Tag Archives: knitting

Book Review :: Fabric and Fiber Inventions

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I review books. It keeps my librarian skills sharp, and I love talking about  – and analyzing – books. These reviews cover science and art education books, for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle. This post reviews the book, Fabric and Fiber Inventions: Sew, Knit, Print, and Electrify Your Own Designs to Wear, Use and Play With.

A picture of the book Fabric and Fiber Inventions by Katy Ceceri.

A new book by Kathy Ceceri where she uses my favorite mediums: fabric and fiber!

Fabric and Fiber Inventions

Have I mentioned how much I love, love, love the fact that the Maker Movement includes ALL creations & inventions, not just the electronic/computer-based variety? It warms my heart to see ‘traditional’ arts be included in this movement. For many of us, fabric was the first place we created something useful with our hands. I know it was like that for me. I re-learned how to sew after college. There was a strong urge to “learn something useful” outside of work.

That’s why it’s nice to see author, Kathy Ceceri, and her new book, Fabric and Fiber Inventions. As part of her ongoing series (Musical Inventions, Making Simple Robots, and Edible Inventions), this book covers things to make using fabric and fiber. The intended audience seems to be teenage girls, but I managed to find a project that my boys were interested in testing out.

A picture of a 4x4 inch loom made out of cardboard.

We always have some thin cardboard laying around (from old boxes), and of course, I have extra yarn. Always!

Fiber and Fabric Inventions by Kathy Ceceri

Ceceri, Kathy. Make: Fabric and Fiber Inventions: Sew, Kniw, Print, and Electrify Your Own Designs to Wear, Use, and Play With. MakerMedia: San Fransisco, 2017.

Target Audience: Older teen girls and other young twenty-somethings with a yearning to create (but no idea how to get started).

Recently, we had a two-hour car drive to visit family, and while my boys can read in the car without getting sick, we had been cooped up due to illness. They had been reading a lot and I was afraid mere books would not be enough. Thankfully, Ceceri’s book was sitting on my desk, waiting for review. After flipping through it, I spotted a hand-weaving project. I quickly showed the boys and received a resounding, yes! I made the cardboard looms the night before we left and we strung them up the next morning. We even managed to stop at the fabric store for more yarn (the pink, yellow and white were leftovers from various other projects, but the boys wanted some teal and black).

Handmade Looms

All told, the project was pretty easy to get started. My twelve-year-old had an easier time with remembering not to pull on the edges, but it kept my eight-year-old’s attention longer than I anticipated (his is the smaller one, obviously). I think the thing that will stop them from finishing is the final step of weaving in the end pieces. This is a step I always put off until the last minute, so I’m not going to be much of a help! Of course, I am looking forward to having some woven coasters for my drinks, so I may help them along. In fact, they had grand visions of completing these in the car as Christmas presents for their grandparents. It didn’t happen on that drive, but it gives us a good idea for next year.

Review

As with all of Ceceri’s books, each project contained a number of pictures and a lot of written instructions. She also included a number of spotlight features on people who were instrumental in creating or working with fiber. For example, she mentioned Elizabeth Zimmerman (world famous knitter) and Leah Buechley (LilyPad Electronics), but my favorite was her mention of media artist, Harriet Riddell. This woman uses her sewing machine to “draw” people…while those people power her machine with a bicycle. I recommend grabbing the book, and learning more about Harriett while you make your own quilted chess board. No bicycle required.

C’s coaster is on the left while R (age 12) made more progress.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. If you’d like to see my other (non-compensated) reviews of Make titles, check out Making Makers and Tinkering.

 

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.

 

 

Books :: Montessori Practical Life Sewing and Knitting

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.

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Sailboat was selected and embroidered by Calum at age 4.5

Montessori Practical Life Sewing and Knitting

Recently, I have been focusing on books that support a child’s development of practical life skills (see part 1 and part 2). This week the focus is on fiber arts, including those items made entirely by hand from natural materials. In a Montessori classroom, sewing is taught in the primary classroom.  It is also featured quite prominently in the Waldorf educational experience.  In a Montessori primary classroom, the young three-year-old may start with lacing cards and progress from learning how to tie a knot to doing hand embroidery with a design of their choosing. Both of my boys have really enjoyed sewing as part of our “unofficial” homeschool curriculum. One of our past projects can be found here .

Montessori Practical Life sewing - practicing cross-stitch

Calum, age 4, sewing an “x” in the squares of fabric.

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Ages 3 and up
Beskow, Ella. Pelle’s New Suit. Floris Books: Edinburgh: 2007.
This picture book is quite old, comes from Sweden and was originally published in the early 1900s. It has recently been reproduced and the colorful pictures are gorgeous. This is an easy-to-read, simple story which explains how wool can become a piece of clothing. Pelle (pronounced Pell-uh) has outgrown his clothes and needs a new suit, except there are no stores that he can buy one from. He must enlist the help of his sheep, his grandmothers, his mother, and the tailor to get a new suit to wear. This book is perfect for your eager three-year-old who wants to know how everything in the world works. For storytime, be sure and get the extra large lap edition. This is one of my favorite books to share with children.

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Ages: 3 and up
Roth, Julie Jerslid. Knitting Nell. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Boston, 2006.
This is a sweet, simple story about Nell, an upper elementary student who likes to knit. A lot. She knits all the time and takes her knitting everywhere and while a lot of her friends do not understand why she knits all the time, they accept her for who she is and eventually discover the good deeds she has accomplished (making handknits for the children’s home and war-torn countries). Then, everyone wants to knit. Great, clear illustrations, a perfect introduction to craftivism.

 

Tales from a knitting novice

Although, I was hesitant to post my utter ignorance, I think it is important to note my perseverance. Thus, onward with our tale. First, the background: I have never knit anything in the round. I vaguely know that for a hat one uses circular needles and for socks one uses double pointed needles (which are scary).

Act One, Scene One: A sudden desire to have a handmade hat on my newborn baby (ETA: mid-April) overwhelms all other instincts.

Act One, Scene Two: Witness me dragging my husband (on Valentine's Day, no less) to the yarn store to buy some yummy yarn for the baby's new hat. I found the pattern online and it looked simple enough. There were a few words which I sort of figured out (dpns = double-pointed needles). Eek!

Act Two, Scene One:  A happy, indie, young yarn store worker offers to help me. I ask for the natural fiber section and then see if I can get the run-down on the dpns usage.

Me: "I've never knit anything in the round before…why doesn't it call for circular needles."

Knitter: "Well, you could start on circulars, but then you would have to move to double-pointed needles because a larger circular needle would make it too hard to knit once you start decreasing." (Or, something close to that effect.)

Me: "Oh, I see." (I'm nodding my head, but I'm not really grasping the concept because I don't really have any reference point for the above-stated information.)

Act Three, Scene One: I get home that night and read through the pattern and cast on my 66 stitches thinking, "Wow, this 7-inch needle is kind of tiny for all of my stitches. Oh well…let's see – knit 10 rows. Great."

Act Three, Scene Two: After I've been knitting for a few hours and I'm feeling quite proud of myself for using size 5 needles (the tiniest I've used thus far), a feeling of doubt creeps in.

Me: "Hmmm, this isn't any different from using straight needles. I wonder why it calls for double-pointed needles. I mean, it says on the pattern to use a tapestry needle, I guess you sew up a seam at the end."

Act Three, Scene Three: Open the Stitch N' Bitch book which sort of explains knitting in the round as the immaculate conception and no pictures (quite unusual for such a great book). Start to get really depressed. Realize that there is not supposed to be a seam. The stitches should be connected. Rip out entire work after much contemplation and decision-making about above seam.

Act Three, Scene Four: Elation at remembering the knitting videos web site. Woo-hoo. The hat is back on. Well, sort of.

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(the yarn is Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton. It's a brown color – not blue as seen here.)