I wrote most of this in December 2021, so while some things might not be up to date (I have finished the studio), most of it is. Especially the planning part. Read here why I’m doing all of this, why I’m working on growing my crochet design business.
I’ll stop trying to make complicated things. It just makes me not finish anything.
I recently watched a video about how “gifted” kids are actually “special needs” and while I wholeheartedly disagree with the terminology (there’s no such thing as “gifted”, we all have different abilities and skills that we learn, while “special needs” is a derogatory term usually meant to convey how difficult it is for the caretakers of disabled individuals, while ignoring the actual needs and abilities of said persons), the video really opened my eyes to something I’d been doing my whole life.
Far from intending to label myself as “gifted” (see above), I was still very much one of those kids for whom all schoolwork and associated tasks were easy. Did I ever do my homework? Not really, I mean I did do it, but it was a boring task that I skipped through as quickly as possible, as for the most part it was easy.
The stuff I disliked because of the teacher (history, I’m so sorry I didn’t spend more quality time with you), I skipped entirely. I had a really good working memory, being able to record what was said in class and to make connections that others couldn’t, especially with knowledge that I had because I was interested in so many subjects.
So I could always crop something up, but our teachers were never really interested in our skills anyway, just in what we’d memorized. I was never able to memorize a speech or other similar texts, I always came up with my own version of things, but it was accepted as good enough.
Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, the fact that I never really learned to “study” or “work”, whatever that may mean to a child. I had no discipline (and my parents probably got lots of headaches from my constant lack of awareness that things need to get back to “their place” once they’ve been used) and just did whatever I wanted and still had good grades, so nobody could really blame me for anything.
That’s what a mixture of autism and ADHD will do to you. Mind you, I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t be myself without my imagination, encyclopedic memory and random thought processes that seemingly have nothing to do with current environments or conversations.
Everything makes sense to me because I can perceive the present at the same time that I remember specific things from the past and imagine other things that I read about or thought about at some point.
What does all of this have to do with designing crochet patterns?
Remember how I said I never really learned to study/work as a child? I did in university. That’s when I got my first massive burnout. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but that’s also when the depression started.
I haven’t seen any specialists about this because I wasn’t aware of it (my life has always been hard and I somehow managed, I just assumed that as you get older everything becomes increasingly more difficult, because you “level up”).
Also because by the time I did become aware of it, it was so ingrained in my life that I couldn’t do anything other than simply exist. That and the fact that we moved to Germany.
I’m still not sure whether it was a good move, after all these years. Yes, we’ve been living in a small town for all this time, but I don’t feel like home here. We don’t really have friends to visit or who’d visit us, there isn’t much to do socially in a small town (and now we live in a village next to that small town, so our prospects are even less cheerful), so we’ve been both concentrating on our work.
I had to quit my work as a researcher because of burnout and because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Crochet was, during all my years of working towards my PhD and after, my escape from a world in which I felt I didn’t belong.
It was a soothing activity that allowed me to express my creativity and keep my hands busy (I always played with/crumpled/destroyed/drew things to keep my hands busy while my mind was concentrating – I know now that this is called fidgeting and it’s a thing most people do, but especially neurodivergent folks).
It was a way to explore different textures in fiber (another “special” interest of mine – I don’t call it special, it’s just something that I really love) without having to carry around or waste lots of resources, as opposed to sewing, which I also enjoy.
It was a way to learn new and exciting things, just like making friendship bracelets had been a few years previously, how tsumami kanzashi had been before that, like origami before that. The amount of crochet patterns available out there, for free or paid, is astounding.
But I never really found the things I wanted to make. I tried following patterns and some were badly written or improperly tested (especially in books, which was somewhat disappointing), so I stopped wanting to follow them. I relearned to knit and followed some patterns and realized that I’d like to make similar things in crochet. But there were no patterns, so I started making my own.
I learned enough that I can look at most projects and can see in my mind’s eye how they are made. I use this skill often and I think more people could benefit from it. If I can’t imagine how the thing is made, I get the pattern and learn and store that knowledge in the memory bank, which I can’t really access while in burnout (oops).
After I started earning enough to sustain me, a decent wage, I’d say, for the first time in my life I wasn’t poor any more. So I started allowing myself to buy more yarn, more interesting colorways, yarn as souvenirs from the places I visited (not many places, but I still haven’t used the yarn I got as a souvenir from Helsinki three years ago). I got a stash. And then started feeling the burden of this stash.
I quit my job a year and a half ago and decided to design crochet patterns full time. But what I didn’t realize was that I use crochet as a stim, just like other crafts that I’ve learned and loved.
I only realized this recently, after almost a year of trying to get all my ideas published, but coming up with more and more ideas and finishing only a few.
I thought I could just force myself to come up with these patterns that I dream about (sometimes literally – I already had two dreams of crochet designs…), with complex things that I’d like to make if I ever get the mental energy and the ability to concentrate back from where they disappeared during my burnout.
I thought I could just power through the process of developing these complex patterns, when I knew full well that I was barely able to finish the “simple” patterns that I’d been making.
My concentration is not back, my mind is still fuzzy, especially after covid and after moving house, which was an entirely exhausting process.
In 2019 I started a YouTube channel out of spite, because someone had stolen one of my patterns and used it in a video, then got tens of thousands of views on that video. It took me half a year to make the second video after struggling through the first.
I wanted to make a channel with high quality content and good editing. But I’m not entertaining and my voice is not interesting. Maybe before the burnout I’d have made more interesting videos, but in this state I can’t do more.
The channel has been growing at a snail’s pace and I don’t know if it’s the content (not very interesting) or what, but I just can’t give more than I have. I gave it all.
Again, I did not have a definitive plan on growing the channel because I knew nothing about the process and all I read about the topic seemed very random and not relevant to a crochet channel.
So I did what I could, I made videos for most of my patterns, which meant that I couldn’t finish and publish patterns until I had the videos ready, which meant that I kept on putting off publishing things that were ready because I’d not made the video yet.
Can you see where I went wrong here?
The moment I stopped being able to make videos (once we moved and started living out of one room until all the other rooms are finished), I was able to finish patterns and get them published too. Without videos, how scandalous!
But I realized something. I’d been putting all this pressure on myself to make these super complex things, write down the patterns, make videos, edit them, publish blog posts, this huge list of things to do, that I wasn’t able to finish anything.
I didn’t give myself time to thoroughly make anything, it was all a rush all the time because I get easily distracted by new ideas all the time.
So I’d start a difficult project, lag because errors always appear in such cases, start an easier and quicker project, get sidetracked by a deadline for something I’d signed up for just a few days before the actual deadline, then feel super exhausted and disappointed that I hadn’t finished what I’d started.
Then I’d lose interest in the big project because time had gone on and so had my interests (and I’d been exposed to new ideas and sources of inspiration in the meantime), so I’ve amassed quite a number of unfinished projects. By projects here I mean patterns, not necessarily the crochet projects themselves.
Did I mention I signed up to participate in events organized by other crochet designers? This year has been the peak for me and a learning process too. Each event has a lot of rules, various deadlines, various things you need to do before and after the event starts, so much social media engagement (that’s the part that tires me the most – I like writing emails, but social media promotion is such a drain on my mental resources).
So now take all of this into account, plus the fact that I never really learned how to work through a project from point A to point Z (going through the letters alphabetically), because I always skip things and come back to them and then hyperfocus just before the deadline, and imagine how I’m feeling.
I’ve said it a few times before. I’m exhausted, confused, tired, unable to string together coherent thought processes (see the randomness of all of the above). And I need a change. This can’t go on like this, I can’t keep trying to do all the things all the time. It’s just not feasible, nor is it sustainable.
At the end of every year, as the days get shorter and the gloom intensifies (it doesn’t help that now I live 10 degrees more towards the North than I did for most of my life), I just stop, take count of what has happened over the past year, put it in perspective with all the other years, then decide. What shall happen from now on?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot during the last few weeks. As I’m currently unable to work on patterns or tutorials (I’m writing this from the bed because I just can’t concentrate on writing at my desk), I decided to do this now.
I’ve also decided that December will be the month to finish my studio, which I’ve been putting off over the last few weeks because of deadlines (promises I made to participate in way too many Christmas-related events – and I don’t even like Christmas!).
The next month is set aside for manual labor in my studio – I still need to paint one wall, lay down laminate flooring, make a plan for the room, move the furniture in, install my desk, find some extra furniture that would fit in there well, organize my yarn and fabric stash and find a place for all the little things that I haven’t been seeing over the past 4 years because they were hidden in boxes.
Knowing about your neurotype also helps with organization – I know now that “out of sight, out of mind” is 100% true for me, so I need to see everything I own in order to not forget about its existence and get new stuff.
This was easy when I lived in a quarter of a room, in a dorm, when I didn’t have very much. But it’s not as easy now, when I have lots of tools and materials for my other hobbies besides crochet and knitting.
I need to organize my WIPs in a way that I can see them all, not hidden in baskets and bags. I’ll get some clear boxes and put them on a shelf at eye level, so I can see them and work on finishing or frogging before starting new things.
Plans and goals for 2022 for my crochet design business
As for next year, here’s how it’s going to happen:
- No more new patterns until I have a specific plan of action. I have lots in progress as of yet and I’d like to finish them or trash them if they don’t bring me joy. Not even counting the WIPs, which would add about 15 more patterns to the current waiting list of 60…
- No more new yarn. I’ve got a really large stash with a lot of different yarns. I didn’t know better when I bought them all (some were really cheap, some were really expensive), but now I do. Every yarn purchase from now on will be in all of these categories:
- only sizes between fingering and Aran – that’s size 2-4. No lace-weight (unless it’s a mohair blend for a specific pattern), no chunky (unless it’s velvet yarn, but again for a specific pattern);
- only natural fibers or blends – no more pure acrylic (mixed with wool or bamboo is fine, but not with cotton);
- natural or natural-looking colors – no more zany colors that can’t be achieved with natural dyes, they don’t bring me any joy; if it’s a rainbow, I need the whole rainbow, not just bits; this is also valid for gradients, as I’m thinking of overdyeing some of my gradient yarns; when in doubt, go for off-white/ivory, as I can always use off-white yarn or dye it myself;
- Maximum 4 events per year – at least one of them has to be a list-building event with some designers I haven’t participated with before. They can’t all be in the same month or 3-month interval, but spread out. OK, I need to update this one because I signed up to 3 events in 2021 that all happen in January and February. Plus another one in March.
- Maximum 10 pattern videos – for patterns I’ve published already or are intending to publish, but not tied to the publishing schedule of the patterns. Other videos can show specific crochet or Tunisian crochet stitches, even if they get next to no views. I don’t care any more about views. If they help people, I will make them. They take less time to film and edit, but I can also link to them from various patterns.
- Maximum 10 blog posts with content relating to struggles of people who crochet. I’ve got the list of topics, but never really felt like I had time to tackle them. If I limit myself to 10 per year, I’m sure I will be able to write out at least a few.
Here’s a little preview of a few patterns that I’d like to publish this year.
These are things I’ve thought about doing, but maybe won’t because I don’t think I can find time/energy for them:
- A podcast-type series of videos – monthly update on what I’ve been designing, WIPs, struggles, successes, Q&A with 3 questions per episode; I’ve no idea if anyone would watch these, nor how difficult they might be to make; I’ll put a pin in this idea;
- Interviews with other Tunisian crochet designers – I have a few that I collaborate with and I’d like to have a nice discussion with them;
- A CAL. For anything, as people don’t seem to care whether it takes me 3 months to prepare it or if we just use an old pattern.
- An event (blog hop or email vault style) with a bundle where all designers make money, not just the ones with the largest following. This one needs more research into logistics and topic (TC? Amigurumi?).
- An introductory video and maybe blog series to Eastern European style knitting. I have a list of topics, just need time and energy to work them up.
- An introductory video and maybe blog series on Tunisian crochet stitches and stitch patterns. I have made a few, but they are more advanced and I never have something to point to when I want to show people how to do basic things.
- An amigurumi series of neurodivergent and otherwise “divergent” characters. I can’t say more because this idea is too fresh and I only have one half-finished character so far. I’d like them all to have stories, so I need to do research on things that I’m not (I can use personal experience for some, but not all).
This is enough for a year, I believe.
I didn’t add to the list that I’m planning on working on my physical health more this year, together with hubby. Covid hit us pretty badly last year and we’ve been recovering slowly ever since.
Moving into a house that needs renovations didn’t help, either, even though I love working with my hands and building and painting. When I’m exhausted, these are all chores instead of pleasant repetitive and meditative tasks.
So we have a gym membership now and hopefully, as we build back strength and energy, we’ll be able to start our favorite activities again as the summer approaches. Hiking in the nearby (tiny) mountains, biking, lake swimming.
All while we’ll continue to work on the house, little by little. It’s quite comfy now in my studio. I’ll give you a tour soon in a video and maybe another blog post.
Here are some more blog posts related to this one if you’d like to read more.
If you want to know when that is done and when I publish more blog posts, patterns, tutorials, events and testing calls, sign up to my email updates.
I send out at most one email per week (with the exception of a few times a year, if something really exciting happens), so you can be sure that I won’t be flooding your inbox.
I care about you and only want you to get the best from me.
Until next time!