Monday, September 19, 2011

Blocking My Blue Lace Scarf

After  I finished knitting my Sapphire Stack of Owls scarf, I quickly had to order some blocking wires.  I opted for the Blockit Plus Kit which has double the wires of the Blockit Kit because I had a 50%-off coupon.

Here's the wet scarf laying on my blocking mats.

Close up of the curly scarf.  Because the body of the scarf is stockinette (and lace holes), the edges curl in.  There is a 3-stitch garter stitch border, but it doesn't do much to combat the curl.

Let me tell you, it's not easy to weave 3-foot-long ridgid wires into wet knitting.  Especially when you're sitting hunched over on a HARD floor and your body is creaky.  Ha!  Getting the scarf all wired and pinned to the blocking mat took an hour.

The garter stitch edge helped guide my wire weaving, and I wove under and over each row.  The scarf was so long that I ended up needing to use 3 wires on each side (the wires overlapped ... the thing wasn't 9' long ... ha!).

Here is a shot of all 6 wires woven into the edges of the scarf.

Here the pinning has begun.  Oh!  And at either edge, I've woven a short aluminum tube.  I bought them for a completely different project, but they were perfect for this.  Thank goodness I didn't need to use the 3-foot-long wires for the ends, because I know I would have tripped over them.

Starting at one end and working my way across, I measured out 7 inches and pinned the wires into place.

I also poked each owl in both eyes and wiggled my finger around to get big, wide eye holes.  Here you can see the difference between the poked and unpoked eyes.  I got some impish pleasure from the poking.

All pinned up!

I'm getting the photos for the final post ready.  Let me know if you have any questions I can answer for you in that post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Now Accepting Advertising

I've had ads on my blog for a while, but I decided to administer them myself instead of using an ad network.  I'm going to limit the number of ads I accept until I get my sea legs, so if you're interested (and you think you're a good fit for my blog) don't hesitate ... wink wink.

Want more info?  Check out my Advertising Info page.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Guest Post on Whip Up

Wanna learn about my first knit lace project?  Read my guest post on Whip Up.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Simple (simple simple) Lace Scarf

I bought this cream yarn over a year ago to make myself a scarf.  I've had a hell of a time figuring out what I wanted to do with it.  For a while, I gave up on making a scarf and tried to make a hat, but cream worsted-weight yarn looks like a big cloth diaper-y blob on my head.  So then I gave up on the hat and went back to the scarf.

The second go-around I tried out a bunch of knit lace patterns and nothing really looked good.  I NEED a cream scarf, but apparently making a cream scarf that looks GOOD is the challenge. :)

At a certain point I gave up trying to find something dazzling and I tried polka dot holes ... and amazingly, ended up with something that I think *is* dazzling.

I love the way the pattern looks opened up like this.  I also like the way it looks when the stockinette stitch rolls in on itself.  This is the second version of it, because the first one came out way too short.  I'm remaking it narrower and longer.  I should have done some math to make sure it's going to be as long as I want it, but I didn't .  I'm living dangerously.

This is simple and relaxing knitting especially on the gigantic needles I'm using.  This pattern makes me think of the seeds on strawberries and sweet summertime, which is a little weird since we aren't in our warm weather yet and it's a scarf.  But still, the scarf makes me think of sunshine and the bright reds and vibrant greens of a strawberry patch.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Another Weekend Away

Having lived in the Bay Area a total of around 11 years in my life, you probably won't believe that I've never been to Tahoe before.  But it's true!  Last weekend was my first visit to the lake (South Shore).

Tahoe is a quick 3.5 hour drive from San Francisco.  You can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be there a lot more in the coming years.  What a wonderful, beautiful place.

This is a photo of me in front of Bridal Falls, just one of the million side-of-the-highway turn outs we stopped at.

As you can imagine, losing the last two Friday-to-Sunday's to mini vacations has scuttled any blogging plans.  But fear not!  I've been crafting my little heart out.  I'm *this close* to being caught up with life.  Thank goodness for the upcoming 3-day weekend.

I don't have ANY big plans this weekend.  I hope to just going to laze around at home catching up on my crafty shenanigans.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Los Angeles

Last weekend we drove to Los Angeles for a mini vacation.  I didn't even notice that from 1PM Thursday to midnight Sunday I didn't read one email or look at one website.  How crazy is that?  I would have guessed I'd have a little withdraw.

I did indulge my crafty self a bit by going to Kinokuniya (my favorite Japanese bookstore).  As usual, I found a book I couldn't live without ... but I DIDN'T buy it.  What is wrong with me?  I think all the sunshine went straight to my brain.  I'm going to try and find it at the SF store.

We don't usually take a lot of photos of each other on our vacations, but this vacation has the distinction of only having this photo of my legs and another of our reflections to even prove we were there.

Not that this photo proves anything.  But, see, that's sunlight, and we don't get much of that around here in San Francisco in the summer.  Ha!

We stayed right downtown and I really loved it.  Everyone was SO NICE - seriously super-nice.  Random people on the street were nice and told us about cool things to do around LA.  All our waiters and waitresses were nice ... and GOOD.  A lady at the 7-11 wearing 4 extra layers of clothes and a winter coat said, "Excuse me, we're you here first?" to us when the cashier asked who was next.  Even now, I'm stunned.  It was like being in Canada.  It was THAT kind of nice ... sincere nice.

I also learned something from one of these nice people; I learned  what "marine layer" means.  I'd heard it on the news the night before.  Apparently, in LA, they can have air come in from the ocean or from the desert.  When it comes in from the ocean, it's moist and called a "marine layer" and it hovers over the city making it hazy (almost like smog).  When it comes from the desert, it's called a "Santa Anna" and it clears away the moist haze and you can see forever.

Usually, I crave the routine and the familiar, but I really loved this little road trip.  Exploring LA for a couple days was a treat.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs Diary

I brought a notebook with me to Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs (CCE) and decided to do a diary style report, so here we go ...

7:18 AM OMG.  Really? [ed. I don't get up this early for work ...]
8:02 AM Gah.
8:43 AM Just missed the bus.
8:55 AM Just missed a BART train.
9:15 AM Checked-in at the registration desk.
9:17 AM mini cupcake and met Rebecca.  Soon after joined by Tina Jett and Verte Adélie .
10:00 AM Getting More Done Panel
Willo O'Brien (moderator) (WO)
Derek Fagerstrom (DF)
Lauren Smith (LS)
Andrew Venell (AV)

I was pretty excited about this panel because I'm obsessed with being/staying organized.  Many of the reasons the panelists gave for looking for an organizational system that works for them reminded me of my No Excuses post; they were working too much, they felt overwhelmed, they felt like the were always being reactive and not actually making progress, they felt they always needed to be doing something/anything/everything.

Here are some of the highlights of the panel:
- Have a weekly skeleton of things to do on certain days DF
- Have a physical space to do your work that is useable LS
- Keep your system super simple DF
- Schedule time to get out of your head and back into your body (take a walk, etc) WO
- Get to know yourself and how you work and build a complementary system (LS)
- Have a place for everything and keep things in their place (no misc files or piles) (DF/LS)

Between them, they seemed to use all the different systems, GTD, 43 folders, pomodoro, iCal, Google Docs ... the list is endless.  The thing that I really loved, though, is that Lauren Smith uses a 3x5 card for the day's tasks.  Sometimes I feel weird that I *must* have my notebook, pen, and 3x5 cards.  I need the act of physically writing things down.  I need  to be to see my tasks in my handwriting.

It's good to know I should trust myself,.  I know that the act of writing helps me remember and organize things much better than typing them into a computer and seeing them all in the same font.  There is character in my handwriting, there is a memory in the shape of the letters that helps me remember all of the ideas and feeling surrounding my 2-3 word note.  And, as Derek and Lauren pointed out, there's something so satisfying about crossing an item off your list.

I also thought it was cool that Willo has a name for her inner workaholic, The Whip Cracker.  So when she feels pressure to work way more than she should, she can say, "Thanks for being concerned, Whip Cracker, but I'm going to go take a walk."  I think that's something we could all do with our inner critic, too ... name them and then talk to them like the enemy they can be. ;)

Another good tip is to NOT use your email inbox as a to do list.  I used to do that, and I agree 100% with them.  I've started answering all of my email as it comes in.  My goal is to  have an empty inbox all the time.  Of course, it doesn't stay like that all the time.  What used to happen is once every couple of months, I'd clean out my inbox and within a week it would be 2 pages full again.  But I've discovered a super trick to keep myself on top of things ... sort your inbox so the oldest email is at the top.  It seriously works for me.  As soon as the new emails are showing up below the viewable area, I get right to work at clearing the old emails.  Over time, this has trained me to keep on top of my email.  It's much more rare for me to fill up my email box now.

Also considering turning off email notifications or at least change the setting to check every hour instead of every 3 minutes. DF/LS

If you find yourself not doing something on your task list, like "Hang the drapes" it might be that you're mixing up a project and a task.  Hanging the drapes is actually a project that includes tasks like find the drill, install the rod, steam the drapes, etc.  If you put those tasks on your list, you might be more likely to get to them because they are specific and well defined. AV

They all have a Friday Review / Clean up concept.  DF/LS has a goal of clearing their email inbox.  AV does a review of his lists and remaining tasks and reassesses everything.  I think that's a great idea.  What's funny is that I do that at work, but I never do that at home.  At home I'm always going-going-going try to pack as much in as possible ... shopping, movies, cleaning, laundry, crafting, blogging.  It's nuts.  I need to build in time to just reassess everything and catch up.

11: 00 AM Creating Customer Profiles with Grace Dobush

(The photo was hastily snapped at the end of the session!)

Best piece of advice: talk to your customers and ask them about themselves.  If you don't know your market, perhaps you aren't focused enough.  When you create your client profiles, it helps to name the profile so you can keep them in mind when you are making decisions about you business.  It's so much easier to think of "Julie" as your customer instead of  a "35-year-old who makes $50K/year, watches Colbert Report, likes pizza, and subscribes to Ready Made."  The name makes them more real and more convenient to talk about.  An attendee pointed out that sometimes your market is different from your customer, like toys, who are marketed to kids and sold to their parents, so keep that in mind, too.

This session was great because Grace had volunteers do a profile of their own customers.  It was good to hear different people vocalize their profiles and see the process they were going through to construct it.  There were a ton of good questions, too.  A very vocal and interesting group of attendees.

Here are some of the data points you might want to include in your profile:
- Gender
- Age
- Location (region/town size/etc)
- Marital Status
- Kids?
- Income
- Education level
- Political affiliation
- What is important to your customer? (price/quality/environmentalism/design/etc)
- How often to they purchase?  
- How much do they spend when purchasing?
- What word describe your customer?
- What magazines/books do they read?
- What TV do they watch?
- What do they do in their spare time?
- What other brands to they have allegiance to? (which will give you a hint of what

21-1 Lunch.  Catered Mexican Food.  Om nom nom.

1-2 I watched Diane get video-interviewed and narrowly escaped getting interviewed myself.  Whew!  Diane and I found a quiet corner for about 15 minutes to chat while I knitted.

2-3 Advanced Social Strategies and Analytics with Willo O'Brien

This session started 15 minutes late because of a combination of tech difficulties, so Willo was pressed for time, which was too bad because I'm sure she would have given us a ton of tips during a Q&A period.  There was some great info about tools to use to communicate and track your social media marketing ... one I hadn't heard of was Sprout Social (which seemed like an activity aggregator). Her best advice was to be authentic, responding to people, thanking them for their time.  She stressed that no matter where the people are in your customer pipeline (Silent Consumers, Passive Engagement, Active Engagement, Conversion) they are super important and you should be thankful for and mindful of them all.

She also suggested calendaring out your social media interactions so you don't let all your hard work just fall flat.  If you're coming out with something, tweet/post/etc about it leading up to the big reveal to generate excitement.  Actually mapping this out on a calendar helps you keep things from falling through the cracks.

One of my action items is to figure out how to use Google Analytics better.  She mentioned that you can annotate the timeline ... I had no idea!

Here are some of the things in my notes:
- Every follower is an opportunity
- Recruit and reward
- Social media is bi-directional, not broadcast

3-5 The Brand of you with Genevieve Robertson and Shelly Kerry

They gave us an insane number of questions to ask ourselves to help us formulate our story.  But if I answer all of them, I would have 40 pages of writing.  They spent a lot of time telling us the stories of other established creative entrepreneurs, which was nice, but I would have liked it if they'd picked attendees and helped them craft their story in real time with us listening.  By this time in the day, though, we all seems sort of wiped, and for the people who had been doing 3 full days of this must have been just DONE.  The energy in this session was kind of flat, which is too bad because Genevieve and Shelly obviously have passion for this topic.

Here are the questions I wrote down:

What is your vision?
- Dream big
- What are you What Ifs and what are your Can't Live Withouts?
- What do you want to spend your time doing?
- Who do you want to work with?
- What does your business look like?
- How much money do you need to make?

What are your strengths?
- Where do you come from?
- What do you do well?
- What do you do because you can't help yourself?
- What is/are your style, background, values and materials?
- What experience do you offer the customer?

Who are you talking to?
- Age, gender, income, hobbies, passion, stuggles
- Do you solve a problem?
- Do you fill a need?
- Are you a part of a subculture?

What makes you unique?
- Your time to shine
- What do you do better/different?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What is your unique advantage?

What to do with your story
- Tell it
- Use it to bring your brand to life
- Put it on your business cards
- Make it a part of your Tagline and Branding statement
- Make sure everything matches your story (packaging, marketing materials, etc)
- Join communities
- Form partnerships

5-8:45 Got something to eat with Diane, Marlo, and Verte Adélie.  We talked about a lot of things ... it was amazing to hear what they had to say about the conference and to get face-to-face feedback about the work I'm doing on futuregirl.com.

I think there is a lot of value in attending CCE.  My suggestions for next year are that the sessions should be 45 minutes long so there is time to get from session to session (and maybe go to the bathroom ...). There should also be a place for people who are not in a session to hang out and talk with other people.  I think a socializing room would be an amazing opportunity to talk to people you wouldn't normally encounter.  Also, offer the classes more than once on different days ... especially the super-popular ones.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Peacock Sweater - Done Done Done

The peacock sweater is finally done done done!

I used almost every bit of nine skeins of Patons Grace in Viola.  Near the end, I was using the little scraps I'd cut from other parts of the sweater to finish the arms.  I was afraid they were going to be too short, but they ended up perfect bracelet-length after blocking.

However, I miscalculated where my elbows would be.  I should have trusted my measurements and not my pre-blocked sweater.   The elbows are a tiny bit baggy, but when I have the sweater on with a shirt, they fit just fine.  Whew!  I was afraid I'd have to re-crochet them.

These first two photos of me laughing were taken right after Andrew said, "This looks like the cover of an album I would never buy."  Ha!  I got a huge case of the giggles!

We took these in the courtyard of our apartment building.  I didn't know there would be these gorgeous flowers out there.  The lavender blooms match my sweater perfectly!

It was around 6 or 7 PM when we took these and it was pretty cool out.  The sweater was perfectly comfy.  It's going to be great in the winter when it's chilly out.  And, since it's cotton, it won't overheat me when I'm inside where the heat is on.

I love this sweater!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs

This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs.  Have you heard about this?  It's going on at the Women's Building on 19th (where the Ravelry meetup was a couple weeks ago).  It's three days packed full of useful information for most any Creative Small Businessperson.

The sessions cover topics like taxes, product photography, creating a personal brand, monetizing your blog, on-demand manufacturing ... so many things!  Just take a look at schedule.  Sessions are conducted by creative professionals that have real world experience, like Jenny Hart, Diane Gilleland, Meg Mateo Ilasco, and a bunch of other people you've probably heard of.

I've been given the opportunity to attend in exchange for reviewing the sessions I attend here on my blog (aka a free pass ... woohoo!).  I'm excited about the sessions I've picked out for Sunday ... you'll have to wait to hear about what I chose.  I'm bummed that I won't be able to get to the "Monetizing Your Blog" on Friday, though.  I *need* that session.  Ha!

All three days are $265 or you can buy day passes for $100/day.  Best of all, if you're a crafty businessperson, this is probably a business expense for you.  Win-win.  Anyone already going?  Anyone planning on going now?  I'll see you there Sunday. :)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Blocking the Peacock Sweater

It's been three years and a month since I started fantasizing about making a sweater from this yarn in this stitch pattern.  And two weeks before that was when I started messing around with the stitch pattern.  Slow and steady wins the race ... ha!

I swear I saw play mats like this for sale at the dollar store, but I could never track them down again.  My craft night buddy Anne gave the the heads up that our local drugstore had them for $7 or so for 9.  Not bad, so I picked up a set.

Here is the sweater pre-wetting.  I want to tell everyone who gave me blocking advice, THANK YOU!  You definitely kept me from total disaster.  I was really liking the idea of hanging the sweater.  Ha!

I scrubbed the hell out of the kitchen sink, then used the dish sprayer (I love that thing!) to gently wet the sweater.  Once everything was wet, I pressed out the excess with my hands.  Then I laid the sweater on a towel, rolled it up, and then stood on it to squeeze out more water.

When I was shaping the sweater, I had my tape measure in hand to make sure that the motifs were 3" tall.  I didn't want to over-stretch it.

My friend June warned me that the cotton Patons Grace yarn can take forever to dry when blocking, which is why I waited until I had the play mats.  I can only imagine how long it would take on a thirsty cotton towel.

As it is, the sweater has been there for about 36 hours ... and it's still damp.  Gah!  This is testing my patience.  ;)