Saturday, October 1, 2011

Waldorf and Wonder

So many of us are initially drawn to Waldorf Education because of the beauty of the materials, the connection to the natural world, and the warm, coziness of the early childhood environment.  We become even more convinced that Waldorf is for us when we imagine our children enveloped in the nurturing environment created by the wool felt, silk playcloths, and wooden toys. 

And though these things are lovely, many of us don’t realize the greatest gifts of Waldorf Education until months or even years after our children have begun the journey.

A long time ago one of my mentors made a comment that has always stuck with me and has guided my teaching ever since. She said, “The one thing you cannot teach a child is how to have a new, original, creative thought that no one has ever had before.” What an idea! How can I really teach children to think for themselves? The moment I open my mouth (let alone teach my students a concept) I am filling them with pre-formed ideas that many people (myself included) have thought about endlessly. 

So I wonder, how important is it that my students have the ability to have new, creative ideas? Maybe they’ll make it just fine in the world without this ability. It doesn’t take long to wrestle with this question. The moment I think about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and other brilliant entrepreneurs I can see that the most successful people in our society are those who think in a creative and inspired way. And then, when I think about the condition of our world and the creativity that our current fast-paced world thrives upon I’m even further convinced that creative thinking is an essential skill.

But what can I do to help children have ideas that no one has ever had before? As I’ve thought about it I’ve realized that the best thing I can do to support the development of this skill is to create fertile ground, cultivate the seeds of thought and establish the form and rhythm that will allow the child’s own imagination to take over.

I have found that this is best done by engaging the child’s imagination with moments of wonder. With wonder, an opening comes that allows for the arrival of true inspiration.

What does that wonder look like? At different ages it takes on different forms.

In early childhood it comes around most often through experiences of the natural world. Very often those moments of wonder are so striking that we remember them even years later. I remember when I was a child watching the raindrops on the car window and having a clear moment of awe and wonder as I tried to determine how the drops chose to move around on the window.

In the grade school years those moments of wonder come about as children connect with the world through their feeling life. Younger children immerse themselves in stories and create the pictures in their imaginations. The story itself provides the opening.

Older children are inspired by observation that leads to thinking. I remember a physics demonstration that I did with my sixth graders. We completely blacked out the windows of our classroom and turned off the light. With a light on a dimmer switch I gradually let the light fill the room while the students observed the changes they saw. They were positively filled with wonder as they observed the shadows change to form and then become full of color. They wondered why that happened and the opening was created. Creating wonder for these older children is a huge passion of mine and it is the main topic of my blog.

As children get older it is thought that inspires this wonder more than anything else and it all comes about through our efforts to have our children experience the world in a completely open way, rather than through fixed concepts.

Wonder is truly the most essential component of the Waldorf curriculum and, in truth, it can arise in the most mundane experiences. The key to having children experience wonder is to fill their lives with rich and varied sensory experiences.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Needle Felted Playscape.

This Tutorial is also available on my blog, The Magic Onions ( on the Needle Felting Page.

To make the green base for these sweet felted landscapes all you'll is need:

* White wool
* a bamboo place mat (or bubble wrap)
* dish detergent
* two packets of green Kool-Aid (or about two tablespoons of green food coloring)

To begin, lay your bamboo place mat down on a flat surface.
Break off hand length pieces of your white wool, about an inch thick.

Place these lengths of white wool on the bamboo mat... two pieces this way... then two pieces on top of the first, the other way, at right angles.

Continue building two this way and two that way until you have placed about 4 layers on top of each other.

Now, roll the mat up with the wool inside.

The wool will all be rolled up inside the mat... don't worry if some is sticking out of the ends.

Pour a little detergent into the middle of the roll.

Pour some warm water into the middle of the roll.

You (or your child) can now roll the mat back and forth on a flat surface.

Soon it'll foam up wonderfully.

Use a little elbow grease, rolling it for about 5 to 10 minutes. Take turns with your child and when you think it is nicely felted inside the mat, let your child unroll it to reveal your wonderfully felted FLAT  piece of wool.

This is Teddy's favorite part of the process... massage the felted wool with your hands so that it felts just a little more. He loves this as the wool is warm and soapy and all wonderfully squishy.

Rinse out all of the soap from your lovely flat piece of felt.

Now for the dyeing process. We use Kool-Aid... it makes your white felt such a wonderful meadow green (food coloring should work just as well)

Empty two packets of green Kool-Aid into a rectangular baking dish.

Teddy loves this part too :-) The Kool-Aide makes volcanos!

Make sure you child is a safe distance away when you pour boiling water in to the Kool-Aid... enough water in which to submerge your wool.

Now, add your white wool felt. Use a spoon to make it sink under the green water.

Leave your wool in the green water and watch your child marvel as the wool sucks up all of the green and turns the water back to clear!

With cold water, rinse your green felt, roll it up in a towel and get your child to stomp on it to dry it. Pop it in the dryer for a few minutes for the final felting and Voila!

You have a beautiful green meadow base for your playscape.

Now, needle felt the trimmings onto the meadow and you and your child will delight in the enchanting playscape you have made together.

I have included a tutorial on how to needle felt a toadstool with this kit. This will give you the basics of needle felting 3D sculptures. Use the same techniques to make as many little goodies to adorn your playscape.Your imagination is the limit :-)

Please have a look at my blog, The Magic Onions, ( I have a page dedicated to needle felting with many wet and needle felting tutorials.

Happy creating,
Blessings and magic,

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tutorial: Needle Felted Pumpkin

I am so excited to share a tutorial on needle felting. You have shown interest in giving it a go and I encourage you to dive right in. Others of you who are hooked will agree, it is such a fun hobby and you'll be amazed at the things you can make. When I picked up my first needle three years ago, I was surprised at how quickly I took to it. One of the things I love most about needle felting is that you can finish a project in one sitting. You can sit down with a basket of wool and be holding a delightful pumpkin in your hands half an hour later. Of course, you can make wonderfully elaborate creations that take hours and hours but you can also make something in twenty minutes too. I like that.

This tutorial (and others like it) is published on my blog, The Magic Onions, in color if you'd rather follow the color, online, directions... (search: needle felted toadstools).

This is a tutorial on how to make a sweet, needle felted pumpkin... a simple and fast project for beginner needle felting.

Equipment - Needle felting requires three tools; wool roving, a felting needle and a protective foam board.

Wool roving looks like cotton candy. When the sheep is sheered, the fleece is washed and dried and then it is 'carded' - brushed so that all the knots and clumps are brushed out and the fibers of the wool all run the same way. It is then dyed... any wonderful color under the sun :-) This roving can then be spun into yarn (for knitting) or it can be felted.

The protective foam board is not absolutely necessary but it is definitely recommended when you are learning to needle felt. The needle is very sharp and if you don't have a board upon which to steady your work, you will find yourself painfully stabbed more than once.

The felting needle is about 3 inches long. As I said before, it is very sharp. The tip of the needle has a number of small barbs and it is these barbs that felt the wool. It works because the outer surface of each fiber of wool has tiny, microscopic scales on it. When the fiber is agitated, the scales hook into one another, forming a tighter and tighter mass. The needle works because the barbs of the needle 'grab' the fibers as you stab it into the wool, depositing the fibers deeper into the wool. The little scales on the fibers lock together, ensuring that the fibers stay in their new place. By stabbing the wool hundreds of times with your needle, you have control over the form of your wool and can shape it as you wish. You can see the barbs if you look closely at the tip of your needle.

Making A Pumpkin:

For the pumpkin, we will start by making an orange ball. Break off a length of orange wool roving about the length of your hand.

Roll it between your hands as you would roll a ball of playdough into a snake.

Roll the wool 'snake' into a tight, fat, spiral. The tighter you can get it, the easier it will be to felt. The fatter your spiral, the rounder your ball will be.

Tip: I find that rolling is key in many of my felting projects... if I can roll the wool tightly to begin with, I can greatly reduce the time my form takes to felt.

When my orange wool has been rolled into a tight, fat, spiral, I set it down on the felting board and stab it with the needle many times around the outside of the spiral. Be slow and deliberate with your stabbing in the beginning, and concentrate, please... it hurts like a shot when you stab yourself... it's not the end of the world, but it is better avoided :-)

You will soon see that this stabbing holds the wool in place and your spiral will not unravel if you let it go.

Now, to clean up the tops of your orange ball and make it round, gently, with your thumb and forefinger,  pull the outside layer of wool a loose, just a little. Fold this pulled layer over the spiraled wool and needle felt it gently. Duplicate with the other 'spiral' end of your ball and needle felting it until it is a smooth round ball.

To make the 'segments' of your pumpkin, we are going to use a needle and thread. Thread your needle with an appropriately colored, strong, thread... I use embroidery thread. Tie a knot in the end of the thread and 'catch' the thread in the base of your pumpkin by using a simple catch stitch (through a little roving at the base of your pumpkin, and through again, catching the roving in the stitch firmly).

Now, holding your 'pumpkin ball' horizontally, pass the needle through the ball from the base of the pumpkin to the top middle of the pumpkin, where the stalk will go.

With your thumb and forefinger, pinch the pumpkin ball tightly and pull the thread tight. Still pinching the ball tightly between your thumb and forefinger, pass the thread over the outside of the ball and then through the ball again, as above. Pull tightly and you will see that the thread on the outside of the pumpkin ball will make a perfect pumpkin indentation around the outside of the ball. Still pinching the ball between you thumb and forefinger, and spacing the next thread 'segment' a little distance apart from the first thread 'segment', repeat, passing the thread around the outside of the ball again and back through the center, pulling tight when it comes out at the stalk end of the pumpkin ball... you will see a that you have made a perfect little pumpkin segment.

Continue making thread segments the whole way around the pumpkin ball, spacing the segments roughly equal distance apart. Voila... your orange ball will now look wonderfully pumpkin like.

When all of your segments are completed, you can either tie a knot in your thread, again using a simple catch stitch in the wool at the base of the pumpkin and trim the thread. Or, if want to hang your pumpkin, pass the thread back through your pumpkin middle again after making your catch thread. make a loop for hanging, pass the thread back through the middle of the pumpkin again, leaving the loop for hanging and tie another catch stitch. Trim the thread short.

All this working with your orange pumpkin ball will have made it quite fuzzy. With your felting needle, clean up the fuzz buy needle felting it gently back into place. Play particular attention to the pumpkin segment indentations, making them lovely clean lines.

Now we will make the green stalk and little leaf and twirly vine. Break of a little piece of green wool about the size of your little finger, about half an inch long. Roll it in your hands as you would a ball of playdough into a snake.

Tightly roll this 'snake' up into a tight, thin, spiral. Still holding onto your small green spiral tightly, place it on the felting board and needle felt it along the outside of the spiral... all around until it is a tight stalk. Leave one end fluffy. Carefully needle felt the other end flat.

To attach the stalk to your pumpkin, needle felt the fluffy end into the orange, indented, top of your pumpkin, trying to avoid the thread that has made the segments.

To make the leaf, take baby-fingernail sized piece of green wool into a small ball. Needle felt it onto your orange pumpkin.

To make the twirly vine, take an even smaller piece of green wool, roll it between the palms of your hands, pulling it longways, until it is a long thread-like length. Needle felt it onto your pumpkin.

Voila! You have made a darling little pumpkin!!

I hope you have enjoyed this needle felting project. You have enough wool in your kit to make three little pumpkins :-)

I have other needle felting kits available in my shop if you wish to try something new... felted pebbles for lovely home decor, felted toadstools, felted balls as well as kits of lovely colored wool for you to make whatever your heart desires. Please visit my shop and look under the Kits section.

Happy felting and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about needle felting.
Blessings and magic,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Returning Home

 Returning Home

The day had turned cooler
The sky was a darker blue
The trees had lost their leaves
Mother wrapped her babe tightly in a green shawl
She knew it was warm and snug
She hurried through the meadow
Eager to get home before night fell
She would be happy when she reached her own hearth

I am always so happy when returning home
Where all is familiar and safe

Love and light  Marie


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Whispers in the Garden

 The sun shone brightly, it's golden rays warmed the young child
Quietly she wandered  into the garden
Soft was her tread

The sound of bird song could be heard
She always carried some breadcrumbs in her pocket
She loved listening to their sweet song
It always filled her with joy

She caught a faint whisper on the breeze
 She knew who was whispering
It was the flower children
 She spied them smelling the flowers

Their perfume filled the air
Oh how she loved the garden 
It was her favorite place to play

Remember to take the time to go quietly out into the garden and be still and quiet
You just might hear whispering

Love and light  Marie