Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday


Hey, Teach is done.

Knit on size 8 needles in Lion Brand Cotton Ease. It took less than 3 skeins to make size XS. I ended up making size XS because my gauge on the size 8 needles was a bit big, but the gauge on the size 7 needles was way small.

I messed around with the layout of the lace on the bodice some since I didn't like the way the pattern was written for this size -- way too many blank stockinette stitches marching up the middle front. And I did a 3-needle bind off on the shoulders, which was way easier than sewing it together or grafting or whatever the pattern called for (obviously I didn't pay attention to what the pattern said).


The bodice muslin is sewn together. From the waist down it has negative ease. From the waist to the upper third of the armscye it has positive ease. The shoulders are rather nice. Overall, it is very, very bad, although also quite funny. No pics until it's a little more in the ballpark of fitting sanely.


Ready to order the cabinets. Every inch has been measured and re-measured. There are ink marks all over the walls, floor, and countertops where we've drawn things out. I was supposed to find handles this week, but forgot about it until this moment. Rats.

Monday, April 27, 2009


This weekend we:

** Planted a large tree. Which I didn't get a picture of, partially because "large tree" pictures look sort of boring.

** Went to the Extravaganza. "Extravaganza" in this sense means "very long dance show during which you will sit on uncomfortable metal folding chairs".

There were beginner dancers who were confused about which way to exit the stage (so cute!), experienced dancers who were breathtakingly good, and everything in between.

This is Thalia before she slipped and fell (the stage was slick):

Not injured, though. Another girl fell and possibly fractured her wrist about 2 minutes later.

Pretty much every type of drama you could possibly have in a dance recital, in other words.

The entire ensemble:

Also, they were running a silent auction during the show and intermissions. Rick kept quite busy with that. We now own new stuff. AnnaBeth got a clip-on MP3 player that she just adores -- she has visions of loading dance music on it so she can practice dancing. Too bad the ear buds fall out when she starts leaping around too much.

** Got up early Sunday so Thalia could be at church by 8:30, since her choir was doing all the music -- prelude, offertory, special music. She looked a little dazed due to lack of sleep. Several of the other kids looked similarly dazed, though -- the youth group had an overnight party Friday night (Thalia skipped it, as she wanted to get some sleep at some point during the weekend), many are in Scouts and thus were involved in April Showers on Saturday after being up all night .... The sermon touched on the over-scheduled life many people lead. Appropriate. Heck, Thalia and AnnaBeth had to skip another party on Saturday night -- a really cool Scout shindig -- due to the dance show. It was a hopping weekend for kid-events for everyone I talked to.

** AnnaBeth went to a party on Sunday afternoon. She and a good friend were armed with cameras.

They got some really cute shots. Now I need to figure out email addresses and distribute them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some resources for studying seeds with young children

A cool book we read is A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston. Great illustrations, gentle text. Not a scientific treatise, but a chance to awaken interest in the diversity of the seed world.

Last night I was feeling guilt pains over my lack of worksheets about seeds. Options:

1. Make my own.
2. Find something on Enchanted Learning (and they do have some nice ones there).
3. Look for some cool Montessori-type stuff instead.

And the winner is -- seed nomenclature cards from Montessori for Everyone.

Really, you could make these yourself easily. But since I was already wishing I'd thought of this a week ago, I chose to order the PDF. The file arrived within the hour, I printed them on cardstock (if I were expecting heavy use I'd also laminate them). AnnaBeth spent some time matching things up. We didn't exactly do a 3-part lessons (surely you don't expect us to be Montessori purists here -- and anyway, this stuff is actually for the 3-6 year old classroom).

My long-range plan is to re-visit these, mixing them in with, say, parts of the stem or parts of the leaf -- in other words, becoming more difficult. Also, she'll draw and label a seed.

I found this in one of my Montessori catalogues last night. You know what? I have gobs of glass jars around here. I also have carrot and radish seeds. All I'm lacking is a way to shield the roots from light (I think the kit comes with black paper you use as a light shield). But guess what -- I have loads of black felt; I considered sewing velcro on to wrap it around the jars, but may go lower tech with duct tape. We'll just have to figure out how close to the side to plant the seeds.

Work in Progress Wednesday

Not quite finished with Hey, Teach. I have everything sewn up, ready to start knitting the trim.

Oooohh, look how the stockinette seems to have horizontal ridges in it. I wonder what's up with that? Probably uneven tension using the cotton yarn. Good thing I don't much care, or I'd be ripping the whole thing out right now. But, honestly, the odds that most people would ever notice are pretty low. And I'm simply trying to produce a wearable garment, not the be-all end-all display of my knitting ability.

You're not supposed to sew everything up before starting the trim, by the way-- you're only supposed to sew the shoulder seams, then do the trim, then sew in the sleeves and sew the side seams -- but I wanted to see how it was fitting.

Sunday I finished knitting the 2nd sleeve, and was suddenly seized by the desire to do tiny embroidery. So I pulled out the cape of the American Girl-size Irish Dance dress I've been working on:

The cape is the thing that hangs down the back.

I wish I'd used a brighter pink. What was I thinking? If I do this again (and the odds are high that will happen -- we have enough 18 inch dolls here to have our own 8-hand ceili team), I'm switching colors. Also, an embroidery machine is looking better and better.

All that leaves for embroidery is the side skirts, which have designs along the bottom.

The bodice is already done. Although I might take apart the side seams so I can use an invisible zipper. I don't know. I'd planned to use velcro or snaps, but AnnaBeth thought it should have a zipper.

We love the wee cuffs most of all.

Also, work continues on the Solo Dress bodice muslin. I drew out a dropped waist

cut out and marked all of the pieces.

The fabric I'm using is very light cotton. This means that it won't show design flaws as much as a heavier fabric would. Considering that the finished product will be in a heavier fabric, this presents a problem. I wonder if I should fuse some interfacing to the whole thing to give it more weight and take away some of the drape.

Since this is going to take so long (Thalia is hoping to have a dress by Oireachtas, which is over Thanksgiving), I'm thinking that after each task I'll take a break to sew something else. The question is, what is a "task"? Can I stop now? Or should I sew up and fit the bodice?

In other news, the new appliances should be here any minute. Not that they'll be installed any time soon, but it's exciting to know that soon I'll have a working stove on the premises.

100 Species Challenge

1. Strawberry
2. Black-eyed Susan
3. Rose of Sharon, Althea
4. Potentilla
5. Vinca

6. Grape Hyacinth

Yesterday was a lovely day, and while we were outside I suggested to AnnaBeth that she start sketching plants as a way to get to know more about them. Sitting down and drawing something like a flower involves really taking a good look at it. And putting a title on the drawing involves making sure you know the name and how to spell it.

After looking over some of the choices, concentrating on things that were currently flowering, she decided to draw some of the grape hyacinth.

These grow from bulbs, and pop up every year. I suspect that something eats our bulbs, as they don't seem to be multiplying as much as I expected. One thing I didn't realize is that apparently the bulbs are pickled and eaten by people in Greece and Italy. I love finding out about edible landscape, so I plan to look into that a little more later this week.

Grape hyacinths are actually part of the lily family.

This is an interesting page about grape hyacinths. Wouldn't it be cool to plant a river like that? But it probably wouldn't work here -- it would be eaten away (this is the story of our landscaping adventures here -- everything gets eaten by the local wildlife).

More about the 100 Species Challenge here, and a link to all of my 100 Species entries is in the sidebar.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This Week in Science

A few weeks ago AnnaBeth's Brownie troops planted seeds in pots. I instantly forgot what type of seeds they were -- some sort of flower. I have a mental block about doing plant-related projects with large groups of children, since they typically involve decorating clay pots that then get ruined when you try to water the plants therein, but this project used plain pots, so it was okay. But I still sort of blocked out all memory of what happened.

And the tiny little seeds sprouted, and we duly separated them into more pots, cutting off some that were too crowded. We discussed briefly why we cut them off instead of ripping them apart, and why we are so gentle with our transplanting and untangling of the seedlings (root hairs).

During all of this AnnaBeth commented that she'd really like to study plants next. And just like that, we dumped our study of the human body, and turned to botany.

We discovered several seeds in the kitchen cabinet:

Clockwise -- mung beans, white beans, kidney beans, wheat berries, and red lentils. We have more choices than this. but this seemed like a good start.

We soaked them in water overnight:

The skins of the kidney beans started getting wrinkly right away. I asked AnnaBeth to speculate on why that would happen.

The next day we split them open, and looked over the parts:

It probably would've been clever to make a sketch of the beans and label the parts. Too bad I didn't think of it at the time. Years from now she'll be able to claim I never told her those were cotyledons and explained the difference between monocots and dicots; really, though, it happened, but we don't have the worksheet to prove it.

We also put a bunch of mung beans in a jar, and a bunch of lentils in another jar, and sprouted them to eat. The mung beans were great, and AnnaBeth even ate some of them (if you know AnnaBeth you realize just how amazing that is):

The lentils didn't do so well. Some sprouted, some didn't, and overall they smelled off. We pitched them.

We've also started the popular "stick kidney beans in a jar up next to the side of it and watch them sprout" experiment, and planted some lemon seeds from a lemon we were cutting up.

Much, much more to come. There's about a zillion things you can do with plants in the spring. AnnaBeth keeps commenting how FUN this is, so much more fun than the human body. I pointed out that one problem with studying the human body is that you can't just cut it open and poke around, so it's a little more limited for fun hands-on projects at the elementary age.

Way back when Thalia was about 6 years old she and I studied plants. At the time the concept of "studying plants" gave me visions of fun worksheets about the Krebs cycle, or explaining red/far red light with little drawings of vibrating photons. Fortunately for Thalia I reigned in tendency to think that my young child needed to have a college level understanding of botany. (I see other people doing this to their kids, too, and realize that we really dodged a bullet there in our homeschooling.) So don't expect that sort of thing out of this unit. We'll be doing lots of hands on work with plants.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another Performance

AnnaBeth was in a play this weekend.

She had a fairly large role, and did a pretty good job. She's never done anything like this before so we really had no clue how it would turn out. I mean, we knew she had all of her lines memorized, but would she rush through them? freeze up and forget them?

The woman who directed suggested that we make sure AnnaBeth has more opportunities to perform. AnnaBeth agrees -- she had a great time up on stage.

And I doubt anyone else noticed that her socks were crooked and that she should've used sock glue (this is how Irish Dance warps your mind -- you start focussing on weird details).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Here's what we've got going on this week:

Hey, Teach, knit in Lion Brand Cotton-Ease.

It's going together very quickly.

Tracing out the Feis Dress pattern onto Pattern Ease prior to tissue fitting and messing with the design in order to make a dropped waist.

This is not coming together quickly. Also, see that roll of paper? That's all bodice pieces. The skirt has an even bigger roll.

Finally, dressing up the cat in baby clothes.

I'm not sure what this is accomplishing, but much time has been spent on it.

So, what are you up to this week?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ottobre skirt

From issue 2/2006, skirt number 9. Made in some sort of quilting cotton from Hancock's. The underskirt is an eyelet with a border (that isn't what the pattern called for -- the underskirt is supposed to be batiste and then have an eyelet trim sewn on).

She's wearing a yellow tank top and white sweater with it, by the way -- that yellow bit in the photo isn't part of the waistband.

It took nearly a week to make this. Her previous garment sewing experience was 1 elastic waist Kwik Sew skirt that had 3 tiers (involved gathering ruffles, in other words) and 1 pair of capri pajama pants from Kwik Sew. I have new insight into the often-asked question, "Can a beginner sew Ottobre patterns?" It really depends on the beginner's personality. Is this a person willing to puzzle things out, and decide what is an appropriate course of action? Does this person have access to books or people who can answer questions? Is it a person who can visualize from the written word?

Then again, you could sew many garments, and if you blindly follow directions without ever stopping to ponder "why" you do things a certain way, Ottobre could throw you for a loop. So could the need for diagrams.

Overall, I think she learned a lot, both about sewing and about tackling something that's a little bit difficult. And she's very pleased with the end result.

Younger sister is wearing a dress I made a couple of year ago. She still likes it and it still fits -- at least for the moment.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Slices of Life

If I twittered (which I don't) this is the sort of thing you'd have seen in the past day:

Morning -- AnnaBeth and Thalia have been listening to Ballet Shoes on CD. AnnaBeth is now wearing her hair in a chignon at the nape of her neck, and declares that she wants to take ballet lessons. In between school lessons she retreats to the couch to read our copy of DK Ballet Superguide.

Noon -- I can eat food! Woohoo! First time in days I've felt hungry and/or haven't felt sick after eating something.

Afternoon -- Thalia is working on her skirt. AnnaBeth is reading a Sister's Grimm book aloud to her. Thalia tells me in an aside that she thinks this should count for school for AnnaBeth (reading aloud well is really a skill that takes practice), but probably not for her (the book isn't adding anything to her edification, although she occasionally helps AnnaBeth with pronunciation -- for instance, "chasm" doesn't have a /ch/ as in "change").

Evening -- Rick is on the phone with a friend, kids are entertaining a bored cat with clicker training. The treat du jour is Purina One. The cat is very excited to earn the treats. Afterwards she goes behind the chair and noisily upchucks all of the Purina One.

Later evening -- Rick continues reading Percy Jackson Lightning Thief aloud to the kids.

Very late evening -- Phone rings with news about tornadoes in Arkansas. Wow.

Friday morning -- Zipper is in skirt, hem is begun, Sisters Grimm book is finished, Rick is on phone constantly about tornado damage, cat is asleep on couch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Thalia is working on a skirt for Easter:

It will have an underskirt made of eyelet. New things she's done so far: interfacing and topstitching. New things still to come: invisible zipper, the whole "underskirt" concept. Also, we had a brief lesson in what to do when you break off the prong of the iron's plug in the outlet (which is sort of an inauspicious beginning to a sewing project, but she has forged ahead none the less).

As for me, I'm taking the yarn recovered from deciding to ditch Trellis, and started Hey, Teach for myself:

It's wonderfully mindless stockinette stitch at the beginning. Which is good, since one of our family Easter traditions is that I get sick for the holiday. This year I'm mixing it up a little and doing a stomach virus instead of the usual sinus thing. Either way, "mindless" is the preferred mode this week, as is the feeling that I'm accomplishing something even when I'm just sort of staring out into space while droning through 8 inches of plain ol' knits and purls, interrupted only to answer questions about sparks flying out of electrical outlets, what is this thing called "interfacing", why do these 2 curved pieces appear to be different sizes, is it okay if this piece is cut out 3 degrees off of the grainline (which I pointed out was an incredibly nerdy way to ask that, and indicates way too much math is going on here), etc. etc.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I've been enjoying the Trellis baby sweater I've been knitting for the auction . Love the color! The yarn is so squishy! The pattern is so cute!

And ... there's a wonking huge mistake that must be corrected by ripping a bunch out and having a massive do-over (as opposed to the type of mistake that can be glossed over with judicious increases and/or decreases, application of steam, use of sewing needle and thread, or other low key fiddling around). Which would mean spending the next day or so re-knitting it.

I stared at it for about a minute, pondered the fact that no one asked me to knit this, no one has any expectations about this sweater. And there are other things I'd rather be doing right now, frankly.

So it has been set aside. Instead, I've been making Latin flashcards, reading a library book, and trying to take pictures of the falling snow (because it's snowing in April!). AnnaBeth pointed out that someday I can finish Trellis at a leisurely pace and donate it to a charity. Which was my intention for it anyway.

Now that I have freedom to start a new knitting project, what next?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

First, a finished product that appeared in WIP Wednesday a couple of weeks ago -- a cabled baby sweater in Knit Picks Shine Sport, knit in size 0-3 months.

I finally finished it up a couple of days ago. I wasn't sure how I wanted to block it; finally I just sewed it all up and threw it in the washing machine. Partially dried in the drier. Sewed on some buttons, and it's done. It's been donated to an auction, where it will probably appear in a basket of baby goods.

And over the weekend, some doll knitting occurred:

American Girl cabled cardigan, knit in Bernat Satin Sport Solids. The yarn was cheap at Michael's. It was okay to knit with, but picking up that first row of crochet for the edge was a nightmare -- the yarn kept splitting.

I don't know if the auction will have a basket of American Girl-type goods. If not, someone here would like to own it (although I've been told it looks better on Kit).

And, the latest project: Trellis from Knitty, knit in Lion Brand CottonEase. I thought I could bang this out quickly. This is how far I've gotten in the past 24 hours:

I cast on for size 12 months, and it looked HUGE on the needles. So I ripped it out and started over in a smaller size. We'll see how far I get in the next few days. If all goes well, this will be for the auction. But I might ditch it and knit a couple of pairs of baby booties, then call it quits on the auction knitting.

As usual,Mrs. H is the inspiration for WIP Wednesday. More people need to link to her, so go start making something now!