Maker Bracelets

1) Paracord Emergency Bracelets

I’ve recently fallen in love with paracord. It’s strong (it was designed to be parachute cord) yet not overly thick and comes in bright colours. You can use it to make bracelets out of 8+ feet of cord. So, if you’re ever in an emergency situation just unravel it and you have a lifeline, tow line, or whatever it is you need. These are called “emergency paracord bracelets” and there are lots of tutorials on the Internet on how to make one.

So, when I was trying to think up maker programs that can be done inexpensively in only 45 minutes for our maker club at work, I naturally got to thinking about paracord.

The kids ended up all making one to take home, but in order to make it “maker” I started with an exercise to show them how paracord works and how different knots should be used for different situations. The tutorial that follows is also available on Instructables.

Materials:

  • paracord rope
  • thicker rope (does not matter what kind, by the more slippery the material the better)
  • a bucket with weights in it (we just used paint cans for weights)
  • large print-outs of how to make different knots: buntline hitch, half hitch, square knot, sheet bend, zeppelin bend

1) Have one approximately 2 ft long piece of each type of rope per group of kids (we had them into teams of two, but whatever works)

2) Talk a little bit about what paracord is and give some examples of situations where one would need such a strong rope and need to know which knots to use (i.e.: towing objects, creating a life line to save someone from drowning, etc.)

3) Have the teams decide amongst themselves which knot is best to tie the two pieces of rope together: square knot (not good for anything with weight to it) vs. sheet bend (ropes of unequal size, therefore the right answer) vs. zeppelin bend (two ropes of same size)

4) Have the teams decide amongst themselves which knot is best for tying to the bucket: buntline hitch (best) vs. half hitch (too weak)

5) Let the teams take turns tying one end of their rope to the bucket and hoisting it up by the other end. There should be fairly obvious strain and slippage of the knots if the wrong knot(s) have been used, which you can point out. The team that got the most right wins. In lieu of actual prizes, which we are getting low on, we just let the winning team get first choice of which colour of paracord they wanted to make their bracelet.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well this turned out as a program. The kids got really into it, debating which knot they thought would work best, and coming up with testing methods on their own, such as tug-of-war to test the knot’s strength. Definitely maker!

 

2) Bottle Cap Bracelets

In a few weeks from now, we will be having another craft event. It doesn’t have to be maker per see, since the theme is just “art, community, and history,” but I think the program I came up with has some elements of it all the same. We’ll be making personalized bracelets from bottle caps. Participants will be able to get creative and find images that they like or resonate with using donated magazines from a variety of cultures, religions, and interests. After all, diversity and multiculturalism are big part of the community my library is located in.

All I did was take a bottle cap, cut out an image to fit inside and then used mod podge to glue it to the bottom and seal it in. Not surprisingly, I used a scene with sheep as my image for the sample ūüėõ

I then used the metal punch from my jewellery making kit (available for under $20 at most beading or craft stores if you don’t already have one) to poke holes in the side for split or jump rings and simply used rainbow loom elastics to make the bracelet part. You could also use hemp or leather or just link multiple bottle caps together if you have enough of them.

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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 voilà!

That’s it, now you can get makin’ :

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!