Friday, December 28, 2007

Crazy Aunt Purl

In working so hard at trying to write for children, and teaching middle school reading, I tend to mostly read children's or young adult books. I was given a gift card for Barnes & Noble for Hanukkah this year, so of course I ended up in the craft section on a trip to South Points in Durham. I found a wonderful book (actually one for grown-ups!) that is so hilarious that I'm writing to recommend it even before I've finished it. It's a novel called, Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair, the True-Life Misadventures of a 30-Something Who Learned to Knit After He Split. I have been so absorbed in reading this, that I just now noticed that it has great patterns and pictures in the back of the book. The title is self-explanatory, but I would add that I enjoyed and identified a little too much at times with the Southern humor. For anyone trying to write a humorous novel, this is a must read. This is such a break to all of the sob stories of how knitting has saved everyone's life. Maybe I'm too cynical, but I believe in the saying of Mary Englebreit, "Snap Out of It!" Sure, life is hard. Wallowing in self-pity (and Cabernet) can be enjoyable for short periods, but as the author, Laurie Perry, shows, finding an outlet,in this case knitting, can open up new lifestyles and purpose. She also has a blog which is entertaining, You can get a sense of her writing style and humor by reading her blog, or better yet, buy the book. Sorry, but I need to go read!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Snuggles Project

I've added two new links to this blog: Hugs For Homeless Animals and The Snuggles Project. H4HA is a wonderful website with information about helping shelter animals find homes. They have a national listing as well as tips for pet owners. I found the Snuggles Project through the Lion Brand (makers of yarn) newsletter. It's a perfect project for my Knitting Club at school. Most of them finished their caps for the chemo lab and I've been able to scrape a few dollars from selling Christmas bows at work, so that I could buy extra yarn for our new project. We'll be knitting small blankets for the foster animals through the Wayne County Humane Society. I've already spoken to one of the canine foster parents who said she would gladly take them. I'm planning to ask one of the members to visit our club meeting in February to talk to the students about the Humane Society and pick up the blankets at the same time. I think this will have more impact on the students to actually connect a face with where their projects will go. About half of the club went to the cancer clinic with me this month to give their knitted caps and they were met with a very warm reception.
According to the Snuggles Project the blankets serve to not only keep the animals warmer by giving them a cushion between themselves and their cages/floor, but it also provides them with some comfort. This in turn quiets the animal, removing tension and making them more easy going and thus more likely to be adopted. It should also make the cage itself more inviting and presentable. And, after all, when you're trying to adopt an animal, you're essentially selling that animal's personality to a potential family. It's marketing whether we like it or not. I'm excited about this project. I've started knitting a blanket myself over the holidays in order to gauge how much yarn to give the students. I'm using my large yellow Knifty Knitter Loom with two skeins of Red Heart Super Saver yarn, both skeins knitted as one. Most of my students have opted to learn on looms. Using two strands makes it more cushiony. The acrylic yarn is better for washing. So far, it's knitting up very well and is producing a sizable blanket for a small dog or cat. I'm shooting for February to have these done (in time for Valentine's Day). You can find patterns for Snuggles blankets on the website for the Snuggles Project (below). Please check out these sites and get involved.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Scarf

I have finally finished the longest knitting project of my knitting career, which, incidentally isn't all that long. I just learned to knit with needles last summer. I undertook a project to complete by this Christmas for the daughter of a good friend of ours - a hat and scarf combination from the Charmed Knits book, both knitted in Gryffindor colors. It was a real learning experience as I'd never knitted with such small yarn. I must have started over on each item at least twice. They will go into the mail today as they will travel halfway across the country. I now know how to decrease a hat with double pointed needles, how to add color and catch up the new yarn in the knitting as well as how to do a double bind-off. I also learned not to add tassels on the first end finished until the other end is bound off so the whole thing doesn't end up twisted and you have to remove the tassels once again to get them straight. Whew! Anyway, I hope our friend enjoys these as much as I did knitting them. I'm now onto knitting bamboo scarves for other friends. Seven days left. Fly needles, fly!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bartok Gourd

This is the latest tutorial of a gourd design process. I was commissioned to design a gourd for a colleague of my husband. It is for his father who is a fan of the composer Bartok. I found a piece of his music entitled Peasant Costume. I used two rubber stamps, one of three dancers and one of a musical stamp. I used four lengths of 1/4" masking tape to lay out the musical staff. I stamped the dancer images onto wide masking tape, three sets so that I could cut the images individually to place around the gourd. They're positioned to appear dancing on the music.
I used the same technique with the musical note to fill in the empty space between the dancers. The musical notes were drawn in by hand to match the composition. I waited overnight for the wood putty to dry in the bug holes. This provides a more even surface. I sanded the puttied holes in the morning and then pyrographed the images through the masking tape. The stem broke off during burning, so I decided to cover it up. I tried gluing without success, and then made a musical note out of Maker's Clay in black. This is an air dry clay which has a unique feel. I enjoyed using it as it went together pretty quickly. While it was soft I set it onto the top of the gourd, then removed it to dry overnight. I glued it back on when it was dry with Elmer's Wood Glue. The indention was already set into the bottom of the note, so it fitted perfectly. Sorry, but I didn't manage to get a final picture before it was whisked off to its new owner. Maybe I can get him to send me one for the blog.