Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Waldorf Handwork Philosophy


 The traditional Waldorf stages are defined as...

  • Hands/Will/ Angels, ( 0-7)
  • Hearts/Imagination/ Artists (7-14)
  • Head/Understanding/Scientists (14-21) 

 Handwork is important in all these stages.

In the stage of Hands/Wills/Angels (0-7) handwork can be taught through modelling where a child can watch an adult work around them and absorb it naturally. 
A child will also be more interested in exploring the feel of materials rather than actually designing or fashioning them into a finished product.
Supervised play with clay, bread dough, soft wool roving and natural seed pods, stones and shells is a perfect introduction to handwork at this age.

Here handwork can be used as a tool to spark the imagination. The child can begin to learn how raw materials are grown, harvested and processed. Children can discover how fleece is washed, carded and spun into yarn. From this deep connection to the natural environment children can begin to learn simple weaving, felting, finger knitting, knitting, crocheting and sewing. 
Projects can be carefully designed, planned and slowly worked through week on week. 

Young people may enjoy designing their own patterns and projects at this stage. This is also the perfect time to introduce traditional crafts such as pottery, metal work, wood work and glass work. Many local artisans are happy to offer workshops. 

An Emphasis on understanding the journey not just the destination.
In Waldorf schools, children are given the opportunity to see the process of creation from start to finish.
An example of that is getting the children to collect local sheep fleece. They wash, card and spin the fleece, plie it to create yarn and then create something beautiful and useful from it such as a knitted scarf or a crocheted bag.
 Maintaining the vital connection between product and process is essential if we are to remain mindfully compassionate about the choices we make as consumers.

Connections between Process and Product
The connection between process and product is also something I want to integrate into our homeschooling day.
So often we can get too caught up on the finish line, the target, the result, when really the process of creation is where the essential learning takes place.

 Honoring the Integrity of the Work

Boo has been learning this lesson well as she weaves her little rope basket, day by day, inching around a circle, two stitches forward and one stitch back!
At first it was really hard for her to undo any work that was messy and could be improved on. She became very attached to the idea of "just finishing".
Now undoing and redoing are something she takes on board much more easily and through it she gives her work integrity. 

Making Each Stitch Count
How many times in life will we have to make each stitch count for its own sake?
Ultimately, the integrity of a whole life's work rests upon the love given to the single stitches that weave it into one piece.

soft fleece still smelling of the pasture
the spinning dervish of the drop spindle

twirling in the same motion as the spheres both great and small.

uniting all stranded fibres, all distracted threads


Double finger knitted into strands.
"Spring Primula's"
"Maid Marion Handspun Garland"


  1. Thank you for this explanation of handwork principles. I have read a lot on the subject but this is the clearest explanation I have found. Thank you.

    1. Wow, Thank you so much sustainable mum :) That is an amazing compliment!

  2. wonderful information and lovely finished product


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