My Fiber Arts Journey: A Long Read

Orange and dark gray yarn alternating in rows.
Crochet brioche cowl I completed in 2017: still one of my favorite projects and accessories.

How I Learned Crochet and Knitting

I first picked up knitting needles in college, when a classmate taught me how to knit a scarf. I found the craft soothing once I got the hang of the knit stitch, but then quickly became bored as I just kept going back and forth, back and forth (and as most of us know, scarves are rather long…). This scarf was an on-again, off-again project for roughly 7-8 years.

Prior to moving to Denver, I finally completed this scarf and reignited my interest in knitting and met a couple of like-minded individuals who also knit. I bravely ventured into circular knitting, but double-pointed needles (DPNs) intimidated me.

In the summer of 2012, I had a weekly Saturday morning crafting meetup with my friend Kelli who amazed me with how quickly she crocheted hats. Crocheting seemed easier and faster than knitting to me: here I was, sitting across from Kelli, getting in 2-3 rows on my knitting project each Saturday while she began and finished a hat during those few hours together. That summer, I asked Kelli to teach me how to crochet.

Learning anything new always has a learning curve though: it took me some time to get used to holding the yarn with my left hand and seeing where to poke the crochet hook into in each row/round. I made many mistakes in my first several crochet projects: adding too many stitches per round, using the incorrect hook/yarn size to create bucket-sized hats, etc.

For several years, I focused solely on crochet and thought I wouldn’t get back to knitting–until I started working with a local yarn shop on its social media marketing in late 2016. Then, I decided to restart my knitting journey.

How Many Projects Could I Complete in One Year?

Orange mittens with white squares laying on a black, white, and gray striped comforter.
One of thirty projects completed in 2018.

After restarting my knitting journey in 2017, I also started using my Ravelry account a lot more (Ravelry is a treasure trove for knitters and crocheters: find patterns, yarn information, communities, etc. and also store your own yarn collection aka “stash”, projects, et. al.). At the beginning of 2018, Ravelry came up with its “Challenge” tab, which allows for us to decide how many projects we wanted to complete that year. I hadn’t kept track of how many projects I had worked on every year, so I wasn’t sure how many projects I was actually capable of completing within a year. Still, that didn’t stop me–and I decided to challenge myself to complete 30 projects.

I didn’t have much aim on what *kind* of projects I wanted to complete–I just wanted to prove to myself that I could finish 30 projects. I spent time in 2018 doing more skill building projects with knitting, but with crochet, I generally chose projects that were easy/quick for me to complete–especially towards the end of the year, when I felt the self-imposed pressure to reach my goal, no matter what!

An Attempt to Focus on Building Skills

By the end of 2018, I felt tired, even though I was also glad that I did reach my goal of completing 30 projects. In 2019, I aimed to focus more on building up skills in both crochet and knitting to challenge myself that way–yet I still also set a goal of completing 20 projects by the end of the year.

I made a list of ten skills I wanted to learn in 2019, and was able to accomplish three of them:

  • Crochet a seamless, top-down sweater
  • Knit gloves
  • Use crochet thread (I admit, this goal was an impulse one when I decided that I wanted to use crochet thread to make a tank top…)

Alas, the challenge of completing 20 projects ate away at me again, so towards the end of the year I focused on that vs. skill-building. Throughout the year, I also became distracted with test knits and samples that designers/dyers were requesting their audiences for, plus the self-imposed pressure of making Christmas gifts for my loved ones stressed me out.

2020: Re-Focusing (Soon)

In the last quarter of 2019, I made my 2020 Craft Goals list and shared it with my crafting friends: many of the goals are “recycled” from 2019 since I hadn’t been able to get to them. I haven’t set a goal on my Ravelry challenge for this year, because I find that setting a number of projects for myself has caused me more stress than necessary.

I’ve also had a couple of “reckonings” in the past several months when it comes to me and crafting: I add too much pressure upon myself to keep making gifts for loved ones, and I realize that loved ones will love me regardless if I have a handmade gift for them or a store-bought gift (or none at all–2019 was a tough year, financially). Also, even though I enjoy giving of myself and making for others, I know that I end up hurting myself more: when I first started my knitting and crocheting journeys, I was practicing the arts as a form of stress relief and self-care. Over the years, the practice has become more stress-inducing since I am naturally a people-pleaser, and when someone expresses interest in something handmade, I jump at the chance of helping them out.

So, after I complete a few projects these next couple of months, I plan to be much more intentional about spending my crafting time for myself, since I see that I have neglected my self-care through this practice.


My Reading Habits: Past & Present

Since 2008, I have digitally kept track of the number of books I’ve read annually (with the exception of 2012 and 2013 — not sure what happened those two years). From a quick glance of my “completed books” lists from the past decade, I can deduce the following about my reading habits:

  • I still enjoy reading a mix of nonfiction and fiction, and tend to find myself ‘stuck’ reading a couple nonfiction books at the same time (this is my current predicament).
  • I’m still interested in reading about business (marketing), productivity, and health/nutrition when it comes to nonfiction.
  • In my fiction reading, I have dabbled in YA/fantasy reading in more recent years (last year I finally got around to reading the Harry Potter series, and subsequently watched all the movies).
  • I am not sure why in certain years I read over 20 books, while in other years I would barely eke by with 10 books: lack of inspiration? Lack of time? Hard to say.

From Reading to Listening

In 2019, I completed 19 books, with the majority of them being audiobooks that I checked out from Denver Public Library. I have found that my ‘reading’ habit has changed over to favoring audiobooks in the past couple of years due to the multitasking nature of the format: I can listen to an audiobook and still stare out the window of a bus or focus on a knit/crochet project at the same time.

Digital Reading

I have been trying to use my Kindle more: I received it as a gift in 2010 and it is still full of many books I haven’t read yet. I signed up for a limited-time offer to check out Kindle Unlimited through mid-March, and am so far not impressed with the service (it really isn’t unlimited, so the name is a misnomer). At least I am able to check out the latest issue of Writers Digest through the service, though.

Sparse Bookshelves

My bookshelves at home used to be overflowing with many books I hadn’t had the chance to read (yet). Last summer, in the midst of my job search, I purged most of those books since they had gathered dust/taken up space and had also moved with me through several different apartment moves.

The books that still remain on my shelves are half books I still want to read, and other books that I have read already and enjoyed.

After moving so many times since 2007, I am intentionally cutting down on my purchases (especially with books), since I have experienced one too many times how heavy moving boxes of books can be.

My 2020 reading goals are simple:

  • Read all fiction on my physical bookshelves.
  • Check out a few more books/magazines on Kindle Unlimited, and then cancel my membership.
  • Read at least five books already pre-loaded on my Kindle.
  • Select a few nonfiction books from my bookshelves and read them. I’m not putting an exact number on this goal, since I tend to get bogged down with too many nonfiction books all at once.
  • Limit audiobooks (checked out from the library) to one per month so that I can focus on my current collection at home/digitally.


Looking Back & Looking Forward

East Asian adult woman smiling, wearing neckwarmer and sweater.
New Year’s Eve 2019.

Hello 2020 — as everyone has continued to emphasize, it’s not only the start of another New Year, but also a new decade.

2019 was a series of challenges and important lessons learned, both professionally and personally. Only in the final weeks of the year did I realize that I have had this website and blog for over ten years (launched this website in early 2009).

In the early days of this website, I had set out on my writing ambitions and blogged fairly regularly. 2010 – 2013 were years of transition and big changes, yet I continued to blog on a regular basis as I explored different career options and began my entrepreneurial journey during that time.

In the past five years, my blogging became more and more infrequent as I let myself get caught up in the anxiety of what others thought of me. I am sad to say that there were many times where others’ opinions of me got the best of me expressing myself here.

Well, thanks to 2019’s lessons and challenges, I am renewing my journey here.

Over the next few months, I will be checking in more frequently and will also do a website overhaul. What will I write about? Whatever is on my mind at the time–because it’s time I finally give myself permission again to express myself however I feel, especially with my writing.

family travel

Overseas Travel: Taiwan and Hong Kong

Last month, I had the opportunity to take a ten-day trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong with my parents and brother. Prior to this trip, I hadn’t traveled abroad in the last decade, especially with the ebbs and flows of my career (and my personal finances). This particular trip was well-timed, since it was right after the Christmas holidays, so I could still stay with my family until we departed overseas. This was also a moment where I saw the huge benefit of working for myself/freelancing: I could work from anywhere in the world (of course, I also see the downside of this–I can work from anywhere, and I must keep working at least part-time to make sure I’m able to pay bills!).

Here are a few highlights from the trip:

My Health & Fitness The Great Outdoors

Mount Bierstadt: First 14er and 7 Teachable Moments

During these past six months, I have rededicated myself to investing in my overall health and fitness: I have a monthly membership to a fitness center and have my own personal trainer, who trains me hard twice a week (hi, Brittany!). When it comes to my health and fitness, these days I am not merely working out for aesthetics: I also know that this time around, I am in it for the long haul, and that this is a lifestyle, not a hobby.

We started hiking Mount Bierstadt before dawn and got to enjoy seeing the sunrise on the mountains.
Along the trail towards Mount Bierstadt: look at the beautiful sunrise behind me!

So, what better way to test my endurance than to hike a 14er (if you had asked me this time last year about hiking a 14er, I would have promptly said, “No thank you!”). This is exactly what I did over this past weekend with Ryan.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term “14er”, the term refers to mountain peaks that are 14,000 feet and higher, and Colorado boasts over fifty of them alone. These mountains vary in difficulty in terms of elevation, length of hike, and terrain.

Mount Bierstadt sits at 14,060 feet and is considered a Class 2 mountain to hike.
Mount Bierstadt in the afternoon, with storm clouds rolling in.

It was only last Thursday (July 5th) when Ryan and I decided to hike Mount Bierstadt, which sits at 14,060 feet and is considered a Class 2 mountain. Before this, we had only driven up Pikes Peak and Mount Evans, so Mount Bierstadt was going to be the first 14er for us to hike. I admit, I was a little nervous about hiking it, even though as Ryan researched about the mountain, he said that overall, other hikers seemed to think that the mountain was an ‘easy hike’. I read over a blog post by Laura Skladzinski at 50by25 about her experience with Mount Bierstadt, and the post helped me prepare mentally for the challenging parts of the climb.

The whole hike up and down Mount Bierstadt took us about 9.5 hours round-trip, for a total of 6.9 miles and 2,729 feet in elevation gain (we already started at about 11,000 feet at the trailhead). The trail is very popular among people of all fitness levels, including families–although I am not sure how many of these families made it to the summit. Needless to say, the whole hike exhausted us out, but we made it to the top with relatively no altitude sickness symptoms. Hoorah!

Anyhow, we did take away some lessons from the whole experience, which will be handy for those of you who are curious to try out a 14er in the future.