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BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Monday, 31 January 2011
One of my commtiments with Beneath the Rowan Tree is to use natural materials that are ethically sourced, high quality and safe for our families and our earth.  Even as I hope that our toys bring our children and families closer to the source and cycles of life, they do the same for me as an artisan~ I derive deep joy in working with fibers and materials that are natural, and about which I can feel confident in sharing!

This means I am always learning, always seeking to know more about the materials I use. 
While working with prepared/ manufactured felt over the holidays (vs. the kind I make by hand with raw fibers)~ the kind in sheets, I became aware of the vast difference in quality between my wool and wool blend felts and some acrylic craft felt nabbed for a kid's project at church.
I think most folks think 'felt' and we think of the 10/$1 acrylic craft felt we used in childhood crafts, banners and Halloween costumes. And it has earned its place as a staple because it is cheap, comes in a variety of colours and readily available in sheets and even on the roll in fabric stores (I have made a lot of Vacation Bible School banners!).  We are used to its texture and its limitations (it stretches, stuffs poorly and tears easily) and know that is just what felt does. Or is it?Because there is felt and there is felt.  And really, it is not a matter of apples to apples, but apples to oranges, or maybe, pineapples.

Wool felt is an entirely different creature.  It is thicker.  It is generally gentler in colour due to the dyes and nature of the fiber. It does not tear, stretch or pull at the seams. It is actually felt as it is made from wool that has been machine felted.  In the case of wool blends a viscose/rayon (natural plant fiber) generally makes up the remainder of the blend.  It is a delight to work with, although the 100% wool felt can be stiffer due to thickness than some projects require or can use.

And yes, it is more expensive.
It may cost anywhere from $1.25 - $3.00 for ONE sheet of equal size with the 10/$1 acryclic felt.
 So naturally (pun intended?), toys or items made with wool felt are going to be more expensive~ and they are also likely stuffed with wool and not poly-fill (another acrylic product).  So, next time you are shopping for wool felt food or toys, read carefully, this may well be the difference between the two items with widely divergent prices!
Placed side by side for me, as a toymaker, I am going to choose the wool felt, hands down.  For quality, durability and for safety.
Safety? Yep. Acrylic has a very low melt/ ignition point and when it ignites it melts, creating serious burns and potential for ignition of other surrounding items. Acrylic felt toys (filled with poly-fill) could prove very dangerous, especially when compared to wool felt which does not burn (one of the reasons wool is popular for cloth diapering, especially at bedtime~ wool smolders out and does not ignite). This is why any poly pajamas must be treated with flame retardant to be legal.

And finally, the real eye-opener for me as I chased this one down the rabbit hole, was that just as the name says, acrylic felt is made of acrylic. It is plastic.  I know this should be assumed, but I think this is a case where calling it all felt confuses the issue AND the difference between being handmade and being natural must be emphasized.  One does not equal the other in every case.

Acrylic felt is NOT a natural material.  Toys made with it are NOT natural toys (although they may be perfectly wonderful toys!).  And unfortunately many, many descriptions of toys out there laud the choice of the handmade toy over the plastic alternatives ~ when they are, in fact, made with plastic themselves (acrylic felt) (I assume the sellers are unaware rather than misleading).  Same goes for toys filled with poly-fill. Plastic.

And what about eco-felt/ eco-spun felt? Plastic. Yep. It is made through a recycling process (just like polyester microfleece, polar fleece etc) ~ recycled plastic. It is of better quality than acrylic felt and makes an affordable alternative, as long as makers and buyers understand what it is~ a plastic that can be recycled, but will not degrade. That 'eco' bit can be so misleading!

If you want to read more and see the varieties of felt pitted against one another in a head to head comparison, you can pop over to this article and see the difference in various tests.

Acrylic felt has its many uses and has earned its place in craftdom~ so this is not to knock the stuff~ but as consumers it is always good to be educated and to understand what our choices may really be. ♥
Thursday, 27 January 2011
CONGRATULATIONS to 'Dreaming Monet'!
Her comment was chosen by the random number generator.
Thanks to all our entrants and stick around because our next giveaway is
Feb. 4-7 with batik artist alfabette zoope!
Become a fan on our BTRT Facebook page to get the latest giveaway news
(weekly giveaways!)
and follow this blog, too, so you won't miss a thing!
(see 'Followers' box on left hand side).

A warm welcome to sister Canadian, Nicole, the artisan and hardworking mom behind Laines Magnifiques (Magnificent Wool for the non-French types!)~ hand painted yarn.

Nicole has been in business since 2007 and has an impressive GALLERY of work to her credit, along with her many happy and loyal customers.
Kumquat Goldfish
Asked about plans for this new year Nicole says (and doesn't this sound like fun?!):
I have a lot of new and exciting things planned for 2011 but the one thing I'd like to talk about today is my Sock YOTM Club. I've called it "Sockin' to the 80s - One Hit Wonders". Each month I take a top 100 One Hit Wonder from the 1980s and use it to inspire 2 new colourways on sock yarn. One is a semi-solid and the other a variegated. The club member then gets to choose which one they would prefer. It's been a lot of fun so far and I'm looking forward to continuing it through 2011. February's song inspiration is going to be "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow. 
Queen of Hearts
 Winter is long in Canada, so I asked Nicole how her family survives and thrives:
Living in Ontario, as you know, can be challenging in the winter time. With freezing cold temperatures, short days and long nights as well as being cold for close to six months of the year can take its toll. We try to keep as busy as possible in the winter, my oldest son plays hockey in a league every weekend so we spend most Sunday's at the arena watching him play. My husband is a coach as well so weekends are pretty much dedicated to this. On warmer days we try to get outside to do some old fashioned winter fun like tobogganing. Snuggling up on Saturday nights for popcorn and movie nights is another way we get through the winter as a family. This year we are planning a small escape to the southern climates to beat the winter blahs, hopefully by the time we get back things will have started to warm up a little up here!

Finally, I asked Nicole about recent inspirations for her work:
A recent inspiration of my work is something that started with last week's news articles and chatter regarding the change of the Zodiac signs. Out of curiosity I checked and noticed that my sign had changed and was intrigued. I've never been a person to really keep up with astrology but became inspired by all the articles I was reading on the topic. I did a little more research and found out that each sign has a colour or group of colours associated with it. So I've just debuted a new series call "The Zodiac Series - Colourways of the Stars". Each week I will debut 1-2 colourways of the zodiac. Yesterday I listed my first colourway "Leo". It's has rich gold and orange hues and with all this bleak cold grey weather we are having I felt inspired to start with something that represented warmth!
Sugarplum Fairy
 And now that you have a yen for yarn... the giveaway! The winner will receive: 
Knit the colours of the rainbow with this bright and fun colourway! It will make a great pair of fun socks for all ages! Red, yellow, green, blue, purple and orange.

Free yarn!
Yarn Information:
Allure BFL Sock
75% SW BFL/25% Nylon
Sock/Fingering weight
464 yards/3.5 oz skein

Allure BFL sock has the luxury and softness of the finest BFL wool yarn with the added strength of Nylon and is superwash, perfect for machine washing on a gentle/delicate setting and laid flat to dry. 
Simply leave a comment on this post
(and a way to contact you, either through your blogger ID, email, or other)::To qualify your comment must include a note about  your favourite Laines Magnifiques colorway
You can also join her Facebook page for news, special announcements and more!
Check out her Etsy shop as well!
The winner will be randomly drawn from qualifying entries on Monday, January 31 at 1 PM est.
This giveaway is open to anyone (anywhere).
Just a little eye candy to sweeten up your day!  Treasury made on Etsy  (click to view larger) featuring some deliciously sweet pastel rainbows.  Check back in later this evening for this weekend's giveaway (yarn, again, woot!).
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
No, it isn't teen spirit.
Admittedly, at our house 'what's that smell' is a game we play... one kid, two young dogs, busy parents...
But today I was thinking more along the lines of the power of smell to trigger memory, to comfort, evoke warmth and bring a smile to our faces.

This line of thinking got started over the usual battle of wills required to put Puppy in the 'bath' (aka washing machine).  Rowan's line of resistence is drawn along the fact that she loves the way Puppy smells, and if we wash him, he won't smell like Puppy anymore.  And given the importance of Puppy in her life~ she was known exclusively and adamantly as 'Puppy's Mom' for about 2 years, it is fair to say that his smell is part of his dubious charm (see photo below of Puppy and Puppy's doppleganger, purchased 4 years ago in case Puppy got lost... no chance of subbing in the new guy now!) and part of the comfort Rowan draws from his presence.  These days Puppy goes to school in her bag, and then into her cubby in case she needs him.
He did get a bath, secretly, while Rowan slept, so far no notice has been made of his de-smellification.
But then I was thinking about the smells in my own memory.

I saw something the other day which recalled the Polo brand cologne and I could *smell* it and was immediately transported to the Eaton Centre (Brantford) and the perfume counter~ wearing my high school itchy kilt, laughing with friends and spraying Polo on my jacket during lunch break because at 14, that is the way we thought a man should smell!

A recent curry dinner at home took me back to happy days of riding my bike with a friend around the crescent by her home where, at dinnertime, the most intriguing (and then unfamiliar) smells emanated from the homes of  her multicultural neighbors.  I could feel the bike beneath me as we glided down the big hill.

A certain combination of wet dog and the particular crushed flora on our lakeshore always sets me yearning for my old dog Callie, gone five years, but completely enmeshed in my memories of  many many hours spent playing and swimming along the rocky bank of the Southwest Miramichi in New Brunswick when I was settled there as a new minister and Callie was a pup.

Bayberry is Christmas.  Panned Easter eggs and the musty smell of spring soil is Easter ~ they bring back the sensation of that plastic easter grass and the fun of counting jellybeans with my sister so we would always have the exact same amount.  A certain lipstick scent, found once in a bar of  handmade soap I purchased, is my grandmother~ the lipstick, cold air and the feel of her muskrat fur coat and leather gloves come rushing back.

What scent memories are important to you? ♥
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
(how this feature works)

Today, I encountered O Happy Day Handmade, a shop run by inspiring mom of 2, Jessika, from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Of course, I was drawn in by her rainbow avatar (I am such a sucker for colour) but I stayed for the bright, beautiful and texturally interesting products made with obvious care and joy in creating.  A shop after my own heart with all that colour and wool! and so many unique ideas, too!

When I read Jessika's profile for her shop, I was even more impressed. To wit:
My goal is to create everything myself, locally, with the smallest environmental impact.
And then she says:
I grew up underfoot in my Nana's fiber art studio-surrounded by dye, silk, wool and the joy of creating. My collision course with art began there and has been unstoppable ever since... Now my children will grow up underfoot in my studio-while I craft beautiful things for people like you. A perfect circle!
Seriously? I love it!  So take a moment and check out her shop and give her your heart ('Add to favourites' is on the left hand side as you browse).
What a happy find on a snowy Tuesday morning. Thanks , Jessika, for 'hearting' my shop so I could find yours!♥
Monday, 24 January 2011
Over the last month, I have been taking some time to finish up items from my 'work in progress' box. Ok, it is a pile and a box.  Among these projects was a partially constructed playscape (what is a playscape?), waiting to be completed.
I prefer to make my playscapes by needlefelting the entirety onto a base of upcycled wool for stability.  This means making a fairly large scale sculpture to a given theme and can take a substantial amount of time (and fiber!).  But it is so much fun to watch a world come into existence and to add all the tiny details that (one hopes) will delight little players! (Click picture for larger image)

The Beaver Pond measures roughly 12 x 14".
It features a beaver pond, stream and lodge as well as a family of three beavers (one of them is a tiny baby beaver!), four loose logs and a branch (for building dams) on lots of wide open play space.
There are waving cat-tails, flowers in the meadow and even a fairy ring of red capped toadstools in the natural landscape which borrows from the colours of our ownnorthern terrain.

A child could easily add their own stones, wood and other small toys to the pond to populate it (turtles? fish? boats? birds? dinosaurs? always dinos at our house!) further.
This playscape is for sale in the Etsy shop.Take a peekat other playscapes from the past in our gallery.
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Ah! At last!  I tend to lose steam on large knitting projects, and this one was no exception, it has been on the needles for months, and in the meantime, Rowan grew!  So I had to skip the pretty hood and finish it off right away.

The sweater is from Greenstrings Neverland 'Wendy' pattern and had lots of variety (moss stitch, textured waistband) to keep it interesting but was simple enough for the easily confused (that's me).  the yarn is Cassiopeia Superwash Merino (worsted) hand dyed by Tia of Julibeans in her 'Saorise' colorway.

Buttons by, Rowan chose 'dream girl' and 'love'.  They are probably a little small for this sweater, but we like them. So there.
This is what I have to work with... ♥
Friday, 21 January 2011
Her comment was chosen by the random number generator and approved by our
entry testing canine unit (OK, Hooligan jumped on me while I was counting and had to re-count!).
Thanks to all our new followers and fans ~ and welcome!
Stay tuned for this week's giveaway... more yarn (from Laines Magnifique).
This week's planned giveaway didn't quite come together, but since I am in the process of destashing and decluttering here at home, I thought I would offer up some yarn, anyway!
This giveaway is for a 3.5 oz. skein of worsted weight Cassiopeia 100% Merino superwash yarn.
Hand dyed by Tia of Julibeans in her 'Saorise' colorway (green, pinks, cream and tan/ warm soft brown).
I have just completed a sweater for Rowan with this yarn. It is absolutely lovely and a dream to knit!
Here is one kit up picture, click HERE to see the full post and truer pictures of the colorway.
 For ONE entry simply leave a comment on this post (and a way to contact you~ or indication that you will check in on the winner if you prefer not to leave this info on public space)::
And, since this giveaway doesn't include a feature, I thought I'd add some more ways to win!

  1. subscribe/ become a follower of my blog, then leave a comment on this post letting me know (1 entry)
  2. tweet about this contest, then leave a comment on this post with your time stamp (1 entry)
  3. email a friend about this contest, then leave a comment on this post letting me know you did it (1 entry)
  4. link to this post on your blog, then leave a comment on this post with a link (1 entry)
  5. comment on any of my other posts, then leave a comment here with the post you commented on (1 entry)
  6. “like” Beneath the Rowan Tree on Facebook (or let me know you are already a 'fan') then leave a comment on this post that you are or have become a fan (1 entry)
  7. Share this link and giveaway on your Facebook page and leave a comment here with a link (1 entry)
AND if this post gets over 300 comments, I will throw in the matching pink trim skein (1.5 oz.), too!
The winner will be randomly drawn from qualifying entries (comments) on Monday, January 24 at 10 PM est.
This giveaway is open to anyone (anywhere).
oooh!  I love toys!  Especially toys that let you play with WORDS + COLOUR. I mean, how COOL is that?
Check out Wordle if you want to play, too!

At first I entered my whole blog, but for some reason it was weighting recent posts more strongly (maybe just reading first page?) so there was a lot of yellow and makeup in my finished image, which I don't think truly represents the impact of my words (or I hope not!).  So then I tried my Etsy shop, and got a lot of words like 'listing' that reflect the business nature of the page.  So then I decided to pull my blurbs from blog, website and Etsy~ the places where I write about what all this is about (click image to see at a more readable size)...
So much fun! I  also made one for Rowan's room (ust keep hitting randomize, and playing with fonts and layout as you go, until you hit one your love!)... link me up if you make one, I'd love to see them!
 Hint: to paste in a larger size, or to print to use, save your file to the Wordle Gallery and then press 'alt' + 'print screen' to take a screenshot to paste into your photo editing program, where you can resize etc.

Have fun! ♥
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
In Waldorf teaching each day of the week is assigned a colour to help create and maintain rhythm.  Rudolph Steiner called rhythm the 'carrier of life'.  The colour for Wednesday is yellow.

As I sit here on a VERY cold January morning with a warming sun beaming through our back windows, it seems particularly appropriate to share some warm (warmth being an important concept from Steiner, as well!) yellow finds with you.  most are from the Etsy Natural Kids Team (search 'naturalkids team' on Etsy for fabulous natural toys and baby/child items!).  The team also has a blog and a website for more information and resources.

Warm, golden beeswax from Pretty Dreamer:
Sunny haired Waldorf dolly by Woolhalla:
Warm yellow moon! From Just Hatched:
Nushkie's felted creations are always a warm ethereal delight!:
A large wool giraffe from Mamma4earth:

And finally, a little something from BTRT 'Sunshine' 35" playsilk:
Have a warm day!♥
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Makeovers are everywhere, and with them , of course, the message that you just aren't good enough (or your house, or your wardrobe or...).

So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised when my 5 year old came home from Kindergarten and informed me that she needed to check her 'lip stuff' (Lip Smackers and some Hello Kitty lip gloss from Christmas) to see if she had the right colours to match her clothes.
Um, huh?
I wear makeup *maybe* once a week. I do wear lip balm every day. That's it. But apparently, during 'makeovers' at school, Rowan learned this important tip ~ you have to match your lips to your clothes (I thought that went out in the 80s?).
Nice.  It turns out, one of the other girls brought makeup to school and insisted that the girls all needed makeovers 'to look pretty enough'.  They all shared eye shadow, 'blunch' (blush, I assume) and lip stuff (in a class battling pink eye and lice) to get pretty. This was done during their play center time, they all signed up for one center and proceeded with the makeovers (supply teacher day).Oh my.

Now, I remember sneaking into my grandmother's bathroom and playing with her makeup. I remember putting on my mom's Mary Kay.  I remember sneaking a hot pink frosty lipstick (you know the shade!) to school in Grade 6.  And I think playing dressup and using makeup would be fine, in moderation, at home with a friend even at age 5.

But at school? Under the pronouncement of not being pretty enough? Of my little girl coming home *needing* to be prettier and needing to match her lips to her clothes each day? Nuh-unh.  And what really made my heart ache, was this was the first report I had of Rowan being fully included as one of the group after months of exclusion and bullying.
We had a nice long chat about how beautiful every person is, and how lovely my daughter is with her ivory skin and heart shaped face and sparkling eyes. And then we talked about the prettiest things about each of her friends, including kindness, humour and sharing. Makeup is fun, but it doesn't make anyone any more prettier than they already are, inside and out.
And we'll keep talking about it.
Because as I am learning (please forgive my naivete!), no matter how we choose to raise our children, and how much we work to allow them to be children, there will always be outside influences playing (more and more) strongly on them with the messages that they are not good enough and that they need to grow up quickly.

So we find a new balance, again.  Using *her own* lip gloss only (and for dry winter lips) in whatever color she chooses to take for the day, matching or otherwise. And ageing up just a little more with a few new responsibilities around the house and a little less Treehouse TV, a little more from the 'big kid' channels for her limited tv time.

Oddly enough, she has been choosing to watch old taped episodes of Blue's Clues this past week.

Sometimes, they aren't any more ready to grow up than we are to have them grow up
Monday, 17 January 2011
What a busy weekend!  We have really come to enjoy our Saturdays, Rowan and I.  Andy goes off to the shop, and if I don't have any work commitments, we stay in our jams as long as we can, puttering about and enjoying the down time.  But this weekend, Rowan spent both days with friends (fun but exhausting ~ she played her first video games and quite enjoyed meeting the Mario Brothers!) while Andy and I did the first half of our 27 hours of PRIDE training towards adoption through the public system.

So this morning, we played hooky.  Rowan was due to be at school, and so was I.  For some bizarre reason, I had volunteered to help with lice checking of the whole student body (thankfully a small school of 170) with a few other volunteers.  What was I thinking?! The mere mention of lice sets me itching. So we both bailed, and had a relaxing day at home with a mid-day cross country ski outing (brrr!).
This afternoon, Rowan asked to make 'big art'.  And since I stocked up on rolls of paper after Christmas, we were all set!  Rowan chose pastels to work with and we decided to repeat a favourite activity ~ the Thanful ABCs (an idea gleaned, among many others, from Amanda Blake Soule's wonderful 'The Creative Family').
For this one, we just write out the alphabet (we share the task) and then proceed to write and draw about all the things for which we are thankful: Archie, bees, Daddy, houses and hats, Auntie Jenn, Puppy, quilts, wellies and zebras, among other things!  Sometimes the letters become part of the illustration (as in the rubber boot wearing 'w') or suggest the picture (M for mom, yes, that is *just* how I look over there by the M!).  It is such a simple way to enter into art and great discussion about gratitude, too!
Go make something!♥
Thursday, 13 January 2011
CONGRATULATIONS to Terri (Comment #4, chosen randomly by an unbiased 5 year old!)
"We LOVE all WCW products but my favorite is her sets, especially when she does it with a cat embroidery since we love cats around here :)"
And thanks to all our commenters!
Stay tuned for a new giveaway later this week!

Become a fan on our BTRT Facebook page to get the latest giveaway news
(weekly giveaways!)
and follow this blog, too, so you won't miss a thing!
(see 'Followers' box on left hand side). 
This week I am so happy to host a giveaway by busy mom and maker of amazing wool diaper covers and more!  Angela of Wild Child Woolies leaves me in awe~ not only is she a great business woman and artisan, but she is also the mom of 5 and homeschools, too. I am tired just thinking about it.
Angela's core product line are her wool diaper covers (soakers, shorties and longies)~ a product about which she is both knowledgeable and passionate (check out her blog).  But these aren't just any covers, in addition to being a seamstress, Angela is also the dyer, embroiderer and applique queen. Each cover is as lovely to look at as it is functional for newborn to toddler.
 In addition to the basics, Angela also does matching tees, and has a new 'Masterpiece' line of pieced and appliqued covers.
I asked Angela what inspires her and this is her candid answer (which I can appreciate, I *always* plan my children's story for Sunday services while I am in the shower!):
I can't say as though there is any one thing or person that inspires me. The entire world I suppose. I'm always thinking about the next creation, but most of my real idea formation happens lying in bed at night or in the shower (because I'm *usually* alone). I love colors and I see possible color combinations and applique designs literally everywhere.
 When asked about her plans for this new year, Angela is excited about several plans, including launching her blog and .com, overhauling her look, introducing a new style of cover, branching out on Etsy and into wholesale...
And since she has nothing else on her plate, I asked Ang about her family's favourite winter time activities:  Since I'm not a huge fan of being cold, I'm going to say staying in and having warm family fun like movie night or baking goodies. General snuggling and staying warm! It's not necessarily a winter activity but getting all cuddly reminds me of the rare day that we're all home in the morning and all 5 kids plus 2 dogs come into my bed and climb under the covers. There's usually a good bit of horseplay and bad jokes, and a little fighting over who gets to be *right* next to me.

This week's giveaway, from Wild Child Woolies, 
is a sprout green soaker in the size of your choice.

 Simply leave a comment on this post
(and a way to contact you)::
To qualify your comment should include a note about  your favourite WCW product. 
You can view a variety of Angela's work in her Etsy Shop.
You can also join her Facebook page for news, special announcements and more!
Check out her blog as well!
The winner will be randomly drawn from qualifying entries on Monday, January 17 at 1 PM est.
This giveaway is open to anyone (anywhere).
Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Designer Tina Givens cites the 'Oberon Red' portion of her Chloe's Imagination collection as being inspired by Oberon, Fairy King of the African forest.  And it is pure delight! This rich red and mocha collection is one of my favourite.  For the month of January, it is our featured fabric.
Today at 3 pm (est) I am stocking skirts, custom and instock, in the featured fabric and many more.  I also have a pair of dresses in the Givens' fabric.  Check it out!
Think spring!  These skirts and dresses are fun, pretty and best of all, provide lots of room for busy girls to move and play (and grow!).
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