Friday, March 23, 2012

Crochet Class #6: is it a hat, or a basket?

Most of what you need to know for this week's pattern was covered in the last class.  In our last real-life class, the girls worked on making a small flat circle (like the beginning of a coaster); but some of them found that difficult.  The shamrocks actually turned out to be easier for them; everyone completed at least one shamrock before the end of the class, and a couple of the girls said that they really liked making treble crochets. 

Well, this week we're going to go back to making those flat circles, and this time it will be easier because everybody's had a bit of practice--right?  Get your stitch markers ready!  (If you don't have split-ring markers, you can use things like earrings, paper clips, or bits of yarn to mark where you start each round.)

Today's Mini Hat pattern came from a holiday decoration, "Peppermint People,” in Crochet World Magazine, December 2005, by Angela Winger.  The designer's "snowman" person wears a flat-topped hat, boater-style, and that's the part of the pattern that we're using.

But not in snowman's-hat-black, please; black is one of the hardest colours to crochet with, since you can't easily see your stitches.  I'm thinking a lighter brown, and "straw" colour would be perfect.  Or any light colour is fine.  You will need a very small amount of a second colour for one row of trim.
What weight of yarn, and what size hook?  As written, you need a 4mm hook (F or G in American sizing) and worsted-weight yarn; in my own sample, that made a Moxie Girl-sized hat.   UPDATE:  I made another sample, using Red Heart Super Saver in variegated pinks and purples, and a 4mm hook; and it came out a little smaller than the first one--this one was more Barbie-sized.  So your mileage may vary quite a bit on these.
I made another hat, but I doubled the yarn (used two strands at a time) and used a larger, 6mm hook (that's a J hook for Americans), without making any changes to the pattern.  That made a hat that would fit a Ty Girlz doll or a Beanie Bopper.  The larger size also fits a cloth doll from Ten Thousand Villages.
I think if you wanted to make an even bigger hat, say for an 18-inch doll, you would need to change the pattern, rather than using heavier yarn with the original directions, so I'm not going to recommend that yet, unless you're already comfortable adapting patterns.  If you don't have a doll or critter small enough to wear the small-to-medium-sized hat, don't worry, because if you flip the hat upside down, it makes a perfect little basket.  Maybe for Easter, to hold a few foil-covered candies?  You'd just need to add a handle of some type.

I've copied out the pattern as printed in Crochet World, but with my "translations" below each row, in italics. 


Supplies needed: see notes above.  One strand of worsted-weight yarn, used with a 4mm hook (F or G, in American sizing); or two strands and a larger hook, for a larger hat; or you can experiment with heavier or lighter weight yarn for different effects.  Enough of the main colour to make the hat, plus small amount of a second colour for contrasting row.  Yarn needle, scissors, and stitch markers.

Stitches used:  Slip stitch (Sl st), Chain, (ch), Single Crochet (sc), Half Double Crochet (hdc)

Rnd. 1: With main colour, ch 2, 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook, do not join. (6 sc)

Chain 2 stitches. Make 6 single crochet stitches in the second chain stitch from the hook. Do not join with slip stitch—just keep going, and remember to count stitches.  The (6 sc) at the end means that you now have 6 single crochet stitches in the round.

Rnd 2: 2 sc in each sc around. (12 sc)

Work 2 single crochet stitches in each of the 6 single crochets that you made previously—this gives you 12 single crochet stitches. Do not join, just keep going.

Rnd 3: [Sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc] 6 times. (18 sc)

In the first stitch, make one single crochet. In the next, make two. In the next, make one. In the next, make two, and so on around. Square brackets plus a number afterwards mean that you are to do something a certain number of times, across a row or a round.

Rnd 4: [Sc in each of next 2 sc, 2 sc in next sc] 6 times. (24 sc)

You are continuing to make the circle bigger. In the first stitch, make one single crochet. In the second, make one single crochet. In the third, make two. Repeat this pattern (one, one, two) all the way around.

Rnd 5: Working in back lps only, sc in each st around.

No increases on this round, but work only in the back loops to make a ridge.

Rnd 6: Sc in each sc around, change to contrasting colour in last sc.
No increases—just work around, and change colour at the end.  Don't cut the original yarn--you'll need it again in another row.

Rnd 7: Sc in each sc around change to main colour in last sc, fasten off trim colour.

Same as before—change back to original colour at the end.

Rnd 8: Repeat rnd 6.

Work around with original colour.

Rnd 9: Working in front lp only of each st, work 2 hdc [See notes below] in each st around, sl st in first hdc, fasten off.

This is how you make the brim, and you want to double the number of stitches. Hdc is half double crochet, and the only difference between it and single crochet is that you bring the yarn over the hook first before drawing up a loop, so that you have three loops on the hook. Draw the yarn back through all three loops at once to finish the stitch. Half double crochet gives you a nice solid stitch a bit bigger than single crochet. When turning rows made with hdc, chain 2 instead of chain 1.

If you don’t want to try the new stitch, you could do the brim in single crochet and then do a second round with no increases. Add a handle if you want it to be a basket.

That's enough to keep us busy for this class.  We are planning one more real-life class so that the girls can do an amigurumi animal or some other small project that they would like to finish off with.  Are you in?  Check back here...probably not in two weeks, since that's Easter weekend, but sometime next month.

(Hat photo found here)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oh, my poor brainwashed homeschooled kids

There is a lot going on in the media about free speech, homeschooling, Christians, and education in general.  A Peaceful Day has a post discussing an article that seems to raise unwarranted concern about homeschoolers, particularly American politician Rick Santorum.  Is the real concern that some homeschooling parents (religious or not) might neglect academics or (puh-leeze) socialization?  Or is that just a smokescreen for those who separate "freedom of worship" from "freedom of religion?"  I'm not sure.

As I've said before, merely occupying a particular place in society is enough to ensure that some people out there won't like you.  I am a middle-aged white female, educated in Ontario public schools and universities. I have been a stay-at-home mom for the last twenty years.  I attend a Christian church.  Our children have received most of their schooling outside of the public school system.  I diapered a baby in disposables, I eat pork, I buy cold cereal, I read books by dead white guys, and I wear blue jeans.  I'm sure there's at least one thing on that list (I could come up with more) to cause general fear and mistrust.  In some people's minds, I'm a very dangerous person.

Well, Bubba and me seem to have larned our young'uns good enough that they can get by with the readin', writin', and figgerin'.  The two that went to public high school have been on the honour roll, and have earned a consistent stream of positive remarks from their teachers.  And they've made friends too--imagine that.  The oldest graduated with not only a high school diploma but with most of the requirements completed for her hairstyling apprenticeship, and she completed that soon afterwards...just before she entered university as a science major. (Yes, big bad science.) Middle daughter, now in ninth grade, has her own ideas about all the marvellous things she'd like to do and how she's going to do them. And what can I say about the fifth-grader, whose "lack of exposure to the real world" includes a weekly stint working with adults at the thrift store, and whose current favourite TV show is She-ra, Princess of Power?

Sure, there are opportunities that we couldn't provide, just because of our own family circumstances.  We're urban, not rural; we aren't world travellers; the girls haven't had much opportunity to participate in organized sports.  (Honestly, they didn't care about that.) Only one of them has taken swimming lessons. But guess what? They (at least the older two) can solder, handle a screwdriver, and change oil.  They've taken voice lessons, dance, improv, and drama (at various times).  They know how to shop for groceries,  mow the lawn, and run the washing machine, and they're aware of the dangers of misused credit.  They're the ones who are recruited to water vacationing neighbours' gardens, and help with younger children at church.  The oldest paid for most of her own "wants" during high school, through part-time jobs. All three of them run circles around me with their electronic gadgets (not around their dad, though--who do you think taught them?).  They are not shy about reading or speaking in public.  They can hold a conversation with people outside their own age group. They have opinions.  They argue with each other, and sometimes with their parents. They also identify themselves as Christians.

(I guess that last one must have been brainwashed into them, yes?)

Related posts:
Answers to some misconceptions about homeschooling
Bubba and me think that homeskoolers are not so freaky
How come your kids don't know that?
Is public high school all that perky?

Linked from Carnival of Homeschooling: Texas Edition

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's March Break here, for most of us: on sewing and books

Ponytails and Crayons/Dollygirl have the week off from classes.  The Apprentice doesn't.  But at least the weather is co-operating; it's funny how often we do have good weather during March Break.  Ponytails will be doing some group sewing.  I think Crayons wants to sew some doll clothes too.  Last week we tried making a doll leotard out of some old Lycra leggings, but the stretchy stuff did not get along well with our sewing machine.  We'll try something else this week.
I saw this vintage poster on A Peaceful Day, and you can read more about it on Brain Pickings.  Having a Chapters gift card from a recent birthday, I decided to take President Roosevelt up on his suggestion and ordered a few books I wanted to read but hadn't found in the used pickings. Helen Hanff's Q's Legacy, Quiller-Couch's On the Art of Writing, and The Mind of the Maker should all be on their way here before the month's out, along with one book for Crayons' spring term.

(I have been reading On the Art of Writing from the Bartleby site for awhile now, printing it out a lecture at a time, but decided a real book would be better.  And I used to have The Mind of the Maker, back in the prehistoric university days, but didn't properly appreciate it then and gave it away again.  That and Harry Blamires' The Christian Mind.  I like passing books around, but really, those were two I should have hung on to, at least until I had finished reading them properly.)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Crochet Class #5: Circles and Shamrocks

I'm posting this a day early--anticipating our Saturday class!

Today I'm not going to reinvent the wheel--just teach you how to make one. 

Well, not this one--but something a bit simpler to start with.  The girls in our class are going to start working "in the round": starting from a center point and working out to make round (or square) flat motifs (think doilies), or tube-shaped pieces (think socks?).  
A big tube-shaped pillow I made for the Apprentice
It's possible to make lots of crocheted things by working only in rows, not rounds, but working in the round has its own advantages: you can just keep going and never have to worry about turning your work or whether your edges are perfectly straight.  You could make a hat, for example, by crocheting a large rectangle and sewing it up the back--but it's just as easy to start with a very small circle at the top of the hat, keep the circle growing until you have something that covers the top of your head, and then work straight down until it's done.  In fact, that's what my first crochet teacher started us with, years and years ago in the fifth or sixth grade--crocheted hats.  Round and round and round and round...

A jar topper or mini doily--see the starting point in the middle?

Almost all the monkey parts were made in the round--saves on the sewing up at the end.

The best online tutorial I've found for in-the-round is this one at  Really, I don't think I can explain it any better, so just head over there and let them teach you.  You chain two, three, or four times; join with a slip stitch; and work any amount of single crochet stitches in the loop you have just made. Does this look familiar? It should—it is the same as making a scrunchie, only without the elastic. The nice part about working in the loop is that you do NOT have to work into every chain—you are just working over the loop. When you are done that round, you can pull on the loose end and the circle should tighten up a bit.  If you follow the tutorial all the way through, you will make a flat circle in several rounds, that can be used for a coaster.  The tutorial suggests making two circles from cotton yarn and sewing them together for a thicker coaster.
More stuffed animals: see how the ponies' noses start small and then increase into the head shapes?  The bodies and legs are also made in the round.

There is a newer way of starting a loop, called a magic ring or magic circle, which gives you more control over pulling the hole closed at the end of the round. You wrap the yarn a couple of times around your finger, anchor the loop with a chain stitch, and then work into that.  But most patterns still have you start with chains joined with a slip stitch. (Sometimes it will just say to chain twice and then to work several stitches into the second chain, acting as if the chain stitch is a loop itself.)

And have I mentioned increasing in crochet?  It's very easy: just work more than one stitch into the stitch in question.  You know--usually you work along, one stitch into each of those chain-looking things in the previous row?  You usually want to increase evenly throughout a row or a round, unless you're trying for a funny effect like a camel's hump.  So, often a pattern will say something like 2 sc (single crochet) in the next stitch, sc 2 (make two single crochets in the two next stitches), 2 sc in next stitch, sc 2, continue across the row.

(More fun with prepositions:  sometimes a pattern might say "in the next space", which some people find confusing at first.  Just remember that you can crochet into or around almost anything, as long as there's room to get the hook through.  You can crochet into a loop, into a stitch, into a space (if you've made chain loops in the previous row), over an elastic (like the scrunchies) or a plastic ring, or into holes punctured into the edge of a handkerchief or napkin.  When you crochet into a space, you don't work into the chain or chains that make the space--just work over the strands.)

Today's other project:  Since it's almost St. Patrick's Day, the girls are going to follow a video tutorial by Teresa Richardson to make a shamrock, using green worsted-weight yarn. (Look on YouTube.)

So far we have used only single crochet, but there are “taller” stitches that you can make by adding “yarn overs.” This pattern includes a very tall stitch called a treble (meaning the same as “triple”), which you make by bringing the yarn twice over the hook, pulling up a loop (which gives you four loops on the hook), and then pulling two stitches at a time off the hook: so yarn over and pull two off, you have three; yarn over and pull two off, you have two; yarn over and pull two off, you have one. (Remember that treble stitch doesn’t mean bringing the yarn over three times: the triple part comes in when you pull the loops off three times.) You will not be using treble stitch very often (double crochet, which brings the yarn over only once, is much more common), but it gives a good effect in this little shamrock. Plus the pattern itself is so easy that all you have to really worry about is making the new stitch.

If you follow the pattern, you will have one small motif that you can pin on something; but you can also finish the shamrock, keep chaining about 30 stitches (or as long as you want) and you'll have a bookmark. You can even finish the chain, slip stitch into the fourth chain from the hook so that you have a loop, and make a second shamrock into that loop, so you have a double-ended bookmark.

Have fun, and I'll post one more class in two weeks.

All photographs copyright 2007-2012, Dewey's Treehouse.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

What's the cheapest dinner you can think of?

Linked from Four Moms of Many, March 8 2012

That is, that anyone will eat?

The four Moms of Many, including the Deputy Headmistress, have a linky today looking for extremely cheap dinners: that is, 50 cents U.S. per person. For our family of five, that would be $2.50; everything costs a bit more in Canada, so let's make it $3.

Mr. Fixit suggested pancakes and bacon, or pancakes and sausage. We have gotten marked-down bacon and sausage for $2 a pound, which would be enough for our family and would leave a dollar over for the pancake ingredients. Here's a favourite recipe from More Food That Really Schmecks. As written, the five of us go away feeling a bit hungry; doubling it makes lots of leftovers; a one-and-a-half recipe seems about right.

Note: We never have buttermilk here. You could use thinned yogurt as a substitute. I would probably use either fresh or powdered milk, with one tablespoon of vinegar added per cup. Mix that first and let it sit to clabber while you get the other ingredients together.

Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups flour (a mix of white and whole wheat if you have it)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 egg, well beaten (or egg substitute)
2 cupfuls buttermilk or sour milk
1 1/2 tbsp. melted shortening, oil, or butter, plus extra for frying
Toppings: homemade sugar syrup, butter, fruit, jam, whatever you have

Into the sifted dry ingredients add the egg beaten into the milk, then the fat or oil. Melt and heat some fat or oil in a frying pan and ladle the batter into it in thin 4- or 6-inch rounds*. Let fry until golden, flip, and brown on the other side.

*We have a skillet with rounded sides that is not ideal for making round pancakes. Rather than hold everybody up while we try to get the perfect shapes, we've discovered that long ovals work better and taste just as good.

School plans for today (Crayons' Grade Five)

New Testament Reading: Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21, part 3, J.B. Phillips translation:
33-40 “Now listen to another story. There was once a man, a land-owner, who planted a vineyard, fenced it round, dug out a hole for the wine-press and built a watch-tower. Then he let it out to farm-workers and went abroad. When the vintage-time approached he sent his servants to the farm-workers to receive his share of the proceeds. But they took the servants. beat up one, killed another, and drove off a third with stones. Then he sent some more servants, a larger party than the first, but they treated them in just the same way. Finally he sent his own son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ Yet when the farm-workers saw the son they said to each other, ‘This fellow is the future owner. Come on, let’s kill him and we shall get everything that he would have had!’ So they took him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard returns, what will he do to those farm-workers?”

41 “He will kill those scoundrels without mercy,” they replied, “and will let the vineyard out to other tenants, who will give him the produce at the right season.”

42 “And have you never read these words of scripture,” said Jesus to them: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?’

43-44 “Here, I tell you, lies the reason why the kingdom of God is going to be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its proper fruit.”

45-46 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables they realised that he was speaking about them. They longed to get their hands on him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who regarded him as a prophet.
Copywork: “…the loveliness of the town rising tier above tier in a glow of cream colour against the blue-grey western sky.”—Lilias Trotter

A Passion for the Impossible (Biography of Lilias Trotter): pages 103-107 (introduction to Algeria)

French: Unit 3 lesson 23b (continue) and 24a. Continue working on the story about Burundi. Conversation about things you do at home (phrases for "wash dishes," "do laundry," etc.).

Canadian history: p. 351-354 "Currency in the Colonies."  Why did Canada (pre-Confederation Canada, meaning Ontario and Quebec) adopt the decimal currency of dollars and cents (in 1858)?  How did currency help bring about Confederation and unite the provinces?

Math: online fact practice.  Crayons' favourite division-fact game site.

Handicrafts:  sewing doll clothes

Spelling/writing:  Study for dictation from one of the books we have been reading

Monday, March 05, 2012

School plans for Tuesday, now with photos

The Bible: Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21, part 2

Math Mammoth: working with metric and decimals, page 170-171

Madam and Lady Why Ch 11 "The World's End" from "Come, I say, and sit down on this bench" to "make one think that so it must have been." (pg 236-242)

Copywork: “...taking so little care and regard to their business, that now when they thought the castle was sure their own, they almost lost their city."--Plutarch

Canadian history: pp. 342-343 British Columbia joins Canada and pp. 344-347 Prince Edward Island joins Canada

And maybe a walk somewhere if the weather stays nice.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

School plans for this week (Crayons' Grade 5)

These are the plans--as always, they may get shifted around and added to. I haven't included the science activities that Crayons is doing with Mr. Fixit, or things like crafts.


The Bible, J.B. Phillips translation for schools: Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21
Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Grammar lesson: Learning Grammar Through Writing, pages 30-32: agreement of subject and verb; using parallel constructions
Composer study: Johannes Brahms
French: Unit 3 lesson 23a. Conversation about telling time. Read another of the short poems included in last week's lesson. Pay special attention to new words.
Plutarch’s Life of Dion, Lesson 10: narrate orally
Copywork: "For they having nobody to command nor rule them, employed all their joy in rioting and banqueting...”--Plutarch, "Life of Dion"
Math: Arithmecode (free in the newspaper)
Readaloud: Alvin’s Secret Code: “Money from a Broken Code”
Readaloud: Alvin’s Secret Code: “A Lesson in Cryptography”  (we got ahead of ourselves)
Cryptogram puzzle


The Bible: Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21, part 2

Math Mammoth: working with metric and decimals, page 170-171

Madam and Lady Why Ch 11 "The World's End" from "Come, I say, and sit down on this bench" to "make one think that so it must have been." (pg 236-242)

Copywork: “...taking so little care and regard to their business, that now when they thought the castle was sure their own, they almost lost their city."--Plutarch

Canadian history: pp. 342-343 British Columbia joins Canada and pp. 344-347 Prince Edward Island joins Canada


Makers of the English Bible, chapter 7, pages 78-83
Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Copywork: “A moment more, and, all unseen, it knows not whence, strong warm wings are beneath.”—Lilias Trotter
French: Unit 3 lesson 23b Read the story about life in Burundi on page 44 (listen to the CD). Begin working on new words from the story.
Math: continue from Tuesday
Biography of Lilias Trotter: pages 96-99
Caddie Woodlawn, chapter 15, “Fol de Rol-lol.”
Afternoon volunteering


The Bible: Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21, part 3
Copywork: “…the loveliness of the town rising tier above tier in a glow of cream colour against the blue-grey western sky.”—Lilias Trotter
Biography of Lilias Trotter: pages 103-107 (introduction to Algeria)
French: Unit 3 lesson 23b (continue) and 24a. Continue working on the story about Burundi. Conversation about things you do at home.
Canadian history: p. 351-354 "Currency in the Colonies." Written narration.
Math: online fact practice
Study for dictation

Evening: student performance of The Scarlet Pimpernel


Makers of the English Bible, chapter 7, pages 83-88
More details: Codex Sinaiticus
More details: Stuffed crocodiles
Math: online fact practice
Caddie Woodlawn, chapter 16: “Warren Performs”
Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Studied dictation
French: Unit 3 lesson 24b Review some of the verbs we have learned. If there's time, look at page 46, a list of careers--otherwise, save it until next week.
Plutarch: Dion #11: discussion questions, narrate orally
Composer study and drawing