Art · Inspiration

Minnie Small – artist

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?

Bullet Journal · Craft

Beating perfectionism with a bullet journal

If you’re a perfectionist, you know what it’s like. You start a new project, you’re all excited, then three minutes in you make a mistake. What then?

For me, that often involved rage-quitting, though my rage is a quiet one. I have, for example, left many knitted items to languish for months or even years because of a mistake I cannot see by the time I pick it up again. This is a thing I do regularly.

However, it’s a thing I’m trying to avoid. I’m also doing my best to improve my productivity and time management, especially since I’m starting a Master of Education course in September, gulp. When I heard about bullet journaling I didn’t realise it would be for me, but I’m really glad I picked it up.

You can read a little about my bullet journal in my epic post from a while back. I talk about the fact it is for flexibility instead of perfection, and that’s exactly why I do it.

In a bullet journal, it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. You either fix it or you move on. If you do something that doesn’t work for you for that month, you can switch it up next month, or right now (as I did!). It’s an unplanned space for your own brain to process, and it’s very freeing.

Oddly, the bullet journal method – or how I use it, anyway – has made my creativity spike. It’s not that I have more ideas; it’s that I’m not afraid to try any of them now. When I realised I had an old leather journal with no space left in it, I decided to cut out the binding and re-bind it myself with my own paper. THEN I ACTUALLY DID THE THING.

Knitter Nerd: Leather journal

Here is the difference: bullet journaling is helping me try new things with less panic about it going wrong.

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good or useful.

I know this isn’t the only way to avoid perfectionism; there’s a lot of methods out there. The way I see it is anything that lets you rewrite that narrative on the importance of ‘perfect’ is great. Perfect might exist, but I sure as hell doubt many people will ever reach it.

Bullet journaling has helped me enjoy the process and witness my own growth as I move from month to month and spread to spread. It’s not perfect and never will be, but I’m getting much better at accepting that and being proud of myself despite it.

Since the bullet journal world has changed mine, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite YouTube videos and channels over the next few weeks to hopefully bring a few of you the kind of inspiration I feel from the whole method.

If you have any thoughts on either bullet journals or other ways out of perfectionism, I’d love to hear it!

Craft · Knitting

Suddenly, a cardigan appears

Over the last week I have finished a few projects  (on their way to the blocking mat) and frogged one fairly major project (story coming later this week). Since everything on the needles is giving me attitude, I decided to start a project I’ve been excited about for a while.

Plus it was my birthday Sunday. What better excuse to cast on a cardigan?


I only started this yesterday and it’s already ten inches deep. It’s a welcome break from troublesome projects!

Animals · Craft · Vacations · Yarn

An Alpaca Surprise

It’s wonderful to get away for a while. In the middle of July we packed up our things into a car that is much smaller than it looks from the outside, like a sort of reverse TARDIS, and drove a few hours along the edge of Lake Ontario with our knees by our chins. It’s been a long time since I went camping and I had no idea what to expect from a Canadian campsite, so I was excited for new experiences (and hopefully raccoons).

As we drove through the gorgeous Southern Ontario countryside my head whipped around when my girlfriend pointed out a field full of alpacas. I noticed the sign ‘gift shop’ and tried to be polite and say we could maybe stop on the way back? If we had time? Except somehow I gave in and we turned around, pulled into the yard, and descended upon the friendliest alpaca farmer I’ve ever met.

We’ll pretend I’ve met more than one.

The farm was Nuevo Norte Alpacas in Colborne, and the owner – I believe her name was Amy – opened up the gift shop just for us. Well, me. My girlfriend and her mum weren’t in it for the fibre.

Nuevo Norte
Nuevo Norte

She showed us down to the gift shop and I told her that one day I wanted to keep alpacas, and she was super helpful. I feel as though I learned more in that half an hour than anything I’ve learned before. She explained the entire philosophy behind how she cares for the alpacas (and she has 80+ so she should know), and that she got into it for the fibre as much as anything else.

I bought two sets of roving and a beautiful grey lopi yarn from their flock, and geeked out about knitting and spinning. On the way back Amy (I think) showed me the wild woad growing on her land which I had never seen in person – only in pictures. She brought us to the pen full of pregnant alpacas or those who had recently given birth, plus some thoroughly adorable crias (babies). I learned that alpacas all poop in the same spot in the field and that crias will stand for a long time in that spot with nothing happening while they’re still nursing. This entertained me more than it should.

1000 Islands 018
I know this isn’t the kind of image you came here to see, but you’re welcome! 😀

Though I cannot get back out there easily for now as I don’t drive, once I do – and have some spare time – I will be going back. My aim to one day keep alpacas is sincere and I think I’ve found a place that would be perfect to learn more.

If you’re ever passing through, check out Nuevo Norte Alpacas. They do tours and workshops and classes, and they have some gorgeous fibre for sale.

Awesome Women · Knitting · Yarn

Why Frida Kahlo Inspires Me

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.

"Block Kahlo Rivera 1932" by Carl Van Vechten - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3c03971.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.العربية | čeština | Deutsch | English | español | فارسی | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | polski | português | русский | slovenčina | slovenščina | Türkçe | українська | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−Restoration by trialsanderrors: Frida Kahlo de Rivera, Diego Rivera and Malú Block by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
“Block Kahlo Rivera 1932” by Carl Van Vechten. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

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.

Debbie Bliss Angel Prints in 'Kahlo'
Debbie Bliss Angel Prints in ‘Kahlo’. It’s actually a lot softer-coloured than this photo suggests.

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.

Gawd, I love this yarn.
Gawd, I love this yarn.

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.

Do you have anyone you look up to in that way?


Are Fibre Arts a Backlash Against the Internet?

This morning I read an article in yesterday’s Toronto Star [link] that makes the repeated claim that fibre arts have grown as a reaction to the Internet and our usage of screens. Now, I don’t argue with that in principle, but the way in which the claim was made implies that it is a backlash rather than an evolution. I cold not let it lie without reacting to it.

I understand that The Star was attempting to point out the move online with Instagram and other media to share photos and trends of fibre arts (such as weaving in this case). The writer could have done that, however, with far less condescension to online folks.

It is truly great that more people are knitting and crocheting and weaving and dyeing and spinning and so on, though I would prefer to see some figures to prove that’s true. I would guess at most it has grown a little but mostly has become more connected. People who sat and knitted socks and sweaters at home could now join in discussions online about their passions, which in turn spurs people on to knit more.

I know for me my interest in the craft would have died out quickly if I had no community around it. My knitting life has always involved local knitting groups (there’s your real world component) but it has also involves a large slice of Ravelry and of course this blog. The fact I can discuss knitting and fibres with so many different people through different means is exciting. We can share so much easier than before.

Now, with the Internet full of knitters and other fibre artists, it doesn’t matter that I didn’t have anyone in my family to teach me to knit. It doesn’t matter that I couldn’t afford lessons. I could just jump on Youtube and figure it out that way.

There’s also the fact that even if you do learn the basics offline, you have the chance to learn so much more from that jump-off point thanks to the Internet. In the past if you didn’t know someone who could spin, it would have been much more difficult to learn. Now you can figure it out online. That means the less common of the crafts are opened to such a greater audience than before.

That is why I love the Internet. Yes, there’s a great community around our craft and any other that you can mention, but it also opens doors to so many different people who may not have had the chance to experience certain things without it. So I don’t believe that fibre arts are ‘taking off’ as an antithesis to the Internet; I think it’s quite the opposite. Our screens are the fuel to engage more people into the crafts.

What do you think?


How is Your Nanowrimo Going?

We’re more than a week into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) so for those of you who are involved, how are you doing with it?

As it stands my stats look like this:nanostats

So I’d say I’m doing pretty well.

My aim this time hasn’t been to reach 50,000. This is my eleventh year writing and I’ve only lost once: I know I can do the wordcount thing. My aim is to finish the story.

So often I get to 50,000 words and stop, abandoning it forever. Like knitting an intricate laceweight sweater and never bothering to finish the sleeves, this makes no sense at all. This year I want to change that.

For the first time, I think I might.

The story I’m writing is one I’ve written before. Twice, in fact. I wrote it in 2012 and continued to write it through most of 2013. In November 2013, I rewrote it. And then I forgot about it. It’s a story about dryads and humans completely failing to share a city and a forest. I love the two main characters. I really need to finish it.

Tell me what you do at the end of November! Do you close the file? Keep going? Set fire to your laptop and run away screaming?

Animals · Knitting

An Unexpected Hiatus

It turns out that changing my work schedule completely for the first time in months messed with my head. In the last week I have been unable to do anything useful whilst at home beyond walking the dog. I don’t even spend as much time knitting at home as I usually do due to the fact my job has become so quiet all of a sudden that I can get entire hats done in my shifts. I’ve knitted two in the last week plus most of a pair of socks.

The Brandywine Shawl I started a couple of weeks back has been quietly put aside. The mix of the pretty pattern plus the yarn with alpaca content just didn’t mix. It needs a yarn with some stitch definition so when I worked a couple of hours at Kniterary this Saturday I got some Cascade 220 in a lovely autumn orange. Sure, an orange shawl in an odd shape isn’t the most wearable of items but it’s not as though I’m averse to bright colours or weird clothes. I’m about to cast it on.

There’s a lot going on with my sticks and string lately but not much time to blog about it. This week I intend to get the hang of my new shifts and get back to normal service.

In penance (and in the spirit of the month), here’s a picture of some evil alpacas.


They’re watching you.


The Coffee Fiasco

Normally I am one of those obnoxious morning people. I wake up perky and ready to go. Last Friday I didn’t find it quite so easy thanks to the cold weather making bed seem like a much better choice than anything ever so by the time I got to work I was barely alert.

When I’m tired I get clumsy. I really should have known better than to put my (large) coffee next to my handknit fingerless gloves.

You can see where this is going.

Thankfully the impressive amount of milky, sweet caffeine avoided my kindle and my work computer but it soaked my headset and the gloves. I spent the first ten minutes of my day mopping it up. Because I was at work I couldn’t dump the gloves in water so by the time I had the chance to clean them they had been stewing in coffee for hours and hours.

Best thing is I don’t usually take much milk in my coffee and very rarely take sugar. Of course I had to spill it that day.

It has taken three separate washes in Soak scentless to get rid of the smell. Fortunately the Manos Del Uruguay I used for the gloves was already a deep brown/red/purple so if there’s a stain it looks deliberate. I can’t tell the difference. Imagine if it had been my pale blue shawl or my sparkly pink cardigan!

Please tell me I’m not the only one this happens to – share your spillage/ruined knits disasters with me below. We can commiserate in our clumsiness together.


The Importance of Night Vale

Two-and-a-bit years ago there came a podcast into the world that was unlike anything before it. Set out as a community radio broadcast in a small desert town full of oddities and surveillance, this show brought a surreal humour and eeriness together in a satisfying and vaguely horrifying way.

Welcome… to Night Vale.

Art by simply-psycho.

The voice of Night Vale is Cecil Palmer (played by Cecil Baldwin). He is, by any stretch of the imagination, a fascinating character. His strongest trait is how deeply and intensely he cares for his bizarre little town and, quite honestly, how he will protect the things he finds important to almost ridiculous lengths. Just as Telly the barber.

Welcome to Night Vale starts with the arrival of an Outsider. Carlos the scientist captures Cecil’s heart immediately but seems totally oblivious to it. What unfolds is the reason I fell completely and irreparably in love with the show rather than being slightly enamoured of it. What unfolds, dear readers, is a romance of the kind you don’t see reflected in the mainstream media.

It’s not a main plot point except for a few brief episodes. Cecil and Carlos come together slowly and awkwardly. Neither of them are perfect (though Carlos’s hair is, of course) but their relationship is a firm grounding for Cecil’s understanding and therefore reporting of the town’s business. It is mundane and exciting all at once, just like real life relationships. Moreover the writers somehow manage to get across all of this in just a few lines or a brief conversation.

The best part of their relationship? It’s a sub-plot at best. The characters are queer but not once is that an issue. Their sexualities have not become plot points; it is one facet of a complex bunch of characters.

You just don’t see that in the mainstream all that much. If a character is gay it becomes A Thing. A plot point. Just like the many throwaway women characters in movies, there is no substance beyond the stereotype or if there is, it’s overshadowed by the big blinking lights pointing out that the plot is so progressive for having a gay dude in it or something. Welcome to Night Vale isn’t like that. Carlos and Cecil casually go about their business, whether that’s planning dinner for the night or saving the town from eldritch horrors. Add in the fact one of them (Carlos) is a person of colour and you’ve got something radical, though that ironically comes primarily in its ordinary portrayal.

art by meadow-rue
art by meadow-rue.

So how did this come about? Take a look at this quote from a writer of the podcast, Jeffrey Cranor.

We didn’t think of it as romantic right away. And as we went on with it the more and more we started describing Carlos and thinking about what his personality was, Joseph and I just sort of got to liking the character and enjoying the character and we couldn’t see why the character of Cecil wouldn’t love him as well for the same reasons that we did.

And so we started moving it that way and seeing if it worked out, not unlike an actual real life relationship where you start hanging out with somebody more and then over time you realize “Yeah, I could really be with this person for a while.” That’s kind of how we felt about Cecil and Carlos as we wrote more and more interactions between them.

(from this interview)

No wonder their relationship has such an ordinary, organic feel about it when it came about so naturally. But there’s nothing ordinary about a popular podcast portraying queer characters without fear or neon signs of progressiveness and inclusivity.

Welcome to Night Vale makes me happy for more reasons than the above. It makes me cry, it makes me laugh. It makes me look like even more of a crazy person than I already am when I’m out on dog walks as I sniffle and giggle in turns, often in the same episode. But it’s the relationship between Carlos and Cecil and its casual nature that has pushed this into perfect for me.

You should really check it out.