You’re Having Caterpillar Problems I Feel Bad for you Son, I Had 99 Cats but a Bird Ate Every One

Caterpillar Problems? I Got Caterpillar Solutions

Remember my black swallowtail caterpillars from last year? (And the year before that? And the year before that?) They came back! And then disappeared!

I had probably two dozen juvenile, first instar black swallowtail caterpillars on my year-two beast of a parsley plant in late June…until I didn’t. I had no new eggs or adult butterfly sighting for ages, either. Weirdly enough, a nearby friend mentioned to me that hers disappeared as well right at the same time. I have to assume that it was probably predation, as most birds and praying mantises and spiders and chalcid wasps and every other damn thing in my garden likes to crunch down my black swallowtail butterfly larvae like wriggly little potato chips. Not cool, guys. I didn’t squish or spray you, so stop eating my friends.

I also wonder if the heat and weird weather might have played a role–we had some scorching temperatures for a few days right before they went MIA. I was most afraid of some sort of local species-specific infection or disease affecting them–anyone who has raised black swallowtail or monarch caterpillars indoors without proper ventilation and humidity control has probably discovered that problem the hard way. (If you have theories about where they ran off to join the circus, pop ’em in the comments.)

I did find one very fat, very grumpy little fifth instar friend waggling his osmeterium at me indignantly when I brushed past his carrot leaf, so they’re not completely gone. I’m not sure if the presence of one indicates that he has siblings hiding in that dense foliage, but honestly it seems rude at this point to check after the  scolding I got from him.

Dude, chill, I live here too

Here are some of the most common problems I’ve seen from raising caterpillars, and my best guesses as to what went wrong. Contribute your own tips if you’ve got ’em!

My Black Swallowtail Caterpillars are Turning Black

This happened to me only once, and it was awful. I harvested about a dozen cats from my parsley plant and brought them inside to raise and observe in the safety of an old fish tank a friend had just given me. I left the lid on, thinking that I could use the light as some artificial sun for the benefit of the black swallowtail’s sense of timing and the potted parsley I put in with them. (Which they immediately stripped to stems in like, two days.) The first full day, I found that one cat had turned completely black and, I kid you not, it looked like it had liquefied. It was just hanging  limp off a stem, like the insides had turned to soup (prematurely, I mean. Innards turning to soup is a scheduled part of the caterpillar experience, but it’s meant to happen after they pupate.)

I removed the little guy, but by the next day, another six had gone the same way. At this point I didn’t dare relocate the few that were left back to the garden, since it seemed to be catching and spreading and I didn’t want to affect the wild population. They were all gone after two days, all turned black, all leaking, all a reminder of my many failures in butterfly husbandry.  Luckily, this particular failure was easy to fix.

The problem turned out to be ventilation. When I removed the lid to clean out the tank, it was noticeably humid inside and smelled strongly, even though there had been virtually no time for any frass or parsley debris to build up. I’m still not positive whether they got sick because of the humidity, or whether they came in sick and the humidity gave the disease the conditions it needed to take over, but removing the plastic lid and replacing it with a spare basement window screen across the top fixed the whole problem. I raised many more cats in there, and never had that problem again.

My Caterpillars are Going Limp and Turning to Mush

I’ve seen it a few times–the caterpillar goes inactive for a day or two, then goes completely limp, like a caterpillar smoothie inside of a caterpillar colored bag. (Sorry, it’s gross, but if you raise bugs indoors you’ve dealt with gross.)

I think I’ve dealt with this twice from two different causes–once I suspect that predatory wasps were the culprit, and another time I know for a fact that pesticides played a role.

I have heard (but have not eyewitnessed) that tiny chalcid wasps will parasitize black swallowtail caterpillar larva and chrysalises. Chrysalis? Chrysali?? Anyway, I’ve read that these teensy little wasps will lay their eggs inside of the chrysalis or the caterpillar itself. A parasitized chrysalis may turn dark (not to be confused with one that is dark because it was spun on a dark backdrop, or one that is dark because the butterfly is about to eclose.) Here’s someone else’s video of chalcid wasps emerging from an infected Monarch chrysalis if you want to see what it looks like, and how tiny these little guys really are. They emerge from a hole the size of a pinprick and they can get inside most enclosures.

Those are aphids, which they will also parasitize, for comparison.

Caterpillars Ate Store Bought Parsley, Promptly Died

You can probably guess what went wrong, here. What you wouldn’t know is that I washed the everloving bejeesus out of the parsley before I gave it to my hand raised caterpillars, and it still killed them within one feeding. (They had completely exhausted my home grown supply and it was either try to clean off the pesticides sufficiently or let them starve.) I have had success in the past with feeding store bought parsley when it was organic. It can be hard to find, though, not every grocery chain stocks organic fresh herbs. I might have had better luck at a Trader Joes or Wholefoods, but I can’t afford the kind of real estate that is close to a Trader Joes or Wholefoods, so I had to make due with the sad limp herb aisle at my Acme. I had already lost a few to store bought parsley, so when I tried it again I went about as thoroughly as I could conceivably have washed them without disintegrating the leaf entirely. I gave it several thorough rinses, swishing the bunch through a bowl of water and letting the faucet fun over them for a few minutes straight. (Not eco-conscious but I was trying to save some hungry little bugs because I’m a crazy person.)

I also applied more mechanical washing than I had the first time, thwacking the crap out of my stems and physically scrubbing them in my hands. The leaves were bruised to hell and back but I figured that if it didn’t work this time, I would know that there’s just no way to wash pesticide-treated herbs thoroughly enough to serve them to caterpillars and guarantee their safety. And apparently, there isn’t. (I think your own mileage may vary, here. I have served washed non-organic produce in the past and had them survive. Not being labeled organic doesn’t guarantee that pesticides were used or are still present, and it’s also possible that the problem is particular to whatever chemical was used by the particular grower, which there is no way of knowing. Considering the beating I gave the last batch I tried, I think it’s possible that whatever was used was not sitting on the surface of the leaves but was absorbed into the plant itself, which is a thing that can happen. Fun fact, this is why spinach and romaine can sometimes be contaminated with e coli that can’t be washed off–it’s in the water that went into the plant itself, so it’s inside the actual leaves.

Get Fat Forever Instead of Pupate Disease

I have no earthly clue why this sometimes happens, and I can think of nothing more descriptive to call it than that. Once or twice, I’ve had a cat that came in with several the same size, but kept right on eating after they had all pupated, getting humorously large before ultimately not surviving. I can’t fathom what would cause this, other than sheer force of will and a truly inspiring dedication to hedonism. Rock on, fat little dude, and live your best life. Apparently, every once in a great while, some caterpillars decide they don’t want to be butterflies, they want to be caterpillars, and do caterpillar things their entire life cycle. Who am I to judge their lifestyle choices, really? I basically just lay around and blog and snack all day, too. It’s awesome.

 Getting Eaten By a Cardinal Right-in-Freaking-Front-of-Me

Again: rude. I leave you birdfood and keep my cats safely indoors, there is no need for this disrespect.

Jury is out on the best way to protect garden caterpillars from birds. Some say not to put out birdfood so you have fewer birds. Some say to put out birdfood so you have fewer hungry birds. I think there’s merit to both–I don’t think either providing seed or not will either save or doom your caterpillars. For one thing, adults in the spring will catch a ton of bugs no matter what you do, because it’s not for them, it’s for their chicks. Laying birds and growing chicks need the extra nutrients and protein that bugs provide over seed. But summer birds are totally happy to chow down on seed that doesn’t go anywhere rather than chase bugs that do. So, if you are more committed to seeing butterflies than birds, I’d say maybe leave off the seed in the spring while they’re nesting, to maybe encourage a few more to hunt elsewhere, but go nuts in the summer content in the knowledge that they’ll probably go for the easier meal. I provide seed year round, myself. (And by year-round, assume I mean ‘when I remember to buy it and put it out.’)

How Do I Help Caterpillars Survive?

So what has all this experience raising caterpillars taught me? I have learned over the years to take a more laissez-faire approach. At the end of the day, birds are gonna bird. Wasps are gonna wasp. Caterpillars are gonna raze my plants to the ground and do their own thing, whether I help them along or not. I’m legitimately not sure whether my mistakes have killed more caterpillars than I’ve saved–you never know what their chances would have been in the wild. I think my presence in my town has contributed rather than detracted from the total butterfly population, but honestly that probably has more to do with my commitment to growing host and nectar plants and never using pesticides. They seem to get along fine both with and without me, either because or despite of my amateur butterfly raising skills. Honestly, things got easier once I started thinking about this as a fun hobby for me and not a necessity for them. They don’t need me to survive. I just create conditions that are more favorable to them, and in return I get to witness the neat things they do. They couldn’t give a crap either way.

I like to raise just a few caterpillars these days in a well ventilated fish tank on my porch and watch them do their thing, and let the rest fend for themselves in the relative safety of the garden I provide them. Whenever an adult black swallowtail visits my zinnias or sunflowers, I wave, and wonder whether it grew up on my porch, or hidden in my carrot foliage where I never noticed it, or across town on a Queen Anne’s lace flower growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. It’s part of the fun.

I used to make myself a lot crazier trying to save every caterpillar I could. I don’t regret the process, because I got to learn a lot and observe a lot of cool things and increase my own understanding of these insects and their lives. Whenever we’re dealing with wild fauna, the question is always ‘how much do we interfere’? Like I said about birds–do I encourage or discourage their presence in my garden? The biggest mistake I think we can make as gardeners and stewards is to think that we can or should control every variable for what happens outside. Remember that a lot of the problems I’ve experienced were things I caused myself by removing the caterpillars from the habitat the mother butterfly left them in when she peaced out. That doesn’t mean I think raising caterpillars inside is bad or dumb–I obviously still do it. I’ve just come to think of it as more for my benefit than theirs, and proceed accordingly. Would it be possible to raise caterpillars in a completely ideal environment? Maybe. Maybe we could create an enclosure that’s protected from birds but accessible to laying females, that’s got enough ventilation to prevent disease but doesn’t give access to tiny wasps, where they get the right amount of sun and temperature to follow their natural cycles without ever being frozen or scorched, and where I can provide enough foliage to sustain every egg that is laid (without accidentally stepping on a caterpillar when I trade out spent plants. That sound will forever after haunt me in my dreams.)

Maybe all that can be done! But I’ve never done it. I just do the best I can. Ultimately, I could try to control for wasps or birds, but the wasps and birds are supposed to be there. Chalcid wasps are supposed to attack some butterfly chrysalis. Baby birds are supposed to be given some caterpillars. Trying to control one variable always screws up another. Any pesticide you apply, I don’t care if its organic or vegan or homemade or “friendly to good bugs”–there’s no such thing as good bugs or bad bugs. There are bugs that happen to be  less convenient or more convenient to what we are trying to do in our yards, but that doesn’t mean they themselves aren’t supposed to exist or should be introduced where they don’t.

I’ll give you an example. Last year I bought a praying mantis egg case from a vendor at the local Philadelphia Flower Show. They’ve been marketed as a great “natural” pest control. I had a great time watching them hatch, and I felt so excited and privileged to catch a glimpse of a single full grown adult in my garden last year. This year, I’ve seen seven juveniles so far. During the most recent sighting, I found one in my herb box hidden under a basil leaf, a few feet away from my conspicuously empty parsley plants. It was chowing down on some unidentifiable bug it had caught at a truly impressive speed. Is that where all of my caterpillars went? I have no way of knowing. But if it is, I also have no way of putting that particular cat back into that particular bag, now that I’ve introduced them into my yard and they’ve created a stable breeding population. Am I going to try to capture or kill every mantid I see in my garden from now on to try to fix my mistake? No. Would I try again in the future to introduce another predatory insect control species that didn’t turn up on its own? Also no. Am I going to bring in something that eats mantids to balance things back out? HELL no! Come on folks, you’ve seen time travel movies, you know how it goes when you try to over-correct your mistakes. I’ll just know better for next time.

I hope this has been helpful. I’m gonna go poke my fat friend in my carrots because I think they’re funny when they get mad.


How to Make Money at Craft Fairs — and How Not To.

glitter ornaments

I answered the siren’s call of riches, fame and fortune that is the craft fair circuit this past November in a fair that took place up in Maine. It was a pre-Christmas fair, so I made crochet ornaments. I’ve done plenty of experimenting with how to sell crafts for starvation wages, so I thought I’d give a liveable wage a try.

crochet ornaments

I can make these in my sleep now. I estimated that I made over 70 at the time of the show, and then another 40 for a show I did after that, plus custom orders.

The pattern was one that I recreated from a photo of crochet ornaments I made previously while the pattern was still available online. The original pattern came down, meaning that I’m probably one of the few left who can still make these.

The Craft Fair Hustle Ain’t For the Faint of Heart

Craft Fair doodle

The craft fair was a pretty decent size, filling an entire high school gym with more vendors in another room and lining the halls. We saw lots of foot traffic too, with a few thousand estimated visitors. Unfortunately, “visiting” is about all most of them did with my stall.

I was sharing a table with my mother, and she had made three foot tall light up angels out of deco mesh and tomato cages. I think that part of my problem was that her display was so big that it dwarfed mine. Hers was a big ticket item, with lots of admirers but relatively few buyers, so most folks just did a drive by with some appreciative nods without ever getting close enough to the table to see my ornaments.


As you can see, my display was also pretty cluttered. To really see my ornaments, you would have had to walk up and stand over my wreath displays. I had thought that the wreaths would add some larger ticket items that might help offset the booth costs, as well as diversifying what I was offering. Turns out, the only damn one that sold was the one on the bottom left, that glittering pinecone monstrosity. And thank God it did sell, or I think I would have left the stupid thing in the parking lot. Only the Good Lord knows why I thought it would be a good idea to dip pinecones in a glitter bath and hot glue them to a flat wire wreath form, but it was not a good idea, and I still have that glitter in my apartment.

Crochet Ornaments for Sale, Glitter not Included

I thought it was a good idea to diversify my offerings up and down in price point–the wreaths as a higher ticket item, and personalized, glittered ornaments for a cheaper option. What I did was buy a few small, plastic bottles with very fine tips that could be used to write names in glue. Sprinkle some glitter on top of that and viola, a personalized gift that I feel fine letting go for five bucks a pop.

glitter ornaments
This is me glittering up the place
glitter mouth
And this is me getting glitter in my mouth

At the end of the day, the only way I sold any was to actually call out to people passing by and advertise my “Personalized glitter ornaments, just $5 each!!” Since practically no one was buying, I figured that the cheaper option was my only chance of selling anything at all.

I noticed something about the crowd after a little while. I had thought that I would be popular with parents of young children, since I was offering “Baby’s First” personalized keepsake crochet ornaments, with the addition of some ribbon, a tiny pink or blue clothespin, and some wooden tags. I made an extra effort to call out to parents I saw with strollers, young kids, or babies strapped to their fronts. What I found, however, is that these people were just struggling to get through the crowds without getting their kid stepped on, and the last thing they gave a shit about was my crochet ornaments.

babys first crochet ornament
Pictured: the last thing my customers cared about at the moment

I made a handful of sales, but if I hadn’t been splitting the booth fee with my mother (and sold a handful of glitter ornaments to my aunt for her cats,) I would have lost my shirt.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks later, and I’m at a new craft fair closer to home. This one was set up at Villanova University, where my husband works, and had nowhere near the foot traffic that the big gymnasium show had, but you know what? I made over double the amount of sales.

Villanova craft fair

crochet ornaments displayThere were only a few key differences in my  new craft fair approach. I moved my wreaths so that you didn’t have to lean over them to see my ornaments. I was still calling out to customers as they passed by, without all the yelling in the much more relaxed scene. As you can see, I also pared down my display quite a bit.

There was one more thing I changed that made a huge difference to sales. This time I advertised “Crochet ornaments only $10, personalization is free!” And, folks, you would not believe how jazzed people were for the free personalization. It had always been built into the cost of the ornament, but “free” sold.

That’s what I learned from my first big show since the launch of this blog. Tell me in the comments what weird tricks you found to keep your sales up!


I am Drowning in Black Swallowtail Caterpillars

black swallowtail butterfly closeup

The Black Swallowtail is Swallow(tail)ing My Life

I’d like to share with you a mild obsession with which I am currently spending a ridiculous amount of my time and grocery budget. This new hobby is raising black swallowtail caterpillars.

I started last summer, right after I got back from my honeymoon, when I noticed that my parsley plant was half missing. I assumed rabbits or deer were getting bold enough to come up onto my stoop, because the parsley was being reduced to stems overnight. Imagine my surprise when, instead, I find two fat little caterpillars.

closeup black swallowtail caterpillar
Meet said fat caterpillars

Instead of leaving them outside to let nature take its course, I stuck them in a jar, because I am apparently five years old. I thought they might be monarchs because of the bright green color, but I apparently do not remember at all what a monarch caterpillar looks like. Five minutes of Googling told me that they were actually Eastern Black Swallowtail larva. (Or, ‘caterpillars’ for you non-weekend-entomologists like me.) I recommend this resource if you find yourself with a caterpillar and feel compelled to help it fend off death.

Just Call Me Daenerys Yarnborn, Mother of Several Black Swallowtail Larva

I learned very quickly that the caterpillars I adopted were at the stage of their development where they eat parsley like the world is about to end. You guys, these things love parsley more than I will ever love anything in my entire life. I mean, they were preparing to tether themselves to a stick and turn into a soup just hoping they would wake up as a butterfly and not a bird snack, so maybe that’s fair. But I ran out of parsley very quickly.

I made my husband drive me to the store at 10 pm to buy organic parsley. It had to be organic because the regular kind might have residues of pesticides on it, and I was currently trying to help the pests win the war against the American farmer. My bugs were now eating better produce than I feed my family, and this was potentially a low point for me. But lower points were yet to come.

The Anticipation of Watching Bug Soup

black swallowtail chrysalis
It doesn’t look like it, but this is bug soup

When black swallowtail caterpillars get ready to pupate, they spin themselves a little tether out of silk and anchor themselves to a twig to wait out their awkward adolescence. They look just like little contractors climbing a Verizon cell tower. During this chrysalis phase, the caterpillar inside literally turns into soup. Somehow, this goo rearranges itself into a goddamn butterfly, and that is a goddamn miracle.

black swallowtail butterfly eclosing
Pictured, a goddamn miracle

I had a nice time hanging out on my porch while the butterfly dried out its wings while perched on my finger. When it was ready to leave and flapped away for the first time, I fucking cried. I felt like I had just watched my kid leave for college. I wasn’t really wrong, in that my black swallowtail was off to sip nectar like it was going out of style and find herself some sexy man butterfly ass.

Imagine my wonderment, my sense of awe at the beauty and majesty of the perfection of creation, when I saw a black swallowtail return to my stoop a few days later, and lay eggs on my parsley plant.

It was a miracle. It was magical. I was up to my elbows in fucking caterpillars.

holy shit that's a lot of black swallowtail caterpillars
holy shit that’s a lot of black swallowtail caterpillars

Adding 30 Tiny Dependents Can Strain a Relationship

I never bothered removing all 32 of these guys from the host plant, but just brought the whole damn thing into the kitchen. Thing were going well and they were growing like little weeds, until they reached that time in a young caterpillar’s life when thoughts turn to wandering in search of a place to pupate. Having 32 black swallowtail caterpillars crawling all over his kitchen is I think to this day the closest my husband has ever come to asking for a divorce.

Putting them back outside to let them pupate in the wild was an act of faith and relinquishing of control, a Jesus Take the Wheel moment if you will. At least that’s what my therapist told me. All I know is that I watched the local cardinal population treat my precious little babies like parsley flavored Fruit Gushers while they were helpless and waiting to turn into butterflies.

So, after that experience in existential horror and trauma, I thought my black swallowtail raising days were over… until this year.

black swallowtail caterpillar egg emerging

That is a baby black swallowtail caterpillar emerging from its egg.

This is six black swallowtail caterpillars taking residence in my house and eating the only organic produce that I have ever bothered to buy.

black swallowtail butterfly on faceblack swallowtail butterfly closeup

And that is a black swallowtail chilling on my face. Raising butterflies is awesome, you guys.

Maker Spotlight: Introducing Scarves for Justice by Louzilla Lovegood

scarves for justice by Louzilla

Guest Post Spotlight: Scarves for Justice

This guest post first appeared on Louzilla Lovegood Letters. This maker is turning despair into action by creating Scarves for Justice to sell, and donating the proceeds to social justice causes!

When America elected Trump as president, I knew I had to take action to protect the marginalized groups he’s repeatedly promised to disenfranchise.

I also have a yarn stash that’s accumulated over the years from gifts, unfinished projects, and unstarted projects.

So I’m crocheting my way through my yarn stash for a good cause. I spent a large part of November making scarves that I’m now selling on Etsy. 100% of the proceeds from every scarf I sell will go to an organization that fights to protect our civil liberties. I am not making any profit off this.

Blue and white crochet scarf by Louzilla Lovegood

When you buy a scarf from my Etsy shop, include a note letting me know which organization you’d like the money to go to. If you don’t, I’ll choose for you, on a rotating basis.

Protect your neck and protect civil liberties at the same time.

I’m partnered with this current list of organizations, which should grow as I hear back from more of them:

Raging Chicken Press
Women’s Law Project
Thomas Merton Center

Visit Louzilla Lovegood on Etsy

How To Sell Crafts… at Starvation Wages!

How Not To Sell Your Crafts

So, I had sixteen-some odd hours to burn (haha, no I didn’t, what is wrong with me) and three balls of cotton bedspread thread and a book of vintage lace patterns and I thought, you know what I don’t have? A doily over a foot in diameter. So, now I do. See above.

I finished this piece one hour before I was supposed to be meeting a woman who owned a local gift shop to talk about the possibility of taking some of my pieces on consignment to sell for me, so I blocked it on our mattress and got dressed while Chris ran over it with a hair dryer. (Love that man.)

Trying to Sell Your Crafts at the Gift Shop

I lovingly unpinned it, photographed it for posterity, attempted to get it to delicately fold flat in my bag, gave up and squashed it into a weird pizza slice shape and I was off.

When I finally met the owner, she was sitting behind the counter buried under a pile of sticky two-year-old armed only with a portable DVD player blasting Winnie the Pooh and a glass of red zinfandel, and I smiled, because I’ve been there. Oh, have I been there.

(Except for the Red Zin. My niece is like a grabby little ferret and she’d immediately sense that the red stuff in the glass is the only thing in the whole kitchen that she can’t drink. She would immediately make it her life’s mission to attempt to consume it, and I’d have to explain to her irate mother why her baby smells like she’s been knocking back cocktails at a country club social. That, and I’m more of a Moscato kind of girl. Actually, if they could just make apple juice alcoholic, I’d probably drink that. I’m more of a fan of the idea of booze than the taste of it.)

red zinfandel pouring into a glass
Admittedly, I have a hard time explaining to her why it’s any different from her sippy cup grape juice. “Uh, it’s pretty much grape juice but… older? They let it go bad in a barrel first or something? Listen, you’re two years old and I have a bachelor’s degree, so sit down and watch your Dora the Explorer DVD.”

The Offer

I laid out my precious wares (on a pile of old receipts and DVD cases,) told her a bit about the three-day-long stint that went into making it, and stood back, smiling hopefully. The kid responded by grabbing the new doily and chewing on it. Ah, a lesser woman than I may have protested, but this is not the first time my lacework has had its seams tested between the gums of a toddler. Chew away, kid, I wove those ends in like a stitch wizard. Instead, I say, “Oh, look, he already likes them!”

She smiles, ponders them a moment, and offers $40. That’s a decent chunk of money, but remember the thing I said at the beginning about the doily taking me sixteen hours to complete? That price would net me about $2 an hour.



Calculate Dollar per Hour When You Sell Your Crafts

Afterwards, the store owner told me that “crafters never, ever get paid the amount of time that they put into it.” She’s not lying. I count as one of the lowest points of my life the time that I got haggled down from $2 to $1 on a beautiful hand made lace wash cloth set. I found myself hoping that my dried-up, over-mascara’ed bargain hunter managed to choke on it as I gave that dollar to the hot dog guy so I could have something to chew on while I wept over the mustard and re-thought my life plan.

Les Mesirables getting her hair cut
My new life plan looked something like this.

So, just so we’re clear, I can make more money rolling silverware or delivering pizzas than I can making doilies and sell crafts to that particular gift shop.

At first I thought I just had a PR problem, and that people didn’t think my doilies were as cool as I did.

Doily wearing a YOLO chain and smoking a cigarette

I thought that I was a relic of a forgotten age, without having actually been born in that forgotten age. But there are still people who thinks my doilies are really cool. I ended up mounting it on a matte board and displaying it on my wall. I get compliments on that piece all the time. But who has $160 to spend on a doily? If you sell your crafts, you may know of markets where there are folks who do have that type of money, and would be willing to spend it on this. At the time this happened, I did not have access to those markets. I didn’t know how to find them, I didn’t live near them, and I didn’t have time to create enough stock to appeal to them.

The Real Problem

I didn’t know my market before I started making product. I was never going to get an amount of money that would make selling that doily worth it. The reason was twofold, by the way. Even if she had offered me that kind of money, I would likely have hesitated to take it. I was too attached to the project, because I had spent too much time with it. I created it in colors that I loved, and I secretly wanted to keep it. There’s no shame in loving your own crafts. It’s really natural to get attached to something you spend so much time with. That’s why, when I make things to sell now, I make things that take little time. I make things that I can duplicate easily, not one-in-a-million pieces of art. That’s the key to sell your crafts.

Job Searching Blows

job searching blows

Job Searching Blows When You Have Trouble With Relevancy.

I’m a young lady with a B.A. in English. My main hobby has been unnecessary since the advent of industrialized society. Therefore, I sometimes have trouble marketing my skills as “relevant” to this century. Job searching really blows.

job searching comic

job searching comic

job searching comic

job searching comic

job searching comic

job searching comic

job searching comic

Easter Baby Crochet is Why I Don’t Sleep

easter baby crochet

Easter Baby Crochet Accessories Consume My Waking Thoughts

This actually happened. So, if anyone’s wondering, that’s what I’ll be doing from now till Sunday. And if my baby nephew consents to being photographed while wearing Easter baby crochet accessories that make him look like a baby chicken, there will be pictures. (Although, if he has any self respect, he won’t.)

P.S.: My hair actually looks like that most mornings when I wake up. It doesn’t help with my overall madwoman appearance when I bolt awake to proclaim things like this in the middle of the night.

I tried knitting again.

I hate knitting


Mistakes Were Made-The Knitting Comic

I’ll level with you–it was a shit day. It was so shit that I tried knitting again, because even crocheting was making me feel shit. And I hate knitting. I ended up throwing the knitting and flipping it off, and I’m pretty sure it flipped me off back. Then I drew a knitting comic, and that made me feel better.

I woke up ready to fight, and I decided to fight my yarn. Maybe I was overcome with hubris? Maybe I hate myself? Who knows why I thought I should try to do goddamn anything with a pair of chopsticks instead of a hook. Hooks make sense. A hook is a thing I can use to make a loop and pull that loop through another loop. Why would anyone try to do this with sticks? 

Why would these two sticks need to hold all of the stitches at the same time? How come it make holes when a stitch falls off? Why do I need to do different stitches in different rows to make it look like knitting? DOES ANYONE KNOW? WHY DOES ANYONE DO THIS AS A HOBBY???

There Were Signs

I knew today was going to be a fight. My cat threw up on my nativity set. Who does that? Did my cat mean it to be a gift for the baby Jesus? Oh Glory Hallelujah, the three wise men have brought for the newborn Lord Frankincense, Myrrh, and half-digested Friskies.

Then my insurance company decided to kick me in the ovaries by de-credentialing my doctor. Thanks for that. I still wasn’t ready to throw in the towel–I heated up some chili and put on some Christmas music and was ready to drag my holly jolly ass into the Christmas spirit if it killed me. And I thought, why not pick up some knitting needles and try to make a tiny scarf? What the fuck is more Christmas-y than knitting in a rocking chair and sipping cocoa? Nothing, that’s what, except for maybe swearing like a trucker who stubbed his toe and cursing out the sheep that provided the godforsaken wool I was trying to wrangle.

Screw the cocoa, I’m making a vodka tonic.







Crochet for Baby? Are You Out of Your Damn Mind?

baby crochet

Crochet for Baby = Masochism

I’m an aunt. Which means, I make a whole lotta projects for babies and kids. I don’t know what it is about my siblings breeding that compels me to crochet for baby. Do you guys get that same tic? The one where the sight of any exposed baby skin seems to biologically obligate you to find the nearest hook and skein of yarn to cover it?

crochet for baby

Have you ever looked at your calendar, realized it’s only a week until Christmas/Easter/child’s birthday/forecast predicting aggressive breezes and thought, Oh My God, I’ve got to crochet for baby?? And have you ever found yourself Christmas Eve/Easter Eve/anniversary of your sister in law’s water breaking/sign of first breeze and been tangled in a ball of yarn, project half finished, coming off a six hour red-bull-and-aran-worsted bender and having lost your will to live?

Because I’ve been there. I’ve been there a lot. You get it into your head that [insert any gift giving occasion] simply cannot be allowed to pass you by without some type of homemade gift. After all, I’m The Crafty One. I’m the one who shows up to every birthday party with something soft and cuddly and awkwardly wrapped. They’ve come to expect it of me. And I love to crochet for baby things! The soft yarn, the pastels, the fluff.

crochet for baby
I’m also cute and cuddly and awkwardly wrapped

Pride Goeth Before the Fall

Plus, there’s more than a little ego involved. I imagine the child’s delight when they open their special, handmade, one of a kind gift. They give it a big squeeze and skip off with their new best friend, cementing my status as Coolest Aunt Ever. I can just see their parent’s appreciative nod, no doubt understanding the hours of work and love that went into that project. Imagining the admiring clucks of onlookers, I think about how they are clearly impressed with my skill and expertise.

“I need to use up some of this pink yarn anyway”, I inevitably tell myself, “and surely it won’t take more than a few hours.” I’ll bang the project out in a weekend, piece of cake, and I’ll be the hero of the baby shower. 32 hours later, I’ve had two pattern corrections, three disappearing hooks, many many swear words, and the sinking realization that I’ve yet again vastly underestimated the amount of time it’ll take to finish this nightmarish half finished monkey toy that definitely looks more like an alien in the cold, harsh light of day.

It’s a sickness. So what’s the cure?


The Cure album art
Besides an English 80’s alternative rock band?

Here’s some tips from a reformed addict  pro:

  1. Babies grow insanely fast. When their mothers buy them clothes, they understand that it will probably only be worn about a half dozen times. That’s all there’s time for before the season changes and the baby has outgrown them. If you crochet for baby, try to predict what size they will be when they’ll wear it, and know in your heart that this is purely a product of your own masochism.
  2. Take materials into consideration. Think about how hot or cold it is outside, and whether or not an extra pound and a half of yarn is something you should put on a baby. I ignored this rule, which lead to the unfortunate decision to crochet a cute lacy summer dress in a scratchy worsted weight acrylic yarn. The dress weighed about three pounds and was worn for maybe seven minutes total.
  3. Will this project be as attractive under several layers of spit up, ice cream, marker, dirt and/or slime? Will it survive the subsequent washings required to remove them?
  4. Is this project difficult to put on the baby or maintain in any way? Would it be difficult to put onto a child who is screaming? Squirming? Flailing all four limbs or auditioning for the 2025 remake of the Exorcist? Does your garment have multiple snaps or delicate/complicated closures? If the answer to any of these is yes, your heartfelt gift will never be worn. Period.
  5. Are you prepared for the excellent possibility that the child receiving your gift will spend less time wearing/playing with it than you spent making it?

If you still have any desire to knit for your loved ones’ offspring, seek help. And stay away from wool.

crochet comic

Does Crocheting Make Me Undateable?


 Does Crocheting Make Me Undateable?

So, I’m married now, but I wasn’t always, and I used to wonder quite a lot: does crocheting make me undateable? When I was first living with my then-boyfriend/now-husband, I had my rusting death bucket car towed away by the scrap yard fairies. Problem was, that’s where all of my yarn had living. This is a problem because the apartment that we shared was only slightly larger than a breadbox. Our apartment was so small that our pet fish felt cramped. Our apartment was so small we had to buy singles instead of six packs of beer. It was so small we had to keep our houseplant trimmed. You get the idea. So, you can see the problem we had trying to accommodate the volume equivalent of three fifty-gallon tubs worth of yarn. Having six full-to-bursting black hefty bags lying around really clashed with the “horror vacui” décor style, too.

Sacrifices Were Made

And yet, my man took it all like a champ. He didn’t complain when I moved in and his two full closets and a dresser shrunk to two drawers to keep his clothes in. Then he still didn’t complain when we had to stick all of his shoes in a bookcase to make room for my shoes, and then they got kicked out of the bookcase again to make room for my books. He didn’t complain when I covered the apartment in an inch thick coating of glitter as part of my holiday crafting. And then, bless his soul, when I drag in these six huge bags (and a laundry hamper and a duffel and a picnic basket and a few Shoprite bags with stray bits of stuffing and some afghan squares) full of yarn, he didn’t even bat an eye.

However, it occurred to me that, not only am I a damn lucky girl, but that there probably aren’t that many guys out there as willing as he is to put up with my constant fiber hobby-related crap. So now, I’m curious. Are crocheters undateable? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of dating someone who crochets.

Pro: You get a warm, fuzzy handmade gift for Christmas every year.

Con: You get a warm, fuzzy handmade gift for Christmas every year.

Pro: If you ever get attacked by a rampaging alpaca, your partner, the “yarn whisperer”, will undoubtedly be able to soothe the beast.

Con: You will have to explain to your beloved crafter, again, why you can’t keep an alpaca in your apartment. Even though they promised to take it for walks in the park every day.

Pro: Buying her gifts is really, really easy.

Con: You are part of the problem.

Pro: She is capable of keeping herself busy happily for hours if you want to play X-Box with your friends. She also understands the need for elbow space and won’t try to cuddle you during activity time.

Con: That doesn’t mean her many afghans won’t want to cuddle.

Does crocheting make me undateable?The jury’s out. For better or worse, he’s got me, and he’ll never ever be cold.