Simple and Acute Sixteen-pointed Window Star tutorial

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Hi! As anyone who has visited this space will know, my daughters and I love making window star transparencies. We only started making them a couple of years ago and were quite happy with the eight pointed star for a while, but this year we felt like broadening our repertoire 😉 so whilst on holiday we made simple sixteen pointed window stars and a couple of acute sixteen pointed window stars and we love them!

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So I thought I would share a simple tutorial on how we made them. We use kite paper, which is robust transparent paper that lends itself beautifully to the precise folding, The sheets we use come in 16cm x 16cm squares.

To save on paper ( because we prize this paper 🙂 ), we often make small stars, which we find perfectly lovely: We cut the paper in four and then halve it again to create rectangles of 4cm x 2cm. To make larger stars, you can just divide the sheets in half, so the rectangles are 16cm x 8cm

Or if you are using large sheets of transparent paper, cut them into rectangles, making sure the long side is twice as long as the short side.

Simple Sixteen pointed star

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1. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise.

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 2. Open the piece up and fold the four corners to meet the centre line as shown.

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3. Make a second fold towards the middle line on all four sides.

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4. Place some glue on one of the right side bottom corners and stick another piece onto it, laying it along the fold line in the middle and ensuring that the end points meet.  (see below).

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5. Continue this process until the very last piece. This bit is a little fiddly: apply glue to the bottom right side of the piece you are inserting and the bottom right side of the piece to which it will be stuck.

6. Insert the piece carefully; slipping it under one piece and over the other, as shown below.

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(the photos I took fot this step weren’t too clear, so I am using the acute pointed star photos instead as they are clearer). 

Acute Sixteen pointed Window Star

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The first three steps are done as above, but there is one further fold.

After completing Step 3, fold only two of the corners towards the middle line,  making one end more acute, as seen below

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As with the simple star, place glue on the right hand bottom side, where the piece is less acute. The acute part will be on the outside of the star.

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The glueing is the same as with simple pointed star, including the final step.

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And that’s it really. Very simple and so gorgeous, cheering up our windows on our holiday and during the monochrome winter months.

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I hope you too can experience the joy of Window Stars for yourself 🙂

 

Small joys and deep gratitude

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Now that I am studying, I can only realistically devote a couple of hours each week to writing here and last week, I prioritised writing a Christmas letter instead.

I like to write long newsy letters to friends and family abroad at Christmas time and I usually spend considerable periods of time writing them; in coffee shops and at home (accompanied by Christmas tunes to get me in the mood!) Most letters are around four A4 pages long, some more. I started this in my twenties, when I was a prolific letter writer. I have always enjoyed letter writing as a chance to connect and “spend time” with friends who I rarely see. As you can probably imagine, this is rather time consuming, so this year with my study schedule going right up to the 19th December, I decided to handwrite a long “round robin”-style letter instead. It is eight A4 pages long!

Anyone who has visited my blog, will know that I always have a lot to say 😉

There is a lot to recount after a year has passed and I have tried to make the letter as personal as possible, considering it will reach over 25 recipients. I plan to photocopy it onto colourful paper and write a personal message in a Christmas card with a photo of the girls. Hopefully it will be well received.

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I don’t usually send a photo of us parents as we don’t change too much from year to year (and besides I don’t even think I have one of the four of us!!) I really should try to get one taken as we now sponsor a little girl in India and I think it would be nice for her to have a photo of our whole family. We sponsored a girl in Africa until she reached sixteen this year, when the sponsorship had to end – Jebbeh received a lot of photos over the years!!

In preparation for Advent and Christmas, I have been looking through all my Christmas books, magazines and my brown leather-bound book, in which I have written all our family traditions. I love spending time preparing for Advent and setting an intention for a peaceful, special time. I have made a few plans for crafting and baking and arranged a couple of family outings, but am trying to keep things relatively simple as energies are low at this time of year.  There is still a lot going on at school until 13th December (when we break up – nice and early, thank goodness!

Our Christmas Fayre is this weekend. My eldest has continued to work on the pretty things that she will sell on her stall in the Children’s market. She has finished her doll skirts, angels and small window stars and this weekend she needle felted some more baubles

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Some of these are her sisters, but she is happy to sell them for her. 

My youngest treated herself to an elf costume with some money left over from her Birthday. I think the girls are planning to do another Christmas play for us. Here they both are with their “elving” 🙂

The temperatures here have plummeted to 6 C and we even had ice on our pond.

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It has been so mild this autumn, it feels good to have colder weather in the lead up to Advent and I am sure our Christmas Fayre this weekend will put us further in the mood.

I am treating us to the Jacquie Lawson Electronic Advent Calendar again this year. It is so beautiful and my daughters look forward to it year after year. Originally a grandmother at our school treated us to one every year, which we so appreciated, but as she died last autumn, I have taken it upon myself to treat her grandchildren and some of my lovely friends’ children to keep up the tradition. 🙂

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One of my greatest joys in autumn and winter is to experience the sunrise and sunset – both of which are during our waking hours. The sun rises after seven now and sets around 4.15pm. We often gasp at the wonderful colours as we drive home from school; ranging from vibrant fiery reds and oranges to soft pastel pinks and blues. It is a real joy to experience such beauty in nature – it fills us with much needed reverence.

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Another moment of reverence the other day was peering in at our home from the outside. I had just been in our studio and it was raining and windy outside. As I looked towards our warm, cosy and colourful home, I felt such deep gratitude for this shelter; this refuge from the cold and rain and the outside world.

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I was walking around our City the other day and I was struck at how many homeless people there are. I always am in the winter months – it must be so tough on them, huddled in doorways in the cold, watching everyone hurrying by, doing their Christmas shopping and seeing people sitting in warm comfortable cafes. I am often considering ways to help. I plan to contribute some funds so that a few people can spend the festive season at one of the Crisis centres – a fantastic organisation that helps bring humanity and hope to the homeless. We are also planning to give a big box of food to one of the soup kitchens, who feed the homeless in the evenings. Sometimes I give a few pounds to individuals, but it never feels like it’s enough. The government needs to do something – this needs bigger solutions than I am able to offer….but I can send them my prayers, love and hope. That is what I shall do…. and make sure I always return a smile.

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I have been enjoying studying a couple of hours each day (but not on weekends). I recently spoke with a friend (and mentor) about how I struggle with concentrating for long periods of time and how, after my long day of lectures, I had craved using my hands to craft and relax my tired brain.  My friend had a really great suggestion for me!  She informed me that the brain is only able to receive information for 45 minutes at a time before it needs a break, so she suggested I study for 45 minutes – putting a timer on – and then craft or do something I enjoy for 15 minutes – again using a timer – before returning to my studies and repeating this as often as I have time for.  It is WONDERFUL!!! I enjoy the study and love the break. This week, I had time to fold lots of kite paper so I can make small window stars to include in some of my Christmas letters. Such joy 🙂

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I also finished knitting an Infinity Cowl for my youngest that has been sitting on the needles for far to long and it now very much needed!

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and last week I made some lantern “children”.

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Although Martinmas itself had long passed, I still felt that the Nature Table by our dining table would be enhanced by some lantern “children” 🙂

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Besides, our school lantern walk only took place last Friday (due to staff illness on two other occasions), so lanterns are still very much current here!

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I made them using peg dolls that I have had for ages. I just cut out some felt to fit the doll and glued it on with a hot glue gun (as I didn’t have high tack glue and PVA glue doesn’t work on felt). I also cut out some felt for a cape and hood. I sewed the hat together along the top using blanket stitch and then attached the hood to the cape with a running stitch. leaving two long ends on either side that I pulled together and tied at the front. The woollen hair was stuck on with hot glue, but I think a high tack glue would have been better. We gave the children a shorter hair do as the longer hair didn’t show and was bulky underneath.

My daughters liked them so much that they both made one for their own Nature Tables in their rooms 🙂 It feels good to add something new to the Nature Table every season. We have quite a collection!!

It is such a joy to make time to craft. I make sure I have the materials at hand so whenever I take a break from study, I don’t need to go anywhere (except to make a cup of tea!) and it makes the experience very enjoyable. I highly recommend it!

On the subject of joy and gratitude, we just recently received a new recyling bin. I know it doesn’t sound too thrilling, but it has made me so happy to be able to finally recycle plastic packaging (including fruit punnets, yoghurt pots, bottle tops etc). Until now, we have only been able to recycle glass, cardboard, paper, tin cans and plastic bottles and it has really bothered me not having anywhere to recycle all the other plastic. Friends and family in London have been able to recycle these for a while, so on my trips to visit them, I have sometimes been known to bring a big bag of plastic containers with me! (yes I really do!) I have also taken plastic lids with me to France to recycle!!!

Germany is amazing with its recycling. You can recycle pretty much everything which is astounding and I hope the way we will be heading.  Ideally I would prefer less packaging all round and we often have a fruit/veg box delivered in the winter months to help cut things down (and it has been a way to recycle the plastic punnets).

So right now I am feeling grateful for a lot of things, small things really, but they all add up, I find.

 There is always much to be grateful for if we look for it, isn’t there? 

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Joining the crafty folks at Frontier Dreams Crafting On

 

 

Matching Girl’s and Doll’s strip-pieced patchwork skirt tutorial

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As promised here is a tutorial on how to make a simple strip-pieced patchwork skirt (suitable for age 7 – 12 years approx) and a matching skirt for an 18 inch Waldorf doll (Build a Bear or similar)

           Materials:

  • Cutting mat and ruler (you can also cut and tear of course)
  • 50cm length of four different coordinating materials (preferably non directional)
  • 2cm wide elastic (1cm wide for doll). Quantity depends on waistband measurements.
  • matching thread
  1. Cut each of your materials into four 12 cm wide strips ( 6cm width strips for the doll) either using a cutting mat or cut and tear as I often do. In that case press the material nice and flat afterwards with an iron.
  2. Then cut each piece to 50cm length (22cm length for the doll) or your desired length for your individual child depending on height and preference.

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3.  Arrange the pieces in the order you would like to sew them, to get the best effect.

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4. Pin the pieces together along the length.

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5. Sew a 1cm seam along the length of all the pieces including the final two to complete the circle.

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6. Use zig zag stitch to neaten all the edges.

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7. Press the seams flat to the side in the same direction all the way round.

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8. Next to make the hem, turn over the top edge by 1cm and press with an iron.

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9. Turn the top over again by 1 1/2cm. Press and pin to keep it in place.

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9. Sew the hem using edgestitch (straight stitch near the edge as shown).

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10. Next to make the waistband, turn the top edge over by 1cm, press and then turn it over again by 3cm (2cm for the doll),  press and pin in place. Edgestitch as before, leaving a 2cm gap to insert the elastic.

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11. Measure the waist of your child (or doll) and cut the elastic accordingly, remembering that the elastic should be under some tension or the skirt will feel too loose. 

12. Insert the elastic using a safety pin to guide it. When the elastic meets at the end, pin and sew it together, taking care to make sure it has not become twisted at any point in the waistband. 

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12. Close the gap in the waistband with a few more stitches either on the sewing machine or by hand.

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And that’s it! You now have a unique, fun skirt fit for a girl and her doll 🙂 

Joining Teresa at the Really Crafty Link Party

 

Made and making….

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I am finally getting around to sharing what I made for my eldest daughter’s Birthday. I finished the Front Range Tee a few weeks ago and also knitted a mini version for my daughter’s Waldorf doll Rachel. I have shared the doll notes here. I love Laura’s  designs as they are so easy to translate into doll and adult size 🙂

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I also sewed a strip pieced patchwork skirt for my daughter at her request in her chosen fabrics (bright and cheerful). My youngest has a dress with a similar style on the bottom half which my eldest loves, so I used that as inspiration. It is so easy to make and really jolly. Of course I made her doll a matching skirt too! 🙂

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I will shortly share a tutorial for the skirt as it is easy to make with very little sewing experience – all straight lines and no separate waistband either! 🙂

I always get my children to choose what they would like me to make for their Birthdays (including the fabrics/yarn) to be sure they will be happy with their homemade gift. They both love it that their doll has a matching outfit too. I think all little girls love that 🙂 Not that she is that little anymore….11 years …oh my! How many more years will she want me to make things for her?! I know the days are numbered so I shall enjoy them whilst I can. 🙂

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For Christmas I have started work on this “secret” project. I don’t know if you remember but my eldest knitted a tiny rabbit for her sister’s Birthday in May. Whilst searching for the pattern, I came across all the lovely soft toy designs by the same Designer and I just knew that I would have to make my daughters something from there for Christmas. Those cute teddies and dresses are just adorable and I expect my daughters will think the same!

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Apart from these projects, we did some beeswax dipping for the autumn Birthday mobile we always hang above the Birthday table. We had collected leaves from several walks over the weeks so there were plenty to choose from. The house was filled with the sweet homely smell of beeswax and the leaves took on a wonderful lustre. I never tire of beeswax dipping 🙂 not that I get much chance these days as my daughters take it in turns and I have to sneak in a go at the beginning (to check the wax is behaving itself!).

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My daughters have also made a couple of conker webs each for the nature tables at my request as so many of ours have broken over time.

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They are so easy for a young child to make with a little adult help.

Materials : conkers, yarn, cocktail sticks, bradawl 

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  • Punch five or six holes in the side of a conker using a bradawl (adult job!)

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  • Push little cocktail sticks in the holes ( or wooden skewers if you would like a bigger web)

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  • Using your chosen colour of yarn, make a knot on the far end of one cocktail stick (this will be covered later by the weaving).

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  • Loop the yarn once around the next cocktail stick for the first 3 or 4 rounds.

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  • Now start looping the yarn twice around each cocktail stick to acheive a wider spacing

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  • and three times towards the outside. It really is a matter of preference. This is how we like our spacing, but it can be two right from the outset or even three if the child is in a hurry!!

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  • Keep doing the above all the way round until you reach the edge or where you would like your web to end.

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  • Knot the thread tightly and cut off. And that’s it!

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My daughters will happily make several at a time. I never can keep up with punching holes for them!! 🙂

Hope you are enjoying some cosy autumn crafting time. Joining Nicole and the crafty folks at Crafting On

Elderflower season

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The elderflower season is upon us! To me, the arrival of the elderflower heralds the beginning of the summer months; bringing with it memories of warm, relaxing days, drinking elderflower spritzers, eating sun ripened strawberries and watching tennis at Wimbledon…

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I just love the frothy whiteness of the blossom at this time of the year – it really is a joy to behold.  I have been picking several umbels each time I go for a walk and have been busy making elderflower cordial, cold water infusions and drying the flowers for tea. What a foraging treat!

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Elderflowers have some wonderful properties: they are both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, so can help alleviate the symptoms of colds, flus and other viruses. They can also help with the symptomatic relief of allergies and boost the immune system. I always use the berries in the autumn to make tinctures and syrups for winter illnesses. Last year the berries were quite scarce, so I had to used dried berries. I am hoping that the abundance of flowers this season will lead to a bumper berry harvest in the autumn. Fingers crossed!  In the meantime I will enjoy the gift of the fragrant elderflower.

Ideally elderflowers should be picked in the morning on a bright sunny day. The flowers should be nice and white and open with no browning and should be picked from an area away from traffic as they, like all natural things, absorb pollution. Only take a few flowers from each tree so there are still plenty of berries for autumn foraging and to feed the birds in the autumn and winter.

I tend to suffer from hayfever around this time of year, so I thought I would dry some elderflowers to drink in tea when I experience hayfever symptoms as I heard it can help.  I laid them on a baking tray in an airing cupboard (so in a dry place out of direct sunlight) but you can also lay them on cardboard or anything like that. They should dry within a week. I removed the stalks and  am storing them in an airtight container for future use.

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I have also made a couple of bottles worth of elderflower syrup for us to enjoy. I tried making a sugar-free elderflower cordial last year, using dates, in two different ways, but we didn’t really like the results very much. One was very fermented and no doubt healthy, but it didn’t get drunk so no one gleaned the health benefits!! So this year I decided we would use sugar.

The cordial I made is a modification of two different recipes. One had far too much sugar in it for my liking and the other assumed you boil the water and sugar first and pour it over the elderflowers, which I hadn’t done.  It has worked out well I think. There is still plenty of sugar in it so it should keep well, but it’s probably not very immune boosting! 🙂

The main thing is that we are enjoying it – and drinking in all that lovely sunshine!

Anyway, this is how I made it:

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  • Cover the elderflowers and lemons with water and soak for 24 hours (or a little longer if you forget about it!)
  • Sieve the water solution into a measuring jug, discarding the flowers and stems. Pour it into a big pan, keeping track of the quantity of liquid you are using.
  • Add 250g sugar per litre of water – I added 500g to my 2 litres of water
  • Bring the sugar solution to the boil and simmer on a low heat for twenty minutes.
  • Pour into clean, sterilised glass bottles using a funnel.

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Enjoy!

Not long after making this cordial,  I went to a party and drank an elderflower infusion, which is essentially elderflowers covered in water and left to infuse overnight. The flowers and stems are removed in the morning. What remains is water infused with the delicate sweet flavour of elderflowers. It is a light, fragrant drink and sugar free!

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Being sugar free, it doesn’t keep long like the elderflower cordial, but I have been making infusions every couple of days as I really enjoy them and am sure they make an immune boosting treat! 🙂

Oh I do love foraging – nature provides us with everything we need;  if only we knew how to recognise and use the herbs and plants that grow so generously by the wayside like our ancestors would have done. I intend to find out more 🙂

On another note, whilst I am writing about summer beverages….

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We  have been enjoying fresh mint tea from the copious supply of mint in our garden and on hot days, we have been drinking iced water with cooling mint and lemon slices. So refreshing! Our mint attracts a particular moth that tends to lay its eggs on the mint. Last year the mint was doing so well but by July and August, it had been bitten to shreds and looked a sorry sight 😦 I fear the same is going to happen this year as there are dozens of mint moths on it at all times.

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I have collected some sprigs to dry indoors, to store for mint tea and flavourings

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but for now we are making sure we enjoy it in all kinds of salads and drinks before it is no more. I am not sure how to prevent the moths from laying eggs. If anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear from you!

I hope you too are enjoying all the delights of the season. 

 

Spring felt flower children

 

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A little while ago, I wrote that I was making some little felt ‘flower children’ to adorn our Nature Table. I have since made three more daffodils (during the time they were abundant in nature) and this weekend I made three bluebells and another tulip child. I have had the felt cut out since our holiday in Cornwall, but I never found the time to sew them up somehow. We had a quiet weekend at home, so I finally had a chance to finish them off and add them to our nature table.

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I started making these ‘flower children’ before I realised there were instructions in the wonderful Waldorf craft resource All Year Round . As I made them up myself, my measurements and directions are a little different. There are instructions for making snowdrop, primrose and crocus ‘fairies’ in the book, so I won’t share how I made those, but I thought I would share a little tutorial on how I made the bluebells, tulips (and daffodils) with you as they are still abundant and spring is still in the air 🙂

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For this project, I would recommend using 100% wool felt. I buy mine from Myriad Natural Toys. Items made from 100% wool felt look lovely for a long time; there is no degradation or pilling  – except if you have a moth in your nature table box like my eldest did – several of her wool decorations have been nibbled at 😦

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Materials for flower children:

* 100% wool felt in the colours of your choice.
*  Flesh coloured stockinette – I used this fabric left over from making our Waldorf dolls, but any light coloured stretchy fabric would work.
*  Cotton thread in green,  thread to match the felt chosen and a strong cotton thread.
*   Stuffing wool (or toy stuffing).

All the heads are made as follows. I made several at once in a mini production line:

  • Cut a 7cm x 7cm square of stockinette. Take a small amount of sheepswool and place it in the centre of the stockinette.

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  • Bring all the sides together and hold firmly as you tie a strong cotton thread a couple of times around the neck until it feels firm. Tie a knot and cut.

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I am going to give detailed instructions for making the tulip child. The other flower children are made in a very similar way, except for the hats, which I will describe separately.

For the Tulip, you will need to cut

  • 8cm x 6cm of red/purple/orange etc felt for the body
  • 8cm x 3.5cm of medium green felt for the leaves
  • 14cm x 3.5cm of red/purple/orange etc felt for the hat

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  1. Cut the felt into the shapes shown above for the leaves and hat petals.

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2. Knot a length of green thread and sew the green leaves onto body using a simple running stitch at the top. Leave a long thread on the needle.

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2.    Use a separate needle and thread to sew the short sides of the body together to form a tube. This can be done with blanket stitch or any preferred joining stitch. Secure thread.

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3.    Place the head inside the body and using the green thread from stage 2, pull the thread tightly to hold the head in place. When you are happy, take the needle through all the layers – neck, body and leaves – several times at different angles to make sure the head stays in place.

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4.   For the hat, place the head on the felt and roll it around the head. There will be two layers. Try to ensure that the petals aren’t right on top each other for the best effect.

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5. Once you have worked out the size of the hat, remove it. Take a thread in a similar colour to the felt and sew the hat together as seen below, going through both layers,  using your preferred joining stitch.

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6. Place the hat back on the head and using the same thread sew through all the layers including the head several times to secure the hat to the head. NB: best to match up the bodyseam with the hat seam.

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7. Place some stuffing wool inside the body so it can stand happily.

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And here you have your proud tulip children

For the bluebell child, cut:

  • 8cm x 6cm of purple felt for the body
  • 8cm x 3.5cm of medium green felt for the leaves
  • 8cm x 3.5cm of purple felt for the hat

 

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  • Follow the instructions for the head and body as shown with the tulip child, cutting the felt out as shown above.
  • For the hat, knot the thread at one end and do a running stitch along the top.

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  • Pull the stitches tight and pull the thread through the top from one side to the other side of the hat a couple of times to make it secure.

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  • Using the same thread, secure the hat to the head by sewing through the hat and the head a few times.  

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And here is the finished product 🙂

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For the Daffodil child, you will need to cut:

  • 8cm x 6cm of yellow felt for the body
  • 8cm x 3.5cm of medium green felt for the leaves
  • 8cmx 3.5cm of yellow/white felt for the daffodil hat
  • 4cm x 1.5cm of yellow/orange felt for the daffodil trumpet

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1.  Follow the instructions for the head and body as shown with the tulip child, cutting the felt out as shown above. There should ideally be six petals.

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2.  For the hat, knot the thread at one end and do a running stitch along the top. Pull a little together but wait to insert the trumpet before closing the gap.

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3.  For the trumpet, sew both short sides together as shown.

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4.  Do a running stitch along the bottom with the same thread and pull it tight and secure.

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5.  Insert the trumpet into the petal part and pull the thread (from stage 2) tight around the trumpet as shown.
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6.  Sew the hat onto the head, by sewing through the hat and head several times at a  pleasing angle.

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I love these bright and cheery daffodil children!

I have grouped the flower children in threes as my husband, who is a Garden Designer has always said three is the magic number for groups of plants. You know I think he is right. 🙂

Of course there are lots of variations on all of these. Daffodils come in all different colours and styles, so I made three different ones to reflect that. Bluebells also come in different shades of purple (and even in pink and white). And tulips of course come in a gorgeous array of colours.

You can add hair to any of these if you like. I prefer them without, but my daughters think they look bald otherwise. Personal preference 🙂

We are thinking of making tiny daisy children and dandelion children for the summer months and perhaps some buttercups 🙂 Let’s see….

Hope this has inspired you to make some more items for your nature table, or just to have a go with a simple craft like this.

I love making time for Nature Table crafts 🙂  

 

Sharing at The Really Crafty Link Party

 

 

 

 

This past week

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We are back in the school routine now, since yesterday. My daughters were fine going back, although I am sure they would much rather be at home playing! We had a lovely week pottering about the house and seeing a few more friends. I try to be very child centred in the holidays and love to spend time with my daughters. I sometimes hear parents complain that the holidays are too long, but I enjoy having my children at home with me and having fun and adventuring together. I feel very fortunate to be a stay-at-home parent and homemaker and to spend this time with my children. There are sacrifices in this life too, but it is a life I choose willingly.

This week:

*   We made these cheese biscuits, which we quite like. I purchased some bunny cutters  before Easter so we could make Easter biscuits and then proceeded to mislay them! 😦 Getting set up for Easter with our two nature table boxes and all the paraphenalia we like to scatter about the place (!),  returning from holiday and an accumulation of paperwork (that always tends to go on the backburner in the holidays), not to mention all the craft materials squirrelled here and there inbetween activities – make it difficult to locate things!  I found them a couple of days after Easter (!) so we finally made shortbread biscuits (albeit parmesan shortbread..)

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*   We finally made some balms using the calendula, chickweek and plantain oils that we created last summer and that have been lurking at the back of the fridge for rather a long time!! I have been promising my daughters we would make the balms  for ages, every time they had a scratch, itch or bite – I really don’t know what took me so long – it is so easy to do!!

I mixed the three oils together as this trio soothe all manner of skin ailments.  I think I will mix comfrey oil into it next time to really cover everything!

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Calendula is a great all round skin soother. It can be used on cuts, mild burns, insect bites and dry, chapped skin, including the lips. It can also help soothe rashes (including nappy rash) and chickenpox scabs, to mention a few.

Plantain (plantago) helps to treat cuts and skin irritations such as nappy rash, sunburn, nettle stings, insect bites and bee stings. It is anti-inflammatory.

Chickweek (stellaria) can be used on cuts, bruises, sores and dry, chapped skin and is also good for rashes (when I was pregnant with my eldest, I had an allotment and the caterpillars there gave everyone an allergic rash. I had it all over my belly and legs and used chickweed ointment to alleviate the itch. Very effective, I found).

We found the recipe in our herb fairies magazine, but something very similar is also in the wonderful resource Medicinal Herbs – a Beginners Guide by Rosemary Gladstar.

Here’s how to make our “triple action” soothing balm:

You will need:

1 cup of herb oil – single oils or a combination of your favourite ones
1/4 cup beeswax
2 Vitamin E gel capsules ( if you have them)

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Measure out a third of a cup of each oil ( or one cup if you are only using one oil).

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Heat gently in a bainmarie (glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water in our case).

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Add a quarter of a cup of grated beeswax.

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Once the beeswax is melted, test the consistency of the balm, by either putting a small amount on a plate and placing it in the freezer for a minute, or put a small amount on a teaspoon and see how it sets.

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If the consistency is as desired then you are ready to decant the liquid. If it is too soft,  add a little more beeswax to make it firmer or if it is too hard, add a little more oil.  Ours is lovely and soft and easy to apply. If you have them, add two Vitamin E capsules. Pierce them with a pin and squeeze them into your cooling liquid.

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Decant the liquid into your containers using a ladle. It will be hot, so make sure they are on the surface where they will cool.

Add the essential oil of your choice or leave it ‘au naturel’. I looked up essential oils for dry skin and rose and geranium seemed popular, so the girls decided on rose. I made one with rose and geranium for my husband and rose and jasmine for me as they are favourite scents of mine.

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It feels like a lovely treat applying it and my daughters, who dislike being doctored by me, can doctor themselves with these soothing balms. They are using it for everything and it is very gentle on their sensitive skins. I have eczema on one of my hands – due to all the washing up, garden duties, hand washing etc and it has already made a difference, so I would highly recommend making your own herbal oils and balms. They cost very little and are a wonderful way to conserve natures medicines. I believe they last up to a year in a cool place. I don’t think they will last so long here!!

And one last step, just because… label your jars beautifully. My motto is:  whatever you do, make it beautiful  🙂

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*   We finally started work in our vegetable garden. As we were away over the Easter break, we didn’t want to start beforehand as it was too dry and there was no one to water the plants in the greenhouse.

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I try to follow the Biodynamic Calendar for our planting and sowing:

On Easter Monday afternoon we sowed our fruiting plant seeds in pots, eg: tomatoes, squash, sweetcorn, courgettes, peas and beans.

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This past Sunday afternoon we put our leafy veg seeds in the beds eg: spinach, chard, celery, salads, leaf herbs, leeks, cabbages etc.

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We will sow our root veg seeds on Friday eg: carrots, parsnips, onion, garlic, potatoes.

I learnt this method from an older chap that I used to talk to at my allotment many years ago, who was a great admirer of Rudolf Steiner’s work and it has stood me in good stead (this was years before I had children and discovered Waldorf education).

We were rather late getting our crops in last year, but everything grew well, so we are hopeful. We certainly grew enough to feed our chickens and guinea pigs and had a glut of tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries and a few other goodies.

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I have covered the sown beds with washed and crushed egg shells (that I have been saving all winter) to try to deter snails and slugs and will be ordering some nematodes soon as too many of our little seedlings were dessimated last year. I have also heard that covering the beds with holly helps ,so i may go out and see what I can find in my local park 🙂 Fingers crossed!

*    I am still working on my purple sweater. It has mainly been knitted on car journeys and whilst watching episodes of Fawlty Towers on Netflix (a politically incorrect but hilarious comedy show about a English hotel, set in the 1970’s). It reaches past my waist now and I only have one skein left to knit up, so hopefully it won’t take too long. I am really enjoying the colour so it keeps me interested!

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Next I need to start thinking about making birthday presents for my youngest who will be eight at the end of May and my eldest has put in a request for short sleeved version of this cardigan designed by the very talented Laura . I would like to make it for her before she goes on her school camp in June.

*    Another little crafting achievement this week is this “Piggywig” my eldest daughter needlefelted for a game 🙂

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I love it. She is thinking of making more to sell at the Christmas Fayre at our school in December.  It is always good to make plans 🙂

What are you enjoying making/creating this week?

Joining Nicole at Crafting On

 

Play Food

Today after school, my daughters declared they wanted to play cafes and before I knew it, I was sat down with a menu in hand, ordering a sandwich, tea and ice cream! 🙂

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We made some play food for our cafe during the summer holidays last year. I meant to share it here at the time, but I didn’t get a moment. But playing with it today reminded me of those lovely crafty mornings and how well used and loved these play foods have been ever since. I didn’t take any photos today as my camera is playing up (eek!) but I found these on my computer and thought I would share them with you – Ah those long summer days….

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We already have wooden play food, but these are mainly vegetables and cakes and my daughters felt that they needed some real ‘cafe-style’ food to make their cafe more authentic (they are getting bigger after all so they need the right props!).  So on one of our ‘making’ days in our summertime rhythm, we pulled out recycled cardboard, coloured paper, scissors and glue and I helped the girls whip up a few sandwiches, pizzas and cheese on toast.Not the healthiest of fare, but this is what the girls thought their customers would like to eat! 🙂

These foods are so easy and cheap to make, I had to share them with you here:

For two sandwiches, you need a 12cmx 12cm square of corrugated cardboard, cut in half diagonally twice to form four triangles (we cut up an old cardboard box).

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Then its entirely up to you to decide what sandwiches you would like to include in your cafe. We used coloured paper to cut out the toppings: the frilly lettuce and cheese need to be cut a little larger than the cardboard so you can see them when the sandwich is closed and the cream coloured paper for the cream cheese needs to be a bit smaller, as you can’t have cream cheese leaking out of your sandwich, can you?! Stick these onto the cardboard and add your choice of filling. We added eggs, tomatoes and cucumbers, stuck on again with glue. For a closed sandwich, just place a plain triangle of card on top. Easy peasy! 

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Pizzas are also a cinch to make. Use the same type of cardboard as it is robust and trace around a small plate for the pizza base. Cut a similar sized piece of red paper to serve as the tomato sauce and glue on top. Then just add all the toppings you love. My daughters only eat olives and mozzarella with the occasional sweetcorn if they are feeling adventurous (!) so our pizzas are quite simple. 

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There was a request for cheese on toast which both my daughters enjoy. For this, you just need to cut a 12cm x 12cm square of card, rounding off the corners a little and cut a slightly smaller piece of yellow paper to go on top as the cheese. Add tomatoes too if you like. Simple! 

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Over the summer holidays, we consumed our fair share of ice cream (a distant memory now…), so my daughters thought it only right that their customers should be able to enjoy ice creams at their cafe too 🙂 So on another “making” morning, we wet felted some balls of ice cream in vanilla, chocolate, mint choc chip, cherry and strawberry colours. 

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To make the ice cream cones, I cut out a circle of thin corrugated card, 28cm in diameter and cut that in half and in half again. I then rolled the quarter circles into cone shapes and glued and stapled them to make them durable. (The staples can be taken out later once the glue has taken a good hold).

These foods are really straightforward to make with bits and pieces we all have lying around the house. A good rainy day activity. It is very satisfying to have a larger menu now. The cook and waitress certainly seem to think so!

 

Sharing at Frontier Dreams KCCO and The Really Crafty Link Party

 

Simple Eight-Pointed Window Star tutorial

As I mentioned here, we started creating simple window stars on our holiday and are just a little bit addicted to making them!

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We have decided to include little rainbow stars in our Thank You cards for Christmas presents, in the hope that they will brighten up our family and friends’ windows as much as they do ours 🙂  (Can’t believe we are so late with our thank you cards this year, but hopefully the window stars will make up for the lateness?)

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I thought I would share a brief tutorial on how to make these very simple stars in the hope that it will help someone to get started with this beautiful craft. There is a luminous, stained glass feel about them that I really appreciate.

Materials:

Kite paper (we used  this paper of  16cm x 16cm squares)

Glue stick

Instructions:

1. Start with a rectangle. Our paper was square shaped, so I cut it into two rectangular pieces.

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2. Fold the paper in half, making sure to press along the crease firmly with your nails.

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3. At the bottom and top, fold both sides in towards the central crease as shown below.

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4. At one end, fold both sides in once again as shown below, to form a kite shape.

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5. Dab a little glue onto the right hand side of your ‘kite’ as shown below.

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6. Stick the next piece along the mid line of the first piece as shown, making sure the points meet at the centre. Continue this seven times.

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7. The last bit is slightly more fiddly. Dab glue on the right hand side of both your final pieces (here they are in blue and green) and slip the right hand side of the (green) piece beneath the first (yellow) piece to complete the star.

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And there you have it. A beautiful addition to any home 🙂

 

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There is a world of window star making out there to discover, but we are happy making these for now.  The stars can be any size you like and we have made large and small ones with the same technique. I have since found out you can make even simpler stars using squares, but these suit us fine. My seven year old can make them unaided.  I found the instructions in the book All Year Round;  a wonderful resource for all things Waldorf and seasonal. 🙂

May  your home be filled with beauty and colour!

 

 

 

 

 

Painting with Jack Frost

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One frosty morning last year, whilst my youngest daughter was still in Kindergarten, the children did some watercolour paintings which they left outside for Jack Frost to embellish. I remember the wonder in the childrens’ eyes at the magic of this moment and I wanted to try to recreate it for my daughters this year.

We have been having our fair share of frost here, but as one can never predict the weather here in the UK, you have to seize the moment when you can! As it was due to continue to be frosty over the weekend,  (-7 C  on Saturday night – Brrr!), I decided to be pro-active and put some watercolour paper in the bath to soak overnight.

The paper needs to be nice and wet through (but not dripping!) and then all you need to do is fill a page with watercolour paint.  My daughters just used blue watercolour paint to fill their paper (as they were impatient to go out and break up the ice on our pond!). Last year my daughter’s class used blue and red.

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And then they took the paper outside for Jack Frost to do his magic. The paper should be removed from the painting board and placed on the ground at this point my daughter informed me.

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I sprayed the paper a little with water – it needs to be wet enough, but not soaking (or ice crystals will form -and then melt again once inside – I speak from experience!) and very soon, the typical feathery patterns started to appear.

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These photos don’t show the art work in all its glory, but I think you get the idea, hopefully. It was so magical and exciting for us all to see the invisible hand of Jack Frost at work. 🙂

I would highly recommend this activity for its simplicity and magic.