How to Pack for a Crafty Road Trip

Summer is for road trips – crafty road trips – and one of the things I love most when a trip is looming is planning the project(s) I’ll bring with me.

(Ok, sometimes by “favourite” I mean “most stressful.”)

It’s a deserted-island kind of situation, planning a crafty project for a trip. It doesn’t even matter if I’m traveling to attend a craft-related conference – during the packing stage it always feels as if I’ll never be near a craft store again in my life, and so I must pack everything I might possibly need. And not only for the obvious project I’m already working on, but also for the three or four other projects I must bring in case I get stranded at an airport for seven months and finish my in-progress project on the first day.

At the beginning of summer, with camping trips looming, I feel a special kind of packing excitement/anxiety. Because in addition to the traveling part, there are the very specific considerations of lots of time spent in a cramped moving vehicle and lots of time spent outdoors.

I’ve started compiling a list of tools and materials I take with me (all of it if it’s a long trip, a selection for shorter trips).

Obviously, crochet and knitting projects are my general jam, and they’re great for lots of time in the car. (Also obviously, I never travel with blanket projects. Way too big, way too much stuff, guaranteed to get dirty and/or ruined.)

And so I always travel with my knitting-needle kit and a variety of crochet hook sizes. You never know when you’ll need a replacement, or when you’ll pop into a yarn shop in a far-off town and simply have to start a project with the locally made yarn you discovered.

If I’m going away for more than a few days, I always get it into my head that I’ll want to keep a travel journal, or at least add stuff into my bullet journal. (Do I? Rarely. But I always plan to do this anyway.) So I keep a small pouch with double-sided tape in it, and I always bring a few of my favourite pens and also a variety of markers or gel pens.

This summer, I have it in mind to make some proper friendship bracelets. I was a fiend for friendship bracelets when I was a kid, especially when I was away at overnight camp. They’re so much fun to make, so easily portable, and so satisfying to give away.

And since I’m going to bring embroidery floss for bracelets, I’ll also prep an embroidery project. Or, now that I think of it, I’ll pack up the sampler I started last summer.

What would you add to the list?

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Welcome, Costco Readers!

Managing a writing project through small steps, by Kim Werker – Costco Connection July-August 2018

I occasionally write a business column for the Canadian edition of the Costco Connection magazine. Looks like the Back to School issue is already out!

Everything I know about managing a big writing project I learned in 7th grade. Read about it right here.

I didn’t have much space in there to explain what it was in 7th grade that made such an impact, though.

That was the year, as I say in the article, that I was assigned my first proper science report (it was about starfish). The kicker was that the report was marked both by my science teacher and by my English teacher. Each student received two grades – one on the science content and one on the writing.

I’m not sure if my teachers’ goal was to make a life-changing impact, but their decision to team up sure conveyed the importance of good writing, no matter the topic. At the age of twelve, I learned very well that writing is not only an English-class thing. Writing is everything.

When I wrote Make It Mighty Ugly, I used colour-coded index cards just like I had for my starfish report when I was a tween. Several times as I was writing the book, I spread the cards out all over the floor and moved them around to get the flow of information just right. And just like when I was in grade 7, I’d then pile them up in order, take one from the top, and write and write and write.

If this is your first time here, hello and welcome! I write about creativity and making things, and it’s my firm belief that using our hands and imagination together is a key to a happy life, whether we make masterpieces or total messes (or both). Subscribe to my newsletter to fuel your creative life no matter what you make (or want to make).

Camp Thundercraft 2018 Was an Amazing Business Retreat

I was thrilled to debut my new Email for Personal Connection class at Camp Thundercraft! This is the first in a new series of classes I’m preparing that focus in one way or another on writing.

There are loads of courses and tutorials for how to set up an email list, how to build your list and how to get into the nitty-gritty of using any of the wide variety of email platforms, but there aren’t many resources out there about what to actually say in your emails.

Email for Personal Connection walks small business owners through the steps of identifying their most salient and important stories – the big ones that define their business and the small ones that provide peeks behind the scenes – and then establishing an editorial calendar and clear workflow to make the work of prepping and sending emails low-stress and high-impact.

Look for an online version of the class in coming weeks!

Now, for the event itself. Camp Thundercraft is a retreat for indie craft business owners, held at an actual summer camp on Vashon Island, near Seattle. Campers sleep in cabins and otherwise enjoy the camp setting, bordering on both the woods and water. Even in the pouring rain, it was such a welcome getaway to be out in nature this early in the spring. (And the food was amazing.)

For a relatively small retreat, there’s a huge variety of classes and programming running the gamut of business topics and including lots of hands-on crafting. I took both Blair Stocker’s class on sashiko embroidery and Yuko Miki‘s class on block printing on fabric. I’ve long wanted to try sashiko (man, are my stitches uneven!), and even though I’ve done lots of stamp carving over the years, I learned a ton about printing on fabric, specifically, in Yuko’s amazing class.

I so enjoyed this retreat, and I’m already looking forward to going back next year.

Crafting for a Change: Vogue Knitting Holiday 2017

Crafting for a Change, in Vogue Knitting Holiday 2017

I am not a fan of the word guru. Guru is what we call people who know a lot about something but don’t have a job title related to it, or who work in or around that topic in a variety of ways but aren’t defined by any one. I’m often described as a “crochet guru.” (If I’m asked for input on the matter, I usually request they just go with author or instructor.)

So I especially love that when she wrote about me in the Holiday 2017 issue of Vogue Knitting, Lee Ann Dalton called me “crochet genius.”

I mean, I’m not a genius, but I’m not a guru either. I’ll take genius any day.

Which is all to say: You guys, Lee Ann Dalton wrote about me, and specifically about craftivism, in the Holiday 2017 issue of Vogue Knitting. She also called me an “intrepid Canadian craftivist.” I’ll take that one happily.

I meant to mention this when the issue was still on newsstands. Um, four months ago. But better late than never, right? Maybe back issues are still available?

The beret I’m wearing in the photo above is one of the patterns from my Crochet in the Round class, and the spiral hat next to it is the free Hat for Science.

 

New Class! Zigzag Crochet: A Beginner’s Guide to Ripples and Waves

I have never been excited about a new class like I’m excited about this one! Zigzag Crochet: A Beginner’s Guide to Ripples & Waves is all about my absolute favourite kind of project to crochet. (Uh, obviously, zigzags, ripples, waves, chevrons – whatever you call them.) Come learn how to bend stripes into cool shapes, from spiky chevrons to gentle waves. With texture or lace, and always with colour!

I designed the class around a baby-blanket pattern made in machine-washable yarn (as every baby blanket should be), and I walk you through the project from beginning to end.

There’s loads more in class, too! Learn how to use a zigzag pattern to make a project of any size, from a scarf to a king-size blanket. Explore how yarn weight and gauge affect the size of your projects, play with loads of colour, and learn how to handle all the pesky ends you have to deal with when you work in stripes. Discover how to make a wide variety of patterns, including the feather and fan pattern I’m using to make this epic scarf, and learn how to introduce variations into patterns so you can alter the way they look.

Get Crocheting!

Sign up over at Craftsy, or try out a free 7-day trial of Bluprint – their awesome streaming subscription that’s like Netflix, but crafts, and more.

{Ended} Enter to Win My New Zigzag Crochet Class!

I have never been excited about a new class like I’m excited about this one! Zigzag Crochet: A Beginner’s Guide to Ripples & Waves is all about my absolute favourite kind of project to crochet. (Uh, obviously, zigzags, ripples, waves, chevrons – whatever you call them.) Come learn how to bend stripes into cool shapes, from spiky chevrons to gentle waves. With texture or lace, and always with colour!

To celebrate the launch of the class, I’m giving away three seats in it!

I designed the class around a baby-blanket pattern made in machine-washable yarn (as every baby blanket should be), and I walk you through the project from beginning to end.

There’s loads more in class, too! Learn how to use a zigzag pattern to make a project of any size, from a scarf to a king-size blanket. Explore how yarn weight and gauge affect the size of your projects, play with loads of colour, and learn how to handle all the pesky ends you have to deal with when you work in stripes. Discover how to make a wide variety of patterns, including the feather and fan pattern I’m using to make this epic scarf, and learn how to introduce variations into patterns so you can alter the way they look.

Good luck! Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm (Pacific time) on March 14th and I’ll contact winners after that.

Happy crocheting!

Demystifying Double Crochet for Beginners

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes
How to make neat edges in double crochet – http://kimwerker.com/blog

I put together this double crochet tutorial about a decade ago – hence the delightfully dated "fail" and "win" terminology. FTW! But man, the photos are clear, so I thought I'd republish it here on the blog.

The single most common question I get from my beginner students is why their double crochet swatch ends up looking like a trapezoid when they're trying to make a rectangle. The answer is that double crochet can be a total pain in the butt, because the first and last stitches of a row can be confusing to place when you're still learning the basics.

So here's a step-by-step tutorial with photos showing each of the confusing bits and walking you through where to place the last and first double crochets so your edges turn out straight and tidy, and you maintain a rectangle shape because you're keeping the same number of stitches in each row.

CLICK HERE TO GET MY CHEATSHEET: 7 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CROCHET SHINE!

Where to Make the Last Double Crochet of a Row

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 1: Here’s what it looks like as you approach the end of a row of double crochet. I’ve circled the tops of the stitches from the previous row that remain to be worked. It’s very, very common for beginners not to work a stitch in the top of the turning chain from the previous row. So in the circle are the final double crochet (rightmost in the circle) and, to the left of it at the end, the top of the turning chain.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 2: The arrow is keeping track of the turning chain, and I’m inserting my hook into the next double crochet.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 3: I’ve pulled up a loop in the double crochet. The arrow is still indicating the top of the turning chain.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 4: I’ve finished the stitch and the arrow is still pointing to the top of the turning chain. See how easy it would be to skip it? After all, it sort of looks like the edge could straighten out after a little tugging. Alas, though, it won’t.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 5: Ok, no more arrow. Here I’m about to insert my hook in the top of the turning chain. By “top of the turning chain,” I mean the topmost of the three chains. Notice how I’m using the fingers of my other hand to open that sucker up. It can be tight and/or awkward to shove your hook in there, but persistence pays. Your crochet is not precious – you won't break it if you tug.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 6: I’ve pulled up a loop in the top of the turning chain. It’s pretty apparent now that we need to work a stitch here to make the edge straight, eh?

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 7: Here’s the completed final stitch of the row. There’s nothing to the left of it to stick my hook in, so I’m confident it really is the end of the row.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 8: Now we say to “turn your work.” This means to flip it around so your hook is poised to start the next row (in these photos I’m working right-handed, so at the beginning of a row my hook is on the right. If you’re a lefty and you crochet left-handed [hey, not all lefties do!], your hook is on the left at the beginning of a row).

Where to Make the First Double Crochet of a Row

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 9: Make 3 chains. This is the “turning chain,” which serves the purpose of raising the hook to the height of the stitches you’ll be making. Since double crochet is a fairly tall stitch, most patterns say to “count the turning chain as the first stitch of the row.” This is because that turning chain takes up about as much space as a double crochet. Since we’re counting it as the first stitch, we work the first actual double crochet into the second stitch of the row, not the first. (If we work it into the first stitch, the edge will bulge out and look wonky.) The arrow is keeping track of that first stitch that we’re going to skip before making the first double crochet.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 10: This might be a confusing photo because of how the stitches move around with my hook. If it is, ignore it. What it shows is that I’m inserting my hook in the second stitch, and the arrow is pointing to the skipped first stitch.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 11: Ok, this is better. Here I’ve pulled up a loop for the double crochet, and the arrow is pointing to the first stitch, which I did not​​​​ insert my hook into. At the very right, you can pick out the chains of the turning chain; see how they’re pretty much rising from that first stitch? That’s why we skip it before working the first double crochet.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

Image 12: I’ve completed the double crochet and the arrow is still indicating the first stitch from the previous row. So even though I’ve only worked one double crochet, you can see it looks like we actually have two stitches in the row so far. This is why we count the turning chain as a full-on stitch. Now you just keep crocheting across the row, and make sure you work the last double crochet into the top of the turning chain.

How to make neat edges in double crochet, for beginners - http://kimwerker.com/classes

If tips like these are helpful, you'll enjoy my full beginner crochet class, which you can take right here, or enjoy as part of Craftsy's unlimited class streaming. I hope to see you in class!

CLICK HERE TO GET MY CHEATSHEET: 7 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CROCHET SHINE!

Behind the Scenes of a Crochet Class at Craftsy

I was at Craftsy HQ in Denver last week, filming a new crochet class. It’s such an odd, kind of surreal feeling to discover I’ve become comfortable on a film set. And even weirder to realize that filming classes is one of my favourite kinds of work to do. In no other manner could I have the chance to teach over 40,000 students how to crochet. Seriously, that’s how many students I’ve taught through my Craftsy classes. What a privilege!

It’ll be a few weeks before this new class comes out. I posted some slideshow updates from the set when I was there, which I’ve included below. Can you guess what the new class is about?

FIND OUT WHEN THE CLASS LAUNCHES!

I always tell my newsletter subscribers first.

Join Me in Year of Making 2018!

When I embarked upon my first Year of Making on New Year’s Day in 2014, I had no idea that my commitment to daily creativity would lead to some profound changes in my life.

Though I haven’t publicly documented my daily makes since the end of that year, I’ve continued to practice the habit I formed. Every day, even for just a couple of minutes, I make something. Some days it’s a few stitches on a knitting project, others it’s several rows on a crocheted blanket. Over the years, in part motivated by my decision to prioritize creating on a daily basis, I’ve learned how to bake bread, how to make soap and lotion from scratch, how to carve stamps. I’ve sewn blankets and curtains and pouches and bags. I’ve made some clothes, some gifts and lots of (admittedly mediocre) food.

But more important than any project finished or skill honed, through Year of Making I’ve put creative adventuring at the centre of my daily life. By chronicling my efforts in 2014, and using that public accountability to help me stick to my commitment, I went from having to work hard to find time and space for creative projects to having that time and space simply be a part of how I approach my every day.

As I tried to find space to wind down 2017 by looking back and peeking ahead, I realized that I’ve started taking my creative habit for granted. It’s become such a normal part of my life that I’m no longer using it as a way to seek out adventure, but rather as a way to continue with a status quo. I could use some more adventuring, though.

So in 2018, I’m going to again try to document my making every day.

The big difference this time around is that I already have the habit, but I’m also now working a day job. So though creating daily has become as routine as showering and eating, my ability to create adventure is affected by my being outside of my house for nearly nine hours every day. Which means the nature of my making may change, and the kind of adventures I find exciting may be affected, too.

In any case, I think sharing my daily efforts will help me keep this priority front and centre in my life. And, obviously, this will be way more fun if we do it together.

Join Me in a Year of Making in 2018!

Create a stress-free creative habit! #yearofmaking2018 – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

If you’ve done a daily making project at some point – or ongoing – over the years, please join me again!

If you’ve never done something like this, then consider this your friendly invitation to create a stress-free daily creative habit.

The stress-free part comes because there are no rules other than to spend at least a minute or two every day making something. You don’t need to finish anything (though of course you’re welcome to), you don’t need to declare major goals to reach. In other words, there’s very little room for failure here. If you find yourself bed-ridden with a terrible flu, skip that day. It’s okay! There’s no judgment here, and there’s especially no pressure to declare a year-long project a failure because of one or two missed days. What a shame that would be!

To sum up, here’s what a Year of Making entails:

  1. Commit to making something – anything – even just for a few minutes, every single day for a year. (You get to decide what “making” is. Does mac and cheese from a box count? Up to you!) (If you aren’t reading this on January 1st, who cares? A year is a year no matter when you begin – so just begin!)
  2. That’s it 👆.

#yearofmaking2018

Use the hashtag #yearofmaking2018 when you post about your progress. Especially if you’re just starting out, I encourage you to post every single day – even if your photo is blurry or poorly lit or your cat photobombs it. This is key to participating with everyone else – this is where you’ll find your cheering section, your gentle nudging, your partners in creative adventuring.

If you share on Instagram – which, in my opinion, is a fabulous place to share a daily photo – you can now follow hashtags in addition to people. When you open this link in the app on your phone, you’ll see an option to follow the hashtag (this doesn’t seem to appear as an option yet if you open the link in a browser). (I’m on there, too, obviously!)

Join the Group

Though I’m a huge fan of publicly chronicling creative experiments, I also know that it can be incredibly liberating to share only in small places where I know I can feel safe and confident that people will be above-and-beyond supportive.

A grand gathering of fellow adventurers has formed over in my Facebook group, and I hope you’ll join us there for sharing, for asking, for musing aloud, for celebrating and, when needed, for commiserating.

Just click the button to join and I’ll approve your request ASAP.

Grab the Ebook

At the end of my first year of making, I wrote up a lot of what I’d made and learned and I created a bunch of worksheets to help new adventurers get going. I updated the ebook last year, and it’s on sale through January 9, 2018 (for 2018 divided by 2: $10.09).

Year of Making ebook: Tips & Worksheets for a Stress-free Creative Habit

Or the Daily Making Jumpstart

If you think a more directed approach will help you get going, the Daily Making Jumpstart will nudge you through a couple of weeks of daily activities to get your creative juices flowing. (The Jumpstart includes the Year of Making ebook, too, so you’ll get both the nudging and the worksheets.) Sign up here!

The Point Is Zero Stress

Daily projects are a huge commitment, and it’s really easy for them to feel like an exercise in failure rather than an adventure of growth and exploration.

The thing that makes a Year of Making so amazing is that even though it’s a pretty daunting commitment – to do something every day for a year – the bar is set really low, and you (not me! not anyone else!) are in charge of what counts.

I can tell you for certain, after completing four Years of Making, that if you’re kind to yourself, if you set yourself up to succeed and let yourself off the hook when you need to, the reward will be the deep and lasting satisfaction of looking back at the end of the year and seeing how much you can accomplish in teeny tiny steps. Better yet if you’ve made friends in the process.

❤️ ❤️ ❤️

Favourite Reads in 2017 (for Adults & Kids!)

Favourite Books I Read in 2017 – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

I have a weird love of year-end lists. I don’t know what it is about them that makes me so happy, but they’re just so desperately satisfying. Mmm.

This list isn’t of books that came out this year (with one or two exceptions), but rather of books I loved reading in 2017. I had a pretty odd year, and lost my reading mojo for a fair chunk of it, so the vast majority of books I loved were ones I read aloud with my six-year-old (he loved these, too). And now that he’s reading on his own, I’ve included some that he loved reading solo as well.

Adult Books I Loved

Cookbooks I Came Back to Again and Again

Kids’ Books We Loved Reading Aloud Together

  • The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate. Hands down our favourite this year (amongst many strong contenders). Even if you don’t have kids, read this one. It’s touching and thought-provoking, and expertly crafted.
  • Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome. It took us around two months to read this tome aloud, and though the sailboat terminology can be tedious to non-sailors, it was a true delight.
  • The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley. The kid picked this one off a shelf at the bookstore based on its cover, and we loved it. We just found the next two books in the series at his school’s used book sale, and I’m excited to read them with him in the coming year.
  • The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall. I didn’t know this was the first in a series when we picked this book up. It was so thoroughly enjoyable, and so cozy to read curled up together, that I’ll insist we read another one next summer (summer, it must be!).
  • Ollie’s Odyssey, by William Joyce. An utterly delightful tale of a little boy and his best friend-slash-stuffie.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. A classic for good reason. And yes, we skipped The Magician’s Nephew. After this we read Prince Caspian, followed by The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’.
  • The Contract, by Derek Jeter. My baseball-obsessed kid has demanded we read many a mediocre baseball novel, and I admit I was not very confident about this one, about Jeter, the former Yankees captain, when he was a kid. I’m pleased to say I was not only pleasantly surprised, I absolutely loved this book (and the others in the series so far), and of course the kid did, too. They’re full of Grand Life Lessons but aren’t at all preachy. And since we already know that as an adult, Jeter does indeed fulfill his childhood dream of playing for the Yankees and indeed becomes one of the most celebrated short stops in baseball history, those lessons seem even more impactful.
  • The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events), by Lemony Snicket. We’ve been babysitting a dear friend’s hardcover collection of this series, and though I’ve never read it, I started to suspect the kid would be ready for it. Ready is an understatement. He’s absolutely riveted by the literal series of unfortunate events the three Baudelaire children endure. I admit I’m quite pleased to see he shares his mother’s appreciation for dark stories. (Next year, look for some Neil Gaiman on this list…)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Illustrated Edition, by J.K. Rowling and artist Jim Kay. We continued the tradition we began on the kid’s fifth birthday, giving him the newest illustrated Harry Potter book (this year the second book for his sixth birthday; and yes, we have the third book wrapped to give him on his seventh at the very end of the year). Not only does this schedule allow us to progress through the books slowly, which I’m keen to do because they start to get more intense after the third, it also forces us to enjoy the series over years and years. Not that we wouldn’t anyway; I’ve no doubt he’ll read these books over and over throughout his life, as I have (well, throughout my adult life, that is).

Books the Kid Loved Reading on His Own

  • Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey. Indeed, the kid has read all three books that are out so far in this series. He finds them hilarious, and they totally are.
  • The Notebook of Doom #1: Rise of the Balloon Goons, by Troy Cummings. Scholastic’s Branches imprint publishes series of books aimed at emerging readers, and I’ve yet to find any that are terrible. The kid definitely wants to read more in this particular series, which engaged him thoroughly and creeped him out mildly.
  • Jim Nasium is a Strikeout King, by Marty McKnight. This one was a gift from my in-laws, and the kid was delighted by it. Interestingly, he had his first experience putting down a book when he just couldn’t get into Jim Nasium Is a Soccer Goofball. I had to assure him it’s okay to put down a book unfinished (see the section of books I loved, above, for an idea of how many books I started this year but didn’t get through – this is my shortest-ever list of loved books.)

 

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