My 31 day challenge

There is something about a 31 day challenge which is very appealing. There is a wealth of evidence that a minimum of 21 days is needed to fully establish a new habit but going for the full month seems more satisfying on so many more levels. At this time of year, our thoughts naturally turn to the new year just around the corner. Things we would like to do differently, things we would like to learn or even things we want to avoid.

During 2016 two of my goals were to establish an email subscription list and newsletter and also to maintain a more regular blog schedule. In large part I feel as though I have achieved that and in the course of doing so I have found that not only do I love knitting (no surprise there) but I also love writing about knitting.

I read a quote once which said something along the lines of "The more you write the more you want to write" and in my case that does really seem to be the case.

With that in mind therefore I have decided to set myself a 31 Day Challenge of my very own, and commit to writing a blog post every day in January. In order to avoid overload and to keep this separate from my main blog this will be posted on a separate page over on my website under the page called Everyday Knitter.

This is also the name of my new Facebook group and my intention is to do something every day to foster and nuture my love of this craft we all love so much.

The daily blog posts, by necessity will be short and snappy but I hope that they will reflect events in my real-life knitting-life.

How about you? Do you fancy joining me in a 31 day challenge of your own? It could be something as simple as committing to spending 15 minutes reading, or 31 days of having your 5 fruits and veggies a day. It certainly doesn't need to be knitting related, although obviously please dive in if that appeals to you.

Please click here to download my free 31 Day Challenge printable and don't forget to let me know how you get on.

Permit to Play

Following on from my recent blog post on creativity and new beginnings I wanted to say thank you for all the comments and feedback I received. They were all very much appreciated and in some ways, it's good to know that I'm not the only one to go through the odd 'creative slump'.

I've been doing a lot of reading/procrastination/housework avoidance on the subject and I have really enjoyed a book by Kim Werker which many of you might have already heard of. The author beind the 'Year of making' project also has a booked called 'Making it Mighty Ugly'. It's a fabulous resource and a guide for how to get the best out of your creative self, even when life is determinedly getting in the way. She shares some great tips and tricks as well as interviews with other creative types.

Other useful articles have been:

From this I have basically distilled the following:

1. Make time for it.

I am a great one for to-do lists and schedule practically everything about my day - even exercise. Whether I actually do said exercise is just between me and my snooze button though :)
My point is that everything of note in my life is planned - usually - making time for creativity should be the same.

2. Be consistent and 'show up'

Rather than waiting around for the creative urge to strike - see above
"Borrowing DS2's crayons - really must buy my own".

So, in the interests of striking while the iron is hot I am planning to schedule a dedicated amount of time in my day to just PLAY. No pressure, no expectations, just to play with something or at something. Whether I just have 5 minutes or 5 hours (wow - I wish), to just spend a few moments of each day doing something playful for me.
"Fun with colouring in"
I'll be sharing my playful exploits here and also on my Instagram feed using the hashtag #permittoplay.

Why not join me and let me know what you've been playing with?

Love your Blog Week 3: Social media - the good, the bad and the ugly

In the creative industry as in all walks of life, there is a tendency to focus overwhelmingly on the positive and to ignore or minimise the negative, the less-than-perfect or the ugly.
In general this is usually the best policy - as my mother used to say "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". However this can lead to what is known in the scientific community as publication bias. Results of pharmaceutical clinical trials which show a positive outcome are far more likely to be published than those which don't.

In the same way, we are all far more likely to document our successful projects on Ravelry and show them on Instagram, than we are to show photos of that sweater with the wonky sleeve that was relegated to the back of the cupboard.

In general, we are far more likely to show only the good, the beautiful and the perfect. Recently a well known Instagrammer made this point and published a series of photos showing her 'everyday' after someone made the comment that she had a 'beautiful life' Her thoughtful response was that, of her normal day the part she shared via social media comprised  approximately 2% - and that was on a good day.

Whilst entirely understandable, this type of self-censorship has the potential to cause anxiety or negative thinking amongst users of social media. Any feelings of self-doubt or tendency to over-critical thinking can be made worse by an endless parade of 'lovely' photographs. As a new parent I remember distinctly feeling overwhelmed by seeing a good friend post pictures she took of baking cookies with her toddler - all happy smiles and clean faces. When I tried the same it ended in tears, tantrums and flour-covered cat.

Now, I'm not for one minute suggesting that we all start to broadcast our 'Ugly' but when using social media it is well worth bearing in mind that you are seeing carefully editing highlights of someones life, or work or craft. And, as beautiful and inspirational as it is, it is part of a bigger, messier, imperfect whole.

And for the record, and in the spirit of scientific interest - this is the product of a week's worth of data gathered on my 'normal' day.


 For lots more thoughts on Ugly and it's meaning in our creative context, please see the fabulous A Playful Day, whose brainchild this 'Love Your Blog' series is. Her post on this weeks theme is fabulous and well worth a read.

Love Your Blog: Week 2 - Beginnings

Somewhat ironically, this blog post has been the hardest one to start. Typically for me I have no problem diving headfirst into any number of crafty projects. KALs, events, the year of making challenge, you name it. I'm there. Stoically ignoring my mountain of other WIPs and deadlines I can never resist rushing headlong into another project. And if it doesn't work out - well, there is always frogging and a fresh pile of yarn to play with.

Starting a blog post however is a totally different experience. Numerous false starts, over-analysis and eventual collapse are the normal turn of events when I sit down to type. I am known to be a bit of a perfectionist and something about committing my words to print is enough to paralyse me with indecision.

Is this post good enough? Does it say what I want it to say? Could I phrase it better?

When I have news such as a new pattern release to communicate, then I'm all business-like and can bang out a blog update relatively quickly. But if I am wanting to write a more reflective or analytical piece then the self-doubt kicks in and leads to the eventual fail-safe response of 'write nothing'

Not ideal, I think you'll agree.

So I am using this wonderful challenge by A Playful Day to visit lots of other crafty blogs, to chat, to get inspired and most of all to realise that not every post I put out there has to be 'perfect'. It's about reaching out to fellow crafters, starting a conversation and interacting about our favourite subject in the whole world.#

It's just people chatting about yarn - there's nothing to be scared of

A lack of daylight

About this time of year I start to realise that I am not designed to be a nocturnal animal and the shortage of natural daylight starts to be a nuisance. Never more so than now when I am trying to grow my fledgling pattern design business. Photography is an area that I am keen to improve upon and everything I read emphasises the importance of natural light.

All well and good until you consider that my day job has me leaving the house at 8:20 (school run before driving to work) and arriving home after 5pm. The hours of available daylight for photography purposes at home are condensed into a 20 minute slot between 8:00 and 8:20 and not surprisingly lost trousers and missed homework is often higher on my to-do list at that time in the morning.

I have tried carefully assembling my subject matter the night before so that all I have to do is grab my camera and take a few shots (whilst telling a small child to brush their teeth - again) but the general morning chaos isn't really conducive to calm, unhurried work.

My latest cunning plan is to take the photographic subject with me in the car. Arranged on a tea tray - passengers in my car must think I am very odd - and with the car parked in a suitable spot at work I can take advantage of the last hour or two of daylight and do my best to get some good shots.

I found some good tips here and here.
And there are some great "what not to do" tips by A Beautiful Mess here.

It is a constant struggle though and I would welcome suggestions on how you do it. What tips and tricks can you share to help us make the most of those precious daylight hours?