“It turns out that knitting isn’t about the yarn or the softness or needing a hat (although we really can’t argue with these secondary motivators). It’s really about this: Knitting is a magic trick. In this day and age, in a world where science and technology take more and more wonder and work out of our lives , and our planet is quickly becoming a place running out of magic, a knitter takes silly, useless string, mundane sticks, waves her hands around (many, many times…nobody said this was fast magic), and turns one thing into another: string into a hat, string into a sweater, string into a blanket for a baby. It really is a very reliable magic.” ~Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
For an invitation to create, I put out three skeins of yarn, scissors, glue, paper and markers. It was interesting to watch the Littles. Cutting is one of their favorite things to do and so given free reign with the scissors they took full advantage of the situation and cut lots of little snippets of both paper and yarn! And then they did their next favorite thing, which is to squirt big puddles of glue onto the paper. They had a lot of fun creating some really marvelous textured pieces of art with swirls of yarn, bits of paper, abstract drawings and puddles of glue dyed by markers.
Yarn Block Printing. This is such an easy project, but lots of fun. I cut some scrap wood into small blocks about 3×4 inches and then wrapped the blocks with different weights of yarn. Each table had three paper plates, each with a dollop of paint-red, yellow and orange. Then I put a yarn wrapped block on each plate I gave each child a piece of drawing paper and let them stamp away. After a little bit, I would call, “switch” and the children would switch their plates for one of a different color.
Papier-Mache´ Yarn Mobiles. This is a two day project. The first step is to make some papier-mâché paste. Bring four cups of water to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, mix together 1 cup of water with 1 cup of flour into a smooth paste. Add the paste mixture to the boiling water. Let this cool completely. It will have a gelatinous consistency. If you want to, you can use the paste as is, however to make your final products stiffer, add liquid starch until the flour mixture is about the texture of pudding.
Blow up Balloons into a small orb. Place the balloon into a bowl. Cut a heap of lengths of yarn about 10 to 12 inches long. Show the children how to dip the yarn into the papier mache paste, soak the yarn and then pull the yarn through two fingers to remove the excess paste. Wrap the yarn around the balloon. Allow this to dry completely–one to two days. Then pop the balloon and you are left with a bowl shape.
After the yarn was dry, I gave each child three disposable clear plastic cups. I put out the Sharpies and told the Littles to scribble to their heart’s content all over each of their cups. After covering a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, I placed on the cups with the mouth of the cup facing up and and then put the cookie sheet into a preheated 350° oven. They will melt almost flat into some pretty funky shapes in about 2 minutes. Let them cool. then I wrapped some yarn around each melted cup and glue-gunned the yarn to the cups. I hung the cups to the yarn bowls. Hanging near a window, they make such an offbeat, quirky mobile with the colorful plastic shapes sparkling in the light. I was really pleased with how this project turned out.
And, it is more fun to wear the mobile on your head like a crazy hat, than to hang it up!
Painting with Yarn Brushes. I made paint brushes out of yarn by cutting a square dowel that I had on hand into about 7 inch pieces. I wrapped yarn around my hand until I had a thick loop. I cut the loop open and wrapped it around the dowel and then glue gunned it securely. I gave each child three complimentary colors of paint and let them create!
I thought that it would be fun for the Littles to make pretzels for their snack. Rolling the dough into a loopy rope and twisting it around into the pretzel shape is like playing with yarn made out of dough! It’s a little bit of a thematic stretch, but it was a lot of fun! My pretzel recipe is originally from the King Arthur Flour website–one of my favorite sites for baking recipes. I have modified the recipe just a bit. I felt that there was too much baking soda in the water bath and the taste was a bit strong.
Hot Buttered Pretzels
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (I use SAF)
7/8 to 1 cup warm water*
*Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon baking soda
Coarse or kosher salt; or cinnamon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 to 10 minutes, until you have a soft, smooth dough. Place into a greased bowl and cover with a towel. Let rest for about 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, prepare the topping: Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler).
Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Then roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28″ to 30″ long), and twist each rope into a pretzel shape. Place 4 pretzels into a 9×9 inch baking pan and pour the baking soda water over the pretzels. Allow them to soak for two minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. Then repeat with the other 4 pretzels spooning the baking soda & water mixture over the pretzels. This baking soda “bath” will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color. Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher salt or cinnamon sugar, if desired. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that’s what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.
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