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.
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.
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.
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.
To get unedited clips, episodes or commentary before each new show comes out, support the continuing production of Compulsory over on Patreon. Thank you!
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.
- 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?
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.
(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.
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):
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.
5g cocoa butter
4g shea butter
5g argan oil (optional)
16g sweet almond oil (or olive oil)
1g vitamin E oil (optional)
3g castor oil (optional)
6g zinc oxide
spearmint or peppermint essential oil (optional)
carmine dye or iron oxide in desired hue
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.
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.
Updated 1/13 to add a video on how the hat is constructed (see below!)
And again on 1/19 to add a troubleshooting video. And this link.
Perhaps you've heard about the Women's March on Washington on January 21st, with solidarity marches planned in hundreds of cities around the world? And perhaps along with that you've heard about the Pussyhats people are feverishly making to wear?
The official Pussyhat Project site offers patterns both for knitters and crocheters, but I don't love the look of the crocheted hat. I'm not a big fan of post-stitch ribbing, see. So I made my own using my preferred kind of ribbing, and I figured I'd share the pattern here in case you, too, prefer a ribbing that's good and stretchy (I've offered to send a PDF to the official project, too). Find the text version below, or download the PDF by clicking here:
If you have questions about your ribbing curling at the corners, or your edges coming out all wonky, watch this (and feel free to ask me for help!):
To fit an average adult head. It’s very stretchy, so will fit a range of sizes. And it’s easy to adjust: make the ribbing sections shorter or longer than 8” to fit smaller or larger heads, respectively.
Yarn of any weight in a sufficient amount to complete the hat, and an appropriately sized hook. Shown here in worsted weight yarn (Cascade 220, about 180 yards), worked with a 5 mm hook.
Varies based on the yarn weight you use. Just work to the dimensions specified.
Single crochet through the back loop only (sc-blo): In next stitch, insert hook through back loop only and pull up a loop, complete single crochet.
Sc-blo ribbing: Work sc-blo in each stitch of every row.
American terms are used.
ch = chain
hdc = half double crochet
sc = single crochet
sc-blo = single crochet through the back loop only (see above)
First Ribbing Section
Make a chain slightly longer than 4” (10 cm). Work in sc-blo ribbing as follows:
Row 1: Skip first chain, sc-blo (see sidebar) in next chain and in each remaining chain across, turn.
Row 2: Ch 1 (does not count as a stitch), sc-blo in first stitch and in each remaining stitch across, turn. (Note: The final sc stitch can be hard to see – be sure to dig for it and not skip it!)
Repeat Row 2 until piece measures about 8” (20 cm) from foundation-chain edge. Fasten off and set aside for now.
Second Ribbing Section
Make as for First Ribbing Section but do not fasten off. Without turning at the end of the last row, begin working Middle Section of the hat as follows:
Ch 2, rotate work 90 degrees to crochet across the ribbed edge. Placing your stitches consistently as you go, hdc in each row-edge across, turn.
Hdc Row: Ch 1 (does not count as a stitch), hdc in first stitch and in each stitch across, turn.
Repeat Hdc Row until piece measures about 13” (33 cm) from bottom edge of ribbing, fasten off.
Note: The hdc section of the hat will be wider than the ribbing section. It’s supposed to be that way!
Layer First Ribbing Section behind Middle Section, lining up one long edge of the ribbing with the last row of hdc.
Holding both pieces together and working through both thicknesses at the same time, with a yarn needle sew the two sections together using whipstitch. Use stitch markers if needed to distribute the narrower ribbed fabric across the wider hdc fabric as needed if the stitches of each piece don’t line up perfectly. Don’t sweat it! When you get to the end, fasten off. The total length of the rectangle from one ribbing edge to the other should be about 17".
Fold the hat in half so the ribbing sections are lined up. Whipstitch the two sides of the hat together (or use whichever seaming technique you prefer), keeping the bottom edge of the ribbing open – that’s where you’ll put your head!
Weave in loose ends.
If your seam is on the outside but you want it on the inside, turn the hat out, et voila.
Wear your hat with pride!
These are the apps and programs I used the most, relied on, or simply found the most valuable in 2016 – both in my writing and creative work, and in my personal crafty life. All of these are available on pretty much any platform (I use a Mac laptop and an Android smartphone, in case you find that relevant!)
Leave a comment at the end and add your favourites, too!
Some of these are referral or affiliate links. I don't recommend anything I don't actually know and love!
- CoSchedule – Though I've used this editorial and social-media calendar for quite a while, this fall I started using it hard. With their introduction of the ReQueue feature, which loops designated posts to be reposted automatically, I cancelled Edgar and haven't looked back. In 2017, I intend to use it for blog planning, too (because in 2017 I intend to get organized).
- Trello – I use this list-making app every day. It's where I keep track of links I'll share in my Friday newsletter, and I use it to manage the editorial content for Clarinet News. I also use it with my client to keep track of everything else we work on together – from files to to-do lists to contact information. The free version of Trello is robust on its own; I only upgraded to the Gold version (worth every penny!) when I needed to exceed the free version's file-size limit for uploads.
- Evernote – I've used Evernote for years and it continues to be a catch-all for a huge variety of information I need to capture, and I draft a lot of things I write in there, too. I wrote about it a while ago (um, five years ago!), and I pretty much still use it the same way, pretty much every day.
- Canva for Work – I started paying for this browser-based graphic-design tool as soon as they launched their paid version a couple of years ago, and I've never questioned the decision. Canva for Work makes it dead simple to set your brand's fonts and default colours, and to apply them to a huge number of predesigned templates for all manner of imagery and documents (including the image at the top of this post, for example). For people like me who aren't graphic designers but rely on great graphics, this is a must-have tool. I even used it to design the cover of my latest ebook.
- Facebook Live – Live video isn't new, and I was eager to try out Periscope when it first came on the scene. But Periscope rapidly fell to sexist trolls, and it's only accessible to people who have the app (or maybe they broadcast to Twitter now, too? I stopped following it). Everyone is on Facebook, though. And Facebook weights videos very favourably compared to other kinds of media content, which means that when you go live, and when you archive your broadcast on your page, there's a pretty good chance people will actually see it. And watch it. And comment on it. When I make stuff live on Facebook, my videos get far more engagement with people than any other kinds of posts, and I gain followers. Live video requires no postproduction, so it's a very easy way to enter the world of video. I highly recommend it!
- Overdrive – When my family went on a six-week road trip in 2015 a brilliant friend recommended we borrow audiobooks from the library for our kid to listen to in the car. Overdrive is the app most public libraries use to allow their patrons to borrow ebooks and audiobooks. This year, I finally got into audiobooks for myself, and I'm so grateful that I can borrow them without cost from the library! So good.
- ConvertKit – When I first committed to writing my weekly newsletter back in 2014, I used TinyLetter to send it. Eventually, it became clear that the newsletter is central to my business, and I switched to MailChimp for its more robust features. MailChimp is a bit of a beast, though, and I never managed to take the time to learn how to do the fancy things I need to do to make email work for my business, especially because I'm not a one-trick pony. Enter ConvertKit. All the things that broke my brain in MailChimp are simple, basic features of ConvertKit. ConvertKit allows me to reach people about specific topics that interest them – like crochet or bullet journaling – while also reaching people with my more general newsletter. It's also what I use to send email content for my online classes. The lower-level plans are more expensive than MailChimp's, and I consider them to be 100% worth the extra expense. I've used ConvertKit for a year now, and I look forward to using it for a long time into the future.
- Harvest – Thought I've worked as a freelancer for a long time, this year I took on a major client. I keep track of my hours and send invoices using Harvest, which has super simple apps for my phone and laptop so I can track my time even when I'm on the go. Bonus: Because I'm only working with a single client these days, I can do all this with the free version.
- Boardbooster – Pinterest is the single greatest driver of traffic to my website. I used to use Tailwind to manage and track my pins, but after a while I stopped taking the time to use the analytics, and I switched to Boardbooster. It doesn't have as sleek an interface (in fact, though it does very contemporary things, the design of the app seems super dated), but it has great features and it's less expensive than Tailwind. I use the pin-queueing functionality almost daily, and have my biggest boards set up to have older, successful pins automatically reposted. Whether you already rely on Pinterest as a central social medium for your business or you're looking to up your game with it, I recommend checking Boardbooster out.
- Chatbooks – This one isn't work-related (though it could be if I wanted it to be...), but it saves me so much time and makes me so happy. Chatbooks is a phone app that takes the snapshots you take, and when you've queued up 60 of them, it prints them in a book and sends it to you. I spend a few minutes each week curating which photos I want to be used, and I love it when a book arrives. No need to worry about printing photos! I get hard-cover books printed, and the quality is great. Shipping to Canada isn't prohibitively expensive, and I've come to rely on this simple service to bridge my digital and physical worlds. So good.
- VSCO – Speaking of photos, VSCO is my go-to app for editing photos on my phone for posting on social media. Its interface is a little too designy for my taste – it uses its own icons and gestures instead of more standard iterations, which is like the opposite of user-friendly, but whatever – but it has great filters and straightforward editing tools for functions from cropping and rotating to adjusting exposure and white balance.
Do you use any of these apps? Got tips or tricks? Use and love something that's not listed? Share in the comments!
My friend recently pulled a hat out of his coat pocket and said, "Kim! I hope you can help me. This is my favourite hat, and I want a few more of them. What's it made out of? Where can I buy more?"
It was the simplest crocheted hat ever. Beanie length, double crochet with a single crochet brim in a contrasting colour. By my best guess it was made from soft acrylic yarn. I was like, "Friend, you can probably find more of these at any craft fair in town, and probably at the farmer's market when the weather warms up. It's the simplest hat ever! You know what, I'll make you one."
So I went home and dug around for some yarn. I'm pretty sure his original hat was made in DK or sportweight yarn, but I found some of my favourite worsted weight, and whipped this up in an evening of Netflix.
Then before I gave it to him, I was like, I should write this pattern up. It's so simple!
And so I did.
Get the Free Pattern:
To crochet the hat, you'll need about 100 yards of worsted weight yarn, plus a small amount in a contrasting colour – about 10 or 12 yards. That and a 5mm (US H/8) hook, and you can whip one up in one sitting.
Don't know how to crochet but want to make awesome projects like this? Take my beginner crochet class at Craftsy, and I'll have you crocheting in no time!
Already crochet but want to seriously up your game? Take my class Crochet in the Round: Basics & Beyond and you'll learn how to size this hat so it'll fit a head of any size, from newborn to gigantic – and you'll learn so much more, too!
A few weeks ago I was asked to teach a class on block printing holiday cards. The class ended up falling through, but not before I decided to try my hand at carving a more detailed lino block than I'd ever attempted before.
I don't celebrate Christmas and don't assume that all of my students do, so I wanted to create an example block that can be used for a wide variety of occasions. (The actual projects my students would complete would be far simpler!
So I took to the computer and designed a 4x6" block that features a blank box I can fill in with anything I want. (Download the template and instructions below!)
HAPPY HAPPY happy Christmas!
HAPPY HAPPY happy birthday!
HAPPY HAPPY happy Hanukkah!
HAPPY HAPPY happy joy joy!
My finished block isn't the best – there are some nicked edges, some wonky lines, some not-clean-enough-for-my-liking details – but I'm glad I finally took the plunge and tried it out.
If you're new to stamp or block carving, I highly recommend using Speedball Speedy Carve for your block. It's way easier to carve than a lino block. I may make another of these in the pink stuff, actually. I'd be able to use a huge stamp pad for it then, too, instead of the more intense-to-use block-printing ink (though using the ink is super fun, and messier).
DOWNLOAD THE STAMP TEMPLATE & INSTRUCTIONS!