Monday, January 11, 2010

The Cap that Mother Made

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Anders, who had a new cap. And a prettier cap you never have seen, for mother herself had knit it; and nobody could make anything quite so nice as mother did. It was altogether red, except a small part in the middle which was green, for the red yarn had given out; and the tassel was blue.

His brothers and sisters walked about squinting at him, and their faces grew long with envy. But Anders cared nothing for that. He put his hands in his pockets and went out for a walk, for he wished everybody to see how fine he looked in his new cap.

The first person he met was a farmer walking along side a wagon load of wood. The farmer made a bow so deep that his back came near breaking. He was dumbfounded, I can tell you, when he saw it was nobody but Anders.

"Dear me," said he, "if I did not think it was the little count himself!" And then he invited Anders to ride in his wagon.

But when one has a handsome, red cap with a blue tassel, one does not ride in a wagon, and Anders said, "No thank you," and walked by.

At the turn of the road he met the tanner's son, Lars. He was such a big boy that he wore high boots, and carried a jack-knife. Lars gaped and gazed at the cap, and could not keep form fingering the blue tassel.

"Let's trade caps," he said. "I will give you my jack-knife to boot."

Now this knife was a very good one, though the handle was a little cracked. Anders knew that one is almost a man as soon as he has a jack-knife. But still it was not as good as the new cap which mother had made.

"Oh, no, I'm not so foolish as all that. No I'm not!" Anders said.

And then he said good-bye to Lars with a nod. But Lars only made faces at him, for he was very much put out that he could not get Anders cap.

Anders went along, and he met a very old woman who curtsied till her skirts looked like a balloon. She called him a little gentleman, and said he was fine enough to go to the royal court ball.

"Yes, why not?" thought Anders. "Seeing that my cap is so fine, I may as well go and visit the King."

And so he did. In the palace yard stood two soldiers with shining helmets, and with muskets over their shoulders; and when Anders came to the gate, both the muskets were leveled at him.

"Where are you going?" asked one of the soldiers.

"I'm going to the court ball," answered Anders.

"No, you are not," said the other soldier stepping forward. "Nobody is allowed there without a uniform."

But just at this instant the princess came tripping across the yard. She was dressed in white silk with bows of gold ribbon. When she saw Anders and the soldiers, she walked over to them.

"Oh," she said,"he has such a very fine cap on his head, and that will do just as well as a uniform."

And she took Anders' hand and walked with him up the broad marble stairs where soldiers were posted at every third step, and through the beautiful halls where courtiers in silk and velvet stood bowing wherever he went. For no doubt they thought him a prince when they saw his fine cap.

At the farther end of the largest hall a table was set with golden cups and golden plates in long rows. On huge silver dishes were piles of tarts and cakes, and red wine sparkled in shining glasses.
The princess sat down at the head of this long table and she let Anders sit in a golden chair by her side.

"But you must not eat with your cap on your head," she said, putting out her hand to take it off.

"Oh, yes, I can eat just as well with my cap as without it," said Anders, holding on to his cap. For if they should take it away from him, nobody would any longer believe that he was a prince. And besides, he did not feel sure that he would get it back again.

"Well, give it to me," said the princess, "and I will give you a kiss."

The princess was certainly beautiful, and Anders would have dearly liked to be kissed by her, but the cap which mother had made, he would not give up on any condition. He only shook his head.

"Well, but see," said the princess; and she filled his pockets with cakes, and put her own gold chain around his neck, and bent down and kissed him.

But he only moved farther back in his chair and did not take his hands away from his head.

Then the doors were thrown open, and the King entered with a large number of gentlemen in glittering uniforms and plumed hats. The King himself wore a purple mantle which trailed behind him, and he had a large gold crown on his white curly hair.
He smiled when he saw Anders in the gilt chair.

"That is a very fine cap you have," he said.

"So it is," replied Anders. "Mother knit it of her very best yarn, and everybody wishes to get it away from me."

"But surely you would like to change caps with me," said the King, raising his large, heavy crown from his head.

Anders did not answer. He sat as before, and held on to his red cap which everybody was so eager to get. But when the King came nearer to him, with is gold crown between his hands, then Anders grew frightened as never before. If he did not take good care, the King might take his cap from him; for a King can do whatever he likes.

With one jump Anders was out of his chair. He darted like an arrow through all the beautiful halls, down all the marble stairs, and across the yard.

He twisted himself like an eel between the outstretched arms of the courtiers, and over the soldiers' muskets he jumped like a rabbit.

He ran so fast that the princess's necklace fell off of his neck, and all the cakes jumped out of his pockets. But he still had his cap. He was holding on to it with both hands as he rushed into his mother's cottage.

His mother took him up in her lap, and he told her all of his adventures, and how everybody wanted his cap. All of his brothers and sisters stood around and listened with their mouths open.

But when his big brother heard that he had refused to trade his cap for the King's golden crown, he said that Anders was foolish. Just think how much money one might get for the King's crown; and Anders could have gotten an even finer cap.

That was something that Anders had not thought of, and his face grew red.
He put his arms around his mother's neck and asked:
"Mother, was I foolish?"

His mother hugged him close and kissed him.
"No, my little son," said she. "If you were dressed in silver and gold from top to toe, you could not look any nicer than you do in your little red cap."

Then Anders felt brave again. He knew that mother's cap was the best cap in all the world.

Anders' Cap is retold by LLL,Storysinger; the original source is Swedish Fairy Tales by Anna Wahlenberg, published in 1901

above illustrations are from "The Cap that Mother Made Me", Rand McNally Start-Right Elf Book, 1967, Illustrations by Esther Friend

I have found that in some crafts it is easier to learn when you can see what needs to be done.
Knitting definitely seems to be one of those "watch what I do" crafts.
For this reason, I have chosen to put up videos on how to knit.

I have three videos for you. The first two vids demonstrate how to you make a very basic scarf.

The third vid is for the more advanced knitter or the adventurous beginner.
It gives directions for making a simple hat using circular needles.

For the scarf (the first 2 videos) you will need:
a pair of knitting needles, the size is up to you
a skein/ball of yarn (I suggest avoiding very fine/thin yarns in the beginning)
a pair of scissors

How to Cast on stitches to begin your knitting.
There are other ways to do this but I like the way that this video explains the process.

How to do your basic knit also called the Garter Stitch and how to Bind off/end your knitting.

For this third video, hat making, you'll need...yarn, circular needles, stitch markers and scissors. has a few pics on How to Knit here

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Legend of La Befana

A Christmas tale from Italian Folklore retold by La

La Befana was an old woman who lived in a small village in Italy. She was known throughout the village for her wonderful baking and the cleanliness of her kitchen. She was often seen sweeping the area in front of her home. And many had heard her say that she was so busy baking and cleaning that she rarely had time to do anything else.

One winter day, while La Befana was sweeping in front of her home, three travelers stopped to ask her for a drink of water. They told La Befana that they were astrologers (they were often called the three wise men) who were following a star to the birth place of the Christ child. She kindly gave them water and then invited them to dinner.

After dinner the astrologers prepared to continue their journey and asked her if she would like to come with them to see the Christ child. La Befana shook her head saying that she could not possibly take the time needed for such a journey. She was secretly itching to get back to her cleaning and cooking. She stood at her door and watched them leave.

La Befana went back to her sweeping. But hours later she began to feel that she had made a mistake. Maybe she should have gone with the 3 astrologers to see the Christ child. La Befana decided to follow them.

She quickly grabbed a basket and filled it with baked goods of all kinds. She then put on her shawl and with her basket and broom hurried off into the night practically running to catch up with the wise men.

La Befana traveled through the night but never caught up with the wise men. It is said that she ran and ran until she and her broom were lifted up into the air!

Ever since that night, La Befana is believed to fly through the night or run over the roofs in Italy on Epiphany eve. She stops at the home of every child, leaving them treats in their stockings if they are good and a lump of coal if they are bad.

She hopes that one of the children she visits will be the christ child.

Copyright LLL, Storyteller/Storysinger

The name Befana is said to be a mispronunciation of the Italian word epifania which stands for epiphany. La Befana still visits the children of Italy on the eve of January 6, Epiphany. She fills their stockings with candy or a lump of coal. It is also believed that she sweeps the floor before she leaves. Many households leave her a small glass of wine and a small plate of goodies.

Epiphany Star
Craft or Popsicle sticks
colored markers
a variety of small beads, confetti or other decorative items
thread or ribbon

1. Paint or color sticks using markers
2. Glue into sticks into a star shape
3. Decorate your star with glue and glitter and/or any of the other items you have
4. Tie or glue a loop of thread or ribbon for the hanger

For a different look, use twigs or small pieces of wood instead of craft sticks. The twigs can be painted and then sprinkled with glitter.