Thursday, May 29, 2014

CGOA Celebrates 20 Years ~ Part 6A: Where Are They Now?

Thursday, May 29, 2014
CGOA Celebrates 20 Years, Part 6A: Where Are They Now?

When I began to search for these early CGOA members and dedicated volunteers, they replied with such gratittude and excitement that I received way more than I usually include in a post! I've divided it into two segments and Part B will be posted next Thursday. June 5. Thanks to all who participated and for their enthusiastic responses!

John Boggs
John Boggs: "I still remember why I joined the CGOA. My company, Annie’s Attic, held Crochet Renaissance in Philadelphia in 2000 and I attended. One of the events included a speech by Annie Potter. After dessert was served and the lights were dimmed for Annie to take the stage, 350 women bent over in unison, pulled their crochet projects out of their bags and started to crochet! At that moment, I was convinced me of the passion that many hold for the craft.

Not long after, I joined the CGOA and eventually was elected for a 3-year board term during which I served as treasurer. We expanded membership over those three years and celebrated the ten year anniversary. I made many friendships that I cherish and several I still have today. I never became much of a crocheter myself but acquired a respect for the craft and talent of the designers.

I left the craft industry in May of 2009, but Facebook keeps me in touch with what is happening in the CGOA.. I wrote a book about marketing and advertising sales which gets me a little consulting business from time to time; and I stay pretty busy as the general manager of my hometown radio station in Portland, IN. I am president of the local Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, sit on a couple of other boards and recently completed a two year stint as the Campaign Chair of the local United Way. I look forward to when I can spend a little more time with my nine grandchildren.

Congratulations to CGOA on the second decade. You are all wonderful ladies (and few unique gentlemen, too). I wish you well!

Nancy Brown served as Vice President for 2 CGOA Presidents and also served 1 term herself at the helm of CGOA as President! Nancy recalls her experience as President, "During my term, I helped move CGOA from a volunteer based organization to a professionally managed entity.  

I taught classes and sold yarn and patterns in the Marketplace druing the Chain Link conferences which were such wondrful experiences. Each one was special, but my favorite was the 2000 conference in Atlanta!

I dabbled with designing for years, but am now designing almost full time, having retired from about twenty years "on the road" as a Yarn manufacturer's rep. I now have the time to do one of the things I love morst: crochet!  My self-published patterns are available on Ravelry, Craftsy, ePatternCentral, and Etsy.  

"I truly believe that CGOA helped bring crochet back to the forefront of the yarn crafts and may be partly responsible for the crochet renaissance we see today."

Editor's note: As an aside, to any of you who knew Nancy, you surely also knew her darling mother, Lester Vaughn. Lester was an avid supporter of her daughter and an expert crocheter in her own right who continued to teach crochet classes into her late eighties! She passed away at the age of 93 in 2013 and is surely missed!

Barbara Collister
Barbara Collister attended the very first meeting of the Northern IL Chapter which proceeded the CGOA by two months. As a charter member, she has been actively involved in both the chapter and CGOA for the past twenty years. She served as President of her chapter from 2002-2006 and has served a s custodian of the chapter by-aws for many years. Currently, Barb is Chairperson of the 20th Anniversary Celebration Committee which is putting on a big party for its members on June 14, 2014.

Mary Colucci
Mary Colucci was the Executive Director of the National Needleart Association from 1975-88. She started her own consulting firm with Christine Holmes and has been the Executive Director of the Craft Yarn Council since the beginning of CGOA. An avid supporter of the guild, Mary attended the very first conference and she has used her vast crochet knowledge and expertise in marketing to support the guild efforts. We are honored to have her serving currently as a board member

Here is what Mary wrote on the CGOA blog recently: “Wow, it’s been 20 years since CGOA was formed. I remember meeting CGOA Founder, Gwen Blakley Kinsler, back in the early1990s when she was organizing the first Chain Link conference. It is amazing to see how CGOA has grown from that small group of enthusiasts to a national network of crochet fans.

CGOA is credited with raising awareness of crochet in the industry. Before CGOA, the yarn industry tended to be knit-centric. As CGOA provided crocheters with a more unified vice, yarn manufacturers and publishers took notice. They began to realize the diversity of crocheters and the need for finer yarns, a more extensive selection of crochet patterns and they responded with exciting new yarns and an array of magazines specifically devoted to crochet.

From a personal perspective, CGOA and TKGA national and its chapters have always been tremendous supporters of Craft Yarn Council’s education initiatives. When the Council organized Knit Out & Crochet Events, it was guild members who committed to staff the Learn to Crochet and Knit tables at these venues. They literally taught thousands of novices how to crochet and knit. We couldn’t have done it without them; and hopefully in the process, many of these newbies went on to join a local chapter.
Joan Davis <Headshot> taught at the 1994 Chain Link conference and has returned often as a teacher. She will be teaching in Manchester, New Hampshire this summer for the 20th Anniversary conference. Joan was instrumental in putting me in touch with Pauline Turner from England, who consequently also was a teacher at the first conference.  Thanks for introducing us to Pauline, Joan!

Bill Elmore's book: The Elmore Method
 Bill Elmore (1923-2013) <Headshot> in his late 70s, Bill taught at the very first Chain Link conference in 1994. His quirky volumes, The Elmore Method I and II continue to be of interest today. Bill continued to attend Chain Link conferences even when he needed his nephew to accompany him due to failing health. A passionate crocheter who loved to share stories, Bill will forever be remembered through his volumes of crochet knowledge

Portrait: BJ Licko Keel 
BJ Licko Keel attended the inaugural Chain Link conference in 1994 and is a charter member of the Northern IL Chapter, the 1st CGOA chapter. She and I became good friends immediately upon meeting because we have in common so much love of crochet and all that the guild entails. Consequently, we became co-authors of Magical Misers Purses: Crochet Patterns withVictorian Inspiration.

B. J. recalls, "In retrospect, CGOA has been an immense influence for me during the past twenty years. When I attended that first meeting I was overwhelmed by so many enthusiastic and skilled crocheters. Until that time, I had been collecting patterns and crochet literature, designing, and seriously working with crochet in profound isolation. My only contacts were with a few crocheters who were satisfied with what they could do with rudimentary skills and the few that I taught to crochet.

About the time I retired, I was able to keep in contract with crocheters through my local chapter. My experiences with CGOA introduced me to a new, post-retirement career. As I met more crocheters both locally and internationally, I realized that I had something to offer professionally that I had merely taken for granted for many years. I earned teaching certification in both knitting and crochet from the Craft Yarn Council and began to teach formal classes, began to market my patterns, and haven’t looked back since.

So much has happened in the past twenty years," says BJ, "But one of my most interesting recent activities has been my experimenting with painting in Photoshop." BJ’s creative talents are evidenced in her interesting self-portrait here.

In general, I have mainly divided my available ti me between designing and teaching, including local continuing education programs, and Michaels since 1998, as well as classes at 3 Chain Link conferences. My most exciting crochet classes have been at Sheep's Clothing LYS in Valparaiso, Indiana. Currently, I’m offering  a series of advanced thread-crochet sessions that feature handkerchief edgings using a special technique I created: "new vintage." I hope to publish a booklet of these designs in the near future.

Susan Lutz Kenyon:  "About 22 years ago, while reading a FiberArts magazine, I saw a Gwen’s request for a crochet pen and we became friends.  Luckily she also lived in Illinois and we met when she returned to the US.  Her passion for crochet was infectious.  I became part of her group which became the first chapter of CGOA.  I chaired the juried exhibit at the first conference and two later conferences.  Meeting talented crocheters, being exposed to the vast variety of yarns and crochet patterns, having the opportunity for my two books to be published (Name and link) are benefits I enjoyed through my CGOA membership all these years. After traveling quite a distance to participate in the Northern IL chapter for years, I started another chapter near my home, Crocheters of the Lakes in 2008. I am the immediate past president and currently am the Special Events Chair.   I have enjoyed sharing my crochet skills with students in classes and with Project Linus, an organization that provides blankets for kids in crisis.  Crocheting has helped me deal with the highs and lows of life, and every day I am thankful for all that crochet has brought into my life.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Guest Blogger ~ The Stitch Stud: Why Do You Crochet?

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm happy to introduce my guest blogger for this week, Charles Voth, aka The Stitch Stud. Charles and I are cyber-friends who have never met face-to-face. We connected on Ravelry, not only because of our love of crochet, but also because we are both fluent in Spanish and have lived in various countires in Latin America. I have a great respect for Charles' talents and enjoyed having him as my tech editor for designs I published in the British publication, Inside Crochet.  As we approach the 20th anniversary of CGOA, this type of connection with pure strangers is the most wonderful thing about the guild. The crochet thread tugs us together in a very good way!

Charles Voth, aka Stitch Stud
 I was wondering during my long drive home from Indianapolis a couple of weekends ago why so many people crochet and knit. I was fortunate to attend the National Needlearts Association’s trade show, where wholesalers of yarn, yarn crafts, and other needlecrafts go to meet with retailers shopping for their inventory for the next half of the year. It was so amazing to walk into a hotel lobby in the evenings of the show and to see 50 plus people knitting and crocheting. If any of you have had the good fortune to attend the Knitting and Crochet Show organized by CGOA and TKGA, you’ll know how amazing it is to be surrounded by your "peeps”. No secret handshake is needed, but the camaraderie and conversations about yarn and tools makes one feel right at home, like with family.

So as I drove, I pondered the the question. I know for many that needlework is therapeutic, either an escape from life’s woes, or a calming rhythmic exercise that quiets one’s thoughts and centers focus. For many it’s a nostalgic activity that elicits memories of loved ones who have passed away, but not before ensuring that their expertise and love for these crafts is a secure legacy. Others have more practical reasons: gifts need to be made for upcoming celebrations; winters are cold; homes are bare or recently redecorated and need a new shot of color and coziness, Still, others want to give to humanitarian causes like veteran’s hospitals, cancer centers, children’s charities, and many other possible recipients who will be comforted by the warm, plush care packages they receive. And, a few yarn crafters spare a few minutes to participate in completely nonsensical but thoroughly fun and heart-warming activities like yarn-bombing.

While I do identify somewhat with all of these reasons for crocheting and knitting, none of them perfectly describes my situation. I have been crocheting since I was 4 years old and knitting since age 10. I’ve tried cross-stitch, needlepoint, embroidery, and sewing, too. I have a loom and a spinning wheel. Other than sewing the occasional item for my family or mending a garment, sewing hasn’t caught on. Weaving is on the back-burner for sure right now, and spinning is an occasional retreat, but I always go back to knitting and crocheting, either to one or both every day.

I think my main motivations for crocheting and knitting come in a set of three. I love to create. I love to explore, I love flexibility. But these three all blend together into one passion, which I guess could be called designing. The softness, elasticity, and fluidity of yarn has me spell-bound. I know that every project has a beginning and an end, and that we have to tie in new skeins of yarn every once in a while, but I’m able to blur that out and image that my yarn is a reflection of eternity. It’s one long line, but it’s not rigid, nor straight, and with all the stitches one can form with either a hook or two needles, I feel challenged to explore the unlimited possibilities. The softness of merino or angora, the sheen of silk or rayon, the sturdiness of cotton…each type of yarn or blend begs me to have it flow through my fingers. 

One of Charles' Most Recent Designs (C) Vogue Knitting Crochet 2013, photo by Paul Amato for
I think there’s a room in heaven for me with a sign over the door, “Swatching Room”  which is full of all types and colors of yarn, and I imagine myself swatching to my heart’s content without having to come up with a pattern to sell.  Designing and pattern writing for others is absolutely one of the most fun things for me to do, but with 2 sons heading to university, I can’t create patterns as quickly as I can conceive them. I am so thankful that there is a community of yarn crafters who don’t care to design as much as they love to work patterns by designers who love to dream them up.

Another activity I’ve done ever since I was a young boy living as an expatriate in Colombia, South America is to teach languages. There, I taught English to my friends and once here in Canada and after a couple university degrees in language and language education, I’ve been teaching English and Spanish ever since. For the last 20 some years I’ve had the pleasure of working with learners from all over the world, helping them prepare to be writers, presenters, and students in Canadian universities and colleges. This means that I’ve edited a whole lot of essays and speech transcripts.

Ed. note: Charles' father was a nurse and his mother a nutrition and English teacher working for a Non-Governmental Organization in Colombia for 26 years.He was born there and spent his whole childhood there.

During these years as a teacher I never could have dreamed that there was some way my love of teaching and writing and my love of crochet and knitting would ever converge, but I was very lucky to befriend several crochet designers at Chain Link 2009 in Buffalo (just across the border from my home in Canada). While visiting with them, I kept hearing them talk about tech-editors and how few crochet tech-editors there are. So I piped up and asked “What is a tech-editor? Although their definitions were more lengthy and descriptive, it only took me a few seconds to feel my heart lurch inside me and the words “my dream job” pop into my head. I could not believe there were people who edited crochet patterns. But it didn’t take me long to investigate how to get started at it and to practice doing it for these friends until they said I was good enough to find paying clients.

Crochet Stitch Dictionary Tech-Edited by Charles: Read my Review
Reversible Color Crochet Tech-Edited by Charles
I am so thankful that I now can immerse myself in the world of crochet and knitting as a technical editor, teach ESL at my local college part-time, be a dad and husband, and have a few spare minutes to swatch and design. Going to the trade show in Indianapolis was a special treat as I was able to meet with some of my clients, publishers and yarn companies, face to face, and to see all the new yarns that will soon be available in yarn stores across the continent. There were so many design ideas flickering into existence behind my eyes, that I couldn’t even sketch them quickly enough in my inspirations journal. Keep your eyes open, all of us crochet designers feel all fueled up with ideas and are ready to go again for another year!

In closing, "I'm curious to know what motivates you to crochet!   Please share in the comments.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

CGOA Celebrates 20 Years ~ Part 5: Commemorative Hooks

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I am not a hook collector, per se, but I sure do love special crochet hooks: antique, whimsical and commemorative. I have quite a few that I treasure and I am a member of the CGOA Hooks Collectors' Group. Over the years, I have purchased my share of the Commemorative Hooks that the collectors' group finds and offers each year. They are available at our annual Chain Link Crochet Conference.

Here's a look a the CGOA Commemorative hooks that I have in my collection:

2001-Turn of the Century, turned Brazilian tulipwood: size I
2003-Celtic Swan Forge, forged brass: size D
2004-Craft Designs for You, aluminum/acrylic, size F
2007-Dodo's Designs, teak, size I
2008-Brainsbarn, chakle kok, cloissonne bead, size I
2012-Knitting Glass Guy, glass, size J
For a look at the entire collection of CGOA Commemorative Hooks which started in 2001, go to the very informative website of Nancy Nehring.

I keep my special hooks in a basket in my studio and enjoy looking at them every single day.

My special hooks collection
There are two hooks in the basket that are super special to me:

Prin dressed in crochet
You can see "Prin" front and center in the basket because she is so big (9 1/2 inches tall). She was a gift from Noreen Crone-Findlay and she was meant to travel with me on crochet adventures. Above you see Prin at the lastManchester, NH conference (2012) and someone decked her out in crochet! She is meant to be a "hook/doll" so yes, she needs clothes! Noreen also gifted me another precious hook, "The Queen."

Queen Hook by Noreen Crone Findlay
I treasure both of these hooks from an expert wood carver!

I was gifted this lovely box of wooden turned crochet hooks when I ended my first term as President of CGOA. It is so very special to me because it was an honor to lead the group as President in its formative years!

Many crocheters debate the benefits of spending money to join CGOA. Can you see why I believe the intangible benefits, true and loving crochet friends, are unquestionably worth the $35.00 yearly membership fee which hasn't changed in 20 years!

I am super-excited about the Hook Collectors' Group selection of the 20th anniversary commemorative hook for 2014. They worked very hard, led by Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten to find a hook that incorporated the official colors of 20th anniversaries: emerald green, white and platinum. What do you think of this year's choice?

2014-Sharkey's, wood with emerald gem, size I
This year's commemorative hook is completely hand made and carved by Jim at Sharkey's and it will be avaialble to registered participants at the Chain Link 2014 conference only.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

CGOA Celebrates 20 Years ~ Part 4: Logo Evolution

Saturday, May 3, 2014

From the very early days of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA), I depended on willing volunteers to give of their time and talents. For me, it was also so exciting to findvolunteers with artistic talents willing to work on such things as our first organization logo, the newsletter masthead and crochet-themed notecards!

This is our first logo, designed by Brian Muecke, a budding graphic designer and high school friend of my daughter's. It was presented at our Chain Link Conference in 1995 in Somerset, NJ. 

Also that year, another volunteer designed a new masthead for the Chain Link newsletter. It has had many incarnations, especially when Carol Moore was the editor and added color. It has, though, essentially remained the same for all these years.

During the first conference in 1994, participants were invited to design afghan squares that depicted their inspirations from that first amazing experience. By 1995 at our 2nd Chain Link Conference, we had a completed afghan put together by the members of the Northern IL Chapter. Notecards were also available with artwork from the afghan, divided into 3 designs from thirds of the afghan. Shown here is one of the set that shows the "Chicago" square where it all began.

Notecard: 1/3 of the "memory" afghan

Time flew by and our organization grew and grew to the point that we were able to hire a management companyto take the day-to-day burden off of the volunteers. Offinger Management Company updated our logo in 2003.

Members were also provided with a logo they could use on their blogs or signature lines.

For our 10th Anniversary celebration between 1993-1994, we designed yet another special logo.

Celebrating a Decade of Crochet
During our conference that year, 1993, we held a special "Learn to Crochet" program for Girl Scouts and thanks to Annie's and John Boggs, board member, we gifted each scout a patch.

In 2009, we reached our 15th Anniversary and modernized our logo.

As our 20th Anniversary approached, the CGOA tagline is "When You Think of Crochet, Think CGOA." The Past Presidents' Celebration Committee held a logo design contest for this very important milestone. Member Donna Wolfe from Scranton, PA entered the winning design and Crochetville sponsored her prize of $250.00!

Our celebration theme is "Proud Past, Brilliant Future." How will you volunteer your skills to ensure CGOA endures for another twenty years?