Tutorial: Needle Felted Wool Sachet or Ornament

Crunchy Parent Tutorial Needle Felted Sachets and Ornaments

I told you all that I was felt like I had come up a bit short in the crunchy department when it came to the kids school valentines this year. I thought that it might be nice to do a more natural Valentine’s Day-related craft with the kids on the actual holiday since we had the luxury of having Valentine’s Day fall on the weekend. Alina is especially drawn to doing handcrafts and Asher has become more excited by them over the past year. Eva was spending Valentine’s Day at a friend’s house so I pulled together a basket of wool batting and the younger kids and I needle felted some fragrant sachets together.

Alina, age 9, has been needle felting for a number of years, but this was Asher’s first time wielding a felting needle at not quite six years old. Felting needles are sharp and hurt if you end up getting poked. I supervised him closely on this project, and tried to teach him some of the basic needle felting safety rules. It is clear to see in the video that Asher was very proud of his developing skill and is excited about future felting projects. He did need help to complete this task, but he was able to participate in a lot of the work.

Alina was more independent in her craft, but she asked me to do most of the embellishing for her. As bad luck would have it, our whole family came down with the norovirus within hours of shooting this video, with Alina leading the pack. I think that she was starting to get worn out, which is why she handed the embellishment job over to me. Under different circumstances, I might have set the sachet aside for her to finish on another day, but she really wanted it to be part of the finished pictures for the tutorial.

It is often suggested in Waldorf circles that it is best for young children (especially prior to age seven) to avoid work on needle felting human or animal figures. There can be something disturbing about repeatedly jabbing a needle into something that looks like a person or animal. This project is a great one for new felters, young and old, because it works mostly in two dimensions and in a confined area. The cookie cutter creates structure for the project, and the whole thing comes together quickly.

For the project you will need:
wool roving or batting (colored or natural)
felting needle
felting pad
cookie cutter(s) in desired shape(s)
optional embellishments such as wool yarn, prefelt scraps, curly wool locks, etc.

The supplies can be gathered from many retail sources online and through craft sites such as etsy.com or ebay.com. You may also be lucky enough to have fiber shops or a Waldorf school local to you who may carry supplies. I purchased my felting needles and some of my colored batting through Peace Fleece. I also love shopping at Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio, which was my local fiber shop prior to our move. For those who are not local to them, they do sell products online and through Etsy as well.

I have even noticed that chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you wish to go that route. If you are a fan of one-stop, click and receive shopping, Amazon has a large selection of wool fiber for felting in endless colors as well as felting needles and multi-needle felting tools and accessories.

As I also mention in the video, I have purchased upholstery foam from Joann Fabrics to use as a felting pad. It is cut and sold by desired length and if you plan ahead, you can bring one of the ubiquitous 40% off Joanne coupons with you to increase your savings.

The video will give you a good overview of how the project comes together, but I wanted to give a closer look at some of the steps.

I showed several types of cookie cutters in the video. Admittedly, a cutter that is open at the top without any bar or handle is easiest to use for this project, but I showed my process using a less open cutter here. In all cases, you want to begin by stacking several thin layers of wool in the cutter, alternating the direction in which you place the wool (horizontally and vertically). Try your best to keep the wool inside the cookie cutter. It’s okay if some of the wool climbs up the edges a bit; it will get felted down in the process. Because I was working with a more involved design shape here, and with a low-profile cutter with a bar, my wool extended outside the cookie cutter (oops). Not a big deal, it will get fixed later; felting is a very forgiving process.

Poke around the shape in the cookie cutter.

Poke around the shape in the cookie cutter.

1. Poke around the inside of the cookie cutter, forming the shape of the cutter. I rotated the flower cutter here to get better access to my work area. Once again, don’t worry too much about the wool that may have extend outside of the cutter. We’ll fix it in a moment.

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2. Lifting up the cookie cutter, you can see the flower shape roughed out on the foam mat. The loose wool that is extending beyond the felted petals can now be folded in and felted to the flower without the cookie cutter getting in the way. For open cutters like Asher and Alina used in the video, there won’t be much overhang, so they pretty much skipped this step. Once I moved the cookie cutter out of the way, I could also felt down that pouffy center section.

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3. The flower shape is clear now, but some of the curves lack definition.

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4. Carefully using the needle parallel to the foam mat, you can work to define the shape.

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5. Add your fragrant filler (dried flower petals, aromatic herbs, etc.). Repeat steps 1-4 to create a second shape using the same color wool or a contrasting color if you prefer.

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6. Make a sandwich using your two wool layers and your aromatics. Note that you can see some thinner spots on my top flower here. That’s not a problem, more wool can be added as needed throughout the process. Felt around the edges of the “sandwich” to join the front and back securely. Take care felting around the center of the piece to avoid hitting the aromatics in the center. Hard ones like the star anise that I used could cause your needle to break if jabbed too forcefully.

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Once your front and back pieces have been fairly well joined together, you may find it easier to stand your sachet on its side to firmly felt all around the perimeter. I demonstrate that here with Alina’s pink sachet. Of course, you would want to use two hands when doing this, but taking photos calls for some one-handed maneuvers.

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7. Add your embellishments. I used different-colored wool here to create the flower design. On Asher’s and Alina’s sachets, they both chose to make a second smaller object using a mini cookie cutter, and we also used wool and wool yarn to create designs. Wool yarn can be felted to the sachet with the needle just as you would do with the wool fiber.

Finished sachets

Finished sachets

The project can be easily modified to make holiday ornaments, seasonal window hangings, felted play food, pins, hair clips, and more. If the sachet loses its scent over time or just needs a punch of fragrance, you can add a couple of drops of essential oil to the back of the sachet. If you do this, you may wish to take care about where you place the sachet to avoid transfer of the essential oil to clothing or surfaces.

I hope that you enjoyed the tutorial and look forward to sharing more wool and natural crafting with you. What are some of your felting crafts to do with children? What natural crafting tutorials would you like to see?

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The Halloween Fairy Talks: 50+ Ideas for Non-Edible Halloween Treats and Gifts

Photo credit: anathea / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: anathea / Foter / CC BY

As I mentioned earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to secure an exclusive interview with the Halloween Fairy. For those unfamiliar with her, the Halloween Fairy works in cooperation with volunteer children to collect candy on Halloween and deliver it to kids who were unable to participate in Trick or Treating. Volunteer children leave some or all of their candy for the Fairy on Halloween night. In the morning the kids can find what the Halloween Fairy has left them; often a mix of small gifts and different candies, better suited for the volunteer child.

With our combination of food allergies and sensitivities, as well as a penchant for preferring more natural candies than those typically offered on Halloween, our kids are perfect candidates for Halloween Fairy volunteers. We have been exchanging with the Halloween Fairy since Eva was in preschool. Recently, I wrote about some of the Halloween Fairy’s favorite resources for finding natural, GMO-free, food-allergy sensitive, and other “healthier” treats for her Halloween exchanges. I also wanted to take time to share some of the Halloween Fairy’s suggestions for non-edible treats that the she has left for our kids and for other children to discover after Halloween.

There are 50+ suggestions below that are often a good fit for a lot of kids. The Halloween Fairy tends to emphasize items that will help the children transition into fall and winter and to appreciate nature and the changes that they see around them at this time of year. She usually brings each child a few small gifts to enjoy. Some links have been provided as examples. They are not meant to be endorsements, and neither the Halloween Fairy nor I are affiliated with any of the vendors linked. In fact, the Halloween Fairy often crafts items herself when she can.


cheekycrows3 / Foter / CC BY-ND

1. Colored chalk
2. Colored pencils or Halloween-themed pencils
3. Crayons (a few new fall colors, perhaps)
4. Crayon roll or Stand
5. Coloring book
6. “Sticks” of modeling beeswax in fall shades (sometimes Waldorf school stores will sell individual sticks)
7. Watercolor paper and paints
8. Small tubs of natural craft “dough” (can be scented with essential oils if homemade)
9. Journal
10. Small vehicles such as die-cast or wood cars, trucks, or trains
11. Bracelet
12. Necklace
13. Barrettes
14. Playsilk or silk handkerchief in an autumn color
15. Wooden figure such as a squirrel or owl
16. Peg dolls, especially fun in “costumes” or other autumn themes
17. Autumn fairies or gnomes
18. Toy pumpkins: knitted, felted, or wood
19. Felting kit
20. Wool ball with an autumn theme (tutorial)
21. Playfood-knitted and wood examples
22. A little pocket friend (e.g., mouse, dragon baby, mole)
23. Silk streamer
24. Ribbon rings/hand kite
25. Jacob’s ladder
26. Wood brain teaser puzzles
27. Finger puppets
28. Bean bags
29. Kazoo
30. Whistle
31. Yo-yo
32. Wool acorns (tutorial)
33. Natural treasures (acorns, stones, pine cones, sea glass, pods, seeds, etc.)
34. Day pass to a children’s museum, zoo, arboretum, botanic garden, etc.
35. Ticket to a local children’s theater performance
36. Ticket to a movie
37. Age-appropriate book with an autumn or Halloween theme
38. Stickers, maybe Halloween or autumn-themed
39. Fancy bandages
40. Fun or fancy toothbrush
41. Non-toxic nail polish
42. All-natural lip balm
43. Travel size natural hand lotion
44. Travel size natural bath products in yummy fall scent
45. Cute knit wool hat
46. Adorable mittens or these
47. Scarf
48. Suncatcher
49. Dreamcatcher
50. Flower press or leaf press
51. Herbal tea (technically edible, but great for fall and certainly not candy)

The Halloween Fairy and I hope that these ideas will inspire a happier Halloween for your child should he or she choose to partner with the Halloween Fairy this year. Has the Halloween Fairy blessed your child with a special gift or treat that was especially appreciated?

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The Halloween Fairy: Bringing Balance and Food Allergy Safety to Our Holiday

Photo credit: tinyfroglet / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: tinyfroglet / Foter / CC BY

I have very fond memories of Halloween from my childhood. There was just something so exciting about going around the neighborhood dressed up as a magical character of some sort. I loved seeing all of the other costumed children running through the streets, excited to receive delightful treats at every house. I remember my sister’s utter despair one year when she could not come with us because she had chicken pox on Halloween. I carried a sign and collected candy on her behalf so that she would not be left out of all of the fun (and since she had caught the chicken pox from me, it seemed to be the least that I could do).

My siblings and I would end each Halloween night sorting through our bags of goodies and counting up the pennies that we had collected in our UNICEF boxes. After enjoying a few sweet treats, and participating in some intense candy-trade negotiations, our bags of candy were stored on top of the refrigerator where we could not easily reach them. A piece or two of candy would be dispensed to us each day to enjoy, unless of course we pulled a kitchen chair over to the fridge when our parents weren’t looking. Then it was all “Lord of the Flies” as we stuffed candy into our mouths and pockets. Eventually, the favorites from our bags were all gone (mom and dad may have helped, but I have no official confirmation of this). The less desired candies languished at the bottom of the bag, growing stale. Ultimately they were abandoned and thrown in the trash.

The reality is, a lot of the excitement of Halloween for many children is the sheer kid-anarchy of it all; you wear fantasy clothes outside, approach unknown houses, and come away from the night with as much candy as you can carry. It’s madness, I tell you. The feeling of abundance and wildly increased access to candy are often part of the magic of the holiday. In truth, it’s more than children need to make special Halloween memories. Having a large enough haul to be eating candy bars every day for weeks on end seems like an unnecessarily long, sugar-fueled, holiday celebration.

Like many parents, when I had children I looked forward to sharing experiences with them that would create memories like the fond ones from my childhood. When I had my first baby, Halloween took on a refreshed sense of fun. I loved dressing Eva up for her first Halloween, creating a costume from clothes and objects from around the house like we used to do as kids (she was a basketball player). Candy was unnecessary, and I wouldn’t have fed it to her anyway. For her first few Halloweens, candy and going Trick-or-Treating really played little part in the holiday for us; it was about the pumpkin patch, carving Jack-o-Lanterns, roasting pumpkin seeds, and dressing up. Eva also really enjoyed greeting other children who came to the door, and handing out candy to them. It was like an endless play date of generosity.

Somewhere around Eva’s third Halloween, the idea of going Trick-or-Treating with a friend from the Waldorf school was presented and planned. One day in the parent-child class at school, the adults were doing handwork and chatting about autumn festivities while the children played. The teacher overheard our Halloween discussion and asked us if our homes had ever been visited by the Halloween Fairy. This was a new idea to me, so I was all ears. The teacher went on to explain that the Halloween Fairy provides a service for children who have not been able to go Trick-or-Treating for some reason or other, perhaps because their sister gave them a communicable illness. She visits homes on the night of Halloween, gathering candy that has been left for these children by generous Trick-or-Treaters. In exchange for the candy, she leaves a gift or gifts for the children who shared with her.

I thought that this was brilliant! Eva could participate in Trick-or-Treating, but we would not be negotiating candy distribution and consumption all through winter. The practice would also reinforce the idea of “enough” versus excess, quality over quantity; in addition to the concept of sharing good fortune with others. We talked with Eva about the Halloween Fairy, and left the fairy a note to let her know that we were happy to share with her that year.


sdixclifford / Foter / CC BY

That year and every year since, we have had a new ritual for our post Trick-or-Treating rounds. The kids dump, sort, and marvel over their candy stash. They then select 5-10 pieces of candy to keep and enjoy. The rest of the candy we leave out in the children’s collection buckets for the Halloween Fairy. In the morning, the kids are thrilled to find what has been left for them, and the trading and negotiations among siblings commences, just as it did when I was a kid.

Over the years we have been fortunate enough to have been visited by the Halloween Fairy many times. She even followed us to another state when we had an event on Halloween and our kids were the ones who could not go Trick-or-Treating. There was far less protesting and panic when they remembered that the Halloween Fairy wouldn’t leave them out of the holiday. Other children would collect and share on their behalf, just as they had done in past years. Likewise, if Trick-or-Treating is ever cut short by bad weather, scheduling challenges, tired siblings, or whatnot, there is less pressure to make it to a certain number of houses to get “enough” candy. The kids know that whether they collect ten pieces of candy or one hundred, they will have the same amount of candy to enjoy by the next morning.

The Halloween Fairy respects the choices that we make to generally avoid ingredients like artificial flavors and food dyes. She has always left the children with fun, but healthier candies and snacks. When we discovered that the children had various food allergies and sensitivities, the Halloween Fairy adjusted her gifts to include candies that were safe for our kids and all of their dietary needs. They were beyond thrilled to get special treats that they looked forward to every year (I’m talking to you gluten free, vegan, non-GMO Milky Way bar). Long before The Teal Pumpkin Project and Halloween food allergy awareness was “a thing”, it made receiving Trick-or-Treating candy on Halloween that they could not eat less frustrating. They knew that the Halloween Fairy would bring that candy to another child who could eat it, and they would get allergy-safe candies in exchange.

I have been pleased to see that each year the Halloween Fairy has left the children a combination of sweets and candy alternatives such as small gifts. I’m excited that the children get to experience a part of the magical abundance of the holiday. I like to think however that when moderation is the norm, this occasional abundance is more memorable, and doesn’t require an “anything goes” quality to feel really special. They can relate to peers who are telling captivating stories about their Trick-o-Treating spoils and snacking on their booty, but they are not in an endless sugar coma for the month of November, or ingesting foods that make them feel sick. They also have lasting, useful items that help them remember the fun of Halloween and the magic of the Halloween Fairy long after all of the candy wrappers have been thrown away.

I am excited to announce that I was able to secure an exclusive interview with the Halloween Fairy. She shared her secret resources for the best places to find healthier and food allergy-friendly treats and snacks, as well as ideas for non-edible Halloween treats.

I hope that if the Halloween Fairy sounds like a good match for your family, she will find her way to your home this year. How do you balance abundance with healthy moderation in your home for Halloween?

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Felted Wool Acorn Tutorial

Crunchy Parent felted wool acorn tutorial photo and video picture

I love working wool, especially as it moves into the cooler weather. There is just something so magical to me about taking the cottony fluff of wool and transforming it into sculpture or textile with water or a felting needle. The possibilities are literally endless, which may be why I never tire of working with the medium.

Now that I have identified my boxes of wool among the seemingly endless sea of moving boxes, I am set and ready to share some wool crafting with you. This project is a quick and simple one and the results are irresistible. Everyone just seems drawn to collect, handle, and admire the little acorns falling from the sky at this time of year, and this wool acorn project brings the acorns into the home in a new way, allowing them to find their place in play, on nature tables, or in home decor.

I demonstrate this project with either needle felting or wet felting applications, and will even give you a “cheat” that will let you skip the felting process altogether and still result in cute wooly acorns if you prefer. The materials needed for the project are varied depending on which method you choose, and having multiple methods to pick from makes it very easy to adapt this craft to the ages and skill levels of children who you might wish to include in the craft. Regardless of the method selected, you will need wool batting and acorn caps that have been separated from their acorns and thoroughly dried.

Acorn caps gathered from outside and colorful wool roving and batting

Acorn caps gathered from outside and colorful wool roving and batting

If you opt to wet felt your wool acorns you will also need:

hot water
soap (dish soap or liquid castile are easiest to work with)
bowl (optional; a sink works fine too)
towel
craft glue or hot glue and a hot glue gun

Bring on the wet felting!

Bring on the wet felting!

If you prefer to needle felt your wool acorns you will need:

felting needle
felting pad
craft glue or hot glue and a hot glue gun

Felting needles and foam pad

Felting needles and foam pad



If you wish to skip the felting but still make cute wool acorns you will need:

purchased wool balls/beads
craft glue or hot glue and a hot glue gun

The supplies can be gathered from many retail sources online and through craft sites such as Etsy or ebay. You may also be lucky enough to have fiber shops or a Waldorf school local to you who may carry supplies. I purchased my felting needles and some of my colored batting through Peace Fleece. I also love shopping at Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio, which was my local fiber shop prior to our move, and where I stopped in for a visit this past weekend. The studio is run by a lovely crunchy family. For those who are not local to them, they do sell products online and through Etsy as well. I have even noticed that chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you wish to go that route. If you would prefer to avoid the felting step and limit your supplies to the third list, you can purchase pre-made wool balls/beads on Amazon or search at sites like Etsy or ebay.

Take a look at the video for the needle felting and wet felting instructions.

For a close up view, you can see the process of rolling up the roving or batting into the small ball here:

Roll and rotate

Roll and rotate

Almost done rolling and ready to needle felt or wet felt the ball.

Almost done rolling and ready to needle felt or wet felt the ball.

In addition, one of the nice aspects of needle felting versus wet felting is the ability to have a bit more control over the process. When I needle felt the acorns I tend to make more varied shapes. Not only do I do round “ball” acorns, but I make more oblong or pointed shapes as well. I tend to draw inspiration from the acorns that I remove from the caps and mirror their shapes in my work.

Needle felted pointed acorn

Needle felted pointed acorn

Although not shown in the video, once you wool balls are ready (and thoroughly dry if you opted for wet felting), mix and match them with your acorn caps. As mentioned in the video, if you have a bumpy or otherwise less attractive spot on your wool ball, try positioning that part within the cap. Once you have found the right acorn-to-cap match and positioning, secure the balls to the caps with a bit of hot glue or with craft glue. If you use craft glue, set them aside to dry as directed on the glue bottle. If you have used hot glue, there is no need to wait.

Felted wool acorns-tutorial

When your acorns are all set, you can use them on a nature table or within a play room. They mix well with fairies, gnomes, and woodland creatures in play, or into a play kitchen as ingredients (no need to overthink, once children see them, their imaginations will know what to do with them). For those whose children appreciate tactile sensory experiences, the warm, soft feeling of the wool contrasted with he hard, textured acorn cap can be engaging. A bowl or bin filled with the acorns could make a wonderful seasonally-themed sensory area for exploration and play.

The acorns can also be used to add some fall beauty to your own home. You can pile them into bowls, clear vases, or other vessels to decorate a table or mantel. They also incorporate beautifully into a fall-themed vignette (which as far as I can tell is a nature table that people don’t want their children to touch). In addition, you can thread fishing wire, embroidery thread, thin ribbons, or other material through the wool body of the acorn and turn them into jewelry, garlands, and more.

This simple craft can be the foundation and inspiration for wonderful fall crafts that bring the beauty of nature into the home in a new way. I hope that you enjoyed the tutorial and look forward to sharing more wool crafting with you. What are some of your favorite autumn crafts? What objects in nature inspire you at this time of year?

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Poppin’ Tags: A Guide to Shopping and Selling at Kids Resales

Crunchy Parent Tips for Buying or Selling at Kids Resales or Consignment Sales

I am a long-time tag popper. I started shopping at thrift stores, children’s resale stores, and “pop-up” resales before I even had children as a way to shop for gently used clothing, books, toys, and gear at a significant discount. In the whole “reduce-reuse-recycle” circle of product life, shopping previously-owned results in a lowered carbon footprint and allows us to tread a little more lightly upon the Earth. As my own children have outgrown their clothes and toys we have handed things down through friends and family, but find that there are always items that are the wrong size or gender for the littler ones in our lives at a given moment. Many end up being donated, but selling some of these items at local “pop-up” resales lets me squirrel away a little money for the kids’ clothes for the season ahead. Selling and/or volunteering to work at sales often comes with the added bonus of getting to shop the sales before the general public, when the best selection and deals can be found. For those who may have less experience with children’s resales or consignment sales, I wanted to take a minute to pass along some tips so that you can take advantage of the bargains to be had in and around your town.

How do you find the sales?

In order to sell and shop at sales, you first have to know where to find them. I have found sales through a number of channels. The first (and probably best) is through word of mouth. Talk to other mothers at playgroups, school, place of worship, around the neighborhood, etc. Do they have experience shopping or selling at any sales in the area? Are there sales that they recommend or have had poor experiences with in the past? If you have experience shopping or selling at a particular sale that you like, ask the volunteers or sellers there if the can recommend similar sales in the area. It is not uncommon for “resale moms” to be familiar with other sales that happen nearby at other times.

Another resource for finding sales is through listings like Craigslist. I suggest looking in the “for sale” listings using search terms like “resale; kids” or “consignment; children.” This can be a good way to find sales to shop, as well as places at which to sell. Remember to also keep an eye out around town. Schools and churches will often post signs weeks in advance to announce upcoming sales.

Finally, as clothing resales have grown in popularity online resources have become another way to find local sales Consignment Mommies is a site that lists sales by state as well as by date; often providing additional information such as sale dates and hours, location, admission costs, and discount day options. The site also has great tips and information for the new shopper or seller.

What to look for in a sale as a shopper, seller, or volunteer?

Sales can vary greatly in the quantity, quality, and variety of merchandise sold, as well as the type of shopper that they aim to attract. Some sales are held in very large venues with tens of thousands of items piled onto tables and in bins by size and gender; requiring more time to sort and sift through. Other sales are smaller and designed to emulate a resale shop; with items hung and displayed on racks and shelves. Some sales focus on higher-end merchandise; restricting the brands sold to higher-end chain store and boutique brands, whereas other sales may be a goldmine for play clothes and baby/kid gear. It helps to know what you are looking for when shopping a sale as well as the types of items that you might be looking to sell, and the time and motivation that you have to dedicate to finding that great deal.

In addition, when considering where to shop and sell, think about the price that you are looking to pay, or the dollar amount that you hope to earn as a seller. Sales aimed at a boutique market will often price clothing higher overall, even though some of those same brands may be found as lower priced “diamonds in the rough” at more general sales. As a seller, it is also important to know what percentage you will earn if your items sell. Seller earnings typically range from 50%-80% of the item sale price, with lower earnings from more “full service” sales where your items are tagged, priced, and prepared for you; and higher earnings from sales where you fully prepare your items and volunteer to work to support the sale during promotion, preparation, sale, and/or clean-up. In addition, some sales welcome volunteers who are not actually selling at the sale with the incentive of being able to shop the sale before the public; other sales may require volunteer hours of all sellers.

Tips for success as a seller:

As the kids outgrow their clothes or when I rotate the wardrobes with new season, I sort their items into what to keep; what to pass along to friends or family; what to donate; and what to sell. Sale items have been given the once over to make sure that they are in good to excellent condition and free of stains, spots, or holes. These items then go into bins labeled by season (fall/winter or spring/summer). When sale time rolls around, I pull out the bins and get to tagging my items. Sales will differ in their tagging and display rules, so be sure that you know if you are handwriting or printing tags; pinning to the item or tagging with a tag gun; hanging all items, or pinning outfits together. I keep my supplies (pins, tag gun and fasteners, sweater shaver, etc.) in one of the stored sale bins so that I’m not scrambling each season. I also keep items that may have been leftover from other sales in bins all ready to go so that I don’t have to do my work again. Some things may need a quick ironing or other freshening, but that is all.

Bin of shoes, boots, & slippers ready for the sale.

Bin of shoes, boots, & slippers ready for the sale.

It is important as a seller that you understand a bit about the sale that you are selecting. You will want to know what percentage of your ticket price you will receive. You will also want to understand the volunteer responsibilities, drop off and pickup arrangements, and sale times. If you are hoping to shop the sale, be sure to understand if and how you will qualify to shop earlier than the general public. As a seller, I also like to know how well the sale does overall (i.e., what percentage of the total items typically sell); are they well-established, is the sale at a desirable time and location, how do they get the word out to potential customers, and how many customers generally come through their sales (hundreds? thousands?)? I also ask questions about security available at the sale because sellers must often sign a waiver releasing the sale sponsor from liability for damaged or stolen items, and knowing about security allows me to make informed decisions about what I choose to put in the sale. Finally, I ask about pricing. If their customers are looking for $1.00 shirts and onesies, a European Boutique outfit probably won’t sell for $25 even if that is a small fraction of the retail price. This helps me find the right sale for the types of items that I am looking to sell.

If you are new to selling, tagging guns, needles, and fasteners can be bought inexpensively on eBay or on Amazon. Some sales will specify plastic hangers, wire hangers, or will accept either type. Plastic hangers can often be obtained for free from stores like Carter’s or Old Navy who often otherwise dispose of their excess hangers. A quick call to the store’s manager is usually all that it will take to see if a store has free hangers available. Friends and family may be more than happy to unload their wire hangers that have accumulated from trips to the dry cleaners (I can’t even type that sentence without having “Mommy Dearest” flashbacks). Zip ties may also be required to attach shoes together. Amazon or home improvement stores can be good sources for these, although if the sale allows, I prefer to tie shoes together with yarn or ribbon (prettier and more eco-friendly).

When it comes to pricing, a general rule is that items in good to excellent condition can sell for 25%-35% of their full retail price. This percentage may be a bit higher or lower depending on the item. For instance, an outfit from a brand with a cult following like Matilda Jane might fetch a higher percentage, but that gorgeous French designer outfit that was a massive splurge, may have to be reduced even less than 25% of the full retail to sell to the general resale crowd. Of course, if your items are “priced to sell” you will likely end up selling a larger percentage of the items that you brought to the sale. Likewise, if you price an item too high and it ultimately goes to half price toward the end of the sale, you may end up making less than if you had priced it a bit lower to begin with and sold it for your full asking price earlier in the sale.

Tips for success as a shopper:

To best prepare yourself for any sale, you first want to have a sense of what you are looking to buy. If you need some really special outfits for holidays, a special portrait, or an upcoming occasion, or you have a preference for higher end brands, you may want to head over to a “better brands” boutique-type sale, which is not to say that the same items could not be found elsewhere, but it may be hit or miss. If you are looking for a lot of varied items, especially for everyday, a large sale with lots of items may help you cross more items off of your list.

Kids looking cute in their sibling portrait. Fancy dresses bought at a “better brands” resale. Asher’s shirt was bought later at a thrift store to work with the color story (yes, I watch Project Runway).

Kids looking cute in their sibling portrait. Fancy dresses bought at a “better brands” resale. Asher’s shirt was bought later at a thrift store to work with the color story (yes, I watch Project Runway).

Speaking of lists, I would recommend that you make one. I try to review the boxes of hand me-downs, last season’s clothes, and things that I’ve picked up here and there to see what I need to fill in the wardrobe for each child. I also note shoe sizes and other necessary sizes on my list, as well as current clothing preferences or needs for each child (e.g., will only wear dresses and leggings; needs elastic waist or adjustable waist pants; brown or black dress shoes). Then when I hit the sale I know who needs a winter coat, boots, or snow pants; who needs layering t-shirts, play dresses, a bicycle with 20” wheels, etc.

As a shopper, it helps to know a bit about the sale before you go. If resale shopping or a particular sale is new to you, here are some general tips to consider. Resale enthusiasts often show up early. Do not be surprised if there is a line outside before sale doors open. If you want to get the best deals, by all means line up early, but don’t assume that if you arrive later all of the good items will be gone. The shoppers before you may have needed different sizes, different items, or have different preferences. Admission to the sale may be free or they may charge a nominal fee such as one dollar. Exact change helps move that line of eager shoppers along when they are excited to get in.

It is often helpful to bring a container with you to hold items while you hunt, gather, and shop. Sales generally have sorting areas set aside from the main hustle and bustle to let you review items and make purchase decisions, but you’ll need a “shopping cart” to transport items to the sort area and to the payment line. Shoppers often bring a laundry basket or large box or bag for this purpose. A wheeled laundry basket like this one can be a big help. I got mine at Target and I didn’t have to buy three of them like the Amazon bundle. It is worth noting that sales often do not allow children or restrict strollers for safety and space reasons, so inquire before heading out with children in tow.

When I arrive at the sale, I consider my list and prioritize heading over to areas with less selection like shoes, coats, gear, or special occasion clothing. Once I’ve taken a look through those areas, I make my way over to the clothing; working from the size of the child who needs the most, to the child who needs the least. Books, games, and toys are usually pretty abundant, so unless there is something really specific that I am looking for, I save those areas for last. It is sometimes also worth looping back to areas to see what has been put back by other shoppers who have “rejected” items that they initially scooped up but decided not to purchase after sorting through their items.

As a shopper, you want be sure to review your purchases carefully before buying as sales are almost always final. Volunteers often try to check items for quality control before they make it to the sale floor, but sometimes spots, stains, or holes are missed. You will want to look items over carefully, checking behind tags as well if tags are secured to the front of the garment. Another thing to consider is how tags and items have been attached. If a plastic hang tag or pin has been poked through the garment fabric you will want to consider the likelihood of it leaving a hole and damaging the material when the tag is removed. As a buyer, I far prefer when items are hung (not pinned) and when tags go through the manufacturer tag or are secured at a seam to minimize holes. Likewise, fabrics like knit jersey or silk are more susceptible to hole damage than more robust fabrics such as fleece, velour, or denim. When looking over items, review factors such as wear and shrinkage (i.e., is the fabric pilled, are the knees worn down, is the item likely true to its labeled size?). Consider whether the price fits the quality and purpose (play clothes or daycare outfits with some wash wear for cheap are not necessarily a bad thing). Be mindful of reasonable item value as well as gear and toy recalls. A quick search online with your phone before buying can be a big help. As a general rule, buying previously-owned car seats and cribs is often discouraged for safety reasons. Likewise, if you stick to low-tech toys made from natural materials as we do, it is far less likely that the item would have been involved in a recall.

While you have that smartphone out, give that older child, tween, or teen a ring. I have found that as children get older and embrace their own style and preferences it can be harder to shop for them without having a number of “misses” when their personal shopper arrives home with the loot. I have sometimes taken photos of items at the sale and texted them to Rich to show to the girls for a thumbs up or down. Recently, Eva and I FaceTimed while I was at a sale and I gave her a live-action show of what I had selected, allowing her to provide her input before I made my purchase.

What do you think girls, yes or no?

What do you think girls, thumbs up or thumbs down?

Another thing to be aware of as a shopper is that some sales will have discount days or hours where some or all of the items that have not yet sold will be reduced. It may help inform purchasing decisions to know if an item will be 25%-50% off at a later time when you might be able to revisit the sale or if it will not be reduced further. Of course if it is an item that you really want, you may not wish to wait as it could be gone by sale time. Likewise, you do not want to assume that an item is on sale during “discount time” only to find out at the register that you are wrong because you are unfamiliar with sale rules; some sales designate discount-eligible items with tags of certain colors or with a specific symbol on the tag such as a star, dollar sign or the words “Discount” or “Do Not Discount.” Before you show up at the register, it is also worth knowing the forms of payment that are accepted and if credit cards will carry a fee. In addition, some sales are affiliated with a charity and are tax-free purchases, whereas privately-hosted sales will often require the buyer to pay sales tax.

It is getting to be late in the season to sign up to sell at most fall or winter sales, but there is still time to buy. It is also a great opportunity to check out the sales as a buyer and learn about how you can be alerted of future sales or how you can participate in the future as a buyer or a seller. In my area, most established pop-up sales have a fall/winter sale in August or September, and a spring/summer sale around March. So make your lists and head on out there. It’s a really great way to give the environment and your wallet a break.

Have you shopped or sold at kids resales before? Please share any tips or great finds. I’d love to hear them.

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Happy Hedgehog Post Waldorf Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-August 2015

Happy Hedgehog Post is an indie subscription service featuring products for children and families to enhance their home, crafts, and nature tables. With a distinct focus on the handmade, seasonal, and natural, this subscription may be a good option for families who are familiar with, and appreciate a Waldorf schooling and play approach. Each month will include materials and instructions for one or more craft projects, a Zine featuring season-specific stories, recipes, and more, and a special gift often appropriate for play or to beautify a nature table. In addition, each month, HHP donates 10% of the purchase price of every subscription envelope to support a different charity of their choosing. This month, funds went to Foodlink to help fight hunger in America. The August Happy Hedgehog Post envelope is sold out, but the September envelope is still available for purchase.

Envelopes cost $31.00 per month, (shipping included), less with multi-month subscriptions. In addition, if you want to purchase a second envelope for a sibling, a Sibling Envelope can be added to your purchase for $18. Sibling Envelopes include a second dose of all supplies necessary to complete the month’s crafts. They do not include the monthly Zine and bonus gift. I purchased this envelope and I was not compensated in any way for my review. You can check out my other Happy Hedgehog Post reviews here.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The August envelope had an Michaelmas theme. For those who are unfamiliar with the holiday often celebrated in Waldorf schools, you can learn more about Michaelmas, with some suggestions for versus and activities consistent with Waldorf education and homeschooling here. In brief, Michaelmas tells the story of brave St. George taming a dragon who was terrorizing a town. St. George musters his courage to triumph over the dragon, just as children must summon their inner courage at times of challenge. Likewise, as Michaelmas falls near the autumn equinox, there is often a focus on light and dark; looking inward for light during times of darkness.

*Rainbow playsilk not included

*Rainbow playsilk not included

The box included the Happy Hedgehog Post August Zine which contained a number of seasonal poems and verses, a short story called The Brave Boy, and two recipes; one for an Irish Michaelmas pie filled with seasonal blackberries, and the second for Dragon Bread, a traditional food eaten in celebration of Michaelmas. Waldorf education is aligned with some spiritual beliefs which can be incorporated to a greater or lesser degree into the children’s consciousness depending on the approach of a given program. Some of the poems and verses in this month’s HHP Zine did tend to have a religious and spiritual overtone, so it is worth considering how this might fit with your personal beliefs and with your family.

The box also included a beautiful small nested cave, perfect for hiding small dragon figures or other toys or natural objects. The cave was handmade out of reclaimed barn wood by From Jennifer as a custom item for this month’s HHP box.

*Rainbow playsilk still not included

*Rainbow playsilk still not included

The first craft project included was a wool dragon. This item had been teased before the envelope’s release and I was excited for it, although I think that I was expecting a more traditional, Waldorf-style, three-dimensional dragon. The pattern had more of a cute “stuffie” feel, reinforced by the tropical aqua and mango colors of the wool provided. I think that the kids will still like the dragon, and Asher may be especially enamored with it, but I would say that it is more of a cute dragon than a fierce one that would require courage to tame. HHP included the pattern for the dragon as well as 100% wool felt, wool batting to stuff the dragon, embroidery thread, and a needle. The tutorial was posted as a three part video series of over an hour’s worth of video instruction, and can be seen on the Happy Hedgehog Post YouTube channel.

*Rainbow playsilk from my own collection. Not included. My children would miss it.

*Rainbow playsilk from my own collection. Not included. My children would miss it.

Despite my confusion in the video, HHP did include a second craft; a wool felt treasure pouch. I think that this project is just perfect for autumn. My children (and their mother) have a tendency to collect treasures from nature in all seasons, but fall is an especially tempting time to gather objects that tumble to the ground from the trees. The kids always seem to have pockets filled with goodies that they collect. A treasure pouch would make clear that the items contained were special and not to be forgotten (in some pants pocket that mom might absentmindedly toss in the wash). The 100% wool felt pouch comes together quickly through techniques like the blanket stitch, finger knitting for the strap, and sewing on the lovely wood button. I think that this would be a very nice project for one of the girls to make. Asher is really the perfect age and size for this type of pouch, so I may suggest that one of the girls consider crafting it as a gift to him. HHP included the pre-cut 100% wool felt, wool yarn, wood burned wood button, embroidery thread, and needle for the project. The instructions were available as a fifteen minute video.

*Playsilk not included, but you knew that.

*Playsilk not included, but you knew that.

As I mentioned in my last HHP unboxing and review, I think that Happy Hedgehog Post can be a difficult subscription for assessing value. I believe that the perceived value will vary greatly depending on the priorities and experience of the crafter. Happy Hedgehog Post stays very true to their mission of providing craft projects using natural materials and with a seasonal and Waldorf-based feel, in addition to writings, recipes, and a bonus item in keeping with that same spirit. The craft projects and videos are accessible to the beginning crafter and can be tailored to inspire creative expansion by more experienced crafters who may have their own additional supplies on-hand. For instance I might choose to embroider acorns, leaves, toadstools, root children, or other seasonal images onto the treasure pouch. HHP is a great window into Waldorf education for those less familiar, and a wonderful way to bring handcrafting with natural materials, seasonal appreciation, and familial rituals and rhythms deeper into daily home life. Individuals very familiar with Waldorf or who have themselves gained a great deal of experience with handcrafting may find that they use the themes and projects as a gentle reminder to fold verses, celebrations, and their talents in their own home even more, or as a springboard for more advanced craft projects.

I really appreciate what a unique subscription service Happy Hedgehog Post provides. There are other crafting subscriptions on the market with a “green” theme, but I am not aware of any who can compare to the commitment to natural materials that HHP embodies. I also like the online video tutorials that demonstrate the crafts, and the opportunity to learn basic crafting techniques that can be applied to many projects in the future. Families who appreciate nature and celebrating the seasons will likely enjoy what HHP has to offer and people looking to bring or enhance a Waldorf education experience in their children’s lives will be hard pressed to find anything else like Happy Hedgehog Post’s subscription. The September envelope looks like it will be all about pumpkins, with three pumpkin-themed craft projects included in addition to the Zine and surprise gift. Are you thinking about getting one?

You can find the Happy Hedgehog Post subscription as well as many other subscriptions for home, baby, beauty, lifestyle, food, and more in the revised and expanded Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. You can also check out the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel for more crunchy subscription box unboxing and reviews, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com.

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Happy Hedgehog Post Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-June 2015

Happy Hedgehog Post is an indie subscription service featuring products for children and families to enhance their home, crafts, and nature tables. With a distinct focus on the handmade, seasonal, and natural, this subscription may be a good option for families who are familiar with, and appreciate a Waldorf schooling and play approach. Each month will include materials and instructions for one or more craft projects, a Zine featuring season-specific stories, recipes, bonus craft, and more, and a special gift often appropriate for play or to beautify a nature table. In addition, each month, HHP donates 10% of the purchase price of every subscription envelope to support a different charity of their choosing. This month, funds went to Nepal for assistance after the earthquake. The June Happy Hedgehog Post envelope is sold out, but the July envelope is still available for purchase. You can read more about it here.

Envelopes cost $30 per month, (shipping included), less with multi-month subscriptions. The cost will be increasing to $31 per month starting with the July envelope. In addition, if you want to purchase a second envelope for a sibling, a Sibling Envelope can be added to your purchase for $18. Sibling Envelopes include a second dose of all supplies necessary to complete the month’s crafts. They do not include the monthly Zine and bonus gift.

Happy Hedgehog Post subscription box June 2015

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

Happy Hedgehog Post Subscription Box June 2015 bookmarks

The June envelope had an “flowers and animals of the forest” vibe to it. The first project included was a pair of 100% wool felt corner book marks; a hedgehog (love) and a fox (Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!). The envelope included the patterns, felt, sewing needle, and embroidery floss needed to complete the project. The instructional video also included the use of additional paper and a pen or pencil for tracing the pattern, scissors, fabric scissors, and straight pins that the recipient would need to provide. The project was appropriate for a beginning-to-intermediate crafter, and demonstrated some useful stitches in the context of making the project, such as French knots, blanket stitch, and other basic embroidery. I think that my girls will love using these, and are old enough (9 and 12) that they can probably make them with minimal assistance.

Happy Hedgehog Post June 2015 subscription box mobile

The second craft included was a sweet flower, butterfly, and bee mobile that used needle felting to make the bees, as well as wool felt to make the flowers and butterflies. Also included were the pre-drilled wood dowels and block to construct the mobile in addition to the necessary fishing line and eye screws for suspending all of the pieces. The instructions for this project were shown in two parts, one video illustrating the needle felting of the bees, and a second video showing the making of the butterflies and roses, and the overall construction of the mobile. The envelope included a felting needle, sewing needle, and the other raw materials (wool, thread, felt, etc.) for making the mobile and its components. The materials provided are enough to make four flowers, six butterflies, and approximately six bees for the mobile. The videos also instructed the crafter to use hot glue, wood glue, a foam pad for needle felting, straight pins, scissors, fabric scissors, and an iron (optional), all of which are not included. The project assumes a moderate level of crafting experience and supplies, and involves a level of fine motor coordination (and sharp objects) that might make the project better suited for adults and older children than for younger kids. Both Alina and Eva wanted to help with the needle felting and were able to do so with just a bit of help from me.

Alina needlefelting bees

Alina needlefelting bees

The mobile is really sweet and beautiful. I plan to make it for my new baby niece. I think that a crafter would be most successful with this project if she or he has some prior experience with needle felting as well as basic crafting abilities and the necessary additional supplies. The video suggests adding another element to the center of the mobile, which I think would make it look even lovelier; a wool or silk fairy or flower, a string of more elaborate felted butterflies, a felt or needlefelted bee hive, or other spring object would add character. In addition, the video did not provide instructions or safety suggestions for how, where, or where not to actually hang the mobile, so it would be up to the crafter to figure out those aspects of the project.

Happy Hedgehog Post subscription box June 2015 zine and puzzle

In addition to the two craft projects, the HHP envelope included a copy of their Zine which had seasonal poems, and a lovely short story about fairies and color meant to encourage child participation and movement entitled, The Old Woman in the White House. The Zine also had two recipes; Southern Caviar Dip and a coconut milk based Mango Ice Cream. Both recipes were free of gluten and dairy, and required basic kitchen equipment. The Zine closed with a bonus craft recipe for Erupting Ice Paint, which is going to be among the first craft projects that we make when we move into our new home next month.

The last item in the envelope was the bonus item. It was a small 4-piece unfinished wood puzzle from Motherly Designs in the shape of a butterfly. The unfinished wood leaves open a world of creative options for finishing. It can be colored with crayons or painted with water colors, wood burned, stained, polished, etc. I was initially concerned that the size of the puzzle pieces would make this unsafe for a young child to use, but the simplicity of the four pieces might make it a poor fit for an older child. After giving it some thought, I think that Asher (age 5) might enjoy using it. Figuring out where the pieces should go might be easy for him, but manipulating them into place could be a good fine motor activity. He might also really enjoy painting the puzzle and making it his own creation.

I am not always sure how I feel about boxes when I first open them because sometimes I cannot immediately envision how I will use the items, or the value that they will have to me. This envelope was a bit is difficult to initially assess because it is essentially materials, ideas, instruction, and inspiration. It is the promise of fun times, learning, and creating, not the finished products themselves. After working with the projects and going through the Zine with the kids, I am really pleased with this subscription. I was initially drawn to it because all of my craft materials have been in storage since the fall while we have been looking for, and waiting to move into our new home. I have missed working with my hands and crafting with the kids, and really liked the idea of ordering craft kits with the majority of the supplies that we would need. This month did not disappoint. The girls were both so excited to needlefelt the bees for the mobile and are looking forward to making the bookmarks in the days ahead. They asked about making the recipes this week, and we read through the poems together. I look forward to including Asher in the ice paint craft and reading him the movement story.

Projects coming along.

Projects coming along.

I would say that a second felting needle would have been a greatly appreciated addition. There were plenty of supplies to allow both girls to work on the needle felting project together, but with one needle they had to take turns, which led to some frustration. Felting needles are inexpensive, but not easy to come by. They are also prone to breaking, especially with less experienced cafters. Adding a spare needle to the kit would have boosted the value to me. Along the same lines, it might have been a nice addition for the Zine to include some resource suggestions for where to buy a foam felting mat or extra felting needles if needed, and some online resources for basic needle felting instructions if one was completely new to the craft. That said, I think that this subscription could be a good one for new crafters. It offers the majority of supplies and instruction needed to get started on a new skill. I also think that the subscription is wonderful for more experienced crafters and Waldorf, homeschooling, or other families drawn to natural crafts and activities. Even with the skills and know-how, so many of us get caught up in our day-to-day lives and forget to engage in handwork or movement activities, or celebrate the change of seasons. This subscription reminds us to bring these into our lives through small projects and rhythms. The projects can also serve as a springboard, and be enhanced and embellished by more experienced crafters.

It is almost impossible to place a dollar value on the box. All of the items were original creations, exclusive to this subscription. The materials were high quality, and primarily all-natural. To provide some reference, I was able to find this mobile kit (value $10.30) which is comparable to the dowel, cube, and eye hooks portion of the mobile. I also found this (completed) wool felt corner bookmark (value $12.00).

I am pleased with this subscription, and have really enjoyed working on the crafts with the kids. It has made me all the more excited to be reunited with my craft supplies next month when we move, and the girls are chomping at the bit to do more needle felting. I have been challenged in finding a craft-oriented subscription for children that uses natural materials, and this one really fits the bill. I also appreciate that the crafts and activities will take a while to complete and can be worked on by us across many days as we reflect upon the season, rather than being breezed through quickly and then forgotten. Our experience in Waldorf education, and the associated appreciation for handwork was a great fit for this subscription, but I think that it would be equally appreciated by any family who enjoys nature, crafting, and hands-on activities. The July envelope looks like it will have three crafts, including a wet felting project. Are you going to grab one?

You can find the Happy Hedgehog Post subscription as well as many other subscriptions for home, baby, beauty, lifestyle, food, and more in the revised and expanded Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. You can also check out the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel for more crunchy subscription box unboxing and reviews.

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Barganic Alert: Sarah’s Silks Seconds Grab Bags

Sarah's Silks

I’m getting a definite “Christmas in July” vibe this week as I keep seeing sales and deals. You may be familiar with Sarah’s Silks, a company known for wonderful dyed playsilks and silk products to inspire creative and open ended play. Their playsilks, canopies, dress up clothes, baby blankets, and more are very popular amongst the Waldorf set and those drawn to simple playthings made from natural materials.

Right now Sarah’s Silks is offering a variety of grab bags of seconds quality merchandise at a discount. Items may have sewing or dying errors. Colors and contents are somewhat random, although you can choose from among Baby Blanket, Dress Up Fairy, Dress Up Knight, and Playsilk themed grab bags and special requests can be noted although may not necessarily be honored. All bags are priced at $45. See the link for descriptions of the bag contents. Are you going to pick up one or more?

Remember to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to be notified first when there is a new Barganic alert. These deals tend to go fast.

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TBT: Wet Felted Wool Ball Tutorial with Needle Felting Option (video)

Wet and Needle Felted Wool Balls

I am keeping my fingers crossed that in time we will be able to recover some of the more frequently searched for and referenced posts from the CrunchyParent.com blog in its first version before we lost all of the content from the site (more about that here). It is amazing to me, and very gratifying, that even through I had stopped posting new content to the blog almost seven years ago and it had disappeared from the interwebs completely for five years, people still find their way to the site through old links from other blogs. It seems inhospitable to have nothing to greet them about their topic of interest other than an error message. Fortunately I was at times a contentious blogger, saving my posts as actual files rather than typing the content directly into my hosting site. We’ve saved the hard drive from the computer that I used at the time, so there is still the possibility of finding some or many of my old posts and revisiting them here.

In honor of Throwback Thursday, I’m going to attempt to capture the essence of a video tutorial post that I had made in 2008, back when I posted to the blog anonymously and used pseudonyms for the children and didn’t show my face in videos (I’ve since gotten over all of that). The first video in the two-part tutorial series shows a very accessible way to craft a wet-felted wool ball using nothing more than your hands, wool batting, dish soap, and water (which means that you probably have at least three of the required ingredients already!). These wool balls can be made in any size needed and are great for gentle indoor play for children of all ages (including babies provided that they have direct supervision to ensure that they don’t gum off any loose wool and choke on a hairball). The balls can also be used as cat toys and as wool dryer balls to cut down on drying time and eliminate the need for artificial fabric softeners.

Part Two of the series shows you that by adding a dry felting needle and some imagination to your supply list, the sky is the limit for the complexity and types of designs that you can create. The picture above shows some of the balls that I made years ago, and that my children and their friends have played with for hours and hours.

For those looking for supplies, I have always been happy with the felting needles and colored wool batting that I have purchased from Peace Fleece. I especially like their batting bundles because they give me great color variety and it would take me a long time to go through a full pound of a single-colored wool. For the natural colored wool batting used for the core of the ball, my go-to supplier has historically been West Earl Woolen Mill (their website is as bare bones as one can get, but call them for pricing and ordering information). As mentioned in the video, this type of undyed wool is incredibly useful in natural crafting for needle felting and wet felting, constructing Waldorf style dolls, stuffing soft toys, and more. Of course ebay, Etsy, and Amazon can all be great resources for wool batting, roving, and other felting supplies. I have even noticed that my local chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you prefer to shop locally or just can’t wait for craft supplies to arrive by mail. In addition, you may be lucky enough to have a local fiber, craft, or Waldorf School store nearby that might stock the necessary materials or supplies. As an additional tip, I personally find it easier to wet felt with somewhat coarser wool batting versus finer wool roving, but your experience may differ.

If you try out the process and have any questions, please post in the comments. I’d also love to learn about any wet felting tips or resources that you have to share as well as pictures of your finished projects. Please remember to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com and to the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel for more craft tutorials, cooking demos, “crunchy” subscription unboxings, and lots more.

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On Birthdays, the Rainbow Bridge, and Feelings of Inadequacy

Preparing to cross the Rainbow Bridge

Preparing to cross the Rainbow Bridge

As spring begins to threaten the mounds of snow in our neck of the Midwest, so starts birthday season in our household. All three kids turn another year older between the end of February and the beginning on May (and I do too).

When the girls were young they attended Waldorf parent-child and early childhood programs (known as kindergartens in Waldorf schools). It was in that context that I was introduced to the idea of celebrating the anniversary of a child’s birth with a fairytale hybrid version of their birth story. In the Waldorf tradition this is referred to as the Rainbow Bridge story. I have heard many iterations of this story; it’s length and complexity varying to some degree based on the age of the child and the preferences and characteristics of the story teller, but with the key themes remaining the same. As I think back, I have heard at least five different early childhood teachers tell a version of the Rainbow Bridge story to one of my children. Traditionally, the teacher sits in front of the group of classroom children with a small table on which sits a photo of the birthday child and fragrant beeswax candles to mark off the years of his or her life. A long silk in rainbow colors stretches out a path across the floor, at the end of which sits the child’s parents. Siblings are often present as well if they should happen to be available to join in for the story telling. The child is usually dressed in a special angelic outfit and listens to the telling of his or her story, which culminates with the child running across the Rainbow Bridge and into their parents’ arms, signifying the moment of their welcome to Earth and to their family.

six years

six years

This year is different. This past fall we sold the home where Rich and I had moved just months after we married. The home where all of our children were brought to when they were born. The home located within close proximity to the Waldorf school where I first felt a true sense of belonging and community when I was searching for connection to a like-minded group of parents, having felt like a misfit or a novelty at times amongst the parents in park district kiddie classes.

The reasons for the move were many. Too much in our life had shifted; our family had grown and our house had not, our school programming, its administration, and its financial health no longer resembled what it once had when we had started there, and our own finances had been put to the test through multiple medical challenges, extended unemployment, and other unexpected hiccups. We wanted to move closer to family and social support, but this also meant saying a final goodbye to formal Waldorf education for any of our children. I don’t regret the decision, it was overdue to be honest. We were in need of shaking off the bad juju that had seemed to have settled into our life and to make a fresh start.

Things are still up in the air in many aspects of our new chapter, and at times we cannot resist pining away for the old and familiar. That is where I found myself on a recent morning as I drove home from Asher’s birthday celebration at his new preschool class. He had donned a special paper birthday crown in pink, his favorite color. I had come and read a story to the class and had brought some gluten free pretzels to share. The children sang him the Happy Birthday song. It was a nice celebration and he had felt special. As I drove the car though it was nagging at me that this was a very different experience from what I had come to expect for my young children’s school birthdays. What struck me most was that he hadn’t heard his Rainbow Bridge story. He hadn’t run across a path on the floor marked out by a rainbow playsilk and jumped into my arms to celebrate the moment when I first held him; the moment when he was born into our family. I was missing it hard. I started to think about some way that I could recreate the experience for him, casually testing the waters by chatting with him in the backseat as we drove, “Hey Buddy, when your sisters were your age they were told a story about being born to celebrate their birthdays. What do you think about that idea?” After an unexpected discussion about what a birthday might possibly have to do with being born (I forget sometimes that the concept is not intuitive to young children), he seemed intrigued.

We got home and I immediately tried to conjure up some way to recreate the ethereal and magical Waldorf Rainbow Bridge experience, but every thought that I had was instantly met with the reality of our current situation; we do not yet have our own house. We are living with my parents at the moment while we try desperately to find a home for our family, a task that is proving to be a difficult one within the constraints of our family size and budget combined with the much higher home values in our new suburb relative to our old one. In the meantime, all of the play silks, the dress up clothes, the play arch, the toys, the birthday crowns, the beeswax candles, everything lives far away in storage. We live tucked in the spaces available with our necessities stored in bins and boxes. The mommy guilt hit and threatened to take over.

I had a thought, one of Rich’s white t-shirts could stand in for the angelic robe that the children often wore, and maybe I could find a belt or sash or something. For a fleeting moment I considered the plastic fireman’s hat that he had received on a school field trip as a suitable crown substitute. Asher however, was not impressed with my ingenuity.

not feeling it

not feeling it

He didn’t want to wear the shirt or the hat. He didn’t care that his sisters had worn robes or wings or crowns like little birthday angels. His enthusiasm was waning. The moment was slipping away. I stopped. It didn’t need to look like the vision that I had in my head. His birth story was his own unique moment to celebrate. It didn’t need to be anything more than that. I sat down on the couch and pulled him onto my lap and began his Rainbow Bridge story as best as I could remember hearing one be told….

Some time ago up high in the clouds, a little angel laughed and danced and played. The little angel loved to pretend that he was a rescuer, helping out with any troubles way up in the sky. The little angel liked to bounce on the fluffy clouds and look down onto the Earth below. The little angel watched the fish swim in the seas and the birds sing in the skies. One day the little angel peered down to Earth and saw other children as they laughed and played together. Two little girls caught the angel’s attention as the little angel watched them run through the grass, picking flowers together and balancing carefully as they walked across fallen trees in the forest. The little angel heard a woman’s voice call out, “Eva, Alina….” (“That’s my sisters! But where is me?” “Hold on Buddy, we’re not there yet.”)

The little angel turned to some of the bigger angels and said, “I want to go there, to join those girls on Earth,” but the big angels said that it was not yet time. The little angel returned to his play, forgetting about the Earth down below. One day while running through the clouds, the little angel tripped and fell, nearly slipping down through the clouds, but the big angels helped him up and watched over him closely through the autumn, the winter, and into the spring. One day the clouds parted and the little angel could peek below once more. He saw his two girls cuddled up in bed close to a woman with a big, round belly. A man sat nearby reading the girls a story. The little angel asked again, “Can I go to them now?” and the big angels said that it was time. They hugged the little angel close, kissed his cheeks, and sent him down through the clouds across a bridge of rainbows to join his new family. His mother and father held him and gave to him his first ever gift, his name Asher Miles, which means lucky, blessed, and happy because they felt so lucky and blessed to have him come to complete their family, and because they wished for him a happy life.

In his first year Asher grew and discovered so much about the world. He said his first words, and crawled, stood up all on his own, and laughed at his silly sisters.

In Asher’s second year he learned to walk and climb, always curious to see how things worked. He loved to sit on Daddy’s lap when he would make work calls, and even set up his own “office” in the play arch, taking phone calls and working hard on his play computer.

In Asher’s third year he started parent-child class and explored the woods and the classroom. He loved to dig in the sand and see his sisters at school. He flew on an airplane for the first time, visiting his Gram and Gramps in Arizona.

In Asher’s fourth year he learned to ride a tricycle and had so much fun riding around outside. He began a new adventure, moving with his family to a new home, and starting at a new school. Asher made many friends.

Now Asher begins his fifth year, which we know will be filled with more growing, and learning, and discoveries. We love you very much sweet boy, and we are so lucky, blessed, and happy that you chose our family. Happy birthday, my sweet angel.

I knew that the story was not as refined or magical as the ones that his sisters had been told, but it was a moment for me to soak up my son’s five years and consider who he is and who he has grown to be as a part of our family. I am glad that I didn’t get completely stopped by the disconnect between how I wanted things to be and the reality of how things are at the moment. We will never again have the opportunity to celebrate Asher’s five circles around the sun, and I am glad that I took the time to reflect along with him.

If you are interested in other, more classic, examples of the telling of the Rainbow Bridge birthday story in the Waldorf school tradition, here are a few:

The Rainbow Bridge
Waldorf birthday story
Waldorf inspired birthday traditions
Teddy’s birthday story

How has the Rainbow Bridge story been used to celebrate the children in your life? What other birthday traditions are special to your family?

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