Sophie’s Universe, Part I

Part 1 of Sophie's Universe Crocheted Blanket

The second time I learned how to crochet, I was a resident assistant in a dorm in college (the first time, I was sixteen, and I didn't know that what I was doing was even called crochet). My hall director's wife taught me, and she sent me to A.C. Moore to buy an afghan's worth of yarn and a pattern book.

The yarn I chose was truly hideous. The book was a collection of patterns I had no idea how to assess.

Which is how it ended up that I started in on a project that would be described by people inclined to rate the difficulty of patterns as capital-I Intermediate.​ It was like a 12-row repeated pattern that involved post stitches and crossed stitches and all manner of shenanigans like that.

I got the hang of it eventually and ended up making about two feet of blanket. I moved with the bag of yarn several times before realizing I'd never finish it, then I chucked it.

It was a few years after I parted ways with that beast that I learned how to crochet for the third and final time – the time that stuck.

Since then, I've written books about crochet and taught thousands of people how to do it, and I've made a few blankets. I've always preferred simple, repetitive, meditative projects, though. The kind I can relax into at the end of the day. The kind I can use odd balls for, both because I love using odd materials and also because this way I don't have to plan my colours in advance.

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A few weeks ago, though, I stumbled onto a blanket pattern that – twenty years after I started the ill-fated project in college – led me to come full circle.

Not only does Sophie's Universe involve loads of post stitches and popcorns and clusters and all manner of complicated shenanigans, it's worked in the round then squared up.

The pattern was first released for free, in parts of several rounds at a time, over several weeks back in 2015 as a mystery crochet-along, and it became so popular that just recently the designer published the whole thing as a book. I ordered the book the same day I ordered my 4200 yards of yarn (I'm using Knit Picks Comfy Worsted). The book hasn't arrived yet, but the day my yarn got here I started working from the pattern online.

Above is the completed first part of the pattern. The first 25 rounds are a mandala; after that, you square it up and continue from there. I'm totally in love with this blanket already. Every round is different from the ones before it. The math of it is gorgeous. The cleverness involved in engineering such a thing is quite something to experience.

Here's the palette of colours I'm using – weighted heavily to the ivory colour. When I'm done, I should have a bed-size blanket.

Knit Picks Comfy Worsted yarn palette for Sophie's Universe crocheted blanket

I'm posting my progress somewhat frequently in my Facebook group, where some members are talking about joining in to make a blanket of their own. Come on over and crochet along with us!

And here's my project on Ravelry, if that's more your style.​

A Resurrection

After two years on hiatus, Compulsory Podcast is coming back! Listen above for a brief update about what’s changed (and what’s staying the same), and how you can help keep the show going long into the future.

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To get unedited clips, episodes or commentary before each new show comes out, support the continuing production of Compulsory over on Patreon. Thank you!

Catching UP

Beach hair in Mexico.

The last several weeks have been totally wacko! Totally wacko. Is it because of politics? Not entirely, no. Most days I barely feel like I have my head on straight. So I thought I’d pop in and blog about all the things I’ve been neglecting, all in one place. Sweet-like, in list form. As you do.

So!

  • After the Pussyhat pattern quickly became the most popular crochet project I’ve ever released, I started a new weekly newsletter about Action + Craft. Every Tuesday I send an email including links to a few great informative pieces about one or more current events (U.S.-inspired, but with an eye on the rest of the world, too), a list of upcoming marches and demonstrations, and a round-up of art/craft-related acts of expression or resistance. You should subscribe, obviously.
    • I’m still sending my Friday newsletter, too, of course. It seems that the vast majority of my writing these days is by email. Which I’m enjoying immensely. If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’ve been in ye olde inbox. I’ll happily jump into yours!
  • I went on holiday (see beach hair, above)! It was lovely. And warm. I didn’t make a damn thing while I was away, but I did get my fiction-reading groove back, so I’m very happy.
  • In anticipation of the trip, I obsessed over making sunblocking lip balm. (Worked like a charm.)
  • It’s cold and cloudy back home now, but I’ve got spring fever. Bad.
  • Today I discovered that I have 50 patrons. 50! Holy smokes. If you enjoy my work and want to help me keep at it and to cover the cost of the tools I use to get it done (the new activism newsletter tipped me over into the next, far-more-expensive fee level of my email provider, for example), please become a patron! I create a separate biweekly newsletter just for my patrons, and patrons get behind-the-scenes and other updates that no one else gets. (Also, some get postcards in the mail. So.) Thanks for your support, lovely patrons!

Is that my full update? I honestly can’t be sure (see: head not screwed on straight). But I think so?

How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection

I'm going on a beach holiday in a few days, and I got it in my head to make myself some lip balm that'll protect me from the sun. Had I made this before? No I had not. I think the uncertainty of it is much of what made me determined to do it.

How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

(I mean, I've made plain-old lip balm before, so it's not like I went into this totally cold. But I did wing it quite a bit, all the same.)

First snag? The titanium dioxide I have is water-soluble, not oil-soluble. I was going to use only a teensy weensy bit of it, but I didn't want it to go all screwy on me so instead of using both it and zinc oxide for a sun-protection dynamic duo, I used only zinc oxide. Honestly, I don't think this made a lick of difference to the lip balm, but I thought I'd mention it.

Why these white powders, you ask? Well. There's a reason all the super-natural sunscreens for kids use them: they're effective, and they aren't harsh chemicals that might irritate skin.

Only thing is, as I'm sure you've noticed at parks or summer camps with kids whose parents hate "chemicals": pasty, pasty kids. The sunscreen makes skin look a ghastly white no matter the wearer's skin tone.

Which is why this lip balm is tinted. If I didn't add colour, the balm would be a pure, opaque white, and it would make my lips look like a clown's foundation.

How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

So I used that white as a base, and added iron oxide and carmine dye to bring it back to some kind of natural colour – even, depending on your opinion, to a lovely shade of blush.​

Below is the recipe, a video of me making the first (of two) batches, and here's an option to get a printable PDF of the ​recipe and instructions (you'll get my weekly newsletter, too, which I think will be utterly delightful for you):

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS AS A PDF

Recipe & Instructions

​Note: I have no idea exactly how much protection this lip balm provides against UVA and UVB rays. What I do know is that it should provide more than a similar recipe that doesn't use zinc oxide, because zinc oxide protects against exposure to the sun. At this concentration? I don't know how much.

Supplies*

Ingredients

Note: See instructions for compensating for leaving out any optional ingredients.

Make the Lip Balm

Fill the small saucepan with a couple of inches of water, and start heating on medium-low.

Into the glass measuring cup, add beeswax, cocoa butter, shea butter, argan oil and sweet almond oil. (If not using argan oil, just use 5g more sweet almond or olive oil. The idea is to use a total of 21g of oil that’s liquid at room temperature.)

Place the measuring cup into the saucepan. Stir occasionally while the wax and butters melt. (The wax will be the last to melt.)

While that’s going, in the small bowl combine the vitamin E oil, castor oil and zinc oxide (if you aren’t using vitamin E oil and/or castor oil, sub in the same liquid oil you’re already using – olive, sweet almond, etc. – so that you’re adding a total of 4g of oil to the zinc oxide). Stir into a paste. Now add the tint in small increments until the hue and saturation are to your liking. (Shown here: the pinkest tubes contain a smidge of burgundy iron oxide and about 30 drops of liquid carmine dye; the browner tubes contain about a teaspoon of burgundy iron oxide.)

When the waxes and butters are fully melted into the liquid oils, remove the measuring cup from the pot and place on a heat-proof surface.

Quickly stir in the zinc oxide/tint mixture, mixing thoroughly (quickly because as the oils cool, they’ll start to harden – if that happens, no worries! Just put the measuring cup back into the saucepan to remelt everything).

If you’re adding essential oil or flavour oil, add that in now (I used about 8 drops of spearmint essential oil), and stir well.

Pour everything into lip balm tubes.

Let the tubes cool thoroughly before using.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS AS A PDF

How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog
How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

Pussyhats and Photos from the Women’s March

What a thing, the Women’s Marches, eh? What a day. What a force. What a feeling. (My photos from the Vancouver march are below.)

I first learned about the Pussyhat Project right after it launched in late November, 2016, and though I cast on for a knitted hat right away, it was only when the project reached its tipping point in the couple of weeks leading up to the marches that I felt compelled to do way more.

The crocheted Pussyhat pattern I released was downloaded a few hundred times before the march, and a few hundred times the actual weekend of the march. As of the time I’m writing this, it’s been downloaded well over 700 times.My blog traffic has nearly double over the last week. As far as I can tell, the Pussyhat is more popular than any crochet pattern I’ve ever published.

There was a time when I felt I had to be very, very subtle about my feminism in my crochet work, and I’m proud, relieved and downright excited that those days are over.

Don’t get me wrong – my work isn’t going to stop being about the fun of creative exploration and turn into 100% activism all the time.

It’s just that I may bring activism – which is a big part of my personal life and has been for a long time – into my work a bit more than I used to.

But also separately. If you’d like to get occasional emails from me about simple steps to take and about the intersection of art/craft and activism, sign up right here.

Anyway. It feels simultaneously like the worst of times and the best of times. I have so much to make, and so much to do.

Onward!