Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

A quick roundup of some projects:

Knitting with 34 gauge wire:

This will have ribbon woven through it and become a choker. A close up:

THe Totoro hat. I'm working on the earflaps (that is the flaps that come down over the wearer's ears):

And last night I found a pattern for a skirt like those worn during A Reel Around the Sun on the website, so I printed it out and taped it together during Glee:

Because we've returned to our Halloween idea from a year ago. The kids seem to have a simple soft shoe choreography down, which combines elements of Clarkson's version of Riverdance along with various 3 hands. We'll see if we can pull this all together in about 4 days.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Weekend Update

Friday night was supposed to be a family night. Friday night used to ALWAYS be a family night, with homemade pizza and a DVD (or VHS tape, back in antiquity).

But Thalia got a last-minute babysitting offer. It was one of those offers you can't refuse -- kids are ages 6 and 9, and well-behaved. Essentially, she was getting paid to sit around playing Candyland and bake slice-and-bake cookies. Quite a change up from her usual babysitting gig, which is with the under-2 crowd. She was quite excited to be around kids who can verbalize their wants and needs, and have control of their bodily fluids (no diapers! no random vomiting! no teething pain!).

The rest of us forged ahead with a pizza made in the shape of a pumpkin for those of us who eat pizza.

And the DVD of the week was the new version of The Karate Kid, which we hadn't seen before.

By Saturday, Rick and AnnaBeth were both mightily sick with colds. Rick painted the front porch; AnnaBeth and I slogged around in search of rats to adopt, but, alas, the ones we found were either the wrong sex or else nearly identical to Daphne, our current rat-in-residence (I like to be able to tell pets apart, thank you). Thalia dissolved the shell off an egg with vinegar, preparatory to dumping the egg in various other substance like corn syrup. And then got ready for a costume party, leaving the rest of us at home once again.

Sunday Thalia and I made it to church, leaving the sickly members of the family at home. Later was choir, followed by a trip to a friend's house so Thalia could interview the mother for a paper for her composition class ("We used to do a vaudeville-type act at bars in South County ... wait, where are you taking this class? DON'T MENTION THAT WE WENT TO BARS!").

About 10 minutes after we got home the rain started. Glad we weren't at that big outdoor party we passed (and admired) on our way home.

And, eventually, we were all slammed in the face with MONDAY.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Junior Girl Scout Sewing Badge, Part 1

Our troop is scheduled to do the sewing badge in 2 meetings, each 1.5 hours long (plus have time for all the other stuff like opening circle, snack, etc. etc. in that 1.5 hours). Also, we have some Brownie-age girls in the mix. So I'm modified the snot out of this badge to have it fit our troop.

For our first meeting we had 8 of the 10 girls attending. I talked to them a little about their sewing experience, then pulled out Kwik Sew 2667 (sleep pants, shorts and camisole), explaining that when Thalia took sewing lessons at the (now defunct, sob) Eunice Farmer, this was the first item of clothing that she made. We talked about which view they'd like to make if they were sewing the pattern.

Then we read what it had to say about the types fabric we should use for the pattern (I'd made copies of the pattern envelope back and highlighted the parts I wanted them to notice). We saw it was for "lightweight wovens". I'd brought a large pile of fabric from home, and we discussed whether they were appropriate. I had, let's see, denim, quilting cotton, flannel, fleece, jersey, satin, corduroy, and probably some others. Some of the things, like fleece, would be appropriate for jammy pants, but not for this particular pattern. Overall they seemed pretty clued in on what type of fabric they were looking for. I showed them Thalia's finished jammy pants, too, so they could see what she eventually chose.

"Okay, now we've chosen our pattern, we've chosen our fabric; how much fabric do we need? Well, that depends on what size we're going to make." I had AnnaBeth stand up, and I demonstrated how to measure her waist and hips with a tape measure, and we found her size on the chart (I'd discussed with the other moms ahead of time that we weren't going to go around and measure everyone -- too many negative consequences -- I told the kids that they were growing so fast that they needed to check their size right before they go buy a pattern). We found her size on the chart on the back of the pattern. Then we figure out how much fabric we'd have to buy.

Next we looked at the notions that were listed, and discussed what they were. Finally we got out the pattern and looked at the pieces.

I'm counting that part of our meeting as accomplishing tasks #5 Pick a Pettern, #6 A Perfect Fit, and #9 Find the Fabric.

Having whipped through that in fairly quick time, we got to the FUN part -- actually making something. I explained that before Thalia ever got to sew a piece of clothing, she made a drawstring bag somewhat like this:

I made this using a modified version of Chica and Jo's Drawstring Packpack. I chose to use a lightweight twill fabric because I thought it was a little sturdier than a quilting cotton. Also, I wanted a plain fabric so the kids could embellish their bags (task #3 Foot Fun is about embellishing socks, which struck me as a lame thing to do, but Thalia pointed out that it was really about embellishing SOMETHING so why not simply embellish whatever we're making). Bottomweights were on sale at JoAnn's and Hancock's (yay) so I could fairly inexpensively get enough for the entire troop. The real killer was the cording -- each bag takes 4 yards, meaning I needed 40 yards, and the cheapest I could find was 49 cents per yard. Hence the crocheted cords -- I used yarn I already had to whip up a couple of cords.

So, this first meeting was spent embellishing our bags-to-be. A wiser, more experienced leader had pointed out that it would be easier for the girls to sew on stuff BEFORE we sewed the bags together, thus lowering the likelihood of accidentally sewing the bag shut while applying an applique or somesuch.

My pre-meeting prep:

Washed all fabric and cut it out. I didn't true up the grain lines (or even iron it, for that matter). A good seamstress would've yanked the fabric on the diagonals to get the grainlines true, but, alas, I am lazy.

I cut out an 18 by 16 piece of poster board to use as my template (and, yes, I had help EVERY FLIPPIN' STEP OF THE WAY from my sidekick here)

which I drew around with pencil

cut out, then ironed (easier to iron small pieces)

then serged around since I have NO desire to do french seams with this crowd.

Measure down 3 inches from the TOP for the drawstring casing, and marked that in pencil on the BACK of the fabric. Twill has a front and a back, but it's hard to see, particularly if you're about 10 years old (frankly, I've screwed it up while sewing pants, and I should know better), so I wanted it to be marked ahead of time.

Next, I gathered up various things to sew on to our bags as embellishments. We're hand sewing our trims on (practicing task #1 Hands Down "try your hand at hand sewing"). I had buttons and ribbons, and wanted to add more. Fabric scraps seemed too prone to ravel, and "real" appliques are tough to hand sew. So I made appliques with quilting cotton and fusible interfacing. A quilter would do a spiffier job of this, but I was trying to do a large stack in a short time, so this is the quick-and-dirty version.

Check out this uber-cool Robert Kaufman fabric I found at Jackman's. They have all sorts of Boy Scout and Girl Scout fabric there.

I decided to cut out these little faux-badge medallions and make appliques.

So I put a piece of lightweight Pellon fusible interfacing face down on top of it, stitched around the "badge" edges (easy to see through the interfacing), trimmed off the seam edges, cut a slit in the interfacing

Turned the entire thing right side out so that the fusible side of the Pellon is against the back of the fabric

And ironed it.

I also drew hearts on the back of some other fabric and followed a similar procedure

Plus some pictures off of some flannel we had, some rectangles (I envisioned the rectangles to be used to write their names on with Sharpie or fabric markers, but AnnaBeth said, "Oh, I want to use one for a pocket"; then it turned out that a bunch of the girls wanted to sew the faux-badges to the rectangles, then use the entire thing as a pocket ... who am I to stand in the way of their creative vision?).

And with the help of the moms in attendance, we got everyone's needle threaded, and they started sewing!

At the end of the meeting I put everyone's in large individual Ziplocs with their names on them, thus reducing the possibility of losing or forgetting them for the next meeting.

This went amazingly well, and the kids seemed to really enjoy it.

Next meeting we'll be sewing these up on sewing machines (task "2 A Stitch in Time) and Senior Girl Scouts providing coaching for each Junior (Thalia troop of Senior Girl Scouts have decided they're doing the Fashion badge, which includes the task "teach knitting, crocheting or sewing to a younger girl").

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Three for Thursday

I'm totally filching this from Bridgett, because I have lists of things-to-do rattling around in my head.

1. Junior Girl Scout sewing badge starts this afternoon. I'm leading it. It will last 2 meetings. Some of the girls are actually Brownie age. I hope to make it through the meeting without stabbing anyone with my sewing scissors (and I'm not talking about the accidental-type stabbing where your scissors slip, if you know what I mean).

2. Also, the Fall Product crap has to be handed out today. This was sort of poor planning -- when I signed up to do the sewing badge these 2 meeting days I didn't realize the Fall Product sale handouts and collections would be these same days. I hope to make it through this without stabbing MYSELF with the sewing scissors. I'm doing it for 2 troops, and the older girls (and parents) know what to do. But we have a boatload of new Juniors who've never been involved in the wonders of a Girl Scout product sale.

3. Halloween costumes! I think we finally have a plan. And it isn't: Naruto characters, lumberjacks singing the lumberjack song from Monty Python, Brave Sir Robin followed by a guy tapping coconuts and a guy playing lute (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail), the cast of River Dance, nuclear energy sources, Egyptian dieties, or any of the other ideas you've heard us tossing around over the past few months. This one just occurred to us yesterday afternoon -- we were talking about something, and Annabeth said, "Hey, we could be that for Halloween!" So now we need to come up with hats, costumes, and memorize the script.

Also, Thalia isn't signed up for the Gold Award meetings (huge "oops" there) so I need to figure that out, I need to get a bunch of stuff together for co-op knitting class on Monday, the house is a wreck, the leaves are carpeting the lawn, etc., etc. etc.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rick Riordan!

We got our tickets about a month ago (the tickets were free, but the library distributed them as a method of crowd control so they'd know how many people to expect, unlike last year when he was here). And we got there plenty early so we could get parking and a decent seat before the rest of our 1900-plus close friends showed up. (Update: the library web site now says they counted over 2,000 people attending.)

Believe me, the place filled right up.

And, after an introduction by the head of library, during which we learned that he is unable to correctly pronounce "Riordan" (okay, I gotta tell you --Ridley Pearson also got up and had a charming introduction, during which he correctly pronounced "Riordan" several times, then Mr. Numb-to-the-World Library Director got up again and STILL consistently said it wrong), the MAIN EVENT:


Rather than have a typical question and answer session after his talk, they had everyone write their questions down, then selected some representative ones. Ridley Pearson sat down with him to ask him the questions. I thought this worked really well, by the way, and the questions they selected were indeed interesting. You can read Rick Riordan's answers to a couple of the questions on his blog.

Next, time to stand in line forever and ever for book signing. This part of the evening had some organizational snags, but we survived those and eventually made our way to the front of the line. Mr. Riordan was gracious and charming to however many hundreds of people he greeted. Sheesh, you couldn't pay me enough to sit there and chat with 1900 people while repeatedly signing my name, especially knowing that the next day I'm going to fly to another city and repeat the entire experience. The kids, though, figure that it was easier for him to do the signing than, say, teach a bunch of middle schoolers day after day (he was a middle school teacher for 15 years).

When Thalia had her book signed she asked him, seemingly out of the blue, "How old do your kids have to be to date?" She said it really caught him off guard. Uh, yeah, I can imagine.

Actually, there is a reason for the question. For one thing, it's a continuing topic of conversation in our house, one that 15-year-old Thalia finds interesting. Also, while reading The Lost Hero over the last couple of days, we noted and discussed that the 15-year-olds in the book tended to have boyfriends and girlfriends, leading Thalia to believe Rick Riordan thinks that's okay. But, of course, she gave him absolutely NO CONTEXT for the question.

For the record, his 16 year old son would be allowed to date if he had a girlfriend. Or something like that.

Annabeth told him she was dressed as Drew from the new book which just came out Tuesday, The Lost Hero. Check out the metallic fingerless mitts -- quite the fashion statement, yes?

Rick Riordan: Oh, so you've already read the book?
Annabeth: Yes, I finished it this morning.
Me, later: What, you didn't tell him that your darling mother read all 500-plus pages aloud to you for 2 days straight?!

Because, yes, folks, that's how we've spent the last 2 days -- reading the book aloud. The house looks like a wreck, but at least there were no arguments over who got to read it first.

Lots of fun stuff in the new book, by the way. Star Trek! Star Wars! Irish dance! And more! But you'll have to read it yourself to see what I mean ....

Video clip from the local paper here. If I'd had a chance to ask a question, it would've been: How did he stay so fresh and energetic during a book tour?

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Last week I finally got around to playing around with food coloring and wool yarn. I used the directions here , except I used the cheapy liquid bottles you buy 4 to a box at the grocery, since I figured that's what most kids would have access to. I used about half the tube of green, and tried dyeing my felted swatch, along with some other yarn.

It started taking up the dye immediately, but didn't really get to nearly "clear water" conditions until it spent about 30 minutes at 350F. I showed the kids this photo of what that looked like:

By the way, we didn't do this in class because, among other things, it took way more time than we had. I have to go flying out of there right after class to get my kids to a different place for different classes, so I don't have time to get everything spread out for drying. At home I simply plopped everything on the back porch:

They did get to see the finished products, though:

Check it out -- I didn't move the items the entire time they were in the bowl, and the top of the felted piece ended up darker than the bottom.

Next I'm going to cut up my felted piece and make it into a Christmas ornament.

After showing the kids the exciting dyeing stuff in class (and telling them that, no, I didn't think it was a great idea to try dyeing their hair this way, although apparently one of the girls had once tried using KoolAid and it came out a very unexpected color), we moved on to GAUGE SWATCHES. Which was significantly less fun.

I had made 3 swatches using the same yarn and the same number of stitches (rather random on the rows). I blocked them, too, since you must "do unto thy gauge swatch as thou shalt do unto thy finished knitting". Or something like that.

I had marked which swatch was made on which sized needle by making either eyelets or purl stitches in appropriate amounts.

And then, most cruelly, I insisted that the 2 girls who are planning on making mitts START MAKING GAUGE SWATCHES. Aaaaahhhhhrrrrg, the moaning and gnashing of teeth! It's so booooorrrrrrrriiiiiiiinnnngggg! Actually, one girl had already made a small swatch, and her gauge was way off, so she had to make another. And, get this, it had to be more than, like, 2 rows of knitting.

Really, I tried to talk to them about the trials of making an entire garment and then realizing that your gauge was off, and how crappy THAT was. I also gave them a bit of a talk on figuring out size -- negative ease versus positive ease, etc. Overall I think the kids who'd decided to make something unfitted, like scarves or more dishcloths, were feeling pretty good about their decision since they didn't need to mess with the dreaded gauge swatch.

Meanwhile, at home knitting -- I'm working on the Totoro hat, and have the mouth done in intarsia. It will be outlined in black after the knitting is done.

(Don't tell the class, but I didn't make a gauge swatch. I figure after this many years of knitting I know about what's going to happen, since I invariably knit more loosely than the pattern. Also, a hat is about the right size to be its own gauge swatch.)

Also, the other morning I became convinced (for no good reason) that the class needs to see examples of knitting with slightly more unusual materials, so I decided to knit some wire . I stopped by and got the wire and beads, then took them to Thalia's voice lesson to string up the beads on the wire before starting the knitting.

Annabeth and I were counting out 134 beads on one of those little tables in the lobby, putting them in groups of 10, and Annabeth bumped the table, sending beads scattering. Guess what I'd never noticed before -- the new carpeting in the Dayspring lobby is pretty much these exact same colors. And now it's crunchy with hidden seed beads. Oops.

Anyway, looking forward to trying this when I finally get a chance to sit down and pay attention to what I'm knitting.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The School Year Thus Far

The other day a friend and I were comparing schedules, mostly in terms of having to get kids places at certain times, and she said, "Do you feel like you're on a hamster wheel?" Because that's the way she felt, and our kids do a lot of similar stuff.

And, yes, that's an apt description of this school year so far. If one subject gets caught up, something else flies out the window. We're always scurrying to catch up on something, to make it somewhere on time, to figure out a paper or presentation. The flash drive is missing, the laptop refuses to cooperate, the printer goes berserk, all the pens and pencils disappear out of the container on the desk (along with the rulers and scissors -- you wouldn't believe how many rulers and scissors are missing).

So. That's how life is right now. Just a series of questions about whether such-and-such school subject is finished, and is it possible to work ahead because next week you're going camping or Rick Riordan is coming to town or you have that audition you still haven't picked out music for or you're going over to so-and-so's house for the night or whatever.

I keep thinking I need to get back to the Weekly Reports because I like the way they flesh out my barebone notes to myself about how much time we've spent on which subjects (notes we keep to comply with Missouri homeschool law). But, sheesh, those weeks are flying by SO FAST and one week just sort of blurs into the next.

And right this moment, instead of blogging about school work I should really be organizing how I'll be leading the sewing badge for the Junior Troop next week. Given my general interest in leading badges, my first choice for dealing with the situation is to somehow manage to be hospitalized between now and then so that I can avoid the whole thing.

Wow, DID YOU REALIZE IT'S ALREADY OCTOBER? When did this happen?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recent Knitting

We drove to Indiana over the weekend, and on the way I worked on some knitting.

First off, one of the girls in the knitting class at co-op asked about knitting a tube, so I knit a cowl to demonstrate the concept. It's out of Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick, knit on a size 13 circular needle. Really a super quick knit -- cast on 50 stitches, knit mostly stockinette, a couple of rows of increases stuck in it to give it a scootch of shaping -- it was a pattern I found on Ravelry, but I changed it some.

Then I did little swatches to show the class what different stitches do. Each swatch was 20 stitches across, knit for 25 rows, so a novice knitter might expect them all to be the same size and shape. From left to right, top to bottom, we have garter stitch, stockinette stitch, 2x2 ribbing, and 1x1 seed stitch. I also had a swatch of 1x1 ribbing, but it's disappeared. It didn't pull in as much as the 2x2 ribbing.

(For the record, this is a bright white acrylic yarn that looks like sushi rice when it's knit up, and the background is a robin's egg blue -- no clue what happened to these pictures.)

In particular I wanted them to become aware that stockinette wants to roll towards the front at the top and bottom

and roll towards the back at the sides.

That way if they decide to knit a scarf of their own design, they know some of the things that could happen.

I also made a couple of swatches with borders so they could see how that would work with stockinette. Left to right are a garter stitch border and a seed stitch border.

You can see that the garter stitch border makes a slight pull on the vertical selvedge of the swatch. Sometimes this doesn't matter, and sometimes it does. I told them I'm trying to equip them do what THEY want with knitting: knit exactly what a pattern says, make their own changes to a written pattern, or else design their own projects. To do that they have to discover some of the properties of knitting.

We also went over different types of needles in class -- circulars vs. double point vs. straight. And a little about what needles are made out of, although I probably should've said more about that. Next week we'll talk about different yarns, and about gauge swatches.

I have no idea if this is stuff typically covered in a beginning knitting class for kids this age. I've never taken a knitting class. But the kids seem okay with whatever I throw at them. As a matter of fact, they came up to me after lunch and asked if they could start class an hour early since several of them had study hall anyway. I think mostly they want to sit around and giggle while ostensibly producing some knitting, and talking isn't allowed in study hall ... our knitting class has gradually left the classroom space to which it was assigned and settled in a lounge area with cushy chairs.

Then, on Saturday, I finally cast on for the long-awaited pumpkin hat. I bought this as a kit several years ago from Morehouse, and had lost the pattern. I found another pattern on Ravelry and knit that up.

Next up on the needles, a Totoro hat!