Procrastinators of the world, unite … tomorrow


What do you do when you have a squillion and one things on your to-do list and deadlines breathing down your neck?

Why, you start crocheting a random shawl, of course. Despite the fact you’ve never worn a shawl in your life. And summer is approaching, and said shawl could not possibly be worn for another six months.

Hello, my name is Marina and I’m a terrible procrastinator. Well, actually I’m a darn good one. It’s my habit of procrastinating that’s terrible, and it seems the more urgent the tasks hanging over my head are, the more likely I am to skive off and do something else completely. It’s as if the weight of everything hanging over my head paralyses me and makes me incapable of doing anything.

I am enjoying crocheting again, though!

And the situation isn’t quite as dire as I’m painting it. I’ve written two scenes in Moonborn since my last post. Should have been more, of course, but two is better than none, and I only have five to go. I’ve finished the read-through of the first draft of Fairytale Curse 2, which is the first step in my revision process. I also finished up a beta read of a friend’s novel, so I haven’t spent all my time crocheting.

Funny thing about that, though. I realised some time ago that all my creative pursuits have fallen by the wayside since I got serious about this writing thing. No more quilting, crochet or scrapbooking. Each of those has been a huge part of my life at one time or another, and I miss the colour. I’m a very visual person. I love playing with fabric, and seeing a piece of art emerge under my hands. It still thrills me when I look over a piece of crochet forming and marvel that this object is taking shape from a single strand of yarn. I miss the tactile nature of practical crafts. Making up worlds and people in your head is a very different kind of creativity, and even though I love that, life has felt like it’s missing something since I started focusing so exclusively on it.

And sometimes, particularly when deadlines are looming, even the most creative enterprise can still feel like work. That’s when a hobby, something you do just for fun, no pressure, can be a wonderful release. Whether it’s baking, woodwork, gardening or crochet, there’s nothing like the feeling of creating something with your hands, and the quiet, contemplative nature of such creation makes a great stress release.

So maybe my shawl wasn’t so random. Maybe it’s my subconscious’s way of telling me to stop and smell the roses a little. That’s my excuse, anyway, and I’m sticking to it!

What activities do you turn to when you need to chill out?

Crochet beanie

One of the best things about being a parent is getting to embarrass your children. Think of it as payback for all the scenes they caused as toddlers, or the times they repeated something they shouldn’t have, or behaved more like small ferocious animals than human beings.
I felt the urge to crochet the other night, and finished off a beanie I started last winter.
I loved the subtle colour changes of the yarn, but felt it needed something more, so I dug through my bag of flower experiments and came up with this pink and blue one. Good match, huh?

So I sewed it on, then went prancing round the house modelling my new beanie for everyone. I may have gushed a little about my pretty flower.
Drama Duck rolled her eyes in loving scorn.
“Sometimes you act just like a five-year-old,” she said.
Note to self: Must wear beanie in front of all her friends.

Elsewhere, on the glorious internet …

For a beautiful burst of colour, check out Matt’s Japanese flower blanket. So gorgeous! I’m making a scarf with this pattern, but so far  my scarf is only six flowers long, so it could be a long while before I get to wear it. In the meantime, I’ll just have to admire his.

Elizabeth Bear on how to move past that stage where your writing is getting “rave rejections”, ie I loved this but …

Seth Godin muses on the end of bookstores: Basically, people have too many other amusements to bother with reading, especially when so many have suffered under well-meaning but dull education programs that make reading a chore. “More than once, friends have said, ‘you should be really pleased, I even finished your new book.’ My guess is that no one says that to Laurence Fishburne about his new movie.”

Had to laugh at that, and it’s a valid point, but I don’t believe you can therefore assume reading is dead – only that there might be many more readers if education didn’t insist on foisting “worthy” books on kids. But judging by the kind of books my girls are assigned (eg Uglies by Scott Westerfeld), things have changed a lot even since I was at school, and the future of reading seems pretty healthy.

Poncho power!

I know I’m the queen of the unfinished project, but sometimes I actually do finish things, but forget to tell you about them.

Case in point: This time last year I made Drama Duck a poncho. No particular reason, just that I’d seen one on the internet and it looked like fun. And ponchos did seem to be making a comeback, so … In a lightning-fast three weeks, I whipped one up, and she wore it with joy.

But of course, I have two daughters, don’t I – and making something for one and not the other instantly qualifies you for World’s Worst Mother. Sadly for Demon Duck, I have the attention span of a gnat, and once I’ve made something once I want to move on and try something different, not make the same thing all over again.

I did try. I bought the wool of her choice, but there was no more lightning-fast left in the tank. Back at my usual speed-of-molasses I got it probably three-quarters done before spring arrived and it was too hot for ponchos any more.

This year, feeling a little guilty, I got it out again. It only took a couple of hours to finish it off. Fortunately for me she hadn’t moved on from the whole poncho idea in the intervening year. She even requested a matching beanie, as you can see in the photo. (And I wonder if you can guess what her favourite colour is?)

The beanie was fun, and so quick! I can feel a rush of beanie-making coming on …

Colour vomit

So, last month I finished my crochet ripple blanket. I’m so happy with it. It’s a glorious riot of random and beautiful colour combinations. I think the randomness is a feature; others in the household disagree.

I proudly displayed it to my beloved (also known, not coincidentally, as He Who Sits on His Taste Buds). His remarks were barely luke warm.

“You don’t like it, do you?”

“Too many colours,” he said. “It looks like you just vomited colour all over it.”

Fortunately, knowing his taste in clothes, his opinion did nothing to dent my happy feelings of achievement. A finished blanket! Warm and cuddly and beautiful! (Did I mention I actually managed to finish a whole big blanket-sized project? Go, me!)

Even better, I loved the whole process, from the picking out of wool:

and the first joyful colour combinations:

to seeing it grow:


And trying out new arrangements of colours:

  Adding in a new colour was my favourite part. It was hard to picture, just from holding a ball of wool against the blanket, exactly how that colour would look when it was stitched on. It was always exciting to see the new combination taking shape.

It was such a relaxing project. Whenever I needed to do something completely mindless, I could pick it up and do another row or two, and though I sometimes went months without touching it, it continued to grow steadily, till at last I decided it was long enough.

I loved how it looked with its ripply ends:

and I wasn’t sure whether I should add a border or not. In the end I decided to give it a go, as part of the learning experience. If I didn’t like it I could always undo it.

 First I added red up the long straight sides, so it had a border of red all around (I started and finished my regular ripple rows with red). This looked so good I almost stopped there.

But I’d chosen some other colours, so I added a gold border which straightened out the ripply ends. This also looked so good I almost stopped there! In fact, every time I added a new colour to the border it got better and better. Hello, my name is Marina and I’m addicted to colour.

Here it is after the third round:

Finally I had five colours on my border and decided that was enough (colours are a little weird here — I’ve been waiting ages for a nice sunny day to photograph it but sadly the weather hasn’t been cooperating!):

Ta-dah! I love it. Can’t wait to start another one! Just got to get that vomit ready …

Elsewhere, on the glorious internet …

A fascinating article on a concept called “survivorship bias”, exploring the misconception that to be successful you need to study others who’ve been successful. In fact, the truth is that “when failure becomes invisible, the difference between failure and success may also become invisible”: Survivorship bias

Author Kameron Hurley takes the idea into the world of writing and marketing books: Survivorship bias and writing better books with bonus marketing chat: “The more we focus on ‘success’ the more we focus on the one-offs, the quirks, the outliers. It’s focusing on failures and middle-of-the road pieces that teaches me how to improve.”

Still on the topic of writing, a helpful post on the NaNoWriMo blog on turning those cardboard characters into living, breathing people: Occupy Steve: how to flesh out your characters

Disney “pretties up” their new Princess Merida doll. Sigh. What’s the world coming to when even a Disney-created princess, all tiny waist and huge eyes, isn’t considered appropriately princessy? Merida, from the movie Brave, had messy hair and freckles to go with her independent I-don’t-need-a-prince-I’ll-do-it-myself attitude. At last! An imperfect princess who didn’t wait to be rescued for real little girls to admire.

“The freckles had been erased and the fabulous tangled hair was pageant coiffed. She looked like a titian-hued Cinderella. Even the dress is blue. Fierce, awesome Merida had joined all the other Stepfords on the shelf.” Where have the brave girls gone? 

On to something more cheerful: Full of colour and quilting delights, Kathy Doughty’s always-inspiring blog here features, among outrageous chooks and beautiful medallion quilts, a shot of me contemplating a wall full of pink and orange triangles as I ponder the layout of a new quilt: The creative bug

And for pretty crochet goodness, Lucy from Attic 24 has some lovely mandala flowers. I’ll have to give these a go!

New Zealand through a quilter’s eyes (Part 1)

Lines, patterns, colours. Sometimes a quilter’s holiday snaps focus on things that don’t interest the average tourist.

Take this wall down by the docks in Auckland, for instance. It looked like it had been made out of old weathered packing crates.

The Carnivore just shook his head. Why are you taking photos of this piece of junk? But I thought the soft aged colours were beautiful.

Then there was this building nearby. Patterns of lines and colours. Very cool.

At the aquarium the jellyfish looked like an abstract painting, softly glowing.

Or maybe some kind of alien life form? So pretty!

We took the ferry to Devonport quite unexpectedly, having to fill in a couple of hours before our harbour cruise one morning in Auckland. Imagine my delight in finding a whole row of poles along the street covered in crochet! Naturally I had to embarrass my family by taking scads of photos.

Aren’t those frogs just the cutest?? I just love that there are people out there who see a whole bunch of plain poles and think wouldn’t it be great to cover those suckers in crochet? So whimsically pointless, but why the hell not?

Further north I was taken by the light through foliage, particularly the marvellous umbrella-like spokes of the ferns.

Out on the beautiful Bay of Islands I loved this pop of bright orange against the blue water. This photo doesn’t do justice to the colour of the water there, though, which was a glorious deep blue, shading to a clear green in the shallows.

So much colour everywhere! And of course I’m all about the colour, so I loved it. I have lots more pretties to show you, but I’ll save them for another post lest you die of old age waiting for the page to load.


If things have been quiet on the blog lately it’s because typing has been a little challenging.

I broke my finger. Playing a ten-minute practice game of netball with a bunch of eleven-year-olds, would you believe. Oh, the shame. Poor little pinkie, it didn’t even get sacrificed in a noble cause, taking one for the team. My real team was left without their shooter for the final game of the summer night comp. Bummer.

It wasn’t a massive break, just a little chip off the knuckle bone – but it’s surprising how awkward it made things. Typing, of course, was out. Alas, so was crochet. But even little things like opening jars, doing up your bra, carrying things, just general everyday stuff become much trickier without a full complement of fingers. You don’t think you use your little finger for much until it’s all strapped up and aching. Then suddenly you find a new appreciation for this often-overlooked digit.

However, it’s well enough now to type, so Hi! Did you miss me?

Baby Duck has been concerned about the long break between posts, at least. He wants me to tell you that he planted his sunflower seed today. No longer is this symbolic piece of plant life growing on wet cotton wool on the kitchen windowsill. Today it discovered the world of real dirt, which it will probably appreciate more than Baby Duck did. He left the actual planting to me and “helped” by saying “yuk” a lot as my hands got messier. I guess farming is out as a career choice.

I’m very pleased to have a nearly normal range of movement back. I missed crochet desperately. It’s become a real stressbuster for me. And heaven knows, with our neverending renovation in its eighth agonising month now, I need all the stressbusting I can get.

I busted out a big hook and a chunky ball of wool from the stash the other night and celebrated my return to crochet by making a quick cowl.

Please to avert your eyes from the hideous lines on my neck and be admiring instead of glorious crochet. Look, look! Completed project! In only one night!! My God, I may run out of exclamation marks!!!!

It was very simple. I chained 130, joined the chain, then crocheted rows of (US) double crochet till I ran out of wool. I had planned it to go round my neck twice but it ended up too big and loose. So big it actually goes around three times, so it’ll just be extra snuggly.

Next day, still making up for lost time, I tried a pattern I’d found on the internet

Isn’t it adorable??

Plus [cue exclamation marks] it’s Another Finished Project!!

Hey, I could get to like this finishing stuff thing.