Tag Archives: Númenor

WIP Wednesday

date started: 12 May 2017
time elapsed: 2 weeks 5 days
completeness: 10%

Númenor is of a certain age now.  He’s transitioning from being a little kid to being an unmodified-kid.  And part of that, in our family, is that he has recently become responsible for his own wardrobe.

Babies and little kids, the way I see it, live in borrowed clothes.  They are welcome to have favorites and to refuse to wear certain things and give input for purchasing decisions as they get older, but nothing really belongs to them.  I decide what to buy, what to keep, how and when to mend it, when and how to care for it– they just live in it.  But where little kids’ sizing ends, at around size 6/7, that changes.

Whereas in all the smaller sizes Númenor has already had clothing waiting for him when he was big enough to wear it, when he got big enough to wear a 6X/7, there was nothing in the hand-me-down bin.  Instead, he got a checklist of clothes and accessories that needed to be in his wardrobe for the summer, and a budget to spend on them.

Of course, one of the ways he’s allowed to allocate funds is to ask me to make things for him.  And of all the things he needed, the only one he couldn’t scrape together for himself was short-sleeved shirts.  So I pulled out a cut of organic cotton sateen I bought on clearance years ago and showed him a selection of patterns that would work for the fabric, and we got to work.

And, as a bonus, we had enough fabric left over to cut a shirt (from a different pattern, natch) for Ithilien.

This is the first of a pair of coordinating-but-not-matching robot shirts for our summer adventures.  The pattern Númenor wanted is a modernist send-up of a huipil– very simple, slightly boxy, with this lovely, smooth-against-the-skin blanket-stitch neckline cut to frame the collarbones.

Believe it or not, I had never used a blanket stitch to encase a rolled, curved hem like this before.  It is ideal for the task technically, and a perfectly lighthearted design element for a child’s garment.

All in all, it makes for some gorgeous sunny-afternoon-on-the-back-deck sewing.


The fabric is “Robot Factory Screen Print” from Robert Kaufman.  The pattern is Purl Soho’s embroidered denim jumper.

And, as an aside, here’s how last week’s WIP turned out:

WIP Wednesday (only slightly delayed)

start date: 19 May 2017
time elapsed: 6 days
completeness: 50%

Last summer, in a fit of pique, I tried to resign myself to doing shoes for the smalls the conventional way.

I was frustrated with my inability to make a shoe that stayed on Númenor’s foot, and I was out of the natural rubber soling material I use for all-purpose shoes anyway, so I gave in and bought shoes for the smalls.  Or at least I tried to.

I went to the websites where I normally buy shoes for Robert and myself.  I tried the vendors I’ve been hoping to win a pair from but couldn’t really afford, assuming their kids’ shoes would be cheaper.  I tried the brands I’d heard were for hippies.  None of them had acceptable shoes for children.  Several brands didn’t have kids’ sizes at all, a couple had adult sizes and baby booties but no shoes for children, and the few that had shoes in the right sizes for my kids were so aggressively gendered I couldn’t find anything I would consent to buy, much less anything my funky, post-gender kids were interested in.

So I finally just bought some cheap crap on Zulily.  And the smalls loved the way their “storebought shoes” looked, but they were stiff-soled and uncomfortable to wear, and the sneakers took too much work to get on and off, and they couldn’t be laundered, and one of the pairs of shoes I bought after trying my hardest to find things that passed the minimum standard STILL came with a California Prop 65 warning.

And now, 8 months in, the sneakers are worn through in the toes and aglets.  The flats still look okay, but they don’t have much time left in the toes, either.

So, to review:

Homemade Shoes

Pros: cheap, recycled/recyclable, easy to mend, washable, biodegradable, uses fabric scraps, custom, ergonomic, unique, sweatshop-free

Cons: time-consuming to make, time-consuming to repair, tend to slip off Númenor’s feet, last 4-10 months

Storebought Shoes

Pros: fast, novelty materials (glitter fabric, etc.), secure on the foot, reusable/recyclable boxes

Cons: non-biodegradable, produced with fossil fuels, assembled by slave labor, MUCH more expensive than homemade, produced by the thousands or millions, difficult for smalls to use without help, stiff soles, narrow footbed, cause cancer or reproductive harm, difficult to clean, nearly impossible to repair, packaged in unnecessary plastic, last about 8-10 months

And so, here I am making new shoes for the smalls at home again.

But in the intervening time, I came to a couple new conclusions: first, I only want shoes for the smalls to last less than a year at this point because they grow so fast, that’s about the lifespan of footwear for them anyway.  Second: I have been causing myself unnecessary grief using western-style shoes and a storebought pattern.

This time I’m trying a new approach: breech moccasins from a custom pattern I drafted from a water-resist impression of Númenor’s actual feet.  The toebox is nice and wide, and the soles are natural rubber crepe, cushioned with a layer of wool blanket and lined with a scrap of cotton muslin.  The uppers are sewn together from the few usable bits of an old pair of Robert’s twill pants and hand embroidered in variegated cotton floss.  They are designed to be lightweight on the foot and flexible, while still giving moderate protection from rough terrain and the elements.

So far, I love them.  They should stand up well, and be easy to mend and patch for a few months, and then, probably at the end of next fall or in the spring, they’ll be ready for the wadding bin.


The skull-print muslin is Blackbeard Skull in Black from the “Blackbeard’s Pirates” collection by Riley Blake Designs.

WIP Wednesday (on Friday…)

I was all set to do WIP Wednesday this week, and then life happened.

So here it is, a little belated.

start date: 8 January 2017
time elapsed: 3 days
completeness: 80%

Númenor has a January birthday.  It’s tough, having a birthday a few short weeks after Christmas, because everyone is kind of over buying presents and eating to excess.  And your poor parents are likely feeling glutted for toys and books, not that I would know.

People can’t spend the kind of money and time on January presents as they could on summer birthday presents, but you are just as special to them as you would be if you were a Gemini.

So the things you get are simpler, more likely to be homemade, more likely to be experience-based than object-based, but life is still good.  For one thing, a January birthday is a great excuse to get new add-ons and accessories for your favorite Christmas presents– a sequel to your new favorite book, perhaps, or an extra set of wheels for your fancy new building set.

And, of course, everyone is ready for a little deviation from the usual winter flavors, too.  A strawberry cake in November might seem unseasonable and strange, but a banana cake in January is refreshing and novel.

And so is ice cream.

This knitted and crocheted ice cream, for the smalls’ play kitchen, is high in fiber (alpaca and wool!) and warm to the touch, making it perfect for winter.  And it’s festive enough to be a gift for the happiest of birthdays, of course!


Project details on Ravelry.  The ice cream sections are my own improvised patterns.

No Tooth Fairy Needed

I am honest with my children.

Always.

No matter what.

It’s difficult.  It means sitting with a lot of uncomfortable truths.  It means prefacing a lot of statements with “I think” or “basically.” It means admitting to my own ignorance and failings more often than my ego would prefer.

It also means we don’t do those childhood myths designed to scare or haze children: no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Sugar Sprite, no Boogeyman, and no Tooth Fairy.

We do preserve the parts of those traditions that are important or fun, because growing up is significant and life should be fun, but there’s no fanciful explanation for it.  My kids know that Robert hides the Easter eggs, that I make the majority of their Christmas presents, and that the house takes a cut of their Halloween candy action (which is only fair, since we supply transportation, room and board, and attire).

And most of the time I feel like it’s magic enough to have a loving and stable family,a safe home, and a beautiful world to explore.

But for some reason, when I looked in Númenor’s mouth a few months ago and saw two VERY loose front bottom teeth and the permanent teeth already erupting under them, I felt a little tug of sadness about the fact that our house is a Tooth Fairy No-Fly Zone.  I worried, just a little, that somehow this milestone wouldn’t be as important or as marked as it should be.

So I thought about how we should shape our family traditions as we turned this new corner.  Here’s what I came up with.

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Some practical equipment, namely toothpaste.  Until now our smalls have been brushing their teeth with just water, which works fine, but we want to be extra-careful with those new permanent teeth coming in because they have to last.  So now Númenor has his own little pot of baking soda, bentonite clay, and coconut oil to help him clean and polish.

A special gift for this special first tooth, in this case, the A-frame play tent I’ve been planning.  There will probably be a special gift for the last tooth, too, when we get there.

Two tiny bits of tradition: a tooth traded for a gold coin, and a special place for the dead drop.  The trade is the magical part, and the pocket money is the bit kids actually care about.

This is the beginning of the end of the little-kid parenting in our family.  Now that those first teeth have dropped, Númenor is just a regular kid, no longer a little kid.  There are still others coming up the ranks, of course, but we will have one child who is too old to be called little anymore.

Which is equal parts frightening and wonderful.

And plenty magical.

WIP Wednesday

We haven’t had one of these since July!  I missed them!

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start date: 15 September 2016
time elapsed: 34 days
completeness: 50%

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that Númenor once again needed a new hoodie and coat for the winter.  I don’t know how this happened, because he JUST got new ones last year, but during the Dance of the Hand-Me-Downs, I noticed that his wrists and forearms had made a break for it and replacements were urgently needed.

We talked about his hoodie, and he described this fantastical vision for a T-rex skeleton costume piece, complete with tail and functional teeth and glow-in-the-dark bones.

I said, hmm.  And uh-huh.  And yes, that would be super awesome.

And then I said, here’s what I can do: fuzzy appliqué bones, full ribcage, upper limbs, and skull.

And he said, “Oh, okay.  That will be easier to sit down in the car and play on the playground.  Plus then I can sneak up on people in the dark.”

Such wisdom, from one so young.

So now I’m studying the skeletal anatomy of the T-rex in astounding detail, and desperately trying to adapt what I learn to a hooded sweatshirt for a human-shaped child, because it turns out that if I had wanted to buy this garment in a store, I would have been totally SOL.

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It’s been an interesting process.

And the end result will be imperfect and definitely homemade-looking, but pretty cool, I think.  If nothing else, Númenor and I can look back on this project and laugh, and he will at least know that I love him, and I’m willing to try audacious things to make him happy.

Here’s hoping that’s what counts.

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Organic black sweatshirt fleece from Organic Cotton Plus, white bamboo rayon/organic cotton velour from Etsy, the pattern and technique are my own and not recommended.

10 Things I Need to Make this Fall

Now that we’re mired in the part of summer that’s too hot for much of anything– certainly unseasonable for having a big pile of flannel in my lap– but about to leave the last heat wave of the season, I’ve been looking forward to some cool-weather crafting and giving some thought to what needs to happen.

Here’s my list, necessities and fripperies in no particular order, of the top 10 things I need to make in the coming season:

  1. Tea towels.  The flour sack towels that wrapped a few of our favorite kitchen gadget wedding gifts are finally sprouting holes and wearing out.  I’m thinking the new ones are going to be mid-weight natural linen, but the same dimensions as the old ones.
  2. Coat for Númenor.  Another year, another coat.  This one is definitely going to be lined with some of that gorgeous Portland bridges fabric I picked up a few years ago, but I’m not sure what the outer fabric will be like or what pattern I’m going to use.  I might draft my own pattern.
  3. Hoodie for Númenor.  Something fun and slightly funky, as usual.
  4. Twin-size comforter for Ithilien.  In the depths of winter, the nursery gets pretty cold in the middle of the night.  At the moment, we have only one twin-size comforter, and that can cause strife.  I’m planning to whipstitch together a couple of old flannel top sheets, fill with some fluffy recycled fiberfill, and tie it down to quilt it.  The only trouble will be that the sheets I have are green and green-red plaid, and Ithilien is a red-loving kid who might object to the forest tones.  But it’ll be warm regardless.
  5. “What Lives Here?” picture book.  This is one I’ve been puzzling over for some time.  The smalls are always asking what kinds of animals live in our area, especially when we go on drives.  I’m currently working on a collage-style picture book showing different ecosystems and settings and filled with the different animals that might live there.  It’s a huge undertaking, even limiting myself to a 20-mile radius around our house, since we live in a transitional zone between at least three climates.
  6. Toy ankylosaurus for Ithilien.  I made a stegosaurus for Númenor a while back, and Ithilien demanded an ankylosaurus.  How one knits an ankylosaurus I am not sure (possibly with lots of bobbles?), but I’ll figure it out.
  7. Autumn leaf babies.  If you’ve been around a while, you might remember my spring raindrop babies.  I’ve been trying to work up to a whole four-seasons set: snowflakes, raindrops, fruit (or maybe sunshine?), and autumn leaves.  I love dollmaking, and these little felt-and-wood sweeties are downright addictive in their simplicity and appeal.
  8. Altoid tin boredom busters.  We recently inherited a big box of mint tins.  They are the perfect size to tuck in a pocket or purse and you can fill them with anything.  So I’ve been trying to develop a set of toys and activity kits inside Altoid tins for when we travel or waiting at restaurants.
  9. More petticoats for myself.  Hopefully at least two more cotton ones (black, I think) and if I can find room for it in the budget, I would love a woolen flannel one for winter wear.
  10. Halloween costumes.  This year the smalls have both decided on light-themed costumes, which means getting creative with LEDs and possibly wearable circuitry.  Númenor’s might yet be merged with his hoodie, but we have yet to have our first formal design meeting, so it’s very much still TBD.

 

 


 

What about you?  What are you looking forward to making as the weather changes?

Growing Up

The past year has seen a dramatic shift in Númenor and Ithilien.

Sure, they’re bigger.  And they speak more conventional English now.  But all that is trifling.  I’m talking about a big, fundamental change.

As unschooled kids, they pretty much run wild through their lives.  They do whatever they want to do, and as their parents, teachers, and facilitators, we try to stay out of their way and provide them with resources and opportunities.  And last spring, that was all that was happening.

But as the mornings turned cooler and the scent of woodsmoke began to permeate our early autumn landscape, something changed.

It’s difficult to put into words exactly what’s different, but it’s almost like they have become more focused.

I used to offer to help them look things up.  Now they demand to be shown information.

The endless rattling of questions has started to follow a particular path instead of zigzagging madly between topics.

They listen longer, and closer.  They make more guesses and inferences for themselves instead of asking me to give them each piece of the puzzle.

They have plans.  Real, concrete plans for things that might actually happen– lots of fantasy still thrown in there, but more akin to daydreams than to the acid binges of imagination we were used to.

Before, learning was something that happened to them– they were naturally curious, of course, like all primates, but they didn’t trouble themselves overmuch with knowing anything particular.  Now, they almost seem to vibrate with the intense, conscious desire to learn.

They want to cook, so they are helping to make the menu, and browsing in cookbooks, and being the chefs de cuisine one night per week.

They want to stargaze, so they are finding astronomy books and star guides at the library and making sure we check the weather forecast.

They want to knit, so they are watching my hands intently and making some tentative starts with fingers and spools.

They want to know about bugs, so they are running for the guidebook and carefully trapping interesting things under upside-down juice glasses for observation.

They want to write, so they are using the sound map and copying words from books.

So things look a bit different this spring than they have in previous years, when our children were just the vessels of our vision for this grand educational experiment.

In the fall, the change will likely be more complete, and Númenor and Ithilien will be taking even more leadership in their own lives, but for right now the shift is still underway, and we’re balanced between the two of them being our satellites– doing their own thing but always around what we adults are doing– and all four of us being off on our own individual journeys and making a rather messy pack as we go.

It’s strange to think that, not that long ago, they were each just a tiny tickling thing behind my bellybutton.

Strange, and wonderful.

Acorn Cap Beret

I wrote a little about how my children inspired this design here.


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Acorn caps are everywhere in natural play and crafting lately, and rightly so.  They are cute and tiny, perfectly rustic, and, when you look closely at them, delicately detailed.  On Etsy you can find them gilded with gold and glitter and topping off holiday ornaments and tiny dolls and felted fairies.  In my house, there’s a felt ball acorn garland decorating the nursery wall, a handful of acorn caps transforming glass marbles into treasures of infinite wonder, and a few loose acorn caps at the children’s art table and in my studio waiting to find the perfect use.

Here’s a subtly acorn-cap-inspired, lacy and detailed beret for chilly autumn days ahead, those who carry the fall colors in their hearts through all the seasons,  or simply crowning those who will someday grow into mighty oaks.

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Knit from the bottom up, bell ribbing to I-cord “stem,” with dead simple pi-shawl-inspired shaping.

Sizing

This cap was designed to fit my children’s rather large heads (about 21″ circumference) perfectly, so it’s an older child/youth/small adult size.  There’s some flexibility in the ribbing, which stretches to about 22-23″ in my examples.

Materials

  • about 200 yards of a worsted-weight yarn (I used Quince and Co. Owl in Cement)
  • 16″ circular needles, US 7 (4.5mm)
  • four DPNs, US 7 (4.5mm)
  • yarn needle

Pattern

CO 84 sts, join in the round

Ribbing:

R1: *k2p2*, repeat to end of round

R2-5: same as R1

R6: k1, *C1F C1B* around to last 3 sts, C1F, cable the last stitch of the work back behind the first stitch of the work

R7: p1 *k2p2* to last 2 sts, k2

R8-11: *p2k2* around

R12: *k1 yo* around (168 sts)

Body (filigree pattern):

R1: *p2, ssk, k3b, yo, k1b, yo, k3b, k2tog, p1* 12 times

R2: *p2, k4b, k1, k1b, k1, k4b, p1* 12 times

R3: *p2, ssk, k2b, yo, k3b, yo, k2b, k2tog, p1* 12 times

R4: *p2, (k3b, k1) twice, k3b, p1* 12 times

R5: *p2, ssk, k1b, yo, k5b, yo, k1b, k2tog, p1* 12 times

R6: *p2, k2b, k1, k5b, k1, k2b, p1* 12 times

R7:  *k1b, yo, k3b, k2tog, p3, ssk, k3b, yo* 12 times

R8:  *k1b, k1, k4b, p3, k4b, k1* 12 times

R9:  *k2b, yo, k2b, k2tog, p3, ssk, k2b, yo, k1b* 12 times

R10: *k2b, k1, k3b, p3, k3b, k1, k1b* 12 times

R11: *k3b, yo, k1b, k2tog, p3, ssk, k1b, yo, k2b* 12 times

R12: *k3b, k1, k2b, p3, k2b, k1, k2b* 12 times

repeat these 12 rows 3 times for a total of 36 rows in pattern

R37: k2tog around (84sts)

Crown shaping:

R1: *k2tog, k3, yo, k1, yo, k3, ssk, p1* 7 times

even rows 2-8: *k11, p1* 7 times

R3: *k2tog, k2, yo, k3, yo, k2, ssk, p1* 7 times

R5: *k2tog, k1, yo, k5, yo, k1, ssk, p1* 7 times

R7: *k2tog, yo, k7, yo, ssk, p1* 7 times

R9: *yo, k3, ssk, p1, k2tog, k3, yo, k1* 7 times

R10: *k3, ssk, p1, k2tog, k4* 7 times (70 sts)

R11: *k1, yo, k1, ssk, p1, k2tog, k1, yo, k2* 7 times

R12: *k2, ssk, p1, k2tog, k3* 7 times (56 sts)

R13: *k2, yo, cdd, yo, k3* 7 times

R14: k2tog around (28 sts)

R15: k2tog around (14 sts)

R16: k2tog around (7 sts)

work an i-cord of these 7 sts for 1.5″

break yarn and draw through all remaining sts, cinch and secure end (I pulled my bind-off end through to the inside of the beret and stuffed it into the I-cord “stem” to help give it more body).

Finishing:

Block firmly to open lace.  I like to block berets on a macrame ring or stretched over a plastic plate like this, except that I lace my scrap yarn through the top of the ribbing section so the ribbing stays nice and elastic like a cuff.

Let’s Talk About Race

We talk about race constantly with our kids.  We’ve talked about how race is a social construct that helps the dominant group to establish and maintain its boundaries based on perceived cultural or ancestral similarity.  We’ve talked about how the color of an individual’s skin doesn’t always track with their racial identity, and we’ve talked about how race is often performative, and we’ve talked about how race, like gender, is a convenient shorthand for social purposes but isn’t actually real.

But I still wasn’t expecting Númenor– catching a glimpse of How To Get Away With Murder over my shoulder– to come out with one of the hardest questions he’s ever asked.

“What are all the different races?  Can you make a list for me?”

Oh, child.  Oh honey, sweet, baby, child, with your lisp and your first loose tooth.

I know he wants to understand the world.  He wants a logical, discrete system.  He wants it to make sense.  But that’s not the way it is.

There are whole graduate-level seminars on this topic.  There’s no pat answer.  I don’t know how to render my response in small-child vocabulary.

I answered him, because the biggest single responsibility of unschooling is answering questions, but I wanted to think about my answer more, so I’m going to explore it here.

Hold on tight.

  1. Remember that race is a social construct, and as such it is different in every cultural context.  The racial categories in mid-20th-century London and the racial categories in rural Oregon in 2016 are not the same.  If you compared either of them to the racial categories of ancient Rome or late classical Maya, you would find almost no common ground.  The dominant group varies between places and times, and is always defining and redefining itself, and therefore constantly amending and adapting the divisions and stereotypes it practices.
  2. What racial categories an individual person’s brain is socialized to recognize is even more specific and variable than that.  Someone who grew up in a Tongan-American community in Portland might racially distinguish Samoan, Tongan, and Hawaiian people but be unable to distinguish between European origins, whereas someone who grew up in a white suburb of Chicago might lump Tongan, along with Kazakh and Han and Japanese and Maori, into the umbrella racial category of AAPI, but hold Polish people and Irish people in separate racial categories.
  3. Race isn’t idempotent.  In the 19th century, many light-skinned people were legally categorized as racially black in the American South (see the “one-drop rule”), but were able to migrate to states with less stringent legal standards and “become” white.  An individual’s understanding of and identification with different elements of their ancestry may change over time.  Mixed-race is currently the fastest-growing racial identity in the United States, which means an increasing number of people have two or more significant racial backgrounds.
  4. Some racial categories supersede others or rely on a secret code to make sense.  Mixed race people in the US who have significant black ancestry often experience the invisibilization of the rest of their racial background, as do mixed race people who “pass” for white.  The racial category “Hispanic” is a hot mess that cannot be understood unless you hear the racist dogwhistle embedded in it.
  5. Fiction muddies the waters.  American Indian characters have been played by Italian, Latinx, and mixed-race people overwhelmingly more often than they have been played by American Indian people.  American families of color on TV often have a striking and unrealistic similarity in skin color between members– actors are cast “Pantone-matched” between characters’ relationship partners or family members.  Mixed race people are cast to play a variety of races over the course of their careers.

What all of this means is that race could be as varied and as specific as to put practically every individual on earth in their own category, and this would be neither more nor less accurate than the “Mongoloids and Negritoes” system of Thomas Huxley, because race isn’t real.

We can talk about the racial categories I recognize, or the racial categories available on the US census (although their “mixed race” category has, so far, been an othering, invisiblizing sham), but neither of these would be a full and accurate list of all the races people can have.

The fact is that there is no system.  There is no list.  There is no rubric.  It’s all just layer upon layer of euphemism and inspeak, seeking to reduce humans to checkboxes in an effort to control them and practice social grouping.

And just like with gender, you can guess about someone’s identity by looking for their cues, but the only way to know someone’s race for sure is to ask how they identify.