• Paula Gray

Play Silks are simple, versatile, open-ended creative toys that are essential to any Waldorf-inspired or Natural Playroom (making the list on my top 5 must-haves for a Natural Playroom). Made from a pure and sustainable material, Silks are nourishing to the senses. Used in play, they allow children to use their imagination, providing myriad and endless possibilities. If you have not yet introduced this to your children, put a coloured silk in their hands and prepare to be enchanted.


This tutorial will walk you through the process of making your own play silks using plant and fruit dyes. The process is simple, fun and cost-effective.


Natural dyes are earth-friendly, non-toxic and make the loveliest subtle and earthy colours.


Step One: Order Plain Silks


Order plain hemmed 100% Habotai Silks (I order mine from Dharma Trading)


I highly recommend the 8mm for play. Play silks often come in 5mm which is too thin and prone to snags, rips and tears. Our 8mm play silks hold up to play very well and still look new after 3 years. In terms of sizes, I recommend 30x30 or 36x36 squares. You want a good size that they can use to make capes and dresses etc. (The smaller size silks are better for babies or dolls)


Step Two: Use a Mordant


This sounds a little morbid but a mordant is simply a fixative that allows the colour to affix to the material. You can use the following as a mordant:


SALT: For dyes made from fruits

VINEGAR: For dyes made from vegetables

ALUM: (recommended method): Works very well for either


Step Three: Wash your silks in cold water and soak in the mordant.


Step Four: Prepare the Dye Baths



I used the following:


Light Yellow: Tumeric (cold)

Golden Yellow: Tumeric (hot-process)

Purple: Blueberries

Dusty Pink: Beets

Purplish Pink: Red Cabbage

Blue: Red Cabbage + Baking Soda


(There are many more options for natural dyes such as onion skins, avocado skins, goldenrod, etc)


1. Boil your blueberries, chopped beets and red cabbage etc (separately of course!) in a pot of water for at least half an hour.


3. Add 1 tablespoon of Alum or 1 cup of vinegar or 1/2 cup of salt per litre of water. Stir the mixture occasionally.


2. Drain/strain it into a big bowl or mason jar.


Step Five: Add the Silks to the Dye



Place your silks into the bowl or mason jar filled with dye, making sure to saturate it completely and evenly. Leave it for at least an hour.

Note: the longer you sit, the more saturated the colour will become.







Step Six: Wash in cold water until the water runs clear and hang to air dry.



The finished result:


Now it's ready for play!


Some ideas: make dresses, capes, tie to wrists and use as wings, blanket, sling for dolls, use for small world play, create pretend grass, water/rivers, put in a pot and stir as "soup", tie to branch and use as a flag, use for your nature/seasonal table.



Serenely,


Paula



24 views0 comments
  • Paula Gray

Updated: Jul 22, 2020



Pregnancy, birth and bonding with a newborn is one of the most sacred experiences on earth. It is THE act of creation and beginning of a new life's journey. After all, everything we are is rooted in who we are and how we are shaped at the very beginning. We are as one during pregnancy, and remain inextricably connected after birth. That is why the process of birthing and motherhood is seen as divine in many cultures, who have rich traditions and rituals surrounding the entire process.


But in our age of too much and too fast, many mothers have forsaken their deepest physical, mental and emotional needs postpartum


You know what I'm talking about: you've read the books on how to have a healthy pregnancy or at least followed your midwife or health practitioners advice on optimal health practices and foods to avoid. You've gotten the baby's nursery ready, hand picked or made her layette, laid it in her bassinet, lovingly looking in and waiting, dreaming of what baby will be like and eagerly or anxiously awaiting her arrival. You go through the birthing experience: the most difficult, joyous, painful and elating experience of your life. Then the focus shifts entirely to your baby's needs. And while you're grappling with all these new changes, you still need to balance receiving an influx of visitors, looking after your household, tending to your relationship with husband and other children, pressure to take your new baby on outings and functions you'd been invited to. All the while articles to sites you had subscribed to which had provided helpful pregnancy advice, now start funnelling in articles to your inbox such as "how to bounce back quickly", "tips on losing that baby weight fast".


You may feel lost, overwhelmed or like your deepest instincts are pleading for something else. I think we all feel instinctively there is a missing piece, a crucial step we overlooked.


Because you, Mother Goddess, deserve to look after yourself and your baby first, on your terms and not anyone else's.


Make a plan


We all likely had a birth plan, but what about a plan for postpartum recovery?

I want to propose we bring back the ancient tradition of lying in.

Lying in is a tradition found from Europe to Asia where a postpartum mama takes a period of adjustment (ranges from 2 weeks, up to 3 months in some capacity - also known as the fourth trimester) after birth, to simply heal, nurture herself and bond with her baby. The premise is simple, you stay in bed with your baby, sleep and rest as much as you need and have nourishing foods brought to you. This is serious business, a mother who is lying-in is not obligated to cook, do household chores, host, entertain, answer the door, put herself on a weight-loss diet or to do ANYTHING apart from healing, bonding, nourishing. The benefits are manifold: a peaceful and unstressed out mother will have a much easier time bonding with her new baby.


This is a not a luxury, it is postpartum care and one that cultures who move at a less hurried pace recognize as absolutely essential.

As a modern mother with so many obligations, you will need to have a plan and make arrangements to help ensure its success.


My personal experience


I had a lying-in with my first child Ellie who was born in the Middle East where we were living because my husband took a job as Director of the English Program at Dhofar University. My mother in law flew from Canada and joined us for nearly a month, looking after the house and tending to my needs as I tended to my healing and our newborn during my lying-in.

With my subsequent children, I was back in Canada and I had the additional pressure of visitors and my first child's needs. I was very fortunate that with my second child we were living with my in-laws who once again able to fill in the gaps I left, to focus on lying in and healing. The second time around I observed the Chinese tradition of 100 days (of rest, recovery, staying home/on own property and no visitors). We lived in the countryside and had a beautiful forest I would take short walks in during this time.



For my third child, we were in our own house. My husband was working and I had two other children to look after. What we did to ensure I was still able to have a lying-in, was to have my husband take a paternity leave and my mother in law stay with us for a period.


A lying-in involves someone “mothering the mother”


This can be your spouse, a postpartum doula, family members or friends who will come with no other intention other than to help.


Earth Mama Organics provides a wonderful resource for how to create a lying-in plan


All in all, a modern lying in is one in which we “acknowledge the realities and expectations of a modern mama with the realities of a healing body and the expectations of a brand new baby” (Earth Mama Organics).


Put together a lying in care-package for yourself


Set the atmosphere for optimal relaxation. Create a playlist ahead of time of music that you find soothing and put together a lying-in care package. You've gotten enough stuff for the baby! Now it's your turn. Create or purchase products that will support your postpartum recovery or have someone do this for you.


Some of my recommendations:

Organic Perineal Balm

Herbal Perineal Spray

Organic Skin & Scar Balm

Organic Nipple Butter

Organic Periodic Tea



You can also diffuse oils to help with sleep, mood and help turn your bedroom into a sanctuary of calm smelling like a field of lavender.


Here are some recommendations for essential oils that are safe for babies (aromatic only) and postpartum recovery. As this will be diffused around your newborn, please use only 100% Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade oils.


Lavender: soothing, healing, relaxing - promotes sleep and a calm state of mind

Serenity: blend of essential oils that promotes tranquillity and relaxation, lessen feelings of tension and calm emotions.

Bergamot: elevates and uplifts mood


If you need these oils, I've put together a custom kit of all 3 plus a wholesale membership (25% off all products for a year) for you with and without a diffuser.


Wishing you love and healing during your lying in.


Serenely,


Paula

39 views0 comments

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

I have a confession. I've always been a bit of a dress addict, I mean the girl who would nonchalantly giggle "you can't have too many dresses right?"

Free people, Anthropologie and anything from Canadian Boutique 1861 were my favourites. I loved the romantic and bohemian styles and saw them as a way to express my inner free-spirit and empower my confidence and femininity. After all, clothing is an expression of our identity! But as the rest of my life began to evolve and revolve around more natural and sustainable choices, and the layers around "beautiful" things began to unravel, I began to understand that like the beauty industry, the majority of our trillion-dollar global clothing industry belies an ugly and urgent truth that we need to address.


Let's look at the context.


We know plastic is destroying our environment, polluting our oceans, killing marine life, and has even found its way into our food chain, impacting human health in myriad negative ways. Make no mistake, this is a global crisis. We've all seen the photographs of plastic bags, bottles and other trash washed up on beaches with turtles tangled up in plastic. And governments are taking some action, as worldwide the ban on single-use plastics such as straws has become more prevalent and mainstream. While these measures are encouraging, I was dismayed to learn that the majority of plastics in our oceans are not from straws, cups or bags but microplastics (broken down pieces of plastics)!


How does this relate to our clothing?


60% of the material used in the clothing industry worldwide are synthetic fibres such as polyester, acrylic, nylon etc. The most commonly used one, Polyester refers to "synthetic polymer resin" and is a shortened name for a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is made by mixing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. Basically, it is a form of plastic. In fact, all the aforementioned synthetic fibres above are forms of plastic. They will never decompose, but will eventually break up into microplastics.



Nearly half of the world's clothing is made of polyester and this number is expected to double by 2030. The athleisure trend is a major contributing factor as consumers want stretchy and resistant garments, with polyester being the material of choice because of their versatility and low-cost.


But I truly, wholeheartedly believe that the true cost is far too high.


Investigating further, I was absolutely shocked to learn that plastic microfibres shed from our clothing every time we wash them, releasing more than 700,000 plastic fibres into the environment and are directly polluting our oceans.



There is no way around this with synthetic fibres. Sadly, contrary to what marketing spins will have us believe, recycled polyester is hardly a more sustainable option. Because recycled or not, they still end up as and contribute to microplastic pollution.


Minor aside: Apart from the major issue of sustainability, polyester is also highly flammable (unless treated with chemical flame retardants) is not a breathable fibre, and can cause irritation for people and especially children with sensitive skin.


Ethically speaking, they are often mass-produced in factories that further pollute the environment and exploit underpaid workers in poor conditions - but that's a whole other topic on the importance of choosing Slow Fashion that I will discuss another time.


A natural solution

(Wearing one of my favourite dresses, handmade from raw organic cotton)


What I did after realizing the earthy, bohemian dresses I loved so much were actually contributing to environmental and oceanic destruction, was making a commitment to choose sustainable and natural textiles/fibres: flax (linen), cotton, hemp, bamboo, silk etc. They are better for our health in so many ways, are more likely to be ethically made (this is something that needs to be evaluated on an individual basis) but most importantly they are not polluting the oceans with microplastics. I so look forward to sharing some of my favourite ethically made sustainable clothing makers with you on this blog.


I know this whole issue seems like a deep rabbit hole to go down, and it's easy to either feel motivated or frustrated. You might wonder as I once did - what can we eat, wear or do that doesn't have some kind of negative environmental impact?

Well, I can tell you this: the change we may or may not pursue in regard to this issue, is a direct stand we take on saving our oceans and our planet.


As David Mitchell once wrote:

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”


I believe we can all make a difference. One step at a time: by aligning our consuming habits with our values and in turn be a part of the change to create a more sustainable future.


Serenely and Sincerely Yours,


Paula

45 views0 comments