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.