How to Cast On to Double Pointed Needles


Back when I was teaching knitting classes regularly, I had a lot of students who had never knit in the round, and more specifically, had never knit with double pointed needles (DPNs), because they were intimidated by the mechanics of it. So we spent the whole first two hour lesson in any sock or mitten class learning how to cast on and getting to know all those needles.

Today’s video is like a condensed, 10-minute version of that class. It’s got all my tips and tricks, but it doesn’t take long to watch. And even better, you can watch the parts you need over and over again. I am still learning the video editing process, and I still sound like a grade A idiot on film, but my husband said I could tag this video as knitting ASMR, so I’m calling that a win.

If you would like to follow along with the written pattern, check it out here.

Next Monday we’ll increase for the thumb!

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Simple Chunky Mittens Video Tutorial

Back in 2012, I published a little knitting pattern I cooked up for one of my knitting classes. I also posted it on Ravelry. Since then, that pattern has been the number one thing that brings new folks to my website.

Along with those new folks have come requests to see a video tutorial on how to knit these mittens. I’ve been meaning to do it 4 out of the last 5 years, but this year, I finally figured out how to make it happen.

So, if you’re interested in learning how to knit a quick and easy pair of mittens with minimal materials, or are just curious to see how awkward I am talking to my phone in an empty room, click on the video below!

In the video, I only mention what you need to get started: yarn and needles. If you’d like to follow along and collect all your supplies now, here is a full supply list

-100g of chunky weight yarn
-1 set of 4 size US 10 double pointed knitting needles
-2 stitch markers
-Waste yarn
-Yarn Needle
-Tape measure

I made a video about casting on to double pointed needles to get you started.

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I Dream of Romance Heroes Who Defy the Patriarchy

On Saturday nights, my oldest son and I stay up and watch something together after the little kids go to sleep. It’s time just for the two of us. After finishing all of the episodes of Bake-Off on Netflix, we were at a loss of what to watch, until we happened upon a bunch of early 90’s Disney live action films. We watched The Mighty Ducks and Cool Runnings and some others I remember enjoying when I was his age. For the most part, he’s gotten a kick out of them, and we can talk about them later, what’s positive, what’s problematic.

This week Netflix suggested Mulan, and I thought, sweet! A movie about a woman who defies the patriarchy and kicks some major ass. So we watched it, and Mulan does defy the patriarchy (mostly), and she does use her brain and kick some major ass. (By the way, did you know that Miguel Ferrer voiced the bad guy? I had no clue. He was also the villain in Blank Check, because yeah, we watched that classic too.) But the message about gender roles, like how Mulan can’t help but be nurturing bothered me. Then the song about what a real man is was so full of stupid toxic messages that I almost stopped the movie to tell my son that no, that’s not what a man is. And while I am that lame mom that’s going to make him talk to me about, I’m not so lame that I’ll hold up the movie.

But good Lord, I cannot get that song out of my head. I mean, it’s a Disney song sung by Donny Osmund, so it’s catchy as hell, and I’ve been singing it for days. But the chorus has been bothering me for other reasons.

The Chorus (from Google)

Be a man
We must be swift as the coursing river
Be a man
With all the force of a great typhoon
Be a man
With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon

These qualities are describing what it means to be an ideal man: swift, forceful, strong, and my favorite, emotionally unavailable. Looking outside Mulan, how often do we see men depicted this way across pop culture? Real men are strong, real men are assertive, real men are stoic, real men know how to take charge of a situation.

Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Bullshit.

All it takes to be a real man is to identify as one, but the expectations of toxic masculinity still permeate our culture. They are especially rampant in romance novels.

While the last couple of decades have seen heroines in romance novels gain agency, purpose outside their relationship, careers, and independence, the heroes haven’t come nearly as far. Far fewer of them are rapists. But the popularity of manipulative dipshits like Christian Grey and his hundreds of cheap billionaire-fiction knock offs greatly disturbs me.

I can’t figure out what is sexy about an emotionally disturbed, abusive gaslighter who lets you think you’re being independent while manipulating every move you make. Apparently, all is forgivable (even desirable) if you are young, rich, white, and conventionally handsome.

Christian Grey and his ilk is where toxic masculinity leads us, and just like romance writers need to do better by women than limp noodles like Anastasia Steele, we need to do better by men than Christian Grey.

Compassionate, caring heroes do exist in romance novels, but often I find they are still put on a pedestal by the heroine. He is the sexual agressor and/or tutor. He is the long time crush that makes her feel insecure. He is the suave businessman who somehow wows her with his cool disregard. And she is always striving to be worthy of him somehow.

There is never any question that he might not be worthy of her.

I want to see more heroes take an emotional journey of their own. I want them to come to understand how their socially ingrained misogynistic mindset can work against a successful relationship.

As he was reading latest novel, my husband commented that Ethan, the hero, had to overthrow his inherent misogyny to be with Juliet. I took it as a huge complimemt because my husband is a smart dude, but I hadn’t really thought of it as anything special before that.

Who doesn’t want their partner to think of them as their equal?

That’s fucking sexy.

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Author Platforms and Snake Oil Salesmen

I finished my second draft of my second novel last week and now I’m stuck in the in-between place where I don’t really have a project working to work on. It’s two months to Nanowrimo. And that feels like too little time to really dig into the manuscript I have in progress (a romance novel story with a haunted house, how exciting in that?) only to have to set it aside to start something new come November 1st.

I realize that I don’t have to participate in Nanowrimo but I’m going to. I love it.

No, during this 2 months between writing projects felt like a good time to focus on myself as an author whose trying to get published. I am going to write a couple synopses, query some agents and, sigh, work on my author platform.

I don’t think I can convey to you how much I loathe those two words.

Marla’s definition of Author Platform:

The online persona authors are supposed to don in order to sell their books. Usually this persona is some insincere scrap of their real personality that ensnares the masses into a sales funnel where each individual ideally buys ten copies of your book. IE, writing free, snazzy, sparkly content to get attention in a way that tries not to look sleazy but uses all of the online sales gimmicks of those people who try to sell you thousand-dollar classes so that you too can make a million dollars in passive income on the internet.

I would apologize for exaggerating if I didn’t get at least six of those emails a day. More if they’ve got a new $1000 course coming out.

Honestly though, are some good points to putting together a author platform. Namely, nobody can read my books if they don’t know about them. So, in the spirit of making my dreams come true, I’ve been searching for people with integrity (I really like Mixtus Media) who can tell me how to get started.

Combing through all of these websites about how to determine your ideal reader / customer has me thinking a lot about performance.

Since I left the Historical Society I have been working a serving job in the evenings where I present myself in a way that is far more outgoing and effusive and cheerful than I really am. In short, when I’m at work as an extrovert. I even have a costume that I wear because it helps me transition to that place where I can excitedly sell beer and burgers.

It feels like some of these passive income sales experts are telling me that I need to adopt a persona similar to what I do when I am serving if I want people to pay attention to me.

I’m not about to try selling my books like that. There has to be more to representing myself authentically then pasting on a smile and pretending to be happy. I don’t want to be performing all the damn time.

I read an article last week about how modern fitness culture is a way for (whtie) upper middle class Americans to enforce social discrimination. There’s nothing wrong with exercise or eating healthy, but when it is performed to reinforce a system of discrimination for those who are not performing (ie, not thin, not buying the right food, shoes, yoga pants, etc.) there is a problem. And a lot of what I’m seeing from the experts on how to sell my books is that I need to shine up the aspects that are aesthetically pleasing, disregard those that aren’t, then “create value” for what it is you want to sell, usually by making the potential customer feel insecure about how much they really know on the topic, then selling them the solution for only $297.

“Creating Value” is the best way to make people feel like shit about themselves so they’ll spend their money in order to be able to perform success on the internet. Because performing success on the internet makes you an expert in whatever you are selling.

But dear lord, why?

Isn’t the whole point of being your own boss to make a living doing what brings you joy? Because it sure sounds to me like a lot of people thinks it’s about being like everyone else.

So yeah while I am indeed going to endeavor to blog at least once a week and post some photos on Instagram, there is no way in hell that I’m going to adopt another persona and pretend to be that person once or twice a week just to get readers. I don’t need to create value to what I am doing, because my contribution is already valuable. I write books about love stories from a feminist perspective, because I think it’s important to have as many woman characters with agency out there as possible.

I don’t want to play who can win the internet. I’ve never been into role playing games, and I don’t have a character. And honestly, I really don’t think that the same strategies the bozos shilling essential oils use should be the same ones that I use to try and connect with readers.

I just want to be cranky, stressed out, blissed out, distracted by kiddos, preoccupied with my current characters me.

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In Case I Didn’t Mention it, The Last Few Months Have Been Hard

Yesterday I did something out of the ordinary. I took some time off.

I have a history of trying to work something productive into every moment of everyday. I am constantly cooking or tidying (not that you’d notice), writing, reading, knitting, etc. I don’t sit still very well. It’s part of the reason yoga is such an important part of my day. It’s the only time I try to decompress, and most days, I don’t do that very well.

Since Felix was born, and especially since we had Rufus, I haven’t been away from my kids (outside of work) for more than a couple of hours at a time. Mostly, I didn’t want to be. I like my kids, and I don’t like interrupting their routine, but since January, when I became a stay-at-home mom, I have been with my kids All. The. Time. And I needed a break. So did Brock.

Anniversary celebrations well under way. 4 years with @hashtagphysics. ????

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For our fourth anniversary, Brock and I made it happen. We left the kids at home with grandma went out. We drank our coffee hot, we ate too much Indian food, we saw a movie. Then, after all of that, instead of going home and putting the kids to bed, we went to a hotel for a little peace and quiet.

At our first movie since Rufus was born. We'll be seeing Wonder Woman.

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It might have been too quiet. We’re used to the hubbub of 2.5 boys and the near constant sounds of traffic and sirens and neighbors. And even though this hotel is probably less than two miles from our house, there was none of that. The suite was a cocoon of silence and privacy. I have had a baby living in my bedroom for the last three years, I don’t get a lot of privacy. I was so out of my element, I was unnerved enough to dig out my white noise app and think about turning on a thunderstorm just to have something to listen to–because apparently the music we had playing wasn’t enough for me.

Our home for the night has three rooms. And a hot tub. Because this is the first night we've ever spent away together. Ever.

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While the quiet was surreal, having an evening with my husband without a baby waking up in the middle of the movie and then again just as we’re going to bed was just as magically restorative as I wanted it to be.

Helping Felix make the transition to starting pre-school no longer feels so daunting, even though it means establishing a new daily routine for everyone, and dealing with some intense three year-old emotions. And there are other things I have been putting off (writing synopses, querying agents, finishing drafts, etc.) that don’t seem so scary today as they did yesterday, even though yesterday they felt a helluva lot more doable than they did six months ago.

I want to hang onto this feeling. I want to capture this sense of renewal and invigoration and seal it into capsule somewhere inside me where I can open it up whenever I feel bogged down by endless to-do lists, or when the baby wakes up an hour after I finally got to sleep, or when I have to be an extrovert at my service industry job and all I want to do is sit in a corner and read a book.

I know I can’t. But I can be better about taking care of myself. When I feel peaceful, it’s better for my family, it’s better for my writing.

Even though Felix’s school doesn’t start for two more weeks, tomorrow morning we’re all getting up early so we can practice getting out of the house by 8. That means my alarm goes off at 5:45. Despite opening the coffee shop for years, I am still not good at getting up in the morning. But I am getting up this early so I have time to do yoga. Because if I take care of myself first, maybe I can maintain a little bit of this energy.

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How Not To Blog

When you end your last post “stay tuned,” you probably don’t expect your illustrious blog host to disappear for six months.

Felix/Mommy selfie time. Also, feeling the love with my @bitchmedia B-Hive mug, because we value independent media.

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I got new glasses!

Yeah, I didn’t expect that either. I have spent the last six months in a haze of not enough sleep, baking, yoga, playing with babies, and of while plenty of writing has been happening as well, there has been a lot of I don’t have time to turn this into a blog post, lets make it an instagram instead. But I have missed this space.

This peasant loaf is my prettiest so far. Can’t wait til it cools to see how it tastes. #gfbaking #glutenfree

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Over the years, I’ve talked about doing a lot of different things with Tiny Dino Studios, and I get excited about new projects and new hobbies, and make all sorts of plans that I never quite follow through on. I start out with the best intentions for a yarn dyeing business, for helping people with their handmade business, for freelance writing, for selling soap, and then I get side tracked by whatever story I’m working on and all my good intentions go straight out the window.

You’d think it wouldn’t take me years and years to realize I should put all of my energy into my writing already and be done with it, but it did.

For whatever reason, I felt like writing wasn’t enough to focus on. Those other things had the potential to bring me money sooner, even though I cared more about the writing.

I’ve spent the last few months coming to terms with owning that I want to just be a writer.

And doesn’t that make it sound simpler than it really is? There is no “just” about it.

I currently have one novel in time out while I decide if it’s done or not, another I have been working on for a year, and a third that’s waiting in the wings. Not to mention all of the scary parts of writing like query letters and synopses, and whether self-publishing a little isn’t a bad idea.

Enjoying being outside before it gets too hot. ??? Love watching the plants grow. ????????????????

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On top of that, I miss the good old days when blogs were a way to genuinely connect with readers instead of another avenue to facilitate the means of production.

I don’t want to sell you stuff.

I want to talk about my writing and complain about this elimination diet I’m getting ready to start. (I’m totally Fat Tuesdaying it up this weekend, because come Monday, I have to give up all of my favorite things: coffee! chocolate! chickpeas! tomatoes!)

Mostly, I want to share fun stuff, like this pinterest board I made for my current writing project:

I know some authors have boards and boards and boards for each of their stories. This is the first time I’ve done it, and it was fun trying to find people and places that match what I see in my head when I write.

Now, anyone want to beta read?

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Bad Romance

At one point in the original Gilmore Girls series, someone says to Lorelai, “You like movies right?”

And Lorelai’s reply is “Good, bad, and in between.”

Ladies and Gents, that is how I feel about the subtle art that is the romance novel. There are good romance novels (anything by Rachael Herron is fantastic, for instance), and there are the bad (Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m looking at you), and there is a whole lot of in between. Folks, I have read them all–well, a lot of them anyway, and I am not in any way ashamed.

So here’s the thing. I feel like I shouldn’t need to say, “I’m not ashamed.” But when I tell people that I read and write romance novels, a lot of the times they look at me, and their mouths are saying, “Oh that’s great!” but the slant of the eyebrows and the tilt of their head is really saying, “Huh, I thought you were smart.”

Guess which one is louder?

I won’t argue about how a good romance novel is some of the most intense, character driven, real shit you’ll ever read. And if you’re going to argue that the main reason romance novels suck is because they are marketed toward bored housewives, we’re not going to make much headway. I’m not here to convince you to take up the romance novel. If you’re not a believer, I won’t be able to convince you, and that’s fine.

What I’m more interested in is the romance novel audience–an audience primarily made up of women, reading about women. And in a good romance novel, that woman usually has to confront some hard shit, and it is liberating and empowering, because she finds a strength inside herself she’d been denying. Lesser quality romances are usually plagued with some pattern of dude bro heroes holding up the patriarchy and the heroines deciding that for some reason, the patriarchy totally turns them on. Gross.

It was a forgone conclusion well before I settled into romance that any work of fiction I penned would be feminist. In a genre that might be a young woman’s first real safe place to explore the idea of her sexuality, that it’s OK to feel desire, a feminist interpretation is more important than ever.

Because I say there are good romances, and bad romances, I don’t necessarily mean the quality of the writing, though they usually go hand in hand. No, what I mean by “bad romance” is the romanticizing of abusive, obsessive behavior from both men and women. There is a prominence for characterizing relationships as such, especially from contemporary indie authors, that I find disturbing.

You guys, it is not OK to to represent abusive relationship as normal. It just isn’t. Yeah, I’ve read them, and it’s like watching a train wreck happen. I have to know how the author resolves this horrible situation, and it usually isn’t to my liking. The heroine almost always is the (anti)hero’s fix at some cost to herself, and the only thing they have going for themselves is their desperate obsession with one another. That isn’t romantic. It’s scary as hell.

What I mean to say by all of this, is that when I say I’m writing romance novels, I’m striving toward the earth shattering, character-driven, feminist approach…and maybe I tend to tweet a lot about bad habits of bad romance writers when I’m reading one of those books.

I’d like to start a discussion about your favorite romances, about heroines that make good role models, and premises that make you want to vomit, and why all of these stories matter.

Stay tuned.

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I Didn’t March for Unity

Women’s March Kansas, January 21st, 2017

I marched in the Kansas Women’s March this past Saturday. I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the march from both sides, and a lot of people who didn’t really understand what it was about. Unity was a word I heard bandied about a lot, but unity with what? With whom? Certainly not the current government. Certainly not with those telling us to keep calm, keep quiet.

This march wasn’t for unity. It was a rallying cry, a starting place, an all-inclusive launching pad for a movement that won’t stop fighting for the freedoms of everyone in this country. A friend of mine on facebook put it well when she said, it wasn’t just a women’s march, but a human march.

I didn’t march for unity.
I didn’t even march because I am afraid of losing my rights.

I marched for all of the men, women, and children in this country who are still fighting for the ease of my white, middle class life.
I marched so that as my kids get older, they will have support should they need it.
I marched so that when Felix and Rufus get to school age, there’s a school worth going to.
I marched for clean water.
I marched for LGTBQ rights and civil rights.
I marched for religious freedom.
I marched for healthcare, for birth control, for the right to choose.
I marched for immigrants, for refugees, for peace.
I marched because climate change is real.
I marched for Kansas where the fight’s been going strong for six years
I marched for all the ways each of those things intersect across so many injustices.

I marched for you on Saturday, because you deserve Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, and so does everyone else.

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What is Saving My Product Photos

Last week, I posted on the Tiny Dino Studios facebook page about playing with my foldio, and I got a bunch of questions about how I liked it. Before this past week, I’d only used the foldio a handful of times, and mostly with my phone. And after that, I’d never taken the time to edit the photos, but holy smokes you guys, the little light box thing is totally worth it!

Mocha Morning Soap

Here is one of the new product photos I took last week using the foldio. It’s not perfect, but it is light years ahead of the photo of the same product I took a few weeks before that on my desk using the window for light.

See the difference?

Box of Chocolates Special Edition Valentine’s Day Soap

Here’s another soap that just finished curing. It’s scented with chocolate and lavender, colored with cocoa and red oxide.

Good Vibes Soap with poppy seed swirl and calendula petals

This is brand new, and has a couple weeks left on the curing shelf. I call it Good Vibes because it’s a very earthy, fresh, relaxing essential oil blend of sandalwood, eucalyptus and patchouli. I also adore how the poppy seed swirl turned out.

I’m not the most composition-minded photographer out there–and I call myself photographer in the sense that I hit the shutter on my little canon power shot and a photo results–but I’m really glad I have my foldio. While there are some of my photos where I couldn’t edit around bad composition (see below), it’s not the foldio’s fault I barely pay attention to whether my shot is in focus. It’s designed to photograph small things. That’s why it’s only ten inches wide.

See how you can see the edge of my back drop and the sides of the light box? The soap is true though!

With a little conscious effort on my part, I can really improve my product photography with the help of my little light box. So, while this is what I have, I’m going to say that any light box will help.

I’m going to keep practicing my photography, focusing on getting more usable pics out of each photo session, and paying more attention to how I line things up. But editing photos this time around was so much less frustrating than usual. Hooray!

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32

On my 32nd birthday, I am three days into a huge life transition. Having given up my day job to stay home with my kids, I am excited and nervous and full of plans. But really, when am I not full of plans?

The first day I stayed home, I did all of the things. We cleaned for a couple of hours (I gave Felix a duster and he “helped.”) Then we did yoga–I give Felix his own mat and he joins me when he feels like it. I managed to squeeze a shower in there and we ran some errands followed by lunch and a trip to the Chick-Fil-A play place. Then it was home for a nap, miraculously both kids slept at once and I got some photos taken before it was time to push burgers and beer at the new job. And when the night was slow and I got off an hour early, I treated myself to a glass of wine and got some writing done at the bar and got home at my usual time. I was so proud of myself.

Then Rufus woke up constantly all night long, because he was hungry, because he was cold, and I got barely any sleep. Brock worked from home for an hour or so, letting me sleep in. Then I woke up, drank all of the coffee, and decided I was going to take it easier, because the whole not having two jobs meant I wasn’t supposed to have to work myself to exhaustion.

I’ve been puzzling over how I’m going to do everything I want to get done this year. I have a few very broad goals, but each of them come with pretty hefty to-do lists.

1. Be there for my kids and husband
2. Get back into shape after all of the pregnancies.
3. Get First Novel out for submissions, then write Second Novel and Third Novel (both started)
4. Make Tiny Dino SoapWorks successful.

All of these things have various working parts that could each be their own full-time job, and my current schedule is just too new for me to know how it will all work together. My first goal is to find a rhythm that allows me to do some housecleaning, hang out with my kids, write, make some bath and body stuff, work and do everything else–maybe not all in one day, but perhaps some sort of rotating schedule. Most importantly, I need to give myself more than a couple of days to figure it out.

While I find I am pretty much incapable of doing nothing, today and through the weekend, I plan to do my best. I’ll hit a couple of cleaning project, maybe strain and grate some beeswax. (I get my beeswax from a local apiary, and it’s about one step above raw. Not quite ready to go into finished product as is.) I’ll definitely write everyday, because I can’t not, but slowing down and resting up seems like a good way to start a year where I have some pretty big goals to hit.

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