It’s Never too Early to Think about Summer Camp

Learning to spin at summer camp

Learning to spin at summer camp

It’s getting to be the time to think about summer camp, and for me, that means I’m talking about the summer camps I’ve been running the past few years!  However, Tinking Turtle has a couple of changes happening this year (spurred on, in a large part, because of our impending tiny turtle).

As I’ve talked about many times before, some of my most formative years were spent going to a summer camp in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, Camp Chimney Corners.  Summer camps are a great way to foster independence, expose children to new experiences or hobbies, and foster a different type of learning than what school offers.  And I’ve been proud, the past two years, to work with Montgomery College to bring fiberarts summer camps to the DC/Rockville area.

So it’s with sorrow that I say that I will not be running camps with Montgomery College this year.  The amount of traveling I’d do to teach the camps in Rockville, MD would be a little too much for our small family.  But it is with joy that I’m announcing that this year, I’ll be bringing fiber arts camps to my hometown, Ashland, by pairing with the Hanover Arts and Activities Center!

I’ll be hosting two camps this summer:

  • String Theory, happening August 8-12th, is a high-energy introduction to the fiberarts suitable for ages 8 & up.  It features spinning, knitting, basic sewing, weaving and dying.  Students will be working the week through on two different projects, with opportunities to customize and tailor their interests.
  • Next Step Needlecraft, happening August, offers a glimpse into some of the lesser-known handcrafts.  Suitable for ages 10 & up, this summer camp features spinning, punch-rug needlework, needle felting, crochet and dying.  Students have the option of planning and creating a variety of projects, which they will work on throughout the week.

If you live in the Ashland/Richmond area and know kids who would be interested, I’d love for you to pass my information along!  You can find out more at the Hanover Arts and Activities Website.

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.

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!

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?

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!