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Make Cool Stuff: Magic Numbers

Handmade Zombie Plushie made by Emily Greenhause for Jonah

I had the pleasure of attending the Nerdist Podcast Live Show in DC last Friday, and I was thrilled to see lots of handmade nerdiness on display, from knitted hats to entire Doctor Who costumes. All the photos in this post come from DC audience members. Good job, crafty nerds!

Nix Houston (@InfiniteNix) in Handmade Doctor Who

Did your 2012 resolution list have some version of “make cool stuff” on it? Perhaps something along the lines of:

  • Knit a Doctor Who scarf
  • Learn a new programming language
  • Start sketching again
  • Take more photographs of my LEGOs/kids/cats
  • Finally build that self-aware robot butler

If so, congratulations! I’m proud of you and here to lend support. Building a new hobby requires three primary competencies:

  1. Motivation
  2. Skill
  3. Perseverance

Diane Martin (@dihard11) with Doctor Who Scarf

Clearly you have motivation, otherwise you wouldn’t have included knitting/photography/robot construction on your resolution list. If you’ve decided to tackle a completely new skill, our Make Cool Stuff: Theory 101 post will set you on the right course. This leaves us to tackle the trickiest competency of all—perseverance.

It takes perseverance to knit fourteen feet of scarf, to sit down every night to work on your novel or refine your last program. Far easier to give up and watch a Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon (I’m not saying that’s what I’m doing now as I type). Thankfully, that’s where the magic numbers come in.


Magic Numbers


I’d like to introduce you to two powerful numbers: 30 & 365. 30 days in a month, 365 days in a year. Take your pick.

I’m talking about Craft-a-Day projects, and they’re the closest thing to magic I know when it comes to crafting. Pick a project or a technique and commit to creating with it every day for either 30 or 365 days. Here are a few of my personal favorite examples:

  • Noah Scalin’s Skull-A-Day: What began for Noah as a personal daily skull-themed art project has grown into an online skull crafting community, an inspiring blog, and a pair of amazing books on unlocking creativity.
  • Marisa Lynch’s New Dress a Day: Marisa undertook the challenge to make a new dress each day, with a total budget of $365 for the year! Now that the first year is over, she’s continuing her project with submissions from her readers alongside her own creations.
  • 365.2011 in Photos: My friend and photographer Carly Danek posted a photograph to her blog each day in 2011. Not only is it a record of her year, but also a beautiful reflection on the city and nature around her.

Above are all examples of 365 day projects, and each is an amazing record of perseverance, of honoring that personal commitment to create every day. If you’re afraid of committing to an entire year, why not try a 30 day project? Matt Cutts from Google has an excellent TED Talk on the benefits of 30 day commitments:


I recently tried my own 30 day challenge, to write a hand-written thank you note every day, and found it immensely fulfilling. This daily habit of unnecessary creating—creating merely because you feel the need to create—not only pushes you to build your skill in a particular craft, but to expand your idea of creativity within your chosen craft. At some point in the project, you’re going to hit a wall. You’ll have no skulls, no dresses, no photographs left in you. You’ll want to say “screw it” and veg out to another Storage Wars marathon. Resist the urge to give up! Embrace this as your magic moment, for this is when you’ll push yourself to make something new and wonderful.

Simply put, you will have to make the choice between giving up and persevering. In these moments, having made a larger commitment to a project will push you to persevere. And when you are done, celebrate with all the A&E television you can handle.

We’re Here to Help

If you decide to undertake such a project, make sure to share with the class! The Nerdist has The Node, our very own community for discussing all kinds of nerdery, including handmade projects. If you haven’t joined yet, you can request an invitation. Post details of your project over in The Node and/or send me a link to your blog or photos of your projects on Twitter (@HolaMindy). A lovely group of crafty nerds is standing by, ready to offer encouragement!

If you’re a Google+ user, join in my latest experiment, a Sunday evening Make Cool Stuff Show & Tell over in Google+ Hangouts:

  • The next hangout is scheduled for this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. EST/6:00 p.m. Pacific. Sign up here,
  • Bring something cool you made and show it off to the group!
  • If you’re reading this after 01/16/2012, then check my G+ feed for the next hangout sign up.


Good luck with your creating, lovely nerds! I know you’ll persevere.

Mindy loves to make cool stuff and loves seeing the cool stuff other people have made. Send her a link to your fabulous projects on Twitter @HolaMindy or check out her blog.

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  1. Alexander says:

    Hey Mindy! Unfortunately the “request an invitation” link you posted is expired! Is there any other way to get an invitation? Thanks!


  2. Emily G says:

    Such an awesome post for DC Mindy! I’m working on a new plushie pattern every week to see how many different ones I can make this year! Also with that going to Magfest really gave me a lot of info about video game reviews, so I’m starting to work on those as well.I have deadlines for two weeks for some of the video game reviews. Least it all will keep me busy in my spare time! Less boredom is awesome!

  3. -Di. says:

    This is so cool! Excellent article Mindy! I have been inspired to finally start a new writing project. The idea was inspired by a couple of articles at the end of last year.

    So today is the first day of my 30 day challenge!

    Thank you Mindy for including me in your article!