We are a few weeks late with the final book but I hope it's been worth the wait. One of the big issues that held us up was the need to rephotograph and rewrite a couple of tutorials, to make things clearer, and also have a good juggle of the content to keep within a reasonable page count for print & wholesale.

After several layers of editing and proofing, it's now live and ready!

Circled-Cover-1200px-72dpi.jpg
 

I'm especially chuffed with the layout, which I hasten to add, was done by someone with far greater skills than I!

 
 

There was a lot of adjusting and learning with this project, mostly because my shoulder wouldn't permit me to do everything as I would usually do, and that meant outsourcing huge chunks. And it's not just finding the right person and sharing ideas - it's also trust and handing over control. And it's not just that, either - it's also adjusting time frames and deadlines to manage the extra layers and back and forth sharing of info - and it's this area I have the most to learn. Things took took much longer because I couldn't just drop stuff and do it myself. At times I felt more like a project manager than an indie designer, and it was a weird Hat to wear.

 
 

It was worth it though. I couldn't be happier. There's no way in the world that I could have produced something like this. And considering how much of a fussy customer I am, that's high praise indeed.

 
 

Everyone I've worked with has been brilliant, and I'm considering myself very fortunate to have been able to work with such a great team and produce something pretty special.

We'll have the print info ready soon enough and I'll get a wholesale newsletter out to shops next week. In the meantime, I do hope you enjoy the eBook! Next monday it'll revert to it's full price of $16/£10 so if you've not had a chance to grab a copy, now would be a good time while there's still 25% off ;)

I want to talk more about the designs and the project but right now, I'm pretty tired and word-spent, so I'll save that for another day. Thank you to everyone who's been involved and offered help - we did good.

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead

Back in February you may remember that I was asked to give a talk on the subject of 'Ethical Choices for a Sustainable Creative Life'.

I'm not going to publish my speech, but I will link to the film I shared, those I mentioned or are otherwise relevant.

This was the film that I showed during the talk, to highlight how the community has worked with the environment, and how it has changed and developed over the years.

 

This the film made by Charlie about Aran, and his life on the Yard. This is a special and personal film, and I'm really glad Charlie made it, and that Aran had the chance to be himself and tell his story.

 

This is a trailer for a longer film made by artistic documentary makers, ZimmerFrei. The film is called 'Hometown' and I've still not seen it!  It provides another perspective to community life and the individuals who make it.

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There are no doubt many more videos on YouTube, but these are the ones I feel most relevant to the perspective I was offering.

The subject I was asked to talk on is incredibly broad, vastly interesting, subjective and and for all these reasons, also problematic. It would be impossible to cover all possible angles in an hour and so I decided to approach it from a more personal perspective, and talk about the choices I've made. There was an awful lot of interest in our community (which I possibly should have been more prepared for!) and thought I would share these films, even if the speech won't be shared.

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead

One thing though that I've been thinking of off late is turnover. Turnovers are very different things to different people, to different businesses. This should go without saying, really, just the same as what's successful and what someone needs to live on also differ wildly. And yet somehow it's till used as a measuring tool. At best it's naive to compare each other's businesses based on turnover alone, and at worst it's a huge trap that can lead you towards a messy head.

From my perspective, I've never wanted to grow grow my business. I don't want a business for the sake of having a business and I've always tried to keep things simple, streamlined, and not let the business side of things take over. I haven't always managed that, but it is my goal.

And given how we life, one very firm decision I've made is that there will be no tangibles. With good reason. We live in vehicles that have a big risk of condensation and damp. We'll be applying for residency in a country that doesn't have the most reputable postal system. I don't do shows and I'm not in a position to be lugging stock around. But for the most part, we don't have the money to invest in; food on the table comes first.

My business has always been this way - it started online from blogging, and although I have most of my books available through POD and have worked with print distributors for my printed patterns, 95% of my turnover comes from digital sales. That's more than enough to tell me what I need to know. (the other 5% comes from teaching fwiw)

In my almost 12 years of doing this, there have only been 2 years where I didn't see growth. The first was the year when we were fighting eviction and Aran was critically ill; the second was the year after that, when my lack of creativity the previous year became apparent. Otherwise, my business is steady and reliable despite not having what many would consider a high turnover. My growth has been slow and steady rather than rapid, and that makes me feel more confident that I'll be around for a while yet. My biggest costs are people, and that adds to that feeling of sustainability - I'd sooner put money in pockets than in boxes of stuff.

That's the thing with tangibles - they cost money. And naturally any business dealing with tangibles, on whatever level, will see their turnover rise because of them. Even if the average print run for a book costs in the region of £5K, there are extra associated costs with tangibles, and they all have to be recovered through sales. And that in turn will push up the turnover.

And from that basis alone, you can't compare a solely digital business with one that deals with tangibles, even if only in part.

Then there are other aspects to consider. Many designers have grown their businesses in very different ways, outsourcing much of the work quite early on, taking a more formal approach, and that means that they've got to sell that much more to be able to cover those extra costs and still leave themselves room to breathe. And that in turn requires different marketing approaches or different production methods, or both. And as is the nature of growth, it'll keep on going that way.

And while those turnovers are higher because they need to be, it doesn't necessarily mean that those designers are more successful; it simply means they've sold more patterns or books or products. Because they have to. Success is another of those subjective things.

The thing is, what bothers me about all this and what has led to me trying to make sense of it all, is that in the eyes of a few it becomes a popularity contest. I know I'm not alone in feeling inadequate at times when you start comparing numbers. But how on earth we can fairly and squarely compare? And really, why would you want to? 

We are each unique in our styles, our methods, our approaches and our presentation - none of these are comparable. And that is the beauty of what we do.

(how I wish I had confidence! But I wasn't programmed that way, and it takes days like these and words like these to help me come full circle again. I lose a lot of time to depression and anxiety, and that in turn is something else to be factored. And given life as it is, I'm going to give myself a pat on the back and pour a glass of wine.)
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AuthorWoolly Wormhead
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I happened to be online at the right time when talk of Hats for the #scientistsmarch cropped up. My first reaction was...

... and so A Hat To Make A Point was born.

A Hat To Make A Point modelled by the gorgeous Joanne Scrace. We did well to manage a photoshoot over lunch at Unravel! Thank you, lovely.

A Hat To Make A Point modelled by the gorgeous Joanne Scrace. We did well to manage a photoshoot over lunch at Unravel! Thank you, lovely.

 

There were lots of reasons why the Women's March was a success, worldwide. The drive to knit and crochet Hats, the revival of the crafts for many women, the sea of colour, and the acknowledgement of what many of us have known for sometime - that knitting, and crochet, are empowering and valid avenues for activism.

I'm unable to march, and offering up a free pattern is the least I can do to help.

There are 2 sizes included - 19in (12mth through to small adult) and 22in (average adult female).

There are 3 different brim options and 2 different crown options (depending on how much of a point you want to make)

And because I want to be as accessible to as many knitters as possible, I've included instructions for knitting in the round AND knitting flat.

It's a bumper pattern!

I used Manos del Uruguay Wool Clasica as it's a great woolly chunky yarn that knits up super quick and provides women in Uruguay with social and economic opportunities through the Manos cooperatives. (I'm a big fan of fairtrade yarn, as you know).

You can download the pattern by clicking the big button below. Knit it and be part of the community. And don't let anyone tell you that you should keep politics out of knitting - this is your choice, not theirs. (besides, they may need a lecture in why knitting is a political act in and of itself)

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead
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There's a guest blog post from Carol Feller today, and you'll find me over on her blog too :)

A few weeks ago I was talking with Woolly about doing a blog swap and we played around with a few ideas that would make good topics for discussion. We settled on refinement and simplicity, which can often be elusive goals!

When I started designing I was so happy initially to convert a vision in my head into a knitted object with written directions that I didn't see beyond that. In fact for quite a while, as I was learning the art of pattern writing I didn't move beyond that as my goal. As I became more comfortable pattern writing I started thinking in more depth about how people read and follow knitted patterns. When you start out you write patterns that you can follow yourself.

Probys Armwarmers from Knitting With Rainbows

Probys Armwarmers from Knitting With Rainbows

To start with if you’re a visual learner then you'll probably have lots of charts and perhaps links to videos. The more patterns you write the more you begin to realise what a wide variety of learning styles there are. This is the fun and challenge of pattern writing. How do I put enough information in so that as many knitters as possible can follow without reaching overload? But if you start with just charts you quickly realised that some knitters really dislike charts so written directions became standard to add.

When I'm designing seamless knits there are usually several different sets of increase types for the shoulders. I started in my patterns by just listing the stitch count after every section was complete. However I realised for a newer knitter who wanted to figure out where they made a mistake putting the stitch counts into a chart for each section (front/back, sleeve) means that they can easily see where their stitch count is off before they've gone too far. Every one of the pattern refinements has come from knitters; in person with classes, chatting during KALs or just feedback left online. As a pattern writer you're continually growing and changing which means that you can refine patterns even more as you progress. My goal had changed from just writing an accurate pattern to writing a pattern that gives as many different types of knitters as possible a chance to complete a finished knit.

details of the Ravi cardigan design

details of the Ravi cardigan design

Just like with pattern writing, my actual patterns have also become more streamlined as I learn more. The first time I really consciously pared back a design was with Ravi. I started with visions of lace hem and cuffs as well as the yoke. The cardigan began with the upper yoke worked from side to side. This used short rows in garter stitch at the top with lace at the bottom. When it was finished I put it on the dress form for a day and just looked at it. If felt perfect just the way it was, just enough detail but not too fussy. So I thought about it for a little while and decided to keep the design simple with everything else in garter stitch finishing with a short row hem curve. I was happier with this cardigan than any of the more complex work that had come before and it really got me thinking. When designing after the initial stages I've started getting myself to pull back to the 'essence' of a design. It's not about everything that 'can' go into it but has instead become about how much can be taken out so that I’m left with the most important features.

Stave Hat from Knitting With Rainbows

Stave Hat from Knitting With Rainbows

I experienced this again on a bigger scale with the book Knitting With Rainbows. I wanted the beauty of gradient yarn to shine out from the book and take centre stage. This meant that the patterns in the book worked towards this one simple guideline so the yarn was the focus. The only way to do this was to keep the patterns simple enough that each one conveyed a specific idea or way of working with gradient yarn. Then when they're all viewed together it makes a cohesive whole.

Sundays Well Hat from Knitting With Rainbows

Sundays Well Hat from Knitting With Rainbows

I hope to still be designing many years from now but I think that for that to happen I need to continue to evolve in how I write my patterns and plan my designs. It's not really possible to stand still you have to keep learning and evolving.

Thank you Carol for sharing this idea - I've enjoyed swapping blog posts for the day!

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AuthorWoolly Wormhead