Waldorf schools always teach first grade children to knit before teaching them to read because knitting crosses the midline and improves connections between both sides of the brain, laying a strong neurological foundation that makes reading easier (see Waldorf and Capital Letters for more on this).
Handwork continues to be extremely important through the grades. Waldorf schools have dedicated Handwork teachers and it is usually a twice-weekly special subject.
I loved my Waldorf Handwork Teacher Training (a four year low residency program at Sunbridge in New York) and one of the things that I discovered is that many Waldorf handwork teachers buy white wool yarn, white cotton yarn, white wool roving, white wool felt, and white silk embroidery floss.
And then they personally DYE ALL OF THE COLORS for their students to use, working throughout the summer to create the colors as a gift to their class.
I think this is incredibly beautiful and even though I am a novice dyer I would like to try it. Here are some of the colors I made during COVID.
So for a while I've been dreaming of only buying white yarn and making all the colors in advance. Every summer I feel overwhelmed by the task and simply chicken out. But yesterday I realized that it would be doable -- and super fun -- if the children dyed the wool with me for the next project they would like to make!
For example, if someone wanted to knit the pig and we were out of pink yarn, we could make that pink together!! Currently we wash the raw fleeces from my brother's sheep and card the wool to make the stuffing for their animals. Why not let the students help with the dyeing too?
Here are the patterns that are popular in my classroom right now and some ideas for colors:
fresh turmeric root
fresh mint leaves
red & yellow onion skins
acorns + iron
There are so many dyestuffs and mordants that I want to experiment with (I'm looking at you, pomegranate skins). I will have to keep coming back to this post and adding ideas!
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