Monday, 10 November 2014
Two Years of Knitting Damage
Today is the second anniversary of The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done. Are you surprised that I've kept at it this long? You are? You would, you say, describe your reaction as beyond "surprised" and verging on "stunned"? Hey, I promise you you're not so much so as I am. In November 2012 I launched this blog almost on impulse, with less thought than what I would normally put into a shoe purchase, wildly underestimating how much time and effort it would take as I am far too prone to do, and yet... I put in the time, and here I am two years later, still posting away. And I suppose at bottom the main reason I have done so is because I find the work involved in maintaining this site and its accompanying Facebook page to be a lot of fun. Researching knitting history and technique is fascinating. Scrolling through photos showing the full spectrum of what can be done with two sticks and string is an unending source of awe and hysteria. And being able to air my snark on the latest offerings of knitwear design to an actual, voluntary audience is the best thing ever. To put what this site has meant to me in a better context for you, I will say that this past year hasn't been a good or happy one for me. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, the tenant of the basement apartment of my house made a sudden and unexpected departure, leaving behind a sizable rental arrears and a disgustingly filthy, garbage-filled, and damaged apartment, I wasn't able to get much freelance editing work, the lack of both rental and professional income in turn created serious financial difficulties for me, there were some even more personal and painful factors at work, and the chronic fatigue issues I've had for years made all of the above that much harder to cope with. Looking back, I see that, after my mother's seeming recovery (and the fact that Toronto will be getting a new, sober, law-abiding, and hopefully competent mayor December 1st), authoring this blog has been one of the few good things about this year, lending it a structure and focus and reliably providing me with enjoyment and gratification and hope for the future during a time when those things were in very short supply.
While I intend to keep enjoying this site for what it is, I am hoping the coming year will see more of a rise in traffic than this year has. As of its first anniversary, this blog was getting a little less than a thousand visits daily, which wasn't bad for a year-old site. Then I cut back my posting schedule from daily to three times a week. While I knew this would mean some decrease in site visits, I hoped it wouldn't mean more than, say, a 10% drop in traffic, but this proved to be overly optimistic. My daily traffic was immediately cut in half, and stayed in the 400s, or even below that, for a full nine months. There were disheartening times last spring when it dropped to not much over 200. Since September I've seen a steady surge of growth and at present traffic is only a little below what it was a year ago. Here's hoping this year sees an actual gain in traffic. It will help that the Facebook page for this site has done encouragingly well this year. As of November 10th, 2013, it had 1,089 likes. It now has over 3,700, which means my efforts at directing traffic from there to this blog have been correspondingly more fruitful.
As this anniversary approached and I measured the blog's progress by comparing metrics, I also gave some thought to how my attitude towards knitting has changed over the past two years, and with it my approach to this blog. I'm definitely steering away from the "crazy knitter" shtick that informs so much of the conversation about knitting on the net. Perhaps I've just seen too many of them, but all those photo memes about how big the stash is/how many unfinished projects are lying around the house/how we pissed off our spouses and spent the kids' college funds or retirement funds on yarn seem so tiresome and unfunny to me now. I never really was a crazy knitter with a huge stash and umpteen works-in-progress, and my own approach to knitting has become even more disciplined over time. I now try to take a needs-based approach to project planning. This means that I begin my project planning by identifying a need. I'll say to myself, "I could use a sweater to go with a skirt I own that doesn't work with anything else in my closet," or "My slippers are worn out and I need new ones," or, "A friend or family member is pregnant and I want to make a gift for the baby," and then seek out the perfect patterns for those purposes, as opposed to my project start point being, "OOOOH THAT PATTERN IS SO BEAUTIFUL I MUST MAKE IT FOR THE SHEER LOVE OF MAKING IT," which as often as not tends to lead to my making something that gets little or no use because it doesn't work for the intended recipient's figure and/or lifestyle.
My other resolves are that I will only work on one thing at a time, that I will make a concerted effort to whittle down my (not terribly large) existing stash to about half its current size, and that I will only buy yarn specifically for a project I intend to knit in the very near future. I've bought just three lots of yarn and one extra skein this past year, and, aside from whatever yarn was left over, that yarn has all been knitted into its intended form. Believe it or not, I actually went to the Spinrite summer sale in August armed with the yarn specifications for three upcoming projects and did not buy any yarn, even though there was a pile of bargain-priced sequined teal mohair laceweight calling my name, because I had no immediate use for that mohair and could not find any yarn that was right for any of the three projects I was planning on making. The purpose of these rules is much less about saving money than it is about preventing waste. I have better and more immediate uses for my money and my storage space than stockpiling yarn for an indefinite length of time. I want to make sure everything I knit suits a purpose and gets used. And I hate the feeling that I get from seeing unused yarn and unfinished projects lying about — it fusses me and makes me feel perpetually inadequate and behind schedule, which is not what knitting should be about.
I don't think this blog has ever really been about the crazy knitter shtick, but my shift in attitude has been apparent on its Facebook page, where these days you are more likely to see things like runway knitwear, project ideas, technical tips, and links to interesting patterns or helpful tutorials than crazy knitter-type memes. Facebook inadvertently helped me improve the quality of the page by changing their algorithms so that I, along with all other Facebook users, found that postings from pages I had liked disappeared from my newsfeed (unless I made a point of clicking like on everything I liked, and who can be bothered doing that?), so that I was forced to seek out my own unique shares instead of just sharing from other knitting Facebook pages. And a pox on Facebook for deliberately making their site less usable for everyone in an effort to force page managers like me to spend money on boosting their posts, but it has been a good thing for all the Facebook knitting pages, because we were all passing around the same memes like they were so many strains of the flu, and there's little reward for our readers in visiting different knitting pages if they all feature pretty much the same shares. Another change that I've made to the Facebook page is the inauguration of "Menday", which means that on Mondays I post some things that are specifically selected for their possible interest to the male knitter. I was hoping to attract more male readers and also to do my bit to make the knitting scene more gender inclusive, but Menday has been well-received by my female readers as well. After all, we women knitters have men in our lives to knit for (significant others as well as male family members and friends), and it can be hard to find menswear patterns that have some style. I'm now thinking of instituting some other theme days, like, say, vintage knitting on Thursdays (since there's an existing Throwback Thursday internet custom), runway looks on Friday ("Fashion Friday"), and home decor stuff on Saturday, because many of us are at home being all domestic on that day. Having such focal points helps me find better quality shares and makes the contents of the page more balanced.
There have not been too many changes to this blog itself this past year (I did add an FAQ), and I don't at present plan on changing much in the year to come. I would like to keep more strictly to my three-times-a-week posting schedule, as I know I've missed a number of days in the past year. I'd also like to bring a more technical perspective to my knitting reviews, but that will probably be a gradual change as I work on becoming a more technically accomplished knitter myself. Otherwise, as always, I am open to suggestions from my readers.
And too, I'd like to ask that if you enjoy this site, that you help ensure its continued existence by helping to spread the word about it. Please pass along links to the blog and to posts that you especially like, not only directly to your knitting friends, but also to a more general audience on whatever other social media platforms and community websites you use, and on your own blog if you have one.
And let's look forward to another year of snark-filled knitting reviews, bizarre knitting fables, selections of theme patterns, fun videos, and other weird and wonderful knitting-related items, shall we?