Happening in MAKESHOP™

It’s glowing in MAKESHOP this month! Paint with light, create a glowing pin, make your own night light fixture, sew with fluorescent fabrics, and more! Check out other glow activities.

Youth Maker Night: January 25, 5:30 – 8:00 pm
Join other youth, ages 10-15, for a fun night in MAKESHOP. Learn more.

Save the date! MAKEnight: February 7, 6:00 – 9:00 pm

Need to test your prototype game, toy, or tool? MAKESHOP welcomes students, businesses, or other groups to use our space as a place for prototyping.  Contact us for more information!




MAKEnight is an event held after hours at the Museum where adults can visit the museum to make things and meet new people while enjoying some food by Bar Marco and drinks from Wigle Whiskey. We held our second MAKEnight on December 6, 2012 with a sold out crowd! If you missed it, then mark your calendars for the next one on February 7!

It was very busy and very enjoyable. The activities for this month’s event included cheese making, glass etching, and light painting in MAKESHOP. Guests could also create silk screen prints, books, and jewelry in the STUDIO.

MAKEnight allowed me to spend a night being a bar-back for a “make your own cheese” bar. I didn’t know that cheese making could make such a mess. It was fun though! We even started joking around about how the “cheese bar” was like the show Cheers (Christian was Sam, I was Woody and Nick was Carla).

Again, the night was so much fun! Everyone had a very good time hanging out, making, eating, and drinking. It was good to see some familiar faces and great to meet all the new people who came. It is always such a joy to see the Museum full of adults having fun.


The next MAKEnight is scheduled for February 7.
Mark your calenders.

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The weekend after Thanksgiving can be really, really busy at the Museum, so we decided to try something a little different with our visitors in MAKESHOP.  The entire exhibit was cleared to make space for several forts.  We split the exhibit space into four separate, specifically themed fort building areas.  We also provided a walk way for visitors and strollers to navigate.  The themes of the four forts were as follows:

Fabric Fort, which contained large pieces of fabric, chairs, a table and lots of clothespins and binder clips.  Visitors were encouraged to drape fabric and pin it in place to create tunnels and tents.

Fort Wood consisted of our Build-It pieces which is usually out for visitors to play with at all times during the year.

The Island utilized some of the beams running across the ceiling of MAKESHOP.  We strung rope, fabric and metal hoops to create a hanging fort. (This was my favorite).

Cardboard Wilderness was full of giant boxes and large mailing tubes.  Visitors were able to stack, tape, and use whatever means necessary to create different structures.

I had a really good time adding to and destroying all the different forts throughout the day.  Our visitors seemed to really embrace the idea of creating something large for other visitors to admire, play in, and build (or destroy).  I really like it when we attempt these ambitious, collaborative projects.  You never know how it is going to go…but that’s half the fun.

Thanks to everyone that added to or simply enjoy all of our forts over the Thanksgiving Break. Check back for future collaborative projects!


How we plan things in MAKESHOP

The Museum can be a very busy place around the holidays.  We generally try to have themed or special programming for our visitors to enjoy.  The weekend after Thanksgiving, we decided to let the visitors build forts in MAKESHOP.

The picture above is a good example of how we typically get ready for a weekend full of special programming in MAKESHOP.  It always helps to draw out some kind of floor plan for the space.  Planning for events or special workshops can be a lot of fun.  MAKESHOP is a great space for different activities because it is such a flexible space.

Communication is important, too.  It can sometimes be hard to keep track of all of the different projects that we are planning.  I find it really helpful when someone creates instructions for specialized projects. For example. Christian wrote out some professional, but hand-written instructions for the clock making kits that visitors could purchase in the Museum store throughout the month of November.  We had a similar, hand-drawn set of instructions for the light fixture kits that can be purchased during December.

Below is great example of a brainstorming/idea formulating message board.  It is  just a dry-erase board nailed to a wall in the back office of MAKESHOP.  This allows for us to share ideas, prototypes, etc.  It’s an easy way to share things in a quick manner!

A Family’s Fun

Ty and his sister spent a lot of time exploring animation.  Actually, their entire family spent a lot of time exploring all of MAKESHOP.  Their older brother was fascinated with the loom and spent most of his time weaving.  Their siblings also had a blast exploring light painting.  We experimented a lot with different light sources and different movement techniques.  This family was such a joy.  They were really open to all of our new prototypes, including stop-motion animation and the light painting.  They had a great time simply playing in MAKESHOP.  They spent roughly two hours in the morning and came back later to play some more. The mother was very amazed by how much fun her children were having, as she wasn’t sure if her kids would be too old to have fun at the Museum.

– Kevin

Looming Danger

Sure, we’ve made some beautiful things here, but not every weaving experiment goes well.  Sometimes… well, sometimes this happens. If our strings aren’t strong enough, they’re liable to break, shred or be otherwise completely messed up.

Here are some other problems, surprises, and discoveries:


Sometimes you can really tell who was doing the weaving! Every visitor who works on the loom does things just a little bit differently: a little looser, a little tighter, larger or smaller stripes. Every person who works on a piece leaves their own mark. This photo shows two ends of the same scarf. The one at the top is very even, while the bottom is looser and more irregular. The person who worked on the pink and blue on the bottom left made each row very tight (see where the white edges are pulled together?) and the rows far apart. The green and pink at the bottom, however, have loose rows and are far apart.


“Weft” is what we call the back-and-forth strings which visitors add on when they use the loom. Usually when we weave, the weft goes over a warp string, then under the next one… over-under-over-under, 1-2-1-2. Somehow this part ended up being an over-over-over-under pattern instead! And it happened in the same way for several rows. It’s a pretty cool looking mistake.


Our loom is a four-harness loom, which means that the long warp strings are connected to one of four different pieces that can lift the strings up or drop them down. Sometimes, one of these comes loose and can no longer lift. This is what it looks like on the back of the weaving when that happens: the weft string (in this case, the colored string) doesn’t get lifted up, and so it doesn’t become part of the over-under pattern. It’s just a loose string hanging off the bottom!


That long warp string doesn’t have to be all the same color! In this experiment, we used tan and red stripes. The weft is all different colors — here you can see green, dark red, bright red, pink and black. A pattern of crisscrossed stripes like this is called a “tartan”, and a tartan-patterned fabric is called a “plaid”.

Unfortunately, the string we used for our plaid was kind of fuzzy, and as it was pulled through the loom the fuzz would make knots and all the strings would get stuck, or broken. We decided to also try weaving pieces of fabric into this one, instead of just yarn. In this picture you can see a bit of both. This made it very thick and heavy.


Right now, most of the pieces we’ve made on the loom are just long scarves. But this little test piece was sewn into a bag! We sewed it exactly the same way we would sew regular fabric, and it works just as well. Plus it’s exactly the colors and pattern we wanted! This is a small piece from the plaid experiment shown above.

Monster Pet Workshop

Shortly before Halloween, Amy and I ran a “Monster Pet” workshop. We had two hours and the entire workshop to help visitors through the process of brainstorming, designing, planning, and construction using both hand and machine sewing techniques.

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We began by brainstorming what makes a monster a monster. What kind of words would you use to describe your monster? Where does your monster live? What makes a creature scary, or cute, or funny? What are some real animals that look weird, and what makes them so strange? What other Halloween creatures can you think of?

After coming up with a great list of attributes, we asked each maker to choose a few and start sketching different ways to fit them all onto their monster.  I recommended doing some scribbles with closed eyes and then picking a shape or two that they were inspired by and could turn into a creature.

After designing, we made patterns out of cardstock, carefully cut our fabric,  discussed which steps needed to be done in which order, and learned about special ways to sew the different pieces. All three kid-makers used combinations of hand and machine sewing techniques to complete beautifully-crafted, funny, squishy Monster Pets!

(We were so busy having fun that we only got a few photos, and they ended up being very blurry. Or maybe that’s just a little monster magic playing tricks on our eyes….)

Weaving Experiments Ahead

Weaving is a repetitive process, and we do a lot of it, but we love it and want to keep it fresh and interesting. So every time we start a new project, we start a new experiment! Sometimes it’s special colors, an unusual pattern, or turning it into something exciting.


Our two most recent experiments are two of my all-time favorites.

This one is so bright and cheerful, just perfect for winter! And look closely at the white strings…. The pattern is two strings, three strings, two strings, three strings (etc) instead of our usual one string, one string, one string (etc). A small change, but a big difference! (In the photo below you can see there was a stray string that got a little messed up….)

But the best part is what it’s made out of. Can you tell? Take a guess, and click here to see if you’re right!

And here is our most recent — and in some ways most exciting — weaving project! There was so much care taken with every step of this piece, and I think it shows. Here’s the process we went through to make it. You can click on the photos below to see them larger:


  1. The “warping board” where we measure out lots and lots of string. We wind it around those wooden pegs so that it doesn’t get tangled while we work. The “warp” is the long, long string that goes all the way from one end of the weaving to the other, and makes the fringe on the ends of our scarves (the other string is called the “weft”).
  2. We dyed this warp using some Tee Juice markers. We wanted to try ikat dying, where we draw a pattern on the threads, but it proved too difficult to do sprawled all over the museum floor in the middle of the afternoon.  So Kevin and I grabbed some empty jars and water and used some tie-dying techniques to just stain the string.
  3. Look at that beautiful, dyed chain of warp string! It’s wrapped up in a crochet chain to prevent it from getting tangled. Most of the work involved in this part of the process is keeping things from getting tangled.


  1. We’ve started “dressing” or “warping” the loom. All that string is wound around the back beam, which keeps it (surprise!) from getting tangled. It also keeps it nice and tight and out of the way.
  2. When preparing the string it’s important to keep everything in order. We use this “cross” system where the strings alternate up and down. This way they can’t get past each other and cut in line!
  3. A close-up from the finished scarf. You can see where some parts of the warp string are lighter and some are darker. This is called “verigation”, which is also used to describe some plant leaves.

And, of course, I should mention all the very hard work by our visitors who did the actual weaving! Both of these were made with great care, attention to detail and patience. Thanks to everybody who helped out, especially the couple visitors who spent literally hours working on them!