Making Time

I’ve often posted about time-management before. Whenever I’ve posted recently, my focus has been about trying to find time to progress my knitwear design ideas. I thought it might be useful if I posted about how I’ve recently managed to incorporate knitwear design into my day. It was nothing short of making time.

Where ideas germinate...

Where ideas germinate…

One of the things I’ve figured out is time. Over the years I’ve tried different a approaches to getting tasks done such as Flylady, HabitHacker or Pomodoro Technique. Each to them advocates setting a timer for a specific length of time and working on it until the timer goes off.

Flylady’s motto is “you can do anything in 15 minutes”. When your 15 minutes are up you take a 15 minute break. Habit Hacker recommends two 11 minute sessions – one to pull something apart and the next to put it all back together again – with an eight-minute break afterwards.

Both of these shorter time periods are ideal for tackling chores about the house. If I was trying to get stuck into a longer task in work I used Pomodoro Technique. The time period for this technique, a Pomodoro, is 25 minutes long with 5 minute interval breaks. After four Pomodoros (i.e. two hours) you’re meant to take a longer break of 20 minutes.

After trying all of these strategies I’ve eventually progressed to a personal system of time-keeping, based on 12-minute time slots. I do what I call a brain dump and list out – in no particular order – all the tasks that are vying for attention in my head. Then I’ll assess the list to prioritise the tasks in terms of how important and/or urgent they are.

Finally, I assess the prioritised tasks for how long I think each will take – in multiples of 12 minutes. In this way, I can quickly assess how many tasks I can get done in a given time. If I only have an hour but I have five high priority tasks I know I can only spend on average 12 minutes on each. Or perhaps I’ll allow 48 minutes for something that requires more focus then I’ll take a break by doing something else for 12 minutes. This is currently how I organise my workday.

Adopting this method was very helpful in figuring out how my daily morning routine could be adapted to incorporate some time for knitting design. I determined a logical sequence for my morning routine tasks from when I got up until I left for work. By dividing the time into 12 minute slots, and assigning each slot activities from this sequence, I automatically became more focused on where my time was going. In turn this meant that by getting up only a little earlier I was able to fit in a 48 minute session for me to focus on designing.

Excerpt from my bullet journal

For Time it is a precious thing…

Rather than have timers going off constantly throughout the morning I have a mental timetable of what I should be doing at specific times. As a result my morning routine looks like this:

6:00 get up, use bathroom
6:12 load the washing machine from previously sorted clothes baskets
6:24 have breakfast
6:36 knitting design session begins
7:24 buffer slot: make a cup of tea / wake any kids not yet up
7:36 ablutions, dress for work
8:00 fold the laundry hanging to dry; hang the load just washed
8:24 cajole the kids to get their shoes and coats on for school
8:36 drive to work to start my full-time job.

I’ve been doing this for the past six weeks and it’s being working really well for me. It’s only thanks to this focus on time that I’m now able to sit down and knit design swatches and figure out details of the designs that have been buzzing around my head for years! As a result, I was able to send a design submission to Knitscene three weeks ago and I’m about to send a different design submission to another print magazine in the morning.

If I hadn’t taken the time to get to grips with time I would never have found time to make time.

Do you think this approach would work for you? If you have time-management tips and tricks to share I’d love to hear them.

Annus Horribilis

annus horribilis /anəs hɒˈriːbɪlɪs/noun
1. a year of disaster or misfortune.

If you’ve read my earlier posts from this year you’ll know I’ve seriously struggled to have anything to show for all my fibre-crafting efforts. The rest of the year hasn’t shown much improvement.

Last time I posted I was heading off on a 10 week adventure of parental leave from work with a box full of yarn and a head full of pattern ideas.

Picture of design box of yarn

Travelling companions

The first pattern I wanted to write was a hat I had knit for myself years ago. I had called it “Whirling Dervish” – those of you that know my name in real-life (and especially if you’ve seen my dance moves!) might have a smirk creeping over your face right now at this play on words. I thought this pattern would make a great start considering I had taken the rare precaution of making notes as I knit it. “Low-hanging fruit” is the catch-phrase du jour in my workplace these days.
But oh dear, my notes…

Chart notes for Whirling Dervish Hat

Looks like some of my decreases are plotting their escape!

I made the original had in a softly-plied, bulky alpaca yarn that I can’t recall any details of, and never uploaded to Ravelry. I also managed to lose the hat before taking any pictures of it! Anyway, I decided my skein of handspun, Eyjafjallajokull, could be a suitable substitute.

The Whirling Dervish pattern was so-named because it started with a whirlpool cast-on. My handspun didn’t like that idea very much!

Swatch for Whirling Dervish in Eyjafjallajokull

Ideal for a nipple-hat – just not the look I wanted

I quickly abandoned the Whirling Dervish design and decided Judy’s Magic Cast-on would be more appropriate using this yarn. Soon a pattern for a fedora-style hat emerged. I got side-tracked into making and designing a felted version and am considering short-row shaping on the crown for a truer fedora look. So there are potentially three hat patterns brewing but no written pattern yet to show for these experiments.

I moved on from there to designing and making a t-shirt from three skeins of Handmaiden Fine Yarn Silken that I had in my stash. Three skeins equated to 750 meters, which I thought would be ample for a short-sleeved sweater. After I completed the back I was worried that I would run out of yarn. I considered a back-up plan of using a contrasting colour on the sleeves if I did.

As I progressed up the front it was a touch-and-go race against yarn. Then, just before I started the armhole shaping, I did a cross-check on my stitch-count and discovered that I had cast-on 10 stitches too few! All that I had knit on the front had to be ripped out. What’s more, I was absolutely certain I would not have enough yarn. Yet another project went on the back-burner!

My next effort was to attempt to progress a design for a matching hat and mitten set in Dublin Dye Company’s Swing Sock yarn. Unfortunately, this coincided with us getting keys to our new house and then my MIL coming to visit so I was never able to give it the head-space it demanded. It smolders still…

After we returned back to Ireland (still with my box containing only yarn and no finished objects or written patterns) I ordered additional skeins of HandMaiden Silken. The ball on the left is the original yarn; on the right is the more recent dyelot. Can’t I catch a break? Le sigh!

Picture of Handmaiden Silken

Same colourway, different dyelots

So, dear reader, am I exaggerating by calling this year Annus Horribilus? It certainly hasn’t been all that productive or successful despite my efforts. However, as my dear knit-night buddy @Midweshterner pointed out to me (and I’m paraphrasing, because she put it more eloquently) the reason I’m not succeeding is because I’m trying such experimental things.

Recently, I came across the Helsinki Bus Station Theory in relation to creativity and design. The gist of it is: too often we bail too soon on a project that’s failing. Or we prevent ourselves gaining experience and confidence by focussing only on success. Rather than decide the bus we’re on isn’t going anywhere or taking us in the wrong direction we should try to stay on the bus and enjoy the journey of discovery. The final destination is more likely to be where we will really feel comfortable. So I’ve tried to stay on the bus. And I’ve tried to put in the time.

And recently things have started to turn the corner. In the past month I have:

  • sent off a design submission to Knitscene
  • finished the Silken t-shirt – photographed it and am in the process of writing up the pattern
  • spun most of the yarn needed for a sweater (another sweater design in progress)
  • started swatching for two new garment designs

I’m hopeful that as I “Stay on the fucking bus.” I’ll soon have something tangible produced from all this potential.

Tell me, dear reader: What have you triumphed with because you persevered?

Taking Charge

Time-management guru, Alison Mitchell, has a wonderful exercise in her book “Time Management for Manic Mums” to demonstrate her “Wine Bottle Theory of Time Management”. You get a jug and try to fill it with apples, blueberries, caster sugar and wine.

  • The apples represent the urgent and important tasks, the things you have to do or you’ll get bitten in the ass like going to work, paying bills or feeding kids.
  • The blueberries represent important tasks but there’s no urgency – doing them will save you time in the long run like setting up a system for making sure bills get paid on time. For me, following through on publishing patterns is in this category.
  • Then the caster sugar represents tasks that are important to, or urgent for, someone else – in my case that’s housework. I do it because I know it makes DH happy when it’s kept on top of, but it would be low on my priority list otherwise.
  • And then there’s a bottle of wine – ah… wine! It represents all the things I’d rather be doing like crafting, twitter, Ravelry – than the important things I should be doing.

You get the idea: if we fill our jug / day with wine or caster sugar first we’ll struggle to get the important apples and blueberries in there. If you put the apples in first the smaller items of lesser importance will fill in around the gaps.

Case in point: this morning, instead of washing the floors as I’d planned, I played with an Excel spreadsheet of my stash that I’d exported from Ravelry. Naturally, the floors did not get washed at all as my “wine” task took over my time.

Playing with my stash spreadsheet is a favourite game of mine as I try to plan my next knitting / crochet project based on maximising how much stash I’ll use up. With almost 74 kilometers of yarn to work through it’s an understandable obsession.

This week is my first of 10 weeks of parental leave (hence all the blogging action!). For six of those 10 weeks, we will be living in the south of France so I was developing my knitting plan around working with cotton and linen to cope with the heat. In fact I bought a new project’s worth of linen with this plan in mind when I was at La Droguerie in Paris last week. This is the logic that has me struggling with 74km of yarn!

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Haul from La Droguerie, Paris

However, rather than a stash-dive being my usual exercise in choosing “wine” over “caster sugar” this morning it turned into an “apple” moment as a realisation dawned on me…

You may have noticed the “current status” of my two design ideas in my last post was “stewing”. If you recall my previous blog-post “Potential” I had challenged myself to publish an average of one pattern per month for the next year. I wrote that in November 2013. So where are the seven or so new patterns designed by me?

Sadly, still in my head!

And here’s the why: I’ve been busy! The wrong kind of busy – I’ve been filling my jug/time with going to work; looking after the kids and house; knitting or crocheting; working through stash… or teachers’ presents… or items to enter in the local horticultural show. I’ve allowed myself to be so “Busy” with busy-ness of everyday things I’ve avoided the the business of being a designer: knuckling down, swatching and sketching, pattern-writing and testing.

Rather than fill my 10-week-carafe with delicious French wine and come back from France with three new cotton or linen sweaters and several dishcloths, I’m taking charge of my pitcher to pick some juicy “blueberries” from my stash to swatch with instead:

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It’s all in my head…

Ravelympics Tournament

The Events List for Ravelympics 2010 was posted up the other day. It’s got me all excited about what medals I’m going to try for this year. So your Tour this Thursday is all about my plans for the Ravelympics Tournament (see what I did there?). 

(Don’t know what I’m talking about? Take a look at this link and it might give you more of an idea.) 

So you might remember from my knitting list for 2010 I was thinking of three main projects over the 17 days. 

Blackberry Socks

WIPs Dancing Queen?

Events: WIPs Dancing and Sock Hockey 

Pattern: Adirondack Socks from Interweave Crochet Fall 2009 

Yarn: ShoppelWolle Zauberball in Blackberry 

This project has been languishing since The Knitting and Stitching Show last October, when a certain colour purple caught my eye and a whole new Glenvar got started. 

I absolutely love working with this yarn, so I can’t wait to get started again. 

 

 

Stella

King Cole Merino Blend in Pink

Events: Designer Bi-athlon and Hat Half-pipe 

Pattern: my own 

Yarn: King Cole Merino Blend in Pink 

The thing to bear for Ravelympics is “The One Rule To Rule Them All: Challenge yourself by starting and finishing projects during the 2010 Winter Olympics.”

 Writing and publishing a pattern of my own on Ravelry will be quite a challenge for me. I’m planning to give the pattern to P/Hop if I do manage this.

 

 Ishbel

Ishbel and Dazzle

Events: Short Track Shawls and Lace Luge 

Pattern: Ishbel from Whimsical Knits by Ysolda Teague

Yarn: Dazzle BFL by Natural Dye Studio 

I bought the yarn at I Knit Weekender in London last September with Ishbel in mind. Then, later that day, I won a copy of Whimsical Knits in the raffle that P/Hop were running. 

My Knit-night knitting buddies laughed heartily when they saw I had only allowed one week in my knitting calander to knit an Ishbel – one challenge too far, perhaps? 

Perusing the Events List I’m like a child in a sweet-shop. I want to enter into so many events: 

  • The Aerial Unwind Event could be a good one to pick up a few medals and I have two projects in need of frogging. Ravelympics might be just the thing to recapture some lovely yarn from the claws of defeat.
  • I have a skein of undyed cotton – also bought at I Knit Weekender last September – that I could enter in the Downhill Dyeing Event. I’ll need to organise myself with the proper dyes for dyeing cotton, however.
  • I might try for another WIPs Dancing Event. Below you’ll see a jacket that I’m wearing to death these days even though I don’t consider it to be finished. I feel it needs an additional collar all around the front edges. Again, the impetus of Ravelympics might be just the motivation I need to get the hook out again – if I haven’t collapsed in a heap by the end of February.

I have to be honest and admit that the overall challenge I’m setting myself is to collect as many medals as I can. By the above reckoning I count ten.

We are all His Creatures

During the summer we took a trip to Glendeer Pet Farm in Drom outside Athlone. It’s near my brother’s house, where we were staying for the weekend. He is vegan, so he only came along under duress.

I was sure I had taken some pictures of their Llamas but I think it must have only been video. You’ll have to make do with cute shots of the sheep, goats and geese.      

And, of course, their emu.

My brother has long been fascinated by my knitting. He’s a mathematician and physicist so the concept of a linear vector being transformed in to a three-dimensional form, by means of two sticks, intrigues him. He claims that either my sister, or I, taught him to crochet many moons ago. I don’t recall; so I’ll give my sister the credit.

To acknowledge his interest in my hobby I wanted to knit him something for his birthday – it’s the standard response of any knitter when you get positive feedback, isn’t it? I also like to be positive about his Veganism, even if it would not be my life-style choice. I had told him before that knitting fibres were not all animal based and he was interested to learn about Bamboo and Seacell. However, I worried that chosing a plant-based fibre would not be enough – what animal-based chemicals might be used in the dying?

Through judicious use of the Internet, I found Ecobutterfly and an organic colour-grown cotton called Pakucho. I ordered a skein each of green and brown. When they arrived, I couldn’t get over the richness of colour that was achieved purely because it grew this way!

 

I started this by casting-on 8 sts onto two needles (four onto each) using a whirlpool cast-on á là Cat Bordhi. I accidentally added a stitch early on without noticing. Then, using some helical knitting of single-round stripes of each colour, I maintained a jogless-join as I increased 9sts every two rounds. I kept going until the circle was big enough to cover my husband’s crown – I reckoned his was a good stand-in for my brother’s.

So, increases over, I dug into my copy of Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns until I found a pattern in her mosaic knitting section that I felt was suitably representative of His Noodely Goodness, The Flying Spaghetti Monster. 

I’ve wanted to make a FSM hat ever since I first came across the description of Knitting Scout Badges on the Cast On Podcast Blog . [I think we found this on the Web when my husband – jokingly – did a Google search for Knitting & Divorce! Sure enough – they’ve a badge for that.] Their reference to Flying Spaghetti Monster Hats (scroll down to The “I Will Crush You With My Knitting Prowess” badge) was my first introduction to His Noodely Goodness – much to my husband’s amazement. Then, with further judicious use of “d’Intherneh” he happily educated me about Creation – the very creation of FSM Himself.