Monday, 29 December 2014

Word of the month project 2015

Rather than going for a word to inspire me in 2015 I have decided to go with a specific word for each month. A year is a heck of a long time and last year I felt that the word I chose at the beginning of the year didn't really fit later on.
Word of the month:Indulge

So this year I will pick a word each month to give me focus and help to inspire me.
As January can be a cold, bleak month here in the northern hemisphere I have decided to be kind to myself and to indulge a little. Like most people I have grand plans involving getting more sleep, drinking less coffee etc but I can also find ways to indulge myself a little and remember that I deserve to be treated kindly too.
I am using the hash tags #wordofthemonth and #janindulge on Instagram and Twitter and will be posting random images and snippets. I'd love it if you would like to join in too - either here or via social media. And at the end of each month I will randomly select one or two posts to receive a free pattern or too as a thank you for joining in.

Monday, 22 December 2014

2015: Plotting and planning (Part II)

Following on from last weeks article on my bullet journal plans, my thoughts naturally turn to the projects that will require organisation and planning in 2015.

I am by nature a "jump in with both feet" kind of gal - and all to often my initial enthusiasm for a new shiny project wanes. With this in mind I am keeping the 2015 plans minimal but with an emphasis on expanding my creativity.

As a scientist by training I am analytical and methodical but the opportunities for creativity are distinctly lacking in my everday life. One of the things which I have so much enjoyed about growing my design and teaching business is that I can explore new ideas in creative and imaginative ways.

I love the idea of having a word for the year - something to give me focus and direction - and I have spent some time working on this and what I might choose. It might just be me but I find the idea of picking just 1 word quite daunting. What if things change? What if I move in a different direction? What if I get bored with that word?

With this in mind I have decided to have a word for each month. To me, this seems more achievable and it gives me the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. I will be posting my "Word of the Month" on the blog and also my various social media - please do feel free to join in if you'd like to.

2015: Plotting and Planning (Part I)

It is that time of year when my thoughts inevitably turn to the new year and things I would like to do differently - or not - as the case may be.

I started using a Bullet Journal back in April 2014 (check) and so far have got through 2 Moleskine notebooks. I have to admit to tapering off slightly in Oct/Nov this year and I did briefly dally with printable templates and electronic systems such as Any Do and Tick Tick.
Moleskine Journals, ready for 2015

Ultimately I came back to the simplicity of good old pen and paper. There is something very grounding about doing a monthly plan and reviewing the previous months entries. I am a chronic procrastinator and can happily put some, seemingly trivial, task off for months at a time. The act of reviewing previous entries and seeing all the unchecked boxes - and having to write the tasks out again is a powerful reminder to adopt the Nike principle and "Just Do It".

Fortunately for me, my DH splurged on a few Moleskine notebooks recently before going back to his digital system, so I have a two shiny new journals to pick from. I'm not quite at the end of Bullet Journal No.2 but I think it is only right than 2015 should start with a new journal, don't you?

The challenge of the "day per page" approach is that if I'm going to use the Bullet Journal I have to use it for everything - home life, domestic stuff, design work, patterns, ideas, pending projects, daily writings/gratitudes. Things can get crowded in there. I am pretty bad at the discipline of indexing too, so things can get messy..and then I can't find things... you get the picture.

Again, I think the principle of "Just Do It" applies here and I just have to remind myself as part of my weekly schedule to update my index as it really does make my life easier as the month progresses.
So, I have the journals ready. I just need to think about my goals for 2015 now.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

How the EU VAT changes will affect me

 Along with the UK's many other micro businesses I have spent the last few weeks quietly contemplating the potential impact of the proposed changes to EU tax law on my own business.

I'm not going to rehash what has been excellently written about elsewhere. For great background pieces on this please see:

What is immediately obvious from the whole sorry saga is that changes for very small creative businesses are essential in order to be compliant by the 1st January 2015 deadline.

As a small and newly created business I am fortunate that the bulk of my current sales are via the wonders of Ravelry. Those same wonders have partnered up with the UK company Love Knitting and come up with a workable solution for UK based sellers of digital patterns. It is still a work in progress but it represents a very welcome and emminently practical solution.

I also sell a smaller number of patterns through Patternfish and thankfully, their proactive and helpful approach means that I am able to continue with this.

Craftsy is the third platform on which I sell patterns and at the time of writing, they have sadly been unable to address the concerns of UK vendors regarding this issue. It is therefore, with regret, that I will be closing my designer account with Craftsy with immediate effect.

There will inevitably be an increase in transaction fees associated with the new system of pattern sales and it is regrettable that this will make UK pattern designers less competitive than those in other countries. The majority of my sock patterns sell at £3 (equivalent to 4.70$ or 3.8 euro). To raise the price much further risks losing sales to other non UK designers and as a newish designer trying to raise my online presence I feel that this is a risk I cannot take at present.
I will therefore be holding my pattern prices at their current level for now and will be reviewing the issue after the first quarter of 2015.

That takes care of existing pattern sales. My plan moving forward into next year was to extend my pattern sales further - offering them for sale on my own website and possibly also through other third-party sites such as Shopify for Facebook. This aspect of my business plan will now be on hold for the next 3-4 months whilst I take time to assess the impact of the new changes and also wait to see whether common sense prevails and the HMRC finds a workable solution - I won't be holding my breath on this one. Maybe I'm an optimist but I remain hopeful that through the power of social media the many and varied voices within the UK's creative industries can bring pressure to bear on the decision makers involved.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

It's all about the KALs

It must be the time of year but suddenly it seems as though KALs  (knit-alongs) are everywhere. If you are anything like me you will need no excuse to abandon your faithful WIPs without a second thought and gleefully dive into the next bright, new, shiny thing - fickle? - me? - surely not.

So with KALs and other events seemingly multiplying like rabbits I did what I normally do and made a list.

And once I'd made a list I thought I should share it with you in case you are feeling the same, slightly festive overload.

KALs - it's all about the list

So, with apologies in advance for the lack of thoroughness ( I haven't attempted to include all KALs - just the ones that have crossed my radar) we have in no particular order:

The Ravelry gift-along (GAL) continues apace with a variety of KALs running. Separated into type of pattern - sweaters, hats, mitts etc there are some great threads here, and a fabulous chatty bunch of people eager to see your projects. #giftalong2014

There is a Mealong running over on the A Playful Day blog and Ravelry group - participants are invited to make a smallish project (originally a single skein of yarn but this has expanded to include different amounts - the group is very relaxed about rules). The project should be something indulgent and for yourself, as a treat at this busy time of year. There are prizes too with the draw happening on Christmas eve.  #MEALONG

In a similar vein there is the Knitmore Girls and their #grinchalong. Sticking with the Knitmore Girls, they have a number of ongoing KALs which are great fun. Largely run on Instagram. browsing the entries using the hashtags #operationsockdrawer is a great way to spend a coffee break. They are also taking part in the long running #projectsweaterchest (in conjunction with Susan B Anderson)

Chrissy of the Stitched Together podcast is hosting a Random Rummage Craftalong which embraces all crafts.It started on Nov 1st and runs until January 31st 2015and must use yarn/fibre etc from your stash. ~#STRRCAL

Eden Cottage Yarns is having a KAL of the amazing Quadratic shawl - designed by the very talented David O'Kelley. This pattern is an absolute classic - I've made one already - and I couldn't resist joining in and making another one. There are some great adaptations so and the KAL thread on the Ravely forum is a great source of inspiration. #quadkal

Helen of Curious Handmade is running a KAL alongside her Knitvent collection for this year. There are some beautiful patterns in this collection - the main challenge is choosing which one to knit first. #giftingzen

And of course I couldn't forget The Golden Skein - who is celebrating their first birthday and hosting a KAL to celebrate. The pattern is a wonderful shawl from Clare Devine - Kunye and the KAL will run from 20th Dec to 1st March 2015 #TGSONEKAL. The shawl is wonderfully elegant and will be just perfect for those few of my Golden Skeins that haven't grown up into projects yet.

The only challenge now is choosing which is to cast on for first - or working out how to do some sneaky double dipping.

Monday, 8 December 2014

#VATMOSS rumbles on

Hot off the press is Vince Cable's carefully considered response to the #VATMOSS situation: here

He seems to neatly sum it up as 'nothing to worry about.

Which is clearly at odds with the conflicting advice given by HMRC

Ho hum.. the saga rumbles on 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

If you aren't yet familiar with the Savvy Girls podcast I wanted to draw your attention to them, not least because their most recent episode - Episode 135 - features, amongst other things my very first experience of being interviewed for audio.

It was an absolute delight to meet Savvy Girl, Melanie on her recent trip to the UK. As part of her visit she came to The Sheep Shop, Cambridge and performed a selection of wartime knitting songs which she has unearthed as part of her painstaking research into the subject. 
Savvy Girl, Melanie performing at The Sheep Shop
Witty, warm and funny - her collections of wartime songs are available to buy on CD. I bought Knitting All The Day and it sparked lively discussion and reminiscences when I shared it with the ladies at my local WI.

After Melanie's performance, there was lots of fun and chatter as we talked about knitting and it's rich history in the UK and it was a little unexpected, but a great delight to be asked about my work as a newbie designer.

Sarah, owner of the Sheep Shop and general all round fabulous person, gives a great interview too. Her enthusiasm and passion for knitting and craft is absolutely infectious and I'm sure it would inspire even a total non-knitter to pick up those needles and have a go. 

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Accidental FO

The accidental FO

How does one accidentally create an FO?

If like me, you tend to jump into things with both feet, it's quite simply really.

A chance mention by Victoria of the wonderful Eden Cottage Yarns about a forthcoming KAL made my knitterly ears prick up. The pattern in question is a wonderful shawl - Quadratic - designed by David O'Kelly. Using 1.5 skeins of sock weight yarn this is a generous garter stitch shawl which uses small scraps of leftovers or mini skeins to create fun, colourful and rather addictive stripes.

Garter stitch - check
Mini skeins - check
2 skeins of delicious ECY Titus sitting in my stash - check

Faster than you can say KNIT! I was off and away.

The work week from hell, kids homework woes (curse you, long division) and a husband working on a different continent meant that I was sorely in need of a soothing garter stitch (and red wine).
Quadratic shawl by David O'Kelly

Without giving away the "secret sauce", the pattern has you start out with a large number of stitches and then work decreases until the end. At the beginning the more closely spaced stripes spur you on to work "just one more row". And once you are past the half way point, the ever decreasing stitch count means that the project just flies off the needles.

It is rare for me to knit a shawl so quickly, especially one with 150m of yarn but this was a true pleasure. A sort of "perfect storm" of pattern, yarn and stress and I am truely delighted with the finished product.

The shawl measures a generous 55" by 25" after very gentle blocking and patting (lots of patting) and it is wonderfully wearable.
Quadratic shawl - in action

Of course there is the minor detail of the fact that I have managed to start and finish the shawl before the official start date of Dec 1st.

Drat! Oh well, I will just have to make another. It's a hard life ;)

For all the KAL details check the ECY group on Ravelry - here

See you there :)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A new pattern: Rosthwaite

And a good morning to you on this cold and frosty day.

I'm really pleased to be able to share my latest pattern with you today - the Rosthwaite socks.
Rosthwaite Socks: Cuff down with an afterthought heel

This pattern was designed as part of my Sock Design Challenge which I ran in September and invited you lovely readers and members of my Ravelry and Facebook pages to vote on key design elements.

The overwhelming vote was for top down socks with some fun stitch detail and nothing too complicated or stressful, and I really hope that you like the finished product as mych as I do.

As a bit of a change for me I have also worked these socks with an afterthought heel. The more I work this heel type the more pleased I am with it and if you have never tried it, maybe this is the project to start you off.

There are a lot of amazing resources on the web and I highly recommend the following as a good place to start.

The Knit Girllls have a fabulous tutorial: here

And excellent blog posts on the subject can be found here and here.

I really do hope you decide to give them a try. As a thank you for all your support and encouragement I'm offering a 25% discount until Nov 30th, 2014 with the code Rosthwaite.

Happy Knitting

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Giftalong Designer Interview

I'm pleased to be able to share another Giftalong Designer Interview with you today. I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Amy (aka PghAmers) on Ravelry who designs wonderful accessories under the label Structured Stitches.

She has some fabulous patterns for sale in the GAL, her website is here and is well worth a look.

Structured Stitches GAL Bundle
What is the thing you enjoy most about being a designer?
This is a tricky one, because I have to design. It’s just something innate in my brain that I have to do on a regular basis. So I’m not designing for a particular outcome, I would still be making up designs even if I wasn’t publishing them.
That said, I think my favorite thing is when a yarn producer loves the design I have produced in their yarn. I have gotten yarn support from a local sheep farmer, a local indie dyer and a small yarn company. The yarn they produce (and dye) is very personal to them, and it is an awesome feeling for them to be excited and happy about what I’ve done with their product. I’ve also shared projects with yarn companies after they are published (in cases when I bought the yarn myself), and it is cool to be browsing my personal facebook page and see that they have posted about my pattern. Certainly, I LOVE it when knitters and crocheters ooh and aah over my designs, but the love from those in the fiber industry feels like I’m being welcomed into a special club. :-D

Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from my love of color & interesting construction, combined with the practical considerations of the crafters experience. Similar to architecture, it is about form AND function, and how best to marry the two in one project. For example, I love crocheting motifs and using them to build a larger fabric. I find that working on small motifs while I’m out and about to be ideal, but the ability to crochet those motifs together allows me to avoid sewing and in some cases to make a fabric that doesn’t even look like it is made up of motifs. Sometimes, like with a stranded hat, the function is already well established and it is just a matter of getting to play with how the color and pattern work together.
Overall, my interest is in making beautiful things that are also useful.

What is the one thing you wish you had known when you started out designing?
I listed my first two “designs” on ravelry before they were ready to be published. I had just started teaching at my LYS, and the manager wanted to do a KAL/CAL with a yarn that was being discontinued from the store. Both as a nice store activity and to encourage customers to buy it down quickly. She gave me the option of finding existing patterns to use or coming up with my own. In hindsight, I didn’t really have enough time to design two scarf patterns, and I am better off not designing patterns that I’m not super excited about.
One of them I finally finished and published well earlier this year. The other one still sits there taunting me. The original design needs some work, and going back to it feels to me like eating liver and onions. I have all of these other new and shiny ideas I would rather be working on, but I need to just force myself to sit down and finish the design, crochet the sample, and get the whole thing off my to do list!

Which is your favourite design and why?
My favorite design is the Claro Stole. I was browsing mood boards for magazine submissions, and a picture on one of them sparked the idea for this stole in my head. I knew the feeling I wanted the lace to have and how I wanted it to start at different points working from the center out. I was able to find two stitch patterns that accomplished the feeling I imagined, and fitted them in on a half-circle shape. It is probably my most challenging pattern, and it turned out exactly how I envisioned, which really doesn’t always happen.
There is also a design that I absolutely adore which is not public yet, and the publishing date is not under my control. I can’t wait to swoon about it on my blog someday!

If you could invite 3 designers to dinner, who would you choose?
Only three? That’s not nearly enough!
My initial thought was to choose the nationally known designers who I’ve met briefly or taken classes from, and would like to get to know better, but I realize that I’m lucky that I’ve already gotten to meet them and hear them interviewed on podcasts. So instead I’m going to choose designers that I “know” from ravelry, but whom I’m unlikely to meet in person unless I’m able to go to TNNA someday. All three are strong entrepreneurs who have found three very different business models that work well for their current life situation.
Julia Trice – A great designer, and a patient person who gives lots of wonderful advice and encouragement to those with less experience than she has. She’s thoughtful and honest, while always being diplomatic and prudent.
Triona Murphy – Her design sensibility really speaks to me, and if I had time to knit other people’s patterns very often, I would be a regular customer. We’ve had many lovely chats on ravelry and twitter, and I have the sense we would get along well.
Alex Tinsley – Hilarious on twitter, and with a sense of style that I love. I would want to take Alex shopping after dinner to overhaul my wardrobe. She has a knack for being fashionable without being so out there that you can’t imagine wearing her designs for years to come.

A lack of daylight

About this time of year I start to realise that I am not designed to be a nocturnal animal and the shortage of natural daylight starts to be a nuisance. Never more so than now when I am trying to grow my fledgling pattern design business. Photography is an area that I am keen to improve upon and everything I read emphasises the importance of natural light.

All well and good until you consider that my day job has me leaving the house at 8:20 (school run before driving to work) and arriving home after 5pm. The hours of available daylight for photography purposes at home are condensed into a 20 minute slot between 8:00 and 8:20 and not surprisingly lost trousers and missed homework is often higher on my to-do list at that time in the morning.

I have tried carefully assembling my subject matter the night before so that all I have to do is grab my camera and take a few shots (whilst telling a small child to brush their teeth - again) but the general morning chaos isn't really conducive to calm, unhurried work.

My latest cunning plan is to take the photographic subject with me in the car. Arranged on a tea tray - passengers in my car must think I am very odd - and with the car parked in a suitable spot at work I can take advantage of the last hour or two of daylight and do my best to get some good shots.

I found some good tips here and here.
And there are some great "what not to do" tips by A Beautiful Mess here.

It is a constant struggle though and I would welcome suggestions on how you do it. What tips and tricks can you share to help us make the most of those precious daylight hours?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Giftalong Designer Interview: Karen Burnett Designs

Today we have the first of 2 interviews with designers participating in the Ravelry GAL - giftalong2014.
Karen Burnett Designs: GAL Bundle 2014

I asked Kaz of Karen Burnett designs about her work as a designer:

What is the thing you enjoy most about being a designer?
I mainly enjoy the fun of bringing an idea from my head to a finished item, the sense of achievement of turning crazy ideas in my head into something that actually works.

Where does your inspiration come from?
I get a lot of inspiration from the world around me, in designing items that I would love to wear. My cables inspiration come from my Scottish roots and the Celtic designs I love to look at.

What is the one thing you wish you had known when you started out designing?
 I wish I had known that 24hrs in the day is not enough and that WIPS and deadlines have a habit of creeping up on you. Also that designing is certainly not as straight forward as a lot of people think.

Which is your favourite design and why?
My Pilkington Cardigan is my favourite design, it was my first garment design and I love the simplicity of the top down seamless body that’s transformed when you do the cabled band.

If you could invite 3 designers to dinner, who would you choose?
Ohhhh that’s hard just to choose 3 as I would love to be in a room with s big table of loads of designers. I think my top 3 would be Ruth(Rockandpurl) , Liz Lovick (NorthernLace) and WoolyWormHead. But would love to spend a weekend or a full week at a designers retreat getting to know other designers from around the world.