Archive | January 2016

A Greyhound Snood

You’ve seen the photos, I’m sure, of the dogs wearing the hooded cowl-type things? Well, that’s called a snood and they’re popular for greyhounds because apparently they get cold more quickly than other breeds. I got a request for one the other day, and it’s been a fun project so far. It’s unusual and different, and I like the idea of keeping a puppy warm! I chose a machine-washable yarn since even though the dog is “reasonably clean dog” (what does that even mean? My dogs don’t speak that language!), she’s still a dog. I’m using the Pointy Greyhound Hood pattern. Most of the patterns were just the cowl/neckwarmer but she specifically wanted a hood, so a hood she’ll get! I cast on last night and it’s going quickly so far. IMG_4970It’s cool because you start with the ribbing in the round, which is what goes around her face, then you take part of the stitches and knit flat for a while, then you join in the round again for the pointy hat part. It was also interesting to see how much my tension differed from knitting flat on straights (lower portion) to knitting in the round on DPNs.IMG_4971Yep, I used the same size needles. Big difference, huh? Anyway, once I’m done with the pointy hat bit, I’ll go back to those open stitches (the ones at the bottom still on a circular needle), pick up some more, and knit in the round again for the neck portion. It’s a nifty design, and I can’t wait to see it on the pretty pup! Not my pretty pup, though. I’m afraid it wouldn’t last long. He may look docile but when he and Grace get going, they’re pretty crazy.

I wish you a happy Friday, and Jack wishes you happy napping!IMG_4960

Purple Beanie

I worked on a WIP yesterday. It was boring: all gray, all garter stitch. But I made some progress and I have hope that someday I will be able to switch to the third color (teal).IMG_4966I guess this is good TV knitting. I don’t have to think AT ALL. But that’s also why it’s boring. So mostly I worked on a hat, and today it’s done! IMG_4963IMG_4964This is the Purl Swirl Beanie, and I love it. You can make it as slouchy as you want, so I knit to about 7″ before starting the decreases. The pattern is extremely simple but gives the hat a really interesting look and texture. I used Dream in Color Classy, a superwash merino that might be one of my favorite yarns to knit with. It’s not soft in the same way as alpaca; it’s more…crisp. That makes it behave well on the needles and have great stitch definition. The funny thing is that when I went to update the project page on Ravelry, supposedly I had two skeins of the same yarn. This is what I found: IMG_4967They have the same label on them, same color code and everything. But that’s a HUGE difference! I guess this is why they say to make sure you get skeins from the same dye lot! Still, I’m delighted to discover I have more Dream in Color yarn than I realized. Before I can cast on with it, though, I have a new commission: a greyhound snood! It’s a fun pattern, one with a hood, and it’s for one of my daughter’s teachers. (The teacher’s dog, that is.) And of course I don’t have the right yarn, so a trip to Michaels is in store for me today. Might even hop over to Office Max while I’m out there. Yarn AND office supplies? That’s a great day!

New Hat Photos

Yesterday I borrowed my daughter again, this time to model hats. I experimented with the backyard this time and discovered the late-day light is much better in the front. Still, I was pleased enough with the results. IMG_4913IMG_4914This is The Journey Hat. I love the look, but it came out really big. Part of it was me, accidentally knitting it longer than I was supposed to, but part of it was just…it came out big all around. How was my gauge, you ask? No idea. I don’t do that for hats, LOL! It’s still a good adult size, would be perfect for those with big heads or lots of hair, and it’s super slouchy. Plus, the yarn is divine. It’s KnitPicks Preciosa Tonal, two strands held together, and it’s so wonderfully soft and warm.

Here’s the gray newsboy cap, crochet this time!IMG_4962IMG_4964This pattern is called Newsie and it’s super fast. It was a little snug on my big-headed girl but fits me fine. I’ve also made this size for my niece (who’s 7) and it’s great for her too. If you’re interested in hers, find the Ravelry page here.

Another Slouchy Broken Rib Hat, Ravelry notes here.IMG_4957IMG_4952

And here are a couple of better photos of the hat I showed you yesterday. I’m calling it the Snowfall Hat. IMG_4922IMG_4925IMG_4934I’m quite pleased with this pattern, The Hipster Slouchy Hat. I love how it slouches in the back without being too poofy; I think it might be a better style for me to actually wear. I just need to find some appropriately purple bulky yarn.

I’m now down to seven WIPs and my goal is to finish at least one today. I’ve been out to lunch with friends the last two days, and while I had a wonderful time, I need a quiet day to rest and recharge. Knitting is the best way for me to do that. And it just so happens I can hang out in my pajamas and drink tea all day at the same time!

Fear and Self-Loathing

Most of us have days when we’re full of those two emotions, am I right? Today is one of those days for me. Besides my life as a mom and wife, I have my passions: my yarn craft, my writing, my proofreading. If I’m not succeeding at those, I feel like I’m failing as a person. Whether that’s right or wrong doesn’t matter. It just is. The brain doesn’t function that way, or at least mine doesn’t. I need to train myself to define “success” more loosely.

So yesterday, you might have seen, I posted about starting a sale on my Etsy shop. I wrote about it here, and I posted a photo on Facebook. I tried to boost the photo but it was rejected, so I tried again with a different photo. Maybe I was obnoxious about it because someone unliked my page yesterday. This morning, I found that I’d lost two more likes. Does it matter? It shouldn’t. It’s not a comment on ME. Except that my knitting IS me, so a rejection of that does feel personal. Thankfully, I also got two new likes (YAY) so that made me feel better. Maybe I should get rid of the Facebook page and just focus on Etsy. I get so caught up in the numbers that I lose focus of what really matters.

Those of you with small crafty businesses, what do you do? Does FB help or hinder you?

Also, rejection just sucks, doesn’t it?

Yesterday, I also handed off my manuscript to a new reader, a former co-worker, and I’m anxious to hear her feedback. What if it’s horrible? I don’t always think it is, but today I do. And soon, I’ll be sending this piece of myself out to agents to critique, and reject.

Yes, rejection sucks. But I guess that’s the risk you take when you put yourself out there, isn’t it? And you just have to keep going to find the reward: those people who truly love what you’re doing and who aren’t shy about saying so. It’s too bad those voices are less frequent and harder to hear/believe.

But here’s the bright spot of my day: I have a potential proofreading client, and as much I love proofreading, I think I need to bump that up in my priorities. I love being that person who helps others shine. So getting a basic website up is on my To Do list, and soon. I’m sure I’ll share it when it’s up!

I’ll close with another highlight. I finished another project last night, a fun slouch hat with some of my newer yarn. I love it, can’t wait to get some better photos so I can list it on Etsy. IMG_4932

I have my knitting, but what about you? How do you cope with rejection, with fear and self-loathing?

A Scarf, a book and an Etsy Sale!

Today’s post will be quick and a bit scrambled, I think, much like my brain today. First, some happy news: I finished the scarf commission, hooray! It will ship out tomorrow and complete that order. Now I can move on to finishing my eight other WIPs without guilt. Here’s a terrible photo that doesn’t show any good details…because it’s so darn hard to photograph black yarn. IMG_4916But just to prove that I’m not a complete and utter photo slouch, here’s a better one that I took last night. I’m pleased with it; it’s soft and cozy. IMG_4915

Second, I’m taking my manuscript and handing it off to my first co-worker reader! It’s a little scary and a little exciting at the same time. I hope she likes it, but I also hope I get good feedback. We’re having lunch too, which is why I don’t have time for a long post today.

Finally, I decided to do a sale on my Etsy shop for Valentine’s Day! I try to keep my prices affordable all the time, so I very rarely do discounts, but I figured, what the heck. Let’s try it and see what happens. So I’ve done a Facebook boost to hit a bigger audience, and you can see that here. Fingers crossed! IMG_4917

Happy Monday, friends!

I bought more yarn

This proves it: I am weak. I couldn’t even go a month without buying new yarn. I lasted 23 days. Then I made the mistake of going to Michaels. I was just going to get some Yoda green yarn to have on hand, and darn it, all the yarn was on sale. Even with that, I resisted until the very end, when I found some lovely variegated bulky skeins. Mostly acrylic but with a nice wooly feel to them. Then I found a display with these value packs, two skeins (1060 yards total) for $5.99. That seemed like too good a deal to resist. Sure it’s all acrylic, but they’ll make great inexpensive pieces for kids and my craft shows. The bags were sealed but someone had torn one open so I made sure to get a feel for the yarn before I bought it. IMG_4898IMG_4897Aren’t these awesome colors?

That wasn’t too terrible, but then yesterday we took a day trip to northwest Missouri. The girl was in an all-day honor band at Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, which is about an hour and a half away from us. At first we figured we’d stay in Maryville…but even the lone Starbucks inside the library was closed, and the biggest attraction in town was Walmart. So instead we drove to St. Joseph for the day, where we toured four antique malls and a real live yarn store! The Red Barn Yarn Farm was small but had a fantastic selection of yarns, and the staff was super friendly and helpful. Of course I needed some souvenir yarn, right?IMG_4902IMG_4903Malabrigo Worsted in Periwinkle. IMG_4904Malabrigo Worsted in Pink Frost.IMG_4905This Lustra isn’t the softest yarn against my cheek but I adore the color and the sheen. It won’t be something for me but I had to have some to play with.

I did have a bit of knitting time too. I wanted to work on this hat but forgot to bring the bigger needles for when it was time to switch to the body, oops! Fortunately, I’d brought my black scarf commission with me and I made good progress on that. IMG_4907I forgot! I found buttons at the antique mall too! Most of the time they’re loose in jars and I don’t want to pay $15 for a jar of tiny random buttons. But I love it when I find the cards of vintage buttons for a good price.IMG_4909So yeah, I broke my streak big time. But it sure was fun! And I’m back in the mode of “Knit all the things NOW!” I’ve got so many WIPs on my needles and so many ideas for new projects that I think it’s the tiniest bit overwhelming. Today I might focus on the scarf; that’s the highest priority and getting done will ease my mind. What do you think, can I knit 3/4 of a scarf in one day?

Photo Editing of Yarn Stuff

Yesterday was spent without yarn in my hands and strangely, it felt okay. That’s not to say I avoided yarn completely. Instead, I worked on photos for my Bonny Knits business. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while but wasn’t sure what apps or programs would be best. Photoshop is the obvious one, but it’s too expensive for my needs.

Thanks to a fellow fiber friend, I discovered PicMonkey and started playing around with the free Basic version. It has a good variety of effects, overlays, themes and fonts for free, which is great. The biggest flaw is how slowly it runs on my computer, and I’m not sure how much to blame on the site and how much on my laptop. When there’s nothing else open on my computer, I can use it without too much frustration. Here are a couple of early attempts. yodaHeartbeatLoveHatSadly, this one has a wee typo (should be ‘shop’, not ‘shops’) and I couldn’t go back and edit once I saved. It would have to be re-done completely. I don’t know if that’s something that’s different in the paid services, but it would be nice to keep the images in a library and edit them easily.

Then I tried Foto Editor Lite, another free app, this time on my phone. There were some different filters that I liked a lot, ones that seemed to alter the background without changing the focus of the photo too much. The text was easy to add and alter, but the app crashed a few times while I was editing text, and I’d lose everything I’d done. Still, I liked it well enough for a quick edit of photos on my phone that I could then easily post on Twitter or Instagram. IMG_4889

Then I moved to the iPad and played with LiPix, another free app. It’s easy to use with a ton of variety in frames and shapes. You can alter the colors yourself to get just the right shade. It has just as many filters as Instagram, if not more. Adding text was simple, with great options for color and font. There were stickers you could add, which were fun, probably not something I’d use for this kind of thing but great for personal photos. I think this might have been my favorite of the three. It was easier for me to work on the iPad than the phone, it didn’t crash once, it had a ton of variety for free, and the photos were easy to save and share. IMG_0348IMG_0349There you have it, if you’ve been looking for ways to spice up your photos but like me, didn’t know where to start. I’m looking forward to all the fun images I can create!

On Writing, and Friendship

Does anyone else have writing ADD? I’ve got two readers for my memoir, and I should be working on query letters and proposals and all that stuff, and instead, I fell back into an old novel. It’s the first one I ever wrote years ago, and I took it out of the file cabinet to see if it was worth salvaging. Well. I think it might be. And that’s great! Except now I’m distracted, and I just want to work on this now, and I have ideas for where to take the story and I think there could even be a sequel kind of thing…and all of this is more interesting than query letters and proposals. Sigh.

I also have so many friends and former co-workers saying they can’t wait to read the memoir, and that’s exciting! But it’s frustrating, too, because if I’m serious about trying traditional publishing, it will take ages. First you have to query tons of agents, then once you find the right one, they’ll make you revise again (Just guessing. Doubtful the book will be perfect in their eyes.) Then they have to find a publisher for you, then you probably have to wait forever before you actually have a beautiful hardbound little book in your hands.

But if I self-published, it could be available…immediately! I do like immediate gratification. And to be honest, I’m feeling discouraged about the odds of finding an agent. There are so many good books written every year, and I know memoirs don’t sell as well as fiction so they have to be amazing to even be published. I’m struggling to believe that my story is that compelling to a large audience. I’m pretending that I think it’s well-written, and I think there are some widely relevant themes, but enough to sell so many copies to make an agent/publisher take a chance on it? I don’t know.

Maybe the problem is that I just read “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess), and her memoir was just…awesome. Hysterically funny, touching, sad, inspiring, comforting. I want to run out and get her other book right now. I can’t compete with THAT. I know what she’d say to me, though. “Don’t f@*&^%$ compete with me! Do your own thing because you’ve got your own awesome s*#@% going on!”

So here’s my new plan, decided upon this very moment: I’m going to allow myself a break from the memoir while my readers read. Once I get their feedback, I will revise based on that, and then I will dive into queries. And proposals, ugh. Maybe I’ll start with the agents who don’t require proposals for memoirs! Until then, I’ll work on the novel. It will be my distraction while I wait for my readers to finish.

Whew, glad we got that taken care of. Maybe you can help with my other problem. I’ve got this friend. She used to be one of my best friends, then we drifted apart a few years ago. At first I tried really hard to keep it going, but she would always put me off or not respond to texts. I gave up. Many months later, she was back, apologizing, and we got together again. It was always sporadic because…well, life, you know. That was fine. But I’ve tried a few more times to get together with her, and she’s back to the same habits.

I’ve heard that same quote that you have, about not making someone a priority if they don’t do the same for you. But here’s my question: what if it’s not about that? What if she’s feeling anti-social and isolating herself because of emotional issues? I’ve never known her to struggle with depression but I know how that can be hidden. She’s been through a lot the last year or so, and I remember when I was feeling really bad, I pushed away almost all of my friends because it was too hard to connect with people. What if that’s what she’s doing? Does it matter? I guess the end result is the same. The difference would be how I feel about it. Right now I feel hurt, disappointed, and ready to be done with it. If I truly thought it was caused by emotional issues, maybe I would be more forgiving. Then again, this is a long-term habit, not something recent. So maybe it’s just an indication that we’ve outgrown the friendship. It served its purpose at the time, and now we both need different things from different people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I need to not take it personally, and focus on the wonderful friendships I do have. Do you agree? Have you outgrown friends before? Is it always this awkward and painful?

Oh, and one last thing: Yay! The temperature in my house is consistently above 60 degrees! We paid someone from a heating company 50 bucks to tell us that the system is working as it should, it’s just that 1) the unit for the downstairs is too small and 2) it’s not the right system for this climate. We have a heat pump with electric furnace for supplementary heat, and it just can’t keep up with the frigid Midwestern winters. And neither of those things can be remedied by the home warranty. We’ll just have to make do until we can save up to replace the furnace with a gas unit. Until then, anyone use radiators? Do they put out good heat? Are they worth trying to get the boiler functioning again? We have evidence of water damage from them on the floors; is that a big problem?

Thanks for listening today, friends. You’re as much therapy for me as my puppy is. IMG_4874

Back to the Hats

Today I am holed up in my bedroom because it’s 10 degrees outside and the heat pump in this house can’t keep up. My bedroom gets lots of lovely sunlight and somehow is the warmest room in the house, so here is where I will be until the temperature in my living room rises above 60.

After spending most of last week working on my book, I spent Saturday on the hard part: the query letter! Ugh. It’s so hard to condense it down to a really intriguing summary. I also worked on Twitter pitches, since I see lots of contests there, and that’s even harder! Once I had a good start on those, I decided to take a break and spend the rest of the weekend with yarn. I have already finished 11 projects this year, and all of it them have been from stash yarn! That’s a good start, I think, and it’s already been 18 days. Whew! Wonder how long I’ll make it before I weaken and buy yarn again.

Anyway, new hats! First one is a newsboy cap in gray acrylic. I ran out of yarn during the making of the brim but thankfully I had a tiny ball of the same yarn in my leftover bin. And that, my friends, is why I keep all the yarn leftover from a project. You just never know when it will save a project!  IMG_4829IMG_4827IMG_4828It was nice to switch to crochet, especially bulky yarn with a big hook. This hat worked up so quickly!

Second hat was another slouchy broken rib beanie with the rest of the denim blue KnitPicks Brava bulky. It took me exactly as long as Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire. IMG_4852After that, I wanted to use up the last of the pink Brava. I started a hat, got most of the way through, and realized I didn’t have enough yarn. I frogged and started over with a smaller size, and then Jack said I needed to cuddle with him instead of knit.IMG_4854Once he’d had enough, I finished, and had an adorable baby-size slouch hat!IMG_4856I wish I had a baby girl in my family to model it! Instead, it’ll go in my Etsy/craft show inventory.

Until tomorrow, friends! Wishing you all a peaceful Monday!

I guess I am a writer

Have you ever heard that saying,”If you’re a writer, you must write”? Like, ‘real’ writers feel compelled to write. I do think there’s a little truth to that. For a very long time, I tried to write fiction. I have two completed novels in my file cabinet, but my fiction writing is very sporadic. It’s HARD, you know? A few months ago, I decided that because I didn’t feel called to work on those books, or to write others, I wasn’t a writer. I often get those little “What if” moments, thinking “Oh, that would be a cool story!” But then I don’t do anything with them. Therefore, my self-deprecating brain decided that meant I wasn’t a writer.

But then I had an epiphany: I have this blog. I’ve been writing here for quite a while now. I’ve lost track of how long, but I’m thinking it’s around two years. Before that, I journaled. I was being too limiting: I AM a writer. I do feel compelled to write. I don’t write every day, though I’m trying, but I write often. And even though I started this blog primarily to talk about my knitting, I’ve written about a lot of different things: dogs, depression, loss, grief, parenting, reading, and now writing.

I AM a writer. I may not be a writer of fiction, but I am a writer. The things I am compelled to write are true, they’re stories of me and my experiences, my thoughts, my opinions. Maybe that’s selfish, or egotistical, to think that people would want to read about me. But maybe it’s also helpful to read about real people. I know I enjoy reading other people’s personal stories. They help me learn about myself, feel better about myself. They inspire me and teach me. They help me feel not so alone in this often-hard world. So why couldn’t my stories do the same? It’s a lofty goal, for sure, and I don’t know if I’m there yet. All I know is that this is what compels me to write, this is what comes out easily and with passion, these are the stories that read true.

Years ago, back in the stone age when a writer used manila envelopes, snail mail, and SASEs, I sent my second novel out to agents. I probably queried fifty agents, and I received a LOT of rejection slips. Those were disheartening, of course. But! I received one “Query me later”, one handwritten “Well written but not right for me” and one request for a full. No, I didn’t get an agent, and the book didn’t get published. But given the number of queries agents receive, I consider those responses as small successes. At least three people saw potential in my writing. Not just people, publishing professionals. Why didn’t I keep going, keep pushing with this book? No idea. Laziness, fear, frustration. I also had a young child at the time, so I could have easily gotten distracted. I’ve thought about going back to this book, but again, I haven’t pushed myself. Both my novels were written on old computers and revising them would mean completely re-typing them into my current laptop. Yep, that would be a good opportunity to revise. And I might still. But my current manuscript is where my heart is right now, my little memoir from my retail life. So that’s where I’ll be pushing. The real work begins now, as I move into the realm of query letters and proposals. I have to convince someone that my book matters. What tricks or tips do you have for writing query letters?

Last night, I handed off a freshly printed manuscript to my husband. Then, to distract myself, I started a new hat. It’s a lovely dark emerald green, and it will grow up to be a slouchy hat. IMG_4822