Monday, August 29, 2011

I Had to Work All Weekend!

Monday, August 29, 2011
Most people who talk about having to work the weekend conclude a huge groooan! Not me, no complaints! Lucky me, in my work this weekend I was surrounded by crocheters, eager crochet students, yarn, hooks and patterns plus lots of inspiration that will sustain me for months to come!

You guessed it, I am talking about the Stitches Midwest event sponsored by XRX and held in Schaumburg from Thursday to Sunday. I taught 4 crochet classes in the Market Sessions
Irish Crochet on Steroids!

Basic Bead-Crochet Scissor Fob

No-Rules Crochet: Freeform Method

The Posh Post Stitch
In honor of the crochet classes being offered, I yarn-bombed a rock in my local park on Tuesday before it all got started to celebrate!
Yarn bombing beautifies our environment rather than destroying it!

I was among a small but esteemed group of crochet teachers offering classes: Edie Eckman and Ginger Smith.

Boy, was I impressed by my students! They were enthusiastic learners and a lot of fun. What nice people!
Gwen and Lisa(acmespaceship) in No-Rules Class

XRX really knows how to treat their teachers and truly made me feel so welcome! We were treated to lunch early on Thursday and then moved on to the student luncheon where we did some last minute promotion of our classes. That night at our very short teachers' meeting, we were presented with our checks, even before we began to teach! From there, we were invited to attend the launch party of Jean Frost's new book and we were gifted a copy! The next night at the student banquet, we were presented with incredible gift bags chock full of products from the marketplace vendors!
Teachers' Gift Bag!

Wow, what inspiration for future designs!The printing of my classes materials was beautiful and there was always someone checking on me to see if I needed anything in class! Thank you, thank you XRX for the opportunity to teach crochet at this event!

Thank you also to Xendra2 whose post on Crochet Liberation Front (CLF) has brought a fresh new awareness about crocheters and their shopping and class-taking habits! Thank you also, Laura, for taking my No-Rules class!

Xnedra2 in No-Rules class with Gwen

It was also great to have some Ravlery friends in my classes and to run into them in the marketplace.

Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) had an updated presence in the marketplace this year, with the additional assistance from the Northern IL Chapter of CGOA. Our Executive Director, Penny, has consistently represented our organization and we were delighted to expand our booth this year with the generous support of XRX once again. We welcomed national President, Amy Swenson and board Secretary Karen Whooley.

Penny, Karen, Gwen, Amy

Not only did our chapter members staff the CGOA booth,

Gwen, Amy (Chapter Pres) & Ann

they were also staffing the Warm Up America booth for the Craft Yarn Council.
Sindy & Gail from NIC

We welcomed crocheters from all over the midwest and of course tried to encourage and support them in all things crochet. We gave demos, encouraged them to take classes and took their applications for membership in CGOA! Top-notch designers/authors did book signings in our booth throughout the weekend: Lily Chin, Edie Eckman, Myra Wood and Kristen Omdahl. Many thanks to all the chapter members who gave of their time and talent to hold their hooks high for not only CGOA, but for all crocheters at this event!

Again, thanks to Xnedra2 and crocheters nationwide who got in on the discussion on the Ravelry Stitches Midwest group, XRX management, BenjaminXRX, bent over backwards to make crocheters feel welcomed throughout the event.
Gwen & Benjamin Levisay, CEO of XRX
There was a special 3-page spread in the showbook where crochet-friendly vendors were listed. This made it really easy to find the products and the welcome they were seeking. Benjamin also hosted a "Crochet Gathering" which was advertised in the showbook. This very special group of Ravelers and Industry professionals met for discussion and then walked the show floor together on Sunday to visit vendors and to talk about what crocheters enjoyed seeing and what more we would like to see. We were welcomed with open arms by them all. The crochet-friendly vendors, crochet demos and crochet book signings are way to numerous to mention
The group with Susan Moraca of Kollage Yarns. Thank you, Susan, for the Hip to Be Square crochet hooks you gave to each of us!

A Chat in the Fine Points booth.
"Crochet Rocks" sign front and center in the Fiesta Yarns booth.

So that's the is not work when you are doing what you love! I want to hear from all my followers who were at Stitches Midwest. What did you like about it? Pass the word; encourage more crocheters to come next year for classes and shopping. PASS THE WORD about my blog, please!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Hunting and Gathering

Friday August 19, 2011
I find it extremely rewarding to begin the "hunting and gathering" process when I ready to begin a new pattern or design. It begins with the most important part: considering the required gauge of the project/yarn. Then, I begin to decide color and that narrows the search to a reasonable degree. From there it involves pawing through the various recptacles where I store my yarn.

My yarn is confined to one room, except for that which is in the trunk of my car! Now, now before you jump to conclusions, in my trunk is my car is my traveling stash for my weekly teaching sessions. It is not yarn I would call on for any special projects. Oh yeah, and there is the yarn in the basement, but that is of the rug yarn variety, practically impervious to weather, sun and rain, that I use for yarn bombing.

I store the majority of my yarn in creative ways, interesting baskets and wooden receptables. From there I have hanging storage units and even some plastic bins with lids. My "working yarn" is all stored in my "working studio." I categorize all my yarns by color. The novelty yarns, sportweight wool, bamboo and those unique imported novelty textures are separated loosely by colorways: greens, pinks, reds, etc. I separate my acrylic blend categories in the same way, by colors.

When pawing through the colors, there is overlap of tones and shades because of the variegated yarns, but that keeps it interesting and leads to inspiration. The most frustrating part is when I find the perfect weight and color, but don't have enough for the designated project!

Once a year, though, along comes the Chicagoland Yarn Crawl and that is my motivation for exploring and stocking up on sufficient yarns for sufficient projects. It is hunting and gathering on a grand scale and includes 27 stores over 5 regions. Today was such a day and my cro-buddy, Boston Bobble, and I started out bright and early at 10:00 AM at Mosaic Yarn Studio in Des Plaines, IL. Looking like the yarn nerds that we are, we were among the first customers in the door when the shop opened. Our goal was to visit only stores with bi-stitchural names.

Each shop is supposed to be giving a free knit or crochet pattern to each person who stops by as well as a stamp in the passport for winning a prize. Here, they had a stack of the free knit patterns but printed the crochet pattern on demand! They were also prepared to switch the knitting needles in the gift bag for crochet ones, if the winner crochets.....?

Boston Bobble (aka BeeBee) had never been there and was very impressed by the huge supply of yarn, sale bin and the abundance of crochet books and patterns. I used to teach there, so I knew it was a crochet friendly place. Hey, I might have even had something to do with that, back in the day when the store first opened and I was teaching crochet there among a sea of knitting classes!
Darlene, owner of Mosaic Yarn Studio

An enthusiastic young crochet/knitter was in the shop also, determined to visit one shop in each of the 5 regions today! Ravelry came up, of course, and she was thrilled to know we are avid fans and she wanted to "friend" us. When she found out I am Crochetkween, she shreeked with joy to meet me as she is a member of my Ravelry designer fan page, Cro-Kween Designs. Later, after she bought her purchases and hubby and son were waiting in the car, she shyly approached me and ask if she could have a photo with me. OF COURSE, I said, I was delighted to meet a Rav friend there, especially a fan of mine!

Me and Heavenlyknitchets

We lucked into BeeBee's favorite, Mexican food, for lunch to fortify ourselves for the afternoon. Our next stop was Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns in Arlington Heights where I teach crochet. Here it was nice to run into friends on my turf - my LYS community plus an old friend from another shop I used to teach at that has since gone out of business. There were some nice yarn bowls on consignment from a customer's niece and my original design scarf was on display too. Unfortunately, Chris unilaterally chose to eliminate the front page of my scarf pattern with the beautiful photo of my daughter wearing it to save money on printing, so here it is.
Flowers on a Trellis Scarf
Me at Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns
Time was starting to run out so we had to weigh our options for the last stop of the day. We chose I-Would-Rather-Be-Poking-My-Eyes-Out-With Knitting-Needles" Yarn Shop specifically based on the knowlege that they are moving soon and might be having a really big "clean out sale." Against our better judgement, since it doesn't have a bi-stitural name, we went to check it out.

I bought some yarn for 50% off and am happy I did. BeeBee was happy with the number of crochet books and the knowlege that the owner's son is going to Dartmouth! A relatively new employee was very nice to us (I haven't been there for 2 years so maybe she isn't that new, but the nice part is new). They didn't have a crochet pattern to give for free, not on demand, not nothing!
Me There
Ironically, they had little cheap buttons that we each bought too: BeeBee's was "I crochet because I'm smarter than you." and I got, "Double Agent." These really topped off our visit here!

Nobody's perfect; especially not me. Not only did I hunt and gather yarn today, but also gathered some opinions on where or where not I will return to put down my hard-earned dollars!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Amazing Needle

Tuesday August 9, 2011
There's a yarn shop somewhere called "The Amazing Needle" and there is a crochet tool by the same name. IHere, I focus on that delicate little piece of steel used for sewing!

While finishing up my Chapter Challenge embellishment last week, I spent quite a bit of time sewing. As my needle poked in and out, securing necessary parts at necessary points, I pondered the usefulness of this little tool that is so simple yet so handy. Its sparkle makes me happy and I enjoy the rhythm as I whip stitch things securely into place. The needle with exactly matching thread can work miracles when repairing old lace too!

My mother was an expert seamstress with the machine, but I never measured up in that department. I do think I weild a needle pretty well, though, and I am proud of how my simple little needle influences my crochet work to go places that it couldn't go on its own!

For now, I must keep my Chapter Challenge piece a secret, but when I unveil it after the contest in October, you'll see what I meed about my needle.

Some people call the crochet "hook" a "needle." I've never done that. Here's what my hook finished this week for baby boy Jack:
Nuk Holder
I've made huge strides this week on two creative processes. They are not quite finished; but boy, it has been a stimulating and uplifting journey as I create my way along uncharted paths with my yarn. Photos soon, I promise.

Daughter Nicole is on "uncharted paths" too: two children under the age of 20 months! Here's a few shots of the darlings!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Segments of My Cro-Mind

Tuesday, August 2, 2011
We've just welcomed our second grandchild, a boy, into the world and I spent the last ten days helping out new mommy and "big sister" who is twenty months old!

Hi...My name is Jack!

Big Sis: Chloe

So, on July 22 we headed off for Indianapolis soon after Nicole checked into the hospital. It was her due date and she was ready! I had packed a shopping bag full of random crochet projects. My new mantra is to work only on original designs that come out of my head and to stop wasting time making cute things by following patterns.

Trouble is, the creative, DIY segment of my head gets a little nervous and I always feel like I need a back-up plan/pattern if something goes awry with my original design. Nothing worse than being stuck in the car with no crochet as distraction! My mind also thinks that it is more difficult to "do my own thing." and I tend to procrastinate. Once I start, usually after an idea pops in the shower, I realize it is just stitches and yarns. Putting them together to be creative is play time.

I know that I have waited way too long to get going on the list of ideas I have scratched on paper. It is time to turn them into reality. I feel good about what I accomplished last week. In spite of a running 20 month old, and a week old nursing baby, I believe I made reasonable progress. I always have to have a "brainless" project on hand for total relaxation and here is the only project I "finished" this week

Lion Bath Mitt for Chloe

October is Chapter Challenge time for my Northern IL Chapter and I made great inroads on my entry into the contest. I can't reveal anything as of yet; pics will have to wait. Our challenge is to embellish one of our chapter logo items, be it a T-shirt, bag or even a mug. I am happy with my idea and it seems to be playing out the way I envisioned.

I have held onto an interesting piece of driftwood for years and I am talking YEARS!!! Finally, I made myself take a close look at it, rip off some of the cactus fiber yarn I had crocheted on to it and to start anew with new inspiration. It's colorful, it's wacky and I like it. I am getting close to finishing it. The day I finish and am pleased with the sculpture will be a day of celebration!

I never finished my "Embellished Bag" CAL at Cro-Kween Designs back in the winter. It wasn't my fault...I ran out of the appropriate colors of yarn. The bag with all the little motifs I created is calling to me. Yay! I am out of projects that can distract me and look forward to pulling the embellished bag together soon.

Why do I segment my projects/stitches in my brain and think of some as harder than others? When I find out I'll write about it. I need to work more frequently on just creations to keep the brain cells more limber and more willing to jump right in and guide me to a place of creativity! I'll put that on the To-Do list!