Flower Friends, Waldorf Dolls

Flower kids, wood and felt dolls

 The symbolism of flowers started in ancient times, usually linked to a religion or religious deities. Nature and Flowers were seen as a reflection of the divine in the Renaissance and Victorian times. Due to the social rules of Victorian era, feelings and expressing one’s self were frowned upon, so flowers were given emotional meanings and symbolismand were used to express one’s self in an accepted way. Expression with flowers evolved into a very complex language in Victorian times, the practice spawned books about the subject, for example Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers (1884) and the language of flowers is still practiced today. Flowers became adornments, decorative motifs, girls’ names and special gifts. Today, flowers are present in all the major events in our lives, birth, marriage, holidays, graduation, illness and death. 

rose girl
rose girl detail

 Flowers have been the subject matter for great artistic master pieces like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series and Monet’s Waterlilies and inspiration for great poetry, for example: Wadsworth’s Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and William Blake’s Ah! Sunflower. 

Daisy girl

 Buying and Selling flowers have a world wide market, whole gardens are devoted to flowers, they are used in teas, some are used as spices, hops flowers are used to flavor beer and dandelion flowers are made into wine. 

Morning Glory girl

  Fun Flower Facts: 

  • The rose is the best known symbol of beauty and love.
  • Tulip bulbs can be used in stead of onions for cooking.
  • California is the source for 60% of all U.S.A. grown  fresh cut flowers.
  • The Titan Arum is the world largest and smelliest flower.

  

Buttercup kid

Forest Friends, Waldorf Dolls

Forest Friends, mini wooden/needle felted Waldorf dolls

I started making wooden/felted Waldorf dolls using a wooden base for each doll, a felt “outfit” and needle felted head covering and tail (if applicable). Forest friends seemed like a good place to start since the forest is  a familiar place to many of us and there are so many characters that live in the forest. As a little girl, I lived in a rural area of Indiana; my woodland adventures took place on my grandfather’s farm. As I created these dolls, I imagined all of the characters that fit into the forest group because I like to make groups of things.

Tree kid

My grandfather’s name was Forest and he adored nature. He delighted in sharing magical places with us and showing us the little things that make nature wonderful. My parents, siblings and myself boarded a hay wagon, pulled by a tractor driven by my grandfather; he navigated the forest, pointing out interesting sites like the old log cabin where he was born. I was amazed at the way he found his way through the trees, without a path or road, he knew his way through these forests from growing up in them. We stopped at a slate bed creek, deep in the woods; my grandfather jumped off the tractor and waded into the creek. My brother, sister and I followed him into the water.

Turtle kid
Turtle kid, back view

My grandfather fished out several tiny, brown lizards, he called mud puppies. Being a tom-boy, I loved all the “pets” that he brought to us; I was the proud “parent” of a menagerie of animals and reptiles . I put the mud puppies in a plastic cup and carried them home to my aquarium. Turtles were another favorite gift from my grandfather, my turtles lived in a big sandbox in our yard. On this particular woodsy outing, he continued to search in the creek.

Butterfly kid

My grandfather pulled several pieces of what looked like rectangular rocks out of the creek, he handed my brother, sister and I each a piece. These rocks were pieces of petrified wood, pieces of wood that had been in the water for so long they had turned to stone. We all got back on the wagon and my grandfather continued his nature tour.

Fox kid

Chugging through the woods on our hay wagon and tractor, my grandfather pointed out a huge hornet’s nests in the tree branches above and drove safely around them. We stopped a few times and turned off the noisy tractor to observe the wildlife that wondered by during which time my mother worried that we would get poison ivy standing in the tall grasses. It seemed much later than it really was in the sunfiltered forest, but once we hit the clearing, we realized that it was only midday.

Mushroom kids

We headed through the clearing back into the trees, being careful to close the gates behind us so the cows wouldn’t get out. We drove down a steep hill to the edge of the lake and stopped. My grandfather handed each of us kids a cane fishing pole he’d made for us, we baited our hooks with worms and set out to catch dinner. My dad caught most of the fish on his own pole by casting, once we had enough to eat my dad and I started cleaning and filleting the fish. My mother and grandmother cooked the fish over a campfire.

Rabbit kid

After dinner we swam in the lake and then everyone headed back to the farm house before it got dark. Smelling of lake water and mosquito spray, I tucked away my petrified rock and made sure my mud puppies were o.k. , I laid in the big feather bed listening to the crickets chirp before I fell fast asleep, exhausted from my adventure in the forest.

Rabbit kid, back view

Needle Felted World Map Playscape

world map playscape

Playscapes are toys meant to give the fertile minds of children a place to romp. I thought maybe a playscape could also be a means of learning and a way to make learning more fun. How many times have you copied the map, whited out the names of the countries and oceans and given it back to you child to fill in? My playscape has no names so your child can learn to recognize the shapes of the continents, oceans and seas.

playscape figures: ship, tree, mountain, dune, fish, volcano

I figure you can make a game out of the playscape, play figures and suggested areas for discovery. With the help of an adult or older sibling, two or more can play the game. One player should ask where the Sahara desert is (for example), the other players will place their dune on the area they believe the famous desert to be. If you’re right, you get a point, and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins. The adult or older sibling can help the other players research certain areas of interest on the Internet or on an atlas, further explaining the list of places suggested for discovery. I needle felted the little play figures to help mark the special areas like deserts, dunes, volcanoes, forests, oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, plains, islands and mountains. I made a list of five of the most well known in each category, as a guide for discovery. The little ship sails the world, discovering interesting places.

world map playscape and play figures to make world exploration fun

I haven’t studied geography in years and I really enjoyed the research I did for the location card. Not too long ago, I was in the United States shopping for groceries. I struck up a conversation with the check out clerk and bag boy. They asked me where I lived, I told them Israel. They replied “Israel!, isn’t that like another country?” Let me tell you, there is a need for a game like this!

needle felted world map

I think this could be good cocktail party game for adults too, let’s call it World Traveler. If you find the suggested location, you get to do a shot and the winner is the one who can find their way home at the end of the game! 

The map comes rolled with the playing pieces inside

Needle Felted Gnome Ornaments Tutorial

Needle felted gnome ornaments

  This tutorial shows how to make these simple gnomes for imaginative play or to use as holiday ornaments. With a little variation, you can make Santa Clauses as well!  

   Continue reading “Needle Felted Gnome Ornaments Tutorial”

Needle Felting Gnomes

Needle felted gnome couple

I‘ve become acquainted with gnomes, popular in Waldorf-Steiner education circles and with people who have high esteem for all things natural. The gnome stories (originating in Norway) tell of the good deeds of the benevolent gnomes, the keepers of animals and nature. The folklore of gnomes teach many skills, similar to those of a farmer or pioneer, living off the land, dependent and respectful of the nature around them.  

Needle felted gnome, family man

As I read the book Gnomes by Rien Poortuliet and Wil Huygen, I was amazed at the detail in which life skills were described. The gnome lore talks about so many of the skills that Waldorf-Steiner schools teach their students, skills that are today rather rare in the western world, like basket weaving. I admire that someone wants to teach children artful crafts that no one needs to do anymore, like bake bread or make your own toys out of things you find around the house. Even more so, I’m impressed with the parents who still find these things important and see value in them. You’ll never find a gnome child playing with a Wi or listening to their i-pod, they’ll be playing imaginative games and making their own music on an instrument and their parents will be there with them delighting in the merriment. The beauty of the Waldorf-Steiner methods teach a child how to use their imagination, thus how to think.   

Needle felted Lady Gnome

 The mother gnome takes on a very traditional role in gnome lore, I didn’t see any tiny, pink brief cases or mini designer suits hanging off a hook in the illustrations of their homes. When I was a little girl, my family lived a very gnome-like life, but we were all much taller! Maybe gnomes are so popular with those of us who value doing and making things ourselves because we’ve been bombarded with popular culture, plastic throw way everything, mindless musical lyrics and a sense of ho-hum with the things around us.  

Needle felted belt buckle detail

 I remember a furniture store in Chicago where all the pieces were made by hand by artisans, I often went into that shop just to be around the furniture (I couldn’t afford to buy a candle stick in that shop). I could see the hand crafted details in the furniture, the natural wood was rubbed with bee’s wax that gave it a rich, mat finish. I could see the time and skill and genius that went into making the pieces in that shop and I admired the abilities of the crafts-people. But maybe that’s just me, because I’ve seen many people who will buy what ever is on sale, no matter the piece. I know that in every gnome household, the furniture looks just like the pieces that I admired long ago on Clark street in Chicago.  

The needle felted gnome family

  Today there seems to be a backlash against consumerism and the throw away culture of the western world as seen in the resurgence of handmade crafts (Etsy) and the green movement. I think all generations have nostalgia for the past and admiring the make believe world of gnomes give us the sense that we may be moving back toward something more meaningful and useful in our lives.