Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sewing Makes Me Happy

This is a cheap flour cloth dish towel thing. Very big, but very thin. It's almost a waste to add so much time and effort to it, but I love cheap flour cloth dish towel things, and I love sewing. While Maria was was in her Java class, I passed the time by either adding rows to a thing I am crocheting, or embroidering dish towels. I try to stay in the habit of carrying a basket, or bag, keeping it well stocked with works in progress, and supplies, like threads, needles, floss, a hoop, a pencil, fabric, hooks, and yarn... all handy for the ten minutes or two hours when I don't have much else to do. My down time bag saves me... it occupies my hands and thoughts, it gives me purpose, it makes me happy. Strangely, sadly, I never feel like this is an adequate excuse or explanation for my pastimes. So much of what we learn to value or praise is meant to have a higher purpose, to have a net worth, or an ultimate significance, and I struggle to justify sitting in a corner pulling colored threads through cheap flour cloth.

When someone asks about the lilac yarn I am crocheting, I know it's not good to answer apologetically, "I don't know... it's a thing I started, and I'm not sure how much yarn I have, so I guess I'll know what it is when I run out... " and I probably add: "It's nothing." It's not good to be embarrassed, to feel desperate for a solid rationale for wanting to sew, for spending time doing something that has no deep meaning, or patron, that isn't going to a gallery, or Regretsy. I am not with Etsy. Heck, I haven't even mustered the confidence to believe I make Etsy-worthy stuff. I only know, I like to sew. I want to have fabric nearby, and too many shades of floss to choose from, and a new idea to try out, a sketch to stitch. And I want to not feel silly-goofy-apologetic about it.

Ah, cheese wiz, it's even silly to feel goofy about being silly... time to watch Adam Savage's Maker Faire address, the one when he implores us to make what we can't not make! He adds the Art in STEM: "Art is where it begins! Make what you want. It starts with what you want to have."

I want to put a bird on it. I want to have a little red work creation from my own hands, with my own design,

I want to build on picture books I've seen, stories I have imagined, and I want to make another part of a whimsical place, where mice trek with knapsacks, and carry charts.

I want to feel calm, and content, to be occupied with the feel of cotton, colors, even tangled floss.

I want to be amused.

I want to have an escape from the everyday, from worries, from stress, from things I cannot manage, but must live with. I want to see what I can do with what I have in my bag.

I want to be one of the makers who demonstrates that it's good to play, to tinker, to mess up, and try again, to teach, to inspire. I want to share a skill, encourage silliness, and feel good about enjoying the feel of crocheted rows, wool sheep, pointless things, like hen's teeth.

Time and materials are riches, luxuries, some of the best resources in my life, and it may very well be disrespectful, a squandering waste, to not enjoy them heartily.

Sewing makes me happy. My needles, and hooks, threads, and fabric make me happy. Sharing makes me happy.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Make A CNC Router and Make It Big

Fridays at Chickenblog are usually about a Moment during the week, a special moment. Today, it's about the moment Frankenrouter came to life, a moment we've anticipated for quite some time. Frankenrouter is the very large CNC router that Geoff imagined, designed, and built from the concrete and up. For a couple of years, between many other duties and obligations, Geoff's taken time to tinker, experiment, research, cut, weld, wire, rummage, salvage, and create. He's had long breaks, time away for work, and other projects. Geoff's been challenged and stumped, taken some do-overs, and endured some long days. William has been a frequent assistant and supporter, and we've all been waiting to see, and hear, Frankenrouter come to life...

One more part is on order, and may take a month to arrive... a spindle. With it, and router bits, the three axis router will be carving cool things, making what we can design and envision in wood and foam, aluminum, too. In the meantime, Geoff and William made an ingenious little pvc tool to hold a sharpie, so we could give Frankenrouter his first assignment: Draw something pretty, Frank!






Video, right?

I know. I'll get on it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Make Code Now

First day in JAVA.

And... she's hooked.

World Domination


It's a JAVA smile. She is a programmer, now.

{Thank you, Fab Lab, San Diego, and League of Amazing Programmers}

This morning Maria was at the computer developing a game with Scratch. {Do you Scratch? It's programming made accessible for young/beginning programmers, from MIT.} Maria illustrates, animates, and writes programs for games, puzzles, and fun animations. This has been going on for about three months, ever since Amira shared the site with her, and Maria loves it! She shares it. And she's added programming to her list of things she wants to do when she grows up. Anyway... enough background. This morning she made a fish catching game, with a hungry cat who catches fish falling from the sky, before they hit the water and swim away. She wrote it so the cat's belly grows and he moves more slowly the more fish he catches, so the game play gets more challenging. It's clever and hilarious. And evidently, it's challenging. Geoff cannot beat her high score... not yet!

Turns out, you don't have to "grow up" to do what you love. When Maria tells us about a new interest, a new "I want to be a ______, when I grow up," my response is: "Cool. You'll need to learn about that, and practice it." And then I look for ways for her to begin, now, like cooking with her, and taking care of the garden with her so she can open her own restaurant, and sharing the joys, and heartaches, of keeping chickens and goats, because she wants to be a farmer. Maybe it stems from our home schooling days, but mostly I think it's just our family's irrepressible curiosity and need to make, tinker, play, explore, build, take apart, fail-try-again, and share that pushes us to do the things that spark our imaginations, to jump into the projects and ideas that form in our heads, our hearts. So, we make things, and go to Maker Faire, and dabble in crafts, with lasers and routers, and epoxy. You never know when something begins, like an interest in robots that may lead to passing along interests and skills, that could eventually take you to competitions, and championship events. And it doesn't really matter if that interest ever leads you to the "job," to being "that thing when you grow-up," because the real point, the actual gift, is in the journey, in the doing and tinkering, and failing, and trying again, and following another idea, new interest, doing more, and sharing it.

Maria is programming with Scratch, and in JAVA. She's begun. And she loves it. It's inspiring Geoff and me to host another tinkering day with Arduinos, soldering, code writing... we don't want to wait until we've grown-up to follow our interests, either.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Make Bite Sized Valentines

This is the bite-sized Valentine Maria is sharing with her classmates this year. It's a teeny brownie with a festive flag pick. Festive and sweet~

Here's how they were made...

Supplies:
Mini condiment cups
Washi tape (also called paper tape)
Scissors
Cake or brownie batter

When Maria decided to make mini cupcakes for her class party, I suggested we could decorate them with little flags. Working together we made at least forty of them... fun, easy, and cute! We happened to have this washi tape in our craft stash, and toothpicks in our baking drawer. {I suggest using the toothpicks with a decorative finish on the top, so there's only one sharp end. We found ours at Mitsuwa... a terrific quantity, very reasonably priced.}

At first, aligning the tape took a few tries. The paper tape is very forgiving, and even though it holds well, it also can be pulled apart to adjust. Maria liked working with the polka dotted tapes, because they were easier to center by placing the toothpick between rows of dots.

After folding the tape over the toothpick, we trimmed the end. A pennant cut looks pretty, too. Just snip out a triangle shape from the end.

Ta-Da!

We found the condiment cups at Smart & Final. And the brownie mix is Trader Joe's Truffle Brownie mix. {Have you tried TJ's Truffle Brownies? These bite sized treats are scrumptious!} Each cup held about three teaspoons of batter... and the ones with more tended to overflow... a tasty mess!

Maria is very excited to be giving each school friend a small token of her esteem, and one for teacher, too.

{And yes, we did do a test run with cake batter. Obviously they bake quicker than a full size cake, so don't step away from the oven for too long. We love the mini-many decorating options for these wee treats.}

Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Make a Genuine Inauthentic Viking Tent







In my research for this {most anticipated post} I discovered an early account of Viking history, told here at Chickenblog, in 2007. Apparently our affinity for Viking culture goes back a bit further than our visit to the Viking Festival, last September. Anyway, today I am going to share the full scoop on our very own, still in development, genuine and inauthentic Van Viking tent. We fell in love with the small village of tents, crafts and trades that we discovered at a local Viking Festival, and by the time we were planning our Solstice party, and thinking about Christmas gifts, and activities, we became even more enamored of the idea of making a tent of our own, and enjoying some of the more festive, and loosely related cultural interests of ancient peoples who explored, built, crafted, ate, slept, and hung out, in and around Viking lands, which as it turns out is a very broad geographic and aesthetic swath of the planet. {Whoa, that was a long sentence. Almost lost my way, there.} So, yeah. We totally got stoked to design, build, and party in our own Viking Van Viking tent!

Our tent is inspired by Alex's extensive research into Viking tents and lodges, and by what we saw at the Festival. Then, Alex and I looked into available resources at the local hardware store, and ran our initial ideas by Geoff. Geoff loves aluminum... he can weld it, and it's strong, and since we were leaning toward something big. Big. We figured that a fifteen foot wood ridge beam would be very, very heavy, and possibly flex too much, so Geoff proposed an aluminum ridge.

Stats:

Canvas: Two 12' x 15' canvas pieces from the paint department. {These are actually smaller than said "12 x 15", which is something we are trying to trouble shoot, now. Though smaller than advertised, they are still massively heavy and were quite a handful to sew together.} I sewed canvas strips to make ties, and hand sewed those around the tent canvas.

Wood: We employed four 2" x 8" pieces, 14' long, for the A-frame. Geoff and Alex designed dragon wings at the peaks, which will later be carved for detail. At the base sides of the tent floor there are two pieces of 2" x 4".

The pole is 1/8" wall, 6061 aluminum, and 15' long. Geoff made end caps, and added 6" x 1/2" galvanized steel bolts threaded into the caps. These are to attach the wood A-frame pieces.

Rope: 3/4" natural fiber. It's there to maintain tension in the frame to keep it from flexing.


We still need to make and add canvas doors, and this will include extending the length of the canvas, since it's at least six inches shorter than we anticipated. Also, to go with the dragon wings, Alex is carving dragon heads that will fit over the bolts at the peak of the tent... like a figurehead on a ship. And we are also developing a forge, making more wooden swords, and shields, we want to make those sturdy Viking chairs, and a long boat, maybe get some sheep and start spinning wool. Basic stuff like that.












When things didn't go as we had hoped for Solistice, we were disappointed, but not defeated. More slowly, with less pressure to meet a deadline, we rallied to get the tent standing in time for our Christmas celebration. And after exchanging gifts, and enjoying a happy morning around the Christmas tree, we shifted our activities outside... we made waffles outdoors, played games, and raised the Van Viking tent for more holiday fun!

















The first night it was up, we had a Swedish-Viking-ish dinner... with meatballs, and veggie-not-meatballs, Irish soda bread, roasted cabbage, salad, steamed potatoes, and lingonberry sauce. Then we hunkered together in the dark, and watched The Hobbit. Outside is such a marvelous place to watch a Tolkien adventure unfold. It was so flippin' awesome, and cold, and dark, and cozy, and awesome. For my birthday, Alex, Max and Maria presented me with my very own shield/serving tray... Alex took Maria's chicken sketch, and used it for inspiration for this gorgeous fat hen. Max helped with chiseling, and Alex finished the dear with paint! We've had naps, games, breakfast, lunches, talks, visits, all in the Van Viking tent, and more ideas and plans keep popping into our heads. I love how one make can inspire so much more make!

The best thing about a tent, or a fort, a tree house, sandcastle, or an idea... ? Sharing it with friends. I would like to thank Sweet Life Farm, and My Home Among the Hills, and Come Away With Me, blogging friends, all, for kindly taking my hints, and nudging me to share.