Hemlock Hope

Over Christmas break, my son and I were walking through the woods, collecting hemlock branches that had fallen so I could embed the needles in handmade paper.  (Yes, it would have been easier to take the needles straight from the tree, and yes, I know that the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is killing the tree, despite anything we may do, but I won’t harm a tree, particularly one so imperiled.)  I asked him if he had ever seen a healthy hemlock, because I wasn’t sure if he really understood the difference between the hemlocks of my childhood and the hemlocks he knows.  He thought about it and pointed to one that did have more needles than most, and asked, ‘is this a healthy hemlock?’  ‘No, sorry dear.  If you can see through a hemlock, it is not a healthy hemlock.’  A few minutes later, I hear, solemnly, ‘that really is depressing.’

So, here is an image of hope for you, dear child.  That even though your childhood has been colored by the loss of these sleepy summer storybook trees, maybe, just maybe, your children or grandchildren will know their mysterious, peaceful shade.

Young Hemlock

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Felt Ornaments: even toddlers can make them

Felt ornaments

Felt ornaments

The tomato plants are now dead and the leaves are falling by the bushel; it must be time to start making gifts and ornaments for our own tree.  The Sage, The King and I began making some felt ornaments today.  I cut two identical stars from felt (use a cookie cutter if you aren’t comfortable cutting them freehand).  I used the biggest needle I had (my grandmother would call it a sword!), threaded it and knotted the ends together so they couldn’t pull the needle off the thread.  Pull the thread through one piece of felt at the top (you’ll use the thread that you have left over when you finish to hang it from) then lay the second piece of felt on the back to hide the knot.  Do one or two whip stitches to hold it together then give the needle to your child.  The Sage is 2 1/2.  I held the felt while he sewed.  He is NOT a calm child and does NOT tend to follow directions (as evidenced by the shoes we found on the fan blades!), but no one got stuck with a needle!  Sometimes I had to remind him to sew the edge where he hadn’t sewn yet, but for the most part, he did a good job with little coaching.  I had planned to stuff the star with a little stuffing before he was done, but I think that probably shouldn’t be attempted with a toddler because they aren’t going to keep their stitches close enough to the edge.

The Sage's Star

The Sage’s Star (age 2)

The Sage’s second ornament was a tree.  I added a third layer of felt to the center to make it puffier and to easily give the tree a trunk.

Three layers of felt

Three layers of felt

Again, I got the needle started for him, but didn’t try to confine his stitches to the edge, thinking that the stitches would help break up the solid mass of green tree.

The Sage's Tree

The Sage’s Tree (age 2)

This is The Sage’s first Christmas in the US and he really liked hanging the two ornaments on knobs.  I really wonder how things will go when we put the tree up.  The glass ornaments will likely stay in the boxes this year and I’m sure The Sage will ‘reposition’ ornaments more than I ever have!

The King's Gingerbread Man (age 4)

The King’s Gingerbread Man (age 4)

The King also made an ornament.  When he was 4, we made felt gingerbread people ornaments, sewing beads for the face and buttons before whip stitching the two pieces together and stuffing them.  (We read a lot of gingerbread man stories that year.)

This year, he decided to learn and use a blanket stitch.  We cut three different shapes, piled them on top of one another and he blanket stitched around each one.  We then decided to add a final big blue heart to the back and stitched that on, hiding all of the other stitches.

The King's Pieces

The King’s Pieces

The King's Star-Heart (age 9)

The King’s Star-Heart (age 9)

For older kids and adults, you can look at these Flickr pages for inspiration and at these tutorials:

The I Made It Shop
Bugs and Fishes by Lupin
Sunshine’s Creations
Save on Crafts
Dog Christmas Stocking
Better Homes and Gardens

And as you can see here, sewn felt shapes aren’t just for Christmas ornaments!  These would make great stockings and gift tags, with the person’s name embroidered on the front and your name on the back.  I wonder how many ornaments the kids want to make.  I’d love to have a garland of them across the kitchen windows.