Friday, June 1, 2012

Big News!

I guess you've noticed that this poor little blog has been neglected the past few months.  Truth is, I've had some hopes and dreams on their way to becoming plans; and now, some of those are beginning to be realities!

I've just started a new website - atinyforest.com.  It's just a baby, so don't judge it too harshly just yet.  When you go there, you will see my new blog; over the next few weeks I'll be moving a few tutorials and patterns from this blog to the new one, and will eventually close this one down.

From the new site, you can also get to my new Etsy shop.  I also have a new Facebook page.  I'd love for you to visit those as well.  The new Etsy shop is also fairly new, but there will be more and different kinds of items there in the coming weeks.

Thanks so much for your kindness and support - I hope you'll make this part of the journey with me!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

preparing for knitting class

Honestly, one of my favorite parts of teaching knitting?  Assembling supplies for my students!  I'm getting ready to teach a class at our homeschool co-op this semester, and I thought I'd share a little of my process with you.
First, I make knitting needles.  I would never send a student out ahead of time to try to find the right knitting needles and yarn, but at the same time I can't afford to buy needles for all of them.  Making the needles saves them (and me) money, until they see if they want to stick with it.  Plus, the wooden needles are not quite as slippery, and that means less dropped stitches.  Besides all that, I just enjoy making them.  I start with dowels, sharpen one end in a pencil sharpener, sand until they're just right, and glue a bead on the other end.  I also rub them down with paraffin to make them smoother.  I'm making them a little shorter this time around, for ease of stuffing into backpacks and such.
I then make up a little pack of accessories - these little printable rulers can be found at MathaTube.  I print them on card stock.  We like to save the in-between strips to use as bookmarks - Lydia loves to decorate them.

I also include a yarn needle and a couple of safety pins.  This time around, I got the bright idea to make little matchbook-style needle books.  It's just a 8 1/2" x 2 1/4" strip of card stock with one end folded under 3/4".  Then I inserted a 4" x 2" piece of card stock in the fold, stapled, and folded the long end up to the staple.  These would look great in printed scrapbook paper for grownups, but I thought the kids would like to decorate their own.  Sorry they're so hard to see in these photos - if you need more information, let me know in the comments and I'll do a tutorial!


I also include a little pair of scissors, and pack it into a ziplock bag so they can keep it all together.  All ready for assembly!


I also give them a 1 oz ball of yarn, and I cast on 15 stitches and work 3 rows in garter stitch with each one in advance. I want them to be able to go straight to knitting, without the discouraging finger gymnastics of casting on.  It's fine with me if they learn that later.  I like to use variegated yarn, because it makes it easier to distinguish between rows.  (Plus, the colors are fun.)  It helps me use up those leftovers I have lying around, plus I often find it at the thrift store or yard sales.  I try to make up extra, so they have plenty to choose from.


Last semester, I gave each student a little tote bag to carry their knitting and supplies.  I noticed that at the end of class, they took the tote bags and stuffed them into their school bags.  Then, of course, all the knitting things would fall out into their school bags, yarn in a big tangle, you get the picture.  This time around, I'm giving them gallon-size ziplock bags for their knitting, and they can stuff it to their heart's content.  Cheaper for me, more practical for them.  :)

I also print out some basic knitting instructions, knowing that as soon as they leave class, they will need a reminder how it's done.  And I wrote up a first "pattern" of sorts, things they can do with that first garter stitch rectangle.  There are three choices and sizes of things to make, so that even the slowest of knitters can make something.  Since I couldn't find it when I needed it, I offer it here, so that if you need it to hand out to a class, you may use it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

the candy holidays

Well, here we are - it's nearly halloween, then Christmas, then Valentine's Day, then Easter.  I call them the "candy holidays," because the celebration of them has evolved into a sickening candy-fest.  There is a special reason I dread them so much:  we have followed a strictly all natural diet, as closely as possible, for 8 years now.  My girls are very sensitive to artificial colors, flavors and certain preservatives.  Their reactions range from ADHD-type behavior to depression.  Sometimes both - think of some bizarre combination of Tigger and Eeyore.

I am very fortunate that they know what they can and can't eat, and stick to the diet on their own, even when I'm not around.  Over the years, they have learned to simply say "No thank you, I can't eat that" when they are offered ordinary candy.  The reactions they get tend to fall into two categories.

One category is pity.  Poor pitiful little deprived things, they can't have M&M's, or a sucker from the bank.  Sometimes people will feel so bad for them, they will try to convince them to go ahead and eat it, Mom won't know the difference.  (ha!)  What these people don't realize is that my daughters are not accustomed to artificial ingredients; that Red 40- and vanillin-laden excuse for candy will taste like a bunch of chemicals to them.  There are real, natural candies out there, and they beat the taste of artificially flavored candy by a mile.  But even if there were not alternatives to artificially flavored candy, I've never heard of a child dying of a candy deficiency!

Another category, believe it or not, is indignation.  As if by politely refusing candy, they are passing judgement on the eating habits of the rest of the world.  Lizi once stood in a buffet line, and asked the server if she knew the ingredients of a certain item.  When she found out the reason, the woman sharply answered "It's not possible to eat all natural all the time!  Everything has artificial ingredients in it!"  I admire my girls for their grace in dealing with such comments; but it is incomprehensible to me that they have had to develop such a skill!  Do you ever wish that grownups would just act like grownups?

Now more than ever, there are children all around us with various dietary allergies and sensitivities.  They don't need your pity, and they certainly don't need your wrath.  So how should you answer a child who can't eat what you would like to give them?  Just say "Oh, I see."  And smile.  Maybe give them a pat on the back and compliment their responsibility.  Or give them a quarter instead of that piece of candy.  Or why hand out candy at all?  Maybe stickers or little toys?  It's not good for ANY of us to make the "candy holidays" all about candy anyway, right?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

the perils of pretty food

I am very fortunate in that my girls love raw fruits and vegetables with no sugar or sauces whatsoever.  So it's a normal occurrence that I peel a carrot to go along with Lydia's lunch.  But on this day, I noticed the pretty ruffly lettuce for our salads - it looked like a fancy dress to me...  I grabbed some toothpicks from the drawer and a bit of broccoli for hair, and voila - a "Veggie Lady!"

Lydia was delighted.  Photos and video had to be taken of Veggie Lady.  Then I said "Okay, now you can eat it!"  "NOOO!  I can't eat Veggie Lady!!!"  Never mind that she's made of healthy, delicious food that Lydia normally loves - now she's too PRETTY to eat.

sigh - should have learned my lesson when they wouldn't eat the heart-shaped sandwiches...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

new socks and birthday gifts

Just popping in to show you a couple of projects.  The first is a birthday gift for one of Lydia's friends.  She asked for a "unicorn pillowcase"; I embroidered a white pillowcase with her name, a unicorn and a rainbow.  I also made her this throw pillow.  She loves hearts and rainbow colors, so the heart print fabric and rainbow trim were perfect.  Seems she really liked it!  The embroidery design may be found here.

And now I get to make an identical set for Lydia.  ;)

I've also started a new pair of socks.  When dear Maya started dyeing commercially spun yarn, she sent one of her first skeins to me.  Since then I've puzzled over just the right project for such a special gift.  I finally settled on this sock pattern.  It is "Sock Hop" by Patsy Leatherbury, published in Creative Knitting magazine July 2006.  It was the first sock pattern I tried to knit, and I loved those socks.  Then we moved into our new house, and for some reason the floors ate holes in all our socks for a while.  Including my very first hand-knit socks, sadly.  I guess maybe it took a while to remove all the fine grit lingering on the floors from the construction?  Who knows.  But there were my beloved socks, with gaping holes in the soles.

I've wanted to knit another pair by this pattern for some time, and it finally occurred to me to use the yarn that Maya sent!  It's from her "Muscadine Sock" line.  This is the "Inked" colorway, one of her first.  I love the color, but also the yarn itself.  I am surprised at how stretchy it has turned out to be; but it springs back into shape, too.  Perfect for socks.  And I'll make sure the floors don't eat them this time.  :)