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 🙂

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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 voilĂ !

That’s it, now you can get makin’ :

Make your own purse from duct tape

Just a quick post to share a free craft pattern I’ve developed.

At work we needed to have programs for the tweens and teens this summer that were of a creative, crafty, makey variety. So, I thought about duct tape, simply because it’s easy to make cool stuff with and it comes in some pretty neat colours and patterns now.

Then I thought “what can we make with it?” It had to be simple but useful. I decided on clutches and/or wallets (made the same way but a smaller size). I spent some time Googling, some time looking at books like this one.

But I wasn’t really finding what I wanted. This and this were the closest, but no real instructions were given.

So, I wrote Make your own clutch.

Here are some pictures of the fun the kids had, and how super creative they were!

 (cropped to remove faces for privacy. These are kids after all)
Copy of clutch craft 3

Copy of clutch craft 7

Copy of clutch craft 5

clutch craft 9

Copy of clutch craft 6

Ewes-ful information

Lookit! My last entry got noticed by Geek & Sundry. Thanks for mentioning me, guys 🙂

Speaking of things that are both geeky and awesome, I am very excited about something a friend showed me on Patrick Rothfuss’ website:

This is totally what I wear to work... I do want those shoes, however. In flats...

Speaking of work, I stumble across this post on Tumblr, which sums up why I’ve decided I want to persue work as a children’s specialist:

Sidenote: I have recently become rather obsessed with Tumblr (in addition to Pinterest…) Follow me!

The full quote, from Neil Gaiman (who else?):

“Stories that you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely visit.” ~ from M is for Magic

Something else library related that I think will make your day:

Recently, a library customer left her laptop at the bus stop outside a library. Another library customer found the laptop and took it into the library, on the assumption that the owner might return to the library to look for it.

That’s exactly what happened. The owner took a cab back to the library and found the laptop waiting for her there. She left the note above for her anonymous saviour on the bus stop hydro pole, thanking him/her and relaying the cabbie’s similar story that he shared during the cab ride.

After a shitty day at work, with printer problems, kids breaking the elevator, and grumpy old men being indignant over having to prove they still live in the municipality once a year (“I’ve lived here for 40 years! I’m not moving any time soon.” Well that’s great sir, but I have no way of knowing that and unfortunately your word is not going to cut it with the Public Libraries Act) I really needed to read something like that 🙂

The CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) ended on labour day weekend. Here is a round-up of yarn and fibre-related goodness. Sorry, they’re cell phone pictures…

The Peru booth of hand-knits and crafts was a stop I had to make.

A close-up of the 100% alpaca coat. The fibres were more glorious in real life.

Incredibly detailed kids and baby sweaters.

This fantastic crochet top, I mean lady, sat in front of me at the talk by Richard Palmisano on hauntings at the CNE grounds.

These three pics below are of a display on sheep at the Farm Building ❀

Actual sheep!

This llama was not impressed with my taking her picture.

Alpacas with funny haircuts.

And now I’m off to finally start work on my shrug. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Knit-In Recap

The Knit-In at Nathan Phillips Square in support of Toronto Public Library workers was a HUGE success. Thank you so much to everyone who came out. Some estimates pegged the number of participants as high as 200! That’s a pretty sizable group for a weekday event held on only 2 days notice.

A special thanks to Wise Hilda, Kate Atherley, and the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, both of whom not only retweeted about the event but even came out to lend their support!

I knew Kate was coming, and it was still awesome meeting her, but Stephanie was a surprise. I read her blog and have read all her books. I was star struck and ridiculously excited. I snapped this picture while I was still working up the nerve to talk to her. Then I moseyed on over to say hi and thank her for coming. Turns out she is really approachable and easy to talk to, which resulted in me running my mouth off and mentioning that I wish I’d brought a book for her to sign. Immediately after I left, the media descended on her. I’m hoping it’s not my fault because they overheard me indicate she’s famous… Sorry Stephanie!

Margaret Atwood gave us a shout out on her Twitter as well. Matter of fact, it was the same day this article came out.

Speaking of articles, we had a lot of media interest. Here is what’s been published:

First there was the Sun’s article featuring an image of yours truly. Glad they published that one and left this one to Twitter. It as windy out! I have a lot of hair!

Then came the National Post’s coverage. And the Globe and Mail including this great pic in their Day in Photos section. We’re photo #7.

And of course I count Kate’s including a mention of the event on the Knitty blog to be media too 😉

Some highlights:

“… participants laid out blankets on the asphalt and brought tupperware containers filled with apples and other snacks as they knit together skirts and scarves” – this National Post statement, combined with The Sun‘s Twitter photo caption makes me think I should have chosen another knitting project, one less easily associated with librarian stereotypes perhaps. It’s not your Grandma’s skirt, I promise! And what’s with the focus on blankets and snacks? Another reporter also said on Twitter that “striking library workers are being adorable again.” Thanks for the sentiment, but I counteract with this quote by yours truly in the plug the Bissell Bombers did for us: knitting is “
part and parcel of the stereotype of librarians as dowdy, grandmotherly figures. A Knit-In in support of a library both pokes light, tongue-in-cheek fun at this stereotype while simultaneously challenging it. Today’s knitters are full of passion and vitality. They choose to craft for the enjoyment of it and bring immense creativity to what they do. Such energy is a perfect fit for activist persuits, hence the rise of knit-ins and yarnbombings.” So there.

“Author and blogger Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, known on the web as the Yarn Harlot, was at the protest, knitting what she hoped would be a scarf” – The Sun. That’s knitting for ya, you just have to close your eyes, knit, and will your desired object into existence. You can never know for sure what you’ll get.

And then, that very night it was annouced that a tentative agreement had been reached. I like to think that the knitters helped turn the tide, thank you very much.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a photo gallery.

In case you’re wondering, the partially obscured one says “Don’t pull the wool over your eyes.”

Childrens’ Librarians can’t help but bring their puppets to the picket line. This one got his own scarf out of the day!

Katie with some of her gorgeous cable knitting and lino-cut cards she makes and sells around town as well as on her website. These ones are yarn themed! The woman just oozes creativity.

This wedding party asked if they could have their picture taken with us! I can’t believe this happened in the 15 minutes I took for a coffee break.

The woman in pink is a new knitter and one of my coworkers. She was introduced to the knitter habit of ‘yarn groping’ after I impulsively squeezed her skein. The colour! It’s just so beautiful! (Turns out it’s Malabrigo worsted in 228 Snow Bird, by the way. You’re welcome)

Life on the line

Don’t worry folks, it’s a pun! We’re on strike at my place of work.

(I just love this picture I snapped of a colleague. She made this flag herself! In case the symbolism is lost on you, we’re both librarians).

I’m not the type of person to deal with this well. Four hours a day on the picket line is surprisingly exhausting, but I find my Type A personality makes me a little stir crazy after a couple of hours once I’m back at home. You’d think I’d be knitting, but I actually tend to knit to relax and unwind at the end of a work day. No work day = wired Erin = must partake of active pastimes. So far I’ve cleaned the entire apartment, caught up on all of the laundry, concocted a recipe (see previous blog entry) and baked not once but twice. I blame the baking on my developing Pinterest obsession. First came a rather complex (for me, anyway – two different glazes!) lemon cake, and then muffins. And it’s only Thursday.

Cleaning the apartment lead to a sobering discovery. This is how much yarn I own:

Oh no, that’s not all. See the edge of the chair with the grey and cream afghan over it in the top right of the above photo? Well, this is what’s behind it:

The fiancĂ© doesn’t know about this secret hiding spot.

Well, now I definitely won’t feel tempted to buy more yarn during the strike…