I’m not entirely sure when I became obsessed with the idea of block printing. It may have been a few months ago, when Meighan O’Toole took Jen Hewitt’s block-printing class and started posting photos all over Instagram. Yes, that may have been when the seed took root in my brain. That may have been when I bought a lino-cut starter kit. I didn’t actually use that kit until this week, though, such was my obsession with the idea of block printing.
But I packed the kit, along with some other print-making stuff, when we went on our road trip. I had visions of carving stamps after Owen went to bed, and returning home with all kinds of things to print.
As it turned out, the weather was colder and far windier than we’d anticipated it would be in many places, and when it wasn’t super windy it was often very hot and so Owen went to bed later than usual, and anyway what I’m saying is that I hardly made anything at all on the trip, stamps and blocks included. (I also hardly knitted, and I didn’t bring out the watercolours even once.)
It was on one of the last nights of the trip that I finally said enough, and I pulled out a wee circle of rubber. I forgot to reverse the design for proper directional printing, but I made a stamp of our wee camper, and in the process of doing so I fell completely in love with block printing – not just the idea of it, but the actual act and product of it.
As I knew I would.
Block printing, see, like screen printing, is just so practical. You get the one-time thrill of creating something new, going through all the steps to make a stamp/screen, and then you can use that stamp/screen over and over and over again. In some ways, block printing is even more satisfying than screen printing: blocks take up less room to store than screens, they’re less fiddly to apply, and set-up and clean-up are faster and easier.
So when Owen decided that he wants the activity at his half-birthday party this weekend to be tie-dyeing t-shirts (just like last year, for he is a creature of habit) I knew that I had to make a stamp for those shirts. Obviously.
And so I sketched. And I ended up taking to the computer. And I printed. And I traced. And I drew. And I transferred. And I carved. And I printed. (And lest you think it all went perfectly in one go, take a look at the final photo on the right. I touched up the lino block twice before getting the small lines deep enough, and it took me a few goes to get a feel for how best to print on fabric vs. paper.) (I printed up a onesie, too, because I found one at the bottom of a pile and thought WELL DUH. That one’ll go to the next baby shower I attend.)
This weekend we’ll make a good-old classic mess (in a heat wave, no less) in our backyard, and when O’s friends get their tie-dyed shirts home and untie them so they can be washed, they’ll see that stamp on there reminding them that they made the shirt. (I have it in mind to make a quick stamp that says “in 2015″ to add on tonight in red, so then when parents dig up those shirts in a few years, they’ll remember when their kid made it.
Now I want to print everything. Fabric, postcards, greeting cards, random pieces of wood hanging around the workshop, the walls, my bedsheets. Everything.
Honolulu! Tuesday night, I hope you’ll join MK Carroll for some ugly making at Kaka’ako Agora to bash and slash your creative demons. The time difference between there and here is a little problematic, but I hope to Skype in at the beginning of the event.
MK will have a few gift bags to give away, including signed books and everything.
If this incredible poster is any indication, it’s going to be an amazing (free!) event. If you go, I hope you’ll share pics and reactions. Use the hashtag #mightyugly so I can find them!
Lots of people have asked me to share some details about the itinerary of our trip, and I’m happy to oblige. If this sort of thing excites and delights you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with more detailed questions.
In May-June this year, my husband, four-year-old son and I took a nearly 10,000km road trip around the American West with our tiny 1974 Trillium fiberglass camper trailer, beginning and ending at our home in Vancouver, Canada. (You can find photos and more about the trip if you look up #werkersontheroad on Instagram.)
A Few More Details
I planned our overall route to optimize the distance we could travel in the time we had. In order to do this – without having long drives every day – we decided to sacrifice some places we really wanted to visit. We chose those places based on how easy it would be to get there another time. For example, my favourite canyon in all the land is Bryce, but we didn’t go there (nor to Zion National Park). To go to those parks and also go to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (where we wanted to go instead of the North Rim because of the vintage train you can take there from Williams, AZ, and we have a vintage-transportation-obsessed four-year-old) requires about a week, on account of having to drive around that giant hole in the ground. But you can easily get to Zion and Bryce from Las Vegas, and you can always get a cheap flight to Las Vegas. So one day, we’ll take a much shorter, week-long holiday and do just that. And we didn’t go to Yosemite, because we had to get to Southern California in time to meet my parents there for Legoland and Disneyland, which was a part of the trip that was booked long in advance of our more detailed route planning.
Originally, we intended to leave on May 3rd and return no later than June 12th (we ended up getting back home on the 10th). We booked campsites in state parks or RV campgrounds in the places I anticipated would be hardest to book on the fly due to popularity, etc. (Turns out I was wrong in most cases – in most places, at this time of year, we could have just driven up and gotten a site. This does not hold true for national park campgrounds that do not accept reservations – in most cases, we would have been out of luck if we’d tried to show up for a site at any of those, especially because, due to the distance we were covering, it was impossible for us to show up early enough in the day to snag one.) We held off on booking places to camp (both at a high-level in terms of the locale, and more granularly in terms of the exact campground) for other stops (Big Sur; Grants, NM, and everything after Yellowstone, for example).
In the end, we all wish we’d had more time for this trip. It was an ambitious itinerary for just thirty-eight days. At the same time, we managed to set aside thirty-eight days! That’s the time we had, and we milked it for all it was worth. And that involved throwing touristy stuff to the wind in favour of just chilling out sometimes. Because, especially with a young kid, you just need to do that occasionally.
We’re already discussing where we’ll go next, and how we’ll manage to carve out another big chunk of time. Ok, the details:
Here’s an interactive map of our driving itinerary. You can click on any of the numbered stops for more info about where we went, and for some photos. (If you’re reading this in a feed reader, you may need to click through to the post to see these embedded features.)
And here’s the itinerary in list form (scroll down within the embedded list to get to the bottom). Obviously, we went to more places than are listed here; these are mostly the places where we slept. If you have questions about what we did or saw in any particular place(s), don’t be shy.
Do you have a favourite of any of the places we went? (I’ll write more soon about our favourites!)
It took a few months for me to get my work life in order earlier this year so I could do as little work as possible on the road. As it turned out, that ended up meaning a bunch of stuff I did before May came out while we were away. In case I did a sub-par job of letting you know about it when I was relying mostly on my phone – with terrible cell service and nearly nonexistent wifi – here’s what came out while I was otherwise cavorting through the desert with my family:
- Next Steps in Crochet (that’s a half-price link right there), my new Craftsy class. It’s an advanced-beginner class, designed to be, um, a great next step for people who are comfortable with basic crochet stitches and techniques and are ready to up their game. If this is you, I hope to see you in there! Here’s way more about the class. (And if you don’t know how to crochet yet, my beginner class will get you going. I promise. [That’s also a half-price link.])
- I did a long and meaty interview with Dave Conrey on the Fresh Rag podcast, in which I talk about a bunch of things I rarely address explicitly (like how my religious non-belief relates to my creative life and my identity as a person and my own internal consistency across my personal, work and creative lives, and more). I finally had a chance to listen to the interview, and I’m proud of it. I agree with everything I say – which doesn’t always happen, because it can be hard to say a complex or sensitive thing well when you’re doing it off the cuff and it’s being recorded – even when I was ready to cringe because I was sure I was going to say something not quite right or downright dumb. Also, there are shout-outs to Wil Wheaton, JK Rowling, Oliver Burkeman, and my drinking buddies from college. If you have a little over an hour, I hope you’ll give it a listen and let me know if it brings anything up for you.
- From our hotel room near Disneyland, I wrote a post for the CreativeLive blog about how connecting with people through social media enhanced our long trip.
- I was also on Tara Swiger’s Explore Your Enthusiasm podcast, talking about how things in life spiral around. It’ll make more sense if you listen to it.
I finished up a huge editing project before the trip, which means I have some time available now, if you have a project you’d like to work on together. I have time enough to take on a larger project like a book/ebook, or a bunch of smaller project, like craft patterns/tutorials, essays, etc. (If you’re new to the editing game, I’ll walk you through what I can do for you. Just ask!)
To celebrate being home, here’s a coupon for 15% off orders over $5 in my shop (or on Etsy); use code YAYHOME15.
We returned home last Wednesday evening, a day earlier than planned on account of a barfing kid. He wasn’t terribly ill, but barfing while sharing sixty square feet in the desert heat is no fun for anyone, so instead of moving on from Spokane to spend a final night in the mountains east of Seattle, we just sucked it up and drove all the way home. It was the right decision, and considering that this was the only barfing incident in nearly six weeks on the road, we’re considering it a trip end that simply had a little more drama and a little less celebration than we’d intended.
So now we’ve been home for five days, and it still feels really weird. Pretty much, it feels like we never left. But so much happened on the trip, and we saw so many mind-bending, amazing things, that it just doesn’t feel like it should be possible to feel like we never left. It should feel like we’ve mildly changed. Home should feel kind of different in some way.
But no. Home is exactly as we left it (major thanks and love to my brother- and sister-in-law for leaving it that way for us). We’ve slipped back into habits as if we’d never left. Some of the habits are good, some are ones I was hoping would be easier to change after a long time away; alas, no.
We were away for nearly six weeks, you guys! I hadn’t been away from home for that long in a single stretch since I staffed a teen bus tour when I was twenty-three (coincidentally, that tour was my first time visiting many of the places we visited on this trip).
In a fully predictable and predicted way, my biggest challenge of the trip is not having enough (or any, really) time by myself. Today, finally, I’ve had eight straight hours of silence at home, and I finally feel like my brain is getting back into working order. I’ll have photos to share soon. And thoughts. And ideas. And work.
For now, here’s part of what I did today. I finally watched and worked through the second loose lesson in the painting class I’d intended to work through over the winter. Apparently, I had a sad king that needed to come out. A terrible, awful sad king. Perhaps 2015 will be the year of awful painting, and I’ll start to figure out what I’m doing come 2016…
I’ve tried to write this post for days and days, and bandwidth just didn’t cooperate. Here’s hoping I can get some photos uploaded!
We’re at the start of the final leg of our trip: a day in Salt Lake City on our way to yhe Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, then the westward journey home through Montana, Idaho and Washington.
Since leaving Southern California, we’ve been continually wowed by natural settings, friendly people, fascinating history, and the general things you learn from spending a month on the road.
For now, some photos of where we’ve been:
Joshua Tree National Park:
I’ve been doing a little bit of knitting on the road. Not very much at all, what with the amazing scenery out the car window (and, these days, the heat). It’s a Foolproof Cowl, and I’m enjoying it!
O learned how to ride his two-wheel bike on the long, smooth, wide “runways” of the RV park we stayed at in Williams, AZ. (We vastly prefer the State Park camping experience, but massive RV parks have their place.)
Yes, we stood on the corner in:
Oh my, the Painted Desert:
New Mexico, I love you and your amazing skies:
Monument Valley was a highlight, for sure:
And, of course, Utah, and all its glorious rock splendour.
Arches are cool, but it’s Canyonlands National Park that really gripped us:
Of course, we’re travelling with a strong-willed four-year-old, and sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Like making myself hot chocolate with my toothbrush.
We’ll get back home in less than two weeks!
I was pretty chuffed to be asked by the folks at CreativeLive to write about how posting about our trip on social media has affected my feeling of online community (hint: it’s been pretty amazing to connect with people about something so different from the usual). (I don’t think you can comment on the CreativeLive blog (or maybe I can’t see comments on my phone), so let me know over here what you think about such things, eh?)
I can’t believe we’re already over two weeks into our trip. This past week has been a whirlwind of theme parks and family visits (and also having to replace the brakes on our truck and the door handle on the trailer), and now the whirlwind is over and we’re heading back on the road, camping in our wee trailer for the next few weeks. National Parks, here we come!
Before we left San Francisco, my ten- and thirteen-year-old cousins taught us how to make duct tape wallets. I can’t wait to make more!
On our meanderinf drive down the California coast, we loved stopping to see the elephant seals.
This display at Legolamd was thematically appropriate, don’t you think?
I was so excited to take this photo with my Instax camera that i didn’t even think to take a digital one.
We went to Disneyland California Adventure in epic rain. YOWZA.
And we went to Disneyland in gorgeous weather. Phew.
I don’t know when I’ll have reliable wifi again, so I have no idea when I’ll be able to post my next dispatch. Follow along on Instagram for quicker updates when I have cell service!
We’ve discovered that Owen is a total thrill-seeker! This is what four rollercoaster rides and three times on Splash Mountain looks like.
Teaching at Craftsy has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my crochet career, and I’m so excited that my second class is now live!
It’s called Next Steps in Crochet, and it builds directly on my first Craftsy class, which is a straight-up introduction to crochet for beginners. So this is pretty much an advanced-beginner class. In it, I’ll teach you how to build on your basic crochet skills to make classic fabrics like shells and ripples (AKA chevrons or zigzags), textured fabrics like bobbles and popcorns, and I introduce the basic concepts behind cables and lace, including how to make post stitches and why math is important (and not scary). I also spend a fair bit of time outlining how sweaters are constructed, so you’ll feel comfortable and confident choosing your first sweater pattern to follow, and making it amazing. Along those lines, I also cover basic seaming and edging, how to make buttonholes, and how to block your projects.
If you know how to make a few crochet stitches and are ready to tackle more, this is the class for you. And since we cover so much, it can serve as a great source of information you can refer to again and again as you do different kinds of projects.
Included with the class is a pattern for a very simple baby sweater in one size, which is used mostly for instruction but would also make a totally adorable sweater for a baby about three months old.
If you aren’t familiar with Craftsy, it’s a fabulous platform for learning new skills. Students can ask questions at any time, and instructors (and other students) answer. I love chatting with my students, and I love that with all Craftsy classes, you get access to your instructor on an ongoing basis. You can easily share photos to show what you’re having trouble with, and to show off your successes. You can slow down or speed up the video to your taste, and set a 30-second segment to repeat over and over again while you practice a particular technique.
All the links in this post are for half-off the class price. I hope to see you there!
If you get my weekly digest, you know we’ve made it to San Francisco, the first major stop on what we’ve been calling our Superlong Camping Trip (where a “major stop” is defined as somewhere we sleep for three nights). Contrary to every trVel experience I’ve ever had, this trip has been both exciting and relaxing, tiring and invigorating all at once, with almost no bickering. It’s kind of been magical so far, really.
Here’s a little of what we’ve been up to since we left home last Sunday:
Here’s the one photo i have of the quilt i made for the camper trailer. It’s my first completed machine-quilted quilt!
Our first night camping, just south of Portland in Champoeg State Park. if you have a chance to camp here, take it!
Owen found a copy of my book at Powell’s. <3
Driving to the coast from Portland, we stumbled upon the (absolutely amazing, must-see) Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. This is the ACTUAL Spruce Goose!
When inposted this photo on Instagram, more than one person made a comment involving Tatooine. Totally appropriate!
The Redwoods are humbling and awesome.
And here we are in San Francisco, riding a cable car. After visiting family till Sunday, we’ll start making our way further down the coast!