Today I would like to introduce you to a wonderful Mum and good friend, Monisha Jensen, to share a little about her own adventures overcoming un-craftiness to find the joy in making simple play things for her two children. Please give her a big Childhood 101 community welcome 🙂
Over the last 8 months, I have been making play things for my girls, Shanthi (2) and Avani (1) and it has been rewarding for both the girls and I on many levels. I have been using felt to make animals and gnomes, and I have dyed pieces of muslin to make our own play cloths. These have all been fun to make, have not been difficult and also haven’t taken much time.
Making things for my girls appeals to me for lots of reasons. Firstly, it satisfies my urge to give them nice things to be enjoyed and played with without having to spend lots of money (and we all know the abundance of beautiful things there are to buy for kids!) I mostly find inspiration by what we have been talking about or reading about in a book. I often tell Shanthi that I am making something for her and ask her what colour she would like me to use. But that said, I’m not really a sewer or a crafty person, nor do I spend a great deal of time on each thing that I make (1-3 hours maximum, and I often actually limit myself to make something during the girls nap time which is usually 2 hours), so I wouldn’t say anything of what I have made is particularly gorgeous or brilliantly made. I think any effort at making something is going to be appreciated by a little person and so far all my attempts have been well received, despite my messy stitching! It’s so nice to I tell Shanthi that I will have something special for her when she wakes up from her nap, or to place it somewhere obvious in the house for her to discover.
Handmade sea creatures on hand dyed muslin.
I don’t always make things with the intention that they will last for years to come. Some of the things I make quickly show their wear but I’d rather have things for the girls that get used and possibly wear out than having to get rid of lots of toys that are simply not played with. Of course, if a toy I make does fall apart, there is always the option of making it again!
The muslin that I dyed gets played with constantly as it is such a versatile object. We dyed a full set of rainbow colours at our playgroup. A blue piece can become a river or a green piece a field and so forth. Shanthi spends a great deal of time wrapping her dolls in the muslin and both the girls love wearing it or hiding under it. We also use different coloured muslin for our seasonal table as a backdrop.
I have been lucky enough to find a Steiner playgroup to attend each week which gives me lots of guidance but it is by no means necessary to be shown or taught by someone else if you just want to make something simple for your kids to play with. I simply trace the outline of the animal or shape I’m making onto felt (you can find lots of simple animal shapes online to copy and trace), sew it together using blanket stitch and then stuff it with wool. You Tube is a fantastic way to see sewing demonstrations and that is what I looked at to learn blanket stitch. Felt can be bought from craft shops or online and you can even buy felting patterns that include all the felt you need for that pattern
Our current seasonal display, with an owl and a mouse which I made. I actually made the owl last week at a felting workshop.
Our seasonal table (a Steiner concept) where animals and figurines/gnomes/people are displayed with things from nature like autumn leaves or gum nuts to represent the season or tell a story. It’s like creating a magical little world. All you need is a little table or shelf somewhere in your house which is slightly out of reach (at the moment we have it placed on top of some drawers in the living area), it’s a great way to allow more precious and more easily breakable things you have made to still be enjoyed by your children.
I like that my girls are playing with things that have been made with love and with them as individuals in mind. It will be wonderful when they are older, as they can participate in the making process. And I am happy to be enjoying this time where everything I make for them is perceived as a wonderful treasure!
Time for a gnome to have a sleep on his muslin bed (notice my messy sewing!)
Here are some links which I have found useful:
- Enchanted Wool
- Wee Folk Art: Felt Gnome Tutorial
- The Magic Onions: Discovering Waldorf – The Nature Table
- Winterwood Toys
- Lit’l Brown Birds Passion – Felt Animal Biscuits