Sunday, April 30, 2017

ChemKnits at the Boston March for Science

On April 22, my family joined thousands to March for Science in Boston.  I marched with Keith (my husband), "Lucky" (3.5), "Rowdy" (15 months), and my brother J.  I have a lot to say, so this post will be a long one.  I will punctuate my reflections on the March for Science and where we go from here with photos of my family at the march.   There are a lot of them! It started sprinkling as we went to get into the car so I decided to leave my DSLR at home and to rely on my cell phone.  Most of the pictures were taking just before the beginning of the Children's rally so they don't capture the huge size of the crowd.  

The ChemKnits Family Marching for Science in their GENEie hats!

Why I Marched for Science

I marched for science to support evidence based legislation and funding for scientific research, science education, and science outreach.  Some people think that science isn't political, but I disagree.  The majority of research in this country is funded by the federal government, NIH, NSF, DOD, and the DOE all fund research at universities.  I believe that the public has a right to see the results of research that their tax dollars fund AND have these results explained to them.

I think that it is ridiculous for politicians to demand cures for illnesses and propose cuts to the NIH.  I am afraid of the government censoring data (eg Climate Science Data) that doesn't support their political position.  You change your hypothesis to support your data, not the other way around!  

I marched to show my elected officials here in Massachusetts and in Washington that I care about our future.  We need to fund that future to protect it.  

March for Science Boston

March for Science Boston - just before the start of the Children's Rally

The organizers of the Boston March for Science really took families into account.  They had a kids corner set up with entertainment, speakers and activities focused on children.  There was a sensory break area for children (or adults) who might need it and a breastfeeding tent for "any mothers who would prefer privacy while breastfeeding."  As a mother who has spent a total of almost 3 years breastfeeding I really appreciated the language.

 My sign read "Science Matters.  Let's fund our future."  We secured the sign to the top of our stroller.  You can see the sign on the front of the stroller in many of the photos, but once it started to rain we raised it back up to help shield the kids.  I learned an important lesson.  Don't use washable makers to make a sign if you want it to hold up in the rain.  The colors started washing off of the card board!

Although it rained, and it rained hard for a period of time, the rain stopped and we were able to carry on with the march.  The weather was raw and chilly, so the boys both had hats on underneath their GENEie headbands.  (Rowdy is actually wearing his GENEie headband on top of a GENEie hat.  Since I had knit a matching set I wanted them to wear them!)  I think that the additional hats helped the boys keep the headbands on their heads for the march.

Lucky and Rowdy made signs for the march, too.  Lucky's quoted Dinosaur Train, a PBS show that is one of his favorites, "A hypothesis is an idea you can test!"  Rowdy's was focused on stickers and scribbles, but he made a bigger statement as he carried around a blow up globe some marchers gave him.  

We arrived at the march before the kids event started.  We knew that we were pushing nap time, and we wanted to attend as much as we could.  We spent most of our time at the March for Science around the kids area which, while crowded, had a lot more space so we could keep the stroller moving and the kids happy.  There were a lot of different science activities set up for the kids.  Lucky might have enjoyed some but they weren't appropriate for 15 month old Rowdy.  

Some of our dear friends joined us at the march, and I was more than happy to set them up with some hand knit science hats.  For a while our boys were more interested in the construction equipment then the rally!  Did they pick the children's corner for this reason? Probably not but Lucky loved running around saying "March for Science!" and was so happy to have found his friend.

With the rain and the crowd, the boys lasted much longer than I expected.  However, I wish that we were able to stay for more of the event.  Lucky was ready to keep going but Rowdy wanted to be able to run, and it wasn't safe to let him back out of the stroller when the crowds were so thick.  He is much faster than he looks!

Lucky putting his hats back on all by himself.  
Lucky decided to try on my GENEie Pussyhat.  

The poor weather didn't keep us from Marching for Science.  Our goal of the day was to show up and show that we care for Science.  To add to the numbers.  To use our presence as our voice.  I hope that we were heard.  

Intersectionality and the March for Science

The reaction to the GENEie hats and headbands has been overwhelming, and 99% positive.  Then I started seeing some comments like the following: 
"you had your march for women leave us poor scientists alone"
"I am saddened by the selfish greed of women to unfocus from earth and science by instead being pussys in a hat."
"Now be brave and support earth day and science without focusing on your pussy..." 
The implication that women are separate from scientists is exactly why I wore a GENEie Pussyhat to the March for Science.  Being a women and supporting Women's issues is not being unfocused on Earth and Science issues. There are Women's issues within the field of Science and within science outreach. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination occur at all levels of science education and employment. (Remember #DistractinglySexy?) 

My outfit for the March for Science

When I was in 6th grade I aced my math class (102.4% average).  I did very well on the algebra aptitude test, well enough to skip a year of math and start Algebra when I started middle school.  My female math teacher discouraged me from skipping ahead BECAUSE I WAS A GIRL.  She didn't discourage my male classmates from skipping.  I didn't take her advice and I am grateful that I followed my interests.  
"[Rebecca] you draw attention to womans issues by being there as a woman. Why do you need so much to use a pussy hat as well to identify you?" 
I don't NEED a pussyhat to identify me. My support for Women's Rights and my support for Science define me as a person. I designed the GENEie Pussyhat to show my support for these issues that are close to my heart. I had designed other DNA hat knitting patterns but wanted to create something that was sciency but still screamed of resistance. After the Women's March in January the square hat shape, aka a kitty hat aka the Pussyhat, is now a symbol of the resistance. I chose to wear a GENEie Pussyhat to the March for Science because I identify with this resistance.

My outfit adjusted for the cooler April 22 weather

Some marchers recycled their pink pussyhats from the Women's March, others reknit them in green. Some marchers wore other science themed hats, and still others wore no hat at all. The important thing is that we showed up to March for Science on April 22. 

As Winter turns to Spring there are many marches planned. There is going to be a lot of intersection between these marches. Whether you are marching for Science (April 22), Climate Change (April 29), Women, Immigration, LGBTQIA, Black Lives Matter, Education, Healthcare, against Islamophobia, against antisemistism, or anything else, you can find issues that intersect within these broad categories. It is important not to judge fellow marchers for WHY they march, but to support that they are marching alongside you.

Since I'm talking about intersectionality, I want to mention that while I think that the Pussyhat Project has been a powerful uniting force, some women feel excluded by the project.  Impact is greater than intent.  The intent of the Pussyhat project was to represent women by reclaiming the word "pussy" (a word often used as an insult) and reclaim the color pink (associated with femininity and baby girls) as a powerful color.  The impact, however, is that some people feel excluded by this symbol and feel that these hats only represent white cis-women.  I'm not asking anyone to stop making or wearing pussyhats.  Many people (men and women) identify with this symbol.  However, I think that it is important that we are cognizant of the fact that some groups feel excluded so we can make an effort to be more inclusive in the movement going forward.  If you would like to read more about this I recommend the following articles: Pink 'Pussyhat' Creator Addresses Criticism Over NameHow ‘Pussy Hats’ Made Me Feel Excluded — And Then Welcomed — At The Women’s March, and Are Pussyhats Inherently Transphobic? 

GENEies at the March for Science

The first GENEie was published at the beginning of February, not even 3 months ago.  There are already over 387 GENEie projects on Ravelry, 274 tagged as finished, 252 with photos uploaded.  And this is just Ravelry!  The GENEie Pussyhat and the GENEie (Cable Version) are now my most popular designs in the database.  Some people don't use Ravelry and others use one project page for multiple finished objects.  I have never had such a response to any of my designs.  I'm so glad that these hats resonated with so many people.

All of the hats I knit for the March for Science.  (The original pink GENEie pussyhat is not pictured since it was already delivered to my friend.)  

I knit a number of GENEies and other science themed headbands (Ice Cap Aquacessories, Glucose Headband, dopamine headband, and an applique resistor headband) for the March for Science.  The weather was so cold and raw that it was funny we were so worried about making warm hats that couldn't be used for the March for Science.

It was a joy to cross paths with so many knitters at the Boston March for Science! Thank you for letting me come up all excited to you. This is the first time I've ever seen my designs knit by others in person!  It was a joy to meet, talk and hug you. I didn't take pictures with everyone, but I saw at least 10 GENEie hats and headbands! (Including a child essay winner who was wearing a plasmid headband!) Beyond my designs, it was a pleasure to see all of the different science hats (brain hats, earth hats, resistor hats, and many more) people created to share their support and dedication to science. I look forward to taking the next steps with all of you.  

The first time I ever found my designs on the street!

What's Next? 

The March for Science is not the end of this journey, but a step along a journey.  What can you do?  Call your elected officials.  There are a lot of websites out there to help you out, I personally like  You enter your zip code, select an issue you care about and the site provides the phone numbers of your elected officials with a sample script of what to say.   How can your elected officials represent you if you don't tell them your position?  Show up at town halls and meet and greets.  Pay attention to local races, since these are the people who may become part of the federal government someday.

Yesterday there was a march focused on climate change (the People's Climate Movement). There are many other local and national marches planned.  Pay attention and use your voice.  I know that I plan to use mine.  

ChemKnits is constantly evolving.  You have watched me grow as a knitter and designer and have supported me as I've experimented with other crafts. I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.  ChemKnits has always been a personal blog and it will remain a blog about my personal crafting journey.  However, I feel like I'm only getting started with Craftivism and this will continue to make the occasional appearance here.  I want to create patterns and projects to show my support for different groups and causes.  I want to continue to use my voice as ChemKnits to speak up for equality.  I look forward to sharing many creative projects with you in the future.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tomorrow We March for Science!

Tomorrow (April 22, 2017) we March for Science.  I am marching in support of science funding, science education for all ages, and community outreach. I believe that science is our future and that we need to invest in that future.  

My outfit for the March for Science is complete! I will wear a necklace with my initials in amino acids, a chemistry lab skirt (the first adult garment I sewed!) and a cotton GENEie Pussyhat. I have never designed and knit a hat that represents me as much as the GENEie Pussyhat. I am a woman. I am a scientist. I am a wife and mother. I am a stay-at-home-mom. I knit. I dye my own yarn. I design. I am ChemKnits. I will stand up and resist. 

There might not be time for you to replicate my homemade outfit by tomorrow, however the March for Science isn't the only time you could dress in support of science.  If you like my hat, check out the GENEie Collection of hat and headband knitting patterns.  Project Thinking Cap has received donations of over 300 hats in various designs and will distribute them at the DC march.  I will write a post about the skirt at some point (it has pockets!), but here is the pattern for a really easy simple elastic waist skirt.   I purchased the awesome chemistry lab fabric at JoAnn's.  I received the amino acid initial necklace as a gift at my PhD defense just over 6 years ago.  

The weather is going to be cool tomorrow, so I might switch to my wool ombre GENEie Pussyhat, long sleeves and leggings under the skirt.  

I still need to make my sign for the march (and I might need to make some quick T-shirts for my kids if the ones we ordered don't arrive in time), but 3 year old Lucky made his earlier this week.  One of his favorite TV shows is Dinosaur Train on PBS. This show promotes observation, exploration and curiosity. A tag line of a main character is, "I have a hypothesis!" and at 2 years old Lucky could tell you that "a hypothesis is an idea you can test!" I hope that as Lucky grows, he has many more opportunities to observe, explore, learn and teach. This is one reason why we march.

On his sign Lucky drew a purple sun, snakes, practiced his "L"s and coloring in. He loved the scientist dinosaur sticker collection. (Lucky now wants to make more signs!) He also wanted to make sure you knew "I like peeps!"  Lucky is super excited to cheer "March for Science!" at the Rally.  (After the Boston Marathon he is now really into cheering.)

Knitting cool science hats is a step, Marching is a step, but they are not the end.  Showing up to the march is important because it amplifies our voice, but it is also important to use your voice after the march.  Call your representatives and tell them where you stand on issues.  Show up at town hall meetings.  How can we expect the government to represent us if we don't tell them what matters to us?

I might go live at some point tomorrow.  I've never "gone live" before so we'll see how it goes.  If you see me at the Boston march, come over and say hi!

Science Matters!  Let's invest in our future! 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Harry Potter Sweater Beer Cozy

Sometimes I stumble across a quick project that is PERFECT for someone in my life.  When the project requires specific colors that I happen to have in my stash I get extra excited.  The Harry Potter-Inspired Beer Sweater is just this type of project.  I love Harry Potter and I have all of the colors that I need in my stash.  Let's get crocheting!

For this project, I used a size H (5.0 mm) crochet hook and KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted weight yarn in Chestnut (brown; 2 g, 6 yards), Semolina (yellow; 3 g, 8 yards), White (6 g, 14 yards), Coal (Black; 1 g, 2 yards), and Currant (Maroon; 6 g, 13 yards).  I use white and black WOTA in so many projects that these aren't technically remnant.  If I use them up I'm going to replace them as soon as I can.  I also need to reorder a maroon and yellow to make a specific project... but I DID technically make this project out of yarn I already had in my stash so that is something.  

I finished the base of the beer cozy during naptime one afternoon.  The designer glued the glasses onto the cozy but I think I want to stitch the crochet chains on.  I probably could have done an applique chain stitch to embroider the glasses on, but why not just make a chain and stitch it on.

I love a quick little project.   The instructions were written out plus the designer provided a chart to follow for the color rows.  It was super easy to follow.  This is an adorable pattern, I'm not sure why more people haven't made it yet on Ravelry.

I'm really happy with this fast little project.  If I were going to do this again I would sew the glasses so they were a little rounder versus looking like an infinity symbol.  Hopefully the intended recipient will enjoy her present!  (And hopefully she doesn't read the blog so it doesn't get spoiled!)  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Dyeing Easter Eggs

Would you believe me if I said that I have never dyed Easter eggs before?  I use Easter egg dyeing kits a LOT... but to dye yarn.  I am Jewish so dyeing eggs wasn't ever something we did in my home.  My husbands family is Christian so we celebrate Easter with them.  Now that Lucky is 3 I thought it would be fun to try dyeing eggs with him this year.  Before attempting to dye eggs with Lucky, I wanted to try some more advanced techniques myself.

When I was looking at Easter egg dyeing kits online, I realized that a lot of the "special" techniques involve the same dye pellets that I love to use with something else added.  I thought it would be fun to take the classic kit (i.e. just the dye pellets) and try to figure out how to do some of these modifiers myself.  

In this dyeing experiment, I decided to attempt to make a Glitter Egg, a Marble Egg and a Speckled Egg.  All of these techniques can be done without Easter egg dye pellets, you could substitute a few drops of food coloring.  However I wanted to start by adding a little oomph to the most basic kit.  

My plans 
  1. Glitter Egg: 1 dye tablet, 1/2 cup water, 1 T white vinegar, glitter
  2. Marble Egg: 1 dye tablet, 1/2 cup water, 1 T white vinegar, 1 T vegetable oil
  3. Speckled Egg (take 1): 1 dye tablet, 1 T white vinegar (NO WATER), 1/2 cup Rice, 1 plastic bag.  

First I had to boil some eggs.  I haven't created hard boiled eggs in years!   Lucky had an egg allergy that he finally outgrew at 3 years old so we didn't cook eggs very much when he was younger.  Of the 7 eggs I boiled three cracked.  This is why I started boiling an excess of eggs!

The Glitter Egg

The glitter egg was a complete failure.  I learned that 1) it is hard to get a completely solid color without a random splotch and 2) although the instructions have you add glitter to the dye, and then glitter after the dye, very little glitter remains on the egg.  All of the eggs ended up with the same amount of glitter as the solitary glitter egg!  I will note that the glitter I used came from an egg dyeing kit so I wasn't trying to recreate instructions with this egg.

The Marble Egg

I think the marbled egg is my favorite one.  The dye remained in the water and when I added the egg it seemed to bead up around the egg.  For a while I thought that nothing would happen!  Eventually color started attaching to the egg and we got these brilliant designs.

I think that it would be really fun to do these marbled eggs in multiple colors.  The eggs were oily in the end but wiping them with a paper towel took care of most of that.  

The Speckled Egg

Like the other two eggs, I got the suggestion for this decoration on the back of a PAAS easter egg box I saw online.  However, the kit comes with liquid dye NOT a tablet.  I figured that if I try mixing the dye with 1 T of white vinegar I might get a similar effect.  If this didn't look like enough liquid, I could always try adding some water to help things out.

I started out adding two dye tablets, each dissolved in 1T white vinegar, to 1/2 cup of dry brown rice.  The first egg was almost solid.  There are some specks that resulted from where rice was stuck to the outside of the egg as the dye dried.  (I waited to brush of the rice until the end.)  I put a second egg in the bag and just pressed it lightly.  I ended up with some small specks but also smudges from where my fingers touched the egg.

I ended up adding another 1/2 cup of rice to the dye and then added a third egg.   I shook up the egg in the dryer rice and then I had some fantastic specks!  It worked!  I was afraid to brush off the remaining rice because I didn't want to smudge the cool pattern.  I'll try to have a tool on hand to help flick off the rice next time.  OR I might leave the egg surrounded by rice for a while to let the colors get darker.

I wouldn't be Rebecca from ChemKnits if I didn't film my dyeing experiment.  Watch me attempt to dye some eggs!

Dyeing Easter Eggs was so much fun!  I think that I will hold off one more year to dye eggs with Lucky.  I imagine that attempting to dye eggs with him at 3.5 years old might result in a huge mess.  Lucky DID use the egg dye tablets to help me dye some yarn a couple of weeks ago.  This video will take a LOT longer to edit than normal since I have a lot more footage to go through.  Stay tuned!  

This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.  None of the products discussed in this post were solicited, all of them were selected by me.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rosie the Riveter Headband

This year, International Women's Day (March 8, 2017) marked a day that women went on strike across the United States.  For A Day Without a Woman, women are staying home from work, wearing red and avoiding shopping for the day to shout that Women's Rights are Human Rights.  I posted the following with my picture on Facebook:
I stand with the women who strike today for a #DayWithoutaWoman.  I wear red to stand with the women striking, to stand stand with the women who want to strike but can't because it would put their jobs, people in their care or our communities at risk.  I stand for the women who go to work for a strike-in because they realize that their presence in the workplace will speak louder than their absence.

I want to acknowledge the privilege of participation in this day. The ability to strike is a privilege.  The ability to avoid shopping for a day is a privilege.  Buying something to wear (or the fabric to create something to wear) for this day is a privilege.

I realize that there is some irony for a stay at home mom to wear a #RosietheRiveter headband to support the strike.  However I want to share the message "We Can Do It!" I want to support all women who work: those who work for money, who provide unpaid labor, who want to work but aren't able.  I sit here with my baby in my lap typing.  I am not on strike today, but I will raise my voice to shout with those who do.

In the week before the strike, I realized that I needed to come up with something red.  I didn't own anything red so I decided that I would sew my own Rosie the Riveter style headband.  I also didn't have any red fabric in my stash beyond tiny scraps so I did a quick run to the fabric store to select some red and white polka dot fabric.  I prewashed and pressed the fabric.

The pattern is really well laid out with a photo tutorial.  I really appreciate that even the snips of the fabric are shown.  I decided to create the 3.5" version so I started with two 4" strips of fabric.  I cut the fabric on the fold.

To test the sizing, I tied one of my strips around my head.  It was pretty cute with raw edges! I like the length that it was, so I decided to just trip the edges of the fabric and not worry about getting 39.5".  My fabric length ended up being about 40" long.  I'm glad that I wasn't worrying about length, I basically hit the target without trying!

I placed the strips together with right sides facing and then folded them in half.  I marked the center of the end of the strips and then 5" down (as directed in the pattern)  I cut all 4 pieces of fabric at the same time.... freehand.  I didn't sketch the curves because I knew that I could probably cut as well as I could trim a curve.  I started out conservatively and then trimmed slightly more until I got a shape I was satisfied with.

I pinned the fabrics together and then was ready to make the 0.25" seam.  I'm really glad that I'm doing the thicker headband because I hate trying to turn small tubes right side out!

I forgot to clip the tips before I turned the headband right side out.  I also made the opening (to turn right side out) a little narrower than I had intended.  Thankfully the tube was super easy to turn right side out and my points aren't that shabby either.

The last step was a top stitch.  If not for this step I don't think I would have bothered to use red thread, but I wanted it to be nicely finished.

This was so fast to create!  I had a flash forward to helping create accessories for school plays someday.  I might actually make the headband a 6" or so shorter next time so the bow isn't quite as long on my head, but I am really happy with how it turned out.  In addition to an iconic headband, this works really nicely as a neck scarf (not pictured.)

All of my boys (dog included!) wore red for International Women's Day.  For me, the strike was about recognizing that my role in society is important.  Unpaid labor isn't valued by many, so it was nice to have recognition that what I do is important beyond my family but for society.  We need people to care for our children, or sick, our elderly.  We need those who are paid for this work to be valued just as much as people who work any other job.  

Lately, I've felt empowered to use my voice to speak to our government officials.  How can I expect my representatives to represent me if I don't tell them how I feel on issues?  I really like the website 5 Calls, you can enter your zip code, pick an issue, and they provide the phone number of who to call plus a sample script.  I don't love talking on the phone but this has really helped me with making phone calls.  I know that my call will end up with a check in some column on a spreadsheet, but at least my representative will have a little more knowledge on where their constituents stand.  

You have a voice.  What do you want to do with it?  

Sewing project started and finished 3/6/17