What’s been taking my time for the last couple months?
We have just launched the new Red Hat Co.Lab Robot Kit, which I had the good fortune to create with SparkFun, an open source hardware company. The kit, which will be used in Co.Lab workshops Red Hat runs for middle school girls who don’t have access to high-quality STEM education, uses the BBC micro:bit as the brains and is completely open source.
I’ve written the first (of several) activities for the ‘bot and recorded the “helper” video to go along with the activity, and as of today, the robot is *live*!
I’m not nearly done — this is only the first activity! — but I am delighted that my little ‘bot project has been born.
The tip of the Thank You Iceberg: * Mel Chernoff, for giving me this job! * Derek Runberg, who never complained even when I sent him the fifth “just one more quick question” email * Paula Weigel, who allowed me the opportunity to collaborate on this project; * Adrian Likins, who helped me get the A/V setup in place (and answered a million questions); and * C V Britton, who *very* patiently helped me figure out how to explain DC motors in a way that didn’t involve “and then a miracle occurred.”
(PS how lucky am I to have such amazing people in my life?!)
Things I learned today, while sorting through my Granny’s thread stash:
I love knolling (although technically this wasn’t knolling, as I wasn’t arranging everything at 90 degree angles..but they were round things, so some leeway would apply, yes?)
I have a peculiar affinity for button thread — every time I find a spool I squee inside. I have no idea why.
I desperately want my thread spools to be tidy so it angers me beyond reason when manufacturers don’t put that little slit in for the loose end of the thread to go into. It’s such a tiny thing! Why wouldn’t they just do it always? (I forgive the wooden spools, but the plastic ones have no excuse!)
Very little orange thread, despite much of this coming from the 70s. Though I did hate the orange crayon, I don’t know why Granny had so little.
I have such a sense of knowing her through this ritual– so much of her love was expressed through sewing (and cooking)
Also, I have a veritable museum of thread types:
American Thread Co.
Geneva Glace Finish
Star Mercerized (Will Boil) – I am getting the sense that boiling thread was a big deal?
Belding Corticelli Pure Silk Buttonhole Twist
Brother Embroidery Thread (Made in Japan) — I think this one must have been mine
Centennial 100% Spun Polyester Sewing Thread Best Value in 200 Yrs
If you’ve come here in search of beautiful handcrafted art, you’re also in luck. It’s a rare day when I don’t feel compelled to make something — jewelry-making, knitting, sewing and photography are most common, though I’ve dipped my toes into a wide variety of other crafts, such as blown glass and manipulated Polaroids.
Last Saturday aklikins and I took a “Impressionistic Fingerpainting” class with Allen Montague at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh. Yes, it was fun! (I had to get over a little bit of “ew– messy!” and “is this OK/good enough/right?” and “I’m never going to get this out from under my fingernails”1) but once I got over those self-self mental roadblocks it was a blast.
And, joy-of-joys, I’m kind of happy with the result:
Yes, it’s sort of cheating, in a paint-by-numbers, Bob-Ross-Happy-Trees-sort-of-way, *BUT* for someone (namely me) who has never been pleased with anything that she’s done that started with flat white space and ended up as something to hang on a wall2, it’s AOK. Good, even.
1 Five days later, there’s still a good bit of relcalcitrant Carbon Black under my primary background-covering thumbnail. 2 Photography, somehow, doesn’t “count” in that it also feels like I cheated in that whatever I took a picture of *was there* …all I did was push a button. Way crazy and wrong in many ways, of course, from the “provable” (fiddling with settings and whatnot) to the more subjective (did I “see” something that someone else wouldn’t), but that doesn’t keep the inner “you don’t do art, you just make ‘crafts'” critic3 from going on and on. 3 For the record, *I* don’t think that “crafts” are any less “worthy” than “art” (dang, could this post have any more quotes???); however, this is the same inner critic who insists that “thinner is always prettier”…clearly she’s a little bent.
One night last year I was doing some midnight-madness crafting, and apparently wrote myself a “lesson learned” note about sewing. While searching for stashed Christmas presents recently, I found this note and so I’m including it here for my reference (and perhaps your amusement) — my updated comments/explanation are in itals.
To remember while sewing:
Think about which direction you’re sewing in before you put the pins in (elsewise, as you’re sewing merrily along the little pinses will sneak up and pokify your fingers1)
Figure out the size of the buckles you’re using *before* cutting the straps
Use more pins — always
Put all the the things (like straps) on before the final joining of lining to outside (yes, it’s the world of frustrating to turn your finished bag rightside out only to find you’ve neglected to add the straps in)
Like riding a motorcycle, sew *ahead* of where you are (don’t watch the tips of your fingers — watch 5-6″ ahead of the foot)
Stop with needle in down position (otherwise the fabric will sneak away when you turn your head)
Leave lots of thread when you cut the thread at the end of a stitch line (otherwise, the thread will creep out of the needle and you’ll have to rethread)
Making the iron hotter will *not* make things go faster
If something has an inside and an outside, iron both pieces before proceeding
STOP *before* the stupid starts (that one I’d do well to remember across the board)