Where I’m headed

Nearly two months ago I wrote Where I’ve Been and admitted that I was struggling not only with my fibromyalgia but also with my anxiety disorder.

Summer break is now here and while I’ve been able to get the rest I need, I’m still exhausted, both mentally and physically.

So, it was time to write about what the next steps are for me.

I have taken a break again from designing. I recently did a couple of designs for a yarn company and those will be out later this year, I’m sure. But that showed me that it has become really difficult for me to do this anymore. Unless the project is a super easy one that I can do in a short amount of time, I likely won’t be taking on any new work. The other eye opening situation was that crocheting even just an hour would cause my hands to cramp up severely. I have been knitting recently and I don’t have the same issues there, something about the movement of the hands, I’m sure. So, still playing with yarn, just in a different way.

I’ve already alerted my current clients, but I’m taking an indefinite hiatus from tech editing. I do not trust my brain to do what it needs to do in that arena and I won’t be responsible for messing up another designer’s work because of that. It’s hard, and I feel like I’m letting people down, but I had to do it for me.

Right now I’m not sure what the future holds. I’m taking things day by day, some days minute by minute. I’m working at taking care of me as well as my family.

I do so appreciate all the warm thoughts and prayers. They mean more to me than I can express. Hopefully I can keep updating this blog with posts about my spinning and knitting adventures (and they definitely are adventures, let me tell you).

Where I’ve been

So, hi. Yeah, been a while since I’ve written. I apologize for that. Every week that went by without a post, I’d get anxious about not posting, but had nothing to really write about, so it was difficult to come up with something.

But, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I haven’t been posting and figured it was time to be honest about why I haven’t been posting.

Many of my longer time readers know that nearly two years ago I took a sabbatical from designing. I was feeling burned out and no longer creative. What you may not know is that the burnout came not just from overworking, but from my anxiety disorder getting out of control.

Yes, you read that correctly. Too often those of us with mental health issues keep these things very quiet and private. I fell into that. Well, no more.

My name is Tracie Barrett and I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

This means that things can be going really well in my day and I can have out of no where a full blown panic attack. These are scary and hard to deal with. Even if I don’t a full blown panic attack, my anxiety levels get so high that I lock up and can’t function. This is what happened two years ago at TNNA. By the time I made the walk from the hotel room down to the show floor, I could barely breathe, my hands were shaking, and I felt like everyone was watching me. I just couldn’t do it. That was the most anxious I’ve ever been in my life, even back to when I was diagnosed in high school.

I thought that the main trigger was the pressure of designing. I thought that if I took time off I’d feel better and be good to go. I was wrong.

This last year, while everything in my life was going well and should be making me happy, I was miserable. I would sit on the sofa and have my anxiety ramp up until my heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe. The anxiety triggers my fibromyalgia pain (it’s not my only trigger, but it’s one of them) so then I’d start hurting. The pain kept me from doing what I needed to do in the day, which would make me more anxious. It was getting to the point that many days I just couldn’t function.

During the last few years my fibromyalgia has also been getting worse, which was hard to come to terms with. Things I used to do just a year ago are nearly impossible now. Things I enjoyed like walking to downtown, going hiking, decorating our home, cooking, etc. This has been an eye opening and depressing situation all around. I’d been accommodating for my weaknesses so much that I had never noticed how much I was doing that until I was forced to. That was difficult and did not help the anxiety.

So why am I telling you all this? Because I’m tired of hiding in the shadows with this. Mental health issues should be just like any other illness and be talked about without whispering and hiding.

Last month I was started on a medicine which does seem to be helping ease the hard edge of the anxiety. I’m still dealing with the pain and mental fog of the fibromyalgia. Granted, as many of you who follow me on Twitter have seen, the medicine is causing a very disruptive side effect – massive fatigue. I’m having to learn how to work around that, which only gives me about an hour or so a day of actual work time. Which is very difficult.

I’m not going to promise when the next post will be. Some days I can barely link together words into simple sentences. I’m hoping once summer break hits I can start sleeping in a bit and see if that will help me be a bit more productive during the day.

New pattern: Northern Lights Cowl

Whew, it’s a bit dusty in here! Sorry about that. Summer was crazy and I’m just now getting my bearings and figuring out my schedule again. You know, just in time for winter break from school. Oh well.

Anyway, let’s talk about the big news! I have a new pattern to release. Apparently, designing is like riding a bike, you never really forget how to do it, no matter how rusty you may be at it. 🙂

I was approached by someone to design an item using Blue Heron’s Rayon Metallic. Oh, this yarn is so yummy. Definitely a splurge item for a stash, but so beautiful and fantastic to work with.

The yarn cried out to be a cowl, similar to my Southern Lights Cowl, but much fancier. So it demanded to be bigger, lacier, etc. I let the yarn do the talking in this design. It’s another mobius (because I love these for cowls), and the body is a pretty easy lace design. The true stunning part of this design is in the lace edging. It’s deep and allows you to fold it back like a collar. In fact, in the photo it almost looks like I’m wearing a shrug, not a cowl.

Now, some notes about this pattern. It is VITAL that you check your gauge. I used all but about 10 yards of this yarn. And I had to rip back a number of times to subtract rounds to make sure I used all of the yarn without running out. If you’re not using the Blue Heron, then this may not be an issue for you. But if you are, you need to make sure that you match my gauge. That may mean you need to use a different hook than I did.

If you’re going to substitute yarn, I would use a yarn with a lot of drape. A heavy wool or even a cotton may not drape the same. Part of the appeal of the design is how drippy and slinky the cowl is. Make sure your yarn has that same drape.

Northern Lights Cowl

Northern Lights Cowl

Northern Lights Cowl

$4.50 PDF Download

I hope you give this pattern a try and that you enjoy it!

Winner of Unexpected Afghans!

Thank you all for your great comments about your favorite afghans to make! It was really fun to read all of your comments. And thank you for all the great compliments on the Amada Baby Blanket. I’m so glad it’s been well received.

But, let’s get to the drawing! I numbered the 23 comments I received in order, and then went to Random.org to use their Random number generator.

And the winner is….

Congrats to Monica! Who says…

Big and lacey all the way! I tend to have short attention span on projects, so having a pattern that goes quick is my favorite.

Monica, shoot me an email (or use the contact form) to send me your email address and I’ll pass it on so we can get you your ebook!

So, let me answer my own question…

I live in Florida, so I love motif blankets. It is too hot here to work on big afghans throughout most of the year. So motifs make it so I can get the bulk of the work done without too much in my lap. Then I can sit at a table and get the motifs joined and into a big afghan.

Now, I also love quick blankets. My go-to pattern for “I don’t know what kind of blanket I want to make but I need a blanket quick” is a giant granny square. I can do those without even looking at what I’m doing, and it’s quick and mindless.

I have some more blog posts brewing, so as soon as I can grab some time to write, you’ll see those. As I hinted at a few weeks ago, I’m knitting now and doing pretty well. Don’t worry, I will always be primarily a crocheter. But I can see how both art forms have their pros and cons.

Unexpected Afghans Celebration Weekend!

This weekend Interweave Crochet is kicking off a celebration for the new Unexpected Afghans: Innovative Crochet Designs with Traditional Techniques!

I am so excited that I can finally tell you about this design. I loved every minute of this design.

Okay, let’s start with the photo, because that’s what y’all want, right? Here you go! Here’s my design, Amada Baby Blanket:

Amada Baby Blanket

I started this design with the idea of making lace in a worsted weight yarn. When I got the call for this book, I knew I had to send it in. The swatch was done in the same yarn as the final project (so happy for that!) and it’s Universal Yarns Cotton Supreme. If you haven’t used this yarn, seriously, pick some up. It’s so smooth and silky and has incredible drape.

Robyn was fantastic to work with and she picked a stunning color for the final project. I loved the bright pink. It gives it such a pop and a flair. However, any color you work this blanket in will be stunning (and change the look significantly).

Don’t let the lace fool you into thinking it’s a hard pattern. It’s not. It’s a simple four row repeat that’s super easy to memorize. Because it’s in a worsted weight yarn, it goes super fast. It really is a great way to introduce yourself to lace crocheting.

And it’s not just for babies! This blanket turned out a bit big for a baby blanket, 39″ square. So it’s perfect for draping over a favorite chair and using to cover your lap or shoulders. I originally pictured this as a porch blanket, perfect on a porch swing on a cool spring evening.

I do hope you’ll check out this book. Not just because I’m in it. But because it is so full of great designs from great designers. I have so many of these patterns marked to make at some point. There is some top notch work in here. Designs that are far from the typical patterns found in afghan books.

Now, if you’re interested in winning an e-book version, just respond here by 11:59pm Eastern Time on July 4th with your name and an answer to this question: What’s your favorite technique for afghans/blankets?. Are you the big and lacy type? Simple and traditional? Motif? Back and forth?

Also, check out the rest of the celebration at the links below! I hear that there will be giveaways there, too!

Robyn Chachula Crochet By Faye

Dora Ohrenstein Crochet Insider Newsletter

Ellen Gormley Go Crochet

Carol Ventura Tapestry Crochet

Linda Permann Lindamade

Diane Halpern Three Rivers Crochet

Drew Emborsky The Crochet Dude

Annette Petavy Annette Petavy Design

Jill Wright Wool Crafting

Simona Merchant-Dest Stylish Knits

Doris Chan Everyday Crochet

Edie Eckman Edie Eckman

Mary Beth Temple Addicted to Alpaca

Kristin Omdahl Styled By Kristin

Marty Miller Not Your Grannys Crochet

Annie Modesitt Modeknit

Megan Granholm Loop de doo

Kim Guzman Wips N Chains

Apparently I “denigrate” Olympic athletes now

UPDATE: The USOC has updated their apology with one that should have been there in the first place. Read the top part. Thank you. I still stand by what I said, and I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about the situation, as I don’t know if this would have come about had you not had to deal with a HUGE Twitter storm of PR Nightmare. But, actions will speak louder than words. Know that every action y’all take now is being watched to see if this is sincere or not.

Yeah, so news to me yesterday, apparently my participation for the last two cycles of the Ravelympics (as well as being a captain of a team this year) is denigrating to the Olympic Athletes. Wait, I’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor before I continue.

Hang on, wait, no, read this first, then come back: Article at Gawker

How did I do this?

By crocheting.

While watching the Olympics.

For the first time since I was a child (watching the Olympics, not crocheting).

Because apparently I’m so daft I would consider for a moment that making a sweater (Summer ’08 games) and a beaded mohair shawl (Winter ’10 games) is on par with athletes who train all their lives to compete in the Olympics (here’s a hint, I don’t).

Summer ’08 Ravelympics entry

Winter ’10 Ravelympics entry

Oh, and I also apparently assume that these gold medals (you know, bits on a screen) are the same thing and on the same level as the serious hardware our athletes strive to receive.

My “gold medal” for my sweater that denigrates athletes

My “gold medal” for my shawl that denigrates athletes

I know it’s different. I have the utmost respect and admiration for our Olympic athletes. But honestly? Prior to the Ravelympics I rarely watched the games. I didn’t make it a habit. But when I was starting my project at the start of Opening Ceremonies? My butt was in a chair with the ceremonies going on full blast. I was cheering my country’s team. I was tearing up during it. I found the opening (and closing) ceremonies beautiful and a testament to what the Olympic spirit is all about.

Whenever I was working on my project for the games, I would watch the Olympics. I was actually paying attention the last two games, more than I ever had before. Even when I finished my projects before the close, I still watched the closing ceremonies, too.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw the cease and desist letter from USOC. Now, let me clear up a few thoughts:

1. I understand trademark law. I get that you have to protect it in order to keep it. I’m not faulting you for the initial part of the cease and desist letter.

2. HOWEVER, I wasn’t aware that the word was trademarked by the US Olympic Committee. Pretty sure the Olympics are a worldwide event. Or are we the only ones who are so money hungry we trademark anything that stands still long enough to slap a TM on it?

3. Really? -lympics infringes upon the trademark? Well, that’s for people way above my pay grade to sort out, so I’ll leave that one alone.

4. It is the tone of the letter, the ugly and denigrating terms used in the letter, that has not only me, but everyone else up in arms.

There’s been a response, finally, from the USOC. “Apology” from USOC. It’s a half-arsed apology, one that I wouldn’t accept from the boy if he tried to give it to me after saying the same things the USOC’s law clerk (yes, clerk) said in that letter. So, no, I’m not accepting the apology from the USOC. And no, I’m sure as heck not going to be making anything to send to them.

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do about Ravelympics this year. I was really looking forward to participating, to sharing the excitement of the Olympics with the boy, to showing him how to take on a challenge of something you’re not sure you can do and pushing to do it (what the Ravelympics and the Olympics are about…last I checked).

Now? Now I’m not so sure. How do I explain to him that the USOC puts money (and their sponsors) above average citizens (and their sponsors customers…lest we forget that)? I will gladly and always support our athletes. I will not, however, continue to support an entity that has apparently forgotten its entire purpose.

So while the USOC would like to say shame on me, I’m saying “Shame on you.”

Now excuse me while I go back to my knitting (yes, a post on that forthcoming, this one caught me by surprise).

Why you need a tech editor

I’m thrilled that Laurie of The Crochet Liberation Front featured me in today’s newsletter. If you’re not a member over there and love all things crochet, do check them out. I’ve been a member of the CLF since close to the beginning and have never regretted it. I’m also a proud Indie Pro Plus member and cannot recommend it enough. There are exciting things happening there and on Hookey.org, the place where we go to play.

In today’s newsletter, Laurie mentioned my tech editing side of my business. I have a page here on my site describing my services, but thought I’d answer the age old question I hear a lot from newer designers, “Why do I need a tech editor?”

The answer is simple and blunt. No one is perfect.

While I can’t answer as the end all be all of the tech editing world, I can tell you what I do and why I think it’s important for every designer.

1. I check to make sure that if you abbreviate a stitch one way in your abbreviations list, you abbreviate it that way all the way through your pattern. In other words, consistency.

2. I check to make sure that you’ve explained the stitches you need to explain. If you are using a special stitch, it’s explained in the beginning and that abbreviation is used throughout.

3. I check to make sure you have all the materials listed. This can be something as simple as listing that the crocheter will need stitch markers to complete the pattern.

4. I check all that pesky punctuation. As we all know, punctuation is very important in pattern instructions.

5. I check to make sure your repeats actually work out.

6. I check to see that someone who didn’t design the pattern can actually make the pattern. I was a designer, I know how easy it is to go off of what you have in your head and forget to put something important in the pattern.

7. I make sure the pattern is easy to read and understand.

8. I make sure the pattern lines up with your style sheet. And if you don’t have a style sheet yet, I help you come up with one. This goes a long way for branding.

9. I ask the questions a crocheter might ask, so you can take care of it in the pattern rather than waiting for the customer service questions.

10. I give you peace of mind that your pattern can be made successfully by others.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. “But Tracie, tech editors are expensive, and I am a one person show here, without a lot of spare money.” I get that. I do. I was the same way. So, I’ll say this. My rates are pretty reasonable. And well written patterns don’t take me as long to tech edit. If you do the work ahead of time to make sure your pattern is the best it can be, then you’re likely only paying me for my hour minimum to double check everything. I will be posting more soon on what you can do to help your tech editor (whether that’s me or someone else).

So, I’ll close this short blog post with this. If you are a designer and interested in having your patterns tech edited, use the Contact form found here and let’s talk. I always do an estimate prior to starting work, so you know a ballpark figure. If I think I’ll go over, I let you know before doing so. I understand the plight of the independent designer. But let’s talk.

A new to me office!

For the past few months (wow, okay, five of them), I’ve been working on an old dining room table in the living room. While the view was fantastic (straight out to the lake across the street), it was really hard to stay focused on work for a number of reasons. One, my back was to the rest of the house and so I spent a lot of time turning around whenever someone was walking around the house (or the animals were up to something). Two, there was no real privacy to allow me to focus when I really needed to and other people were home. Three, I spent a lot of time stacking stuff on the table behind my computer or on the chair next to me. Most of my files and books and things were being stacked in the other room (away from nosy kitties). It was making me crazy and making it really hard to get done those things I needed to get done.

So, this last weekend, my love and I spent some time and cleaned out the office. Yes, there’s been an office this whole time, but it was being used for storage as he went through things that needed clearing out. We also were using it to store things we’d moved out of the living room when we rearranged it. It’s not fully there yet, but it is at least now useable. There’s still a whole bookcase that needs to be emptied and gone through, as well as a file cabinet, but it’s well on its way.

The best parts about this room? Windows all around (okay, I’m not totally thrilled because it makes it really hard to put cool storage furniture in here when there’s no available wall space) for light. I can still see out to the lake as well as the yard. There’s a window a/c unit in here, so as it only gets hotter here (we’re already hitting in the 90s these days), I can stay comfortable. And, best of all, there’s a door. Not that I’ve shut it yet, but it’s going to be a little easier for the boy to recognize that I’m working over the summer if I close it part way.

Oh, and my favorite part?

The view in the evenings when my love sits across from me. The “desk” that was in here is a table from IKEA so we each have a side from it. So, in the evenings now, he sits across from me and we both can work. Of course, as I tweeted last night, this means when we want to show something to the other, we now rely on Google Talk to share links. In the old set up, we were sitting next to one another so it was a little easier.

The animals have approved the office as well. Cinder, our dog, sleeps on the floor either next to me or under the desk the entire time I’m in here. Alice, has decided to employ the “If I fits, I sits” method of choosing a cat bed (although she was unhappy that there is another box inside this one…it was sitting there to make it to the recycle bin):

The other two cats sneak in from time to time and then wander back out. I like that I can shut the door to the room at night and not have to worry about the cats stealing yarn or projects or whatever.

I’m hoping that now that I have a space I can truly work in, I can get a lot more accomplished. 🙂

Book Reading Update

Whew, last week flew by, and after the Knitting and Crochet Blog week, I needed a break!

So, I thought I’d do a “books I’m reading” post.

I’ve been reading a lot of little books, and most of them aren’t even worth mentioning. But, I did finish Origins: Spinward Fringe that I mentioned in my last books post. It was pretty good. Not happy that it’s the first book of a long series, because, well, I don’t have enough of an attention span anymore to do those.

The one book I am reading on my Kindle is Winnie and Gurley: The Best-Kept Family Secret by Robert G. Hewitt.

It’s pretty good. I really like it. The author has a great way of telling the story about his family and how he came about writing the book. There’s a lot of family photos, which show up remarkably well on the Kindle, and it helps to get the reader rooted in the story.

Here’s the description: When they met in 1906, Winnie Griffith was the headstrong fifteen-year-old daughter of a wealthy small-town merchant and Gurley Hewitt the hardworking twenty-year-old orphaned son of a Methodist circuit rider. When they fell madly in love, nobody approved. It took them two years to overcome the opposition, and then they married. It was a romantic beginning. This is the story of its tragic end.

Award-winning artist Robert Hewitt is the youngest grandchild of Winnie and Gurley. Throughout much of his life the family conspired to keep him ignorant of his grandparents’ story even as they were hanging onto a large horde of memorabilia and materials that, all together, told the tale. All of it ended up in Winnie’s gargantuan black trunk, the same trunk in which she’d carried her schoolgirl wardrobe back and forth on the train to Rollins College. After Winnie’s death, at her specific instruction, the family gave the trunk to Robert.

So far, it’s proving to be a very interesting read. Even more so due to the fact that my own grandmother lived near Rollins College (so we drove by it all the time) and it was one of the schools I really wanted to go to after high school. So there is that bit of connection there.

 

Saturday was Free Comic Book day, so we went out to our two favorite comic and game stores. We mainly went in to look for a specific role playing game book for me. We couldn’t find it, but we did find another one. See, not all gaming is Dungeons and Dragons. 🙂 I tend to prefer games that are a little different than the typical d20 based rule system. It’s just too many rules and numbers and what dice go with what for me.

We stumbled upon H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands: Roleplaying Beyond the Wall of Sleep (Call of Cthulhu roleplaying) and decided that was the one for me.

This is what’s known as a “source book” and contains extra characters, scenarios and the like for playing within the Call of Cthulhu system. I loved reading H.P. Lovecraft in college, so this seemed like a great plan. Little did I know that it contains a reading list, or as I called it in the car, “homework”, to help put the game master in the mood. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as like I said, I really like reading Lovecraft’s work.

 

Saturday afternoon when we got home, G handed me the Call Of Cthulhu: Horror Roleplaying In the Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft (5.6.1 Edition / Version 5.6.1) core rule book. Now, there is a newer edition out, so if you’re interested in doing this as well, you may want to go with the newer book. We have this one, though.

Which, of course, means I have even more reading to do. This book is the one that contains the rules, how to run the game, how to create the characters, so on and so forth.

This, however, led to us picking up another book while we were in the book store on Sunday. Gotta read the background material. So, we picked up The Dreams in the Witch House: And Other Weird Stories.

I’m already about a third of a way through it. I forgot how creepy Lovecraft can be. I love that! However, that led to needing something a little lighter to read last night. We were hanging out at the church while G was in a men’s group meeting, so Mr. B and I sat in another room and read (he’s reading one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid stories and loves it). G brought me from the church library a copy of Philosophy For Beginners by Richard Osborne.

Now, the edition we have in our library is from 1974, so it doesn’t look exactly like that, but it’s close. I read a few pages and really enjoyed it. It’s written in a comic book style, and that made it easier to read and understand. If you’re looking to learn about philosophy, but don’t want to have to read a lot of dry, dusty tomes to do it, pick this one up. I’m looking forward to continuing it.

 

That’s all for what I’m reading this week. As you can see, I’m kinda all over the place with my reading. That’s actually somewhat normal for me, though. You’re just finally getting a peek into the madness. 🙂

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2012: Crafting Balance

Day Seven of the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! Today’s code, if you wish to follow along the other blogs also participating, is 3KCBWDAY7. You’ll need to enter that into the search engine of your choice and if everyone tagged their posts correctly, you’ll find other bloggers talking about the same subject! Fun, right?

 

Today’s post is Crafting Balance

 

Eskimimi says:

Are you a knitter or a crocheter, or are you a bit of both? If you are monogamous in your yarn-based crafting, is it because you do not enjoy the other craft or have you simply never given yourself the push to learn it? Is it because the items that you best enjoy crafting are more suited to the needles or the hook? Do you plan on ever trying to take up and fully learn the other craft? If you are equally comfortable knitting as you are crocheting, how do you balance both crafts? Do you always have projects of each on the go, or do you go through periods of favouring one over the other? How did you come to learn and love your craft(s)?

I am very much a crocheter. I have only knitted one thing in my entire life and it took me three weeks to make.

 

My only knitted project

 

Yes, that simple dishcloth took me three weeks. Why? Because while I had learned how to knit and purl, I had not learned how to undo mistakes. So, if I made one, I ripped the whole thing out and started over. Multiple times.

 

At that point I realized that knitting was just not for me. Not at that time. I had deadlines, I had things to do, and I could whip out a ton of crocheted dishcloths in the time it took me to knit one. In fact, I have…see:

 

2 sets of crocheted dishcloths for gifts

 

So yeah, crocheting has always been faster for me.

But, recently, while working my way out of this very deep rut I dug for myself, I’ve realized faster isn’t always better. As I revel in taking a long time to make a lace shawl, I realize how much I’m enjoying taking my time and enjoying each stitch. That’s something I lost when I was producing under deadline. For the last couple of years especially, it’s been all about how quickly I could get an item done so I could move on to the next one. And in that I lost the joy of the fiber.

I’m not saying I’m ready to pick up knitting needles right away, or that I’ll ever be as prolific with them as I am with the hook. But, I think the time is coming that I may start working on a few simple things. I’ll have to buy new needles since I did learn that I liked the bamboo ones best and I gave those to my mom. The only ones I have still are the old metal ones my grandmother used. And those moved too fast for me. 🙂

I don’t think it’ll be an issue getting new needles. I have a wonderful yarn shop within walking distance that has a great selection, including some new ones I’ve never seen before. Not to fear, they also have a really great selection of nice crochet hooks, too. 🙂

So while I’m not a balanced crafter yet, I’m hoping to be soon.

I hope you enjoyed this Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! You can find other posts on this topic by using the code 3KCBWDAY7 in your search engine. Enjoy!

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