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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week 1 - Recap

Well, amazing how things never go as planned!  Week 1 turned into a two-week whirlwind of cleaning, organizing, and finishing up some of my many half-done projects.  I found at least 10 projects that are all at the 80-90 percent done phase.  What is that about??  As a result, instead of sitting around dreaming up new projects (though I did jot down a few new ideas like the original plan called for), I've been trying to assess what gets finished, what gets put aside again, and what gets pitched.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself - a good portion of my time during this phase of things has been spent organizing, maybe not my thoughts as this blog post is demonstrating, but at least my physical arts and crafts supplies.  I'm truly committed to figuring out the hopefully finite universe of "stuff" that I've already got and getting it all organized in a manner that makes it easy for me to access and actually do something with.  I got a bunch of nice boxes and labeled them:  "needles and notions," "pompom makers" (yes, I actually have enough of them at this point to warrant a separate box!), "buttons," etc.  That way, as I plow through all the bags and piles of the craft supplies that I have, I can immediately "file" them away in their new homes.  For example, I discovered that I have a total of 14 yarn needles, and, now, I know where they all are :-).  I still have five more project bags to go through and assess, but I feel like I've made progress in getting a handle on what I've got and what I want to do with it.  I will post photos and give more specifics about the tools and tricks I've used to make this a fun and inexpensive endeavor, but here's one quick hint:  Michael's sells packs of photo boxes that are perfect for organizing all the little things that easily get lost and disorganized.

In addition to the physical reorganizing I've been doing, I've been trying to get my digital world in order too.  I've joined the legions of people who can't live without their iPhones!  But, what can I do, between some great apps and the ability to sync with my phone and real computer, I'm finding ways to be more efficient and organized in the virtual world too.  For example, one of the main themes that emerged these past two weeks is that my "branding" needs some freshening up.  So, one of the first steps I took was to revamp my crochet pattern template.  Now that more functionality has been added to Word (or maybe my knowledge of that functionality has increased), I was able to set up a template that I like as much as the one I had on InDesign.  I also discovered that my hastily created system of 1) typing a pattern into SnapWriter, a notetaking app that works with Evernote (because, of course, my phone is right next to me while I crochet), 2) later accessing Evernote while sitting at my real computer and copying and pasting the crochet pattern instructions into my new Word template, and 3) then being able to convert the Word doc into a PDF and list on Ravelry is actually working out pretty well (though I have not made it yet to the third step because I need to re-test the pattern and finalize the instructions, and, oh, take a few more photos too!).

I'm also in the process of testing out Trello and Milanote, but I need to work with them both a bit more and gather my thoughts before posting about them.

And, ha, I haven't even told you yet about the cookbook that I just self-published -- You'll have to visit my new website and Facebook page to learn more!

Now, off to figuring out what Week 2 is going to be about!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Week 1 - Organization and Ideas

Hard to believe summer is over, and I've got a lot of blogging to catch up on (my trip to London and some projects and partnerships that have been in the works!).  But, first, I feel the need to do some "spring cleaning" that never happened during the actual season :-).  That spring cleaning is taking place both literally and figuratively.

I've written before on this blog about the many challenges of running a small business, especially on a part time basis. And, lately, I'm finding myself yet again pulled in many directions.  And there's a lot of materials and "gurus" out there offering direction.  It's hard not to get caught up in those free ebooks that promise to give you all the inside secrets about how to do whatever you've chosen to do successfully.  But, of course, to get more than just generalities like "create it, post it, and watch the revenue stream in," you've got to spend at least $97 for the full program (it always seems to be $97, discounted from thousands!).  I'm not knocking these offerings; I'm sure that many of them are quite worth it, but, even having explored some of these tantalizers, I'm not sure that I've found the one perfect program that's going to be right for me; I'm finding the need to cobble together bits and pieces from many different sources.

So, I'm challenging myself to find/create my own path, and I'm going to share my journey with you, frankly as a way to hold myself accountable (and, who knows, maybe I can charge $97 for it someday too ;-).  Over the next several weeks, I'm going to try to methodically go through the general steps that many programs suggest and adapt them to my particular situation.  I want to combine some resources and pick the best high and low tech tools for getting things done.  I tend to be a paper and pen kind of gal, but I have a feeling that there are apps and software out there that might actually make my life easier in the long run.  I want to explore how I can, wisely, make use of virtual assistants and gig providers on Fiverr, for example, to free up my time to do what I do best and what I most enjoy doing -- crochet (plus a couple of other areas of interest I hope to be exploring more ...).

Since it's Sunday, it seems like a good time to start Week 1: Organization and Ideas.  This week, I'm going to concentrate on just organizing my creative resources and supplies and brainstorming about the content that I want to create.  I've always just started crocheting when an idea pops into my mind because I really can't draw (or, more accurately, I've never taken the time to learn some fundamentals of drawing), and I'm not suggesting that I'm going to abandon this approach.  Instead, I want to harness it a bit better.  I've got a bowl of yarn and some hooks sitting on the coffee table so that, when an idea strikes, I can actually start playing around with it.  But, ideas don't always strike when it's convenient, and, to me, it's hard to be inspired when I don't even know all the supplies I already have.  I've kept all sorts of inspiration boards on Pinterest about how to organize a work station and my craft supplies, but it's time really to start implementing some of those ideas.  I can't keep running out and buying stuff when I can't find stuff that I know I already have!

So,  I want to use this week to just take the pressure off (hey, that's what August is for, right?!), look around my world and see what inspires me and what needs to find a new home, organize the remaining stuff and write down some ideas about what to do with it all, and then be able to look at the big picture to prioritize the projects I want to pursue.  For example, this week, instead of thinking of a potentially great idea and then promptly forgetting it, I'm literally going to carry around pen and paper to scribble down whatever pops into my head.  Then, later in the week, I will go back through my notes and see if any of it still makes sense!  There are a couple of apps that are supposed to help you virtually/electronically create project boards and organize files and resources, so I want to experiment with some of them to see if I can combine physical and electronic methods for getting projects launched and finished efficiently and cost effectively (I'm sure you're sensing another theme here too about maximizing already existing resources so as to achieve cost savings :-).

I hope my musings (not sure I can really call this a "plan" just yet...) about Week 1 are inspiring you to undertake your own journey as well.  I'll be posting each week about what I've learned the previous one as well as where I'm intending to go the next week.  I'll be posting on Facebook and Instagram as well about the progress that I've made, so please come follow me there!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Metro Yarn Crawl 2017

I can't believe another Metro Yarn Crawl has come and gone!  We actually made it to 8 stores this year, but we still didn't make it to the store in Occoquan.

Nina, Mary, and I did the Maryland stores on the first Friday of the crawl, visiting Second Story Knits to pick up our totes (and some yarn of course).

We headed to Knit Locally's new location in Gaithersburg, where I scored some beautiful red yarn and a shawl pin.  They have such luxurious yarns there, this is definitely for a project for ME!

Our last stop was at Woolwinders on the way home.  Just like last year, it was a rainy, cold day, so what better to do than visit yarn shops and buy yarn!  Actually, this year, even though it may not seem like it, I tried to concentrate on getting new gadgets that would help in using up my yarn.  I will let this one speak for itself :-)

On the second Friday of the crawl (rainy and cold again!), Mary and I headed to Virginia.  It was a real adventure out to Leesburg to visit Finch Knitting and Sewing Studio.  It was worth the trip!  Such a great store, and you'll be seeing my new gadget from there in another post.  But here's a taste of the amazing vibe and decor.

Then off to Red Fox Yarns, where Uniquities used to be.  The new shop is delightful, with an emphasis on baby yarns and reasonable prices!  And you can't help but stumble upon a cute little stuffed fox everywhere you turn :-)

Our last stop was Nature's Yarns, where I scored a Della Q organizer for my knitting needles (haven't actually organized those needles yet, so no pix).  Love that store; it's definitely a place where you could sit and spend an afternoon so comfortably...

On Saturday, I bribed the hubby to driving me to Old Town Alexandria for a quick stop at fibre space, and I walked on Sunday to Looped Yarn Works (for the locals, that's about 3 miles!).  Another awesome Metro Yarn Crawl!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Last Days for #NatCroMo GIveaway!

Hope everyone's been having a wonderful National Crochet Month!  Amy and Donna of Crochetville have outdone themselves once again with the Designers' Blog all month, and here's my original post on the 9th.

I've been hinting all month on FaceBook about our NatCroMo giveaway, and you have only until midnight EDT on March 31st to enter on our FaceBook page (just "like" and follow the page!).  Last hint: it's a fun amigurumi project. 

Spread the word, we'd really love to hit 500 likes!  And we'll be posting complete photos of the giveaway and announcing the winner next week.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

NatCroMo 2017

It's really hard to believe that another National Crochet Month has rolled around!  I'm so honored to be part of the Crochetville Designer Blog Tour again this year in celebration of the enduring life skill and art that we all love so much. 

In anticipation of NatCroMo, I started offering my Pollie the Octopus pattern for free, hoping that each reader will feel inspired to make at least one to give to her local hospital to help premature babies!  More details on why octopuses are so comforting are in this post.

Also, I'm going to be having a little crochet mystery giveaway near the end of March through my Facebook page, but you have to "like" and follow my page to be in on it (a winner will be chosen from among the page's likes and privately messaged for shipping information).  I'm closing in on 500 likes, so please help me get over the top!  I'll be dropping hints about the goodies included, so check back here on the blog and on Facebook often!

This year's blog tour theme is Glamping.  Now, I am not at all the camping type, but I'm really enjoying the virtual trips we're taking this month through Crochetville's NatCroMo Facebook page, and be sure to click on Vedetta Lodges in Tuscany, Italy -- bellissima!

But still, my post is indirectly related to the theme of loving crochet and being inspired by exotic getaways and everyday locations.  This month (and throughout the year), we are going to be motivated to visit some of these amazing yarn stores that are participating in the tour and start a number of the beautiful patterns that this month's featured designers generously have posted.  But, March has 31 days in it, and, at some point, the abundant offerings of NatCroMo are going to be overwhelming -- I'm here to say that it's ok to give yourself permission to NOT crochet (only you can let yourself off the hook so to speak). 

Treasonous talk for the month in which we celebrate all things crochet?!  Hear me out.  I'm not advocating giving it up totally or taking a break if you don't feel like it; but, there are times when NOT crocheting will actually deepen your love and appreciation of crochet and help you see it all with fresh eyes (and hands!).  Frankly, I've gone through a few periods like this recently and wanted to share my experiences:

1.  Do NOT crochet when doing so gives you more angst and stress than it takes away.  Whether it's a project that's on a very tight deadline (real or imagined) or a new technique that's giving you fits, if crocheting is causing stress, you need to step away.  Life is already full of enough stress, something you love should not be adding to it.  Sometimes just a few hours away will do the trick; sometimes you'll need more time to decompress and center again.  The point is, trying to power through is going to set you back more than stepping away for the time you need to love crocheting again.

2.  Do NOT crochet when it's adversely affecting your physical health.  Whether it's the fact that you've been sitting on the couch not moving (except for your hands) for hours or that you're giving yourself carpal tunnel, it's time to put down the hook and get active!  Sometimes I try to justify watching TV by telling myself that, hey, I'm also crocheting, I'm doing something productive and meaningful.  That's true, but when hours have gone by, I realize that I feel stiff and sluggish, my eyes and neck hurt, and that I should have been pacing myself.  As they say, moderation is key.  Now, I keep an eye on the clock; I don't crochet for more than an hour at a time -- once I get to a natural stopping point, I put my project down and go for a walk.  Even if it's only for 10 minutes and just around the apartment, I get up and move!  It's usually all I need to feel better, plus this approach makes for a better crochet project in the end because I then take the time to look over the crocheting I've done and assess.

3.  Do NOT crochet when it feels like a burden.  Usually, I love making all different types of crocheted gifts for relatives and friends, and I love designing and posting new patterns, but sometimes the whole process just feels like one more thing that you have to do rather than something that you love to do.  Now, for my sister designers who are thinking to themselves, well, I'm not going to be able to make a living if I don't stay on top of all my projects, I'm especially going to encourage you to take a break.  Stepping away, even for just a day, to regroup, rethink, RELAX, can make all the difference in approaching your work with a fresh eye and renewed spirit.  Inspiration for a new crochet project is all around us, but we won't see it if we don't stop to take it all in.

So, to end on a high note, it's amazing how the love of crochet is spreading far and wide, with such variety in techniques and designs.  It's obvious that the fiber arts for many is not a short-lived fad but a lasting lifetime endeavor.  Enjoy the journey and please stop by to visit me on my blog or Facebook page during your travels.  Here's to many, many more NatCroMos!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day 2017

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  It's not too late to whip up some beautiful crocheted hearts to sprinkle among your favorite peeps, so go to my Ravelry page for the free pattern!  Please post your hearts, I love seeing the projects that crocheters have come up with using this pattern (making two and filling with potpourri has been a fave).

Unfortunately, my sweetie is out of town this year, so I'll be doing the next best thing:  crocheting and watching trashy tv :-).  I hope everyone's day is filled with fun and love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Make a Crochet Octopus for a Premature Baby Today!!

A couple of friends have posted this UK article on Facebook about crocheters making octopuses for premature babies because the tentacles remind them of their umbilical cords and make them feel safe and breathe better!  Of course not only am I ready to go into action to make some, but I want to do more -- the article links to a lovely octopus crochet pattern, but I've had one for Pollie the Octopus for sale on my Ravelry page forever, and I'm making it FREE!  I think, if I do say so myself, that this pattern will be easier to make for a beginner crocheter, and it meets all the requirements mentioned in the article (all cotton, tentacles not longer than 22 cms/8.5 in.).  So, PLEASE, make one today!!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Purl Soho in NYC

I just got back from a quick trip to New York City and was fortunate to see my friend Charlene who lives there.  We hopped the W train to Canal Street and visited Purl Soho, which is on Broome.

This yarn store in known as being one of the 10 best yarn stores in the country, and it's obvious why as soon as you walk in the door.  Not only do they have beautiful yarns, but Liberty of London fabric and all sorts of notions and accessories.

I of course couldn't help myself and bought some of the fabric (yes, that's $19.00 for a 1/2 yard!), a Purl Soho drawstring bag, and a weird little gizmo that came in a pouch with the cutest pompom on it (that will be figured out and revealed in its own post).  Surprisingly, I managed to not grab any yarn, but I figured it would be easier to call them or order yarn online in the future than it would these items.

Haven't decided yet what to do with the fabric -- maybe a little scarf for myself in anticipation of spring!  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Curation Consternation"

So, I've been thinking a lot about the blog content that I want to create for the upcoming months and for 2017.  I've been putting together individual posts for the general post that I did for the 5 Must-Have Crochet or Knit Baby Shower Gifts.   And I was thinking about my tagline "be thoughtful" and how it is intended to evoke in the gift giver thoughtfulness towards the gift recipient but also thoughtfulness towards oneself because, as we all have experienced, you often have as much pleasure in giving as you do in receiving.  But, as I move towards putting together collections of crocheted and knit items to make, I was thinking about another tagline to sum up why it's different and unique.  One of the new taglines I was thinking about was "Curation + Convenience" or "Convenient + Curated".

But, this morning while watching CBS Sunday Morning, Faith Salie had a whole segment on curation and her irritation with the word!!  She thoroughly explains the origins of the word and how it's evolved as well as why she believes it's become overused and meaningless. 

Suffice to say, the segment has given me pause about whether I want to use that word to describe what it is I'm trying to do.  I'm in search of a new, descriptive, catchy way to encompass my desire to inform you about, in my opinion, the best choices and resources that you have available when planning and creating your crochet and knit baby gift giving!  Back to the drawing board...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

TGI 2017!

I am really glad that 2016 is over.  Although good things happened, too many unsettling things happened as well.  It's time to start fresh, and January is the best time to do that.

I don't like referring to a list of "resolutions" because I feel like it then becomes doomed to fail.  So, based on my guiding principal of simplicity, here are my goals and aspirations for the new year:

1)  Simplify Yet Bolster My Social Media Presence

Many Creative Gifts has a Face Book page (please come "like" the page ;-), a Twitter feed (of course come follow us too!), Instagram photos, etc., etc., but I post and tweet and whatever quite randomly.  This year, I'm going to methodically spruce up my page on each media platform and then try to utilize it effectively.  I've come across some great checklists and tips on Pinterest (oh, we are there as well) and posted them to my "Small Business Tips" board.  Well it's time to go old school, print some of those babies out, and get cracking!

2)  Simplify Yet Enhance My Product Offerings

I've always just created what I've felt like making, then posted the pattern on Ravelry and sometimes the actual sample on Etsy.  But I haven't paid attention to sales analytics, etc., like I really should.  I want to offer items that people want to buy or make themselves!  I still think it's a good idea for me to concentrate right now on crocheted and knitted baby wear and build out my Classic and Colorful Collections (but I'm sure I'll get distracted by other projects as well); I just need to be sure I'm offering what buyers are wanting.  That's why I participated in two holiday bazaars this year, so that I could do some market research.  Unfortunately, the turnout was very low at both due to very rainy and icy weather both days, so I'm not sure I really took away much insight from the experiences (except how to set up and break down a display table efficiently, which is a good lesson to have come away with).  I think I'll have another chance in February for a special Valentine's pop-up shop.  I anticipate that online sales will continue to be my focus and hopefully concentrating on #1 above will help as well.

3)  Simplify Yet Enrich Each Day

It's amazing how easy it is to fritter away time in unproductive and ultimately unsatisfying ways!  There's plenty of time in a day to do the things that you want to do IF you are willing to give up the game apps, email scrolling, and all the other time-sucking activities that we all do.  Now, I'm a firm believer in mindless activities, we all need to take some down time, but it all needs to be managed.  And, I know what you're thinking: "But it's just 5 or 10 minutes, what else could I do with that time?" The answer is plenty.  Ten minutes of exercising your abs is better than 10 minutes of exercising your finger!  Or, more importantly for me, 10 minutes of activities that help me achieve #1 and #2 above is what I need to be doing.  As painful as it is, I think the only way I'm going to be able to direct my attention to worthwhile apps (like a book app or an educational coding one) is to delete the others (taking comfort in knowing that they remain in the App Store for future downloading again if I get desperate).  But unplugging might be the best way to simplify:  truly making use of the "power of an hour" concept by exercising for 20 minutes, meditating for 20 minutes, and learning for 20 minutes.  Back to basics!

I hope my yearly process of closing out one year and getting ready for the next has been helpful to you as well in contemplating your courses of action.  There's no right or wrong way to do any of this, just be sure you're making conscious decisions, not passively following habits you no longer need or want :-)  Here's to an amazing 2017!