Saturday, July 19, 2008

Back to the Real World

I have just emerged from Boy Scout resident camp where I spent seven days and six nights volunteering, helping to oversee over 35 Scouts, eight of whom were spending their first time away from home at a camp. (One even said this is the first time in his entire life he's gone seven days without watching a screen of some kind. For the record he survived.)

What happens at camp stays at camp and for confidentiality reasons I can't blog the many stories, no matter how tempting or how great they are to tell. I'll say I have enough material for at least three comedy movies or books. Boy Scout camp is a wealth of raw material for writers or screen play writers, I now know.

I am still in the bubble of living without electricity and living in the woods.

I had set some blog posts to automatically publish while I was camping so that is why my blog posts were published earlier this week.

I had time to think about some big things while away. Some decisions were made. Some shifts in priorities are being made right now. I might share those on the blog in the future.

I need to readjust to my normal life and get on with the next thing on the schedule. I'm going to be busy for the next two weeks, away from the computer for the most part, so my blogging may be spotty.

I hope all of my blog readers are having a fantastic summer so far!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Hooray! New Art Journal Book is Out!

I'm doing a happy dance after UPS visited with a delivery of "1000 Artist Journal Pages: personal pages and inspiration" by Dawn DeVries Sokol. This book was just published this month by Quarry Books.

If you make Amazon purchases and link through from my blog I thank you. That revenue partially paid for this book.

All I can say about this right now is that the shape is square, it is paperback with glossy pages, almost like a coffee table book. It is laid out just like "1000 Artist Trading Cards" with the scans on the page with a numerical reference and the name of the artist. No other text clutters the pages.

I can't wait to sit down and look through and study the pages of other people's art journals!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Two Yummy Yarns

My biggest splurge so far was these two skeins of wool yarn purchased at Uncommon Threads in York, Pennsylvania while on vacation down there last week.

These are malabrigio aquarella wool yarns from Uraguay. I will not be using these to felt with because they are too nice. I also spent $14 on each skein (yikes) and don't want to waste this yarn.

Third Knitting Project in Process

I began my third knitted project while away on vacation last week.

I am using Reynolds Lopi wool yarn which I purchased at The Needle Shop in Westport, Connecticut.

If you look closely you can see that the blue wool has threads of red and light blue and green in it. Even my husband noticed that and thought it was cool.

I casted on 45 stitches on a #13 needle. I am still so new to knitting that I only know the knit stitch so this bag is being done all in the garter stitch. (See I am getting the knitting terminology down!)

Here is the piece after one skein of yarn was completed. This photo was taken on the dashboard while driving down the highway (I was a passenger, don't worry).

I think my stitches are coming out pretty even now.

Right now I've knitted 2.5 skeins onto this project. All this work was done while away on vacation in "in between times" like when I was a passenger in the car or waiting for a meal to be served at a restaurant. Knitting in public elicited a few comments from wait staff. I was told knitting is not really done in Pennsylvania. I think the owners of Uncommon Threads in York which I patronized while in PA would disagree with that.

This bag will be machine felted (fulled) when completed.

I plan to use just this one color and sew it into a rectangle shaped handbag with a flap going over the front. I am making this pattern up myself. I know it is very simple. My goal with this is to use just one yarn so the gauge will be the same and so it will remain in a good straight rectangle shape. I think I will use a button as a closure. I am undecided as to what kind of handle this will have, if I will knit it or if it will be purchased and made of bamboo or wood.

Second Knitting Project in Process

Here is my second knitted project which was supposed to be a handbag but is now a tote bag. This was knitted with wool yarn then machine felted (fulled).

Here is a photo of the knitted project before I hand sewed the three edges together to form a tote bag shape. Note the huge size. This actually fit around my waist at the small end and flared outward like a mini skirt! My husband said I should keep it as a shawl and my boys wanted to keep it as a lap blanket.

This was supposed to be a rectangle. Between accidental increases and the different gauges of the yarns this ended up uneven.

Here is the bag after it was machine felted (which I did last night). I plan to buy handles at a local yarn shop and attach them. This is about 8 inches at the bottom and flares out for the top/open end.

Here is a close up of the felted area. Is this not yummy?

I also realized that two of the yarns were too nice to have felted. I feel they were wasted by felting them. One was a fantastic hand painted wool from a farm in Vermont with luscious colors. The other was a super chunky yarn with green and gold colors, the uniqueness of that yarn was lost in the felting process. Lesson learned.

First Knitted Project

Here is the bag that I knitted. This is my first knitting attempt.

Here is the bag before it was assembled and without the strap.

Here is the bag after it was sewn together. It is very imperfect so I'm a bit shy about sharing this project.

I machine felted it last night and will share that photo soon. I had trouble getting it to felt and I might machine felt it more before snapping that photo.

Reclaiming Yarn From a Thrift Store Sweater

I am interested in reclaiming yarn from some sweaters I already own but don’t want to wear and am interested in reclaiming yarn from thrift store sweaters, to save money and yes, for the green living efforts too.

While in Pennsylvania we were having a laid-back driving around day and I spotted a huge Salvation Army store. I know of none of these near my home. I also know my local Goodwill sells sweaters for $10-12 which is not such a great bargain in my opinion. So I went in to the Salvation Army in Pennsylvania, and hit the jackpot on sweaters. Most were $2.99 with a few at $3.99. I bought only wool sweaters. I found many beautiful and ‘like new’ sweaters in cotton too, but I didn’t have plans to use them in the near future so I didn’t buy those.

I might machine felt (full) the sweaters as is, cut them, and then cut and sew them together in a new shape. I might unravel the sweaters to reclaim the yarn and to knit the yarn into something new. I need to investigate this more to examine my options.

At the time I bought the sweaters, I had no idea how to reclaim yarn from a sweater and did a Google search. This excellent tutorial came up, on the blog Chaotic Crafter. Chaotic Crafter reclaims all types of yarn, not just wool and not just cotton, to use to knit new projects. I wanted to share this with you in case you are interested in doing this.

Reclaiming Yarn from a Thift Store Sweater post at Chaotic Crafter

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Home Again, Home Again Jiggity Jig

We are home!

Our family was in Pennsylvania for six days. Before leaving I had written some blog posts for my main blog, The Thinking Mother, and used Blogger’s new posting function to set up my blog posts to publish while I was away. That function is great, I inputted the time and date to publish the post and when that time arrives, it gets published! Presto!

Our family had never taken a trip to Pennsylvania before.

The reason for the trip was a family camping trip with the Boy Scout Troop, to visit Gettysburg. The first full day the Troop hiked. To be honest it started of horribly, as we began the hike at 2pm in 95 degree, sunny and very humid weather. It was very oppressive weather and outdoors is the last place that most people wanted to be. Our small group got lost, making the trip longer than planned. The new visitor center’s location made the hike a mile longer than it was with the data we planned the trip with, meaning we found out after we got there that the hike would be longer (in full sun walking on pavement). Before the hike was over, people ran out of water, their faces were red, everyone was soaked with sweat, it was bad to say the least and we are lucky no one had heat exhaustion. The next day was supposed to be a ten mile, six hour hike, forget that. Our family (and a number of others) backed out of it at the last minute. Instead our family did a four hour auto tour using a wonderful audio CD published by the History Channel (given to us by a friend). We heard great stories told by a very good narrator and historian while driving to the sites. We got out when we wanted to. It was ‘the way to go’ if you ask me. The camping was brutal due to heat and humidity and the noisy campground (our site was next to the flush toilets) and many campers ignored the 9pm ‘quiet time’, instead being very noisy until midnight (going to and from the bathroom, washing pots and even taking showers up to midnight). So our family bagged out of camping the third night and checked into the hotel a day earlier than planned.

So the second part of the trip was near Hershey. We spent two days at Hershey Park and it was great. My husband had been there as a child and I’d never been there before. It was a fantastic time, our kids had a ball. My eight year old was a bit young for some of the roller coasters and too old for the kiddie rides but there was still plenty for him to do. My ten year old was tall enough to go on all the rides in the park, even the scariest coaster, and a brand new coaster called Fahrenheit. By chance we happened to get the first car so we had the best seat! Hershey Park also has a huge water park included in the admission price which was a great way to cool off and have different fun than standing on line for thrill rides.

We also spent a day driving around seeing the sights and doing a little shopping, visiting a local yarn shop and trying some locally made ice cream at a farm. We tried to do some factory tours but that proved more difficult and impossible. If you ever plan to do that you should plan ahead (more than we did) and stick to a strict schedule or you will miss the tours (like we did). All the tours we tried to take were not ongoing throughout the day (unlike other tours we’ve taken in other states).

As for me, since I was the rider not the driver I got some stuff done. I read the first half of “From Crayons to Condoms: the Ugly Truth about American Public Schools” on the way home. I plan to blog that separately but for now I will say that what I do for homeschooling and what I have based the educational plan for my children on is way different than what is happening in schools today. What is going on today is light years apart and very different than what I experienced in the 1970s and 1980s. This book is a compilation of letters written by educators, students and parents about what is begin taught in public schools, including naming curriculums, books and other educational programs with short opening and closing statements by the authors. I am really shocked by what I am reading, this is a new look at what is going on that is very different than what has been said in the past by educational reformers such as John Holt and John Taylor Gatto. Concrete examples are given to illustrate vague claims and catch phrases such as “dumbed down”, “indoctrination”, “anti-Christian”, “new age”, and “self-esteem promotion”. I have not read the part yet where they outline what parents of publically schooled children can do to try to make changes in their own school systems.

Prior to reading that book, I spent every spare minute knitting. I worked on a handle in wool yarn for a bag that I plan to machine felt (full) until I ran out of yarn prematurely. I then began work on a new bag and knitted up nearly two full skeins of a new wool bag that will be machine felted (fulled). I think I have the Continental knit stitch down well and I’m making even stitches and nice rows. I need help learning the Continental purl stitch as I was not able to teach myself from the book I own while on the road. I also feel ready to do something different and more complicated. My sons are asking me to make them a knitted hat in camo colors. I want to learn to make socks. I’d like to make mittens too.

I hope to blog more about some of our educational and fun experiences in the last week in separate blog posts. I also found some great books about the Civil War at the Gettysburg visitor center’s gift shop and will blog book reviews of those in the future.