Sandi is a quilter, and we first met when she took my Mighty Ugly workshop at Craftcation last year. During the interview, we talked about that workshop, and also about what I wanted to be when I grew up (at various times when I was a kid), how I finally came to think of myself as a creative person after denying it for most of my life, why I’m focusing so much on the fun of creativity after going deep into the feelings of it through Mighty Ugly, the trajectory of my crochet career, and more.
Our chat is really fun, and I love how we managed to go all over the place while pretty much staying on topic. Have a listen!
A long time ago, before I grew up and created a weird career for myself, I learned how to knit.
I learned how to knit in an over-sold class at a local yarn store. The class was so over-sold that the friend I took the class with, who already knew how to knit but wanted to learn a particular technique listed in the class description, sat next to me and taught me everything I needed to know.
Little did I know at that moment that I was a wee drop of water in what would eventually become the perfect storm of knitting. I bought a copy of Stitch N Bitch. Obviously. And it taught me everything I wanted to learn next. I subscribed to Interweave Knits, which provided me with everything I wanted to knit, but didn’t.
And there was Knitty. And there were knitting blogs. And those were new and strange and exciting and a little scary.
About a year later I took a step I would later learn very few capital-k Knitters take, and I signed up for a crochet class (at that same yarn store; under-sold). I didn’t realize when I signed up that I already knew how to crochet, but it didn’t matter. It was that class that got me wanting to crochet more.
The year between classes was a huge one in online media. The online magazines and blogs that had seemed so new and uncharted and scary in 2003 seemed almost – albeit a small and fringe – mainstay in 2004.
Which is why, when I went home from that crochet class and looked for the crochet magazines and crochet blogs and budding communities of crochet geeks from around the world, I was baffled that I found so few.
The standard had been set by Knitty. If Knitty hadn’t existed, would I have been smart enough, innovative enough, brave enough to even consider starting an online crochet magazine? I honestly don’t think the idea even would have to occurred to me.
Which means that if Knitty hadn’t existed back in 2003, I never, ever would have started CrochetMe.com. Maybe I would have ended up a professional writer or editor eventually. It certainly seems like it would have been inevitable by some path or another. But not then, and possibly not in a way that would allow me to discover I’m entrepreneurial in addition to being solid with words and running publications, and possibly not about a topic that would lead me on a grand creative journey. Knitty’s existence and the manner in which it existed gave me an obvious path to follow, and on that path I not only created a career, I created a lifestyle that, after years and years of feeling unfulfilled and weird and out of place, enabled me to feel at home in my own skin. I created work that transcended just crochet, and just knitting, and has affected not only my overall happiness and my identity, but has led me to create more and more work related to ideas that mean the world to me, and that reaches even more people.
Amy Singer, who started Knitty all those years ago and who has shepherded it through massive disruptions in the publishing industry and the yarn-craft industry has seen her magazine’s ad revenue plummet in the post-2008 era. That ad revenue supports her. And it pays her editors, tech editors, designers and writers.
And so this week, Amy launched a Patreon so people who love Knitty can support the magazine with an amount they’re comfortable with, which will allow her to keep the free publication going when otherwise its future might be in peril.
I’ve supported the campaign, and I was delighted when Amy asked me to contribute a wee video in support, as well. I’m honoured to appear with so many beloved knitters in the compilation she put together, which you can see at the bottom of the Patreon page.
You’ll hear more and more about Patreon in the next short while, I think. It’s an outstanding service to pretty much everyone in the whole world who creates and consumes creative works. Knitty is already benefitting from it, and I have no doubt it will help strengthen the magazine’s already strong community in addition to enabling the publication to endure for a long time to come.
If you’ve followed my work since the early days of CrochetMe.com, you may have been aware around eight years ago that I had a contentious relationship with someone online. You may have had to look closely if you weren’t also following her, because I very quickly discovered for myself the A-#1 rule of handling nemeses and trolls online: DO NOT ENGAGE. Because I didn’t engage her publicly more than once or twice, there’s no gaping crater in the early crafts internet to serve as a reminder of the battles fought. There may be some of her blog posts about me that remain. I haven’t looked.
So. Back in the day when I was still getting my feet wet with CrochetMe.com, I struck up a relationship with a new contributor to the magazine. Eventually, that relationship soured. I found it very challenging when that happened. I’m outgoing and opinionated but not terribly keen on confrontation, and she got confrontational real fast. She called me names, asserted things about me that were patently false, and picked apart my work with a passion and energy that eventually became quite flattering but that initially broke my heart.
The reason she got to me, after the initial shock wore off, was that she voiced many of the concerns I was very insecure about. She called me a fraud when I already knew I was making things up as I went along and hadn’t yet gotten comfortable with that being a valid way of doing things. She tore apart my every decision and honed in on the exact factors I’d struggled with. She accused me of possessing qualities I loathe in others but secretly fear I exhibit. She accused me of being things I’m simply not, in ways that transcended personal insult and entered the realm of flagrantly offensive.
The realization I had, though – that she was saying the things I feared myself (except for that last part about the offensive name-calling) – is what allowed me to get over her. I couldn’t say anything to her to change her mind or her behaviour, though I tried so very hard. But I could work through those fears myself. I could sit down with the voice in my head and force it to talk to me. In doing so, I did a lot of healing. I did a lot of accepting. I did a lot of growing. And as I accomplished those things, my nemesis faded in importance. Her words carried less sting. When I was hired to be editor of Interweave Crochet, she had a field day about it on her blog. I rolled my eyes.
Eventually, I found myself smiling when someone would tell me she was shooting daggers at me again. Clearly I’d gotten under her skin somehow. Clearly I was important to her in some way. But she was no longer important to me.
It’s been several years since I’ve cared at all about this woman or our relationship. I don’t check in on her, and I don’t have to stop myself from thinking about her. I’ve healed.
And I wouldn’t change a thing about this experience. Having a nemesis was tremendously rewarding. I don’t regret a single shed tear or sleepless night. It hurt like hell, but all important growing hurts like hell.
Before I had a nemesis, I cowered at criticism. I was afraid of going too far or getting it wrong or offending someone. Because of my nemesis, I have a very clear understanding of the difference between criticism and assholery; I welcome the former and roll my eyes at the latter. Because of my nemesis, I worked very hard to find my own voice and to accept the consequences of using it. Because of my nemesis I’m comfortable trusting my gut and I know that sometimes faking it till I make it is the best and most rewarding strategy to employ. Because of my nemesis I feel comfortable taking visible risks, since the ugliest of ugly things have already been said about me. And even when she said those things, I couldn’t help but notice that about six people agreed with her and everyone else didn’t.
In many ways, my nemesis keeps company in my mind with the two or three people who have most dramatically influenced my career. That the other people were supportive rather than antagonistic doesn’t make the strength of their influence any different.
So now I’ll reiterate Abby’s request: Tell me your nemesis story. How’re you coping? Have you healed?
I’ve been in a rut and this post is part of a series I’m writing to chronicle my efforts to get out of it. Are you in a rut, too? Or maybe you just want to spiff things up a little for yourself? Join in. I’m calling it the Rut Race.
When I’m feeling my best, I’m an idea machine. If I managed to carry a notebook with me at all times and had the patience to stop whatever I’m doing when ideas strike, I’d have a room full of scribbled-in notebooks[1. Remember this when people tell you to always carry a notebook. Sometimes it would actually not be very helpful at all.].
Still. Every so often an idea hits and I remember it. And it’s not just that I remember it, it’s that I feel compelled to act on it immediately. Crochet Me and Mighty Ugly were two such ideas. I trust ideas when they grip me like this. I make them happen.
Sometimes a sticky idea, though, is the of kind I don’t feel compelled to immediately act on. I prefer to mull these over. Visit them every so often when I want to play. Let them incubate.
This past weekend one of those incubating ideas rose to the surface and I realized it had been a long time since I’d played with it. I’m not sure if it’s that it stayed hidden during these rutty months or if I forced it back if it showed its face. It doesn’t really matter. Because this time I paid attention to it.
I have this fantasy, see, of raising a metric shit tonne of money and creating a maker space in Vancouver. I’ve specifically dreamed of doing this in an old movie house that closed down recently, but I hear the property’s already been sold[2.Wonder of wonders. The Hollywood Theatre’s on prime real estate. Damned Vancouver real estate.]. Doesn’t matter, though. It could be in any building.
In my mind, I lay out the tremendous space. I populate it with work tables and benches and drapes and lighting. In my fantasy, makers of all types use the facilities, including a healthy contingent of crafters. There would be room for events. There would be a dark room. There would be materials storage. Workshops. Parties. Speaker series. It would be a hub of makerdom, connected to and supporting all the various groups already operating in town.
Oh, yes. This idea excites me. I enjoy it, and I know it’s good.
And I allowed forced myself to live in it for a while this weekend. And it felt good. It felt like maybe my imagination’s starting wake up. Go, rut race!
Do you have these kinds of incubating ideas that you visit every so often?
I’ve been digging through boxes of files in search of one particular document. A hard-copy document. In very tangible, very disorganized boxes. Because I am unabashedly disorganized when it comes to tangible objects, I haven’t found the document yet.
But I did find my original Crochet Me logo sketches and mock-ups, and the original hand-drawn logo. I consider that a score almost as exciting as the missing document would have been. I wonder what else I’ll turn up in my search…
I played with a LOT of fonts when I was designing the logo. Way back in 2004.
Apparently, at one point I thought this was THE ONE. Obviously, it wasn't.
Oh my. This one wasn't the one, either. Thank goodness. I'd have to have changed my name to Velma and driven to trade shows in the Mystery Mobile if were.
Now this. This was THE ONE. As you may recall. I kinda feel like it's etched on my soul, you know?
As an added bonus, here's a pencil sketch of the site layout. I think I did this after I committed to a formal publication schedule, probably sometime in 2005.