Our family is weird. Well, I think that’s what our friends think, anyway. We do things differently. Our kids watch less TV than most. We don’t have plastic or loud toys. We read an alarming number of stories about fairies and gnomes. Whenever our friends visit, they give me a bemused look when I bring out the hand kites and playsilks. I never push our non-mainstream preferences on other families, though. When we go to birthday parties, I buy toys that I know the kids will like. After all, gift giving is about the recipient, not the giver.
Still, I get so excited about the birthdays of the kids from the few “crunchy” families in our lives. I really love making toys for my kids, and I also like to learn how to make new Waldorf-y items. Happy Hedgehog Post has certainly aided in this goal–I’ve made a peg person and a hand kite, and was able to practice (my truly awful) sewing with the Three Kings star. I wanted to try something new for the birthday of a five-year-old we know, though. I thought about the times she’s visited my house, and she’s always loved the playsilks. I’d been wanting to learn how to dye them, so this was the perfect opportunity!
For my first foray into silk dyeing, I decided to use Kool Aid and gel food coloring. This isn’t the most natural approach, but I wanted vibrant colors and I do all my crafting around midnight after everyone else goes to bed. I didn’t have time to experiment with beets or cabbage! I used this tutorial. I feel like this approach used more vinegar than maybe was strictly necessary. I will definitely use less next time. Also, really make sure to soak your silks in vinegar for at least 30 minutes before you start dyeing. They take on the color much better. I originally only planned on dyeing the bigger silks I had ordered, but then decided to throw in some of the 11 inch handkerchiefs I also had on hand. The silks that soaked longer did much better (the tutorial isn’t to blame here, just my own indecisiveness!). However, I must say that I was most pleased with my orange silk results. I first put the largest silk in the dye, waited a couple of minutes, added a handkerchief, waited a couple more minutes, and added another handkerchief. I did this with two more handkerchiefs. The last silk came out only slightly orange; it’s more of a mottled yellow. I love it!
I also whipped up four batches of play dough using this tutorial, which is my favorite recipe by far. It takes maybe four minutes a batch, the cleanup is ridiculously easy, and the texture of the dough is really pleasant.
Finally, I made a pink and purple wool fairy. The little girl saw a fairy in the playroom the last time she visited, and requested (demanded?) one. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see her carry it around at her birthday party. I wouldn’t typically recommend using a needle felted fairy as a doll, because they do tend to be pretty fragile. I anticipated this issue though, and stuck in a few reinforcement stitches with embroidery thread.
My handmade gifts were very well-received. I know the parents appreciated them. There’s just something about making gifts that shows how special the recipient is to the giver. If you don’t have time, however, it’s still nice to give handmade. You won’t have to worry about duplicate presents this way, and you will also support small businesses.
In honor of handmade gift-giving, three Waldorf artists have agreed to offer discounts to our readers! Kendra makes wool bracelet toys. She originally made them for her daughter and friends, but they proved so popular, she started offering them in her shop. Use the code TAKE10 for a 10% discount.
Anouk makes beautiful horses and burp cloths. She is offering 10% off custom horses and shoulder pads. When you contact her through Facebook, just mention you are a reader (offer expires April 1st).
Ana and her husband make wood blocks, trapezes, and lots of other treasures from harvested wood. Use the code spring15 for a 15% discount.
What is your favorite handmade gift? Please leave ideas and links in the comments!