I’ve written in my newsletter and Patreon about giving sock knitting a for-real try (I’ve knitted a sock or two over the years – but never a pair), and I gotta say, I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying it.
Maybe it’s that in “giving it a for-real try” I’m thinking more about ending up with a finished pair of socks instead of just thinking about the mechanics of knitting a sock (which I think is what I did the last couple of times I gave sock-knitting a try). Socks are odd ducks, after all, with their heels to turn and toes to graft; it can be easy to focus on accomplishing those feats… and then not wanting to do them again for a second sock.
Of course, I say all this with only one sock nearing completion. And a small one at that (it’s for my kid). But this one does feel different. I’m eager to finish it in part because I’m so excited to cast on for its match.
I’m glad I chose to make these (see that use of the plural, there?) in a heavier weight of yarn, but I’m also looking forward to finishing these up and making myself a pair in fingering weight. I have loads of sock yarn in my stash. Time to use it… for socks!
If I do become a Sock Knitter, I anticipate I’ll be just like I am with other kinds of knitting: preferring simple, mindless patterns. Not so much with lace or cabled socks for me. Do you have a favourite simple sock pattern you recommend?
This is the second project I made from this batch of handspun – the first handspun I’ve ever felt was ready to actually be made into something. (The other hat is the same, but smaller to fit my six-year-old.)
It’s a basic 80-stitch hat with a ribbed brim, and I used 4.5mm and 5.0mm needles to make it.
I’ll take it on our camping trip next month, so no need to wait till it gets cold this fall to wear it!
What’s your favourite thing to make with handspun yarn?
I was introduced to Harry Potter on my twenty-third birthday. I was working as a counselor with the teen travel camp at the JCC in Wilmington, Delaware when, during the second week of camp, one of my co-counselors, whom I hardly new, handed me a hardcover copy of The Goblet of Fire.
The book was massive. And it was the fourth book in a series I’d never heard of. Also, why was someone I barely knew giving me a birthday present?
But I was totally polite. I thanked her warmly.
And then I went to a bookstore to find the first book, because obviously if I was going to read this thing it was going to be in order.
And that was that. I didn’t love the first book, but I was thoroughly enamoured of the excitement around the books (which I finally noticed now that I was in the know).
I found J.K. Rowling’s prose to be a little rough around the edges, but man did I love Hermione. And Hagrid. And hippogryphs (were they in Book One? No matter.).
The day Greg and I got married for the first time (in our living room, four months before our bigger wedding), his grandfather took the lot of us – over a dozen extended family members – to see the first Harry Potter film. It was opening weekend. Some people slept through it. Greg and I loved it. We made an annual tradition to see the new Harry Potter movie each fall on that date, until they shifted to releasing new installations in the summertime. So then we’d go around my birthday instead.
As the series progressed, I began to appreciate it more and more. Always a fan of not pulling punches, especially in children’s literature, I loved that the books got darker and darker, more intense and scary. I liked that the tales became more nuanced and complex. And how Rowling’s prose seemed to improve with each book, keeping up with the increasing sophistication of her characters as they grew up.
The new illustrated version of The Philosopher’s Stone came out the fall before my son turned five, and I bought a copy the moment I discovered it. I kept it wrapped on a high shelf until his fifth birthday, and on that night we started reading it together.
During that reading, I discovered I’d been too harsh when I was twenty-three. Reading the book aloud to my awed child, I saw how inevitable it was that this tale became a classic. Watching my son’s face as he discovered along with Harry that wizardry is real… Well. This book is damn near perfect. (We read the second illustrated version around his sixth birthday, and will read the third after it comes out around his seventh.)
Today, on the twentieth anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book, I’ve been smiling all day. How wonderful that books bring these spectacular stories into people’s lives all over the world. That they give children and adults alike something to dream and think about, to pretend and imagine.
When did you first discover Harry Potter? What do you think about it, all these years later?
Betsy Greer is a writer and maker who lives in Durham, North Carolina. For the past fourteen years, she’s written about craftivism, the place where craft and activism intersect, and she loves discovering the ways in which people use (and have used) the two together. Currently, her main craft project is You Are So Very Beautiful, in which people make affirmation signs then leave them out all over the world for others to find.
We talk in this episode about the value of letting what we need out into the world, and about being in a flow state when we create. If our conversation got you thinking, let us know how in the comments!
Because our kid’s birthday is right at Christmastime, we decided when he was an infant that until he insists it’s dumb to do so, we’ll have parties for him at his half-birthday.
Which is how we ended up with twelve 5- to 8-year-olds in our house yesterday after the cold, rainy weather made us ditch holding his half-birthday party in a park.
The kid loves – LOVES – baseball, so we decided each of his friends would leave the party with a pack of baseball cards. I wanted to make it a bit more like a goody bag, without the crap or candy, so I decided to tag each pack of cards with a thank-you for attending the party.
Fifteen minutes in my graphics program, scissors, my beloved laminating machine*, a hole punch, and some scrap yarn later, and we had a more celebratory goody to give to kids as they left. Hm. Writing that out makes it seem like it was a big deal, but it really wasn’t. I got it all done between bouts of frantically cleaning house after we realized the park just wasn’t gonna happen.
So much fun!
* This machine is one of my favourite things in the world. I’ve used it to preserve small pieces of kid art, and these tags are not the first I’ve laminated. I don’t use it very frequently, but when I do I’m so happy I have it. (That’s an affiliate link; I use them only for things I truly recommend. Thanks for your support!)
My next online class is in production, and I needed to film it against a background that was, well, that was not the lumpy 100-year-old wall of my tiny studio.
Pegboard to the rescue! Though it started out white, I wanted to give it a good coat of paint. So I lightly sanded the white surface, and dug up a leftover can of ceiling paint. Ceiling paint is great for filming against, because it’s about as matte as matte paint gets. Plus, it covers great and dries quickly!
Two coats later and it was ready to go.
Can you guess the topic of class? It’s on carving stamps for the very first time!
If you’ve wanted to learn how to make your own stamps – of anything at all, that you can use over and over again in all kinds of projects – and you want to learn and play in your own space at your own pace, sign up to be the first to hear when the class launches!
When my friend Lisa asked if I’d take a day-long bead-making workshop with her at the Terminal City Glass Co-op, I signed up without even reading the description of what we’d learn. I’ll sign up to try pretty much anything that requires protective gear, really.
I realized early on in the class that I’m going to have a complicated relationship with bead-making, because I’m not generally big on shiny things. Those beads in the photo above are samples our instructor had on hand. They’re amazing, hey?
Only thing is, I wouldn’t want them. You know? The complicated part, of course, is that making them is amazing. Which I discovered over the course of the day.
As anticipated, there was danger and intrigue, and protective eyewear.
(Yes, I was the one student in the class to burn herself. Go me!)
The setup was pretty awesome. Each student had a workstation around a huge metal table that sat under the biggest range hood I’ve ever seen.
Those colourful rods are glass. That’s what we melted to make beads. For real, it was incredible. And chemical!
Believe it or not, the burn did not happen while I was taking this photo with my left hand while I held glass to a blowtorch with my right.
That’s one of the first two beads I made. We all started working with black glass because, though you don’t see it here, it turns a very conspicuous red colour when it’s hot. Super easy to see what’s going on.
The metal rod that’s holding the bead is called a mandrel. Same idea as the thicker rods ring-makers use. The end is coated in dried clay slip, which, when washed away, leaves just enough wiggle room for the bead to come off the rod.
In addition to beads, we learned how to make thinner/finer rods of glass we can use to do detailed colourwork (like adding dots, etc.). We learned how to twist two colours together, too. I didn’t manage to do it right this time. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The beads needed to cure in a kiln for eight hours after the class ended, so I went back to the Co-op a couple of days later to pick up my beads.
First I had to soak the mandrels to loosen the slip enough that I could wash it away. Then I wiggled the beads loose, washed more slip away, and liberated those suckers from their metal prisons.
After that, I used a diamond-crusted tool to file more clay away from inside the bead holes.
Et voila! It’s almost impossible to think that this is the entirety of what I made during a seven-hour class. But I learned so much. Lisa and I will go back to the Co-op for sure (she already has, actually). This is not something I plan to ever do at home (OMG the safety precautions), and I’m so glad there’s a place where I can drop in on one of their two weekly Newbie Nights to see if I can’t make it to the point that I produce something even and lovely.
Have you ever made anything from glass? What do you do with what you make? Share links in the comments!
PS After the workshop, before I collapsed from exhaustion, I told the kid that I’d tried to make a heart-shaped bead, just for him, but that it came out looking more like a wonky apple. Still, when I showed him the beads, he claimed that one for himself. ❤️
The last time I was back east visiting my parents, my mom’s friend brought over a homemade loaf of bread. Round and crusty, it was absolutely perfect. Hearty, doughy but not dense. She raved about making it and sent me the recipe for Jim Lahey’s famous No-Knead Bread.
I already knew I have a thing for making bread, but until now I’d focused all of my efforts on challah. I love making challah, but I don’t make it as often as I’d like because it’s so time intensive. I have to plan my workday around making it (which I actually enjoy doing, but can’t always).
This no-knead bread, though? Sure, it requires a lot of time, but it’s almost entirely hands-off. I make the dough in the late afternoon, let it rise overnight, do the second rise first thing in the morning and bake it before I have to leave the house for the day. After the first time I made it, I ordered Lahey’s book, which includes instructions to make more than just this bread (though honestly, I don’t know why I’d ever want anything more than this bread).
I made four loaves in five days last week!
As far as I can tell, this approach is utterly fool-proof.
I’m becoming that crazy bread lady who hands a loaf of bread to people wherever I go.
Over the last three years, I’ve taught over 25,000 people how to crochet through my online class over at Craftsy. Over 25,000! It boggles my mind, to be honest.
That class streams online through the Craftsy website, and though I stream pretty much everything these days – from craft classes to television to radio – I know lots and lots of people still prefer physical goods.
Which is why I’m excited that my class is amongst the first that Craftsy is offering as a DVD. And also? It means I can now offer signed copies of the class! Which may not sound all that exciting, but when it comes to giving gifts to people you love, I think a signed object is pretty special. Especially one that will teach them a new craft they’re sure to love. Just saying.
So if you love DVDs or you love people who want to learn how to crochet at their own pace, on their own TV or computer at home, now’s the time to order them a personalized signed DVD class!