Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Today marks the third anniversary of that day in November 2012 when I set up The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done and hit publish on my very first post. I looked at my first and second anniversary posts in preparation for writing this one and I found that on my first and second anniversaries I had a lot to say about how my approach to this site had evolved over the previous twelve months. This year I don't have much to say on that topic, which probably means that the site has matured and I'm more or less fully launched and sailing on an even keel... or to use a more appropriate knitting metaphor, working even in stockinette. I suppose that's not a bad thing as long as I'm careful to keep an open mind on new ways to improve the site, and am taking an occasional mental step back to look at the site as a whole and make it's the site I want it to be. And am listening to what my readers have to say, of course. As always, your suggestions are welcome.
I know I haven't been very good about sticking to my posting schedule for the past year. It's often been all I could do to keep up with writing magazine reviews and posting the occasional fun video, and I didn't get around to writing the more in-depth original posts I'd like to do. I wish I could give you my word I'll do better, but the reality is that I have chronic fatigue issues and I have to make money to live on, and this site makes very little money. I only have so many good working hours in a day and often have to prioritize work that actually pays, or basic housekeeping tasks, over this site. All I can say is that I will do my best to do better. I will also say I have a concept for a book in mind, though I don't know when it will be written, let alone published. But I am collecting material for it, and I might get to it within the next year.
If you'd like to help support this site and make it possible for me to spend more time writing content for it and getting to writing that book, I can suggest a couple of ways for you to do so. This morning I added Interweave ads to the site. If you've been thinking of buying something from them, please consider visiting the Interweave store site via the button on the sidebar. I'll get 10% of whatever you spend during your visit at no extra charge to you. I have also added a sidebar link to Amazon.com. If you're ever planning on doing some shopping on Amazon, you can help me by visiting Amazon either through that sidebar link or through any of the Amazon links in my posts. I will get 4-8.5% of whatever you spend during your visit, and again there's no added cost for you. There is also a donation button on the sidebar.
And of course I want to conclude by thanking you all for taking the time out of your busy lives and especially, away from your knitting, in order to visit this site and read what I have to say. It's the highest compliment you could pay me, and I really appreciate all the emails and comments and the enthusiasm you show for the site, both here and on this blog's Facebook page. I think if my only reward for this site were the small amount of money it makes and the lines on the visit tracker graphs, I would have quit by now. It's the positive feedback and connections that make writing this site gratifying.
Thank you all, and I'll try to keep serving up the knitting snark as often and as well as possible.
Monday, 10 November 2014
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?
Sunday, 10 November 2013
A year ago today, on November 10, 2012, I wrote and posted this blog's very first post, almost on a whim, because I'd never thought of setting up a knitting blog until a few days prior to that. A year and 370 posts later, here we are. In the first few weeks of its existence, The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done had perhaps 20 visits a day, and now gets nearly 1000 visitors daily. The Facebook page for this blog, which I set up on November 26, 2012, has become a fun, active page, garnering over a thousand likes in less than a year. Trying to get the word out about this blog and build readership was very discouraging work at first. I used every self-promotion tip I could find on the net and some I thought up myself even though I am not someone who enjoys or is good at self-promotion. Fortunately after about six months of this I felt I didn't have to do that anymore (and for that matter had run out of things to try) and could just stick to updating the blog's Facebook page and my Twitter account daily, and rely on traffic to grow of its own accord over time.
Over the past week I've been doing a wholesale clean up of the archive, which has involved adjusting earlier posts to comply with the style that has evolved for the site, fixing at least some of the embarrassingly large number of mechanical errors, and also cleaning up the labels. (I wasn't happy with the way I'd labelled my posts. I'd been too specific and comprehensive, which meant that the list of labels on the blog had become an unwieldy mess. I'm hoping to finish cleaning up within the next week, after which the labels should be much more usable.) Re-reading all those posts proved a good year-end exercise, as I'd more or less forgotten many of my posts, and going through them all gave me a better sense of the evolution and state of the site as a whole.
When I first launched The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done, my idea was that it should be almost entirely about my reviews of knitting magazine reviews, and that all the other posts would be "filler posts" that I could write in five minutes. A year later, although the knitting magazine reviews have proved to be the site's main raison d'être and draw, with readers telling me that the site makes it very easy for them to keep up with and choose from among the fifteen knitting publications and additional special issues I review, the "filler posts" are more often than not just as time-intensive and lengthy as the reviews and run a close second in reader interest. As you can see, in the sidebar list of the ten most popular posts on this site, four are non-review posts.
It's been interesting to see which posts have proved popular. I don't consider the ten most-viewed posts in the list to be my ten best posts. But they somehow attracted lots of visitors, often for reasons that were ancillary to the post itself. The current most popular post, which has had more than 15,000 page views, is the post in which I analyze Ravelry's Top 5 Knitting Patterns, but it's only gotten so many viewings because it comes up in the search results when anyone Googles for "Ravelry free patterns". My second most popular post, which was on knitted shoes, was a different matter, as it concerned a knitting topic that was unusual and fun enough that it got linked to in some of the places a knitting blogger most hopes for: Vogue Knitting's and Lion Brand's Facebook pages, and on Knitting Paradise. The third most popular post, the post on knitting tattoos, enjoyed a modest viral boost because of its oddball appeal — even non-knitters found it fun. It was through this tattoo post that I got my first-ever traffic spike when my site was a month old, because Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit linked to it. As for the other top ten posts, Vogue Knitting has such cachet my VK reviews always do well, and there are plenty of Jane Austen, Harry Potter, and Downton Abbey fans who knit to keep those special issue reviews high on the list. Then there's the fact that a post that makes the popular list will tend to stay there because it's so visible to anyone who visits the site.
One of the many things I've learned this year is that a blogger simply doesn't know what posts will get everyone's attention, or when. Whenever I see a TV show or movie depicting blog posts going viral within two minutes of publication, I laugh uproariously. It really doesn't happen that way. I've had medium-quality posts that I'd dashed off quickly suddenly find an audience a month after I posted them; I've worked many hours on a post and proudly posted it expecting it would do well, only to see it drop like a rock. All bloggers can do is keep producing good quality work on a consistent schedule and watch their readership grow in an organic way. Traffic spikes are fun and exciting, but counter-intuitively, they are not all that important to a blog's success, because most of those who visit via a high-profile link will only do so once, and it's the regular, engaged readership that makes a site successful. So I try to rely on my own concept and standards of what's good for the site instead of letting the pageviews determine what kind of posts I'll do, and I hope that the modest traction I've gained this year means my vision of what the site should be is a generally sound one.
Looking back, I'd say my best and/or favourite posts include: the Twentieth Century Series; the post on the history of knitted bathing suits; the Mad Men post; the posts about how to knit your own Chanel sweater and how to make your own buttons; the posts about Shaker knitting and Amish wedding stockings; my posts about knitting breast prosthetics for cancer survivors and bandages for leprosy patients; and the posts about strange and unusual yarns. I especially enjoy writing posts about knitting history or with a politicized angle, I really like putting together posts of selected patterns on a given theme, and of course the knitting fables posts are always lots of fun to do. But then I liked writing almost all of the posts for this site, and have wound up laughing hysterically over something I stumbled across more times than I can count, and I take that as a good sign.
When I first launched the site I was concerned I'd run out of material to write about. I soon stopped worrying about that. Knitting has undergone such an explosion of creativity since the rise of the internet that I always have at least a few ideas on hand. It's never taken me more than five minutes to come up with a post concept, and then I often research and write one post only to come up with three or four new ideas for future posts during the process. Though there is supposedly nothing new under the sun, there's always something new on the net. What has become a concern, however, are time constraints. I have put far more time into this site this past year than I ever expected, and much more than I should have. I've done no other writing than what you see on this site, and while 370 posts is a very respectable year's output (in terms of word count it's probably the equivalent of at least two books), I do want to have time to write about things other than knitting. I want to begin posting to my woefully neglected book review blog again, and to work on the novel I've had in progress for never mind how many years. At the same time I am still enjoying my work on The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done and want to see what will grow out of the groundwork I've laid this past year.
So, what I am going to do is to cut back my posting schedule on this blog. From now on the posting schedule for The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done will be only three days a week: on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I decided this past July that I would keep posting daily until the end of this blog's first year in order to build a solid archive and then move to the new posting schedule, and far from second guessing my decision I've been looking forward to this anniversary as though I were getting out of jail. A daily posting schedule is more than a little gruelling when your posts can take up to four hours to write, and generally only bloggers who are making a living from their work can maintain that kind of pace. I am sorry to disappoint those of you who have told me you read my blog every day, but I feel sure that it's necessary that I cut back on my posts here.
What I can promise you is that my posting schedule will not be further decreased so long as I maintain this site, and that in those 156 posts a year I will still be doing all the knitting magazine reviews I've always done plus a good 60-70 posts on knitting-related topics, so the site will offer you the same kind of reading experience it always has, if somewhat less of it.
And of course I must thank everyone for your interest and your feedback during this past year. When I first came up with the concept for this site, I decided that since I'd never liked the typical style of knitting blog that I was going to write the kind of knitting blog I would enjoy reading, and it's been so gratifying to find that there are other knitters who do indeed want that kind of knitting blog and that even some non-knitters whose eyes would normally glaze over at the phrase "knitting blog" have enjoyed reading it. I never forget that there are thousands of knitting blogs out there for you all to read, and that you've paid me the compliment of reading mine.
Thank you all for visiting this blog, I will continue to do my best to make it worth reading, and I want you to feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions you might have for the site.
Friday, 10 May 2013
The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done is six months old today. Thanks, everyone, for reading and participating here on the blog and on its Facebook page. I'm thrilled to find that my readers are such thoughtful, intelligent and funny people and I really enjoy your comments, emails, and generally interacting with you all.
When I hit "publish" on my first post last November, I resolved to give the project six months and to assess its viability at that point. Viability has been duly assessed, and I've decided that as much as I like running this blog, it will need a considerably larger readership before it will be really feasible for me to keep putting in the good ten hours a week of work it takes to write and maintain this site.
For the time being, it seems worthwhile to continue. I have decided to put in another six months of work on The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done, and to reassess at the first-year mark. If you like the site, please help me ensure its future by sending the URL to friends who knit and sharing links via Twitter and Facebook and any other social media sites that you use, or on knitting and craft-related sites that you frequent. If you're a Facebook user, please consider "liking" the blog's Facebook page — it's an easy way to keep up this blog, and you'll also get some extras in the form of interesting shares from other knitting-related pages. If you're a Twitter user, my Twitter account is here, and you're welcome to follow me. Another way to follow this blog is by befriending me on Ravelry, where I am OrangeSwan.
Here's looking forward to the next six months!
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
The regular post for today, a review of knit.wear's Spring 2013 issue, led to my having a very enlightening Twitter conversation with one of this blog's readers. Her Twitter handle is Bunny Knuckles, so I'll call her that. Bunny Knuckles told me she enjoyed my blog but what she called "the CONSTANT body policing" in my pattern reviews had made her decide she needed to stop following it.
Well, I was taken aback, and I tweeted back that I was surprised that she considered me to be body policing, that I expected knitting designs to flatter the figures they go on regardless of what those figures are like. Or words to that effect that fit into the 140 character limit. (I hate Twitter. It's not only the ugliest social media venue on the net — it's like reading code — it's next to impossible to have a coherent and intelligent conversation on it.)
But then I had another look at the review, and found to my horror that Bunny Knuckles had been right. I had essentially told my readers that one particular design, a snug, short, knitted dress, was only for young, svelte women. And I found some other comments that I thought were definitely over the line. So I got back to Bunny Knuckles, saying I thought she had a point and that I had done a hasty edit of some of my comments.
Let me be clear here. When I write knitting magazine reviews, I feel it's part of my job description as a reviewer to help knitters assess whether the patterns will flatter their particular looks. I also write from the standpoint that, regardless of what your proportions are, you deserve a wardrobe that make you look your very best. And if this is true of clothes you buy at the mall with your hard-earned dollars, it's all the more true of clothes you're going to spend not only money but a considerable amount of your valuable time and effort making.
But, you see, my task is a problematic one. The fact is, no one looks good in every style, no matter what his or her figure is like. If I'm to provide honest and helpful guidance on choosing flattering styles, sometimes I do need to say categorically that style X will not suit figure Y. It can be difficult to say that without sounding like I'm shaming people for having figure Y, even though I didn't mean that at all and instead intended to suggest that figure Ys thumb their noses at the unflattering style X and go look for a good design in style Z, which will look fabulous on them.
As much as I want to give knitters useful advice about what will look good on them, to help them choose styles that work best on their figures without making them feel that their figures are the problem, it's a fine line, and it upsets me to think that despite my best efforts it's one I'm probably going to cross occasionally. In the case of that snug, short dress design, for instance, what I should have said originally, and what I have edited my comments to say, is that if the wearer-to-be won't feel comfortable in something so snug and short, to just make the dress a few inches longer and a few inches looser. There are specific styles that simply won't ever work on specific figures (don't even get me started on how an empire cut looks over my D cups), but there are also going to be many more cases in which a design only needs a little tweaking to be perfectly wearable for most people. I need to do a better job at distinguishing between the two. I need to be clearer that I'm critiquing the knitting patterns, not people's bodies. I'm also trying to use more gender inclusive language, but that's another conversation to be had on a day when I don't already have a headache.
So I propose that my contract with my readers will be this: that I will be more vigilant about not crossing the line into body policing, and you are welcome to let me know, via comments on this blog, email, messages or wall posts on The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done's Facebook page, or in a Twitter conversation, when you think I haven't succeeded. I'll do my best to respond promptly and will edit my blog posts if I think you're right.
And then we can get back to ridiculing and critiquing the knitting patterns, because, hoo boy, that's one snark flag we can let fly.