The Book That Changed The Way I Think About Fear

I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic last month, and it has changed the way I think about many things.

Before I start talking about this book, a word about her earlier books, just so you know I am fairly objective.  I read Eat, Pray, Love – or more properly, I should say I tried to read it.  I just could not connect with it.  So, I’m not a huge fan of all her work.

big magic

One of the most intriguing things she talks about is that fear we all feel from time to time when we try something new, or meet someone new, or think in a new way.  She points out that fear actually does serve a very important evolutionary purpose.  Our ancestors who paid good attention to their fears survived to reproduce.  Life was chancy and danger was everywhere – people who were cautious lived longer lives than careless risk takers.  The ones who put every unknown berry in their mouths lived a shorter life.    Since evolution weeded out risk takers, we’ve inherited that fear mindset.

Life is much safer now in general, when was the last time you met a tiger in your back yard, after all?  But fear doesn’t understand that.  And when you try something new or undertake a project with an uncertain outcome it can easily take over the show.

Ms. Gilbert explains all this in much more detail and more elegantly than I can, but additionally, she gives a great tool for overcoming fear.

She says we cannot and should not eliminate fear entirely, it’s purpose is still important at times.  It keeps you safe when something really is about to go south.  But undertaking a new art project is not terribly dangerous.  So, she gives you one way to put fear in the back seat where it belongs.

She advises talking to fear as if it were a person, and telling it that it’s not going to get to drive on this road trip.

Now, that may sound silly, but I’ve been doing this and it’s made a big difference in the amount of anxiety I feel at various times, especially when beginning a creative project in an area in which I don’t consider myself very expert.

Acknowledging the fear and putting it in the back seat helps me feel safe enough to move forward with things that seemed overwhelming in the past.  I don’t worry so much about what people will think about my work or even about me.  Fear seems to cooperate and sit quietly watching the scenery.

I liked this book so much I copied a section into my journal and read over it several times a week.

I recommend every artist and creator (and that’s all of us, isn’t it?) read this book.

If you are reading my blog hoping for juicy pictures of fiber, this picture of a new handspun yarn is for you.

Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn
Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn
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Book Review – Pinterest Power

I randomly picked up a book from the New Books shelf at the library last week. It was a lucky find – I think it’s going to teach me a lot!

Pinterest Power by Jason Miles and Karen Lacey outlines the reasons businesses should be using Pinterest to market their business, build their brand, and increase sales.  Then they give you specific, detailed information on how to do it.

Pinterest Power

Jason Miles and his wife, Cinnamon, own Liberty Jane Clothing, a wildly sucessful business which creates clothes and patterns for clothing for American Girl Dolls.  Cinnamon has gorgeous Pinterest boards and they are clearly experts at using social media to grow their business.  Jason also wears some other hats, including teaching as an adjunct professor at Northwest University’s School of Business Management in Seattle.

Karen Lacey is a writer and a guru on entrepreneurship.  She’s written several books and screenplays.  Her newest book is  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Elance (which I have not yet read, but it’s on my list!).

Pinterest Power is well written and easy to read.  As I read, I find I’m very motivated to apply the information I’m gathering.  I’ve created well thought out pinboards, each with it’s own theme, and done some brainstorming to better understand who my customers are – both things the book recommends.

Maybe none of this is advanced business knowledge, but I am finding it very helpful in creating a coherent plan to fully utilize Pinterest (and other social networks).  My copy of the book is heavily marked up, full of stickies, and I’ve started a little journal for notetaking.

I also am finding this book is helping me to think like a business owner.   That’s a big benefit to reading it.

Jason has written several other books, Price It Like Picasso and Craft Business Power, both of which are on my short list to read in the near future (I bought them both).

Some of my favorite take-aways from this book so far:

1.  Not all social media is for every business.  My business is very visual, so Twitter isn’t a very useful venue for me, and I’ve decided not to spend a terribly large amount of time on it.

2.  How to decide if my Pinterest personality should be personal or corporate, the pitfalls and advantages of each, and how to create the personality I chose.

3.  How to build relationships with other pinners and encourage them to repin my pins, thus increasing my product’s exposure.

I recommend this book to everyone who has a business (for profit or nonprofit) who is looking for free and time efficient ways to grow their sales.

Jason has a blog called Marketing on Pinterest.  Check it out!

My Very Favorite Vegan Cookbook of 2012

Someone asked me recently which new cookbook of 2012 I liked best.  I’m afraid I will show my greedy little sweet tooth here, but the winner is 150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury.

150 best vegan muffin recipes

I use this cookbook three or four times a week (I have a lot of teenagers who eat endlessly).  The things I like best about it is that almost all the recipes use easily available ingredients and the recipes are very easily customized to your family’s tastes.    I have switched her recommended soy yogurt for coconut when that was all I had, with great results, which makes it very useful when cooking for someone with a soy allergy.

The author includes a tip with almost every recipe and some of them are quite useful, for example, how to choose a good mango, or how to store wheat germ.  She also suggests substitutions that can change things up a little bit.

So far, I’ve only found one stinker – Mashed Potato Muffins – and, to be fair, she states to mash the potatoes with a fork, which I think must mean they should be chunky.  Mine were very very smooth, potato puree really, and the muffins just weren’t anything special.

But, the others I’ve tried are fantastic!

My favorites (in no particular order)

  • Gingerbread Muffins
  • Dark Chocolate Muffins
  • Pumpkin Spice Muffins (I see my copy has a note in it in my handwriting which says  “add walnuts” and another that says “add ginger for pumpkin gingerbread”.  I’ve tried it both of these ways and they were smashing.
  • Chai Latte Muffins (favorite of the teens)
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.  I add a tiny sprinkle of sugar to the top of each of these before baking to get a crunchy top.

Tonight’s menu is potato and kale soup, toasted french bread and to finish, the lemon poppy seed muffins.  Can’t wait!

New Year’s Resolutions Indigo Kitty Style

I’m not normally one to make any kind of New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to learn and accomplish in the upcoming year. Here’s a preliminary list.

Fair Isle – I picked up a gorgeous book at Half Price Books the other day, called Colorwork Creations. It’s subtitled Knit woodland inspired hats, mittens and gloves.
Here’s the cover
ColorworkCreations
Charming, right?  There are so many lovely patterns inside, for example chickadees, butterflies, ducks, cardinals, snowflakes.  Hard to choose one to start with!

I did purchase a kit from Knitpicks a while back for the bright woodland mitts. That seems like a good starting point for my fair isle adventures. I have a knitting date with my friend Wendy, who is a Fair Isle Queen for Jan 3.  Starting this project right out of the gate!

Here is a picture (from Knitpicks site) of the mitts.
woodland mitts

I’d also like to do more spinning and become more expert in using my Ashford Traveler spinning wheel.

Then there’s  hand dyeing fiber.  My business partner, the wonderful and brilliant Cheryl, gave me a very nice book for my birthday about dyeing.  It’s The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes.  This looks like a lot of fun.  I plan to dye yarn and roving using acorns, coffee, blackberries, red cabbage and more.

Here’s the cover.

handbook of natural plant dyes

What a great gift!

Did you know you can use dandelion root to dye fiber red?  I’ll be paying the kids to get me some roots in the spring (and making the lawn look a bit better).   I can’t wait to get started!

I’d like to knit more fingerless gloves, we have a goal to have 50 pairs ready for next winter.  They are big sellers for us and a fun and easy knit too.

I want to write a pattern for a lace shawl and some cabled and lace cowls.  So many pattern ideas, I could probably work 24 hours a day and still have stuff rattling around in my brain!

And all those things should keep me busy for a good part of the year.

Wishing all my readers the best for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.  Keep on knitting (and spinning, and dyeing, and crocheting)!

Beginnings and Endings

I’ve been looking at a newish knitting book (published 2012), Cast On, Bind Off, subtitled 54 Step–by-Step Methods, by Leslie Ann Bestor.

What a great cover! This book contains 33 casts ons and 21 bind offs.  It seems it’s easier to begin a knitting project than to finish one!  I know I start more than I complete.  My UFO pile (unfinished objects for you non-knitters) grows continously.  Maybe someday I will take a couple of hours and rip all that stuff out, as I’m obviously not going to finish most of them.  I have good intentions, but if something sits incomplete for over a year, the bloom is kind of gone for me.

The first cast on I learned, the Backward Loop, is in this book, of course, as it’s probably the cast on everyone used to learn first – although it’s certainly not the “best”.  It’s easy to do, but really shouldn’t be a commonly used beginning for almost anyone, it’s main use is adding stitches to a work already in progress.  I didn’t learn that for a while and my early projects have pretty cruddy beginning edges.

For a long time I used a plain Long Tail cast on, and that became my very favorite, until I began making a lot of items for which the pattern began “cast on 307 stitches” or some similar number.  I quickly got tired of running out of yarn before I got all stitches cast on, so I knew some other method had to be more appropriate for things like this. Nowadays  I almost always use a Knitted cast on, which I find easy to do, depending on the yarn, and I also like the edge it forms.  It’s not terifically stretchy, but for scarfs, cowls, shawls, etc. I like it very much.

I am intrigued by the Old Norwegian cast  on (which I had never hear of) presented in this book .  It’s very elastic and had a neat edge, it’s recommended for cuffs, mittens, gloves and hats – places where a stretchy start is ideal.  I did try it, but I did not find it very easy to do, it’s quite fiddly and will definitely take some practice for me.

For socks (which I always knit toe up), I use the Turkish  cast on, also known as Middle Eastern cast on, which is also outlined in this book.  I find it easy to do and I love the way it looks on the toe of a sock.  And it makes me feel so clever!

There’s a good section on provisional cast ons (which I truly hate because I find them so difficult).  Maybe I’ll eventually get to be an expert at those also.

Bind offs are also here, including my new favorite for lace, the every so boringly named Elastic bind off.  I tried it when finishing a shawl and liked the way it allowed the edge to expand and really look it’s best.

I just wonder how necessary this book really is in a knitter’s library, thanks to YouTube, there are even a lot of videos there of the Old Norwegian cast on out there.

If you are a book lover like me, maybe you will enjoy having a book with all this information on your shelves.

I finished the Wingspan shawl.  I knit this from 2 skeins of Noro Silver Thaw, which gave me enough yarn for 7 “wings”, instead of 8.  I did make some changes to the pattern, see my Ravelry project page  for details. Here’s a picture of it blocking.

I love it very much and plan to keep it for myself, which is a bit unusual for me, normally I give away or sell most of my knitting.  Can’t stand the thought of parting with this one, though!  Maybe I’ll grow tired of it, or someone will admire it enough that I think they need it more than I do.  It’s been known to happen!

I really like this pattern, I think it’s brilliant actually, and I plan to knit a lot more of these (or variations thereof) in the future.  It’s easy to understand and memorize, no need for a pattern after you choose a yarn, decide how many stitches to use, and get it cast on.  That’s my kind of project.

I have a gift card for a local yarn store burning a hole in my pocket (many thanks to Sandy S for her wonderfully generous birthday gift last time!), maybe I’ll stock up on yarns for Wingspan.  I’m thinking Mini-Mochi, more Noro, Zauberball….

Current knitting is a scarf for sale in Rowan Colourscape, Frosty colorway.  It’s gorgeous – how can it not be with that fabulous yarn?  Should be done in just a couple of days.  That’s another pattern type I love – quick ones!

I leave you with a picture of the next yarns I plan to knit.  I’d love to hear any pattern ideas anyone has for these wonderful yarns.  This group includes 3 skeins of Noro Transitions (in a cream, tan, blue, green colorway), 1 skein of Rowan Colourscape (Heath colorway), and 6 skeins of Noro Blossom (in a blue-y colorway).

Book Review – The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos

This book is subtitled The Best Techniques for Showcasing Your Handmade Creations.

I was having a lot of trouble photographing hand spun and hand dyed yarn for my Etsy shop.  My photos were too blurry, too boring, too dull; they didn’t do my products justice at all.  I saw this book somewhere and requested from the library.

I read it on vacation and it was very helpful!  Pictures in my Etsy shop now  are crisp, clear, well-lit and show my lovely products off to their best advantage.  Here’s one.

Candy Necklace Yarn

I’ve read a review somewhere saying that this book isn’t all that helpful for knowledgeable  photographers and I do agree with that.  But it’s a great resource for creative people who don’t know much about photography (that’s me!).

There’s a lot of basic information about light, understanding how cameras work and how to operate them (a lot of this was news to me), choosing backgrounds, props, etc.   Point and shoot and DSLR cameras are both discussed, which makes this useful to a wide range of photographers.

The author features an interview with photographs in several different creative areas.  For example, she talks with a knitter, a jewelry designer, and a ceramic artist among others.  The interviews ask questions that I would ask and many of them apply across the board to lots of different creations.

And the photos are gorgeous!  I got a lot of inspiration just looking at them (and was able to pass on an idea to a jewelry designer I know).

I liked this book so much I purchased a copy for myself.  It would also make a nice gift for someone starting an Etsy (or Ebay) business,  or a blogger you know who struggles to take great photos.  (Christmas is coming, you know!)

If you are not happy with the photos you currently take of your creations, check this book out!  I think you will find it very helpful.

And, here is what I spun yesterday, love the watercolor blurry look of it.  I have been on a bit of a pink jag lately.  My next yarn will not feature much pink!

Charts Made Simple

Today I am reviewing a knitting book called Charts Made Simple by JC Briar.  The book is subtitled understanding knitting charts visually – and that says it all.

Charts Made Simple

JC is a genius, in my opinion.  This book is clearly written and well thought out; it’s the best book I’ve seen on knitting from a chart.  You may wonder why you need to learn to knit from a chart – well, I used to knit from the written instructions.  I avoided those charted only patterns like the plague, because I didn’t understand them.  After reading this book, I understand how they are written, how to read them, how to knit from them and how to create them!  And I spend a lot less time tinking (unknitting) to fix silly mistakes.

There are lots of good illustrations that are big enough to see with clear explanations of what is shown.  She also offers exercises to practice the new skills learn (an answer key is included).

I learned I was reading them the wrong way around and covering up the wrong parts, and that was the big reason they were so difficult for me.

I learned how to read cable charts and how simple cables really are.

I learned how to read charts that show changes in shape, how to get back on track after I do something wrong, to enlarge a chart to make it easier to read – these are all things that were not intuitive for me.

I bought the book at my local yarn store for $17.95 and it was worth every penny,  You’ll find it a useful addition to your knitting library, and will refer to it many times, especially when learning a new charted technique,  like cabling or working with multi-stitch symbols.   Ask your yarn shop if they carry it or will order it for you.  You won’t be sorry, as you’ll soon be an expert user of knitting charts!