Tuesday, March 30, 2010

check this out

These chairs via MadebyGirl.
In handwork classes at school, we often have these conversations that go something like this:
Children: I wonder if you could knit a house!
Me: I bet you could figure it out.
Children: We could knit everything!
And they make a long list of the things they can knit....dragons, horses, and now we can say chairs. I should write down some time the things they think of knitting.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One Small Change update

Finally, I am getting to tellyou about my One Small Change, which is really 3 small changes. In January, I went "No-Poo". That is still going alright. I also stopped using paper diapers at night. I would use paper diapers at night, thinking it would buy this co-sleeping mom more sleep. But it really didn't...I have to face the facts that a.) I am not capable of bearing children who sleep a lot or b.) I have an incredibly low tolerance for nighttime crying or maybe a bit of both. So, the diapers were really a moot point anyway...why not save money and plastic and dive in feet first? That's just what I did. No sweat.
For my final change, I have been eyeing Renee's bulk bags, and since my mom gave me a couple of boxes of calico, I think some bulk bags are in store for me this month. I hope Renee does not mind me copying her :)
I hope to have a felt project tomorrow. The turn of the seasons has left everyone sick and crabby. The seasons turning always bring spiritual tasks and although this work is ultimately joyful, it can sometimes feel tumultuous. Those bulbs (tasks) really do have to poke and prod and force their way to the light. But ah...the sun is coming. I can feel it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Handmade knitting notions

I do love making my own things....I am in love with the illusion of being able to make EVERYTHING. Of course I am not able to, but the thought keeps me inventive and resourceful and so I make what I can.
Here are a few fiber tools I have made:
Drop spindles. Everyone needs a pink drop spindle, don't you think? The pink one is a toy wheel , the other is a piece of walnut that was turned by a local woodworker.

Knitting needles topped with handspun.
Jeweled stitch markers and copper wire stitch holders.
I've also made fabric knitting needle holders and cozies but forgot to take pictures. However, you can go here for inspiration and a pattern or two.
What do you make for your making?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Teaching Handwork

Last week, a very special mentor came to our school. Else Gottgens is 80+ years old, sharp as a tack, and shining with an inner light, an obvious spark. She sat quietly in my second grade class, after greeting the children, and watched.
Afterward, we talked. She asked me if I had any questions. I brought up a topic that has left me confused since I started teaching handwork: do you let the children talk or do you guide them into working silently? I had never quite listened to my inner sense about this, preferring to rely instead on the wisdom of others. And in listening to others, I came to value a "quiet working hum". But it never felt quite right. In speaking with Else, she brought up several important points.She asked if the children, when I think of them in my mind's eye, are frowning or smiling. I said, "well, they are engaged in their work..." "no, are they frowning or smiling?"
I had to admit frowns. They liked me and handwork well enough, but they weren't enjoying it as much as they could be. She went on to explain how important the social realm is in handwork. I had a clue before: having children help each other, celebrating finished projects, but she really helped me see I could take it a few steps further and celebrate even small accomplishments. I could carve out a few minutes to allow children to teach each other, and have them share their experience with the class. I could bring small projects for making gifts.
She encouraged me, indirectly, to follow my heart, and to stand with absolute conviction behind what I do, and reminded me to know why I do what I do in class...to be able to give a plausible, informed explanation. For me, this means the children can talk, but I, as the teacher and authority, keep the social interaction pleasant and engaging, while not letting it cross the line into "recess".
That is all well and good, and I am sharing with you a glimpse into my evolution as a teacher. But, the big reminder she gave was this: It is not important what one makes, it is of utmost importance how one gets there. In other words, the journey is what matters more than the destination...the experience of helping and being helped, the pride in knitting two rows when you could hardly make a stitch the class before, the rhythmic and artistic gifts of handwork, celebrating each other.
What a relief it was to give myself permission to follow my intuition. Isn't that one of the tasks of life...to trust our inner selves as much as we trust those voices outside of us? My friend says that when you play those outside voices as your inside track, they are "renting space in your head." So true!
Some of my favorite books on teaching and handwork:
Will-Developed Intelligence
Courage to Teach
The Education of the Child
The Kingdom of Childhood
Educating the Will
I also like Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and anything by Malcolm Gladwell for their insights.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

At Week's End

No matter how much of a canker sore the week can be, the weekend is like a whole tube of Carmex. Thank goodness we have the forgiveness of spring to transform winter dread into vernal joy.
No crafting this busy weekend...lots of time outside.
Also, sometimes I forget my mom reads this blog and she probably wants to see more of her grandchildren.
Here you go, Mom:
we went to Sweet Home Spun (link above under wool sources)
Yes, we eat and sleep in our car.
We picked flowers on the way home.

Next, Lacrosse games! It was tournament time. Number 24 is mine.

My oldest with my youngest.

Finally, an evening at my in-laws' farm.

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Cliff Notes Version

No sleep
Two wheels now!
One more lost tooth
wallet lost
doctor's appointments....asthma
Lacrosse goal! (plus an assist)
wallet found...the post office called
no sleep
Little Pig lost...wild he was
emotional roller coaster
Maybe next week...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Week of felt THREE: Four Seasons Tree

There are so many sites out there that show how to make a piece of flat felt. There is no need for me to "reinvent the wheel" so I am simply showing you, without many words of instruction, how I made a piece on a sunny day. The piece in question? A four seasons tree like the one in  More Magic Wool...only a little different. Wool can be added to make flowers, snow, blossoms, gnomes, fall leaves....what a great way to celebrate the turning of the seasons.                           
I use a yoga mat, white wool, light blue wool, and 3 different browns.
Laying out the wool in layers. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of adding the green to the ground or the blue to the sky or the tree. But after patient layering of colors, I have a basic tree.
We start to soak the wool with water and soap. Davis imitates everything I do!
I can even pat in the water with my feet!
Adjusting the tree branches
I place a piece of door screen on and rub soap on the screen. Then I massage that area with my fingers.
And also on the back
Then I roll the tree in the yoga mat.
Roll it, take it out and turn it 90 degrees, repeat until the east, west, south, and north have all been rolled.
Drying tree. It needs to be ironed and spring blossoms need to be added (picture tomorrow). We herald spring by watching the dogwood in our front yard and the neighboring dogwoods.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Week of Felt TWO: Felted eggs with chicks

Have on hand: wool roving in assorted colors that please you but-you must have yellow, wooden eggs, soap and water
If you can, do find a wooden egg or a shape close to it. You will be so much happier with the process if you have wood to wrap your felt around....the wool sticks to the wood better at first, making it the perfect form for children. Plus, for me, I am trying to avoid buying more plastic, so plastic eggs are just not around.

Egg with roving.

Start wrapping like the felt ball...you will have some "extra" wool on the ends. Take that off and wrap it around the egg going the opposite way, so you have two layers that criss-cross:

You can also add strips of other colors at this point. Now, begin felting just as you would felt a ball:

When you are done, the egg will need to be cut out. Decide which way you want your egg to open: lengthwise or widthwise, and cut a slit almost the length of the egg. Take the wooden egg out, soap the now hollow egg form again,  and roll it between your hands, like a sausage. This "seals" the cut edge. Make 3 small felt balls out of the yellow fleece, and while they are wet, roll them into little pear shapes.  Allow to dry. Stitch eyes and beaks onto them. My beaks are simply a couple of French knots, coaxed into beak shapes. Add a little pillow of wool to the inside of your egg, and admire your chicks.

Don't let them go too far!

Oh, thank goodness, Mother Hen has them all safe and sound.

Sweet chickies!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Week of felt ONE: the felt ball

Have on hand: soap, wool roving (merino felts best...you could also use a cheaper wool for the inside)
Sunny day and a few kids highly recommended.

Start with a pot of hot water. I dunk the bar of soap in it (I use handmade olive oil soap) and let it sit for a few minutes.

In the meantime, split a length of roving lengthwise(my wool guy calls this top and tells me not to call it roving, so there you go) The length of your piece will determine the size of your felt ball, of course.

Start to wrap it on itself. Your aim is to wrap it much like you would a yarn ball. Keep it really taught, and try to make it firm like the tip of your nose.

It's ok if the wool twists as you go along. My hands are wet because I had to get Davis out of the pot.

Take the other half of the roving and fluff it up a bit.

Start wrapping this flat against the first ball you made. This layer can be a little looser...your wrapped ball might feel more like an earlobe. Roll the roving onto the ball on all sides to round it.
It now looks like this.

Put it in your hands like this. It's hidden, see?
Dunk it in the water until you see no bubbles coming out of it. Careful not to squeeze.
Take it out and VERY gently glide the soggy soap over the surface of the ball. I reiterate: VERY gently.
Now, this is where any musical training will come in handy. Imagine your hands are working a slow crescendo in pressure. Start with light pressure on the ball...really just smoothing the cupped palms of your hands gently over the ball's soapy surface. Then, as you feel the ball form a skin, start to gain a rhythm in your movements over the ball's surface, slowly adding more pressure to your ball as you go along.
Your ball should feel mushy and ill-formed at this stage. Keep going.  I tell students that their arms should feel like they are about to fall off. It feels like it takes a long time, but really it doesn't.  (10-15 minutes)

When the ball feels semi-soft, start to roll it in your cupped hands, again, crescendoing in pressure. Oh, what a symphony!
Tips for smooth felt balls:
Practice wrapping. The prettier your ball looks wrapped, chances are the better it will perform under hands and water.
GO SLOW. Be patient. Learn from the wool. There is a point at which your hands are willing the wool to move, the wool is not moving, and then suddenly you realize that it has been moving with you all along. Ideally, anyway.
Mistakes are blessings. If your ball falls apart, wrap it again and start over. If that doesn't work, wrap it again and stuff it into the toe of a knee-high. Wash and dry by machine.

Davis got in on the act and brought sidewalk chalk with him. He was a dirty mess from scooting (he doesn't crawl the traditional way) all around the yard. He had sooo much fun.