Wednesday, May 22, 2013

As the School Year Draws to a Close....

Despite being 16 years out of school myself, my life has never stopped revolving around the school calendar.  After I graduated college, I immediately took a teaching job and had 3 more years of following a school calendar.  Once I made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom with a baby, then two, I was still following the school calendars even before my own kids were in school or even preschool, because I taught piano lessons and tried to make our lesson schedule reflect the school calendar as much as possible.

The end of this month marks the tenth school year I've gone through with my own kids.  I worked on design last summer.  A lot.  Enough that I started feeling a little bit like there were times I wished I had decided to set aside some time to just be home with my kids again.  So I was determined that this summer, I would tie up loose ends and just be leisurely about any design work I get done over the summer months.  I still have a huge list of ideas, and if a couple things get worked on - great!  (And I know myself well enough to never make a resolution to not work over the summer, because I know I'll break it.)  But I'm not leaving any big projects to be finished over the summer months.  I'll be running a couple test-knits, and working at a leisurely pace on a couple other projects, but the main plan is to have time to spend with my kids.  As of 2 weeks from now, they'll both be junior high students, and I know they won't be around here forever!

As the kids went back to school last August, I made a couple goals for myself.  And I'm proud to say that I've met three of them, and have a good start on the fourth.

My first, and most important goal was that I wanted to self-publish 12 patterns over the course of the school year, and I managed to do just that.  I started with the two Tiny Dancer patterns in late August and finished with he Unisox I put out in May.  A couple of the patterns were 2-fors though (2 different items included in 1 pattern), so all told, since August, I've published patterns for: 1 pair of socks, 3 adult sweaters, 3 children's sweaters, 1 cowl, 2 hats, 2 pairs of leg or arm warmers, 1 pair of mittens, and 1 girl's dress.  All the garments were written for at least 8 sizes, if not more, and every single one of these patterns have been test knit in, if not every single size, pretty close to it.

I couldn't have met that first goal without having a family that is very willing to pitch in, and an extremely supportive husband.  When we take long drives, he drives while I knit.  When he comes home and sees that I'm in the middle of something, he starts getting dinner ready.  When I order a heap of yarn, he just asks what I got, not how much it costs.  He's pretty great.

A couple other goals I made and met:

I wanted to offer another free pattern at Christmastime on my blog for the people who have supported my designs.  "Bananamiss" on Ravelry helped me meet this goal by being a fantastic test-knitter on this project.

I wanted to start publishing adult sweaters.  For my first couple years as a designer, I was a little intimidated by all the shaping required to make a good adult sweater pattern.  But by this past fall, I had designed enough children's garments that I was confident in my basic skills, and I spent a good chunk of time reading books on knitwear and taking Craftsy classes to learn different ways to shape adult sweaters (and anything, really).  So by last summer I was ready to take on my own personal "final frontier".  And I did it twice more this year (and actually two more times you haven't even seen yet!)

My last goal was not fixed in my mind, but I got a couple gentle nudges from other Ravelers this spring and finally followed through on creating a Ravelry group to support my design business.  It was fun to see familiar faces joining.  Lots of people who have test knit my patterns in the past, customers whom I have corresponded with either answering questions or complimenting their projects, and others who have become "virtual" knitting buddies all jumped in to support me, and that made me very happy.  I won't be able to personally thank all the people who gave me those nudges because there were a lot of you and I know I'll accidentally leave someone out.  But I do appreciate you telling me that you wanted such a group, reassuring me that people that are not my blood-relations will join, and offering to help moderate it.  And to Jen and Kelly, who actually are helping me moderate it, I appreciate the help you're giving me!

The only goal that I had in my mind that I didn't meet was to start offering my patterns in hard copy form to yarn shops.  I'm still a little ambivalent about that one.  On the one hand, it might open up a new market and provide exposure to people that don't notice my patterns on-line.  On the other hand, I've heard that yarn shops are just not buying as many hand copy patterns anymore, and for the very small profit I'd make off each one (we're talking about maybe 25% of what I make off a digital sale), I'd be doing a lot of extra work.  There's preparing the files to be printed (most printing services will only print in multiples of either 2 or 4 pages, so I'd have to re-format a lot of patterns), removing hyperlinks (which I don't love because I do so much video support to help clarify techniques that I use), ordering, shipping to yarn shops, and doing the leg-work to get my patterns into shops, since I don't have a distributor to do this for me.  Not to mention the fact that, as a self-published pattern writer, I have the luxury of using as many words as I need to be clear in my instruction.  As a result, many of my patterns are 6 pages or longer (which is very expensive to print and a little impractical when trying to sell hard copies.)  So in order to make these detailed patterns more like what you'd expect to buy in printed form, I'd have to do a lot of editing, which will make the patterns less "beginner-friendly", which is something I'm not thrilled about.  You can see why I'm still on the fence about this, right?  :)

Anyway, I'm happy with what I've accomplished this school year, although I'm going to set my bar a smidge lower for the next school year.  I still want to put out 10-12 patterns, but I will probably try to make the accessory : garment ratio a little higher.  There were too many times this school year where my husband had to pick up the slack, and he's all but taken over the grocery shopping.  I know he's happy to do it, but I also know that it's going to be my turn to do those things again soon.  So throwing in a few more patterns for smaller things (as in, not sweaters that need to be graded and tested in 10 sizes) will help free up a little more time for "life & family" stuff.

As for this summer, I have 4 knitting goals:
1) Knit a couple patterns from other designers
2) Finish up the two secret test knits & get those patterns finalized
3) Finish the Craftsy classes I am part of the way through
4) Work on reformatting my older patterns that actually sell to my new layout

And 4 personal goals:
1) Make time to do some fun stuff with the kids
2) Paint the hallway and the banged-up white trim (and bug Jason until he gets the bathroom ceiling painted)
3) Continue to exercise (which I'm really good about during the school year, but really bad about once the kids are home for the summer and it's really hot outside)
4) Get our cat + furniture situation sorted out (I've been trying to train our cats to use their scratching posts instead of our furniture for 4 years now, and I've failed's time to get the cats declawed, then replace the shredded furniture)

Hmmm...8 goals over the 11-week summer break?  I guess no one can ever say I set the bar too low!

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