Tag Archives: sewing

Reading – Trying – Testing – Changing

With Space Camp under my belt, I’m really looking forward to summer camps and classes. Camp registration is up and while I’m still trying to find a place for the Mindstorms Clinic, I’m reading, trying, changing and testing all sorts of kid-friendly projects.

Reading – Trying – Testing

First and foremost is a heavy focus on HTML, CSS and Javascript. This summer, I am teaching beginning web design for Santa Fe’s College for Kids (CFK) .There are so many things that I want to show the kids and there will be a strong emphasis on writing HTML code. It may be plain, but it provides a good foundation for understanding the structure of web pages. While I anticipate mostly beginning students, I may have some who are already HTML-savvy and ready to jump into cascading style sheets (CSS) or Javascript. I want to be prepared for those students, so I have been working my way through this book, while also building and testing my own prototype sites. I love the deep learning that is happening in my brain. I had forgotten how much fun true web development could be.

Ten years ago, I managed part of my library’s web site using (mostly) Dreamweaver. I didn’t go much further with it at the time because I was enamored with teaching, but now that I am really jumping into CSS I am fully engaged and truly enjoying myself. I definitely see some front-end web development classes in Artisan Education’s future.

A picture from the fabulously talented Sally Mavor. This is from her book, Pocketful of Posies.

A snapshot from the talented fiber artist, Sally Mavor. This is from her book, Pocketful of Posies.

Of course, to balance all of that screen time, I usually have some sort of knitting or sewing project close at hand. My inner artist loves being creative with handwork and I like that I can bring my projects to gatherings, as well as to park outings with my kids. When I’m drawing, I need complete quiet (which rarely happens at my house), so I tend to stick with fiber arts. Therefore, I am really excited to be offering the ‘Making in Action‘ camp this June. Plus, I will be teaching the beginning sewing class for CFK in July. Thank goodness there will be a lot of fiber art to go along with all that programming.

For the summer, I am focusing on hand-sewing and the boys are currently testing out my projects.  This way I can tell which ones need more instructions or perhaps, more choice. I recently found an interesting embroidery-pin project that we’re going to work on this week and I can’t wait.

Enough chatting – I’m off to create. I hope you have a ‘making week’ too!

A picture of a half-traced hand-drawn tiny rocket to be used for embroidery

R’s embroidered design choice. He’s testing a backpack pin project.

Book Review :: E-Textiles

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A picture of the cover of the book e-textiles

Love the cover!

E-textiles

Ages: Teens and Adults
Toth-Chernin, Jan. E-Textiles. Cherry Lake Publishing. Ann Arbor, MI, 2014.

This book is part of the 21st Century Skills Innovation Library series. I have reviewed a couple of their other books (HTML and Game Design) and find them to be inconsistent with regards to content. Sometimes they are spot on, and sometimes the topic is too complex to be adequately covered in 30 pages.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am thrilled that someone is publishing kid-friendly books on these new technological advances, but I don’t think all of these books are as useful as they market themselves to be. This one, in particular, was very scattered and not quite appropriate for their intended audience – middle school age and younger. It’s a thin book and was found in the Juvenile section of my public library – not the teen section and not the adult section.

A picture of the T.O.C. for the book e-textiles

The book includes five chapters covering the basics of e-textiles, sewing with conductive thread, beginning projects, microcontrollers and electroluminescent wire. While there are a few projects given,  none of these projects include pictures – either of the finished product or any step-by-step pictures of the process.

A picture of pages from the book e-textiles

Sewing stitches are really difficult to understand without pictures…especially for kids.

That being said, I was pretty disappointed with this book. I’ve made some e-textiles and I found the descriptions to be too advanced and choppy at best. The author assumes a working background knowledge of e-textiles that is inappropriate for a beginning book. It was as if the author had to cover a variety of topics, but was not given effective page space to do so.

For a 32-page book, it tries to cover too much information and ends up not covering anything in-depth enough to make any sense to the reader. This topic can be quite complicated – especially when they are talking about the use of Arduino microcontrollers, such as the Flora and Lilypad. Both of those microcontrollers were mentioned in the book and require a working knowledge of the Arduino programming language. If the purpose of the book was to introduce the idea of e-textiles – then yes, they are right on the mark. If that’s the case, why would the book include DIY e-textile projects?

A picture of a page from the book e-textiles

My suggestion would be to save your money and check out the project pages provided by the Exploratorium on sewn circuits. Or, for really advanced users, subscribe to AdaFruit’s web vlog on e-textiles.

A picture of a handmade bracelet made from felt with light up LEDs, embroidered to look like an alien spaceship. e-textiles

My homemade, hand embroidered, hard-wired e-textile.

Picture of two small wooden dolls with hand-sewn outfits

What we’ve been making this week

Making this week

In January, I was intensely focused on behind-the-scenes work, which included strengthening my HTML knowledge and gaining a better understanding of cascading style sheets (CSS). I was also delving much more deeply into my WordPress site and adding to my front-end web development skills. It’s fun work. I enjoy it and I like the creative aspect, however, I was feeling a need to craft something in person.

I don’t know if my subconscious decided to add more creative pursuits to our week, or if it was just time to switch gears and move onto different aspects of work. Either way, our house (and table) has been a flurry of “making” activities. There was a lot of making this week…

A Color-Sensing Mindstorms Robot

Picture of kid taping together a line for robot

R is making a circle for his color-sensing Mindstorms robot to stay within.

My eldest son is my tester for the “Mindstorms Clinic” that I plan to offer this summer. We’ve been working together to find some really cool activities that delve deeply into certain aspects of these lego robots. Personally, I am quite intrigued by the color sensor and love the line-following (or color avoiding) aspects. Since I love to use Ozobots in my camps, I love how programming the EV3 brick lends an insight into how the Ozobots might read their own color language.

Crafting Ancient Egypt

My youngest son has chosen to study Egypt for our co-op’s ongoing project-based learning class. In addition to reading all sorts of books, he’s been making clay models and crafting mummies.

C looks at the picture of the pyramids at Giza and makes his own artistic interpretation with clay.

C looks at the picture of the pyramids at Giza and using clay, makes his own artistic interpretation.

C is coloring the top of the sarcophagus.

C is coloring the top of the sarcophagus.

I had to help him glue the sarcophagus together, but he did everything else.

I had to help him glue the sarcophagus together, but he did everything else.

Sewing, Painting and Making

In preparation for another summer camp I am co-leading, I have been making some prototypes for characters and landscapes. Since we’re still in the “testing and trying” stage of camp development, I’m not sure how (or if) these prototypes will be used, but I had a lot of fun making them.

Picture of two small wooden dolls with hand-sewn outfits

Using the examples in the book, Feltcraft, I created these characters from plain wooden pieces. They look like giants visiting the pyramids of Giza!

And, for those who would prefer to paint their characters…

Picture of painted wooden peg dolls that look like Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi

My boys are begging to play with these…but I need to get some more paint for Obi Wan’s face.

In an attempt to create more “boy-friendly” characters, I stumbled across this web site and studied her pictures and painted my own versions. If these are a go, I’m going to have my 10-year-old try and see if he can re-create something similar. I need to make sure it’s an appropriate, and not frustrating, activity. In the meantime, he and I have already brainstormed a way to make “Yoda.”

Since my characters can’t live on newspaper, they need some sort of backdrop. I’ve been reading up on acrylic painting techniques and brushing up on my dusty scrapbooking skills. I see many more iterations of these concepts in my future.

picture of blue sky painted scence

Adding multiple layers of paint – blue and light blue to create a variety of colors.

All week my table was filled with painting supplies and I was dreaming of my own artist’s studio. Since that’s not possible, I pulled out my knitting travel bag and put in a few rows for another washcloth. My creative beast is temporarily fed, but I’m already anticipating this week’s creative endeavors.

Picture of a half-knit cream-colored washcloth

Another washcloth – the last of the cream yarn.

 

 

Book Review :: Sewing School

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A fabulous resource for teaching sewing to kids, aged 5 - 12.

A fabulous resource for teaching sewing to kids, ages 5 – 13.

Ages: Adult readers, but projects are directed at kids, ages 5- 13.
Plumley, Amie Petronis & Andria Lisle. Sewing School: 21 Projects Kids Will Love to Make.
Photography by Justin Fox Burks. Storey Publishing: North Adams, MA, 2010.

Sewing School

First, let me say how much I love the books that come from Storey Publishing. They are true to their mission of “serving their customers by publishing practical information that encourages personal independence in harmony with the environment.” No, I don’t work for them (and have not been paid by them), but I can always tell that they were the publishers of a book due to how much I like it. And, I really like this book.

I like that the authors specifically mention Montessori and Waldorf influences. I like that the purpose of the book doesn’t focus solely on transferring sewing skills, but rather encourages independence and free choice. It’s about using sewing techniques to increase creative expression and self-sufficiency. There is also a strong focus on having a prepared environment. The authors recommend having stations for fabrics, notions, pattern cutting and adult (or teen) monitors to run these stations so that a child can get help or move on to another project when ready. These are all Montessori principles and I love that they emphasize them in their “sewing school.”

The photography is brilliant – lots of colorful photographs and numerous step-by-step examples for the layers of each project. This is especially useful when trying to help a child learn the steps of tying a knot, which in my opinion, is much harder than getting them to thread the needle. The full-color, step-by-step pictures are spot-on and great for a new sewing teacher, or an expert one, as they figure out how to help the children help themselves. The pages on the various stitches (running and whipstitch) are especially nice.

The first few projects in this book utilize felt (with a special emphasis on wool felt), which does not fray and is very forgiving for a young child. My six-year-old easily made the “needle case” all on his own – from tracing the pattern in chalk to sewing on the button. The only help I gave was to tie the knot at the end of his embroidery floss.

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My six-year-old traced the cardboard pattern and cut the fabric by himself.

In addition to the well-thought out projects, there’s a lot of room for older children to go further and “make it their own.” Without any prompting on my part, my oldest son decided that he wanted to embroider his first initial on the front part of his needle case (he’s been embroidering for years). Then, he decided that he didn’t want to see all of the threads and we brainstormed a way to cover them up (extra felt and hot glue).

My 10-year-old is embroidering his initial on the front of his needle case.

My 10-year-old is embroidering his initial on the front of his needle case. He drew the letter “R” with chalk first.

The book continues with more projects to help a young child develop their sewing skills. Many of these have a creative element and allow for lots of choice. This practical guide has been very useful as it begins with easy projects and moves to more advanced ones, such as sewing cotton fabric right sides together to make a a skirt. While most of the projects are focused on hand-sewing, a few suggest sewing machine use.

In preparation for a kids’ summer class on sewing, I have been poring over numerous sewing books aimed at children. This one is, by far, the best that I have found. These two authors obviously have a lot of experience running a sewing school and I’m grateful they committed their techniques to paper.

Between myself and my two boys, I have lots of example needle cases for my sewing class this summer.

Between myself and my two boys, I have a lot of sample needle cases for my sewing class this summer.

Montessori Sewing for Preschool

This book has projects for children who are at least 5-years-old, but you do not need to wait that long to introduce them to sewing concepts. The practical life area of a 3-6-year-old Montessori classroom should have “sewing” materials on the shelves. These materials can be for the young 3-and-4-year-old, such as large bead stringing and lacing cards. Or, for older children, there may be activities such as simple button sewing, advanced button sewing,and practicing the running stitch.

To see some of my recommended reality-based children’s books on sewing, check out my post on fiber arts in a Montessori classroom.

 

Play = Healthy Brain

Playing is something that we have always encouraged our children to do – it keeps them entertained, builds social skills and promotes creativity. Although sometimes they have a hard time remembering when it is appropriate to play (ahem…grocery store),  it is one of the many reasons that we have chosen to homeschool our children. There just wasn’t enough time devoted to unstructured play and free choice.  I have encountered the concept of play quite often in the last few weeks and it’s been on my mind daily as I work through my Tinkering class.  There is also much discussion and debate on the elusive definition of play and how it contributes to success (for humans and animals).

play_Ringling

Tinkering with the playground water station at The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL.

Currently, I am reading the book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul by Dr. Stuart Brown. One of the studies that this medical researcher highlights was done by Dr. Marian Diamond. In the 1960s, she studied rats and found that rats who “played” more – lots of new toys and were interactive with other rats – had bigger and more complex brains. Hence, propelling the notion that babies and young children who are exposed to many different enriching experiences may become more well developed (and smarter) adults. Dr. Montessori found the same thing in the early 1900s during her observational studies.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Diamond’s research found that that this “enrichment” was equally beneficial for ALL brains, of ALL ages (which reminds me of the research on how learning a new language is beneficial for your aging brain).  Dr. Brown’s book also suggests that adults need to play as well – though, our play can look a little different – reading, knitting, watching our favorite TV show, etc. Yet, this probably explains why I have been having so much fun tinkering.

My handmade battery-powered bracelet - with wired mini-LEDs.

My handmade battery-powered bracelet – with wired mini-LEDs.

The inside of the bracelet - sewn with conductive thread and attached to a coin battery using parallel circuits.

The inside of the bracelet – sewn with conductive thread and attached to a coin battery (currently missing) using parallel circuits.

This past week, I was introduced to paper and sewn circuits. I love, love, love them. I am starting to comprehend circuitry in a way that I hadn’t with our previous experiments. I have so much more to write about using paper, fabric and conductive thread to create circuits, but I’m not done playing yet. I haven’t quite figured out how everything works and I don’t want to spend time writing about it – I want to get back and continue playing. 🙂

The bracelet is currently pinned, but I want to add metal snaps as a switch, but I need to figure that out first!

The bracelet is currently pinned, but I want to add metal snaps as a switch, but I need to figure out how to do that first!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_0279
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.

 

From the hand to the the heart

Our house seems to be a very busy place. I know we don't have the monopoly on activity – in fact, we probably can't even come close to lots of situations. (Especially since I have a cousin who is the mother to four boys). FOUR! Oh goodness…

…but, they love her a lot and are fiercely loyal to her (two are grown up and out the house and they are still this way). I want that for my boys. And, so, I quiet the "messy" voice in my head and turn up the "let's go outside" voice. I try to listen to the "he's learning something" voice. I place special emphasis and value the "homemade" voice the most.

So, of course, we've been busy…

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(Winter squash medley for Calum…ready to be frozen)

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(a 1st birthday crown for a friend)

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And, in my house, homemade can't be complete without a sewing project (or two) left out on the table. Waiting for a few minutes here and there to be eventually be finished.

It's completely normal to listen to the voices in your head, right?

better late than never :: skirt

Brown_skirt

I finally applied the hem to this "pregnancy" skirt that I started, oh, six months ago. I wore it once with a rough hem and put it aside to work on…it never made it to the sewing pile until I remembered it a few weeks ago. I bought some pre-made bias tape and – voila! – instant hem. (I'm tall and I needed the extra length – AND – my hemlines are never as pretty as I would like).

It was this pattern and I love it. It's the perfect transition between a post-partum and pre-pregnancy body. I used a three-inch piece of elastic rather than the belly band since the first skirt I made hung a bit low and required a l-o-n-g shirt. I do believe that I am in love with elastic skirts. I'm thinking of making another one for everyday wear. I'll let you know if it takes another six months!

Have a great weekend!

A Handmade Fireman Doll

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There are a lot of projects out there that I think my son (husband, sister) will like, but I’m never sure. And, most of the time, that’s all right with me. I hardly ever finish a project if I’m not enjoying it. So, even if they don’t like it, I loved making it.

In this case, I thoroughly enjoyed creating this fireman doll from scratch for R – AND – I think that he will just love it. (Not so much with the fishing game).

I have been secretly working on this project for the last two months (it will be an Easter gift). He saw the wooden figure and knew that I was going to make a fireman, but it’s been out of sight, out of mind. Right now, he is really into firemen and looking around, we realized that we were short on people. We’ve got lots of Legos and wooden roads to build, but there’s not a lot of person-to-person interactions going on here.

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In typical fashion, I though it might be fun to try and make one for him. I ordered the wooden doll and wool felt from here and used patterns for the jacket and pants from the two books above. The jacket will come off, although the pants are sewn on for good. He can always become someone else who just likes to wear red pants!

But, the hat. Oh, the hat.

A fireman just isn’t a fireman without his hat.

The hat I had to create myself. I’ll admit – it wasn’t easy. It took me
quite a few tries to get it just right (or at least recognizable). But, I had so much fun creating and learning the ways of the small, wooden doll. Maybe, next time he’ll ask for a farmer. I wonder how hard it is to weave 2-inch pieces of straw together…

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beauty and the utility quilt

The ins and outs of daily life can be so funny sometimes. Quite often, things work themselves out in a completely different manner that what I was expecting. And, more than likely, it works out just as well or even better than planned.

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If I had to choose a way to define my sewing, I would say that I am quilter first and foremost. I was interested in fashion sewing, but fell in love with quilting. One of the only things I sewed for R, as a baby, was his quilt.

Therefore, I was bit bummed (read: feeling tremendously guilty) that I was not going to have time to create a unique quilt for this new baby. The list of projects I wanted to finish was long and I was really enjoying knitting.

I knew I had to cut something off the list and I chose for it to be an elaborate baby quilt. (Oh, the guilt) However, I also knew that a quilt would be useful on the hard floor surfaces that cover most of our home. So, I checked out my fabric stash to see if I could come up with something quick and easy.

Thus, the utility quilt was born. This printed on panel is from a friend who gave it to me over a year ago. It was just sitting there and I had no plans for it.

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And, while I briefly thought about machine quilting it myself (seeing as how it was a utility quilt), I decided against it. I’ve only done that once and I wasn’t happy with the results. So, I sent it off to my quilter. I am so glad that I did. She does amazing work and she recognized that her quilting would essentially “make” this quilt.

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The beauty of such a utilitarian object astounds me.  I know that we will use the back as often as the front (not something that can always be said about a quilt). She doesn’t have a web site, but can be found through this quilt shop – if you are local.

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So, while some of the guilt still remains, I am so happy that this particular project turned out completely differently than I had planned.