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Handcrafting has a magic to it. Each stitch, as an old Irish saying goes, “captures a piece of your soul”. Giving something you made to a child will have them looking at you as if you are a wizard yourself.

I make things to sell. Every time I finish a new piece, my two year old marvels at the new item questioning me over and over “you made that?!” I have heard him bragging to others telling them “mama made that!” about a new toy or clothing piece. This magic and wonder is something Waldorf education and philosophy encourages.

What is Waldorf education and philosophy?

In Waldorf education a child’s imagination and creativity are at the forefront. It is through examination of the imagination, that intellect is formed. I like to see it as, children are allowed and encouraged to experience the magic and wonder of the world before it is explained to them.

“Whoever seeks higher knowledge must create it for himself. He must instill it into his soul. It cannot be done by study; it can only be done through life. Whoever, therefore, wishes to become a student of higher knowledge must assiduously cultivate this inner life of devotion.”

Rudolf Steiner

Waldorf allows life to be experienced through childlike innocence and wonder before learning the how. It encourages the belief that: mama is magic because she MADE that! My son can learn the how behind my magic later. The important thing is the wonder and amazement that is felt. Those feelings will encourage the pursuit of the how later.

There are so many ways to encourage the feelings of wonder, but the easiest is through play. There is a large emphasis on open-ended toys in Waldorf. This means toys that allow children to fill in the gaps with their imagination. For example: wooden blocks instead of Legos, silks to make forts or scenery to play in, and toys with minimal facial features so the child can pretend it is whoever they want it to be.

As a knitter, I have a few patterns and tips for creating Waldorf themed knit toys for your little ones. In the future I may get into sewing patterns as well. However, as my expertise is in knitting, that is where I’ll start.

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Materials

As Waldorf encourages experience and connection to the natural world, natural fibers and materials are exclusively used. “Natural elements are more than just a beautiful choice, they are an essential component of a child’s experience because they help to build the sense of touch.” I love using cotton and wool, these materials feel nicer for me to work with, and have the added benefit of providing that tactile experience to my children.

Some Natural Fibers to Choose From

1. Wool

In Waldorf, other then wood, wool is king. This material is magical in it’s ability to hold warmth whether dry or wet, and its ability to felt (mat together to form a fabric). There are so many toys made of wool, whether knit or sewn, using wool as it’s base. The textile experience it offers varies on yarn quality, but I love it all. From scratchy and rough, to almost as smooth as silk. I find wool to be a beautiful and relaxing material to work with and play with too.

2. Silk (Alternatively: Rayon, Tencel, or lyocell)

Silk is a perfect material for Waldorf because it provides drape, flow, and elegance. While silk is more expensive to get, the textural experience is beautiful (like working with something the fairies spun). A more budget option would be bamboo. Bamboo (also called rayon, tencel or lyocell) gives a similar feel. However, because of the chemical process needed to turn bamboo (or wood pulp) into fiber, it is questionable whether it is a healthy alternative.

3. Cotton

As with wool, there are many different qualities of cotton that effect texture, durability, and drape of a finished product. A rougher cotton such as the basic Lily Sugar’n Cream you can find in any craft store. It is perfect for a textured toy and will hold a stiffer shape. Alternatively, Pima yarn like this Lion Brand Pima yarn from Joann, will offer a much softer and smooth feel with a beautiful drape to it.

Another important element is to try your best to find organic. Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. My workaround for this, is buying thrifted yarns either in ready to work with skeins, or sweaters that I take apart. While it may not be organic, I can at least minimize the environmental effects from buying second-hand.

Stuffing

Waldorf is strictly plastic free, so unfortunately this means no Poly-fil for toys. There are a few alternatives that can be used depending on how you want your toy to feel.

1. Wool

For a firm yet comfortable feel, wool fiber can be used to nicely stuff toys. Wool will be a little denser then poly-fil but be similarly springy. The one downside is that it very easily will felt, shrinking and becoming denser, with exposure to extensive friction or water.

2. cotton

Cotton fiber stuffing will make for a nice dense toy. It will be heavier with little to no squish to it. This would be nice for baby dolls to give them weight and a more real feel. The only downside is that it can be pretty lumpy and takes effort to mold.

3. Fabric scraps

A great eco-friendly way to use scraps. This method tends to be lumpy, so the smaller the scraps can be cut, the better. Similar to cotton, fabric scraps will give a denser feel to toys.

4. Kapok

Kapok is a new material to me and I love it! It comes from a seed native to Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Africa. It is extremely soft and light weight. I argue that it is superior to Poly-fil in creating a lightweight and extremely soft toy. The only downside is the price tag on it.

5.PLA (Poly Lactic Acid Fiber)

PLA is a kind of eco-plastic created from fermenting corn sugar. It is not the greatest material, but if you are on a budget, it works. It is an exact replica of Poly-fil in feel and squish just without the plastic.

Projects

1. Tiny Window Cat

By Sara Elizabeth Kellner

A very open-ended toy and simple project. This cat form toy is a perfect example of Waldorf, in which a child can fill in the face with their imagination and explore play with the simple form of a cat. Added benefit is that it’s beginner friendly for those just learning to knit.

2. Sheldon Sheep and Friends

By Amy Gunderson

A beautiful project to make for a child. This simple sheep is not only aesthetically pleasing to the eye (a must in Waldorf), but also offers that gap for the child’s imagination to fill in. This is a combination of crochet and knit.

3. Butterfly

By Claire Garland

Almost all of Claire Garland’s pattern can be categorized as, Waldorf friendly. Her patterns emphasize natures grace and whimsy. She has patterns for knit creatures of all sorts.

This pattern of a butterfly is both airy and beautiful. It captures the feeling looking at a butterfly gives you.

4. Basic Knit Doll in 6 Sizes

By Kimara Wee Folk Art

You will find dolls such as this in almost every Waldorf classroom. They make great Storytime props or just good for imaginative play. Make them in a whole bunch of colors and sizes for your child to enjoy!

5. Waldorf knitted doll for small babies (Paid)

By Tatyana Korobkova

This floppy baby doll is perfect for small children! The little nubs for arms and feet are perfect for teething babies.

I hope I inspired you to look further into Waldorf philosophy and gave you some ideas for Waldorf inspired toys. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments below!

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