"The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away." David Viscott

Friday, December 30, 2011


All crochet endeavors have been temporarily put on hold until after the move to our new home is complete.  It is worth pointing out that not having a project on hand to pick up during downtime is quite stressful!

The reason I don't have a project out is that I do not want it to get dirty or lost.  In an environment where everything that can be thrown into a box is, I can just picture a project being found weeks from now!  Also, a lot of dust and dirt manages to find it's way on your hands, which I do not want to be transferred to yarn.

The new house has a perfect location for both spinning and crocheting.  I anticipate getting a lot of work done once the move is complete and I have my work area set up the way I want it to be.

Things too large for a box, or that I don't want to go into the moving truck, have found their way into my Jeep.  My spinning wheel and swift are 2 items that pop into mind.  As much as I would have liked my yarn in the Jeep as well, as it is in bags and soft, it is being used as filler so the contents of the truck don't move around too much.

Right now I have to get back to packing.  Time for the computer and printer to find their way into my Jeep.  Fingers crossed, the next post will be from the new house!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Better Late Than Never

When my sister-in-law was planning a celebration for her parents 50th wedding anniversary, I started planning an afghan.  I wanted it to be big enough to cover their bed, which is a huge double full size.  Little did I know it would take almost 2 years to complete.

My father-in-law is blamed with spoiling the celebration party that was planned, as he opted to take his wife on vacation during the same week.  All plans for the party were called off, and the anniversary date slipped quietly by.  They did not want a big party.

I therefore took my time with the afghan to make sure every detail was perfect.  I gave it to them as a Christmas present, 2 years late, and yes, it did fit the bed!  The hardest part was convincing my mother-in-law not to put it away to "keep it nice!"

It's made entirely of Red Heart Super Saver, so it is in fact machine washable.  I prefer to make afghans out of acrylic for that simple fact - hand washing an afghan is torturous!

I made it in 13 separate portable pieces, then joined it with sc under both loops of both pieces to add to the texture.  I still have the graphs and design, as I figured someday I can make it an e-book for a totally customizable wedding/anniversary gift.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crochet with Silk

I have finally figured out a way to remember which silk I like to crochet with.  Mulberry silk is the soft, shiny, beautiful stuff that is wonderful, although a bit slippery, to work with.  By mentally associating the other kind, tussah, with the word 'tough' (which it isn't, but it works in my mind) I remember that is not the one I want.

Tussah silk is soft and pretty, but does not have that sheen associated with silk items.  Although it drapes well, it looks rather dull.  Mulberry, on the other hand, is the stuff that wedding dresses are made of.  Which is exactly why I'm researching silk again.


I have been asked to crochet a wedding dress, and I want to use Mulberry silk.  Expensive, yes, but worth it.  The problem I have been running into is that most of the Mulberry I have found online is either mixed with something else or not white.  I was corresponding with a person on Etsy who sells Mulberry, and even though she is willing to dye it, she will not bleach it to make white.  I have to wonder if it somehow hurts the fiber.  More research is required.

Meanwhile, I plan to ask the bride-to-be if the natural off white/ ecru coloring of Mulberry silk is OK to use.  The work on this dress will be starting in earnest after Christmas for the August wedding.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Family Rule

In our family we have a rule:  no one can buy anything for themselves within 30 days of a holiday, birthday, or special event.  As it's December 8th, my husband raised an eyebrow when I told him I had to go to the yarn shop.  I had determined I wanted to make something special for someone on my list, but needed a specific yarn to do it. I also needed yarn needles to do finish work, as mine have mysteriously disappeared.

That being said, I swung by a local yarn store.  I thought for sure they would have Classic Elite's Alpaca Sox!  They have a huge sock yarn section, and I know for a fact they carry Classic Elite yarn.  The owner wasn't there, and the girl that was tried ever so hard to find it for me.  I ended up leaving my name and phone number to see if it could be ordered as I had been there for a half an hour and my husband was waiting out in the car.

He actually came in the store at one point and found a button that will be my future avatar!  He purchased the button and the yarn needles and went out to the car to wait.  The girl watching the store told me at the checkout that I had "a lot of restraint" for not purchasing any of the other luxurious yarns that were there.  I quickly told her about the family rule and left.

On the way home, my husband demanded an explanation - how was it that I could buy yarn and not break the family rule?  I told him I needed that yarn in order to make a gift.  He grumbled, "It sounds like a loop hole to me!"  He really didn't have anything to grumble about - after all, I didn't bring home a substitute yarn!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Crochet Christmas Gifts

Crocheting Christmas gifts is a great way to show the recipient you care enough to devote your time and talent to them.  At this point, with Christmas a mere 3 weeks away, what can you start now and realistically complete in time?  Lots of things!

I like to crochet snowflakes out of size 10 thread to put in cards as teacher gifts.  A set of 6 crochet snowflake ornaments can be made in less than a week, as each takes a little over an hour to make.  Set aside an evening when all your snowflakes have been crocheted to soak in starch and pin out on a blocking board (wax paper over cardboard works great!)  Allow to dry overnight, and you pack them up the next day!

Hats and mittens only take a few hours to make as well, and a set is a wonderful gift.  If you don't know what the recipient's favorite color is, you can always pick the colors of the school they attend, or go with neutrals if they are out in the working world.

Kitchen and bath sets work up quickly as well.  Choose a color scheme and make dishcloths and pot holders - there are lots of free patterns on the web for these!  You can also find quick, easy crochet patterns for bath puffs, soap covers, baskets - almost anything you can think of for a gift of a bath set.

Open work shawls also can be crocheted relatively quickly.  For the man who has everything, crochet a scarf and hat set.  Electronic cozies for such things as cell phones and computer tablets can be made in a single evening.

Use up your stash and work on your gifts during lunch hour, riding the commuter bus, or waiting to see the dentist.  You will be amazed at how much you can get done in a such a small amount of time.  Crochet your holiday gifts, save money, and enjoy yourself!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Craft Fair Crochet Prices

Even though I opted out of vending at the craft fair circuit this year, I still like to visit them to see who is there and what is selling.  This year brought a few surprises.

The Good

There are some very talented crocheters out there.  Nice even stitches and tight seams.  American Girl sweaters, in a variety of  styles, all $25 each.  American Girl afghans, $40 each.   Each sweater was displayed on its own hanger with a couple of inches of space between so they were easy to view.  Because of the popularity of American Girl dolls, as well as the well-made product, and an excellent display, this booth was making a whole lot of sales.

The Bad

Underselling your work is bad for everyone.  One woman had a table so stuffed with merchandise, it was pretty hard to see exactly what she had.  Mittens were marked $2.50, made from acrylic.  Baby afghans, $8.  Layette sets, $10.  I know acrylic is not very expensive, but really?  Is the crafter's time worth nothing?  The table itself did not showcase, nor show very much pride in her work.  From a distance, it looked more like a table at a rummage sale rather than at a craft fair.  She did make a couple of sales, but I'm sure it wasn't enough to pay for the $45 table and a whole day of time.  This is incredibly sad, as her stitches were even and the finishing was spot on.

The Ugly

Another booth by someone who both knit and crocheted had baby sweaters for $18.  That's more reasonable, even though they were made from acrylic.  This crafter showed her pride by having a neat, well laid out table, and displaying the ribbons she won at the country fair.  Hats of various styles were $10.  Okay, the pricing is reasonable.  What made me cringe was a close up view of the work: specifically, the seams.  There were gaping holes where the sleeves had been set into the sweater.  Granted, this screams hand-made, but it also screams poorly made.  What's to stop it from falling apart the very first washing?  I obviously was not the only one to notice this, as many people would take a close look then walk away without saying a word.

The Overpriced

One table was overladen with afghans of all shapes and colors.  I realize a whole lot of work goes into an afghan, but how many people are really going to shell out $250 for one?  Or even $100 for a crib size?  I don't think she made any sales at all.  The table was not very approachable, as it was literally piled with afghans, so high you could not see her sitting in a chair behind it.  There were no signs, no smiles, no friendly chatter.  If you are going to charge prices like that, you need to be extremely engaging to every customer that walks by.

What was selling?  Doll sweaters, doll bedding, and hats.  Baby items usually would get comments about how cute it was, usually followed by "I wonder if so-and-so could make something like that..."  Products made from natural fibers, such as wool and alpaca, sell much better than acrylic and for higher prices.  Alpaca socks were selling for $40 a pair from a very energetic and friendly elderly man.  He would happily tell people how he cared for the alpaca and his wife knit the socks from their wool.  He left at the end of the day with less than half the inventory he arrived with.

That seems to be the key to generating profit from craft fair sales:  sell something that cannot be purchased or even found at one of the big box stores.  Have customers experience the item - the alpaca gentleman would insist that everyone 'just touch it' to feel the softness, and to imagine how comfortable and warm that would keep feet.  People go to craft fairs to find something unique, that perfect gift for the person who has everything.

I would sell out of wool mittens every year, to people who would comment "these are like my grandmother used to make!" and "you can't find wool mittens anywhere anymore!"  They would happily pay the $10 (child) or $12 (adult) per pair, walk away with a smile on their face and go show their friends, who would have to purchase some themselves.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Announcing My New Web Page!

I am excited to announce that I have built a new web page to compliment my Etsy store and have a place where people can order custom work.  Check it out!


Keep in mind that this is still a work in progress.  I realize I have to put up quite a few more pictures of my work - I'm working on that.  Otherwise, what do you think?  I'd love to receive feedback!

Web pages are a terrific way to gain exposure.  I wanted to work on my page building skills on a free site, rather than paying for the opportunity and screwing it up.  I will eventually get my own domain, but for now I'd like to get the basics right.  I therefore opted to use Google Sites, a free site hosting service that allows you the opportunity to have a live web page while learning the ropes.

I want to eventually put up pages on it to sell my own designs, but I haven't figured out the e-commerce part of it yet.  A little more study and a lot more trial and error are required, I think.  But I'll figure it out, I'm sure!  Meanwhile, suggestions are always welcome!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vermont Crochet Designer Creations Is Now Open!

I have finally finished enough of the setup of my Etsy store to officially open!

visit me!
I took my time with this, trying to get everything right.  I found a new book at the library, "How to Sell Your Crafts Online:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Successful Sales on Etsy and Beyond" by Derrick Sutton.  The first few chapters focus on how to get your Etsy shop up and running, advice on keywords and listings, as well as photography (my major weak point!)  I do not have an avatar yet, even though the book promotes and tells you how to make one.  I simply can't decide on what I want it to be!

I'm still going through the second half of the book:  chapters on Google Analytics, various marketing and tracking techniques, shop promotion, etc.  It's taking a while, as after a read a chapter, I try to implement it with my online endeavors.  It seems to be working, too!  One of my other blogs had traffic increased by 300 percent in a single day!

Therefore, I am viewing my Etsy shop as a work in progress.  The items currently listed for sale are items that were made for the craft fairs I opted to skip this year.  They were priced the same as they would have been at the fair.  I plan to add more items as I make them; a much better prospect than throwing them into a bin to store until the next craft fair season.  I may decide to list patterns for sale as well, although I have read warnings from other designers about patterns being "stolen".

One thing is for certain - there is a LOT of work involved diversifying crochet projects and design to earn money with it.  More web presence means more exposure, which will hopefully mean more paid projects.

That being said, I'm off to crochet something!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What a Project!

I had an idea for a booklet with about 10 patterns in it.  I pitched it to a publisher, who 5 weeks later sent the dreaded "thanks but no thanks" letter.  I then sent it to my CGOA mentor, who encouraged me to self publish it.

What a wonderful idea! I thought.  I was clueless about the amount of work I was putting on myself for this.  I didn't know the first thing about self publishing.  This began a great deal of research, which I am still doing.

It turns out that you can sell crochet patterns on Ravelry, Amazon, and Kindle.  Apparently there is a market out there for various ebooks.  You can also sell on Etsy and your own website.  This has opened up an entirely  new world for me to explore!

As I have written and sold patterns before, I think I have that part of the process down.  It takes time - a LOT of time.  I have to jot down pattern notes while I crochet what's in my head.  Then, once the item is complete, I have to translate those notes into a readable pattern.  Then comes the dreaded photo session.  If a good picture is worth a thousand words, then my photos are worth about 3.  Usually someone in  my family will take pity on me and get a few good shots of the item for me.

Formatting is taking me a little bit of time to learn.  As is setting up my own website and Etsy store.  The process is slow, but once done, I won't have to do it again.  This is keeping me motivated, even when frustrated!

Each of the 10 patterns needs to be completed, not just a sketch.  Each pattern needs to be written, each item photographed, introduction text needs to be written, table of contents and cover pages need to be decided upon, online shops need to be set up, formatting needs to be done, and then, once the booklet is finished, it needs to be marketed.  Sheesh!

My goal is to have it all done by March 2012.  I still have to make time to work on Christmas presents!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Combining Yarns

When crocheting winter gloves, I generally use sock yarn or fingering weight wool.  The gauge works out perfectly for the small to medium hand size.  Medium to large, however, requires either thicker weight or a larger hook. 

I had purchased some fingering weight 100% wool at the Yates Farm Yarn sale, but I found that it felt a bit too stiff and scratchy.  Next I tried combining it with lace weight alpaca to soften it up.  It worked like a charm.

By combining the two, I achieved the gauge I needed for medium/large gloves.  Both being natural fibers, the combination should provide the same if not more warmth and still be water resistant.  By using 1 strand of forest green wool with 1 strand of medium brown alpaca, the color combination works wonderfully.  The wool should also keep the alpaca from stretching out of shape.

It is important to learn the various properties associated with different fibers to make a combination that works.  If I had put the wool with cotton, for example, I would not trust that it would retain the water resistant properties.  I could have doubled up the wool, but that would not have softened the finished product at all. 

Combining yarns can be a fun way to get the properties you want out of your finished crochet project.  Trial and error may take some time, but it is well worth the education you will give yourself.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Sting Of Rejection

The Yates Farm Yarn Sale Aftermath - Find The Cats If You Can!

Crochet design definitely has it's ups and downs.  One of the major downs in the rejection letter.  I received 5 of these last month, which naturally caused me to question myself.  What was I doing wrong?

Enter one very helpful mentor.  Anyone interested in becoming a crochet designer should join the CGOA and apply for a mentor.  Without her, I probably would have given up completely.  Instead, I am now looking forward to the next batch of submissions.  

I emailed my mentor, then, at her suggestion, I mailed the rejections to her.  She went through them and identified my weak points.  Then she emailed me a sample of what her submissions look like.  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this particular case that is very true.  One glance at her attachment and everything she had told me over the phone clicked.  I got it.  

I learned that submissions are a lot like resumes - whoever looks at it should find what they are looking for at a glance.  This is something that I have to work on.  Due to the encouragement of my mentor, I am now re-energized and have direction.

Competition among crochet designers is fierce due to the limited number of publishers.  Thus, there are far more rejections than acceptance letters.  I am not alone, and the rejection no way indicates my designs are crap.  I simply need to convey my ideas better. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yates Farm Yarn Sale

Every year, Hilda and Bill Yates open up their farm house to the public for one weekend in October for an all out yarn sale. Located on Vermont route 44 less than a mile from the Ascutney mountain ski area, they are very easy to find.

The Yates operates a farm of a commercial flock of sheep year round. Every year, they send their fleece to Bartlett's to be processed, and receive back hundreds of bags of yarn in many different weights and colors. All of it is 100% wool.

This year, the sport weight skeins are 439 yards, worsted weight are 220 yards, bulky weight 85 yards, and all are about $4 each. You can also find bags of both regular and pencil roving, and cones of sport weight that have over 1700 yards. There are over 20 colors to choose from, all of the same dye lot.

On Saturday morning, Hilda puts a wonderful spread of coffee, cider, and goodies out on the island in the kitchen. There you will find fruit salad, quiche, muffins, coffee cake, and many other things to snack on. People discuss patterns and what they've made from the wool they purchased the previous year. You can sign up to be on the mailing list, where you will get a postcard in the mail a week or two before the next sale.

All in all, it is a wonderful time. I look forward to going every year, and usually get enough yarn to last through until next year. You can find the Yates Farm Yarn sale if you take exit 9 off of I-91 in Vermont, follow the signs to Windsor, and turn onto route 44 at the Cumberland Farms. After several miles you will see the junction of route 44A, but don't turn on it, just use that as a landmark, as it's only a mile or so past that on the right that you will find the Yates Farm yarn sale.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Purple Project

My oldest adores the color purple. Therefore it should be no surprise that when I stock up at a yarn sale, I always make sure I have plenty of purple. My stash is now getting pretty low due to the Purple Project.

You see, my daughter asked me to make her the cape featured on the cover of the Interweave Crochet Winter 2010 edition. No problem! I thought, which, from a purely technical standpoint, it wasn't. The question is, will I finish it in time?

Now that the weather has turned from the nice warm days of summer to the raw windy days of fall, she wants the cape to wear. I remember when her sister was about 2 and I was working on a rainbow afghan. Every couple of minutes, every afternoon as she was running around the living room playing, she would come over to me and ask "done yet?" I'd say no, and she would continue playing. Just as I completed the final stitch, she came over again with her "done yet?", I said "yes". With a huge smile on her face, she bear hugged the afghan, said "mine!!" and ran away with it!

Once again, I'm hearing "are you done yet?" from the more articulate older sister. It's funny how history repeats itself!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blogging and Submissions

When I first started this blog, I thought it would simply be a matter of time organization to continue blogging and working submissions.  I discovered I was wrong.

Getting a submission together can be all encompassing.  There are many details to focus on, and I find that some aspect or other of the current project is always running through my mind.  It may take only 20 minutes to write a blog, but how many stitches of a swatch can be completed in that time?  Once a submission is done and sent in, I feel free to write again. 

I found an interesting thread on Ravelry about this very topic.  It seems that many designers want to share their submission with the world via their blog once the project is completed.  I can identify, as it's a way to decompress and finalize the fact that the submission is done.  Yet most publishers want these submission hidden until they have had the chance to review and choose to publish or not.  Therefore, some designers choose to reveal "hints" in their blogs - type of yarn used, stitch techniques, etc. - without actually revealing what the project was. 

For my own sanity, it's easier for me to submit and forget.  I know it will be a long time before I hear back from the publisher.  Therefore, once the submission is mailed out I start looking for my next project, pushing the previous one from my mind.  It's not easy, after spending as much time on it as I have, but it is necessary to keep looking forward.  Once the submission is in, it is no longer in my control, so I let it go. 

While the ideas are bouncing around in my head for the next submission, I blog. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Crochet Socks Two At A Time

Crochet socks have been my ongoing travel project for several months now.  After running into a variety of issues, I have come up with the solution - crochet socks two at a time!

The first problem I ran into was not having both skeins of yarn in the bag.  Once one sock was finished, I couldn't find the other skein!  When I DID find it, I had misplaced the sock.  This all happened in the midst of my reorganization phase.

Next I tried putting both skeins of yarn into the project bag.  By the time I had completed the first sock, another yarn had caught my attention that I just had to try.  Therefore, another project bag went into the closet.

Now that I have found the perfect yarn for me - Paton's Stretch Sock - I put both the skeins and a little snack size zip lock of miniature safety pins (much less expensive than stitch holders).  I started with the toe of the first sock.  Once the increases were completed, I put a safety pin in where the hook had been to hold the work and started on the toe of the second sock. 

I worked the second sock to the arch increases, then put the safety pin in and worked the first sock past the foot and completed the arch.  Back to the second sock to complete the arch and the heel.  Yesterday I completed the heel of the first sock and started on the cuff.  Once that is done, all I'll have left is the cuff of the second sock and an actual PAIR of sock will be done!

It's hard to say whether this technique has saved any time or not, as I work on it only while waiting for kids and doctors and the like.  Yet it seems to me that this pair of socks worked up quicker than any I've made before.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Keeping Focused

When turmoil and chaos enter your world, it is tough to focus on crochet.  Worry and action take over for the tribulation at hand.  To maintain your sanity, you MUST take time for yourself.

Choose a project that is repetitive and doesn't require much thought.  You don't need to add frustration with your crochet to your already frazzled self!  Allow yourself to get into a rhythm and let your stitching act as a mantra.  Even just a few minutes of crocheting can give you the refreshing break needed to continue with your day.

There is a massive road construction project not far from my home, in which they stop traffic to let only one lane through at a time.  The wait can be anywhere from zero (if you're lucky enough to catch up to the end of the line that's going through) to 45 minutes!  Rather than get all worked up about the possibility of being late, put the car in park and get out your crochet.  I've joked with the traffic control people that I have finished an entire sweater while waiting for them! 

With school starting, winter coming, and Christmas in the foreseeable future, there are many crochet projects that need to be completed.  I'm working on wool coats, hats, mittens, socks, and gifts.  If I were still vending craft fairs, I would also be adding to my inventory.  As a designer, I must keep a sharp eye on the deadlines that occur in this time frame. 

To keep myself from being overwhelmed, I break up my day into 2 hour time slots dedicated to specific projects.  I may have a half a dozen projects going at the same time, but each one is progressing a little each day.  If an appointment falls within a certain time slot, I bring that project with me. 

If you only have a half an hour a day you can squeeze out of your schedule for yourself, spend at least part of it crocheting.  A hat that would take 3 1/2 hours to complete all in one sitting will be done in a week, and you'll begin to look forward to your "crochet time". 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Bamboo Experiment

As I am currently working on designing summer things, I've been working with both cotton and bamboo.  I wanted to know if items made of bamboo yarn would float.  Therefore, I set up the following experiment.

First, I made 3 small (3"x3") swatches: one from size 3 cotton, one from Aunt Lydia's bamboo, and one combining the two.  I placed all 3 in a large bowl of tap water.  The cotton sank almost immediately, followed by the cotton/bamboo approximately 30 seconds later.  Amazingly, the bamboo stayed afloat for over 12 minutes!  It didn't sink until the entire surface area was saturated. 

Next was the stretch test.  I hung all 3 swatches on the clothesline weighted down with a single clothespin and let them dry for 24 hours.  There was absolutely no significant change in size with either the cotton or cotton/bamboo swatches.  The bamboo, however, grew over a centimeter! 

This result backs up the story I heard at the local yarn store.  A woman had knitted a skirt out of 100% bamboo specifically for the store's annual fashion show.  She wore it for the first time the day of the show, where it started to stretch.  At the end of the day, it had lengthened 8 inches!  The skirt had stretched so far out of shape that she needed to cut it and put a zipper in to make it wearable at all. 

It may add a bit to the weight, but I'm thinking that combining mercurized cotton with bamboo is the way to go for garments.  I don't want a crocheted top to end up looking like an over-stretched dress.  I think the bamboo would work great for hats and beach things that may end up in the water. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Severe Weather - Irene

One good thing about bad weather is all the guilt free time available to crochet.  The authorities tell you to stay indoors (at least in my area) and everything is cancelled or closed, so what better way to spend the day? 

Let the rain pour down, and the wind whip through the trees as my crochet hook flies through the project at hand!  My heart goes out to all of those people who were adversely affected by the storm.  My eldest daughter brought home a friend whose road was washed out thus couldn't get home. 

The eye of the storm passed within 30 miles of here, wreaking havoc on the lower elevations.  Several roads are closed due to flooding and washouts.  Schools are closed due to flooding and power outages.  It may be several days before things start to get back to normal.

Thus I choose to look at the bright side - I have more time to crochet!  Every extra hour is a gift I plan to use to create something good out of a bad situation.  Perhaps I can finish something today....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So Much Yarn, So Little Time

As I was going through my stash yesterday trying to match yarn to intended projects, it once again amazed me exactly how much yarn I have.  I know the next few months will put a dent into it, with birthdays and Christmas, but even so, I'll still have yarn left over for future projects. 

This leads me to think of yarn shops.  Ever watch people in one of those?  They scan the colors and read the labels, but mostly they simply feel the yarn.  Yarn is a tremendous form of comfort for those who knit or crochet.  Not only comfort by touch, but simply being surrounded by so much beautiful yarn, so many vibrant colors, touches a crocheter to the very core of their being. 

If I was having a bad day at work, a trip to the local yarn store was in order.  I've answered "are you looking for anything in particular?" with "a little sanity in an insane world!", which usually garners the response of a knowing nod.  Hundreds of skeins neatly ordered in bins or on shelves insulate one from chaos. 

Perhaps this feeling of safety and security is why every avid crocheter and knitter I've ever met has more yarn than they will ever use.  A sensory security blanket, having a stash of yarn simply makes us feel good.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sometimes the Strangest Things Happen

After the fire at our house caused by a window fan, everything ended up "in a box somewhere."  This included all of the projects I had been working on for Christmas gifts.  It didn't matter that the fire had been contained to one room; the entire house had to be packed up so it could be "binned" to get rid of any residual smell.

All of those Christmas projects for last year were finally found this past weekend!  Thankfully, they were all together and in perfect condition.  I now have a little bit of a head start on the holiday season, as most of the projects had been started.  All of them are in various stages of completion.

What astounded me is one project in particular, a pair of slipper boots.  The first boot was complete, the second only needed a couple of dozen rows on the cuff.  For whatever reason, the instructions were not in with the project.  Yet it only took a couple of minutes before I was completing them.  The human brain is amazing in its capacity to remember the smallest of details!  The stitch pattern wasn't difficult, but it wasn't one of the more common ones used either. 

This reinforced my belief that even year old unfinished items can be completed without instructions.  Take just a few moments to study what has already been worked, measure your hook (if it's not with the project) to the last few stitches, and see where it leads to.  You just might finish that project after all!  I know I did!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Warning: Black Does Not Scan Well

Crochet design often presents many frustrations that seem to come out of nowhere.  I ran into one of these roadblocks recently when I designed a crocheted hat.  After spending many hours working on it and its significant amount of detail work, I brought it over to the scanner to start the submission process.  The hat was worked entirely in black simply because that was the first skein in my stash I grabbed of the correct fiber and weight.

That is when I discovered something new.  Black does not scan well.  None of the intricate details I had so painstakingly worked into this design showed up.  This is not lace, but rather texture detail, so no amount of blocking would help.  I tinkered with the scanner settings, to no avail.  After cursing the technology, I had to face facts.

I now was left with 2 choices:  redo the hat in a different color or make the submission by mailing the hat and all other related materials.  Reworking a swatch is not really an option as the shape of the hat is crucial to the design.

It is always helpful to find a way to make a roadblock to work in your favor.  In this particular case, it looks like I will be doing my own pattern testing to see if I can re-create this hat in a different color following my own directions.

I've never had issues scanning surface/textural detail in lighter, more colorful projects.  Now I have learned that black is not a good choice for working samples I plan to scan.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Choosing the Right Yarn - Stretch

One of the many factors when choosing the yarn for a project is how much it will stretch.  It's a shame to make a garment that can only be worn once due to gravity.  It's also quite unnerving when a handbag becomes the size of a tote!

These examples are not exaggerations, but real life lessons learned.  I was in a yarn store yesterday asking about bamboo.  I was told a story of a person who knitted a skirt from it and within 3 hours it had stretched out over an inch.  By the end of the day it was way too big and dragging on the floor!  I must admit that I was amazed.  I had made a project out of a cotton/bamboo blend and couldn't block it at all!  I know that cotton stretches, so I had thought the bamboo was responsible for the rigidity. 

The lady at the yarn store recommended Merino because even though it does stretch some, the fibers tend to bounce back when washed.  I don't want wool to make a summer hat.  Therefore, I've decided it's time to do a little experimentation. 

I purchased Aunt Lydia's bamboo and size 3 crochet cotton.  I plan to make a swatch of each individually, as well as a swatch of the two combined.  I want to see how much "growth" will occur.  It's a good thing to know before investing hours on a project.  It's also another example of why making a swatch is so important!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Changing Weather, Changing Projects

Crocheters often have more than one project they are working on at a time.  Some may not understand why they can't complete a project before starting another, but it makes perfect sense to have multiple projects in the works for a variety of reasons.  The weather is a good example.

In the course of a single day, it could be cold and damp, turn hot and steamy, and end up mild.  Why not have a project that is comfortable to work on regardless of the weather?  It's much more productive that way.

Yesterday's cold rainy morning was perfect for working on those wool coats.  As more fabric was created, it draped over my lap keeping me warm and comfortable.  Cold, damp hours are also perfect for afghans or any other large project.

When the sun comes out with its summer heat, time to switch to cotton or some other lightweight fiber.  Small projects, such as socks, work up relatively quickly and won't stick to your skin or provide unwanted warmth by covering you up.  This is the perfect time to work on those submission swatches for the spring/summer deadlines that are coming up.

In the evenings after the sun has set, the mild temperature allows the crocheter to work on whatever project they would like.  Mid-weight tops, skirts, purses - the possibilities are endless.  Personally, I like to work on the gifts I'm planning to give as a way to unwind at the end of the day.

Instead of cursing the weather, use it to your advantage by working on a comfortable project suited for the current temperature.  You'll soon forget all about what is going on outside!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Halfway Through August - Time For Wool!

It may only be August 15th on the calendar, but the feeling of the air has changed.  It's mother nature's way of reminding us that winter is coming.  Therefore, my weekend was spent pulling the wool out of my stash.

I know that there will still be plenty of hot days to come, but now is the time to start on those winter projects.  I've started a cape requested by one daughter and a coat for the other.  Thankfully I have enough wool in my stash to complete them both without having to purchase more yarn.

Living in the north country where winter can last 6+ months, I try each year to have a season's worth of hats, mittens, gloves, fingerless gloves with mitten tops, and scarves completed by the end of September.  I put them all in a basket in the mud room next to where the coats are hung so everyone can be prepared to face the elements.  Right now that basket looks a bit forlorn with only a couple of mismatched mittens in it. 

Making winter items for my family has saved hundreds of dollars over the years.  I use wools from local farms that cost a whole lot less than name brand from somewhere in South America.  I use local alpaca yarn rather than alpaca from Peru.  Both are warm and naturally waterproof!  Summer farmer's markets are the perfect place to find local wools.

Completing this annual commitment doesn't necessarily interfere with crochet designing.  Most of my designs are tested on family members anyway!  The gloves and fingerless gloves with mitten top are my own designs, created during this yearly ritual.  It's always fun to create a new hat, and it usually doesn't take more than a few hours. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Space Bags for Yarn Storage

When Space Bags first came out, I thought they would be terrific for storing my stash.  Unfortunately, after packing a jumbo bag and vacuuming out the air as directed, it split down the side when I tried to move it, spilling the contents everywhere!

Yesterday I decided to try it again.  I purchased a "combo pack" at Big Lots, which contained a jumbo, extra large, large, medium, and two travel bags for $15. 

I started with the jumbo again, this time filling it with unwound hanks.  I untied them and laid the twisted loop along the bottom of the bag.  Although still huge (a little smaller than a baby mattress), at least this time it stayed intact.  Encouraged, I filled the extra large one the same way.  It's nice that they now have a "fill line" marked on the bag - I guess that little extra room at the top is required so it doesn't explode.

I found that wound skeins fit perfectly in the medium bag.  I stacked 3 skeins across and about 6 skeins up - 18 skeins now the size of a standard pillow - yeah!  If I had the time, I think that the large bags would do just as well and be much more uniform if filled with wound skeins.

I like the travel bag as it appears to be large enough for a full sweater project, yet small enough to fit in a tote bag.  I think those will be used to keep my work in progress clean.

I believe an investment in the medium or large space bags is my next step.  I was impressed by the amount of yarn I could fit in one bag, and how well the bag filled with skeins stacked in the closet.  The jumbo bag, filled with hanks, is incredibly lumpy with no flat edges, but I can easily see every color that is in there. 

I consider Space Bags to be a viable alternative to clear plastic bins.  They are less expensive and more pliable, thus can fit in an area a bin cannot.  Space Bags keep the yarn clean and fresh until you are ready to use it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Making Money With Crochet

As crochet is an artisan skill with some level of popularity, it is possible to make a little money with it.  It is NOT a get rich quick type of deal, however.  The upfront investment is yarn and a whole lot of time.

 People who sell at craft fairs must create their inventory.  Using a hat as an example, let's say that one hat takes 4 hours and one skein to make.  To have 10 hats on hand to sell, 40 hours and 10 skeins of yarn have to be expended. Obviously, you would need more than those 10 hats to fill up your table, but you get the idea.   The day of the fair can be a profitable one or not, depending on attendance and how many people purchase items from you. 

Designing for magazines takes longer - sometimes, much longer.  Although I've never worked on the editorial side of things, I've spoken to many designers and emailed publishers.  As a designer, you come up with an idea, sketch it, swatch it, gauge it, notate it enough so you can make it on demand, and for fashion submission, draw a schematic with sizing.  This process can take days or even weeks to complete.  It can take months, sometimes even over a year, for an editor to contact you.  They may hold on to it for a future issue.

About 7 or 8 years ago, I had submitted a laptop case (finished product, no sketch) to a crochet magazine that now no longer exists.  Imagine my surprise when I received it back 20 months later with a "thanks but no thanks" note!  By that time, the Lion Brand yarn I had used had been discontinued!!

The standard amount of time for a book deal, I am told, is about a year's worth of work.  Booklets take a little less time, perhaps, but with either one a proposal must be written and accepted, examples of your work have to be submitted, several editorial approvals must be given....lots of administrative time in addition to crochet time. 

Self-published designs still require you to go through the design process.  Add to that making the finished product, photographing it, writing up the pattern, editing, and formatting.  Once all of that is done, you can put your pattern up for sale on Etsy, Ravelry, or your own website. 

Contests are a little different, in that you may or may not have to provide the pattern for the item you made.  County fairs sometimes award cash prizes, as do several contests online, such as Herrschner's and Mary Maxim.  

Although it is possible to make money from crochet, every item, every submission, every design is a gamble.  You must truly love your craft and stick with it to profit.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Fresh Crochet Marketing Idea

While walking through another gift shop in Port Clyde, Maine, I came across a display of crocheted kids hats.  I was astonished to find that they were all hand made by someone in California!  This prompted me to investigate a little further.

The display itself was a hand painted hat stand that stood about 3 1/2 feet tall, perfect for both kids and adults to see.  It had space for perhaps a dozen hats, but there were only about half that there.  The proprietor told me the hats were good sellers, as they appealed to the kids.

And why not?  They were nicely made sun hats, each with a unique animal somehow attached to it.  One had a stuffed octopus off center on top, another had a surface crocheted dolphin.  They were 100% acrylic, therefore washable, although the tag cautioned against machine wash and dry due to the adornments. 

What was incredible to me is that this shop was NOT a craft shop by any stretch of the imagination!  It carried cards, books, gifts, stuffed animals - the usual array.  It was also more on the upscale side of things with sterling silver, glass, and antiques.  Therefore I had to ask exactly how does a hand crocheted hat display from California find its way over 3000 miles to a gift shop in Maine?

I was answered with a shrug and "It was in the distributor's catalog.  I thought it was cute and would sell."  Wow.  It was pretty obvious she was right, even marked at $21 each.  What a terrific marketing idea!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fisherman Mittens

I recently visited the lighthouse museum at Port Clyde, Maine.  The first thing I saw as I walked through the door was a large spinning wheel that had belonged to the wife of one of the light keepers.  This led me to the display of the fisherman's mittens.  According to the write up, these mittens were hand made by the wives and mothers.

The curator noticed my attention to the mittens, and came over to talk.  Come to find out he was a retired fisherman himself!  The mittens were made about a third too big and given to the men.  On board the boat, they had a hot water barrel (heated by coils from the boiler wrapped around it) which they used to clean buoys.  They would put the mittens on, dunk their hands in the hot water barrel, then go to work.  The heat from the water would keep their hands warm while they worked, at the same time as "matting" the fibers of the mittens.  When they were done working, they would hang the mittens on a nearby hook.

As you can imagine, this caused the mittens to felt.  What's interesting is that this process made an exact mold of the hand!  The end result would be a very stiff mitten until it was dipped in water.  According to the curator, most fishermen stopped using them once the neoprene glove came into existence, primarily due to the fact that the glove allowed use of all the fingers, making the work easier.  Yet there are a few men out there who would love to find a pair of hand made wool mittens!

What's sad is that the art of making these mittens has all but disappeared.  The museum has a newspaper article discussing how women of the past made so many mittens there was no need to write down a pattern, and the last woman in the area who made them had died.  As making mittens was such an important part of her life, her surviving daughters kept the pair she had been working on.    A local named Elizabeth Bergh borrowed those mittens, measured and counted, and came up with a knit pattern called Chebeague Island Fishermen's Wet Mittens.  It is available for purchase at the museum store.

Of course I bought the pattern, even though I do not knit.  I want to rewrite it in crochet, and perhaps try the process out on my crochet glove pattern, just to see how it would come out.  I also want to see how much of a difference there is felting with salt water, if any.

Visiting that museum was a mind opening experience.  You never know what traditions will die out, and some things need to be preserved.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crochet In Times Of Crisis

Some days life just seems to throw everything at you at once.  These can be some of the most productive crochet days of all!

Crochet entails a lot of repetition and counting.  This can equate to meditation if you focus on it by distracting your mind from your troubles.  Crochet will be especially effective as a tranquilizer if the project you are working on has a repetitive stitch pattern that you can do easily.

Even though I had read about people using both knit and crochet to lower their blood pressure, I had never really thought about it.  When my brother had to go to court, I brought a newly started afghan with me and finished over half of it that day!  Apparently the nervous energy I was feeling prompted faster stitching.

Sometimes you don't have time to grab a large project to go.  Therefore it is a good idea to make your travel project (the one that's always in your bag or in the car) a fairly simple one.  My travel project for the past few months has been socks, simply because with the exception of the toe and gusset/heel, it requires little scrutiny.  Round after round is stitched without change for the foot and leg and sometimes even the cuff.

In almost any situation that produces nervous energy - the hospital (emergency room or surgery), the sports arena (awaiting competition results), the car on the side of the road (waiting for severe weather to pass), the airport (when your flight is delayed indefinitely), or any other situation over which you have little to no control - you can amaze yourself with the amount of crochet you can create.  Stitching is much more productive and soothing than pacing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Crochet Design Process

The crochet design process is how things go from an idea in your head to something that can be shared with the world.  Every designer is different, but I believe the basic steps are the same.


You have this great idea, now you have to put it on paper.  Even if you think you can't draw, you have to try!  The sketch is your base.  It reminds you of where you are going.  Use color to highlight certain areas or to make the sketch more complete. 


How big will it be?  Write down how long, how wide, how tall - use arrows if necessary.  What weight of yarn will work best?  What stitch pattern?  The sketch is now becoming your blueprint for the design, so add as many details as possible.  Remember, if you are planning to use this for a submission, you may not see it for a long time.  You will need as many details as possible not only to impress your idea on an editor, but also to jog your own memory when the time comes to make it!


Now pick up the yarn and a hook and play with your chosen stitch pattern.  Practice increases and decreases in pattern and see how it looks.  You many decide at this point that a different stitch pattern or different weight yarn would work better.  Change hook sizes until you get the look you want.  Be sure to write down the hook size you settle on and any other changes in the notes. 

You may also want to block your swatch to see how it will stretch.  This is a good time to measure your gauge as well.


Go ahead and make it!  Be sure to write down notes to yourself, such as how many stitches you chained, how many repeats, how many stitches per row, etc.  Sometimes I will write "started 2nd skein here" and sometimes I will simply save the wrappers with the project to keep track of the amount of yarn.  Keep in mind that you will be using these notes to write your pattern in a format the rest of the world can understand!


There are templates available for this stage.  Some publishers have their own submission forms that can also be used as a template.  Either way, this is the point where you take all those notes to the computer and start typing your design pattern.  This is also the point where you will learn how strong or weak your note taking was.  That's why it is best to also have your finished project with you to refer to if needed. 

Please keep in mind that this is a very basic overview of the crochet design process.  There are entire courses dedicated to the topic that cover all the details. 


Monday, July 25, 2011

Crochet At The Fair

Going to the county fair each summer has become a tradition.  The kids go off to the rides, while I stroll through the arts and crafts and animal barns.  I already knew from previous fairs that there were some extremely talented thread crocheters in the area.  What I saw yesterday was truly impressive.

The first piece to catch my eye was a framed (yes, behind glass!) 24" pineapple doily.  The stitches really popped from the black matte background.  It was definitely a work of art!  I like the idea of framing - I think it would make a wonderful gift.

The most memorable piece for me was a child's granny square afghan.  What's so special about that?  It was all done in thread!  Each 4" square was done in 3 different colors.  As it was on display, I couldn't get close enough to it to count the number of rows, but I did comment to my husband "now THAT was a winter project!"  What a wonderful idea, to cover a toddler in the summer heat with a light cotton afghan!  I can only imagine how many hours that took to create.

Remember that water bottle sling I wrote about last week?  I spied someone wearing one, quite similar to the ones I used to sell, walking through the fair.  I know I didn't make it, though, as I could clearly see it was made of acrylic as I walked past.  Whoever did make it had put little accents, like a row of double crochet around the middle and a couple of curly-cues at the top.  It was actually quite cute!

There was one vendor there who's table was half crocheted baby sweaters and baby afghans and half jewelry.  I felt somewhat sad for them, as the summer heat was not the environment for selling these items and there never seemed to be anyone visiting their table.  As it was a county fair and not a craft fair, people were there primarily to have fun, not purchase gifts. 

As usual, I return home from the fair with a head full of ideas for my own crochet projects.  Time to write them all down in my idea notebook!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Crochet! - A Review

Every time I visit a bookstore, I always check to see if they have any new crochet books.  If they do, I will take the time to flip through it.  I'm usually disappointed as I find mostly how-to books.  I already know how to crochet, I want to know more!  Sometimes I come across a pattern book where a design screams out at me - I'll buy that simply for one pattern.  Every once in a while something different comes along, like Crochet! Techniques - Stitches - Patterns by Marie-Noelle Bayard.

It didn't take long for this book to impress me.  Chapter 1 - Techniques covers the usual stuff, but goes on to armholes, necklines, and buttonholes.  Chapter 2 - The Basics has the usual stitches, but some  unusual ones as well, such as the Toleware and Riddle.  The rest of the book follows the same formula, i.e. this is the basic, this is what the basic can be turned into.  I was pleasantly surprised, so of course I had to buy it!

One unique feature of this book is the index.  Flip through the book from the back, and you'll see color photographs of the 18 patterns in the book, then more color photos of the stitch patterns.  Each photo is complete with a name and a page number.  Talk about convenient!

I highly recommend this book to crocheters of all levels.  It's worth the investment!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Wake Up Call

Becoming familiar with all of the crochet publications is necessary for a designer.  Therefore, I picked up the July/August 2011 Crochet Today when I saw it at the supermarket.

Going through the magazine when I got home, I had to stop dead at page 13.  Maya Mackowiak Elson had designed a "Drink Bottle Tote".  This struck me because for years I had been making and selling what I called "Water Bottle Slings" of my own design.  It's not as fancy as Maya's version, but otherwise the same, as it has the long shoulder strap attached to a bottle cozy.  I made mine exclusively out of Peaches 'n Cream worsted weight cotton as it absorbed condensation and did a great job of keeping water cold. 

I looked up the pattern in my personal pattern notebook.  I don't know why, perhaps for just this type of occurrence, but I date every pattern I put in there.  The date on the "Water Bottle Sling" was 5/2007.  I made it for one of my kids who had to go on a hiking field trip where a water bottle was required, and she was notorious for losing things.  She loved it so much it went to camp with her!  From there it found it's way to the barn, so she had water while trail riding. 

My reasons for making it were very practical.  You can refill the water bottle without removing the sling.  You can push it around to your back to keep it out of the way.  The circumference of various water bottles does not vary much, so an 8 oz bottle fit as well as a 20 oz one.

I had been toying with the idea of sending this pattern in to the Pattern-A-Day calendar people, or perhaps posting it as a free pattern.  It wasn't a very big seller at craft fairs in Vermont - I think I sold maybe a dozen of them in 3 years.    Yet I don't want to start a reputation as a copycat designer, either.

It did serve as a wake up call.  If you have a good idea that serves a practical purpose, get it out there!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

That Nagging Feeling

Flipping through the pages of a crochet magazine you picked up on a whim, you find something that you absolutely HAVE to make.  You don't know why, the pattern is just screaming at you! 

You are not alone.  Like a sculptor who asks the slab of marble what it is going to be, certain yarns just scream at a designer what they should become.  Some patterns are so unique, so elegant, that you must make them even if you have no apparent use for the finished product.

It doesn't happen to me very often, but when it does, there is a reason for it.  These patterns usually teach me new techniques or how to obtain a certain look.  The most recent one was for a child's dress in a reprint of a Victorian era crochet pattern book.  I don't have any small children around to make things for, but I still felt I had to make this dress! 

I had recently traded some yarn for a cone of off-white rayon chenille.  Every time I looked at that cone, I saw the sketch of that dress in my mind's eye.  Eventually it got to be too much, so I started the pattern.

What did I learn?  For starters, I had to convert the pattern stitches to American stitches.  Secondly, the way the pattern mixed up vertical and horizontal stitches was incredibly easy to do and made a very defined look.  Although the pattern was intimidating at first, it was actually easier than I thought.  Lastly, it confirmed that sometimes your gut knows things your brain hasn't figured out yet. 

So if a pattern is calling out to you, take the time to make it.  You can always find someone to give it to once the item is done, and you might learn something along the way!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Crochet Designers and Artists

The more I explore the world of crochet design, the more similarities I find with other arts.  Although perhaps it may become big business, at the beginning it's anything but.

Writers submit proposals and writing samples to prospective publishers.  Crochet designers submit proposals, swatches, and sketches. 

Visual artists, such as painters and photographers, show their work in galleries and sometimes craft fairs to gain sales.  Crocheters use craft fairs and consignment craft shops.  These require finished product as inventory and usually booth fees.  Depending on attendance, there may or may not be a return on the investment.

The whole 'starving artist' scenario may apply as well.  A designer that's just starting out pays out of pocket for yarn and postage, and then waits for months sometimes to find out if they will get paid for it or not.  A musician will work on new music between gigs.  A crochet designer must also continue forward on new designs for the next submission.

The old adage of "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" must be part of the crochet designer's mantra.  Without it, discouragement will set in.  If you look to the other arts as inspiration, you will note that persistence does pay off.

Friday, July 15, 2011

This Is The Skein That Never Ends....

...it just goes on and on my friends....

Two days ago, I came across the submission call for Storey Publishing for one skein crochet projects.  I had just purchased a skein of hand painted sock yarn earlier this week with another project in mind, but it seemed perfect for what popped into my head. 

I envisioned an open work pattern shawl or scarf.  Certainly a 400 yard skein could make that, right?

It turns out that it only took 1/2 a skein to make the scarf, and I didn't like the look of it.  Thus, I ripped it out and started on plan B - the shawl.  As it was to be triangular, I started at the bottom back point and kept increasing each row.  I thought it might be about 50 rows.  Wrong!  50 rows turned into 60 rows turned into 70 + rows!

In the past I have easily gone through (2) 200 yard skeins of yarn in a day.  I didn't think this project would take as long as it has - I won't be finishing the construction until later this morning, and it's due today!

This is my first time with a submission that is both email and snail mail.  I can only hope that a proposal emailed today will be considered on time!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Designing vs. Modifying

Attempting to morph an idea in your head into a finished crochet item is design.  The sheer amount of details can be overwhelming!  What type of yarn would work best?  What color?  What weight?  What fiber content?  What hook size?  What stitch pattern?  Then, of course, comes the writing of the pattern.

I like to jot down notes that will eventually be turned into a pattern as I work.  This is always done in pencil so I can change it easily when I rip out that last row because it just doesn't look right.  I've read how some people will make the item first, then rip it out row by row, writing the pattern in reverse, counting stitches, and measuring how many yards they've used.  This method allows you to follow your own pattern to re-make the item, editing as you go. 

Modifying a pattern is much easier and generally less time consuming.  Someone else has already designed the item, and you are simply making a few changes here and there.  This can be anything from adding a lace border to adding sleeves to a vest pattern to make the perfect sweater.  Or doing the math to make it a size or two larger than the designer wrote.  Changing the hook size and yarn can turn a fitted sweater into an over sized one. 

It's important to know the difference between designing and modifying when you want to sell your work.  If I designed it, I do not hesitate to put my label on it.  If I modified it, I will put "based on the pattern by so-and-so in such-and-such publication".  Always give credit to the original designer - it's the right thing to do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Crochet For Fun And Profit

Crocheting For Fun and Profit is a book that was written by Darla Sims.  I picked it up at Barnes and Noble when it first came out in 2000.  Even though it is now over 10 years old, the information inside is still applicable to today.

Reading this book made me believe that it was possible to crochet for money.  It gave me the courage to submit my first design to the Herrschner's Afghan contest in 2001, which won honorable mention and yes, did pay.  What's better than getting paid and published at the same time?

The uniqueness of this book also struck me.  In a world of books on how-to crochet and thousands of patterns, it stood out.  I don't know of any other how to make money doing something you love to do in your free time anyway book out there.  This book discusses niches and the business end of things as well as technique.  It offers options.

During a time when the economy is down, this book is well worth the investment.  Darla does not go into using the Internet, but those who already know the web should be able to apply her ideas to it.  The legal stuff hasn't changed that much, if at all.  As I discovered from my CGOA mentor recently, the part about finding your niche is still very important.

If you are looking for a good summer book to read, do a search for  Crocheting for Fun and Profit.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Yarn Hoarding

Yesterday, one of my family members came close to accusing me of being a hoarder of yarn.  "There are bags of it in almost every room in the house!"  she said.

I will concede she is partly correct.  The moving things around to change the purpose of a couple of different rooms in my house is far from complete.  However, this does not mean I am a hoarder.

By definition, a hoarder is someone who collects things then fails to use them or give them up.  Yes, I collect yarns for projects.  If she bothered to open the smaller bags, she would more than likely find a pattern in there with the yarn.  Sometimes I buy yarn in bulk at yarn sales, and these beloved skeins are in larger, clear plastic bags so I can see exactly what is in there.  I cannot be classified as a hoarder, however, as I use the yarns - constantly.  I also have given many skeins away.

I will confess to an iota of emotional appreciation of certain yarns that feel wonderful and are pleasing to the eye.  Yet those yarns are always made into something more, something that is either sold or given away.  Yarn is the main material of my craft - of course I have a stash of it!!

I think her complaint has more to do with the fact that I am not currently using wool.  Once a year, there is a yarn sale at a local farm where I stock up on all the different weights and colors of wool I plan to use.  It supports the local economy and saves me a ton of money!  Usually I have gone through over half of what I purchased by this time of year.  Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case this year.  Does this mean I'm a hoarder?  I think it means that once the weather turns, I'll be very busy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Is For Sock Yarn

As I was putting a hank of sock yarn on my swift to wind yesterday, it occurred to me how wonderful sock and other fingering weight yarns are for working with in the summer months.  Although I wouldn't recommend 100% wool or alpaca, the fiber blends are wonderful.  Cotton and bamboo are terrific as well. 

Why?  They are light weight.  This means you are not going to be engulfed by a heavy warm fabric while working on it.  The skeins are small and easily portable, so you can bring them anywhere.  Finally, they come in such a vibrant array of color schemes, they are fun to work with.

I don't restrict myself to using sock yarns only to make socks.  I love to see the color variations when I use it to make shawls, scarves, tops, light sweaters and skirts.  "Self-Striping" sock yarns sometimes turn a larger project into a tie-dye color scheme. 

Sock yarns also make wonderful plus-size items.  Since gravity pulls down and most fibers have some sort of stretch, light weight yarn a crucial part of retaining the shape of larger garments that drape.  Of course there are many other factors to consider, but to me this is important.  Who wants to wear a 5 pound skirt?

I am amazed at the number of people I meet who say they love to knit or crochet, but don't in the summer because it is simply too hot.  I have never found myself with sweaty hands working with sock yarns, cottons, or bamboo no matter how high the thermometer goes. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Connecting With A Mentor

This week I have had a few discussions with my new mentor from the CGOA.  I think it's fabulous that I was assigned someone who is so different from me - there's so much I can learn!

I wasn't really sure when I signed up exactly what it would be like having a mentor in the field of crochet design, especially considering to qualify for one you need to know so much already.  As with anything, however, there is always more to learn! 

We have discussed goals, swatching, and submissions.  She suggested I visit several web sites I hadn't heard of before to learn more information.  I learned more about proposals and what editors are looking for.  We discussed size charts, fit, and drape of garments and matching them to the customer base of each publication.  She even told me what to expect for compensation!

We made a loose plan of action.  It's important for a new designer to get their name out there on line and in publications.  We discussed how to self-publish and the importance of great pictures.  Now it's up to me to use this information, learn, and act upon it. 

I am so happy that I decided to request a mentor!  Even though it took a couple of weeks, it was well worth the wait!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gauge And Swatching

When I first started to crochet, I didn't have a clue as to what gauge or swatching was.  To me, a gauge was the thing you used to check your tire pressure.  Nor did it really matter all that much, as I started with items like scarves that didn't require precise measurements.

Then I came across a pattern I wanted to make that listed the hook size as "whatever size is needed to obtain gauge."  Huh?  How exactly was I supposed to know that?  Thankfully, the pattern also had instructions on how to make a swatch.

A swatch is a small piece of crochet fabric you make using the yarn and pattern stitch of the item you want to make.  It should be large enough to get a good measurement of how many stitches are needed to make an inch across and up.  Don't make the same mistake I did at first of trying to make a 1" x 1" square!  For some reason, your stitches even out the larger the piece gets, so try to make the swatch at least 4" x 4".  It seems like a frustrating waste of time that is preventing you from making what you want, but it is necessary to ensure it your finished item will be the correct size.

There are many reasons that gauge can be off, from crocheting too tightly or too loosely to the type of yarn being used.  There are just as many ways, if not more, to correct it.  You can start by making a swatch using the suggested hook size, either in the pattern or on the yarn label.  Make swatches of the same yarn with different hooks until you obtain the gauge you are looking for.  Stitch height is a bit more difficult to correct, but there are many tutorials on the web on how to do it.

Here's a tip that I learned yesterday - save your swatches, every single one.  Mark it with the type of yarn, hook size, and stitch pattern you used.  That way you'll have something to reference in the future, therefore cutting down the time required to perfect your gauge. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Setting Goals

Goals are where you want to be or what you want to have achieved by a certain time.   They can be broken down into short term, mid-range, and long term increments.  They should be realistic, or else you set yourself up for failure.

I find short term goals relatively easy to set and obtain.  What to you want to do today?  For me, today, I want to finish that afghan.  It's so close to being done now I can see the end.  My greatest fault is underestimating the actual time required to accomplish what I set out to do.  Will I actually finish it today?  I'm not sure, but I'm going to give it my all!

Mid-range goals are slightly less concrete.  What do you want to accomplish in the next few months or year or two years?  A look at the editorial calendars tells me that submission dates for different magazines are quite close at times.  Therefore if two submissions are required for August, can one of them be done by the end of July?

Long term goals are where you want to be.  They are the road map to keep you on the path.  I was once told by a respected elder to hand write a list of things I wanted to accomplish in the next 5 years and why and post it on my mirror.  By seeing this list every day, I managed to successfully accomplish every item on that list, including buying a house, in only 4 years!  By checking an item off the list and noting the date it was accomplished, you gain confidence that the rest of it is possible.

Setting goals gives you reason for why you are doing something, which is especially important when frustration sets in.  It helps with time management as well, as it can help you prioritize.  Achieving goals provides a sense of accomplishment like no other.  The trick is to make the goals realistic so you are not setting yourself up for failure. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Doesn't Everybody?

Although I have never come across a true definition of 'crochet fanatic', I'm guessing I must be one.  Every July 4th, our family has gotten into the habit of going to a local state park after the parade, having a cookout, and watching the fireworks over the lake.  For fear of getting it dirty, the afghan I've been working on was left at home.  Instead, I brought a skein of bamboo to play with a couple of design ideas I had.  Small, portable, easy to work with, bamboo yarn doesn't cause you to sweat on a hot day.

After the cookout was over and everything packed up except the chairs, out comes my crochet hook.  There were a couple of hours to kill before the fireworks, so I thought it would be a great time to crochet.  It never occurred to me that such behavior was odd.  One woman came over to see what I was working on, and commented on how sometimes it just felt good to knit or crochet, but no one did it every day.  Huh?

Some sort of crochet project goes with me wherever I go.  Sometimes it is something that simply has to get done and I need every spare second to complete it.  Sometimes, like yesterday, I just play with ideas that I have had to see if they will work.  Sometimes I just practice stitches I feel I haven't yet mastered.  On some level, part of my brain is thinking about crochet just about every moment of every day.

My old boss used to shake his head when he would walk in to see me with a crochet hook in hand during breaks.  The traffic control guys laugh when they see that I've finished an afghan or sweater while waiting for them.  The receptionist at the doctor's office always asks what I'm working on, and sometimes where I found the pattern. 

Crochet every day?  You bet I do!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Life has thrown some unexpected curve balls my way this week, and as a result, my production fell far short of my goals.  Therefore, today is all about focus.

Like focusing a camera to get the image clear, focusing your mind on a single project works the same way.  You put on imaginary blinders to whatever else is going on around you.  All that exists is the project, and the goal is to complete it.  Look at it clearly and realistically from every possible angle.

Everyone feels overwhelmed at times.  That can feel like stumbling around in the dark, or being a fish out of water.  It's not comfortable, and you don't feel like you are in control.  When this happens to you, stop whatever you are doing.  Take a deep breath and exhale it slowly.  Write down everything that has to be done that is overwhelming you.  Prioritize - does anything have to be done right this second?  If the answer is no you can relax because it is now all written down on a to-do list.  If the answer is yes, take care of the emergency, then continue on with your day.

Think about it.  Many times "emergencies" aren't your problem at all, but rather someone close to you who is venting frustration.  Sometimes a simple suggestion (did you leave your car keys on the kitchen table?) is all it takes to defuse the situation. 

If it is your own to-do list that is overwhelming you, take a moment to focus on that.  Does everything on your list need to be done? Really?  Give yourself a reality check - there's only so many hours in day.  Can anyone else do something on that list for you? 

Take the time to regain control.  You can then tackle that to-do list or overdue project with renewed energy and enthusiasm!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Word On Copyright

 As long as I've been online, I've seen discussions concerning copyright and crochet patterns.  It tends to be a very confusing topic.  As copyright is federal law and covers all kinds of things, defining it in terms that most can understand is difficult.  An online search of "what is copyright?"  led me to this: www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf

 Basically, if you didn't write it, don't copy it for your friends or post it online.  There is a very good article on why here:  http://www.craftdesigns4you.com/stop.htm

There's nothing wrong with preserving your pattern books by photocopying the pattern you want to make so you can check off rows and circle sizes.  That is considered personal use.  Giving that photocopied pattern to a couple of friends, or worse yet, posting it online, is illegal.  Instead, tell your friends, in person and online, where you found the pattern and where they can purchase it, or purchase it for them as a gift. 

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, as any police officer will tell you.  I like to believe that most crocheters are law abiding citizens - I say most as the whole Martha Steward thing comes to mind.  Is sharing a pattern that someone else designed and wrote worth a criminal record?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some Days The World Just Gets In The Way

If you've ever had a lot of momentum and energy and motivation to get something done, only to be usurped by other things, you know exactly what I mean.  Yesterday started with the greatest of anticipation, but by noon had fizzled to wistful thinking.  I finally had the time to pick up my crochet hook in the evening, but by that time all the energy had waned.

I grew up a Navy brat, and therefore tend to plan and schedule my time.  I used to look at interruptions as major inconveniences.  At some point I realized that some things just weren't meant to be, shrug it off, and move on. Get the mundane tasks accomplished - they won't go away by themselves.  The trick seems to be rekindling the fire of energy you had before the interruption.  Sometimes that takes the form of a good night's sleep.

Not every day will be productive.  Life has a tendency to throw obstacles in the way.  It's how these obstacles are overcome that provide life experience and shape the future. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Crochet Portfolio

This is one of those things that I can't believe I didn't think of sooner.  Although I have always wanted to put together a photo album of my work, it's been on my to-do list for years now.  I read a post yesterday about a crochet portfolio that was a tremendous wake up call.

It makes sense that any aspiring crochet designer would have a portfolio to showcase their talents and provide a professional presentation of their skills to those who would purchase their designs.  A portfolio is as important to an artist as a resume is to a business person.  Even freelance writers have a portfolio of writing samples. 

What is a portfolio in this sense?  It is a collection of the artist's recent work that showcases their talents and vision.  Therefore, a crochet portfolio should have copies of recently published items as well as design proposals ready for sale.  Art portfolios are in specialty cases due to their size.  A crochet design portfolio can be in a 3-ring binder or a computer tablet. 

I think I will create mine using the 3-ring binder.  Swatches are part of the proposal, and you can't feel and stretch the fabric represented by a computer tablet or laptop.  As I am new to this, I have many more design proposals than published works.  The portfolio is going on my to-do list so it will be ready when I need it.  Maybe I'll actually get that photo album done as well...

Monday, June 27, 2011


Over the weekend, I received an email requesting more information so I can be matched with a CGOA mentor, as I requested.  I believe in mentor programs, as there are many positive outcomes from such relationships.

Think of having a one on one professional relationship with someone in your desired field.  Asking questions provides a wealth of information, and direction.  You find out about things you didn't even realize you didn't know, thus leading to more questions.  This perpetual motion allows growth of both the mentee and mentor. 

A mentor is not there to do any work for you - hire a pattern editor or pattern tester to help fix your designs.  You are expected to have already done significant research on where you can obtain the tools for your chosen career.  For example, many of the crochet magazines have the designer guidelines and editorial calendars on their websites.  If you want to be a designer, you are expected to have already found and downloaded this information.  You should already have a list of websites you reference for stitch directories and the like. 

You might wonder, if I have all that information, what do I need a mentor for?  Well, are magazines the only place you can sell your designs?  Someone created the free patterns that hang off the shelf by the yarn at the store.  Someone had to publish the latest pattern book.  Someone wrote that adorable pattern in the binder at the yarn store.  A mentor can provide the information you seek to create your own road map to a successful career.  They are industry insiders who created their own careers. 

Why should anyone want to mentor?  Crochet is an art form, and each individual has their own style.  This uniqueness benefits the entire industry.  Having mentored a teen for a high school course, I can say with certainty that a mentor feels good about what they do and applauds the successes of their mentee.

Mentoring is a wonderful program that challenges both individuals involved in it.  A mentee may ask a question the mentor doesn't know the answer for, but knows who to contact to find out.  This means that both of them learn something new. 

I'm looking forward to being matched with a mentor!

Friday, June 24, 2011

No Dye Lot Yarns Have Come A Long Way

As I have yet to come across an accurate formula for determining how much yarn I will need, for afghans I usually choose a "no dye lot" yarn.  That way I can run to the store and get more if necessary.  Thankfully, these yarns have come a long way.

I have in my stash some no dye lot yarn from years ago that in no way matches the same company's color today, even though the label says it should.  This was the fear in the back of my head as I went to the store yesterday to get more yarn for the Herrschner's afghan.  My trepidation was happily unfounded as I discovered a near perfect match!

Unfortunately, this yarn wasn't found until I went through 3 different stores.  It's sad that the economy has gotten to the point where inventories large enough to keep the shelves filled has become a liability to the store.  I know that it can be ordered, but that doesn't help if you need the yarn right away.  There is also absolutely no way to match the color of a no dye lot yarn until you receive it.  If the color is off, you've lost 3 days (or more!) waiting for the wrong yarn and you're back to where you started.  Very frustrating!

I am using quite a bit of my own stash for this afghan, so I have not been strictly following the general rule of "buy more yarn than you think you'll need."  My afghan is about three quarters finished at this point, and I bought six 7 ounce skeins yesterday.  I know I'll have extra yarn, and that's okay as I also know I will not have to go searching for it anymore, at least for this project!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Establishing A Routine

They say it takes 3 weeks or 21 days to make or break a habit.  Today marks the beginning of my fifth week of blogging every weekday morning.  It has become a standard part of my day to grab a cup of coffee and sit at the computer, check email and blog. 

Some days start earlier than others, thanks to summer thunderstorms and nervous animals, but the routine remains the same.  I find it peaceful and easy to channel my thoughts to writing first thing in the morning.  Once completed, I work on creating designs by sketching and writing notes as to the type of yarn, etc.  I've noticed that there does not seem to be a whole lot of time (it seems that 4-6 weeks is average) to compile a submission for publication. Therefore, I've decided to create several sketches of ideas for future projects. 

At this point in my day, the rest of the household is generally up and about.  Time to grab my crochet hook and sit in my favorite spot in the living room so I know what's going on and am available to talk to while I work.  I'll bounce future design ideas off of my family and get their input.  All the while my hook is flying in creating the finished product I'm currently working on.

I do not usually get a lot accomplished, sometimes only a row or two, before the rest of the world is open for business.  This means errands, appointments, shopping, phone calls ..... well, you get the idea. This has generated the crochet bag that goes with me absolutely everywhere!   I love weekends for the simple fact that I can remain crocheting for hours and only go out if I want to.

My next dedicated crochet time is evening, a habit I started years ago.  After dinner, I'll be in the living room crocheting away while being available for homework help and avid discussion.

I think establishing a daily routine is important, as dedicated blocks of time for certain tasks allows them to be achieved.  If you think back to when you were in school, each class for each subject was scheduled.  You knew exactly what you were supposed to be doing at any given time, and you accomplished a lot.  Transfer this idea to your life now, and you may be surprised at how well it works!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Next Step?

Part of the purpose of this blog is to chronicle my efforts at making crochet a career.  I have found very little on the web on this topic, even after searching the early years of the blogs of the famous.  I started blogging a little over a month ago, learning how to tweak it from other online how-to sites to make it more accessible.

With that in mind, I must share with you my happiness at receiving an email from the CGOA yesterday.  I had mailed my application for associate professional to them on June 13, and they accepted me via email on June 21st!  I applaud how quickly they responded, and I am thrilled at being accepted.

What does this mean?  I don't really know yet.  My name and contact information are now on the CGOA website under "Professional and Associate Professional Members", so people know how to get in touch with me.  I was given (and accepted) an invitation to join an email discussion list.  I was given an email to contact about mentoring.  Finally, I was told to watch for details about Professional Development Day.

I now have a lot more web resources to explore and learn from.  It looks like I've got a lot of work to do!  My next step is to email the mentor coordinator, then explore the website and discussion group, and of course, continue work on my own designs!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making Wasted Time Productive

I have read many posts and heard people talk about how much crochet they get done while waiting in doctor's offices, etc., so I decided to do an experiment.  Trying to work time in to crochet for me never seems to happen.  I printed up a sock pattern I liked, threw it in a zip lock bag with a skein of Paton's Stretch Socks with the appropriate crochet hook, and put the bag in my purse. 

It has taken just over 2 months, but the first sock is complete.  I worked on it at:

-the parent pick up line
-the doctor's office (both before being brought to the exam room and in the exam room)
-the physical therapy waiting room
-the drive-thru
-construction zones where traffic was stopped
-the movie theater waiting for the lights to go down and the movie to start
-the parking lot when someone else had to run into a store to pick up "just a few things".
 (Note:  I once met a woman who was crocheting in the checkout line from a wrist bag - what a great idea!)
-the chairs outside the fitting room at clothes stores
-the mall sitting areas
-the passenger seat of the car
-the picnic table at the park
-the car mechanic's waiting area

Two months for one sock certainly is not breakneck speed; however, considering it was made during time dedicated toward something else, I find it somewhat amazing.  I'd be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me "what a great idea" when they saw me crocheting while waiting.

My little experiment just goes to show that even the busiest schedule can fit time to crochet.  Now to get started on that second sock.....

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fathers Day and Flea Markets

It has become almost traditional to spend a portion of Father's Day at open air flea markets.  Both being on Sunday, this works out pretty well.  Flea markets and garage sales have both good and bad in regards to crochet.

The Good

I have purchased many many yards of yarn at flea markets and garage sales.  For some reason, I can almost always find someone selling ends, skeins, or cones of acrylic.  Spend $10 and get an entire box full of yarn that takes up half the trunk of the car! 

It's harder to find pattern books and hooks, but not impossible.  I have had the best luck finding these items at estate sales, and sometimes yard sales.  It's wonderful to find a pattern book that retails at $25.95 for a dollar or two!

The Bad

It always saddens me to find finished crochet projects at these sales.  Someone put a lot of time and love into making it, and now it's thrown on a tarp on the ground for next to nothing.  Afghans are the most prevalent for some reason, but I've also seen baby things.

Knowing that someone made that item for a reason holds me back from purchasing it for recycling.  I know I would hate to see something that I made end up at a flea market or yard sale.  I shudder at the thought of someone pulling out and re-skeining all of my work on something that I made, and I feel for the crafter whose work was so callously disregarded.

If you keep your eyes on the lookout for yarn, hooks, and patterns you are likely to find something.  Yarn and books are usually in a box on a tarp or under a table.  Hooks may be bound together by an elastic band on the table.  You can get some really good deals on these items at flea markets and yard sales.