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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

30 Q&As for last year and this

I know I said no looking back, but I saw this meme on a few other blogs over the past week so decided to join in.

  1.  What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
    Published my first knitting pattern, and got some orthopaedic inserts for my shoes.

    2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
    I don't normally make new year resolutions, but I did want to get better at spinning and I've achieved that. 

    3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

    Two of my friends had babies this year, both little boys.

    4. Did anyone close to you die?
    Not particularly close to me, but one of my husband's relatives died in November.

    5. What countries did you visit?
    Wales, America and Denmark. I think people forget that Wales is a different country to England sometimes.

    6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

    A pair of Viking combs.

    7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

    Definitely our time in Denmark in September. Four nights and 3 whole days exploring Copenhagen and Roskilde with my daughter was exciting and chilled at the same time. 

    8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
    Apart from not quitting my day job in a blaze of glory (or just a blaze); publishing and selling my knitting patterns.

    9. What was your biggest failure?
    I haven't failed at anything specifically this year, but I haven't finished everything I had hoped to. 

    10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
    Quite the contrary, my blood pressure is now well under control, my feet are responding well to the inserts (though my back is still protesting) and I've lost a few pounds in weight. Mentally I've had a few wobbly days, but nothing that got out of hand.

    11. What was the best thing you bought?
    A washing machine for my daughter and her chap, for their new house.

    12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
    Stephen Sutton. Without doubt a very special young man who devoted his final months of life to raising funds to assist other teenagers with cancer. If you would like to donate, you still can here Stephen's Just Giving Page

      13. Where did most of your money go?
    Flights. Which makes it sound like I jet set around the globe regularly, but I don't. The cost of a return flight from London to Houston is now around £800, which is more than twice what it was the first time I flew there in 2006. It is also more than I spent in total for 4 nights in a hotel, flight and spends in Denmark.

    14. What songs will always remind you of 2014?

    Nickelback – Edge of a Revolution
    Ed Sherring – Sing
    Royal Blood – Little Monster

    15. What do you wish you'd done more of?

    16. What do you wish you'd done less of?

    Banging my head against metaphorical brick walls.

    17. How did you spend Christmas?
    I don't celebrate Christmas. We celebrate the winter solstice instead, doing much the same thing as everyone else does a few days later. On Christmas day this year I cleaned my front room carpet and did loads of laundry.

    18. Did you fall in love in 2014?
    Yes, with a bakery in Copenhagen.

    19. What was your favourite TV program?
    I really don't watch a lot of telly, I tend to have it on in the background just to help me keep track of time. I did enjoy the BBC's Musketeers, Crimes of Passion (the Swedish murder mystery series on BBC4) and my guilty pleasure, Strictly Come Dancing.

    20. What was the best book you read?
    Jo Nesbo “Phantom” - I adore his writing and can't wait to read the next in the series “Police”

    21. What was your greatest musical discovery?
    Royal Blood – gutted that their tour sold out before I could get a ticket.

    22. What did you want and get?


    23. What did you want and not get?

    Less stress at work, less micromanagement, less deception.

    24. What was your favourite film of this year?
    I didn't see many films this year, certainly fewer than in 2013, but I really enjoyed Dallas Buyers Club, Out of the Furnace, and the 3
    rd Hobbit.

    25. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    Apparently I was 44. Not the exact day of my birthday, but we did go to Southampton to see Killswitch Engage and Trivium.

    26. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
    Not having to explain and accept the inconsistencies and bloody-mindedness of TDCJ. There is no sensible reason why TDCJ inmates are not permitted to make pre-paid overseas calls. But maybe we'll get video visits instead before he comes home.

    27. What kept you sane?
    Knitting, my daughter, loud music, the robin on my window feeder, frozen yoghurt.

    28. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    Christian Bale. Nuff said.

    29. Who did you miss?

    My parents. My husband. My dearest friend.

    30. What does 2015 hold for you?
    A new job (secondment), more European-style eating, and possibly (hopefully) a trip to Norway.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


At this time of year, many people look back over the past 12 months and dissect their trials and tribulations. I find that a little depressing, even for the happy times, because they have gone and you can't get them back. So I prefer to look forwards, do a bit of planning (in the face of the Gods, just to see if they are taking any notice) and work out where I'd like to be in 12 months or so from now.

The recent VAT debacle has made me revise my original plans for developing the knitting patterns I've been working on. This has been a good thing, though I'd rather it hadn't been dropped on me at a moment's notice. But, carpe diem and all that jazz. I may not be as prolific as some designers out there, but I think I can contribute something to the global pattern library, so I will be working on those this year.

I'll still be spinning of course, and I have some more grey Gotland fleece on order. It's all part of the bigger picture really; I want to spin so I have yarn to create designs with, for myself and my family. I do also have a large stash of assorted yarns that I need to work with before buying any more... but any knitter out there will know how likely that is! 2015 is the Chinese year of the Sheep (goat/ram/etc) so I'm hoping to pick up some of the fleecy vibes.

I'll be seeing my husband again this spring, which is usually the main event in my year. I'm contemplating requesting a weekday visit at the moment, as it would fit our plans better. They are at the Warden's discretion of course, but if you don't ask, you're unlikely to get.

Blogging more often is also on my To Do list. I'm not one to blog for the sake of it, you are unlikely to see "this is my breakfast" or "my cat just did this" posts, but I do want to aim for at least once a month this year.

I've been offered a new opportunity at my day job, a secondment for up to 2 years, so things will be changing there and hopefully for the better. I'm not allowing myself to get excited about it until I have more details, but it has come at the right time for me. I've been doing my current job for just over 9 years now and things have changed a lot in that time.

There will be a bit of travel around the UK for my family history investigations. We have a castle in Durham ... well, we did, a few centuries ago, and it's now a mossy ruin, but I'd still like to go up and have a wander if I can. Plus there are still some bits of Berkshire that I need to get to and document properly.

So really 2015 will be more of the same, but hopefully bigger and better, and a little more lucrative!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Out with the old and in with the new - VATMOSS

Anyone in the EU who sells digital files should now be aware of the changes in VAT legislation that come into force on 1 January 2015. There are details on HMRC's website.

This has had a big impact on my plans for developing the knitting patterns that I have so far designed. I currently sell them on Etsy, as Folksy does not provide a platform for digital downloads. However, Etsy has been extremely tardy in its information to sellers and only a few days ago announced that it would not be handling the VAT on behalf of European sellers as it believes that is our responsibility. Unfortunately, HMRC and the rest of the EU disagree.

In short, I cannot comply with the EU directive by myself. It would mean collecting 2 non-conflicting items of evidence for the purchaser's address, and storing them for 10 years on an EU approved secure server, as well as submitting VAT returns every 3 months covering all of my sales (not just the digital patterns). Up to this point, the VAT threshold has been £81,000 for small businesses; when you make less than that each year you are not required to register for VAT. From 1 January 2015, there will be no threshold for digital sales, and the EU is hoping to extend this to physical items as early as 2016.

For micro businesses across the EU this is a disaster. There are several petitions which you can sign on Change.org. The EU-wide petition is here: Change.org EU petition for suspension of VAT changes and you can read up on the comments on Twitter using the #VATMOSS hashtag. Other seller platforms such as Ravelry and Folksy have been meeting with HMRC over the past couple of weeks to bring to HMRC's attention how the changes will impact small and micro businesses. It is sad, but not surprising, that the EU commissioners did not thoroughly investigate the impact since the changes were first announced in 2007.

However badly the directive has been constructed, it will still come into law in a few days time. This means I have had to re-think how I sell my knitting patterns now and in the future. I have been looking at other platforms - some that currently focus on ebook sales as the VAT directive affects them too. I'm now feeling more positive than I was a week ago; I have a platform I can use who will also handle the VAT on my behalf, and it has spurred me on to continue to design and develop more patterns and offer them in different formats.

Until I have my own website, I will list my patterns for sale here on my blog, under the Hare's Moon page over on the right. The link will take the buyer through to Payhip.com where you can purchase the pattern simply and easily using PayPal. I will also be working on collections of patterns, rather than single items. These will be for sale via Payhip and by CD mailed to you. Stay tuned for the release of these pattern collections later in 2015.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

It's in the blood

Back from our Danish adventure (with a little bit of Sweden thrown in as well), and have some images to share with you all!

Our 4 nights in Copenhagen were great, so much to see in such a relatively small place. I could definitely adopt the culture of not hurrying anywhere and always time for coffee and cake.

Since I've been back, I've started to move some of my Etsy shop stock over to Folksy. For those who are not familiar with Folksy, it's a British-based marketplace similar to Etsy, but I like the feel of it better for my yarns and hares. If you are interested, check it out Hare's Moon Yarns on Folksy

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Soon to go a-viking!

Getting really excited now as in just a few days my daughter and I are embarking on a lightning raid to Denmark! We have 4 nights in the centre of Copenhagen, from which we will venture to Roskilde for the viking museum and also into Sweden across The Bridge *squee*. Yes, that bridge, from that SkandNoir series. We have been learning some Danish, not so that we blend in (I'm reliably informed that the moment I open my mouth every local will immediately speak English anyway) but because it seems rude not to at least try. I can count to 10, ask where the toilet is, get a table for 2 and almost certainly mispronounce everything on the menu but I'll know roughly what I'm trying to order. It's been about 6 years since I travelled east rather than west, and I am so looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, my efforts in writing knitting patterns are being rewarded with a steady trickle of sales at Hare's Moon Yarns. I have published 3 so far: Medici the Hare, a newborn size baby cardigan with optional scratch mitts, and most recently a pattern for socks for feet that are wider than normal or for those with swollen ankles. The long-term plan is to move to my own website next year, and also publish a collection of patterns in a book/download rather than just individual ones. But small steps....

On the needles at the moment:
* 2 jumpers with shoulder buttons for 2 little boys
* a shocking pink shawl/scarf in extremely thin random yarn, possibly cotton, for me
* a pair of bunny slippers commissioned from a co-worker

On the wheel:
Gotland cream, will be chunky weight once plied

We recently also made some blackberry and vanilla jam, which was distributed at work.


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Not giving it all away

After years of people telling me "you should sell those!" about the things I make, I have recently has some people say "why don't you give that away, why do you want money for it?".

There is a very simple answer. Time. I don't claim to be the best knitter, writer, maker or the best anything, but what I produce comes from more than 35 years of learning and investing in myself. Just as no one would expect a plumber to fix leaking pipes for nothing, why should people expect any other hand-made item to always be free - or practically given away at the lowest possible price which does not even cover the material costs let alone the labour time?

I do give a lot of what I make away as gifts. People in general don't see that, because they are not the recipients. I also spend time helping others learn to knit, sew, make etc without charging, because it is important that these skills are used and passed on through the generations so they are not lost. Equally, I pay for the raw materials, and wouldn't dream of quibbling over the prices I am charged.

It's not just in the area of physically making things that I refuse to give it all away for free. My time is precious to me, and while sometimes I might work a few extra minutes for no pay in my day job, that doesn't mean I am always going to be the first to voluteer for overtime - whether paid or as TOIL - because I have other things that I do in my life that are way more important than the day job I do. Sometimes if you give too much, people begin to expect it all the time and get pissy when you say no.

My beliefs centre on the concept of maintaining yourself so that you can then assist others. It might sound a bit selfish, but if you are not physically, mentally and financially in a good place, how can you help others without bringing the whole house of cards down? This applies to my time as well. I need time for myself, in order to function well for and with others. How I spend my own time is down to me.

So, I'm not forcing anyone to buy my items, or pay for my time, and generally people don't need to. But if I occasionally ask for some recompence, it's not because I am being greedy. I just need to balance things like everyone else does.    

Friday, 4 July 2014

Meet the family

Just thought I'd show off the range of Hare toys I've been working on recently. The pattern is now available at Hare's Moon Yarns as are Medici, Archie and Bella.


                                                                Bella, Medici and Archie                                                      


                                                                Florence and Medici