Getting My Act Together

I officially love long weekends and I loved the one that we’ve just had (for ANZAC Day).  Somehow or other I found my organising mojo and went to town!  What really helped was that I acquired a piece of furniture to store my stitching and knitting supplies.  You’ll see from the “before” photo that I had an old table and collection of paper bags and boxes clustered around it with a project in each.  Not only did I have to search through 5-6 paper bags to find what I wanted to work on but it had also been suggested that it was a fire hazard.  I think the fire hazard notion was bit of an exaggeration!

The boys have recently packed away their Thomas trains now that several years of obsession have finally come to an end.  At the height of their train obsession we bought a storage unit from Ikea with blue and green pull out tubs.  Dh had originally put the whole thing under the house with the trains still in its tubs but I recognised its potential as a craft centre for myself and asked him to pack the trains into something else and bring it upstairs for me.  I went to a Tupperware party on Sunday morning and when I got home it was there in place for me.  I spent a very happy afternoon sorting out my stitching and knitting stuff.  Unfortunately I can’t say “all” of my stitching stuff because some still resides in a drawer in the bedroom but another drawer has been freed up entirely.  I’ve also got one knitting project that needs to be sewn up in a shopping bag and my knitting bag which I take with me when I am out and about.  But in the unit itself I have:

  • small tub for current knitting project, patterns and needles
  • large tub for yarn
  • small tub for thread – DMC and speciality threads
  • small tub for thread and trims
  • small tub for stitching equipment – no more digging to find scissors!
  • large tub for fabrics and Q-snaps
  • small tub for patterns and kits
  • small tub for felt projects (shared with Eric)

For years I have just stashed my craft stuff wherever I could in various places in the bedroom and living area and it was really hard to keep track of it all.  Now it is at my fingertips in an easily accessible place and I’m really looking forward to getting into some projects that have laid dormant for too long.

The organising didn’t stop there.  Getting all my craft stuff in order seemed to get me onto a roll but having that extra day on the weekend really helped.  We organised all the homework gear into a tub that can be taken anywhere and has the really important things ready to hand – like lead pencils.  I sharpened  heaps of these so everyone should be able to find on when they need it.  Then I planned the meals for the week, updated I-Calendar, my paper diary and the family calendar.   I also did a few hours of ironing – no where near finished but I’ve made dent in it.  It feels so good to have a handle on things.

Now if I can just process the paperwork on my desk…

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Learning Is Taking Risks

This isn’t shameless self -promotion but a big “pat on the back” for my first born.  One of the jobs I’ve applied for in the past few weeks is at an “independent school ” that is run on democratic principles.  This has caused me to put a lot of thought into different learning styles and what the optimum learning environment is for a range of different learners.  A huge factor in successful learning is having an environment that is so supportive and structured in a way that students feel confident enough to take risks, make mistakes and learn from their mistakes.  I’ve certainly been doing that with my own learning over the past few months and now Eric has been able to do the same.  He attended a holiday workshop at Threads and More this week in which he had the opportunity to design and create his own soft toy from felt.  Firstly he was the only boy there and it hasn’t occurred to him that sewing and knitting and the sorts of things one does at Threads and More are not necessarily male pursuits so he is entirely non self-conscious.  He was also very comfortable there because he’s accompanied me there a few times to work on his beginner cross stitch piece while I am knitting and the staff there have always given him a really good reception.  He knows that people there are interested in what he is doing and he knows that Adam (the 6 foot chef with dreads in the attached cafe) makes a seriously good strawberry milkshake.

However, I wasn’t prepared for how well he would go in this workshop.  He’s done a small amount of cross stitch and probably some sewing in his pre-school days but that would be it.  He cannot yet tie up his shoelaces tightly enough for them to stay done up.  So I thought he’d blunder through and produce something with intensive support from the lovely Anissa.  The other members of the class as far as I could see copied the examples that Anissa had out on the table or in one case made a friend for the doll she’d made at Christmas.  This is fine and no doubt they did learn a bit more by doing this but copying something was not for Eric.  He got busy with pen and paper and drew a “Turtwig” (a pokemon character whose name I do not know how to spell) and then proceeded to create a 3-D rendering of the creature.  It’s got four legs that stick out from the bottom, a body and embroidered shell.  There are plans for a head and some sort of antenna that sticks out from that.  Annissa asked if I could possible come and knit on Sunday afternoon so that he could come with me and do some more work on it.  I was so proud of him for thinking outside the square and creating something of his own rather than going for the easier option and just copying something that was in front of him even though it was a task he had never attempted before.  Once again the learning environment at Threads and More was just right for him to have confidence and take risks with his learning.

He is bubbling over with enthusiasm since this workshop and has had a big talk to Anthony about how he will continue to accompany me to Threads and More when this Pokemon is finished so that he can make another Pokemon character for Daniel’s 7th birthday.  There is even talk of making something for Grandma to keep on her bed but I can’t imagine what that might be although I suppose we could remind him that Grandma Maureen has a thing for elephants.

In other news, I’ve completed the Lion Stripe Sweater I was knitting for Eric <insert very happy dance here>.  I finished it by about 10:00pm on Wednesday so he could show it off at the shop on Thursday and Daniel modelled it so I could take some photos to upload to Ravelry.  I’m really happy with it and pleased that I was able to stick with it even when the going got tough.  Contrary to Daniel’s wishes I didn’t start his Cowboy Cardigan that night but I did make a start on it the next day while Eric was doing his workshop.  I’m also working on some cotton face cloths to sell on the school Mothers Day stall so there is plenty to do with my knitting sticks!


Perseverance

I have almost finished knitting a jumper for Eric.  I’ve made the front, back and two sleeves and I’ve joined it at one shoulder and knitted the turtle neckline.  For the past week or so I’ve been stitching lions and as this post goes to press I have two more lion bodies and four manes to stitch.  Then I need to do 14 eyes (colonial knots with embroidery thread) and 14 tails – plaited wool the same colour as the manes.  Then I have to stitch the whole thing together.

It has been a long slow process but another learning process.  I’ve learned how to do a slip stitch pattern (which looks like little bunny ears) and it was much easier than I thought it would be – that was a lesson at Threads and More with Ann.  I’ve learned that sometimes a knitting pattern doesn’t tell you every single thing you need to know to complete it and how to join on a neckline – that was a Sunday afternoon session with Rian.  The hardest lesson was that if you miss just one tiny part of an instruction you can make a very big mess.  In my case it was something about decreasing at both ends of each alternate row to finish shaping the sleeves.  I had blissfully decreased on only one side – seriously what was I thinking?  However I was rescued from this mess by Cheryl (a home ec teacher) who was at Knit and Knatter last Thursday night.  I had a funny feeling that something was wrong but after three days of high energy work with a couple of Year 2 classes I wasn’t sure if I was ready to deal with it.  Cheryl wasn’t having any of my hesitation and under her guidance and while being plied with coffee and encouragement from the other ladies we ripped out half of each sleeve – yes, I said half! and by the end of the evening I was well on the way to having one sleeve re-constructed.  By the end of the weekend I had both sleeves finished again and was able to move on to stitching the lions.  It took me a little while to get the hang of the knit stitch embroidery technique and due to some exciting television I’ve painstakingly unpicked and re-stitched some of them but I seem to have mastered it now.

As a teacher we should be lifelong learners and I would go so far as to say we should seek out new learning experiences.  It would be very dangerous to ever forget what it is like to be in the learner’s shoes.  I don’t want to forget my mistakes because I’ve learned from all of them.  They have made the whole process longer but infinitely more worthwhile.  When I finish this project I will be equipped with several new skills to apply to future knitting projects.  The most important thing I’ve learned is that there is always something that can be done about mistakes.  They aren’t the end of the world.  Facing my mistakes and dealing with them has been an area of some difficulty in my life but through this big knitting adventure I am learning to do things wrong and then fix them by doing things right.

This positive attitude towards making mistakes and then fixing them is something that I would like to pass on to every learner I come in contact with.

There are no photos with this post but I promise there will be plenty when this project is completed.

Then the next knitting adventure will be Daniel’s cowboy jacket complete with fringing and sheriff’s badge according to his very important specifications!


Keep Reading

I love the videos I see from time to time of flash mobs.  While this one is very rehearsed, it does have a great message.  Keep on Reading.  I’ve read some really good books over the past few weeks in between more relief teaching and applying for teaching jobs here there and everywhere.  Highlights have been The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson, The Slap by Christos Tsiolakis and Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult.  I had stopped reading Jodi Picoult books for some reason and as I read this last one I wondered why.  I’ve reserved a copy of her new book House Rules at the library – can’t afford to buy books at book shops these days!

In the midst of this, Eric is beavering along reading everything in sight including The Rangers Apprentice books, Emily Rodda. Pokemon (cringe) and an old book about Vikings that I found at a fete.  We’ve also reserved the book How To Train Your Dragon after seeing the movie last week with Daniel’s best buddy Jed.  Eric just learned to read at the end of his second year of pre-school (he repeated the year) and has been devouring books ever since.  he came home form year 1 knowing all his sight words already and has just cruised through.

Not so with Daniel.  We’re learning sight words and reading school reading books and it is hard work.  We’ve learned two lists of 20 sight words so far and are supposed to have started List 3.  Poor old Daniel hasn’t “embraced” the whole concept of homework.  We hear things like, “What do you mean I have to read a book to you tonight?  I read one to you last night!”  We’ve bought “prizes” for learning each list successfully and the other night we spent a good hour or so finishing the second list of words so that he could take possession of a National Geographic bag of stretchy, sticky bugs.  It was hard work!  His teacher has sent me an enlarged version of the words so I had them printed out and cut up.  We wrote them, jumped on them, hit them with the fly swatter, hid them around the house for Daniel to find and Eric even made him a PowerPoint of his words.  It is taking a  lot of energy which Daniel and I can both find lacking at the end of a long school day.  So during this Easter break Daniel and I are going to work on the third list and we may even get really ambitious and start on the fourth.