Shop Closing Tuesday (Back Open Mid-Summer)

In preparation for the road trip, I’ll be closing my shop (also Etsy) for anything but digital sales on Tuesday, April 28th. So if you’ve been wanting to buy a signed book or bookplate, now’s the time to do it! I’ll reopen the shops sometime in later June or early July, once we’ve settled back in at home.

(The Year of Making ebook will remain available in both shops, since those purchases are fulfilled automatically. Technology!)

Finishing Touches (a Bit of Productive Procrastination)

When I was preparing to release the Year of Making ebook last December, I realized I needed to use a different WordPress template because the one I’d been using didn’t have native support for the shop plugin I’d decided to use. So I did a bit of a redesign on the site.

“Bit” being the operative word, because what with the ebook prep, setting up the shop, and all the rest, I never actually managed to finish the redesign.

Until now. What better time to fiddle with one’s website than when one has too many tasks to complete to get ready for a six-week road trip, right?

So. You’ll see a new header up there at the top of the page (you’ll see a very similar one in my Friday newsletter, and on the Facebook group I started yesterday [more on that soon!]. And I finally made the font size big enough to, you know, actually read. I fixed a few CSS problems, too.

Do you do this? Have a daunting pile of work in front of you, only to divert your attention entirely to do something almost utterly unrelated? Productive procrastination is what I called it in Make It Mighty Ugly, I think.

Crocheted Rag Rug (and How to Crochet a Perfect Circle)

By far the most straightforward project I’m making to outfit the camper for our road trip is a crocheted rag rug. I’ve been wanting to make one for ages, and am glad I finally committed to making one for the very small amount of floor space we have in our tiny home on wheels.

First thing I did was wing it without either a) measuring the space I need to fill, nor b) redoing the problematic parts of the rug once I realized it looked funny.

So I’m calling it a useful experiment, and we’ll use this small rug outside the door to collect mud and dirt when we take our shoes off before going inside.

crocheted oval rag rug photo

Problematic things? First (this is for the crochet nerds), I started the rug with a row of foundation single crochet rather than a chain, because I wanted the very centre to have as much thickness and heft as the rest of the rug. But when I actually stopped to look at the thing, I was not pleased with how there’s that one lone loop of each stitch hanging out at the centre. But did I rip it back? Oh no. Like the not-perfectionist I am, I soldiered on.

And as I soldiered on, I increased around the ends of the oval at very regular intervals. Like you do.

But, (again for the crochet nerds), as you know, when you increase at regular intervals whilst crocheting in the round, you don’t actually produce a circle; you produce a straight-sided shape with the same number of sides as stitches you began with in the first round (like this). (For example, if you started with six stitches, you’d eventually end up with a hexagon, not really a circle; with eight stitches, an octagon.)

In yarn as thick as that made from cut-up t-shirts, the increasing at regular intervals bit in an oval-shaped rug did not make me happy.

So, you know. Eventually I went out to the camper and measured the floor, so I’d know how big I should make the next oval-shaped rug.

And you know what I discovered? That wee patch of floor is 36″ x 40″. So, uh, what I actually need is a circle rug.

Well. So much for prototyping for a project that’s actually less finicky than I’d anticipated.

So this is what the inside rug looks like, about 3/4 of the way to a diameter of about 34″:

circle rag rug photo

You may notice that it’s not a straight-sided shape pretending to be a circle. That’s because I’ve spread my increases out instead of lining them up one on top of the last. I’ve gotten some questions about how to do this in my Craftsy class, so I figured I’d write it out in a bit more detail:

How to Crochet a Perfect Circle

To crochet a proper circle that doesn’t have corners where the increases pile up, vary the number of stitches you make at the beginning of the round before you make your first increase. Once you’ve made your first increase at a different point than the first increase of the previous round, continue to crochet the round by counting as you need to to space the rest of the increases evenly. Perhaps that’ll be clearer with an example.

Say I started with six stitches in my first round, so need to increase six times evenly spaced on every subsequent round. It would look something like this:

Round 1: 6 sc.
Round 2: [2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 3: [Sc in next stitch, 2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 4: [Sc in each of next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 5: [Sc in each of next 3 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.

This is the formula that ends up stacking the increases one on top of the others, resulting in a hexagon rather than a true circle.

To stagger your stitches to achieve perfect roundness, try something like:

Round 1: 6 sc.
Round 2: [2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 3: [Sc in next stitch, 2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 4: Sc in next stitch, 2 sc in next stitch, sc in next stitch, [sc in each of next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch] 5 times, sc in last stitch.
Round 5: 2 sc in first stitch, [sc in each of next 3 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch] 5 times, sc to end of round.

You can see that the formula is the same, it’s just that starting with Round 4, I began to offset the placement of the increases so they don’t all pile up. Note that in Round 5, I didn’t just continue the pattern I set up in Round 4; instead, I made sure the increases were offset from where they were placed in the fourth round. You’d just continue in this manner, increasing evenly around each round, but with the placement of the increases staggered.

Crocheted Rag Rug Resources

I’ve gotten loads of comments from people expressing interest in crocheting their own rag rug, so here are some great resources: Cal Patch teaches a super Creativebug class on how to crochet rag rugs, including lessons on circle rugs and also oval ones. I used this tutorial for how to make yarn from old t-shirts.

If you’ve crocheted a rag rug, share a photo in the comments! If you want to, let me know if you have any questions!

Adventure in Self-Publishing: Lithuanian Knitting

Lithuanian Knitting book cover

The most ambitious book I’ve had the pleasure of editing is, hands down, Donna Druchunas’s and June Hall’s Lithuanian Knitting. Born of a mutual fascination with and personal dedication to the knitting traditions of this Eastern European country, the book is equal parts memoir, historical overview, and celebration of folk craft, and of course it contains a trove of knitting patterns and technique-related information.

In addition to releasing an ebook version, as per the usual self-publishing path, Donna and June want to have a hard-cover version printed in Lithuania, to support the local economy of the place so dear to them. To accomplish that expensive goal, they’ve recently launched a Pubslush crowdfunding campaign.

It’s such an unusual decision – to have a book printed in a faraway place not known globally for printing (like China is), and to crowdfund a book (which has certainly been done before, and after all it’s what Pubslush is entirely dedicated to, but it’s still not common practice) – that I asked Donna if she’d answer some questions about it. Here’s what she had to say:

KPW: First, tell me a little bit about the book.

DC: Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions is a travel-memoir-history-knitting book! Together with my co-author June Hall, I’ve created a book that tells our stories of traveling around the country were some of our ancestors were born learning about the people and culture all through knitting. We both have been to Lithuania many times and over the years have made many friends who have helped us find amazing information about traditional and contemporary knitting, textiles, sheep, wool, and folk art. It’s been the experience of a lifetime working on this project. Along with all of the stories, there are 25 projects to knit, including mittens, gloves, wrist warmers, and socks.

Why did you decide to use Pubslush instead of self-publishing in a more traditional manner (print-on-demand, etc.)?

I’m publishing this book in partnership with Double Vision Press (Anne Berk) and will be having the book printed in Lithuania with the funds from Pubslush. Pubslush is simply a crowdfunding tool like Kickstarter, but it’s only for books! I don’t use print-on-demand because for the various options available either a) I don’t like the quality or b) the cost per book is too high. By working with a regular book printer, I can keep costs down per book and get the best possible quality. I am having this book printed in Lithuania with a very Eastern European style of design, and cover. Our art director is also in Lithuania.

What’s your experience with Pubslush been like? Do you find the platform easy to use? How are people responding to the campaign?

It’s great. The folks at Pubslush are so helpful and I’ve had a great response to the campaign so far. It’s only just started today and I’m thrilled by the early contributions and feedback in the comments.

I know the campaign has only just launched, but do you think you’ll use Pubslush again? Is it better suited to certain kinds of projects over others? Would you recommend it? And if you would, to whom?

I’m not sure. I mean, I would definitely recommend Pubslush. But the books I’m working on right now for the future are either with a publisher or they’re part of my Stories In Stitches series, which has a different cycle. If I ever did another big self-published book, I would definitely go with Pubslush for my launch.

I learned so much editing this book. Whether you’re already interested in Lithuania or Lithuanian knitting or not, I think you’ll enjoy it too. Check it out!

We Werkers Are Hitting the Road

1974 Trillium camper trailer

This is our wee 1974 Trillium caravan. With a few exceptions, we’re going to live in it for five weeks!

Last week I hinted a little about our upcoming road trip, but I’m so excited about it that I know I’m probably going to write a lot about it, so best to just start now, right?

A couple of years ago, my very practical mom suggested that we take Owen to Disneyland the spring before he starts kindergarten, since that’ll be the last time we’ll ever be able to travel when it’s not the crazy busy summer season of July and August. We aren’t big Disney fans or anything, but this seemed like a very good idea, and anyway, since we aren’t big Disney fans, why would we ever want to go when it’s superduper busy there in July and August? We wouldn’t.

So that became a plan.

And then about a year ago, Greg and I started wondering aloud if maybe, since we love our wee camper trailer, we should drive down the coast instead of flying. Since, as my mother so convincingly put it, this will also be the only chance we’ll have to take a long road trip when it’s not the super-busy summer season.

But then we chickened out, because (if you read my weekly letter you may have a feel for this), our kid is not exactly keen on being flexible. And so we talked ourselves into believing that a long road trip would probably (based soundly on previous experience) be a disaster.

lonely-planet-western-usaAnd then, around December, we realized we hadn’t told anyone our change of plans, which we realized when Greg’s parents gave us a copy of this book.

And that was that.

Do you know how long it had been since I’d held a Lonely Planet in my hands?

Too long.

As soon as I cracked the spine of this book, all our reasons for not going on an epic road trip crashed down like that time I left my coffee cup on the roof of the car and drove away.

A week later, we had a rough timeline and an itinerary. And we have not had cold feet since.

We’ll travel for at least four weeks, but most likely closer to six. And about a quarter of the way through the trip, we’ll spend five days in Anaheim with my parents, just like we’d always planned to do.

(This right here, friends, is why I love freelancing. I’ll bring work with me, sure – one can’t just disappear for six weeks as a freelancer and not expect to be greeted by an uphill struggle to line up work upon returning, and since I like to avoid those uphill struggles, I’ll plan to do a bit of work from the road – but not a lot of work. My one client who sends me projects regularly said she has no problem if I hit a patch of spotty cell service and get work to her a day or two late while I’m on the road. [Actually, that client’s work may be the only work I bring with me, aside from my usual Craftsy work answering student questions. Oh, and shouting from the rooftops when my new Craftsy class launches while we’re on the road.])

As an unexpected, added bonus, we have some family that’s arriving in town the exact day we’ll leave, and they’ll be staying in our house the whole time we’re away. Which means that whereas I’d usually be kinda mum online about a long trip away, I’m totally not gonna be mum this time.

Roughly speaking, we’re going to travel in a loop around the Western USA, skipping over much of western Washington because we can explore there anytime. Here are some highlights I’m really looking forward to:

  • The Redwoods
  • Taking Owen on the BART in San Francisco, and on a trolley car
  • Legoland
  • Joshua Tree
  • Driving some of Historic Route 66
  • Taking a train into Grand Canyon Village
  • Monument Valley
  • Going to New Mexico for the first time
  • Arches and Canyonlands
  • Yellowstone

Obviously, there are loads more places we’ll go. We’ll hopefully camp on the beach on the California coast. I want to be sure to seek out local artisans and craftspeople wherever we go. And we’ll also have a lot of downtime, on account of that super sensitive kid and our desire to come home healthy (and relatively rested). In that vein, I intend to read a lot, knit or crochet a lot, and make a lot of stuff in my sketchbook.

In future posts, I’ll let you know what kinds of activities I’m bringing, more details about our itinerary, and loads more about the stuff we’re doing and making to prepare for the trip. If you have questions about what kinds of considerations we’ve made, or about anything else, let me know. Every time we talk to friends about this trip, I’m forced to realize over and over again that it’s not a typical thing to do. And I realize how grateful I am that Greg and I work in jobs that allow us to do such a thing without taking unpaid leaves or jeopardizing our positions.

Also, it feels really, really good to flex my trip-planning muscles again. (I’ve mentioned, right, that I once planned an entire summer’s travel camp for a job I had in another life? It was a terrible job, but not because of the traveling or the kids.)

I’ll tag all the social media posts I make about the trip with #werkersontheroad!

Happy 100th Day of Making!

If you started a #yearofmaking on January 1st, today is your one hundredth day!

(If you started before or after January 1st, tell me what day you’re on in the comments, wontcha? And if you haven’t started yet, no day is a bad day to start.) (Oh, and if you’re doing the #The100DayProject, I bet you cash money you won’t want to stop making at the end, so continuing with an additional 265 days of making – according to your own rules – will probably feel like the best idea ever.)

Here’s what I’m making today (it’s a wee rug for our camper trailer for our massive road trip next month [you’ll hear lots more about that over the next couple weeks!]):

Skype Date with a Book Group

Last week, I Skyped with a book group that’s working through Make It Mighty Ugly in 2015. (You heard that right; they formed the group just to work through the book!)

What a fun way to spend an evening – both for me and, I hope, for them. They brought up some serious food for thought, which is part of why I love talking about ugliness and creative demons with as many people as I can.

Check out the ugly creatures they made after our chat:

Mighty Ugly creatures from book group

If you want to gather a group to talk about and do some exercises from Make It Mighty Ugly, I wrote up a wee guide to help you get started.

Happy Birthday, Mighty Ugly!

It was five years ago today that I launched Five years!

Before Mighty Ugly, I was struggling through my post-crochet world without a clue as to how I’d ever find something else to do with my life.

And then the ugly took over.

Ugly has introduced me to so many new people. To new communities. To new ideas.

It’s led me on grand adventures in teaching, speaking, writing, reading and doing.

It’s my first book of words.

It’s opened up a world of art and making to me.

And I know it’s had a similar effect on many other people, too. Maybe you?

Thanks for being on this grand adventure with me. It wouldn’t be the same without you. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of anything without you.