Children

Summer Mermaid

Ah, summer. Your long days that go so quickly! With kids home from school and temps soaring, we spend more time in the water than on land :)

Summer is for mermaids.

We are slightly obsessed with Fin Fun Mermaid Tails over here :) as anyone who follows my Instagram knows well. My daughter and niece adore becoming mermaids.

The next best thing to being a little mermaid is making a little mermaid. I am super-lucky that my niece spends a few days a week with us in the summertime. We play outisde, go to the river, and craft together. We call it Camp Lenkaland :)

My daughter needed Forest Fairies for an entry in the county fair (more on that later). While my daughter sewed her fairies, my niece made a mermaid.

So sweet :). These mermaids aren't for swimming in real water, of course, but she's already joined my niece's collection of Very Special Things. We can create magic :)

Yes, summer is fleeting. Yet the memories last forever :)

Magic Wands with Yarn

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So simple and so fun for the class today. I collected fallen branches about a foot in length. I brought sandpaper, yarn, and a few beads to class. Students chose the branch that "spoke" to them. They could use sandpaper to smooth rough patches. A few spent ages making their sticks all smooth.

I showed them how to tie a knot around the branch- the short end dives through the loop, wrapping around the long end. I showed them how to hide the short tail by wrapping around it. We discussed layering colors and adding beads. I said they could fingerknit then wrap the knitted chain. They wanted to engage quickly so no one tried that. Another day :)

Their wands went home with them today, all unique and beautiful! Just like the children :)

Making Peg Dolls and More in the Forest

We love peg dolls in the forest. We love being inspired.

Margaret Bloom sure knows how to inspire us! Her first book, Making Peg Dolls, showed us how to create lovely little pegs for our collection. Her new book, Making Peg Dolls and More, shares new fantastic ideas! We couldn't wait to dive into the pages.

My daughter is a mermaid :)

So of course she chose the mermaid project. My son is all into ocean creatures these days. The octopus was just perfect! To complete our ocean adventures, we sewed the dolphin too. I haven't made many felt animals so I was a little nervous. The directions worked fantastic!

The painted pegs were so cute just by themselves! Even cuter with the felt pieces :)

We love how each step of the craft is shown with easy-to-follow illustrations and beautiful photographs. As a mom, I enjoy invitations to create your own vision. My son loves, loves, loves orange. So we made an orange octopus for him.

My daughter decided that her mermaid needed a seashell for a hat. Is that okay, Mom? Of course! The beauty of creating is that you get to make your visions. Take inspiration and grow. Learn. Discover.

Find magic.

Be delighted :)

The fun is just beginning for the little ocean pegs. They are already finding adventures.

Joining Margaret's Bloom celebration for her new book delighted us! We know that lots of wonderful things are going to made from this book. Our fun is just beginning :) Our mermaid, octopus, and dolphin need more friends.

As a gift for all of us, A Child's Dream Come True (which carries our favorite felt) has gifts for anyone ordering Making Peg People and More. This week (until February 14, 2015) you receive a special free mini-bundle of wool felt and 2 Large Wood Peg Dolls! You can also enjoy 10% off Holland Wool Felt Yards + Cuts and 10% off Wood Peg Dolls. Simply enter code: DOLLCRAFTS in your shopping cart to apply and see the discount. They also carry Forest Fairy Crafts :)

Follow the Entire Peg Doll Blog Tour!

February 2nd :: The Crafty Crow
February 3rd :: Clean
February 4th :: Castle in the Air
February 7th :: A Child's Dream
February 9th :: Forest Fairy Crafts
February 10th :: Bella Luna Toys
February 11th :: Ben & Birdy
February 12th :: Twig & Toadstool
February 13th :: Wee Wonderfuls

Enjoy!

Acorn Gnomes

About an hour before class with my youngest kindergarten students, I was inspired. They had a feast later in the day. They would be excited, yet needing to keep busy. They needed an activitiy that would be fun, successful, and simple. Enter the Acorn Gnome.

Easily the easiest gnome ever. And, yes, that's two 'easies' in one sentence :). For this gnome, I gave each student a gnome and colored pencils. We talked about gratitude, and guests at the table, and whether gnomes are real (very heated discussion there). Then they decorate their gnome. They chose their acorn cap. I added glue. Let the gnomes dry a bit. Then I dusted them with a thin coat of gold-glitter paint. Just because everyone loves a little sparkle.

One student opted out of the acorn hat. He didn't want to hide his art under an acorn. Another made Darth Vader. We discussed using our imagination for faces (not needing to draw a face). 

The gnomes became guests at their feast. Super sweet.

Oh, I did bring a little sharpie to write initials on the bottom of gnomes. I changed it quickly to teeny-tiny names because intials were a strange idea (these adults with their strange ideas!).

Supplies

  • Peg dolls
  • Acorns (would be fun to collect with children, but I didn't have the time, I always collect them when I find them (again, adults and their strange ideas)
  • Colored pencils
  • Craft Glue 
  • Sharpie for names
  • Optional glittler paint

Create

Write names when handing out gnomes. Children decorate pegs however they like. Call up children to choose an acorn. Glue acorn caps. Allow to dry during recess. Paint light layer of glitter. Let children enjoy and bring home!

Big thanks to Teacher Holly at the Nevada City School of the Arts for making this class possible :)

Wishing everyone a very happy day. Hoping these gnomes find you with family and plenty to be thankful for!

Photo Credit: Sara Serrata of North Fork Photography

"Leaf" Gratitude

A student named this project. I wanted a way to treasure all the amazing things in our world. We were inspired by the many leaves turning colors and falling this time of year. What if we could sew a leaf where students could collect gratitude inside on slips of paper?

The leaf can become a decoration with a surprise. Students decided they might add gratitudes before Thanksgiving to share on the day. Or they might go around on Thanksgiving and ask everyone to add a gratitude on a little piece of paper to keep inside the leaf. Either way, they discovered these are the perfect way to 'Leaf' a gratitude!

Supplies:

  • Two colors of felt
  • Scissors, needle, and thread
  • Decorations (beads and sequins)

I cut paper with this second/third grade class a lot. I hoped we could make the leap into felt (saving me a ton of prep time). So I brought in rectangles of brown felt. We talked about shapes of leaves and "cutting out" triangles or curves to create a leaf. Students often want to "cut around", twisting the felt and cutting things in half accidentally. We had mixed success. A few needed a second piece of felt, or the leaf was super-small, or not what they expected. We worked through the hiccups.

We talked about decorating one side of the felt. I did show them how to stitch so they could to embroider the veins of the leaves if they wanted. They all looked beautiful in their own way. Students chose the color for the back of the leaf.



At home, I cut the chosen felt bigger than the leaf. I made it roughly similar, but did not meticulously cut the felt to match. This way, if it wiggled, they had room to keep sewing.

For the next class, we talked about sewing up and down (running stitch) and traveling around the edge of the brown leaf like a little caterpillar. "Leave a gap," I said, "So your leaf has a secret compartment for gratitudes." They could add beads and sequins as they travelled around. Each leaf became lovely. We tied loose ends and children promptly planned how they would surprise their family with gratutides in the pocket. A few plan to add it to the Thanksgiving table. A few want to add a loop to hang their leaf. Lots of ideas.

Which is my favorite kind of project. A craft that inspires!

You can see the little gap on this leaf- a space without stiching so you can get inside the leaf.

Hurrah! Wishing you and yours a very thankful season :)

Batty in the Forest

We adore bats!

The bats on We Bloom Here inspired us! We had to bring them to Handwork class. But how? Each week I am challenged to bring an adorable and sweet idea to forty students in first or second grade. Margaret Bloom, the lovely author of Making Peg Dolls and Making Peg Dolls and More (new! yay!) helped me adapt her tutorial for lots and lots of bats.

I thought of using sharpies instead of paint. Which meant a layer of sealant so the sharpie wouldn't 'bleed' into the wood.

"Why not use colored pencils?" she said.

Why not?

So we used colored pencils and black paper instead of felt. I played with the shapes until I made a template that I liked. I traced that shape forty times onto black paper. The kids cut their own wings and ears. They decorated their pegs with rainbows or fangs or both. These are magical bats after all :)

Each student had an envelope where I collected the decorated peg, wings, and head to glue at home. I used tacky glue because I added wire feet. Every bat needs to hang out!

Here was a little mistake, though, for me. I had white floral wire and thought, "this won't be so difficult to color black." Ack! I should have gone to the store and bought black wire to save myself a lot of time. If you are making one or two, coloring the wire was fun. For forty bats, not so much.

At home, I layered out the wings, head, and wire. I added glue and the peg. I let them all dry on the envelopes to return the next day.  

Back of the Bat

Thank you so much for the wonderful idea and tutorial, Margaret! Children loved their bats :)

Even a grumpy tree needs a little bat friend hanging about :)


Enjoy :)

*please note: this post contains affiliate links. Should you decide to purchase a book using these links, a small amount returns to the Forest. Your price remains the same. Thank you!

 

Sew a Book

Once upon a time, books were treasures. They were kept in castles. They were guarded. And only a few very chosen people were allowed to read them. They were valued like gold and jewels. Because each and every book was made by hand. People worked hard to create paper. They lettered each word with ink and a feather. And then they had all these pages. How did they hold the pages together?

They sewed them.

Children found this idea fascinating. We looked in books to see the bindings. Most have modern glues. We did find a few with stitching. 

I shared a few ideas for stitching their own books. They loved becoming authors and illustrators after sewing. I invited them to write about anything they wanted. What freedom! It could be fiction or non-fiction. A field guide to flowers in your yard or to dragons. We saw books about kittens. Books about the seasons. Books about unicorns. And books about flowers. I plan to revisit the idea and make more complex designs throughout the year. A wonderful first sewing project for all ages.

Ages

  • All ages (these were with 5-8 year olds). Older children got into the history of bookmaking. They also dove into the writing and illustrating of their own stories. Younger children enjoyed threading beads and sequins.

Supplies

  • Paper
  • Construction Paper (or watercolor, anything for a cover)
  • Needle and Thread
  • Hole Punch
  • Binder clip
  • Sequins and beads

Preparation

  • I cut the paper (any size works). I cut the construction paper so it could fold around the white paper (double the length of the white paper)
  • I folded the construction paper around the white paper and secured with a binder clip
  • I punched four holes along the folded binding edge. All the papers were now held together with the binderclip, keeping the holes aligned. Aha! moment :)
  • I doubled and knotted thread on the needles (tips about our needle and thread choices are in our book)
  • I tied the thead around the first hole- actually went through and then back up through the loop in the thread. Any knotting will do. The books were ready for sewing!

With Children

  • We talked about history and sewing. We talked about taking our time. I showed how the needle can go back through a hole more than once to create a decorative binding.
  • We talked a lot about not taking the binderclip off until after you sew through the holes. Pages will slip!
  • Children threaded beads and sewed beads and sequins along the way.
  • They discussed what they would write and draw. We talked about books with no pictures and books with no words. They really got to thinking about the process of creating a book.

I tied off threads and they drew and wrote. As long as the threads didn't wrap around the open side of the book, it was all good. They loved their books for many reasons. And wanted to make more! Which is always good. Love inspiration :)

Wishing you happy sewing today!

Please note: This post contains an affiliate link. Should you decide to purchase our book, a small percentage returns to the forest. Your price remains the same. Thank you!

Wishing Heart

Let's begin with a wish. A hope. A dream. Let's made crafts to celebrate our wishes. Because the best wishes are from the heart.

This was my first sewing project of the year with second and third grade students (7-9 years old). Most had used needle and thread before. I wanted a project that would let them explore. A project that let everyone be successful. Whether they wanted one decoration. Or a hundred and one :)


Supplies:

  • Felt (two colors for each heart)
  • Needle and thread (chenille needles and crochet thread)
  • Safety pin 
  • Beads and sequins
  • Slip of pretty paper for name and wish
  • Optional: a third, smaller felt heart to decorate

Age: 6+

Prep: Cut hearts. Secure them together with a safety pin. Double and knot thread on the needle. Sew one stitch at the top hiding the knot between the two hearts. The stitch and the safety pin keep the felt together while children sew.

Children: These hearts are a lovely first sewing activity because almost everything is beautiful (expect for tangles). Children add a bead or sequin to one side of the heart. They push the needle through felt anywhere they like. Big stitches work just fine.

Now the needle and thread is on the other side. Add another sequin, bead, or both.

You can also add the little felt heart. Be careful when going through three layers of felt. It may take a little practice.

Add all of the sequins and beads that make your heart happy.

Helper: Just encourage. Sort out any tangles. Take off the safety pin once the two pieces of felt are secure.

Most design choices will be fine. Long strings of beads. Loops around the outside of the heart. Crisscross stitching. It's all okay. This allows children to experiment with sewing. And have fun! They can stitch around the outside if they like, but it's not needed.

Tie a knot. Move the string to the center for hanging if there is enough string left. If not, add a string. Many children strung beads on their hanging thread to catch the light. If beads go on the hanging thread, be sure to tie a knot around the last bead so they don't slip off.

Children: Write your name and a wish on a pretty slip of paper.

Each class hung their hearts in a special area of the room.

One is lovely. A collection is gorgeous. 

Have fun sewing this week!

For more insights about sewing with children and teaching children how to sew, consider our Forest Fairy Crafts book. It shares our favorite needles and threads along with stitches, troubleshooting, and more. The link is an affiliate link. Should you decide to purchase, a small amount returns to the Forest. Enjoy :)


Wishing Stars

We start a journey with expectations. And children are often told "don't do this," or "don't do that," as they start an adventure (like a new school year). Think of all the rules, the rules, the rules :)

So I like to think of the things we do want for our adventure. What do we want to create? How do we want to feel? What should we bring to this journey?

Children often wish for things. Things like ponies or candy. I want to wish for things we cannot touch. Kindness. Friends. Creativity. Beauty. Hope. Love.

And, every once in awhile, a child cracks my heart wide open with a wish. Like this one.

Something about crafting allows us to feel deeply. To share deeply. Creating a space where we can express ideas that are big and mighty. They connect us. As we sew or bead or knit, we create together. We create  community. 

The stars can be very simple or made fancier.

Optional: Children can watercolor or decorate their own paper. We have painted squares on both sides, then we cut into stars. For time's sake, I watercolored and cut these stars.

Supplies:

  • Stiff paper
  • Needle and thread (I used friendly blunt needles and crochet thread)
  • Beads and sequins
  • Hole punch

Prep:

Watercolor paper on both sides and punched a hole. Double the thread and tie a knot. Go through the hole, then back through the loop in the thread. The thread is now attached to the star and ready for decorating.

Ages: 5-7

For children:

Write name on one side of the star and a wish on the other side. If a wish is hard to choose, add a few beads while thinking. Wishes can take time. Decorating the star is also lovely. Thread sequins and beads. Hang in a sunny place to see the sun shine on your wishing star.

Helper: When tying off, be sure to tie around the last bead, or else they can all slide right off the thread. I loop the needle through the last bead a couple of times to secure all the other beads on the thread.

Enjoy! One class hung them on a branch. Another hung them from the ceiling over their gathering space. All those wishes watching over the children. Beautiful! These inspire a lot of discussion and create a lovely space where children celebrate wishes coming true :)

This wish? To read. May all your wishes come true :)

The First Forest Beasts

The Forest Beasts are here!

We had such fun designing these softies. The kids chose all the shapes and colors. I helped with the sewing machine- especially with the faux fur. That material is hard to sew!

I am inspired to think of easy, early tricks for sewing machine skills. The kids loved seeing their ideas become real life cuddle-monsters :)

These may be the first, but they sure won't be the last beasts :)

 

PS- Ian had a friend visiting. These were just as fun for the boys as the girls. A great boy craft! *Not that I believe certain crafts are for "boys" or "girls". I just see how they respond to different ideas. And the boys (and girls!) loved this one!

Tie Dye Adventures

Tie Dye is timeless.

Seriously. I thought tie dye might be a fun glimpse into my college years. I could share an activity from my youth. I learned that what felt "dated" to me was "all new" to them. And they LOVE it. The process was magic.

And they learned a lot along the way :)

So we started with the Jacquard Funky Groovy Tie Dye Kit. The kit came with directions, dye, rubber bands, and one pair of gloves (which became imortant later). We looked online for inspiration. We learned a few different techniques for using the rubber bands. Anika tried a swirl. Mila wanted a stripes. Ian wanted a bullseye. 

They each had a t-shirt and a white tea towel/flour sack which was thin cotton. The Flour Sack Towels were a surprising hit. They are used as doll and stuffie blankets, dancing scarves, and decorations. We found them on a whim and I'm so glad that we gave them a try. Each child got a shirt and a scarf.

Anika (11) could manage the rubber bands on her own. For Mila (6), I encouraged her to loop the rubber band once, then I cinched each one with a few more loops. Ian (5), pointed to where he wanted the rubber bands and I put them on for him. When they were done, we placed plastic bags in the shade (one for each child). I've dyed before, so I know what happens when projects are close to each other (dye easily puddles and moves to the other project). So we gave each project plenty of room. 

The kit came with red, blue, and yellow. And one pair of gloves. I let Anika wear the gloves. She started with the dye. Then I wanted to have fun, too. We planned to jump in the pool afterwards so using a little without gloves would be fine, right?

Wrong. My hands were dyed for days! My fingernails, especially, looked like monster-hands all yellowed and green. Next time, I will get extra gloves :)

Anika and I used the bottles while Mila and Ian told us where to add the colors.  We were careful not to let the dye puddle underneath the project (keeping each area the chosen color).

After awhile, mixing became fun too!

The colors were so vivid! And the directions had a lot of illustrations, which Anika appreciated. I asked her to read a lot of them to me, so information reading practice, hurrah.

Oh, one idea was to place marbles or bouncy balls inside the fabric before adding the rubber band, thus creating the bulls-eye effect. Fun stuff. We searched Pinterest and found lots of inspiration :)

We had extra dye when the kids finished. And a couple of four sacks. So I decided to dip-dye. I asked the kids to predict what would happen. I found old containers that I wasn't worried about ruining. I draped the towels over a child-chair (that I also wasn't worried about ruining). And we tucked a few inches into the dye. Science! What might happen and why?

By now our workspace was nice and messy. So I made sure that nothing sat in a puddle of unwanted color (brown) and we left everything to sit. This was hard for the kids because they wanted to open their creations right away. I can understand that! Practice patience :)

And by now my hands were a mess! Oh, you can see the fun directions in this image. Perfect for older children.

We let the projects sit. And sit.

The dip dye started its science-magic.

We looked up how water can travel "up". We let everything stay overnight. The next morning, the blue had traveled up half of the towel! I didn't get a photo of that, sorry.

The kids were amazed. Then I wore the gloves (I learned my lesson the hard way) to snip the rubber bands carefully and rinse excess dye. The kids were thrilled by what they had created. Awesome!

I held their projects up for them to admire, then tossed everything to wash and dry (as instructed). Finally, the shirts were ready to wear.

Each one turned out different. Exactly like the kids who made them :)

These child-led crafts are delightful and rewarding for them. Look what can be made! 

I remembered why I wore so much tie-dye in college. It's fun!

Ian loved the activity as much as the girls, so this is definitely fun for boys and girls. The best part is that, every time they wear the shirts, they remind us of happy times. And that never goes out of syle :)

This is not a sponsored post, but the links are affiliate, so if you decide to try your own tie-dye adventure, a small percentage returns to the Forest. Your price remains the same. Thank you!

Happy dying!

The Children's Festival

Another year of magic!

The Children's Festival is a community celebration of childhood and adventure. We dress up as unicorns and kitty-fairies and (this year) Superman :)

Magic can be so simple in childhood! The highlights of the festival include facepainting using watercolors (always check paint for whether it's safe and appropiate (not permanent :)).

Clay and painting a giant cardboard castle and hammering scrap wood to make daggers and swords and little houses.


Children create their own magic! They become vivid characters with a few simple ideas. We are surely lucky to have dedicated volunteers who make these dreams possible.

Oh, and the favorite treat! I almost forgot!

A lemon with a stick of peppermint. You suck the lemon up through the peppermint. The candy becomes a sweet straw. The kids love this treat! We had to go back for second lemons. When life gives you lemons, make easy peppermint lemonade :)

Simple things that make magic for children. I may use a few ideas at our next party :)

The Festival, however, takes magic to another level with the many volunteers who go above and beyond to make an unforgettable adventure!

The bride is guarded by a Troll who demands a stick or rock for toll. The children search for the best items to give him. He has red eyes and a spider on his nose!

And a real fire-breathing dragon!

The entire day is an experience! We can't wait for another journey to the enchanted forest next year!

The entire gallery with lots of photos is here:

Go to The Children's Festival on Facebook for updates about next year's event. Inspiring children (and adults) every year :)

Off to Neverland! Or the Enchanted Forest! Or ... ?

:)

Happy Fourth of July!

Hello fairies!

This week we made fairies to celebrate the Fourth of July. They are so festive and fun!

We were inspired by carnations in the craft store with red, white, and blue petals. We found great supplies with my Christmas collection of pipe cleaners, sequins, and sparkly threads. We realized that pompoms make perfect fireworks :)

So we sewed the design of the Leprechaun Hat with a long top (layered with another color). We tucked the pompom inside. Magic :)

Ian made a boy that had Fireworks Power. The blue thread going down his arm is how he shares his power to make fireworks.

And he wanted an orange face. This boy loves orange (he has a collection of All Things Orange by his bed).

We have a big party today (it's my birthday!) so I better go decorate :)

Enjoy the holiday! Happy Fourth of July! Happy Fairy Crafting!

Peg Doll Swap Fairies

These fairies inspired me! I joined the Peg Doll Swap at We Bloom Here. My partners were the super-talented Maureen from Twig and Toadstool and Jess from Bits and Bobbins/Mosey Handmade. How lucky am I?

Not only did I get to connect with these amazing crafters, they inspired me to make fairies for their families.

Crafting for children is a treat. As a crafty mama, my children often see me create and send treasures to other people. I make sure to set a few aside for them, of course. I saw the swap as an opportunity to give a personalized fairy to the children of crafty-mamas. I asked their favorite colors. I created a little brother/big sister, and little sister/big sister for my new friends. 

The curious thing was that favorite colors were red/pink, and pink/red so the fairies matched in opposite ways :)

The darling deer is our new forest mascot sewn by Margaret Bloom just for us :). We love our deer friend!

The fairies are on their way to homes in Maine and Ontario, Canada. I bet they will go on many adventures with their new friends!

 

Playing with Craft

Children love inspiration. Don't we all?

Making toys inspires children. They delight in the power of their hands and ideas. I recently sewed these lovely baby leprechauns with six year old students. Children sewed all their own sequins, around the fairy baby, and added stuffing. They were delighted with the little toys they made.What a treat, to see that magic through their eyes. Look what we can create!

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Sorry this one is a little blurry- classrooms have tricky lighting for my camera :)

Then the children reminded me the real fun of sewing and crafting. Crafting is inspiration. And the craft is just the beginning. Crafts inspire play. And play inspires storytelling. And learning.

Now that they had little friends, they needed houses. What could build a house?

Blocks of course!

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And some homes need a diving board into a lovely cool pool.

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With a luxury view from the bedroom.

Legos also make awesome homes. With an open door :)

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I encourage students to leave blank faces so they can imagine any expression, but a few insist on adding features. I let go when they have strong feelings towards needing eyes or mouths. After all, if I wanted it to look 'my way', I would make my own :)

I loved her idea to put a ring over the ruffled hat for an even fancier crown.

And finally, dollhouses are wonderful homes. Especially when they come with a pet tiger :)

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Enjoy what you create!

Happy day :)

Many of our crafts are "Keepsake Crafts", meaning they look nice for years and become a treasured memory alongside the sweet sewing. Every now and again, I sew "Process Crafts" with children. These are the crafts to shove in pockets and forget outside after playing in the trees. They are the crafts that are meant for playing. They are a chance to let go. Don't worry overmuch about colors or forever. Let them become a memory. Become part of a story. Have fun crafting and playing :)

P.S.- if you would like detailed directions for making little fairy/gnome friends, check out our Forest Fairy Craft Book. Please note- is an affiliate link. Thank you from the forest should you decide to purchase one! Directions for the little hats are online here. Enjoy!

Sweet Gnome Homes

A few years ago, my daughter made me a precious gift. She asked for a few supplies. Felt scraps. A tiny wood gnome.

She made me this treasure. She designed and sewed everything herself. She was seven years old. 

She had a lot of practice with needles and thread (her mama is Queen of the Fairy Forest after all (her title for me)). But the design and creating of this little gnome is a perfect beginning sewing project.

All you need is felt scraps, needle, thread, a couple decorations, and a wee gnome. This project allows for a lot of trial and error because the felt pieces are small.

She cut the hearts first. They didn't match. She liked that one was bigger than the other. She trimmed them to fit together (mostly). If your child doesn't know where to start with cutting hearts, your child can make a pattern on a piece of paper. Draw a few sketches and pick your favorite. Cut and trace onto felt. Or fold the felt in half and cut just like folding a paper heart (this is a little trickier for little hands).

She could have decorated the hearts with sequins, buttons, or beads. She didn't feel like making it too fancy. I love the simplicity, myself. She sewed them together with straight stitches.

She didn't use a pattern for the gnome. She cut scraps into shapes that she liked and tried them on the peg doll. She sewed the cape with a few stitches. Then she did the same thing for the hat. She folded it in half and sewed it together. She added a flower sequin to the top.

She had sewn before using lots of the ideas in our Forest Fairy Craft Book. If this had been her first sewing project, I would have sat with her and given support as needed.  

What I appreciated about this project was how she was able to plan and test ideas. She found a project- cape and hat, with a little home- where she could try her own patterns. I could have cut the shapes and orgazined the project step by step. But I enjoyed how this gnome gave her a lot of freedom. Yes, I had a pile of teeny-tiny piece of felt at the end. I didn't care.

Visualizing, planning, and creating are all valuable life-skills. A little toy for your efforts is a big bonus!

And it's one of my favorite gifts ever. 

Welcome home, little gnome :)

Child-Made Fairies for Christmas

One of my favorite things about the holidays is making fairies with children. Every student in my class (20 in all) makes a fairy. The boys (and a few girls) are not inspired by fairies, so they make elves. Or angels. Whatever the fairies are called, they bring joy to the season.

Our book was inspired by projects like these fairies. Because families sometimes wonder how their five, six, or seven year old made such treasures. Every little fairy/elf/angel is unique. Reflecting the unique voice of the child.

How does it work?

The directions, with many photographs, are all in our book. What the child makes and what I make depends on time and the child. Some children show great independence and want a lot of creative freedom. Other children enjoy having my attention for each little step. I do have a plan for creating twenty child-made fairies. I am working on a post for sewing fairies with groups of children. For now, though, I want to share my secrets for working with one child at a time. Because I get to make these with family, too.

What the child does:

  • chooses felt and pipe cleaner colors, yarn, sequins, wings
  • sews the decorating felt band on the hat, adds sequins and decorations galore
  • sews up the back of the hat
  • adds beads and bells to the top of the hat
  • winds thread (pants or tunic)
  • chooses petal skirts
  • tries hat on to see how it all looks together

What the adult does:

  • makes the body
  • draws the face
  • cuts the felt
  • threads the needle and ties knots
  • demonstates (models) the first couple of stitches and how to add sequins
  • lets go of expectations :)
  • folds hat in half when decorating is done, sews an anchor stitch at the bottom
  • models sewing up to the top of the hat (one stitch)
  • knots thread for clothing
  • models first steps for winding thread (pants or over-shoulder, under arm)
  • holds wings until they are attached with winding thread
  • clips tiny amount so petal skirts can scoot up the legs
  • glues hair and hat on fairy/elf/angel

Of course, this all changes depending on the age and personality of the child. And it doesn't have to be done on the same day. Take breaks. See the little bits of felt and thread come together to create a magical keepsake. 

One of our favorite things at the recent craft fair was hearing from families whose students left us five or even ten years ago. "We still have our fairies," they said. On the tree or the table or the mantle. 

We still love our fairies :)

Thankful for Nature

Our world is amazing. Whether we live in a forest, or a meadow, or a city, magic is right outside our doors. This time of year, we love talking about gratitude with family, friendships, food. One of my personal favorite actitivies is bringing children outside and asking them, "What do you appreciate here?"

Having things to touch and explore and collect helps children notice the world that can easily be taken for granted. We can walk past trees or building. It's easy to focus on the destination: going to school, to the park, to the store...

This time I just go outside. I invite children to collect one treasure (maybe two). I wander. On purpose.

We look up. 

We look down.

We notice the passing beauty all around. And we ask questions. We become curious. "What are the spiky things on that tree?" "Why do these leaves change colors?"

This appreciation is simple. And lasting. Children share their treasures.

I love photos because I can take a picture, then they can leave nature in the forest (or side of the parking lot, which is where he found this tiny pine cone). 

They are so excited by their discoveries.

We slow down and notice how the air feels. How does the sun feel on our face? The breeze in our hair?

We are so fortunate, to have these gifts around us every day. No small things.

When we finish the walk, we write poems to remember those feelings. Those discoveries.

To remind us. The world is an amazing place. We have so much to be thankful for :)

She found a leaf shaped like a heart.

We also place our treasures in a display. Since we are a class, one or two things from each child create a diverse collection of leaves, acorns, and tiny pine cones (these are returned to nature within a few days). With my family, each child collects a little more.

I have ideas to look for colors as we wander. Appreciate red in our world. Appreciate green :)

Appreciate now :)

Golden
Star thistles
Calm
Awesome and pretty
Birds singing
Crunch crunch
Happy
Everything is beautiful
Tweet tweet
Goodness
Is in autumn

 

I write the poem with them by asking for feelings, not stories. Their individual contributions create a lovely poem :). I usually write the closing sentiment to tie it all together.

So, ideas :)
  • Take a walk
  • Wander
  • Slow down and share the moment (say how it feels)
  • Collect treasures (gently, no living things)
  • Create a display
  • Draw or paint an image of a favorite treasure or scene
  • Write a sentence about the walk or what was discovered
  • Write poems (or a group poem)
  • Put photos, drawing, and/or poems togegther for a fall book

P.S. If you would like to bring a fairy along on your walk, that would be lovely! Give your fairy a tour of our magical world :)

Enjoy autumn :) 

Happy Halloween!

We send lovely Halloween wishes to your part of the forest (even if you have lots of building around you)! 

Asia made these witches with second grade students at the Nevada City School of the Arts (about 7 years old). They were inspired by the felted beads, which became perfect fairy-heads! Students brought them home today and I am sure they will inspire lots of spooky-wonderful-magic!

I fall in love with the little things. For these witches, Asia gave them a little tulle cape. She found darling tiny bats and they hang from each hat. 

I wonder if I could sneak into the second grade class just to make my own :)

We hope that everyone is enjoying a safe and magical Halloween! Enjoy!

The Fairy Road

This little fairy has a big job. His job is to comfort a young girl through a very difficult goodbye. Life is lovely and treasured moments. Life is also sad and lost moments. We want to hold on, especially when letting go breaks our hearts.

We don't always have a choice. And perhaps these little tokens, these handmade fairies, gnomes, and felt stuffies, perhaps they can help our journey. Perhaps they can help our children through the dark patches of forest that comes along with living.

When my children were young, I felt the connection that we all share. I felt that we are bigger than ourselves. We are made of the same stardust. I want my children to know, for always, that I was with them. Even if they are at school or in their own bedroom or away travelling.

I made up this story for my daughter. We tell it again for all separations. Whether it's an overnight adventure, or the loss of a loved one. We use the Fairy Road to share our connection.

I hope this little fairy, and the story, might help a friend's family who is saying the worst goodbye. My heart aches for all of the children and families in stressful, dark circumstances today. I know these tokens cannot erase heartache, but perhaps they might give a little peace. 

The Fairy Road is a story of finding hope. It is a story that brings us together. I am happy to share it. A downloadable, printable version is here

I send so much along with this little fairy. Light and love. And believing :)

The Fairy Road

By Lenka

When my daughter was young, she didn’t want to sleep in her own room. 

I’m too far away, she said. What if I can’t find you?

And I said that I would be in her heart, that she could feel me close even if she couldn’t see me right there. 

She shook her head. No, she said, no. I need to find you.

She challenged me to look beyond the obvious answers. I thought deep and creative and new thoughts. 

Our world is not the only world, I said. Our world is one of many worlds. And those worlds are just as real and true as our world. We visit them in our imaginations and in our dreams. We are more than these hands and feet and faces. We are energy. Pure, light, beautiful energy. And we can travel from world to world. When we close our eyes. When we dream. When we drift into peaceful thoughts...

Between your room and my room is magic. There is a path, a fairy road, covered in sparkles, that connects you and me for always. We don’t need shoes to travel this road. We just need to believe.

Close your eyes and let go. We will find each other. We will be in a place with shimmering lights and tea-cakes and an orchestra playing lovely music. We will dance. We will play. We will be together. 

Can you see?

She snuggled under the covers, not quite sure about my plan. And can I find you for always?

Always.

Our world is not the only world. And we may be far from each other, but we are connected forever. I believe. Being apart is the toughest thing in the world- saying goodbye is heartbreaking. But I know that we go on; we visit with tokens and dreams. We stay even when we are gone. We are together. Forever. Meeting on the Fairy Road.

peace, love, and light,

Lenka