Saturday, 28 March 2015

The World Actually Ended

You'd have thought that, what with this blog allegedly being a means of engaging with the world and maybe helping to add to my now meager income through getting people to have a look at my Etsy shop, I'd actually be putting more time into it.  I have two excuses:

1. There's too much swanning around, getting lovely little jobs with indie yarn companies (The Uncommon Thread, will get into that on another post, it's bloody gorgeous), learning how to spin from octogenarian craft witches and being swallowed by the sofa, covered in yarn while I make stuff.

2.  I LOST MY PHONE!!  All my lovely pics of bits of yarn, a new basket pattern, spinning lessons, the children covered in pen.  My diary, which is now even more heavily used since I'm all over the place all the time.  My numbers, contacts, emails, notes I'd made EVERYTHING.  The world ended, I lost a limb, all tragedy ever experienced was felt in that moment of realisation that it was still on the train.  No, I didn't use the icloud, or back it up, yes I should have done, but I honestly thought "what idiot would go and lose a new iphone?"  This idiot apparently.

You can see all the pics over on instagram, but I can't work out how to get them off there and in my computer.  Mr.Steel&Stitch has stepped in and filled the void with a spare handset he had, so hopefully things will get back on track in the next few days.

For now, here is the thrilling product of my last spinning lesson; I made wool!  And then proceeded to cradle it like a tiny birds nest all the way home.


Friday, 20 March 2015

I'm in love...

It's a good few weeks since leaving the real world and it's a genuinely unsettling experience.  I truly realised this one Wednesday morning, while waiting to meet a woman about a spinning wheel, when I pulled in to a little lay by near a local nature reserve and sat watching roosting crows.  After a while I found myself scrabbling about on the back seat of the car looking for discarded croissant crumbs from the beasts, to feed to the crows in the hope that I might befriend them, and they in turn, would bring me presents. 

This is when it hit me that I was lacking the structure and social aspects that a real job provides.  The crows didn't bring me presents.

The second moment I realised that things might be getting a bit out of hand was a little later on the same day, when I went to meet an accountant to discuss how to Do Things Properly.  He looked at my projected income for the year and said:  "so this is clearly a lifestyle choice as opposed to making any money?"  I giggled like a lunatic for a good 20 minutes.

But who cares, because I BOUGHT THE SPINNING WHEEL!  And even more amazingly, the phenomenal craft-witch that I bought it from has offered to teach me how to use it, as well as sharing with me all her astonishing crafty secrets.  This gorgeous creature is 83 years old and can spin yarn from almost anything, she's made yarn from nettles and dyed them with Dhalias from her garden!  I nearly fainted with glee.  So not only do I have a real human (not a crow) with whom I shall have regular contact, but as I learn I shall share the joy here and have contact with you lovely people.



Thursday, 19 March 2015

How to Make Money from Crochet - last one!

I know this has been epic, and a bit drawn out, but hopefully it's of some use.  Here's the last installment, but it's nice and short!


Somehow I was still finding time to make some stuff for us at home, again I’d pop pics on the blog and after the first book was finished, they asked if I’d be interested in doing another – based on some of the big hook bits I’d shared on the blog.  This was much harder as I didn’t have 20 patterns already to go, so I had 35 makes to do in 4 months.  AND still doing the day job, school run blah blah blah.  It was just far too much, and I worked out that if I was careful I’d be able to make it through 6 months with the income from the books.  So I’ve quit the office job, aaaagghhh….

But it’s ok, because now I have time to do all the things I haven’t had time to do, here’s my list of what’s next:

1. Open a Ravelry account and start selling there – it’s much more the ‘industry’ standard

2. Set up a website, or at least work out how to get proper tabs on my blog so I can have links to different things

3. Get involved in the amazing online world of yarn lovers and makers

4. Get out to craft fairs and expos and meet people with similar interests, you never know where new relationships will take you

5. Find a part-time job – while this is amazing, there are still little mouths that need feeding, and it’ll take the edge off that worry

6. Start working on the next crochet collection!
So this is the beginning of the next collection, it's a work in progress - I'd get horribly bored if I didn't keep learning, so it's all tapestry  crochet based as that's what I'm enjoying learning at the moment.  I figure this is a good excuse to get the ravelry account up and running, so you can all get your paws on these patterns asap!

Summer bag - so excited to use this!
Sunglasses case, simple but extremely effective

Super cute jar holders in spring colours

Friday, 13 March 2015

How to Make Money from Crocher - Part IV


I know this is taking a while, but it's worth it, honestly!
...Whilst in the shop, sketching out the patterns, a very wonderful human being called Claire Richardson came in, saw what I was doing and told me to contact the publishers she worked with.  So sadly Claire is no longer with us and I wish I could thank her for her advice and encouragement, she was an amazing photographer and a deeply kind person, just wanted to say that.  It took me a long time to get the courage up to email them, but after a bit of research in what publishers are looking for, finally I did, and within a few weeks they got back to me.  Now this is important, I sent them:
1. Synopsis – an outline of themes and features in the book
2. Contents list – of what all the patterns that would be in the book
3. Introduction – a little bit about me and what I thought it would say at the front of the book
4. Some sample patterns
5. Photographs of the finished makes
6. Links ot my blog and Etsy shop
Images of the finished makes

A couple of weeks later I was at the CICO offices with a bag of slightly bonkers stuff I’d made for my children to play in, a terribly over excited manner and a little bit of fear sweat.  They were really welcoming and very professional. We chatted through the contents, ideally you need around 35 patterns for a book, I had about 20, so we went through other characters and makes and came to a list of 15 new things I could make to complete the collection. 
Invaluable to this was having had an Etsy shop with a good, solid history of pattern sales, it meant that they were confident that I could write patterns that people understood and there was a market for them.  The blog was also really useful, because they could see my writing style and we had the number of hits for the downloads of some of the free patterns, which were in the thousands, which again gave them confidence that people were interested in the patterns I was writing.
 
The publishing process takes about a year start to finish:
3-4 months to do the makes and write the patterns
2-3 months to do the pattern checking, proof reading and editing
3-4 months for the actual printing and shipping
I was still working the office job and doing the school run and all of the regular, daily stuff, and I won’t lie, it suddenly felt like a lot of work.  Sure I’ve sat up late making an emergency Mr.Twit beard for school the next day, but I’ve never made 15 things in 12 weeks.  It was a massive juggling act, and I learned a lot about my own creative process – I’ll sketch something out and work to that sketch, but I’m also used to having the time to take it all apart and start again, to modify and improve on things, so it was real challenge.  Having said all that, I loved every RSI inducing, finger blistering minute of it.
Then there were the months of tweaking and amending things so they made sense.   Now I learned to crochet on youtube using US terminology, and I only learned 2 stitches and then wandered off, very happily experimenting and making things up as I went along.  It’s one of the reasons that a lot of the things I’ve made are pretty original, I’ve never been bound by any taught techniques or approaches.   It does mean however, that the amazing but now long-suffering Rachel  (check out her lovely blog ‘my life in knitwear’) who has done a fantastic job of proofing all the patterns, had to get in touch and tell me that some of the stitches I’d used didn’t exist, and I had to scrabble around frantically working out what they should be.
Then my part in it was done.  CICO photographed, styled, designed and managed everything else.  A friend asked how I could let someone else take my creative vision and make it look how they wanted it.  It’s a fair question, and it is really odd because you will always have something in your minds eye that fits in with your own personal aesthetic (mine sits in a slightly 1970’s print thing), and will invariably be completely different from someone else’s.  The key is to let go, AND I was confident that CICO know how to make books that people want to buy, and they really did style it all so gorgeously and charmingly that there’s no way I could have been unhappy!

Monday, 9 March 2015

I heart Molla Mills or 'How to Tapestry Crochet'

A few months back I came across the undeniable pin-up of crochet, Molla Mills.  Self-published, her completely gorgeous 'Modern Crochet' book goes against typical publishing convention, with graphic black and white designs and fire engine red nails.  It's sexy as hell and I love it.  

She uses a technique called tapestry crochet, where you 'carry' different coloured yarns, working over the colours you're not using, and swapping to the colour you want before finishing a stitch. The instructions in her book are beautifully clear, but here's an excellent, quick demo from youtube.  It's a really simple technique to master, but working with pattern and colour are a completely new field for me.

I've been lost in my sofa for the last three weeks, trialling different approaches, and here's what I've learned.

a. working in the round can give the tidiest finish, but your design will lean to one side so it's not so good for an image or more complicated design.

Working in the round is great for geometric designs.

b. Turning at the end of each row will give a slighty rougher 'edge' to your design, but works well for a bigger pattern and doesn't lean
 
c. Working only one way - so chopping off your yarn and starting again from the same end each time means your design doesn't slope, you get a nice tidy finish, but the work itself leans to one side (and you have a lot of ends to weave in).
 
 The top piece is worked turning at the end of each row,
the bottom piece is worked only one way.

 To get a lovely, neat, cross design I worked it only one way,
but had to fight with sewing the piece together as the finished piece 
wasn't straight.

Discarded attempts as I got to grips with how different designs
and techniques work-up.

Monday, 2 March 2015

How to Make Money from Crochet - Part III


Ok, so there's probably going to be 2 more parts to this, and then hopefully I can draw up a list of sensible conclusions, summarise them and have that handy, neat little list I couldn't work out in the first post.
I must have sold my first pattern on Etsy about three years ago, and although I didn’t act on it for a couple of years (what with children turning up and businesses to open) it definitely gave me a lot of confidence in my making.  Every time I made something else for the boys, I’d write it up and put it on there, and it all pottered along very gently, but continuously, and all I’d need to do was send an email or relist the pattern.  I also started this blog at the same time, I’m only now getting involved with the blogging community and understanding the potential of a space like this, but for ages I’ve used it to share patterns that I wasn’t comfortable selling (from TV show and things), and as a handy way to get people to come over and look at the stuff for sale on the Etsy shop.
I had the extreme good fortune a couple of years ago to meet foodwriter and photographer Alastair Hendy.  I helped him set up and open his very beautiful concept shop and kitchen, and manage his Elizabethan house that is open to the public a couple of times a year.  I learned such an enormous amount from him with regards to photography – how to use natural light, styling, you name it, it’s been invaluable, and you’ll see straight away in the pics below which were taken BA (before Alastair) and which are taken AA (After Alastair).  The other thing he gave me was an insight in how to work successfully as a creative person.  
 
1. He values his time and isn’t afraid to say what he’s worth

2. He doesn’t do just one thing, he does lots of things – photography, writing, styling, cooking

3. He isn’t afraid of approaching someone with an idea, whether it’s for a book or an article or anything

4. He sticks to his aesthetic – he doesn’t water things down to be ‘commercial’, he follows his creative vision
It was the experience of working with him (and the fact that he made it look effortlessly easy) that gave me the confidence to think I could write a book.  I had enough crochet patterns to form a collection of children’s dress-up, I just needed to find someone to ask.
 A 'BA' pic, you can REALLY see the difference!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Free Crochet Mr Twit Beard Pattern

It's super chaotic here at the moment, so no time to do a proper write up, but I thought you might need this.

We have World Book Day on Thursday, and big beast wants to go as Mr.Twit.  Whipped up this quick beard pattern to festoon with bits of food.  Eldest nephew has just called to ask for one to be Mr.Gum so gotta go. 

If you have a beard emergency, this free, shorthand crochet pattern is for you xxx