Monday, July 28, 2014

How old is Tinking Turtle?

Trying to figure out Tinking Turtle's birthday is a little harder than knowing a child, pet's, or even my own birthday.  Unlike a child, which has a day where they spring into the universe, (mostly) fully formed, my business's birthday is not such a defined thing.  Is it the day I sold my first pattern?  When I got my first business cards?  The first class I taught?  I've been thinking about this , as this last weekend was Fibre Space's birthday which they celebrated with a big bash.  Webs, the largest LYS in the nation, is celebrating it's 40th year.  Woolwinders, another yarn store at which I teach, is celebrating it's third reopening, as it's been acquired by Amy, it's new owner.   While all those places had physical openings, Tinking Turtle has never had a storefront.

According to Welcoming Spirit Home, there is a tradition among the Dagara of West Africa that a child's birth isn't celebrated when they are born into the world, nor even at conception, but at the moment when the child becomes an idea in the mother's mind.

So I got thinking about Tinking Turtle's birthday, and different moments that lead to what it is today.

My first teaching of knitting and crochet (in a formal class), was when I was 16; I taught knitting as part of a crafting afternoon activity to campers.  I wince a little at those early students (I could do much better by them now), but learned a lot about how students learn, what keeps people's (and children's!) attention, and the basics of how to break down a task into smaller bits.  I can still remember those hot summer days sitting on the camp green with our class supplies, talking, stitching, and passing the time as many handicrafters do, with friends.

My first pattern began the summer during my first job after college, when I discovered that my time was my own after work.  Vaguely stunned by the lack of schoolwork and with the security of a regular paycheck, I splurged on yarn that I wouldn't have been able to afford as a student, and began my first sock design.  As the summer wore on, the socks steadily grew, and Mr. Turtle (then my boyfriend), began telling me that I could sell my patterns.  It would take nearly a year and a half later to sell my first design, and nearly two before I sold that particular sock design.  Still, I can remember those summer evenings sitting under the fan on the back porch, listening to crickets and passing cars, those socks growing stitch by stitch.

Summer was when I started the earlier iteration of Tinking Turtle under the name J's Creations, and began navigating the process of creating a business out of nothing.  Summer was also when we incorporated Tinking Turtle as an LLC from its' previous iteration as
a sole proprietorship - a step that signaled that the business I had started on a shoestring budget was doing quite well.

So perhaps Tinking Turtle's birth-time can be determined: if not an exact day then a time, when the dreaming of this entity began to grow into the idea it is now.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Catching Up

We're on the second, and final, week of the String Theory camp.  Two days ago was our messy day, again, and it's interesting to see how the class ran last time vs. this time.  While the age range of the last camp and this camp are the same, the average age of the kids is wildly different.  It might also help this time I'm more comfortable in the space.

I also can't believe it's our last day!

One of the campers in the class yesterday proudly came in showing off her fingerless glove.  For a moment, I thought she'd snuck her project home to work on.  Apparently she had went to the craft store and bought a needle and yarn so she could practice
at home - and had been making more progress at home after she left for the camp.  She was so proud and excited to show me.  Take a look!

Most students are also done with their project bags... I'm a little bit nervous about filling the time on our last day.  Oh, well.  It's great that they got so much done.

These next five weeks are going to be doozies.  I'm leaving in just over a week for a cruise with my family (a sort of last-hurrah before my younger siblings are all sucked into their respective graduate and undergraduate studies).  It will be a little bit of a working vacation for me - in addition to getting ready for Rhinebeck in October, I  have 4 (count them), 4! designs due by mid-September.  It's a good problem to have, but I'm going to be working my hands off.  Luckily, two of them are knit, and the other two are crochet, so I'm hoping to save my hands.

Speaking of Rhinebeck - are you planning on going?  I've got a variety of classes I'm offering: everything from my very favorite Ooops class to much more advanced classes.  You should check them out!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Number of Housekeeping Items

This next week (July 21-25), I'm going to be running the second session of my daycamp, String Theory, with Montgomery County College.  If you were thinking about signing up, it is already full, although there is a wait list.  There is a third week of the camp running from July 28th to August 1st.  If you are over the age of 16, this camp is not for you, sorry.  Kids only.


This means that I have some mornings and evenings free.  If you have missed me terribly since I've moved, or you've been needing help with that tricky sweater, or you were looking for special instruction of one sort or the other, shoot me an email.  I'd be happy to set up a private lesson with you!

I've been using this break week to work on a number of things I haven't been able to get to.  Oh, the amoun
t of design subs I've gotten off this week... I can't even tell you.

Meanwhile I've been working on a few designs that I'm releasing on my own or in conjunction with a few other parties.  Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything has been my good friend.  I love listening to books on tape when I'm doing some marathon knitting/crochet, but I prefer non-fiction.  If you've got suggestions for any good non-fiction to listen to on audio, let me know.  I've nearly run out of Bryson's backlist.  Other non-fiction pieces I've really enjoyed: The Disappearing Spoon and The History of Hand Knitting have been good.  I'll give preference to science/history/textile stuff, since that's where most of my interest is, but I'll take nearly any recommendation.

Also, anyone have any good recomendations for workout videos?  All this traveling has make a consistent bike schedule really hard, and I gotta get in some other way to move.  I'd love some dance based stuff, and I'm looking for a good balance that includes a lot of stretching.  Yoga based things need not apply - yoga (even though I have many people who have been telling me how wonderful it is) and I don't get along.  I think I really need to take some good beginner classes.

Michael and I borrowed a corded drill this week so week could hang our shelving units.  Boy, what a difference it makes!
This little shelf is perfect for putting detergent and other laundry supplies on.
Then, we got up a shelf in the dinning room:
The perfect place to put teacups and other pretty display items - where the cat's can't knock them over.
And also in the Laundry Room, some extra shelves:
Let me tell you, getting these up isn't easy.
What a difference it makes to not only have the shelves and other things up off the floor, but to also get things off the floor by putting things in them.  We've nearly got all the different "public" places in the house under control.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dyeing with Food Coloring - A Great (And Safe!) Alternative to Commercial Dyes

I've had a couple of people ask how I did the food coloring dyeing with the children in my camp.  This post is how I went about it, which is by no means an exact recipe.

First, I filled buckets with tap water and vinegar.  As a note, vinegar worked but many of the campers complained of the smell.  Next year I plan to try citric acid.  I used, per quarter gallon, about one or two slugs.  The roving (you could also use yarn, as long as it's 100% wool) was then soaked in the solution for about 15 minutes.

The roving was then removed and squeezed dry.

I used paper and then saran wrap over it to cover the tables, which prevented dye from getting everywhere.

Using the leftover vinegar water, I poured small amounts into plastic cups, and then added the food coloring.  I used super-concentrated gel food coloring, which worked really well.  The children used sponges to apply the food coloring - one sponge to a color.

Results came out best when the children didn't get their roving overly wet - just damp enough that the color adhered to the places they were applying.  They used the sponges like stamps, soaking up color and then "stamping" it onto the roving.
 When the children were done applying color, we wrapped the roving in a long piece of saran wrap, which then went into a freezer-safe bag.  Freezer safe bags are much sturdier, so they held up better to the next step.

 When I got home, I took the roving, still in the plastic bag, and microwaved the roving for 2 minutes, allowed it to cool, then microwaved it for another 2 minutes.

 After the roving had cooled, the piece was removed from the plastic bag and the seran wrap.  The roving was gently rinsed in cool water, gently squeezed dry (to prevent felting) and then was hung to dry.

 There was no running of dye, and the colors were very bright.

Takeaway:  Sometimes colors do not show true until after microwaving.  This was a source of concern for campers; try to explain that the colors will "settle" once they are fixed to the fibers.

Some people recommend using sugarless cool-aide (as it already has the dye AND the citric acid in the powder).  I preferred doing it this way: the food coloring provided a larger range of colors and the ability to control more variables.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Restorative Properties of a Vacation

The first week of summer camp raced by, and last night I took a break with some friends to teach them how to work on socks.  We had wine, brownies, good food and better conversation.

After a breakneck week I'm taking a day to just breathe.  In addition to the camp I was kept hopping by a variety of design submissions that I'm getting ready to send off.  Right before I left for Yosemite, two weeks ago, I was feeling burned out.  I was missing sending out design subs because I just couldn't bring myself to come up with anything that was of any merit.  I was getting a little worried about how design subs, which are one of my favorite things to work on, were becoming a task.

Me, working on the drawing.
While I was in Yosemite I didn't pick up my knitting once.  As I climbed on the train for a three-day ride home, I felt sure I could get the urge to knit.  And then... I didn't knit or crochet once.  I read and napped.  I took multiple naps in a day, and then slept through the night - something I've only done when I'm sick.

I did do other crafty stuff - including a drawing that I spent several hours on.  I don't normally pull on my art classes from Highschool very often, but I got the urge to do a perspective drawing of the train we were on, based off of a picture I took (above).  I made it for our most wonderful train hostess, who was amazing in the face of a late train and grumpy passengers.

It was nice to do something creative that wasn't creative in the same way as my knitting.  I based the lettering off of a coloring sheet the hostess was giving the kids.  But I didn't like the cartoony type of train they included, so I decided to do something stylized, a bit simpler, but more accurate to the train we were actually on.

Train picture.  Note the texture to the gravel in the tracks.  And the logo both on the front and side of the train.

Almost right after our Train/Yosemite trip, we headed to the farm.  I took with me Barbara Walker's set of stitch dictionaries, which I had bought as a treat to myself and then hadn't read at all.  At the farm I finally picked but my knitting and crochet tools, and I began to swatch from the books.  And finally, after a near unheard of two-week hiatus, I began knitting again.  More importantly, I began sketching and coming up with ideas.

Just before we left for the farm I printed out all the design calls I knew were coming up in the next four weeks, and I brought them with me to the farm.  And on the sheets of paper, I began sketching and generating ideas for the design calls.

I was so relieved.

It turns out I just needed some rest.  In a very real way, I needed a vacation from my job... which meant, in a strange way, I needed a vacation from my hobby.

Now, my batteries are charged and I've got a bunch of things I'm sending out, along with a bunch of things that I'm working on my own.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Camp!

Applying the color to the fiber with sponges.
This week is the first week of several camps that I'm teaching through Montgomery County College.  The camp, titled "String Theory" is all about using string in various crafty ways: the children learn to knit, sew, spin and dye yarn.

This session maxed out with 12 children have been absolute rockstars.  In the 9 short hours we've had together thus far, they've got a project bag half finished, have created their first yarn, and have gotten several inches of knitting done.  It's pretty impressive.

The hot microwaved fiber, cooling in the sink.
Today was our messy day, and we spent the first part of the afternoon using vinegar, water and food coloring to dye their own spinning wool.  This evening, as I write this post, I'm ferrying their fiber to a from the microwave to fix the dye.  My hands are covered in red, blues and greens which I doubt will fade by the weekend.  I'm exhausted, but happy.

All the girl's dyed fiber, getting ready to be dried.
It's so great to be working with children in a camp setting again.  Some of the girls were so excited by what they were doing they went out and got their own supplies so they could practice at home.  I love teaching children - both because I think skills like these should be passed on, and because of their sheer excitement over learning new things.

Look how vibrant the colors turned out!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Off on Vacation!

I'm heading out for a week and a half to Yosemite with Michael's family, so the blogging will probably be rather sparse while I'm gone.

You can expect regular posting to resume somewhere around July 2, and there'll probably be bunches of really great photo's I'll want to share.  I wonder how much knitting I can get done in 10 days... Michael and I will be spending about 3 of those days riding a train cross country (of course)!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

New pattern: Victoria's Riflebird

It is with pleasure I'd like to introduce you to the newest addition to the Tinking Turtle lineup, Victoria's Riflebird.

Some details:

Victoria's Riflebird Wrap

by Jennifer Raymond

Printed in: Crochet World Magazine, August 2014
Craft: Crochet
Category: Neck / Torso → Shawl / Wrap
Published: June 2014
Suggested yarn: Berroco Weekend DK
Yarn weight: DK / 8 ply (11 wpi)
Hook size: 3.75 mm (F)
Yardage: 1340 yards (1225 m)
Sizes available: 61 inches wide at widest point x 17 inches deep at deepest point
Skill Level: Intermediate

Berroco Weekend DK (light) acrylic/cotton yarn (31/2 oz/268 yds/100g per skein): 3 skeins #2904 pebble 1 skein each #2926 clothesline and #2902 vanilla
Size F/5/3.75mm crochet hook or size needed to obtain Gauge
Tapestry needle
Locking stitch markers: 2 of 1 color, 6 of another color
Gauge: 18 rows = 4 inches; 17 sts = 4 inches

Right now the design is only available in print, though that might change.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What I've been working On

Otherwise known as, It's Too Hot to come up with a real blog post title.

sneak peek - shhhh!
Last week I was working on a crochet top that will be coming out with PieceWork next year.  I'm super excited about it - it's very rare that I get to work with linen.

The design is a bit of a leap of faith.  I was working with Louet's Euroflax, which is, by far, one of the smoothest linen's I've worked with.  What I mean by this is that I didn't find the yarn as harsh on my hands as I've found other linen.  Now, that wasn't to say that that, while working with it, the yarn wasn't stiff as all get out, but the finished product was worth it.

When I put it in the washing machine and the dryer, it softened up so much, and the drape came out beautiful.

I can't wait for you guys to see it - though it's a long way off from publication!

On a slightly different note, Michael and I made pizza the other night, and I think it was the best home-made pizza I've had, bar none.  Seriously, it ranks in the top five pizza's I've had in my life.

Part of it was because we used homemade pizza sauce (and the key here, I think, is letting it age in the fridge for a day after you make it).  Part of it was we (accidentally) used whole milk mozzarella cheese.
It had steak and spinach and onion on it, and it was amazing.  I had a piece for breakfast and an piece for lunch, and I have no regrets.  None.

On a final note, I'm getting ready to go to Yosemite the end of this week.  It's set to be a blast, but I have so much work to get done before we leave.  After we come back, we're stopping by the farm for the 4th of July, and then I'm launching into a month of teaching a camp.

If you haven't heard (or you aren't part of mailing list, which you should be), I'm teaching a camp called String Theory through Montgomery County College.  It's set to be amazing, and some of the sessions are still open.  The class runs weekly from 1-4.  There's 4 sessions: the week of July 7th, the week of July 14th, the week of July 21st, and the week of July 28th.  This is a great introduction into some of the needlecrafts, including Knitting, Spinning and Sewing.  I'm Super Thrilled to be offering these through Montgomery County College!

What have you been up to this summer?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reminder About Upcoming Classes/Workshops/Camps and More!

I've got a bunch of teaching dates coming up this summer and fall, and I wanted to make sure they were on everyone's radar.

7th-11th: String Theory Camp at Montgomery County College
12th: Yarn Properties at Woolwinders
14th-18th: String Theory Camp at Montgomery County College
21st-25th: String Theory Camp at Montgomery County College
28th-8/1: String Theory Camp at Montgomery County College

5th: Hairpin Lace Workshop at Fall Fiber Festival at Montpelier
16th: Oops, at Rhinebeck
16th: Finish This, at Rhinebeck
17th: Duct Tape Dress Form Extended Workshop, at Rhinebeck
18th: Heels, Heels and More Heels!, at Rhinebeck
19th: Darn Those Knits!, at Rhinebeck
19th: Advanced Repair Techniques, at Rhinebeck

While I love teaching all of my classes, I wanted to highlight a few.

Advanced Repair Techniques is a class I only get to teach at larger venues, which means I don't get to offer it very often.  If you've taken Darn Those Knits, or another one of my mending classes, this is the perfect time to stretch those skills and dive into some truly neat stuff.  I'd love to see some of my Northeast friends and students, so you should check this class out!

I teach my Duct Tape Dress Form class in the DC area, and it always is a great class.  But at Rhinebeck I'm going to be able to teach an Extended Version.  This is going to be one of the few times I get to teach the Duct Tape Dress forms class, and then be able to launch right into ways to use your dress form.  It's going to be incredibly valuable!

My Oops class is one of the classes where I get students to have some great ah-ha! moments.  Normally I teach the class in two hours, and I'm always feeling like we could have used just a little more time.  This class at Rhinebeck fits the bill.  We'll get to go into a little more depth on how to fix mistakes, and students will get a little bit more time to "figure stuff out."  Previous students have said of this class "I took it wanting to learn how to fix mistakes, but it was the little tips and tricks Jennifer threw in throughout the class that made it amazing."  One of my students, finding the class so valuable, took it a second time after she had some time to digest what she learned the first time.  It really is just that valuable.

Finally, I want to point those of you from the Metro DC area to my String Theory classes, held through Montgomery College.  I got my start teaching knitting and crochet with children, and I'm so happy to return to teaching them again.  I love being able to pass my love of crafting to the next generation.  If you have a child in your life - a son or daughter, niece or nephew, next-door neighbor or student, I hope you point them toward this Camp.  It's going to be incredibly fun, and many of the sessions are filling up quickly.  Nab a spot while there's still some left!

Last thing, I promise!  If you're looking for something to do on a weekend, be sure to check my class calendar.  You know I have one, right?  Take a look here!
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