Friday, October 30, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Happy Halloween, Folks!

There are many reasons why this is one of my favorite times of the year: good sweater and quilt-nesting weather, watching the colors in the leaves under the unique autumn light, endless apples and squash and excuses to dress strangely.

This year, I will attempt to turn myself into a squid. The squid costume is still, the day before, a pile of gray and pearly fabric. Magic happens, though, so we'll see what transformation the next 24 hours will bring.

I still haven't totally solved my hard drive issues, but I have figured a couple circumnavigations for getting files from here to there. In that spirit, I offer one of my favorite Halloween songs,
Mel Tormé's "Monsters Lead Such Interesting Lives"

And now, I need to go steam my tamales to take to my students' Día de los Muertos celebration. Until today, I really hadn't gotten any indication of how beautiful their ofrendas would be, but they are quite something to behold.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting Your Hands Dirty At School

Fall here in New England. It's pretty well frosted most mornings now, but gets over itself pretty quickly, just like most of us in the morning.

The school year has started out busy this year, which has kept me as busy as ever, if not more so. I'm back working with older kids this year, seventh and eighth graders, which is where I want to be, but has me on my toes. However, if you're on your toes, you're likely dancing.

While the rigor of the curriculum doesn't leave me the same time to play with yarn, I have been able to slip in the rightful place of arts & crafts here and there. To go with our school's highly integrated curriculum, as part of our study of early civilizations, the students and I got in touch with our hunter-gatherer roots by going out and collecting local dye plants, using them to dye wool felt, then sewing pouches. Although the plant we used, pokeberry, has a bad reputation for not making a lightfast dye, a few sources told me to ignore the hype, use a lot of berries and a lot of vinegar. So far, that advice has done us well. The dye produced a gorgeous maroon red which hasn't shown any sign of giving up any sort of ghost yet.
If you're interested, I've posted the Powerpoint presentation I made about the history of dyeing. It includes sections about archaeological evidence around early dyeing, some of the scientific background (esp. about pH and mordants), and a brief history of purple, the color which draws its name from a very prestigious, expensive dye, which ties into our current unit about Ancient Greece.

Additionally, I'm at work on a still top sekrit project with a group of students surrounding creative fundraising project for a field trip to DC this spring. Hopefully, I'll be able to tell you about it in the next few days.

Until then, I actually have done some more work on yarn as well. Yesterday was another round of dyeing with my stepmother, Sadelle of Pumpkinspun Fiber Designs and Spectrum Webworks, the results of which should be clearer soon. Right now they may be literally frozen as they hang outside to dry. A little frost won't hurt them any, though. This dye session focused on a deep green, a deep red (which mostly ended up purple because of the colors being overdyed), and a fruity purple fabricated out of beaucoup de Kool-Aid. I worked on three base yarns: two heavy light blues and a lacy tan.

Additionally, There are several new yarns available, including several thick, hearty wools in time for cooler weather: "Yesterday's Wine," a maroon with tweedy flecks, and "Walking After Midnight," a dark blue with shadowy accents added in the August dye binge. Also new is "Green & Gray," a soft, wool-rayon fingering weight blend that twines pea-green with gray and white for a skin-soft funky twist.

Photos from the October dye binge, declassified sekrit student project, and maybe more pictures of fall coming soon!