It’s almost ridiculous how many hours I spend watching art videos on YouTube these days. I don’t know if it’s because I can’t do any of it while my hands are out of commission, but I’m totally addicted. I find the videos calming and inspiring.
One such inspiration is Minnie Small, who has a gorgeous style and who creates calming, fascinating videos of her processes and inspiration. I watch every video she creates. I’m also supporting her on Patreon, which means I get to see real-time videos of her art, which has made me desperate to be able to paint again.
What do you think? Do you watch anything like this?
When organising an event you can never tell if it’s going to go well. As a kid, I hated birthday parties for this very reason. I’ve mostly avoided organising things in my adult years, preferring the method of ‘turn up and hope others do too’ socialising. It’s easier that way and you don’t have to get so invested in the outcome. However, I took a different take in organising the craft group at the local mosque, and I’m glad I did.
With a lot of help from a lovely woman at the mosque called Asma, the event was a resounding success. (Read about it here if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Not only did people come, they enjoyed it. People started mingling the moment we opened the doors, and everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves.
Every time I think about it I want to cry or laugh, possibly both. It feels good to foster decent relationships and bonds in the community. It feels good to see people stepping outside of their comfort zones and the strict social lines we follow in order to have fun and meet new people.
It’s a small thing, but it felt wonderful.
The event is going to be a monthly deal, so if you’re local to me (hello Oshawa) let me know and I’ll give you the details.
It’s the (not so) new thing. Normally I’m not one for trends (I’m too oblivious for that) but I came across the bullet journal online somewhere and decided it was something I had to try. I don’t like starting things at the start of a new year but in this case, the timing was right and I bought myself a journal and off I went.
A lot of people wonder why it’s any different from any other kind of journal. I’ll try to explain why it works for me and, since I am me, how it is helping me stay creative in my knitting and my writing. I’d be really interested to know if any of you use this method and how it’s working for you, too.
What is a bullet journal?
Created by Ryder Carroll, a bullet journal is a very simple system to track behaviours both in the short and the long term. The notebook and materials are unimportant to the method; you could do this with whatever you have on hand. I’d recommend watching the video on the site above if you’ve never heard of it.
The reason it’s so appealing is that it’s adaptable. I don’t use many of the rules that Ryder Carroll created but that’s okay. The point is that it’s a great system to use as a foundation for whatever you want to do.
People use it for all sorts of things and use all sorts of layouts. The fun part is figuring out what works for you and adapting it on a day to day basis until it’s the best tool for your wacky mind. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want because it’s all for you, and that’s what got me obsessed.
What tools do I use?
As I said, you can use whatever you have on hand. However, I use anything at all as an excuse to buy a decent notebook because I am a stationery FIEND. Seriously, I have a problem.
The Leuchtturm1917 is the most fashionable of bullet journals. They’ve even teamed up to make a specific Bullet Journal, adapted for the system, but I don’t use that. I use a basic Leuchtturm1917 in the ’emerald’ colour. It’s really more of a pale turquoise. It has an index at the start and page numbers which makes it perfect for tracking what you’re doing, and it also has two (two!) ribbons to keep your place.
Since the start I’ve used my Faber Castell artist pens, the sepia set. I’ve used these for doodling for years and now they’re my favourite. They don’t smudge easily and the brown makes me happier than boring old black. I use the Faber Castell in superfine, fine, or medium for almost all of my actual writing in my journal.
Recently I discovered the Crayola marker set. This is a set of 100 markers for about $15 which have more colours than I will ever need and, more importantly, don’t bleed through the page like my more expensive Copic markers. I tend to pick two each month and keep them in my pencil case, then I can pretend to be deliberately coordinated when I make my layouts.
Even more recently I’ve started using a Paper Mate Flair set of felt tip pens. They were on sale when I was buying something else, and I love them. They’re crisp and bright and great for writing out titles and such. Plus there’s a nice range of colours, not just your standard. Again, they don’t bleed through; this is important to me.
My friend who started at the same time as me in his bullet journal gave me a few of his pens that he didn’t want. They’re ‘Artist’s Loft’ pens; weirdly I cannot find anything like them on Amazon, so I assume he summoned them out of thin air. I have a teal, purple, and red one. I don’t think they’re expensive but I use them a lot for trackers and such.
Other things I use include my pencil case and washi tape (which is just decorated masking tape).
I also use literally whatever is laying around because I’m a magpie.
How do I use my bullet journal?
When I started out, I got a bit carried away. I wrote out an entire month of daily spreads. This, as it turns out, does not work for how my mind likes to do things; it’s too constrained and doesn’t let me have the flexibility that I need. Plus it didn’t look as nice as I thought it would.
Halfway through the month I realised I hated it and decided to call those pre-written pages a loss and skip ahead. I started doing a daily spread every day instead, which was inspired by Boho Berry.
This works much better for me. It’s flexible, I can use as much or as little space as I need, and I can change up the decoration whenever I feel like it. As you can see, I do that often.
I’ve also started using dots instead of the squares I used originally, which makes my initial ‘Key’ page entirely moot. That’s okay though, because it’s working really well for me.
On top of the daily pages, I now use a weekly spread to organise my thoughts. I have a monthly thing at the start of each month too, but I haven’t used that much. I like to track on a weekly/daily basis and see what I have in store. I don’t have any kind of future log, despite the fact that’s one of the main features of the bullet journal system. See? You take what you need and leave the rest, it’s adaptable.
As for other spreads, I like to track my mood against my habits. I tried a habit tracker that you colour in each day but that didn’t do it for me; leaving a blank square felt like failure, and made me miss it more often. I can’t be so specific, it bums me out. So I use a graph, again inspired by Boho Berry (she is the queen) and it’s fascinating to see my energy and anxiety levels move around. (I have anaemia right now so it’s all a bit of a mess, and last month’s tracker is hilarious because of it. But it’s also not here. Sorry!)
I also like to track the books I read each month and other distractions to see my habits that way. My running tracker is one of my favourite pages; it’s to keep me running even when I don’t feel like it, though the current spat with anaemia has slowed me down temporarily on that front.
What about the crafty stuff?
Since about 57% of my thoughts are on crafts at any one time, I figured I should use my bullet journal to match up to that. I have my Socktopus which I am going to use to track my sock-knitting through the year; I haven’t finished a pair yet, but mojo has been low. That’s on its way to changing.
I also have a page to track what I’ve made for a potential craft fair table later in the year, but that’s off to a slow start so I’m not sure if it’s going to work. I’ll share at another time if it does.
Since the square-filling-in trackers don’t work well for me, I decided to set out my monthly goals (including creative ones) in a way that will let me see how close to my target I get each month. Then I can work on improving it until I have real consistency. It’s working well for me and I can adapt it as I go.
On top of this, I have a bunch of pages I use for tracking my progress in writing and finances, but that’s not really relevant here.
Flexibility over perfection
Obviously I love using a bullet journal. It’s quick and easy, it’s adaptable, it gives me an excuse to buy all of the stationery. I have a lot of pens now. Like, a lot. Which isn’t actually new but now I use them even more.
The best thing about trying out a bullet journal is that you can figure out how to make it work for you. I use mine to force myself into flexibility when often I can be rigid about my own mistakes. I don’t like failing, so I end up never using things that I’ve done ‘wrong’. With a bullet journal, adapting it on a monthly/daily basis is part of the point, so it makes my mind give up on that perfectionist thing.
Plus if I do something wrong I can just tape over it with washi tape. (I do that a lot.)
Coming up: a post on my favourite bullet journalers to help you get some inspiration.
If you have a bullet journal, what do you like best about it? Do you use it in a similar way to me? Do you have any tips on how to use it for crafty things? Enquiring minds need to know!
When we talk about knitting culture, there’s the assumption that it’s a feminine space. Having been a part of various knitting groups from 2010 onwards across four towns/cities and two continents, I’ve got a good sample size to work with, and yes, the majority of the people are women. It seems appropriate then to celebrate International Women’s Day as a part of the knitting community.
Honestly, the whole need for the day is depressing. The fact we need a day on the calendar to remember that women are people too and that feminism is necessary… that doesn’t make me a happy camper. But considering everything that’s going on right now it’s also a really necessary thing, and it’s good to focus people. I’m sure I’m not the only one starting to feel tired of it all, but this isn’t a fight we can abandon.
I don’t just mean women, either. Men need to be a part of this, and other genders too. We’re all equally important.
Though knitting hasn’t always been a feminine thing everywhere, it is considered it today. When I knit, people see me as a girly girl (I am not) or an old woman (I am not). However, when you step outside of the stereotypes of the outside world, the knitting community has one of the most accepting, loving attitudes I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re welcome in the majority of the groups I’ve been to and most of the forums online that I’ve seen.
We need that. We need acceptance of ourselves and others. That’s what I see in International Women’s Day, so let’s celebrate it.
To celebrate in a more general way, I’m now going to include a list of three women who have inspired me in my life, and a little about what they mean to me. It’s amazing to have so many role models and to have people actively trying to get women’s names from history (and from today!) into the mainstream, masculine-dominated culture, so I figure I should share as well.
Yes, I’m starting with an obvious one. I’ve written about why she inspires me before, but here’s the gist of it: she turned her pain into art. No matter what happened to her, she just kept creating amazing things.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This fabulous author has been a vocal participant in today’s intersectional debates, and I love her. Even before I realised how awesome she is I was a big fan of her books. If you don’t know much about her, go look at the TED Talk she did on the danger of a single story, read her ‘We Should All Be Feminists‘ book, or watch her dismantle a racist idiot from a few weeks ago (above). Oh, and here’s a recent interview I just found where she continues to be a huge inspiration.
This author is, well, a little different. The books she puts out there are like nothing I’ve ever read before. I started with The Mirror Empire and its sequel, Empire Ascendant. After that, I read Geek Feminist Revolution. That should give you an idea of why I like her. Then last month I read The Stars Are Legion which is a science fiction book with zero men in it, and is apparently one big metaphor for abortion. Kameron Hurley does not do things in an expected way and even when she makes you uncomfortable (or totally grossed out), her work is fascinating.
A while ago (maybe a year?) my lovely friend Frankie sent me a yarn bowl that’s just adorable. It has a pointy nose and little ears and it is pleasing to the touch. I use it whenever I knit at my desk, and it’s the only yarn bowl I have.
It’s interesting to me that a potter would sit down and make something like this. It’s very specific! I love that they do, though; it gives knitters something fun to use and look at, and I’ve seen some really creative examples. I’m sure some people who work with ceramics/clay are knitters themselves, or have knitters of their own. Creativity tends to overlap.
I love my yarn bowl. Do you have one? Do you use it?
For a general update on The Life of Polo: I am currently enjoying a continuation of renewed ambition that’s been building for a few months. It is aimed at all areas of my life. Over the past few days I’ve become totally overwhelmed by it to the point I began feeling like a failure in some areas and had a mini meltdown. It doesn’t help that though the Christmas holidays were fun, it was a lot of socialising and I am EXHAUSTED from all the people. I kind of want to nap for a year or so.
The fact is that I have a lot of interests. I read (a lot). I write. I am a salesperson in my working life. I knit. I crochet. I experiment with other fibrecrafts when the inspiration hits. I occasionally bind books. I journal. I do nail art. I run. I paint. I sing. I play guitar and ukulele. I try to get involved in activism. I am a plethora of random things, and that was entirely an excuse to say ‘plethora’.
What a great word.
Anyway, I have a vague idea of where I want my life to go now which should be determined quite soundly in whether or not I get into the MEd course I’m applying for in Adult Learning. We’ll see. In the meantime I am focusing my intense inspiration in other areas and hoping for the best.
Another random thing: for Christmas my girlfriend got us tickets to see the Matilda musical in Toronto. It was GLORIOUS. I identified heavily with Matilda as a kid; I was the weirdo who couldn’t quite connect with others around and mostly just got lost in books, so she was my idol. I loved the book and the movie a lot, and now I can say I love the musical too. I’m very grateful that my girlfriend gave me such an awesome present.
That’s a general update on me! I’m trying to be better about not getting overwhelmed by my blog, because I love it and want it to continue, and that’s a huge part because of all the wonderful people I’ve met through it.
It occurred to me when trying to find a post on here for my recent obsession that I never shared my foray into book-binding. Shame on me. Shame.
Let me tell you about my morning at the Oshawa LivingRoom Community Arts Studio. This magical place is a ten-minute walk from my house and is filled with creative types and, even better, with all sorts of ways to express your creativity for free. You can of course donate, but there are plenty of resources even if you can’t afford it.
I’d walked past it a hundred times but never got up the nerve to go inside until one day I got a newsletter update from them telling me all about an upcoming Book-Binding class. It was even run by someone I knew (but had not seen for about three years). I emailed back to announce my intention to be there with bells on and three weeks later turned up and sat down.
The process is fiddly but fun. We picked all sorts of paper and cut it to size, arranged it into sections (I forget the technical word), then used stiff cardboard to make the covers. Coptic stitch gives the book a cute look and makes it sit flat when you open it which is my favourite style of notebook.
It was amazing to see all the ways people made their notebooks unique to them, and it blew my mind how many possibilities there are. I thought about making felted covers which is something I’m still considering. For now, I pasted on a cut-out from a calendar filled with art, and lined the insides with paper that reminds me of BBC’s Sherlock.
The stitching took a while but I can imagine it being extremely quick when you’re used to it. You can do so many different varieties, too, as I’ve discovered on Pinterest. Coptic stitch is simple and effective and full of possibilities.
It took me a while to work out what to use the book for since it’s so fun to have something I made myself. I’m a total addict to notebooks and have many (man, so many), so it was a difficult decision. In the end I took it to England with my on my recent trip and began filling it with the very strange emotions I felt upon returning to my home-town after emigrating to an entirely new country.
The fact I had created the notebook made it all the more special, though I’m going to have to figure out how to make the covers more stable. I’ve already ripped part of the cover off and had to stick it back together. That won’t be a problem with felted covers, at least.
I was 10% through my collection of Agatha Christies rescued from various secondhand stores when my friend came to me and offered a full collection. Yep. That’s right. The full set in matching editions. I gasped and jumped at the chance and, while they’re currently in England because heavy to ship, they are one of my favourite things.
Agatha Christie always kept you guessing. Sometimes I even forget the bad guy in books I’ve already read. In honour of one of my favourite authors (and definitely my favourite mystery author), please enjoy a collection of patterns inspired by her greatness.
Spoiler: I know Maureen in real life so I am biased, but her patterns are gorgeous and very fun. I knit these socks and the pattern is enchanting and, even better, they make very comfortable and stylish additions to my sock drawer.
Considering she is the patron saint of knitters, Miss Marple should have her place in every wardrobe. This scarf is stylish and echoes many of the items in her imaginary wardrobe. Just be careful you don’t accidentally solve a murder while you’re wearing it.
When I truly discovered Frida Kahlo I was at a dark point in my life. I was sick and it was the latest in a long line of chronic, painful illnesses and I was tired of struggling through it. Though I was fortunate compared to many in that I could still (mostly) function with the things wrong with me most of the time, I longed for a life where I didn’t know any pain. I grew jealous of those who never got seriously ill and I began to get bitter.
I’m sure anyone who has been through chronic illnesses will understand that feeling. It’s not one I’m proud of but when your body is betraying you it’s difficult to keep on smiling.
Though I already knew of Frida Kahlo in an abstract sense I didn’t know much about her. She was that Mexican woman with the awesome sense of style and a huge amount of pride. She was that painter with the eyebrow and the facial hair. She was that woman who painted her pain onto the canvas and transformed it into beauty.
Okay, no, I didn’t know that last part until I was sick. I started reading about her and exploring her art and I discovered just how inspirational she was. She had gone through so much pain and suffering in her life and yet she consistently turned it into timeless art that still inspires people today. She did not shy away from herself or her pain; she painted both with equal honesty.
I realised something from understanding Frida Kahlo’s art: pain could be beauty. It did not have to be hollow and meaningless. Though I had no choice whether or not to go through the pain, I had the choice of what to make of it.
Did I want to sit around and mope like so many before me, or did I want to channel all of what I had seen into something better? Frida Kahlo made the answer clear.
Lately I’ve been going through some relatively mild medical nonsense. It’s nothing huge but it’s persistent and therefore tiring, so I’m revisiting the people who have inspired me through my life to keep going when it’s easier to lie down and stop. Frida Kahlo is a huge part of that and when I picked up a few random skeins of mohair/silk yarn a week ago I thought it appropriate that I’d somehow managed to pick a colourway called ‘Kahlo’ without noticing.
This is not a yarn I would normally pick up. I don’t like pink that much and the mohair/silk yarns scare me. Yet I had a migraine and wasn’t thinking straight (or seeing clearly, literally since half my vision was flickering at the time) when I picked it up, and it worked out just right.
For the last week I’ve been knitting this yarn into a random tube that may or may not end up being a little stop. I don’t like the way the colours fall in the pictures of other people’s projects, so I’m doing short rows to mix it up a bit. It has the added bonus of looking sort of like one of Frida Kahlo’s skirts, though far more muted. I have many things I should be knitting right now but instead I pick up this yarn and I remember how much she inspires me to be a more positive person.
I find browsing Ravelry is a great start when I am feeling uninspired by any of my current projects. Not just the patterns section either: I love perusing my friends’ projects and seeing how they’re doing with their knitting and crochet skills.
Lately I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in bright colours. This always happens when summer starts to come, which I’m told is happening even though it snowed last week. This has been especially true at work where I’ve been crochet covers for the arms of my co-workers’ chairs in a variety of bright and cheerful patterns, including one that looks like a snail, out of some old acrylic. This goes undocumented in photos since I work in a place where cameras are Not Allowed.
Recently the cotton/wool/alpaca blend linen stitch shawl inspired me, though that was mostly colour too. Now that it’s finished (photos coming as soon as I get around to weaving in the ends) the colours have become less sparkling to my eyes and thought I love it, I’ve realised it won’t suit me at all. I’m considering doing some kind of giveaway on here for it in case one of my fine readers would suit it better.
Sounds inspire me too, or rather singers do. Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards fame is who I want to be when I grow up and her aesthetic fills me mind with all sorts of crazy ideas. This isn’t new, but now it’s coming out in a bunch of scribbled fair-isle patterns in my notebook based on her album art work.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. I find it fascinating. Where does yours come from?