How a design is born

I know when I first thought about going into designing full time, I wondered how designers came up with such fabulous designs. In my career, designs have come from all different types of inspiration. Sometimes I fall in love with a stitch pattern, sometimes with the yarn, and sometimes I see something I really want to replicate.

Last night saw the beginnings of a new design. I thought I’d share with you how that came about.

A few weeks ago I fell in love with a skein of Misti Alpaca handpainted lace yarn. Why yes, it does have some purple in it, why do you ask? It also has some really neat shades of grey, cream, and blue. I love it.

It promptly came home with me and sat on a shelf where I could see it every day. When my projects would get to the happy point where my brain can disconnect I’d stare at that skein of yarn. I dreamed of something light, airy and lacy. I wanted to be sure to use every bit of the skein, so it had to be something big.

Yesterday I took my day off to recharge. Part of that day was spent at my LYS. Most of that day was spent on the bus to get there and back, but I was able to get a lot of work done on a gift I need to finish. But while there at the shop, I wandered, touched yarn, and dreamed. I also adopted two lonely skeins of yarn. Both were alpaca and one was lace weight.

When I got home, I felt it was time to ball up all three skeins of yarn. Now, for those who don’t know, this involves me clearing my work table (already done over the weekend), setting up my big wooden umbrella swift (that holds the skein stretched out) and my yarn winder (which is what puts the yarn into a nice center pull ball). It also usually involves letting the family know I’m about to start winding because otherwise my dad starts searching through the house to find out what that squeaky noise is that he hears.

Anyway, I wound all three skeins down into balls and watched as the colors of the Misti Alpaca yarn blended and sped past me. I finally saw what I wanted and grabbed the closest stitch dictionary to see if it had what I was looking for. And I found it. Actually, I had found it a few months ago and flagged it as a stitch I wanted to do something with.

Swatching commenced immediately. The stitch was going to be perfect, but…I needed to shape it a bit. I stopped swatching with the lace and grabbed my graph paper. I then spent the next two hours sketching the stitch pattern (using standard crochet symbols) to see where I could decrease it down. I’m still not done with that part.

Once I get it sketched out, I will then grab some smooth yarn and make sure I’m correct in how I see the stitch. That may take me another few hours (although knowing me, likely a day). Once I know I’ve got the stitch pattern right, I’ll make another swatch to determine the hook size I want to use. I’ll take the time to block this swatch to make sure it will look just like I see it in my head when I’m done. This part will take another full day knowing me. I’ll then figure out how big I want to make the item, do the math, and write out the instructions. Again, this will take another day. So, we’re now at three to four days from now (keeping in mind that I have boxes of yarn coming to me for new projects with deadlines, so I may not get to work straight through on this one). Once all that is done, then I can pick up the actual yarn and start making the final project.

Since the bulk of my day is taken up with deadline work (since it pays the bills), I often have to squeeze my own design work into small bits of time. Today I’ll take a cowl I’m working on for my line to the clinic for while I wait for my dad’s appointment. So what may only take me a week to make if I were working on it all day, may now take me a few weeks or more to get finished. Sometimes, though, if I really love the pattern and the yarn, I’ll stay up and use my non-work crochet time to get it finished.

Yes, I have work and non-work crochet times. Although sometimes, like I said, there is design work that gets done during the non-work crochet times. Typically, my work crochet time is spent doing designs that are on deadline and need to be worked on quickly (by the way, my deadlines range from two weeks to a month out from when I get the yarn). My work day runs from around 8:00-8:30am to 5:30pm when I stop for dinner with the family (lunch is a 15-20 minute stop to eat while I’m checking emails). Typically I get back to work around 6:00pm and work until around 7:30 or 8:00pm. Some nights, depending on the deadline (or how busy I was with family stuff during the day), I’ll work until 10:00pm. So, as you can see, there isn’t always time for non-work crochet stuff.

I’m hoping, though, that with this lace design I can utilize the time I have right now between projects to get a good push towards starting the crochet portion. Birthing designs is difficult and very time consuming. I haven’t even started discussing what has to be done once the prototype is made. That’s a whole other set of time consuming steps. More on that when we get there with this one.

Avoiding burnout

The topic of today’s post is something that not a lot of people like to talk about, but unfortunately is something that many of us deal with. I think of it as the dirty little secret of designers everywhere.

Burnout isn’t fun for anyone. Not for the person going through it, not for those around that person (trust me on that). And when your career is also your hobby, you want to make sure that you don’t take both out in one fell swoop.

As we’re starting to really get into this new year, I hope everyone can take these tips to heart and avoid burnout. This year, I have a “magic word” that I’m working to manifest in my life. That word is BALANCE. And balance means avoiding burnout by finding time for my career, myself, my loved ones, and my friends.

This past weekend (when I decided on this week’s topic), I was struggling hard with burnout. For me, it tends to creep up on me somewhat slowly. I start by working too many hours a day, not eating much (or the wrong things), not getting enough sleep, not taking time to do things that help reset my soul, and becoming somewhat irritable. By this weekend I was in full blown anxiety mode. Now, this may not affect everyone the same, but this is how it manifests for me. Anyway, anytime I thought about the work I needed to do, my heart would race, my hands would sweat, and I just wanted to curl up in a corner and hide. I was taking everything too personally, being very pessimistic, and constantly on the verge of tears.

So, what did I do? I scheduled a day off. Not like when I take the weekend off from working but still think about work the whole time. This is a day completely away from everything. I haven’t had it yet, but it’s there on the calendar (next week actually). Unfortunately, I had to wait until I knew I’d have the current project out the door. But in scheduling that day off, I started making plans for what to do. My goal for that day is something I haven’t done in forever. I plan on taking myself out for the day. I’m not going to work on anything related to my business. The current plan is to go to the coffee house for some coffee and quiet crochet time (for a gift I’m working on), maybe take myself to lunch, and then find a quiet place to just sit and read. Just the thought that this is coming has helped immensely. Whenever I feel stressed out now, I just look at my calendar and can see the big “DAY OFF” written on it. Sure, it’d be better to have it right away, but sometimes our deadlines don’t allow for that.

That’s not all I’ve done. I sat down and wrote out my “master list of projects”. This is a big picture to do list that helps me see just what I’ve got scheduled. Sometimes, especially when I’m anxious, I worry that there is so much going on and too much to do and I’ll never get it done. Being able to see, in black and white, exactly what I have to get done helps me a lot. It gives me a plan of attack, and I’ve already made progress on it.

I’ve also gotten back into the gym and while there will be the obvious benefits of better health and weight loss and such, the best part for me? Thirty minutes or more of quiet time by myself on the treadmill. No one calling me (you can if you want, I leave my phone in the car), no one emailing me, no staring at the piles of projects on my work table. Just me and the morning news or music. It’s a great time for me to disconnect and tune out for a bit.

Probably the most frivolous thing I’ve done (in my opinion), is to go get manicures. Now, for many women, this is fine. But I’m so hard on my nails that my manicurist jokes about how long I’ll be able to keep my polished nails looking pretty (the quickest I’ve ruined them, by the way, was many years ago when I managed to chip it on the way out of the nail salon). Our local clinic opened a spa and it’s very reasonably priced. So I’ve been a couple of times now and my manicurist is a great gal who takes great care of me. She spends a bit of extra time massaging my hands and wrists because she knows what I do. It’s fun to just sit for the thirty minutes and let someone pamper me a bit. Also, it forces me to sit and read afterward because I can’t crochet right after this (the spa is in the same building as my father’s doctor appointments, so I plan accordingly).

There are other tips and tricks I utilize as well: stopping and taking some deep breaths, listening to a guided meditation, taking Bach’s Rescue Remedy (I swear by this stuff), going outside for a walk, etc.

The trick is to find what works for you. And to do those things when you first feel the burnout approaching. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in everything going on and everything that has to be done and forget to take care of yourself. Doing that, I think, is what saves many from the burnout stage.

Good luck!

Crochet Classes at Knit and Crochet Show

The class list has now been announced at the Knit and Crochet Show website. If you look on the list for the Summer Show, you’ll see a familiar name. 🙂 (The fall show listing can be found here).

That’s right, I’ll be teaching at the Summer Knit and Crochet Show in Minneapolis, MN. The show is from July 28-30 (with Professional Development Day on July 27th) at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. All the details for travel and such are located on the main page I linked above.

So, what are these classes I’m teaching? Well, let me tell you, I’m very excited about them. I did some poking around in Ravelry forums to see what people would want to learn, and designed classes around that.

Intro to Thread Crochet is just what it sounds like. If you’ve ever been daunted by crocheting in thread, don’t fear! I go over the tools needed (and tools that will make it easier), how you can still work in thread and not have to use tiny tiny hooks, and we’ll slowly step down from yarn to thread in the hands on portion of the class.

Design Your Own Filet Crochet is going to be a lot of fun. I love filet work and think it holds a ton of possibilities. It’s not just for thread work, either. We’ll discuss how to design and make projects in filet, and these can be done in anything from thread to worsted weight yarn (and above if you’re really adventurous).

Broomstick Lace Cloth is based off of my pattern by the same name. It’s a great intro to broomstick lace and when you’re done you have a pretty little cloth to give as a gift or keep for yourself. Last year this class was a lot of fun with everyone giggling and enjoying themselves. I’m looking forward to teaching this again.

Organizing Your Space is going to be a lecture based class where we discuss all different ways to organize your stash, patterns, tools, and your work space. I’m going to have a ton of resources available ranging from really snazzy ready made options to do-it-yourself options. What makes me capable of teaching this? Well, if y’all remember back a couple of months, I’m living in 225 square feet of space with no closets. Not only am I living in here, but I’m maintaining a full working studio space in here as well. My studio takes up half my room and I am very organized. I have to be or I wouldn’t have room for the rest of my space (which is my bedroom and pseudo-living room). So, I’m going to share what has and hasn’t worked for me (because what might not have worked for me, may work for you). I’ve been collecting tons of great ideas and links and such that will be in a super packet available in the class.

I’m really excited about these classes. I hope that they all “make” (which means I need to have at least 5 people to sign up for them so they don’t get canceled) so I can teach them all. Also, depending on how my classes go at the summer show will determine if I will be able to make it up for the Fall show (in Greensboro, NC).

The website says that more information on the classes will be available in March. I hope you’ll consider going to the conference. I’ve been two years in a row and it has been awesome every time. It’s so neat to be with people who are like minded and understand the need to have crochet with you at all times. And it’s just so much fun.

A great resolution: Supporting Our Own

Happy New Year!

I hope that 2011 already finds you happy and healthy and ready to tackle the new year. Especially because I’m about to come to you with some real serious stuff.

Okay, here goes.

Did you know that there are two great crochet related podcasts out there? Actually, they’re better than podcasts because they’re done live on the internet. Mary Beth Temple of Getting Loopy (an all crochet radio show) and Marly Bird of Yarn Thing (a mix of crochet and knitting, but she represents!) both have shows on Blog Talk Radio.

If you haven’t heard by now, Blog Talk Radio decided to suddenly drop on their hosts that they would be charging for the service AND if not paid, hosts could be moved to really crappy time slots (as well as reduced time). And we’re not talking small fees. According to Mary Beth, it’s upwards of $400 a year. That’s insane. These two hosts are both designers as well. And, if you read my designing series, you know that designers do not make the kind of money to throw $400 at a site.

Totally not cool.

So, the members of the Crochet Liberation Front stepped up and started a campaign. And I’m bringing it to you, my readers, to help get the word out even more.

Here’s how you can help…..

Mary Beth Temple has a donate button on her website: Getting Loopy (be warned, the Blog Talk Radio widget does autoplay…it shocked me ’cause I wasn’t expecting it). Another way you can donate? Buy her independent patterns. She’s got a fabulous line at Hooked For Life and you can find those in the sidebar of her website (yes, I am making you go there first).

Marly Bird has a donate button on the side of her blog: Yarn Thing. Also, you can support her by buying her patterns (could not find a link to her patterns on her blog, but you can find her on Ravelry as YarnThing).

Please help these ladies and their shows out. And I’m not just talking to the crocheters here. Marly’s radio show is a mix of crochet and knitting and I’d love toe see the knitters step up like the crocheters have to help support her show.

So, check them out, support them if you can in any way you can (every little bit helps, and as they have said, buying their patterns also helps support them and the shows), and get the word out!

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