Carmen Jones, aka Tapgurl, was kind enough to interview me over the weekend about Stitching in the Stacks.
It was my first ever interview and I was very nervous but Carmen was SUPER nice (seriously, I want her to move to Oregon so we can be friends in real life) and I ended up having a lot of fun. We chat about a bunch of things, including the stories behind some of the designs, and I say “um” and “ah” a lot. You’ll like it.

http://www.tapgurlknits.blogspot.com/2013/06/shhh-no-mojitos-in-library.html

Also, in the interview, I mention a book called An Illuminated Life: Belle da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege. If you like biographies (or libraries and librarians), I recommend it!

 

Remember this?

You’re forgiven if you don’t; it’s been a while. There were delays, life got in the way and so forth. But it’s finally all coming together and we’re this close to the real thing.

If you’d like to have a look at all the designs, we have our very own page up at Cooperative Press now. There are designs by Alex Tinsley, Sarah Wilson, Kristin Hanley Cardozo, Carol Feller and a great deal more. We’ll be planning knit-alongs and other events soon, so stay tuned.

Enjoy and be sure to let me know what you think!

PRINT + DIGITAL
$29.95 plus shipping

DIGITAL ONLY (PDF)
$16.95

 

I have a little essay over at Rock + Purl, if you’d like to read it. The assignment was choose one favorite possession and write about why it was important. Let me know what you think!

 

Look what Big Kid and Middle Child found in the field—summer is off to a good start.

Got a couple of busy weeks ahead. At long last, we’ve bought a house (!) and will be moving across town the first week of June. This is good news—we’ve been looking for more than a year now and though we made several bids, nothing worked in our favor (for several months we were working with an agent who, we now realize, wasn’t really up to the task). The new house is beautiful and even comes with a view of the mountains—we’re very excited.

But it’s also a mixed blessing; we’ll miss the big fields behind our current house and of course we’ll miss our sheep. I try to remind myself that we won’t miss the busy highway that runs past the front of the house or the fact that there’s only one bathroom, and I’ll be happy to move to a place where we can stroll along the streets and meet the neighbors. But still, this has been a nice place to live.

Believe it or not, I do have some knitting stuff in the works. I’ll be re-releasing Honeysuckle in a week or two (the rights reverted back to me from CEY and I’m working up a new sample now) and we should have news on the book very soon. I anticipate review copies at least by mid-to-late June and pictures sooner than that. So stay tuned and in the meantime, enjoy the beginning of summer!

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are mothers—or who have ever had a mother! Hope you’ve all had a lovely day. Here, we had beautiful weather, plus cake and flowers, and I wasn’t allowed to do any housework. Really, I don’t think it gets much better than that.

Okay, the winner* of the Market Yourself giveaway is…Steph from The Silly Pearl! Congratulations, Steph. I hope you enjoy it. The publisher will e-mail you soon with a link to download the book.

Many thanks to everyone else who entered!

*Chosen by random.org.

 

[This Giveaway is now closed]

 

PRINT + DIGITAL
$26.95 plus shipping

DIGITAL (PDF and ereader)
$16.95

“…if you make something delightful but don’t have the people (or enough of them), then this book is for you.”

I was very excited last week when Cooperative Press sent me a review copy of Tara Swiger’s new book, Market Yourself. Not long ago, I took an on-line class with Tara and Diane Gilleland. Tara not only knows her stuff but is generous with ideas and encouragement. I’d made a note to look into her book when it became available—then there it was!

Market Yourself is oriented toward people who make and sell handmade objects (including, ahem, knitting patterns) but could be just as easily applied to boutique service companies or pro-bloggers looking for the right audience; pretty much any business with a small-to-non-existant marketing budget will find invaluable tips here.

Tara’s theme essentially is that your marketing should feel authentic to you and your business. Trying to force a marketing model on yourself that you aren’t comfortable with means that a) you probably won’t follow through with it and b) it probably won’t work all that well anyway. In her book she guides readers through the steps of understanding and describing what you sell, finding the “right people” for that product, then creating a business that reflects your brand in everything—from your website to your packaging—that you do. Each chapter comes with several worksheets designed to help you pinpoint your product descriptions and your perfect customers, eventually creating a real, live marketing plan that is tailored perfectly to your business.

The book is great—but it won’t work by itself. One thing—and I know this from personal experience—you have to actually fill out the work sheets. It’s not enough to skim them and answer the questions in your head. Print them out and find a pen; you’ll be surprised at how the answers may be more or less obvious than you thought and how the physical act of writing can lead to ideas that weren’t there before. (And this is one of the advantages to getting the book as a PDF— you can print out whichever pages you want whenever you want them.)

Then of course, you have to apply everything you’ve learned to your business and do it consistently. Marketing is not one of those things that you do once; it will continue to change and grow with your business. And Tara’s book will guide you every step of the way.

And yay! Thanks to Cooperative Press, I’m able to give away one PDF copy of the book.

To enter: Market yourself! Leave a comment below giving a little shout out to the business you have or would like to have. Enter before midnight (PST) on Saturday, May 12 and I’ll announce the winner on Sunday.

 

If you’re coming here from the Daily Worth site, thank you and welcome! Have a look around and let me know if you have any questions.

If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, I’ve been working on a project sponsored by Daily Worth (which, if you’re not familiar, is a fab site devoted to helping women do more with their money). I was chosen for their Livin’ the Dream Series as the “Seeker,” the one who, um, doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up.

I got to have a half-hour consultation with Ramit Seethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich (Ramit’s really nice on the phone—I have a total fan-girl crush on him now). Now I have to follow through with his advice and write about it for Daily Worth.

My first post went live today and I’m working on following though with Ramit’s advice so that I have something to write for the second. Have a read and let me know what you think!

 


We celebrated Middle Child’s birthday this afternoon with a T-shirt painting party. We had one a couple of years ago for Big Kid’s birthday. Middle Child remembered it being fun and wanted one of her own.

I sliced up an old cardboard box for inserts, added T-shirts (on sale!) from Walmart, a mix of acrylic and fabric paints from Joann’s, a handful of paintbrushes scraped from various art boxes, and we were good to go. Fortunately, the weather was perfect. The back-up plan was to do the same thing at the dining room table but outdoors in the driveway was much better.

The kids had a great time. The only issue was that they all loved to glob on the paint as thickly as they could so it may be days before everything dries. Last time we did this, I ironed the shirts from the back once they were dry and they’ve been safe for the washing machine ever since.

I think they did a great job, don’t you?

 

Well, things have been a bit slow around here lately. The blog was down for several days thanks to an attack on my host’s server  and I’ve been trying to crawl out from book-related work (deadlines approach!).

But I’m back today with the first of a series of interviews with designers!

Katherine Vaughan, KTLV on Ravelry, was nice enough to answer a bunch of questions about her designs, the creative process, what she loves and hates about designing and, of course, The Princess Bride. If you want to get to know her even better and see more of her designs, you can visit her website at www.ktlvdesigns.com (she’s also a much-in-demand tech editor).

"Inconceivable!" shawl

You’re KTLV on Ravelry and design under the name Katherine Vaughan. Do you like to go by KT or Katherine?
In general in the knitting world I go by Katherine, but I’ve had the nickname KT for so long that it’s hard to break (and so I hardly bother).  In my other career (academia) I find that the gender-ambiguous name “KT” can be very useful in what is still a male-dominated world.  In knitting, however, I feel like having a female identity is equally useful—so I go by my full name of Katherine.  It’s also a handy way to separate the two sides of my working life, kind of like having a secret identity!

Pearl

I don’t really know that I have a particular style.  I tend to avoid anything dealing with colorwork, except maybe for simple stripes and occasionally a bit of mosaic work, but I also dislike stockinette, so I suppose you could say that I specialize in texture and form – focusing on accessories and, surprisingly, baby blankets.  In North Carolina we don’t have much call for heavy woolens, so I also tend to gravitate to either non-wool yarns or to smaller accessories (or both).

I see you have 53 patterns available on Ravelry and I know you have a full-time job as well as a family. How do you stay prolific without getting burnt out?
Well, that’s 53 patterns spread out over at least 5 years of designing, so it comes to less than one pattern per month, on average. I’m one of those designers who started out writing down and giving away for free patterns to things that I had made up for gifts, and then morphed into a designer who designed gifts around what she wanted to write patterns for.  So every one of my baby blanket patterns, for example, were designed and knit for specific babies – of friends and relations.  This means that I have very very few of my samples left – they were all given away!  Burnout for me is more likely to happen with magazine/book designs where I have a lot less creative freedom (and don’t get to give away the sample). To combat this I’ve backed away from doing as much submitting of proposals so that I can manage my time better.

I notice that The Princess Bride inspired one of your patterns (Inconceivable!) and of course your Jayne hat is a nod to Firefly. Have you been inspired, either directly or generally, by other books/movies/TV shows?
TPB (as those of us in the know call it) also inspired the Valerie sampler scarf (which I am unduly proud of), and the Isidore Shawlette is inspired both by Isadora Duncan (a modern dancer who particularly liked working with shawls) and the taxi driver Isidore in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration book for the movie Blade Runner).  In general, though, I tend to be inspired by a person I know, or a texture, or something in the yarn.  One of my sources of inspiration (as seen in both the Fauxhawk baby hat and the Amirah Blanket) is my bus commute every day—so many interesting things to see there—and the Phat Fiber Sampler Box themes.  I’m really just a sponge, taking in images that can hang out for a very long time before popping out of my brain.

How do you keep track of ideas?
Lol. I don’t.  I know I should!  I’ve played with keeping a sketch journal, Pinterest, and other notes, but just can’t keep up with them (or, in the case of physical notebooks, keep track of them).  It’s very frustrating!

Ocean Park Hat

What’s your least favorite part of designing?
Writing up the actual patterns.  I like writing down the instructions proper, but all of the other little pieces of the pattern that have to be perfect are just a pain in the butt.  Things like, getting my metric conversions right, making sure the gauge and measurements agree, and all those other little details that make up the difference between a hobby and a professional pattern.  I also really need to work on my photography skills – sending my spouse to photography lessons (which, to defend myself, he wants to do), and finding a regular model are on my to-do list.

Have you ever gone through a creative slump? If so, how did you get out of it?
Yes, right around Christmas I had a bad one that lasted quite a while (this is often the case – something about the darkness of the day seeps into my soul).  Luckily right at that time this year I had several patterns come due for some magazines, so I had no choice but to work on them.  By the time they were done I was a little better – and I always have a backlog of patterns in some stage of polishing (writing, photographing, testing, editing) that need help, so that usually tides me over.  Since I also work as a tech editor, I nearly always have something to do, even if I’m not in a knitting mood. When all else fails, I work on baby hats for the Johns Hopkins or UNC hospital nurseries.

Do you have any favorite resources that help you be more creative (books, magazines, websites, classes, etc.)?
My bus ride!  Seriously, my favorite place to look for ideas is just going out in public and seeing what people are wearing or what they are doing – not just the knitwear but also colors, textures, pattern. I also love looking at submission calls for inspiration, even if I don’t often submit things for them. 

Jayne Hat

What about activities? Any non-knitting hobbies/interests that you feel contribute to your creativity—or that you just plain enjoy?
I love to garden – pulling weeds is nearly as good a meditative activity as knitting (though dirtier and more difficult to do in the winter).  So much of my day life is spent thinking, teaching, and writing that I like having hobbies that create something or otherwise show something off – so I spend a lot of time knitting and gardening. I have two wonderful kids that I really enjoy playing with (or just watching), and we often go to sports events at UNC (especially women’s basketball and gymnastics) as well.
Do you want to give a shout-out to a favorite yarn or LYS?
My LYS is Yarns Etc. in Chapel Hill. The owner is a friend from my church as well as my yarn pusher.  I’m excited that right now they’re doing a KAL of one of my sock patterns (Releve). I’m also excited to be working on several patterns using Malabrigo yarns, due in large part to the Malabrigo Quickies series being managed by our friend Alex Tinsley.  Who doesn’t love Malabrigo?
Which knitwear designers do you find particularly inspiring/influential?
My all time favorite designer is Cat Bordhi.  What a creative thinker! I am in complete awe of her ability to really be able to think in three dimensions – a skill I’ve not been able to completely develop. She was the teacher assigned to my table at a Stitches one year, and I about died when she admired my bag (Reduce Reuse Recycle)!
What have you been reading lately (knitting or non-knitting, whatever you’d like to chat about)?
I’m having a bit of an odd day today, actually.  Earlier today I finished reading The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, an odd book that I’m not sure I particularly understood completely.  And then this evening I finished watching the last MacGyver episode on Netflix. It’s weird to be between books and series at the same time. I tend to gravitate towards sci/fi in both books and TV/movies, though my choice is usually on the psychological side rather than space opera. I particularly love LeGuin, Atwood, Eco, Stephenson, Tolkien.  For some reason I’m also on a serious zombie books kick!

Windowpane Baby Blanket

Have any questions for KT? Feel free to ask here!

 

So if you didn’t know by now, I’ve been working on a book. And let me tell you, it’s going to be great.

But that’s not what this post is about.

I have a LOT of work to do for this book. I have 23 other designers contributing a total of 27 designs, in addition to the ones I’m working on. There are contracts to be sent, e-mails to be answered, patterns to be reviewed and funneled on to tech editors, charts to be revised, copy to be written, and notes about props, sizes, and colors to prepare for the photographer. And, oh yeah—I have to knit up and write patterns for my own three designs.

A few weeks ago I hit a wall. I buzzed uselessly from the computer to my knitting project and back again. I stared at the computer screen for long minutes on end. I checked in on Facebook to see if other people were living more productively. I ate a lot of cookies. I thought really hard about all the things I had to do, but I was increasingly, desperately aware that I wasn’t really doing anything.

Last night I was finally able to bind off the last stitches of my first design and block it.  The pattern is mostly written and just needs some tweaking and the jacket itself (I can tell you it’s a jacket but I can’t reveal anything else) doesn’t look too bad. I’ve already made decent progress on my next design. And I’m slowly making inroads on the paperwork; I even feel caught up enough that I can spare a few minutes to write a blog post(!).

I have a lot of late nights ahead of me over the next five weeks but I’m increasingly confident that it will actually all get done. I’m no expert on getting past slumps and blocks, but here are a few things I’ve found helpful in getting past the procrastination and on with the work:

  • Step AWAY from the computer. If you’re a click-through junkie like me, simply turning off your internet connection for a few hours might help you focus. But there’s something about a computer screen that encourages mind-drift and unhealthy perfectionism. It’s too easy to caught up on refining a single sentence when there are still pages left to write or to fuss for hours getting just the right shade of violet in a colorwork chart. To the extent that it’s possible, turn the computer off and work it out with pen and paper first, or work on the physical side of things—like the actual knitting.
  • Write it down. I have a million ideas flitting through my mind. Things I have to do, things I should do, things I might do if I can get everything else done. Each thought is a separate distraction and I no sooner get started on one thing when I’m reminded of something else and begin working on that instead. A list helps me stay focused. I can add things so I don’t have to worry about forgetting them and the crossing items off gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  • Screw the housework. I find myself constantly distracted by the never-ending chores that need to be done around here so I’ve made the decision to let most of it go for now. I’ll maintain some basic standards of hygiene but otherwise I’m on strike for the next few weeks. If my husband wants the bed made he can make it himself, my oldest child is quite capable of getting her own after-school snack, and Kraft Mac & Cheese once in a while won’t kill anyone. I hope.
  • De-clutter something. This sounds contradictory to the point I just made, but a focused de-cluttering is different from the ongoing drudgery of housework. Choose something SMALL, like a single drawer—this is not the time to tackle the attic. I set aside 20 minutes to go through the inbox that sits on my desk and accumulates everything from contracts to bills to children’s homework. Clearing up the space made a practical difference: it helped me get organized and put my hands on things I needed. Just as importantly, it made a mental difference: having a clear, clean workspace has helped me feel calmer and more relaxed.
  • Get out of the house (or office). When there’s a deadline looming, the last thing you feel like you can justify is a trip to the zoo with your kids or coffee with a friend. But I think it’s important to take a break not just from the work you have to do but from the physical environment where you do it. Moving around and literally breathing some fresh air helps put things in perspective and gives you renewed energy to tackle the your work.
  • Delegate. Unfortunately, I don’t actually have anyone I can delegate any of my book work to, but if I did, I would. I can ask my family to kick in with more help around the house and less whining about slapdash dinners and ask my husband to take the kids out of my hair for a few hours here and there. And if anyone offers to help me out with anything, you’d better believe I’m going to take them up on it!
  • Good enough is good enough. I want this book to be perfect. I’m working with a lot a dedicated people who are relying on my to do my absolute best on their behalf. But I’ve realized that I can’t do everything perfectly. I will focus instead on make the work that really needs to shine be as close to perfect as possible and not drive myself crazy about the rest.

Got any procrastination busters to share?

This post is part of Blogelina‘s 100 Comment Blog Event.

 
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