Follow Friday: Follow Finch

I’m lucky to live really close to Finch Knitting and Sewing Studio but I don’t tend to get out and about as much as I should, so I keep tabs on their goings-on via social media (mainly Instagram and Facebook) and their blog. The shop and Nicole, the owner, made national news earlier this year for being so welcoming and inclusive. They have classes and workshops and retreats and are in one of the cutest historical buildings in my town. On top of all that, Nicole stocks thoughtful, high quality yarns and fabrics. Finch is the only place local to me (well, without traveling too far into the DC metro area) that stocks Liberty fabrics. Finch is also an authorized Bernina dealer and I desperately need to replace my basic-level 25 year old sewing machine. I’m almost afraid to go in the shop because I know I’ll walk out with an empty wallet but on the other hand, I know I would find a community of creatives there, so Finch is on my stretch list – I know once I start going regularly, I’ll fit right in.

Bonus: today is the day that Finch Boxes launch! I’m really tempted to subscribe even though I could (in theory) walk to the store (in an hour or two) – I would love to get something crafty from Finch in my mailbox!

Gir Hat

I’m interrupting my 30 days of knitting posts to write about an actual finished knit. I took a break from sweater purgatory, aka knitting sweater bodies in stockinette, to make my oldest son a hat. I haven’t knit hats for my boys in a very long time; one of my goals for this fall is to knit one for each of them (and maybe the cats & dogs too, so they don’t feel left out).

I asked Brandon, a college freshman, what kind of a hat he wanted and he texted me 2 drawings. Do you know the cartoon character it’s based on?

B's hat, sketch 1
Insomniac Steven is not the cartoon character the hat is based on. I’m not sure who Insomniac Steven is; he told me and it instantly flew out of my mind. I should probably ask again.
B's Hat, color drawing
The colored version of Insomniac Steven and his hat.

I have to admit something before I tell you who the hat is based on: I didn’t see the teeth at first. Someone else pointed them out to me and the whole essence of the hat (and Steven’s costume) took a dark turn.

The hat is based on Gir from Invader Zim. Gir is a quirky robot who’s come to earth with Zim, an alien banished to earth to keep him out of his leader’s hair while they do important things. Zim disguises himself as an elementary school kid and Gir as his dog, complete with a dog custume that zips up the front. Brandon has another Gir hat made from fleece that I bought on etsy 6 years ago but I think it’s too small to wear and worn out.

The original Gir hat that I got on etsy. The tongue was glued on and promptly fell off after I snapped this picture.

There are a lot of knit, crochet, and fleece Gir hats out there. All of them are cute, like Gir. None of them are vaguely sinister, like the one Brandon drew. So I poked around on Ravelry for some basic hat-with-ear ideas and ended up borrowing elements from several hats and throwing in some elements of my own.

The bigger eyes for @mistiggan's Gir hat came in & E modeled the finished hat. The eyes don't have a button back, so I attached bar pins to the back of each so he can take them off when he washes it or pin the eyes to other things. 👀
Ethan modeling his brother’s finished hat since B is 3 hours away.

I got the yarn, Buttercream Luxe Craft Soft Knit Solid, on sale at JoAnn. There were other lime green yarns that would have worked, but this is a tube of finely knit nylon jersey fabric and it was more interesting, and softer & smoother, than the other available yarns.

The brim (is it still a brim if it doesn’t flare out? I should check my hat terminology…) of the hat is hemmed to keep it sturdy and eliminate curling altogether. The top seam of the hat is grafted; I could’ve used 3 needle bind off, but I wanted an unbroken transition from front to back. The ears are made by sewing a line to make triangles at the top corners of the hat – easy peasy, not like the short rows I initially envisioned. The black faux seam is slip-stitch crocheted from the inside of the brim around to the front and back of the hat, then to the back inside brim.

The eyes – oh the eyes. What a saga. Brandon picked the eyes out from a selection of eyes I found on etsy; I really didn’t want to make felt eyes and then stitch them to the hat – they would’ve prevented the hat from stretching where they would have been stitched (or glued) on. So he chose the eyes and I ordered the 16mm size because the shop, SteamPunkDream, doesn’t offer button back eyes in any other size. As you can see, 16mm was too small.

These 16mm eyes are way too small. I should've known & ordered the 30mm eyes too. Even 30mm might be a smidge too small, but I just ordered them because you can never have too many dragon eyes - Halloween is coming!
The beady original eyes. Now I have a spare set of eyes to play with.

The 30mm eyes don’t come with a button back, so I used Modge Podge Dimensional Magic to attach bar pin blanks to the backs. Voilà – now he can take the eyes off before he washes the hat and move them around if he wants.

Eye pins curing.

Now: to write the pattern or to not write the pattern, that is the question. I think Buttercream might be discontinuing the yarn I used, so I’d need to find something else and make another. And get test knitters. I realized the other day that asking for and organizing test knitters is what’s really holding me back from writing the pattern for the Hourglass Scarf. I need to get over that.

Bullet Journal

I mentioned yesterday that I started a bullet journal and I thought I’d share some of it today since I actually followed through and used it. What’s a Bullet Journal? The short answer, without popping out to is that it’s a handwritten planner system that you can use in any notebook. Most people use small(ish) notebooks that they can carry with them, but I have a thing for Clairefontaine french-ruled paper and used the last of a 5 pack of cloth-bound 96 page A4 notebooks for my bullet journal. (I used the others for journals & to track workouts.)

There are 3 (or 4) views of time in a bullet journal: annual and beyond in the Future Log, monthly in the month spread, (optional) weekly spread, and daily pages. The idea is that you record everything for future months in the future log, which is organized by month. Then at the end of each month, you create a new month spread, organized by date and day, and record everything from the future log for the following month. Every morning, you’re supposed to check the month log for activities and goals/tasks for that day and record them in the daily pages entry along with anything that wasn’t done (but was on the list for) the day before. I also used daily pages to record other accomplishments of note.

July month log, Jeffrey paws and toe beans.

I had other spreads for tracking things, like a daily habit tracker (basically an adult sticker chart) to keep me accountable for things like drinking enough water, exercise, reading books, etc. I also created an elaborate system for tracking household chores and cleaning that quickly fell by the wayside (along with the actual cleaning).

Also, there’s a whole symbol system for listing items in the journal no matter what the time view/spread is: an open square for tasks, an open triangle for appointments, and a few others that I haven’t been using. When I finish something, I color in the square or triangle. When I partially finish something, I color in half. When I blow something off, I cross it out in one day and write it again in the next day’s entry.

Daily log in my bullet journal and some Jeffrey toe beans.

The problem is that I started to write the same things over and over and instead of this motivating me to stop procrastinating, I just made myself feel worse for not doing the things. By mid-May I’d stopped using even the daily pages. Keeping up with the journal became too overwhelming; I was putting too much pressure on myself to get a large number of things done each day and beating myself up for procrastinating. I’m an overachiever with some things – all in or all out, go big or go home – and am working on being more steady with my efforts.

So in that vein, getting the bullet journal to work for me in a positive way again, I’m trying weekly spreads instead of daily pages. I like being able to look at a whole week all at once and that’s the time frame that I like to look at for setting and accomplishing goals – daily is too often and monthly is a little too broad.

Weekly spread for this week and more Jeffrey paws.

Do you use an analog planner/planning system or a really kick-ass app or online system? I have friends who use the Passion Planner, and others who use Trello for personal/household planning.

Digital Pattern Sales: etsy woes

I’m starting to think selling my patterns in my etsy store, The Yarn Office, was a bad idea. Ravelry is so great in how they handle patterns that I just somehow took for granted that etsy would behave in a similar way, but no, it doesn’t. Let me explain …

A good friend of is making my Pasithea Baby Blanket pattern as a gift for her nephew, who’s expecting his first child in August or September (I’m fuzzy on the details). She’s a fantastic writer and editor and found a few mistakes that my tech editor and I missed – I swear, no matter how many people carefully proof and edit, there are always a few niggling problems that escape into the wild. In this case, one was minor (two mislabeled subsections) and one was more serious (transposed instructions).

As soon as my friend pointed these out to me, I updated the source file (InDesign) and created a new PDF for revision 3 of the pattern. I asked my friend to let me know when Ravelry notified her of the update – Ravelry notifies pattern buyers when a pattern is updated so they can download the updated version – and discovered there was a catch: she didn’t buy it on Ravelry, she was super sweet and gave The Yarn Office some traffic & a sale.

The problem: etsy doesn’t have an easy way – or really, a way at all – to send an update or let purchasers know that one is available. I can go into the past orders for the shop and track down each buyer’s email address and, I suppose, email them an updated file. That’s fine for the moment since I have so few sales of that pattern, but what happens if/when I get more and it becomes more cumbersome and time consuming to send an update? I could add a note to my pattern template with my website, aka this blog, or Ravelry and start keeping track of corrections here/there. I could also just wash my hands of it and put a warning in the product description that the patterns won’t be updated, an option I really don’t like. Or I could just pull them all off of etsy and only offer them on Ravelry. And oh yeah, Craftsy.

I need to noodle this through and really decide what my goal is with the etsy shop. I’ve put far more money into it than I’ve gotten out of it. Perhaps it’s time to put it on vacation mode for a while and revisit it when I have more clarity (and better things to sell).

Rose Herringbone Cowl

Herringbone Cowl - Rose, double loop with right side showing
The finished Herringbone Infinity Cowl, modeled by my to-be-named assistant, The Mannequin.

I finally finished it, washed and blocked and everything. And of course listed it on etsy. Calculating the price for this was tricky because I won’t be able to replicate it when I finish this skein; I do have enough for one more – I only used half the skein. The yarn is discontinued and there’s nothing like it on the market right now; it’s a bulky weight chain plied tape yarn made with 90% extra fine merino and 10% nylon.

Herringbone Cowl - Rose, close up of right side
The right side of the fabric so you can see the structure of the yarn. (I did take another close up of it a few weeks ago, but this one is, uh, fresh.)

I think I mentioned in a previous post that knitting with this yarn was really tricky, like knitting really soft rubber bands or super stretchy elastic. The finished cowl is really, really soft – it doesn’t feel like wool at all – and it’s also really, really stretchy. Stretchy enough to comfortably wear tripled around your neck, maybe even quadrupled.

I know it’s not really the right season for selling cowls and scarves, but I can’t stop designing and making them; they’re so quick and easy and fun. I’m in the early stages of designing another one, this time with sock yarn because there are just so many great hand dyed sock yarns out there to work with.

In listing this cowl on etsy, I realized that I haven’t listed the first sample that I made, the one that’s pictured in the pattern. I also have a finished Owl Honeycomb Blanket to list, but I need to list it as a lap blanket, not a baby blanket, because it’s knit with wool that must be hand washed and I wouldn’t give something that needs to be hand-washed a new parent (or a new baby, for that matter).

I suddenly have lots to do; I wish I had thought of all this the other day when I felt like I had nothing to do (nothing but housework, anyway, and who wants to do that?) and therefore spent the day on Pinterest creating an account & many boards for The Yarn Office. I’m glad I created a separate one for The Yarn Office, but part of me wishes that I’d just used my regular old account; I’m repinning a lot from it. I’m organizing it a little bit better, so at least there’s that. And I’m still pinning non-yarney things to my other account.

Anyway, I’m rambling now. I’m going to go take more pictures and list those two other things on etsy. Happy Friday! Have a good weekend!

Sale Experiment, Inspiration

I’ve decided to offer 20% off my patterns on Ravelry and 20% off everything in The Yarn Office to celebrate my upcoming birthday (May 3), Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival (May 7-8), and Mother’s Day (May 8) – just use coupon code HBD2016. This is the first time I’ve offered a discount and I’m hoping it helps spur some sales and then some projects from my patterns.

I managed to post about the sale all over Facebook while leaving out the coupon code. Oops. Facebook doesn’t make it easy to track down your own posts in groups, or if it does, I haven’t found it – editing those four group posts was clunky and slow. I wish FB had something similar to Ravelry where you can see your latest posts in groups.

Double Rainbow Scarf 1
Double Rainbow Scarf (what does it mean?!?!?!) pattern & scarf available on etsy

Sale experiment #2: instead of posting a picture of what I’m selling to Instagram, I hand wrote info about the sale and took a picture of that. Here’s hoping that catches people’s attention and gets them to check the shop out and maybe even buy something.

20% off my patterns on Ravelry & etsy, 20% off finished knits, objets d'art, & spinning fiber in my etsy shop (link in profile). Coupon code HBD2016. <3
The handwritten coupon. Cheesy or cool? I’m not sure. 

This week I stumbled on two new sources of inspiration: a thread in the Designers group on Ravelry which has some really interesting designs, many from one knitter who has a really interesting story and fabulous super bulky sweater designs. I’m glad I read all 297 posts in the thread, but if you’re not up for that, you can just browse through the pictures instead, a shortcut I learned while perusing super long threads showing dye and knitting FOs.

The second source of inspiration I found is the Fiber Artists and Yarn Spinners Facebook group, which actually has intelligent people with really interesting posts, unlike many of the other groups I joined to help promote my etsy shop. I know that sounds terrible, but I won’t spend time in a group that’s full of spammy posts or posters who don’t use spellcheck/autocorrect (or both). Also, FB groups aren’t really that easy to use, IMO – posts shift around too much and it’s still difficult to find things even with the Search function. So Fiber Artists and Yarn Spinners is full of actual fiber artists posting about their work, which is fascinating to me.

For a while I followed HandEye magazine‘s Textile section for the same reason: interviews with artists & craftspeople and in-depth looks at their process. And that also reminds me of the PBS series Craft In America, which I’m happy to see is producing new episodes. I may actually rewatch some of it today while I knit (probably the Threads episode); they are fascinating interviews and peeks into artist/craftspeople’s journeys & processes.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend with lots of inspiration!

Mannequin Arrival, Thoughts on The Yarn Office

I ordered a mannequin last week because the latest batch of pictures for the Quill Eyelet Cowl were pretty dismal selfies. I am no model and while I can sometimes get an acceptable-to-me selfie, it takes me a long time and some days I’m just not into it. Enter the mannequin. It was under $60 total and was super easy to assemble. It did smell a bit, so I kept it on our screened in porch for a day and then sprayed it down with Febreeze. I’ll probably name it – something like this really needs one – but for now it’s just The Mannequin.

Small Quill Eyelet Cowl On My New Mannequin

I started retaking pictures of The Mannequin in quill eyelet lace cowls to replace the dismal selfies in the pattern listing on Ravelry & Craftsy and to get ready to release it on etsy since today is the deadline I set for offering it for free. I think they turned out pretty well – definitely better than wild haired me scrambling to get in position while the camera timer counts down.

Over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time on SEO for The Yarn Office, my etsy shop. Honestly, I’m getting a little discouraged. I know SEO and etsy shop marketing are long term activities that aren’t necessarily going to yield immediate results, but some positive feedback, even a purchase, would be nice. I started the shop in 2011, tried for a few months to get it off the ground, and then got distracted by/entranced with roller derby. This time around I’m trying to be more tenacious and patient while reviving the shop (or really, just breathing some life into it).

Even if I end up putting more money into it than I’m getting out of it (the current state of affairs), I’ll likely still continue designing patterns and knitting and making one-off art pieces. I’m just not sure if I’ll be doing those things on etsy – I’d rather spend money on etsy buying handmade goods than futilely trying to sell them.