Other arts involving string

Just thought you might enjoy a gander at some of the gorgeous work done by members of the Scarborough Needlearts Guild. They had samples of their work on display at the library last week and taught interested people how to use a needle and thread to make works of art.

 

 

“L” is for Librarian! This one’s my favourite ūüôā

Too often for coincidence

She always manages to sit right on top of my pattern or knitting.

Always.

Come to think of it, he’s started following suit…

Oh cats…

Making Maker Programs

In case you haven’t heard, maker culture is here, it is awesome, and it is an integral part of the future of libraries (don’t believe me? Read this).

Over the past 6 months or so a colleague and I have introduced a maker program for kids at our library called. We¬†choose science, technology, and art activities that are¬†self-directed, allowing the children to use their imagination and inventive skills. We’ve done everything from making musical stairs and game controllers out of MaKey MaKey, to making boats out of recycled material and then having a contest to see which boat can float the most potatoes, to creating stamps for making prints, to making and launching foam rockets.

This past Wednesday we experimented with¬†squishy circuits. Squishy Circuits is a project that came out of the Thomas Lab at St. Thomas University’s School of Engineering (watch the TED Talk here) with the goal of exposing children to electricity, physics, and engineering¬†in a fun and interactive way – with LEDs, toy motors and buzzers, and dough!

A Creeper from Minecraft with a glowing heart (LED covered in conductive dough) created by one of our kids.

I had to adapt the Squishy Circuits program to our library’s environment. Our demographics are such that we get a lot of younger children as opposed to adolescents and teens, many of whom struggle in school for reasons as varied as socio-economics and being newcomers to Canada. Socio-economics is also why many of the kids in our neighbourhood are not familiar with electronics and technology.¬†Hence I needed to keep our Squishy Circuits program simple and be sure I gave them a little bit of preamble on the basics of circuits, and show them a couple of examples of squishy circuits I made in advance. Though many people involved in maker culture will tell you this goes against the investigative spirit of maker culture and its focus on learning through doing and learning from failure, I can tell you that if I didn’t do this the kids wouldn’t have had¬†the slightest idea what to do and therefore had no starting point from which to start experimenting – they would just leave in frustration. It has happened before. Through trial and error I found that once I do this preamble, they get it and are fully willing and able to experiment and explore on their own. They might need a little more coaching and/or reminding here and there of the science or concept behind what we are doing, but by the end they usually all get it.

So, without further adieu, here is my program outline as a pdf:

Squishy Circuits as a public library kids program

It¬†covers the teaching method I used in order to communicate to the kids the concepts necessary to understanding how to make use of the dough and electronics. It also talks about safety concerns and the materials you’ll need. Below I go over how to find and assemble the electronic components if it’s not something you are familiar with (how to know which battery packs to get, what voltage should the LEDs and motors require, how to solder, etc.). Unfortunately the Squishy Circuits website doesn’t cover this. But believe me, the materials are all readily available and no great knowledge of electricity and electronics is required. This whole tutorial is also available on Instructables.

These battery packs, toy motors, and LED lights I bought at an electronics hobby store because I found them there at the best price (budgets are always a concern for libraries!) however if you take apart many toys and gadgets, you’ll find these items inside.

If you find you have bare wire ends like this

     or this    

then you will need to solder terminals on. Terminals can be bought very cheaply at hobby and electronics stores, or online. I used fork shaped ones like this

but really, you could use spade or circle shapes too. It doesn’t matter.¬†I like the ones with an end that is meant to be crimped to the wire with needle nose pliers or a wire crimper (see photo). It just makes the soldering part easier because the terminal will be kept somewhat in place. Heck, if you are really good and the terminal holds on its own after crimping, you might not even need to solder. But, if you have super steady hands, or a second set of hands to help you, then go ahead and try the flat end ones! Just don’t buy terminals with a plastic end. You will have nothing to solder to!

A soldering iron and solder can be bought at an hobby/electronics store, or a hardware store. A cheap soldering iron will do the job just fine, and any solder is good as long as it is not a super thick gauge and it is not acid flux. No clean is ideal, and lead-free is not, but these are not hard-and-fast rules.

I promise that¬†soldering is not that difficult. In fact, it’s a lot of fun. Here is a great tutorial.

A quick note: if you find you have some sort of specific end to a battery pack, like the one below, you can still use it. You will just need a wire stripper/crimper to cut the end off and strip back some of the black and red coating to reveal the wire in order to be able to solder it to a terminal.

In terms of what kind of battery pack to get, it is actually not a huge deal. 4 x AA is ideal, but we were able to get 2 x AAA to work, though the battery wires had to be placed very close to motor or LED light within the dough in order to work. Also, the lower the volt requirement for the LEDs and motors, the easier they will be to make run.

The dough instructions are of course very simple. Just follow the directions on the Squishy Circuits website.

Et voilà!

That’s it, now you can get makin’ :

Knitter’s Frolic

So this past weekend was the annual Knitter’s Frolic. I went with some members of my knitting group, and we had a lot of fun.

  Above photos from CanadianChia.

And saw some amazing things.

  CASHMERE ROVING. IT FEELS LIKE CLOUDS.

And when it comes to shopping, I made out like a bandit this year. A bandit who pays for all their loot, but a bandit nonetheless.

Everything there was just SO AWESOME this year. More awesome than it already normally is. Plus I got more back that I thought I would with my tax return, so happy early birthday to me.

Here is the pile, in all its glory:

IMG_0533

And now for the breakdown, minus the Addi Turbos and the Indigodragonfly project bag with the hilarious print.

First we have some beautiful lace weight. Seriously, the picture does not do the emerald tones of this skein justice. It’s Shalimar Yarn‘s Breathless Lace in Loden. Handpainted! 850 yds! $30! ūüėÄ

I plan on making this beauty with it.

Then I stopped by a family-owned farm‘s stall and grabbed me some more hand painted goodness:

Once again, my camera does not do the deep hues of this yellow any justice. I normally don’t go for yellows, but it was so gorgeous it had to come home with me.

The Black Lamb (another local yarn producer) had this at their booth:

Merino mixed with angora rabbit! Get in my shopping bag now please!

Then at the booth for Gateway Fibreworks (another local outfit that makes yarn from Ontario alpacas – noticing a “local” theme yet?) I saw this skein, the last one they had of it’s colourful yet undyed (these are natural alpaca fleece colours) kind and had to have it.

While I was there I grabbed these mini skeins because alpaca mini skeins.

I’m thinking it should be enough for fingerless gloves.

So that’s it for the local fibres. I had planned on buying only local, normally-hard-to-get-your-hands-on stuff, but then…

Classic Elite Yarns Provence on sale for 30% off at EweKnit‘s booth.

Since I needed some DK weight cotton for this vest, I figured I might as well buy it while it’s on sale.

This Habu skein was also 50% off at Unraveled. I’ve always wanted to try Habu (the ones that brought you yarns made from paper, steel, and etc) and at this price for a little skein I figured why not?

It’s called Kibiso silk. It may not look very silky, but that’s because it is actually made from the waste silk, which is the fuzzy bits on the surface one gets when you reel silk from a cocoon.

And last, but not least, we have this skein from Skein (har har). When I saw it at Shall We Knit‘s booth, I had to have it. It’s just so different. The colourway is Tuscany.

I also got a good deal on hand carders from Gemini Fibres. I’ll need them if I ever actually start spinning.

Speaking of starting spinning, I’ve taken a step in the right direction! I took Barb Aikman’s class on the Sunday of the Frolic.

I’ve got a long way to go, but at least it’s a start. I had trouble with the single treadle I was using, so a fellow student was kind enough to let me try her Ashford Joy2. Muuuuch better.

…aaand now I want an Ashford Joy2. It’s a beautiful machine.

But, before I can think of that, or use all this new yarn that is burning a hole in my stash, I must finish the baby knitting (yes, there is still another set of these:

as well as a blanket to go) plus the shawl I’ve started for myself:

I think I needed to finally make something for myself. People are starting to ask why I knit so much but hardly wear any knitwear :S

Luckily this shawl is in worsted weight, so hopefully it won’t take too long.

Happy Easter

I was lucky enough to have the whole 4 days off, but man was it busy.

I thought I’d take a moment to share the recipe I used for the slightly unorthodox Easter dinner I hosted.

Instead of the usual ham and egg-y fare, we had Italian food! The feast was complete with cesar salad and tiramisu for dessert. I also made these little guys as something for people to snack on (I had to have something that reminded me of Easter):

I got the recipe for them here. They were very good. Scroll down on that page to see my notes for some changes I made (including adding pretzels, a definite improvement).

And now, for the pièce de résistance,

Lasagna with spinach, mushoom, and pine nuts

A fairly traditional version, but with the addition of extra veggies and pine nuts. The pine nuts are particularly great in the vegetarian version, as they add a bit of “meaty” flavour.

You will need:

  • 1lb lean ground beef (not extra lean as it is too crumbly) OR 1lb textured soy protein (such as Veggie Ground)
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 1/2 tbs garlic powder
  • 1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 5.5 oz cans of tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chili pepper
  • 4-6 oz can¬†sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1 15 oz container of light ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, well-beaten
  • 1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 50 grams of toasted pine nuts (or toast ’em yourself for 5-8 min at 350¬įC)
  • 1 500 g bar of mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 package oven-ready lasagna noodles

Directions:

1) Dice onion and place in large pot with the ground beef or soy (if using soy, add 1 tbs olive oil) and the garlic powder. Stir frequently until beef is browned and/or onion is clear.

2) Add the next nine¬†ingredients. Simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off any fat (likely there won’t be any).

3) Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ casserole pan. Cover bottom with one layer of noodles. Be careful to slightly overlap the noodles so that the bottom is not visible.

4) Cover the noodles with half of the meat mixture, followed by a think layer of spinach and half of the pine nuts. Mix the ricotta and eggs together well. Spoon half of this mixture over top of the meat mixture. Then sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese.

5) Place another noodle layer over top, followed by the meat mixture, spinach, and pine nuts. Cover with the last of the ricotta mixture. Finish by sprinkling the remaining mozzarella over top. Bake at 375¬įC for 45 min. Let cool at least 10 min before serving

The baby knitting never ends…

…but dear God it’s cute stuff.

Finished these recently:

and just started the foundation for these cuties:

After that I will be casting on for Knitted Moon Design’s Star Path Baby Blanket:

Other things I’ve been working on:

A coworker and fellow knitter is retiring, so I made her this little keychain pouch and put some fancy stitch markers in it. Pattern is here.

This cute owl coffee cup cozy (pattern is here) was the pattern in a knit-a-long I joined, aptly named the Cabled Owl Cozy KAL. The pattern writer/group admin (Knitphomaniac over on Blogger) was selling the sew-on googly eyes with proceeds going to a local soup kitchen in time for Easter. I opted to gift the FO to my mom, who is a little down lately now that she’s an empty-nester, my grandma has cancer, and my grandpa has had to move into a nursing home.

Grandma asked me to make her a hat for her new bald ‘do. I happily obliged. 1) grandma asked and I love her, 2) knitting is a good stress reliever for me, 3) my grandma is the one who taught me to knit in the first place.

I opted for the sophisticated Lucy Hat by Carina Spencer.

Grandma quickly noticed that her noggin was getting cold anytime she needed to take off the hat to wash it, and so I just finished up a second hat for her – a Tam-o’-Shanter made using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s instructions in Knitting Without Tears.

I’ve been told several times lately that I should start an Etsy store. I was wondering why, and had thought “hey, maybe I’m getting so good people are noticing!” but after writing this post I think it’s more likely because I’ve been churning out so .much lately. Unfortunately I don’t know when I’ll have time to knit for people that aren’t family or babies :S Maybe this summer? We shall see…

I have a problem

It’s books (and knitting and yarn buying, but that’s another story).

Recently, I borrowed this from work:

And now I waaaant it.

I mean look,

dalesbred

Each breed/animal has at least a full page dedicated to how to best spin, dye, and knit the fleece, as well as a swatch showing what it looks like knit up and a description of what types of garments it is best for.

It’s like the last piece in my collection. I figure I will have a library of ALL THE KNITTING KNOWLEDGE once I have it on my shelf.

… I really am in the right profession as a librarian…

I want it, I want it soooo bad. But I already own:

this,

and this, 

and a few books on how to spin and should really just be happy. I mean, I haven’t even actually started learning to spin yet. But then I tell myself “but it will be a great resource for when I actually do start! And it will make me a better knitter too!” If it sounds reminiscent of the talk of an addict trying to reason their way to their next fix, that’s likely a fair and accurate statement. Though I like to think I ended up making a small sacrifice for the good of my wallet: instead of the huge coffee table book, I ended up buying this instead:

Same topic, same authors, a heck of a lot cheaper. It’s like the light version. Also, it will fit in my purse while shopping ūüėÄ I mean, what?

My sickness isn’t limited to books on yarn and fleece. In the same transaction I also bought:

this 

and this 

because the other day I bought these:

SO EXCITED.

I know, I know, this all adds up to a lot of $. But the Raspberry Pi and Arduino are work/career related, so there. Plus I got the books online for cheaper than at the hobby store where I got the Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Plus I rarely shop for myself. I’m treating myself after the rough winter I’ve had (more addict-style rationalizing…)

God knows when I’ll find the time to learn how to use the Raspberry Pi and Arduino with all this spinning I plan on doing…

And lastly, I got this:

I have a good reason! I have an older car! It makes strange noises I want to understand. Not to mention I’d like to not look so dim the next time I go to the mechanic.

…I’m going to go broke.

Then again, if I can fix and make my own stuff…

Kidding! No more book buying for a long time, I swear.

Slipper sole tutorial

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been working on making a pair of slippers for my husband in colours from Fallout, his favourite video game. It’s been a huge undertaking, since I couldn’t find any patterns that were the style he wanted that went up to size 13. The closest I could find was this pattern, which I’ve had to heavily modify. On top of all this, he wanted a hard sole. Geeze, the demands of those who don’t craft and have no idea how complicated the thing that they are asking for is.

Well… I’m proud to say I’m finally done! The pattern to follow soon.

In the meantime, I thought I would share how I made the soles. I also put the tutorial up on Instructables, where you can download it as a pdf.

Supplies:

  • patterned/textured PVC fabric (available at most large fabric stores)
  • craft foam
  • fabric on the thicker side (cotton is suggested, I used an old pair of jeans)
  • cardboard
  • pen
  • quality large scissors (you will be cutting through the PVC)
  • Shoe Goo
  • popsicle stick or other instrument for spreading glue that you are prepared to not get back

Step 1:

Make a template by tracing the outline of the person’s foot using the cardboard and pen. Compare it to the bottom of the actual slipper and make any necessary adjustments. Cut out your finished template and use it to cut out four pieces of craft foam, two pieces of PVC fabric, and two pieces of regular fabric. Pay attention to right vs. left soles as you do this.

Step 2:

Essentially you are making a sandwich of PVC on the bottom (with the PVC side outwards so that it will be the very bottom of the sole, the part that makes contact with the ground), two layers of foam, and then the fabric layer on top. Between each layer is a liberally applied coat of Shoe Goo.

I suppose other glues are possible, but I highly recommend Shoe Goo. It is designed specifically for shoes in that when it dries it is clear, solid and non-tacky, but still has some flexibility. Plus the hold is superior. Nothing is going to get your layers apart. It is not easy to work with however as it sticks to everything in its wet state. This is why I recommend using a popsicle stick to spread it. However I ultimately still ended up using my fingers at some points, so be sure to have a good hand cleaner present. Something like Fast Orange is ideal, but I got by with a dish scrubber and some dish soap.

Step 3:

Give the sole a full 48 hours to dry and cure. That was a lot of glue, after all. Then you can finally add the last layer – the slipper itself! Make sure you give it about 24 hours to dry and cure.

Ta-da!

4 months of knitting

It’s been awhile I know. I choose to blame several things: post-wedding craziness, the holidays, and some health problems experienced by both my husband and myself.

This post is essentially just going to be a run-down of things I have been working on. It features some great patterns, including one I am writing myself (my first!). I guess that might be another reason for my lack of blogging: knitting addiction. I state where I got each of the patterns. To see which yarn(s) I used, click on the image to see a Ravelry description page.

I’ll start off with the arm knitting trend. Despite my already large stash, I decided to buy some extra bulky yarn and give it a whorl. I used the tutorial here and followed the guidance of Unwind Yarn House in using Mirasol Ushya yarn held double. I’m pretty happy with the look of the result, albeit it’s not as warm as some of my other scarves, and I’m worried that getting a stitch snagged on something might cause the whole thing to be pulled out of shape. We shall see.

Curious to see what arm knitting might possibly look like in progress? Voilà.

PS: I entered this in the Ravellenic Games, which coincides with the Olympics.

I’m also planning on entering a pair of slippers that I’m making for my husband in colours from Fallout, his favourite video game. I started off following this pattern, but had to make so many modifications due to hubby’s extra extra large shoe size that it’s practically its own pattern now. I’m considering publishing it ūüôā

Before these I finished Shara Lambeth’s Dentelle Cowl for my mother-in-law. It’s a lovely short cowl, and I really like the finished result. Though I will suggest that if you plan on trying to make your own that you make the foundation chain very loose. The stitch pattern is very stretchy, plus you will be putting many dcs into the foundation chain, so it needs to be able to give a little.

Being at that age where friends and cousins start having kids, I’ve also been doing some baby knits.

This adorbale pair of booties is based on a Saartje de Bruijn pattern. Albeit I used the seamless version by Fleegle instead, because I hate seams. Hate. I had to learn the Turkish cast-on it order to do it. I highly recommend FluffyKnitterDeb’s tutorial, it’s really easy to follow. A little tricky until you get the hang of it, but I’m glad I’ve learned how to do it. It makes beautiful sock toes, bag bottoms, mitten tips, etc.

One of the babies was born in December. She of course required something more warm and snuggly, hence I made her a hat using the Bulky EarFlap Hat pattern from As the Bunny Spins and booties using Simple Soft Baby Booties from Adirondack Mama.

She might not be so happy about wearing it, but I think her parents are glad she’s warm in these -20¬įC tempertures we’ve been getting.

Then there was my Christmas knitting.

I made a Jayne hat again. This time it was for my middle brother, and I used this pattern, which I think I was happier with.

Here they both are, sporting their hats in true browncoat style ūüôā

And now for my pride and joy of the whole lot. The pattern is Fightin’ Words by Annie Watts of Wattsolak Designs. These fingerless mitts were for my youngest brother, who seemed to get a kick out of them.

My first true stranded colourwork. A pretty awesome pattern, and a pretty awesome job, if I do say so myself.

…more of my crafted wedding

I forgot a few things! Too much DIY with this wedding, and all done within the past few months: it just all blurs together.

This was my hairpiece. I made it out of the lace from my mom’s wedding dress.

tumblr_mu1ujrirhr1roq7h8o1_500

And I made these ones for my bridesmaids.

Here they are in action:

Last, but not least, here is the ring bearer box and pillow. I did the sewing, my (now) husband made the box.