November 1, 2018

Ch ch ch ch changes…

Ohmygosh hi! I’m thinking about blogging again! My life has changed so much over the last few years, and at this point there are basically two paths this old blog could go down… it could just stop, and be nothing but an archive of past posts, or I could try to revive it as something like what it started as in the first place, over eleven years ago: a personal blog for sharing all sorts of projects and things, whatever I feel like writing about. I’d like it to be that!

So, as often as I feel like it, I plan to post here for fun: personal knitting and craft projects, garment sewing (the new thing I’ve just recently gotten into!), occasional tutorials perhaps, maybe food things sometimes, maybe I’ll show you graphic design projects sometimes, who knows. Whatever I feel like writing/posting about, here’s the place for it. Whenever I want to use more words than an instagram caption!

River dress!

So that’s the plan for the future—as for the past, if you follow me on social media, you probably have some idea of what I’ve been up to, but I’ll go ahead and tell you, all here in one place, and in a bit more gritty detail… a timeline, ish:

I was trying to design knitting patterns full-time, for many years, and it was going well, mostly a little better each year, until 2015… it just stopped getting better. Sales were dropping, I was struggling to make ends meet, and I finally came around to accepting that it didn’t matter how hard I worked, it was becoming impossible for me to design patterns for a living. I could switch gears to pursuing teaching as my main gig, or get a part-time job at a yarn shop, or something else within the knitting/designing world to keep on designing… I started really thinking seriously about what I wanted to do. Who I wanted to be when I grew up.

To be honest with you here, because why not, late 2015 / early 2016 was a REALLY hard time. When that realization hit me, that there was no amount of effort I could put in to make my knit design career work the way I wanted it to (meaning, pattern designing being the main way I spent my time and earned a living) I had major feelings of failure, many panic attacks, and lots of sad times. My life as I knew it could no longer go on, on this path I’d been on for a decade. I didn’t know what I was doing, with my whole life. The past ten years felt wasted. It was a shitty time. It was November 2015 to be exact, when this hit; I started crying over pizza with Pete at Rudy’s that night and couldn’t stop. There were lots of days when I started crying, but I also started seriously brainstorming about what the heck to do. For the past ten years I’d kind of gone where life took me, my career just finding itself, or something, which is probably part of the problem of why it failed? But now it was like I hit a wall at the end of that path and I was completely discombobulated, and needing to find a totally different path.

Oh, this is complicated and blurry; I’d already started thinking about doing things other than knit design earlier than this. I wasn’t totally deluded. Sales had been getting weaker for like another year before that, or showing signs of no longer getting better. The truth is, I was never making close to a living wage, my whole knit design (etc) career, so I’d always kept going with the expectation that if I worked my butt off things would keep getting a little better each year, and eventually I’d be earning maybe barely a living wage? But when I could see that it wasn’t continuing in the slight upward slope needed to keep going as I’d been going… I was aware that I needed to start rethinking things. But until late 2015, I’d been thinking along the lines of adding new streams of income to knit design, not changing paths completely. I’d started thinking about offering layout services for other designers’ patterns, because that was something I’d always enjoyed doing for myself, and I thought I was decently good at it. But, I was using iWork Pages (Apple’s version of Word), so even though my patterns looked okay, I didn’t feel like I could charge for a professional service using an unprofessional program. If I wanted to pursue this, I needed to learn InDesign.

So I started looking into learning graphic design, for real, beyond the self-taught design work I’d been doing for myself for my whole knit design / leethal career. I found out that my local community college had a really great intensive 2-year program, but what I thought I wanted was just a few classes. I just wanted to learn the programs—InDesign and Illustrator—enough to be able to fill in the blanks with online classes and practice. I could just do online classes, sure, but I didn’t think I’d learn as well as with a real life class. So I went to the info session about the PCC program, in the summer of 2015, and it seemed really cool, like a great program and like a really good fit for my interests and strengths. They tried to discourage people from doing it, saying how hard it is and how many people don’t make it past the first classes. It seemed really fun and interesting to me, but it would be such a big chunk of my life, I still didn’t want to commit to the whole program. Anyway, after it all broke in November and my life became sadness and panic attacks, and I knew I needed more than just a side gig option, but rather a whole new career, I decided that program would be a good life decision. The way the program worked, I had to take some classes as prerequisites at some point in 2016 and then the actual program would start in winter 2017, so in the spring I registered for some summer classes and I was on track.

In the meantime, my brainstorming about what I could do that wasn’t knit design led to my book idea! I started playing around with the idea in 2015, got an agent, and then worked with her on my proposal throughout the first few months of 2016… I got the deal with Clarkson Potter in spring and then spent the second half of 2016 going back to school and creating my book at the same time! It was busy and good. Exciting stuff.

I was still designing patterns a bit during this time, but it was no longer my main focus. I worked on finishing the designs that were already in the works throughout 2016, and I did my VIP club hats throughout that year, then released the Two Texture Trio during my first full-time school term in winter 2017—that was a BUSY quarter!—and I designed a pair of mitts for Stranded in spring of 2017. And that was that. No more knit designing. I’ve since re-knit and released Flit as a self-published pattern, and I will be releasing a couple of Stranded patterns and re-releasing at least one of my very old patterns as a newly updated design. So I’m not like retired from knit design 100% but I have no plans to design any new patterns. I’m not that sad about it; I have 174 patterns in my ravelry shop, I think that’s enough :-p

So, I did school, it was hard and good, and I graduated in June of this year. I spent a couple of months freelancing, job-searching, and working on personal projects. And I did a bunch of fun volunteer design work:

Volunteer graphic design work

I designed several for-fun graphics (scroll down to Printable Designs! to see them) that I stuck up on print-on-demand sites in case anyone was interested. These sites make the designers very little money, like I’ve seriously earned maybe 20 bucks from all my designs combined that I’ve put up in the last six months. But I like all the designs I made so I wanted them to be available to anyone else who wants them. They are also on my site as free downloads to print out on postcards or use as a desktop wallpaper or whatever.

Oh same deal with Spoonflower fabrics—I really love designing patterns (I even put a surface design page on my website in case anyone wants to license designs!), so I’ve put some of them up on Spoonflower as fabrics, and I’ve sold none, but they’re there in case anyone’s interested, and for myself to maybe buy some. Basically, since graduating, I had fun doing some personal projects that earned no money, which helped me get over any lingering feels of wanting to be self-employed anymore. It’s just no longer my path. I really enjoyed some of the freelancing but it’s also pretty stressful, and would be much more so if I needed to have enough jobs going at once to earn a living wage doing it.

Surface design!

So, I was looking at both part-time and full-time jobs, thinking that if I found a really great part-time job I would keep pursing the freelancing, and I do love working from home, not commuting, so there seemed to be strong pros to both a part-time and a full-time job… I applied to around 30 jobs total and heard nothing back from most of them; the graphic design job market in Portland is intense! One job application required a photo of me with my favorite vegetable (they never responded).

self-portrait with broccoli

And then I found a full-time job! Yay! But weird. I’m working in an office for the first time ever in my life. I’m working a structured 40 hours a week which leaves me with tons of time that I’m not working, and I’m basically not doing any work from home anymore now, aside from the possible occasional freelance gig I want to take on, and random knitting pattern updating I still plan to do, and some personal projects I still have in the works or rolling around in my head, but these things have no deadlines. Point being, I’m not constantly working or thinking about work like I have been for my entire adult life, and it’s pretty cool! I can sit and watch a movie and knit a just-for-fun project with no deadline and not feel guilty because I should be doing something else. A couple weekends ago, while Pete was working, I spent the day seeing a movie downtown and then walking around the city, all the way to southeast Division, in the perfect sunny fall weather, just enjoying the day and not thinking about work. It’s so nice! And then I just get a paycheck deposited into my account every two weeks, that’s unrelated to how many people decide to buy what I create. After so many years of my income being dependent on how popular my creations were, and how many people decided they were worth actually paying for (not just hearting on instagram)… I am not missing that at all.

It’s weird to talk about money, but I think it’s good to share these things sometimes. My situation has always been really privileged/lucky in that I had parents helping me through college, so no student loans, and then the whole time I had my self-employed career I had a partner with a steady income and some savings who could help me out when there was a slow month here and there, and cover enough joint expenses that my income could be pretty darn low and we could get by. If I’d been single, I always would have had to have a part-time job or some other steady stream of income, the whole time I was designing patterns. I think it’s important to know that if you’re trying to make it work doing something creative full-time, it’s freaking hard, if not impossible… if you look to me as someone who succeeded in doing it, well, the truth is that I didn’t. Not really. So there’s absolutely no shame in needing a part-time (or full-time) job to fill in the gaps from a creative self-employed pursuit that isn’t making enough to pay the bills. I really did think for years that if I worked hard enough it could be enough; I think the myth of meritocracy was so deeply embedded in my subconscious, I just kept working nonstop for years expecting it to be enough… anyway, I’m happy with where I am now but I had some really hard times, so hopefully my honesty might help some of you feel less alone or something?

But now I have a great job! I’m the new digital graphic designer at Knit Picks. I’m using all my knitting world experience from my pre-graphic-design-school years, combined with my new skills. It really makes those ten years feel less wasted! Not that they were actually wasted in any way, but that feeling, man, it’s rough. So I’m designing the Knit Picks emails and website graphics, working on other assorted graphic tasks like product tags and labels, helping proof the catalog and books, and possibly really fun future projects… and then also helping out with other Knit Picks tasks like naming yarns! Designing yarn colorways! Sharing my expertise on the podcast! Fun stuff.

If you’re wanting to see my work, the emails are all by me now (though some bits are using established styles/formats, but I’m still putting them all together), and a few graphics on the website are by me, with more coming soon as updates happen. A weird thing about this job is that because I mostly do web graphics, I’m mostly working in Photoshop, which is what I used the least in school. It’s frustrating at times, but I am already so much better in Photoshop than I was before! Oh I’m also on a PC, so that’s a big adjustment too, but I’m pretty used to it already; not as annoying as I expected it to be. So yeah it’s been just barely a month but I think I’m adjusting pretty well!

a snippet of a Knit Picks email I designed a snippet of a Knit Picks email I designed (and photo styled)

Another fun job thing is that I get to go help out with the Knit Picks booth at Stitches SoCal this weekend! It’s not part of my graphic design job, but the company is so small, people can kind of pitch in with things outside of their jobs, and they needed an extra person to help with the show so I’m going! I’ve never been to a Stitches before, so I’m excited about it! If you’re going, come to the KP booth and say hi!

And then as for the future of this blog… I have been getting really into garment sewing lately, so I’ll save that whole subject for another post, soon hopefully! And there are some random crafty things I’d like to post about, just to share, and to have a record for myself. I think now that this blog is no longer existing for my business, I’m just going to use it for whatever would be fun for me to write about, for myself and for anyone who’s interested! I might also go back and blog about some patterns from the past few years that I never blogged at the time when they came out. We’ll see. I figure I won’t be super regular, but maybe do a post once or twice a month or so. So hopefully I’ll be seeing you again soon!

Oh one more thing: I’ve set up my mailing list account to send out blog posts as emails, in case you want to keep up with me that way. If you’re on the mailing list and you’d rather not receive the blog posts, just unsubscribe (I don’t plan on sending out any other emails, just the blog posts). If you want to subscribe, the signup is at leethalknits.com (which is in need of a major update, so I haven’t really been linking to it lately—ravelry is better for browsing patterns). Okay yeah that’s all!

Filed under: graphic design,personal — Lee Meredith @ 8:40 am
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