DIY Calamine Lotion

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Blather | 0 comments

I’m amassing an impressive/terrifying collection of powders, oils and herbs, you guys. Impressive because it takes up an increasingly alarming amount of space in my studio and it’s becoming varied enough that I find I have ingredients on-hand when I want them, and terrifying because holy crap when did I ever think I’d amass a collection of herbs and oils and powders?

I’ve started using the hashtag #goddamnedapothecary.

This morning, my kid woke up complaining of an itchy mosquito bite. So though I’ve been waiting on a delivery containing ingredients to make Humblebee & Me’s chili-oil tiger balm to use for such things (likely very light on the chili oil on account of soft soft 3-year-old skin; I may end up leaving it out entirely for a kid version, actually), I discovered I already had ingredients to make calamine lotion.

Of course, during all my months of summer camp in Upstate New York and the bug bites that went along with them, I never found that store-bought calamine lotion actually worked. But at least it provided me and the grown-ups around me something to do when the itching became overwhelming, and hooray for something to do and hooray for placebo effects and hooray for the cred of having legs with pink dots all over them.

So this morning I cobbled together a paste of sea salt, baking soda, bentonite clay, witch hazel, and a bit of lavender and chamomile essential oils (based on a few recipes I found, including this one).

Kudos to my kid for trusting me so completely that he didn’t blink an eye when I approached him with vaguely green goop on my finger and gingerly applied it to his bite.

He says it doesn’t itch anymore, so here’s another three cheers for dabbling in becoming a goddamned apothecary and also for the placebo effect!

Books Are Real, Smithsonian Event, San Francisco Workshop

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 in Books I Wrote, Events | 0 comments

Kids, shit’s getting real.

Yesterday I received a box of books. My books. The books I wrote. When I first saw a galley copy several months ago, I cried. When the box of final copies arrived yesterday, I had no idea what to do with myself. I still haven’t done anything with myself. It’s just too much.

I gave Owen a copy of the book. Naturally, I encouraged him to draw in it. He's really into writing his name, copying it from what I write.

I gave Owen a copy of the book. Naturally, I encouraged him to draw in it. He’s really into writing his name, copying it from what I write.

The book will be released into the world in less than a month. I can’t fully believe it. I’m nervous, to be honest. I love this book. And so I care about what people will think of it. It’s personal, and so I care that much more. Also, it received that one review, and the review was very positive, and so people expect things of the book, and of me. Yikes.

I wouldn’t trade this confusion or anxiety for anything. It’s what goes along with creating something important. Important to me, I mean. Some of my anxiety is that, of course, I hope it will important to readers, too. Anyway. At the same time that I recognize my emotions are not entirely positive, I recognize that I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Because I’ve made something big. Big for me. It’s not often I make something so big. It’s intense.

Speaking of intense, tickets for our book tour event at the Smithsonian on October 20th became available yesterday. It’s our last event of the book tour, and it’s the freaking Smithsonian. Holy crap. Tickets are free, but seating is limited, so if you’re in the DC area and want to come to our panel discussion followed by book signing, please snag a ticket now!

Toward the beginning of the tour, seats are also already available for a hands-on workshop Leanne, Betsy and I will be leading at Makeshift Society, SF. I’m really excited about the workshop we’ve crafted together, to focus on and highlight each of our areas of interest and expertise. (We’ll also be offering a workshop in Brooklyn, and hopefully one in Portland, so keep watch for ticket info.)

It’s possible most of my posts for the next while will be book- or event-related. I’ll try to toss in some other fun stuff, too!

Casting on to Knit a Sleepbot 3000

Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in Crafts | 2 comments

IMG 5549

Back when I was finishing up the capybara I made for my friend’s daughter, Owen got hold of the book the pattern was in – Huge and Huggable Mochimochi, by Anna Hrachovec. When he saw the utterly adorbz robot pillow in there, he asked me to make it for him. Disinclined to travel anywhere with a 20”x26” pillow, I ordered worsted weight yarn for it instead of chunky, and Monday night I cast on, using 3.75mm needles instead of the 6.5mm ones called for in the pattern. I want this pillow to be small enough not to be a total pain in the ass to tote around.

I’ve never done intarsia, kids. I’m half excited and half petrified. Got tips? I’d love some.

Starred Review in Library Journal

Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in Books I Wrote, Mighty Ugly | 2 comments

IMG 5536

When the mail arrived yesterday there was happy dancing all around (to the confused, if not horrified, wonder of our new next-door neighbours), for I received a hard copy of the first review of Make It Mighty Ugly. It’s a starred review, man.

Oh, my, so much happy dancing.

I know lots of crafters are librarians by trade, and if you’re one of them, here’s some info I put together on how to host a Mighty Ugly workshop at your branch.

And I know lots of crafters are lovers of their local library. If that’s you, perhaps this review will make it more likely that your branch will order a copy of the book. You can ask them to, if you want to be sure (and you can point them to the July issue of Library Journal if you want to nudge them to see the star next to the review. Or maybe that’s just me. Because holy smokes, you guys, I’m still dancing over here).

My Craftsy Crochet Class Is Live!

Posted by on Jul 9, 2014 in Crafts | 4 comments

I arrived home at 7:30am yesterday on a red-eye flight after my college roommate’s wedding in Honolulu. (Hawaii, I have fallen in love with you. FYI.)

And though I tried hard to tell you that my shiny new Craftsy beginner crochet class went live at 9:30am, I ended up nodding off in front of my computer and had to finally admit to myself that I should stop trying and instead sleep for four hours. Which I did, and then I woke up with the kind of killer headache only jet lag after a red-eye can concoct in a mad conspiracy to try to make you not love Hawaii anymore but it didn’t work because Hawaii is very loveable.

So here I am the next day – my birthday, so this post especially shiny today – to tell you all about it.

(Psst. All the links to the class in this post include a discount. Thank you for being here!)

Craftsy Crochet Basics & Beyond title card

As you may know, I went to Denver in April to film this class. I got to design the class myself, which means I got to say what I wanted to say (which is not always a given in a crafts-video situation) and include things other people might not consider to be usual topics for a beginner crochet class, like how to read patterns and symbol diagrams.

granny square symbol diagram

In the class, we cover not only how to read a pattern in words, but also how to read symbol diagrams.

The fabulous amazing thing about online teaching is that I can cover so much in under four hours. In a three-hour crochet workshop, I can send students home knowing how to make the basic stitches, sure. But in this class, which allows you to do lessons whenever you want and spend as much time as you want on any particular skill, I had the goal of preparing students to finish it having gained enough confidence to go out and try their hand at following a pattern to make whatever they want. I’ll be forever in Craftsy’s debt for giving me that opportunity!

giant granny square blanket

There are two versions of a granny-square blanket pattern included with the class. This is the one I worked up, as it existed the night before we started shooting the class. So many ends to weave in! (Also, nail polish. Obviously.)

The kicker, though, the kicker is that Craftsy also has a simple, robust platform for class participation, so it’s not just that I got to deliver my ideal version of a beginner crochet class, I also get to interact with students and students get to interact with me. Students’ questions are public, so other students can learn from their questions and my and other students’ answers, and everyone can share photos of their work, whether to show a problematic row or a success.

crochet class filming

Here’s how the set look while we were staging things for filming. We had a lot of crochet and yarn to wrangle!

I know you may already know how to crochet, so this class may not be for you (but maybe this class is for you). But maybe it’s for some (or, like, several dozen) people you know. If it is (of course it is!), please send them to this post, because all the links in this post lead to a discounted class price. And if you don’t already crochet, well, please use these links for yourself! You deserve it. And you’ll learn something. And we can chat.

giant granny square blanket

This is the other version of the blanket, which our amazing tech editor stitched up.

If you have any questions about the class or about Craftsy, don’t be shy!

Here are a few more pics from filming:

crochet set at Craftsy

Here’s the view my producer, Laura, had. That’s Tony you see; he was our camera operator the first day of shooting.

Ivana and her Vespa

Craftsy has an editor in the room during filming, doing live cuts. It’s pretty awesome. By the end of the three days of shooting, our editor Ivana (how adorable is she with her Vespa?!) had a rough cut already done.

And here’s a wee video that I find utterly hilarious.


Win a Seat in My Shiny New Craftsy Crochet Class!

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Crafts | 0 comments

Craftsy Crochet Basics & Beyond title card

The beginner crochet class I filmed with Craftsy is going to launch on Tuesday, you guys, and you can click here to be entered to win the class. (That’s all there is to it – if you have a Craftsy account already, you’ll be entered automatically. If you don’t have an account, you’ll have to create one to be entered.)

This is the first time I’ve ever done a television or television-like project that I’m proud of. If you or many people you know want to learn how to crochet, I’m confident this class will help you do just that!

My love for Craftsy knows no bounds. They trust their instructors to know their stuff and teach it right, and that means I was actually comfortable staring into a camera for three days straight. There are hours of instruction in this class, man. Like, well over three hours of instruction, beginning with how to make a slip knot, proceeding through all the basic crochet stitches, how to work in rows and in the round, how to read and follow a pattern, culminating in actually following a pattern to make a simple yet delicious gigantic granny-square blanket. This is far more than I ever could teach in a three-hour in-person crochet class, and people can take the class in their pajamas, which is always a win.

My goal in designing the class was to make sure my students would end the class feeling confident to go forth and crochet anything they want, within reason. Students should feel comfortable trying out following patterns on their own, looking up tutorials for how to do stitches beyond the basic ones I demonstrate, and experimenting with yarn and hook combinations to achieve the kind of fabric they want.

Craftsy’s platform, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is pretty awesome. Students can ask questions that are linked to a particular time in a video lesson, and I can answer those questions so the answers are visible to anyone else watching that video. This allows students to learn from each other, and from me, all while keeping their place in the lesson. I’m very excited to chat with my students!

So, enter to win the class, eh?

When the class goes live on Tuesday, I’ll let you know!

Have you taken a Craftsy class? What did you learn?


My Great-Grandma Marian’s Sewing Machine

Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 in Living Creatively | 5 comments

I mentioned this in my newsletter a few weeks ago, but finally took a photo so wanted to share it here, too. Last month, my cousin Marsha and her wife embarked on a two-month cross-continent road trip, in part to distribute some family heirlooms.

image of vintage Singer sewing machine

My great-grandma Marian was a tailor, and I was very touched when Marsha told me she wanted me to have her treadle Singer. Marian had bought the machine new, in the early 1920s, and it was her livelihood for much of the ’30s and beyond. (The box on top in the photo is her button box, and it is an incredible treasure. I’ll take photos of its contents soon. And, naturally, there’s a Matchbox car on there, too, for there’s nary a corner of our home uninhabited by toy cars these days.)

The machine has been unused for many a decade, but it should be pretty easy to get it into working order. Singer makes old manuals available online, so I have a copy of it to use for reference. (Singer also will let you know when and where old sewing machines were manufactured. I emailed them the machine’s serial number and they wrote back to tell me it was made November 3, 1920 in Elizabeth, New Jersey.)

Greg is intent on restoring the oak table the machine sits in. In the late ’70s, my great-uncle Abe used some wood paneling he had leftover from a home remodel to cover up the very worn original oak. Greg finds it horrifying but I think it’s a part of the machine’s history, and is therefore quite loveable. But I’m also not at all opposed to repairing the table in a manner more consistent with its original state.

It’s unlikely we’ll do anything with it this summer, but hopefully come winter we’ll start getting the restoration going. I’m really looking forward to learning how to use it!

Got any tips for sewing with a treadle machine?