Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Adverse Effects of Excessive Crafting?

A couple of weeks ago I sat down and had a “chicken chat” with Dear Old Dad. Our family has been busy putting the final touches on our chicken coop in anticipation of the upcoming arrival of our feathered friends! I enjoyed his reminiscing about his first two hens, Blondie and Speck. He was even able to dig out an old photograph of his dear little hens dating back about 66 years ago. When I first set eyes on the photo, I was struck by the simplicity of the life he lived in the bush of Northern Ontario. The chicken coop is that tiny little dog house structure in front of the garage doors. Though he grew up in a remote area with few of the luxuries we consider necessities (like running water!), his childhood tales are filled with joy, boyhood adventure and enthusiasm.

Our chicken chat got me thinking about the degree of excess in our own lives. A simple comparison of Blondie and Speck’s first home and our own chickens’ accommodations says it all. My goodness! I came to the realization that our hens will be residing in a luxury suite compared to their “ancestors”.

Though I make a conscious effort to control the clutter, commercialism and excess of toys in our home, who am I kidding? The contrast between Chi-Chi’s and Muffy’s childhoods and that of their grandfather is really quite striking. It seems my children are always receiving something “new” and I fear they will grow to expect it. I admit that a lot of this relates to the fact that I’m a craft-obsessed mom who continues to churn out toys and other playthings on a weekly basis. Whether it is a little wooden birdie or a woolly green asparagus, I’m always working on some sort of project and Chi-Chi and Muffy are most often the benefactors.

I’m confused about the message I’m relaying. On one hand, I feel the boys are constantly on the receiving end of more stuff. Even though these items are handmade by The Wool Fairy herself, they still classify as stuff! On the other hand, I’m of the opinion the little ones are learning the value of a “do it yourself” mindset. I often make the toys in collaboration with Chi-Chi and Muffy, so they are involved in the process. Sometimes they help me sand the wooden creations. Other times they just sit and snuggle with a ball of wool in hand while I knit. I rarely hear the phrase, “Buy me this”. The attitude seems to be, “Make me this mommy!” I would appreciate a "please" in there! Sometimes the orders are a little out of my league, but we do the best we can. Their ideas are quite often the inspiration for my crafting projects.

So the jury is out on this one. I’d love to hear from other crafty mamas struggling with the same dilemma. Are we instilling an appreciation and love for handmade items and laying the foundation for the acquisition of skills, or are we feeding the expectation that the ‘mommy toy factory” will keep producing at such a high yield?!

What would Blondie and Speck think of all this? Likely not something to get one's feathers too ruffled over (:


Sharing Ethiopia said...


Im in no way as crafty as you, but O is very crafty, in fact after school a rotting star fish and an old cookie container were is inspirations for at least an hour of creation.

He does always want me to get him things though and I accept responsibility for that. We are worse than some, much better than others. Always find it hard to say no to books, but that is me imposing my value on him? He rarely gets other "stuff" unless its an occassion, even then we try to control it.

I think keeping there life simple now is good, when they go to school it will be an uphill battle! Thats when you have to challenge all your tactics and values! I must say I hate that part.

This is a special time in your life when they are really excited and value your crafts and they are not competing with the power ranger the dude at school has. My humble opinion is you cant spoil them with your beautiful, heartfelt creations.

They are lucky boys!

The Wool Fairy said...

Ew! I can relate to that rotting star fish. We have the yolk out of a skate egg case sitting on the kitchen counter right now. It is one stinky thing and I'm losing my desire to eat supper.

Thanks for your input L. I appreciate it! I've always looked up to you and T as you seem to have certain aspects of parenthood in balance and "figured out". I guess it certainly will get harder as they get older and get exposed to outside influences. I will enjoy these innocent ages while I can.


acook said...

hi :) i wrote to you on etsy..the girl who lives over in eastern passage :) my name is ashlee, by the way.

i really like this post. i spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not i'm teaching my children to buy into commercialism, take things for granted, etc. i don't buy them much, but our relatives certainly do. my oldest daughter especially has started the 'buy me this!' phase. she is 5, and i think a lot of it comes from being in school and listening to other children.

we don't have many toys in the house. one large toy box in sydney's room, and a few smaller bins in halle's room. we don't have much money where both my husband and i are university students, so thankfully i don't find myself tempted to buy things very often :) but it still suprises me that i hear my children raving about all the things they 'want' so badly. it bothers me! i try to instill a love of crafts and imaginary play in them as much as possible. that is hard, since i am not very crafty myself!

April said...

I love that the chickens had names. That says a lot about their approach to farming, I think. My first two cows were Cheryl and Becky, I still think of them fondly (even though Cheryl kicked me when I was three, but it was my fault for standing behind her!) They would come when their names were called. My dad eventually sold them to a farmer that lived near my grandmother, and we would still "visit" in the summer when they were in pasture, calling their names and they would come.

It taught me to respect every creature's right to live, to treat animals humanely, and that all animals are intelligent.

I think your boys will learn a lot from your chickens, even if they do have pretty classy digs :) You're providing them with humane and appropriate conditions.


I love your wooden toys, they are wonderful! When my daughter was younger I searched high and low for wooden fruits and vegetables.

What kind of paint do you use?

The Wool Fairy said...

Yes, once the wee ones are in school, I can imagine it gets matter what I am doing right now!

April, you can come visit my chickies anytime and maybe go home with an egg or two (: If I ever decide to offer boarding services, you'll be the first to know (:

The Wool Fairy said...

Hi Thinking Square,

The wooden toys are lots of fun to make, though I do worry I'm going to injure myself on that scary saw one of these days. Lack of sleep and power tools are not a good combination!

I use watercolor paints on the toys and then seal them in a beeswax finish. The watercolor paints I use are made in England and are AP certified non-toxic. You have to be careful as some artist supplies actually state on them they use lead in the pigments. The beeswax gives a nice soft sheen and finish and a yummy smell too!

Thanks for dropping in!

Michelle said...

Hi Jen,

I think you touched on something that so many of us think about. And in my opinion, the fact that we are becoming more mindful of over-consumption is a HUGE step in the right direction! I recently read "Heaven on Earth" by Sharifa Oppenheimer. In it she says that we should make our children toys while they watch us; that the toys we make for them are "love made visible." I think that is so true and your children are lucky to have such a creative mother!

As for the chickens, they sure are fun, and if you live in the suburbs like we do, they give the neighbors a lot to chat about ;-)

I'll plan a chicken primer post soon, including recipes for all those eggs!!

Take Care,

The Wool Fairy said...

Hi Michelle,

I read "Heaven on Earth" not long ago. I do agree with what she has to say. Thanks for reminding me. I should do a re-read of that section.

I'd love some new egg recipes so I will be sure to look out for them.

Happy Friday everyone!

Pink & Green Mama said...

I feel the same dilemma, I am always making fun things for the girls and they always ask me to make things for them. My girls do appreciate homemade over store bought and my 6 year old believes she can make anything she puts her mind to. I do think we are teaching our sons and daughters that they can be creators and artists and that is a gift that will serve them well throughout life. Just think how boring it is to just go to a store buy things that everyone else has, my girls love that their treasures are their own and no one else's. They show them off with pride to friends and family.

The Wool Fairy said...

Hi Pink & Green Mama,

It's promising to hear that your six year old appreciates the hand-made creations over store bought. I do agree that a "do it yourself" attitude and mindset will serve them well in life. Even in less "creative" situations, I think they will have developed problem solving skills and an ability to figure out how to accomplish something.

Thanks everyone for your input. This was a great discussion. At the very least, it helps to justify my obsession to continue making things and involving the little ones as much as possible.

Amber said...

Your blog is gorgeous :)
I'm starting to think that you made the rainbow stacker yourself... am I right!? wow :)

The Wool Fairy said...

Hi Amber! Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I did make that rainbow stacker. My efforts were worth it as it is a favorite with the kids. With the right tools (scroll saw) the wooden goodies are actually pretty easy to make. Lots of fun! (: