Category Archives: Festival crafts

Knitted Chickens and a Rooster

Many years ago I learnt to make knitted chickens during my Waldorf/Steiner teacher training. This is a quick and easy craft idea that can be used as a last-minute gift or an addition for the nature table this time of year. It’s also really great for using up your odds-and-ends yarn ends stash (I know, I just can’t bring myself to throw them out either!)

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The basic pattern is just a knitted square using garter stitch. This project is also perfect for a beginning knitter and does not really require counting or measuring.

I suggest starting with a smaller square – I often cast on 10-20 stitches using size 4-5 needles and corresponding wool in a ‘chicken’ colour. I knit until the piece looks like a square (you can fold the square in half diagonally to get more accuracy, matching length and width) and then cast off. Keep the yarn end long to stitch the chicken up.

I fold the complete square diagonally to make a triangle and use the left over yarn end to stitch up one side to the ‘right angle’ point of the triangle, and then a little more on the next seam. I leave a space through which to stuff the chicken, making sure to get stuffing evenly (not too full) to the ends of the triangle. I then sew the rest of the seam up.

If there is still a yarn end long enough, I guide the needle back through the body to the ‘right angle’ point. I secure it with a knot at that point and then bring the thread through the stuffed body out the back and back down again to the secured point. I secure the yarn again and this creates a dip in the back. I then weave the yarn in and cut it.

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To make the beak and other wobbly bits (they have a proper name right?) I use a crochet hook and another colour of yarn.

To be honest, I’m not a crochet expert, so explanations of my haphazard approach are rather futile – I just crochet until it looks about right. Maybe you are able to glean something from these photos? Sorry if this doesn’t really help…

And just to show what you can do with some embellishments and different coloured yarn, I made a rooster as well this year!

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As a basic guide with the rooster, I gradually changed from grey to green on one corner of a larger knitted square. Once I’d sewn it together (same as the chicken) I crocheted a series of chain loops at the tail end and added a few more flat chains where the wings are for extra colour.

I also found this blog post with more detail and a slightly different approach.

This really is a great last-minute make and a stash-buster. Enjoy making!

Felt Butterflies

Hello Dear Readers,

It really has been years since I last posted and I’ve been feeling the blogging itch recently. I am determined to begin my sharing again!

I had been super busy working at my school in Berlin and so have not had the space to share my creations of the last years; there have been so many creations, so I may from time to time introduce a previous project to you.

Today I would like to share a spring/Easter project I completed just yesterday: a felt, embroidered butterfly. I saw something similar in a children’s nature-toys catalog and had to try make one. Miss K also made one herself! (She can now confidently thread her own needle at 4 years old, which makes my hands more useful for my own projects.)

If you would like to make one, I have included instructions and a pattern below. Happy sewing!

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You will need:

– coloured felt sheets

– coloured thread

– a needle

– pattern (printed and cut out)

Felt Butterfly Pattern

Instructions:

1. Once you have cut out the pieces of felt in the colours you have chosen (4 pieces: 1x big wings, 1x small wings, 2x body) place pieces together and baste-stitch the body together.

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Haphazard blue basting-stitch on yellow body-part.

2. Blanket stitch around the body (you may need to do this on each side respectively around the wing-area).

3. Embroider the wings as desired. I used detached chain stitch to make the antennae as well.

Looking Back at Advent

It feels like a week ago Advent began, yet it is already over. We have really enjoyed all of the little things to do getting ready for this time, the time to honour the child-like, the precious, the innocent and the equal-ness of all people.

We began with an advent calendar that I picked up from a local bookshop here in Berlin. It is really the most sweet thing. The little picture below shows what Miss K called the doctor’s house – as you can see, when we opened the window, there was an advent wreath with four candles burning in it. More on the advent wreath later.

Advent Calendar - Mrs Winter Creates

Advent Calendar – Mrs Winter Creates

Miss K and I made about 5 large sheets of stamped wrapping paper early on in Advent. I carved out some stamps from corks and we used plant-based watercolour paints to do our work.

Home made stamps - Mrs Winter Creates

Home made stamps – Mrs Winter Creates

Home made stamps - Mrs Winter Creates

Home made stamps – Mrs Winter Creates

Home made stamps - Mrs Winter Creates

Home made stamps – Mrs Winter Creates

Home made stamps - Mrs Winter Creates

Home made stamps – Mrs Winter Creates

The paper we used was filling in some boxes we had sent to us, so it was a great upcycle kind of activity.

We also got to work on a very German custom of making cookies and giving them as gifts. The first batch were chocolate, but we also made vanilla, ginger and winter-spice cookies. Our neighbours and the mail-man got a little bag each (wrapped in our home-made paper).

Cookies - Mrs Winter Creates

Cookies – Mrs Winter Creates

I also bought a very simple advent wreath for our table. I set the candles on it by forcing a sewing needle into the bottom end of each and then poking it through the wreath (which has a straw base inside).

Warm light - Mrs Winter Creates

Warm light – Mrs Winter Creates

During my school’s winter market I was able to buy some very beautiful ceramic decorations. I wanted to make some myself but ran out of time, so this was a blessing.

Ceramic Christmas decorations - Mrs Winter Creates

Ceramic Christmas decorations – Mrs Winter Creates

Heart - Mrs Winter Creates

Heart – Mrs Winter Creates

Miss K, who has her birthday in November, took some convincing that the candles were not birthday candles (‘Marmelade in der Schue’ anyone?) and did not need blowing out. In the end she learnt the word ‘candle’ and was able to make the leap.

Smiley season - Mrs Winter Creates

Smiley season – Mrs Winter Creates

In the last few days of Advent, as the little wax figurines of Mary and Joseph came closer toward the Christmas tree, Miss K became really excited that Mary has a baby Jesus in her belly. She was so careful not to touch the figurines. Finally on Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph stood under the tree and a baby Jesus was before them.

We ate our dinner and Miss K and I went to see if we could see the first star in the sky. When we came back there were presents around the tree.

Christmas Tree - Mrs Winter Creates

Christmas Tree – Mrs Winter Creates

These last few weeks have been very special and quiet. Now snow finally lines the streets and we all stay indoors and enjoy the quietude. Wishing you all the best for the new year!

Saint Martin’s Day – lantern walk

There are some lovely traditions and festivals done by most families here in Berlin. One of my favourites is definitely St. Martin’s Day with it’s bonfires, feasts and lantern walks.

Unfortunately, we were a bit too ill to go to the planned St. Martin’s celebration at Miss K’s Kita. I was rather sad that I had to miss this first, reverent, celebration with our community there. I made Miss K a lantern anyway hoping to jump onto someone else’s walk on the Tuesday night.

I made the lantern out of an upturned distilled water bottle with the bottom cut off. We screwed the candle to the lid on the inside and were able to take it out and easily light it. On the outside I had autumn leaves glued between butter paper (I couldn’t find wax paper that you can just iron together – best craft paper ever). I taped some leaves on the join to finish it off, tied it through 4 holes with wool and hooked it onto a purpose made stick I bought.

Mrs Winter Creates - autumn leaf lantern

Mrs Winter Creates – autumn leaf lantern

Mrs Winter Creates - autumn leaf lantern

Mrs Winter Creates – autumn leaf lantern after some use…

On the Monday night we did some practice in our living room. We had sung the lantern song on Sunday just holding leaves (when I had a voice), so I only had to whisper it Monday night to have Miss K singing and walking along.

Mrs Winter Creates - living room walk with lantern

Mrs Winter Creates – living room walk with lantern

Mrs Winter Creates - living room walk with lantern

Mrs Winter Creates – living room walk with lantern

We put a hoop in the middle of the room and piled leaves in it to have as a kind of fire. Actually, usually people congregate to sing around such a fire and do the lantern walk through the neighbourhood in procession.

Mrs Winter Creates - warming her toes by the 'fire'

Mrs Winter Creates – warming her toes by the ‘fire’

There are LED lights you can buy for lanterns to make them safer, but I just love a candle in the right place. So does Miss K of course!

Mrs Winter Creates - having a good look at our candle

Mrs Winter Creates – having a good look at our candle

On Tuesday we organised with another family from the Kita to take a walk around the neighbourhood with our lanterns. There were many other families and some groups doing the same. It’s a lovely mood and the children recognise each other having their lanterns – everyone is doing something together and that feels good.

Mrs Winter Creates - out on our walk

Mrs Winter Creates – out on our walk

I really hope that next year we are well enough to go to our Kita’s celebration to sing and eat and walk, but I am satisfied that we got to do something for this wonderful celebration.

Easter blessings and Polish Easter cake

Today was the day that I had been preparing for. After her nap, Miss K was extatic to find that Nan had come to join us for lunch. After performing her lunch to our guest, I dressed her for the Easter blessing.

Dressed for the Polish Easter blessing - Mrs Winter Creates

Dressed for the Polish Easter blessing – Mrs Winter Creates

My mother had bought Miss K that impressive head-piece to match the dress and necklace and it looked fantastic together. It is traditional Polish dress for girls to wear such flower wreaths in their hair.

Polish Easter costume - Mrs Winter Creates

Polish Easter costume – Mrs Winter Creates

We drove to the church and got there just in time for a very short blessing. If we had been but a few minutes later, we should have missed the whole thing!

After the blessing of the eggs at the Polish church - Mrs Winter Creates

After the blessing of the baskets at the Polish church – Mrs Winter Creates

With the sun beating brightly down, we decided the best place to go afterwards was to a near-by, shady playground, where we enjoyed pączki and bits and pieces from my Easter basket (a bit of a no-no as we should have been continuing our fast for Lent), including a piece of the Easter cake I made.

I didn’t make a plain pound cake, I wanted to add apple, pecans and spices to it for taste. Here is my recipe…

Ingredients:

200g self-raising flour
150g of soft butter
150g of sugar (I used coconut sugar)
3 eggs
2 apples
1tsp of cinnamon
1tsp of gingerbread spices
a handfull of pecan nuts
some water or rice milk to create the right consistency
butter

Polish Easter cake - Mrs Winter Creates

Polish Easter cake – Mrs Winter Creates

1. Preheat the oven to 200°c (392°f) 

2. In one bowl, mix together flour and spices. In a second bowl, cream sugar and butter and then add eggs; mix well.

3. Rub the dry ingredients thoroughly into the wet mixture.

4. Add the pecan nuts and mix through evenly. Vigorously mix in water or rice milk until the mixture is sticky, such that it droops on a spoon and falls back into the bowl.

5. Butter a bundt-cake tin and put the mixture in. Thinly slice the apples and press the slices into the top of the mixture.

6. Cook for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

 

Happy Easter!

Easter basket on retreat

Last weekend Miss K and I went on a weaving retreat South-West of Perth near a town called Dwellingup. The land there is thick with native forest and a river courses through it in a meandering fashion, splitting for a rocky island here or becoming the perfect wading pond there. The water is low after a hot summer and a continuously warm autumn. Our group of children under five and their respective parents found this to be perfect for water-play needs, especially at a spot called Nanga Mill – where the crystal-clear rivulet weaves in and out of rocks, on top of pebbles and lusciously squishy clay beds nestled with stunted tress and reeds that hang over and make it feel like a fairy glen. I did not have my camera so I guess, dear reader, that you will have to visit this wonder for yourself.

Needless to say that with all this natural beauty to explore, I did little weaving during the day. I did, however, get the chance to begin an Easter basket on night.

The beginnings of my Easter basket - Mrs Winter Creates

The beginnings of my Easter basket – Mrs Winter Creates

A few days now after our return I have finished the basket. I ran out of the dried Watsonia leaves I collected at Nanga Mill (it is a very persistent weed unfortunately, but wonderfully suited to weaving once soaked a little), so I had to finish with some dried leaves I found lying about the garden.

Self-made Easter basket - Mrs Winter Creates

Self-made Easter basket – Mrs Winter Creates

I wasn’t entirely sure about my embellishments. I used the dried parts of a King Protea (the one from the photos from this post)…

King Protea embellishments on the Easter basket - Mrs Winter Creates

King Protea embellishments on the Easter basket – Mrs Winter Creates

…and a cotton rope plaited as a handle.

Plaited rope basket handle - Mrs Winter Creates

Plaited rope basket handle – Mrs Winter Creates

I attached to handle to the side carefully, though only one side looks well. That is this one:

Grass and rope basket - Mrs Winter Creates

Grass and rope basket – Mrs Winter Creates

The dried parts of the Protea I also used as a dye-stuff for a silk scarf I thought might do as the basket liner, though it may prove too bulky.

Silk scarf dyed with King Protea parts - Mrs Winter Creates

Silk scarf dyed with King Protea parts – Mrs Winter Creates

The colour of the scarf includes lovely earthy pink tones to, though this isn’t so apparent in the photos.

I’m looking forward to having the basket full with all the necessary ingredients for the blessing on Saturday. I will write about what is included in a traditional Polish basket in a later post (I find myself writing this a lot lately).

If you would like to make your own Easter basket, it doesn’t take too long and you could use my tutorial here to get started.

 

Onion dying Easter eggs

The last week before Easter is upon us.

This weekend just gone we were on a weaving retreat in the beautiful bush and river-land South-East of Perth. Miss K seems to have blossomed from that short reverie; I look forward to sharing more about it very soon.

The day we left for the retreat, I was busily getting ready and dying Easter eggs. I had emptied the eggs and used some to make blueberry pancakes, a staple of our toddler’s diet. I arranged all of my ingredients outside to photograph. I went inside to clean up, I heard some strange sort of cracking sound like loud rain, Miss K squealed with delight. I hurried outside and found this:

Broken eggshells - Mrs Winter Creates

Broken eggshells – Mrs Winter Creates

A gust of wind had descended into the courtyard and blown the eggs from the table. Miss K was happy as she now had a new ingredient for her outside kitchen. Luckily, I had a few complete eggs left. I will use the more complete broken ones for something sweet. I’ll tell you more about that in another post soon as I want to just focus on how to dye eggs with brown onion skins today.

Cold dyed Easter egg with wax relief - Mrs Winter Creates

Cold dyed Easter egg with wax relief – Mrs Winter Creates

The colour you can get with onion skins is so deep and brilliant.

Scratched Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Scratched Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

As a child I was captivated by how such a simple, usually unwanted casting of everyday cooking could do something so beautiful. I remember watching my mother fill a tall, wide pot with water and onion skins. The house smelt heavy as it boiled, but not unpleasant. We would do this the day before Easter Saturday and use whole, fresh eggs that would boil in the dye bath. We did not blow the eggs. After they were dyed their deep earthy red, we would take out sharp sewing needles and scratch pictures of flowers, leaves, hares and chickens onto their surface. These eggs would be eaten the next day after being blessed. One was chosen as the egg used to give blessing to all who sat around the feast table after the blessing. Every person who was at the luncheon would eat a small part of this one egg.

I will also be dyeing eggs the night before Easter Saturday, but I wanted many more as decoration that could last a lot longer, so my method is different. A full egg is also a lot easier to scratch than a blown egg, so you may also like to try with full eggs.

Scratched Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Scratched Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

I also would like to give you some instructions on how to make wax relief designs on eggs in a cold dye bath. You can get highly contrasted images using this technique.

Cold dyed Easter egg with wax relief - Mrs Winter

Cold dyed Easter egg with wax relief – Mrs Winter

You will need:

A tall pot
12 blown eggs – You may like to use full eggs for the hot dye bath
3 or 4 handfulls of brown onion skins
One sharp sewing needle
One long sewing needle (such as a thin wool needle)
A wax candle and matches
String for presentation

It can also be useful to have one of those medicine syringes around to fill blown eggs with water.

Easter egg dying - Mrs Winter Creates

Easter egg dying – Mrs Winter Creates

Hot dye bath method:

1. Fill your tall pot with as much water as easily accommodates all of the onion peel. I usually fill it three quarters full.

2. Place half your eggs into the water carefully. If your eggs are blown, fill them with water. It can be helpful to use a syringe or make the holes on both sides a little larger and hold them under the water in the pot.

3. Bring this to the boil and let it simmer. Take your eggs out when you are happy with their colour. Do not discard the dye bath, let it cool and stand it aside for the cold dye bath which I will explain shortly.

4. Once your boiled eggs are cool you can scratch designs onto them using a sharp needle. The best way to do this is to make many lighter scratches. If you press too firmly you will break the egg. On this one I scratched blackberries:

Scratched Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Scratched Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

Now for the wax relief and cold-dye bath…

5. Light your candle and let it burn until you have a little pool of wax and surrounding wax has softened. Using eye of the long, thin wool needle, pick up some of the softened wax and hold it momentarily in the flame of the candle until it has become very liquid. Use this immediately to make marks on your remaining, undyed eggs. It seems to be a matter of practise and there are a few different methods for making the marks.

6. Once your onion dye bath is cold (perhaps it is best to wait at least a few hours), fill your waxed eggs with water and place them gently into the dye bath.

7. Leave them there for a number of hours or over night. Take them out and let them dry. You can blow out any excess water.

8. Run boiling hot water over them and rub them with a clean, soft cloth to get the wax off and make them shiny.

Wax relief Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Wax relief Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

Miss K loved the eggs.

Miss K with a dyed Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Miss K with a dyed Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

She blew them many kisses and was so amorous that one caved to the violence of her affections.

Miss K showed her affection a bit too much for this one - Mrs Winter Creates

Miss K showed her affection a bit too much for this one – Mrs Winter Creates

Inside it was marbled and beautiful.

I hope you also have much luck with your Easter eggs. Please ask me any questions you have and share your work with us if you like!