Closing It Out – Opening it Up

I know. Haven’t been here.wp_20160904_11_29_29_pro Well, I’ve been here but not here. I’ve been in and out of the hospital. The blood clots came back. We travelled a lot this summer and now I am doing the holiday orders. Attended some weddings, graduations and baseball games. The Cubs won the World Series!!!

This has been a year on the move.

wp_20160914_10_37_20_proWhat I enjoyed with family and friends had consequences for the shops so this year won’t be as lucrative as the last few years but we are closing out 2016 on a happy note: that I am alive right now is a big bonus that making more money would not have overcome if I didn’t.

shawlcollageI love my craft and I look at these photos and say from those balls of yarns, these beautiful things come and I am grateful for the blessing and gratification knitting and crochet provides.

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rastaearth2I look forward to new years with optimism and great plans but for 2017 there is no great, big vision. I simply want to do good. And to do well.

There is a lot of work I have to do in both business and the area of social action and justice and I can plainly see how I have been phoning it in on both counts and that cannot stand any longer.

In order to get the results, I have to do the work. And even though the work may not end in the results I want, I still have to do the work in order to fail or fall short.

My motto for 2017 will continue to be ‘Discipline and Consistency’ but I will also add deliberation to it. So I can be more purposeful and deliberate about what I do.

It doesn’t make much sense to come to these conclusions and then wait for the new year to start living them. I’m the kind of person that needs a running – well, a walking- start. There’s no time like the present since that is all any of us really have.

Did you notice the storefront? It’s the other page on the blog and that will be where the items I talk about in blog posts will be available for purchase. The next blog post will be about stripey things and those stripey things will be for sale on the blog so if you want them, you can go to the BCB365 page and that’s where they’ll be ready for you to grab them up. No need to go over to the Etsy shops or register (though they are worth the effort) and they will be offered for a lesser price than in the stores.

I have some orders waiting for me and I am about 9 days ahead of everydaywoodlands4my shipping dates and I want to keep it (or improve on it) so I am going to do some work. The snows came yesterday – took a while to get here but it is not a complaint. Mr. Honey is doing fine and we got a new bed that I need a step stool to get in.

All in all; a pretty good year.

 

Happy Holidays and a blessed new year.

Just a little bit…

The Classic in Gold
The Classic in Gold

I found myself just a little bit frustrated yesterday because I allowed myself to get too deeply into the details and lost sight of the big picture or the forest or the long view. I had a fitful night until I woke up and remembered something I actually believe: ‘God’s got this.’  I just got to act like it and color between those lines.

I never did take that walk. I did some circuit training instead and it was a lot of fun but it’s not the same as a walk. The only good thing is the circuit training lasted longer than the walk did. The bad thing is the walk is outside and that counts for a lot.

This morning, I’ve been at my desk for a couple of hours and I am looking forward to getting out and taking a stroll. I may have to do a combo stroll/drive over to JoAnn because I did start that project I mentioned with the cotton yarn. I started it with a nice skein of hot pink (not that wuss pink – hot pink – the color tough girls like.) and it doesn’t look like it will be enough to finish it off. There’s a fancy pattern and it’s crochet, so that means it’s more yarn than if it were knitting and something like single or double crochet. Did I mention there’s a brim? So I need to travel because I am interested in finishing it off to see what it looks like.

There’s a hat ready to go and another one that is almost finished.  There’s a new hat up in the shop (two listings: one made to order and one ready to ship.) I made a hat yesterday for Jessica’s order only to discover, I made it in the wrong color. Luckily, someone else ordered the hat in the same size in the color I made, so the hat is going to them and Jessica’s hat, in the color she wanted, is coming off the needles in a few hours. Then it’s a crocheted hall of fame cap – which means buttons! Finally, the last one on today’s list is a puff slouch in cranberry that’s gotta make its way to The Netherlands – this would be my 2nd or 3rd hat over there. I still live in hope that I can actually get more than two hats done in a day. Crochet goes a little faster and since two of the hats are crocheted, it might be within reach.

I have a pattern that needs to be written and I haven’t written an essay in a couple of days and they are both looking at me like neglected step children. I really need to get on those. Not to mention the cleaning there is to do. I’m busier now than when I worked one of those regular type jobs. (Sorry, Carole, don’t want to tire you out!)

And it’s date night and the best night of television – except Beauty and the Beast won’t be on for a couple more weeks and is that basketball tournament still going? That leaves Scandal. And that is good enough. Love that show.

Things to do – and daylight is burning!

My All

The Cable Hat in Cranberry
The Cable Hat in Cranberry

So, today there is a prayer shawl ready to go, a white crochet cap ready to be photographed, a hat on the downstairs needles and a headband on the upstairs needles. The walk this morning was nice and I am going to the bank sometime after doing all this writing.

And this ain’t even an April Fool’s joke.

I was thinking I haven’t made another of these cable hats since I made the one in the photo and that one was made on the train from Chicago to St. Louis when the knit group had its trip. It came out really cute. I should make another one. Don’t ask me why I haven’t cuz I don’t know.

One of the headbands I made doesn’t work. I mean, it goes around the head well enough, it just doesn’t look good.  So it’s out. I am not going to work on it so it does look better; it had a shot and it fell short. The fiber wasn’t conducive to what it was meant to be so it won’t be a headband. The new one on the needles is made from Thick and Quick – the gauge called for by the original pattern and as I am working it on size 15 needles, it looks like it will come out fine. It is a very quick knit and since I have several colors, this could make for some quick additions to the inventory. Of course, I am pretty certain no one around here will be looking at thick headbands for a while but it is cooler in the southern hemisphere so maybe some will make their way down there otherwise, cooler air will be here sooner than we know it – it hasn’t completely left yet.

I am hoping to get 2-3 hats done today – all cable hats. It is a big task but that’s what hours in the day are for and if I am to get them done, I need to go now and start.

Today is opening day of Chicago Cub baseball. I have already told Mr. Honey I didn’t think it would be a great year for the Cubs (relative to all the other seasons) but I still get excited. This year we will hopefully travel to the west coast for our first west coast ball game. We’ve done Phoenix but we are looking even further west this year. I haven’t been to California in more than ten years.  We’re hoping to catch some Cubs/Dodgers games.

There’s a new t and v announcer who I am lukewarm but warming up to. I will be knitting and watching. The only thing that makes it better is if I was outside while doing it. I don’t mean at the game, I mean in my backyard. It’s coming soon!

The Good Stuff

The Boyfriend Hat
The Boyfriend Hat

So, it seems we are having something akin to a real winter. ‘The March wind doth blow, we soon will have snow.’ OK, we will have flurries but I am not ruling out more snow before spring officially hits a few days from now.

This is one of the reasons we knit six months from the calendar date. Trying to knit for the weather now would be ridiculous because things change from day to day. But if I add six months to the date and think about knitting for September, then I can think about the weather changing from warm to cooler. I can think about fall and winter stuff and not about the stuff going on right now.

The weather is deceptive. It looks sunny enough but every fifteen seconds or so a huge gust of wind breaks through the brick and mortar and lets you know it’s there. A quick look at the weather bar says it’s less than 20 degrees out there. Not even I can fake that it’s warm. When I go out, I will actually have to wear a coat.

Etsy has started keeping customer service stats – don’t know why but I think it’s going to part of a rating or feedback system – the stats are kept on a 60 day roll and according to one of the stats, it’s taking me 23 days from the time an order is placed before it gets out the door. It is determined by the processing time the shop sets or two weeks if there is no processing time.

I stopped putting in the processing time when I was hit with the mass of orders because there was no way to really get it right, so for the most part, the two week default is being used to calculate this time.

And it’s actually gone down by half from when it first started. When the stats first came, it was 44 days and that was pretty accurate. Now, it’s 23 calendar days which is almost within reach of the processing time stated in the description. I have proof I am catching up.

I finished the crochet cap and as predicted, it is cute. It will be photographed another day when the wind wouldn’t send it to Kansas or Oz. In the meantime, the prayer shawl is almost ready to come off the needles and be fringed. The office purge continues. The next crochet cap is in cranberry. And there is work to do.

Good stuff.

 

This River Runs

Infinity scarf in fiesta
Infinity scarf in fiesta

This is the infinity scarf I’ve been working on. Can you see now why it may have taken more than my usual seven hours of knitting a scarf? Even though I was using bigger yarn and bigger needles, even though I do not use a cable needle when making cables, those cables took some time to get in.

I am tempted to go against my natural instincts and block it. Something in my mind says this is wrinkled. Something else thinks that a good steaming of a wool blend fiber is just what this scarf needs to be more of what it is.

I am sitting down until that temptation goes away. Nothing good comes out of Nazareth on this one. I include blocking instructions when I send the care instructions because I don’t want to be the one to change the size or shape. And woe to me if I let the steamer linger one moment longer than it should at a particular spot and the fiber breaks down. Only has to happen once to know that another horse ain’t gotta leave that barn.

That way when someone sends me a note and they say they washed the item and went to shape it and what was a round hat is now a poly something or another hat, I can write back and state with great sincerity, ‘Did you follow the instructions?’

The table clearing (It’s taking so long because I am not putting a full frontal effort into it.) has unearthed a small lap blanket. Huh. I made it but can’t remember why I made such a small one when I usually make a full grown afghan out of that pattern. Again I say – huh.

There is stuff to be taken out to the garbage bin and deposed of. I can claim a small victory in office declutteration. That’s right, I made a word. Someone has to make them; why not me?

Running Out of Tape

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That isn’t code for anything – I’m really running out of tape. It’s kind of caught me by surprise because it started out as a big ass pack of six rolls and I am on the 5th roll. I can’t even tell you how long it took to go through it – though I am certain it has taken less than a year and I vaguely recall standing in the aisle at Staples wondering if I wanted to buy a big ass six pack of tape and spend all that money (probably something like $30) all at once. Apparently I thought it was a good investment.

Do not ask me why this fascinates me or why I thought it would fascinate you.

I’ve decided what my first new project of the year will be. When I have the time to actually get to it is yet a mystery but I am looking to make some market bags. Cotton bags that can be used at the store, Farmer’s Market or the beach. I have a bunch of cotton yarn and I think that would make a lovely spring project – that’s right, spring. It’s time to take down that winter decoration stuff and think spring. Not that winter has been harsh here in Chicago – not thus far and it wasn’t last year, either, but I am ready for the warmer – read 40 – 75 degrees – weather. I want to go back outside to knit and to walk around. I also plan the return of gardening this year.

The question of the year is: When does she find time to knit?

Today I will get a great niece or nephew, my nephew Jeremy and his wife Lilliana will be bringing their first child into the world. I always get a bit misty eyed when I think I babysat him and changed his diaper and even had to discipline him once in a while and still maintain my ‘cool aunt’ status and now he is about to become a father. It feels a natural progression of things but I do wonder when he became older and when did he grow up and how come I still feel like I’m in my 20’s 30’s.

Lily has learned how to knit and she loves it, so the new baby blanket will come from mama and not from me – I made them their wedding afghan – but as soon as the baby is born (they don’t know what they’re having) and as soon as I know the name – which I suspect is going to be a lovely Latin name – a new blanket design that includes intarsia or duplicate stitching will be coming off the board.

The best part is that I now get to call my brother ‘grandpa’ and since he is a writer perhaps he can write something about this new chapter in his life. My other brother will soon be a grandfather as well. His daughter is due in the spring. She is expecting a son whose name will be Erick. It’s a play on words – her name is Erica and my brother’s name is Rick. Clever, huh? Of course, I will be calling the child E Rick. Because that’s how one get cool aunt status and taunts her brother at the same time. Efficient.

I have hats to make – a gray Cableret, a taupe Cableret and a granny square hat have to manage to come off the needles and hooks today. Another great thing about the new year: my regular mail person is back today so I feel comfortable leaving my package for her to pick up!

Where Is a Woman to go?

The Helix

Wow, this is one of those moments when the plan matches up with the motion of the earth. The hat in the photo is headed to New Zealand. It could be this very hat if I don’t get the hat currently on the needles done early enough to make another Helix to head to the place next to the place down under.

Truth to tell, part of me wants to scurry right outta here and go finish the other hat on the needles so I can get a Helix on the needles because of the pom-pom. Remember, I just got my big ass pom-pom maker and I think a big ass pom-pom would look great on this hat. I think a big ass pom-pom would look great on the back of an elephant but we don’t need to discuss that.

The reason I am not rushing down stairs is that I must answer the question Nicole asked me in this post. She wants to know if I can offer some tips on how I got to my 300th sale.

I think there’s a lot of way that I got there. And believe me, I don’t think of 300 sales as a lot but that’s only because I reached it. A few weeks ago, I never thought I’d make it – thus is the human spirit. Enough is never enough despite what our parents yell when we’re annoying the hell out of them. My mind is firmly set on 400 and the fact that I have been stuck at 303 for four whole days bugs me to no end. (The italics are for the silliness of it – I recognize my flawed thinking, I just hold to it nonetheless.)

My success story, as it is being written, is not that I am at 300 sales, it was that at the beginning of 2011, I was at 33 sales and at the beginning of 2012, I was at 197 sales and that now I am at 300+ sales. And that is my first tip: Success is a progression.

But that’s more of a philosophy tip. The first thing I did as a hands on tip was to decide on an anchor product. Some Etsians will say not to select one certain thing to do and I would agree but a mall has anchor stores at the corners and a bunch of other stores in between and Etsy has hundreds of thousands of shops. And you need a reason for someone to come by your place. Having at least an anchor product starts to build an identity and that’s not just important for shoppers but that goes a long way in helping your success progression. When I figured out who I was (in Etsy) I could figure out how to make my moves.

Mr. Honey suggested I get an anchor product and I looked over my 33 sales and discovered my afghans sold the most, then my hats then my prayer shawls. I decided to go with hats because they were the smallest of the three and because there was a wider market for them.

I rearranged my shop to reflect it. I did have some other items in the shop and I didn’t want to waste the listing so I left them open but for the next couple of months it was hats, hats and more hats. I put them up front in the shop.

The second tip: find a store that does what you do but does it better. Then study them every single day. I found a couple of them and visited their shops every day to study their tags, their sales history, their layout – everything. Along the way, I also found shops that weren’t doing it as well and I studied them to find out how the two compared. Big differences. I found some good things and bad things in my own shop.

And my third, but not final tip: learn to play by Etsy rules. There’s a lot of grousing in the forums about how Etsy is playing with folks and trying to screw them over. Etsy isn’t in the business of trying to screw folks over. They wouldn’t remain in business or grow if that were the case. But they are an online marketing place which means when Google sneezes, they get a runny nose. A great many of the moves Etsy makes is so Google will be kind when folks go shopping on line and searching. Tags, titles, descriptions even the tag line in every shop is subject to Google bots.

I started reading about Search Engine Optimization long ago when I was getting a certificate of web design from Columbia but I used the forums to learn how it worked in Etsy. The day I followed the rules on that my shop listings started to jump to the first ten pages of every search where I connected the tags, titles and descriptions and it’s been good ever since.

Start there, Miss Nicole, and make what you can of it. There’s more to tell and I will be more than happy to tell it, but I have a hat to photograph, pack up and two more to get done so they can get out the door by midnight tonight! I’ll start keeping track of your shop. I love it when fellow knitters make sales!!

Crazy Maze

versa in green

I don’t want to tempt the gods to continue their project of getting me ready for an order onslaught.

I would like the order onslaught. I think I am on a pretty good roll at the moment. One package a day is going out. I have not had to redo the last couple of projects. Yesterday I did a prayer shawl – which for some reason took me about ten hours to do. Somewhere in my mind, I thought they took me about five do but that may have been when I was really motivated to get them out.

There are two hats which are scheduled by the Etsy system to go out by tomorrow. And there is a hat in between those two that doesn’t have a ship date on it but I would like to get it out tomorrow anyway. And I did not get a sale yesterday. I believe this is part of the test. I am convinced that if I do not miss this deadline in the very early part of the busy season, that I would have proved myself seasoned enough to have an order onslaught.

One of the hats is a pretty quick knit even though there are cables – there are cables in all three hats in fact – and I have been cabling without the use of a cable needle and that has been going very well. It is quicker than using the needle – I swear.  I have made the hats before – let us not revisit that please.  So, I am fairly confident that by the time the clock strikes midnight tomorrow night there will be three hats packed to be sent off to Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Zealand.

I have no idea that this is part of the readiness training, it just makes sense to me. I will be rewarded accordingly if I can handle this first test. I do not know what failure to meet this deadline would mean. But I am certain they will forgiving – not certain of that at all – but appeasement seems a good strategy here.

I also find myself in a little bit of a bind because I have nothing new coming into the shop and I have renewed everything there is to renew. Having new items or renewing expired listings is one of the ways to keep the shop relevant in the searches and without anything new I can lose some ground fairly quickly – a sale would solve that problem for me because listings once sold have to be renewed. I could try and slip in another project that can go in the shop..

yeah, that’s right – tempt them. They love that.

The Prayer

elfin in terra cotta

I would like to hereby apologize to God, angels, any and all celestial beings, Thor, Zeus, Yarndis, all full fledged and demigods, sprites, whatever Tinkerbell is, fairies and anything else that might have a hand in my knitting demise. I am not sure what I have done to pull your wrath down on me but I do apologize.

Yesterday, I started a hat. A hat I’ve done several times before. A hat that must be in the mail in three days. I was confident as I put it on the needles and began to work.

I came to the part where I increase to do the slouch and I did the increase and said to myself, something’s a little off. But I couldn’t figure out what it was. I continued to work and as I was doing the cable (because this hat involves a cable) I noticed the brim looked a little odd. Never looked like that before but everything else was looking OK so I kept going.

Got to the beginning of the decreases and did the first decrease row and was a bit confused as to why it didn’t decrease the way it was supposed to. There were too many stitches left over.

Way too many stitches.

You would think at this point, I would stop and count but no, I kept going, the next decrease row (2 rows later) had way too many stitches. Well, isn’t that logical? If I too many stitches left over, I will continue to have too many stitches left over. There may be less of them but still too many.

So, this time I did count. Not only did I have too many stitches. I had about 80 stitches too many.

Don’t ask. I did figure it out and I gave thought to going on except the hat is supposed to be a beret/slouch hat and with 80 extra stitches it would be a Pillsbury Dough Boy hat that couldn’t stand up…with a cable.

So, out it all came. Redid the cast one. Redid the brim (which came out beautifully) and redid the increases. The right way. The good news is that the hat is 80 stitches less so it goes faster.

But that’s 3 frigging days of knitting and nothing to show for it. And I got two more orders. These are the blessings. One of the gods is telling me that this is not a punishment. This is my Mitt Romney moment. Can I handle the pressure? Can I rely on my past experience to pull me through this new arena of 275 sales I want for this season?

As I climbed into bed last night, I told Mr. Honey I would have to reset my campaign and begin again. Cracked him up.

This morning, I know I have to complete two hats today to get myself back on track. I am three sales away from my 300th sale in the shop and last night I got my 100th sale of the year. It took until late November last year to make it so I am trending better than last year.

Maybe the gods are looking favorably upon me and seeking to find out if I am ready for the success I say I want.

We’ll see.

Cruz

Stuffed snake

I find myself strangely sad. There is someone on Facebook who is a ‘friend’ because we share some common things not because we hang out and she’s been posting some, I can’t call them Republican and I can’t call them conservative because I have relatives and friends who are both and they don’t come close to the things she’s been reposting. She admits to being an alarmist.

That has me sad. Someone wants to be an alarmist. Think about that. It’s different from being the town crier. It’s different from being on neighborhood watch. It is someone who purposely creates false or needless panic.

Here’s the thing: if what you believe is right. If what you believe is true. Why do you need to create panic. The truth should be enough. You don’t need to hit folks over the head or spread lies, half-truths and falsehoods. Just state the truth. Not everyone will believe you but that’s because everyone has the same right to believe or not as any other person in a free or captive world. Don’t worry about it if I don’t believe you – just stick with the truth.

There is someone in the world I have to admit to hating. Just one person. I don’t think of them everyday but on those days when they come to mind, I do ask myself if this is the day I will let it go and so far the answer has come back ‘nope.’ But I wouldn’t lie about them because the truth about them is enough and what I am discovering is that slowly people are coming to the same conclusion I came to. They don’t hate her and I don’t wish they would but the truth is coming out. I didn’t have to ring a bell – though I wanted to.

Hating someone isn’t my best moment. This person hates the president. Lots of people hate the president. And they cannot give a good reason why.

“I hate his policies!” Which ones? That question is a stump.

“He’s a Muslim.” What’s wrong with being a Muslim? “Muslims were responsible for attacking the US.” OK, if I use that logic then the Catholic church needs to be run out of town on a rail. After all, not only were there pedophile priest – but cardinals, bishops and Vatican staff knew about it. They did nothing and tried to deny then cover it up. They moved priests from one area to another where they could scar and ruin the lives of many all over again.

So when do you want to start tearing down the Catholic schools because we can’t let them near kids.  This is a worldwide attack and it had a tremendous impact in the United States. Certainly if an entire religion is responsible for three thousand deaths, countless injuries and scars then an entire religion must be responsible for scars, injuries and death of the children who were assaulted.

I don’t think people hate as much as they fear. And because we don’t often like to face our fears – we’re fearful of them – we lash out as a way to deflect. Blame other folks so we don’t have to be responsible for ourselves to ourselves.

So instead some of us opt to becoming alarmists. “Look over there so you don’t look over here!”

It is sad how we are….

On the other hand – yes, I can make a completely different transition to yarn and other things:

I have a small refrigerator in my office. It’s a soda fridge and right now it is filled with three different kinds of soda. There’s Dr. Pepper, A&W Root Beer and Coke Zero (all sugar free.)  The power went on and off a couple of times yesterday, the longest time being about an hour. I just pulled out a Dr. Pepper and opened it. Cold. Yes.

We have to find our silver linings where we can.

I am working on mittens today and then I am going to start on another toy from the same place I got the snake (finally a post that connects to the photo!) I am thinking of doing another snake or a tortoise. The snake is easier but the tortoise will be something different and I am thinking I will feel great if I can accomplish it. Leaning towards the tortoise. Can get ahead of myself though – the mittens aren’t complete.

100 friggin degrees and I’m making mittens.

Life is strange.