little dragon you will need:

  • A strong fabric; I used wool.
  • Jewerly wire, but a hanger could work fine
  • Two bands of elastic (those in the picture were too short, I advice you to go longer)
  • Tools: wire cutters, fabric scissors, safety pins

Make your wire frame. I went with a simple, small baby dragon style.

Double your fabric and cut along your frame, leaving enough clearing for sewing.

Sew the bottom part of the wings, leave to top open so you’ll be able to insert your wire frame.

Flip your wings outside out and insert your frame.

Close the top with an overstitch and, if you feel fancy, overstitch details.

This is also optional; Make cover for your elastics.

Flip right side out and inset elastic.

Sew both elastic in the middle of the wings.

Use wire to give shape to your wings and you’re done!

And see your little one fly away, away from the camera!

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Make a Jacaranda Seedpod Gnome

It’s the time of the year where the Jacaranda tree is starting to get its summer blossoms here in the Southern Hemisphere and the seedpods are starting to fall.  The Jacaranda Tree is a beautiful subtropical tree with gorgeous purple flowers that bloom two times in a year, in early spring before the leaves return, and then again in summer after the leaves have grown.

The seedpods are perfect to craft with and create cute little gnome ornaments.  They are perfect for the Nature Table, Christmas tree, or just as a playful ornament around the house.  Here’s a brief tutorial for a craft you can do together with your kids.

 

Items needed: jacaranda tree seedpods (remove the seeds if the pod is opened up) that have some of the stem still attached, wooden beads (14/15mm), felt, thread/embroidery floss, needle, scissors, craft knife and craft glue.

 

First, select a seedpod that you want to work with and check if the bead fits over the little stem.  Shave some of the stem off with the craft knife in case that the joint is to think (be careful though!).

Cut a piece of felt in shape of a triangle that will be the gnome hat.  We made a long pointy hat, but you can shape it as you want.  Thread a needle with embroidery floss or a few strands of thread and sew the hat.  We used the blanket stitch to do this.

Put some craft glue on the stem of the seed and slide the bead on it.  Let it dry.

 

Take another piece of thread – this will be the loop from the head on which the gnome hangs – and thread the needle.  From the inside of the hat, find the top and stick the needle through, pull the thread through and then stick the needle back into the top of the hat again – a loop had formed on the top of the hat.  Take the two ends on the ‘inside’ of the hat and knot them securely together a few times so that the knot is large enough to not slip through the top of the hat.

Put some craft glue on the top of the bead and place the hat on it, let it dry thoroughly and you are ready.

 

 

In case you have no Jacaranda Seedpods available, you can also find the ready made gnomes in the ziezo shop

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Felted Wool Cell Phone Case Tutorial

My cell phone is forever getting lost at the bottom of my purse.  I wanted to make a pretty cell phone case that would make it easier to keep track of.

 

First I knit a rectangle with easily felt-able wool yarn.  Knit it larger than you need because it will shrink when felted.  I simply guess-estimated making it about twice the size as I needed on size 8 needles.  I knit 30 stitches across which ended up being too wide. Make sure it’s a wool yarn that can be felted.  Stay away from yarn that says “machine washable” or “superwash” as it will not felt.  You can knit it or you can upcycle an old wool sweater by felting it in a hot wash cycle.

HOW TO FELT OR UPCYCLE WOOL:

To do this, take your knitted wool rectangle or wool sweater and add it to the washer tied in a pillow case.  (this is to save your washer from wool fuzz.) Wash on hot with other sweaters or a few thick towels or pairs of jeans.  These will help agitate the wool.  Add a small amount of detergent.  Wash once or twice in hot water.  Check your sweater or knit piece to see if it’s tightly felted.  If it it’s felted well then dry it on high. Check often to make sure it doesn’t wrinkle while drying.  Once it wrinkles it’s wrinkled for good.  Now, when you cut your wool the stitches won’t pull apart or fray. If it does fray then repeat the felting process.

My felted rectangle ended up a little large so I cut it to size.  Use one long rectangular piece.  The bottom of the case will be the folded edge.

 

Now the decorating begins.  I used some scraps of wool yarn I had on hand.  I needle felted a single strand of green wool to make a leaf design.

 

Needle felt it well so that it does not pull off when rubbing against things in your purse.

 

Next I chose a brighter peach/pink wool for my flower.  I simply started in the center and wrapped it around and around to make a spiral or circle.

 

Then I needle felted the stem.

 

Blanket stitch the sides together.  Begin by hiding the knot inside at the bottom of the case.

 

 

Blanket stitch all the way up on both sides.  You can add a string so you can wear it by finger knitting the string and sewing it on.  Or you can finger knit a latch and button. Mine works well without a button and surprisingly doesn’t slip out in my purse.  I wanted to be able to easily pull it out in a hurry with out having to fumble with a button.  Though if you want to add a strap to wear it a button might be wise.

I think I’m going to have to make another with a strap for when we go on our walks.  How decadent of me!  Enjoy your lovely, new cell phone case!  And if you make this please link back to us here at Natural Kids so we can see.

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Tutorial: Bubble Wands

One of summer’s biggest outdoor fun is to blow bubbles. But when you have little ones around, loosing the tiny plastic bubble wands is a very easy thing to do! Plus, they only make tiny bubbles. I decided I would try my hand at making wire ones like I saw around on the internet and I was pleased at how easy they are to make! Let me show you how we (me and my 4 year old) did!

 

You will need:

  • Cooper wire, like the one we use in jewelry
  • Wood dowel, or found sticks. We used drift wood like in the Solstice wand tutorial
  • Cookie cutters of various shapes
  • Cutting tools (jewelry ones works great)

Wrap wire around chosen cookie cutter. Take care to leave some loose so the wire overlaps itself.

This the excess around itself, and leave a good length of the other end before cutting. Wrap your shape around your stick.

That quick, that simple! and you have an awesome magical bubble wand! Now you only need to mix one part dish soap with one part water and pour the mix in a plate. Dip your wand in it and blow, or wave you hand!

You can let your creativity go from the basic shape, and even choose not to use cookie cutter as a guide. Kids like them so much better then the little plastic ones. Go try to make one, but I warn you, it’s addictive and soon you’ll have tons in stock- perfect for summer birthdays!