Wool with Kids: Teaching through Story

Child with black sheep finger puppet

When you want to teach a young child big ideas about the world, little stories are often the most effective way. Pelle’s New Suit tells how a growing boy uses the wool of his lamb for a new suit.

Last week, in my post about basic weaving with children, I mentioned the book Pelle’s New Suit. I love this book so much for children that I want to come back to it and tell you more. We’ve been celebrating lambing season this month with wool crafts for children: felted wool ball, spool knitting, and basic weaving. I want to make that connection between the life of a sheep and the natural materials we use in our lives. Reading the story of Pelle’s New Suit to my children was one of the ways I helped them understand where wool comes from and why we value sheep so much.

Before I had children, I recall a friend telling me a story about his daughter’s dawning realization of her connections with the world around her. Like many very young children, she had story books that told about animals and she had visited animals. One of her favorite animals was the chicken. One night, when she asked what they were eating for dinner, her father said, “Chicken.” “Oh,” she said, “’Chicken’ sounds just like ‘chicken!’” As he told me, I waited for the lesson when he told her the rest of the story. He didn’t. “You didn’t tell her at all?” I asked. No, he didn’t. He didn’t want to upset her. Maybe not now, but imagine her upset when she realized the truth.

I considered this a lesson is parenting. I decided that I would always make an effort to help my children understand the connections among things—like fluffy chickens in a petting zoo and dinner on a plate. The right time to talk about connections is when the child brings it up. In my family, we talk about the origins of different foods, fibers, and the other stuff around us. I have always wanted my children to have, in their own developmentally appropriate way, the tools to make their own decisions about their actions.

When I first read Pelle’s New Suit, when my first child was not quite one year old, I knew this would be one of the books that would help me make those connections for her. Both of my children know the story well. We read it often. Even now, as they are older, they love this book. When I asked my 12-year old where the book was so I could reread it for today, he pulled it off the shelf next to his bed.

Pelle’s Suit Grows Shorter

Pelle takes care of his lamb all by himself. His lamb’s hair grows longer as his own suit grows shorter. Step by step Pelle makes his new suit happen, through sheering to carding to spinning to dying to weaving to tailoring. Pelle trades his help for that of the adults who have the skills to create his suit. In the end, we see the bigger boy in the bigger suit with his bigger lamb.

Simply and clearly the process of creating clothing unfolds. This is such a sweet story of an independent child as part of his community.

Pelle’s New Suit is 101 years old. It was originally published in Sweden in 1912 by Elsa Beskow. For over 50 years she created beautifully gentle illustrations of adventurous and strong children. Her books are still quite popular in Waldorf education, and they are still in print in many languages. I’m not the only parent for whom these stories resonate.

Little Black Sheep Puppet

With a family favorite story, it’s fun to have props. When my children were very young, we often gathered up particular toys to listen to or act out stories. The moose joined us for Mooses Come Walking and the mouse joined us for Sugar Mouse Cake.

At bynature.ca we carry puppets of all sizes because children use characters like these to tell the stories that help them understand their world as their world grows. In case you want to invite Pelle and his lamb into your library, you might be interested in the little black sheep puppet as well.

Happy storytelling.

Wool Crafts with Kids: Weaving

Child weaving on a wooden loom

Kids love making things, exploring and transforming stuff with their hands. I like giving my children crafts with growth potential, so there is another step to take if they want it. Start with a small woven mat, and your child may want to keep weaving until you have a blanket, a wall hanging, and a whole set of mats.

Weaving, moving one thread up and down through another thread, can help a child learn basic mathematical skills, fine motor control, dexterity, and concentration. And, creating a beautiful product from quality materials builds self-confidence and gives your child a sense of accomplishment.

It’s lambing season. We’re celebrating by focusing on the wool that lambs and sheep give us. We often talk about wool as a useful fiber for cloth diapering, but we love wool for many other household uses. Wool feels good in the hands. As children develop their skills, we like knowing that they are doing so using natural fibers. If you would like to go back and try other crafts with your children, we’ve shared ideas for felting wool balls and spool knitting over the past couple of weeks.

Start with a Loom

You can build a simple tapestry loom with a frame and pegs at the top and bottom. You can make it any size and shape your materials allow. That might be a future project, though. For those just starting out, we sell a basic 12-peg wooden loom that both children and adults will enjoy using.


  • Loom
  • Wool yarn
  • String for warp
  • Needle or shuttle

Wooden Weaving Loom Kit for a Child

How Weaving Works

Basic weaving has warp and weft. You use string up and down between the top and bottom pegs of the loom to create the warp. This provides the basic structure of your woven piece. You can weave so the warp is covered or so that it shows. The main yarn that gives your weaving color and weight is the weft. Weft means woven (weaved > wef-ed > weft). This is the thread or yarn that is woven through the strings of the warp.

The simplest way to start weaving is to use a needle. Using a fine point helps your child navigate up over one string and down under the next while the fine needle is small enough that they can easily see their progress as they weave.

At the end of each row, you can press down the yarn you’ve just woven through the strings (called beating the weft), or you can leave the fabric less dense and let the warp show. With a child, I like to create one piece by the simplest method then add a new technique for the next piece. I recommend starting with a looser woven piece. This is also much quicker to make, and an easy win can be motivation to put in more time for the next piece.

When your child is finished weaving on the basic loom, the piece should hold together when you take it off the pegs. You may need to push the weft around a bit to even out the rows.

How Many Doll Blankets Do You Need?

If your child comes to enjoy weaving, you may end up with a lot of doll blankets, purses, and coasters. As my children started producing more and more little pieces of work, I steered them toward using those small pieces to produce bigger pieces.

Make a Pillow. If your child weaves six pieces on the small wooden loom, each approximately 6.5″ x 10″ (depending on how tight they pull as they are weaving), you can sew those together to create one 20″ x 20″ piece, which is perfect for a throw pillow. If you either sew that piece to the front of an existing pillow or make a new pillow with some sturdy fabric on the back then fill it with a 20″ x 20″ pillow form, you have a beautiful object that you can use around the house. You give your child the experience of creating a complete object. What a great gift that would be for grandma. My family still uses pillows made by my children years ago. I love that constant reminder.

Make a Blanket. If your child loves weaving even after you have plenty of pillows, move on to making blankets. My daughter kept making new projects until she found her level at the size of baby blankets. Just be open to using all of the little pieces of weaving in a bigger project of some kind.

Very Basic Weaving. Did you weave potholders as a child? I did. I learned weaving with cotton loops on a square potholder loom. The difference between the wooden peg loom and the potholder loom is in the weft. For potholders, single loops are the weft for each separate row; for the small tapestry loom, one continuous piece of yarn is your weft row after row. We carry the traditional potholder loom and extra cotton weaving loops because we think your child might enjoy basic weaving as a confidence-building experience.

More Advanced Weaving. If you have kids who like to experiment, and who doesn’t, increase the challenge as they learn weaving.

  • Weave with thread. Try doing the same kind of piece on a tiny loom.
  • Build a giant loom. See how big you can go. Weave a whole blanket all at once rather than creating a patchwork of smaller pieces.
  • Draw with yarn. Learn how to use the weft and the warp to create geometric shapes then organic shapes then images.
  • Learn about weaving. This would be a great opportunity to look at weaving in a museum or gallery. Read storybooks about weaving. I love Elsa Beskow’s Pelle’s New Suit, in which a young shepherd uses his lamb’s wool to have a new suit made, and Charles Blood’s The Goat in the Rug, which tells the story of Navajo weaving from a goat’s point of view. Both books tell stories that engage a child in process from animal through to the final product.

The more your child connects what they are learning with the world around them, the better. Weaving holds a world of such potential expression, whether they weave a story in tapestry or just make a potholder.

Wool Crafts with Kids: Spool Knitting

Child using a wooden knitting spool

Teaching knitting to very young children not only gives them a way to busy the hands so the mind can calm, it opens them to creating. They aren’t just expressing as they do in so many arts and crafts. Teaching a child to knit can be an exciting experience for them as they see their simple actions produce a fabric. Knitting is transformation.

We’re continuing our celebration of lambing season, following last week’s instructions for making felted wool balls.

The Right Age to Start Knitting

The right age to start depends on the child. I was 3 years old when I started knitting with needles, and I also spent years knitting cords on a knitting spool. I saw my mother knitting every day, and I wanted to knit as well. I waited until my children asked to knit, and they did ask when they saw both my husband and me knitting. We started by making our own needles. Now, many days during homeschool my 15-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son, and I are all knitting while we read to one another. On their own, my children plan and carry out knitting projects, asking for help when they need new skills to create what they can imagine.

There isn’t a right age. Three years old worked for me; eight years old might be better for someone else. The best time to start is when your child asks to knit. If you push, no matter what age your child is, you might meet resistance.

Spool Knitting for Beginners

Wooden knitting spool

A lot of parents start teaching knitting—and hand-eye coordination—through finger knitting. Start with finger knitting, knitting spool, or big homemade needles. They are all quite different experiences, and you could try them all to see which your child likes.

I like the simplicity of a knitting spool, and I love how quickly a child will see progress.

A knitting spool is sometimes called a knitting Nancy or a knitting mushroom. They are called spools because they were made from empty wooden thread spools with nails around one end. My first knitting spool was one of my grandmother’s old thread spools.

Now, you can buy knitting spools from a small, 4-pin spool for a child to a plastic hoop with dozens of pins and a hand crank. We’ll keep this simple. We carry a wooden knitting spool with 4 metal pins and an all-wood knitting spool with 6 pins.

Choosing wool. A soft, 100% wool yarn is perfect for the beginning knitter. Worsted or sport weight works well as the knitter learns to pull the yarn over the pins. I love single-ply wool, but I find that it pulls apart easily in children’s projects. To avoid that frustration, I prefer multi-ply wool for children. I also find that beginning knitters tend to choose variegated yarn. It gives a bit of color variety. If that makes the difference in keeping their interest, great.


  • Knitting spool
  • Wool
  • Pick or crochet hook (or just use fingers)

Spools come with simple instructions to get you started. If you make your own spool, you can watch basic instructions.

Wood knitting spool with tarn

All of That Wool Cord!

If your child gets interested in knitting 4-stitch cord with the knitting spool, you might end up with bundles of cord and a need for a new project. I have a few ideas.

Edging. Sew your child’s cord to the edge of a favorite sweater. They will probably be very proud of their contribution to the sweater.

Weaving. You could move on from knitting to weaving, and weaving with cord makes those early weaving efforts quickly satisfying.

Knitting, again. If you use giant needles—giant, as in the size of broom handles—you can knit with cord. My son likes to do this. It amuses him. He just makes scarves.

I hope knitting gives your children the kind of stress-relieving outlet for expression that it has for my children.

Wool Crafts with Kids: Felted Wool Balls

Mother sheep feeding lamb

Halfway between the first day of winter and the first day of spring is the traditional beginning of lambing season, though new sheep might actually be born anytime from December through May. To celebrate sheep, lambs, and the beautiful wool they give us, we are sharing several weeks of wool crafts you can do with your children.

Felted Wool Balls

DIY Felted Wool Balls

Wool Dryer Balls have become a very popular way to add natural scent and quicker drying agitation to machine drying cloth diapers, linens, or any clothing. You can easily make these dryer balls yourself the hard way, the easy way, or the super easy way.

Wool Balls the Hard Way

Actually, the hard way isn’t that hard. If you have seen felted wool figures and wished you could learn to do that, too, wool balls are a perfect way to start your wool felting adventure.

This method is certainly easy enough to do with children, though you may want to start with smaller wool beads.


  • Wool roving
  • Detergent
  • Hot water
  • Needle felting needles
  • Needle felt mat
  • Bowl
  • Towel

Wool roving comes in a big variety of beautiful colors. Some people use a lower quality wool for the center of the ball and save the colors for the outside of the ball where they will show.

Your first step is to wind the wool tight. Keep winding the roving around your ball quite tight, making an effort to keep it smooth and even. If you have made a Waldorf doll or other wool doll, you already know how to do this. When you have a ball of roving about as big as a grapefruit, you are ready to felt your dryer ball.

This is where the felting starts. You place your ball on the felting mat and start poking the ball with your felting needle. This forces the wool fibers through and around one another. You can do this by squeezing and rolling without the felting tools, but the felting won’t be as tight.

Once your ball is smooth and round, you begin felting in water. Dip the ball in a bowl of very hot water with a tiny bit of detergent, then roll the ball around in your hands. The scales on the individual fibers open in the hot water then close on other fibers as you roll the ball and it cools. The individual wool fibers hold on to one another, and you have a felted ball.

I call this the hard way, but it’s really very easy. It’s just that the other ways of making felt balls are even easier.

Felting supplies are available at craft stores.

Wool Balls the Easy Way

If you don’t want to buy felting tools, you can still felt large and small wool balls.


  • 100% wool yarn
  • tapestry needle
  • pantyhose
  • non-wool thread

Single ply wool yarn will work best, but you can use any all-wool yarn.

Start by winding the yarn around two fingers several times, then fold that yarn in half and use it as your core. Now, keep winding and keep it tight.

You don’t need to make this ball quite as big as the roving ball, though it will tighten up some. When the ball is just bigger than you want it to be, cut the yarn and use your tapestry needle to thread through the ball so it doesn’t unwind in the felting process.

At this point, you could do the wet felting above, but this is the easy version, so we’re just going to drop the balls in pantyhose. Put the first ball in the toe, then tie the pantyhose tight with thread. Drop in the next, tie off, and so on until you have a continuous sausage of wool balls.

Now, wash on hot and dry on hot. Just throw the balls in with a load of towels. Once they are dry, cut the threads and free the dryer balls.

Wool Balls the Easiest Way

Even young children can make felt balls, but it helps to keep the project short.


We have a colourful wool ball kit that takes about 10 minutes to make. The short cut is to use a tennis ball as the center, wrapping the wool roving around the tennis ball. Then, wet felt and squeeze to create a colorful toy for child or pet.

This kit would make a great party craft.

Keep Going!

Vary Size. Adapt any of these methods to make smaller balls for wool beads, doll heads, or other small items. Remember to keep them larger than your small children could swallow.

Add Colour. Dye your own wool or experiment with colors you can buy.

Change Shape. Felting can be used to create flat fabrics or very elaborate sculptures

Once you see how easy it is to create your own felted wool toys, you’ll be hooked.

Image © Paulselway | Dreamstime.com