Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Archive for January 2010

Friendship bracelets

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Fire friendship braceletFor the winter after school session, my coworker and I are teaching a jewelry making class for 3-5th graders. The first couple of classes we taught them how to make friendship bracelets, which actually required that we ourselves had to relearn how to make friendship bracelets. Though not all of the kids cared for the challenge of or had the patience for friendship bracelets, the craze swept the AmeriCorps office, and soon we were all sitting with a safety pin in our pants, concentratedly tying knots. We didn’t get as far as teaching the kids the more complicated woven ones, but I searched the internet to learn how, and quickly became addicted to the satisfaction of creating a little band just from tying knots around string. These woven ones are really fun, though it takes a little practice to figure out just how tight the knots should be tied. I made a practice one that wasn’t too perfect, and by the end of that, I pretty much had the hang of it. One thing that I would like to teach these girls is the art of accepting that the first project might not be perfect, and to just let themselves be not that good at something right away. Some of them are good at that, but others get pretty upset if they can’t do something well right away. I feel lucky to have learned that, and I think I have knitting to thank for it. Just this morning I had to rip out about three hours’ worth of knitting, and it didn’t upset me too much.

For when we finally do get to teach the girls the more complicated woven friendship bracelets, I brought the example of my first, horribly twisted screwed up one, my second, variable tensioned one, and then the actual good example. However, so far most of them seem to be just thrilled to spend the whole time with some stretchy string and a bucket of plastic beads, so we plan projects and then bring beads to keep the easily frustrated from getting bored. Here are some of the results of my obsession. More of the skinny round ones, like the blue one, have been given away.
friendship bracelets

I have some frustrated attempts at jewelry of my own. First is this black hemp bracelet which I tried to string beads on the tying strings instead of the center strings. Instead of doing one on each side, I alternated sides, and it made the knots end up going kind of zig zaggy, which I liked. At first I was tying four knots in between each bead, but as I went along, I kept losing count of how many knots I tied, and fudging more and more, so the space between knots got wider and wider. At that point I gave up and left the necklace unfinished. I liked it, though, so perhaps sometime I’ll try another and be more careful.

oops necklace

And then there is this twisty necklace with blue beads and a star. I started it in the evening in a dim room, so it wasn’t until the next morning that I noticed that one of the beads was a significantly different blue than the rest. Had I realized it, I could have placed it at the end as a toggle bead, but now it’s stuck in stark contrast to the rest on the necklace. It’s not too bad, so I’ll still finish this one, but it bugs me, ya know?
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If you want to learn to make friendship bracelets yourself, these are some of the websites I used:

Artists Helping Children – a list of links to friendship bracelet tutorials, so you can find one that suits your tastes and learning style.

This WikiHow article was helpful and has some pretty good illustrations, albeit a bit small.

This tutorial at was my favorite, both because of the large, clear images and the fact that the image can be easily printed for showing or instructing others.


Written by nikkinbird

January 31, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Jewelry Making

Squishy handspun wool cowl.

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IMG_1508 IMG_1505

I always finish things and then let them sit around for weeks before weaving in the ends or blocking. Well, here is something I finally blocked and wove the ends into, probably in the wrong order (I wove the ends in after I blocked it). I call this the “Squishy cowl,” because it is big and squishy in garter stitch. It is made out of handspun coopworth yarn, spun from roving I got at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, back that one time when I went. IMG_1489 I was going to weave with the yarn, but when winding it into a ball I realized that, though it is pretty thin in some places, it’s too thick-n’-thin to be used as warp yarn, and I didn’t have anything else to pair it with. So, I went for something nice and simple, a wide garter stitch cowl with 3×2 ribbing as edging. It’s pretty wide because I only had a 24″ circular needle, not a smaller one to make it more snug. Also, I liked the idea of making it big enough that it could be pulled up and used as a hood if needed.

I wish I could get better photographs of the deep brown color; it really doesn’t look so washed out in real life. One of these days I’m going to take a photography class. At least you can see the fuzzy texture, though. The yarn hovers between a dk and worsted weight, I think. And then the second skein I apparently spun a little bit bulky, but only used that on the ribbing towards the end. Anyway, in case anyone likes my simple cowl, I am going to write up a “pattern” here, though I don’t feel as if something so simple actually counts as a pattern. But here ya go:

Nikki’s Squishy CowlIMG_1490

about 200 yds worsted or heavy worsted yarn
size 6 24″ circular needles
stitch marker

CO 90 sts, place marker, and join sts to begin knitting in round.
Knit in K3, P2 pattern for 12 rows.
Knit in garter stitch for 9.5 inches. Keep in mind that since you are knitting in the round, you must knit one row, then purl one row, switching at the marker. This will create a small jog where the stitches switch, I just consider it the back of the piece.
Knit in K3, P2 pattern for 12 more rows.
Bind off using your preferred bind off!

Written by nikkinbird

January 24, 2010 at 12:59 am

A series of fails.

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A couple of months ago, our old coffee maker died and we got a new one that we had been eyeing for awhile. It has a double-walled stainless steel thermal carafe, so the coffee is kept warm without a burner. No more burnt coffee! But the carafe can also cool the coffee down, so the directions in the box recommended filling it with hot water and letting it sit for awhile in order to warm up the metal walls. Yesterday morning, I forgot to dump the hot water out of the carafe before putting it in the coffee maker and turning it on. I happily went into the other room to munch my cereal, and came back to a giant puddle of diluted coffee on the counter and on the floor. Note to self: do not try to brew coffee into a container that is already full of water.

More puddles ensued in my “Play With Clay” after school class. Despite what I thought of as my over-planning, the kids had me flustered and running all over the place. The problem was really my expectations. Did I really think that putting paper over the tables would keep them completely clean? Did I really think the kids would actually be listening to me when I told them to only dabble their fingers in the cups of water I gave them for smoothing out their clay? No, not really. Most of all, I really didn’t expect a kid to randomly decide to dump one hand-washing bucket of clay-clouded water into the other, causing it to overflow onto the table and floor. And then I didn’t expect the kids to keep splashing in the overflowing bucket. At that point I felt profoundly discouraged. It turned out okay, though, because they keep a bucket with two short mops for the tables in the cafeteria, where the class is held, and miraculously, the kids fought over who got to clean up with those mops. So I had a table full of kids coloring, and four kids cleaning the tables, floor and chairs. Whew.

Then today, in an attempt to free up some space on my computer, I exported a bunch of photos from my iPhoto library onto a backup hard drive and then deleted them from iPhoto. Almost immediately after I finished this, all of the albums that I had uploaded to Flickr using iPhoto’s Flickr synchronization featuer got little spinny icons next to them. It took me too long to figure out what was happening – iPhoto was synchronizing my iPhoto library with my Flickr account – emptying the Flickr albums of all photos as well. So, my comforting thought, “I have all my photos on Flickr, too, just in case,” was really irrelevant.

Okay, so now the damage doesn’t seem as bad as I thought. Only one post on here is seriously affected. I am disappointed that iPhoto has no way to configure their Flickr upload feature.

On the upside of everything, I’ve been a productive crafter, and I have some photos to post as soon as I sort out this whole Flickr thing.

Written by nikkinbird

January 22, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Creative writing, jewelry, and clay.

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Today I signed up for a creative writing class through Minneapolis Community Education. We get to take Community Ed classes for free in our AmeriCorps program, which is so nice! I’m hoping that signing up for this class will give me the boost I need to get myself writing regularly. NaNoWriMo in November was good, and I swore that after that I would keep up a regular writing habit, but other things always seem to push it out of the way. I do have to admit that I’m a little nervous for the class. I get nervous sharing my writing with people, or self-conscious, and it wasn’t until my last semester of college that I actually took a creative writing workshop class. Then, I discovered that it wasn’t really that bad. In fact, it was awesome! It motivated me to write and I got lots of great feedback, as well as getting to read other people’s stories, too.

I really like the after school aspect of our AmeriCorps service. At our site, it’s been mostly self-designed. So, each of us in our cluster have gotten to make up our own classes and teach them, with a few exceptions. This session I’m co-leading Jewelry Making for 3rd-5th graders, and so far it’s been great. I got a big bin of assorted plastic beads from Michael’s for today’s class, thinking they were pretty tacky, but maybe the kids would still like them. Well, the kids loved them. And some of them were pretty cute, like dolphin shaped, whales, dogs, flowers, and such. We’ve also been doing friendship bracelets with the kids who are interested. Mostly, the 5th graders have the patience for the friendship bracelets, and the 3rd graders just like to string beads.

The other class I have is “Play with Clay,” which I teach by myself (eek!), with a group of 15 kindergarten-2nd graders. Though I had doubts about my chances of success with the combination of the subject matter and the age range, I felt like I did pretty good the first day of class last week. I want to tell myself that it’s because I’m getting better at managing kids, but things could always go horribly tomorrow! Anyway, my solution has been to over plan. Tomorrow, we are making pinch-bowls out of air-drying clay, and then we will paint them next week. I have already worked out an elaborate system of drawing names for helpers to help lay down newspaper and other tasks. My other secret to a stress-free class is to start cleanup 25 minutes before they have to go to the bus, then have them color until it’s time to go. Every class, my supply of colored pencils gets smaller and uglier-colored. Hmm, how does that happen?

Though stressful at times, I really think after school classes are enriching for me as much as for the kids. Sometimes, as an adult, I forget how fun it can be just to craft for the fun of it, not worrying about perfection or the usefulness of the finished item. Sharing that with the kids and seeing their creativity is a great reward for all the effort.

Written by nikkinbird

January 21, 2010 at 3:54 am

Oh hello, blog!

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So apparently I’m bad at this regular updating thing. I hereby make it my goal to update at least twice a week from now on. Baby steps. Then we’ll see if we can up it to 3 or 4 days a week. I’ve certainly been doing enough crafting.

Today is Martin Luther King day, and you can make it a day of service! Check out for ideas. I’m going to a couple of AmeriCorps-sponsored events as part of my day of service.

Last weekend I made a whole bunch of new hemp jewelry. Check it out!


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You can see photos of more of the jewelry on my Flickr by clicking on any of these photos. Also, the jewelry is all available here at my etsy shop.

I used a big pillow that my brother and his friends had been using during their recent occupation/video game marathon sleepover of the living room to photograph these, and Tashi decided that, given the attention I was giving this pillow, he most definitely must lay on it. He was a rather majestic helper.


Well, that is all for now. Happy MLK Day!

Written by nikkinbird

January 18, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Aurora Borealis

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I’m calling my latest scarf Aurora Borealis because, driving up to Duluth last night, I saw the same colors from the scarf undulating on a sign at the top of the hotel for Black Bear Casino. I realized that the effect the sign was going IMG_1296for was to mimic the Northern Lights. I’ve only seen the Northern Lights once in my life. I was at a classmate’s house in Superior, Wisconsin, working on a project for our Women’s Studies class. We finished up, and I was the first one to step out the door on the way to my car. Looking up, I gasped. Ribbons of green light were dancing in the air, the colors fading and intensifying in turn, the display growing and shrinking. A few shots of reddish-purple light showed up here and there, but mostly it was green. I called my classmates out of the house and we all stood watching it for awhile. Finally, I got in my car, and as I drove back over the bridge to Duluth, the lights stayed ahead of me in the sky.

The colors and richness of this scarf remind me of the beauty of the Northern Lights. My pictures just don’t do it the justice it deserves, especially with the greens. Believe me, I tried photographing it in different places all over the living room, and I was using natural light, but my camera just couldn’t capture how deep and gorgeous these colors are. Part of it may be the color of the light reflecting off the snow outside, but most of it is probably my photography skills and the limitations of the camera (though it is a very good camera). I love the slow color changes of the yarn, too. In the warp it resulted in thin stripes of each color, but in the weft it made for nice gradual color changes. Except for where I had to start a new skein, which resulted in a couple spots where there are abrupt color stripes, but it didn’t bother me enough to try to avoid it. Maybe if I do it again.

Here are the specs on the scarf:IMG_1291
Yarn: 3 skeins Crystal Palace Mochi Plus in colorway 560 – Jungle, and Knit Picks Telemark yarn in Pesto for the edges of the warp.
Warp: 100 warp ends, 10 on each edge of the Telemark, and 80 of the Mochi Plus for the body of the scarf.
Weft: All Mochi Plus.
Size: 9″ wide and 47″ long without the fringe, 54″ long with the fringe.
Notes: I used Betty Linn Davenport’s book Hands on Rigid Heddle Weaving to calculate how much yarn I would need for the project, wanting to make it 54″ long NOT including the fringe. It ended up much shorter than that at 47″, but a lot of it was probably because of a problem I had with one of the warp strings. The yarn is a 1-ply that is very soft and somewhat loosely spun, which I discovered is not ideal as a warp yarn. The heddle rubbed against the warp yarns as it moved back and forth and made little balls of fuzz on it as I went along. On one of the strands of yarn, this caused a problem as the yarn got progressively thinner and thinner as the heddle rubbed, until it finally broke near the end of the scarf. Luckily I was able to finish and tie it off, but I wish I could have gotten a few more inches out of the scarf. Still, I think it would have ended up shorter than I intended, meaning that I need to make a note to myself that I should add more than 18″ for take-up to the warp for future projects.

IMG_1287One of my goals with my weaving is to follow the advice of the book and plan out projects in advance and to keep records of how they turn out, so that I can learn more about how certain yarns will behave and such. It is not in my nature to plan ahead, or to be detail oriented. But with this project I calculated how much yarn I would need for the warp and followed their advice that the weft usually needs about the same amount. What I didn’t do, however, was weave a sample to see how the weft behaves and actually calculate how much I would need. However, I was worried about not having enough yarn, so weaving a sample would have eaten some of that up. In the future, though, I would like to be more systematic so I can eliminate some of the trial-and-error approach that I take with my knitting.

For all photos, click to go to my Flickr and see a bigger version.
This scarf is listed for sale in my etsy shop.

Written by nikkinbird

January 2, 2010 at 6:14 pm

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