Posts tagged etsy
Some Days are Idyllic

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In the very long list of things I have ever been wrong about, the ease of being a work at home mother comes top of my list.  I honestly thought it would be ideal to squeeze in work around my family, cooking, cleaning, organising the car repairs, doing the laundry, the school run, the playgroups, the nappy changes, the bill paying.  The best of both worlds.

My goodness, I was so wrong.  It is, quite simply, relentless. There is never enough hours in the day for all of it.  And the less I say about the constant interuptions, the better. It IS good, but it is not easy.

Except sometimes, just sometimes. All of us happily going about our businesses.  Both babies napping at the same time. Getting everything on my list and more done?

Ideal.

Work: In Progress.

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Every morning, I wake up, check my phone for orders and come downstairs to the computer to email out patterns and write my "To Do" list for the day, stopping by the coffee pot on the way through. I am not by nature an organised person, but I do like a goal or two to keep me on track. Well, on track is never actually where I am...there is always *something* that diverts my best laid plans. Yesterday it was a printer that refused to print my 12 mailing labels that then took me 2 hours to get the orders ready for posting today.  Today its a little girl who has decided that destruction is F.U.N. and has spent the morning snatching, destroying, and then running away singing "Na Na, Me!" (Translation: "Na na, you can't catch me").

IMG_2231.jpgBasic tasks become mountains to climb.  Some mornings, like this one, my list is so long I feel sick at the thought of all I have to do.  I actually can not comprehend how I will get it all done. 

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But progress happens.  Slowly. In pockets of time when 2 are sleeping and one is building a Lego city.  Or when 2 are playing peekaboo behind the curtains.  Or when 3 are thrown out into the garden for (yet) another egg hunt.

And then, we celebrate the simple sucesses...after a year of living here, I finally hung curtains in the childrens' room.  I have finished 3 stripes in the Stripe Study Shawl Knitalong. I made and ate lunch. I have started a new pattern for Saturday's class.  Twelve orders were sent out today. 

Progress, if I do say so myself. 

Self Publishing: Thoughts and Process

 

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When I started my business in October, it never occured to me that I would do anything but self-publish my patterns. Obviously every type of publishing has its benefits and drawbacks, but the control freak in me LOVES being totally in charge of every aspect of my pattern - from the design to the layout to the photography. I can pretty much do what I want.  From a monetary standpoint as well, for every pattern I sell I get the profit, minus only the minimal paypal and Etsy or Ravelry fees.

However, one of the major drawbacks is that the entirety of the time and money outlay is mine. In particular, I find the marketing elements of design hard.  I have been lucky with publicity, but I know I need to do more and lack the motivation and skills. And as much as I love developing patterns, it is not as easy as throwing down a few bits of instruction on a piece of paper. Everything from the yarn choice to the writing up to the sizing is quite a time consuming process that often involves swearing.

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I start the whole process with a very clear image in my head of what I want - often this is the photo I want to capture of the finished item. Being VERY impatient, I usually have to start on the new idea RIGHT NOW, before I lose the motivation.  I try to work with the yarns I have on hand and do tend to favour Cascade 220, patially because I love this yarn but also because with Americans being my biggest auidence, I want to work in something that will be readily available to them.

As a designer, I am particularly a fan of designing "on the hook/needles".  I know that this is sneered at a bit, with many designers working from swatches and laying out the pattern first.  For complicated stitch patterns and larger pieces (none of which you have seen yet...hint hint), I do some of this, but ultimately I am not good at crocheting in my head and need to see the physical piece develop to decide on design elemets. Often, this does result in more work.  The Spartacus hat did go through a couple of incarnations before I got it right, which meant making aproximately 6 versions...not complete restarts, but certain elements happening a couple of times to get the package right.

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Rather than sitting at the computer, I usually design by putting pen to paper for the sample size, then transfering the gauge into a sizing spreadsheet to get the range of sizes I want without having to make it over and over.  I save all of the information for all of the yarns and stitch patterns I use so that I don't have to duplicate effort in the same spreadsheet. This was a hard learned lesson, after being a bit more casual and losing a lot of time by having to remake items.

One of the first things we did when publishing the Woolly Owl Hat was to develop a stylesheet for my patterns.  At the time, we didn't know what it was called and I thought it was an (annoying) step Kevin was adding.  However, its proved invaluable as it enables me to quickly move from a rough draft pattern scribbled on a sheet of paper and its accompanying spreadsheet to a more final draft, ensuring I remember all of the key elements patterns need, such as stitch abbreviations and sizing.

Up until recently, all of my patterns were tested by at least 2 people to ensure the pattern works and is readable.  I am now working with Joanne from Not So Granny who is tech editing my patterns. Now, I only learned about tech editors (basically a super smart individual who checks the math and techniques in the pattern to ensure they are all technically correct) a few weeks ago and the moment I realised what they are, I knew I needed one. I still plan on using testers and if you are interested, I will ask in my Ravlery group for volunteers.

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Throughout the whole process, I will often be trying to get photos of the finished object.  I tend to do this 1:1 with the subject in question - naptime and the nursery run are often good opportunities to do this, without too much of this happening. 

Even when the pattern itself is finished and ready to go, I still have a number of steps to go through before it is live.  Friday's pattern is being published in partnership with Red Ted Art, with one size free and the rest for purchase on Etsy and Ravelry.  To get from the point of finished pattern to publish, I still need to:

- Create a listing on Etsy which will need a special thumbnail with PDF on it to differentiate it from a listing for a finished object. It will also need the basic pattern information so people know what they are buying. 

- Create an entry on Ravelry and upload the pattern to the pro section of its website for download.

- Email off the version of the pattern to Maggy, including photos with all of the links to the purchase information live.  In this case, the Etsy and the Ravelry listings will be live much earlier than usual, but normally they go live just after I publish the blog post announcing the pattern, particularly if the PDF is being downloaded from here.

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And the most important part of the process? The celebratory glass of wine after its all done!!

 

Ebb and Flow

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I am not quite sure when or where I lost it, but it appears (at least temporarily) that my creative energy is on a low. These ups and downs are normal and, when I look back over the last year, I am surprised it didn't happen sooner. In fact, I am surprised I am still standing after it all.  

Truth be told, I am finding everything difficult at the minute.  When I was pregnant with Theo, I couldn't imagine harder work than a newborn and a 1 year old (plus a 4 year old). I can confirm that a busy (almost) 1 year old and a crazy (almost) 2 year old combined with a very spirited (almost) 5 year old is much much harder.  I calculated the other day I was being yelled at for 23 hours of the day.  TWENTY THREE HOURS. Yes, it was a bad day, but not that far off of normal.  I spend most days counting down the moments until Kevin walks in the door. 2 hours is a long time...8 is longer.  

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I love my children desperately.  They are hands down the best thing in my life. However, the truth is that I can't help but at times resent them. They (rightly) ask so very much of me that I end up giving far beyond my capacity to do so.  Many days, it leaves me so utterly drained that I can barely speak--instead my words come out in sharp snarls and shouts. Empty and grumpy, I drop into my bed for a few hours sleep before the endless cycle of waking begins.

There are days that I have to fight every urge in my body not to pack a bag and walk away.  Get on a plane. Go somewhere where the sun shines.  But of course I stay. Sometimes its because I love them and I know I would be lost without them, sometimes its because I am too tired to walk to the train station.

It is against this tide that creativity must flow and it is hard.  If I can't even hold a conversation, algebra for sizing or energy for making isn't there either. Work splutters along and the seasonal slow down in orders comes both as a welcome relief and a worry. There was a time that I would have worried more.  That I would have thought that this was it...my life, my creativity was just this.  Experience tells me otherwise. In a few weeks, this will be a memory and I will be back on the high.

 

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But for now, I will be grateful for it being Friday:  A day with an empty house and a date with a ball of yarn and a crochet hook (plus all of the cheesy movies I can handle on Netflix). 

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- card by Katie Daisy

 

The Neighbourhood Eccentric (or the Best Crochet Hooks)

I think it would be fair to say that my neighbours think that I am crazy.  At least once a week one or the other of them catches me engaging in what can only be described as eccentric behaviour.  Taking my meals outside to take pictures of them.  Standing on ladders and stools, camera in hand.  Or the time one of my neighbours knocked on the door and it took me ages to get to him. "Sorry," I said, slightly out of breath. "I was just standing on the kitchen counter taking a photo of the mess when Georgia moved the stool and I couldn't get down".  

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We've lived here a year.  I'd like to think that they are used to this whole scenario. And so, when my neighbour walked past the window yesterday as I was taking pictures of crochet hooks, I am going to pretend he thought "What an awesome and interesting neighbour I have" instead of "What is that psycho woman doing pointing a camera and a SHARP hook in the direction of my house".

 

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Pictured left to right Prym 4.5mm, Bates Silvalume 5.5mm, Bamboo 5.5mm

Yes, I said SHARP crochet hook.(Can you see where I am going with this?  Or is this one tangent too far?)

The vast majority of crochet hooks avilable in the UK have dull and rounded hooks and tops, like the prym one pictured.  Some people prefer that and that is fine, but I simply can not crochet with them.  The rounded hook and top means (for me at least) that the hook is harder to insert into the stitches, yarn is more likely to split, and because the hook is more shallow, I find myself dropping stitches a lot more frequently. 

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The silvalume hooks are hard to get ahold of here and I admit to buying some every time I visit the US.  (In searching today, I have found 2 suppliers who are willing to ship to the UK.)  

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When I was looking for hooks for my crochet workshop, I was adamant I was not going to hand out a dull hook. Fortunately, I found these these bamboo hooks on ebay. Julie was very helpful and threw in a few different kinds to try.  They are really lovely quality and sharp.  They are also more affordable than importing the Bates hooks and available in a wide range of sizes.  They do squeak a bit at first, but with a bit of use the oil in the wool greases them up nicely.  I am not certain they would sail through acrylic like the Bates hooks do, but still very nice.

What was I saying about being awesome and interesting? 

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What Happens on the Blog, Stays on the Blog

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Generally speaking, real life acquaintances who read the blog fall into 2 camps: those who never mention it and those who do.  And those in the second camp have a tendency to mention it a lot!  I have one friend (you know who you are) who rarely lets me get out a sentence before interrupting with "oh yeah, I read that on your blog".  Conversations with these people tend to be a bit stunted and awkward because of one simple truth:

My life isn't so interesting that I have a whole world of things to talk about that I don't write about here.  In fact, some weeks I struggle to find anything to write about, let alone bring into a conversation (which is obvious when you consider that last week I blogged about getting a new vacuum cleaner).

In these instances, I have asked friends to treat me like a person with short term memory problems and just indulge my repetitious anecdotes with nods and chuckles in all the right places. 

Up until recently, this was a fine and controllable situation.  I don't have that many friends that a quiet word didn't resolve it. Even other articles didn't really cover anyone I know in real life. However, last week an article about the blog was in the local paper as well as the local free paper delivered to EVERY HOME IN THE COUNTY.

Every time I have left the house for the last 3 days, someone has mentioned it.  "Nice article in the paper.  Every little bit helps," said the woman in the post office. "I think I want an aviator hat" said my neighbour, the truckdriver, to Kevin. On the street. At the grocery story.  The postman. The mothers at the school gate. Each and every time, I wince a little bit.  Not because it isn't fantastic for business, but because there is no hiding.  My life is here in these pages, the ups and downs, the successes and failures.  

When I told my mother about the article, she responded, "You know you have to be nice to people now," not because I am not nice (ok, I am mostly nice) but because I am the face of my business, more so than ever.

And so, if you are reading this and I know you in real life, lets make a deal: I'll be nice, if you promise not to mention the blog.

first stop the Alloa Advertiser, next stop Time.

 

And its not like I hide behind an enormous hat so no one recognises me...

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

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Today will be spent:

- watching for the post and a VERY EXCITING PARCEL which may or may not arrive today, but I still must check the window every time a car drives by

- updating the aviator hat pattern to include a chunky weight version (is there anyone who would have time next week to do a quick read through? I would email you the finalised version as well as the draft)

- working my way through a very long to-do list that includes: 7 aviators, 2 Vikings, 2 lions, 2 Spartacuses (Spartacaii?), 1 owl, 1 pair of fingerless gloves, paying bills, sorting out new car, cleaning the house and baking a cake

- taking my big boy swimming, just he and I

- counting the hours until my babies are home from their first day of nursery *sob*

 

Its a good thing the rest of my list is so long, because I tell you, that last one is going to be a killer.

Yarn 'N' Stuff

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If I had to pin down the 2 questions I get asked the most they would be:

1."How do you do it all?" and

2."What yarn do you use?"

The answer to number 1 is quite simple:: I do not do laundry or vacuum, but the answer to question number 2 takes a bit more explaining.

Finding the right yarn for the Etsy and Folksy shops has been a bit of a challenge.  I tried a number of different weights and brands of wool, but really sruggled to source options that met my standards for quality, affordability and colour. Plus, with the amount of handmade goods I produce, heavier weight yarns are a necessity to get through the orders in a timely fashion and the UK is a DK nation.

I tried a ton of yarns...ordering samples of most every commercially available chunky yarn in the UK (ok, that may be an exaggeration, but I did order the samples I was recommended on Facebook).  It seemed like everything I tried would hit one target but not others.  Cascade 220 has a great range of colours and wears well, but I was unsure of its wearability for newborns and its thinness. Wendy Merino Chunky was lovely and soft, as well as reletively affordable, but the colours are too limited and muted. The same goes for King Cole's equivilant.  Texere's chunky wool has beautiful colours and a great twist and bounce to it, but is soooo scratchy, I couldn't see many baldy babies being comfortable.

For a long time I was a bit of a yarn snob of the "I just can't work with acrylic" variety. This lasted until 2 things happened-- number 1: my money ran out and number 2: my children beat the heck out of some lovely and expensive single ply merino, resulting in a sticky felted mess that looked worse when washed. 100& acrylic still gives me the heeby-jeebies, I must admit...its the squeaking on my crochet hook that puts me off. However, I've found that with the wool content high enough, the acrylic element is hardly noticeable.  

Ultimately, I have settled on 3 main yarns for my hats: Wendy Mode Chunky and Ice Yarn's Bellone, with a bit of Paton's Shadow Tweed thrown in. All 3 are about 50%wool.

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The range of colours in Wendy Mode Chunky is great. They have really expanded this recently and offer a good range of basic colours, as well as some unexpected ones. Another bonus it that it wears really well, there is still a bit of pilling from heavy use (for  example on Es slippers), but not nearly as much as many other chunky yarns I tried.  It is a very soft yarn, being 50% merino, so I am happy to make items for the newest of babies.  Another bonus is that my local store sells the yarn for those last minute dashes.

Another recent discovery is Yarn Paradise/Ice Yarns.  They are a huge yarn distributor in Turkey who offer balls of wool at ridiculously low prices.  Given this, I find the quality good.  I have recently started using their Bellone Chunky/Bulky weight for a few items and I must say I am impressed.  It is a single ply chunky with low twist, but it holds up extremely well to wear and tear and blocks up very soft. Their postage is expensive, but it still works out at very good value and they ship faster than many UK suppliers I deal with, with yarn arriving in 2 days.

For the owl hat and the mane of the lion, I use Patons Shadow Tweed.  I love this yarn.  It is so nice to work with and each ball has such a lovely range of colours.  It is single ply as well, and again holds up remarkably well to heavy use.  I live in fear of this yarn being discontinued as I feel it really makes both of those designs, adding depth and richness to the Lion's mane and the Owl.

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Ok, geekery over.  I'm going to do something cool.  Like floss or read my new book about knitwear design.

Playroom and Studio 2.0

Aaah, remember my lovely studio? It was so clean and tidy and beautiful, no?

Uh, yeah.  It quickly turning into dumping ground 101.  

Here's the thing about working at home with 3 children under 5: Wherever you are - they are.  I spent so much time running up and down the stairs, carting yarn here and there, that I never really used my studio.  In those moments when the babies were both asleep and E was occupied, one of 2 things would happen:

- My working upstairs would wake them

- Ellis hollering for me as I was not downstairs and he needed his 200th drink/snack/conversation of the day would wake them.

So a reshuffle took place over the weekend and the playroom became our shared work/play space.  The upstairs still has the sewing equiptment and stores much of the non-working yarn, but my new work space in the heart of the activity means that I can work while they play near by.


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The centrepiece of the room is our old coffee table, transformed by several coats of eggshell paint and two play panels - one Duplo and one blackboard.  The table is originally from ikea and has always been a great coffee/playtable for the children so I am glad to have rescued it out from under the TV. 

 

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Most of the toys are hidden out of the way in the bookcase with the ikea fabric curtain.  

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My favourite bits are the imporvised car garage from a spice rack, the wagon "shelf" serving dual purpose as fire surround and bookshelf and the beautiful Sylvia Woodford wall hanging

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And of course the fairy lights, because who doesn't like to work by their twinkling glow?

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Sunshine and Showers - Spring 2012

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Herringbone collage copy

Lou-10 copy

Owlelly Warmers

Lou-32 copy

blow welly

Brolly ellis
Picnik collage

There is no such thing as bad weather. Only bad clothing.

6658706467_401a52edf8_o copy

Lou-37 copy
End rainbow

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Theo

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Inspired by the cold changeability that these next few months bring to Scotland.  I've never seen so many rainbows...or so much rain.

These items are now all in my etsy shop, along with all other hats open now for custom orders.  The patterns for the Herringbone and Intrepid Explorer hats and the owl cable welly warmers are also up on etsy.  Mitten pattern, ravelry listings and folksy site to follow.

Thank you all...for your support and encouragement and, well, everything.

Come back tomorrow for a quick tutorial on the rope scarf!!

 

Tantalisingly Close

Its 12:30am 1:00am and I am the sewing up of a stegosaurus and an aviator hat away from having all of  my North American orders finished, packed and ready to post tomorrow. I am giddy with excitement about the achievement (3 days early!!!). 45 hats to North America in 2 months, with an additional 15 to the UK, 9 sets of wings, 85 patterns sold and another 17 hats to make for the UK before Christmas...whew!  I am tired just thinking about it. 

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But my house is freezing and my eyes are heavy, so I am heading to bed.  I can only hope that aviator hats don't appear in my dreams.

As you can see from the above, my paper doily obsession is reaching obscene levels.  This picture was taken before I replaced the cotton string with red and white bakers twine.  So Christmassy.

The printable is from here, just printed on A4 paper from the computer printer and placed in a spare frame. I am developing another obsession with printables... 

...well really, anything that isn't a hat ;)

At A Sprint
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That is what life is at the minute.  I catch myself running everwhere - up the stairs, to the school, to the post office.  Running through the days at a pace that leavess my body aching and my head spinning.

There is just so much to do, to plan, to think about. Normal Christmas busyness combined with a looming deadline for last posting date to the US means I ache for just a few more hours in the day.  The smallest hiccup - a clingy child, a late delivery of supplies, a missing hook - and I am over the edge in a panic, tears welling up in frustration. I love making things, its the deadline...the ever looming deadline that chases me around the day.

But I try to walk when I want to run.  I try to slow down just a little amongst the chaos.  Ellis is beyond excited about Christmas.  There were actual tears of joy at the return of Richard the Elf, the behaviour modification tool the Elf on a Shelf who is spending his days with us and his nights reporting back to Santa about the day's events. Advent calendars are out (we have 4) - 2 chocolate ones, one decorative one and one with a Christmas actvity for every day.  Today we are writing a letter to Santa for Richard the Elf to take up to the North Pole tonight.

But really, mostly it is about making things.  Making hat after hat until my hands ache at the end of the day.  Making dinner.  Making sure we have clean laundry and the house is semi-presentable. Making lists of all the OTHER things I want to make...peppermint creams, knitted, sewn and crocheted gifts. Making messes.

And running towards the finish line.

 

Queen of the Jungle

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It is no joke that Georgia's first word was "Roar". Having been roared at by her older brother and his best friend from birth, we think that she thought it meant "I love you" or some other term of affection.

Even now in Georgia's mind, it is the sound most animals make and her favourite game.

And so this little hat revamp is for her...

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...my little Queen of the Jungle

 

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Finished hats are available here.

Patterns can be bought on etsy and ravelry.

All of my hats are tested by my Trusty and Super Awesome Army of Testers.  You know who you are and thank you again!!

**Proceeds from the Lion Hat and pattern go to the keep 'Georgia in Apples' fund. She eats at least 3 a day, using stools and chairs to climb up and get them, then hides. We only know it has happened when we find brown apple cores in odd places, often with our feet**

 

Make and Be Thankful
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I opened the etsy and folksy shops earlier this month because I wasn't sure how we would pay for our groceries.

Of course it would be nice to say that it was for some sort of deep urge to create.  The reality is that the situation with American Airlines losing all of our clothing and then not being reimbursed for it, combined with unexpected bills and car repairs meant that we reached a financial position that left me up at night with worry.

I had to do something.

And so, I looked around, rolled up my sleeves and started working with what I had in front of me.

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And I haven't stopped. I get up at 5am and work until Kevin heads off for the day, I work every free minute my children allow (with a few distractions) and then I work in the evenings until 11 or 12. When I am not crocheting, I am writing patterns, answering emails and thinking up new ideas.

I just wanted to pay for our groceries. I needed to sell a few hats to people other than my friends, so I needed to promote myself, hence the pattern and tutorials and the Facebook page. In the last week, I have had roughly 10,000 visitors to the blog (I would normally have 1500 in a MONTH). 4,500 people have downloaded the owl hat pattern. Last night, etsy featured one my designs on their facebook wall and I had 12,000 views of my etsy shop in 6 hours (with a number of orders, many for multiple hats - but I am too afraid to actually download them into my orders spreadsheet for fear of what I might find!). For many blogs, these are small numbers...for a girl from Iowa who writes a little blog...they are jaw dropping.

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I think, (even if they don't readily admit it) many bloggers would like to be 'discovered'. I am no exception. Of course I have occasionally daydreamed about this kind of response, in a guilty pleasure sort of way. In reality though, I am a shy person who really liked my little blog and modest number of readers...my comfort zone was really very cozy. I was happy to stay in it and just write and take pretty pictures.

Now finding myself in this position, I am overwhelmed. I have spent the last few days oscillating between excitement and tears seeking advice wherever I can get it.  The resounding answer has been not to kick a gift horse in the mouth. "Run with it" they've all said again and again.  "See where it takes you"

I am under no illusions.  I know full well that this could be my 15 minutes of popularity. It could be a fluke or a blip or a mistake.  My other designs might not get this response. All of these visitors might not stick around.  Maybe the owl hat is just something exceptional and everything else is just medicre.  It could not last

There are so many things it *could* be.

But the one thing it *is*, is an opportunity...

And I've got on my running shoes.

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