Cedar Ring Mama

Taking My Cues From Mother Earth

Homemade Holiday Gifts for the Waldorf Family

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There is such a sense of purpose and anticipation for me when I finish my list of gifts to make for the holiday season.  Again, I do get carried away here so I’ll try to restrain myself. ;)

When it comes to making gifts for children, nothing that compares, especially if the child saw you collecting the raw materials or secretively working on a bit or piece of it here or there- and can’t wait to see the finished product.  In my house, everyone gathers ’round the kitchen table when I am crafting, oohing and ahhing over the object taking form in mama’s hands, little ones proudly carrying it around for hours after it’s finished.  My daughter took the felted Christmas tree decoration from my last post to the pumpkin patch farm with her!  I think it sends our children such an important message of empowerment, and the importance of being industrious, when we model the value of using our own hands to produce something.  It also combats the “get lots of it quickly and cheaply and dispose of it with little thought” ethos of materialism.

If you were to ask me my opinion of the what has impacted family life most over the years, I would unequivocally answer “The Industrial Revolution”.  I am not anti-technology, but I believe the roots of the feminist backlash against the “Suzie Homemaker” role in the latter half of the 19th century has a lot to do with this: whereas the majority of families were once working together on a family business- be it homestead or shop attached to the house- suddenly, the men exited the home en masse due to the Industrial Revolution.  Over time, the effects of the lost partnership men and women shared by working together and using their complimentary skills to maintain a more autonomous lifestyle within the family’s sphere, instead of outside forces (the boss and his company) as the central focus of a man’s workday life- were sorely felt.  What also came into play was the lack of many young children being able to see and imitate the work the father did all day and participate in growing the family’s “empire”, and feeling the empowerment and purpose of achieving measurable results from their contribution.

Again, I am not anti-technology, but we do need to better figure out where and when it serves us, and when and where it does us a disservice.  The difference I see in family life in the large Amish community is HUGE, and while no community is perfect, I so admire the men who we have hired to help us for odd jobs, who have brought their young wives to work with them sometimes, and are adamant about being home by 5pm and not traveling for work more than a certain amount of miles, in the interest of being home to help run the household each evening and participate in family dinners, chores, and togetherness.  This, in large part, is why I began Cedar Ring Circle.  My hope has been and still is, that over time, as I learn about what Waldorf families need and are looking for, I can create products with local crafters and my local Amish community to support my local economy, the work of Rudolph Steiner, and my family.  We do have a beautiful playstand under construction, and it has been collecting dust in an Amish workshop as I have been so busy I can’t make the trips back and forth with homeschooling and working on the catalog and packing boxes to work out all the fine details.  My husband has promised to help me as he sees how difficult it can be for a mama of 3 little ones to cart everyone to an Amish workshop and talk business- and I am thrilled we will be working on this together, and hope to have many more projects that we can do as a family that support the work of Rudolph Steiner and our family’s ability to be industrious together.  I can’t promise our playstands will be ready for Christmas, but I sure hope they will!

So back to those crafts. ;)

For young children, I love to refer to Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s “Your Are Your Child’s First Teacher”.  I still have an old copy (I hear there is a revised one), and for small children, she lists recommended toys, some of which can certainly be made by mama.  They include small playsilks for over the crib, a crib gym, which, I believe we might substitute with a felt playmat today.  I love the Lily Pond Playmat tutorial featured in Living Crafts summer 2010 issue- and while you’re thinking of felt playmats, do a search on them in google or Pinterest and I promise you’ll be inspired for your older kids, too! I love the wool felt by the yard offered in the current Cedar Ring Circle order as a base for making a playmat with sewn or hot glue-gunned felt pieces, such as a car mat or other themed playmat (although I’d love to needle-felt onto it, too- at least scenery like ponds and bushes!).   Cloth and felt balls of various sizes are great for little ones, too.  In the first year we can also include very simple dolls, made of a washcloth and also suitable to “gum on” during teething.  Here is a great tutorial.

Playsilks are a huge part of Waldorf play from the time they are draped over a newborn’s bassinet to softly filter light in hues of rose and blue, to when your child is playing dress-up and needs a quick cape or blanket for dolly.  They are so easily made by Mama.  Dyeing can be a time consuming process, especially if you source natural plant materials for dye- although I must say it is magical and addicting- and you wil look at the natural world around you with brand new eyes (“hmm, I wonder what color that tree lichen will produce”!).  Koolaid will work wonderfully on silks too, and is much easier to obtain and more reliable in terms of results. Here is an incredible tutorial on dyeing with Koolaid, including a chart of what packet combinations produce what colors.  To hem your silk, try this handsewn rolled hem. I am currently working on hemming a goldenrod dyed silk, a large canopy that can be used to decorate our nature table or as a “canopy” for a fort… my kids love these large silks, and love to curl up on the couch in side of them when in need of comfort, too.  They are great soothing “boo-boo blankets for toddlers.”

As they grow a bit older, homemade tree blocks are a great addition to the playroom, and they are on my list for my two younger ones this year.  I am already scoping out the cherry tree that was too close to our barn and electrical wires, cut down to prevent power outages during hurricane Sandy.  Simple Waldorf dolls (see two of my favorite guides, Making Waldorf Dolls and The Gnome Craft Book) are cherished playthings.  The Gnome Craft book has a very well done guide for making smaller poseable Waldorf dolls, with a wire frame and wool stuffing, including easy to understand diagrams for making the little Waldorf faces with nose bumps and eye indentations, and wool felt clothing patterns.  I can’t wait to get started on one, for my first baby-step in the world of Waldorf doll making!  My sons have been begging me to make them “guys” since they understand we prefer not to buy a plethora of plastic figures and can’t spring for too many of the handmade wooden ones at this point.

Costumes and dress up accessories also offer a variety of gift ideas for children, including older children, and I am loving these felt Magic Wands from Rhythm and Rhyme- great tutorial! I plan to make a special one for my daughter this year. Felt crowns, playsilk capes, and knitted or crocheted chainmail armor for the young knight in your life look like so much fun! I am hoping to finish some “chainmail helmets” for my boys, if not for Christmas, for birthdays perhaps.

My children love peg people, and I love this Santa peg doll tutorial from Wee Folk Art, as well as their Moon and Stars Gnomes with sleeping bags.

There are a plethora of ideas in Toymaking with Children- I really love this book.  I think my favorite is the doll hammock… wouldn’t my daughter love that, and I could hang it from between the playstands in lieu of a cradle that sits on the floor and takes up our small and valuable space! But if there is only one thing I have time to make by hand for her, I think it will be felt food like this. Love the huge variety of patterns here! Wool felt is perfect for these, and I offer it in 27 colors.  It lasts so much longer and wears better than synthetic felts.

For our adult family members and friends, we will make a few Christmas candies (tree bark!) and holiday buntings with a wintry theme like my autumn bunting, as well as make and decorate candles- from walnut-shell floating candles, to rolled ones and beeswax pillars with Stockmar decorating wax designs.  I would also love to craft a few of these Magic Wool Fairies… I’ve already picked out my favorite roving colors to make some!

So, off I go to plan a little girl’s birthday party, after which I will don my elf hat and begin some crafting now that it’s so dreary outside!

5 thoughts on “Homemade Holiday Gifts for the Waldorf Family

  1. I have a six year old daughter, and i have no idea what too make her for Christmas, she loves dinosaurs so i was thinking of sewing up some stuffed ones, what would you suggest?

  2. Hi Becca…

    I am still trying to find the doll forms on the website… I am looking for the ones that have a wooden head, hand feet and block body… and have wire arms and legs… I would like to order asap, ( yes, I should have been sorting this out in Sept)… Could you reply with the exact location of how to find them on the website? TIA

    namaste Sidonie Burton

    ________________________________

    • Hi Sidonie,

      I am not sure what doll forms are. If you are referring to bendy people, they will be available with our holiday toy order that is coming up in two weeks. This order is only for crafting and decorating. I removed everything we are not ordering this time from the catalog to avoid confusion. Are you getting the member newsletter?

      Warmly,

      Becca

  3. Thank You so much. You’ve put some thought into this. I’m going to check these out asap. Thank you. Blessings for a beautiful Martinmas and Advent season.

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