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Honour the Child

Blog archive

BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Blessings for those who are in the midst of their Hannukah celebrations, for those who have just marked the solstice, and those, like our family, preparing for Christmas! there is something so powerful about the way it all comes together.

We are looking forward to our Christmas Eve celebrations with neighbours and friends through fellowship and worship. This year, Andy and Rowan will serve the Communion with me (Ro is in charge of the candles being passed out for the lighting and singing of Silent Night) at church after a visit with neighbour's who are expecting a Special Guest.

Personally, while I adore the holiness of those closing candlelit lines of Silent Night, I am looking forward to the equally holy family snuggle Christmas morning as we open our stockings, gathered up in the bed together.

We have plans to visit with family and take some dedicated family time for the three of us with a trip to Toronto to see some of the sights that will be new-to-Rowan, and favourites of ours.

However you celebrate, wherever you are~ may the season be filled with a sense of hope and wonder. See you in 2009!
Saturday, 20 December 2008
I am planning to lead a workshop for making needlefelted vessels/ bowls in January, so I figured I had better try a few more, myself!

This bowl is a match for our Four Seasons gnome set~ perfect for a nature table in any season and every season. Firmly needlefelted with representations of colour and mood of each season. The bowl is approximately 6" across at the top.

I am enjoying this bit of creative space around the holidays and looking forward to some fresh beginnings for BTRT in the new year!
Friday, 19 December 2008
It is almost here! One of my favourite parts of Christmas the last few years has been giving my family handmade gifts.
One of the challenges is the sheer volume of amazing things to choose from.
For my siblings I decided on a 'theme' for each of them to help me shop and I thought I'd share some of the cool shops I found in my travels.

My 30 year old sister has a thing for monkeys. On one hand she always loved her sock monkey and Curious George. On the other hand, when our mother had us pick a name for our 'a-hem' as little girls we chose monkey. And then my husband began calling our daughter Monkey as a nickname from birth and well, my sister has never been the same since. She is so conflicted.
And then I found *this* necklace~ the PERFECT gift for her! It fills me with glee! A couple other sock monkey items round out her gift.My 23 year old sister is the easiest, and given her recent years and ongoing plans as a traveller, I picked up a lovely pendant (I love this shop!) and a cool passport holder, as well as a couple tubes of tooth soap.

My 23 year old brother (yes, twins) is almost impossible. He is too cool for school . But I love a challenge. He also likes to party, and has a wickedly wonderful sense of humour. So I got him a tshirt 'Instruments of War' (despite his ban on anyone buying him clothing) and a mustache bottle opener/ keychain (for the young man who has everything!).

Trevor's mustache gift lead me to find some cool vinyl mirror mustaches for all of them (you know you need some!), and I am printing a small print of Rowan in a mustache for them, too. Ok, we are odd :) And yes, our true theme this Christmas is mustaches.

I'll share some of the handamde kid's goodies in another post :)

Go get your 'staches on!
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
I am referring in particular to the US CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) that was passed into law this past summer. Driven no doubt by recent issues with unsafe products for children being imported from around the world, this new law will require, as of February 10th, 2009, that ALL manufacturers of products intended for (or even possibly used by) children under 12 be third part tested for lead and phthalate content.

Sounds great, right? Of course, we want our children to be safe and healthy.

This law refers to all manufacturers of any item that will hit the consumer market. That means Granny at the bazaar selling her baby booties and Mattel's Barbie dolls. Perhaps Mattel can afford the testing on each and every product, but you can bet that Granny cannot afford $1000+ to test her baby booties.

Effectively, this law drives out of business the people making the very items in response to the lead scares~ the people who are making toys the old fashioned way~ by hand. Even if Gramps were to pick up some tree branches and whittle them into a rattles to sell, he would have to test that tree branch for lead. Just like the plastic producer of rattles made in a factory have to do. It doesn't matter if your materials are certified already under the stricter regulations, you still have to test them.

Of course, we all want our children to be safe and healthy.

That is why we make and use natural handmade toys.

As a Canadian small business/ toymaker (and this applies to clothing, diapers and ALL items used by children) I am feeling such sorrow for all of the fabulous, creative artists who are passionate about creating things for our children that are sustainable, natural and safe and who are now facing closure of their businesses as their creations become contraband.

I am feeling frustrated that I have no voice in this matter, and yes, it effectively destroys my business, too. As an exporter I cannot knowingly sell into the USA items that do not comply with the new laws. I lose 80% of my market. I love my Canadian buyers but at the end of the day, I rely on my international customers.

As a parent I am outraged that the toys that will be available to families will be those created by the largest companies. Toys that do not fit with our ethics, values and choices.

You can check out this video and the links with it for more info and ways you can voice your opinion.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Rag curls always make me think of Laura Ingalls and Little House on the Prairie, but I know my mom had them done to her, too, so I don't have to go back that far!

In a rare fit of girliness on my part, Rowan (she of the poker straight hair) was subjected to rag curls last night. And they *worked*! Wanna try?

Straight hair pic for reference:1) We gathered up strips of cotton I have leftover from dog collar making days (see,there is a reason to keep every supply you ever buy!!)~ about 2" wide and cut to 18" long~ thinner/ shorter hair would need less length. you could use an old bed sheet, flannel etc.

2) We washed Rowan's hair, used our usual natural detangler, and let it dry almost completely. No styling aids required! Then we turned on the television~ my intent was to watch the old Rankin and Bass 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' but Ro is feeling a little spooked by Santa right now LOL.

3) As she watched, I divided her hair with a rat tail comb into roughly 1" sections., Dampening as needed (you don't want them wet, they won't dry through). I pulled out to the end of the hank of hair and folded the rag width-wise over the ends of the hair (if you have ever done a home perm, it is like the papers before the rollers). We chose to roll under~ whichever way you go, do all the hair the same way! Once you fold in the ends rolling is easy, just roll up the length of the hair, winding the hair around the rag. When you get top the scalp, bring the ends together and tie in bows at the roots.

Another tip~ follow the natural fall of the hair (Rowan has a crooked crown and her hair naturally parts on the side, so we kept that part as we rolled).

4) Leave in overnight and untie in the morning! Voila!You will get curls that are tight at the ends and soft at the crown~ the small the pieces you tied up, the tighter the curls. We lost about 1/2 of Rowan's length, so be warned if your little one has shorter hair~ it will be big!

Depending on the look you want, you can finger pick the curls apart, or twist them into ringlets. A good brushing will produce a halo of Farrah Fawcett 70s goodness.Rowan's curls relaxed as the day went on, but even at bedtime, they were still bouncing! Easy and fun for a special day or just for kicks!
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Every once in a while (usually when my mother asks what I am working on) I realize that things I make aren't exactly mainstream. That not everyone knows what a playstand, playsilk or playscape are, let alone how you would incorporate one into a child's play (little do they know that the kids can figure it out in 10 seconds flat!). I even had one person comment on one of my Waldorf style figures that is was 'creeeeepy'~ because it had no facial features (which is the Waldorf tradition, allowing the child to imagine the face, feelings and so on)!

These toys, arising out of the Waldorf educational philosophy, are intentionally open ended, simple and made with natural materials. They are created to nurture the wonder of the early years of childhood by allowing children to move smoothly into the world of play and imagination while determining, for themselves, the course and nature of that play.

Most mainstream toys limit a child by determining how the child shall play through their built in cause and effect types of features (push the button, it makes a sound). While cause and effect is an important skill, it doesn't leave much to the imagination! Not to mention that plastic (aside from environmental and health concerns) is cold and lifeless.

Natural toys warm in a child's hands. You can easily explain the flow from sheep to wool to toy and connect the child with the earth and the ideas of inter-connectedness and sustainability. They allow the child to lead the play and move freely through their imaginative ideas. They are wide open space instead of a cattle chute!

I wanted to take a moment for the playscape~ essentially a play mat, an environment for natural play. Most playscapes are felted and made of wool and other fibers. They provide a scene or setting for the child's play. They also provide lots of open space for that play to unfold. Popular themes are fairy, gnome and folk tale based. Natural environments being most common. Sizes vary, as does scale. They can be populated with many simple things~ acorns, stones, bendy dolls, natural found items, whatever you like!

We make playscapes (as pictured here), but I also want to share with you other artists I admire!
You'll that while themes may be similar, style and design are so unique to each artist!

And for wonderful playscape sized accessories, be sure to visit:
Hues of Nature
Princess Nimble Thimble
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
I have been asked several time if I make counting fairies (like our Counting Ladybugs and Fish sets)~ I always hesitated because I couldn't figure out what to count (ie the spots on the ladybugs) and how NOT to make it look like a fairy football team with numbers on their backs!

I was finally inspired!

These needlefelted fairy girls are made with 100% new wool roving (lovely, soft merino) and have tussah (peace) silk accents. They stand from 3 - 5" tall. All six are included in the set.

Each piece is firmly felted as one piece and all accents are deeply rooted making these pieces safe and durable. We do not recommend them for children who still chew their toys (soggy fairies can't fly!).

I love making toys that are very simple but have maximum play value over a wide age range. These fairies make me happy :).

1) Practice colours.
2) Count the flowers~ each fairy is holding the number of flowers to correspond to the numeral on her base.
3) Arrange by size.
(and if you arrange by size, the colours will be sequential, as will the number of flowers!)
4) Practice spatial concepts~ large to small, beside, in front of and so on.
5) Do simple math~ add, subtract, recognize numerals and amounts.
6) Each fairy has a unique hair colour, texture and skin colour representing human diversity.
7) Each fairy is carrying a specific type of flower: rose, poppy, daisy, clover, lupin and violet.
8) Imaginative play~ these fairies are open ended toys and love to fly, play on nature tables, ride in the car, tuck into a pocket and generally be a magical little companion for a little one.

Faces are 'open' in the Waldorf style, allowing the child to imagine the emotions and expressions.

So there we have it~ Count Your Fairies!
Monday, 8 December 2008
There is a wonderful article on the St. Paul Minneapolis Star Tribune's blog by Shannon~ the hands behind Etsy Shop Lyneya.
Some wonderful reasons and explanations for venturing in to buying handmade.

Pictured at left are our new Count Your Fairies~ I will blog about them when it is not so late and I am not so exhausted!
Saturday, 6 December 2008
With Rowan being 3, we wanted to introduce an Advent Calendar into our Christmas traditions. The liturgist in me struggled with whether it should match the days of the church Advent year, or the more practical days of December. Practicality won!

The challenge was that Rowan doesn't eat dairy, so chocolate is out. And frankly, I find a 'Dora' Advent Calender a little disturbing. Such are the choices available to us.

So it was time to search for a DIY project and to *make* time for something for our own family in this busy season. I was so excited when I found this delightful little project on the Allsorts blog! Check it out for the pattern pieces and more lovely goodies!(Sorry for the funny photos~ our calendar hangs in a hallway!)

We adapted the project as needed~ going for brights and paper number dangles, rather than candy and embroidered numbers (I strongly dislike hand sewing, and stitching the 25 envelopes was plenty for me!). Some snowman cotton and polka dotted flannel coordinate with our multicolour buttons and threads.

The envelopes are stuffed with a variety of things~ some of them little gifts and goodies, others simple slips of paper with a family activity to do. I sat down with the calendar and filled the appropriate envelopes with notes like 'Time to get a Christmas Tree' or 'bake cookies with Mommy'. This ensures that we make the time to make Christmas together.Some of the goodies include: beeswax turtles from Buzz Handmade; little dollies for the nature table from Dannielle and Hues of Nature; some Ikea finger puppets and delicious rootbeer scented dolphin soap from Breath of French Air.
Friday, 5 December 2008
Woodmouse, aka as Amber, is a very talented Etsy artist who makes lovely wooden toys (we love ours!) and Etsy has created a video portrait of her work which also includes our Natural Kids Team and some photos of our work at Beneath the Rowan Tree~ so check out this talented artist here.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
My Nativity sets have all gone home.

All 128 pieces.

I am so relieved and proud to send them off to their homes, to be loved and played with. It does my felter's soul good!

I was so thrilled to receive a picture today from one of the families with their Nativity scene all set up in a lovely handmade stable. Look at that angel in the loft! It is just how I pictured the set being placed :)

I am looking forward to setting up our own set in the next week or so, too!

We have two sets remaining for sale in our Etsy shop.
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