London Trip

So my husband and I did this honeymoon do-over (let’s not talk about the first one, which was full of sickness and tropical storms) in August. Yes, that is over two months ago. My life has been crazy busy.

London was fantastic. We did so much in the nine days we were there, but could definitely have spent more time.

Not only did I most definitely find a knitting store:

from whence I got some lovely English yarn.

(it’s called Bowland DK by Eden Cottage Yarns. I fell in love with the colour. I also picked up a shawl pin, plus they gave me the bag for free!)

but I also chronicled my fibre-related exploits for y’all. In true librarian fashion.

The sign says:

               This door was at Westminster Abbey, if you’re curious.

I’ll start with a very cool find at All Hallows-by-the-Tower. Though it’s right by the Tower of London, it’s easy to miss. I only found out about it through an obscure blog post. Even my guide book didn’t mention it, but it’s totally worth a visit. Not just for the fibre-craft related objects I’m going to show you, but it’s a beautiful old church. In fact it’s the oldest in London. It was built on the remains of a Roman house and road, which you can still see in the basement. An added bonus? It’s one of the few churches that lets you take photos inside.

See the weird rectangle-shaped objects hanging below the pews? They are cushions: each handmade by a member of the congregation, going back generations. Here are some close-ups:

There is also this lovely weaving near the altar.

Another very cool find was the textile collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I was SO excited to see these very famous ancient Egyptian socks made for wearing with sandals (ignore the “shoes” description. That’s for another item). These socks are often cited as an example of early knitting made using one needle, much like nålbinding.

The works below are woven tapestries from Byzantium.

The above is a woven silk piece depicting a bishop. It dates to 12-1300’s Germany or Italy. The very modern (i.e.: cartoon-like) looking face (complete with what looks like spectacles!) just kills me.

These woven pieces date to early Christianity in Egypt, around 400-600:

Here is a close up of the tapestry on the left. It depicts ankhs – an ancient Egyptian symbol of life that was adopted by the Christian Copts around the 4th century.

Below we have a quilt dating to 1360-1400. Probably made as a wedding gift, it depicts fourteen episodes from the adventures of Tristan. It was hard to take in all the detail on our camera, but you get the idea: lots and lots of stitching BY HAND. So gorgeous. It really has to be seen in person.

This next one is obviously a passion of the Christ scene. Probably from France around 1400-25. Once again woven BY HAND, folks. Our tour guide told us it took a professional weaver about a month working full time (sunrise to sunset) to make 1 square meter. Remember, most of these were big enough to cover a castle wall!

By the way, if you’re curious why tapestries were so common in the medieval period, here’s an answer: no central heating. Well-to-do homes that could afford tapestries were also typically made of stone. That sh*t gets cold!

We also got to see the famous, and enormous, ‘Boar and Bear Hunt’ woven wool tapestry, probably made in Arras, France or Tournai, Belgium around 1425-30.

The last fibre arts related stop that we made was at the Globe Theatre. I was super stoked to find a whole reproduction of an Elizabethan costume textile workshop in the museum.

Can you say “heaven”?

I really doubt that the following close-up images need introduction. Fleece, yarn, dye pots, sewing, pattern drafting, embroidery and lace work, it’s all here.

Pssst: the velvet above is authentic 15th-17th century Spanish and Italian handmade velvet.

And here we have the costume worn by an actress who played Queen Elizabeth at the Globe re-opening.

Check out the handmade lace!

I’ll end with this cool video my husband took of the Swiss Glockenspeil in Leicester Square near Piccadilly Circus/Covent Garden. Not textile related, but still a pretty cool handicraft.

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Relay Recap

Friday night into Saturday morning was the Canadian Cancer Society’s Toronto-Central Relay for Life in support of Sunnybrook Hospital’s Odette Cancer Centre.

Our team, Downtown Knit Collective, raised almost $13,000!! I myself raised my all-time best of $560! Thanks to those of you who saw my many requests and blog post and donated 😀

In a typical relay you walk around the track all night from 7pm to 7am. Now, 12 hours is a LOT, so that’s why you register in teams, so that you can spell each other off, hence “relay.” Our team, however, has special dispensation to knit all night instead.

Though the reason for the event is serious and sobering, which is at times brought home by things like the Luminary ceremony, ultimately it is a fun night of camaraderie and hope. That and lots of sugar and coffee to help you stay awake.

       

   

There were also activities you could do on your breaks, including SUMO WRESTLING (yes, again. I don’t care it’s super fun) and these gigantic inflatable bouncy pony things that became the best thing ever at 3am.

CanadianChia even cut off her hair to donate to Locks of Love. And instead of just sending donors on their way, volunteer professional stylists styled your new cropped ‘do for free!

   

New this year was a Night Market. Naturally, we knitters had some wares for sale.

Flowers by the lovely Ilana

The cuteness of this hat just kills me.

Relay for Life 2014

Once again I’m participating in the Relay for Life on the Downtown Knit Collective‘s team.

We’re currently in third place for top fundraising team!!! (PS: if you feel like helping us get to number one, and donating to a very worthy cause you can donate by clicking here)

I’ve participated in the past (see here), but this year is particularly meaningful to me because my grandmother is fighting her battle with cancer. The same grandmother who taught me how to knit ❤

This year also marks 10 years of the Downtown Knit Collective relay team. To celebrate we will be hosting a Fibre Arts Activity Area at our Team Site at the Relay. As you may remember, in order to help the relayers stay up all night there are various activity areas. In 2012 canadianchia and I got to wrestle in sumo suits (pics here). We are thinking of using our activity area to teach other relayers things like arm knitting and finger knitting, making a pompom, corking/spooling, knitting on a giant scarf, crochet, making a flower, demos of spinning on a wheel and needle felting.

There is also going to be a marketplace this year and we have been offered a table. We will be selling small items in the range of about $1 to $5, such as hand-knitted cancer ribbons.

I’m SO excited!!!

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 😛

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.

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’ :

Creativ Festival haul

Two posts a tad close together, I know, but I had to share the fruits of my second day at the Creativ Festival. Pics of my adventures as a model for the Fashion Knits show to hopefully come soon.

Voilà my haul of goodies, comprising both days:

Breaking it down, we have the two awesome books I got, more detail in my other post. Both are entirely worth the investment, but I love that I got them at a huge discount from Grantham Books. They’re at the festival every year, and I always come home with something. On their site they list other shows they go to as well as permanent locations.

In the foreground you can see some navy blue DK possum merino. That’s right, possum. It is made in New Zealand, and available in Canada here, the UK here, and the USA here or here. Apparently, “the possum fur is hollow and, when spun with merino wool, produces a hardwearing yarn with superior heat retaining qualities.” Either way, it feels awesome and I am excited to try it. Here’s a close-up.

I also picked up some good ol’ Berroco Vintage Chunky in white from Creative Yarns. It shall one day (soon) become the shrug for my wedding dress. I’ll be using the same pattern as for the one I talk about here.

I think it will be gorgeous. Actually, I know it will be because someone has already done it:

I also got some neats beads, pendants, and a pair of cool glass earrings at this store’s booth.

After much hunting, I was finally able to find a booth that sold Brother equipment for my Brother sewing machine. I got some thread, extra bobbins, a blind presser foot for fancy hems on dresses and dress pants (I have a backlog of stuff to fix…), and a teflon foot and twin needle for sewing onto knitting, so that maybe I can finally get the lining onto my cabled belt from way back.

One thing I did not buy, purely because I have a large enough stash already, is the HPKY I fell in love with. Their website isn’t the greatest, but I believe the yarn is called Lamé. It’s a bulkier weight and has strands of glitter running through it. The booth selling it (called Yarn Deals, LLC) I could not find a website for anywhere, but they had these wicked knitted samples that only need 1 skein:

I especially like the one with the tapered and braided ends. It makes it really easy to wear as a scarf or snood/hood type thing. Gotta remember this design idea for later.

And finally, you may remember Ozzy the Alpaca from yesterday’s post. Today, I leave you with a fortune.