My Material Life

Poke Fever

You’ve heard of gold fever?  Well, I’ve got poke fever.  I can’t seem to stop making these …

I keep finding different beads or lacing material or embellishment ideas …

But I should back up because you might not even know what a poke is.  Well, here in California, every fourth grader in the public school system studies California history.  The gold rush was a very important piece of that history and Samantha’s school has a gold rush day that is put on by parent volunteers so the kids can have some fun and experience some of the nicer things that we imagine might have gone on during that time – like panning for gold.  The way I understand it, a poke referred to both the pouch that a miner would use to hold gold and the value of that gold itself.

Well our gold rush day is next week and at one of our early planning meetings one of the moms* said that the pokes were basically expendable.  She said the kids could just use an old sock or something.  But you know when I heard that I knew I would have to get involved in these pokes (and probably in a big way) because I just wouldn’t let that happen to the kids.  I’ve gotten to know quite a few of them over the years and I couldn’t bear to see them with some dad’s old yucky tube sock tied to their blue jeans or whatever.  Where’s the fun, where’s the romance of the old west in that?

So I did get involved and in a big way.  I’ve cut out about a hundred of these things by now.  Cut holes (really slits) in them too with the buttonhole cutter I inherited from my awesome seamstress and pattern drafting aunt, Kay.  Three other moms volunteered to make them with their kids’ classes and we’re just about done, but darned if I can’t stop wanting to make more.

Here are the instructions I wrote up for the other moms.  In the past, the kids made pouches from large circles of fabric with slits around the edges that they laced and pulled together to form a pouch.  That’s a fine and one authentic way to make a poke, but it uses a lot of fabric ( including the wasted fabric between circles) and it’s a lot harder to cut circles than it is to cut rectangles with a rotary cutter.  When I found this image from the Marshall Gold Discovery Site, I knew I had my model for a poke that would use less material and be much easier to produce for a large number of kids.

I found the felt (made from recycled plastic bottles) at JoAnn’s.  It sells for about $5 per yard (72″ wide!), but you can get it for about half that with one of JoAnn’s coupons.  The only other things I purchased were the turquoise cotton yarn (and cotton works better for lacing these than wool or acrylic) and a big bag of plastic beads.  Well under $20 (with coupons) for the entire fourth grade.

I started with 4″ x 13″ rectangles of fabric.  I made a line 3″ down on the inside of the poke, folded the bottom edge to meet that line and used my buttonhole cutter to cut 5 slits on each side edge of the pouch.  Then I folded the flap down and cut two slits off the center line all the way through flap, top of pouch, and back of pouch.  The back will accommodate a loose ring or some other clip to attach it to a belt loop or a piece of yarn to wear the poke hanging around the neck or even a narrow belt.

I can’t wait to see the kids wearing these next week.

* She’s actually my friend and a great gal – just not the kind of person who is very concerned about things like pokes.  You know what they say, different strokes …

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