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…

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Potential

I was struck recently by a very strange and disturbing thought. Cue the ominous music… doo-dee-doo-dee…

I was having lunch with one of my colleagues and noticed his hands, which are frail and  – well – old. It dawned on me that these people I work with are the people I will grow old with. It struck me that the likelihood of me having a life-changing event  – such as getting pregnant and going on maternity leave  – was fading fast. (For the record, I’ve no desire to get pregnant but it is a pretty life-changing event!)

(Aside: This is assuming I’m lucky! I could have a life-changing event – such as an illness, either me or a member of my family – if I’m unlucky. That doesn’t bear thinking about, not here anyway.)

In short, the potential for change was disappearing.

I’m in my early forties. Up until now I’d always assumed the world was my oyster and anything imaginable was possible (within the bounds of physics!). To reiterate the warning from the opening sequence of Stingray “Anything could happen in the next 30 minutes”.

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Stand By For Action!

It’s disconcerting to face-up to the realisation that I know exactly what will happen in the next 30 minutes! Even worse, established daily or weekly routines are likely to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.

I’ve always said that I wanted to grow old disgracefully. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” and all that. I’m happy to let my hair go grey and let my mood grow cantankerous. Most of all, I want to be healthy enough to enjoy living vibrantly. So growing old doesn’t worry me, other than acquiring some health conditions along the way.

But I don’t want to grow bitter. I want to be able to look back with pride on my achievements. And I do – mostly. I have three wonderful children, who make me so proud and happy as I watch them grow into decent and honourable humans; my husband and I have worked wonders on our home over the past twelve months to make the very fabric as happy as we are; and I have enjoyed a rich and varied career (if we gloss over the past five years).

An aside, in part explanation of my reference to the past five years: Since the collapse of the Irish economy in 2008 I’ve been waiting for the “other shoe to drop” as the phrase goes. The work I do is heavily based on funding from Central Government, who in turn have been in hock to the Troika (The IMF, European Central Bank & the European Commission). Our Department has lumbered along, keeping our roles meaningful by trying to be as indispensable as possible, all while under a cosh of the euphemistically titled “Workforce Planning” i.e. that our Department might be disbanded and the staff reallocated.

As my sister pointed out to me, I have taken up knitting (and crochet, spinning, quilting, you-name-it) over the past five years to the extent that I have (for which read “somewhat obsessively”) because of an inherent need for creativity that was no longer being satisfied in my Architectural career. When I first got back into knitting during 2007 and discovered resources for learning such as Knitty’s Coffeeshop and Ravelry my creative juices exploded!

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Lacy Cropped Cardigan being re-sized to different gauge

Each new technique I learned led to new design ideas: a striped, felted bag using short-rows; a double-knit vest; a top-down hat with a lace pattern generated using Debbie New’s Cellular Automatoms. I saw everything in terms of knitting or crochet patterns. In the queue for a lunchtime sandwich I could reverse engineer the sweater of the person in front of me. I could then spend the afternoon snatching moments to sketch ideas in my notebook. I was fascinated, enthralled, energised!

Today, that same notebook, which I always keep in my wallet, is so tattered and worn that I have decided it needs to be retired. I went through it and marked all the design ideas. I was surprised to discover how far back they all date from – 2008 to 2010. And absolutely nothing in it after my failed Knitty submission (read it and weep!).

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Potential Energy

Also today, I read a fabulous post by Elanor King of Catchloops.com all about how she became a designer in a recent publication by CoOperative Press, Hitch. She’s achieving exactly what I hoped would happen for me. But she went out and actively grabbed it for herself. With gumption and obvious design talent, she dared and won. Me? Other than the two months I spent preparing my Knitty submission I haven’t done much more about establishing myself in the knitting milieu than faff about on twitter. Did I imagine I would be randomly discovered and propelled into stardom, like some bus girl working in a dive in Hollywood? Actually,  yes, that would lovely, thanks.

No. Today as I retired my old Moleskine I resolved to release “so much potential in such a small space” (as @Knitterotica put it). There are at least 12 potential patterns in there: a mixture of women’s and men’s sweaters, some hats, some accessories. A collection, if you will. I’m resolving to transform the potential into reality and to publish (either self-publish or through the establish venues) one pattern per month – on average.

Will you cheer me on?

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