Make It Mighty Ugly book review

Have you ever had that thing happen when you pick up a book and you know immediately it is the book you are meant to be reading? You know you will follow every rule that book lays down and you will follow it to the letter.  You are going to devour this book.  You find yourself bringing up the book in totally unrelated conversations with friends and saying, “You should read this book.  It’s amazing.”   I’m there right now and the book is Make it Mighty Ugly: Exercises and Advice for Getting Creative Even When it Ain’t Pretty by Kim Werker.

Make It Mighty Ugly book review | from a happy stitch

You should read it. It’s amazing!  For real, though.  Read it.

It speaks to creative ventures such as sewing and crochet, but the whole framework for thinking about creativity keeps coming to mind when I talk to friends who write for a living or run organizations or problem-solve with toddlers.  Anyone who has convinced a toddler to brush their teeth or wrangled words into exactly what their heart was trying to say understands everything involves creativity.   At the root of so many human endeavors is creativity and this book is here as a guide through the messy, uncomfortable, untidy spectacular mess of it all.

Also, it has helped me draw up a specific definition for the term badass but more on that later.  First, the book.  The overarching and powerful idea behind Make it Mighty Ugly is based on Kim’s personal experience with facing doubt and finding it freeing to make something ugly.  Not cute ugly.  Ugly ugly. To realize the fear of making something ugly by doing it on purpose.  She doesn’t believe in slaying demons, exactly.  It’s about recognizing them; naming them; examining them; giving them their due place in the creative process so we don’t have to fear them.  The analogy that stuck with the most was of the gut…the mix is good and bad bacteria.  We need bacteria for a healthy gut and we need our doubts and fears, they are the critics that help us do our best work.  The trick is to avoid letting them overrun the place, it’s about learning how to be the ones in charge.

As Kim says:

Ugly is failure.  It’s shame. It’s doubt.
But ugly can make us mighty.  All we have to do is pay attention to it.  When we look at it, when we stare it right in the face, we take its power for our own.  We grow to understand it. We learn from it.  We defuse it.  We become free.

There are three main sections to the book.  First Kim discusses how to identify the fears/doubts/mean voices in our head.  She doesn’t hold back, either, it’s a full spotlight kind of thing.  In section two, she talks through some great exercises for getting creative and in section three she discusses how to build creative habits.  I chose to complete as much as possible as I read the book.

The first exercise, after an uncomfortable period of really examining all of the mean voices in my head, is to make something ugly.  I made Bruce.  This is him.

Make It Mighty Ugly book review | from a happy stitch

He’s got a lot going on. Truth be told, Bruce turned out a little cuter than I would have liked but never fear, he is a complete mess.  He is constructed almost entirely of bits and pieces of projects I previously started but that didn’t work out. He’s made of fabric I don’t like, in too many loud colors. (To be fair, some of the individual pieces are fabrics I love…just not together).  I took great joy in attaching buttons I made earlier this year didn’t turn out how I wanted.  I was so mad about those buttons…they look like pieces of stupid steak from a cartoon.  I put time into them and was so angry when the didn’t turn out.  As a result, it was with great joy that I slapped them on Bruce.  His arms are piddly bits of unfinished fabric that I simply tied in knots.  The seams on the back of Bruce’s head are exposed.  Nothing about Bruce is constructed properly and it was positively freeing to make such a shoddy wee man.  His google eyes make him semi-cute but don’t be fooled.  He’s a turd.

Make It Mighty Ugly book review | from a happy stitch

Let’s take an even closer look at Bruce.  Let’s discuss his personality.  In the course of making Bruce, I developed a full story line for this guy and now I talk directly to him when I’m struggling or doubting myself.  Bruce is a real piece of work and I’ve met him many times.

For starters, he’s relatively well meaning but not a great listener. He loves to dole out advice about how things should be done and he’s not got a curious or creative mind.  He’s rigid but not angry or mean.  He tells me with a thin smile, “This and that should always be done this way.  Things are supposed to happen in this linear fashion following these rules.”  Bruce squashes my joy with all of his shoulds/supposed to/always’s and me makes me feel like a hot air balloon just floating with no destination and no hope of ever touching land.  Silly, stupid and incompetent.  Frivolous and ridiculous. He is sometimes right and that makes me feel like I’m always in the wrong. Damn that Bruce. He’s probably in accounting.

Make It Mighty Ugly book review | from a happy stitch

The thing I always want to tell Bruce (and I do try to tell him things!  The only trouble, though, is once he has his say he’s done listening.  He just tunes me out. With a smile. You know the type). I want to say, “Look Bruce! The view up here, on my hot air balloon, is positively breathtaking.  Thanks for your advice but, man, life your feet up off the ground every once in a while!”

The book is full of other little projects and one of them, making with cardboard tubes, turned into a week-long family affair.  J and I painted and constructed for days together.  Our project wasn’t aiming at anything in particular and our outcome wasn’t exactly pretty.

Make It Mighty Ugly book review | from a happy stitch

But it wasn’t ugly, either.  It was absorbing and soul-satisfying and creative and spectacularly pointless.

Make It Mighty Ugly book review | from a happy stitch

Bruce sits on a shelf in my studio now and we debate sometimes but I always win.  He’s my new sounding board.  Because, instead of pushing out the discouraging or doubt-filled voice, I air it, to Bruce. He tells me all the reasons why not and counter him.  With Bruce around I am a little more badass.  Badass, I discovered, means to have the doubts, to know the reasons why not and to still have the courage and vulnerability to make.  A badass hears the ugly voice and dives in anyway.  If Bruce is my ugly voice then Kim Werker is the kickass superhero by my side.

See? You do need to read this book!

To spur on your creativity, beginning sewers, remember all my patterns are on sale.  See this post for details and loads of free tutorials.  Go for it! Make stuff!

Disclosure: I was given this book by the publisher, Sasquatch, but they didn’t require me to blog about it. I’m writing about it because I love it and think it’s worth your hard earned money.  My opinion about this book, comes from the heart. I sincerely hope that is obvious.

Slow Family Travel to Ireland

Sometimes you meet someone whose sparkling, authentic enthusiasm and deep positive energy is a perfect match for your own bubbling overflow of ideas. Someone whose warm, thoughtful insights detangle the knots that have been puzzling you.  You shine brighter just for knowing them.  Sabrina is one of those people and it is no surprise that she has just started a spectacular blog about Worldschooling called family+footprints–where the world is a place ripe for learning and the pace of learning is kind, slow and energized.

Slow Family Travel to Ireland

Your only choice is to lay your stomach on top of the heather and stare down at the jagged rocks and soak up the immense power of the sea. The chance to do that next to my five year old, content to ponder how the water transforms from blue ocean to white foam, is unforgettable.

I’m so honored to be guest posting today.  Check out my post, Slow Family Travel to Ireland: What Our Kids Taught Us , and then be sure to take a gander at everything else on the site.  I can almost guarantee you will want to pack some hiking boots and book tickets for a new adventure.



10 Inventive Ways to use Zakka-Inspired Gift Bags {tutorial + giveaway}

Today I’m over at Skip to My Lou as part of the Bake Craft Sew & Crochet Along. I am sharing a wonderful zakka-inspired gift bag perfect for holiday gift giving. sewing giveawayIn fact, you won’t want to miss all the handmade gift ideas! I have joined over 100 bloggers to share some amazing homemade gift ideas…….and I get to be part of an amazing sewing giveaway too. More on the giveaway below.

Be sure to check it out. I was inspired to make these humble gift bags by a desire to give teachers money at the holidays. I always want to give teachers money (or gift cards) because they spend so much of their own on classroom supplies but it can feel odd and uncomfortable.  A sweet little gift bag adds just the right amount of handmade to the whole exchange.  It’s also a great way to give money to anyone in an extra special way…your broke Uncle or ramen-eating sister, anyone really! It is my favorite way to take the awkwardness out a gift of cold hard cash.

How-To Make Zakka Inspired Gift Bags

I find little gift bags so handy that I pulled together ten other inventive ways to use them:


Pattern Sale and Free Tutorials

This is your holiday season!  You are going to rock the handmade this year, I’m sure of it.  It is time to bust out the thread and pre-wash that fabric, it is your hour!  I love the way that handmade gifts make the holiday season so much more amazing; about gratitude and the giving of time above all else.  To jumpstart things and spread the sweet hand-making mojo I’m offering my first ever pattern sale and linking up with some of my favorite gift-giving free tutorials. A Happy Stitch Pattern SaleFirst, the pattern sale.  A whopping 30% off every pattern in my Etsy shop.  All my patterns make items that are great gifts or stocking stuffers and they are filled with pictures and clear instructions.Use the pattern code MAKEME in the coupon code box from now until December 24th.  I’m here for you!  Plus, at 30% off that means some will come to just a bit over $2!

A Happy Stitch Free Patterns

Now, let’s make some stuff for free! Clockwise from the left-hand side: A sturdy, industrial-style apron,  pint-sized bow tie for awesome holiday photos; stitch up some fun pillows or mini-quilts with this half-square triangle tute; exchange duck cloth or canvas for the oilcloth in my perfect pool bag; and tuck treasures into an awesome zipper pouch.

I hope this helps to motive the beginning of a handmade holiday frenzy! Be sure and share what you make with me!

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