Archive for the ‘Crochet’ Category

Hello, Stranger!

So, while I totally rock at Counted Cross-Stitch, and have crocheted some amazing items, I totally suck when it comes to blogging.

Why do I suck, you might ask?  Because it has been a long, long time since I last posted.  Life keeps you busy, ya know?

So, what has been keeping me busy since my last post last year…

Family, for one.  My mom had surgery for her cancer in October 2011, and I was there at the hospital visiting her every day.  When she got home, she was going to be bed-ridden for a short time, so I was helping her out at home as well.  One of the really good things about working for family is that we were able to adjust my work schedule around so I could help out my mom.  After mom healed enough from surgery, she started a 12 course chemotherapy treatment.  My dad went with for the first one, but after that, I’ve been taking her.  With blood test, doctor consult, and treatment, chemo days are 6 hour days at the doctors’ office, and I tend to get a lot of crocheting done on those days.  While there are many people who go alone to get chemo treatments, I go with mom to not only keep her company, but to also get her back home safely in case the chemo makes her feel really sick.  She has had nine treatments so far – just three more to go.  This is her third time dealing with cancer, and it has been the most difficult. My wish is that this will be the last time she deals with cancer. and that she will be cancer free for a long time to come.

There is fun family news as well.  My nephew T turned 3 in November, and he is one of the best things in my life right now.  He has an AMAZING imagination – fighting dragons, putting out fires, shooting pirates, and making up stories about Prince T.  Yesterday, he woke up from his nap and became Action Man!  He had Action Boots to keep his Action Feet warm.  He had an Action Punch.  He even had an Action Theme Song that he warbled to me over the phone.  I just love it all!

His twin sisters (whom he will tell you are ruining his life) just turned 11 months old this month.  E is walking ALL OVER THE PLACE!  She also wants anything that T has, and if it is food, she really wants it!  J isn’t walking yet, although she is pulling herself up on objects in order to stand.  The problem is that she hasn’t quite figured out how to get back down to the floor, so she will stand there and cry until you help her.  I’m looking forward to celebrating their birthdays next month.

Crochet has kept me busy as well. I won’t go into too much detail here because I do have another blog to write, but I can hit the highlights.

  • Went to CGOA in North Carolina, was “adopted” by the Fabulous Ladies of the NY Crochet guild, and was able to meet some incredible designers.
  • Started teaching beginning and intermediate crochet at a local yarn store in November of 2011, and as of this post, I’ve had 12 students in beginning crochet and 5 in intermediate.
  • I’ve developed some amazing relationships with a couple crochet designers which have helped broadened my fiber horizons.
  • I added to my yarn stash – a lot!
  • I will be celebrating my one year yarniversary (thanks to Liz and Zontee of the Lion Brand YarnCraft podcast for creating that word) at my LYS at the end of the month.  I love the amazing group of friends I have met there – they have been an blessing of support and love both when I knew I needed it and when I didn’t know.  Plus they introduced me to the yummy food at Peggy’s along with the glorious taste of Sparkling Peach Wine!


Okay, I think that is enough of an update for now.  While I won’t make the empty promise of trying to blog weekly, or even monthly, I will try to do it more often than once every six months.

As an added bonus, here are a couple pictures…

Sticker face T


E the Bunny


J learning to climb the stair



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STITCHES Midwest 2011

Writers Note: In April 2011, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t be attending STITCHES Midwest at all, because there was nothing there for me as a crocheter.  By May 2011, things had majorly turned around and I would be attending the expo for three days.  The following is my amazing experience at Midwest.

August 2011 rolled around, and I worked hard to complete some crocheted shawls to wear to the event (because what could be better than wearing items you made with yarn while shopping for more yarn).  Friday night came and I was nervous.  It helped that I knew the people at the Halos of Hope booth, plus I had met Erica from Kollage Yarns the previous weekend.  I was introduced to Kimberly from XRX, and she was fantastic.  Not only did she put me at ease, but she was a great touchstone all weekend long, introducing me to some amazing people.

And then the whirlwind started.  I felt like a princess at the yarn prom 🙂  I met Benjamin, who apologized for being very busy with getting everything ready for the fashion show, and he handed me over to Molly, his assistant.  I really started feeling like a VIP when Molly lead me past all the people waiting to get into the ballroom and walked me to my seat, which had a “reserved” tag on it with my name.  I was seated in the sponsors /XRX section.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Lori (who works in accounting for XRX) and her mom, and in front of me sat people from Cascade and Kollage.

The fashion show was amazing, with over 100 garments and accessories shown.  I was personally invested in the crochet section of the show, which happened in the second half of the show.  The items got “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience, and I’ll admit, I took some pleasure in the comments from the knitters behind me, when they claimed a particular item was adorable, or stunning, or (the highest praise) they would learn to crochet to make that.  I think it opened some eyes to see that crochet can make some high fashion items with lots of style.

Dinner came after the fashion show, and not only was I seated with Benjamin, but also the Shannon D. from Cascade Yarns, and Erica, Susan, and Mark from Kollage Yarns.  I felt a bit like a fish out of water at first, but everyone was so welcoming, and Mark was so darn funny, that I felt pretty comfortable pretty quickly.  Dinner seemed to fly by, and then it was time for the PJ party.

Several of the ladies from Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns came to the PJ party, and we sat together in a group with Shannon D.’s mom and grandmother.  I think Shannon liked it that we were sociable with her family, because she awarded several members of our group some of the left over prizes.  Sometimes, it just really pays to be nice.   We had fun taking pictures of each other.  My fave is one of Pam in her shark hat standing next to Benjamin in his PJs.

Saturday came and I was up with the sun, making sure to get to the hotel early enough to enjoy an amazing breakfast before SHOPPING!  The Market is really one of the most popular aspects of a STITCHES Expo.  People come by the bus load to buy yarn, yarn, and more yarn.  My goal this year was to check out the Market and see how crochet-friendly it was this year as opposed to last year.  I also wanted to make sure I purchased several of the crochet patterns for garments that were in the fashion show the previous evening.  The Market doors finally open in inside we all surged!

One of the first stops I made was the Bijou Basin Ranch booth.  I was wearing a shawl I crocheted from a Kristin Omdahl design, and since she was at the booth all weekend, I wanted to show it to her.  What I LOVE about crochet designers is that they get a HUGE kick out of seeing what people have made with their designs.  Kristin was amazing, and asked if we could take a picture together (like I would say no).

One of my next stops was the Great Yarns booth, because they had the pattern for the amazing pineapple shawl designed by Karen Ratto-Whooley.  I was looking around the booth to see if I could spot the pattern anywhere when a dark-haired woman came up to me and asked if I needed help.  When I told her I was looking for the Pineapple Dreams shawl pattern, she got a huge smile on her face and introduced herself as the designer!  What luck!  Great Yarns is Karen’s local yarn shop, so she was helping out the owner by spending some time in the booth.  I purchased the pattern and yarn from the booth, then walked with Karen over to the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) booth, where she introduced me to the current CGOA president Amy Shelton.

I did some more yarn shopping – went over to the Kollage booth and bought the crochet pattern they featured in the fashion show the night before, some of their wonderful yarn, and a square-handled crochet hook.  Went to the Fiesta Yarns booth around noon for a crochet pattern signing by Rick Mondragon, then another booth for a book signing by Maggie Sefton, then back to Fiesta at 2pm for a pattern signing by Marly Bird.  I had met Marly very quickly the previous evening.  She has one of those amazing personalities where you feel immediately like friends within moments of meeting her.  Mine was the first pattern she signed, and she asked me to stick around and talk to her.  So, I hung out with Marly for a half hour at the Fiesta booth, talking and laughing, and when she finished, she asked me to come back to the Bijou Basin Booth and sit at the yarn tasting table with her and just hang out some more.  The (almost) one on one time I was able to spend with Marly, who is a big name designer (at least in my world she is), is pretty much priceless and it tops my list for amazing experiences at STITCHES Midwest.

I swung past the Kollage booth again in the late afternoon on my way to the Halos of Hope booth (which was right behind it), when Mark spotted me.  I stopped to say a quick hello and as a totally unexpected gift, he comped me two crochet hooks.  I just want to take a moment to thank Erica, Erica’s mom, Susan, and Mark.  All four of them were just amazing all weekend, and made me feel more special then I probably had a right to feel.  I went back on Sunday and purchased some more yarn from the booth, as a way to say thank you, but mostly because I really love their yarn and how amazing it feels!

Saturday evening I met up with friends with Fuzzy Wuzzy for the Student Fashion Show and Banquet.  Our group was too big for one table, so we split into two.  What is interesting about this dinner is that one of the teachers is at every table.  Some of the Fuzzy Wuzzy group sat with Lily Chin, and the other half, which I was in, sat at a table with Gwen Bortner, who is a knit designer.  Gwen was very lovely to meet, and it was interesting to get a perspective on knitting from a designer.  I plucked up the courage to show two crocheted pieces in the fashion show, so I filled out the slips and volunteered to take mine and other slips from my table to turn them in.

I searched out Kimberly, who said she would turn the slips in for us, and then she proceeded to rock my crochet world.  Kimberly asked me if I had met Myra Wood (a crochet and knit designer / teacher).  When I said no, she brought me over to Myra’s table and introduced me.  Myra stood up, shook my hand, and told me how excited she was to meet me.  Myra then introduced me to Edie Eckman (another crochet and knit designer / teacher), who also expressed how glad she was to meet me.  Both of them told me how appreciative they were about my being a positive voice for crochet.  I thought I was overcome with that, and then Edie blew my mind with her next statement.  “As excited as you are to meet us, that’s how excited we are to meet you.”  That’s when it truly hit me how much of an impact my actions on Ravelry had on others.  I was seen by professionals in the business as a positive voice for crochet, and that sparked a desire to continue being that positive voice.  The feeling from that moment is going to stay with me for a long, long time.

Sunday was the shortest day for STITCHES.  I had a one hour market session where I took a class on free-form crochet, then hung out by the tables for the announcement of the big cash prize winners.  A group of crocheters met with Benjamin at 2pm, and the group included professionals like Karen Whooley, Amy Shelton, Myra Wood, and Jeannie Duncan from Fiesta Yarns, along with interested crocheters like myself.  We talked for a bit about what we saw as positive crochet support at STITCHES, along with any improvements, and then we took a tour of the Market, stopping at several booths.

One of the booths we stopped at was Kollage, and after we assured Susan that we were friendly crocheters, she graciously gave everyone on the tour a free hook.  I wasn’t going to take one at first, since Mark had given me two hooks just the day before, but Susan insisted that I take another. (When I had gotten home, I realized I had two hooks of the same size, so I passed one along to my friend Pam so she could try it.)  We also checked out the award-winning shawls from the “Shawl the Love” contest that Claudia Hand Painted Yarns had sponsored, and it was great to see several crocheted shawls among the winners.

As the tour broke up and people drifted off to do their own thing, I had the chance to talk a little more with Karen.  Getting to know Karen at STITCHES was great because I was going to take two classes from her at Chainlink the following month, and it turns out that getting to know each other would be more beneficial than we realized at the time… but that is a story for another blog post 🙂

All in all, I had a priceless experience at STITCHES Midwest, but I would be most remiss if I didn’t thank Pam Haschke. Pam was at the Halos of Hope booth all weekend, and it was to Pam I would come and gush about the amazing things that were happening to me.  She graciously listened as I shared my experiences with her, and it really helped to have someone to share it all with who also understood what a big deal it was.  Pam, I flew so high because of you – thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I also want to send a huge hug to all my friends at Fuzzy Wuzzy for their support and friendship.  Being able to share what was happening during my “yarn prom” weekend with all of you made the experience that much more special.  I look forward to the laughter we will share in the months and years to come.

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Crochet Rabble-Rouser (part 2)

In the meantime, I was busy working with the lovely yarn I purchased, and my friend Patti and I decided we would start getting together on Monday nights to crochet at the local Panera.  It was great being able to reconnect with a dear friend and share all that was happening in our lives.  Soon after, Christina and Helen joined us and we had a little group going.

Sometime in November 2010, I found my “voice” in regards to crochet.  One of the podcasters I follow – Mary Beth and the Getting Loopy crochet podcast – mentioned on her show that Blog Talk Radio, which hosts the podcast, was raising fees, and that it would cost close to $500.00 to keep the 45 min show in its accustomed time slot of Monday nights.  I really liked this podcast, along with the YarnThing podcast hosted by Marly Bird (which was also being affected by a cost increase), so I decided to start a fundraising campaign on Ravelry.com.  Not only did we raise enough money to keep both podcasts on air for this year, but it has also lead to a friendship with Mary Beth, who is an amazing crochet designer.

Then January 2011 rolled around and the crochet goodness continued to happen.  I nominated designers and events for the Flamies (the crochet awards given out by the Crochet Lib Front on Ravelry), then did a yarn crawl with a friend from college, going to three different stores in the Bloomington/Normal area.

April 3rd brought the class listings for Stitches Midwest 2011 and I eagerly opened it, only to be greatly disappointed.  Out of the 117 classes (and when I say classes, I am talking about the 3 and 6 hr classes for which you pre-register) only one had to do with crochet, and it was on such a technical level that it didn’t interest me.  So, using my new-found voice on Ravelry, I started a thread on how I was disappointed in the lack of crochet at Midwest.  I honestly thought that the thread would get maybe 15 comments, mostly from people who felt the way I did, and then it would disappear, because that is what usually happens.

That wasn’t the case here.  Benjamin Levisay, the CEO of XRX, Inc, which is the company that puts on the four STITCHES events that happen across the country, came on the thread and asked for feedback on how to make STITCHES more crochet-friendly.  Boy did he get an earfull!  I have to give Benjamin a LOT of credit, because he did take the time to listen and respond to what was being said.  What also helped was that much of the discussion was positive/constructive, which is why changes were made.  After a month of discussion on the CLF thread, I was contacted by Benjamin because he wanted to personally talk to me on the phone and to go over several of the suggestions I had made.

We had that phone conversation at the beginning of May 2011, and he clued me into what he was working on to make Midwest and East (which would take place in October) more crochet friendly.  We spoke for almost two hours, and near the end of our conversation, he invited me to be his guest for the Sponsor Fashion Show and Dinner that took place on the Friday night of Midwest.  He said I would be sitting with the Sponsors (ie: major yarn companies) for the fashion show, and then I would be at his table for dinner.  Of course I said YES!

Around this time, I was invited by Gwen Bakley-Kinsler to meet her at her local yarn store in Arlington Heights.  I met her at the store for the weekly open stitch evening and met some very friendly people who both knit and crochet.  It also helped that Chris, the store owner, was crochet-friendly.  Since the store is 10 minutes from where I work, I’ve started going there to stitch on Thursday Nights.  I really love the women in that Thursday night group.  Their friendship has kept me sane with all that is going on with my mom, plus they have helped me celebrate all the good things that have happened as well.

I remained an active voice on Ravelry regarding crochet, with a personal goal of recognizing and celebrating the presence of crochet, no matter how large or small.  Unfortunately, some people seemed to feel that the small things in crochet shouldn’t be celebrated, and the online discussion left a sour taste in my mouth.  So I started thinking and talking with friends about what changes could be made, and it was decided to wait until after STITCHES Midwest.  I’ll share that experience in its own post.

After STITCHES Midwest, I worked on some final details, and on September 3rd, five months to the day that I started the thread about SMW on Ravelry, I started a new group on the website called Happy Clappy Crochet.  I wanted it to be a place where we can celebrate all that we find positive about crochet without getting caught up in the negative.  As of today, we have 70 members and it has become quite an international group.  I look forward to seeing what we will be able to do together.




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People who know me would say I’m pretty crafty.  My Grandma K taught me how to crochet when I was around 9 years old, and I have proof that I remembered how to crochet into my early 20’s, as shown by this picture taken in the Walker Hall lounge.

Crocheting in the lounge at Walker Hall

In 2004, after a long absence from the craft, I picked up crochet once more.  You see, there were all these cool and funky yarns available, and I wanted to use them!  So I bought a crochet how-to book so I could refresh my memory on the different stitches, then picked some yarn and a hook and got to work re-teaching myself how to crochet.  Once I was confident enough with my stitches, I bought a bunch of fun, soft eyelash yarn and made scarves for my Grandma R, my mom, and my two sisters, C & K.

In making those scarves, I found out I really liked crocheting, so I bought more pattern books, yarn, and hooks, and started crocheting gifts for people, like baby blankets and even an afghan or two.  Then, in November of 2009, a friend introduced me to http://www.Ravelry.com, and everything changed.

There were groups for just about every interest under the sun!  There was information about patterns and yarn!  And then I found out about crochet podcasts!!!  Oh the joy of listening to people who loved to crochet like I did.  It opened my eyes to a whole new world regarding crochet.  No longer was it just me, sitting in front of my tv and stitching with the yarn I got from JoAnn’s. There was a world of crocheters out there and they introduced me to a world of yarn.  There were Local Yarn Stores (LYS) that carried yarns not available in the Big Box Stores (BBS) like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.  And then there were online yarn stores that carried even more specialty yarn.  My stash grew and grew as I found more and more yarn that I liked.

After being on Ravelry for 9 months, my friend told me about a yarn expo called STITCHES Midwest.  There were classes (mostly for knitters), but the most awesome thing was the Market, with vendors from all over selling hand-dyed yarns and yarns made from fibers like milk and silk and oxen and quivot!  It was fiber overload and I couldn’t wait to go.

I went to the Stitches market and had a great time touching different yarns and buying some great yarns that I used to crochet Christmas gifts for family and friends.  However, I also noticed a lack of crochet-friendliness at this event.  I only saw crocheted items (hooks, books, garments) at a couple booths, but since this seemed to be marketed as a knitting event, that didn’t bother me too much.  What did bug me a little was the attitude that I received from some vendors when they found out I crochet instead of knit.  One vendor told me, as I was purchasing a beautiful skein of 100% mulberry silk yarn, “Well, I guess you’ll be able to make something from this (yarn).”  And that attitude really surprised me, because I was paying him to buy his yarn.  What did he care what I did with it!  I just brushed the attitude off, and when I got home, I crocheted some amazing items with the yarn I purchased.

A month after attending the Midwest show, I received a flyer in the mail for STITCHES West 2011.  I looked it over and was really excited to see six crochet classes being offered.  In my mind, I saw class offerings there translated into crochet classes being offered at Midwest.  All I could do is wonder and wait…

–to be continued–

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