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Honour the Child

Blog Archive

BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009
I was thrilled to snag a copy of Carina Spencer's (Sweet Mama Small Sugar) Bel Cloche hat pattern.

I had purchase some lovely Willow BFL in 'Mercado' ~ Rowan picked it and it totally reminds me of the old Fruit Chiclets!

Carina's pattern is lovely~ easy to follow, not too complicated, while offering some very pretty patterning (like the lace brim).

The result is very pretty, but a little on the large size (totally my fault, didn't do a gauge swatch and I am a novice with circular kntting ~ learned Magic Loop for this).

I guess big is better than small, right?Reminds me of this Fat Albert character:But roll up the brim and it isn't so bad!

I think this would be lovely done in a light cotton for the summer, too. Maybe the right size, next time!
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Yes, among the toys in our house, silk is a survivor!

I have recently answered a few queries from parents new to natural toys that were concerned with the durability of silk for child's play. And I am always happy to expound on its amazing qualities!

In our own home, we still play with the very same first set of silks we have had for 3 years (with an occassional newbie for variety). This group was my first silk dyeing experiment and they are all still bright and good to go. They have been toted about to play groups and preschools, for storytelling at church and camp (and been cleaned accordingly). The picture of Rowan as 'Rainbow Girl' on her bike this September shows our original set in use. Other than a snag here and there there are no issues and they are buttery soft from all the love.

While not as strong as spider's silk (which I once read could stop a 747 jet in flight if strung in a fiber the width of one pencil!), silkworm silk is one of the strongest natural fibers. It does lose up to 20% of its strength when wet (so always treat wet silk gently) but when dry it it tough (and lacking much elasticity it holds its shape).

Our playsilks are generally made with 8mm (momme ~ 'mommy') silk, which is airy, lightweight but not transclucent (and weightier than most commercial playsilks). I love that it is breathable and little ones can see through it enough to steer when being ghosts and hiding for hide and seek.

Silk is a protein fiber, and therefore best cared for as you would your own hair: mild washing (we use dish soap), gentle squeezing and allow to air dry.

With proper care, your playsilks should last for many years of mud puddles, tangling in bike chains, being puppy costumes and picnic blankets, forts and sacks for collecting rocks! We don't baby our silk and it hasn't failed us yet.

I love that in a toy!
To learn more about silkies, check out past posts HERE.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
After having dyed over 3500 pieces of silk in my kitchen, I have been invited to do something for the grownups! My first collection of silks for the adults will be winging their way to the Velvet Room Boutique in Vancouver tomorrow.

Each scarf is 90 x 22" long and is hand dyed with light and washfast dyes. Stepping up (way up!) the silk scale from my beloved, durable and simple habotai (for playsilks) these babies are crepe de chine, silk satin and charmeuse (which is divine!). Luxurious *and* natural.

I hope to stock a few of these in the Etsy shop for the holidays, too. See the whole group here.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Rowan loves to make art, and I love to work with her to offer her new opportunities to explore her creative nature. So, being Waldorf wannabes adrift far from a Waldorf community we have dipped a toe into the Waldorf method/ practice of wet-on-wet watercolour painting.

Waldorf watercolour painting engages the child with the colours~ their nature, the feelings they evoke, how and where they are found in nature. The exercises are not the traditional 'paint a picture/ what is it?' art we are used to doing~ and this was tough for Rowan (4) to grasp~ because she had new paints and wanted to paint a picture of Puppy.

Once we opened with a story about the rainbow and then choose to begin our painting with yellow (which was a wonderful choice as the late afternoon sun was casting strong yellows over the yard outside) and read some yellow verses and talked about yellow things and feelings, she began to enter into the contemplative, more abstract nature of this style of painting.

I recommend the PDFs at the Waldorf & Earth Schooling Channel which include lesson plans, and many, many stories, verses and ideas for beginners like us! (We started with yellow and the Rain Gnome and Golden Purse stories). Stockmar has some great starter pages with wet-on-wet and watercolour helps.

I know our present set up is not very orthodox, but we are working with what we have, and if we decide to make a habit of it, we'll upgrade (so please disregard the elephant placemat in lieu of a board LOL).

From a local supplier we picked up:
  • 90 lb.watercolour paper
  • paint pots for mixing/ dipping/ storing
  • cheap watercolour brushes (flat, wide)
  • watercolour paints (24 tubes for $12 LOL)
In total we spent $22, and if I read ahead I would have waited and purchased only three tubes of paint (red/ blue/ yellow)~ but the 24 set was all the shop had and we wanted to get rolling!

Other than these supplies we just grabbed a couple of household things: scissors (to round the corners of our pages to open up possibilities), a piece of sponge for setting the paper and a container with water to soak our paper.

We did four pages with yellow: one to experiment with its flow and changes across the paper, one while talking about feelings of 'yellow', one of the golden coins in our story (while re-telling) and one on which we blew the paint about with a straw and to which we will add blue and red in time.

It was a great 'frame-bending' experience outside the usual art activities and it really did help Rowan to slow down and be mindful while focusing not on an end result but on the colour and the process, and on listening, too!
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
"Can I have more cake?"
"No, you had two pieces."
"But I am still hungry!"
"Then eat some turkey you left on your plate."
"But I want icing!"
"Well, put some on your turkey."

That's how we roll in my family.

I could have intervened.
The Good Mother who lurks inside me *wanted* to intervene when the acid green icing from the dinosaur cake (so chosen by the four year old for her 24 year old aunt and uncle) was spread on the turkey meat by grandma and given to grandchild.

But then, I reconsidered.

If said child is going to survive in my birth family, she is going to have to eat her turkey with icing, both figuratively and literally.
If you make a claim, you follow through, because your bluff *will* be called.
Every time.
And you cannot back down.
You eat the mouthful of hot horseradish, you smell the feet fresh from the workboots for a dime, you stand in the street with your nightgown on and you get served last night's hot dogs for breakfast because you entered a standoff about eating/ not eating them**.

So when my family gets together and you say you want icing on turkey, you know you are going to get it.
And I figured it was about time she learned.
And she ate it.
And she liked it.
Or if she didn't she knew enough to eat it with a big smile, anyway.

**incidents depicted are all true, $10 is still owing for the horseradish, and none of them involve my parenting of my child!**
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
I love these little guys!

They have just enough of the toy about them to engage our 4 year old in remembering to tidy up her boots when she kicks them off in the front hall, and enough functionality to do the job well. They also pin up mittens, attach scarves to coats and generally help keep our entrance area under control.

Each Tidy Up Gnome is one of a kind ~ made with recycled and/ or wet felted wool, wood and hand stitched. Natural wool locks add character to these boys and girls.

Also sweet for pinning notes to lunchbags, adorning Christmas stockings and more!

There are a few gnomes in our Etsy Shop and a few more stocking at Winter Wonderland on Hyena Cart at noon on Thursday the 15th.
Friday, 9 October 2009
Fall is my favourite season~ that rich blue sky, crisp air and even the darkening afternoons feed my creativity and my soul. And fall in Northern Ontario is simply glorious.

Yesterday afternoon, Rowan and I made a special trip with my mom, 'Grandma' to a lovely spot in our community. An uphill hike through the trees, along a mossy path that resonates with the richness of the undergrowth, the hollow spaces created by the tangles of roots and rich humus causing every step to sound like a kettle drum resounding beneath us.

At the top of the hill is the 'Lookout'~ a sharp drop in the rocks overlooks miles of treed highlands rich in the throes of autumn glory. Afraid of heights the Lookout makes my knees a little wobbly, but my daughter and her grandmother had no such reservations about exploring the edges and natural steps in the rock along the edge.

While they wandered, I went deeper in to the woods in search of acorns~ having had great luck with this location last year. I couldn't find a single new acorn. A few old ones from last year, gone to ground, but nothing new, despite the prevalent oak trees. We couldn't decide if this meant a light winter coming and no seeds had developed/ fallen or a heavy winter to come and the squirrels had gathered them all in readiness!As we climbed back down to the narrow, barely visible entry to the path from the road, we stopped for Grandma and Rowan to climb the large fallen tree which crossed the path (and which Ro insists looks like a scary crocodile). A coupel of worried moments about getting Grandma down, but all was well and we came home with a nice collection of leaves, too!

CRAFT IDEA: Today we waxed our leaves with wax paper & the iron and mounted them on pages, looked up their specific species and Rowan practiced her writing by adding their names to the pages of her leaf book.

We also used the leaves to do rubbing with crayons and create personal place mats for Thanksgiving dinner this weekend.
Monday, 5 October 2009
When I get the chance, I comb rummage sales and second hand shops for wool sweaters I can felt and recycle into all sorts of projects. Usually my projects involve cutting said sweaters into strips and pieces, sometimes with regret!

I found some real gems at a recent church sale, and I was loathe to chop them up. I think they were loathe to *be* chopped up and conveniently shrunk themselves from adults sizes (large!) to preschooler size! Woohoo!

So I only chopped them a little bit. ("Maybe little pinch?")

Removing the too long/ too warm sleeves left me with two sweet and kind-of-funky vests for Rowan. While the orange one requires some growing into (and I may needlefelt some embellishment on it) the spring green cable knit is *perfect*.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

1) Find an attractive wool sweater and count on shrinkage of 1/3 to 1/2.
  • look for 80% + wool
  • some wools have been processed and will not felt~ lambswool is about 50/50 in my experience and special fibers like mohair, angora etc. usually won't, but enough wool and you should get good results. Medium weight sweaters are your best candidates. The old Woolrich sweaters felt well and often have cutesy patterns. GAP and American Eagle also are good bets.
2) Toss in the washing machine on HOT and high agitation. Throw in a pair of old jeans (that won't mind the heat) for good measure and add a capful of dish soap.
Check when the rinse cycle begins (cold rinse is fine)~ if the sweater has tightened up enough (size wise) let the load finish out and toss it is the dryer (all the things your mother taught you NEVR to do to wool!). if it looks like it needs more felting, add more soap and restart the hot cycle. If you run it twice and it is still not felting, you have a dud on your hands!

3) Check the sleeve attachment~ if the sleeves have been sewn to the garment, just make a snip under the arm and pull the sleeve away by loosening the stitches. A raglan sleeve or one more integral to the body will require a judicious cut in the place of your choosing. Tidy up the edges (a run through wash again should felt up any loose edging). And there you go!

Warm, wooly and chic!
And they work well with upcycled tshirt dresses from CourtneyCourtney (pictured).
Friday, 2 October 2009
My husband is starting a new business ~ after a year at home and 15+ years before that in journalism, he has 'retired' (haha) and begun anew. Great Bear Garment & Graphic is locally based with a shop in town but intentions to sell online as well.

The coolest part (other than a busy husband (yay!) is that the shop front needs some items to help bring in foot traffic. Say no more! I have been gleefully collecting work by some of my favourite artisans to help fill the shelves with handmade toys and gifts for kids.

I am just waiting for Andy to add the 'Featuring Beneath the Rowan Tree Natural Handmade Toys & Gifts' to the door with his fancy schmancy vinyl cutter.

In the meantime, waiting for vinyl declarations and mail, we have been painting. Going with a woodland theme (in vogue but also very suitable to our location!), we are pleased with the transformation so far.

The shop is located in a former optometrists office~ hence the many glass shelves and giant mirror!


Dingy yellow, sort of. And all these laminated poles. What to do?

Add colour of course! A couple Muskoka chairs and plans for wildlife (vinyl, of course).

Not After, but part way through:

I am really happy with the change so far... and all those darn posts actually work well with the birch trees... now to paint the chairs and stock those shelves with toys and all of Andy's printed goodies.

We were so thrilled to do long overdue family photos with the very talented Kate Hood last month.

With the rowan berries at their ripest and the light just right, Kate joined us after dinner for some fun~ Rowan was completely smitten with Kate and they had no problem shooting for 2 hours straight!

You can check out Kate's blog here with photos!
Thursday, 1 October 2009

I am doing a survey of buying habits and preferences for Natural Toys which you will find HERE

10 simple questions (your andswers are anonymous) and you can leave your contact info at the end for a chance to win 3 x 35" custom dyed Playsilks ($35 value). I will draw from the first 100 entrants or October 8th, whichever comes first.

Friday, 25 September 2009
I am trying to restore my blogging groove... so I thought I would share with you some extraordinary Etsy Finds I have made in the past little while~ great shops, great service, great products!
(and, wow, bad layout on this post, sorry!)

If you haven't strolled through the darkly magical woods at Hidenseek, you must! You may glimpse the darling Hidden Eloise as she goes about her creative wanderings with bears and wolves and wistful children. We have a piece on my daughter's wall ("Mom, this is the Friend I Told You About" which she adores and I am anxiously awaiting a shipment of stickers and postcards for our new land based shop (that is another post!).

Another shop that needs a mention is the winemakerssister which has the most detailed and attractive hand carved rubber stamps (among other things!). The artist made me a fabulous rowan branch stamp from a photo of my tattoo, of all things! It is a perfect stamp for my muslin toy bags, shipping envelopes and more!

And finally, for today, a little nostalgic fun from shop66 ~ purveyor of a variety of fun vintage items. These little paper dolls are delightful and both my daughter and her grandmother (remembering her own paper dollies) have a blast playing with them.

Happy Shopping :)
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Our 'Heart of...' line of playsilks have been super popular, but up on realizing that I have hand dyed, pressed and shipped out over 3500 pieces of silk in the last 2+ years and have always added new colours to that line, I decided I needed to add some more pizazz to keep me engaged over the dye pots!

I love the challenge of dyeing to match~ and what better match for our multi-coloured silks than the oils and watercolours of the past Masters.

The process works both ways~ thumbing through the great works and challenging myself to match them, or trying a new colourway and landing upon just the right work of art to pull it together. This self-challenge has coincided with some experimenting in new dyes, as well.

Either way, my favourite part is the added dimension to playsilk play! An Art Inspired silkie offers an opportunity to explore art with your child. To consider what emotions colour can evoke, what feelings or moods a colour combo creates, how the colours blend together to create others and then maybe try it out for themselves in paints or other mediums.

This line of six new colourways relies on Van Gogh and Monet, but look for more to follow!
Parliament ~ Inspired by Monet's
Houses of Parliament, London, Sun Breaking Through the Fog, 1904

Poppies~ Inspired by Monet's Poppies, Near Agenteuil. 1873.

Starry Night, Van Gogh 1889.

Monet's The Regatta at Argenteuil 1872

Van Gogh's Irises 1889

Monet's Japanese Footbridge, 1899 inspired 'Water Lilies'

And if you are not feeling like fine art, you can always check out our Limited Edition (available only until Halloween) Spooky Colorways in Bat, Goblin, Vampire, Witch, Zombie and Boo!All colorways available in 35" square playsilks in our Etsy Shop.
AND if you have read this far and you are still scratching your head about Playsilks (what are they?)~ congrats for your persistence and follow this link for more info.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
When I say I don't sew, I don't mean I can't. I mean I choose not to because it is *so* easy to get sucked (back) into the fabric vortex.... bwahahaha.

But this little dress pattern, made by my friend Diane for her daughter, broke 4+ years of sewing silence (ok, I *do* sew silk regularly, but no quilting, no clothing, no new fabric). I *had* to make one for Rowan.

The pattern is the Sydney Dress (Euro Hoodie) by Modkid at Material Gal and it rocks. Super well written, fun and easy to make. My only problem was that I cut the skirt strips one size too big and was baffled as to why I had a 70" skirt and a 50" hem band. Oops! There are so many possibilities for varation and modification in this dress that I didn't stop (*gasp* shock, I know) with fabric for one dress, but also ordered fabric for a holiday dress, too!

Here is #1, made with the Marie Webster Merry Mushrooms line of fabrics. Nice weight (the finished dress is fairly substantial, it could be done with much lighter fabric for warmer weather) and very vintage look. I went for the pointed hood and strip skirt. I did my topstitching with a feathery decorative stitch and did one panel with applique mushrooms. The size 4T fits true and the options for lengthening and shortening skirt and sleeves are nice to have.

Sorry for the blur~ my camera and I are not on speaking terms about this.

I will post modelled pictures when my model is available!

The second dress is going to be made with fabrics from the Riley Blake holiday line in the pinks and greens.I feel the vortex.... sucking.... sucking me ..... in!

Edited to add in the action shots LOL
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