Tag Archives: creativity

Making for Halloween

As a parent, I find the Fall “holidays” a bit draining. Why is everything stacked on top of each other? First, it’s the Fall semester (for college), which is always busier than Spring, and second, it’s college football season! There’s just not enough time for holidays (she says, tongue in cheek). Yet, we parents (mostly moms) are expected to create a fabulous experience for our children, all while stressing ourselves out even more.

Making for Halloween

I sound a bit whiny today, don’t I? And here it is, the day before Halloween. I’m not complaining, truly. I recognize that I live a blessed life. Rather, the above sentiment was my mood earlier this week. I am incredibly busy at work right now, but also trying to maintain our other commitments (healthy food & homeschooling). So, when my younger son came to me Friday afternoon and needed help making his Halloween costume…well, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the endeavor. But once we go started, everything clicked into place. The artistic nature of “making” energized me.  It was fun to be making for Halloween. I was able to get into the flow of creating…and pretty soon, I was a lot more relaxed (and a lot closer to a finished Halloween costume).

a picture of a boy making for halloween

C, age 8, painting his Halloween costume.

Crafting for Halloween

I’d like to say that I inspired the boys, but really it was the other way around. Earlier in the week, they made their own Halloween decorations and hung them around the house. Today, we were reviewing a book and they were inspired to create a few other decorations.

A picture of a boy making for halloween

R, age 11, was inspired to create a paper jack-o-lantern.

I’m sure I bring on some of the holiday stress myself; I’m not willing to participate fully in the consumer nature of these holidays, but we still try to be a part of the experience. Our neighborhood is full of excitement at Halloween, and the kids love that they get to hang out with their friends at night. So, we participate…and my husband tells me I’m not allowed to pass out pencils. (This year, I’m opting for Earthbound lollipops and lunch snacks…yeah, I’m that parent).

When the kids were younger, I didn’t buy stuff because we didn’t have the money. As they got older, I didn’t buy stuff because I didn’t want to store it all year. At least, those were the reasons I told myself. I think the real reason is that I wanted to create a “maker” culture in our home.

a picture of a very large piece of loose-leaf paper made from cardboard.

C decided he wanted to be a piece of paper (and a pencil). He painted the white background, and I added the details.

Maker Mindset

For their homemade decorations, the boys didn’t ask for help – they just grabbed the art supplies (and their secret stash of tape) and started drawing. They didn’t ask for directions or permission. It was assumed they were allowed to hang up toilet paper from the front windows. (Front windows – yes; mailbox – no).

I was feeling pretty stressed out this week, but after seeing (and appreciating) my boys’ maker mindset, I felt a lot better. It takes a lot of work to support a maker culture, but the extra time and energy is worth it.

Dad contributed his talents to creating this cardboard pencil.

A picture of a woman's arm with a hummingbird, flowers and butterfly airbrushed on it.

I wanted to continue to spread the “maker” love by showing off my airbrushed tattoos (all done by a veterinarian, no less). There’s all sorts of making for Halloween!

 

Visiting the Art of the Brick

Last weekend, my family and I met up with friends (and more family) to see the “Art of the Brick.” This free show, held in Tampa, displayed a number of pieces by artist, Nathan Sawaya.  The catch? All of the art was constructed with LEGO bricks.

A picture of a LEGO replica of part of the Bayeux Tapestry, made by the brick artist.

Sawaya’s work included replicas of 2D art, as well as original 3D sculptures. This is part of the Bayeux Tapestry ( a personal favorite of mine).

LEGO Art – The Art of the Brick

I have seen pictures of his work, but it was quite amazing to see it in person. The sheer number of LEGOS required for each sculpture was astounding! Most ranged in the thousands.

Obviously, we have a love for LEGO in this family, but I found Sawaya’s introductory video inspiring. He declared that art is not optional. In a world where we focus more and more on academic subjects and social media, art is often dropped from the school curriculum or brushed aside for more money-making ventures. Or worse, it’s turned into an academic subject itself — no creating required.

a picture of the sculpture of Degas Littel Dancer, made out of LEGOS by artist Nathan Sawaya

What if high school students had to collaborate (in math or science class) to make this? After learning about Degas, of course.

Well, art isn’t going to feed you.

I understand. We need people to clean up after ourselves. We need doctors and researchers. We need teachers. We even need a few lawyers to protect people, but I would argue that suing someone doesn’t adequately feed one, either. I am satisfied with my paid job, but I must create beautiful things.

What would happen if we, as a society, figured out our bare necessities (healthy food, safe shelter, attractive sustainable clothing, books/knowledge, and creative hobby pursuits) and eliminated the filler? Do I need to spend my time with people on Facebook? Twitter? Do I want to encourage the proliferation of social media for self-promotion’s sake?

All of us have wonderful things to contribute to our communities. Why is it so hard to do that well? The shy among us hope to get lucky in our creative careers, but unless we promote ourselves, we lose out. Imagine if we could wear the same thing for five days (all clean, of course) and spend the rest of our time making art (fully recyclable and sustainable art, of course).

I wish I was brave enough to wear the same thing everyday for a week. Of course, one could argue that fashion is a creative display of art. Ahem.

Creativity & Mental Health

There are some theories suggesting we aren’t creative enough and it’s hurting our mental health. We need to make things as young children (painting, drawing, building, playing music, reconstructing engines, etc.) to become productive adults. We need to lighten the social media burden. I choose to do that with visual art. I make my own art and I encourage my kids to do the same. Their chosen medium has been LEGO bricks (see The Brick Chronicles). It makes my heart smile to see the connection they make with a fellow artist. Art does matter — and I encourage you to support it.

a picture of the statue of liberty made out of LEGO bricks

In June, we saw this LEGO sculpture at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Check out this video on how it was constructed (not created, but actually put together).

 

 

Free to Make : Cardboard Box Cars

While I was working, the boys were left to their own devices. This meant they had a full morning free to do whatever they wanted, provided there was no power tool usage or video game playing. (The “new to us” band saw requires Dad’s supervision, and video games are reserved for the afternoon heat). Thankfully, we had some recent Amazon deliveries. Cardboard boxes! Woo!

a picture of an 8-year-old boy creating a car from a cardboard box.

C, age 8, is hard at work on his cardboard vehicle.

I’d like to tell you they were inspired by this book from the library, Out of the Box: 25 Cardboard Engineering Projects for Makers. But they weren’t. We didn’t even check that book out until AFTER these contraptions were built. Rather, these boys have always been fascinated with boxes. (As in, give that kid a box…instead of the toy). Thankfully, their projects have gotten more sophisticated as they’ve gotten older.

Made by R, age 11.

Cardboard Box Cars

Their favorite things to make are cars. Obviously. If you can’t drive a real one, there’s something satisfying about making your own. I am especially fond of the computerized system in my 11-year-old’s. I think he has too much Tesla on his mind.

a picture of a boy's cardboard car

An all-electric vehicle…complete with its own ipad.

Cardboard, Free Time & The Maker Movement

And in a somewhat coincidental twist, I finished reading Dale Dougherty’s Free to Make as they were working on their creations. Dougherty is the founder of Make Magazine and one of the people behind Maker Faire. I am very drawn to the maker movement, not just for myself and my children, but as an educator.

I was pretty familiar with most of the content, although it was interesting to see a slim chapter on how schools are incorporating “making.” I am looking forward to more educational research on the maker movement. I just wish we could combine “making” with environmentalism. Right now “making in schools” seems to incur a lot of waste.

I think we just need to find a way to recycle tape. For a short time, tape was banned at my house since it’s not recyclable. We still consume it in limited quantities due to the waste factor. Oh, the things my kids could make with more tape (and free time)!

C’s car has a working accelerating pedal. (His words, not mine).

Impressionist Art With Kids

The Florida weather has been gorgeous, but it won’t be long before it’s stifling and humid…at nine o’clock in the morning! Taking advantage of the cooler temperatures, we grabbed an old table and took our painting outside. We were practicing painting – en plein air – a perfect compliment for our study of Claude Monet (the last artist from the Meet The Masters series). After watching the slide show, I knew we were going to do some impressionist-inspired art. However, I was a little hesitant since this lesson wasn’t my favorite (too simplified). Thankfully, the art activities stretched my kids’ abilities. It forced them to think like impressionists.

a picture of kids doing impressionist art with kids

Everyone has a space, but still need to share water…

Impressionist Art with Kids

We skipped the “make a color wheel with crayons” activity; instead, we chose to jump right into making an impressionist painter’s palette – using only red, yellow and blue.

a picture of completed painted impressionist art with kids

These are my samples from the provided “Meet the Masters” lessons. I got the kids started and then finished after they were done. I noticed they were looking at my colors and just copying, so I gave them a chance to think about it on their own.

This was a great activity for my youngest (who just turned eight), as he was a little shaky on the difference between primary and secondary colors. For my oldest, it was a great way to stretch his thinking by asking him to create “mixed” colors – without mixing them! Impressionists tried (try?) to lay their colors side-by-side so one gets a wide variety of color with very little formal mixing.

Final Project – Impressionist Watering Can

a picture of a kid drawing amidst a table covered with paint supplies.

C starts his watering can painting – with a pencil sketch.

We never made it to the formal, final lesson in this series. I think it was a impressionist re-creation of some flowers. Instead, I asked the kids if there was something they might like to try and paint  – in the style of an impressionist. My oldest (age 11) chose to do his own realistic painting, but my youngest was open to trying something new. He looked around, and simultaneously, both our gazes locked onto the plastic watering can that resides at the front of the house.

We brought it to the table, and he quickly sketched its shape. Then, he began painting. He asked for some black paint (to make gray), but we talked about how the impressionists didn’t use black…how was he going to compensate? Would he imagine it in a completely different color, such as bright pink? Would he try and make a mixture of white and blue – to replicate the soft gray? I was so impressed with his willingness to try something new – especially since he couldn’t quite imagine it in his head.

a picture of an impressionist-inspired watering can - doing impressionist art with kids

Drawn, painted and imagined by C, age 8.

Learn More About Claude Monet

Like I said earlier, Monet was the last artist left in our subscription for the Meet the Masters series. However, we dragged our feet on undertaking this study…I think because we felt we already knew his work. Two years ago, a Monet exhibition came to our university’s art museum and we did an entire study of Monet.  We read books (Linnea in Monet’s Garden & The Magical Garden of Claude Monet), and dabbed paint onto our canvases. We visited the museum and saw real Monet paintings. It made quite an impression (ha – I couldn’t help myself). Regardless, we thought we knew all there was to know about impressionist art for kids.  I’m glad we were wrong. Everyone picked up something new with these lessons. Plus, it reinforced the brain connections from our earlier study. (For those without access to the Meet the Masters series, try this lesson from The Getty Museum).

Reviewing the Meet the Masters Series

Back in November, I purchased “Track A” of the Meet the Masters series of artists. This track included Vincent Van Gogh, Mary Cassat, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet. I have been both impressed and disappointed with the accompanying activities for this series. (I bought ages 8-9). Sometimes, they seemed too simple, but often they were completely appropriate. I really liked the slide shows and the breakdown of artistic activities, but next time – I’ll be purchasing the curriculum for ages 10 and up.

Combining Art & Tech

On a final note, we took our impressionist study just a bit further with the use of the app, Chatterpix. While attending FETC, I participated in a session given by art and tech teachers from a Colorado charter elementary school. They were presenting past school projects that combined art with tech. Chatterpix was one of the apps they mentioned, and I downloaded it that evening.  It’s funny, goofy, and yet easy enough for my eight-year-old to use on his own. Of course, the teachers used it for hand-painted portraits of historical figures…but I’ll work with what I’ve got: a talking, impressionist-inspired watering can. Art is subjective, right?

FYI – I am not compensated for my opinion of Meet the Masters; it’s just a curriculum we’ve used for the last five months. When trying to decide how to spend my limited homeschool budget, I prefer reviews that are comprehensive (rather than shallow overviews). It’s my hope this review will be helpful to fellow art teachers and/or homeschoolers.

Brick Chronicles – An Ode to Crash Course

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

crash-course-set-in-legos

Made by R, age 10. After an epic morning of lego building, he emerged with this ‘Crash Course’ set.

Crash Course – Made with Legos

My ten-year-old has been watching Crash Course videos for a couple of years. He found them through Kahn Academy and introduced the entire family to John Green’s hilarious renditions of history. Not only is John Green funny, but these videos are highly educational and reinforce the short chapter lessons we are already reading about in our history curriculum, Story of the World.

I don’t assign these videos. I don’t have to. The kids (and I) love the format, and I think they enjoy them because they are vaguely aware of the people and events he showcases. Lately, I am being asked (more and more) if they can watch a crash course video during their down time. Quite often, I am sitting there watching with them. They are that good.

crash-course-in-legos

As my children like to say, “Mr. Green! Mr. Green!”

Language Alert for Crash Course

Depending on how old your children are (and how sensitive you are to language), parental supervision may be required. The videos are directed at teenagers and adults, so some “potty” language is to be expected. For my own family, I don’t worry too much, but my seven-year-old has also taken a liking to these videos. I like to keep an ear out while they watch, so we can discuss John’s language use, if and when such language comes up. It’s similar to Mike Rowe’s descriptions in the show, ‘Dirty Jobs.’ The content is engaging and has an appropriate delivery for adults, but you may need a little extra guidance with young ones.

Crash Course for Kids

That being said, there is a fabulous series called, Crash Course for Kids. I’ve used these short videos while teaching about the constellations. It’s a relatively new venture and at this point, the videos only cover science topics. Regardless, they are entertaining, fast-paced and provide another way to reinforce a particular topic.

crash-course-lego-yellow-chair

A close-up of the fireplace – and yellow chair – where John reads his “open letter.”

So, thank you, Crash Course staff, we appreciate all that you do!

Maker Camp 2016

A picture of two 4 inch handmade dolls - a boy and a princess standing in front of a night sky.

Boy character made by R, age 10. Princess made by Liz.

I am happy to announce my newest camp, Making in Action! This is a joint venture with another local, family-owned business, WizzBangz. Gwen Thompson and I have been teaching S.T.E.A.M. classes for the last few years (three for me, and four for Gwen) and we are excited to team up to offer this creative camp.

Maker Camp

The final project will be a stop-motion animation movie which will be written by the students. During camp, students will learn a variety of “maker” techniques, such as sewing, painting, using the resources at hand (that means a lot of cardboard) and in doing so, will learn about the engineering design process and the importance of trying, prototyping and making changes to their story and their designs.

A picture of a pipe cleaner 4-inch doll skeleton.

Learn how to make dolls from pipe cleaners with the book, Felt Wee Folk.

Through each step, Gwen and I will act as facilitators to each group of students. We will guide them through the design process and help them to edit and make changes to their story. In addition, we will be helping them to create their own characters and mini-sets. By creating their own characters, students will be utilizing problem-solving skills, as well as learning the value of multiple iterations and working collaboratively.

R, age 10, is sewing on the boy's clothing.

R, age 10, is sewing on the boy’s clothing.

We will be using a variety of materials and resources with a special emphasis on empowering our students with a maker mindset. We hope you will join us at The Einstein School for this fabulous camp. To register, go to Making in Action 2016.

A picture of half a cereal box painted to look likethe night sky...had two 4-inch dolls as a characters.

The backdrop is hand painted. It’s also made from half a cereal box.

What is Artisan Education?

Five years ago, our eldest son wanted to be a turtle for Halloween. We couldn't find a non-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one, so we made it out of cardboard using paper mache and paint.

This turtle shell is made from cardboard using paper mache and acrylic paint. Handmade pants too! We couldn’t find what he wanted, so we made it ourselves!

Meet the twenty-first century artisans. They understand the value they are creating. It’s tactile. It’s real. They made it because they wanted it themselves. They can tell you exactly how everything is made and where their materials come from. They blend the proven tools of the past with the current tools of today, picking and choosing whatever suits their aesthetic.
– David Lang, from his book, Zero to Maker.

They Understand the Value They are Creating

I love this quote from Lang’s book, Zero to Maker. I love it because he values handcrafted items and ideas, but also because Lang’s thinking mimics my own. At the beginning of his “maker” journey, Lang questioned his education and wondered if he could teach himself something about power tools and underwater submarines. I love that he didn’t know where to begin, but started anyway. To me, this is an artisan education. A self-directed quest to create something from raw materials. It’s a “back to the land” movement, but with technology instead of food production.

According to my WordPress stats, my most popular keyword search is centered around the phrase, “what is artisan education?” Unfortunately, I doubt all of those inquiries are for our small tech business (though, it’s nice when they are).

Rather, I imagine people are looking for how skilled craftsmen, known as artisans, became educated.  The librarian in me wants to do a reference interview and guide the web searcher to a better resource, such as this site from The Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum.  Perhaps, they are looking for the history of how artisans were educated, which was primarily through apprenticeships. However, the artisan in me wants to explain my art, my training, my self-directed path of education and the small business that grew out of it.

Picture of a simple circuit using copper tape to conduct electricity and light an LED

To learn more about how circuits work, I used copper tape to light up a SMD LED. It’s an idea from The Exploratorium.

Meet the 21st Century Artisans

I consider myself to be an artisan. In fact, I think every good teacher is an artisan. However, I can also sew, knit, cook, manage a business, find information, and facilitate learning for a number of topics. Of course, I can do a lot more than that, but I’m especially proud that I taught myself how to sew, how to cook and how to knit. No one gave me a grade and no one stood beside me forcing me to do it. I struggled and fought for every piece of knowledge I earned.

School was fun because I loved learning and the work was easy. When I got a job, I enjoyed the novelty of it, but after a while it became tedious and monotonous. I missed learning. I thought about a PhD, but I had just graduated. I couldn’t go back to school. I needed to learn basic life skills, not just “school” skills. It took awhile, but I realized that if I wanted to keep learning, I was going to have to figure out how to do that on my own. I thought of something I wanted to learn and landed on sewing. I wanted to make my own clothes. I liked a certain style, but couldn’t always find the right color or style and disliked spending so much money on something I wasn’t too crazy about.

How Everything is Made and Where the Materials Come From

My mom knew how to sew and helped me make a few things when I was young, but I didn’t retain any of that knowledge. After running the gauntlet through AP high school classes, varsity sports and a part-time job, such frivolous skills seemed unnecessary and useless. What was the point of learning how to sew when you could just buy clothes? Purchasing pre-made clothing seemed to be a much more efficient use of time.

Like David Lang, I realized how very little I knew. Oh, I could study for a test and receive a diploma, but most of that knowledge was distributed from the top-down. Teachers or professors laid out the material, or pointed me in a direction, and off I went. To figure out how to sew, I needed to make my own path. I needed to struggle with sewing and no one was going to grade me (or pay me) for my progress. To top it off, I had to find my own teachers and resources.

Penguin fabric that became pajama pants for my boys.

It’s pinned and ready to go! This penguin fabric became pajama pants for my boys.

They Made it Because They Wanted it Themselves

Slowly, I learned how to sew and how to find the information to teach myself. I struggled and realized that to learn something well meant that I had to try again and again and again. I had to be content with poorly constructed garments because my technique wasn’t good enough. I had to find other teachers and “waste” money on trying new patterns and abandoning the ones I couldn’t figure out. I had to pay for classes and get out and make friends with people who  knew how to sew and quilt. And, I did. It took awhile and it wasn’t always pretty, but I did it.

I became a twenty-first century artisan because I wanted to make something that was just right for me. I wanted to reflect my own style and to take care of myself and my family with these time-honored skills.

A picture of 4 double-pointed kneedles and a tube being knit.

Learning to tightly knit a tube was made much easier thanks to books and YouTube.

Artisan Education

Which brings me to our business – Artisan Education. Artisan was born out of a need for hands-on classes for our (then) six-year-old. We wanted to help him follow his passion to be a robot engineer. Yes, he truly said that at age six. A few years ago, he was a solid right-brain learner who loved (and still loves) building with legos. He wasn’t interested in the traditional tasks of reading and writing. He wanted to build and work with his hands. A Montessori child if there ever was one, yes?

I sought out ways to incorporate his interests into his daily learning. He still had to work on learning how to read, but I also incorporated his desire to be a robot engineer. I looked for classes in our area, but there weren’t a lot of options – especially for his age. So, we stuck with legos until six months later, I discovered Lego Education. The rest, they say, is history.

A picture of Lego Education's kit, Simple Machines

The first Lego Education kit he did – at age 7. Simple Machines.

Here was a company who was using hands-on materials to teach the things my son actually wanted to learn. When I realized that they made tools for learning computer science concepts, my business was born. I could reach other students who had the same interest and help them to learn about computer programming, but still stay to true to my Montessori background. All of the materials are concrete, hands-on tools and offer multiple creative options. Repetition is encouraged and so is using the materials in a new way.  I also discovered other age-appropriate tools for kids to work with, specifically the icon-based programming language, Scratch.

They Blend the Tools of the Past with the Current Tools of Today

We named our business Artisan Education because we think that learning is an artisanal process. The type of material or learning path is going to be different for each person – even if those same people want to be robot engineers. Each path will be unique. We want to honor that type of learning and crafting. We strive to include a lot of creative paths for discovery, while still allowing students to work at their own pace. We utilize our tools of the past (the Montessori philosophy) with current tools of today (Lego WeDo, Ozobots, etc.)

A picture of a computer with Scratch on the screen.

Icon-based programming tools, like Scratch, help make writing code more accessible…and fun.

In addition to our technology-based summer camps, we also design and review online courses, putting our instructional design skills to good use. Like good teaching, high-quality instructional design requires a unique approach. And, like a librarian, you need to conduct an interview to determine what the client truly needs. These are the tools of our past and we are combining them with the current tools of today. We are twenty-first century artisans.

Picture of tomato soup with a heart drawn with cream.

Knowing how to cook – and how to improvise – is an important skill. My husband made this tomato-based soup for me on Valentine’s Day.

The Brick Chronicles :: Lego Food Truck

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

A Lego food truck made by R, age 10, and C, age 6.

A Lego food truck made by R, age 10, and C, age 6.

This lego food truck was a multi-day, cooperative project as both boys worked together to build various parts of this truck. I had to laugh at how accurate they were in creating the pizza oven and walk-up windows. I can’t remember the last time we actually ate from a food truck, but apparently my boys are keen observers (when they want to be, anyway).  I am most impressed with the sense of detail that went into the design. Check out the following pictures as we explore the world of legos, food trucks and creative design.

The two drivers take charge of the food truck.

The two drivers take charge of the food truck. Eww- those windows need to be washed!

A brick pizza oven

A brick pizza oven

My favorite part of this lego food truck (besides the walk-up windows) is the intricate design of the brick pizza oven. Many years ago, we used to be regulars at a Sunday farmer’s market near Tampa (we’ve since moved from there), but oh, the pizza from the brick oven was fabulous. So amazing, apparently, that five years later my oldest son still remembers it fondly.

A worker retrieving pizza from the stone oven.

A worker retrieving pizza from the stone oven.

Although I didn’t get a picture of it, the outside part of the oven is removable for maintenance (I presume)? That way, no one has to be disappointed by a poorly cooked pizza. Just head up to the window and pick up your order – no box required!

Order a stone-fired pizza from this lego food truck.

Order a stone-fired pizza from this lego food truck.

Making :: Knitted Washcloths

It’s not always easy balancing my “simple living” persona with my crafty, creative side. But, it’s something that I eventually figure out because I have to be creating. I know a lot of parents feel the same way – especially those of us steeped in daily care. However, the maker mindset isn’t limited to parents. I also felt the creative drive as a young working professional – I just didn’t recognize it as such.

Shameless adorable picture of my then newborn and his hand-knitted baby blanket. (He's now six)!

Shameless, but adorable picture of my youngest son with his hand-knitted baby blanket. (He’s now six)!

Regardless, it’s something I need to do because it keeps my mind calm and my hands active. Many years ago, I learned how to sew and I used to be an avid scrapbooker. That was my art and I loved it. But, once I had kids…well, there was no time for multiple hours of crafting, so sewing and scrapbooking took a backseat to the daily demands of young children. Thankfully, my brain took it upon itself to encourage a new craft: knitting.

Blue cotton yarn and size 7 needles. Pattern made up by me.

Washcloth in variegated blue cotton yarn – knit with size 7 needles. “Pattern” made up by me.

I actually tried knitting eleven years ago – before I had my first child – but I found it so boring and tedious that I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to do it for long periods of time. I decided that knitting must not be my thing and went on with my other crafty projects.

But something strange happened when I was pregnant with my second child. I simply had to knit.

I can’t tell you why the time was right – maybe my pregnancy hormones were on overload?
I think I was desperate for something creative, but my tiny house and a very, very active toddler prevented any crafting time. Maybe my brain knew that knitting would be something I could take with me on our daily walks and park play dates? I can’t even claim an internal response to keeping my family warm. We lived in central Florida and were 15 minutes from the beach. It rarely got cold enough for a hat, let alone a wool scarf.

Whatever the reason, I ordered up some chunky alpaca yarn, bought this book and away I went. The first year, I made scarves and a hand-knit baby blanket. Then, I tried my hand at hats. I eventually took a class on intarsia and – with a lot of help – made a sweater for one of my sons.  I had become a knitter.

Hand-made hat - Blue Sky Alpaca Chunky yarn.

A knitter who lives in Florida.

A knitter who has some minimalist values.

Today, my knitting has to have a purpose and be very, very useful. Recently, when I felt that itch to knit, I checked out my small stash and looked at what I had – lots of skeins of cotton yarn. Not so good for hats or scarves, but just perfect for knitted washcloths.

Hand-made washcloth - made from Rowan organic cotton natural yarn. Knit with size 6 needles.

Hand-made washcloth – made from Rowan organic cotton natural yarn. Knit with size 6 needles.

This natural-colored washcloth was knit in Rowan Organic Cotton. I had a lot leftover from when my youngest son was a baby. The pattern can be found here. It’s a simple pattern, very forgiving, but enough to keep me from finding the knitting too tedious. Rows and rows of knit stitch can get tiresome. Thankfully, this pattern is pretty simple and as a result – this is the nicest washcloth I’ve ever made. So, of course, I started a new one which promptly went with us to the park.

Crafting while enjoying the amazing weather? I think that’s a great way to balance creativity with simple living.

Have knitting - will travel. I see a couple more washcloths in my future.

Have knitting,  will travel. I see a couple more washcloths in my future.

 

 

Brick Chronicles :: Mini Lego Microscope

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

A micro Lego microscope, made by R, age 10.

A mini Lego microscope, made by R, age 10.

This mobile lab – complete with an over-sized telephone – is a forensic scientist’s dream. In addition to the bright red communication device, this lab also comes with a desk, chair, coffee maker and microscope. This is a scientist after my own heart – a coffee maker AND a microscope? Fabulous!

Our real-life experiences with microscopes have been few and far between, so I love that his lego men need one on a daily basis.  I am especially impressed with the use of the connector piece – typically used for movable walls or opening chests – to connect the lens of the microscope.

What are you going to make today?

Mini lego microscope and mobile laboratory.

Mini lego microscope and mobile laboratory.