Since one of the most amazing things about connecting with other makers is learning from each other, we wanted to see what would happen if we set aside some time to focus on a particular kind of craft.
So this month, we’re diving into weaving. (Most of us know nothing about it!)
Community members who know a thing or two about weaving will be sharing tips, tricks, tutorials and projects. And even those of us who are total newbs will be sharing our trials and errors and successes as we give weaving a shot for the first (or second or third) time.
No fancy equipment required! Just a desire to try a new thing, cheer people on, and learn something new.
Our community is free to join because it’s supported by Patreon members who kick in a few bucks each month to cover our operating costs (which include my time and skill); as such, Patreon members enjoy live video chats with me, their own private video chat room, a monthly newsletter, and more.
They do not want us to ridicule them (their word) when they bring up climate action.
They do not want us to dismiss them or tell them to wait till they’re older and know more.
They do not want us to maintain our status quo, leaving them with an even bigger mess once we’re dead.
They do not want us to be hypocrites who say we love our pets but won’t protect the rest of the animals on this planet.
They want us to put our collective survival ahead of our individual desires.
They want us to join them and help them fight climate change.
This is what they told me in our session on craftivism at UBC’s Girls-Only Maker Camp. We rounded out their week of camp with a discussion about what makes them mad about climate change (see above). Then we talked through what they might do about it, and how they might effectively get adults to take action with them instead of dismissing them.
They decided to call on local Vancouver businesses to take a #WithoutWasteWednesday pledge in an effort to reduce their overall landfill waste. To accept the challenge, a business would simply commit to posting a photo of their landfill-bound waste each Wednesday and try to get it down to zero within a year, and use the hashtag #WithoutWasteWednesday.
Reversing our dreadful climate-change trajectory will involve far more than reducing waste, but this session wasn’t about duplicating work scientists have already done to identify what we need to do. It was about giving kids an opportunity to be heard, and heeded.
We would do well to join them in this fight. Indeed, the survival of life on earth literally depends on it.
The only time I do Mighty Ugly with kids is at the University of British Columbia’s annual girls-only Maker Camp. It’s an incredible weeklong day camp run by Dr. David Ng, whom I met years and years ago through Vancouver Mini Maker Faire, and whom I’m so grateful to for inviting me to be a part of his awesome STEAM-focused camp.
It’s so different doing this exercise with tweens versus adults. Hopefully introducing them to deliberate ugly-making at this stage in their lives will help to head off some of the negative experiences we adults have with self-doubt and perfectionism.
[Kim] hosts these really cool sessions around the concept of making “ugly” things. This is a great mindset, especially in various professional fields where failure is actually a worthy experience, whether it’s to emphasize the importance of reiteration, or where new valuable perspectives are forged when a person goes against their natural inclination (to make things look “good”).
I shared a longer version of this with our online community today and with our Patreon members, and I’m putting it here on the blog because our community extends beyond our forums. (If you didn’t know we’re building an old-school forum [with awesome, contemporary tech and features], well, we are! I’ve been terrible about mentioning it here on my website, but here’s the gist. I hope to see you in there!)
Ravelry has announced a new policy yesterday, banning expressions of support for President Trump and his administration, equating such support with support of white supremacy. If you haven’t seen it, please read it. It’s succinct, direct, and clearly not intended to stoke a flame war, though you can probably imagine the deeply polarized response to it (it’s a Twitter dumpster fire is what I’m saying).
I’m going to hit pause for a sec and tell you about a photo I posted on Instagram last night. It’s of a demonstrator holding a sign at a rally I attended yesterday in support of transgender rights.
The sign in the photo reads “Be careful who you hate. It could be someone you love.”
Words to live by, really. (If, like, not hating in the first place isn’t an option?)
The reason I’m bringing it up is that I’m pretty sure it’s the most “hearted” photo I’ve posted so far this year, and in the day since I posted it my total follower count on IG went down by exactly two (then went up by two, so).
I live and work in a bubble, is what I’m saying.
Most of my colleagues who post about supporting the rights of any marginalized group often experience a shitstorm whenever they do so, no matter the platform they’re using. People rage-unfollow them, attack them with vicious verbal abuse, and occasionally said abuse turns to outright physical threats.
I suppose that over the years, I’ve opened my mouth about enough things that the only people left who follow my work are those who either agree with me or accept that my opinions are part and parcel of their enjoyment of my work.
So, back to Ravelry’s announcement and our community.
The last time I hosted an online community was Crochet Me, and that was a community that pretty much built itself while I tried my damnedest to keep up.
This time around, we’re starting slowly, and we’re starting very consciously, and we’re taking the time to discuss how we want our community to be and how we’re going to make it something we value and love and use to connect us meaningfully to other people all around the world.
When I first put the new community site together, I wrote a blurb about it being an inclusive space where intolerance will not be tolerated.
I had and continue to have a tremendous amount of faith that the social bonds that tie us together in our creative adventures are the strong kinds of ties that, even if we disagree with each other about any number of things, will always lead us to be respectful of each other and to always, always support each other’s right to live and breathe and thrive in this world.
I have recently been reminded, though, that there are some (many) circumstances that should not be left up to faith in the goodness of others.
I will be fleshing out the inclusion policy of our community this week. It will boil down to: All people are welcome here, all opinions are welcome here except those that deny the rights of anyone or any people.
I always think in terms of human rights. We all deserve them, we are all entitled to them. Making sure all people have them does not take away from any one person’s or group’s possession of them. Therefore, we do not, under any circumstance, assert that any person or group is undeserving of human rights. This includes rights to exercise bodily autonomy, to freely love, to be fed and clothed, to receive medical care, to practice religion, to speak out, to vote, to express any gender identity, to have access no matter one’s physical ability, to be of any colour, size, ethnicity or nationality.
This is not about politics. Politics is about which approach to take to ensure all people enjoy these rights. Claims that denial of rights to certain people(s) is a matter of politics is a gross misstatement. Denial of rights to certain people(s) is bigotry. This is where Ravelry’s ban on expressions of support for Trump and his administration comes in – the president and his people have repeatedly denied rights to a variety of groups, and they have repeatedly shown sympathy or downright support of individuals and groups that are violently hateful.
Bigotry will find no home in my work, or in our new and wonderful community.
One of the most frustrating things I experience as a parent is when groups and organizations don’t tell us what we need to know when we need to know it.
As a writer, this is in my professional wheelhouse. Driven by frustration more than anything, I’ve volunteered to help with communications for a wide variety of groups over the years, and I’ve learned a lot about how to do it well. I’m not the only one who’s easily frustrated by not having the information I feel I need, but I’ve also learned that effective communication can do so much more than simply keep people in the know. Great emails and newsletters can bring parents and guardians together so they can support each other and form friendships, and they can provide a window into the group that inspires some of them to become volunteers, themselves.
So I just wrote my first proper Twitter thread with some simple ways to effectively communicate with parents and guardians. Then I posted it on Facebook and someone said she’d want it as a pamphlet, so I put it into an infographic format. It seems like it’s striking a chord, so now here it is on my website for easier sharing (see below for the graphic version, and for a downloadable PDF).
If you’re tasked with communicating with parents and guardians on behalf of an organization, club, team or group of any kind, here are some tips for doing it effectively:
Write to a newbie. Write every email as if it’s to a parent/guardian who has never participated in your group before. Experienced recipients will ignore you if they want, and first timers will really appreciate being brought up to speed.
2. Assume they don’t know. Assume that no one you’re writing to knows what you know. Assume they want and need to know what you know, and tell them.
3. Be explicit. Lay out time commitments, provide relevant addresses and dates/times of major events, spell out volunteer expectations and demands on their children.
4. Include the why. Always explain why parent/guardian help is important or even essential to the functioning of your group and to their children’s experience. Including the why makes it easy for parents/guardians to meet the group’s needs. (“Why” does not = simply stating that their help is important. “Why” = actually explaining why and how it is important, even if what’s needed is as simple as making sure kids are dropped off and picked up on time.)
5. Respect parents’ time. Parents/guardians are juggling their kids’ schedules, their work obligations, their family needs, and more. Give them everything they need so they can make room for your group in their lives, especially if you’ll rely on them to volunteer.
6. Make it fun. Provide easy opportunities for parents/guardians to connect with each other and you will strengthen your group in all kinds of ways. Happy, engaged parents make your job so much easier.
7. Assume it’s hard. Write as if all parents/guardians have less time than you, less help than you, more struggles than you.
8. Say thank you. Finally, thank parents/guardians early, and thank them often. They may be moving mountains without you knowing so they can keep their kids involved with your group.
A friend Andrea added the following two points to my initial list, too:
Consider whether you would accept cash or in-kind donations, because some people have very scarce time and it can be quite privileged to set things up so that they depend on devaluing the time of (often women) volunteers or necessitating a second adult who has time to do all this stuff.
And note that you can work out options for parents of kids with disabilities, single parents and parents with extenuating family situations. A lot of volunteer commitments might sound easy for most people, but a single parent with a child with disabilities may simply not be in a position to wrangle their child and sell hot dogs or raffle tickets at the same time and the meltdown later may be excruciating. Some parents can barely make it to the field or the troop and are already doing a huge amount of invisible labour. Offer other ways of volunteering too.
Now that I’ve been working on it for a while, and have ripped back to the third row a couple of times, I’m accepting that it’s not a true pi shawl, because the proportions of my stitch pattern aren’t working out exactly. Which is fine by me.
It’s a simple v-stitch pattern and I’m loving every minute of making it, even with the ripping back. ❤️
I filmed this tutorial well over a year ago but forgot to put it here on my site! 🙄
Beginning a crochet project in the round with an adjustable ring means there won’t be a hole in the very centre of your project. (Sometimes you want that hole, but sometimes you really don’t.)
It’s a very useful technique to master, and it’s super simple. If you crochet amigurumi or other kinds of toys in the round, if you make non-lacy hats, or anything else where you want to eliminate the hole in the centre, the adjustable ring will be your best friend.
Last year, my kid’s school district decided to shift their two-week winter break by a week. Instead of it starting the third week of December and ending just after New Year’s, it now starts as close to Christmas Day as possible and goes through the first week in January.
It is the worst.
I’ve decided my 2019 Year of Making (it’s my sixth YoM, and I’m kind of incapable of even making sense of that) will be dedicated to putting in the time to learn new things. Not just to try out things I’ve never done, but to put in the time to really learn.
Of course, my kid’s stupid winter break has eaten up the first week of the month in a mess of playdates, errands, work, and many children coming in and out of my house.
Alas, my fantasy plan to dive into learning a new skill on January 1st was sacrificed for making whatever it was I was making, without a plan. (Which didn’t totally suck, because what I made was gingerbread cookies with the kid, everything bagels, some knitting, some doodles.)
The first thing I want to spend time learning: Hand lettering. After following along as lovely newsletter reader Kat worked through lettering drills last year, I had signed up for the Show Me Your Drills program, then never did it. But I have all the lessons so I’m all set to go.
Only thing is, the daily exercises are organized by day of the week, starting on a Monday. Obviously, this is hardly something that needs to be stuck to – who cares if I start on a Wednesday and cross out all the days of the week on the exercises? But it did take me a couple of days after New Year’s to make it to the art supply store to get the right kind of paper. And then I was excited about a new knitting project, so…
This is to say, it’s January 6th and I haven’t started my drills yet.
There was a time when I would have tossed my whole plan out the window because of this. I would have thought, “Well, I missed January 1st, and the 2nd and 3rd-6th for that matter, so I should just call it quits now and wait for another right time to start. Maybe February 1st, or maybe New Year’s Day 2020.”
That time, though, has passed. Because waiting is no way to start something, and dates are arbitrary.
I’ve decided I don’t want to rewrite the days of the week on my drills, so I’ll be starting my hand-lettering practice on Monday. Good old January 7th. Twenty-eight days of drills don’t care when they’re done. I do care that I do them at all. So I’m going to do them.
For years, I’ve talked to people who struggle like I do with schedules and time management and failing before we start. I didn’t set out to have a part of my work be a focus on habits and habit formation, but it’s become one of my favourite topics. Probably because when I finally figured out what I needed to do to make a habit for myself, I realized it’s more about what I didn’t need to do, and sharing that with others is deeply satisfying.
Here’s what you don’t need to do to make yourself a creative habit:
You do not need to start on January 1st, or the first of any month, or on a Monday or on your birthday. You may start any time.
You do not stop if you miss a day. Everybody misses a day. We are human, and a huge part of being human involves unexpected things derailing our well laid plans. Being human is not about keeping every single juggling ball in the air at all times. Being human means letting some non-fatal balls drop when needed, and not throwing those balls away once they’ve touched the floor, but just picking them up and dusting them off and tossing them into the air again.
You do not need to follow anyone else’s rules. You are your own emcee at this party. If there are certain constraints that have tripped you up in the past, toss ’em. If you need a different kind of structure than what anyone else has provided you, set yourself the rules you need.
You do not require talent, skill, the divine touch of the art gods. Just make stuff, who cares.
You do not need to finish what you start if you hate making it. You are free to toss things aside and move on to something else that actually makes you happy.
You deserve to feel happy about what you make. You deserve to let yourself off the hook and not hold yourself to an impossible standard. You deserve to decide that success is most certainly something to strive for, and that success can still be messy, ugly, or profoundly imperfect.
In other words, success should not, under any circumstance, equal perfect. Perfect is dumb, and perfect is uninteresting. Be smart, be interesting. Be rough around the edges, be grateful for the messes you make.
January 1st, 2019, has come and gone. If you started on a Year of Making already, good for you. If you haven’t started yet, who cares. Start today. Start right now.
Get Some Help Committing to a Daily Creative Practice
The Daily Making Jumpstart LIVE begins on Tuesday, January 8th, and registration closes on Monday! Join me and a lovely group of fellow adventurers in a two-week workshop to get your habit going. (Spoiler: There will be a lot of messiness, and a lot of perfection-is-dumb, and a lot of fun.) We’ll use Zoom to hang out by video ten times throughout the fourteen-day Jumpstart (and videos will be recorded, because who can manage to attend ten live video sessions?!). We’ll have a private Facebook group for sharing wins and losses and struggles and triumphs (eventually, I will find something other than Facebook that loads of people will love to use, but for now, it’s Facebook).
A Year of Making can start any damn day of the year. You missed January 1st. Who cares?! And don’t be alarmed by the idea of committing to 365 days of making. Twist your brain around so you can think of this as one tiny baby step each day, and that’s it. Check out what people are already making, declare your intention in the Facebook group and join a supportive community that’ll nudge you on in all the best of ways, and let yourself off the hook when it comes to perfection, rigidity, rules and judgment.
PS This was originally written for my Friday newsletter. Get it here!
I started off the last new year intending to again document my daily making by posting a photo every day. I… didn’t really follow through with that.
2018 was my fifth Year of Making, and though I didn’t post very regularly about what I made, not a day passed when I wasn’t grateful for the habit I formed back in 2014.
Since I completed that first YoM, I’ve not ever felt like I wasn’t or couldn’t be creative. I’ve always known that even if I miss a day, it didn’t take away from my ability to create nor from the satisfaction I derive from making sure that creating is a priority in my life.
So throughout the last very eventful year – during which I recovered and recuperated from an unexpected health mess, worked a day job, filmed a new class, taught at two conferences, and generally lived my life – I rolled with the punches and never once lost sight of how important making things is to me.
Now that I’m healthy (knock wood) and back to freelancing while I work on my own writing and teaching, I’m committed to again keeping physical creativity at the fore of my 2019.
I’m thinking – not promising, because that would be dumb – that I’ll finally commit the time to learn how to hand-letter. And maybe do some more cooking even though I hate it.
Anyway. Are you with me?
Here’s what a Year of Making entails:
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!) (And if you miss a day? Who cares? Just pick up where you left off.)
That’s it .
Use the hashtag #yearofmaking2019 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 myFacebook 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.