The most boring person alive

I try not to have too many aaaaaagh I am swamped aaaaaagh posts here (seriously, who needs that?), but it has just been that kind of year so far! We’ve got an immense Cooperative Press photoshoot next weekend, so I feel like the only things I’ve done for weeks on end are:

  • planning for photoshoot stuff (honestly, it’s the worst part, and super-detail-oriented, which fries your brain)
  • working on taxes (I have not one but two accountants working with me now…TWO…one’s done my business taxes for ages, the other is a friend-turned-CPA who’s gotten our my accounting system up and running)
  • trying to get a new shopping cart setup done for CP that has some new features (which a programmer is working on)
  • trying to figure out how to accomplish all the stuff listed in the previous post

…and all while continuing to run the day-to-day business stuff of pattern sales, class sales, customer service, shipping, editing books that are going to press, la la la. Even with help from the sainted Elizabeth, it’s a lot!

So last night I said the hell with this and volunteered to help out my friend Dott at an event at SPACES, an alternative art gallery here in Cleveland that does a lot of very cool things. I needed to get out of my own head for a while. For five whole hours I got to forget my daily to-dos, because it was so crazy busy (the event had dozens of artists creating art live in front of a packed gallery, which then had to be bagged, tagged, put on the wall and sold — I did some of that, and also staffed the front desk for a while).

It was intense, but strangely, calming. Exit my overthinking brain stage right, you know?

Remember Baltyka?

She’s been languishing for a while waiting for more yarn (which I now have), so I’m hoping to get her done in time for the photoshoot…hey, a girl can dream. And besides, there will be models at the ready to wear it!

LOOK! KNITTING! on a knitting blog. It’s a miracle! I’ll stop whining now.

I’ll stop whining, and I’ll also point out that for those of you with tax refunds on the way (sadly I am not among you), the Cooperative Press sock/mitt club is still taking signups.

Win $100, witness my chrysalis stage

The Cooperative Press spring survey is live and you have until the end of the week to take it. One randomly-drawn respondent will win $100! (Though of course we know you’re taking it out of love, right?)

CP takes up a lot of my time these days, so it’s very important to me — thank you in advance for taking the survey!

As for other knit-related adventures: I’m working on my design-other work life balance right now, and it’s a real challenge. First up, I feel it’s important to complete the overhaul of my existing patterns and branding before I start adding more new work to the mix, but that’s just part of the total equation.

Hiring a part-time assistant (the exceedingly talented Elizabeth Green Musselman of Dark Matter Knits) has helped a lot but it also means retraining myself. When you work by yourself for yourself for so long, the hardest thing is learning what and when to delegate. Honestly? That part is kicking my butt a little bit.

What’s even worse? Retraining myself to design in a different way. I do my best work on the needles. That’s not sustainable, now more than ever. If I want to produce the amount of my own work that I need and want to do, I’m going to have to hire outside knitting help. And funnily enough, you can’t just hand them yarn, needles and the inside of your own head!

(wouldn’t that be cool, though? get on that, science!)

So even though I mostly made it through the winter without a severe design funk (last year’s was really awful), I am realizing how much needs to change about the way I work, and it’s scary.

Change is scary, but change is also good.

What have you done recently that gave you pause or even scared you a little?

Designer 101 class signups are open!

My popular Designer 101 bootcamp class is accepting signups for its next session! The class, which is run through my virtual online teaching space, has helped dozens of knitwear designers of all experience levels develop their business skills and design aesthetics, as well as learn about practical considerations (from contracts to photography, and everything in between) in a private, supportive environment alongside other designers with the same questions.

What it’s not:

  • basic knitting skills (we assume you are already, or are planning to sell your designs, whether on Ravelry, in print or to magazines/etc)
  • technical editing or grading (we have other classes for that, and if you’ve been waiting, we are trying to schedule one soon)
  • a class to “coast” in — you get more out of it when you participate!

What it is:

  • An opportunity to have one-on-one interaction with me both in and after class — I am happy to help you out with lingering questions or new problems even after class ends. (One former student landed a major magazine commission recently, and I was pleased to provide feedback on her contract questions, which directly tied into the contracts module from class!)
  • A chance to ask questions in a supportive, private environment — some things you just don’t want to ask on a public board, as one student said!
  • A place where you can rethink what you’re doing, get new ideas from fellow designers, and improve your patterns/work overall.

What previous students have said they like about the class:

“Having access to wide group of people and a professional that actually took time too look at what I did and give me feedback. I also loved have the opportunity to take a guided walk through of essentially starting up a pattern business and learning what I needed to do!”

“Creating a designer style sheet, and the whole idea of branding. Getting ideas from the other class participants. [Learning about] the marketing side of designing.”

“I really enjoyed working through the lessons and assignments with other classmates and making those bonds as well as learning from each other and obtaining feedback.”

When asked if they’d recommend the class to others, previous students say:

“Yes, this class is not about HOW to design, but how to be successful with your designs. It’s an excellent class that has you look at what you bring to the table, streamline your brand and make you successful doing what you love. It was a fun, exciting class with lots of tips.”

“Yes, absolutely. It’s a great thing to get solid, honest feedback from professionals and be able to talk openly in a closed forum.”

“Absolutely. This class was hands-down one of the best investments for my business, not only did it teach you all the things you didn’t know you didn’t know, it also gave you (me) the motivation to follow through with them and launch my designing career into high gear!”

The class is $65, and runs for as long as necessary to cover everyone’s questions and make sure everyone is clear on the subject matter, generally 4-6 weeks. Assignments are posted and you respond with your homework in-thread, so it’s not necessary to be online at the same time as everyone else, although we can schedule chat sessions as needed if desired.

If you sign up, I’ll invite you to the classroom manually (it’s not automatic), so patience please!

We’re also working on bringing back some old class favorites (fashion illustration, etc), so stay tuned for that.

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See you in class!

Whirlwind

It’s been an incredibly exciting week, one of those weeks where your brain hits the “full” mark way too early and you just can’t absorb anything else. Here’s the scoop: I went to Austin for SXSW Interactive, where I was giving a talk on niche publishing. I used what we’re doing at Cooperative Press with knit-related publishing as a jumping-off point, and people had some really great questions, which was exciting for me.

I really have to offer many, many thanks to Rachael Herron, who shared some publishing money-related numbers from her own experience with me to make the presentation a little less nonfiction-centric. She also provided me with a very cool example for my talk of what’s possible these days: her short story didn’t get used elsewhere, so she published it to Kindle herself, thus providing people with a lower-cost introduction to her characters and their world which, hopefully, will lead to them checking out her other books. Clever, no?

Then, I came home to this article about me and Cooperative Press in our local paper. That was the journalist-with-a-clue I was talking about on Facebook a little while ago — he really got what we’re trying to do. (Even if they did spell Anezka wrong. Oh well. Minor quibble! That’s what I get for naming my born-in-the-Czech-Republic-dog after a Czech saint…)

While in Austin, when I wasn’t having Important Business Meetings with my ace assistant Elizabeth (recently hired, and worth one million times the pay, believe me), I was eating tacos. Sometimes both at the same time!

No, really.

I was eating tacos like it was my job. Final total over 5.25 days = I think 28, but I might have lost track. I’m pretty sure I had tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. What can I say? The tacos are awesome in Austin. I took a lot of taco photos for my own amusement, most of them are over on Instagram or Facebook. This pretty much sums it up:

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE YARN?! MY GOD, WOMAN. TELL US ABOUT THE YARN!

Stacy at the Knitting Nest was kind enough to throw an event in my honor — hey, tell me there will be Shiner Bock and I’m there. This is a fiber art piece by Seann McKeel which is on loan to the shop at the moment. It’s hundreds of knitted, felted cranes, and it is beyond gorgeous. I fear I could not capture its utter gorgeousness with the iPhone camera, so check out more about it at Knit Not War.

I also got the chance to stop by Hill Country Weavers, where I taught last year. They’re a Shelter store and I have a crazy addiction to that yarn, so of course I had to go poke at their inventory.

In the same general vicinity (and close to my FAVORITE tacos at Torchy’s — deep fried avocado tacos? yes please) is Stitch Lab.

If you think this is cute, you should have seen the giant jars full of vintage buttons at the back of the store. I walked out with some Kaffe Fassett fabric and an idea for the magazine, as well as some fabric with adorable vintage-style typewriters on it. Possible Kindle case? I’m still deciding. OH. The magazine! Did I not mention it yet? Yes, this month has been crazy.

Here’s the scoop — Cooperative Press is publishing a new magazine that hopefully will fill a void I see in the knit-and-fiber mag market in terms of not only knitting patterns (let’s be brutally honest, there are a ton of places to get patterns), but also really high quality content, with an emphasis on the kinds of topics CP does best, from fiber art art to the business of craft, in-depth articles about designers and things that crafty people care about, etc.

Let’s call it a cross between the (late and lamented) FiberArts magazine and Yarn Market News, with some Adorn, KnitKnit, knit.1 and CRAFT magazines thrown in.

If you’re not on the CP and/or Knitgrrl mailing lists, get on them — you’ll be receiving a comp copy of the premiere issue in the next few months.

Ok! more yarn at SXSW! Speaking of fiber art, Magda Sayeg of Knitta Please did this amazing display for one of the French company booths:

Looking at them from the other direction, it spelled out the French city’s name.

I get stupidly excited when I see my own name or something I’m presenting on a sign. Like here:

Or here (this was in the green room before I went on):

But one of the most exciting things at SXSW for me, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Firefly/etc nerd was seeing Joss Whedon’s hour long panel.

He really is that funny in person, not to mention cool. (Some guy was doing — I don’t know, some kind of scavenger hunt quest thingy — where he had to high five Whedon as part of his task list, and he DID IT. Hilarious).

So it was a fun-yet-productive week, and I am full of new ideas that I am itching to implement for Knitgrrl and for Cooperative Press.

What a week.

It’s only Tuesday and this week is kicking my you-know-what. I’m trying to prep so I can fly out to SXSW this weekend (I’m leaving Thursday, full day planned for Friday, stuff on Sat/Sun, speaking Monday, flying back at the very crack of dawn Tuesday), I’ve got the usual crazy Cooperative Press workload plus setting things up to run in my absence, I had to drop my dog off this morning for a small surgery (routine dental + removing a biggish but probably not serious lump) and ended up crying in the parking lot because she was so panicky and it made ME panicky…in short, UGH WHEN WILL THIS WEEK BE OVER?

updated to add: she’s had the lump out and it’s not cancer, WHEW, but she still had to have 2 teeth out, so…poor doggie!

But in happier news, I knit up a new cowl this weekend in a fun boucle yarn (I forced myself to take some downtime, although is it really downtime if you’re thinking about making it into something for sale?) and cast on an experimental möbius to play with, I got to see the Rembrandt in America show at the Cleveland Museum of Art and then go out with my friends Friday night, and really, all things considered, I should just stop whinging.

There’s a contest going on among the Stitches teachers to see who can get the most click-throughs and signups for their classes. Even if you’re not going to Stitches South, would you at least do me the favor of making with the clicky? It would be awesome to win, so thanks in advance!

New pattern + important project

This is my latest pattern, Restraint.
This is my most excellent husband, Tamas.

It’s so hard to be married to a knitter. (Yes, that was sarcasm). You get things custom-knitted for you, you’re even given input on what you would like to have in the final product, and all the knitter asks is for a model when it’s done.

Why “Restraint”? Because absolutely everything I suggested for the hat (cables got voted down here – alas!) was vetoed. And so this is a model of considerable restraint, all things considered. It’s a simple, fast, fun knit and it’s reversible, so if you want to knit one for yourself, you can wear the slightly-more-decorative other side facing outward.

You can buy the pattern on Ravelry or Craftsy.

Now: another very important thing to tell you about! My friend Gina from Alchemy Yarns is selling limited-edition hand painted scarves to fund the very important textiles-related work she’s been doing in Cambodia. Read more about it here.

100% of profit from these scarves goes IMMEDIATELY for relief to The Lotus Center, Kamping Puy and Battambang, Cambodia.

I will be donating all proceeds from sales made during the next week of the digital edition of my book to Gina’s project. Even if you’re not a designer, there are fascinating interviews with a number of designers you know and love, and Gina’s doing something amazing here. Thank you in advance…

We have a winner! (well, more than one, actually!)

(for the Valentine’s contest)

Courtesy of the fine computers at random.org, and their random number generators, the plaid bag goes to… Catherine!

Bonus points because her comment was super-extra-hilarious:

My husband had a bad day last week and, for him, was unusually down. I tried a number of cheering up tactics, but still no smile. I pondered a bit more and came up with an idea I thought might do the trick. Quickly trolling through my vast arsenal of female emotions, I mustered up some pretty good and sincere looking facial muscles, turned to him and said, “I love you more than ALL of my wool.” Now since we are pretty much double-insulating our whole home with my wool stash, and that he is pretty aware of the fact that I know almost every ball and skein by name and location, this was a significant statement for me to make. He immediately laughed and said, “Really? All of it?” I caved a little. “Well, okay, not the ROWAN Felted Tweed. Everything else.” His grinning reply back was, “Really? That’s it? Just that one? Nothing else?” Me – “Oh yes, just that one.” A complete lie because I know with all of my soul about those few skeins of special hand-dyed that I keep under our bed and which I take out and stroke every few months, but what the heck, he was the one having a bad day.

The Shannon’s Choice Award of my own black Jordana Paige bag goes to Liz, who wrote, using Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” for inspiration:

The Passionate Knitter to Her Bag

COME live with me and be my bag;
With angora, alpaca, all that swag,
I will fill and you, my sweet love,
To create rich shawls, mittens, gloves.
You will sit beside my comfy chair,
With the rhythm of needles in the air,
And see the my creations come to shape;
Our life together a splendid escape.
There will I make thee a loving friend;
All cares will instantly suspend;
A partner, a sidekick, my grandest tool,
You’ll be treasured as my rarest jewel.

A sweater made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
Gorgeous knitwear to behold.
Needles made from gleaming wood,
Used to make a charming hood:
Inside you, you’ll find, in this life of grace,
If you come live with me and be my case.
Afar we’ll voyage together, to arrive
In style at Vogue Knitting Live,
Or fiber festivals off the beaten path,
Like lovers on holiday, we’ll cut our swath.
The knitting angels shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
Grab these delights—and do not lag:
Come live with me and be my bag.

And the Shannon’s Choice runner-up — no bag, but you can have a selection of my patterns and books, if you like, is Sandra:

I am the grandmother of 5, almost 6. when my second granddaughter was trying to distinquish me from her other grandmother, she wanted to call us Grandma Dean and Grandma Phillips. I am divorce so I said, what if I get married? You will have to change my name. I am one of 6 children, the oldest, and my siblings called me SaSa. I said, call me Grandma SaSa. She said I am going to call you Sassy and it stuck. I am Grandma Sassy. Now mynieces children call me Sassy and even some other family and friends do too. It shows you can become what you are called, because, now I am sassy!!!!!

Isn’t that awesome? Congratulations, all. And now back to laying out and working on the final edits of several books, because the next few months are banner release months for Cooperative Press. So many books coming out soon! It’s dizzying, but in a good way.

Speaking of which:

I would love to hear your opinion on the new Cooperative Press website design. It’s slowly evolving, but I think it’s getting better bit by bit. We’ve also added some neat new functions like being able to pin books you like onto Pinterest. For example, you click here (well, it’s an image on the CP site) Pin It
and it lets you pin my book on Pinterest and tell your friends you like it, etc etc. Each book now has this on its page. Yesterday I had a local business journalist call asking about how we’re using Pinterest for our business and it was fun to show him that.

And on the yarn front, I got a skein of Bugga! in Violet Tailed Bluet the other day — it is just weep worthy, color-wise…recommend! recommend!

Valentine’s Day giveaway!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the lovely people at Jordana Paige have given me a SPECTACULAR bag to give away! Check it out — this messenger bag for knitters is pocket-filled, comes in a gorgeous, funky plaid, and retails for $92.

How to win? Just leave a comment about what you love: your significant other? Cookies? Malabrigo Merino Worsted in the hank? Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? We’ll pick a random commenter on Valentine’s Day to win the messenger bag.

Bonus: make me laugh or submit your comment in a particularly creative way, and you might win my own personal Jordana Paige bag, the Rio:

So have at it!