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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival

The dark clouds and rain could not keep me away from the 24th annual Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival! The weather may have been dreary, but I had a wonderful time.  There were the usual vendors there, but a few new ones as well.

As usual, I started at the tent that sold festival t-shirts, sweatshirts, and totes.  I always leave my purse in the vehicle (money and checkbook in my pocket!) and get a new tote bag for the goodies I know that await inside.  I was surprised that this year's logo was a sheepdog!

The first animal barn had alpaca, primarily Angora goats, and a few sheep.  My favorite local Alpaca producer, Snowshoe Farm, was in there with exactly the yarn I was looking for:  Alpaca Sock.  It's 50% Alpaca, 30% Merino, 20% Nylon 3-ply yarn that comes in 500 yard skeins for only $26.  They had a stack of cards on the table that held washing and care instructions (which they said I could take as many as I wanted) that are perfect for slipping in the package with the finished product.

At this point, my youngest found me to let me know that the Sister's of St. Mary were selling cashmere goat kids.  As I had adopted 2 Angora goats in July, I thought that it might be fun to try for Cashgora.  I know I will use the resulting yarn!  To my surprise, they had a silver Cashmere named Sugah.  The price was right, so I bought her.  My husband just rolled his eyes.

Back to the yarn vendors.  I had brought a list with me of weight and yardage needed for projects I have lined up.  I found everything I was looking for.  The best deal of the day was a luxurious lace weight:  70% baby alpaca, 20% silk, 10% cashmere, 1300 yards for $32 from Nightingale Fibers.  I can't wait to work with it!!

We stopped to talk with both the sheep dog demonstrator and the fencing people.  Then it was back through one more vendor area, where I purchased several skeins of hand-dyed superwash Merino from Dyenamics Yarn (430 yds each).  I also bought 100% blue faced Leicester wool, dk weight, 700 yard hand-panted skeins from Jan Marek Raczkowski.

My tote-bag full, it was time to go back to the truck.  We stopped again at the tote-bag tent to speak with the event coordinator to get directions to pick up the goat.  Sugah laid down on my daughter's lap in the back seat, and off we went.

I had apprehensions about an unsecured goat in the back seat, but she was incredibly well behaved.  For most of the trip home, she just sat and chewed her cud.  We made a stop for a leg stretch, where Sugah wanted out too.  She relieved herself, then got back in with the rest of us.  She did not make any mess in the truck at all, but rather waited until she was out (she went again as soon as we got home.)

At 4 months, Sugah is bigger than my 5 month old Angora goats. There was a little bit of adjustment as she figured out where the water and hay were, and while the Angora's figured out who this newcomer was, but all quieted down within an hour.

My only disappointment with this year's show was there were no Angora rabbits there.  I was hoping to find a female to place in a hutch between the two males I currently have.  But I suppose if there HAD been a rabbit there, I would not have had the space to get Sugah.  Sometimes things just work out that way!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yates Farm Yarn Sale 2012

I just got my postcard from Hilda Yates.  This year's yarn sale is Saturday 10/27 and Sunday 10/28!

For those of you who don't know, Yates is a commercial sheep farm in Ascutney, Vermont.  Every year, Hilda Yates has a huge yarn sale of 100% wool in a large variety of colors for very reasonable prices.  If you get there on Saturday morning, she has a brunch buffet set out as well - everything from quiche to fruit salad!

Expect to grab a bag and go from room to room in their old farm house.  There are bags of various colors and sizes lining each room and even the hall!  There is bulky weight, worsted weight, sport and fingering weight.  Most of it is in hanks, but sometimes you can find cones.  There is roving in all sorts of colors.  If you are looking for something in particular, just ask!  Chances are Hilda has it.

While you are there, be sure to get on the mailing list so you can plan for next year's sale.  Hilda mails out postcards about a month before the sale is held.

Hope to see you there!

Time Management - Again

I know I've written quite a bit about time management.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that I am still trying to figure it out.  It's one of those things, I've determined, that the experts in such things can provide guidelines for, but one size does not fit all.  Everyone has their own set of distractions that need to be kept in check in order to get your work done, especially if you work at home.

One of the best guidelines for me was so simple, my jaw dropped when I read it.  Shut the door.  Three simple words.  Whereas I was working in the living room at the time, this proved to be impossible. I began to notice how many times a member of my family would enter the room to ask a question, turn on the television, argue over what channel to watch, etc.

This led to this summer's main project - build a studio.  I have been wanting to join in the Vermont Crafts Council's Open Studio Weekend, but needed a studio.  Now was the time.  Unfortunately for me, the studio was completed too late to join in the fall Open Studio Weekend, but it will be open for the spring.  The studio itself is heated, so I can work in there all winter long.

Hopefully, this will bring an end to the little distractions that make it difficult to work.  I had a sketch/swatch accepted by a major magazine this summer that included a zipper.  I had a good idea of how I was going to work up the sample, but it still had to be reworked a few times to get it right.  I did not get to the zipper until the day before I had to mail it back to them to be received by the deadline.  Wouldn't you know, I could not get that zipper in the way it was supposed to be?  Once I had the whole thing together, I discovered other issues that should be reworked as well.  I mailed it in, as I was out of time, only to receive a letter from the editor a week later that it could not be used due to various design issues (including the zipper).  The editor was kind enough to send it back to me.

I am still reworking that design.  I figured it I had that much trouble putting in that zipper, other people would as well, so I am trying to make it easier to do.  The next time I submit it, it will be right!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer Reading

Summer reading for me tends to be more like summer browsing.  I like to take crochet books and magazines, and after catching up on the articles, browse patterns.

credit:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I'll choose what it is that I want to make for whom, so I have plenty of time to find the perfect yarn.  If you're looking for something new, check these out:

All Free Crochet is giving away a free copy of Austentatious Crochet - all you have to do is enter.

Get a copy of Dora Ohrenstein's latest book, Custom Crocheted Sweaters:  Make Garments That Really Fit.  Almost everyone can use a new sweater!

Laurie Laliberte's new paperback has just been released - Quick Crochet For Kitchen And Bath - another great resource for gift ideas.

For the sports lover, check out another new release - Sports: Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey Knit and Crochet Patterns.

The amount of ebook patterns and crochet books is constantly rising.  It appears that Amazon has recently released several vintage patterns on ebook.

If looking at all of these patterns inspires you to create your own, pick up The Crochet Artist Memory to get it down on paper!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Deadline Reminder

The application deadline for the Herrschner's Afghan Contest 2013 is coming up fast - June 15th.  For more information, go to their website.  Speaking from experience, they are some really terrific people to deal with!

In a nutshell, all you have to do is download and fill out the application and get it back to them by the June 15th deadline.  They send you the submission tag.  Then get busy on finishing that afghan!  The finished 'ghan is due July 15th.

Obviously, not everyone can win.  One nice thing about this contest is that Herrschner's may opt to purchase the non-winning, honorable mention designs.  They will contact those they are interested in late summer.  It is a fun way to start getting published as a designer.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

One year ago...

One year ago, today, I wrote my 12th blog post.  One year ago, this past week, I had sent in my application to the CGOA.  Part of that application was goals - what were they for 1 year? For 5 years?

What have I accomplished?  I have a blog, a website, and an Etsy store.  I have a pattern for sale on Ravelry.  I have a roomful of yarn and several notebooks with sketches and ideas.  I have a box of swatches and the look of total disorganization.

Well, thanks to the patience and guidance of my mentor, I have achieved my 1 year goal in regard to publication.  The routine of blogging needs work, as shown by my 86 posts in a single year!  With all that has gone on, any semblence of routine has evaporated.  The time has come to get serious.  Let's see if, in year 2, I can bring crochet from a hobby to a business.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Father's Day Fisherman's Hat

Almost a year ago, I started this blog. One of my first posts was about crocheting a fisherman's hat for Father's Day.  I finished the first hat in September, submitted it with a number of other such patterns for publication with a major yarn company for a proposed booklet.  Obviously, that did not pan out.

At the encouragement of my wonderful CGOA mentor, I figured out how to self-publish.  And tonight I finally figured out how to post it as a pattern for sale on Ravelry!

This hat has everything that the commercial ones do:  places to hang hooks and lures, a wide brim, and neck protection from the sun that can be rolled up and tucked into the hat on overcast days.  The tapered design allows it to fit a head circumference of 22" to 24".

The best part is that it works up pretty quickly.  If you are interested in ordering a copy of this pattern,

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Heat Is On

When the pressure is on - that's when you can really surprise even yourself.  The last half of April was harsh.  All of the semester-long projects were due for school, finals coming up fast....and of course, submission deadlines for 4 crochet magazines, and, why not, let's throw in a contract crochet audition.

Now that April is over and done with, I can look back and say "wow - I did all that?"  One look at my desk (which always seems to suffer the most) brings in a reality check.

Somehow I managed to get at least one submission into each of the mags.  Somehow I managed to get all school assignments done and in on time.  As far as the audition goes, my gauge was too different for the designer - it happens.

There is a short respite between spring and summer classes, which to me is the calm before the storm.  It will give me a chance to clean off my desk, and maybe organize a bit.  The calendar says I can do it all over again in July, only this time we can add it country fairs to the list!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It's Spring! Time To Think About Christmas?

There are all kinds of submission deadlines coming up - for Christmas and winter 2012/2013!

It is totally normal for publishers to work months in advance.  If you think about all that goes into a publication, it makes sense.  For those of us submitting, however, it takes a little bit of a mind twist.

credit: Anusom P nachol

Crochet!, Crochet World, and Interweave Crochet all have submission deadlines in April for next winter.  At a time of year when most people are sick of winter, even a mild one, and are looking forward to spring, it can be tough to look at a ball of wool and see the next great project.

The trick to dealing with the time delay is, well, not to worry about it.  If you are thinking Spring, design for Spring.  The publishers will be looking for submissions for their Spring 2013 editions in a few months and you will already have several ideas down!

By sketching your ideas when they are fresh in your mind, they are completely unique to you.  If they fit with the editorial calendar of a certain publication, wonderful!  If not, drop it in your portfolio.  The important part is to get those ideas down on paper, or typed/scanned into a computer.

This concept did not really sink in with me until this year.  I saw the "inspiration" on an editorial calendar and gasped - it was almost identical to a sketch/swatch I had made one summer almost 2 years ago!  Now I have to dig it out (moving is SUCH a good way of misplacing things!) and submit it and I'm done!  No stress.

Although I have to admit I get strange looks from people when they see I'm currently crocheting a Christmas stocking.....
Credit: digitalart

Monday, February 20, 2012

Something Strange Is Going On....

February in northeastern Vermont usually means several feet of snow on the ground with icy cold nights and cold and snowy days.  Not this year.  We have maybe 6 inches of ice crusted snow on the ground, with daytime temperatures in the 30s and 40s.
This is February???
Maple sugar season usually starts around the last week of February, first week of March.  This year it started last week.  Most disturbing of all is the wildlife.  Skunks and raccoon usually sleep through February.  This year they are out and about, starting their mating season very early.

This 'easy' winter has national broadcasters proclaiming how homeowners are saving 10% of their heating costs, not due to fuel prices going down (they've actually risen), but rather due to less heating being required. This mild winter is not unique to Vermont - it appears to be the same across the continental US.

What does any of this have to do with crochet?  Slow sales of wool products.  Hats, mittens, gloves, and scarves are generally all good sellers during the winter months, but not this year.  I suppose some of it can be due to a poor economy, but mostly I blame the weather.

The bright side of all of this is that the warmer temperatures make it easier to focus on spring and summer products, and to work with lighter yarns, such as cotton, bamboo, and rayon.  By starting now, more time will be available to complete entries for the summer fairs.  I wonder if fall will come early this year, too?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Crochet! Design Call-Out

Making the adjustment to living in a new home with a new life that includes 5 online courses, I have not had much time to devote to crochet.  Now that things have calmed down a little, I hope to rectify that situation.  This latest casting call may be the jump start I need to start contributing again.

For those of you who don't know, a design call-out or casting call is when a publisher has an idea for a book or special issue magazine, and they need design contributions.  Crochet! magazine is having such a call-out.

The reason I believe this may be the kick-in-the-pants I need to get going is the subject matter: all cold weather stuff!  I have an entire notebook full of designs I have made over the years that I could contribute, with very little work on my part.  I have photos of the finished items because I make them, year after year, for my own family and friends. My primary medium for many years was wool - sheep, alpaca, and llama.

I have tried in the past to whip up something for call-outs.  The problem is, they don't give you a lot of time - usually only a couple of weeks - to submit something.  If they take sketches and swatches, fine.  But some companies want the finished product!  Not being in a position to drop everything to create a design, I have learned, the hard way, to pass on those.

In this case, though, all I have to do is complete the submission form.  Perhaps I will get a design published this year after all!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Teaching Styles

In the past few weeks, I have come across a variety of teaching styles in my online classes.  It is interesting how these styles are also used in teaching crochet.  Consider:

The Discovery Method

This is by far the most difficult.  The student learns by "discovering" what they need to know.  I have seen many people who want to learn crochet, and unable to afford a class, they try to teach themselves.  This can be accomplished with books, tutorials, and videos, but it takes a whole lot of perseverance.

The Everything You Need To Know And Then Some Method

Enthusiastic instructors give detailed instructions and assignments and check in on your progress several times each week.  Personally I find this approach rather annoying, but some people like the virtual hand-holding.  Constant encouragement is provided so the student does not get frustrated and quit.

credit: Boaz Yiftach

The Weekly Assignment Method

The class is once per week, at which an assignment is given due the following week.  There is no contact with the instructor outside of class unless it is initiated by the student.  This method requires the student to be motivated enough to keep up.

The "Here's The Information" Method

A blend of the first 3 methods, the instructor gives a lesson and an assignment due for the next class.  Any questions are the responsibility of the student, but the instructor is always available for motivation and assistance.  The instructor may check in with the student between classes to make sure they have resolved a problem they were having.

It makes sense that with so many different individual learning styles that teaching styles would be varied.  There is a distinct difference in the amount of time the instructor is required to invest in each style.  I would be interested in hearing from crochet instructors on how they manage their classes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Finding The Time...

Moving, getting the flu, starting school full time once again - it's any wonder I have had no time to post!  In fact, I was so taken up with starting classes that I had to stop and take a step back.  I wasn't getting in ANY crochet time AT ALL!  This makes for a very grumpy me.

That being said, the past week has been quite productive.  The move uncovered my prototype fishing hat, that will be becoming an e-pattern shortly.  I have found the gloves I'm working on for Etsy - I'm using the same original pattern as I did for mine, but different yarn.  And I FINALLY managed to finish my own winter gloves!  They are made from Alpaca Sox yarn, and are nice and warm.  Just in time for the sub-zero weather!

The move also managed to find a whole bunch of other things that I'd forgotten I had!  Therefore, yarns that I have no need for in the foreseeable future have gone up on EBay.  Patterns will probably be next.

I have 2 more bins to go through today!  But first I think I'll go crochet something.....