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Tinking Turtle’s Summer Camps: Knitting, Crochet, Sewing and More!

young child learning to sew

Sewing with Next Step Needlecraft from Tinking Turtle Designs

It’s that time of year again: the weather is warming (despite all the rain we’ve had this week), and on my walk this morning, I found the first delicious blackberries.  It’s summertime – and it won’t be long now until school wraps up and those hot days will be around the corner.  It won’t be long until Tinking Turtle’s Craft Summer Camps start!

For me, this means a shift in Tinking Turtle’s focus: I’m beginning to get ready for the summer camps that I’ll be running.  They’re one of my favorite parts of the year.

You see, way back before Tinking Turtle was a name written on a piece of paper, before I’d even dreamed up my first pair of socks, I was a camp counselor at Chimney Corners Camp.  I’ve talked about CCC (as it’s known to campers and alumni alike) before: it’s the place where I met my longtime friend Becca, and where Mr. Turtle proposed to me.  CCC’s been a huge part of my development as a person – not only personally, but professionally as well.  CCC was the place I taught my first students: figuring out how to break down knitting, crochet, embroidery and cross stitch to campers aged eight to fourteen.  I was only about seventeen myself, and I had very little clue what I was doing, but I figured out.

Since then, I’ve continued to love working and crafting with children.  I worked as a nanny for many, many years, and last year I ran the camp String Theory through Montgomery College.  It was a hit and a blast, and this year I’m adding to the lineup with two new classes: Next Step Needlecraft and Knockout Punch Rug Needlework.  Let me tell you a bit about the classes:

String Theory is my flagship class, now in it’s second year.  It’s a variety introduction to needlework

young girls showing off their finished knit mitts

Finished knitted mitts from String Theory!

and crafting for both boys and girls ages 8-12.  Campers learn how to knit a fingerless mitts (or two!), sew and decorate a project bag, learn to process, card and spin fiber, and the basics of how to dye wool.  This year we’re offering three sessions: 7/20 – 7/24 from 1-4 pm, 7/27 – 7/31 from 1-4 pm, and 8/3 – 8/7 from 9 – 12 pm.  You can click on the links to find out more and signup!

Because we received such a great response to String Theory, we’ve added Next Step Needlecraft.  Intended for campers who loved String Theory and want to learn more, or for older students looking to learn some more interesting crafts, it’s a great next step.  Students learn how to crochet, how to spin yarn, the basics of needle felting, and how to create stunning punch rug pieces.  This class is meant to sink students’ teeth into needlecrafts you don’t get exposed to nearly anywhere else.  This year I’m offering two sessions: 7/20 – 7/24 from 9-12 pm, and 8/3 – 8/7 from 1-4 pm.

 

My last class: Knockout Punch Rug Needlework is a very focused class.  Unlike the other two camps which focus on variety, this one dials down into the art of rug making.  In this class students will have a lot more independence to learn, plan and execute one, if not two projects.  This class focuses on giving students the independence to decide and plan their own projects, and my help to make them a reality.  We’ve got just one session of this camp, so if it sounds like something your child would enjoy, make sure to sign up as soon as possible. Knockout Punch Rugs will run 7/27 – 7/31 from 9 – 12 pm.

Child learning to knit with multicolored yarn

Learning to Knit in String Theory

If you’re looking for a great crafting camp for the summer, these camps are for you.  Don’t have children of your own?  Tell your friends about these camps.  Teaching kids crafts improves dexterity, problem solving and creativity – and preserves these traditions for the next generation.

Let me know what you think about the camps – and what other crafts I should look at adding to the repertoire!

Photo Tutorial: Mattress Stitch

When I’m seaming a sweater, one of the most used stitches I use is the Mattress stitch.  Also known as the Ladder Stitch, I love this stitch because when done right, it’s nearly invisible, adds very little bulk to the seams, is quick to do, easy to take out, and practically perfect.  Let me tell you how I do the mattress stitch.

2 quick notes: here I start in the middle of a project.  Normally I start at the beginning of the seam and work my way up, but that’s hard to photograph well.  Also, I’m using embroidery floss in the tutorial, both because it’s in a contrast color, and because it’s cotton, and easy to pull out.  Most people like seaming with the yarn they used in the project, but if it’s too delicate, or too bulky, embroidery floss in a similar color works beautifully.  Mattress stitch done right should be practically invisible.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

The first part of learning the mattress stitch involves taking a good look at your knitting.  Look between two stitches.  See the horizontal bars that run between the stitches?  This is where the sewing action will take place.  You’ll want to be working the mattress stitch between the 1st and 2nd columns of stitches on the edge of your work.  See Below?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Don’t quite see it?  Let me show you with my sewing needle.  I’ve put 2 of the horizontal bars on my sewing needle.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Okay, so that’s what the bars look like on the knit side.  What about the purl side?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

The bars that run between the stitches on the knit side are the purl bumps on the wrong side.  If you are having trouble ID’ing the purl bumps, turn your knitting over with your needle placed where you think the stitch should go.  The needle should be running between the 2 columns of stitches we found before.  See?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Right, so we now know where the stitches are supposed to go.  When I teach the matress stitch, I always say to go beneath 2 horizontal bars each time.  Some directions will tell you to go underneath only one bar, but when you’re first learning, it’s easier to go underneath 2.  I normally go underneath 2 bars if the yarn is an aran weight yarn or lighter, just because mattress stitch goes a lot more slowly when only going underneath 1 bar.  For aran weight yarns and higher (like bulky) I’ll go underneath only one bar, because each “stitch” is so big. So in most instances, just go underneath 2 bars between the stitches.  I like to start with the right side, just because I’m right handed.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now pull the needle through, leaving enough thread at the end for a couple of inches of tail.  Don’t pull the yarn through!  See how the thread goes underneath 2 bars?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now I go to the left side, and put my needle underneath 2 bars.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Pull through again.  Congrats, we’ve gotten started!  Now we’re back to the right side.  How do you know where to put your needle next?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Look at the thread that’s coming out from the right side.  Put your needle down through the hole that thread is coming out of, and run it up under 2 more bars.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Pull the needle through.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now we go back to the left side, find the thread coming out of the left side, and put our needle through the same way we did for the right.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

And pull the needle through again.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, we repeat the pattern, going under 2 bars on the right side, then two bars of the left side.  The stitch starts to look like rungs on a ladder, hence the alternative name “ladder stitch.”  Notice this whole time I’m not pulling the stitches tight, I’m leaving them loose.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

When I’ve got about 1″ to 2″ of stitching, I stop and admire my work, and make sure everything looks right.  Then, I take the tail, and the thread that’s attached to the needle?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

I pull both ends tight.  Note that I’m not letting the fabric wrinkle or scrunch.  I’m just pulling on the thread.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

There’s a quick trick to find out if you’ve pulled the thread tight enough.  If  you can pull the 2 pieces of fabric apart and you can see your stitches, it is still a little loose.  Pull both ends again.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now those stitches are tight.  See how I’m holding the thread with both ends?  At this point, neither end is secured, so if I pulled on the fabric without holding the ends tight, the stitches would again loosen up.  This will mitigate when you work more of the seam.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, I loosen up the last stitch I did, so I can find where I need to go next, and I continue.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, what happens if you are working columns of stitches to rows of stitches?  You still use the mattress seam, the placement on the row side is just a little different.  Take a look at the edge of your knitting, where you bound off or cast on.  See how the v’s connect to make a zig-zag?  This is where we’ll be working.  Let’s look at an individual stitch.  Here, I’ve got it lifted up by my needle.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

You are going to go down through the middle of that stitch, between the 2 sides of the “V.”  Then, you’ll come up from under the fabric through the next “V.”  See how you still have 2 strands on the sewing needle?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Pull the yarn through, leaving the same type of tail you left when working the mattress stitch before.  Now, on the column side, work the mattress stitch as normal.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, go back down to the row stitch side.  See how the thread is coming out, same as it did with the other matress stitch?  You’re going to go down through the stitch with the thread, and go up through the next stitch.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

And repeat over and over again, until you run out of fabric to stitch on.

It’s important to note, you can switch between working columns to columns, columns to rows, rows to rows, and back again.  You can be seaming on the stockinette side, and then switch to seaming on the row side.

Got questions?  Please ask in the comments, on twitter, or on facebook.  Or, if you liked the tutorial, tweet it, facebook it, or share it!