Archive | January 2016

Writing a Book is Hard

I wrote this thing, this book-type thing. It’s a memoir of my years in retail management, and I’ve been working on it for over five years now. Today, I finished it. I’ve done all I can do by myself. I’ve written, re-written, re-organized, cut and pasted and added and deleted. I’ve read it and re-read it, had a few people read early versions that bear little resemblance to the manuscript now sitting beside me. And I think it’s done. I mean, of course, it’s not DONE done. I’m sure there will be more edits in the future. But I feel good about it (as good as one can feel about their own writing). It FEELS done. I think the major revisions are done, and now it’ll be tweaking to take out boring sections, flesh out good sections, building up the themes. For that, I need people.

My husband will be first, and I know he will be supportive and encouraging, and gentle in his suggestions. I’ve got a former co-worker in mind too, to make sure I wasn’t unfairly harsh or critical of our team. She’s a smart, well-read woman whom I trust to be honest but kind. And then I need someone who’s not related to me and who wasn’t part of that retail world, and I’m still pondering that. How do you find a good beta reader?

Then, I have to figure out what steps to take next. It would seem that memoirs are hard to sell, based on what I’ve read from agents. They need to be exceptional, and I’m not convinced I am, or that my story is. I’m a good writer, but does this story stand out? Why would a reader pick my book? What would they get from it? Is my story different enough from so many others? Would an agent even consider me without a strong platform? What the heck IS a platform anyway?

I’m still trying to find answers to those. And I’m pondering self-publishing too. It would be quicker, and I know that most of my former co-workers would love to read it. But I can’t help it: there’s a part of me that wants the validation of traditional publication. It would mean that someone out there valued my writing, thought it was worthy of sharing with the world. But why does that matter to me? Why can’t my own opinion be enough? Because I’ve seen too many self-published books that should never have been published, and I don’t want people to put me in that category.

So I’m going to find the list of memoir-friendly agents that I made, and I’m going to start researching. What do I lose by trying? (I mean besides my self-esteem and confidence.) Maybe I’ll get rejected 100 times, and then I’ll reconsider self-publishing. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that one agent who thinks it’s worthy. Wouldn’t that be something?

A Knitted Mug & a Bulky Cowl

Yesterday the mother and I went to Hallmark to investigate the after-Christmas sale, and though it was pretty picked over, I found one thing that made the whole trip worthwhile: IMG_4796It’s a mug that looks KNITTED!! Isn’t that so cool? It was the only one left, and it came with this nifty napkin too:IMG_4797with a “knitted” snowflake design! But wait, there’s more that makes this an amazing find…IMG_4798IT MATCHES MY TEAPOT!! This is the teapot I got for Christmas a year ago, and now it’s a fabulous set. Plus, I only paid $4.25 for the mug. Sighhh. I love sales, don’t you?

After the shopping, I came home and finished the red bulky cowl during Jeopardy. IMG_4802This one is definitely kid-sized. I now have a backlog of 5 items that need to be photographed and added to my Etsy shop. I guess that should be my agenda today…once I remove the dog hairs. Oops! There is clearly much shedding going on in my house right now. Oh, who am I kidding? There’s always much shedding in my house. Note to self: buy more lint rollers.

A Bulky Baby Hat

I’m having fun using up my stash of bulky acrylic. I’ve had all this KnitPicks Brava Bulky just hanging around, and I think I was saving it in case I needed it for something. Nope, I don’t know what. Yep, it’s a silly idea. So now I’m using it! It knits up quickly on big needles, meaning less stress on my elbow, and it gives me some inexpensive inventory for my Etsy shop. Yesterday I made a little baby hat in a couple of hours.IMG_4793It joins the two cowls already made. IMG_4791Last night I cast on for another cowl, red this time, while I watched the Golden Globes (that was NOT a good show, am I right?). But what I really want to cast on is the Color Block Wrap, because I got the last color of yarn I needed! Just look how gorgeous these colors are: IMG_4794I’m trying very hard to tell myself I have to wait until I finish some WIPs first. We’ll see how well that works out; this yarn is calling my name pretty loudly. Happy Monday, friends!

A Cowl on a Puppy

I didn’t go to Michaels yesterday. That feels like a triumph. I could have. I had the car, the freedom, the time, the coupons. But I didn’t. I didn’t need anything from there. I have yarn galore, better yarn than I’d get there. I have needles galore, better needles than they have. So I did my grocery shopping and went home, where after lunch I started a quickie project with yarn from my stash. IMG_4766I had an urge to make a chunky cowl that would work for older kids, so I grabbed two skeins of denim blue Knit Picks Brava Bulky and cast on for a simple cowl. I held two strands together and used size 17 needles, and a couple of hours later, I had a finished object. Jack was my first model. IMG_4774I can’t stand how cute he is here. Now I understand why people put their dogs in sweaters and snoods and things. I can’t, because Grace would chew this up in seconds. But oh, it was adorable while it lasted.IMG_4781This Christmas tree is coming in handy, since it’s right by the big bay windows. Good lighting. Too bad we’re finally going to take it down today!

That’s all the progress for today, kids. I think I need to take a short break from knitting. My elbow has been paining me the last few days, so I told myself last night that I would go a full week without knitting. Of course, in the light of day, I’m second guessing myself, and I don’t know if I’ll make it. But now that the foot is (mostly) healed, I’ve started taking some ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation, and I’m going to keep icing it because that seems to help a lot. So I’ll play it by ear, and let you know…maybe you’ll see knitting, maybe you won’t! But you’ll always see cute puppies. IMG_4782This is what happens whenever I sit on the couch. Puppy friends are the best of friends!

A Hat and A Scarf

I got some lovely, kind comments to yesterday’s Being a Unicorn post; thank you so much! It felt good to write, and I’m feeling more confident about my choices. On a related note, I’ve been playing around with paid posts on Facebook, and they actually seem to work. I’ve done two $5 boosts, and both times I got lots of clicks, post likes, and two page likes. They haven’t made any money for me yet, but given time, they might. Every bit of exposure could lead to those people who love handmade yarn treasures.

Today’s post will be what I was intending to write yesterday before my unicorn self took over. I have two finished projects to show you! A few days ago I wrote about pulling out some old WIPs, and I frogged one and kept one. I actually finished the one I kept that day, and I have no idea why I set it aside before. It was simpler than I remembered, and the yarn is just so soft. I ran out of yarn and had to omit the last two rows of the pattern, but I don’t think it hurt much. IMG_4747IMG_4746IMG_4749It still needs blocked, and then I’ll try to get a good photo of it actually on a person. It’s called the Gallatin Scarf, and here are my Ravelry notes.

I also made another Summer Combination hat, this time with that silky black pima cotton. The only downside to black yarn, other than actually working with black yarn, is trying to photograph it. I’m seriously considering investing in one of those glass mannequin heads. IMG_4756IMG_4757Yep, that’s a bit of dog hair. Obviously this one hasn’t been washed yet.IMG_4760Yep, that’s my Christmas tree. Still up. Whatever.

Oh! Oh, I almost forgot! I have marvelous news! Look, look at this: IMG_4752Those are MY feet! My feet, and both of them are in real shoes! I went to the orthopedist yesterday for my nine-week followup, and the x-rays showed a bony union and I was released from his care. Woohoo!! I don’t have full pain-free range of motion yet, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s not 100% healed or the muscles just need time and work, but I can walk and I can drive! I think my husband was more relieved than I was. Now I just need to remember how to go down stairs like an adult and not a two year old. So what am I doing with my first day of independent freedom? What any mom would do: go to the grocery store! … which happens to be right across the street from Michaels…

Being a Unicorn

It’s no secret that I sell my yarny things. You guys all know about my Etsy shop; heaven knows I talk about it enough. And I’ve talked about the struggles of making it successful, the struggles of pricing and marketing and what to make. I’m always trying to find the ONE THING that will make it click.

Yesterday I saw an Instagram post from a newer Etsy seller, photos of orders she was mailing out. Orders, plural. That rarely happens for me. Of course I went to her shop, and she has beautiful things and lovely photos. Her prices were a tiny bit lower than mine. I was immediately filled with an urge to do what she was doing. I needed to take new photos with a plain background, knit simple things in neutral colors, lower my prices, and I needed to do it NOW!

Then I took a deep breath and returned to normal. I looked at her descriptions, and discovered she’s using a wool/acrylic blend. That can be great yarn; I’ve used it too. But I primarily use high-end all-natural fibers when possible, and those are more expensive. I use patterns that have more detail to them, and those take more time. I often use yarns that aren’t super bulky, and it takes more yarn and more time.

I looked again: her pieces were ivory, gray, white, black, navy. My shop is full of color. Lots of color. Color in the yarn, color in the backgrounds. Rainbow, variegated, stripes–I use a lot of color. It makes me happy. It’s what attracts me to a yarn.

Please understand, none of this is to say that my things are superior in any way. Quite the opposite: most of the time I feel like I’m an amateur on a website full of professionals. Truly, her items were lovely and I’d love to make some similar ones. But it is to say that mine are DIFFERENT, and I have to realize that that’s OKAY. (I’m sorry, I’m capitalizing a lot because these are important ideas for me.)

I need to be a unicorn.

Recently, I was browsing through Etsy’s how-to articles for sellers, and one of them was about how to stand out, and the thing that jumped out at me was “Be a Unicorn”. Be the thing that you don’t see everywhere. Be something unusual and beautiful and interesting. Be yourself. You hear that a lot in a lot of different contexts, but it works well here too.

People buy handmade for a variety of reasons, and one of the biggest is the story. Customers like to be involved, they like the interaction to feel more personal than just a sale, they like to support interesting, passionate makers. If I try to do something just because it works for someone else, I will fail every time. It won’t be authentic. My pieces won’t stand out because they won’t be a product of passion. I cannot copy someone else.

I need to be a unicorn.

So I will continue to use bright, colorful yarns and make bright, colorful pieces that are typically one of a kind. I will continue to make things that spark my creativity rather than things that are “likely to sell” (although I will also continue to hope that someday those two things will be one and the same). I will continue to photograph them on my beautiful daughter outside where you can see a hint of the natural world.

My shop is little, but it’s growing. I’ve gotten glowing reviews and had return customers, and that has to mean something. It means a lot to me as a maker, that’s for sure. Maybe my Etsy shop will never bring me riches. That’s okay. If it allows me to do what I love, if it supports itself, surely that’s enough. After all, success isn’t money. Success is happiness. By that token, I’m successful already.

What about you? Have you embraced your unicorn self?

A Finished Scarf

I did it, yesterday I finished a scarf! I have a commission for two scarves and it’s been going slowly. I made up a pattern using a butterfly stitch to match the butterfly hats I made before Christmas. I can’t share it just yet, because I’d rather the recipient see it first. But the important thing is that finishing one of them freed me to work a bit on some other things. I know, I know, I still need to do the second scarf, but the pressure has eased a bit. The result is this, the beginning of a Honey Cowl in Frolicking Feet DK. IMG_4735Isn’t it just the best thing ever? I could knit this yarn every day and never get tired of it. I’m using size 6 needles to make a dense fabric, and cast on 190 for a longer cowl.

Strange thing, though: this morning I felt the urge to revisit some old WIPs. Back in August, I’d cast on for a Retro Knitting bag but set it aside for craft show knitting. This is the beginning of the bag bottom.IMG_4731Lovely, eh? I do like it. I love the color, and I had visions of a denim lining and clear acrylic handles. But now, after using butterfly stitch to make two hats and a scarf, plus the promise of another scarf, I can’t imagine ever wanting to do this much butterfly stitch again. It has now been frogged. It might still become a bag, but certainly another pattern.

I found my Gallatin scarf project too, which I also started in August. IMG_4730This is lovely Malabrigo Worsted on bigger 10 1/2 needles, and this definitely won’t be frogged! I’ve got it set out so it can become a FO soon. I still have five other WIPs that need attention, but I need to pace myself, right? Especially since I also want to make another slouch hat with this silky pima cotton. IMG_4737The life of a knitter, right? You no sooner finish one project then add two more to your list!

Finally, here’s Jack, waiting as patiently as I for the husband to box up the last Christmas tree. It’s blocking his window view, you see. IMG_4718

A Good Day

Yesterday was a good day indeed. It was the last day of the kids’ winter break, so we celebrated by going to see Mockingjay Part 2. Since I’m still in the boot and not driving, the girl drove! She’s been getting more practice lately and is doing very well, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still get a little freaked out. I try to stay calm, or at least pretend, but there are those moments, you know. Anyway, she did well, and we got there and back safe and sound. And the movie was fantastic! Dark and grim, but we were expecting that. What I wasn’t expecting was to enjoy it more than the book. It was really well-done.

There was still good light when we got home so I stole the girl again for a little photo shoot. I had three cowls that needed photos before they could be posted on Etsy, and she’s the best model I have. Plus, I’d needed to wait for the snow to melt before trying to maneuver around outside in the boot. She was a good sport, and I got some great photos. IMG_4808IMG_4804Purple Paint Cowl. Ravelry notes here and Etsy listing hereIMG_4822Chunky Indigo Cowl. Find it on Ravelry or on EtsyIMG_4828IMG_4833IMG_4831This is my favorite of the three cowls. I love the colors, the pattern, the length, the feel of the silk/merino yarn…everything. You can find my Ravelry notes here, and the listing on Etsy here. If you need the pattern, contact the Hillcreek Yarn Shoppe. It was free with the purchase of the yarn needed. It was called the Textured Multicolor Cowl, and the yarn was a somewhat pricey (but totally worth it) Diana Collection Silk and Merino from Yarns Northwest.

Now my Etsy shop is fully updated, and I even started offering free U.S. shipping. Today my husband is back at work and the kids at school, and that means I have lots of time to make more things for my little shop! I’m housebound for at least another two days. I go back to the orthopedist on Thursday for another x-ray and I’m really hoping I’ll be allowed back into a shoe and driving at that point. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

New Year Knitting

I know the trend is to do some reflecting on the previous year and make goals or hopes or dreams for the coming year, but I have no desire to do a lot of that this year. Last year is done and gone, thank goodness. Yes, some good things happened, the best maybe being our move to a new city, but there was also an awful lot of not-so-good for me. I’m ready to move on, but without putting high expectations on it. I want to knit, I want to read and write and edit, I want to keep trying to be a better person, I want to spend time with friends and family, I want to take care of my husband and kids, and I want to enjoy my puppies. None of those are new things.

That’s not to say I don’t have specific goals; I do. I want to knit from my stash more this year and control my yarn spending. I want to grow my Etsy business. I want to do more craft shows. But again, those aren’t new things. I’ve been doing well at knitting from stash, mostly thanks to the broken foot that kept me housebound. My Etsy shop did well over the holidays so I want to keep that momentum going. Craft shows, well, I’ve been trying to figure those out for ages.

Does any of this make sense? I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say. I guess just that I don’t want to tie it all together to a date. I want these all to be ongoing aspirations. And I think I’m off to a good start! I’ve finished two projects this year. One is a WIP that carried over from last year, and it was knit from stash. This is the Coors Cowl made with CEY Chateau. Originally I was going to do five colors as the pattern specified, but then I discovered that the darker grey I’d chosen wasn’t the same yarn. And once I got two colors knit, I realized five would make it extremely wide. I had to pick a third color, and debated between the pink and the blue…HSDY8293before deciding to use the second skein of purple in my stash. This is for me, after all, and I’ll almost always choose purple. I adore the end result. It’s wide, long enough to wrap twice, and it’s so wonderfully soft and warm and squishy. IMG_4708IMG_4709

My second FO of the new year is my Malabrigo Rasta Cowl. Remember, I just bought this yarn the other day, so it’s not like knitting from deep stash, but it pleases me to use a new yarn quickly rather than stick it in the stash and forget about it. It helps that this is one of the fastest patterns I’ve ever knit. I used the Marian cowl pattern and made no modifications. IMG_4711IMG_4712

That one’s for me too. January is Selfish Knitting Month for most knitters I know! But now I’m ready to focus on other things. I’ve got a scarf commission I’m working on, plus a ton of ideas of things I want to make to sell. I can’t wait to get my boot off so I can get outside and take photos of my new inventory. Maybe the “fresh start” thing is affecting me more than I realized, but either way, I think good things are coming!