The Creative Blog Hop

My BKFF Rachel over at Porpoise Knits wrote for The Creative Blog Hop and tagged me and another pal, the lovely Linda at Kettle Yarn Co., to participate next. If you've found your way here through either of those blogs, or anyone else participating in The Creative Blog Hop, welcome!

The blog hop asks the following questions and I'm laying them out here first, mostly so that I don't forget them:

1. What am I working on?
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3. Why do I write/create what I do?
4. How does my writing/creating process work?

Let's dive in, shall we?

What am I working on?
These days it feels like I push the the ball forward a little bit every day on a lot of different projects. Knitting and many other crafts have always been my hobby but since moving to the UK I've been fortunate enough to have them become part of my professional life as well.

I've worked as the UK and EU sales rep for Canadian indie yarn dyer SweetGeorgia Yarns since moving to the UK almost two years ago. At the beginning of this year I added two more brands to my portfolio, Soak Wash and ChiaoGoo Needles, by becoming the account manager for their UK distributor Purlnova. In the spring I also made a return to my marketing communications roots and began working with clients in the knitting and yarn industry. This work has ranged from research and strategy to execution and everything in between, as well as digital and social media which was was what I did professionally before moving to the UK. It's been nice to be back at it and stretch my brain in other creative ways.

My Yarn in the City co-conspirator, Ms. Brown.

My Yarn in the City co-conspirator, Ms. Brown.

Then, since we all seem to wear a lot of hats in this business, I also co-organise the Great London Yarn Crawl with Rachel and as part of Yarn in the City we've got a few other projects in the works. This includes everything from releasing the pattern we designed in celebration of  Unwind Brighton to figuring out how we're going to make next year's Yarn Crawl even better and a few other sooper-sekrit projects besides. And because I'm a believer in life-long learning I'm also in the midst of taking a course on tech editing and learning more about web design.

All of this means that I have as little time for knitting personal projects as I did when had a "regular office job" before moving here, and in fact it's often less. (It *is* a bonus to be able to knit at work now though!). I regularly have "start-itis" and so there are generally a lot of things on the needles, all at the same time. The things that I'm actually focused on at the moment include a pair of socks, getting back to my spinning a little bit, Antiprism, and finishing up a sweater for Mr. H for Christmas (he's getting the Harry Potter sweater with the H on it). I also had a couple of finishes while I was away on holiday, but I'll show those off in another post.

A recent summer holiday FO:  Mimosa Shawl  by Boo Knits in SweetGeorgia Merino Silk Fine. Knit for my mom because she loved the Melon colourway.

A recent summer holiday FO: Mimosa Shawl by Boo Knits in SweetGeorgia Merino Silk Fine. Knit for my mom because she loved the Melon colourway.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That's an outstanding question, especially as I think the lines are blurred somewhat (so much?) between my work and play.

For the most part, I think that my personal crafting work, be it knitting or spinning or any other craft, doesn't differ all that much. While I venture off the straight and narrow a lot more now than I used to, I'm still very much a knit-by-numbers kind of gal, and I'm okay with that. I think that the reason I like to knit so many things in the yarn called for is because I figure that's part of the attraction for me, what made me want to knit it in the first place. I'd hate to knit something in a different yarn or fibre base than was called for because I know that the designer has chosen it for a specific reason related to the construction or drape and overall look and feel of the garment.

Now I'm starting to get more confident about modifying patterns to be a better fit size-wise or use techniques from one item because I prefer to knit that way but I still stay with the directions as they were written, for the most part.

For my marketing work that's little harder to answer. With social and digital media and the kinds of tools that are readily accessible to people now, it's very easy to do your own website or PR or advertising or whatever. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you should. And for that matter, in a creative-focused industry where everyone is working so hard and wearing so many hats and has such entrepreneurial spirit, do you really need one more thing to do?

As makers it can be really difficult for us to realise that even with doing something that we love for our "job", there is a business side to it that needs to be taken care of - namely the promotion of our brand. I'm guilty of this too. I've been fortunate to be busy with a variety of different clients since stepping back into marketing and as a result, my own brand suffers from neglect. The difference is that my business happens behind the scenes and is a lot less conspicuous than someone who is more forward-facing and dealing with the general public as their customer.

Either way, the really great thing that I see about my marketing side of things is the change that is starting to happen in our business. There's a real energy that has been building and bubbling with folks who are saying, "I'm going to make a go of this." Or, "It's going to be my job and it's not something that I'm going to do part time or on the side." Or even better, "I'm all in." And these people recognise that to get ahead, they need marketing support and that they really can't do it all and in fact are smarter to ask for help so that they can focus on doing what they do best, which is being creative with their own business.

I realise I haven't exactly answered the question for the marketing side of things so I'll say it like this: where things are different is that there is now an openness to and awareness of the necessity of marketing support and that promoting oneself or one's business isn't a bad thing. That means there's work for me in the knitting world and plenty to go around for my colleagues who do similar stuff. These are exciting times!

Knitting taking me to great heights: on the Sulphur Mountain Gondola in Banff National Park. The queue for the ride down the mountain was a solid hour. Good thing I had my knitting with me!

Knitting taking me to great heights: on the Sulphur Mountain Gondola in Banff National Park. The queue for the ride down the mountain was a solid hour. Good thing I had my knitting with me!

Why do I write/create what I do?
Possibilities and ideas excite me. They're the reason I get a head rush in a yarn store. Or a stationery supply store for that matter. Hell, I still need a reason, a list and an escort to go into a Michaels because if there's not anything I'm looking for, I could be in there for hours just thinking about all the things I could make.

Marketing too is a form of creativity for me. It's a challenge. I hope this sounds confident and not conceited when I say that I am a natural born marketer. I love to share ideas and tell people about something or someone awesome that I believe in. And I love helping them tell their own stories or figuring out the best time and place and way to do that. That's probably the biggest reason I have for being thrilled that my old and new professional lives have come together.

And it all makes me haaaappppyyyy!!!

How does my writing/creating process work?
For me the process is all about relationships - building them and maintaining them. It's a lot of work making those connections and nurturing them but it's also a lot of fun meeting new people and hearing and learning about their own process and what they're working on. I often meet a lot of people who say they hate "schmoozing" or "networking" - but then they don't see the look on their own face when they're engaged in a conversation about something that they are equally passionate about. They're doing it whether they realise they are or not!

Amy and Brenda at the P3 retreat in Wales, October 2012. More proof that you never know who you're going to meet or how they will inspire you in your own creative journey.

Amy and Brenda at the P3 retreat in Wales, October 2012. More proof that you never know who you're going to meet or how they will inspire you in your own creative journey.

I think that's the key to working in a creative industry doing something you love - surrounding yourself with likeminded people. People who inspire you, challenge you, and push you out of your comfort zone creatively. One of the single best things about my work and my process are my relationships. Be they knitters or designers or dyers or shop owners or publishers or other promoters, bloggers or podcasters - I love making connections and introductions and the collaboration that comes from them.

* * *

Many thanks to Rachel for tagging me to play! I'm going to throw things across the pond and tag the lovely Austen of The Marmalade Jar to carry things along on The Creative Blog Hop. Austen's writing is gorgeous and thoughtful and so is her knitting. Looking back, Austen was also probably one of my earliest inspirations for my moving forward into the knitting and craft industry professionally as she let me write some guest posts for a craft blog she edited for a well-known Canadian magazine. The rest, as they say, is history! But that's a story for another day.

Then on this side of the pond I'm tagging Kathleen from Knit Like You Mean It. Kathleen and I met at P3 in Wales when I first moved over to the UK and I'm happy to have her as one of my knitty friends here. Kathleen is a wonderful knitter, blogger, and designer with a number of patterns under her belt, as well as the mastermind behind Silver Screen Knits (vol. 1 and 2). Volume 2 was released this past spring and the designs are just as, if not more gorgeous! than volume 1! In fact, Franklin Habit had this to say about the collection: "Watching a history of cinema and browsing 'Silver Screen Knits' by Kathleen Lawton-Trask. Making me wish I had more time to knit. These are collections with a lot of solid, classic work. Stuff to wear again and again because it's fun and versatile." Enjoy!

Looking back, looking forward

I feel like this post should be called "Blogging Discipline" or even just discipline - as who couldn't use some of that in their knitting/crafting lives?

Today's topic for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week encourages us to look back at last year's looking forward post (if we wrote one) and and the KCBW as a whole to see if we had done any of the things that we wrote about with great intentions. Ha!

Looking back, planning is still the key for me. I need to be planning more what I want to write about, and getting out ahead with topic ideas and early drafts, thinking about photos, etc. I've said to clients before that a blog post can take anywhere from about 90 minutes to two and a half hours depending on the content.

Does that seem like a lot of time to you? Sometimes it's not nearly enough. This was a point that was reinforced at the very awesome Blogtacular conference I went to last weekend. Generating content takes time. There's coming up with the topic itself. Does that require research? Do you need to interview someone for it? Do you have to go to an event and cover it? Is there travel involved with that? What are those expenses? Are you taking photos? How much time will you spend reviewing photos, editing them, refining the selection and doing any touch ups? Are you doing a tutorial? Those are a lot more photos. And so on, and so on. Depending on how often you're posting, blogging is suddenly demanding a lot of your time.

Taking an objective look at my own blog through this lens, I've realised that I'm devaluing it by not putting the (additional) time in. It's always easier to put off the blog in favour of work or whatever else needs doing. But to be fair, I've also tended to look at this blog more as a personal outlet than a professional one. The more involved I become in the knitting and crafting industry, the more the lines blur.

Looking forward to the next year I'm going to have to figure out what my boundaries are with the personal vs. professional on my blog, and if/how I want to use it to promote myself and my work-related projects. It's safe to say though that after almost two years in this country, and a solid year and a half (almost) of working in the knitting industry, that doing this work as my job makes me happy. I'm starting to have a lot more focus in terms of what I want to be doing and can now start to refine towards a targeted objective. Exciting times ahead!

Random Friday Fun

Crazy things that crossed my desk this week:

This meme made me giggle hysterically.

This meme made me giggle hysterically.

  Really great article  on how a PBS station in the States is marketing themselves by spoofing reality TV. I would totally watch this show though! 

Really great article on how a PBS station in the States is marketing themselves by spoofing reality TV. I would totally watch this show though! 

A beautiful quilted work of art.  Click the photo to know more about this fabulous piece.

A beautiful quilted work of art. Click the photo to know more about this fabulous piece.

 The  TTC Knitalong  has their promotional push underway ahead of their big day of Saturday, July 20. So disappointed to be missing it this year! If you're in Toronto, check it out!

The TTC Knitalong has their promotional push underway ahead of their big day of Saturday, July 20. So disappointed to be missing it this year! If you're in Toronto, check it out!

And finally, if you haven't been watching The Fiber Factor online, it's as close as we may ever get to a reality TV show about knitting! The winner of challenge 1, Talitha Kuomi, just had a video posted with her progress on challenge 2. I love listening to this woman speak about her design process. Fascinating!

Have a great weekend everyone!

KCBW Day 7: Looking forward

Writing semi/almost daily for Knit and Crochet Blog Week has been like running a marathon. In it for the long-haul, and not without ups and downs, but also requiring a lot of training and persistance, and stamina.

The last post of KCBW is supposed to be about where we'd like our crafting to take us in the next year but I'd like to reflect instead on where I hope my blogging will be.

In the past four months I've tried to focus on blogging more conscientiously and regularly. While I've often tended to blog on what I'm doing at a particular point in time, or a project, or whatever is on my mind or at hand really, blogging as part of KCBW has brought a focus that I think many bloggers need but rarely have.  Certainly I've found that while the best intentions of being prepared and pre-written for last week were had, the execution left much to be desired. I hope that next year I stay on track with more regularity that I did this year.

The pre-planning (and pre-writing!) required to keep up with KCBW's daily posting schedule is not dissimilar to how social media "should" work when looked at from a marketing perspective. It's embarrassing to realise that I've not followed the advice that I've doled out to clients in the past - that blogging (and by extension social media) can and should benefit from planning and scheduling as much in advance that can be. 

That's not to say that things need to be planned so much that they come off as in-authentic, or that they stifle the personality of the blogger's voice or the spontaneity of responding to things as they happen in the moment. Rather, I think that the discipline of planning in advance lends itself to a more polished result that can engage and reach a wider audience. This is what I think all bloggers are ultimately trying to do (unless they really only want to write for their moms), and what I think I'd like to focus on in the year leading up to next year's Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.

It will be an interesting exercise for sure to see what growth, if any, occurs from an audience perspective. Analytics are only good up to a point - please let me know what you think in the comments.

As for my knitting/crafting/etc - in the next year I hope to continue enjoying and exploring new techniques in my knitting, but also take more time to try out and savour other crafts and finish some sewing UFOs too.

If you've followed along for KCBW - thank you for being with me, and I hope you'll continue to check in from time to time. :)