Ant O' Lilly

Moments of creative bliss happen here


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2013 Reflection and Confession

I feel bad for abandoning this blog, there is so much I have been doing and I feel guilty for not sharing it along the way. I also feel guilty about not making my goal of donating 12 blankets to Project Linus this year.  I have 4. That’s it.

I also feel guilty about not finishing things I start.  An official website.  Publishing a written pattern.  Starting to teach crochet lessons.  There’s so much I wanted to do, but for one reason or another it didn’t happen.

One major life event happened this year: my father in law passed away.  As much as we tried to get there in time to see him before he passed, it just wasn’t in the cards.  This is still impacting us in ways I didn’t expect.  This past week for example, I kept on saying to the kids “Grandma and Grandpa” out of habit.  This is the first Christmas without him, and I felt so bad every time I said Grandpa that I was only reminding them of the pain of losing him.

After my FIL’s passing, much of my attention turned to my kids, and trying to make their lives happier.  No matter how I tried to make my son more comfortable at home with the daycare kids, it wasn’t happening.  The wake up call was when he decided not to eat after school anymore, and started to lose weight.  Deciding to close my daycare had to be one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in a long time.  I love the kids so much, and it felt like I was letting everyone down.

I took on the Farmer’s Market here this year, and am now representing 2 local dairies and their products.  That was something I could have never predicted!  As much as I enjoy it, the dairy is also part of the reason for losing focus on my creations.

All these changes, all this chaos this year… much of it has been for the happiness of the kids.  Some of the consequences of the changes have been hard for me.  Such as replacing the income lost from closing my daycare… but my kids are happier, so that is worth it, right?

As we close out this year, I hope if you have any grievances towards me you can forgive me.  I am not perfect, and I am looking forward to 2014 being filled with much love and understanding for all.


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Learning Curve

Ever looked into Affiliate Marketing? I started to this week. I am reading a book that was talking about monetizing blogs, and it suggested such sites as ClickBank and CJ.com. Who doesn’t want to make a few extra bucks! After signing up for access, I learned that WordPress.com does not allow any ads but their own on here. The only thing they want you linking to is yourself (like your Etsy shop). I can completely understand their position. It keeps the blogs they represent under their banner submitting true content. Not some spam gobbletygook about getting rich quick.

My goal this year is to start to produce crochet patterns for sale. I know I can do that on Ravelry, Craftsy, Etsy… but not here? Hmm… time to look into setting up that website after all.

At this point I have spent much time over this weekend trying to create a webpage using WordPress.org themes. The one on here hasn’t given me any problems, and everything feels familiar and comfortable when using WordPress. The themes for WordPress.org are glitchy in places! This can’t be just me. Or maybe it could be. I am not familiar with all these acronyms they use, or the coding! I think I tried 6 themes, including altering each one, attempting to find the one that will customize the way I want it to!

Deep breath, Barb…. it is all part of the learning process.

Ok… I think the theme has been chosen, I researched some glitches and figured out the fix. It looks like it is starting to pull together. Next task will be creating the pages and content, which may also change some of the content on here.

I guess this is all part of the learning curve, or growing pains of having your own business.

Someone toss me a ball of yarn, my brain is fried with all this new info!

~ Barb

antolilly.wordpress.com // yarn colours


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Robert Bateman did it

A dear friend and I were having a coffee date last night, and I began to tell her how about my recent realization, thanks to a meditation class.

The meditation teacher suggested to me: in order to become more grounded, look at the things in my life that have not been completed. There are lessons to be learned through completing the things we have started, and perhaps when I hit an emotional obstacle with the project, I start something new to avoid feeling the anxiety of the lesson.

WOAH.

At first I was in denial. How can that fit me? I completed over 60 crochet projects last year! I don’t have them unfinished unless I ran out of yarn.

Uh oh. It isn’t about crochet.

Thinking about my Craft Cave, there are two major projects sitting out, overdue, and taunting me when I see them. Torturing me with their unfinished presence, taking up space in my mind and studio.

First, my daughter’s baby album sits there. Not much left to do, but she is now 5 and it was started 4 years ago! Time to just sit down and get it done. It will feel good to have that space back. The funny thing is we are always making more memories every day! There are always more albums to make! SIGH… Perhaps I need to take time to rediscover the love of the memories and rekindle the importance of telling our stories for future generations. Perhaps I don’t need so much detail and simply telling the story is enough (even though embellishment is the fun part).

The second type of unfinished projects is everything art. Specifically, a painting of 2 French bulldogs that I had started over a year ago. I asked myself: why is this making me anxious when I think about working on it? Why am I avoiding it when I really enjoyed doing it?

Deep breath. This goes in deep and way back.

On the surface I am worried about spending too much time on it as the person told me not to do too much (I think she meant it as a way to help me get it done). This conflicts me. Second, I worry about it feeling like I won’t see the value of it if I make it to what I would like. I have also disappointed her and myself by once again not finishing a painting. Anxiety is written all over this one!

Why am I doing this to myself???? I have had problems completing art since high school. Why???Blank Canvas

Problem one: I want to make things detailed because I see the detail. If I can make things as close to realistic as possible, isn’t that a good test of my skills?

Problem two: anxiety with a side of perfectionism is not healthy!

Ah, but photo-realistic detail takes patience, a fine brush, and much more time. This meant that throughout high school I struggled. I failed myself and my teachers to meet deadlines as there was still more to do in my mind. Sometimes backgrounds were rushed or not given love because time was up. Some projects were never finished because I couldn’t handle a bad mark on something that didn’t represent my best abilities. I would rather have taken a zero instead of a mediocre passing mark.

Where did this belief that photo-like painting was true art come from? I had been exposed to many art galleries, learned the history of art, and knew that this was only one style.

It turns out that when I was in grade 7 and 8, right when teachers would ask what career we want when we grow up (it was between artist and vet for me), Robert Bateman was very popular! Loving animals, and amazed that someone could paint them so realistically with feeling, made me want to be just like him! I wanted to do what he did!

 

Ah ha! So this desire to be so detailed came from an admiration of Robert Bateman during an impressionable age.

Telling my dear friend all this, her eyes lit up, and she spoke in agreement. She feels the same way about art, struggled to finish her projects too, and deeply admired Robert Bateman at the same age! She shared her beautiful works with me, and we agreed that deadlines on art must be the toughest thing for us as we see so much more potential in the painting. It is frustrating and disappointing for us to rush for the sake of finishing. We agreed there is something magical about being lost in the creation of your art. Staying in there means anything is possible, but once interrupted it was hard to get back in the groove.

And then we agreed Robert Bateman did it.

He inspired us. He opened our eyes as to what could be done. He had given us an unconscious understanding of the potential within us. If only our childhood curriculum had allowed for less homework and no art deadlines, I wonder what this focus would have allowed us to develop in our early teens?

Back to reality. I should visit that Craft Cave today. Take inventory of my unfinished objects, and start learning from them. I think I will get the baby album done first. ♥

~ Barb

 


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Brilliant Star

Today is a wonderful day. Tomorrow will be too! Then Friday will also be awesome! I am so giddy and excited, that it is hard to think straight to explain myself properly. Perhaps if I start at the beginning…

Last year when I challenged myself to learn something new, I picked up a crochet hook, a couple of skeins of yarn and intensely watched videos on You Tube explaining the very basic beginnings of crochet. It was tricky at first, but there was something very enjoyable about this new mental and dexterous challenge.  The first thing I made was a scarf for a Barbie (AKA a sample of a single crochet stitch).

Each stitch I learned grew and grew the desire to learn more (and I am still completely driven to try all the stitches at some point).

Wanting to make something special for the Children’s Class we’re a part of, a motif blossomed into a 9 pointed star prayer circle. The idea was that each class we would lay it in the center of the group. The theme of the class inspired the creation of a bead to match the topic. Each class the kids could look back at what had been sewn on, and remember the lessons they have learned.

antolilly.wordpress.com ~ prayer circle

Only it didn’t come out quite like I pictured it. I knew very little about joining and expansion of a circle (or ripple for that matter) and made it up as I went, just to see it done. The end result was a little wonky with a wavy edge instead of clear points, but I loved it anyway as the intention was simply to try it – not for the pursuit of perfection.

The surprise to me was that this star was loved! The children would ask what bead they were getting, and remembered very well what each previous one was for. Maybe there is something to this idea…

In the fall I had a request from one of the families that attend the classes. She wanted to have some made for gifts to be given at Ayyam-i-Ha (which starts today). Maybe this is the divine push I needed, because it launched me into the desire to create a pattern for it that actually lays flat and can be enjoyed. Oh what a wonderful gift she gave me by asking me this! I have been holding in the pictures of my star rugs for awhile now, and have been so eager to start sharing, that it is bursting!

But today is the day! Today is Ayyam-i-Ha, and these rugs were inspired by the thought of giving! Not only am I excited about the ones I have made, but the ability to make more in so many colour possibilities.

Presenting… the Brilliant Star #9 Rugs

I feel like this is the path. Like this is what I am meant to do. To create with love and meaning. It feels awesome, and all because of love, a hook and a ball of yarn.

The even better part? I am launching my Etsy shop this week at antolilly.etsy.com! I keep saying Friday, but part of me says go ahead and do it now. But I will wait!

Friday will be a wonderful day!

Wishing love, light and happiness to all,

~ Barb


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Sparkling Squares Baby Blanket

After learning from the last blanket that the amount of yarn needed can change depending on the stitch, I tried the Box Stitch suggested on the Project Linus page. This turned out to be much better! The only challenge I had was in setting up the foundation chain and first row. If I made the chain too tight, it didn’t allow the first row to stretch like the rest of them would. Making the chain loose wasn’t working either. Instead I chose to skip 4 stitches when making Row 1 (instead of the 3 it called for). This seemed to give it more flex. Still not the same as the rest of the blanket, but definitely better.

antolilly.wordpress.com ~ Sparkling Squares Baby Blanket

This blanket made use of 4 skeins of Bernat Baby Coordinates from my stash, and I still have some left over. Yay! No running out this time. I am a little surprised that my daughter didn’t grab this one, as she had seen it at the same time as the other one. I think I am loving this blanket a little too much though. It is going to be hard to give away, but I am glad it turned out as well as it did. I am tempted  to do this one again since it is pretty easy, but there are so many more stitches waiting to tried!

A little note about this yarn: if you haven’t worked with it before, be warned – there is a little silver thread that makes it oh-so-pretty, but loves to catch on your hook. Starting off slow will help you get used to putting your hook in without splitting the yarn. Some people curse this stuff, but I love how it looks and feels so having a handful of patience helps me use it.

~ Barb


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Project Linus Oops

Ever start off with a skein of yarn and think you have enough? I do all the time. It is comically amusing how often I run out right before the last row or square. Of course most of the time I am making something up so I only have myself to blame. I admit that part of the charm is seeing how big a blanket can get before the string is gone!

That happened with my first Project Linus blanket. The local chapter co-ordinator gave me the minimum and maximum dimensions for blankets, so all I had to do was get to the minimum 30×30. Easy, I thought! Not much yarn at all!

I chose this stitch from New Stitch A Day.

The Wattle Stitch has no big holes or loops for little fingers and IV lines to get caught in. The yarn I chose is synthetic so it can be washed easily, and is allergy free.

I did enough chains for my foundation row so that I had more than 30″ worth. Oops #1.

After a few rows it became clear that this stitch shrinks the length of the chain. A LOT. Thinking it was no big deal, I kept going as I could always do a second colour around the outside to frame it.

antolilly.wordpress.com ~ Project Linus Oops!

2 skeins of Bernat Baby Coordinates later, and it is still too small to donate! I had no idea when I began this blanket that the Wattle Stitch would eat up so much yarn in the dimensions.

On the other hand, there is the accidental discovery of a stitch to use if I ever want something to have a bit of stretch and shaping. I can see this working for a sweater to help it not be so boxy. It springs back to shape, but doesn’t relax or go too thin. At least that is my impression! There are so many other stitches I haven’t tried yet, and it could be this stitch may have a different effect with a non-acrylic yarn.

I planned on setting this aside, and waiting until I had some spare money to buy more yarn to complete it. However when I took it out to take photos, Lilly spotted it and fell in love. Oops #2.

“How come I don’t have a blanket Mommy? Can I have this one?” she asked.

antolilly.wordpress.com ~ Project Linus Oops!

She wasn’t a NICU baby so she didn’t have a PL baby blankie of her own (like her brother). She made it clear this was important to her. How can I refuse? The bonus is she likes it the way it is. I don’t need to get more yarn! Now at night she drapes it on top of her pillow, or just below her chin. She is feeling the love from it and it brings out smiles in both of us, so I guess her seeing it wasn’t a mistake after all. Just meant to be.

Sorry Project Linus, this one didn’t make it, but I know there will be more coming for the kids soon!

~ Barb


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Project Linus Did This

Towards the end of 2012, I got in contact with my local chapter co-ordinator for Project Linus. Now that I finally have an ability to make a blanket, it is important to me to use that skill to give back.

You see, this charity has a special meaning to me and my family….

antolilly.wordpress.com ~ Project Linus Oops

This is my son. My first born, my first scare.

He unexpectedly joined us in this world exactly one month before his due date (I didn’t even pack a bag because I thought there was no way I was in labour). He was a healthy weight, but his little lungs were just not ready for this world. We went through the incredible emotional roller coaster of being NICU parents and having to look at our fragile child writhe on a heated platform with tubes everywhere.

I couldn’t even hold him.

The first three days were the toughest. I was jealous of the moms that got to hold their babies, and of the ones that got to take theirs home. We stressfully watched the monitor to see if his oxygen saturation stats went down, and learned that we didn’t need to yell for a nurse when it started beeping (but we still anxiously waited in the drawn out moment for her to come).

I didn’t even take a picture. I thought it would be too painful to remember him with all those tubes in.

After the third day he was able to be taken off the CPAP and put into an isolette with oxygen. What a relief! He seemed more at peace not having that thing forcing air up his nose all the time. About this time, the nurse pulled us aside and said “I have something for you. Come in here and you can pick one out.”

I didn’t know what she meant, but we followed. Inside a storage closet was probably 30 bags of handmade blankets! All sorts of colours, styles, and patterns. I think my jaw dropped as I didn’t know what to say or think. Someone – many someones?? – had decided to spend their free time to create these things just for the NICU babies??? I just used my free time to watch TV and do cross stitch back then!

We were in awe at the heartfelt sentiment of this gift, and I don’t think that I can properly explain how this little blanket gave us the lift we needed that day. We felt really blessed in that moment. Not just because of the blanket, but also because of the nurses, the presence of our son and the little miracles in each day.

antolilly.wordpress.com ~ Project Linus Did It

After a few steps forward and one step back, he grew strong enough to be able to go home at 2 weeks old.

This blanket, and the kindness we experienced, will never be forgotten ♥

Thank you Project Linus!

Now it is my turn to give back. My goal is to have one blanket a month for donation this year, and I’m off to a pretty good start. Next post I’ll share what has been made, if my daughter doesn’t claim them first. She’s feeling a little left out that she doesn’t have a special blankie (she had a nice and easy, healthy delivery so no NICU blanket for her).

 

Do you or your kids have a special handmade blanket? Does it have a story too? I’d love to hear it or how anyone else has been affected by Project Linus blankets.

~ Barb


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There’s a name for this blanket now!

Finally!

There were so many wonderful suggestions, and I loved all of them for different reasons. The final decision came down to wanting to give it a spiritual name. Something related to a Baha’i children’s prayer seemed more suitable, and closer to the inspiration behind it.

Tonight I sat down and read through a few prayers looking for the one that would pop out, and still suit the blanket. It was hard to choose! There are many referring to pearls, showers, and flowers but nothing about umbrellas or sea urchins. One I particularly liked said ‘the rays of one sun”. Originally I was thinking about sunshine when making it, but I agree it looks a lot like an umbrella too!

antolilly.wordpress.com ~ Name this blanket!

Showers Of Thy Bounty ~ Baby Blanket

Here is the prayer that will accompany this blanket:

“O God! Rear this little babe in the bosom of Thy love, and give it milk from the breast of Thy providence. Cultivate this fresh plant in the rose garden of Thy love and aid it to grow through the showers of Thy bounty. Make it a child of the kingdom, and lead it to Thy heavenly realm. Thou art powerful and kind, and Thou art the Bestower, the Generous, the Lord of surpassing bounty.”  - ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Showers Of Thy Bounty seems to fit, no? It may not be a mass-appealing name, but it is the name that embraces the spirit in making it. I was going to call it Showers of Love, but it felt like I was being dishonest to myself about the source of inspiration.

Next step will be to try it again, and improve it! One day I hope to have this pattern available on my Etsy shop.

~ Barb


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There’s a Big Shot at my door!

It looked like my order of yarn from Herrschner’s for the star rugs had arrived yesterday.  Unfortunately, my daughter was quite sick and it was soon forgotten about.  We visited the doctor last night and discovered she has her first case of strep throat.  Poor girl!  Thankfully, she is much better this morning, and we can relax again.

Back to this big box!  I admit, ordering on-line often results in me feeling like I’m getting presents when they arrive.  Even though I know what is in it, I experience the anticipation of opening, seeing and touching the items for the first time.  I am a little anxious to get going on these rugs too, so I was happy to get the box before the weekend.

…It isn’t my yarn. GAH!!

OH! It is a present!! That is awesome too!

Turns out my Valentine’s present has arrived early!  Thank you Mike!  I am going to love trying out my new toy!!  I am impressed with how fast it was delivered from Jo-Ann’s in the US to Canada (especially considering he had ordered it after I ordered my yarn).  It was also much cheaper to order it there (compared to current Canadian deals), so we are very happy with that on-line experience so far.

20130202-121239.jpg

This is my first die cutting machine, and I am looking forward to the experience.  The main reason I asked for this one is because of the positive reviews I have read.  Sizzix also makes dies that are capable of cutting cork, felt, chipboard and other thin materials beyond paper.  It opens up a lot of possibilities for multimedia crafting!  Now I just need some dies for it.  Hmm… that is something else I can add to my wish list.

Now where is that yarn order?!

~ Barb

The stress I feel when choosing.

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Let’s face it. Sometimes the privilege of choice feels more like a burden.

In the past I have chosen things unwisely. Going shopping when upset, eating when bored, or making a big step without much thought are a few examples. I have allowed my emotions to sway my choices on spending or saving, action or inaction.

Perhaps this is because I am not a robot? Or a Vulcan?

Nevermind, perhaps it is a good thing. I have learned from those choices more than if someone had done it for me, but it feels like my soul carries the weight from each stressful choice or result from the choice!

Today it feels as though I am at a point in my life where I am starting to see responsibility in a different way. I am starting to budget better by counting out the dollars I have left after bills to know what could be spent. I even started a wish list so I can weigh out which items are a priority in my life, and not go get them all at once (and creating more debt). I even promised myself to no longer purchase yarn that doesn’t have an immediate use. No more stash building! Oops… I think I broke that one once already.

The Choice:

February held such hope in my head to be able to experience a little more this month. I hoped to have enough extra cash to take that meditation class, sign up the kids for a sport and maybe get some yarn! Oh wait, scratch the yarn. Still forgetting to not stash-build!

Then it hit me… If I keep spending the extra, I will not pay off my debt for a long time. The responsible thing to do would be to put all the extra aside. Keep it for an emergency. Pay off some bills. Sacrifice fun for now.

Hmmmm…
But it matters to me that the kids can experience sports or hobbies they enjoy. Swimming is a life skill, right? So is it more important to pay for that then pay off debt?

But I have been told I need to take care of me. My husband tells me that I should get massages more often (meaning more than once every 2 years), and take the time to relax. Wouldn’t this meditation class help me take care of me?

There are other things on my business wish list too, but it can be hard at times to choose to spend. For example, I want to move forward with ordering product labels to help brand what I make for sale. Is this a priority?

The lesson I am trying to learn is to live within my (business and personal) means. It is hard to do when such grand ideas come to mind! Even harder when seeing the world move and grow their businesses at such a fast pace! How do they do it without debt?!
I am hoping this months choices prove to be good ones. If they are not, think I can get a refund?

If you’re into psychology, play this TED Talk by Barry Schwartz. It is a great one about the experience of choice, and let me know what you think. I love a philisophical discussion to get the brain going. One of my favourite parts is when he talks about the crippling effect too much choice has on us! I can think of several instances in the last year where having too much choice, and not enough expertise on my part, has caused me to set it aside and forget about it.

So what do you think? How do you make choosing less stressful?

Barb

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