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Friday, April 8, 2016

Metro Yarn Crawl 2016

I can't believe the annual DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) Metro Yarn Crawl has come and is almost gone.  Last year (here's the post), my friends Nina, Mary, and I visited some of the Virginia stores, so, this year, we figured we'd check out some of the Maryland stores.  Unfortunately, a favorite store the Yarn Spot closed not too long ago, so we started our adventure by heading up to Boyds, Maryland to visit Knit Locally.  For a city girl like me, I really felt like I was going on a trip to the countryside, though there seems to be a lot of development going on up there (the whole I-270 corridor keeps growing and growing).

We got there just as the store was opening (took about an hour's drive from NW DC).  What a fabulous and magical place!!  It was just amazing, the selection of yarns, books, and jewelry all fit together so beautifully.  But best of all was the fact that Dana was there that day (she's also known as StitchenWitch on Ravelry and has an amazing blog that I had actually come across a few weeks ago:  She made some great recommendations to us, both yarn-wise and pattern-wise, and I got some great stuff.  Oh, and be sure to visit the rest room while you're there, trust me!

Then off to Woolwinders in Rockville.  It's a smaller, more modern shop, but they've done some fun redecorating since the last time I was there.  The clock in the picture is crocheted, and I hope you can see the yarn ball and needles stenciling on the wall behind us.

Our third stop was Second Story Knits in Bethesda.  This was a really fun stop as well.  It's under new ownership and is just a more friendly and comfortable place to be now.  The yarn selections are top notch, and it is in the heart of the redevelopment of Bethesda that's going on right now.

Oh, and I forgot to confess to the yummy lunch that we had at IHOP; the chicken florentine crepe was quite tasty ;-).  Ah, another perfect yarn crawling experience with two besties, what more could a girl want on a chilly spring day!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What is the Crochet Lifestyle?

As National Crochet Month draws to a close, I've mentioned before my plan to explore all aspects of living the "crochet lifestyle," but, in a way, it's kind of important to first start defining what that means.  The other day, this saying popped up on Facebook:

Crochet is not just a hobby...  It's an obsession, an occupation, an addiction, a fascination, self-expression and a way of life
I don't know to whom to attribute it, but I thought it summed things up quite nicely!  And, in all fairness, I'm sure these feelings apply to knitting, painting, cooking, working with clay, writing a poem or book, and any other type of artistic endeavor -- because each is its own beautiful way to express yourself.

The two best examples I can point to as living the crochet lifestyle are Kristin Omdahl and Drew Emborsky.  Both started out as talented crochet designers and instructors but each is branching out in his and her own ways; KKO is now offering wonderful yarns, project bags, but also branching out into tips about cooking, skin care and even furniture making; the Crochet Dude is putting his artistic expressions into beautiful zentangle notecards.  He claims to have retired from crochet, but somehow I have to believe he'll be inspired again in that medium.  I'd love to explore with both of them about their definitions of the crochet lifestyle and where they see it taking them, so I'll be reaching out to them for interviews and let's see what happens.

Which just goes to show that living the crochet lifestyle is more than just about crocheting; it seems to be about adding style to your life through artistic expression.  It's about going through each day in a carefree yet efficient way so that you'll have more time to crochet!  It's certainly what I had in mind while I was creating the Sunset Planner Portfolio -- getting organized and crocheting at the same time!  I know I promised some more organizing tips and planning pages before the end of the month, but the time just flew...  I'll be posting them soon and lots more in the days and weeks to come.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The No-Pay MBA

You know, there are times in life when you have an idea, you set it aside, and then you come back across it, executed by someone else, probably (if you're honest with yourself) better than you could have done it!  Well, that happened to me the other day.

I've always wanted to get an MBA.  I even got into NYU Business School my senior year of college but took another path (a good one, so no real regrets).  And, these days, graduate schools are prohibitively expensive, and giving up a full time job (and MCG on the side) is not an option.  So, I got to thinking about how, with the internet, there are so many other options to learn (for me, it's really not about the degree itself, but the curriculum that business schools advocate in order to develop the knowledge and skills for running a business).  I started to research the different courses that business schools require, but of course got distracted by other bright shiny objects...

And the other day, while going through emails and scanning the headlines of some old SmartBrief for Your Career newsletters, what pops up but an article "6 Free Online Courses That'll Teach You the Same Skills You'd Learn in Business School" by Laurie Pickard.  She has such an interesting personal story and does a great job of outlining the core business courses that I clicked on her bio and went to her website The No-Pay MBA and bought the book!  No affiliation here, just a recommendation if you too have been exploring ways to gain some additional business knowledge and skills in a legitimate way (don't get me wrong, I think some of the "online Facebook motivational speakers" and their offerings have merit, but nothing substitutes for the in-depth, rigorous courses that real educational institutions offer).

Now, to go find the time, energy, and discipline it takes to actually implement this!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beginnings of the Paper System and the Sunset Planner Portfolio

Organization of my "work/crafting station" has been going pretty well, but it's not quite ready for its reveal.  But #NatCroMo2016 has me thinking about so many aspects of creativity, it's been so great.  Sometimes I can be effective in the midst of chaos, but I find that I work better when my environment is clean, organized and comfortable.  So, rather than fight my natural inclinations, I'm learning to go with them!  Of course that means more work for me and a delay in getting to projects that I should be working on.  But, I really think that some front-loaded work on my space can free up the creativity and really get me going.

As I've written about in this post, my first goal has been to wrangle in the paper.  I found the Organized Creatives, who have a folder system that really spoke to me and so far has been working.  Basically, you need to have just three folders:  Hot (that should be checked daily for things that need immediate attention; mine is red), Bills (that's pretty self-explanatory, and I chose green for $$ :-), and For Review (things you want to go back to when you have more time to read, etc., and that folder is purple).  I decided to add a fourth folder called Monitoring, for those matters that need follow-up after I've done my part and am waiting for a response, and it's this beautiful black and white swirl folder.

So far so good, but I noticed that the folders were moving around the house as I picked them up and put them down.  I really needed something to corral them, something that would stand out and would be portable when needed.  That's how the Sunset Planner Portfolio came to be!  It's large enough to hold the folders plus other papers as needed.  I created a hard bottom for it so that it would have a little more structure and prop up nicely on the desk.  I didn't want it to have a traditional shoulder strap but wanted to keep my handle options open, so I put in a loop at each end to maintain flexibility and came up with this little lobster claw strap so that I can hook the portfolio to my messenger bag (still need to make another one for the other side!).

It was a fun project to make and used up a lot of my leftover Lily's Sugar 'n Cream yarn.  My friend Charlene thought the finished color combination looked like a sunset, hence the name (but more on what that sparked later!).  The buttons came from AC Moore and were $4.50 each!!  But I just loved them, so the splurge :-)

I'll be offering a kit soon with all the needed parts in it (and hopefully less expensive but just as cute buttons), but the crochet pattern with complete instructions is posted on Ravelry, and, during the month of March, it's half off with coupon code NATCROMO2016!

Coming up soon:  What about a Sunrise Portfolio and what about all the other paper?!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

NatCroMo 2016

Hi Crocheters, Happy National Crochet Month!!

Welcome everyone, thank you so much for joining me on my blog post day for Crochetville's celebration of all things crochet.  There are so many wonderful crochet designers and local yarn shops involved this year, and the best way to keep up with all of the goings-on is through Crochetville's Facebook Page for NatCroMo.

I've been working on all sorts of projects lately, and those of you who know me know that I'm easily distracted by bright shiny objects.  But, I have focused long enough to bring you some fun things for the month of March:

1)  The Sunset Planner Portfolio

One really important project I've been working on for myself but that hopefully you will find helpful as well is a crochet bag in which to keep my daily paperwork organized.  The Sunset Planner Portfolio pattern is now available on Ravelry, and a kit with all of the needed ingredients will be available in my Etsy shop soon.  In celebration of NatCroMo 2016, the crochet pattern on Ravelry is 50% off and our kit on Etsy will be 20% off for the whole month of March with code NATCROMO2016.

At the beginning of every year, I struggle with finding, and utilizing, the "perfect" planner to keep track of all of my personal and business tasks, appointments, bills, ... everything!  This year, I think I'm a step closer to really having the tools and system I need to keep on top of everything, and I'm hoping my research into different methods of keeping track of items will be helpful to you too.

First, you might want to check out my previous post on being both organized AND creative and some steps to take in that direction.  Also, I've got another follow-up post coming up later this month with some great resources I've come across AND FREE PRINTABLES that I've been using in building my own paper organization system and crochet projects system.

2)  The Imminent Launch of "Global Crochet"

Like it's not hard enough to get organized and keep up with Many Creative Gifts, I've decided to launch a companion site, Global Crochet, that explores crochet styles and techniques from around the world!  We're going to be partnering with some amazing and creative people to offer some unique crochet projects and accessories and exploring exactly what the "crochet lifestyle" is all about.  For now, please visit us on Facebook, like our page, and get up-to-date information about the launch!  

And the best place to start is home -- the District of Columbia!  There's more than just politics going on in this town; we've got a very vibrant fiber arts and handmade movement here. Our new project bag celebrates DC and will be available for pre-order in our Etsy shop by March 14th, with delivery in about 3-4 weeks.

3)  Meet Clownie's Friends!

Here's my Clownie from last year's DCWBC Holiday Bazaar!  For those of you who already have made Clownie the Crochet Clown Doll come alive, many thanks from the bottom of my heart.  I know how special Clownie has become in a lot of families (he's the least scary clown you can imagine :-), but I've been worried about Clownie being a bit lonely ...  So, stay tuned to meet some new companions for Clownie and hear more about their adventures together!

Again, thank you so much for spending part of your NatCroMo celebration with me, and I hope to see you back here again and on Facebook later in the month for some updates, freebies, and surprises -- to get the latest, please sign up for blog post emails in the left column of this page, only one or two a week I promise, and connect with me through my Facebook page anytime :-).

Friday, February 26, 2016

3 Action Steps to Take Today on the Road to Being Organized AND Creative

Sometimes it just feels like these two concepts can't possibly coexist!  I mean, to be organized means to be rigid, habitual, set in one's ways; whereas, to be creative means to be spontaneous, carefree, not tied down to a system.  Right?!

Well, I refuse to believe that!  I have to believe that the two can be compatible. And I don't think I'm the only one.  But, as I struggle to do well at my "real" job, take care of my mom and husband (and don't think I'm being a 50s wife here, he does a lot for me too, just not in the cleaning, organizing department ;-), and be creative, I don't have a lot of time to really do things the way I would like to do them.

And, of course, it's almost March, and I still haven't fulfilled my New Year's resolution of getting my planner set up and my workspace/creative space organized!  So, in the spirit of holding myself accountable and taking action, I'm writing about it here hopefully to help all of us who are similarly struggling.

I just came across some wonderful inspiration also.  Just take a look at Andrea's Notebook and her creative home office reveal!  I'm seriously thinking about setting up a pegboard because going vertical is a better option than going horizontal -- I really need the desk space to have room to create and not feel cluttered (by the way, like Andrea, I am NOT posting any "before" photos because it's just too embarrassing, no one needs to see this!)

So, since I'm blogging and taking action in real time on this project (and am encouraging you to do the same as well), let's start with STEP 1 -- figuring out exactly what needs to be organized.  Think about what YOU need and want, not what the organizing gurus tell you you should need and want.  For example, even though it would be great to have all of my craft stuff all in one place, I don't think it's feasible and necessarily desirable for me.  I like to crochet in the living room, so having my yarns and tools in cabinets in the hallway and dining room (yes, you read that right!) works for me.  The bedroom, where my first organization project is taking place, is where I like to do my computer work, for both personal and business purposes.  Having said that, I can see how the pegboard system on the wall above my desk would help in having some of my crochet yarns and tools right on hand that I need when doing some computer work in writing up the patterns, etc.

My biggest challenge in this space is managing paper.  Although I've been trying hard to go electronic (and organizing electronic files is a topic all on its own!), there are some things that I just feel the need to have on paper.  But managing all the junk mail and "stuff" is challenging for me; I'm getting better about sorting (and throwing away) mail and papers in the hallway or living room when it first comes in the apartment so that what gets carried into the bedroom office area is just the important paper.  But, what then?!

Ok, so here is our assignment for today:

1) Make a list of the items that give you the hardest time with organization.  For me, it's bills and other important paperwork that needs to get done by a certain date, articles and stuff that I want to read later, business cards that I pick up along the way, coupons I know I should be using, crochet magazines that I can't bring myself to throw out, and half-written crochet patterns and notes that I take about projects I've started or plan on undertaking someday.

2) Think about what helps you stay organized.  Do you like using folders?  Maybe binders.  How about boxes and/or shelving?   Your iPhone?  I really like all of it but for different things -- folders for particular topics, but I'm thinking about using a binder for my planner this year.  I'm such a creature of habit, so I need to incorporate the spiral notebooks and other things that I've already created into my new system.

3) Start gathering what you already own and figuring out what you need to buy.  I've already got a ton of file boxes and folders, but I really need to get that pegboard for the wall.  Thankfully, I've got a Staples coupon, so I'm going to start there first (I've been looking online as well and have an idea of what I want and how much it's going to cost).  And, as I look around in this space, just like Andrea said, it might be worth the investment to buy some coordinating furniture rather than cobbling things together.

Come on, not such a hard assignment to get started!  My next installment will be about getting into the nitty-gritty details.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Kristin Omdahl Bamboo Yarns

Kristin Omdahl has created her own line of yarns!  As you crocheters know, Kristin is a talented designer of both crochet and knitwear, and now she's taking it to the next level by offering brilliant hand dyed bamboo yarns (disclosure:  Kristin is offering her yarns at a discount to pattern designers to give them the opportunity to experience and utilize this beautiful yarn in our own designs).

So, I had the hardest time deciding which yarns to order!  I went with Be So Bold and Be So Sporty.
It came in a flash, and how wonderfully packaged.  Kristin really pays attention to detail but still manages to give that personal touch.
Here is the Be So Bold (100% bamboo, 165 yds/594m per 4 oz/113g for $30) in Sophia's Serengeti Sunset.  It's a worsted weight yarn, and I'm using my G hook for the swatch (see below).  I think it's a single ply and looks almost weaved.  It's soooo easy to crochet with, no splits!

My swatch has 2 rows of single crochet, followed by 2 rows of double crochet.  I'm getting 8 stitches per inch, and 2 rows of single is about a half inch and 2 rows of double is a little more than an inch.

Ok, so now that my swatch is made, let's go wash it! I was a little worried at first because, even though bamboo has some amazing properties (it’s naturally antibacterial and gives ultraviolet protection, with good drape and breath-ability), it can be a bit challenging to maintain (it needs to be hand washed and loses strength and swells in water).  But, I have to say, the swatch isn't shrinking or growing in size (hey, I'm doing this in real time!).  Whew, well, I'll post after drying pix, but so far, so good.  So, now on to the designing!