I find myself writing a crochet pattern again (spawned by a request).
It’s been over a decade since I completed and published my last pattern.
Writing a pattern to international crochet standards is one of the most challenging–yet rewarding–exercises I’ve ever learned in crochet. But even the photos, illustrations, and formatting of the document layout took many hours and a lot of work. Don’t get me started on pattern testing, modeling, and photoshoots.
Designing is a lot easier than figuring out how to put an understandable (and pretty) explanation on paper that describes how I make things without thinking and “how you can too!”
And maybe I’m a little picky about the appearances of what I stamp my name on.
So I haven’t been looking forward to this request, for which chicken scratch isn’t going to do. Even though, at the moment, all I need are clear, basic beginning instructions that I can disseminate quickly and digitally.
As if that isn’t marvelously critical to the success of everything when working with newbies.
And then I remembered–I have tools today that weren’t available to me a decade ago. Even my Adobe and Word products are better tools today.
And it occurred to me–I’ve been writing and marketing on social media all this time. I’ve been designing graphics, e-courses, and web pages for clients–all this time. And I’ve been writing scripts and building templates. All. This. Time.
I wished for an easy button, but honestly–she’s right here. It’s me.
I’m the magic I seek.
And even better–I have a Canva Pro account today. Which is slick as heck and fun to use.
I’ll flesh out a right nice template that I can slip my instructions into in no time.
One of my favorite quotes: “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”
When I was a kid, my grandfather had an expression he frequently used to refer to people with no sense in their heads. People who “get their education from the funny papers.”
I used to think it was such an odd expression. An odd phrase. I loved reading the “funny papers.” I think it even helped improve my reading skills.
“Blondie” was one of my favorites. Along with “Beetle Bailey” and others. I recently mentioned to my son when he made himself a giant sandwich that he’d created a nice looking Dagwood Sandwich. He froze and stared at me, then asked me what on earth was a Dagwood sandwich. It never occurred to me that he might not know.
I spent the day today working and then attended a local veteran’s festival event that supports vets and their families. Met some good people and organizations, which I’ll share about later.
However, it was emotional for me. I stood there, surrounded by soldiers and vets, in uniform and out. And I burst into tears. Ugh. I tried to keep it together, but really couldn’t quite. Still, it was a good event and I had some pleasant conversation by the time I left and everyone was taking down.
The afternoon of overwhelming emotion left me stripped though. And instead of getting right back to work, which I needed to do, I wanted nothing more than to run away, find a movie theater or binge watch Doctor Who or Good Omens on auto-replay. And I can’t.
So, I did the next best thing. My son and I sat down to eat dinner in front of cartoons tonight. And when my daughter came home from her classes, she joined in with us too.
We started with Phineas and Ferb and ended with Ducktales. Cartoons we used to watch together with John at one time or another.
And it was interesting how helpful it was. I mean, I almost never watch TV on my own. I watched TV with John. And since his death, I don’t watch much of it at all. (In fact, John bought “me” our first TV when we were dating. “Look honey, I have a surprise for you,” as I recall it went.) So it’s been weeks since I sat down to watch anything. And here it was just cartoons that I turned to for relief. Even the ridiculous commercials for kids between cartoon breaks were oddly comforting.
What really struck me though, especially as an entrepreneur, was the Ducktales episode. At the beginning of the episode, Louie approaches Scrooge for money to fund a new hair-brained business venture. And Scrooge tells him that if he wants to be in business, he needs to find a problem that needs solving and then provide a solution. That this was his key to success.
And I was struck by how awesome it was that this cartoon was teaching principles of business to kids. And how Scrooge, who had plenty of money to hand out (and was even at one point willing to give Louie a small loan, but not a huge one), offered advice instead. He encouraged Louie to be enterprising.
It was refreshing, as I try to grow my social media and writing business, now that I’m supporting my family all on my own. Refreshing to hear a solid business principle come out of a cartoon character’s mouth.
Huh, an education from today’s modern “funny papers.”
I wonder how many kids who watched this cartoon when it first aired way back when are now business owners today.
In the next scenes, Louie brainstorms with his siblings to find problems to solve and needs to fill.
He asks them – what does everyone need? And his sister pipes up and says “Crochet hand grenade holders!”
And with that, I just want to make one.
It cinched the deal because I was already thinking earlier this week that I need a Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch. And that the Maker in me very much wants to make one for prominent display inside my family TARDIS.
And she’s right. I’m going to need a holder for it.
Seems the soft structures with curly arms are perfect for little hands to hang on to.
I checked in with some friends of mine who are respiratory therapists for the NICU, just to confirm whether this story was true here in the US or not.
They tell me that yes! They see that the little preemies do seem to relax more and their vitals seem to be more stable, with the exception of the preemies who are on ventilators. But they suspect it’s probably because the ventilator is already overwhelming to their sense of touch.
Anyway, so if you do charity crochet for preemies, check it out!
If you are new to crochet for preemies and need some guidance on materials to use, hospital policies, etc., check out my previous article on Crochet For Preemies.
As a crocheter, I’ve always been interested in experimentation and pushing the bar on what can be defined as crochet.
I’ve used crochet in traditional projects, but also non-traditional projects, from mixed media art with metal filigree, to stitching up fishing line and telephone wire, etc..
Something I’ve been interested in playing around with, but haven’t yet, is 550 gut.
550 cord – aka paracord – aka parachute cord – is a lightweight nylon kernmantle rope originally used in the suspension lines of parachutes. It’s a very handy piece of gear used by paratroopers and other military personnel around the world.
As our good engineering friend would say, it’s one of the 4 elements for solving any problem during an apocalypse: as long as you have duct tape, paracord, zip ties and a hanger – there’s nothing you can’t build. You’re set!
The “gut” I mentioned above, however, refers to the individual threads inside the sheath of the 550 cord itself. In genuine 550 cord, there should be 7 or 9 strands inside. I grabbed some of our cord and snapped a photo so you can see what I’m talking about.
And while I’m not disinterested in the idea of crocheting with full-blown 550 cord, say for a fabulous project like this crocheted paracord backpack, I find the idea of working with the silky gut inside more interesting right now. While super strong, even as individual strings, the gut is pretty soft to the touch. And I’m curious to see how it might work up and whether it would stay silky soft once I put it into stitches.
Anyway, my husband was a paratrooper for the Texas Guard, so I’m quite familiar with the stuff. We always keep it around and it’s one of the best things to keep handy in a go bag or your emergency kit in the car. I’ve tied down many the piece of furniture in the truck with simple 550 cord.
Magic-awesome stuff. The problem is, usually it comes in much shorter lengths than I’d want for a crochet project.
If I’m going to work with it, I want at least 100 yards of unbroken, uncut 550 gut. While I can certainly skin my own paracord for the gut, I still need it in one giant length of *yardage,* not just a few feet. I do NOT want to work with a bunch of short, cut pieces. And I don’t want the junk they sell for crafts either. I want the real thing. And it’s not usually found in such long lengths.
Military-grade 550 cord, refers to the minimum weight of the cord’s rated breaking strength, measured in pounds – Mil-C-5040h Type III paracord. 550 paracord is for life-dependent uses. Hence paracord bracelets and other useful applications for easily carrying around an emergency piece of heavy-duty cord. Just in case you find yourself in need. There are only a few companies who make it for true military specs. And it’s not the craft store version.
Anyway, a friend recently listened to my idea of working with paracord gut and suggested I consider nano cord, specifically nano cord from a Atwood rope company. Turns out I can get it in a 100 yard spool on Amazon Prime. It’s not 550 gut, as it’s still sheath around I think 3 strands, but it is tested to 36 pounds. While I haven’t proven to myself that nano cord is mil-spec at all, it does seem interesting. So I think I’m going to snag a roll to play around with and see what I can do. AND I kinda want to see for myself if the gut is anything like real 550 gut.
So we’ll see. I’ll let you know when I get anything of interest going with that. 😉
The obvious reason to do either, is to be sure you have enough yarn for your project.
It’s fairly common for patterns to tell you up front how much yarn you need in terms of yards or meters. Some will also tell you how much yarn you need in terms of thickness and in actual weight.
When you buy yarn for your project, commercially produced yarn will state on the label how much yardage or meters and / or how much weight the yarn has. But even if it doesn’t show the weight, you can easily use a kitchen scale to weigh your yarn.
So what if you’re designing on your own? What if you don’t have a pattern, and you’re making something you’ve never made before?
You could measure length, but for speed, consider weighing your yarn.
How does that help you ask?
The weight of your yarn can be used as a means to gauge where you’re at in a project and how much more yarn you still need to finish it.
Say you’re a fairly experienced crocheter but you’re making your own hat design. You know what you’re doing, but you’re not entirely sure how much yarn you’re using to do what you want to do.
Weigh it. You can weigh both the UFO and the yarn you have left halfway through the project to help you gauge whether you have enough yarn weight left to finish it. If the finished portion weighs far more than the leftover yarn, then you’re probably going to run short on your project. And if the yarn you have left weighs far more than your project does so far, then you’ll probably be ok.
You can also weigh your completely finished object so you know how much yarn to put down in your notes for the next time you make it. Or for your pattern if you’re going to write and publish it.
Still, it seems that people have different opinions as to which method is more accurate. Weight or length?
So I put it out to you. Which method do you use? Share your answer in the comments below!
1. Sleep in your clothes.You’ve probably heard about laying your clothes out the night before to save time the next morning. But I say heck – why not cut the time out altogether? Go to bed dressed for tomorrow. That way you don’t have to dress when you get up in the morning, thereby saving you even more time. Note: T-shirts, jeans and knit items work the best.
2. Eat breakfast in the shower. How long do you take to eat breakfast in the morning? I’m guessing you probably scarf something down in 5-10 minutes tops, don’t ya? Well that’s still 5-10 wasted minutes you could be crocheting instead! Multi-task by eating in the shower. I know, brilliant right? Hello smoothie! Instant Breakfast shake! Just pop it in a spill proof container and voilà, suck that puppy down while you rinse and you won’t even taste the suds.
3. “Services will be down for scheduled maintenance.” No seriously! Send this notice to your boss, put it on your website, place a sign on your desk and then get to your scheduled crochet maintenance! Trust me, the world will be amazed at how much better everything seems to work!
4. Skip the makeup. After all which is worth more – Maybeline or Malibrigo. Obviously, when your priorities are straight, there’s no contest. Use that time to pretty your crochet instead.
5. Have a Cro-Go Bag. Seriously, I don’t just mean your emergency go bag essentials that you should always have tucked away in the trunk. I mean get in the habit of keeping a crochet bag packed and ready to go – to take in your car. *Crochet in the drive-through, crochet in the pick-up line at school, crochet at the red lights. Crochet in the waiting room at the county tag office. You never know where you might be delayed and there are moments to be caught anywhere. Especially if you’re a Mom Taxi. And if you suddenly find yourself having to wait on someone – no worries, you can be productive.
6. Crochet on the phone. Blue tooth and speaker phone were made for crochet, unless you need to count.
7. Let Amazon deliver. Seriously. More and more you can find anything on Amazon. Even Malibrigo. Save your gas, let them deliver goods to your door and use that time to crochet!
8. Skip lunch. Well, is your crochet important to you or not?
9. Cover your end tables with crochet projects and WIPs, thereby eliminating the need to dust. Ergo, more crochet time.
10. Store your clothes in the dryer.Seriously, why fold and put them away? You’re just going to put them on again before you go to bed. So leave them in the dryer, toss them if they get cold and save that folding time for crochet!
11. Better yet, barter for laundry service. You wash and fold my clothes for me, I’ll totally crochet for you. Oh here, this one has a wine stain.
12. Barter for meals. You want more time to crochet anyway, right? Well cooking eats a lot of time! Covert that time instead into crochet time. Find the best foodie cook you know and offer to trade them your time, hour for hour, in crochet. Make sure they have lots of pot holders.
And there you have it!
12 BRILLIANT ways to increase the #crochet quality of your life.
Do you have an idea to add? Share it in the comments below!
Tonight was homecoming for our little geeky school of overachievers. This year the homecoming game was dodge ball. My son played and their team was 2nd in the finals.
Before the tournament officially began though, they announced the homecoming “court” for every grade in highschool. Basically a king and queen for each high school grade. Which of course is interesting for a small K-12 school that maxes out at around 375 kids.
Well, dear son was voted homecoming king for his junior class. And it was obvious that he was surprised! But that wasn’t the cutest thing.
The cutest thing was the grin on his face as he stood between pretty girls while they took photos of the whole “court” of homecoming winners for each grade in high school.
After the tournament, dear hubby and I took off to enjoy some snacks and drinks at a new favorite restaurant in Round Rock called Verde. Our kids are spending the night with friends, which left us some time together for a quick date. I’ll have to tell you more about it another time, but rest assured – Verde is tasty!
After our drinks and lite “meal” we headed over to Barnes ‘N Noble. We’ve had a tradition for years that when we do go out, we often like to head to a book store after dinner. It’s a great top off to a pleasant evening for us. In fact, most of our early dates (geeze we’re at 20 years ago) were to used bookstores. But then, we realized it was getting kind of expensive to keep up with – because we are both book geeks and neither of us can say no to each others’ book purchases!
Anyway, so though we don’t go all the time these days, when we do get to go out, we often still enjoy stopping by the book store. I usually grab a coffee and peruse what’s new.
Tonight, I stopped by the information desk to check out the 3-D printer they had sitting there. Last weekend was the (inter?)national Barnes ‘N Noble Mini Maker Faire, but we missed it thanks to our weather.
While I was looking over the 3D printer, though, I suddenly became aware of a request from little curly-headed boy approaching the information desk.
“Hey there! What can I do for you?” said a tattooed information specialist as he greeted the approaching boy.
“Um, yeah…” the boy (about 10?) responded. “Where can I find a book about how to get a date?”
I watched the cool, confident, tattooed guy go from confident to quite unsure in an instant.
“Um, what do you mean?” the specialist asked?
“Well,” the boy went on. “I’m pretty popular in school and everyone knows me. So how do I get a date?”
I about lost it right there. I gotta hand it to the information specialist, because while he was obviously stumped about how to respond to this request for information, he remained professional and even carefully respectful as he responded to the request. “Well, I honestly don’t know what I could find for you that would be in your age group…” he started. I chuckled and moved on, before I could get caught rolling on the floor busting a gut. That was darling! What a hoot!
Photo taken by my friend Caroline Gukian and willing test model is daughter of my friend Laura Smith.
The third cute thing tonight was getting to try my Christmas Elf Hat design out on a real live little kid. Because, you know – I don’t have little ones at home anymore, nor do I generally have easy access to anyone else’s. I’ve been aiming for a size 18 months to 2 year old toddler range. But the sizing seems to be coming out more preschool age.
Still, I’m pleased with how the shaping is working out and the ability to pose the hat. It sure looks cute on her. Don’t ya think?
Well, it’s the time of year that I itch most to be crafting somehow. Normally I’d be doing shows. However, I have been too busy this year to be able to consider shows.
You might be wondering why. After all, shows make money, right? But the truth is, there can be a lot of moving parts at times. You need sales inventory, materials, time to make your inventory, time to price, setup and sell, time to pack up and go home. Not to mention wrangling scheduling conflicts with your growing kids’ responsibilities and last-minute school demands. And not to mention that most of the [good] winter shows require applications mid-summer.
There are a lot of moving parts to doing shows, even when they are lucrative.
And it’s best when you have a lot of sales inventory to sell. With an art like crochet, the last fiber art left that cannot be replicated by a machine, two hands will only make so much, so fast. Usually I’m banking my creations all year for the holiday season. Meaning I have to have time to sit and make throughout the year, not at the last minute. And sometimes shows are simply a bust. You never know. So you need to be ready for multiple shows to do OK.
This past year, it’s just been best to hock my digital skills and not worry about regular making sessions. Just sell my articles, sell my graphic knowledge, sell my social media and ad-copy skills. There’s no overhead in any of that. No displays to figure out. No truck to pack. No tables to haul, or inventory to keep. Just my mad brainy skills. Even less waiting for payment in some cases. Although sometimes there’s more drama. Let’s face it, a pair of mittens don’t often talk back to you. There’s a method to my madness this year, but more on that later.
The fact is, I love to make things. And I can’t do brainy stuff non-stop without going crazy. I need my creative outlets to stay sane.
And while I have a couple of ideas I’m dying to try soon on some real hooks, I’m also planning to do some crochet hook hair sticks. Like these. Because they’re handy and fun. I’m always using them to get my hair out of my face.
Before you think, “Oh – you mean use crochet hooks as hair sticks!” – I actually don’t.
Some of these hook shapes will be nice and light-weight and excellent as hair sticks. But they will not be strong enough to actually hook a real project. The hair sticks I make from bamboo are particularly not hook-worthy. They’re only pretty. And they are hard to get a hook shape out of in the first place.
Quality crochet hooks have to be more carefully engineered than hair sticks.
It’s just a fact. They have to be more carefully engineered than knitting needles too. Really good crochet hooks require way more time and way more attention to detail. Because you have to be able to hook something with them. Again and again and again.
For. Like. Ever.
See the little hair stick? That’s made of bamboo. It’ll hold hair great. Super light weight. But it would quickly snap if you tried to hook with it. I even had to alter the head a bit just to keep it as strong as it is. No longer an ideal crochet hook head shape.
You must use good materials that are capable of forming a strong hook head, with a proper shape. A hook at the end of a stick is not enough to make a good crochet hook. If the wood does not allow you to shape the head properly, then you won’t have a good hook. Period. And your end product needs to be able to withstand the torque necessary for the act of regular crocheting. Otherwise a few stitches in, and that hook head or lip will snap or sheer or chip right off.
And everyone wants their crochet hooks to last longer than that.
But hair sticks do not require the same amount of strength. They just need to hold hair and look pretty. Hence the difference between real crochet hooks, and hair-stick wannabees.
Could you crochet with my crochet hook shaped hair sticks?
Some of them, yes they’ll hold up for awhile. Others, perhaps and maybe not.
Btw, that’s paint in mah hair.
Here’s the deal.
I won’t call something I’ve made a “crochet hook,” unless I stand behind the quality put into it as a tool – to be able to do the job of crochet. With the right shape and the right strength.
And if I call it a “hair stick,” even if it is crochet hook shaped, it means I’m not comfortable with its strength enough to call it a crochet tool. And I doubt it’ll stand up to my durability standards for regular hooking use.
Back at the beginning of the summer, I let you guys know that my crochet hook experiment was going to be at Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire (just outside Austin). And then soon after MMF, I raced off for my summer road trip across country with the kids to go visit Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front (and a few places in between). But with breaking my ankle at the end, and the long recovery from surgery, I never did give you guys a recap of how Mini-Maker Faire went! So here it is! Let me go back in time and fill you in. 😉
As you know, I’ve participated in the only two large Maker Faires hosted in Austin, back in 2007 & 2008. And I absolutely loved it! The experience was beyond my expectations and for once in my life, I really felt like I’d found more than just a handful of “my people.” It was like finding your roots in a tribe. Unfortunately though, Maker Faire was not able to come back to Austin in 2009, which was a huge disappointment to me.
Then sometime last year, thanks to the work of Austin Tinkering School, a 2012 Mini-Maker Faire in Austin was born. However, the timing of it crashed into the same time we were putting our house on the market. So I didn’t even get to attend, much less present.
Thankfully, TechShop rolled into town. They are a very cool community workshop place that I want to buy into. I learned about them through the KidBot work my kids and I were doing with The Robot Group during the summer of 2012. Interestingly enough, TechShop’s concept was inspired by Maker Faire out in CA. So it was super cool that they decided to host a Mini-Maker Faire here in Round Rock less than a year after they opened. As soon as I learned about it, of course I jumped at the chance to participate!
The Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire was crazy and awesome. And though I thought I had a plan, yeah – that went out the window. None of the site setup or traffic flow was according to plan either. And I did not get any photos as planned either. But it all worked out fine. Some other folks took pictures and told me they would contact me later to share them, but I haven’t ever heard from them. It’s somewhat disappointing to have poured so much into doing the event for free, only to have no photos or visual record that we were there or even a part of it. But that’s what happens when you are too busy to be able to take photos. However, TechShop did put together this little video and you can catch a tiny glimpse of my booth at about 11 seconds into the video! So there you go, flash proof that crochet was represented! 😉
Because I chose not to do a for-profit booth (I really did not have time to get merchandise together) I was set up in the big main room not far from the entrance. I was also right next to a working Tardis Console display, complete with buttons to push and sound effects, which you will also notice in the video. It was awesome! Though pretty loud in the echoing room. We had to do a lot of shouting to communicate while all the kids went crazy for it. And of course, I loved that all these kids are so educated in the ways of Doctor Who today.
Tom Baker as Doctor Who, with the amazing long scarf!
See, I grew up watching Tom Baker as the 13th Doctor way back in the 80’s in OK, where no one else I knew ever did. I was such a geek even then. Seeing all these excited kids was just…. sweet. In fact, one of the reasons I really stuck with crochet was due to my fascination with Tom Baker’s scarf! Which I have yet to replicate, btw. But I’ve made many, many long scarfs just because of him. Anyway, so I guess we can all lay some blame on Tom Baker and his writers for at least a little of my extreme fascination with crochet. Even though yes – I know his scarf in the show was knitted! Hey, I was a kid – the modality doesn’t matter. Simply the long scarf. That is all. That and the awesomeness that is Doctor Who. And Tom Baker.
(Speaking of, I finally got to watch the 50th anniversary Doctor Who Special tonight, and I loved it. Last cameo scene brought me to joyful tears. Tom Baker, I still love you!)
Back to Mini-Maker Faire! One of the fun things TecShop did was create an allocated chalk-board wall for everyone to write their answer to fill in the blank of one simple question: “If I could make anything in the world, I would make ____________.” The answers were quite fun! Here are just a few photos we caught. Notice how many Doctor Who references there are!
Finger-knitting was insanely popular at my booth at this Maker Faire – again. I have taught this to kids in the Austin area for over a decade. Usually, I tell every kid I teach – OK here’s the catch – you have to go teach others. Go infect your friend with yarn love. I do this in crochet too, but little kids love finger knitting and all that requires is yarn to keep them busy. I used to work in special education in college and we used activities like finger knitting with children of all types and abilities. It’s amazing how even a child with ADhD can calm and focus during this activity. And even the parents seem more peaceful. I used to tuck an extra ball of yarn in the hands of mothers and say – here, keep this in your purse for the next time you’re at the store with the kids. 😉
My daughter designed and made this giant wooden sword, with a little help from her dad on some of the cutting.
Anyway, this year my daughter Jessica taught the kids finger-knitting while I taught crochet and talked about hooks. She also brought her giant wooden sword she made for Halloween last year, which gained loads of attention. At one point, we were working at separate tables when I turned around and realized cameras were on my daughter and she was being interviewed for some sci-fi crafty internet show thing. I still don’t know how I feel about it. I quelled the urge to run over and ruin everything by asking – don’t you think you should ask her mother for permission before you film my child? Hopefully they were responsible interviewers, etc.. Supposedly they were going to contact us if they used the footage, but we have not heard anything about it. (If anyone out there sees footage of Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire 2013 out there somewhere, please tell me??)
I didn’t have time to finish all the hooks for the experiment as planned, so I also brought my own personal collection and let people play with it. One lady crocheted a swatch using every (smaller) single hook in my collection. Awesome. A lady from Brazil came by and chatted a while. She talked about crochet yarn as fat as your thumb and as tiny as a silk sewing thread and how crochet is something *everyone* does in Brazil. She also talked about a street in Brazil paved in yarn and fiber classes. It sounded amazing. She said fiber crafts for them there is like car lots are for us here. Tons of them line the streets. Which was kind of a weird/sad thought. I must go see this someday. I wish I remembered what town she said she was from.
People who were interested in knowing more about how to read patterns came by, including some who were talking about wishing they could get more Japanese patterns in the US with symbol crochet maps. I concurred.
There was one main thing that helped me out with the giant crowds of people that I’m really happy I did. I decided to make a “science fair” type presentation board with photos and reports on it about Jimbo’s and my crochet hook experiment, plus diagrams and photos of various hook shapes and extra information. A lot of photos were taken of my board and lots of people came by to talk to me because they read my board. Very cool. However – I forgot to put Aberrant Crochet or Jimbo’s or my name on that board anywhere. It was on the report sitting in front of the board, but no where else. (sigh) Well, what can you do.
I ran out of business cards and fliers though, so here’s hoping that somehow, somewhere out there these people will get in touch or something. Who knows? But then again – how may people do you get in touch with yourself after taking a business card? Yeah. So you know what I mean.
Still, all in all it was a fascinating day of people who were fans of crochet, or fans of yarn or who were just fascinated by my experiment. I really enjoyed it and I was hoarse by the end of the day. Much of the content that I spoke about is what you see printed in my articles in the 2013 Fall and Winter Interweave Crochet magazines. (Speaking of which, the winter issue should be available in a couple weeks!)
So there you go, a Mini-Maker Faire Recap, albeit a late one! I’ll try to catch you guys up on my road trip here soon. 🙂
You know the best advice I can give an artist seeking to sell for profit is to follow your heart when it comes to creativity and listen to your customers’ feedback.
Every time I’ve ever tried to do something my heart wasn’t really into, from that creative artistic point of view, it never would sell well.
In the beginning, I got a lot of shoulds on what to make from peers and others who had input to give me, but who weren’t ever buying from me. “You should make dog clothes!” I don’t own dogs and I don’t know the first thing about shaping for them, I don’t think so. “You should make purses!” Well, I might make a couple, but if I’m not really a bag lady myself, how can I possibly find it interesting enough to create them for profit or be in tune with what people want in a crochet purse. “I just want to see you succeed,” another artist told me at a show after giving unsolicited advice.
And you know what else? Not once has a customer treated me that way either. Kind of interesting. Maybe they like my ideas just the way they are.
And that’s just it. I have always succeeded by being me. And not by trying to imitate someone else.
I believe people buy handmade and art because they are expressions of someone, and they are drawn to that spirit. When it’s authentic, they’re fans. When it’s not, there’s nothing to distinguish you the individual from someone else. And when we listen to fans and to the people who are actually putting money into our hands, we’re listening to people who have tapped into our creative spirit. Which can be really helpful when we’re feeling a bit lost and need direction.
Anyway, so though it sounds clichéd, seriously – follow your heart in your craft. Pour yourself into it. And if you can’t? If there’s a block? Then find an avenue that isn’t blocked. Nowhere does it say that you have to be a yellow pencil. Be inspired by someone? Sure. But genuinely do your own thing!
If you’ve known me awhile, then you know how passionate I am about crochet and especially crochet hooks. To me, we don’t pay enough attention to our tools! Even though our tools make up such a huge part of the equation when it comes to the outcome of our crochet designs!Not to mention our crochet comfort, control and frustration levels. So I was really excited at the opportunity to “preach the gospel,” so to speak!
This Interweave Crochet hook article combo is one of the largest freelance writing endeavors I’ve ever worked on. And of course after pouring so much crochet heart into them, I can’t help but be excited that I get to share it with Interweave Crochet and their readers!
So please watch for the issues, check out the articles and feel free to ask questions and give feedback! I’m confident these articles will be unlike anything you’ve ever read in a publication about hooks before. And I’m so excited that the world of hooks, hands and their variations is getting more attention! 😀 I mean, just how many articles have you seen dedicated to crochet tools and the hands that hold them!
Yay! Hookey goodness! 😀
So… you gotta go check it out! The first article on hook shapes will be in your next Fall 2013 Issue of Interweave Crochet. The second article will show up in the Winter 2013 issue. Some Interweave subscribers already have the first (I know because you emailed me – thanks for letting me know!), so if you subscribe and haven’t received your magazine yet – you will soon! I haven’t received mine yet either, so I’m waiting too! And if you like the efforts Interweave Crochet is making in advancing crochet knowledge, please let them know! 🙂
For those of you who buy your magazines off the stand, you’ll likely have to wait until September 16th. The summer issue will be on display until then, at least in the U.S..
So there you go! There’s the big news I’ve hung on to!
But stay tuned, because that’s not the only bit of juicy news I have to share! Next up, I have to tell you about my summer trip with my kids across the country, our visit with Laurie Wheeler from The Crochet Liberation Front and her family, a sweet yarn shop in Denver, and more!
Not to mention, we have a lot of catching up to do! Catch you on the flip side!
Well guys, I don’t know how it happened, but my video post a couple of days ago for crochet hook holding positions posted the wrong video! It posted the discussion on hook ergonomics instead!
Eek! Sorry! I’m not sure how I did that, but since there are already some comments on the earlier posts, and I don’t want to confuse anyone, I’m just going to completely re-post with the correct video with the correct title today. 🙂
So what follows is a video demonstration of several hand positions people use when crocheting and advantages/disadvantages to each. Hope you find it helpful! And please share!
Yep, working on some surprises for ya! Oh, I haven’t forgotten our series of crochet hook design discussions, it’s just taking longer than I’d like. It’s taken me a few days to complete this one, but here it is. Let’s just say my new camera birthday present hasn’t been as user friendly as I would like.
Anyway, check out the video, let me know what you think, add to the discussion and stay tuned for supplemental articles later this week. 🙂
Well friends, my world is full of exciting news. We had an offer on our historical home this weekend! So now we are officially on the road to becoming first-time home sellers. I’m not sure what kind of kink this may put into my blogging and hook carving schedule, but my goals remain the same. I am still carving and blogging about a new hook every week and I am still participating in the November NaBloPoMo. I’m doing it. Hell yeah I’m doing it!
Eeek! Please do cheer me on! (And wish us a smooth and successful house selling and buying process! The houses we were previously interested in have since sold, so now we have to find somewhere to buy!)
There should be consistency enough along the throat and/or shaft of the hook to at least keep all loops on the hook the exact same size.
So I left off yesterday with the photos demonstrating what a wedge shape design in a crochet hook will do to your stitches. In this case, Grandmother Tree’s hook was technically two different sizes in the throat. If I left the hook this way, the top and bottom loops of any given stitch made with the hook would be inconsistent in size.
However, due to the curvature and angle of the hook, I needed to not only come up with a way to create consistency in size, but also while striving not to sacrifice the strength or length of the hook. Or for that matter, sacrifice usability. We still need a comfortable hook. Doesn’t matter how precise the top is if it’s too uncomfortable and not shaped well enough to hold.
It’s somewhat difficult to photograph, but there is a slight twist to this wood with the hook’s curvature. After all it is carved from a small live oak tree branch and we all know they do not grow in a straight line in any direction. We still need a comfortable handle, and we need adequate room on the hook that remains consistent in size so our loops remain the same size as we work.
So here’s the design I came up with. Check it out.
By creating an impression in the throat at the top of the handle, and then narrowing the back and sides, I was able to create a consistent size all the way up to the handle slope and reduce stress on the top loop.
It’s a short hook, so there wasn’t a lot of room to work with, but I succeeded in my goals. Not only does the hook pass the sizing test up to the handle, but as you can see here, the loops on the hook are the same size – no stretching! There’s adequate room to work for most stitches that most crocheters will use. (For instance, I would not recommend this hook to make my Giant Halloween Spider Web, as there’s not enough room on the hook to make the special stitches.)
Now it’s starting to shine.
Now that the design issue is solved, it’s time for the finishing touches. I need to refine all the edges, double check the handle shape so it’s comfortable in the hand and put a buttery smooth finish on the hook. I use several different grades of sandpaper and diamond tip tools to do this. And though I do use some steel wool on occasion, I honestly far prefer not to use it. There’s some expensive stuff that I like much better instead and to me it’s worth it. The slick finish it creates for me is amazing and it doesn’t leave metal splinters in my hands. And since I intend not to use sealant on this hook and to leave it “al natural,” I really want the best buff I can get. Towards the end of this process, I start using a piece of soft felt to hold the hook as I polish. And it’s about time for me to find a nice piece of cloth to wrap the final product in.
Stay tuned! Final photos and the silent auction is next!
So it’s on for the Fall to Christmas crochet hook carving challenge.
The weather was not as nice as it was last week, but I still enjoyed the windows open, the birds at the feeder and the fresh air for a while this morning. Between chores, some training, a meeting at school and several back to back calls and other meetings, I managed to spend some time perfecting the crochet hook I started this weekend.
There’s a pile of wood pieces I’ve saved. Pieces gifted to me by my mentor Jimbo while at Cama last year, pieces from my Grandpa Jack’s tree, pieces my brother dug out of his stash of project scraps, dowels, chopsticks and knitting needles I have worked on and pieces from my giant old trees in the back yard.
While sorting through my choices in deciding what I would work with for the first hook of my Fall challenge, my eyes kept settling on an interesting curved shape I’d already pulled from the yard and stripped in preparation for work.
A piece from our 500-600 year old live oak tree.
This is the tree my children love, the tree they have climbed, swing from and the tree that has shaded them all their lives. This is the tree that will be so hard to leave when we move. The one thing that stands out and my children will want to see again someday when they are older and they need to reconnect with their roots. The Grandmother Tree.
Comparing sticks, I think I’ll start with the curved.
I picked the piece up and immediately remembered why I added it to my project box. I’m not an overhand crocheter, but this piece of wood curves perfectly in the hand, knife style. There’s even a natural depression right around the thumb area. I’m not personally a huge fan of thumb rests as a chop-stick style crocheter, but they are very helpful to nearly anyone using an overhand style. The size and shape kind of reminded me of a trigger style hook.
So began the work to prepare the shape for the hook captured inside.
The process for me in creating a hook is very precise as I am quite particular about shape and purpose of my tools. Though I have created hooks specifically for certain people, my focus is generally on creating hooks that I would use. I’m not interested in creating just any shape that happens to seem hook-like in nature. I am actually quite obsessed with the shape and quality of my tools. And I’ve seen many a badly shaped hook. Sometimes your frustrations have nothing to do with crochet, your yarn or your skills, but everything to do with your tool.
I enjoyed the fresh air in the garage while carving the tip into a rounded point. Two ladies drove up and one jumped out to get a sales flier for our house from our box. I hope it leads to a contact. But I also hope it’s not today. Or tomorrow for that matter.
I had a meeting to get to, so I stashed the rounded shaft and headed out the door.
The shape of any natural stick is inconsistent and presents variations in any carving endeavor. However this stick is curved and unusual with its knotting, so to get the shape I want in the end, and keep it comfortable in the hand, I have to sculpt it carefully. I need both an excellent hook shape for work, but also a comfortable handle with no uncomfortable anomalies.
Getting there! Lot’s more to go on the head though.
Smoother and the shape is more refined.
Michelangelo was known to say that in his work, the sculpture was always locked inside and he simply removed what what not the sculpture. I’m not a genius artist like he was, but I do completely understand this concept as it’s very logical and exactly how I see making hooks. I stare at the wood and a shape emerges. And then it’s revealed how that shape can become a useful shape for my purposes.
The art of crochet involves torque. It’s one of those things that makes it very different in skill than knitting because the needs to leverage your tool to work with yarn are different. There’s all sorts of manipulation involved that depends on a strong and properly shaped hook in crochet. Hence the strength of our hooks are vital, more vital than the strength of a knitting needle. Because it must be able to take the pressure we exert by way of the yarn wrapped through it. It’s especially important for the bowl of the hook’s mouth to be incredibly smooth.
(sigh) broken. I accidentally took the lip right off.
And to craft that hook just right in wood, with the right amount of slope, a generous bowl and long enough lip takes careful work with the right tools.
But sometimes even then, even after hours of collective work, you fail.
And in working on the bowl tonight, after hours of work, I accidentally took the lip completely off. And that’s that. Or is it?
It’s a nice curved handle, so I spent some time looking at it some more.
Maybe there’s still some hope to save Grandmother Tree’s hook. It would be shorter than I have planned, but in studying the curves, my hand and what’s left at the front, I begin to see another crochet hook.
It’s getting late though and I do not want to continue to work with sharp objects when I’m tired, nor do I want to lose my “place” and the vision in my head. So to be sure of my thoughts, I sketch, make notes, and draw some marks for her new face. Clarifying in my mind whether I really think the new shape could work. Or perhaps in the morning, maybe I should just start over.
This is absolutely my favorite time of year. My favorite season, my favorite three months out of the year. Some would say it’s because my birthday is next month. And they might be right, but I don’t think so. I think it’s more likely because down here in Central Texas, the summers are brutal. And as my husband said the other day when the weather was finally nice enough to throw the windows open: “This. This is why we live here. This is why we put up with the heat of summer. For this.”
Here, fall is a sign of relief, holidays and family gatherings around the corner and in many ways, to me a new beginning. But then, I guess October is my New Year.
In celebration of my favorite season, and in leaving the safety of 40, I have agreed to take on a challenge handed to me by friends. Can I do it?
I have pledged to hand-carve and blog about at least one new special crochet hook per week from now until Christmas.
And I better get cracking. These special hooks will be offered up for sale each week here on my blog. And through the process, I hope you may learn a bit more about hook anatomy and why the design of your crochet hook is so important.
I have decided to handle the blog sales the same way my carving mentor, Jimbo Price, does with his own hooks – by silent auction. Opening bids for each hook will begin at $10 ($5 increments there-after), with the respective blog post updated as bids are emailed in (to email@example.com). Bids will run for the week and then end.
Funds from these sales are primarily to benefit our son’s vision. After writing my previous post about our son’s rare vision issues and the need to be able to finish his treatment, we found out he will need more than we expected. About twice what we expected and at a cost of $3000 more. Already, one of my customers has made a generous monetary donation on our son’s behalf that has helped us get started. You know who you are and from the bottoms of our hearts – again thank you.
When it comes to the challenge itself, I’m not quite sure what will evolve out of it. But I know it will be intriguing to me. It takes me 3-5 hours to carve one of my hooks, depending on exactly what shape I am aiming for and the wood I’m working with. I will have to treat this “hook a week” challenge much the way I have to treat NaBloPoMo coming up in November – with discipline and innovation. There are plenty of events and life activities to get in the way, but you just do it and stick to it somehow. And when you think you’re out of ideas, you ask for input, turn yourself upside down and you think of something differently. (You don’t think I’m going to make the exact same hook each week, do you?) To make it fair, part of the caveat (straight from the NaBloPoMo playbook) is that even if I make more than one hook in a week, I still can’t work ahead and skip a week. I have to carve and blog about at least one hook a week. That’s the challenge. To have that discipline.
The goal in part is for me to see if I can do it. Just like the goal in NaBloPoMo is to blog every single day, without fail, through the month of November. Only this is carving a hook a week for an entire season plus a week. It sounds easier than it is. But in the long run the badge of accomplishment is worth it.
So be watching for an intro into hook anatomy and the first hook offering! 🙂 See you on the flip side.
Etsy has been talking about creative shipping and packaging and asking fellow Etsians to share photos and tips. After all, holiday show season is just about upon us. So I put together some photos to share in their discussion.
Collection of Recycled Shipping/Shopping Materials in Crochet
What you see to the right are just three different examples of packaging that I’ve made that’s been recycled through the skills of crochet. Here, a bubble mailer, a rip-stop shipping bag and a clear plastic shopping bag have all been cut up, sewn and crocheted into new looks. They take some time to do, but I’ve been working on these ideas for the upcoming holiday season to offer to my customers.
When it comes to creative packaging for my business, for me it’s all about recycling and maximizing my efforts while still being creative and maintaining professionalism and class. I recycle shipping packets as much as possible. In my shared examples, crochet edging is made from durable scrap yarns and sometimes buttons from “Grandma’s Vintage Bucket Of Awe” also find new life in the creative gift wrap.
A shopping bag finds new life with a crocheted top and hanging loop.
For me it’s partly just good business sense to stretch my dollars if I can. Handmade is a tough enough business to be financially successful in and I’d rather spend my $ on good yarn, not blow it on packaging or shipping materials if I don’t have to. That said, I’m also not one to sacrifice quality either. Not to mention, like my Grandma Dot, who survived the Great Depression, I’m no fan of waste. And truly, since most of my sales are face to face sales, I have more creative gift wrapping concerns than I do shipping concerns. So it’s easy enough for me to recycle my and my friends shipping materials. Another reason for trying to recycle creatively as much as possible is because I simply don’t have the storage space otherwise to hang onto perfectly good items. So I look them over and then decide if I can repurpose them or not. And lastly, I simply enjoy the challenge. Crochet is a true hand art that can never be done by machine. So even my packaging is made with personal care and pride.
This is one of those rip-resistant shipping envelopes, cut up and crocheted to become a smaller, more stylish envelope! (You can see a hint of the bar code inside!)
If I run out of shipping materials to recycle though, I do go ahead and buy them. And I do invest in tissue paper and professional business cards and labels. Clear concise cards and logos are important I think, that is, if you wish to brand yourself and be remembered. But when it comes to holidays, I try to up the ante and offer my customers some creative gift wrapping options. Since I’m a crochet designer, I prefer to incorporate crochet somehow into the fun.
A recycled bubble mailer is now ready to hold a handmade item.
For finished crocheted goods, I always wrap them carefully, tie them and focus on two layers of packaging -> the gift inside as well as the outer shipping shell. The outer shell will be abused by whatever shipping service, so I want to be sure the item inside stays safe. But also, I want my customer to enjoy pulling their purchase out of the outer shell and opening their “care package” inside. So I think about the presentation inside as well as out. PDF patterns don’t get shipping attention of course, but when I carve crochet hooks, I like to wrap them in things like lacy handkerchiefs. To me, my customers are investing in high end, heirloom quality work done by an expert in the field, so their items should be handled with class. However they are also investing in a piece of me and my romantic yet quirky sense of the world, so there has to be an element of fun as well. My goal is always to give someone a grin and a light-hearted memory.
I also personally feel that if you’re really into vintage and handmade as a business, then consider coming across more personal, clever and unique even in your packaging and less like trying to copy mass productions. Let your personality through on an individual basis. After all, what’s handmade and the season about? Customers don’t buy handmade because it’s their only choice, so definitely keep in mind that your edge is that personal touch and that customers desire to invest in you – someone that’s real.
Oh, I do have one other little secret when it comes to my wrapping needs: My daughter, Jack, can wrap and tie the prettiest bows like no one’s business, so I do often get her help! 😀
So what do you think? How do you approach gift wrapping or packaging? Share your tips with us below!
I spent a little time in KS with my brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew. Their newborn, Lilly, was born by c-section, so we went up not just to visit, but to help. There was plenty to do with three kids under school age in the house. And dear Lilly’s sleep schedule hadn’t ironed out yet, as is par for the course.
Staying a week up there was a change of pace from home at the end of the school year and a joy to spend time fulfilling the role of “aunt.” Over the last weekend of my visit I made a little owl amigurumi from a crochet magazine for my two-year old nephew. I’d already been making flowers for my oldest niece and wanted to find a ball “recipe” I thought I saw in a magazine. I was flipping through pages when my 5-year-old niece noticed the owl design. “You know… Aunt Julia…” she said, drawn out with coy emphasis. “I think you should make my brother an owl. Maybe the little one…. (innocent pause) Don’t you think?” I looked at her with a barely veiled “is that so?” in my eyes. And so it was that the simple ball toy for a boy that I was looking for became abandoned to a more involved ami owl.
I always bring yarn with me everywhere. Trips especially. I looked through all my bags and found enough navy blue yarn to complete the job. “Ma’ owl,” my dear nephew kept saying as I crocheted, pointing to the photo in the magazine. I worked on it all afternoon and on into the next day between chores and other activities. Then on the second day, as the body was finally stuffed and starting to take form with the eyes sewn on, my nephew got real excited as he realized the owl was coming into being. “Ma’ owl done?” he kept running up to ask as I sewed on each piece. It seemed like every 5 minutes at this point. “Not yet, still working on his feet/wing/beak,” I’d say each time.
Then finally the owl was complete and he was elated. I managed to finish it right at his bed time, and he carried it around with him as he got ready. “Owls are nocturnal,” his big sister said at one point. Then referring to her new baby sister she piped up and said, “Maybe Lilly’s nocturnal!” My sister-in-law and I shared a chuckle.
Then before they headed off to bed, my nephew put his new owl on the kitchen counter to keep watch. Eyes on the fridge I guess – we’re not sure why. The next night he had his owl sit on the banister outside his bedroom to keep watch. I look forward to hearing more about where it roosts for the nights to come.
It’s a wondrous thing, to be able to create something special, while the kids watch, quick as a wink like that. Wondrous indeed.
I’ll try to post which pattern this was when I find the magazine I used. I don’t remember what it was or where I got it.
I'm a writer, crochet designer, crochet hook expert and a serial social media consultant. I like useful but not too serious. This theme is reflected in my life, my crochet and my writing. Life's too interesting and short to be uptight. Carpe Equito!
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