Geometric – String Pattern Art (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 30, 2009 9:55 pm


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was geometric.

Inspired by this article from Family Fun we made geometric string patterns.  However, not being able to resist changing instructions, we did it a little bit differently.

The article uses wood panels and nails.  While this would certainly produce a sturdier and probably more striking result, I didn’t want to mess with wood and nails, so I came up with a simpler alternative: foam board and straight pins.

You’ll need foam board, colored yarn, scissors, and pins.

Cut the foam board into a 12 inch square.  The edges were messy so I bound them with red duct tape which actually made a nice frame.

Trace around a dinner plate onto a piece of paper to get a perfect circle.  Cut out the circle.  This will be your pattern for placing the pins.

Fold the paper circle in half four times and unfold.  You should have 16 evenly spaced creases.  Lightly tape the circle to the center of the foam board.

Stick a pin in at the top of each crease touching the edge of the circle.  The pins will be sticking out pretty far, but that will give you lots of room to wrap the yarn. (NOTE:  We experimented with cutting the pins in half to make them shorter, but they kept falling out and didn’t leave enough room for multiple strands of yarn.)

Remove your paper pattern and choose your yarn.

Tie the end of the yarn onto the top pin (the “12 o’clock pin”, let’s call it number 1).  Create a repeating pattern and wrap your yarn.  For example, moving clockwise, skip two pins and wrap around number 4, then go back to the next pin over from the “12 o’clock pin” (number 2) and wrap, moving clockwise, skip two more pins and wrap, etc.  This pattern would be: 1, 4, 2, 5, 3, 6, 4, 7, etc. (NOTE: Pattern in the photo below is different, don’t get confused!)

Work all the way around the circle.  When you are finished you should have a nice design.  Cut the yarn and tie the end onto the last pin (should be the 12 o’clock pin).

Tie a new color onto the 12 o’clock pin and proceed with a different pattern.  Any pattern at all is fine as long as it repeats itself all the way around the circle of pins.  We found that three different patterns were all the pins would hold comfortably.

My 9 year-old daughter loved this so much that she made two other little ones in the corners of her board:

My 3 and a half year-old enjoyed it too.  I gave her a small piece of foam board, stuck pins in for her, and told her to do whatever she wanted.

This was the result:

She was very proud and couldn’t wait for me to take a photo!

USEFUL TIP: Remove all cats from the room. Much to everyone’s aggravation, Pita The Adventure Cat enjoyed this project tremendously:

OTHER IDEAS:  You don’t have to use a circle.  Try triangles, squares or rectangles.  Try different numbers of pins.  If you really want to get fancy, you can even make these in three dimensions!


  • History of string art
  • Bézier Curve – String art takes into account the mathematical ability to create a curve from set points using a series of straight lines. When straight lines are put through at least two points in a pattern, Bezier Curves emerge, giving the illusion of rounded shapes, when in fact no curved lines are used.  If you are really into math (or computer animation), Google “Bézier Curve” for lots of technical information on this string art-related topic!


As always, if you did a geometric Unplugged Project, then please leave the link to your actual post below.  If you didn’t do a geometric project, then please do not link.  You can read more about how to join in here.  We’d love to have more participants!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Have fun and please join us!


Harvesting the Worm Bin

By , August 28, 2009 2:09 pm


About 8 weeks after we began our first attempt at vermicomposting (worm composting) it’s already time for our first harvest!

  • How did I know? The contents of the bin were rich black castings and the newspaper bedding was almost completely decomposed.  Also, the worms were starting to climb the sides of the bin, clearly no longer satisfied with their accommodations.
  • Preparation: Always feeling that I can improve on any instructions (a major character flaw I am afraid), I did not follow my original harvest plan.  Instead I pushed all the bin contents over to one side, and set up a new area on the other side with damp brown paper shreds and food.  I left the bin this way for about a week hoping that the worms would mostly migrate to the fresh, new side.
    • Harvest Day: This is what the bin looked like when I opened it this morning.  See the two sections? Old on the left – ready to go in the garden – and new on the right:

You’ll need newspaper, tub of water, and a bucket for the castings:

(Note: Cats are not a required item, although they felt they were.)

First I tore newspaper into 1 inch strips and tossed them in my tub of water to soak.

Next I began digging out some of the castings from the left side and I noticed that most of the worms had indeed migrated to the fresh section.  It was mostly worm free until I got close to the border, then I had some sorting to do.

NOTE:  I don’t mind worms, so I used my hands (the castings smell and feel rich and damp and clean, like the ground after a cool rain!).  However, if you’d rather not handle the worms, you can try this method.

I spread each handful of castings on some newspaper and picked out the worms and any chunks of not quite composted newspaper or food.  It was truly a glamorous job, but at least I felt fairly sure that most of my worms would end up back in the bin to keep up the good work.  No garden vacations for my guys!

I returned the undigested material and any stray worms to the new side of the bin.

By the time I had finished, I had collected at least a gallon of gorgeous black worm compost:

and my bin looked like this:

    • Redecorating: Finally, I spread out what remained in the bin, squeezed out my newspaper strips (really well so as not to drown the worms) and tossed them on top.  I added a bit of fresh sand for their gizzards and some food for their tummies, assuming worms have tummies.  I placed a fresh piece of damp cardboard on top to help keep things moist (the voracious little devils had completely eaten through their last one!) and put on the lid.

  • The Garden: The hardest part of all this was deciding where to put my precious compost.  I chose a climbing rose that I have had for about 4 years.  It was the very first thing I planted when I moved into this house.

Much to my surprise, there was still plenty left over.  I headed to my dismal back flower bed which grows ugly little stunted flowers due to poor soil, and gave it the rest.  Will it all be 6 feet tall by tomorrow???

LINKS:  How we made our worm bin (quite easy and inexpensive), and the arrival of the worms.

The Self-Packed Lunch

By , August 24, 2009 10:55 pm

Today was the first day back to school for my oldest two (9 and 7), and they were VERY excited.  OK, OK, so was I (choirs of angels and all that).

The two of them were up early and dressed before I even managed to open an eye.  By the time I had dragged myself reluctantly out of the shower (I am NOT a morning person) they had already made their own breakfasts and packed their own lunches.

What?? My heart sank when I heard they had packed their lunches.  This was new, and entirely their idea.

Of course I immediately inspected their lunch boxes expecting to see cookies, chips and goldfish crackers, plus perhaps even some candy that had been squirreled away somewhere. What would you have packed in your lunch at that age?

However I was shocked to find that they had actually done a good job!  There was leftover pasta (kept warm in thermoses), sugar snap peas, apples, yogurt, and…one Oreo each. I could live with that.

I plan to continue this self-packing of the lunch, and hope it does not fall by the wayside as school becomes less easy to wake up early for.

One less job for me is good.  I am a lazy mom.

People: Mixed-Up People! (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 23, 2009 7:55 pm

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project is people.

Our mixed-up people were fun and very easy to make.  Apart from generating child giggles, I plan on using this as a French language teaching tool.


1) Gather up magazines and catalogs (clothing catalogs are best), scissors, glue sticks, card stock, a three-hole punch, and a 3-ring binder. This was actually a challenge for me since I have gone from unwanted-catalog queen to hardly any catalogs at all thanks to Catalog Choice.

2) Cut out as many photos of complete people that you can.  You will be dissecting the photos into heads, torsos and legs.  Also look for interesting forward facing heads, torsos and legs.  Cut those out too.  Don’t really worry about sizes, you can triage the pictures later to pick the best ones. We even found a perfectly sized horse head and threw that in for fun.

NOTE:  Heads are easy, full torsos and legs are harder to find.

3) Sort your pictures into heads, middles and bottoms.  Count the number you have in each pile.  Based on this, you can decide how many of each kind you want.  Cut out more of any part you need, throw away any extras that don’t really work.  Size doesn’t have to be exact, but it’s best to try and keep things as uniform as possible.

4) Once your pictures are sorted, you’ll know how many sheets of card stock to prepare.  Punch holes in the card stock using the 3-hole punch.

Next, cut the card stock into three sections so that there is one hole in each section.  I made the leg section the biggest since I thought legs would need the most room.  I used a paper cutter and that made it easy to measure and cut to the appropriate size.  You could use scissors, but make sure you cut each section to the same size.

5)  Glue all the heads on the top part of the card stock.  Take care to glue the heads in about the same position on each page.  We put a finished page in front of us, and put the stack of empty pages below in order to see where it lined up.

6) Now glue the middles on.  Again, make sure you glue them in the same place on each card, and also make sure they are below the heads.  Place a head card on the table above the stack of empty torso cards, that way you can make sure that your torso is approximately lined up with the head.

7) Repeat the procedure for the legs.

8) Put your finished cards into the 3-ring binder, and flip them around to make some funny combinations!

To use this for foreign language teaching, simply ask children in the target language to make different combinations of people using vocabulary that they know, or are learning.  For example: “A woman with long hair, wearing a red cardigan and a skirt,” or “A child with an orange t-shirt and blue shorts.”


Did you do a people Unplugged Project this week?  If so, then thank you!  Please link to your project post in the linky below so we can all find your project.  If you didn’t join in with a people-themed project, then please don’t link, but read more about how to join in here. We’d love to have you!

Participation has been down lately, so if you have been merely lurking and thinking about trying it, now’s a great time to join in.  The more projects we have to offer, the more fun and interesting it is for all.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Remember, be creative with the theme and above all, have fun!


Remember, the linky is for Unplugged people projects only, thanks!

A Blog Perm

By , August 22, 2009 10:09 pm

As promised, Unplug Your Kids just got a perm!

I have had straight hair my whole life.  Of course there is nothing wrong with straight hair and those blessed with curly hair must wish it was straight sometimes.  But we straight-haired people get bored too and long for a few unruly ringlets from time to time.  UPYK just went curly.

This new look isn’t the most radical change in the world. Although tempted, I didn’t do skulls, or graffiti, or black and brooding, but at least this is something different for all of us to look at.

The new look is a work in progress, but it should be fairly functional now.  I hope you like it!

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