Monday, 20 April 2015

The Art of Blogging

Writing a blog, this blog, regularly, was very much on my to-do list as part of the 'making it as a crochet designer' lifestyle change.  Any social media officiando will tell you that this is the way to 'get an audience'.  What they don't say is that you have to be able to think of something engaging/beautiful/entertaining to write at least 2-3 times a week to keep that audience engaged.

I thought this was going to be the easy bit.  It turns out that I find coming up with crochet patterns exceptionally easy.  The only thing that's stopping me is time and RSI.  Writing about it and not thinking that what I've written is deeply tedious and uninteresting is much, much harder.  Technically there's stacks I could write about:

1. How I've planted peas and carrots to take the pressure off the grocery budget (approx 78p a week, BOOM!)
2. All the deeply fascinating things I'm learning from my octogenarian spinning teacher - seriously, there's SO much she's teaching me about all craft
3. How to start up a crochet group and get paid for it (well, that's just at the beginning, but still)
4.  How to randomly email publications you like and offer to write something for them, thus enhancing your craft CV.
(This is 'Bibelot', a quarterly craft and on-line magazine, I love it, so have emailed and asked if I can contribute in anyway).
5.  How to make your own chicken stock from all the leftovers and glow with a smug sense of self-satisfaction

What actually happens is I finally get the beasts to bed, clear up after the day, get the washing on, have a bath without small people coming and asking for things, pathologically check my instagram account for the 17th time that hour, sit down in front of the computer and it all goes blank.

So maybe what I'm sharing with you is this: you need to plan these things out.  When you have an idea, write it down, give yourself prompts so that when you finally get the time (and energy) you've got something to work with.  Let's see how that goes shall we?

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Basic Basket

One of the things that obsesses me a bit as a designer, is that the thing I make is useful.  I love pretty doileys that have had the Dottie Angel treatment, but will probably never make one because it seems like a bit of a fussy nonsense.  I like things with purpose.

Often I'll get an idea for something because it's something we 'need'.  The toys, hero hats and bat cuffs are all to be played with and used.  The countless hats, snoods, hoods, bed rolls, glasses cases and bags are all a response to a 'need'.  The jar covers of previous posts are the only real exception, but were a request from a friend, so they don't count!  Basically I don't 'do' purely decorative, and as soon as I saw my first roll of jersey yarn I knew we were destined to be together in a practical world of delight.  I longed to make a basket.

This isn't my first, but it IS the first that I get to keep, and has been made to hold all the fleecey bits that go along with the new world of the spinning wheel.  I urge you to get making something like this, it's extremely satisfying knowing that the thing you just created will be truly useful.  You can either trot over to my Etsy shop and grab the pattern for this one, or work one up for yourself, either way, you will glow with smug pride for HOURS afterwards.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

In love with Cornwall

Around a week ago I diligently spent 2 whole days cleaning the house, making nutritious and wholesome sauces and packing for all of us to stay with friends in Cornwall for the week.  We left in tipping rain and freezing cold, arrived in a gale, and being on a budget, got in our little rented caravan and spent the night listening to the bed springs vibrate from the sheer force of the wind.

In the morning it was still going, and being British, we headed straight for the beach.  It really was bitterly cold, but so utterly beautiful that the numb cheeks and aching ears didn't really matter. Fortunately I'd taken some yarn and a hook with me - colours that made me think of Cornwall and sunshine, and as soon as we were tucked in and dry I set to work on a hat.

The next day the sun crept in and then it went all-out, glorious sunshine, and we paddled, rock pooled and rolled in the sand and had literally the best time you can imagine.  But I still carried on with the hat, and on the last morning, at 6am when everyone was still sleeping, I snuck out into the mist, popped the finished hat on, and chased the sunrise with my camera through the sand dunes.  It was honestly one of the most joyful moments I have possibly ever experienced, and just goes to show that you don't need money or stuff (apart from wool maybe) to have an amazing time. 

Anyway, here's my last morning at 6am, and the hat - it's a tribute to Angela Lansbury in 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks', and I used a popcorn-shell-granny stitch.  The pattern will be on my Etsy AND newly set up Ravelry shop (see, I did it!) very soon.

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!