One-inch picture frame.

I’ve been trying to do little.

This isn’t necessarily laziness, but rather productivity in small amounts.

Doing too much of any one thing or too many things at once wears on my brain these days.

In Anne Lamott’s book about writing, Bird by Bird, she talks about her one-inch picture frame, the one she keeps on her desk to remind her that she doesn’t have to tackle the entirety of a writing project all at once. She can just focus on one small area, accomplish one small task. Right now, that’s all she has to do. And then, she can focus on another tiny corner of the big picture. Eventually, inch by inch, it all adds up.

I love Anne Lamott.

Her advice here applies to more than just writing projects, of course.

Daunting things, like this school year that’s about to start in T-minus-thirty-seconds, can much more easily approached a little at a time.

This snippet of wisdom, the one-inch picture frame, is not entirely novel advice. It’s akin to the proverbial one-bite-at-a-time elephant and the old line about breaking large tasks into smaller chunks.

But for my brain, which tries to do everything at once, this worldview the size of a postage stamp is helpful. It sets up blinders so that I can’t even see the rest of the elephant. The picture from does away with the idea of a large task.

There’s nothing but this one stitch. This one word. This one breath.

This one inch.

That, I can handle.

So maybe that’s why I’ve been stitching small lately, giving myself no more space than a square inch to stitch words and pictures into fabric.


I like the challenge of designing something that has to fit within a grid of just a few stitches.

And I like the freedom to forget everything else, except the one little block of space my creativity occupies for the moment.

Getting centered.

Literally and figuratively. Centering my cross stitch pieces and finding emotional and mental calm.

Let’s start with that second one.

(Click here to jump directly to the cross stitch centering tutorial.)

•••

You may be familiar with Julia Cameron and her iconic book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. If you’re not, it’s just as hippy-dippy as it sounds, which is probably why I enjoyed it.

When I was at my first MFA creative writing residency in 2012, both my mentor and a classmate recommended Cameron’s book to me as a way to let myself write more freely, without thinking so much. See, the book takes the reader through a series of activities to help unlock creative energies, and one of the main components of the process is Morning Pages.

Morning Pages are simply three handwritten pages of stream-of-consciousness journaling meant to clear the mind—or unearth ideas that were previously hidden under the rubble of uptight thought—ideally written early in the day before worries and obligations take over. The pages aren’t supposed to be shared or published. Instead, they have a throw-away quality that lowers the stakes so the writer can babble on without worrying what anyone else will think.

(The Artist’s Way isn’t just for writers. It’s for anyone wishing to live a more creative life. It just so happens that part of that discovery process, according to Cameron, relies on writing through one’s thoughts.)

In short, the purpose of Morning Pages is to get past perfection.

To get past self-consciousness and inhibition in order to make messes, out of which personal revelations and innovative ideas are born.

fullsizeoutput_fd9 Continue reading

Keeping afloat.

Things have been a little quiet around here lately.

Perhaps it was a bit capricious of me to open my online shop during the last few weeks of the school year. Not only is teacher-work moving at a breakneck pace toward finals and posting grades, but there are so many springitme events. This past weekend, I was happily out of town for my niece’s college—college!—graduation. (Congrats, Victoria!) Next weekend is Mother’s Day. Then it’ll be the last week of school, though I do have to work a baseball game the following Saturday.

May is simply slipping through my fingers.

I have been playing with fiber some between traveling hither and thither and filling some Fencerow Fibers orders—yay!

When I was done dyeing Callie‘s merino top in purple, pink, and orange, I discovered that I had some excess dye, so I decided to goof off a bit.

I had pre-soaked one of those tubular yarn blanks without a plan, so suddenly, a plan was hatched! I used my expert professional dyeing tool, a turkey baster, and squirted color through the roll of yarn. I sucked up that extra dye in the dish with the spinning fiber and injected it into this totally one-of-a-kind skein.

And I love it!

I don’t have a picture of the finished yarn on me, but I will update with it later this week, hopefully. It is wonderfully variegated, and I think it would knit or crochet up beautifully.

So I have this idea. While I have a few years of experience dyeing fiber, I still occasionally end up with excess dye, especially when I am playing around to create a new colorway. Of course, throwing out leftover dye is terrible for the environment, so I’m thinking of getting some extra jars and storing these remaining bits of custom mixed color than I can’t return to the stock. And then, when I have several colors, I can dye a totally unique and non-repeatable skein of yarn or braid of top. Aside from the fun colors, the beauty of it will be its individuality and its preservation of my play. These braids and skeins would be colorful hybrids. And they would use up the excess dye.

I know it’s not a novel idea, but it’s one I’m excited about!

Before I leave the coffee shop and head out to knit night, I have to show you something awesome.

My friend Heather, who made the first purchase from the Fencerow Fibers Etsy shop, used her new yarn to crochet an unbelievably fun hat. Check it out!


Isn’t that great? It gives me the flutters to see the yarn I dyed growing up and becoming real-life things out there in the world!

Dreaming of verbs.

I am wary of nouns of identity—the ones preceded by forms of to be.

I am a teacher. I am a writer. I am knitter. I am a dyer. I am a spinner. I am a blogger. I am a designer. I am a photographer. I am a creator.

Those feel like lies. Like they require membership cards that I am too uncertain to carry.

fullsizeoutput_7

The Rainbow Rhombus Wrap continues to grow slowly, here while I wait for an oil change.

I much prefer verbs and this sentence structure:

I teach. I write. I knit. I dye. I spin. I blog. I design. I photograph. I create.

The actions are undeniable. The verb doesn’t have to be followed by an kind of adverb like well or professionally. They are just facts, objective.

But the nouns? Entirely subjective. I mean, have I passed the certification exam for those titles?

Do I care to?

fullsizeoutput_9

Some of the tiny wild strawberries that dot our yard like miniature Easter eggs that reveal themselves only once you start looking for them, and then, their cheerfulness can be seen everywhere underfoot.

Being is another thing I do.

My being isn’t determined by my writing—just like my writing isn’t determined by my knitting.

So I’m weird about labels. I recently started adding #indiedyer to some of my Instagram posts, but every time, I feel a little uneasy about it.

I know some would say that this is an insecurity, like I think I’m not good enough to own certain titles.

Maybe.

fullsizeoutput_2

Delicious rolls of yarn, ready for dyeing.

But I think it’s more of a rejection of the idea that I should be “secure” in those titles at all.

Titles, labels, categories, genres. They limit. They point to a set of expectations and parameters.

I am not anti-boundaries, but I think that’s something different.

If I call myself a writer but don’t write for a while, would that change who I am? Would it  mean I’m not doing what I should? Should I, then, feel like a failure because I am take a short—or long—break from doing what that label implies I should do?

I think the answer to all of those is no.

fullsizeoutput_473

My most recent dyeing experiment, the results of which are simply this: LOL.

So these days, I’m not doing much writing, though I am doing more now that this blog is moving and shaking a little.

No, these days, I do a lot of other things, and one of them is dream.