Quilt: black and white

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I have to pack for a weekend away. Naturally i spent the day making a baby quilt.

It turned out well, I’d say. The overall size is about 30″x40″, which is pretty standard for a new baby.  A crib quilt is about the same width but nearly twice as long: 54″ instead of 40″. 

The pattern more or less resembles a series of interlocking H’s or capital I’s. The front is all black and white fabrics, but they have patterns: little polka dots, triangles, nets, crosses. The white fabric is printed with white florals and spirals and polka dots. So on part of the quilt is very rigid and orderly, while the other is more fluid and natural. The white patterns are especially subtle. 

  I am not happy specifically about the quillting. I hoped that this cool grid pattern woild manifest on the back as I quilted through from the front. It did not work as I’d hoped. 

I put a border on this quilt, which I have not done before. Jelly Roll strips are 2.5″ wide and 42″ long, so they’re just the right length to assemble as a border and keep the corners simple. I didn’t have bias tape, but I simply double-folded four jelly roll strips to make my edging. It was the hardest piece of the work, I think. I “stitched in the ditch” for one side to be attached, and top-stitched for the other side. Machine of course, not hand-sewing. I am not that exacting. 

The quilt was assembled from most of two jelly rolls of precut strips. These run 14 bucks or so each, so there’s around $28 of fabric in this quilt, less some for unused strips, but added on for thread and a couple of broken needles. Call it $30 in materials, plus the time to go to and from the store for those materials. I used 60% of the jelly rolls, more of the black than the white; 

It was an eight-hour day to make this quilt. At $25 an hour, that’s $200 in time-costs. Add on $30 in materials, it’s a $230 quilt… I did some experimentation with the quilting,  I think that with practice, I could get this pattern down to a four- or five-hour project…. but there are quilts where the sewing machine snags or malfunctions and then I need extra time. As well, the most complicated piece of the work was edging and binding the quilt. As I get more skilled at that, I may be able to cut an hour off my time. But probably not.  There’s also washing — a quilt should probably be washed, and there’s a charge for water and soap and time: $40?

So this is probably a $250-275 quilt if I sell it. Shipping is likely somewhere between $15-20. Prices on Etsy seem to confirm this: big square quilts are around $80, more elaborate pieced works are $250-300 for the baby quilt size. I’m in the right market range of time and materials, I’m guessing. 
All in all it turned out well, I think.  

Next steps: work on regularizing the quilting pattern for this quilt. Working with other colors. Matching the thread to the quilt. Buying jelly rolls on sale, and in groups to make more quilts in more or less the “same pattern” (allowing for the variant fabrics in each roll).  Making all of the blocks in the two jelly rolls. And mix and matching across all the pieces for a more interesting quilt. 

Leftover strips: 40% of next quilt.

Yarn-cake Winder Step 4

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I am inching toward completion at this point.

Yarnwinder1.jpg Here you see the three gears — the cranking gear on the right, the central gear in the middle, and the 12P gear on the base of something that looks like a striped lawn chair.  That’s the base for the spindle.

You also see the yarn feed post, on the extreme left of the assembled machine; and the two built-in C-clamps along the bottom.  The only thing missing at this point is the arbor or pivot that connects the 12P gear to the spindle support base. A friend of mine is using his angle grinder to grind that steel pin to the right shape, this afternoon.  I hope to have it later today.

Yarnwinder2.jpgAnd here’s that spindle support base, now attached in the right place and ready for the spindle to be attached.  It looks a little like a striped lawn chair.  For this photo, I’ve put in a spare bit of steel rod for the arbor, and I’m using that to test-crank the gears, and figure out where to concentrate my sanding effort to get the gears to the right shape.

Hint? Everywhere. Everywhere needs sanding.  I am not a good scroll-saw-er yet, and the result is that my gears are wildly irregular on nearly every gear.  I have a choice at this point.  I can just keep cranking the gears until everything is worn down to the right smoothness by raw friction.  Or I can sand each tooth meticulously until every tooth meshes perfectly with every other tooth.  Or I can choose a third-option position, halfway between those two options or on either side of half-way.  The more sanding I do ahead of time, the less sawdust and sand will be in my finished yarn product.  The less sanding I do ahead of time, the more sawdust and sand will be in my finished product, and the harder it will be to wind a skein of yarn into a yarn cake.  Even so, I may go for this option.Yarnwinder3.jpg

The final picture is the completed elements of the yarn-cake winder (excepting that one arbor, and a couple of small pads for the C-clamps.  The spindle is the large wooden thing; the spindle base is the thing in the clamp, and then the machine itself.  You can see a pencil on the right for rough/approximate scale.  The spindle has a skateboard bearing inside of it, provided as a result of a trip to Cutting Edge in Berlin, CT.

I got into knitting in part because of Deb Castellano of the blog Charmed Finishing School (and her store, the Mermaid and the Crow/La Sirene et Le Corbeau).  It pleases me no end to create a piece of machinery using my newfound carpentry skills, that will allow me to practice more effectively the art that she connected me to in the first place.

But once again, why knitting? Why machinery? Why include textiles and knitting and yarn-work at all in a MakerSpace? I would hope at this point, after three prior separate discussions of the building of this machine, that this would be obvious. Even with someone else’s plans in my hands, I’ve had to work through design problems, study drawings, make sketches, and drive my way through the tool use necessary to build this machine (and the yarn-swift that accompanies it).  Without these machines, I’d have a much harder time working with skeins of yarn. With them, I have a much easier time making my own yarn, dyeing my own yarn, winding and knitting (or crocheting, or braiding) my own yarn. This device is a critical piece of the technology set for string and yarn-arts.

What is a technology set?  A technology set is all of the technical equipment necessary to oversee a process of construction from raw materials (or raw-er materials) to finished product.  For yarn, that set looks something like this:

  • Carding combs
  • drop spindle or spinning wheel or great wheel
  • yarn swift
  • dyeing vats and dyes and mordants
  • yarn-cake winder (this device)
  • knitting needles
  • braiding disk
  • lucet
  • crocheting hook
  • naalbinding needle

With these ten tools, it’s possible to take a bundle of raw wool and turn it into a scarf or a hat or a length of rope akin to paracord, or a colored braid.  The technology set teaches ten different skills, and helps students understand ten different processes. None of the technology is difficult to understand; the technical processes are open and transparent; and they are hand-skills which can be replicated (much faster but much more opaquely) by machine.  They take carpentry skills to make objects that are used for working with string, they demonstrate the principle that Tools Make Tools Make Things, and they demonstrate to students a skill-set that allows them to extrapolate and develop an understanding of how any raw material is turned into a finished product.


Tablet Weaving


Knitting Needles, Drop Spindle, LoomTablet weaving, or card weaving, is one of those things that’s been on my mind as a major design endeavor for a while.  Mathematics, pattern recognition, a precursor to computing, and more: weaving is one of those skills with a host of other benefits for kids in terms of brain power and mindfulness. More

Electricity: Simple Motor

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Here, with the background hurly-burly of a Latin class prepping for an examination, I tested and ran an electric motor that I built.  The video is only a minute, but it parallels the work of Dr. Arvind Gupta, who runs Toys out of Trash:

This is part of my overall course in electricity, which I described and documented in photographs here, as part of the Maker’s Grimoire.

Tomorrow I get to see if I can teach a bunch of second and third graders how to do this… right before a two-hour class on computer programming. Should be fun!

The Motor Itself

Simple motorThe motor itself is not particularly complicated. It’s a rubber band passed twice around a D-cell battery, with a safety pin on either end of the battery under the rubber band. The coil of insulated wire has been wrapped around the battery 9-10 times to form a coil or a spring. One end has been completely stripped of insulation, the other end is stripped on three sides but not the fourth. And it works. The washers are there solely to balance the battery against the torque that the motor generates.  There’s also a small ceramic magnet, purchased from Home Depot, that provides the static electromagnetic field

Yesterday afternoon, I wasn’t convinced that I was going to be able to get this motor to work before class tomorrow.  Today, it turned out that I needed a half-hour of fiddling before I got it working properly.  Voila!

31DoM: Make a Mojo Hand


Today’s 31 Days of Magic project, from the strategic sorcery community around Jason Miller, is to Make a Mojo Hand.

A Mojo Hand is usually a bag, sometimes hand- or mitten-shaped, containing a combination of materials from the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. The materials are thought in some traditions to become a living spirit, an energetic thought-form, or a minor servitor spirit. The spirit serves a purpose, usually to achieve some magically-relevant goal, and is occasionally fed and re-fed with oils, with additional materials added to the bag (or sometimes not).  It is a representation of a certain kind of power.

31DoM: Mojo handThis morning I had a first-period class in the design lab, and I did not clean up after yesterday’s class on electricity. So I came in early, and neatened the place up — put away tools, swept up the leavings and the trash from several classes worth of debris in the corners, and otherwise made the place look presentable.

Then I did as I always do: I sorted through the garbage.  And as I did so, a thought occurred to me.

If you look at the first picture, you’ll see pencils, string, paper clips, batteries, blobs of hot glue, bottle caps, a button, a magnet, popsicle sticks, stones.  This was only the first photograph after the first sweep-up. There was more.  The discarded materia of the creative work of the design lab is always interesting.  Some of it goes directly back into the materials bins on the shelves. Some of it goes into the trash… but whenever possible I do a pre-sort before the trash can to separate the genuine waste from the overlooked treasures.

31DoM: Mojo handOnce I did this, I found certain treasures — animal, vegetable, mineral — that met my needs for a specialty mojo hand for the makerspace at my school. A spirit of materials awareness, of creativity, of cleverness in the concepts of “reduce, reuse, recycle” and dedicated to the idea that anyone can be a more effective creator through the learning of materials and process.  And so I found a spare bag, and began to select certain materials — animal, vegetable, mineral, and man-made — for my purposes:

  • A drill bit, to represent the power to drive deep into problems and solve them;
  • part of a broken file, to represent the power to use tools to shape solutions precisely;
  • a pair of googly eyes, to see problems with new eyes;
  • a plastic bottle cap, representing the power to reuse and repurpose materials;
  • a magnet, to find ways to make solutions both mysterious and attractive.
  • a paper-clip, a to-do list, and a schedule, to cultivate good organizational habits;
  • a piece of string, to enable the hand to tease out a thread of meaning;
  • pieces of copper wire, both insulated and bare, for intuition in solving electrical problems;
  • a spring, for increased skill in solving mechanical problems;
  • a heart cut out by a third-grader, in blue fabric — for generosity of spirit and nobleness of character; and a matching pink heart, for skill in fashion design;
  • a game piece, for cleverness in designing games;
  • a piece of PVC pipe, for awareness of the risks and benefits of using certain materials;
  • a bead, for sophisticated jewelry design;
  • paper-clip pieces and bits of finishing nails, for skill at designing wire sculptures;
  • popsicle stick pieces representative of skill at woodworking and structural design, and architecture;
  • a rubber band, for skill in developing structures that use and manage energy;
  • and numerous other items.

31DoM: Mojo handThen I consecrated it, and woke it up to be an assistant and helper to me and my students in this working space.

And of course, I am mindful of the lesson of the divine man from Nazareth, that “the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief of the corner.” Up in one corner of the the design lab is a sample structure left over from my Kavad experiments.  It’s already a consecrated home to the mercurial spirit of communication, cooperation, and design awareness who watches over the lab; and there’s already a mojo hand of sorts designed to awaken and improve creative ideas and dedication to see them through.

And with the permission of these two spirits, I made this new mojo hand at home, to watch over and guide both me and my students in the work we do together in this space.


31 DoM: Make an Incense


Today’s assignment from the 31 Days of Magic project, from the strategic sorcery community around Jason Miller, is to make an incense.

Asafetida smells terrible.  It works, but it’s kind of like a psychic furniture stripper.  It rips off all the old layers and replaces them with something terrible.  But whatever issues you might have in the spirit realm will be gone when you’re done burning it.

At one point, Gordon mentioned that he’d developed or learned the recipe for an exorcism incense.  I’ve generally had several batches of this made up, because while I don’t do exorcisms, it’s nice to be able to hand off a charcoal briquette and a bag of this incense, and give some rudimentary instructions.

Crush equal parts star anise and cloves in a mortar and pestle. This is a really good, cheap exorcism incense that will do the trick but won’t completely blow out the energies of your house or temple. Of course, you will also need a charcoal briquette. (If you need a nuclear option, go with dragon’s blood. But be prepared to rebuild the energies of the space you use it in afterwards.)

Read more: http://runesoup.com/2010/04/safe-summoning-spells-a-guide-to-contacting-the-dead/#ixzz3yJg30DkV

The last time I did this, the person who needed the incense needed all that I had left.  It worked, he admitted that it worked, that his spirit problem vanished… and then he never talked to me again.  And I haven’t made more of late.

So I mixed up a batch tonight.  Because you never know when you’re going to need something like this in your arsenal.

31 DoM: Make a Jar Spell


Today’s 31 Days of Magic project from the strategic sorcery community around Jason Miller, is to make a jar spell.

31 DoM: jar spellWill a bottle do?

How about two?

Two years ago, my friends J. and B. gave me a bunch of elderberries from their land. There wasn’t much, just enough to do two small bottles of tincture. On the advice of some friends more attuned to alchemical process, I chose not to perform the spagyric process of calcining the berries and then cohobating the alcohol and berry-ash.  Several of my alchemical friends warned me that Elderberry has a lot of potentially poisonous constituents which it would be best not to refine and concentrate in a spagyric.  It would be plenty potent without it, was their advice. And so I put my grain alcohol berries out under some bushes, and abandoned them after filtering them.  Let the squirrels get drunk and have a wild elderberry-fueled night tonight.

31 DoM: jar spellThe second thing I did was to separate out the tincture into two bottles.  And here’s my jar spell.  Are you ready?

B. raises bees to collect honey and beeswax.  He doesn’t generally gift his honey to people, but he does trade.  He also makes beer, wine and mead, which are things I’m trying to learn.  He also has a blacksmithing shop in his back yard, and he’s interested in teaching those skills, as well, someday.    J is no slouch herself; she makes various herbal preparations, and is learning weaving and leather working and other skills.  There’s no way that I can make all the things myself. And there are overlaps and common interests that we share.  These are people with whom I want to keep my relationships strong, and even deepen.

And so I make two.  One for me and my household. And one for them and theirs.  What is shared, is strengthened, in this work.  It’s a tiny magic, really.  But it’s also two years of attention and care paid to a product of their land, and returned to them in a different form, more charged and powerful than before.

Which brings up another point.  Be patient.  Your work doesn’t have to mature overnight. For me, this work involved setting up the intinction in September 2014, and then shaking the jar very gently every few days for a few minutes.  Not all is accomplished in an instant. Most things are completed only with subtlety and gentleness and patience. Wait for the work to be accomplished.

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