For My Little Ones on School Days {Stubby Pencil Studio giveaway}

Somehow we mostly ended up taking this summer off from homeschooling, despite the fact that we usually school year round.  As we prepare to start up again next month, I am focusing on what I will be doing with all my school-aged kids, but even more so, what I will keep my two little boys busy with while I work on lessons with the others.  They are wild and crazy and very much into everything, so I need a plan!  I like to find activities that they can do alongside their siblings, and as far as homeschooling goes, I often have younger children working at the kitchen table alongside the older kids.  Art is my go-to activity.  We’ve recently made some bedroom changes, and now Silas has a little spot for art in his bedroom too.  He loves to draw and write, more so than any of my other children, and certainly more so than they did at his age.  And Job usually likes to do whatever Silas is doing.

I teamed up with my longtime favorite, eco-friendly school and art supply shop, Stubby Pencil Studio, to stock up on supplies so that we will be ready for school days.  Silas loves colored pencils, and watercolor pencils are always fun.  We love these jumbo ones.  I buy blank notecards for him to draw and paint on as a sturdier option than plain paper, without being as expensive as watercolor paper.  Silas is also very interested in practicing his letters (not something my girls were really into at this age-every kid is different!) and he likes using the Laddie intermediate sized pencils.

I don’t typically give my younger children regular sized crayons because they break so easily, but Silas is at a place now where he can use them a bit more carefully, and lately he has really been enjoying getting to use these soy crayons.  We have been using these for many years, and I keep a stash of them in my art supply drawer.  I prefer crayon rocks for Job.

I haven’t purchased modeling clay in ages, but decided to give Plastilina clay a try with the boys.  It held their attention for longer than I expected, and it will be an activity that I pull out when I am nearby to supervise.  Scented markers are another new favorite of both Silas and my girls.  They have spent hours drawing food-themed pictures with them!

If you are looking to stock up on art or school supplies yourself, Kate from Stubby Pencil Studio is offering one Small Things reader a $75 gift certificate!  In addition save 15% off all orders through August 31 using the discount code GINNY15 at checkout.  For your chances to win:  leave a comment on this post and then enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.  The winner is Lisa C.!
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Using Plants to Dye Yarn

This is what I have been doing in every spare moment.  I’m a little obsessed right now.  I’ve dyed yarn with plants in the past, but never with quite this much intensity.  It really is the perfect activity for me, combining many of my loves:  Plants! Yarn! Chemistry!  Jonny noted that I have been doing all sorts of things this summer and speculated that the reason for that might be that I am not pregnant and I don’t have a small baby, though Job certainly does want to be toted all the time lately.  (At dinner Jonny questioned whether Job is a baby or a toddler now.  Seth replied that he’s mostly a troublemaker and that is so true.)

I’ve been asked to do a post all about natural dyeing, but since I’ve done this all of half a dozen times, I better hold off on a tutorial.  Over the past couple of weeks I have dyed with amaranth, elderberry, and goldenrod.  (I have dyed with tickseed sunflower and dock in the past.) The amaranth has been trickiest, because while it is named as a dye plant all over the place, there isn’t much information on actually dyeing with it, and I discovered quickly that extracting the dye with heat and then dyeing with a lot of heat means you get yarn with almost no color.  So I have been experimenting with it quite a bit.  The peachy and coral colored yarns were all dyed with amaranth (the same amaranth that I planted in my garden as a trap crop for cucumber beetles!)

I have been experimenting with over-dyeing amaranth with goldenrod to get warmer shades of golden yellow.  But I think that the most fun of all was taking pale purplish-gray yarn dyed with elderberry, and modifying the dyebath with washing soda to create an alkaline solution which turned the dyebath and yarn a brilliant green! I have pH Test Strips and I am using them, and taking lots of notes along the way.

I am planning on dyeing with pokeweed very soon.  We have so much of it, and rather than chop it down as I usually do, I’ve let it go this year.  I know it’s going to be a messy business so I need a day without much else on the agenda before I attempt it.  Soon!

Here’s a list of books I have referenced:  My favorite is Wild Color.  I’ve had this book for years, and have learned a lot from it.  Recently I purchased both Harvesting Color and A Garden to Dye For, but I haven’t spent much time with either yet.  I also have The Modern Natural Dyer on pre-order.