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

Free digital copies of magazines!

Cools news if you live (or work or attend school) in Toronto!

You can download digital copies of the following knitting and crochet magazines for free with your library card (which is also free to get if you don’t have one, by the way):

Interweave Crochet
Interweave Knits
Knit Wear
Knitter’s Magazine
Crochet Traditions
Knit & Spin
Knitscene

(other types of mags too, but I figure most of ya want fibre-related ones)

The service is called Zinio eMagazines and is now available on the Toronto Public Library website (direct link here).

Zinio offers unlimited (no time limit, no limit on # of magazines) access to current issues of popular magazines. I’ve started using it on my iPad already. It’s pretty sweet.

zinio library

You have to create two accounts using the same email address and password – one at tpl.ca/zinio to access and checkout magazines and a zinio.com Reader account (tpl.ca/zinio will guide you to go there after you register and check out your first magazine) to read checked out magazines via streaming online and download offline via the free mobile app (iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry).

*Important note:* to check out a new magazine, you must go back to the Toronto Public Library Zinio eMagazine page. If you try to select a magazine through the Zinio website or the app, you will be prompted to pay for it.

A Getting Started with Zinio eMagazines page also appears on the library website providing updated title and subject lists, a one page Zinio User Guide and a Frequently Asked Questions section.

Noodle

I came into work the other day to find this little gem on my desk.

Isn’t she cute?! She’s from the book Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster, illustrated by Caroline Pedler.

A coworker from another branch (the same lovely individual who made this) made her for a knitting and fiction themed craft program and, knowing I love the book and have used it in storytimes more than once, made a second one for me.

I was so touched! Not to mention thrilled to be able to put something this adorable on my mantle. Right now she’s sitting beside my TARDIS, a product of the Ravhellenic Games. Mine is definitely the home of a nerdy knitter.

Speaking of knitting themed picture books, I don’t believe I’ve shared this other favourite of mine yet (hard to believe since I’ve written about them here and here):

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen.

These two images from the book pretty much sum up how awesome it is (though there is a great review here if you need more convincing):

Books

I’ve been writing about knitting a lot lately, and technically this blog is supposed to also be related to the fact that I am a librarian. So, without further ado, some book-ish things (though some of it is still yarn-related, but I digress) :

The Toronto Public Library’s Arthur Conan Doyle Collection recently acquired an autograph notebook. This item was purchased from someone who found it at a flea market in England.

What makes this find so interesting is that it seems to have belonged to two children with the last name Cubitt. On one of its pages they concocted a unique code using images of dancing stick figures.

This was in 1902. In 1903 Doyle signed the book for the children.

What is interesting is that in that same year Doyle published his Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” and Holmes’ client in the story bears the last name Cubitt. Additionally, Doyle is said to have gotten the idea for this inventive code after seeing some stick-figure letters drawn by a young boy in an autograph book. Intriguing, wouldn’t you say? Full story here.

Sometimes I wish I worked in a collection like the Doyle Collection. For one, I’m a nerd who likes history and having the responsibility of preserving it, but another reason is that it would get me out of public service.

Don’t get me wrong, 90% of the time I like it. You get your difficult patrons, of which there have been many of late for some reason, but the good experiences make up for it. And I’m too social a person to be content hiding behing books all day. It’s just that this coming week I have my first class visit :S

I love doing storytimes for the kiddos, and have been doing that for almost two years, but this is another level. It’s not just fun and games, read them books, teach them songs, and just get across that literacy = fun. I have to talk about what the library is and offers… to 5 year olds. Do they even know what “borrow” means? Probably not. I need to remember to explain absolutely everything, but as simply and non-boringly as possible. And their teachers will be watching. Adults are so much harder to please than kids…

This brings me to this new book I’m quite impressed with:

Show Me a Story by Emily K. Neuburger has been giving me lots of ideas of things to try next week. It might just save my bacon…

And now for the latest editions to books-Erin-shouldn’t-be-buying-but-did:

Sewing Basics : All You Need to Know About Machine and Hand Sewing by Sandra Bardwell I am hoping will answer all of my myriad of questions as I enter the netherworld of sewing machine use. By the look of things, it will:

That's a lot of types of machine feet...

So excited for Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson, which I scored for $10. Priscilla also wrote this other gem, which I wrote about here. It’s not flashy, but it is packed with information. If you are at all interested in textile history, this is one you should pick up.

I got these two books at the Creativ Festival today, where I modelled for the fashion show displaying local designers, organized by Creative Yarns. It was a lot of fun and very inspiring (we have a lot of talent in Toronto). Off to bed now for round two and more shopping tomorrow.

I leave you with the progress I’ve made on my fingerless gloves WIP…

and Ozzy the alpaca.

And as a bonus for making it to the end of this post, have some free book plates I’ve pinned on Pinterest. Cheers!

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!