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Tag Archives: Real Life

Stuff & Nonsense: When Perfectionism Rears Its Ugly Head.

August 2014 060The past fortnight has seen my usual companion at Casa Bookish – perfectionism – almost grind my work to a halt.

I think a designer needs to have a dash of perfectionism in her. You need to pay close attention to detail – such as stitch counts, style sheets, how colours work at the photo shoot. Designing can also be a long, hard slog of making numbers work, getting the placement of a detail just right and finding the best way to phrase a tricky instruction. But if perfectionism stops you from every accomplishing anything – if your search for perfection means you never release a pattern – then you need to let go.

“That Isn’t Exciting & Original” – How Nothing Is Ever Good Enough

Recently I have really struggled to let my perfectionism go. I have one project that I have designed six times and ripped out five times. Each of those six designs has been completely different – different construction, different variation on the core concept, different stitches – and I haven’t liked any of them. I do not want to like my design; I want this project to be as amazing, special and perfect as it is in my head; I want to love it like I have loved no other design.

And that’s the problem.

Nothing will ever match the perfection that’s in my head. I am now working on the sixth version of my idea and it’s coming out really nice. Fact: I sold the second design to a third-party publisher who absolutely loved it. It worked for them in their context – it was totally good enough.

So where does all this stuff and nonsense come from?

Figuring Out Why I Am Being Hard On Myself

I spend a lot of time sitting on my own sketching patterns and charting things. I spend even more time in my own head. As a result I tend to lose track of what is exciting and new because I have already thought through my designs several times and spent hours swatching my ideas. It’s easy to start talking myself down because at this stage I will have lost sight of what excited me about the original ideas.

Here’s the thing that I keep reminding myself:  nobody else will ever be that jaded about my design. No one else have been through the entire process of initial idea and swatching through pattern-writing and wailing about numbers to blocking the sample and arranging photo shoot. No one will ever be able to say anything about my design that I haven’t already thought.

I also know that  once the design is finished and published, I will adore it to bits .. because by that stage I will been knee-deep in another pattern that’s sucking the will to live out of me! I am only halfway joking..

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So, Some Tips For Moving Beyond Perfectionism

  • Acknowledge to yourself that you have a bad bout of perfectionism. Admitting it is the very first step!
  • Realise that you will always be your own worst critic.
  • It’s better to publish something than nothing.
  • Take baby steps. Publish a hat if you are really afraid your latest cardigan pattern isn’t good enough.

Some Other Tips:

  • Never throw out a design. What you hate today will look amazing two months from now.
  • If a design really doesn’t feel right for what you are doing, consider other ways for it. Would it make a great pattern for a magazine? Self-publishing? Perfect as a freebie included in your news letter? Can you base a class around the pattern – maybe that hat is perfect for teaching Magic Loop.
  • Try playing around with different gauges. If your idea looks silly and stupid in fingering weight, try swatching it in worsted.
  • Reach out to trusted friends and peers. Show them a photo or a swatch. Ask for their honest opinion. Listen carefully to their feedback.

Do you have problems with perfectionism? Does it stop you releasing patterns? How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts x

Some Thoughts on Blogging, Identity & Safety

Blogtacular led a discussion on twitter yesterday about online privacy and safety. I shared a few thoughts but want to expand upon them here.

Get coffee. It’s a long one.

july09 308I started blogging around 2001. I did not use my real name; I did not post pictures of myself and the only clues to my identity were these: I lived in Copenhagen, Denmark and I was female (I used the nom de plume “Ms Bookish”). My then blog was fairly straightforward: I mostly wrote about books and the contemporary literary scene. Around 2004-2005 my blog had become a professional tool and I was widely engaged in the literary blog scene working with publishers and authors. However, I was still completely anonymous.

And then I began noticing a pattern.

One particular blog commentator, Martin (not his real name), left comments on every single blog entry I made. After a few weeks he began sending me emails expanding upon the comments he had left me. So many emails. I didn’t read them after a while. Something felt totally off about the guy and, really, I was too busy.

Then I attended a blog networking event and Martin was there. He had presents for me and cornered me. How did he know I would be there? And how did he recognise me? I started to feel really uneasy. Martin started leaving seriously whacked-out comments on the blog and, creeped out, I decided to check my emails from him. Well, they weren’t good.

Martin knew when I had been out doing my grocery shopping and he had watched me bike around Copenhagen. It got worse: he wanted me to have a nervous breakdown so he could take care of me, he thought I had an artificial leg (and wrote in great detail about how my prosthetic turned him on), he thought I was leaving him clues on my web site professing my great love for him, and so forth. Gross, bad, awful stuff.

Then I came home to find Martin standing on the other side of the road. You can probably guess what happened next.

By now I had documented as much as I could. I had saved every email and screen-capped blog comments. I passed all this information to the police and stayed at friends’ houses while the police managed to sort things out. I know Martin got psychiatric help but apart from one letter (which his psychiatrist had told him to write) I never heard from him again. I was able to move on from the incident because I knew I had just been a random victim: Martin didn’t know me; he just knew I was female and I read a lot of books. Classic case of erotomania.

I learned some valuable lessons from this:

  • You cannot control how other people read what you write online. I had not peppered my literary blog with hidden clues for Martin to follow. That was his mental illness talking. I was not responsible for how he chose to interpret my posts.
  • It is very, very hard to stay anonymous online and there are many ways of finding out your identity. Martin got my name from somewhere (probably from looking up who registered my blog domain) and managed to track my address very quickly. He also had access to my financial records thanks to his job, so he could find out where I did my grocery shopping and where I liked to hang out. People also talk: my neighbours let private things slip to a guy who seemed nice and harmless. Things like the fact that I was single and that I was living on my own.
  • Document everything. I let some of our early interaction slip through my fingers which I regret as I may have been able to stop him sooner.
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Hello :) I’m Karie & this is what I look like.

And then I decided to take ownership of my identity. I began using my real name and posting photos of my face.

I had spent years trying to lock down information about myself online and had convinced myself I was keeping myself safe that way. In actual fact, the only real way to stay safe is to step out there and say “Hi, I’m Karie Westermann and this is what I look like.” There is freedom and power in that statement: it is my identity and (unlike anonymity) nobody can take that away from me.

Furthermore, when I hadn’t shown my face on my blog and Martin still recognised me, it was very scary and I felt utterly powerless. He knew what I looked like despite all my efforts. Nowadays I have my face splayed all over the internet  and it’s my choice. Occasionally I get recognised by someone who’s knitted one of my patterns or who follow me on Twitter – and I am totally cool with that.

Being a craft professional actually means that I write a lot more about my life online than I ever anticipated. And that brings me to another point.

For me, there are three spheres: private, personal & public. I keep the private sphere to myself – everything else may be blogged.

I don’t write about family or friends. That would be rude and intrusive. I write about some personal things – like the fact that David & I celebrated our 9th anniversary yesterday (and if you’ve kept an eye on the timeline –  yes, Dave played a big part in helping me deal with my stalker) – but I sift through them carefully as personal details can quickly get self-indulgent. And then there’s the public stuff like blogging about an event – where you should totally come say hello to me.

Interestingly the Martin story stayed off my blog for a very long time. I didn’t think it relevant material, though I did write a few pieces about cyberstalking for magazines. It was too private a story for many years and has only just recently become a personal story that I occasionally allude to. And now I am finally writing about it under my own name on my own blog.

Anyway, the best way to stay safe online is to act like you would offline. Oh, and keep in mind that the Martins of this world are few & far between.

  • Don’t announce where you will be on your own.
  • Don’t overshare.
  • Don’t post anything you don’t want the postman or your boss knowing.
  • Respect other people’s right to privacy
  • If in doubt, don’t do it/don’t post it.
  • What happens online can quickly spill into offline life.
  • Don’t forget you will always have an audience (even if you think you don’t). Act responsibly.

Taking Stock

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Detail from the Great Tapestry of Scotland

Just over a fortnight ago I waved goodbye to my part-time job with Rowan Yarns. It took me a few days to get used to my new routine and, crucially, having more time to do my own work. There was some initial panic (which briefly me led to consider an art school degree!), then my stomach settled down, and I got on with work.

Right now I am working on winter designs – both commissions and my own work. Publishers tend to work around 4-12 months ahead, so I have been knee-deep in Christmas things since April.

I find myself marvelling at how quickly I get through work when I now have long sustained periods of time on my hands. My working routine used to be stop-start-stop-start. Things that used to take weeks now take just days. I can get through my all my emails in one fell swoop rather than take days to reply to queries.

No matter where I go or do in the future, I think I have already learned important lessons about how my working week needs to be organised. In short: I had no idea just stressed I was until now – I need sustained periods (not pockets) of time to feel energised.

In other news, I met up with the most excellent Louise Scollay of Knit British. We went to The Queen of Purls before settling down for a good, long chat at Mono. We are both advocates of a more thoughtful approach to knitting: it is not a blinkered, parochial passion where we shout “you MUST  knit British!” but rather a desire to make people think about where their yarn is produced, how it is processed and what stories they are telling via their knitting needles. We also discussed future plans (thanks for the enthusiastic shrieking, Louise!) and exchanged thoughts on the British knitting community. All good stuff.

This weekend I am heading across to Edinburgh for the inaugural Indieburgh Yarn Crawl – it’s another exciting addition to Edinburgh’s line-up of knitting events. Actually, I am a bit of a spoilsport as I won’t really be doing the yarn crawl as much as I am meeting up with a future collaborator/editor. Okay, I may be doing some yarn crawling too. The three shops taking part are: Ginger Twist Studios, Kathy’s Knits and Be Inspired Fibres – GTS is colourful and vintage-inspired, Kathy’s centers on locally sourced yarns, and Be Inspired is high-end luxury yarn. It promises to be good.

Not long to go until Unwind Brighton either! My class on Continental Knitting is sold out, but there are a few spaces left on the Beading class and the Beginning Crochet class. I am still overwhelmed by the sheer quality of the line-up: Bristol Ivy, Kirsten Kapur, Carol Feller, Asa Tricosa, Olga Buraya-Kefelian .. and that is just the start of it. The vendor line-up is also unbelievable AND there is the PomPom Seaside Shindig featuring John Arbon DJing. I’m still wanting to sew myself a new dress for the event (Brighton Frock, anyone?) but time is running out. Ahhhhhh, so excited about being part of what promises to be an absolutely amazing event. Huge thank you to Dani Sunshine of Lionness Arts for organising everything.

So, it’s all good and I still cannot believe that this is my life now.

Wardrobe Decisions

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I need to make a decision about which colour to wear .. and that got me thinking: any rich colours I haven’t used for a shawl? Any recs?

Mended

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I caught my Alva shawl in a zip about a month ago. Being in a bit of a hurry, I accidentally tore a hole in the edging at the worst possible point: the tip of the edging. So, I put the shawl into time-out whilst I tried to decide what to do. Today, I decided to mend Alva and this is what I did:

  • I cut off the entire edging. The hole was so big it ran across four rows and the centre stitch had unravelled.
  • I then picked up along the cut edge. Rowan Kidsilk is thankfully a very sticky yarn which made picking up stitches easier than if I had to watch out for accidental laddering.
  • I then knitted back an entire row to make sure I had picked up evenly and that I was not left with any fraying yarn.
  • Looking at the colours in my Alva shawl (which was knitted out of one ball of Rowan Kidsilk Stripes), I picked up a matching solid-colour ball of Rowan Kidsilk Haze (I love the Jelly colourway, nom. My Picycle is knitted in that colour) and I knitted two rows.
  • I then used a crochet cast-off to make lovely little fluffy loops along the edge and decided to add some extra crochet loveliness by extending the edge with fan stitches.

And there you have it. How to mend a shawl Karie-style if you have been silly enough to get it caught in a zipper. It’s as good as new.

Here’s to the Future: Changes, Chances & Occasional Sheep

May 2013 486I have recently made some much-needed changes to my working life. For the past year I have been juggling an awful lot of balls and pulling some very long hours. I couldn’t carry on doing that and so I had to make some tough decisions – though I tried putting off my decision for as long as I could. My hand was finally forced earlier this month when I received a very kind permanent job offer for something I had been doing on a freelance basis for a very long time. The job offer came as a bit of a surprise, but it was also a wake-up call in terms of what I wanted to do.

And so the decision was made and this week I will be waving a fond farewell to my years of working for Rowan Yarns. I have been putting out proverbial fires for them for 4.5 years and I will be saying goodbye to a lot of creative, inspiring people. I have learned a lot through my work as a consultant – both creatively and on the business side of things. I will miss a lot of people (you know who you are), but I thought it was time to hand over the reins to someone else.

For the time being I will be focusing on my own work – the designing, the writing, the editing, and the teaching. I am excited about the future (plans are afoot well into 2015!) but the excitement is tempered by fear too. Did I make the right decision? What will the future bring? It’s scary and exhilarating.

I have sought equilibrium by trying out some not-so-new crafts. I tried my hand at cross-stitching and embroidery back when I was a teenager, but I was never very good at it. The Anchor Thread Mill Museum has been offering classes on a range of stitching topics in connection with Paisley hosting the Great Tapestry of Scotland – and I went along to two of these classes.

April 2014 467The first class was on cross-stitching and I found the rhythm quite soothing. I have tried finding some interesting cross-stitch kits online, but either they are too ambitious or insanely ambitious. The second class was on crewel work and we used the same linen and wool they had used on the Great Tapestry (Peter Greig Linen and Appleton’s Crewel Wool, in case you are wondering). I was defeated by French knots but I enjoyed the freedom of expression you get with crewel work.

I am not a natural stitcher, but I have bought myself a hoop and I am slowly working on the Paisley sampler we were given as part of the class. It is nice to be making stuff and not needing to consider it as part of work. Although, knowing me, I’ll probably incorporate free-hand embroidery at some point.

(Once I’ve made peace with French knots.)

Speaking of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, I am currently posting a small detail from panels on Twitter – one tiny detail per day. Most of these details are knitterly impressions but occasionally it will just be something that caught my eye. The first detail I posted was this amazing Shetland sheep just lurking in the corner of one of the early panels.April 2014 502
Here’s to the future.

Crocheted with Love

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I often get asked how I ended up doing what I do for a living. Now that is a very long story – so I often just explain that I’m the fifth generation of very crafty, creative women. It’s a simplification but it is also the truth. In 2011 I exhibited knitted art at Glasgow’s Tramway gallery – my Homebound piece explored how the act of making tied my family together and how we make ourselves through the act of creation/crafting.

Today added another chapter to the story as I received a parcel from my lovely mum.

I own many handmade things handed down to me: a big blanket made by my great-grandmother; Hardanger-embroidered table clothes lovingly made by my gran; a christening gown which I believed was first sewn by my great-great-grandmother (then altered by my glamorous aunt Grethe); knitted cardigans and various embroidery pieces .. but I do not own many things made by my mum especially for me. That changed today, though.

My mum asked advice on colours, but otherwise this is her work. The squares are neatly joined with crochet and all ends are neatly woven in. My mum has always been very meticulous about her finishing – every time I weave in ends, I think of her! She used this Garnstudio pattern which surprised me as she usually just makes things up as she goes along. She was fairly faithful to it, though she reported she hated the edging and wishes she had just used one of her own ones. She’s a Westermann, alright!

When I teach crochet, I tend to joke that my mum thinks I cheat by using relatively heavy yarns (i.e. double-knitting and worsted-weight) when I crochet. Mum usually uses fine hooks and fine yarns, but her new love for making blankets obviously translates into heavier yarns. And I think that is interesting: we develop and change as crafters throughout our entire lives.

The new blanket suits our living room – and I am very, very pleased to have received it. Do you think I could get away with asking for some matching pillows?

On an Adventure with Knitters

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This past weekend I packed my bags and went on an adventure. We went through Glen Croe..

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.. which is part of the Loch Lomond & Trossach National Park. We passed Rest and Be Thankful, the most famous peak in the Arrochar Alps before locating a small pottery studio (complete with Badger the Border Collie) on the banks of Loch Long.

alp3We eventually made it to our cottage on the shores of Loch Fyne. This is the actual view from the living room window. Not a bad view for a dreich February day.

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And this was the view from the kitchen. Scottish Blackface sheep keeping a watchful eye on us. They were slightly less fond of the chickens roaming the fields. I liked the chickens. They reminded me of my childhood when my gran kept chickens. Also: fresh eggs from the landlady!

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We didn’t get a chance to sample any Loch Fyne seafood – but I did accidentally kill a mollusc when I tried to throw it back into the sea at low tide. The colours were amazing: rich browns, deep greens, and the most beautiful indigo blues. So many ideas in my head.

1653731_10152242786299725_1910867078_nAnd I finished knitting my Bute – whilst being near Bute. Mattress stitching fair isle that incorporates purl stitch is not my favourite activity. It doesn’t look as neat as I’d like but I don’t think that’s possible with this pattern. I also did a temporary stitching-together of the body and .. it is not the most flattering knit in the world. I may need to look into some post-knitting waist-shaping. I do love the colours and the yarn. It’s been a great knit. I just think I need to think about the shape of my garments more than I have done in the past.

After a long, relaxing weekend in the most beautiful lochside cottage you can imagine, it was time to head home. A landslide had closed the Glen Croe road and so we were looking at either a 70-miles detour north via Oban or hop on a ferry from Dunoon. This Dane still marvels at how the Scottish landscape thwarts attempts to tame it: the road across the Arrochar Alps is really the only way to access the entire Argyll & Bute peninsula by car and the road is plagued by constant landslides. We opted for the ferry which gave us a few comedy moments..

.. but I had a lovely time with some of the best people I know. I can certainly recommend a knitting retreat as a good way of restoring cheerfulness and well-being (my leg is slowly getting better and the main issues are now fatigue & stamina.).

It will not be the last time we do this.

Onwards & Upwards

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I am awash in a sea of teal. It being a “thing” for a “thing” I cannot spill too many details – except that I am currently 4380 sts away from finishing the thing (which equals about 3 hours of concentrated work – it’s not a quick knit, alas). The “thing” has kept me company for the past few weeks of enforced rest and I shall be sorry to send it away.

Actually, the “thing” was much admired today by three new-to-knitting nurses. I spent some time at Glasgow’s Western Infirmary getting my leg checked by an orthopaedic specialist and took my knitting with me in case I had to wait around. The verdict? My leg is still very bruised and if I am still struggling two weeks from now, I am to see the specialist immediately. Right now, though, there is no evidence of a torn ligament (hooray! silly A&E) but the tissue surrounding the ligament is definitely badly bruised. I am to rest my leg as much as possible but also begin to do exercises including prolonged periods of walking and gentle stretching.

I am hugely relieved by the news.

However, I do find walking very fatiguing and overwhelming. As a result I am having to postpone a few engagements over the next couple of weeks. I hate disappointing people but I’m really not at my best right now. I am very sorry.

Thank you to everybody who has been in contact over the last few weeks. Your messages, texts and emails have been enormously cheering.

Onwards and upwards.

Out of Joint

About two weeks ago I was working for a client in a yarn store when I suffered an accident. Some big shelves fell on the back of my knee and I was left with a very impressive bruise. As the bruise faded away, I expected to be back to normal but unfortunately my knee is still bad.

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Image via WebMD

I went to the A&E last week and they concluded that while I didn’t have a fracture, the overarching conclusion is that I have torn or badly bruised my lateral collateral ligament. The LCL stabilises the outside of the knee and also grips the fibula (the outside bone of the lower half of the leg). I have an appointment with an orthopaedic clinic next week and hopefully that will lead to physiotherapy.

For me, enforced rest is always difficult. I like being active and I get easily bored if I’m restricted in my movements. I have kept myself going by writing patterns and doing some sample knitting, but as the days have passed I just feel increasingly worried about how long this is going to take and what that means for my working life. While it has been great to dig into some editing gigs, I have been forced to cancel quite a lot of jobs. March is going to be an exceptionally lean month, in other words. Being self-employed means a huge amount of freedom but it is also a precarious way of making a living.

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday and it was a curiously low-key day. I received some lovely presents (among others: my bestie gave me an ace book on Doggerland and my parents gave me a fantastic-sounding novel about 18th C Danish colonisation of Greenland) but most of the day was spent resting in bed. We caught a taxi down to the best burger joint in town but although I enjoyed being outside Casa Bookish, I ended up in considerable pain (and waking up in the middle of the night begging for painkillers is not the best way to end my birthday).

So it is a hermit’s life for me right now.

(If you need anything tech-edited, copy-edited or actually written, now is a fantastic time to get in touch (just fill in the form). If you were considering buying one of my patterns, now would be an equally great time to do so! If you want to recommend any knee exercises, leave a comment!)