Thinking Outside the Blog Post

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about blogging over the past while. I love blogging, but when I’m pushed to choose a niche (or “focus” as the cool kids are calling it these days) I hesitate.

What is it about blogging I love? Also, what do I want to write about?

What I do know is I need to focus a little so now comes the hard part.

What kind of blogger do I want to be?

What kind of blogger do I want to be?

In December I had an assignment to write a post about DIY boot cuffs. I pitched the topic because I had designed a crazy-cool knitting pattern and it was going over really well. And it would have been fine. But then I got thinking…I can do better.

Thinking Outside the Blog Post

Because I’ve spent months wrestling with the idea of blogging and where I want it to take me in my career I am starting to think outside the blog post. And in this case I realized boot cuffs could be so much more than a simple post—they could be the start of a new adventure.

(Was that a little dramatic? It felt a bit dramatic.)

Here’s what I did. I had a lot more ideas but decided to start slow since this is all new to me.

It was kind of a five-step plan. I made it faux-arty in case you’re the visual type.

Thinking Outside the Blog Post

(Like this plan? Download a copy for yourself)

Thinking outside the blog post five-part plan

  1. Part 1: Plan post. OK, this step should happen inside the blog post as well but the way I thought about it was a bit different. Instead of focusing on the literal pitch (hey, I made up a cool pattern for boot cuffs so I should write about it) I thought about the audience. What about boot cuffs would make them excited? Would they like some options? What if they’re not knitters, can I expand this concept to be more inclusive? With these questions my post began to take on its own life.
  2. Part 2: Set up complimentary resources. I thought about whether this word should be “complementary” but I think I’ve chosen the right one. This is where creativity struck. In the past when I’ve posted a tutorial I’ve just laid it all in the post. But wait a second. I put a lot of work into this pattern and these tutorials. And they’re just going to live in this one place forever? Say it isn’t so! There must be a better way! I decided I could also make a free pattern and add it to Ravelry. By creating a free download my pattern could outlive my blog post. As well adding a pattern to a site such as Ravelry adds some legitimacy to it. An added bonus was by doing this I could track the number of downloads, which I couldn’t do in the blog post. For future posts I can see the value in creating a resource alongside the post…in fact it opens my mind to a world of possibilities, even monetary ones!
  3. Part 3: Post teasers on social media channels. This is an area I need to improve. I knew I was writing this post, so why keep it all to myself? Once the work was done I began posting teasers for the post—hey guys, I get to write about my boot cuffs for UsedEverywhere. Awesome, right? Because it was awesome. There’s no reason to keep it a secret. What else I loved was in the month between writing my post and it being published I could promote my knitting pattern and saw a couple hundred downloads before my post even went live!
  4. Part 4: Once post is live, promote, promote, promote. When my blogs publish I try to remember to tell people. Once. But the thing about social media is you have to keep reminding people you exist. Once isn’t enough any more. So this time I posted it everywhere relevant. Facebook, my knitting page on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and over again. And for my efforts I got some shares. They were encouraging. Not viral maybe but pretty good for my first go-round.
  5. Part 5: Track stats like a boss. Well I’ve already mentioned I tracked my pattern downloads and my social shares. And I heard from the site owners that my post was tracking to be the most popular of the year (although it could have been a joke since my post was Jan. 2…). I’ll have to keep that in mind and remember to promote it throughout the year. Because why would boot cuffs go out of style? Oh. Well maybe they’re not so suitable for summer. But autumn is right around the corner!

Before this post my focus has been on the words. And while this is good (words are important) there is a lot more I can do to help people see the words. By planning for my readers to adding value to spreading the word…all I’m doing is setting myself up for success. So there we go! Blogging breakthrough!

Felt Flowers and Kids Hat for Under $5

My friend asked if I would make her two-year-old daughter a cute little kids hat with a flower on the side. Of course I said I would. I knew what she was thinking of because she had shown me an infant-sized crochet hat a few weeks ago.

DIY Kids Hat and Felt Flower

Problem is I don’t crochet. And another problem, I don’t really like making flowers. I think they take too long for what you get for it (I really am a lazy knitter) and can be frustrating if you’re trying to make it just so. I suppose that’s why people crochet. It’s easy, quick, and flowers come together quickly and painlessly.

However, I wasn’t going to learn how to crochet just for this project (no offence).

So, my friend chose the hat colours from my stash yarn and I went shopping for felt. I found the colours I needed at the Dollar Store and each sheet was only $0.41. Good deal. So, since I purchased three sheets it cost just about $1.25. Now, if you don’t want to bother with the cutting and pasting of felt, you can also pick up pre-made felt flowers at a Dollar Store for about the same price. The ones I saw came in a pack of six. The upside is they’re all put together nicely. The downside is you can’t choose the colours.

For the kids hat I followed my simple (and free!) knitted toque pattern and made it a bit of a smaller size.

Since I’m challenging myself this month I opted for the felt sheets (although I was certainly tempted by the pre-mades). Here’s what I did to make the felt flowers:

  • I used cardboard stencils to trace the flowers, then I cut a slightly smaller one to sit on top
  • I used buttons I had already. I decided on buttons because Julia’s daughter seems to really like them
  • I affixed all the pieces together using spray adhesive mostly because I already had it on hand. My mom told me you can probably use plain old white glue and achieve the same results. Whatever you use, give it lots of time to dry
  • I thought it would be really fun to have multiple flowers to switch on to different hats, or on jackets, etc. Therefore, I opted not to sew them on the hat
  • I did look around to see what sort of fasteners there are but they’re either too finicky or too expensive for this project. So, I improvised again and used some safety pins I had on hand

I think they turned out really cute and I can’t wait to see how the hat looks on a real kid’s head (not just my light fixture)!

Tools required:

  • Scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • Glue
  • Felt sheets
  • Beads, buttons, etc. for embellishment

Cost: Way, way under $5. Also, you certainly don’t need to stick to flowers you are free to use any shape you think you can draw! I’ve also wondered if cookie cutters are strong enough to cut through felt (a future project maybe?) because that would sure save time and would ensure accuracy!

My friend asked if I would make her two-year-old daughter a cute little kids hat with a flower on the side. Of course I said I would. I knew what she was thinking of because she had shown me an infant-sized crochet hat a few weeks ago.

I don’t know if you noticed but my flowers are a little on the lop-sided. I used googly eyes on the worst one to deflect attention from my shoddy craftsmanship.

The kids hat is cute thought! And I got the sizing right for once!

White Swan imitation scarf for $5 (fail)

I set out to create a White Swan scarf for under $5. But then I realized I hate making scarves because they take so long. So I upgraded the challenge: I became convinced I needed to not only create a $5 scarf but one that took, like, five minutes to make as well.

White Swan knitted scarf

White Swan Imitation Scarf

I found a fancy looking scarf called White Swan. It’s the same scarf Natalie Portman wore in Black Swan apparently.

So I looked around for the yarn and then I realized I didn’t have large enough needles so I had to go shopping. The thrift store didn’t have what I needed so I got some on clearance at the craft store—$4.99. Then I looked for the yarn.

I couldn’t find it anywhere in town but I did find it online. Turns out the yarn this pattern calls for is actually really expensive (which is why the scarf looks so nice I guess).

Since I had already spent my $5 on new knitting needles I went to my stash yarn (stuff just sitting around). I found some that kind of seemed like the pattern wool (called Festival!) so I gave it a go.

So I’m not 100% sure I used 50 grams of wool or not, but it was probably close. Unfortunately I ran out before I could make the fringe and I’m devastated about it. Devastated! The huge fringe absolutely makes the scarf (IMO) and since mine doesn’t have one, I think I hate it.

It’s unfinished! And my budget is maxed! And also the yarn seems too fuzzy.

Here are my conclusions:

  • If you want the scarf to look like Natalie’s, well, you should spend more than $5 and purchase the Festival yarn. Maybe get two balls for good measure
  • If you want a $5 scarf then you should get some big knitting needles, download the free knitting pattern, and make it with $5 fashion wool or whatever. I think you can get the feathery stuff at the Dollar Store for a buck.

I could see how someone would enjoy this scarf but I don’t think it’s for me. Kind of a fail project, but definitely a quick and easy pattern.

I set out to create a White Swan scarf for under $5. But then I realized I hate making scarves because they take so long. So I upgraded the challenge: I became convinced I needed to not only create a $5 scarf but one that took, like, five minutes to make as well.

More knitting patterns and inspiration

DIY Christmas Morning Mug Huggers

Mug Huggers. These are THE BEST GIFT! Whether you’re stuck for a gift or strapped for cash or want to create something beautiful and useful as a gift, you will love this quick and easy tutorial.

Mug Huggers Tutorial

Before the mug huggers tutorial you must know the story behind it

When I become fixed on an idea I tend to.

  1. Talk about it a lot
  2. Research it a lot
  3. Read a lot of books and/or blogs

During my last fixation, I even took a budgeting course. That was new for me. Actually, no it wasn’t. Nevermind. I forgot I went to French Camp one semester and was immersed for five weeks straight in the middle of Quebec.

Right. So this last round of obsessed researching follows exactly the same patterns I usually get into. So this intro was basically for naught.

My point: on my latest quest/obsession/fixation/project I stumbled upon an interesting blog. I read a few posts and figured I’d keep an eye on it to see if anything useful popped up. And when I saw this one I thought, Yeah! Gifts in a jar for under $15!

But then I read the post (actually, I skimmed it) and thought…I can do better.

Mug Huggers

Here’s how you can make Christmas Morning Mug Huggers too

  1. Acquire mugs from anywhere but a store if you can help it
    • I recommend grandparents, friends of friends, or your local workplace
    • Don’t steal
    • Go through your stash yarn (or fabric, ribbon, etc.) and find some good colour combos to go with your new-to-you mugs
  2. Find a great pattern and get crafty
    • My pattern is pretty straightforward: Thirty stitches for 30 rows, then add a border
    • Also find some buttons
  3. For my project I tried to scavenge from old purses and my meagre collection but resorted to purchasing a bag of about 100 buttons from a thrift store for $2.99
  4. Find little gift baggies
    • You could definitely sew them—hand stitch even
    • I found mine pre-made at a dollar store for $0.75 each
  5. Collect little packets of hot chocolate and sample sized Bailey’s, or whatever type of hot drinks strike your fancy
    • I have a large tin of Starbucks hot chocolate and I divided it up into single portions, and I found sample-sized Bailey’s for $3.99 each
    • You could also pick up some single-sized instant coffees or teas
  6. Put it all together and voila! A lovely way to welcome Christmas morning, so long as the recipient has access to hot water

I suppose the good that came from the whole “Gifts in a jar” thing is it unlocked some sort of permissions inside my mind, which didn’t seem to think homemade gifts were appropriate. I know, right? But all I can ever think about for homemade is knitting and I didn’t want to knit all my gifts.

(OK we all know that’s not true.)

My compromise was to only knit part of the gift. And I think it worked out alright.

Mug Huggers

When I decided this was the direction to go, it was pretty exciting. I didn’t want to spend much (most of my friends are officially skipping Christmas, so really I was just trying to create a special token) and now I had direction.

Oh, and I’m completely aware that I’m spoiling the surprise.

…or am I?

Now the surprise will be who gets my Christmas Morning Mug Huggers!
I stumbled upon an interesting blog about gifts in a jar. And I thought, I can do better. Here's how you can make arbyn's Christmas morning mug huggers too.

Other quick and easy DIY gifts

Frame Style Earring Holder

Update: I’ve linked some awesome free earring holder patterns below in case you want to make this project yourself. It’s such a quick knit (or crochet!) and I know you’ll get a lot of use from it. Also makes a great gift!

Knitted Earring Holder Pattern

A while ago I was encouraged to try a mixed media knitting project. I can’t remember where the pattern is exactly (on one of Kinneyland’s free pattern sites, no doubt) but the concept is so simple anyone who knows a lace stitch can do it. And a knit stitch. And owns a stapler.

At any rate, I made a nifty homemade frame-style earring holder from an wood picture frame, some yarn, and staples. I love it.

I love it so much I decided to make a second one for a friend. Once when she was at my place she complimented a colourway of stash yarn I had just lying around and then when she was moving I spotted a photo frame with some ribbon on her window sill and snatched it. She was using the ribbon to hang her earrings from and I thought…we can do better than that.

It’s going to be a grand surprise (hopefully) when I give it to her in a couple weeks. It’s not like I’m holding it hostage—she’s out of town.

If you’re feeling crafty and want a rewarding one-hour project to keep your hands busy give this one a try. Just remember your work needs to stretch tight so cast on 20 less stitches than you think you need (I used 30 for the teal frame and 20 for the rust one). Make sure you have your frame first, then work until your piece measures about halfway without stretching. Then staple around and voila!

Here are some awesome free earring holder patterns below in case you want to make this project yourself. It's such a quick knit (or crochet!) and I know you'll get a lot of use from it. Also makes a great gift!

Free Earring Holder Patterns

And if you want another quick knit, try this simple knitted headband pattern.