Monday, February 19, 2007

Hats and mittens for cold, cold girls

In spite of a pretty bad cold, I spent a few happy hours this weekend working on hats and mittens for Astrid. Until last week, she had what had turned out to be her "signature" hat (if it's possible for a three-year-old to be that fashion-forward): a roll-brim cap made from cappuccino-colored Polartec fleece, with a flower crafted out of deep red Polartec and a coral colored vintage glass button. No matter how bedraggled she was at the end of her long school day, Astrid always looked fresh when she was wearing that hat. As eventually happens with all good winter hats, she lost it--and actually went for a couple of days with a huge knit beret I found at the bottom of our woolly bin.

I went through my fleece scraps on Saturday and found enough of the good stuff (real Malden Mills Polarfleece in a sunshine yellow) to make one hat--plus plenty, plenty, plenty of the junky stuff to make a spare. (I bought a ton of fabric-store fleece last week because I want to try to make a braided rug out of it....more about this as it develops.) I also found a very easy pattern for good mittens ( They turned out a bit narrow (though they still fit), but they have nice long cuffs so Astrid's wrists stay warm. I made three pairs out of the good stuff and one out of junky stuff; I trimmed all four pairs around the wrist with nylon/lycra swimsuit fabric.

We've had a lot of snow over the past week, so I feel good knowing that I won't be getting "that look" from Astrid's teachers when she arrives without the right outdoor gear. She's a skinny, fast-moving thing who gets cold fast. The new hats, in particular, will take a while to work their way into my heart the way her cappuccino cap did, but I have faith that it's the kid, and not the gear, that makes fashion history.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Bad Haiku

Not exactly a news flash, I know, but....gee....there's a lot of terrible haiku on the web. I was trying to find some poems that I could put in the block-printed cards we've been making--I want to use them as Valentine's Day cards. I did find a very few that I like a lot, but I had to wade through stuff that seemed to miss the spirit of haiku--the fleeting observation of a moment, especially one involving the natural world or the body in space.

Here's my favorite, by a writer named Jane Reichhold:

Winter weaves
a pile of pillows
on a hard chair

For me, it captures something comforting about Valentine's day, but without losing the feeling of really, really strong cold that we're dealing with here in Chicago.

I also like this one, by Philip D. Noble:

black flight of starlings
dive and soar in winter dusk
changing in shape and size

In my long drives home from the northwest suburbs to my neighborhood in Oak Park, I often watch the clouds of starlings shift from power lines on one side of a big intersection to the lines on the other side--and then back again, before they've even had a chance to rest. I don't get it, but I like to watch it.

Today I circulated flyers for the crafting group we're starting at work. I have no idea how this will go, but it feels good to try it.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Printer's Block

No pictures today....instead, an afternoon of disappointing printing. Over the past week, Elliot and I made several printing blocks out of white Sculpey. I had a feeling that Elliot's wouldn't make great prints because they were pretty bumpy, but I had high hopes for mine---I was planning to take the best of the bunch and use them on some little t-shirts for my niece, Imogen. As it turned out, neither Elliot's nor my blocks worked much at all; even though I had rolled lightly over the surface of mine before baking them, they were apparently still too uneven to make all the detail show up when I test-printed them on paper. Even worse, when we mixed the fabric paint we were going to use on the t-shirts, it was way gunkier than the Speedball block printing ink had been, and we couldn't get the brayer to load properly. Inexplicably, I decided to go ahead and print on the t-shirts, and they came out pretty bad.

After Elliot (cheerfully) gave up, Astrid joined me and asked if she could paint on the remaining t-shirt. I couldn't think of a reason to say no, so I gave her the bottles of paint, a mixing surface, and a plastic knife. She ended up mixing an almost fluorescent orange and applying it every way she could think of to the lime green shirt. She started with a chunky brush and made hearts, x-es, a ladder, and a mountain. Then she switched to rubber stamps (seashell, three different fish, a crab, Saturn....probably something else, too). Finally, she put handprints in several places. It's actually a very cool shirt. She concentrated so hard while she was working, and when she was done (right when I was ready to start cooking dinner), she was wiped out and wanted me to hold her (her usual response to exhaustion, even now that she's almost four).

When I'm working with the kids, I usually have to help at least one of them work through disappointment when his or her work doesn't come out the way the child had envisioned. Today I was the one who had to deal with that kind of disappointment. Elliot had so amiably walked away from an obviously lost cause, and Astrid was oblivious to my own dissatisfaction--her work went great.

I'm going to see if some embellishment can make the t-shirts look a little better. I also thought of trying to wash out the paint, but I'm pretty sure I've waited too long now.