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.
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.
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
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.
Image 2: The arrow is keeping track of the turning chain, and I’m inserting my hook into the next double crochet.
Image 3: I’ve pulled up a loop in the double crochet. The arrow is still indicating the top of the turning chain.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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:
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!)
That’s it 👆.
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 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.
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.
This part at the beginning made me nod my head very hard: “Sometimes we focus so much on getting great at something that we miss the opportunity we have to get better.”
But then I kept reading, and I was like, hold up. This is just… overly complicated. There’s a way simpler “formula” for getting better at one thing in a month.
Here’s how it goes: Just do lots of that thing in a month.
That’s it, dude. All it takes to get better at something is to do it lots, and the way to get yourself to do it lots is to commit to doing it lots. Which isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do, but it is simple.
Sure, you can spend some time figuring out how to define “better”. And sure, you can spend some time getting in touch with why you want to get better at it. But honestly? Enough thinking about it, and just start doing it. You can figure out the whys while you’re at it, or after you’ve done it.
There’s something stuck in your brain, something you desperately – maybe secretly – want to get better at. The only thing you need to do is just show up. Stop thinking about it so much you never do it.
Get ambitious and commit to doing or making that one thing every single day for a month. Or commit to doing or making it a few times a week for a month. Anything less than that isn’t really making a commitment to get better at it.
give yourself a gold star every time you show up – CLICK HERE TO GET MY FREE DAILY ART/CRAFT TRACKER!
I've spent years making something every single day, and in doing that I've gotten better at making lots of different kinds of things, and way better at trying new things. Hell, I've even gotten better at getting better at things.
This month, I'm training for a 5K. How I'm doing it? By making sure I show up for the workouts. I could wax on for ages about why I'm doing this at this particular time in my life, and why I've gotten further into the training than I have any of the other times I've tried, but really it comes down to not thinking about it. I don't need to justify myself, I don't need to justify my methods, I don't need to dig deep into what kept me from doing this all the other times I've tried. I just need to do it.
What's nagging at you that you want to get better at? Will you show up for it?