Michigan Makers at Scarlett, Fall 2017, Meeting #4: Cross-stitch

This session started off with a bang! Immediately after the bell rang to release students from class for the day the fire alarm went off. As you can imagine fire alarms are much more chaotic when students are not being marched out in lines by their teachers. There was quite a bit of running and screaming. Mostly for dramatic effect and not due to any emergency. Luckily the alarm was a false one and after a few minutes the alarm stopped and we could settle in for the session that day. On this day we had low turnout. Only one student came by. This did mean that we were able to give more individualized attention and feedback. Missing from this session the sense of camaraderie in the group; which is something the students enjoy.

The challenge for today was to create a cross stitch patch. There were two options for choosing a pattern. The first option was to choose a pattern from some that had been pre-selected. Optionally, the students could take images from the web and use editing software to pixelate the image creating a cross stitch pattern.

Once the pattern was picked it came time to learning how to cross stitch. Growing on previous sewing related projects This project reinforced the skills of threading needles, knotting thread, and starting work. The new skill was mostly in the precision of the stitches. Using grid created by the weave of the Aida cloth fabric we created small x’s for each square of the pattern. There was definitely a learning curve. It was important to make sure that you followed the pattern closely to recreate the same image. Overall this was more challenging for everyone than expected. As time passed the student found it easier to improvise instead of follow the pattern exactly. She did this by creating the outline of the shape she wanted and instead of filling it in drawing in facial features. All that was left to do was to cut the image out into a patch size and iron on interfacing. We did not iron this on to backpacks or clothing, but rather sent her home with instructions to follow with her parents once she got permission to iron this on to whatever her heart desired.

We might not do cross stitch again. It is hard to learn with the time constraints we have, but sewing is definitely something we will continue to revisit.

Michigan Makers at Scarlett, Fall 2017, Meeting #3: Photo-editing/Monster pillows

Bracelets, buttons, monsters, and spooky editing! This was a jam-packed session. Today ended up being a girl-only day with a handful of girls coming back to Michigan Makers. We had a couple different crafts going on; all relatively simple and fun. There was the option to use stamps to decorate bookmarks or bracelets, make custom buttons with a button maker, use photo software to take photos of the school and edit them, and monster pillows were back.

We will start with a small oops. We were all ready to go with the button maker and were pretty excited too. Using a circle punch, students cut out images from magazines that they found fun or pretty to turn into buttons. The buildup was tense and the excitement was palatable. Then the worst thing happened. The button machine was not working. It had gotten banged a bit in transport. We were worried we had broken it. No tutorial or information manual was capable of fixing the button maker in the moment. It was a bit of a let down, but we did have a bunch of other activities with us. It was time to let go of the buttons for today.

For the physical crafts we had two options. We could create more monster pillows. Which is fast becoming a favorite of the group. Or you could make bracelets and bookmarks by stamping letter strips with a variety of stamps and inks. While I did not manage to get pictures of the finished bracelets I can tell you they were a smorgasbord of colors and images. One had a very strong pineapple theme to it. Too go along with the pineapple bracelet there was a pineapple monster pillow. As well as a cat and an owl monster pillow. Sewing skills are improving. Students are getting a better grasp of the whip stitch and are also having a blast creating their own sewing patterns to make new unique shapes.

The digital item of the day was photo editing. The idea was to take a photo of the school or something in the library and edit the photo to see what you can do with it. One student took a photo through the window of the building façade and with the help of Picmonkey she was able to make quite a chilling and spooky black and white Halloween inspired photo. I definitely would not want to go to the school she created in that photo.

All in all the session was filled with exciting things to try both in physical and digital media. I do also have good news to report. A few days after the session we were able to fix the button maker. Apparently a small magnet had found its way into the machine and it was just enough to prevent it from working properly. We look forward to bringing the button maker back finally turning our small circle punched pictures into buttons to wear with pride.

Michigan Makers at Scarlett, Fall 2017, Meeting #2: Stop Motion

Click to play!
Click to play!

It’s boy versus girls in the ultimate stop motion movie show off! Today we combined the digital with the physical in creating stop motion movies. We had an even number of boys and girls show up, so when it was time to split up into teams they divided themselves up into a competition of the sexes. Through this activity personalities and leadership styles set the members apart and in some cases caused a little bit of conflict. The teams took radically different approaches and each came out with a movie in the end.

For the girls, one girl took on the role of the leader. She knew exactly what story she wanted to do so she took charge. She became the director, producer, writer and actor in one fell swoop. We tried to encourage story boarding to get the ideas flowing and create a coherent story but the girls were more interested in just jumping in. They used Legos, wax sticks, paper, fabric, and other materials to create their characters and scenery. They story was of a girl going to a haunted house. I encouraged one of the quieter girls to take charge of taking the pictures that would turn into the movie, while encouraging the other to speak up and participate. Their movie, while completed, was not the cleanest. Some pictures were blurry and the camera was not always held in the same spot so not all of the transitions were smooth. In a lot of their shots you could see their hands moving the pieces. Even so, they were proud that they had finished. In the future, it would be helpful to encourage them to think about ways in which they can improve their finished product.

The boys had a more difficult time with their production. In the beginning a lot of ideas were flowing and they really took to storyboarding their films. It took a while for them to transition into making props and filming. Compared to the girls, the boys took the tasks more seriously. There was some trial and error when it came to creating a device that would keep the camera in the same spot, ultimately they decided to hold the phone very still and hope that worked. Once they got started their attempts were fraught with technological complications. In the beginning there was debate on whether to have the app automatically take pictures or if they would manually take pictures. The automatic pictures went too quickly and it created a frantic energy in the group. For their movie the plan was to have a time lapse of them creating a building with Legos. There were debates on which Legos would go on in which order, along with debates on the sizes and types. The whole process seemed to create an energy of tension, riddled with minor disagreements and a constant feeling of being rushed against the clock. Unfortunately, when they did produce a film it was deleted by mistake. These boys were not willing to give up and kept working until they at the end of the day had a short GIF of the word “FAIL” written with Legos- which seemed to be their opinion on the whole process. While it didn’t work out they did not seem overly frustrated.

Both groups came at the challenge with a different perspective and mindset. While no group was particularly successful they both had fun. This is a challenge that I think will only get better with more practice and time for trial and error.

Michigan Makers at Scarlett, Fall 2017, Meeting #1: Monster Pillows

It’s the first day of Michigan Makers at Scarlett for the 2017-2018 school year! Today as an introduction into making we are making monster pillows. Monster pillows are pillows made with felt, thread, and embellishments, to create cute or scary monsters. Some of the skills the students will be learning are using a straight stitch or overcast stitch to close the edges of their monsters.

The students were ready to jump in once we introduced ourselves. There were a lot of questions about how to thread needles, and how to get started. However, once they mastered their basic stitch of choice they were ready to go all for it. Some went from crazy shapes out of the felt while others made more traditional square pillow shapes. For colors we had a couple different options making this a fun cast of monsters. Some students quickly learned that the larger the shape and the smaller the stitches the longer it took to finish sewing the pieces together to get to the stuffing and decorating part.

For decorations there was a big box of junk. The best part was exploring the box to see what was inside and see what could be made with all the random pieces of stuff. One student found a necklace that lit up when a switch was hit. There was plenty of yarn and string. As the items got more unique so too did the final monster creations. Even those who were not able to finish had fun monsters to show for it at the end of the day.

Slides for Makerspaces Library 2.017 Webinar

Decorative - logo for Library 2.017 conference on makerspaces

Ben and Kristin are presenting today at the Library 2.017 mini-conference on makerspaces.

If you’d like to see our work in action, check out our Flickr page.

Ben’s Summer Reflection

I always feel a distant sort of sadness when I see Buzzfeed style list posts about the dozen most beautiful libraries, or other such lists because they reinforce the idea that books and buildings are what make up a library. It’s completely true that a physical space and a collection are necessary for a library to exist, but the context (community, history, overall setting) and the people (librarians, community organizations, patrons) make up much more of the library-as-imagined.

With all that said here’s a list of seven lessons (to represent the seven different places our team went this summer) I learned from traveling all over Michigan, focusing on the context and the people:

  1. There are smart, very active librarians all over Michigan who are deeply in touch with their community. They are running programs and regularly adjusting for needs that come up within their communities.
  2. Librarians are interested in reaching out to the people in their community who aren’t there. They are reaching out and doing the work to identify the people who aren’t coming through the doors.
  3. Librarians love to tell stories — about their impact, their patrons, successful programs they’ve run. Our workshops were heavily seasoned with these stories, and of course we repeatedly shared the ones we heard!
  4. Community members can be spark plugs for change, and librarians can identify these people. The community members we met through our workshops were dedicated to improving their communities and many of them have the time and commitment to make change happen.
  5. The Maker Movement is defined by the people who are doing the moving. In the rural setting, we’ve seen the physicality and creativity shine through over technology much of the time. Librarians learn from teachers and are able to implement learning activities that teachers don’t always have time for.
  6. People of all ages hunger for programs emphasizing making, creativity, and agency. While following a set of instructions can be great, injecting the stale directions with a bit of individual flair, or better yet, having a challenge that can be solved in a multitude of ways can be extremely empowering for people of all ages.
  7. Librarians in conjunction with communities can solve many problems, including small scale economic development. There’s much more thinking to be done on this topic, but we think that libraries in rural settings can be agents of change for younger entrepreneurs to take their first steps. By combining the impact of fellow entrepreneurs, Kristin likes to say that they can be “amplifying” forces.

That’s all from me on the topic of the summer. Thanks to everyone for their hard work this summer! It couldn’t have happened without all of you! Stay tuned for more events this fall, including time at local Ann Arbor schools!

Alyssa’s Summer Reflection

The summer is coming to an end, and with it, my time traveling with the Making in Michigan team to rural libraries in Michigan to hold professional development workshops for librarians and educators. It has been a long and fruitful summer for me. The overwhelming feeling I have from this time is that I am so thankful to all of the amazing librarians I met this summer, who invited us into their spaces and shared their experiences with us. I learned so much from them and definitely gained some insight into perspectives that library school doesn’t give me access to. The passion and the energy that so many librarians and library workers bring to their work, who will fight to give their communities the best resources and programming, was frankly inspiring. I hope to be able to carry over that same passion into my own work.

Often when we talk about innovative and important library programming, we look to the big libraries – Chicago, New York, Ann Arbor, Sacramento, and the like – but what have learned this summer is that, those those institutions are doing good work as well, we are missing out on a big opportunity by not looking closer at the smaller libraries that have less resources. The programs I saw there were innovative and accessible, more so than many of the programs at larger libraries. I think that we in library school fall into the assumption that excess breeds innovation, but I think it’s quite the opposite. Excess can produce innovation, but scarcity demands it.

So that’s what I want to leave this internship with – a fire in my soul and a grateful heart.  Thank you to every one of the people who came out to our workshops and shared their talents and thoughts with us. And thank you to the Making in Michigan Team for letting me be part of it for this short time in my life. The lessons I have learned here will definitely affect how I approach my career from this moment on, and all for the better.

Best wishes,


Benzonia Workshops


We had a great time in Benzonia this week!


The first day we had our Making Makers Learning: Intro to the Maker Movement workshop, with some great discussion!


The second day we had our Selling Handmade Goods Online workshop, where we discussed the business end of craft businesses, followed by our Fashion Hacking workshop. It was really great to see the diverse projects that people made during our fashion hacking time, and people really went out of their way to help each other, it was a great workshop!


That evening we hosted a Maker Fest open to the public and had stations such as glass etching, button making, paper puppets, and crochet. It was great to see the kiddos engaged and enjoying themselves with all of the activities!


The next day we wrapped up with our Gaining Financial Support workshop and a Maker Idea Swap, where we had a great discussion about the successes and challenges of Maker programming.


Thanks to everyone at the Benzonia Public Library for hosting us and to everyone who attended for their thoughtful contributions! Have a good fall everyone!



Workshop in Houghton Lake: Creating Design Challenges

We had a great final workshop in Houghton Lake by learning more about the usefulness of Design Challengs for libraries and schools.

We started by introducing our design thinking game. We then explained the design thinking cycle and had the participants complete one iteration of it. We finished by exploring other subject areas and how they can use design challenges as well.

Check out our folder of resources here. More pictures can be found here on our Flickr. Stay tuned for more events in Benzonia and around the state this fall!