Is he knitting yet?

Nope.  He’s not knitting, he’s not reading either.  I started to think about these things on my drive home from dog training class tonight.  The conversation was sparked when I mentioned Isaiah didn’t read, he’s 7.  I explained that we were following the Waldorf ideals in our homeschooling and someone else piped in, “well is he knitting?”  That made me smile.  Somebody knew their Waldorf.  Nope, he’s not knitting.  You see, Isaiah is all boy.  I have often wondered if I would ever teach him to knit, honestly.  I have enough of a problem with it myself, and didn’t know how to pass it on without embracing it. However since denial is often a comfortable place for me, I figured I would start the process, and cross the knitting bridge when we came to it.  So keeping in the tradition of Waldorf, we started from the beginning.  We bought a sheep fleece, I had no idea how to go about doing this, so I googled of course.  I found a very nice sheep farmer who was happy to sell me half a fleece at a very reasonable price since we were using it for homeschooling.  However the idea is for him to actually see where the fleece comes from, and this farm was about 3 1/2 hours from our house, so instead we went to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, which was only 1 1/2 hours away.  This turned out to be a tremendous event!  We had a blast!  I love traveling with Isaiah, we are good companions.  But the event itself was awe-inspiring for both of us!  Living in a relatively urban area, it just felt like we were experiencing “real” America.

Honest living, hard-working, people who used their hands to do what they love.  I am a sucker for hands on work (even though I can’t knit).  Beautiful wide open skies, no highway noise, just the wind…..the smell of sheep.  Yes, the smell of sheep.  After that day, I loved the smell of sheep.  So we learned where a sheep fleece came from, we saw all kinds of sheep, we even got to watch a sheep shearing demonstration!  That was amazing.  Do you know a good sheep shearer can shear a sheep, without a nick, in under 2 minutes!  And the sheep don’t even move!  It’s like they have no idea they can kick and get away!

This is Isaiah waiting for the sheep shearing demonstration.

These are some sheep

Isaiah really wanted to be the photographer for most of this journey, so I let him.  By letting him photograph, I learned something about him.  Something I already knew, but never imagined would translate to sheep and wool.  My son wants to spin.  He wants to learn how to spin on a spinning wheel.  Not a drop spindle, but a spinning wheel.  Why?  He is fascinated by spinning wheels, by the way they move and how they work.  Personally I don’t think he cares that the outcome is yarn.  But to him it is a beautiful machine.  And so, he took pictures of about 50 different spinning wheels.  Here’s a best of:

We met a wonderful lady, Luci from Sheeping Beauty, who offered to teach Isaiah to spin at the spinning show in Milwaukee in the spring.  He was so excited, if she didn’t live so far, I am sure we would already be visiting!

From this point it was time to move on to our wool.  Well you got a fleece, now you have to clean it.  And let me tell you something, fleece is dirty!  Whoa!  Some of the stuff I got out of there was NASTY!  But it was also really cathartic, funny huh?  Isaiah helped a little, but the water was pretty hot, this was mostly a mommy job.

I could only wash a quarter of the fleece at a time.  I was supposed to dry it on a screen outside, but I had to improvise.  This is my baking rack on a towel with the fan blowing on it.

Then I carded the wool using two dog slicker brushes.  Much cheaper than wool carders!  It took me a little while to get the hang of it.  Believe it or not, Isaiah understood the concept better than me and explained it to me.  But after showing me how 🙂 he had enough and let me do the carding.  Once again, seriously cathartic.

I tried to figure out a way to engage him in all this wool work that was benefiting me so greatly, and I did find a way.  I googled again, and found out we could dye the wool with Kool-Aid!  And so…..

So, then we had all this wool roving….but no one to spin it.   So, I decided to learn how to needle felt!  It is amazing what you can learn on YouTube!  And so, we began to needle felt, as before, Isaiah was interested for about 5 minutes.  I on the other hand was completely enthralled.

I made Princess Carolee, and the little acorn bowl behind her.  I made lots of things, it feels good to do things with my hands.  It’s funny…..I never expected that both Isaiah and I would get the Waldorf education.  I never thought I could be this mom.  I am OK with him playing while I sit in the same room as him creating someone new for him to play with.  I have made him a mayor, a robber and I am working on the Sheriff now.  He has agreed to get rid of all his plastic figures if I replace them with felted ones.  Seems like a win win to me.

So, no, he’s not reading, or knitting.  But this kid is living!  He’s living a life I only wish I had when I was his age.  He’s getting to learn how things are made, by hand, from the ground up.  Not just molded plastic.  Real toys made out of real materials, that feel alive in your hands.  It’s the best possible education I could want for him, and me!

How to dye your wool with Kool-Aid:  Easy Peasy!  Boil a pot of water, less for more color (or add extra packets) Mine were one packet each and the color was nice and strong.  Add the Kool-Aid once boiling (no sugar!) stir till dissolved.  Turn the heat down to simmer, throw in your wool, push it down with a wooden spoon but don’t agitate it!  That will felt it.  Keep an eye on it, but in about 20 minutes, the wool should have soaked up all the Kool-Aid leaving the water relatively clear.  Turn off the heat and let the water cool, once it is cool enough, rinse it gently under water THE SAME TEMPERATURE AS THE WOOL.  This is very important, this can felt it too!  Then voila!  dyed wool!  Let it dry, like I said I used a baking rack over a towel with a fan.  Or you can be a traditionalist and use a screen outside, not in direct sunlight.  Have fun with it!  It’s a blast!

18 thoughts on “Is he knitting yet?

  1. I loved this post. I’m glad you linked up at Waldorf Wednesday(:

    I think the two of you Need this book: brown shears his sheep&sprefix=farmer%20brow&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Afarmer%20brown%20shears%20his%20sheep

    If the link doesn’t come through, it’s called Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep. It is an all time favorite book here. Whimsical and silly illustrations about Farmer Brown shearing his sheep and taking the wool all over the countryside to the different people who ultimately make it into yarn. (With the shivering sheep trying to get it back in the background illustrations). Ah, and the spinner is a man and with the fanciest spinning wheel in town (; We’ve read the book over and over and over over many years and Love it. Looks OOP now, but still a steal at 7.00 for a used copy!!

    You might enjoy Mountain Born. My daughters and I loved it — but they’re 6 and 8. It’s a really sweet and sincere book about a boy who lives on the mountain top on his family farm with his sheep farming parents and one old old man, Benj, who is the farm helper and primary shepherd. The boy is getting old enough to be the shepherd. The book is about the boy growing up, alongside his “very own cosset” who becomes the leader of the flock. Benj has quiet lessons for the boy that if you, the reader, don’t savor the simple words and text, you might miss. We all Loved it and I know we’ll read it again as the girls get older.

    So, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    As well as the process of how to go about buying your own fleece etc. I think we’ll all beind doing that round here soon (:

    BTW, we went to a living history site where there was an Ancient man shearing sheep with manual clippers. It took him about 4 minutes, no nicks and a perfect fleece when he was done. Amazing.

    Oh, and “one more thing” (:, I just posted links earlier this week of felted crafts that don’t use a needle and seem to be very easy — letting folks essentially just have the joy of rolling the wool into a shape and getting a pumpkin or a flower (P: I don’t know if Isaiah would like that since it’s not quite as a complicated as the needle felting.

    PS. (really?!) also definitely amazon check out A Coat for Anna. Another ALL TIME favorite here. Post war girl and daughter bartering over the course of a year to get a wool coat. Again, how wool goes from hoof to coat. Can you tell why I connected with your post (; tee hee.

    • Oh my gosh, you are so funny! I will absolutely check out all of thos books! Thank you so much for sharing them :-). We did try a felting project without needles, we made a snake. It was a great project, and he loves his snake, but about halfway through the felting part he got a little tired of it and walked away. So I finished it for him, and it turned out pretty cool. Meanwhile, he better get used to the wool, because after the sheep festival I decided I wanted to be a sheep farmer :-). Thank you so much for your enthusiastic post. Writing is so gratifying in itself, but when someone else connects too it’s even better!

  2. I hope you open up your sheep farm for Sheep Farming Tourists who want to spend a weekend mucking about with sheep and carding wool…and then go home (:

  3. I read this post with interest because one of the things I have always wondered is how well waldorf translates to BOY boys. My son is one and I have made him two waldorf dolls which languish in the cupbord because he jus wasn’t interested in them. Likewise my needle felting efforts aren’t well loved by him. I’ve tried fairy gardens and play silks – which he does occasionally use to simulate fires that his fire engines can put out. I have desperately tried not to fall into gender stereotyping with toys but on the other hand I do tend to take his lead and that tends to lead away from many of the waldorf options.
    That said, if you are looking for a way to involve Isaiah in wool, have you tried a drop spindle. They are really easy to make – a stick and a weight (you can use a heavy nut from a hardware store) and you just twist a strand of roving and then let the weight of the spindle and the twist grow the yarn. I think it might appeal to boys because its quite mechanical in its nature. Also very cool being able to make your own yarn. I’m sure you can find a youtube video to assist.
    I’m pinning this to my waldorf inspired pinterest board.

    • I love your blog because it is so boy oriented. I have often googled Waldorf and boys and found nothing of any value. I wholeheartedly agree that if you have a real “boy”, and I know you know what I mean, Waldorf can seem a little to mellow for them. And so I have created my own type of Waldorf to suit him. Mostly we do one learning block a day and spend the rest of the day outside, or he does some free-play. I try to get a craft in there or some cooking too. And I leave it at that. I still think he’s getting the Waldorf experience. We still do some verses, but not everyday, he likes the ones involving lots of movement. But not the cutesy ones 🙂 We also still read traditional fairy tales instead of getting sucked into to many of the more modern books. (not that we don’t have our fair share 🙂 I had to laugh when you spoke of the fairy gardens and playsilks. The playsilks gather dust over a playstand lovingly built by his grandfather. Sometimes I wrap him in them really tight, he loves that 🙂 The fairy gardens, no luck at all. I have more luck with the gnomes that live under our bathtub, I try to encourage him not to drown them with his splashing! This seems to work. Oh yes, and we have a drop spindle, not complicated enough for him. He insists on a spinning wheel….we’ll see about that. Meanwhile, I’ll do the drop spindle!

  4. I love your post, and the photos, too! How awesome that you and your son get the chance to ‘grow’ together! I’m kind-a the same way with foodie DIY (canning and dehydrating and homemade dairy) so my son and I will learn together this winter when we can’t go outside! (I got the crock pot down, I just have to remember to peel the apples before I put them in!) My son has Down syndrome, and seeing where things come from is so important! Like the u-pick days at our local farm! (So much to learn as a family!) His friend Emma with Down syndrome is in Waldorf, she’s 8 1/2. You can see both of then dancing together on my Facebook page!

    • IT really is so nice to do these things together, I totally agree! We have begun dehydrating apples to make homemade apple chips and he loves them!

    • Thanks Kate! That’s what I think too! Although, ironically tonight he told me he wished he could read so that he could read Beatrix Potter books after I told him to go to sleep. We’ll see how long that lasts, LOL!

  5. Oh man that is fascinating. My girls would love such an experience. We’ve got a friend who spins her own wool, then knits with it. My girls head straight for her spinning wheel first thing each visit. I might have to investigate more about wool in our area and see if we can organise a similar experience.

  6. This is an amazing post! My Nicholas just turned 9 and only really took off with reading last spring– and boy, did he ever take off. He went from nothing to burning through the Magic Treehouse books this summer and then finished up all 7 Harry Potter books in less than 8 weeks. Kids really do better on their own time.

    Thank you for linking up to Waldorf Wednesday. Hope to see you back this week!

    • Thank you for your site! It is amazing, and I find so many wonderful tidbits on there! Ironically, my son wants desperately to read. So much so, that I have had to abandon my plans to do it at the Waldorf pace. He said to me “If you don’t want to teach me to read, then I want to go to a real school”. Well I knew I could keep to the Waldorf tenets while speeding up the reading a bit, so that’s what we started this week. We’ll see how it goes! Meanwhile, still not at all interested in knitting or form drawing. However at least I have gotten him to draw more, even if it’s not form drawing!

  7. Jen, Thank you for this post and for linking to Waldorf Wednesday where I found it. It has also been my experience that my son has not been at all interested in many of the Waldorf arts and crafts. He is 9 now and is only just starting to enjoy drawing and painting and a little handwork. We went on holiday last week and I was amazed to hear him suddenly say, “I wish you had packed the block crayons, Mummy!” There is hope……My advice, which I wish someone had said to me, is don’t force it. It sounds like you are doing that by introducing things and then finishing them off yourself. In Waldorf they say that it’s the process that is important, and for me (like you) I can say this is certainly true – I think I get a lot more from our Waldorf home education than my son does LOL. But for my son, particularly when he was 5,6,7, the process took too long. But he does enjoy the end result and the sense that he played a part in it (even if it was a shared effort).

    Great post. I look forward to reading your blog now I’ve found it.

    • I totally agree, don’t they say in the beginning, by watching you wash, they’ll want to wash too, etc? So I figure by watching me do things with wool, he’ll want to too. Someday 🙂 Meanwhile I am not pushing him, and I am letting him drive the curriculum a little more than I was. Maybe that is not so Waldorfy, but it feels right. Thanks for your wonderful comment!

  8. Pingback: Call and Response - Be You | Break the Parenting Mold

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