Winter is my time to work on various handwork projects. I love spending time with my family each evening but I always like to have something to keep my hands busy. Here’s some of my favourites.
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The Art & Craft of Handmade Things
Besides cooking (and eating!) delicious soups and stews, one of my favourite winter comforts is creating handmade items. I enjoy sewing, quilting, knitting, embroidery—you name it—any project I can do by hand on my lap while I hang out with my family during the cold winter evenings.
Even if you’ve never threaded a needle or knitted a stitch, I encourage you to give it a try. In this era of endless screens and multitudes of plastics, it’s so enjoyable to put those things aside and create something unique with natural materials.
I made my first Waldorf-style doll in Grade 6 when I started attending a Waldorf school. The fabric is called ‘cotton knit interlock’ and there are many online shops that sell it in a wide range of skin colours.
You can find free patterns online, Waldorf doll patterns on Amazon, and your local library may have them as well. When my daughter was little, I would craft the dolls and she would come up with the homemade outfits like the purple one pictured here.
While I’m highlighting my love of making handmade items, I admit I prefer to piece my quilts on the sewing machine and then do some hand stitching to embellish them. If you’d like to learn to dye fabrics for quilting, see my book Fabric Dyeing 101: Simple Instructions For Beautiful Fabrics here.
Quilting is often presented as a classic, frugal art form, which I always find rather funny. While I agree it can be art (for sure), in this day and age, we often take perfectly good, brand new yards of fabric, cut them into smaller pieces, and then sew them back together in a different arrangement. That’s far from frugal!
Back in the day, fabric scraps were used to form a warm blanket for beds. Now that was frugal and practical art! Either way, quiltmaking is very enjoyable. You can make bed quilts, decorative wall hangings, and smaller items like purses, tea cozies, or iPad covers.
I learned to make quilts many years ago from a how-to book. Today you can join a quilt club or guild, find a book or dvd, or watch how-to videos on YouTube.
Appley Dapply is the name of Beatrix Potter book. This little grey mouse got a lot of play time in our house. It’s quite a feat in this era of Disney and masses of plastic toys to create a handmade toy your kid cherishes.
There are many great Beatrix Potter toy patterns in this out-of-print book, Toys from the Tales of Beatrix Potter. The patterns are appropriate for more advanced sewers. Check your library or used book sellers.
Wool Felt Embroidery
Embroidery has made a huge comeback in recent years. This snowman calendar was made with wool felt, embroidery floss, and beads. It’s the wool felt (not synthetic or acrylic) that makes all the difference. The stuff sold at dollar stores and most fabric stores is synthetic. It’s hard to sew and doesn’t feel very nice to touch. Wool felt is available from online shops (try Waldorf supply shops) and comes in all sorts of gorgeous, natural colours.
Suggested projects include little pouches or purses, iPod and iPad covers, book covers, small felt toys, wall hangings and calendars.
Related: DIY Wool Felt Phone Case
Baa! I made this pattern up based on a photo of a lamb. I stitched together wool felt and then added the fluffy coat with real lamb’s fleece. Baa!
As you can see, the Smiling Dog has been very well loved over the years! When my daughter was little, I worked my way through almost every item in the book Sewing Tiny Toys, and then the sequel Soft Animals A to Z. I like to make realistic-looking stuffed animals, but you can pick whatever appeals to you. There are tons of books and sites with patterns available.
And let’s not leave out knitting. That’s an entire other realm of possibility!
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛