Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


I'm so in awe of that wonderful lesson!!! Come teach kindergarten with me. We'd have lots of fun and could knit during our breaks! Have a good weekend. Jane

By Blogger jane, at 6:46 AM  

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Thursday, July 07, 2005  

Thank you one and all for your prayers for rain. They were answered in full measure with the most splendid Beethoven of a thunder storm rolling across the landscape with all the strum und drang one could hope for. After one more full day of sunshine, to coax the last of the tassels open, blessed rain assured that whole fields were alive with the passion of reproduction. Pollen sprinkled onto ovaries and what stalks have survived the grubs will produce new seeds for sale and planting. It’s not just a satisfying display of fecundity - it carries with it the kaching of income for the H family. Thank you Ceres.

(written Wed. a.m. to be continued....)

The Crafty Story program yesterday was a happy success. The theme was Spinning a Tale. I had my wheel set up and was whirring away as the children arrived. Nothing is quite so fascinating as seeing something out of a fairy tale in real life. The wheel is a beautiful object in itself and it is also that magical thing - a machine. It moves. The way the yarn seems to grow out of that ball of fluff is another glimpse of magic. "How does it work?" is the question in every child’s eyes.

I gave a brief description of the parts of the wheel and demonstrated to them what I was doing. Then I let the yarn pull out of my hand and onto the bobbin so that each child could have a go at pumping the treadle. There were 17 children - a big group but not out of hand.

After everyone had had a chance at treadling I read them Rupelstiltskin, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky - for his golden threads are the most gleaming of all. Then I told them the version of the Three Aunts - in which the spinners, spinning flax, which must be spun wet, and who used the brand new technology of a spinning wheel, had all developed work related injuries - one had an enormous broad foot, one a huge thumb and one a lower lip that had swollen till it hung down to her chest. In return for spinning the gold, the three old crones demanded that the miller’s daughter invite them to the wedding and sit them as the most honored guests at the head table. Seeing the ugly "aunts" the king asked them how they got their deformities and when he heard they were the result of spinning, forbade his new wife to ever spin again! What a lucky break for her, huh?

Next on the program was a demonstration of drop spindling. I like to ask them what do the two tools, wheel and spindle, have in common, and most pick up on the wheel - a good time to talk about simple machines. If spinning wheels fascinate because they have moving parts, spindles really amaze as the yarn looks even more like it is growing out of the spinners fingers. That’s when I like to bring up a fairy tale that always bothered me - Sleeping Beauty. All the kids know the story and many of them have seen the Disney movie - and can tell you the fairy godmother’s names. When asked what the king did after the wicked fairy godmother put her curse on Beauty and most of them knew he burned all the spinning wheels. So I asked the question that always bothered me - What did they do for clothes while Beauty was growing up?

All kids know that clothes come from cloth and cloth is made from weaving. Most of them get the connection between spinning and weaving after the demonstration they’d just seen, before I ever mention it. At this stage in their lives, kids outgrow clothes before the school year is up and all of them have ruined at least one garment by now. I ask them just what did they think people were wearing by the time Beauty was 14 or 15!! There is nothing that so thrills, excites and titillates a child than thinking about people being naked!!!

That’s when I explain how the wheel was a new fangled invention when Sleeping Beauty was first told and how, before that, all spinning was done on some sort of weighted string. I give a little lecture about the first spinner, out in the stony fields where sheep can find something to eat even if farmers couldn’t grow any crops. How the sheep would brush against the bushes and little tufts of fleece would get caught - just like hair gets caught in a brush or comb. And how the shepherds were just standing there watching, waiting and bored. How easy it would be to take some fluff and twist it in your hand. I pass out bits of wool and let them first pull the wool till it parts, then have them twist it and pull and see how hard it is to break the "yarn".

I had gotten 20 rocks, each about 3 inches across, from my lane and had tied string around them several times, leaving a tale into which I tied a small loop. Then I’d cut three pieces of yarn; red, white and blue, into 3 foot lengths and tied them together at one end. Each child got a stone and a hank of yarn. The child was instructed to push the yarn knot through the string loop and tie the yarn to the loop with a single knot. Lots of fine motor skill development stuff with that. Then the child was to spin the rock while holding the strands so that they twisted tightly into a candy cane yarn. When it was good and tight each child was told to grasp the rock and hold the yarn out straight in front of him. I had my middle school helpers with me, four 13 year old girls, and they went around pinching the center of the strand and pulling it out so that the child could double the 3-ply into a fat cabled yarn. That could be either a Friendship Bracelet or an anklet, tied around wrist or ankle.

My big kids had been practicing cats cradle figures all week and they taught the younger ones how to make the broom, the cats cradle, the cup and saucer and the trapped hand.

It was a splendid project. The only thing I would have done differently was to tie the strings around the rocks myself. With 20 rocks to fix up, I’d passed the job along to my 12-13 year olds and many of them weren’t skilled enough to tie the rocks securely. I also think a real "story" about the first spinner, (maybe an ancient ADD child frustrated with having nothing to do and always throwing rocks at the other shepherd children .... ) would be more fun than a sort of lecture. I believe I’ll write it up so I can use it next time.

Anyway - with 17 kids you really do need some helpers - but it’s such a great program. It just nicely filled up one hour, with lots of movement, stories, and finger skills. Might be a good thing to take on the road.

posted by Bess | 7:02 AM