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Friday, December 30, 2011

Reflections 2011

Well, here we are again!  Another year has gone by, and it's time to look forward to 2012.  I went back to the "Reflections" post that I wrote a year ago, in which I tried to articulate some goals for this year, to see if I had actually met any of them :-) 

Although I don't have a 1000 followers (yet) and haven't been actively participating in 5 social media forums, I have been doing a lot!  I've been designing a lot of new patterns, some of which are now up on my Ravelry page and some of which were featured in Inside Crochet magazine.  I also launched my "101 Crochet Tips" Kindle book and adopted a sheep.

So, lessons learned?  Put out valuable content and the followers will come.  It's really a simple concept but a really hard one to execute.  How do you know if you've produced valuable content?!  There are analytical tools out there now that help you determine what impact, if any, your content is having, and one of my goals this coming year is to make better use of those tools.  But, it is still really important to stay true to yourself as a creator -- don't make anything you don't want to make:  your heart won't be in it, and it won't result in something that you will want to share with the world.  With limited resources, you need to find your niche and fulfill it to the best of your ability.

Another lesson learned is that, even if you have great content, you have to present it in a compelling and professional way to attract followers (and hopefully buyers).  I received a scathing review of my old website -- it was really tough to hear, but I really recommend finding an objective observer who will truly give it to you straight.  You don't have to actually follow all the advice you receive (though you probably should try to absorb it, think it through, and adopt a new way of looking at your work, and you have to try to remind yourself that the person is trying to help you), but you sometimes really need help in objectively seeing what you are doing.  I haven't yet been able to implement all of the suggestions for the website that I have received, but it's one of my primary goals for 2012 to create a really user-friendly and compelling website, a real basic for any (small) business these days.  It was interesting how "trust", a topic we've discussed in the past, kept coming up -- a website that engenders trust, that professionally presents content, and that potential buyers feel comfortable visiting and purchasing from.

In December's newsletter, which really wasn't a newsletter as much as it was a "thank you" to all of you who have found and stuck with me this past year, I really tried to think about and outline the new content I want to create and how I will deliver it in the new year.  This goes back to the two words that I plan on making my mantra for 2012 -- content and focus.

So, what do you want to accomplish this upcoming year?  What are your two words that will be the driving force behind your actions in 2012?  Please share them here or on my Facebook page as a way to help you visualize them and to give me the opportunity to encourage you to embrace them!

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Name That Sheep Contest!!

We can name the sheep!  Caroline Owens explained to me that they bought her and a few other ewes from a well -respected West Virginia Coopworth farm when the breeder suddenly needed to downsize.  It happened quickly and during a busy time for the Owens, so they never got around to naming their new acquisitions beyond "the West Virginia ewes".  But Caroline tells me that Coopworth 236 has distinguished herself from the flock in terms of personality and performance and could really use a name.

To catch up those of you who are not (yet) regular followers of my blog ;-) I adopted a sheep recently from the Owens Farm, located in Sunbury, Pennsylvania (you can read more about her and see another picture of her in a previous post).  Shearing time is almost here (January 14th through 18th), and # 236 deserves a name by then.

So, here's the plan.  Please go to the Many Creative Gifts Facebook page by January 5th (midnight EST) and comment on this post by entering the name that you think we should give "Coopworth 236".  After the 5th, Caroline and I will discuss and choose the winning name.  Now, we do reserve the right not to choose any of the names and instead come up with one of our own, but we'd really like your help on this!  As an added incentive, the winner will not only get bragging rights but also a free copy of my "101 Crochet Tips" Kindle book ($9.95 value) and some of the newly named ewe's fleece (priceless!).


She's one of those furry bottoms in the picture where the sheep are getting herded by the dog, but there she is, in the blanket, in the other picture!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Adopt-A-Sheep!

I just adopted a sheep for the upcoming year!  I'm so excited because, when shearing time comes, her wool is mine!  I haven't even thought about what I'm going to do with it, but this is something I've wanted to do for a while, so I just did it :-)

She is a Coopworth ewe, a breed that was developed in the 1970s for New Zealand's grass-fed sheep industry.  Caroline and David Owens, the Pennsylvania family behind Owens Farm, purchased her from a breeder in West Virginia last year, and she apparently really stood out from the rest of the flock through her friendliness and curiosity.  And she sheared a gorgeous fleece and ended up having triplets!!  And she managed to feed them all so well that each is "chunky and vigorous" (which sounds good to a non-farmer :-)  But, they were all rams, and the Owens are hoping she'll have some ewes this upcoming year to perpetuate her characteristics.

I'm looking forward to more updates from the farm and will share as they come in!

Friday, December 9, 2011

My First Giveaway!

In partnership with the AllFreeCrochet folks, I'm giving away a copy of my "The Crocheter's Design Companion."  Here's the link to enter the contest:  http://www.allfreecrochetafghanpatterns.com/sweeps/The-Crocheters-Design-Companion#

Please feel free to share the link, retweet, etc.  Spread the word!!  The deadline is December 22nd, and there are ways to get multiple entries, so please check it out.  I really appreciate the 4-star review that the editor of AllFreeCrochetAfghanPatterns gave it.  It's so great to see an objective description of the usefulness of the book and suggestions for how crocheters can make the best use of it.  So, please enter the contest -- I'd love for one of my regular readers to be the winner!  But, of course, you can always pick up your own copy for just $9.95 at CreateSpace or on Amazon :-)  Makes a great gift for all the crocheters in your life!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oh Canada!

I know I say it often, but technology is really amazing!  My latest discovery (with a lot of help from my brother in law) is VPN.  I have no idea what it stands for, but it's allowed me to have an anonymous IP address.  Now, why would I want one of those?!  Well, in my case, it's so that I can watch a TV show that's only available on a Canadian website.  I really got hooked on "Being Erica", which is a show from Toronto that had been carried by SoapNet for its first three years, but was not picked up for its fourth and final season.  I went searching around and found the CBC website on which back episodes, including this season's, are stored.  But, when I clicked on the play episode button, nothing happened.  That's when I was told that, since I have a US IP address, the Canadian website isn't going to work for me.  But, there's always a workaround isn't there ;-)  So, my laptop and I take a little trip to Canada these days....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The American Dream

Sunday mornings, I get up, make my chai (tea), and sit down with the newspaper in front of the ABC political shows.  This past Sunday, there was a lot of discussion about the American Dream -- Does it still exist?  Has it been redefined?  It was so interesting how each commentator was actually being quite upbeat about the topic, in large part due to the DIY movement.  One commentator remarked on how there is less materialism and more individualism, that more people are seeking a financial safety net rather than "financial success," that broader social relationships drive us, and that each of us has more freedom and opportunity to develop our own personal dream.

When I turned to the newspaper, there was an article by Emily Matchar exploring the meaning of the "new domesticity" and the DIY movement, especially among young women.  I think the author gets it right when she emphasizes that 1) the new domesticity is a reaction to concerns arising about our chemical-laden world and how DIY might be the best or even only way to ensure safety and well being, 2) that extreme domesticity is a refuge for educated women who have left the workforce, and 3) women are enjoying domestic projects again because they represent a choice not a duty.  But, she ends the article with a worry about whether such choices will once again become obligations for future generations.

I guess that's where I would put the emphasis -- as long as a person, female or male, is able to choose whether or not to crochet and that choice is respected, then it's all good!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I really hope everyone is having a healthy and happy day!  We finished all of our cooking last night so that we could get up this morning, relax, and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade (just love it, even after all these years!)

An update:  my friend Jocelyn is now in Patagonia and still sending fabulous pictures (isn't technology amazing?!)








Mmm, imagine being able to sit and look at that vista with such beautiful yarn and hook in hand!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Yarn in Chile

My globe-trotting friend Jocelyn and her husband are traveling around South America, and I just got a picture of a yarn shop she came across:


I can always count on Jocelyn to send me great pix of crafty sightings!  She also found this great link with some wonderful home design ideas, using crochet to create a comfortable and beautiful environment.  I'm itching to make another pillow covering for myself, but I've got a few other projects that just must be done first...  I hope to be posting some photos of my own soon :-)


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Windy City

Yup, I just got back from Chicago!  The weather was beautiful, and I got a chance to walk up and down the Miracle Mile.  The reflection "bean" is really cool:



I also got to visit two yarn shops -- Loopy, down on West Polk, and We'll Keep You in Stitches, up at East Oak.  What a contrast in atmospheres, but both really interesting and chock full of beautiful yarns.  Loopy is located off of South Michigan Avenue, in a down-to-earth neighborhood.  It's huge, with two floors and multiple rooms (there was a knitting class going on downstairs), and an amazing selection of yarns.  I was really tempted by the buffalo yarn, and, although a very generous hank, at $45, I decided to skip it this trip.



We'll Keep You in Stitches, on the other hand, is located off of North Michigan Avenue, in quite the upscale part of town.  It's up on the fourth floor of a small building wedged in between some swanky stores.  I didn't get a pic :-(  It's in one small room, but a whole wall was well stocked with yarns and needlepoint supplies.  Now, here I did splurge and get two French crochet and knitting booklets by Anny Blatt. 

So, I had a great time, but it's always great to come home.  As I heard someone say "Chicago is like New York, but the people smile."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Renwick Handi-Hour

My, my, what busy times we are living in!  But sometimes you just have to put it all aside and have some fun!  I got my chance last Thursday night at the Renwick Gallery.  Such a beautiful and interesting museum, across from the White House, that is part of the Smithsonian Institute.  Well, they have been having these happy hours where they offer crafting materials, live music, and, hee, hee, craft beers!  All in one of the huge exhibit rooms upstairs.  I saw people making the loveliest tile coasters, felt flowers and cup cozies.  Janie from Looped Yarn Works and I were there to demonstrate knitting and crocheting.


Aren't we cute?!  We had such a great time!  I really want to send out a special shout-out to April who stopped by to show us these beautiful pop-top bags that she's been making.


So, if you are in the DC area on Valentine's Day, sign up for the next Handi-Hour!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Flat as a...

Pancakes!  Mmm, mmmm.  We were really craving some this past weekend, but had no Bisquick or prepared mix.  Why should that stop us?!  I did some research on the 'net and discovered that it's probably as easy and certainly healthier to mix up my own batter.  Here's what I came up with and wanted to share.

In a blender, combine the following ingredients:

1 to 1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/4 cup of quinoa flour (or plain quinoa flakes)
1/4 cup of oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk (you might want to add a little more as you start mixing)
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp sugar

Start blending and see thickness and consistency and add a bit more milk so that resulting batter can be poured but isn't too thin.  Hard to describe, but after a batch or two, you'll be a pro.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mussels or Muscles?!

The other day I got a pleading-for-help message on Etsy -- a crocheter was so excited about making this beautiful vest, but was having problems understanding some of the instructions.  She asked if I could help her figure out the next steps in the project.  So, I went to investigate and discovered that the pattern designer/writer is Danish.  I think she might have used a Google program or something to translate the pattern, and interesting things happened as a result!  The instructions kept referring to making stitches "in the next mussel".  After looking at the original Danish pattern and looking up the original word, I discovered that another meaning of the word "musling" is ....   SHELL!  So, she was trying to describe our shell stitch :-)  Mystery solved!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mobi

No, not the whale!  It's the means by which one can create an ebook for Kindle.  Since I just went through this process for 101 Crochet Tips, I wanted to share.

Now, first step -- get over your fear of the computer and html :-)  It's really not that hard, especially when a wonderful person posts everything you'll need.  Helen Hanson has a blog on which she very methodically has laid out each step to take.  She really makes it fun and is very responsive when you have a comment or question. I carefully followed each step she suggested, and it worked!  A bit of advice -- be really precise in how you name files and insert the code because just one letter out of whack, and it will not work.

I'm realizing that I haven't posted my musings on running a small business in a while, and I know that, frankly, that's what some of you are more interested in than the crochet.  So, keep a look out for such postings soon.  I feel like I'm still figuring out this blogging thing ;-)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Knitting and Meditation

Talk about a day of mind, body, spirit, ... and knitting!  The Shambhala Center in DC had a day-long program on knitting, meditation, and a little bit of yoga thrown in also.  It was really a nice way to spend the day, and I feel like I got a lot out of it.  Though not really a part of the program, the first thing I learned was the "Portuguese knitting" technique, which was a breakthrough for me.  It's a method by which you wrap the yarn around the back of your neck (to control the tension) from right to left over your left shoulder and then use your left thumb to flick the yarn around the needle if you are a right-handed knitter.  I guess this is similar to continental or English style knitting.  I found it pretty easy, with a lot of economy of movement.  Now, of course, since you are using different small muscles, I have the feeling there might be some new twinges as a result, but I really enjoyed playing around with this technique.  Crochet will always be my first love, but I'm looking forward to adding some knit elements to future designs.

Next step, slipping stitches!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Silver?!

I meant to keep my promise to myself not to buy more yarn, but you know where this is going...  I was in Looped Yarn Works the other day and came across a yarn made from 95% Turkish cotton and 5% real silver!  It's called KB Cotton Sifa, which is a natural, untreated cotton that contains silver, said to have healing properties for many ailments.  As a result, you can work up projects like booties or mitts that are both beautiful and health-building.  The non-slippery, woven chain ply keeps cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  And, on top of all that, the yarn is sourced from the town of Golcuk (on the Northwest coast of Turkey), which was devastated by a 7.6 earthquake in 1999 but since rebuilt, in part by the fact that the Golcuk Art and Culture Center has given the women of the community the opportunity to express their talents and generate needed incomes through arts and crafts.  The founder of The Knit Box has her own wonderful story and provides stockist information in the UK and US for this and some other really beautiful Turkish yarns, so please check it out! Oh, and what should I make from the Cotton Sifa -- booties/socks, mittens, or something else?!  Visit my Facebook page and let me know!!




Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Laptop!

So, I finally have the luxury of getting a new computer without having had the old one crash on me!  It's giving me the chance to actually clean through files, choose the programs I really need and want and just load those on the new computer, and really set up this thing the way I want it rather than just desperately trying to get up and running.  But, it really takes so much time, loading and resetting everything...

But I am loving it!  My new Acer laptop is fast and pretty :-)  What more could I want?!

Give me a little time, and I'm hoping my technological progress here is going to really help me bring better and more beautiful content to you!  In the mean time, stay tuned for our monthly newsletter -- that too has gotten a bit delayed with the transition.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Crush

Mmmm, I still have a crush on my husband!  He's just so cute, inside and out.  And today is our anniversary, number 6.  I'm very fortunate -- despite some crazy work hours lately and being behind on projects, housecleaning, etc., life is still pretty good.

I was reminded of this yesterday when a single friend of mine was bemoaning the dating life.  It's easy for me to talk, but I was encouraging her to just try to enjoy each day and each encounter and try not to think about where it could lead, what it all means, etc.  But, it's true for all of us, single or married.  We're not promised tomorrow, we just have this very moment, to make the best of it as we can.  I tell myself that when bending down for the upteenth time to pick up that man's balled up socks (see, married life isn't all perfect either!).  But, I'd rather be bending down for those socks than dealing with some of the challenges that I know lots of people amazingly deal with every day.

So, no matter what your situation is, please stop today for just a moment, and think about one bright, positive thing going on for you and relish it, squeeze it tight, and "be thoughtful" about it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tunisian Crochet Challenges

You know, after coming up with the Tunisian instructions and scarf pattern, I really haven't been working with the Tunisian crochet technique lately.  But I'm getting inspired by Dorcas, a crocheter from Scotland whose jumper/sweater pictures I posted not too long ago.  I got the chance to follow up with her recently to get to know her better and find out more about her frustrations with the lack of Tunisian crochet patterns:

Dorcas, tell me a little about yourself

I'm married with no children at home and one grandson in Florida.  I live in Livingston, Scotland, which is half-way between Edinburgh (my home town) and Glasgow.

When did you start to crochet and experiment with Tunisian crochet?

I became interested in crochet when I heard about "Tunisian Crochet" about 20 years ago! However, trying to find suitable patterns was a "no go" - until, now, and having broadband at home. I managed to find a VHS Video on Tunisian Crochet (still have it - but not the video machine!) however, never managed to stay awake through the whole video. After trying local shops for tunisian crochet patterns, I actually gave up! Till now. I was re-inspired when I came across Phyllis of Many Creative Gifts and re-started when given Left-handed instructions.

What technique or idea do you want to try next?

Being in Scotland is probably the reason why I cannot find any patterns of interest to myself. Its strange really, as two main shops where I occasionally buy my yarn, sell Tunisian Crochet Hooks - but, NO patterns! Although I have made a Tunisian Jumper - home wear only - and in Tunisian simple stitch; I would like to make a traditional raglan sleeve, high neck, jumper - but have not yet found a pattern. The next techniques I would like to try are the honeycomb stitch and the x-stitch.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Confession

They say confession is good for the soul, so here goes!  I've been knitting.

It all happened when I decided that I should make a birthday present for my friend Jocelyn.  She's been so great about sending me crochet ideas when she comes across them and providing some business tips too.  So, I knew that there were these pillows that she really liked from a site that she sent me.  I tried to make her a crocheted pillow but it just wasn't turning out the way I wanted (and it was just eating up yarn!).  That's when I broke down, picked up the knitting needles, and made this:


I have to admit, it was pretty easy and felt good!  Whew, well, that felt good to get off my chest.  I'm not promising I won't slip again and pick up those needles :-)  In fact, more confessions -- I'm knitting a scarf for the Special Olympics, and I bought some round needles to experiment with.  Ah, I'm hopeless, but I guess I should just accept myself and use this new-found habit for good rather than evil!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Arts and Crafts Plaza

I have a new follower on Twitter -- www.artsandcraftsplaza.com , so I had to go and check them out.  It's a fun site with all sorts of links to various resources on crafts, festivals, and how-tos.  I'm definitely bookmarking it to go back for more exploration :-)

In the mean time, I'm making great progress on a little baby girl sweater in brown, pink, and green.  I got the idea from some paint combinations published in last month's Real Simple magazine!  It got me thinking about color theory, and you'll be able to read all about my research and findings really soon in our monthly newsletter, which is almost ready for release!  But here's an interesting tidbit from www.colormatters.com:

"Pink is a combination of the color red and white, a hue that can be described as a tint. It can range from berry (blue-based) pinks to salmon (orange-based) pinks. Its symbolism is complex and its popularity is subject to so many influences.  We can begin an analysis of pink by looking at natural and contemporary souces of this delicate color. First, regardless of your skin color, some part of your body is pink. So are sunsets, watermelons and Pepto Bismal. Depending on your age and culture, you may remember pink Cadillacs, pink flamingos (once considered in bad taste in American culture but now retro-chic), Pink Floyd, and the Pink Panther."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Free Craft and Crochet eBooks

I'm so glad to be able to pass along two new and free ebooks from the FaveCrafts folks!  The first one has 17 popular crochet items that are easy enough for a beginner to make, like a fun little caplet, a bottoms up hat, and a really neat 8-point ripple afghan.  You can find the free and instant download at:
 
http://www.allfreecrochet.com/Miscellaneous-Crochet/17-Popular-Free-Crochet-Patterns-eBook

The second book will start to get you in the mood for the holidays.  This ebook has 7 fun craft projects for Christmas time.  I think I'm going to give the Christmas Card Saver a try!  Also included are the Felt and Wire Angel (pg. 5), the Christmas Candy Jar Labels (pg. 11), and a Wine Cork Wreath (pg. 19).  You can get this eBook free at:


http://www.allfreechristmascrafts.com/Christmas-Ornament-Crafts/7-Thrifty-Christmas-Craft-Ideas-eBook

Happy Crafting!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

One Really Cool Lady

I love the internet because it makes it possible to get in contact with really amazing and interesting people.  I got a Ravelry message the other day from Barbara Payne Shelton, asking if she could use my crochet bangle bracelet pattern to make jewelry to sell for charitable purposes.  She came up with a great adaptation to make a necklace as well.  After "talking" a bit by email, I was so happy to be able to help in this small way and thought that you all would enjoy hearing about Barbara's charitable endeavors on behalf of the MS Society.

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. I am the married mother of three adult children (all married to great people, lucky me) and two grandchildren. Although I have had a wonderful career as a teacher and college professor, being a grandmother is definitely the best job ever!

2) When did you start crocheting? My college roommate taught me as she learned it, over 40 years ago. Unfortunately, she is right handed and I am left handed, and we did not realize I was bringing around the thread the wrong way. My second project was a traditional ripple afghan and I discovered the problem when the ripples didn't ripple! I simply relearned it the correct way and the rest is history. Everyone I know has gotten crocheted gifts from me over the years. I learned to knit at age 8 and while I still do that, it isn't as rewarding for me as crocheting...
3) When did you get involved with this particular charitable project? I have several friends and two family members with MS so I do a lot of fund raising for the MS Society. I have done their 5K walks for some time, but 5 years ago I started doing an annual 31 mile walk. My husband and I have done six of those now, but since I do multiple events each year I had to find another way to raise money than just asking my friends--you can only do that so much!
4) How did you decide to combine these two interests? Last year I knitted over 150 scarves and sold those but since crocheting is my first love, I thought I would try doing something in crochet this year. Although I suspect that crocheted jewelry has a narrower market than scarves, since just about any woman can wear those. I saw Phyllis' pattern and got so excited about it that I began making them in earnest. I thought it would be neat to have a coordinating necklace, so I played around with adjusting the pattern. It needed some adjustment in order to hang right. I have a few which are long ones, but I liked the "choker" style best, so most of the necklaces are that style. The necklace is adjustable (so it fits over the wearer's head) by sliding two beads which secure the ends. The necklaces are in a variety of colors, including white, silver, gold, gold metallic, black, read, rust, brown and a few blue. I sell the sets for $15. I donate the yarn and contribute 100% of the proceeds to the National MS Society. If people pay by check I prefer that they make out their checks to the society, not to me. I want it to be clear that I am not making any money here!

5) Where can readers find out more? I don't have a blog or a website, but people can e-mail me directly at barbarashelton@gmail.com.

 So, I really hope you'll consider contacting Barbara to purchase a necklace-bracelet set or contribute in some way!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shake, Rattle, and More Shake!

Well, there I was, sitting at my desk, wishing I didn't have to go to two meetings in the afternoon, and an earthquake hit!  Of course, at first, I didn't realize that's what it was ...  here in D.C., we tend to think first of more awful, manmade things happening.  So, it's all relative in many ways, "whew, thank goodness it was only an earthquake."  Now, I hear we've got a hurricane headed for the East Coast.  What next, locust?!  Oh, well, we got sent home, and I didn't have to go to my two meetings -- I promise next time I won't wish so hard :-)

In the event of an earthquake, go stand in a doorway until the shaking stops, then evacuate the building.  Of course, did I remember all this at the time?  Well, now I know, and here are a couple of other informative sites:  http://www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/index.shtm and http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/faq/?categoryID=14

And, the ShakeMap site is pretty cool too:  http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/shakemap/



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Seashells by the Seashore

Ah, so another wonderful vacation in Rehoboth Beach is over...  A bit too many clouds and rain this time around, but the weather was a great excuse to eat too much, watch too much tv, and work on a scarf for the Special Olympics.  The organization is seeking scarves for the upcoming games, and here is all the information about official colors to use, possible patterns to follow, and where to send, etc.http://scarvesforspecialolympics.org/  I'm hoping you all will take up the cause and post pix on my Facebook page!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Squidoo

So, creating a "lens" on Squidoo has been on my to-do list for a while now, but I finally sat down and did it!  It's very user-friendly and is a great way to organize your sources and thoughts on a particular topic.  I'm gearing up to do some more filming of crochet segments, but I decided to capitalize on the video that I had already done for the beaded crochet bracelets.  I haven't quite figured out yet how the point system works (you get points for doing various tasks and accomplishing certain goals on the site), but I imagine all will become clear at some point :-)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Time

There's just too little of it!  And I'm finding that the more I try to follow some scheduling or time management system, the more things get out of whack and the more stressed I get!  Though I do feel like I am getting the paperwork and bill paying aspects of life a bit more under control.  I recently read an article by Kacy Paide, who isn't really trying to push any particular product, she was just advising that you need to have a "catch-all" basket or place to put the critical mail and paperwork that needs to be addressed timely and set up a schedule for processing it.  Once I go through the mail, sort out the junk and recycle it, and identify the important stuff, I then go and just put it on top of my keyboard.  That way, I'm not tempted to do other, fun things on the internet first, I have to take care of those bills!  Kacy focuses on office organization (The Inspired Office is the name of her website), and she offers her services in the Washington DC area.  I haven't tried her services (yet), but her website and weekly email tips are helpful.  In fact, if I had more time, I'd be following her tips way more than I've had the chance to!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Crochet Geek

I had the pleasure of meeting the Crochet Geek Teresa Richardson while she was here in D.C. for a Google-YouTube conference on Capitol Hill.  She was on a panel with two other YouTube success stories to discuss "Making Money on YouTube."  Frankly, she's the only one on the panel who really answered the moderator's questions, even after he was a bit condescending to her (don't worry, some of us in the audience heckled him back!)  It was an odd situation though -- each of the panelists had started putting videos on YouTube as a service to a potential audience and had ended up partnering with Google to earn income, but the audience were mainly Congressional staffers who were trying to learn how to help their members reach their constituents.  There were lessons to be learned, sure, but it was a mismatch in a way.

Anyway, Ms. Richardson did a great job, and I was so glad to be there to support her and learn from her.  You know, when you see a well-made video, you first think "oh, that's easy."  Then, when you actually go to try to make one, as I've been trying recently, you realize how much is involved!  Her videos really are wonderful, and her Sock Monkey is so cute.  Please be sure to check out her YouTube channel via her blog.  And, I hope to have my own announcement soon about some videos I've got planned for my YouTube channel, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Risk

I've been coming across a number of articles lately that discuss taking risks.  We small business owners know all about that, we do it every day!  But, I'm discovering that, even when I think I'm not getting anywhere (had that feeling lately?), just taking the risk of putting myself out there each day, in any small way, that mere action is what separates us action takers from others who don't follow their ideas or instincts.  I really like Rick Marini's (CEO of BranchOut) recent quote "Ideas are cheap, execution is hard." 

Just doing a little each day to put your ideas into action really can make a difference.  For example, I've been picturing in my head this new pattern for girl and boy baby sweaters.  Now, that's great, but finally going to the yarn store and getting the yarn for them is the first action step that I needed to take.  My next action step is to start figuring out measurements and gauge samples.  What action steps do you need to be taking?! 

For more inspiration, you might want to take a look at Seth Godin's new book Poke the Box -- I really like his writing style, he's not saying anything you don't already deep down know, but he organizes his thoughts in a way that makes you think.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Glen Echo Park

Oh, how I love Glen Echo Park!  If you're ever in the D.C. area and want an extra adventure, head on up to Glen Echo in Maryland.  It's an amusement park and artists' colony, with these yurts in which there are pottery classes and calligraphy demonstrations.  There's also this great glassworks gallery with lessons.  I'm already envisioning the possibilities -- first, I'll take a glass bead making class, then one in silversmithing, then combine the two with crochet to make some really interesting jewelry :-)

The Dentzel Carousel there is really amazing as well.  Here's some more information about it, and for only $1.25, you too can take a ride!

Monday, July 11, 2011

That First Row of Any Crochet Project

One of the biggest challenges for me when I'm starting a new crochet design project is figuring out the proper gauge and really how many chain stitches I'm going to need in order for that first row to be the right width.  Well, yesterday, I had an insight and wanted to share -- use the chainless foundation technique to figure this all out!  Chain 2 and make a single crochet stitch in the second chain from the hook.  Then, insert your hook into the loop at the BOTTOM of the stitch you just made.  Yarn over and pull through a loop, then yarn over and pull a loop through the first loop on your hook, yarn over and pull a loop through both loops on your hook.*  Repeat until you have the desired number of stitches, then measure to see the width and adjust accordingly.  If you don't like the way the bottom of the work looks, then at least you'll know how many chains to make in order to make the number of stitches you need to get that width again!  Hope this helps!

*The chainless foundation can be performed with the double crochet stitch as well -- yarn over before inserting your hook into the loop under the last stitch made.  Yarn over and pull through a loop.  Yarn over and pull a loop through the first loop on your hook (you should have three loops on your hook), then yarn over and pull a loop through the first two loops on your hook, then finish by a yarn over and pull a loop through the remaining two loops on your hook.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Excitement

Excitement is opening your mailbox, finding a copy of Volume 1 of The Crochet Collection, and opening it to see your Scalloped Baby Hat and Booties patterns and name in print!! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Harvest Time

Well, I'm probably jumping the gun, but I've got one cucumber that's ready for munching!


Mmmm, mmmm, I'm so excited, I hope it's tasty.  I learned that, if your cucumbers or the leaves are looking a little yellow, it probably means that they need some fertilizer with nitrogen in it and more water.  I've been religiously watering them, sometimes even twice a day, but trying not to overwater.  Now, I feel like this one is ripe and formed enough to harvest because the other little buds aren't doing anything -- I'm hoping getting this guy off the vine will let the water and nutrients get to the others.

Whew, this farming stuff is tough ;-)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Go Nuts!!

Even though lots of health experts have been saying for a while now that it's good to eat a handful of walnuts, almonds, or other nuts each day, a Harvard study has found that nuts (and yogurt) actually help take and keep weight off!  One of my favorite mid-morning or afternoon snacks (or even as dessert sometimes) is a cup of yogurt with blueberries and walnuts or with strawberries and almonds, maybe with a little drizzle of honey.  There were expressions of surprise that yogurt helps with weight loss, but I would think that anything that helps the stomach work better, especially with all those active cultures, would be great for health and weight maintenance.

I've been going nuts in other ways too -- I've decided to KNIT a sweater!!  I've always had a block about knitting -- even though I know how to knit and purl, I have never really been able to get a project started because I hate to cast on.  Recently, though, I learned the knitted cast on, and I think it's going to change my life.  Plus, I saw the cutest sweater in Looped the other day, and I really want it!  Now, I think this little project is going to have to wait til July since I've got a few other projects to finish up, but I will keep posting...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Million Compliments and No Sales

That's the comment I got from a crocheter recently on my Lifetips site in response to a tip on how to price your crocheted goods (a rough starting point: calculate the cost of the materials you used and multiply by three).  She said she never knew how to price her items and that she gets a million compliments but very few buyers.  Pricing is such a tricky part of running a crafts business.  We all know that the love and labor that go into making items is incalculable and that the cost of materials alone often doesn't really capture the value of the finished product. But, the "problem" is how much are others charging?!  If you are creating something really unique, then you get to set the standard, but the rest of us really do have to take into account the prices of comparable goods (I know, how can something else compare to what you are making, but buyers don't necessarily think that way).  I vaguely remember from econ class that there is this phenomenon called "Giffen goods", where the more you charge, the more demand grows!  Suffice to say, especially these days, that's a rare phenomenon. 

So, your action item for today is to do some research and see how much three successful sellers are charging for their items and see if you need to make any price adjustments to yours.  Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting that you should, as a result, drastically drop your prices (because, once dropped, it's really hard to raise them again).  Instead, first try experimenting with discounts, BOGO (buy one, get one free), gift with purchase, or other types of value-enhancing strategies.  Hope this helps those of you struggling with the right mix of products and pricing!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

WWKIP in DC!

Saturday was World Wide Knit in Public Day, and here in DC, it took place at the Textile Museum, which is near to Looped Yarn Works in the Dupont Circle section of town.  It was a pretty hot day, but some brave souls gathered in the garden:


while another group of us took advantage of the beautiful inside space set aside for us:



Many thanks to Lynne for the great photography!  My pitiful pictures taken with my Blackberry just weren't cutting it.  Oh, but I'm breathing a sigh of relief -- the hubby found my camera, and it is safely back in my possession :-)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Content

Content, that's what it's really all about.  I've been doing a lot of small business reading again, and there's a lot out there about the importance of engaging in social media, having giveaways, contests, and freebies, and doing videos.  I've gotten some ideas that I probably will be trying out in the next few months, but frankly, the articles that I've appreciated the most and that made the most sense to me were the ones that emphasized the importance of building useful and interesting content.  So, when I disappear for a few days, you all know it's because I'm working on a new design or spending time at the bank trying to get my business checking account straightened out ;-) 

I have a hard time blogging when I really don't have something decent to share with you, though one of the tips that I read said to always have a pen and paper with you so that when ideas do come to mind, you can jot them down and start outlining the post so you'll be ready when you sit down at the computer -- wish I had done that this morning when I came across an article that I wanted to share, and now it's escaped me :-(  I think I might go back to having "theme days" -- certain topics that I cover on certain days.  Either that, or maybe a couple of different topics in each paragraph of a day's post.  Any thoughts?!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rolling in the Deep

Arg, just can't get that Adele song out of my head!  Well, at least it's a good one -- I just got the CD and have been enjoying it very much.  Don't you find that music really can affect your mood, your creativity, your whole feeling for the day?!  Even though I justify being able to watch TV because I'm also crocheting, I'd really rather be listening to music when I crochet.  I've tried listening to books also, but I find that, if I get too involved in the book, I mess up on the crochet, or, if I'm too into the crochet, I miss what they're saying in the book!  I guess I'm trying to multitask, but I really think that it's best to do one thing at a time and do it well.  Even though in the short term it seems like you're saving time, in the long term you're better off because you don't have to go back and re-do stuff that didn't turn out so great when you were multitasking!

So, back to the crocheting and "rolling in the deep" :-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Creativity

I love seeing projects that crocheters just come up with by themselves, and I especially love it if I was able to help in some way!  One of the areas of crochet I've been exploring recently is Tunisian, and I've taught a few classes on it.  I came up with a scarf pattern that was designed to help students learn three basic Tunisian stitches (Tunisian knit stitch, Tunisian purl stitch, and Tunisian simple stitch) and posted it on Ravelry (I tried to include lots of pictures and written descriptions of all three stitches so that it wouldn't be too hard to give it a try without an instructor).

The other day, I had an email waiting for me -- one of my pattern purchasers was writing to show me the house jumper that she made with Tunisian crochet to use up her stash!  It's amazing how she created this beautiful project from scratch, and I'm so happy she shared her pictures with me and gave me permission to show off her talent and creativity to you all :-)


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Appreciation and Automation

Wow, it's been a busy week!  I don't want to talk too soon, but I think a pattern of mine is going to be published in a magazine!!  I was putting the final touches on the sample to send for approval and still need to double check the pattern before turning that in.  More details will come as things firm up...

Pushing to meet this deadline really made me start appreciating what great opportunities might be opening to me and got me to focus on the positive rather than the negative.  The housework is still piling up, I'm still woefully behind on paperwork, I can't get MailChimp to automatically integrate with PayPal, but hey, I'm trying to let it all slide down my back like water off a duck and "like my life" :-)

Mmm, I am feeling a creativity spurt coming on though -- I've been seeing some really cool patterns in my mind's eye, so I'm hoping I can start actualizing them soon.  As I've written about in the past, I so totally appreciate how small business owners struggle with doing the actual thing that they love (making their product) versus the business, marketing, organizing, etc. side of things.  I'm enjoying trying out some new software products that are supposed to help automate certain functions, and I will definitely share as I find ones that work (probably helpful for me to share the ones that aren't so great either).  I continue to really like MailChimp, but I have been experiencing some problems with trying to get different services to integrate with each other.  Customer service has been responsive though, so I'm hoping to report a happy ending to that saga soon.  I also think it might be time for me to start utilizing an accounting program to keep track of expenses and income (my Excel spreadsheet has been working ok so far, but I'm starting to see limits to my having to input everything manually).  I just read about www.outright.com, which sounds like it might be what I'm looking for, but there is a monthly fee that kicks in after a trial period.  I'm going to keep searching for a free service and will report back on that too!  Let me know if you've had success with a service you like :-)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Like Your Life

Sometimes someone just says something that has a profound effect on you.  I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but, on Tuesdays, a group of us meet in the gym at work to do 1/2 hour of yoga.  We pop in a DVD and just follow along.  At the end of class this past Tuesday, one of the ladies in the class said to me "I walk 5 to 7 miles a day, and I've been working in the garden too."  I said that I thought that was great, and she turned to me with this great big smile on her face and said "I like my life."

Wow.  That simple statement just stopped me in my tracks and had me thinking on and off all day.  Maybe it really hit me because I'm not sure I can say that right now.  It's been very busy and stressful at work recently, which of course has made it difficult to keep up with crocheting and small business matters when I get home.  But, like all changes you face in life, it just takes some getting used to and getting into a groove.  The weather has been getting better here in DC, which always makes me feel better and more optimistic.  I'm getting more efficient at work, so I'm not as tired when I get home, so you know, with a few adjustments, I think I'm on the verge of liking my life too :-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Let the Sun Shine

Wow, what a difference a few degrees can make! I am always amazed by how weather affects my mood, my motivation, my ability to get stuff done...

So, my latest thing has been experimenting with tapestry crochet. I feel old school by pulling out the graph paper, but I really haven't researched what software is available to help with this. I really like incorporating tapestry into working in the round because, then, it really has that intricate knit look to it. I hope to post some pix soon.

Other than that, the Mailchimp is working well, though I haven't figured out yet how to archive the newsletters yet, but it will come :-)

Ok, this was just a quick update, more posting soon!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chevron Crochet Tote Bag

Ah, my latest creation is done and posted on my Ravelry page!  The Chevron Crochet Tote Bag is really a fun project and a great way for a beginner to practice the double crochet stitch without getting bored!  And, except for the color changes, it worked all in one piece.

I made this project as a sample for Looped Yarn Works since they stock Berroco's Weekend Chunky yarn, but ended up making one to keep for myself :-)  I also love the handles -- I got them on http://www.fabric.com/, but they're made by Cindy's Button Company, a home-grown business in Idaho.

Now, which project idea to get started on next?!?!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Email Lists

On my to-do list forever has been the need to get my email lists organized so that I can stay in contact with my customers, my crochet students, and my blog subscribers.  And, I haven't wanted to say it, but the newsletter has been sitting and gathering dust, and I really want to get that up and running again too.  So, I went in search of a mail list service that will meet my needs and not cost too much (ie nothing!). 

Well, I think Mail Chimp is the winner!  It so far meets my 3 criteria:  cost (it's free up to 2000 addresses and 12,000 emails per month), ease of use, and cuteness.  I really like companies that have a theme and a personality.  They don't take themselves too seriously, but they do provide a serious product and service.  They are user friendly for us non-techies, and they offer lots of options, starting with free but then with reasonable add-ons (hey, I'd be glad to start paying if I end up with more than 2,000 followers!)

So far, I figured out how to import the lists of emails that I had already organized in Outlook.  Oh, I also like the fact that they have a lot of free guides and resources targeted to specific things you want to do, like send out a newsletter.  And, they even have a guide for Etsy sellers.  We'll see if this all actually works, but so far so good!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Three

Have you ever really noticed that things seem to come in threes?!  When something bad happens, I find myself trying to find two other bad things so that the badness is over.  I'm not sure if that carries over to good things, but it's probably a good idea to look for three things to be thankful for as well.  I even remember from 9th grade grammar class that, to write an effective paragraph, you should write a topic sentence then three more supporting sentences. 

So, why am I fixating on threes?  Because I'm also finding that I can only really seem to accomplish three things in a day.  Now, sometimes, each thing has subparts, but the point is that my to-do list for the day can have as many things on it as I want to put, but it seems that only three of them really get done!  So, why fight it, go with it.  Remember my tip for sitting down and listing all of the things you need to get done on one side of a folded (lengthwise) page?  Well, now, pull out a red pen or a highlighter and mark the three things that you are going to accomplish first.  Tomorrow morning, do the same thing.  Before you know it, all of the items on the list will either get done or you'll discover you can do without it!  Ok, get going!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Two Amazing Tools

Ah, this post is going to combine organizing and crocheting!  First, the organizing.  I'm convinced that my brain is a reflection of my physical world, and frankly neither is looking very pretty these days!  So, of course, I'm always searching for that "perfect" filing system that's going to solve all of my problems for me :-)  I always like to say that I am a responsible person but not necessarily the most self-disciplined.  So, I need a system that doesn't need a lot of daily monitoring.  And I need some catch-all types of folders or boxes or something.

I read an article recently in The Washington Post (I haven't been able to find it online; it's from the Local Living section on February 17, 2011) about how to find a place for every document.  Featured was a filing system by Freedom Filer (http://www.freedomfiler.com/).  It's a color-coded system that's based on filing by dates and years, and it includes guides for how long certain types of documents need to be retained.  I got it in the mail a week or two ago and finally got to setting it up today (I'd been waiting to finish our taxes in order to take advantage of that portion of the system).  What a great feeling to gather together all my/our tax stuff since 1987 and file and archive it!  It's now in two files boxes in the same place, out of the way but accessible if need be!!

Now, I'm setting up the monthly bills portion of the system.  I really feel it coming together and taking a heavy weight off of my shoulders.  In this supposedly paperless world of ours, I feel snowed under by even more of it!  I'm also really starting to embrace this "let it go" philosophy -- that is one benefit of computerization, you can just about find anything you might need if you happened to throw it away (or you can just scan it in), so it's just getting easier for me to throw things out.  Whew.  More to come as I really solidify the system.

Ok, so now for the crochet part.  I've come up with a really fun summer tote bag, and pictures will be posted as soon as I find the perfect handles for it (I'm really thinking that I need either lucite handles or leather straps to make it sturdier than crocheted handles would be).  I've also been organizing the yarn stash as I plan new projects and found a great app for my new iPad (a birthday gift from the hubby :-).  It's called Ewe Stash, and so far, it's fabulous!  It lets you plug in all the necessary information for a particular ball of yarn and take a picture of it too.  It's going to be so great to have all of that information all in one place (it's got a spot for your own notes as well, so I'm thinking I'll be able to plug in where the yarn is physically located also).

Ah, it was nice to take this break, but the organizing isn't going to do itself unfortunately (wish there were an app for that!!), so back at it I go!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Slacker

Thank you all so much, especially all of you from the Creating the Hive community, for your kind and encouraging words.  I think I've almost put this situation behind me (and a few others I didn't tell you about!), and your advice to deal with it then shake it off really helped confirm my instincts. 

And I got to thinking about putting things into perspective, to really focus on realistically prioritizing the important tasks and figuring out where I can/should let things slide.  At the same time, I came across this helpful article on procrastination and stress (by the way, if you're not familiar with http://www.smartbrief.com/, I would highly recommend their daily newsletters on topics like leadership, your career, and social media).  There is a lot to be said for just waiting, a bit, to see what's really going to need your attention and what's going to take care of itself without your having to drop everything.

So, I haven't gone totally slacker, but I did sit down in a quiet room with a cup of tea, a piece of paper, and a pen.  I folded the paper in half, length-wise, and started to list on one side the things that I felt were priorities, the stuff that just has to get done.  I'd flip over to the other side when I thought of listing something that would be nice to do, but wasn't urgent or really necessary.  Once I'd emptied my brain, I just sat and drank some tea, breathing deeply.  Then, I went back to the list to start scheduling some dates by which I hoped to accomplish some of the listed tasks, not to create hard-and-fast deadlines or to stress myself out, but to sketch out if these tasks and timelines are realistic and to confirm that everything really does belong on the priority side of the page.  All of this didn't even take that long, but I sure felt better afterwards.  I did this a couple of days ago, and, a few times a day since, I have looked at that list to see if I can check a task or two off or if I need to modify the timeline.  Of course, as old things get done and checked off, new items get added to the list, but at least you're not trying to keep all of it in your head!  I hope this is helpful, and I'd love to hear about any systems you are using.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Failure

Not a word that many of us are comfortable with or like to think about.  But, frankly, you can either embrace it and learn from it or just give it up!  I've been experiencing a bit of self-inflicted failure recently, and I figured I should let you all in on it since it's just not realistic to paint a rosy picture of things all the time.  I have over-scheduled, over-promised and over-whelmed myself recently and, as a result, I feel like I've let some people down.  I hate that feeling, especially since of course that was not my intention at all!

So, I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to fix it (if possible).  I think there are a couple of steps that I can take to mitigate:

1)  Apologize.  Not the "we regret this inconvenience" or "I'm sorry you're upset" kind of apology, but a sincere, heartfelt one in which you take responsibility for your (in)actions and express regret.  "I'm sorry I did not have your pillow done by the deadline date."

2)  What are you going to do now.  Let the person know what they can expect from you now.  And be realistic about it, rather than getting yourself deeper into the hole with another promise you can't keep.  "I hope to have it finished in two weeks, but I don't want to overpromise again so I will keep you updated."

3)  Express appreciation through more words and actions.  Throw in an unexpected treat along with the promised item.  "I appreciate your patience with me, and I hope you will accept this free pattern and tote bag as my token of gratitude to you for your business."

I expect that this won't always work -- people are going to legitimately get and stay pissed off at you if you don't meet their expectations, but a sincere apology and course of mitigating action hopefully will bring some people back around to you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Massaging Insoles and a Starfish

So, I went to the Washington Home and Garden Show last Friday for my annual ritual of looking at the beautifully designed garden scenes and shopping.  I have to say, I think the industry has been very hard hit in this economy -- this has to have been the smallest show to date :-(  Many vendors whom I had seen in years past did not return, and there were probably only 4 or 5 displays (down from at least 10 in years past).  But, of course, I still managed to have my wedding rings cleaned (with a jewelry paste that I ended up purchasing), to treat my feet to some massaging insoles (had planned to just get one pair for my husband, but of course the discount came when 2 or more pairs were purchased), and to get a starfish ring (quite lovely, isn't it?!)


Ugh, looking at my fingers in this picture, I probably should have bought the Moisturizing Aloe Lotion too, ha!

I should be saving my pennies for the upcoming Metro Area Yarn Crawl in DC/Maryland/Virginia from April 9th through 16th!  I've got to plan out how I'm going to hit up 7 out of the 10 participating stores and take advantage of my 20% discounts :-)  I'm probably going to be teaching a special class at Looped during that time also  The challenge -- Filmfest DC is going on at the same time, and I'm always running from movie to movie during those evenings too.  Such a shame that I haven't learned how to crochet in the dark -- mmmmmm.......

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Combat Knitters

Great article in today's Washington Post about the "Combat Knitters" in Afghanistan and a group in Virginia who's been shopping at Fibre Space and shipping boxes of yarn to the knitters!  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/09/AR2011030905233.html  Of course, I'm sad that we're not talking about "Combat Crocheters" (even has a better ring to it!), but hey, hard to complain in this situation ...

And, tomorrow is my annual pilgrimage to the Washington Home and Garden Show at the convention center.  I just love seeing all the beautiful gardens and landscaped backyard displays, then wandering through the marketplace looking at all the live info-mercials!  Yes, I admit it, it's a guilty pleasure to get sucked in by all these products that are going to change my life ;-)  I have to say, except for one or two duds, I usually come away with some useful stuff.  One year, I had to call my husband and have him come meet me with the car because I couldn't carry everything!  But, the last few years actually have been a bit sparser in offerings.  I think the economy has hit this sector pretty hard.  Well, I will report back about my finds.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tweet, Tweet

Now, I haven't actually tried any of these services yet, but I really enjoyed reading this excellent blog post giving a rundown of some services that help you manage your Twitter account:   http://jobmob.co.il/blog/twitter-timesavers/

Also, March is National Crochet Month!  This blog has a great post on it from last year and has some really "neato" things:   http://www.neatorama.com/2010/03/12/happy-national-crochet-month/

Ok, a short but hopefully sweet post!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Meltdown

Thankfully, not my own, but, again, my computer graphics card had one.  Unlike a year and a half ago, when it would have cost $300 to replace it in my laptop, this time I was able to get up and running again after only $35 (a new card from California off of eBay for the computer tower I bought after the last meltdown).  Last night was spent backing up all of my data (yes, I know, bad Phyllis for not already doing that on a regular and consistent basis).  But, you know, unexpected meltdowns can be a blessing in disguise.  I used the time to finish the Tunisian scarf project, to start on a pillow project, teach a class at Looped Yarn Works and to read my favorite business magazines Entrepreneur and Inc.  I would highly recommend both of them, especially when I'm feeling discouraged about how slowly things seem to be going for my business.  I get a lot of inspiration from the articles and learn about a lot of different (and often free) services that are available for entrepreneurs out there, even small ones.  I also remind myself that, if I were able to spend all of my time working on my business, it would be a lot different than the few hours here and there that I am able to devote to it.  We all make choices (even if it feels like the choices are made for us), and I feel that the trick to it is to accept those choices and work them to your advantage the best you can or, frankly, make new choices.  Whining is not an option!

One tool that I'm currently embracing is http://www.evernote.com/.  I'm one of those people who comes across a website or a product, jots down the information on a scrap of paper or tears out the article or advertisement, etc., then ends up with a pile of papers that I'm paralyzed to do anything about, and seriously, how useful is the information if it's lost in a pile (but I can't possibly throw out that pile for fear of losing something important)?!  Sound familiar?!  Now, with evernote, my dream is that I can jot down a thought, copy a website address that I want to go back to, etc., and centralized it all in one space that's accessible on whatever device I'm using.  I'm in the process of setting up different "notebooks" on the site to organize and file away information.  I haven't fully explored all the possibilities yet or input all the scraps of paper ;-)  but there's potential here!  I'm not a paid spokesperson, I just hope that my experiences, good and bad, can be of help to you, and I'll keep you posted about how that pile is coming.

Ok, now, speaking of piles of paper...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An Urban Myth is Actually Real!

I had a wonderful baby carseat blanket class on Saturday.  Two wonderful students, Pam and Jen, who learned the technique of crochet cable creation and got started on their respective projects (the pattern will soon be posted on Ravelry).  I always worry about project classes -- am I going to be able to teach the students enough of the project to really get them on their way?  are the new skills enough to make the class really worth taking?  Jen got off to a slow start because we discovered she was doing her single crochet stitches backwards, so I had to de-program her and get her to think in terms of "up and over" with the yarn.  I think she really benefitted from the class, so I felt really good about that.  Pam, who was visiting D.C. from Ohio for a convention, had the afternoon off and chose to come to my class!  Whew, talk about feeling the pressure.  Plus, she was really picking up everything so quickly, I just know she could have done that project just fine without me, but I really hope she enjoyed her visit. 

Plus, and here's where the urban myth comes in -- Pam taught me how to make a chainless foundation row!  I'd heard about this technique that allows you to avoid having to start a project with chains, but always figured it couldn't really exist or, if it did, it would be way too hard to learn and then teach someone else.  Well, it's true!!  I need to practice it a bit more then figure out a way to explain the technique in easy-to-understand written instructions, but it's my new challenge, and I will post about it when it's up on the Lifetips site :-)

Other than that, tomorrow's a day off for me (Presidents' Day), and I've decided I need a treat before I really start cracking down on my chores (taxes, cleaning, working through a pile of papers literally a foot high!), so off I go for a massage... aaahhhh, I can't wait!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Under the Sea

Ugh, I have been having some serious computer problems, but I think I see light at the end of the tunnel (or does that just mean that the train is heading right for me?!)

In the mean time, I did make a return visit to the Crocheted Coral Reef exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History museum.  It is just so amazing and beautiful, pictures don't do it justice, but here are a few:



I especially liked the white coral reef (the first picture above) until I realized that that part of the exhibit depicts coral reefs that have turned white because pollutants in the water raise acid levels that bleach the reefs!  I hope you get a chance to visit the exhibit, here are some sites that provide more information:  http://www.mnh.si.edu/exhibits/hreef/index.html and http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/How-to-Crochet-a-Coral-Reef.html

Ok, now back to organizing my files!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ice, Ice Baby!

Yes, DC is getting hit with yet another ice storm.  I'd much prefer snow -- so much safer and prettier.  But, what a great day to stay in, do some work, and crochet!  Though, I'm going to have to venture out later to conduct the second session of our 2-session Intro to Crochet class tonight at Looped Yarn Works.  I'm in the process of putting together an Intermediate Crochet class so that we can explore more advanced stitches and techniques.  Any suggestions always welcome :-)

Otherwise, more new patterns in the works, but the newsletter continues to be delayed due to "technical difficulties".  We really hope to have it out soon, especially since we've got some really interesting and hopefully helpful information to share.

The Tunisian scarf is coming along nicely:

I'm planning on writing it up as part pattern, part instructional materials.  We'll be having a class on it at Looped Yarn Works in March.  I'm enjoying Tunisian more and more, though I can't speed along as much as with regular crochet.  I have to say, I find scarves challenging -- it seems to just take FOREVER to gain length, but then suddenly, you're finished!  I'm looking forward to experimenting with Tunisian to see what other items can be made with it besides square objects ;-)  (baby sweater perhaps?!)

Ok, nice break, but back to "real" work!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Losing Your Mojo?!

So, the hoopla of New Year's is fading, and you're realizing that some of your resolutions are as well!  Well, don't despair, just shift your perspective a bit.  I really found Jones Loflin's and Todd Musig's book "Juggling Elephants" really helpful.  Their premise is that life is like a circus (I know, doesn't sound that original, but be patient ;-) and you are the ringmaster.  But, the ringmaster cannot be in all three rings at the same time, so you need to focus on starting a quality act in each ring, then allowing 2 of the 3 rings to take a back seat while you concentrate on 1 of the rings, then shift around, just like the ringmaster at a circus!  For example, I have hardly been in the computer ring this month -- the blog, the website, the FB page, etc., all need some attention, but the only way I was going to be able to produce some quality samples for Looped Yarn Works (and hence some new wonderful patterns!) was to focus almost exclusively on them.  Now, the trick is to shift back to the computer before things get too stale there.  (And, I have to admit, the family/friends ring has been getting a lot of attention lately too, but that's really what it's all about now, isn't it?!)  I really like their "3 D" technique as well -- Delegate, Delete, Delay -- for when I am feeling overwhelmed. Question how any task you choose to undertake will help you accomplish your purpose. Take greater accountability for what you do-and don't do.



Ok, your action item today is to figure out your three most important rings and which one you want to concentrate on this week.  Check out the authors' website and blog for more words of wisdom and pick up a copy of the book here!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Such Cute Stuff!

I'm so fortunate -- I've got lots of eyes and ears out there, keeping me informed about all things crochet going on in the world!  Like this great website with some pretty amazing amigurumi creatures on it:

http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/79935

And this one with some great home decorating ideas for knitters and crocheters:

http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/193866?utm_campaign=updates&utm_medium=email&utm_content=gallery8&d=0&w=96527

And little Gabe modeling my Summertime Baby Hat:


Keep those websites coming my wonderful little spies!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tulsi Tea and Car Seat Blanket

So, as part of my New Year's resolution to get back in shape and healthier, I've been trying to avoid drinking soda.  Fine, but what to drink instead?!  Yes, I know, water should be the answer, but even though I've stepped it up, water just doesn't always cut it.  I love tea, both hot and iced, but don't want to overdo it either, and while I was shopping for different teas, I came across Tulsi Tea.  "Tulsi" is an herb, translated as "holy basil" (I bought the tea at http://www.ishopindian.com/, which is a great way to get Indian items delivered right to your door if you don't have an international grocery store near you).  I found a box of tea bags, in which the tulsi and some black tea are mixed together.  When a co-worker saw the package, he said that he used to have a tulsi plant and put it in his tea all the time.  It's really quite tasty (not as strong as regular basil), and it's supposed to contain lots of antioxidants.

And, the car seat baby blanket is done!!  The baby shower is today, so whew!  The mom-to-be is having a girl, and she has chosen pink and black as the color scheme.  So, what do you think?!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

And It's Already Sunday

Well, the weekend is in effect already over :-(  It's been a relatively productive and happy one though, so no complaints I guess.  In the waning hours left of my Sunday evening, I thought I'd share with you a concept that I've heard a number of motivational gurus talk about -- The Power of an Hour.  Since 20-minute blocks of time seem to be optimal in many ways for starting new and better habits (it's long enough to have a realistic impact, and it's short enough that you can tell yourself that you can stand just about anything for 20 minutes
;-), think of an hour as a chance to kick start three important activities that you want to make a part of your life.  An hour total, again, is not that long of a time.  We can certainly cut out one TV show or net surfing session in order to gain the benefits of the three "good" activities you are going to adopt.  Jack Canfield recommends reading, exercise, and meditation, but perhaps you want to pick crafting, cooking, and reading.  Whatever the activities, 1) decide what they are, 2) grab an egg timer and set it for 20 minutes, and 3) start!