The Autumn Simple Living Collection

When my friend Allyson asked me if I might join her in creating a fall content bundle for families focused on slow, simple living I was all in. A collection crafted from the minds, hearts, and hands of a community of homeschoolers, farmers, parents, artists, and makers, coming together to pool their wisdom and experience, in the form of a rich bundle of tutorials, instructions, inspiration, recipes, and projects.

I mean honestly. How could I resist?

And so I said yes. Of course I did.

And watching this bundle take shape during the past many weeks has been nothing short of a joy.

Because now more than ever, the desire to slow down, reconnect, create more joy, and savor family life stirs deep within our essence.

Will you join me, along with a carefully curated community of experts from around the globe as we present to you our very first Simple Living Collection?

A blueprint to a life full of lasting memories, new skills, and deeper connections.

From my own contribution around foraging with children to a step-by-step tutorial for painting barn quilts, beekeeping and cast iron cooking, this incredible collection will help you and your family find deeper connection and meaning during these uncertain days.

– 35+ products including e-books, tutorials, patterns, recipes, stories, & more
– materials for all ages
– materials that can be used worldwide

7 carefully curated categories:
– Create
– Grow
– Nourish
– Raise
– Wildcraft
– Family
– Healthy Home

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to slow down, savor family life, and learn new skills.

All of the details on the bundle can be found here, including projects like:

Create

– Autumn leaf doll
– Painted barn quilt tutorial
– Circle weaving coaster
– Crochet basics- beginners guide
– Driftwood boat tutorial
– Finger knitting for beginners
– Gathering basket tutorial
– Make your own charcoal tutorial

Family
– Creating an ancestor feast
– Autumn storytelling
– Magical tea time e-book

Grow
– Extending the growing season
– Guide to permaculture principles
– The fall garden

Healthy Home
– Autumn wellness
– Fire cider collection
– Healing calendula salve
– Medicinal plants and herbs study
– Soap making guide

Nourish
– Autumn beet salad recipe
– Cooking with cast iron
– Grain milling guide
– Pantry preserves for beginners
– Sourdough for beginners

Raise
– A beekeeper’s year
– Chicken unit study
– Duck unit study

Wildcraft
– Children’s foraging bag tutorial
– Foraging with children e-book
– Wild berries unit study

So. Will you join me? I truly believe this bundles offers something rich for each and every family.

Find all the delicious details here.

DIY Felt Easter Eggs

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Happy Saturday! Lupine posted her third video tutorial yesterday, over on The Happy Dumpling. She’s sharing how to make felt Easter Eggs using just sewing thread and scraps of wool (or other) felt.

I shared my own tutorial for these when Lupine was only 5, and it’s so delightful to see how my kids have grown up with these homemade eggs (not purchased plastic eggs) as their spring celebration standard.

You can watch the video below, or pop over to her channel to view her how-to.

Happy making, dear ones.

 

Tin Can Telephone: a Happy Dumpling Tutorial

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You can find Lupine over at The Happy Dumpling today, sharing her second Homeschool Crafts tutorial: this one for an upcycled tin can telephone (she includes instructions for using paper cups or yogurt tubs as well).

Head on over to her YouTube channel, or watch the latest video below (if you want to stay in the loop on future videos, it’s a snap to subscribe).

Happy making, friends! Stay safe, healthy, and kind out there.

Love,
Rachel + Lupine

P.S. Thank you for the many many sweet messages and charming photos of your kids and their projects after last week’s tutorial. Each one was a treasure! 

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“The Happy Dumpling” Homeschool Crafts

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Lupine and I have been talking at length about how to offer guidance, support, and fun to families suddenly finding themselves stuck at home.

As many of you know, our family has chosen to homeschool. But chosen homeschooling is a whole different ball game than what’s happening to so many families right now, with many kids and their grown-ups thrown into a stressful home + school reality so unexpectedly.

Lupine reflected on her love of making art and doing simple crafts and realized that she could bring that gift to young children who are home right now. Kids who are feeling bored, restless, anxious, or a little stir crazy, and looking for a simple outlet and a bit of creative fun.

So she put together a YouTube channel, The Happy Dumpling, just for kids. Her plan is to post approximately one how-to video each week. Her target audience is 7-10-year-olds, but she would be delighted if kids (and grownups) of all ages joined in the fun!

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She posted her first video, sharing how to transform an empty toilet paper tube into a sweet little bunny. Just in time for spring!

Be sure to subscribe to her channel, so you know when the next episode is live (I hear old-fashioned soup can telephones may be in the works).

You can watch her video here, then leave a comment below letting Lupine know what other projects you’d like her to share with you. As for me, I also have something special in the works for parents and kids.

Subscribe through the green link below and you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready!

Need more inspiration? Check my blog archives. They’re loaded with more than a decade of simple, accessible projects and ideas for parents and kids.

Stay safe and well, loves. And we’ll do the same.

 

Making

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After a month or two away, we brushed off our Bodgery membership and headed back to our makerspace for the very best sort of homeschooling day.

A full day of making is truly our bliss. Honestly — what could be better? 

Between marveling at some experienced woodworkers (one pictured above) who were tinkering away at everything from furniture to cutting boards to ukuleles and guitars; to Sage's metal work (more on that soon!) and Lupine's handwork, we had no shortage of creative fuel. I spent much of my day at the laser cutter, completing some LüSa projects that have been in my docket for ages. Possibly not the most creative day, but certainly satisfying. 

Back home, Lupine cast off her first major knitting project (and her first on double-pointed needles!), a hen she's named Henny Penny, the pattern from fellow Wisconsinite Susan B Anderson, from Taproot: WEAVE. What a magical moment it was when she bound off that final stitch! 

It's profound how fulfilling these small acts of creating are to our hearts.

And, if my car trunk is any indicator, we'll be back at the Bodgery again very soon. (We're already loaded up with wool felt, sheet metal, and plywood.) We're certainly ready for a bit more making… as soon as we can break away from the maple cooker for more than an hour at a time. For those of you who live in or near Madison, the Bodgery is open to non-members on Friday evenings, and in our experience families are made to feel incredibly welcome in the community there. Come and join us! 

What's in your project basket, friends? 

 

 

Those buttons!

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So many projects have gone onto my needles in the past few months. And—perhaps more surprisingly—even with our busy calendar, a few have actually been cast off! It's a miracle, I tell you.

This little sweater though, I admit to casting this sweater off ages ago. (2014? Really.) Due to a lack of baby girls in my world, I only had a reason to add buttons last week, then promptly mailed it off to a friend with a sweet new babe.

The pattern is Carina Spencer's Gift Wrap Sweater – my favorite go-to baby sweater. I adore Carina's patterns without exception. The construction is clever, and the worsted weight yarn she's partial too for most of her patterns always makes for a satisfyingly fast finish.

As for the yarn choice shown above, I nearly always work with hand wash only wool yarn. I make an exception, however, when knitting baby gifts (at least for non-knitters of those I don't think have a stash of hand wash only clothing to tend to). I can't help but remember back to the profoundly exhausting days of early-motherhood and am certain of how I would have felt about "hand-wash only" gifts when my kids were small. I doubt they would have seen much use, since they'd be awaiting a hand wash until they'd been outgrown.

So this sweater (along with mittens for my own kids and hats for Pete—both of whom have a knack for discovering hand knits in the laundry after the spin cycle) I use this wool blend (afflink).

It's brilliantly soft, the colors are lovely, and it can survive the occasional trip through the washer. I pick it up at my local yarn shop, but buying online is an option too if you don't have a local option!

The buttons, of course, are those that Pete made for me for Solstice from the beach pebbles for Ireland. I couldn't resist. 

And now? I'm back to knitting away on a much bigger sweater: one for me, knit from homegrown, hand-dyed wool. It's the Barn Sweater from Taproot Make. Perhaps some larger stone buttons are in order…

 

What's in your work basket these days, my friends?

  

DIY Fairy Wings tutorial

Every few years this project finds its way back onto our costume to-do list. This year Lupine is putting together a "winter fairy" costume, so we need ice blue wings. Obviously. 

Since I was pulling this tutorial up for myself I thought some of you might enjoy it as well. So fast, so easy, and a costume with lots of play-value long after the candy is gone.

How to make gorgeous fairy wings in under two hours!

 

How to make gorgeous fairy wings in under two hours!

I'm betting a few of you are still getting ready for Halloween. (We sure are!)

I made these wings a few years back and I loved them so much I could hardly stand it. The tutorial is as simple as can be, and start to finish they take under two hours.

For. Real.

So grab your glitter and some hangers and let's get crafty! (If nothing else it's an excuse to use the word "panty hose" again.)

Here's how.

I woke in the morning with a random plan to be Rollie Fingers for Halloween. (I was a huge Brewer's fan as a kid and this guy's mustache has always been a source of strange fascination for me.) But my own kids were freaked by the idea of their mother in a baseball cap and a wool handlebar mustache. And then I couldn't find my baseball cap and the whole plan unravelled. I had to be something else.

But what? My costume stash is pretty lean these days, consisting of a too-tight-for-me-now wedding dress, a pair of cowboy boots and an Amish straw hat. And that combination was scarier than the mustache, so I needed a plan-B. A fairy! Of course. But Lupine's wings were too small.

I searched Pinterest for ideas and came across two useful tutorials (this one and this one.) I read them each over once, got a little overwhelmed, and just went for it on my own.

And they were so easy. Ridiculous. And because of the amount of glitter I used, extremely satisfying as well. (I don't know what it is about glitter. I wish I could put it on my food I like it so much. Okay, not really. But unlike most adults I actually adore the stuff.)

These wings took me less than two hours from start to finish (including a trip to Walgreen's for nylons when I realized that I simplified all of my tights right out the door last spring).

So easy and so much cuter than a handlebar mustache.

How to make gorgeous fairy wings in under two hours!

Here is what you need:

Four metal coat hangers or equivalent amount of other very strong wire

Duct tape (packing tape also works in a pinch but isn't as strong)

2 pairs of nylons of preferred color, mine were size large-ish and full length, though in retrospect thigh-highs would work great.

Fine glitter

White glue or Mod Podge

Paint brush

How to make gorgeous fairy wings in under two hours!

1. Shape each of the four hangers into a wing shape. My top and bottom wings have a slightly different shape giving a distinct top and bottom, but go with whatever you like.

2. Cut off the hooked part of each hanger and tape together your left and right wing pairs, as above.

3. Slip a nylon leg on each wing segment and cut it off at the appropriate length. Knot on the back. (Feel free to call them "pantyhose" if you'd like to channel my grandmother during the process.)

4. Tape together the left and right wings to make a connected set. You're almost done!

How to make gorgeous fairy wings in under two hours!

5. Using diluted white glue (1:2 water to glue), paint the edges of your wings and sprinkle with glitter.

Paint designs on the wings and add more glitter. I did simple swirls and dots and allowed the excess glitter to add to the design. Remember: it won't be perfect, and it is a law of physics that glitter will not stay where you put it. Knock the surplus glitter off of the wing and onto a tray or newspaper and reuse.

Tip: Don't rub the glitter into place or you may smear the glue.

Allow to dry while you admire your work.

How to make gorgeous fairy wings in under two hours!

How to make gorgeous fairy wings in under two hours!

Your house. Will be full. Of glitter. But that's okay. Because now your house is magical instead of messy.

6. Hide your packing tape under ribbon or fabric and hold the ribbon in place with glue and a safety pin hidden on the back.

7. Attach a super long length of ribbon (the long cream-colored ribbons below) for straps at the center point. Cris-cross over your chest and tie in the back or at your side.

Tie them on and say to your reflection, "You are so magical I can hardly stand it. Mwah!"

How to make gorgeous fairy wings in under two hours!

 
Originally published in 2012.
 

Pokeweed & Wool

Thank you for your beautiful enthusiasm regarding the Women's Herbal Retreat that I shared with you this week. There is room available for seven more women, so if you haven't already done so reserve your space today.

I can't wait to gather with you! 

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On our return trip from Maine last October we made an unplanned stop in a state park in Indiana. It was a spontaneous overnight after I got worn out from driving a little camper through high winds all day. I decided it wasn't worth pushing on and we'd add one night to the journey. We pulled off of the interstate and found a campground.

The first thing I noticed as we rolled through the park wasn't the beautiful rolling hills or the hiking trails or that we had the place to ourselves.

What I noticed was the abundance of pokeweed.

I had been wanting to dye with poke berries for some time but it doesn't grow in my region, so I was delighted to stumble upon it – and in full ripe fruit no less!

As we were near the end of our trip I rationalized I could tuck bags of the poison (yes, poison) berries in the cooler and transfer them to the freezer when I got home. And since it's a toxic plant that the park was already trying to eradicate I didn't think the'd mind if I helped out a bit.

We harvested berries and brought them home where I plucked the vibrant, juicy berries off of the stems and tucked a jar into the back of the freezer.

And there they sat. For nearly a year while I awaited first my homegrown yarn, and then the courage to dye it.

This weekend it was time.

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While the color is not what I was expecting (honestly, it never really is with plant dyes, except for predictable yellows) I am absolutely smitten with how it turned out. Along with black hollyhock it's my favorite color yet. 

And the many surprises that plants bring to the dye bath? That's just part if the fun for me.

As for what I was expecting, I would say a bit less orange and a bit more red – In the pastel pink to deep magenta range. But truly, this color suits me even more than those.

There's still quite a bit of color left in the dye pot so I'm contemplating adding another skein to see what results. Perhaps a more pastel melon color? Or maybe that pink I was expecting.

We shall see!

 

P.S. If you are interested in exploring natural dyes yourself I'm quite taken by this book

 

Homegrown hollyhock shawl

 Or: sheep + flowers = happiness

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We became shepherds a few years ago because 1. sheep are fuzzy and cute and look adorable dotted across our hillside; and 2. because I really wanted to grow my own fiber for knitting.

It was a long and varied road that led to those first skeins of wool but we made it – and each stitch I make with homegrown yarn is more satisfying than I ever could have imagined. 

I planted black hollyhocks in my flower garden so that I could have a wider color palate of natural dyes. As a biennial (flowering only on the second year) even my dye plants were a long-game plan. 

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Finally this spring I dyed my first skein of hollyhock wool (the bottom skein in the photo above) and it was true love. A complex sage with an undercurrent of blue, it's mellowed to a soft sage green in the months since I dyed it.

And it is, quite possibly, my favorite yarn ever. Because squishy, gorgeous, and homegrown in every way? Yes, please!  

Despite my yarn being worsted weight, I chose to knit a Guernsey Triangle after being utterly distracted by my friend Meg's gorgeous version during a visit this spring as we discussed homeschooling, lambs in tutus, and doing yoga with goats. (Among other things.)

Yes, the Guernsey Triangle is designed for fingering weight yarn. Yes, I knitted it in worsted. Rules be damned!

To accommodate for the extra bulk of my yarn I simply cast on the small version with the expectation of it coming out roughly the size of a large. (It did.)

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Next up? A cowl with fiber from this cute bunny.

Game. On.

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Photos by the ever-helpful Sage. Thank's, bud.

 P.S. My project notes are here