Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category

Short Stories and Knitting Socks

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UntitledThe chalkboard at Caribou Coffee had this awesome chalk drawing. If you don’t get it, check out this post at Hyperbole and a Half

Short Stories and Knitting Socks

In my last post, I talked about my handknit sweaters, and how my learning process with knitting sweaters can inform my learning process with writing fiction. If I can compare writing my novel to knitting a sweater, then I can also compare short stories to socks.

Sweaters are long term projects that tend to sit at the background of everything you do. Just like I remember that I took that unfinished sweater to Turkey and Argentina, I will remember that I wrote this novel the year I got married, the year I also taught NaNoWriMo as an afterschool class, and the year we went to London on our honeymoon.

If I remember the sweaters I knit at certain times, I will also remember the socks. Unlike sweaters, socks don’t take so long. They are more portable, more palatable, and they involve less risk. They can be a nice break from larger knitting projects, and are easier to do while watching TV. Some of those things can be true for short stories, too. They take less time, it’s easier to see the whole picture, and it takes less time to see the finished result and be rewarded with that sense of satisfaction.

I’ve written a couple of rough drafts of short stories in the last week or so. One is backstory for my novel, another is completely unrelated. On days when I just can’t fathom slogging through another few pages of my novel, I can relax by going back to devil-may-care rough draft writing on some short stories. Since they take less time, it can feel good to finish a story. I also feel that I get a chance to work on technique and style in the short stories, because I can get to the final stages of editing faster than I will with the novel.

I think it’s a good thing to take breaks from big projects for awhile, even if it’s only for an hour or two a day. My brain can use a change of pace. A good way to get a lot of work done is to vary the kinds of work I’m doing. Editing and writing a rough draft are two different processes, so when editing wears me down, I can work on a rough draft. When I’m burnt out on fiction for the day, I can work on a blog post. It can help me be more productive than if I were to sit down and try to work on my novel for five hours straight. Not that I usually have five hours straight of writing time, but for me, even one hour of focus on a single task can be difficult sometimes.

Much like typing with a fat cat on your lap can be difficult.
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Writing a Novel and Handknit Sweaters

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Maybe I shouldn’t keep comparing writing to knitting, but since they are two of my favorite things to do, it seems natural to me. I also think it can be valuable to look at how we acquire skills. Some tendencies and habits can carry over from one type of pursuit to another.

The first sweater I ever knit for myself, I ripped out and used the yarn for a different sweater. That second sweater, I never got buttons for, the sleeves were a slightly awkward length, and I sewed together sloppily. I think I also made up my own way to do a hood instead of looking up hood construction somewhere else. It wasn’t polished and I didn’t wear it much before I accidentally washed it (100% wool) in the washing machine, and I wasn’t too sad that it felted a bit.

UntitledI never finished my third sweater, but it had lots of potential. That’s it in the picture here. That sweater was an ambitious sweater. Knit on tiny needles and with tiny yarn, it took a long time to complete. It came with me on a college orchestra trip to Turkey, and on my semester studying abroad in Argentina. On one of the dusty bus rides through the mountains in Argentina, knitting away on the second sleeve, I lost my stitch marker. I no longer had any idea how many repeats I had done of the sleeve increases. Yes, I was that close to finishing that sweater, and I let a little thing like losing my place in the pattern stop me from finishing it. It’s been hanging in my closet since, the second sleeve in its own little bag in my knitting bin in the basement.

My fourth sweater has been my most wearable, though it’s still not perfect. My fifth is the same, except that the first time I knit it, it was way too big and I ripped the whole thing out and completely reknit it.

Now, what about my novel? Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit discouraged about the revision of my novel. Things are not working out, the plot isn’t lining up (I’m not even sure I have a plot!), it just feels like it stinks. Often, I will hear a quote from an author about their first novel, saying that it wasn’t so good, they were glad it never got published, or anything like that. I think my first novel is going to be like that. I almost feel a little bad blogging about all of my novel progress, when I strongly suspect I will never be sharing this particular novel with anybody. Maybe I shouldn’t think of it like that, but that’s my suspicion and it’s not really helping to motivate me to finish this revision.

One way I am managing to stay encouraged is to think about those sweaters. Just because I had to rip out my first sweater didn’t stop me from knitting. I didn’t think, “Wow, that sweater turned out really horrible, so I probably shouldn’t ever try to knit again.” Instead, I took the yarn I’d used and knit a whole new sweater out of it. And then I went on to knit other sweaters, none perfect yet, but all improved. So, even if my novel doesn’t turn out as perfect as I’d hoped, I’m learning as I go, and my next project will be better for having written this one.

I do promise, that even though I’m having misgivings about this novel, that I will continue with it through at least this revision! I am determined to do that, because I know that I will learn from it, and be more ready for the next novel. Now back to work!

Pinterest for Etsy and crafts

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I signed up for a pinterest account back in January at some point.  I figured I should find out what all of the buzz was about.  Then, almost seconds after I created the account, I got off of there as fast as I could!  I could tell that it was going to be another time waster.  And at least, with Twitter, I’ve followed some people who always lead me to news articles and information that I’m interested in.  

Today, I stumbled across this article: How the Wall Street Journal Uses Pinterest.  This reignited my curiosity about Pinterest, and I headed over to do some pinning.  Pinterest was even so successful at distracting me that I never got around to following the Wall Street Journal, even.  

I started making a board.  Lately, I’ve been bitten by the spinning bug.  I had been spinning up some roving last fall when our full wedding preparation time hit us.  The spinning got dropped, and then I was so busy with my new job that I never picked it up again.  I finally finished that yarn a couple of weekends ago, but haven’t wound it off the bobbin yet.  Spinning it up made me want to go on Etsy and purchase a whole bunch more hand dyed wool to spin, even though I have plenty of natural colored wool in my closet.

Here is my Pinterest board, “Pretty fiber & handspun yarn“, filled with hand dyed fibers and some handspun yarn that I found while “window” shopping in etsy shops.

I even added a couple of my own photos of yarn I spun last summer, though I don’t have the photography skills to get the color accuracy and beauty that my favorite etsy sellers can get of their stuff!

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Handspun falkland wool yarn

As I get more time for crafting again, I suspect that Pinterest will be a very nice platform for sharing crafts. I imagine it would be a very useful way to sell crafts, too, especially if you have great photos of what you’re selling. I should make a board for all of the patterns I want to knit. Oh wait, that’s called my Ravelry queue. Hm. So much going on online, so little time!

Written by nikkinbird

April 6, 2012 at 6:09 pm

How Writing is Like Knitting

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Last week I started the incredibly daunting task of editing my NaNoWriMo novel. It doesn’t have a title yet. In fact, it probably won’t until I’m forced to give it one. I’m not good at titles. I started it in November, for NaNoWriMo, of course, and finished the first draft on January 28th. I told myself I’d give myself a little break before starting the editing, and boy did I ever. I’m not going to beat myself up about that, though, because I have stayed true to my goal of writing every day, in some form. I worked on some other projects.

The longer I waited to edit the novel, though, the scarier it got. I thought about all the work left to do and all of the changes I already know I need to make. I thought about how this rough draft is really just a skeleton of what I envision the book eventually being. I thought about how I changed a big part of the premise in the end, so that I have to rewrite things in the beginning so it all makes sense. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m trying not to let it get to me. I need to finish this thing. So I sat down and started applying post-its to my binder.

http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6235/6995143001_1867c3c44e.jpg

That is a picture of the front section of the binder. On the left are notes to myself about things I need to address in the novel as a whole, and on the right are the notes about that section in particular. The picture was taken in the middle of a 2 hour chunk of work time, and those sections have been filled with notes since. Each one of those notes represents a lot of work, and it’s difficult to know where to start.

To quell my anxiety towards the hugeness of my task, I have reminded myself that writing a novel is like knitting in some ways. If I am knitting a pair of socks, I don’t expect to finish the pair, or even one sock, in an hour or two. In fact, if I only get a couple of inches knitted in an hour, that is to be expected. The socks get finished because of all of the hours, and all of the inches, that get added up until the sock gets finished. The fact that I sit down and knit for a little while, every day, is what gets me socks to wear. In the same way, I must sit down and write, every day, and it will eventually all add up to a finished novel.

It will, however, probably take a lot longer than a pair of socks. So maybe I should have compared it to a sweater, or a shawl. Here is a picture of the socks I started in mid-February. They were my London knitting.

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7119/7009575493_3f4473bfdd.jpg

Written by nikkinbird

March 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Chris’s sweater almost complete!

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I’m getting closer to done on Chris’s sweater. I shouldn’t really say “almost complete”, because the sleeves will take longer than they seem like they would. Here he is trying it on yesterday after I bound off on the bottom. We determined, however, that it was just a couple inches too short, so I had to rip back and am currently knitting a couple more inches before beginning the ribbing again. It may seem demoralizing to have to rip out hours’ worth of work and start over, but this is a fact of life for a knitter. Or at least, I’ve accepted that it is, and the acceptance has made my knitting life better. Yes, it may suck, but it’s nothing to get upset about. If anything, I’m just getting even more enjoyment out of my yarn. $50 in wool yarn (and that’s inexpensive as far as nice wool goes) keeping me entertained for well over 50 hours seems like a good investment to me.

(Yes, we still have our Christmas tree up. We got it late, and we never got to actually putting decorations on it because we were so busy, so we’re enjoying the cheerful lights a little while longer. I suppose February might have to be the cutoff huh?)

To rip back, I used the needles to pick up one leg of each stitch around the sweater (see below). Then, with the needles in place where I wanted them, all I had to do was rip, rip, rip! I didn’t have to worry about how far I was going, or catching the live stitches with the needles again. It just stopped unraveling when it got to the needles :) Well, I shouldn’t make it sound so simple. There were a couple of spots where I picked up a stitch from the wrong row, and the yarn stopped unraveling even though there were still live stitches that needed to be pulled back. I got it with some shifting of stitches back and forth on the needles, though. I’m excited to start the sleeves, and equally excited to know that, despite the initial length, the sweater seems to be the right size. Now I just have to find out where I have my size 6 double pointed needles for the sleeves.

Project details:
Pattern: Incredible Custom-fit Raglan Sweater
Yarn: Ella Rae Classic Heathers
Needles: Size 6

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Written by nikkinbird

January 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Coffee shop morning

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Bagels for breakfast at Bixby’s, a little work sending some emails, and London research! Also some knitting, of course.

Written by nikkinbird

January 22, 2012 at 10:34 am

Posted in Knitting

Tagged with , , , ,

Room with a view.

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The view outside of my “office,” the classroom I share with 3 other people. I’m sure there are offices with more glamorous views of Lake Superior, but I’ve always wanted a view!

Aaand, sweater:

Written by nikkinbird

January 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

The socks I am working on right now

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A plain ol’ pair of socks. I gotta get working on more socks for me, since some of the first ones I ever knit for myself over 4 years ago are starting to wear thin in spots.

Written by nikkinbird

January 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm

I am bad at libraries and wish I could just buy all the books I wanted and make my own library

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I am bad at libraries. I got a Duluth library card last winter, forgot to return the books on time, got a letter that I owed the cost of the books and my fine was over $60. Moreover, it said the fine would be turned over to a collection agency if I didn’t pay it soon. I finally returned the books, but have been afraid to find out how much my fine still was, so haven’t checked out any more books since then. Today I logged into my library account for the first time and found out that my fine is only $6. So I guess I can go check out some books that I want to read now.

Today, instead of writing a lot like I always think I will on the weekends, I baked a loaf of bread:

It is the first time I have done this. I used “Lesson One: Your First Loaf” from thefreshloaf.com. I like that the article gives a lot of explanation about how and why the ingredients and methods work the way they do. There were some parts that I had to go back and read a couple times to get a grasp on, though. I am going to make another one tomorrow, because I used 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup whole wheat, thinking it would make it lighter than straight whole wheat flour. Turns out, pastry flour isn’t good for bread making and results in a dense bread (I read ahead to lesson two).

While I waited for the dough to rise I walked the dog, but not our usual walk on the trail because the warm weather we’ve had made all of the snow melt then refreeze into smooth ice. The dog does not understand the effect of pulling combined with ice. He gets excited when I fall down because it’s something different that’s happening.

Also instead of writing, I watched two or three episodes of Modern Family and knitted. I’m now on the third black stripe of the sweater.

I also deposited a check I received for back overtime pay from my last job after I heard they got investigated for overtime fraud. I guess they were found fraudulent, then. Then I went grocery shopping. I cooked chicken, bought the organic tomatoes from Mexico that are ruining the world (or at least Mexico), and had this for lunch:

I was inspired to look up my library fines because of this post: 5 Timeless Books of Insight on Fear and the Creative Process. I reserved a couple of the books on the list.

I’ve just started using Twitter and have found a lot of interesting things through it. It wastes a lot of time, but I learn a lot too. So I guess that’s not such a waste of time.

And now that I’ve written this blog post, I guess I should go continue writing. I’m nearing the end of my novel, and an epic magical battle, and I think I need those books about fear and the creative process right about now.

Written by nikkinbird

January 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Sweater progress and 100th post

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WordPress has kindly been urging me towards this goal of 100 posts, and here it is! Exciting!

It’s Friday and I’m happy to have a chance to relax. It hasn’t been a particularly stressful week or anything, but I’ve felt slightly out of sorts all week. I blame part of it on the giant canker sore on the inside of my cheek, next to my molars. The entire area around it aches, including my throat. The back bottom molar area has felt achey the way it did right after I got my wisdom teeth out. Not fun! It’s also been giving me headaches. Who knew a canker sore could be so intense?

Here is the progress I’ve made on Chris’s sweater this week:

First I was paranoid that I would make it too big. Now I’m a little paranoid that I’ve made it too small. This is the endless suspense of long knitting projects. I’ll knit furiously so that I can finish it and find out if it turned out okay. Usually it does. Although, in November, I inexplicably knitted a pair of socks that was meant for Chris but ended up fitting me perfectly, despite the fact that I measured and the fact that it’s a pattern I’ve used many times!

Written by nikkinbird

January 6, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Knitting

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