the coolest hat ever and sort of tutorial

Last September I went to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (OFFF) in Canby.  I try to go every year because it is so inspiring.  All the fiber, the colors, the textures, the animals, I love it.  It is a great way to get inspired for the knitting season.

This year, I bought some fleece for Lucas and another one for Siena.  Lucas started to spin the one I got him a couple of months ago.  I thought he could spin it, and I’d make him a hat.  DSC_0136 copy

He liked the colors, and he was excited at the idea.  Once he started spinning, he realized it was going to take longer than he thought, but he kept at it.  Sometimes he’d get frustrated it wasn’t spinning as smoothly, but we’d work it out, and I’d help him get started back up again.  He did great.

I thought if he can spin it, I’d knit it together with another strand of my handspun that I have, that way he wouldn’t have to spin all of it, before I can get it started.  I found some brown yarn I hadn’t plied yet.  It was very thin (it was from when I was doing lots of practicing!) and I am not using it for anything, so it was perfect to use for this project.

I think it gave it a little more strength in the parts it needed a little more help.  It give it a little darker tone too, which Lucas liked, because he wants to wear his hat when he goes to Trackers, when they go learn survival and stealth skills up in Mt. Hood.

Lucas spun as much as we thought we needed.  He used the ball winder I have and wound his yarn with my old brown handspun.  It would make my knitting in the drive up and at the side of the pool, much easier if they were already together.

IMG_0849 copy

It turned out a perfect combination of colors.  Lucas was happy, which is the most important part.

DSC_0181 copy

He wanted a regular hat.  I came up with this.


And it was exactly what he wanted.


I casted on some stitches and started knitting in the round.  After few rounds, I realized it was too big.  I started over with less stitches.  For this combination of handspun yarns, I casted on 88 stitches and knitted in the round with double pointed needles, size 8 (US).  Did a rib of 2 knits and 2 purls for about 1.5 inches.


Then I changed to knitting all the way around.  He’d try it on, to see how much further to knit.  I had to undo it a couple of times, but ended up being about 6 inches of knitting around.  Then decreasing to finish it off.  After some math we came up with this:

Knit 11 stitches, knit 2 together, all the way around.  It repeats 6 times.  That makes up for all 88 stitches I started with.  On the next round, I knitted 10 stitches, and knitted 2 together, all the way around.  Next round, knitted 9 and knitted 2 together.  I decreased that way until I had about 8 stitches left (or something like that, I don’t remember now, it was during Siena’s swim meet.) At the end, I cut off the yarn leaving about 5 inches.  I then threaded the yarns through a yarn needle and passed it through the stitches on the knitting needles, closing it and weaving the yarns through.

DSC_0190 copy

We think it turned out pretty cute, and for what I’ve been told (by this cute kid) it is the coolest hat ever!

Just watching the waves and then getting wet : A tutorial


You can stand by the ocean shore, and watch out towards the wave.  Always keep an eye on the ocean though. Never give it your back.  Besides, it’s so beautiful, you want to take it all in.


You can take your shoes off, and get closer I guess.

DSC_0622-smallInvite your brother to get closer to the waves too.  Take your shoes off just in case.


You can watch the ocean from further away as the waves come in, but you can also try to touch the water with your hands.

DSC_0624-smallInvite your brother to get closer too.  By now, he has his shoes off anyways!


See? It’s much more fun when you can touch the water together with your brother on your side!


And when the waves come in just a little closer, you should run back to the beach. You’ll splash yourself a little, but that’s OK.


You should put your hands down in the water again, now that the waves came in and it’s a little deeper.  It would work better if you took your coat off because the water is deeper now, so if you put your hands in the water, it will definitely cover your coat. But that’s OK if you don’t.  It will be dry for the next day.


Then you should go a little deeper, since the waves have gone back.  And you can be ready for another wave to come.  You are wet up to your elbows anyways.  It is fun.


But always be watching the waves.  You never know when you’ll get wet just a little more. And you know, the water of the ocean in Oregon, is cold, especially in the month of October.  But you don’t have to worry about that.  It’s just water, right?


Your parents should always watch you, to make sure… you don’t get wet? Well… more wet than you have to.

DSC_0633-small DSC_0637-small

And you know, even if your parents are watching you, the waves will come and your shorts will get wet, because the sand moves and your feet and hands will sink in it… and if you start splashing, you’ll get wet and you will start feeling the temperature of the water and the air.  It is autumn after all!


But you know, your clothes will dry by next day, and you will be indoors soon.  So you should go back and really sink in your feet and hands down in the sand.


Repeat.  As many times as you want to.

DSC_0641-small DSC_0643-small DSC_0645-small

You are all wet anyways.  And who knows when you’ll be back at the beach again.  A warm shower and then your pajamas, sit by the fire, and you’ll warm up quickly and have had fun getting wet in October in the Oregon Coast.  That’s a treat!

Cleaning the honey combs : A tutorial of sorts


Few weeks ago, Mark got into our top bar hive in the back yard.  He took as much honey as he thought was enough and we’ve been enjoying that.  It’s not a whole lot, but we feel funny taking their honey, and especially in the fall, when they are getting ready to be ready for the winter months.  I wonder if we should do this in the spring instead.

Anyways.  I ended up with a handful of mashed honey combs and some combs that didn’t have any honey, but I wasn’t sure how to clean them.  I had some from last year too, that we’ve been keeping in the fridge.


I looked online and found out that I could get the combs hot in water, so the wax melts, and clean the wax from the honey and other impurities by passing it through a sieve.  So that’s exactly what I did.

First I was going to use one of our pots, but in one of the videos I watched they suggested using one specifically for this.  So I went to the thrift store and bought a pot and a big colander.

DSC_0072-smallAnd now that I’ve done it once, I’m glad I bought a pot for this, and with two handles.  It gets heavy and hot with the boiling water and wax, and it felt better to have both hands holding it while dumping it through the colander to the bucket, to cool.

So this is how I did it.

1- Get your supplies clean and ready to go, handy.  Big pot.  A metal colander.  A bucket.  Cheesecloth.

2- I got the honey combs that remained from getting the honey.  And some empty combs that didn’t have honey to begin with.  They were growing crooked in the hive, so Mark got them out and I’m thinking we can use them as well.


3- Put water in the pot and the combs you’d like to clean.  Place them in the water.  Carefully heat up the pot, keeping an eye on it.  Since it beeswax after all!


4- Heat up the pot (water + crushed combs) until beeswax melts.


The pot will have a brown-ish liquid that has the water and wax mixed.

5- Put the (metal) colander over the clean bucket, and pour the water + wax mix carefully in.  If it splashes you will learn that it the water with wax will quickly dry and you will have to spend more time cleaning it off.


6- This is what the colander will look like with what remains from the combs.  Things I probably don’t want in the candles or lip balm we will make with our very local beeswax!


7- Repeat steps 3 through 6 a couple more times, until you get as much unwanted debris from the wax as you want.  After cleaning it three times this way, I passed it through a cheesecloth twice.


And this is what I had after few hours of work.  not really hard work, but mostly wait.  On the left, a bowl with the “debris” from what’s left behind on the colander.  And the right, a few sheets of beeswax.


As you can see here, the wax has lots of impurities still.  So I melted it all the sheets of beeswax together, one more time, and put it through a piece of cheesecloth on top of the colander.


And I think it ended up looking a little better.


I’m not sure what makes our beeswax very yellow, but everyone here says it smells good.  And still has some grits.  But I think we’ll use it as is and see how it works.  I’m excited to have our own wax.  And the delicious honey, of course.

Vancouver, BC : Lighthouse Park


On one of the days we were in Vancouver, when it was sunny, we decided to go for a little hike to the Lighthouse Park, right across the beautiful Lion’s Gate Bridge, in the north shore of Vancouver.

DSC_0825-small DSC_0828-small DSC_0829-small

It was a fun and beautiful hike.

DSC_0831-small DSC_0832-small DSC_0833-small

Oh the view…

DSC_0834-small DSC_0835-small DSC_0837-small DSC_0841-small DSC_0843-small

And we sat there for a while, talking, laughing, noticing, breathing.

DSC_0860-small DSC_0856-small DSC_0853-small


And boats…. so large coming through… a reminder it’s the ocean.  And back there? Do you see that volcano? I think that’s Mt. Rainier.  All the way from here…

DSC_0845-smallThis is the view towards Vancouver.  You can see the Lion’s Gate Bridge we crossed coming this way.

DSC_0846-small DSC_0847-small DSC_0849-small DSC_0850-small DSC_0873-smallAs we are leaving, we heard and then saw this pileated woodpecker. So beautiful! Look.



:: Native Americans Unit: Tlingit + NW Coast :: Part 2

Now, part 2 of our Native American block, with more projects and the book list of (most of) all the books we’ve read and have had as resources.

Studying the Tlingit Tribe and other NW Pacific Coast Tribes, we created few other projects and read more books.  For now, we don’t want to forget all we’ve done, because it’s been a fun couple (3?) months.

We made plank houses.

DSC_7-smallThey each colored and cut and glued the pieces.  It came from this book.

DSC_6-smallAfter making these, we decided we wanted to make another one, but a little bigger one.

plank house 1-smallSo we made these.  The base is a cardboard box (of plastic bags) we had, and then we covered it with popsickle sticks.  We glued the sticks and cut them to fit the boxes.  We got the idea from this website.  Not sure if the Kleenex box fit the popsickle sticks better, but we didn’t have these boxes and decided to make them with these empty ones instead.  I think they turned out fun too.

plank house 2-small

We also made paper Chilkat Blankets, but didn’t take pictures of the making of these.  And now the blankets are up in the kids room, and they are asleep. Will post these pictures later when I have them… sorry!

As we study each geographic area with its Native American Tribes, we’ve been making a small book with all of their written work, coloring and anything else Siena and Lucas would like to add.


We are keeping track the foods, clothing, shelter and tools for all of the tribes, in a chart, so we can go back and remember the basic information and bring back the details, later.  Siena and Lucas are always so excited to get the book put together.  It feels, and it is, a visual way for us to close that chapter and start a new region with new information and activities for new tribes.   It’s been fun.


If the librarians could talk… that would be fun to hear! I know they know exactly what we are doing and learning about.  We get started on a new topic, and here I go researching the library’s website, and putting on hold all the books they have that we could use.  Then we start getting noticed of our books being on hold for us, and there are piles, after piles, for few days.  Their shelves are tight and full of books under our names (thank goodness for the homeschooler’s educator cards!)

Then we change topics, and here we are, walking back to the library with bags full of books, ready to return them, and come back with a new stack of books for us to continue. It’s fun to do this research and being able to use this great, free resource.

Some of the books that we are using for all of the tribes are:

  1. North American Indians: DK Eyewitness.
  2. Make it Work! History Series: Native American Indians. 
  3. American Indian Mythology.
  4. Keepers of the Earth.
  5. Native Plant Stories told by Joseph Bruchac.
  6. Native Americans.
  7. Native American Flags.
  8. Wigwams, Longhouses and Other Native American Dwellings.
  9. The Encyclopedia of Native America.
  10. History Pockets : Native Americans.  I wrote a little about it in my other post, Part 1.
  11. Cut & Make North American Indian Masks in Full Color.
  12. More than Moccasins: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life.
  13. A Kid’s Guide to Native American History : More than 50 Activities.
  14. Draw Write Now, Book 3: Native Americans, North America, Pilgrims.

Books we’ve used for these tribes in particular (in no specific order either , except going down the pile next to my chair and through my notes):

  1. If you lived with the Indians of the Northwest Coast.
  2. Northwest Coast Indian Designs Stained Glass Coloring Book.
  3. Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest.
  4. Northwest Coast Indians.
  5. Nations of the Northwest Coast.
  6. Frog Girl by Owen Paul Lewis.
  7. Totem Tale: A Tall Story from Alaska.
  8. Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast.
  9. Northwest Coast Indian Art.
  10. Orca’s Family: And more Northwest Coast Stories.
  11. Raven’s Call: And More Northwest Coast Stories.
  12. Salmon’s Journey: And More Northwest Coast Stories.
  13. Eagle’s Reflection: And More Northwest Coast Stories.
  14. People of Salmon and CedarThis book, we loved the drawings done with pencils…. a beautiful book.
  15. Tools of the Native Americans: A Kid’s Guide to the History and Culture of the First Americans.
  16. Ready to Use Activities and Materials on Coastal Indians: A Complete Sourcebook for Teachers K-8.
  17. Tlingit Tales.
  18. The Frog Princess.

I hope you can find something that you can se use in these notes and pictures. It has been a lot of fun for us to study them, and learn a little more of where we live.  We’ve already studied and finished a couple more Native American regions, and will write those notes here as well, so we can go back and remember what we’ve done.  It’s been fun so far!

Native Americans Unit: Tlingit + NW Coast :: Part 1

I wrote about our homeschooling days a bit back.  Now I’ll write a little more specific about what our Native American block has been looking like.  it’s been really fun, and thinking we would take a month or two, it has turned into a three-month block that we are all enjoying.  I will write this in two parts, because it’s been a lot of fun and we have lots of activities and photos to share.

I am basing, very loosely our studies in this book.  Mostly to see what tribes they focus on, from so many to study, and it’s our springboard to going deeper into whatever else we’d like to study.

That book besides the Tlingit doesn’t study any other tribe from the Northwest Coast, and living in Oregon, we wanted to study them a little more in depth.  So we did.  We spent another month studying the coastal tribes, as a group, trying to learn specifics of some of them, reading stories, myths and legends, learning about their art, and crafts and history.  So much to learn and read about.  We had a lot of fun.

We all liked the art, and the drawings that are so particular of these tribes.  So we did one project I found online on paper piecing a whale design.


I drew a whale on white paper.

DSC_0005-smallI added a few sheets of construction paper, and cut them all together, so they all stayed in the whale shape.


Then, Siena and Lucas each had a set of the whale of different colors.  They cut the whole set into pieces like a puzzle.  Making sure they keep track of ALL the pieces, and where they cut them from.  Once you cut them, the whale doesn’t look like such anymore and it’s very hard to make it make sense.  We learned that!

Then, they made a whale, with different pieces of different colors.  They were able to make quite a few whales, because there were 5 sheets of different colors.  They look really good we thought!  A fun project.

I’ve had a book of North American Indian Masks for many years.  Before I had kids.  And I never made the masks, until now.  The perfect time came.  It is a great book, because the masks are beautifully printed, full color on nice tick cardstock.  They are a little complicated, with the cutting of fine corners and thin pieces, but Lucas and Siena both did a great job.  With the folding makes them a little tricky sometimes, but makes a lot of difference looking much more real than flat (two-dimensional) ones.


We also wanted to make totem poles since they are a very important part of the tribes in this area.  Beautiful, and really amazing work.  We read lots of books about them.  Fiction and non-fiction.  And we talked about how fun it would be to have a totem pole in our backyard, or maybe carve one in wood in a smaller scale.


But we realized that there was so much to learn, so many other projects and fun activities, and we thought we needed to practice on simpler projects before tackling something like that.  So we decided to make a paper totem pole instead.



I found these drawings online, of Native American’s designs, and it was so much fun to color them and cut them, and then make our own totem pole.

Making : upcycled placemats

A couple of years ago, I found this very worn and well loved quilt at a thrift store.  It was so pretty, I couldn’t leave it.  I carried it all around in the store, and wondered what I was going to do with it, and if I should buy it.  It was too ripped to try to fix it for a new quilt.  But I loved the pattern, the fabrics, the hand sewing…. someone spent a lot of time making it.


So I bought it.  I think my reasoning of doing things like that goes something like this: Someone spent so much time and love creating this, I can’t leave it like this.  I bet they’ll take it to the dump if it doesn’t sell, and how would I feel if one of my quilts ends up like this, in some thrift store, fifty years from now.  I would hope someone would get it and do something with it, and really hope it shows signs of love.  That’s what is all about.


So I brought it home with me.  I really had to.  You know? It’s been in my fabric shelf for many, many months.  A couple of dozens of months I’d say.  Yeah, I know.  That long.


I loved the fabric they/she used.  The colors, the designs, the quilt itself.  So much love went into making it.

DSC_0013-small DSC_0016-small

But there were lots of pieces that I couldn’t really fix.  Actually most of the quilt was very torn, ripped, with the fabric barely holding on.


So I thought and thought about it.  It took me few nights staring at it, and well, few years really, to actually get the courage to cut it up.  You know, for the same reasons I bought the quilt, someone did spend lots and lots of hours creating it.


I couldn’t just cut it.  But I did.


DSC_0010-small DSC_0028-small

I wanted to make placemats for our new table.



I was able to save six of these quilt blocks. I cut them up with the rotary cutter.  Most of them were 15 in x 14 or 13 in.  I added a strip of about 4 inches on each side, to make it rectangular to fit the place.  I used different calico fabrics I had, that matched a little bit the block I was using.  But each one has different fabrics.  They ended up being about 15 in x 20 in.


Then I added a layer of batting.  I also had enough batting for 5 of them.  And I used a fleece baby blanket we used many years ago with Siena I think, as a batting for one of the placemats.


Then I cut a fabric that I had purchased at a thrift store a while back, for the back piece.  That I had enough to make all six.  I stitched on the seam of the block and the strip of fabric I added so the “sandwich” didn’t move so much with the washing.


And finally, I added a binding.  I’ve made these from many different fabrics, mostly left over from quilts I’ve made.  One binding I had enough for four of them, and the other two have different fabric.  I think it add beauty and more color to the mix.


Except for the batting and the thread, the rest are all upcycled materials.  I love when I can do that.  Quilting started for this same reason.  Making a blanket with the cloth from clothes that were torn or worn out.  Make something new from something old.  I just wish I’d knew a little more about the history of the original quilt, like who made it and for who it was made for, and when and where it was created.

They were pretty quick to make.  I think I’m going to have to make some more placemats to use when these are washing!  I’m really enjoying seeing these placemats in our table these days.  They are so bright and cheerful.  And it makes me feel good that I’m helping the environment a little bit, and I’m making last this love, this lovely creation just a little longer, with new stories to be told.

Tutorial : Making autumn

I found this project in my old style paper files, and thought it would be perfect to do this week. (I just found it online here.)

We’ve been taking walks in our mornings, and this day we collected a branch for each one of us, that we each picked what we wanted, and that it was flexible enough to bend into a circle.

You don’t need much.  The small branch (you might need clippers to get all pieces you don’t want, or you can leave some of them alone to add to the piece.) + scissors + yarn + fabric or felt or yarns to weave.

1- You first bend the branch to make it into a loop.  The directions showed to tape the ends together, but we tied it with our yarn.

2- We then tied yarn from the top, and let them hang, with a couple of inches extra, so you can then tie them all up in the bottom, and let them hang a little, like roots.  The directions showed to tie 7 pieces of yarn, so we did some with 7, and this one had 11 strings.  If you have younger kiddos working on this project, you might want to help them get these strings tight, so it’s easier to weave the pieces of fabric.

3- I then gathered all of our wool felt pieces, left over from other projects, and decided to use them to weave.

4- And then you start weaving the pieces you want to use, to about half or a little more of the length of the yarns, down to the bottom of the circle.

I found it easier to have more than the seven strings of yarn, so the strings were closer together and the shorter pieces were easier to stay put, and to weave more.

I love these photos… how Siena is working with her hands.

She amazes me at the things she gets done.  I don’t think I did half the things she’s created in her 10 years.

5- When you are done weaving (to whatever size you’d like your tree to be), you wrap the strings of yarn that are left without weaving, with yarn, to turn them into trunks.  You can do it with the same color yarn, or different. You wrap them around, making branches and a trunk.

You can tie/wrap them all together to make just one trunk. Or, you can split the strings into two to make two trunks.  Or as you can see in one of ours, we tied it together and then split them half way finished.  Whatever you’d like to make.

They turned out so cute, I think.

I loved everything about this project.  The time of year, that we were searching for the right stick to bring home of the project.  The materials we used were all on hand at home,  using left over pieces from recycled felted sweaters I had and yarns.  That Lucas and Siena (and I) all enjoyed making it. That they look so cute, and bring the perfect picture of nature back inside.

Share here if you’d like what fall projects you’ve made lately. Or if you have a link to other autumn craftyness we can check out, we would love to see them too.  Hope you can do a fun project today too.  Have a good one!

Making : apple sauce : Tutorial of sorts

As you can see, we’ve been making.  All sorts of food, trying to preserve and keep as much as what we can have for winter.

Our garden is doing great with tomatoes and basil and few other things, but mostly we’ve been over run by apples.

There are always more apples calling my name, to make something else.  We’ve done the whole-day apple press thing, we’ve made apple cobbler, apple juice, apple sauce, apple pie, apples for snack, dessert, and breakfast, and more apple sauce, and more apple sauce.

I usually peel the apples (after washing them of course), core them and cut them into chunks, removing all bruises and funky-looking pieces.  Then I cook these apple chunks with some water (about half of the pot) until they are soft.  Then I add sugar (1/2 cup or so, to taste), cinnamon and cook it until I like the consistency.

But there is just so much peeling I can do.  My hands get sore and chapped.  So after this year, with an incredible amount of apples from our two trees, I decided to try a new way.

I washed them and then cut them in big chunks (as for the apple juice in the press.)  I didn’t peel them, or cored them.  I just took the bad spots out, and placed them in a big pot.

I put enough water that I could see it through the apple pieces. About half the pot I guess.   I cooked it until the apples were soft.  As they cook, the amount goes down a little, so I kept adding more apple pieces.

I then pass it through a food mill, and it makes this very smooth apple sauce.

Then I put this smooth apple sauce back into a clean pot (I think it’s less risky to start with a clean pot, so not to burn the pot… but it’s not scientifically proven by me… I’m just guessing.)

Back to the stove.  I add a little bit of sugar (about 1/2 cup or so, depending on the apples you are using), cinnamon (some sprinkled on top) and sometimes I also put nutmeg.  I guess you can put any spices you like.

I cook it for few minutes (about 5-10 minutes) on low-medium heat, until I like the consistency.  I let it cook for a little longer if I had added too much water at the beginning.  But I don’t really cook it for too long.


We have made over 200 quarts of apple sauce so far. Many have been delivered to friends, and many more packing our shelves for us (an friends) to enjoy this winter season.