Reviewing 2016 and my 2017 theme

Collage showing nine designs by Nicki Merrall

Easing myself into the New Year

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good rest over the holidays. I feel that I’m starting the year a little late, after lots of illness in December; laryngitis for two weeks, then two fibro flares, and finally a bad cold just in time for New Year’s Eve. So, hopefully, you’ll forgive me for a slow start to 2017. It’s time to think about my 2017 theme!

Working on personal sustainability

This time last year I wrote that I wanted to work on personal sustainability in 2016, to avoid fibro flares or time in “go-slow mode”. So, how did it go?

Mug holding bamboo knitting needles and crochet basket full of mini-balls of cotton yarn

Well, clearly, I’m starting 2017 in “go-slow mode”, but I did manage to avoid the “overactivity-rest cycle” most of the time. For most of the year I wasn’t particularly ill, although I didn’t really feel well either; that strange place in between. I had gastroenteritis in the summer, which was unpleasant, to say the least. I was able to recover on holiday, so I came back feeling fine.

And then there was December! Oh, dear! This was, I suspect, due to overworking in October. I wanted to do a couple of shows in October and November and launch several kits at the shows. I had all the materials, but I needed to type up the patterns, take photographs and work on the layout of the instruction leaflets. And I had a mini-exhibition at one show. As well as working on commissions for magazines. And I agreed to teach a couple of day workshops, as well as my regular teaching at Headway and the Being Knitterly Studio. So, although I slowed down in November, really I just needed to stop. And of course, that wasn’t possible.

What did I do?


I looked at Erin Condren Life planners (see Pinterest). These are really attractive planners that people decorate with stickers, washi tape, and drawings. However, they’re not for me. I don’t want to spend lots of time planning; it’s a means to an end, not a hobby in itself.

Then I discovered across Bullet Journals: the idea is to use one notebook as a structured planning system. Totally customisable. Everything in one place. No more lists on bits of paper. As someone who loves stationery, but dislikes the inflexibility of bound diaries and planners, this really appealed. Bullet Journals can be highly decorated (see Pinterest), however, I’ve taken a more functional approach with mine (I’m using a Leuchtturm 1917, known as Nicki’s dotty book).

Calendar pages from a bullet journal

I’m still modifying how I use my Bullet Journal; I like the way this system is so flexible. I’ve used it to break down long-term planning (Future log) to medium-term planning (monthly task list) to daily planning (daily log) which has enabled me to work on new projects well in advance of deadlines. My monthly memories page allowed me to remember just how many good things happen each month, yes, even in December! My monthly tracker page allows me to monitor how I’m doing with daily activities which contribute to well-being. And I’m keeping track of some social media statistics, so I have a better idea of what works (here’s my most popular blog post from 2016). It didn’t stop me from trying to do too much, and of course, no system works well when overloaded, but it did enable me to meet all deadlines.

Project management

I decided not to use my Bullet Journal for project management. Many of my projects such as pattern designs and workshops have too many stages to write out every time I start a new project. I tried out some apps, starting with Todoist and Wanderlist. Both work well as to-do lists. However, they have shortcomings for project management, especially managing lots of projects. The app that works the best for me is Trello. It is visually appealing, being simple, clean, and as colourful as you want. I have boards for each type of project, a list for each stage, and a card for each project. And, it works for me.

Time management

I’ve also tried the Pomodoro Technique, which is designed to improve time management whilst working. During a “Pomodoro” you work on one task for 25 minutes, then you take a 5-minute break. You do this four times, then take an hour break. The aim is to be more productive, but less tired by the end of the day. You have to understand that I’m someone who will sit and work for hours with no break, so the Pomodoro technique is going against years of a different style of work.  I still need to practise, but I do find it a more enjoyable way of working which keeps my brain fresher and I like to do something in a different room doing the breaks, so I move around more.

What went well?

Collage showing nine designs by Nicki Merrall
  • My therapeutic textiles group at Headway has grown in numbers.
  • Added weaving and rag rug making to my therapeutic textiles repertoire.
  • Launched the Being Knitterly short course programme.
  • My first designs were published in PomPom Quarterly, Knit Today and Simply Knitting.
  • Three more designs were published by The Knitter.
  • Commissioned to knit a fox!
  • Started working with sample knitters for magazine commissions.
  • Learned new skills for Excel, which makes sizing and pattern writing faster.
  • Also learned new skills for Illustrator, which have improved my knit and crochet charts.
  • Wrote a style sheet for Being Knitterly patterns to improve consistency.
  • Self-published Guinevere fingerless mittens as a pattern and kit.
  • Also launched kits for Doodle cafetière cosy, Christmas Robin and Christmas stocking.
  • Had stands at The Big Textile Show and Winter Woollies.
  • And a mini-exhibition at the Big Textile Show.
  • Was invited to be on the Sew Sociable team.
  • Started to use Instagram.
  • Swam 1000 m several times.
  • Built my cycling distance up to nearly 10 miles.

2017 theme is “connect”

I had decided that my 2017 theme would be “resilience”. And then I suddenly thought of a very different theme: “connect”. And the more I thought about things, the more I thought this would be a good idea. I think I need a change from themes that are essentially about managing a chronic health problem. I’ve learnt a lot through working on them, so now I need to consolidate what I’ve learnt, practise what works for me and move on.

Being Knitterly stall at Winter Woollies in 2016

My 2017 theme is about connecting with other people and building worthwhile relationships. Anyone who has a chronic illness, that prevents them from doing the things they used to, will know that over time their world constricts and they see fewer people less often. I want to feel part of society again, and not withdrawn from it. And of course, this is essential for my business. I need to work from home, several days a week, just to help with pacing activities over the week. However, I also need to get out and talk to people, just for my sanity! The difficulty is balancing the two.

One of the reasons I enjoy teaching and going to fibre festivals is because I get to meet lots of interesting people.

I want to connect by …

  • Being better at responding to emails, even if it is just to say that I can’t write a thoughtful reply right now.
  • Running therapeutic textile sessions for more organisations.
  • Running workshops at new venues.
  • Redesign the Being Knitterly website so it is easier for people to use.
  • Improving communication through the Being Knitterly newsletter. Writing a newsletter every two weeks. Offering a freebie to people who sign up. Offering a discount code to newsletter subscribers who have already been on one of my short courses or workshops.
  • Improving the Being Knitterly Facebook page. Last year I tried status updates with a theme for each day; this was popular with followers. I’d like to develop this further, although I’m not sure that I’ll keep the same themes. And, I want to run a competition because my Facebook followers have reached a significant number.
  • Taking part in events and challenges on Instagram, starting with the #myfibrestory.
  • Maybe holding a Being Knitterly event later in the year.

“Connect” is changing my focus from me to others. One thing I’ve learnt since adopting a word for a year, rather than New Year’s resolutions is that this approach is more adaptable and experimental. You don’t know exactly what you’ll try and that is exciting!

So, what word have you chosen for 2017 and why?

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