Let it Twist: Overcoming Perfectionism to Finish Projects

100_0510My first lace weight project took me nearly a year to complete.

Here’s what really happened: It took me eleven months to start and a week to finish.

I was making the Shell Net Cowl from Crochet One-Skein Wonders as a gift for my sister. I special ordered Malabrigo Lace in the Lime Blue colorway, because its blues, greens and yellows have special significance for her. I made the base chain successfully; normally that’s the hardest part of any project for me, because I get distracted in the middle of the count. Then I set to work making a series of tiny shells and chains to form the first row.

The instructions said: DO NOT TWIST THE CHAIN!

CrochetOneskeinThey might have also said something about curses or woe if I were to twist the chain. Except my teeny tiny laceweight chain was almost impossible to see, much less keep straight. So I went to the kitchen table, smoothed out the entire chain, and very carefully laid in a shell with the chain in the correct orientation.

I did about three more, and went and did something else.

This went on for months. It’s a cowl that can be doubled over at least twice, yet I crocheting shells two or three at a time. Something about having to get the project out, orient it on a table, and carefully hold it still while I made the shell… ugh.

Fast forward to November: it was time to give the gift and I had maybe 30 shells done. Time for a new strategy. I threw all of the chain twisting rules out the window, picked the project up and held it like I normally do, and charged forward. If the chacowlin twisted, screw it! It was a mobius cowl anyway; what’s the worst that could happen? In fact, nothing bad happened at all.

In this moment of truth, I learned something about crochet, and about myself. Following every pattern to the letter – requiring yourself to have everything just perfect before you move on – can keep you from doing anything at all. Sometimes it’s better to have a few twists in your chain, but a finished project, than to have empty hands.

Readers: have you ever gotten stuck on a particular pattern instruction, or on a tricky aspect of a pattern? How did you move forward?



Countdown to 2014’s Top Ten Books: Nonfiction

  As I work on my Top Ten list for 2014, I have some categories of books that may not make the top ten, but deserve special recognition anyway. Today’s category is nonfiction – a big category, I know, but here’s what I loved. (I have already reviewed most of these, so the links are to my blog posts instead of Goodreads).


5. Crafting: Rustic Modern Crochet by Yumiko Alexanderimagegatewoodwork

4. Faith: Still: Notes on a mid-faith crisis by Lauren Winner

3. Memoir: Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

2. Business: What Works for Women at Work by Joan C Williams

1. Memoir: My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff


Readers: What were your favorite nonfiction reads in 2014? 

Two Ways Not to Finish a Blanket (And Three More That Actually Work)

card trickMy sister was in the throes of middle school. I probably wasn’t much better: just out of college. And our grandmother was trying to teach us to quilt.

So there we stood in the middle of JoAnn’s, looking at patterns and trying to pick out fabric.

I don’t even remember why we started looking at actual sewing patterns for the quilt. I do remember that Granny kept telling us we should really do a nine-patch quilt for our first one. And I remember my sister throwing a fit because she didn’t want that; she wanted the Card Trick quilt pattern she found in the book.

Oh, and it should be king-sized also.

Granny finally gave in. Her only hard rule, apparently, was “no curves”. So we bought an enormous amount of blue and white patterned fabric, and went home to start our quilt.

Fast forward: fifteen years later. Granny is not with us anymore.blue fabric The quilt is still sitting in my basement.  Has been sitting in my basement, untouched, since the first year. We have about 12 partial blocks pieced and at least 47,560 squares cut, reflecting the division of labor in our family, or perhaps the number of sewing machines available to us.

I contracted someone on Etsy to finish it for us.

Verdict: Picking a complex, exciting pattern and doing lots of it is NOT the way to finish a quilt.image_medium2

But what is? I enjoy crocheting a lot more than sewing. When I got engaged, I wanted to make my future husband an afghan as a wedding gift. Knowing that I don’t like to do blankets, I decided to keep it as simple as possible. Granny squares, solid colored and lots of em, with a cream border.

We’re celebrating our third anniversary this year, and I’m still trying to get the world’s most boring blanket done by Christmas.

Hard or easy, sewing or crochet, I seem to have a really hard time finishing blankets. It’s a lot easier for me to finish one or two skein projects – I probably finish several blankets’ worth of small projects in one year.

I know of three ways to answer the Blanket Question:

1. Do a project with individual, different squares

2. Do a super-fast Q-hook afghan. I finished the below project this summer by working with a giant hook and four strands of yarn at one time.

3. Recognize your own tendencies. If you really don’t like doing blankets, don’t do them.

Readers, what are your tricks for starting a blanket and sticking to it?


Library Loot: Caves, Sheep, and Chocolate


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by The Captive Reader and Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries


This week, I picked up Death Sworn by Leah Cypess, and a whole bunch of nonfiction.deathsworn

So far, Death Sworn is straight up YA fantasy, with two small but interesting twists. First, the setting is a cave, and I love caves.. And second, instead of the heroine having special, mysterious powers, she is losing her magic and trying to hide it. I’m interested to see where the author takes this concept.

sheepish  I also picked up Crochet with One Sheepish Girl, The Book of Kale and Friends, and Raw Chocolate Treats. The crochet book is based on a blog, One Sheepish Girl, and so far I’ve just flipped through it. Here were my initial reactions:

1. I would never crochet lots of things to stick all over a sweater.

2. I kind of like the latte cup, but I never enjoy making that sort of thing.

3. That’s some cute house stuff, but just not me.

4. Oooh… I could make the placemats. Apron… I like. Gift baskets…. like.

5. Ok, there’s some stuff here I want to make.

So I hung onto the One Sheepish Girl book, subscribed to her blog, and will try a few of the projects. The book definitely has a “cute” vibe that sometimes works for me, and sometimes doesn’t.

As for the other two books, we’ll call them Kale and Chocolate, the librarian wrinkled her nose at the kale book and then let her breath out when she got to the chocolate. “That’s better,” she said. “I could actually eat some of that.”

What did you pick up this week?

A Crocheter Learns to Knit

100_0634Big news: I finally did it!! I learned to knit!!

On this, my third attempt, I tried something new: continental style knitting. You can read all over the internet that continental style is easier for crocheters than the more common English style, but apparently I missed that memo the first two times around.

It’s easier for two reasons:

1. You hold and tension the yarn with the left hand, while doing most of the ‘work’ with the right. This feels natural to someone who already crochets, but apparently gives English style knitters fits. Continue reading

On Finishing

100_0588I’ve recently been on a ‘finishing’ binge. I’ve finished some long-term crochet projects: the beaded scarf that would not die, as well as two 5 1/2 hour afghans for gifts.  (I don’t know who crocheted them in 5 1/2 hours, but that’s something I would like to see!)

I’ve also found myself cleaning closets, donating things I don’t need, and generally tying up loose ends.

After moving five times in five years, am I really programmed to hit the reset button after a year in a given  house? I’ve been in my current place for 15 months and am staying for a while, so far as I know. It’s either that, or I’m making room for something new in my life.

The scarf below is my version of the Ice-Cold Summer Scarf by Janet Brani, part of 101 Crochet One-Skein Wonders – pretty much my all time favorite crochet pattern book.

100_0583  100_0601

Library Loot: I Love Yarn


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by The Captive Reader and Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries



Somehow, in the middle of the nicest July anyone can remember, I find myself on a crocheting binge. So here’s what I picked up:

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes and Crafting By Concepts: Fiber Arts and Mathematics by Sarah-Marie Belcastro.fibermath yarn

My hold for The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness also came up – yay!. I can’t decide whether to start it now or save it for a bad day, like a particularly nice piece of candy.

What did you pick up this week?