Worth a Routine Change

Settling back into a routine can be a bit of a challenge, but teaching at the Crochet Guild of America annual Chainlink conference is really worth the change of schedule.

This is my second year teaching at CGOA, and this year went by faster than I thought possible. I blinked and it was over.

I spent the last week of July just outside of Chicago sharing my love of crochet with other like-minded individuals. I taught 4 classes, and as there are so many great crochet instructors I vary my topics to help set me apart. This event I taught Needle Felting Applique, Converting Knitting to Crochet, Variations of Broomstick Lace and Things that the Pattern Assumes you Know. I feel like every class I teach is a test; Can I share everything in a manner that everyone will understand? Am I giving the students what they need/want/deserve/expect?

In a respect I think I gain just as much as my students from a good class, which I think each of these were. I get inspired by the work they do and the questions they ask. It helps me explore things in a different way, and I hope that helps me grow as a teacher.

This was the first conference since 2004 that the CGOA did a conference alone. In the recent past CGOA partnered with The Knitting Guild Association for the Knit & Crochet Show, this year the knitting association decided to try something different and CGOA decided to proceed on its own. As a result the show was a bit smaller but this allowed it to have everything much more inclusive, with all the class rooms in the hotel. So no trekking to a large convention center. I could leave my class room and join groups of crocheters working on their latest projects in the lobby. It was really nice.

I also had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make a couple of new ones. It is like a battery being recharged, but recharged while it is being completely run to empty. I enjoy this show and look forward to next year in Portland, OR.


Inspiration from Broomstick

ScannedImageIt is so inspiring to share a concept with a student and see the spark in their eyes, and then see them make it their own. This has happened to me recently with an introduction discussion on Broomstick Lace.

I teach an informal crochet class at my local yarn shop, and keep it student driven, meaning that every student works on projects that they want to create and I teach them the parts they need to learn in an individual/group setting. I find that the students really get inspired from one another, and have such varied ideas for project that they want to create, this makes for a class that is different everyday highlights the beauty of how crochet can be some much to so many. The one constant is that I open every class with a new technique or skill.


one simple row of Broomstick LAce

Last week I shared how to create Broomstick Lace, one student was inspired enough by this concept that she took it home and began working a row of it in her latest baby afghan. I love how she did not feel intimated by it, or feeling that she needed to find a pattern, she jumped right into how she could apply it to her latest project.

With this inspiration fresh in my heart, I wanted to share with you the basics to this traditional technique.

You can begin this stitch on a base of any fabric, you can even start it in a foundation chain, and it is really versatile. You use a large knitting needle, I typical do not use a needle smaller than a US 19 (15 mm) when using a light or medium weight yarn, the thing to keep in mind is that the larger the needle in relationship to the yarn the larger the “eye” of the stitch.


Pull loops through base stitches and over a large knitting needle

Pull the working yarn over the needle, then insert your hook in the next stitch and pull up a loop, place this loop over the needle until you have pulled a loop through all the stitches in the row. Then you turn the work, and begin working the loops off the needle. This is done by inserting the hook through a number of loops on the needle (this number can vary, it can be as little as one, or as great as you like, often you see somewhere between 3 to 6 loops), yarn over, and pull a loop through these loops on the needle, chain 1, and work the either single or double crochet stitches in the space that the needle once sat, essentially in the loops. To maintain an even stitch count you want to add the same number of stitches as loops in the same stitches, for instance, if you are working in 5 loops, you want to place 5 stitches in the top of the loops. This process is continued across the needle.


After loading the needle with loops, turn the fabric and work the loops off in groups, insert hook through loops, yarn over and pull through a loop, then chain 1

This is actually a very forgiving stitch, as if you somehow end up with too many or to little loops, you can correct the pattern by adding the number of stitches you should have in the top of the loops, so if you have 4 loops, but should have 5, work 5 stitches in the top of the loops and you have made corrections for the next row, while creating a piece that visually shows not difference.


Working through the same space that the needle was located, work the same number stitches as there are loops into this space

This stitch may have originally received its name as being worked over a broomstick instead of a knitting needle, but has a reminiscent feel to Tunisian crochet and even Drop stitch crochet. These long loops pulled through stitches may be worked in different ways, but they create something uniquely crochet, and it is heart lifting to see them breathe new life.I can see them as rows of fabric, or used as an edging, they have great possibilities and are finding a new audience.

Crochet among the Travels

ScannedImageThe end of July and the beginning of August was a time of travel for me. I spent time in San Diego at the Knit & Crochet Show, an annual conference for TKGA (The Knitingt Guild Association) and CGOA (Crochet Guild of America). This annual conference is a time of visiting with old friends and making new ones, a time for learning, a time for inspiration, and a time for furthering the passion for fiber arts.


Vashti and I on our coastal California road trip, here we are at Morro Bay

I always enjoy attendance at this show, well it seems a little like going home since it was at one of these annual conferences that I began my career as a crochet designer. There are so many different opportunities and experiences that occur, that I am always finding myself not wanting it to end, and then looking forward to the next one (July 2016 in Charleston, SC). This year I helped my friend, Vashti Braha, with her first ever show floor booth selling her new yarn line, Designing Vashti Lotus. It was a fun experience and aided in seeing the show from a completely different perspective.


The Ball & Skein & More shop in Cambria, CA

Following the show, Vashti and I took a quick road trip up the California coast, where we found a fun little yarn store in Cambria, CA, the Ball & Skein & More. It was warm and friendly, I loved how well organized it was, with portable, well labeled bins of yarn, that did not leave you feeling overwhelmed or mislead. It kept everything feeling bright and fresh. The shelves were even mobile as well, so the store could easily adjust its layout for workshops, or special functions. It was a great visit after an Asian fusion lunch and before the visit to the little French bakery just down the street; definitely a place to visit again.


Anderson’s Alternatives In Mendocino, CA

After getting home, it was time to get on the road again with my family for a quick vacation. We drove further up the California coast to the quaint town of Mendocino, CA, just south of Fort Bragg. We love visiting this little town; my kids are even looking forward to our next visit. My son has been enjoying the skills of woodworking, so we visited a local art gallery that was featuring local woodworking artists, where my son was greatly inspired by what he could create in woods. Inspired enough that we stopped by another artisan shop Anderson’s Alternatives, where the owner was discussing properties of different types of wood and what he has created with them. So as a souvenir of our vacation my son decided that he wanted to bring home small slabs to create with.


Mendocino Yarn Shop in Mendocino, CA

My daughter, in her learning to knit adventure, was enthralled with the ever charming Mendocino Yarn Shop. I love this store. They are so friendly, and have a very nice assortment of yarn, as well as the knowledge to educate and answer any question a patron might have. There is a nice seating area that always is clamoring with various enthusiasts, that of course after my daughter found her “yarn souvenir” was exactly where she wanted to be. Of course she talked me into some new needles and some fancy yarn, I guess I might be a bit of a sucker in this location, as I understand the obsession all too well. Anytime I am in the area, I have to visit this little store….okay, anytime I am in the area of a yarn store I at least have to take a look and possibly sample what they have to offer, it is only polite after all.

The Giveaways Continue!

ScannedImageIt is really amazing how much yarn and such is in the gift bags from the Marly Bird Designer Dinner that took place at TNNA Summer Trade Show in Columbus, OH at the end of May. I still have stuff to share with you!


Book by Interweave, Boye small knitting loom, Lion Brand Yarn, Willow Yarn, & Valley Yarns

I was fortunate enough to attend this trade show that features the latest yarns and gadgets as the companies showcase their wares to local yarn store and needlecraft owners. I can honestly tell you, it can be completely overwhelming and that a few days are just not enough to take it all in. So as I am working through the varieties of yarn in my gift bag, I want to share the experience with others.

Lion Brand yarn has definitely come up with a textural winner with their new yarn Textures. It is a medium weight acrylic and nylon yarn that has a complete crinkle effect to it. It does not have much springiness so it holds its shape well and has many fun variegated colors. As it has the crimping in the yarn; pair it with a pattern that does not have a lot of intricate stitch detail, as it will be completely lost in the yarn. Work it as something simple and allow the yarn to do the work. It will give you lovely color play while adding a visual appeal.

Daily, a yarn from Willow Yarns, is a bulky weight superwash wool, that has some interesting and longer than normal color changes. Well that is not quite true, it actually changes from a long color repeat to a short repeat, like a solid to a variegated, and it really does add interest to your work. This yarn will definitely high light your stitches, helping make your work even that more impressive.

A little bit of spring and great stitch definition are true qualities of Valley Yarns Northfield. It is created with merino, baby alpaca, and silk, so it feels really nice in the hand while being a really stable and fun yarn. I can easily see this yarn as a highlight to a larger piece or a great solid piece in itself, which shows every stitch you work.

Now if you want to create a completely new texture try using the Boye Small Long Loom. I will admit that I did not sample this product myself; however my kids really enjoyed it though. They spent time creating and playing with yarn, my son actually gave it a little more attention than my daughter as she preferred her actual knitting needles. My son likes to dabble in weaving and found the process similar to his experiences yet simpler to warp and creating a knit fabric. I can definitely understand how a larger loom could be fun for him to create larger fabrics.

I really enjoy the publications from Interweave. They are known for great title and unique techniques and this book Best of Stitch Bags to Sew compiled by Tricia Waddell is no exception. It walks you through the construction of several really inspiring bags, of all types and styles. I may not sew often or all that well, but I have several great ideas sparked from items in this book. Simply having a better understanding of the construction styles already improves my work.

If you would like to experience these products for yourself, please leave a comment on this post by the end of the day on Monday, July 27, 2015 a winner will be randomly selected and announced via my Facebook page and Twitter.

A Knitters Give Away!

ScannedImageYes, knitting. It is not my forte, however I do have some knitting items to share with you from the Marly Bird Designer Dinner, as this dinner is for all kinds of fiber designers not just crocheters. (If you want to read about my relationship to knitting, I share it here.)


Clover and Knitter’s Pride needles, Purrfectly Catchy Designs stitch markers, Red Heart and Brown Sheep Yarns.

Since I am not a knitter I am not able to give a thorough review of the needles, but I can pass along what others have told me. First I have heard nothing but good things about the Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina FC 24” circular needles (US 5/3.75mm, 24”/60cm). I have heard that they are smooth to use and that the joins at almost seamless. I know that this helps them move the loops along well and helps speed up your knitting. Others have commented that the tips are sharp, I know that this helps you pick up the new loops. So overall I have sounds like these are worth checking out.

The Bamboo Needles from Clover are another that I have heard good things about. The needles are US8/5mm, 9”/23cm, and feel great in the hand (or so I have been told). I also understand that they give very consistent work and that many find them reliable.

I will admit that stitch markers are something that I know almost less about then needles. Don’t get me wrong, when I crochet I occasionally use stitch markers, usually working in the round and marking the beginning of the round. But to be honest, I usually just use a safety pin of a string of yarn. In crochet we have to make sure that the stitch markers are removable or instead they become beads. However almost every knitter I know has a wide assortment of styles of stitch markers, some are just basic rings, but others are almost like jewelry. The Purrfectly Catchy Designs by Chappy are stitch markers that qualify as the latter. Beautiful beads adorn twists of colored metal wire to create a marker that I could imagine as earrings.

Now at least yarn I have a little knowledge about. Red Heart shared a skein of Sparkle Soft in the goody bag from the dinner, and I must say if feels nice in the hand. The metallic thread twisted in it is not evenly plied, meaning that it is not evenly spaced in its appearance on this medium weight yarn, creating a more random and natural spacing for the shine. I could easily see this worked up as a nice accessory; a hat, a scarf, maybe even gloves.

Brown Sheep Company is another yarn company with the lasting of longevity, and they are sharing a skein of Lambs Pride Super Wash Sport. This light weight 100% wool yarn has an even hand, and is definitely a go-to yarn for consistency and reliability. I can easily see this yarn worked up as a sweater, gloves, and maybe even some home accessories.

I would love to know your thoughts on knitting needles and yarn (yes, even learning more about knitting, I believe will help my crocheting, even if it is not a skill I have mastered).

If you would like to enjoy these 5 items yourself, please leave a comment about your knitting thoughts on this post by the end Wednesday, July 21, 2015. One lucky comment will be chosen at random the following day, and announced via my Facebook page and Twitter.