Werkers on the Road: Dispatch the First

If you get my weekly digest, you know we’ve made it to San Francisco, the first major stop on what we’ve been calling our Superlong Camping Trip (where a “major stop” is defined as somewhere we sleep for three nights). Contrary to every trVel experience I’ve ever had, this trip has been both exciting and relaxing, tiring and invigorating all at once, with almost no bickering. It’s kind of been magical so far, really.

Here’s a little of what we’ve been up to since we left home last Sunday:



Here’s the one photo i have of the quilt i made for the camper trailer. It’s my first completed machine-quilted quilt!


vintage caravan camping setup

Our first night camping, just south of Portland in Champoeg State Park. if you have a chance to camp here, take it!


Make It Mighty Ugly at Powell's Books

Owen found a copy of my book at Powell’s. <3


Spruce Goose

Driving to the coast from Portland, we stumbled upon the (absolutely amazing, must-see) Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. This is the ACTUAL Spruce Goose!


Atop the Oregon Sand Dunes

When inposted this photo on Instagram, more than one person made a comment involving Tatooine. Totally appropriate!



The Redwoods are humbling and awesome.

Cabe car

And here we are in San Francisco, riding a cable car. After visiting family till Sunday, we’ll start making our way further down the coast!


Crocheted Rag Rug (and How to Crochet a Perfect Circle)

By far the most straightforward project I’m making to outfit the camper for our road trip is a crocheted rag rug. I’ve been wanting to make one for ages, and am glad I finally committed to making one for the very small amount of floor space we have in our tiny home on wheels.

First thing I did was wing it without either a) measuring the space I need to fill, nor b) redoing the problematic parts of the rug once I realized it looked funny.

So I’m calling it a useful experiment, and we’ll use this small rug outside the door to collect mud and dirt when we take our shoes off before going inside.

crocheted oval rag rug photo


Problematic things? First (this is for the crochet nerds), I started the rug with a row of foundation single crochet rather than a chain, because I wanted the very centre to have as much thickness and heft as the rest of the rug. But when I actually stopped to look at the thing, I was not pleased with how there’s that one lone loop of each stitch hanging out at the centre. But did I rip it back? Oh no. Like the not-perfectionist I am, I soldiered on.

And as I soldiered on, I increased around the ends of the oval at very regular intervals. Like you do.

But, (again for the crochet nerds), as you know, when you increase at regular intervals whilst crocheting in the round, you don’t actually produce a circle; you produce a straight-sided shape with the same number of sides as stitches you began with in the first round (like this). (For example, if you started with six stitches, you’d eventually end up with a hexagon, not really a circle; with eight stitches, an octagon.)

In yarn as thick as that made from cut-up t-shirts, the increasing at regular intervals bit in an oval-shaped rug did not make me happy.

So, you know. Eventually I went out to the camper and measured the floor, so I’d know how big I should make the next oval-shaped rug.

And you know what I discovered? That wee patch of floor is 36″ x 40″. So, uh, what I actually need is a circle rug.

Well. So much for prototyping for a project that’s actually less finicky than I’d anticipated.

So this is what the inside rug looks like, about 3/4 of the way to a diameter of about 34″:

How to crochet a perfect circle, with no points, corners or straight edges.

You may notice that it’s not a straight-sided shape pretending to be a circle. That’s because I’ve spread my increases out instead of lining them up one on top of the last. I’ve gotten some questions about how to do this in my Craftsy class, so I figured I’d write it out in a bit more detail:

How to Crochet a Perfect Circle

To crochet a proper circle that doesn’t have corners where the increases pile up, vary the number of stitches you make at the beginning of the round before you make your first increase. Once you’ve made your first increase at a different point than the first increase of the previous round, continue to crochet the round by counting as you need to to space the rest of the increases evenly. Perhaps that’ll be clearer with an example.

Say I started with six stitches in my first round, so need to increase six times evenly spaced on every subsequent round. It would look something like this:

Round 1: 6 sc.
Round 2: [2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 3: [Sc in next stitch, 2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 4: [Sc in each of next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 5: [Sc in each of next 3 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.

This is the formula that ends up stacking the increases one on top of the others, resulting in a hexagon rather than a true circle.

To stagger your stitches to achieve perfect roundness, try something like:

Round 1: 6 sc.
Round 2: [2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 3: [Sc in next stitch, 2 sc in next stitch] 6 times.
Round 4: Sc in next stitch, 2 sc in next stitch, sc in next stitch, [sc in each of next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch] 5 times, sc in last stitch.
Round 5: 2 sc in first stitch, [sc in each of next 3 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch] 5 times, sc to end of round.

You can see that the formula is the same, it’s just that starting with Round 4, I began to offset the placement of the increases so they don’t all pile up. Note that in Round 5, I didn’t just continue the pattern I set up in Round 4; instead, I made sure the increases were offset from where they were placed in the fourth round. You’d just continue in this manner, increasing evenly around each round, but with the placement of the increases staggered.


Crocheted Rag Rug Resources

I’ve gotten loads of comments from people expressing interest in crocheting their own rag rug, so here are some great resources: Cal Patch teaches a super Creativebug class on how to crochet rag rugs, including lessons on circle rugs and also oval ones. I used this tutorial for how to make yarn from old t-shirts.

If you’ve crocheted a rag rug, share a photo in the comments! If you want to, let me know if you have any questions!

We Werkers Are Hitting the Road

1974 Trillium camper trailer

This is our wee 1974 Trillium caravan. With a few exceptions, we’re going to live in it for five weeks!

Last week I hinted a little about our upcoming road trip, but I’m so excited about it that I know I’m probably going to write a lot about it, so best to just start now, right?

A couple of years ago, my very practical mom suggested that we take Owen to Disneyland the spring before he starts kindergarten, since that’ll be the last time we’ll ever be able to travel when it’s not the crazy busy summer season of July and August. We aren’t big Disney fans or anything, but this seemed like a very good idea, and anyway, since we aren’t big Disney fans, why would we ever want to go when it’s superduper busy there in July and August? We wouldn’t.

So that became a plan.

And then about a year ago, Greg and I started wondering aloud if maybe, since we love our wee camper trailer, we should drive down the coast instead of flying. Since, as my mother so convincingly put it, this will also be the only chance we’ll have to take a long road trip when it’s not the super-busy summer season.

But then we chickened out, because (if you read my weekly letter you may have a feel for this), our kid is not exactly keen on being flexible. And so we talked ourselves into believing that a long road trip would probably (based soundly on previous experience) be a disaster.

lonely-planet-western-usaAnd then, around December, we realized we hadn’t told anyone our change of plans, which we realized when Greg’s parents gave us a copy of this book.

And that was that.

Do you know how long it had been since I’d held a Lonely Planet in my hands?

Too long.

As soon as I cracked the spine of this book, all our reasons for not going on an epic road trip crashed down like that time I left my coffee cup on the roof of the car and drove away.

A week later, we had a rough timeline and an itinerary. And we have not had cold feet since.

We’ll travel for at least four weeks, but most likely closer to six. And about a quarter of the way through the trip, we’ll spend five days in Anaheim with my parents, just like we’d always planned to do.

(This right here, friends, is why I love freelancing. I’ll bring work with me, sure – one can’t just disappear for six weeks as a freelancer and not expect to be greeted by an uphill struggle to line up work upon returning, and since I like to avoid those uphill struggles, I’ll plan to do a bit of work from the road – but not a lot of work. My one client who sends me projects regularly said she has no problem if I hit a patch of spotty cell service and get work to her a day or two late while I’m on the road. [Actually, that client’s work may be the only work I bring with me, aside from my usual Craftsy work answering student questions. Oh, and shouting from the rooftops when my new Craftsy class launches while we’re on the road.])

As an unexpected, added bonus, we have some family that’s arriving in town the exact day we’ll leave, and they’ll be staying in our house the whole time we’re away. Which means that whereas I’d usually be kinda mum online about a long trip away, I’m totally not gonna be mum this time.

Roughly speaking, we’re going to travel in a loop around the Western USA, skipping over much of western Washington because we can explore there anytime. Here are some highlights I’m really looking forward to:

  • The Redwoods
  • Taking Owen on the BART in San Francisco, and on a trolley car
  • Legoland
  • Joshua Tree
  • Driving some of Historic Route 66
  • Taking a train into Grand Canyon Village
  • Monument Valley
  • Going to New Mexico for the first time
  • Arches and Canyonlands
  • Yellowstone

Obviously, there are loads more places we’ll go. We’ll hopefully camp on the beach on the California coast. I want to be sure to seek out local artisans and craftspeople wherever we go. And we’ll also have a lot of downtime, on account of that super sensitive kid and our desire to come home healthy (and relatively rested). In that vein, I intend to read a lot, knit or crochet a lot, and make a lot of stuff in my sketchbook.

In future posts, I’ll let you know what kinds of activities I’m bringing, more details about our itinerary, and loads more about the stuff we’re doing and making to prepare for the trip. If you have questions about what kinds of considerations we’ve made, or about anything else, let me know. Every time we talk to friends about this trip, I’m forced to realize over and over again that it’s not a typical thing to do. And I realize how grateful I am that Greg and I work in jobs that allow us to do such a thing without taking unpaid leaves or jeopardizing our positions.

Also, it feels really, really good to flex my trip-planning muscles again. (I’ve mentioned, right, that I once planned an entire summer’s travel camp for a job I had in another life? It was a terrible job, but not because of the traveling or the kids.)

I’ll tag all the social media posts I make about the trip with #werkersontheroad!

A Camping Interlude

I’ve already received my editor’s notes on my book, and I have a lot of (very needed) revising to do in, like, zero time. Before I crawl back into my writing cave, though, I want to put some evidence on the internet that I did have some fun during the week this book was absent from my to-do list. Some more guest blogging will be coming soon, while I feverishly hack at the manuscript.

Last weekend we took the camping trailer on its inaugural trip. We spent a few days in the small town of Keremeos, BC, at The Old Grist Mill and Gardens, a heritage site newly managed by our friend Chris. Along with our other friends, who happen also to have the same type of vintage trailer we have, we camped by the Keremeos Creek and spent a few very hot days lounging around, swimming, and exploring the stunning grounds around the mill (which was built in 1877; Chris has some amazing plans for homesteading-related programs at the site, including canning workshops).

Here’s a summary of our fabulous time, Instagram-style. Click to embiggen!

Meet the Shuttle: Our Continuing Camper Shenanigans

So, first we bought an 18-year-old truck, then we levelled our urban garden so we can put in a trailer park.

Last week we drove to a town a couple hours away to see a 1970 Boler camper. The people selling it were lovely, but the camper needed the kind of work we aren’t terribly interested in doing. We mulled it over, but decided to see if we could find a better option, especially because we knew of another camper we could see over the weekend.

Trillium made campers very similar to Bolers in the ’70s – small, fiberglass, nearly identical configuration. Bolers are a little cuter from the outside, and there’s quite an avid community of Boler enthusiasts. But Trilliums are almost the same, with two added bonuses: 1) Their floors are fiberglass, whereas the bottom part of a Boler is wood. In a forty-year-old camper in a wet climate, there’s a good chance a Boler’s foundation will need to be replaced if it hasn’t been already. And 2) Trilliums are back in production with similar parts and dimensions, so it’s not as tough to find parts for it. And the Trillium has a couple extra inches of ceiling height, which Greg really loves.

I assume you’ve already skipped to the pictures and have accurately deduced that we totally bought a Trillium. It’s a ’74, and we’re pretty sure we’re only the third owners! The man Greg bought it from last night (while I stayed home and put Owen to bed – I know! I so wish I could have been there, but we’ve been living and breathing this for weeks, and there was no more discussion to be had) had the camper for twenty years, and he took great care of it. It’s in outstanding near-original shape – the inside hasn’t been painted, the outside has been kept clean and maintained. I’m not sure if the upholstery and curtains are original, but the sink, fridge and stovetop are (I’m sure the curtains are newer, actually).

It’s in such great shape that we’d only need to put a couple hours into it to get it into full working order for this summer. But of course we’re going to do more. In no particular order we will (ok, maybe not by this summer but over the next year):

  • Thoroughly clean the inside (though I honestly don’t think we could have found a cleaner forty-year-old camper)
  • Replace the foam cushions
  • Upholster new foam cushions
  • Sew new curtains
  • Make blankets (I plan to quilt, kids. Oh yes.)
  • Work some on the electrical
  • Put in a bunk bed so the camper will sleep four instead of three
  • Replace the table with one Greg will make
  • Figure out a great awning for the outside
  • Redo the closet storage
  • Replace the flooring
  • Replace and/or paint the cabinet doors

I’ve gone into more detail in the photo captions, below.

Greg and I were so excited last night that neither of us slept well. When we all got up this morning, we immediately layered up and took Owen out to see it.

We named the Pathfinder Serenity, so we’re calling the Trillium The Shuttle, like Inara’s shuttle. Because we’re embracing being insane geeks and I could go into more detail about why this combination of names is totally fitting, but I won’t.

Click to embiggen: