Well, the last few weeks may have seen me absent from this blog, but the reasons have been mostly good! I went to h+h in Cologne for the first time and took lots of photos and meant to blog about it but I haven't really sat still since! I will share, I promise - loads of really exciting things happened there.

The latest issue of Knitty is live and they've reviewed Circled!

The book got the top slot and you can find what they have to say by clicking here. (thank you team Knitty!)

 
 

Whilst I was up in Edinburgh teaching at the yarn festival, Renee of EastLondonKnit asked if I fancied being interviewed for her new video podcast. Why not, thought I? I'm not normally that comfortable chatting in front of the camera yet somehow this was fine. And it was really good fun! (and incredibly early in the morning.)

We had a few technical issues but both agreed it was such a good chat as it was that we didn't want to try and re-do it - the environment, the light, the chat - we couldn't try and match it. And that interview has gone live today!

(I haven't been able to watch it as I'll just cringe and runaway, but I hope you enjoy it :)

 
 
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One thing I'm often trying to do is to find ways to make my newsletter more dynamic and interesting. The other thing I'm always wanting to do is to find more/new/better ways to thank my loyal customers and supporters.

These two things invariably cross over, and after a few chats back and forth, Tom and I thought up a plan that might just work.

First things first though, I've a new pattern! It's the DS Slouch (DS = drop stitch).

 
 

The DS Slouch is knitted with Malabrigo Rios, and you could use any worsted weight yarn that comes in at gauge. I like it with the hand-dyed (of course) but you could also give it a go with solids, too.

This isn't any old new pattern, though - it's free to my newsletter subscribers (of which I'm sure most folk reading here are?). This is one way for me to show appreciation for your support. Existing subscribers will get an email with the download info, and new subscribers will get the file once they join up. Northend will remain free to subscribers too.

One of the problems with offering free patterns to subscribers is that folk join up, grab the pattern(s) and then unsubscribe. It happens, it's par for the course. Which is a shame, as I like to try and offer a fair bit through the list, and to my mind those folks are missing out. Some folk also grumble about having to sign up to get their hands on the free pattern - and I get that free with strings attached doesn't always much feel like free. But to me, they're a gift, not an incentive - they're not there to make you sign up, they're there to say thank you for signing up. (at the end of the day, it's my pattern to do as I choose with and if I want to gift it this way, then no-one has a right to complain, no?)

And this is what got us thinking about loyalty schemes. And having spent a fair bit of time researching and rummaging through the Mailchimp archives, we found a way to do it. (we = Tom and I - this is part of his new role; he's gradually helping out more and more with things!)

Each time we hit a new milestone, we'll send out a single use coupon code to each subscriber that allows you to pick one single pattern for free. Sound fair enough? That way then, sign up and everyone benefits. Rather than sharing emails or passing on coupon codes to friends, get them to sign up, too*. The more people sign up, the more everyone benefits. You'll all get the two free patterns and loyalty codes, as well as the exclusive promotions and discounts (if you weren't aware already, subscribers get a deeper discount on every promotion I run, and about 90% of my promotions are exclusive to subscribers anyways)

I mean, I'm not very good at marketing. I'm trying to be because I have to try and make my business more reliable and stable going forward, as we've some tricky life issues and financial hurdles to deal with. And this seemed like a really good way of managing things, a win-win. I am also considering a non-pop-up pop-up - mostly because I think I have to try somehow, but I don't want it to be intrusive, so please bear with me while I work that out (that's something I never thought I'd see myself type or say out loud, but I guess that's what needing to make income more reliable does?)

So - we're not that far away from the next milestone on the mailing list, and between here and 10,000 we'll call each 1,000 mark a milestone? Coupon codes get sent out every new 1,000 subscribers, and from 10,000 perhaps every 2,500? 

Shall we give this a try and see how it works? I'm keen to hear your thoughts on this!

 
 

ps/ I did consider a Patreon but the thought of monthly deadlines worries me - I don't want to promise something I might not deliver on. It's something I'll keep in the back of my mind, though. Patreon is a great way to offer exclusive content for (paid) subscribers and supporters. I'm still not sure it's a path I want to take, even without monthly deadlines... at least with a newsletter it's free, and anyone can join regardless. I've always struggled with finding a happy place between earning enough and being accessible to the cash-strapped. It's hard. And so for these reasons, I'm not convinced Patreon is the way to go for me.

* yes, Mailchimp tells me. It tells me how many times an email to knitter@knittersemail.com has been opened and thus shared. It even provides a list of subscribers with the most 'opened and shared'....

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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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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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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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