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Interview on 49th Shelf’s The Interruption, with Sean Cranbury

Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in Books I Wrote, Interviews, Mighty Ugly, Writing & Editing | 0 comments

Greetings from my parents’ living room in Upstate New York! I have a rare hour to myself – the first one of this nearly two-week family holiday, and I’m so glad to have it because it means I can share something exciting with you.

Discover Canadian Books, Authors, Book Lists and More on 49thShelf.comeBefore I left home a couple of weeks ago, I had a chat with Sean Cranbury, who seems to be involved with almost everything related to books in Vancouver. He has a podcast called Books on the Radio, and has been collaborating with the Canadian book blog 49th Shelf to create a podcast called The Interruption.

In the interview, we talked about how Make It Mighty Ugly came to be, about the weekend when I pulled my hair out while writing it, and about the book tour in October.

Sean also asked me to read from the book. It was my first time ever reading from something I’ve written, and I was very grateful for my copyeditor, who while editing the manuscript put a note in to indicate a section she thought would be great for readings. Without her, I’d have had no idea how to choose, and I’d have been intensely nervous. Instead, I was like, “I got this.”

Listen to the interview and reading over at 49th Shelf!

Creative Mornings Talk: The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Failure

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Crafts, Creativity, Living Creatively, Mighty Ugly | 3 comments

Last Friday I did something I’d been thinking about doing for months and months. Something that kept me up at night and occupied an increasing part of my brain as the spring and summer progressed. Something I was exhilarated and terrified of doing.

I delivered the Vancouver Creative Mornings talk on the August theme of failure.

I was exhilarated because it was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to speak at an event that was not in some way crafts-related. And because I got to explore ideas I wouldn’t otherwise have given myself the time or space to explore. And because I had a time constraint, and I knew the talk would be recorded and distributed, and it was a big deal.

I was terrified because this is my topic, man. I had to get it right. I had to say something important. I had to nail it. It would be recorded and distributed. It was a very big deal. And I suck at giving talks with slides. I just suck at slides.

After two years of writing and speaking about the ugly voice in our minds that tells us we suck, I eventually decided not to talk about that at all. I had realized there’s another voice in our minds – our inner monologue. And we sometimes use that voice – our own, deliberate voice – to tell ourselves stories. Stories about failure. Stories we have full control over, and that we have a tendency to believe as true.

What might happen if we started to listen to that voice more closely? To tease that voice apart from the ugly voice? To exert some power over it to alter the stories we tell ourselves with it?

So here’s my talk. (The sound improves dramatically at around 2:45.) If you enjoy it, please click through to the Creative Mornings site and click the little heart (hover over the video to make it appear on the right). Go ahead and join the site, too. Creative Mornings is pretty wonderful. Hopefully you have a chapter in your city.

That part where I throw my hands in the air and exclaim, “How fascinating?!” Before the talk, a group of wonderful people led the room in an improv exercise that involved everyone throwing their hands in the air and exclaiming “How fascinating!” whenever someone screwed up. I’d like to always have the room do an improv exercise about failing before I speak. So much less nervous! Everyone was laughing! And it gave me something to say when I did, indeed, screw up. (Click to embiggen.)

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I know some of you have been following along on the bullet journal adventure; it’s my bullet journal that I’m holding throughout. Without it, I would have failed at slides even more spectacularly than I did with it telling me when to click.

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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

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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

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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.