Monday, May 23, 2016

Lots and lots of practice

I think the key to getting better at anything, especially things that require the formation of new muscle memory and coordination, is practice. Lots and lots of practice And so.I'm getting lots of practice spinning on my spindles by fitting it in every chance I get. I've even converted one of my large project bags into a portable supported spindle bag so I can grab my gear and take it anywhere. So far I've only managed some spinning in the car when I showed up way to early to pick up my daughter from her class since every other occasion to spin in public has been thwarted by rain.

I'm starting to feel very comfortable in spinning the different thicknesses of singles that I'm going for.  I still end up with a bit of thick and thin but its much more consistent that when I started out. I just finished the first half the first braid I started that came with the supported spindle kit I got from Walnut Farm Designs. When I wound the singles off into a center pull ball I really got to see, in reverse, how I'd improved in just 6 days. The singles on the outside of the ball represent my very first spinning but even those are not too far off my intended gauge. 
I'm also enjoying getting to connect with other spindlers in the various Ravelry groups and learn from and be inspired by their threads and monthly challenges. The Spindlemania group is hosting a "Happiness is..." challenge for May and now extended to June. I'm going to enter the yarn above as well as the batt I'm spinning on my drop spindle that has gorgeous splashes of blue and purple things like silk, angelina, bamboo, alpaca and glitz against gray Rambouillet/Columbia/Hampshire cross fleece. I'm really having fun with this one and can't wait to see what the final product looks like. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

And for my next trick...I learn to spin

Tap...tap...anybody here?

I dropped off the wagon again and let this blog sit for too long but now I'm going to try to start posting again because I'm taking up a new skill, spinning. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I'm trying it again, since technically this isn't the first time I've tried to learn how to spin. Let me explain. 

At least 5 years ago I got my first drop spindle from a kit that was sold at a historical reenactment event. I can't remember if it came with fiber or if I obtained it separately but when I first started to try to spin I was using this coarse un-dyed combed top wool, maybe merino but its not labeled so I can't tell for sure. Either way, not the best, but not the worst, fiber to learn to spin on. I stumbled across my first handspun when I was digging out the spindle the other day and OMG was it even worse than I remembered it. But it is exactly like I expected my first try at spinning would be, extremely thick, lumpy, ropy and I don't even know if I attempted any type of drafting but it doesn't look like it.
At one of the last fiber fairs I picked up some other fiber but I guess I never got far enought to try it. I remember getting frustrated, watching lots of videos at the time and then stopping but I don't think I ever disliked spinning. I just liked knitting more and then life got in the way, the fiber got put on a shelf and there ended my spinning adventure

Until now. I've been seriously committed to my knitting for the past several years and for the last year have really started working with and exploring non-commercial yarns, colors, techniques and vendors. I started ogling the fiber vendors, envious of their colors and the variety, especially with gradients and fiber types, that I was having trouble finding equivalents in yarn. I was also getting really stressed at work and was using my yarn and knitting related-shopping as an outlet so I guess I should be surprised that, on a whim, a supported spindle kit and fiber from Walnut Fiber Designs found its way into my cart and subsequently into a box on my doorstep.

Its been said many times by bloggers, podcasters and forum posters I respect to use good fiber, pretty fiber, fiber you like when learning to spin and to not just use junk wool. I can't say its the sole reason I was able to spin so much better right from twist 1 but I'm fairly certain that its a strong contributing factor. I was so excited when my kit arrived I opened it up immediately and tried to see if I could remember the basics of spinning. I picked one of the two similar braids to be sacrificed to the alter of learning and jumped right in.

This spindle was a basic unfinished wood version of a supported spindle. It came with a matching wood bowl and lead line. I watched a few videos on spindling and a few more specifically on supported spindles and then jumped in. After 4 days I've spun over 1 oz of the 4 oz braid and getting more consistent and confident every day. 

I'm having so much fun that I decided to jump in with the May challenge from the Spindelmaina group to spin something that makes you happy. So I dug out that first drop spindle, had a good laugh at my first handspun and then pulled out a batt of grey wool blended with purple and blue dyed streaks of silk, bamboo, stellina and glitz. I found, much to my surprise that after a few days on a  supported spindle I was instantly able to drop spin so much better. I AM having so much fun with this one and the bits of purple and blue make me so happy. I can't wait to see how this wants to ply, 

I'm looking forward to posting more about this new fiber journey.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Troop Meeting: Roles

They had another troop meeting this week. Their school principal came and gave a talk about good behavior after school and they explored roles and careers by acting out the things they had brought for their prop box. K took a notebook/journal to be a writer/storyteller. She seemed to enjoy it but I didn't get too many details.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Back in mid-October, K's Girl Scout Junior Troop took a Sunday afternoon trip to Camp Potomac Woods, one of the GSCNC camps, to participate in an Archery Workshop.

The girls got the opportunity to learn some archery history, learn about the parts of the bow and arrow, learn safety and learn/practice shooting with compound bows. K had a blast and came back excited about her new found ability and how often she could hit the bulls-eye. I'm not sure if they earned a badge or not but it was certainly a positive experience for her.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sewing Badge Research

K has expressed interest in learning to sew more and in potentially sharing that knowledge with others in her troop and maybe even younger girl scouts. As a result I have been looking into various sewing badge requirements, patch programs and project ideas to find things she might want to try. I could't find any official "sewing" badge at the Junior Level in the new post-2011 badge structure. I'm sure I'll rant about how much I dislike the marketing and branding of this new badge structure but not now. I know there are several ways to incorporate sewing projects into the badge requirements of other badges and especially into the Journeys but since her troop is working on those I'm going to stick to independent projects. Who know's, maybe when she feels more confident in her sewing skills she can help introduce the idea of a sewing related project into her troop.

There are several patch programs and some info on the retired badges like sew simple. There are also service focused programs and many great tutorials focus on beginner learning machine and/or hand sewing. Here are a few I've found:

Cupcakes and Lace. One of the local girl scout partner organizations, they offers workshops that individual girls can register for that teach sewing and crafting skills and some also meet badge requirements. This fall they are offering Junior Jeweler and Sew Simple programs. I'll be keeping an eye on the workshop list to see what's coming up.

Juliette Sews. GSNCA has a Council Own patch that helps girls learn more about sewing by hand and by machine. The link has a list of 29 requirements. Each level has to do items 1-4 and Juniors have to complete an additional 7 steps of their choosing. The patch is listed at $1.50 on the their Council Own Shop page.

Sew Simple Badge. I found a copy of the retired Sew Simple badge requirements along with other retired badges here. If I can't get her into a workshop I can always work on it at home but I'd have to track down a badge myself.

Dress a Girl Around the World offers a patch for those who take pillow cases and turn them into dresses. I stumbled across this patch on Pinterest and after some research decided that this could be a great way to combine service with the sewing. It is a program of Hope 4 Women International, an Arizona based ministry organization. "Dress a Girl Around the World provides patterns, ways to be involved and opportunities for you to deliver or to help fund the delivery of dresses to girls around the world. People from all over are forming" They sell patches on their site for $3.50.

Pinterest inspiration:
A hand stitch, cross stitch card idea
This pin is a collection of 7 simple pillowcase dress variations
Link to a Martha Stewart hand stitch felt tissue cover. I'd make changes to the size, embellishments and order of steps.
A cable keeper-A simple stitched band with button hole and button work
Sock Bunnies-up-cycle some socks and practice softie hand sewing
More advanced, a up-cycled t shirt braided rug

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Girl Scouts: Drawing Badge

Quick troop update: K's been to 3 or 4 troop meetings now. They have decided to work on the AMUSE Journey and Archery Badge first. The high energy level has cause some problems and its been slow getting started but I think they will get there.

The last meeting had to be canceled due to illness so instead of the troop meeting K and I decided to work on her Drawing Badge. We gathered the guide binder, her medium of choice (pencil on sketch paper), a still life object (an unlit pillar candle), and found a comfy spot with pillows.
Like all badges this one has 5 steps:
1. Experiment with different materials
2. Learn how to add shading
3. Get some perspective
4. Use your imagination like a graphic artist
5. Make your masterpiece--and show it off!!

K has always had an interest in art and has just about every medium you could want in the house so I was surprised when she decided to go with basic charcoal pencils. She loves color and uses it in everything so I guess she just wanted to practice with black and white so she could focus on the drawing itself. I have a very good quality set I use for sketching so I let her pick one of those. She pulled out her drawing book, found a fresh page and then started to draw the candle we had set up on the side table.

I found it interesting that at first, she barely looked at the still life, instead trying to draw from her memory.  What resulted was an image that was more what she thought the candle should look like and less like it really did. I pointed this out to her and after a few more stubborn attempts to draw from memory she finally started to look at it with a critical eye and try to represent what she saw, not what she imagined, on the page. She tried that several times, each time capturing more detail and less solid outline. She wants to come back with other mediums but was ready to move on to shading.

I had saved a bunch of examples of shading on Pinterest, some of the techniques (like hatching, crosshatching, smudging, blending), some teaching images (like shading around a ball or face with the light at different angels) and some just really cool images that used shading to create the effects.  we looked at them and talked about how the effects were achieve, what the use of the different techniques did to the style of the artwork and then started to practice.  At first we just used one technique at a time to create a shaded spot on the page but K quickly decided to put her last candle in shadow by making the background shaded. Once I showed her how to smudge, that became her favorite method so she spent a lot of time figuring out how to move the color around and achieve a haloed effect on the edges. 

Perspective is something they've been working on in both her art class and the drawing after school program shes in so she jumped right in to showing me how they used lines to draw buildings and right angle objects along a perspective. We pulled up a few more Pinterest images of perspective and since she had that down, I challenged her to look at a different type of perspective, from a bugs-eye view. This was much more challenging and she had trouble imagining what things would look like but she gave it a good effort.

Next we took a look at the world of graphic design...logos, branding, symbolism, and style.  We borrowed an idea from the blogs to have her design a logo with her name. This was very hard for her to do, both to come up with an ideas and to try to execute. Her perfectionism got in the way of her creativity her and she became quite frustrated so we called it quits. I think she wants to come back to this and try drawing a comic instead to finish this step.

I asked her to think about how she would like to complete step five. Once she decides and completes it she'll be done with the badge but this project was so fun it sparked may more ideas of things she wants to try and create. It also helped her understand that she doesn't have to "get it right" the first time, and that that are always many ways to draw the same object. I had fun drawing right along with her, challenging my creativity in ways I haven't done in a while and also getting outside my comfort zone by sharing what I was doing with her as I was doing it. I tend to draw just for me so it was good to let her see my struggles and missteps too.

Girl Scouts: Junior Journey

K has been with Girl Scouts since Kindergarten; first as a Daisy, then a Brownie and now a Junior. Some years she was really into it, others not so much but has continued to ask to be part of a troop to be with her friends and get to do cool stuff.  This year we spent some time talking about what she liked/disliked about being part of girl scouts and particularly part of a troop and what she really wanted to do this year. It was good to hear her talk about how she liked being part of the group and how much she wanted to belong to something. However, she also expressed frustration at the meetings not always going the way she wanted and how long it took to earn badges.  Though it's never predictable, among the "I don't care"  and "go with the flow"attitudes she expresses most often she regularly goes through periods of self-starting, competitive and motivated behaviors where she will want to do things herself, do it to her standards and be in control.

When she started asking about doing more badges I got the idea to offer her the chance to decide what, above and beyond what the troop would be doing, she wanted to accomplish in girl scouts. We started by pulling out her guidebook binder and started reading through the descriptions of what different badges required, what other things (like my my promise, my faith) there were to do and what it would take for her to complete the activities. I think she was a little overwhelmed at first with the amount of steps and pages that went with each badge but when we broke it down and talked about what steps/things she would actually need to do it became more palatable.  We also pulled up the council events homepage and looked at what kind of badge or patch earning activities were being offered came up with a few things she wanted to register for.

She decided that she wanted to work on the Drawing badge first and then join some workshops that focused on Jewelry and Sew Simple. I also talked to her about learning a skill that she could then take back to teach her troop to earn a build your own badge. She's thinking about it.

I'll be posting more of her Journey here.