Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guest Blogger, Deborah Burger ~ Part 1:Sharing the Love of Crochet ~ Thoughts on Teaching Crochet to Kids

July 31 , 2014 

As a crochet teacher with 34 years of experience in venues as diverse as park district classes and national crochet/needlework conferences, I feel qualified to say that Deborah Burger brings a vast knowledge of the important and general skills for teaching anything! Her degrees are in English and Theatre, but she spent 10 years teaching in private schools and 22 years homeschooling her own children. Deborah explains, “It's more the experience in teaching, than a formal degree, that has grown the teacher in me. I also think that the wide reading on education that I've done informs my writing. The very best of what's known about how humans actually learn new skills, informs the lessons I write and the projects I design to reinforce the lessons.”

Deb is the author of Crochet 101, a book of crochet instruction for adults, and How to Make 100
Crochet Appliques, an intermediate to experienced level pattern collection. Her newest book,
The Creative Kids' Photo Guide to Crochet, will be released in the spring of 2015. Like the previous
two, it will be available at larger craftstores, in bookstores, and online at and You can find her in Ravelry and on her website

If you have an urgent need to teach a child to crochet and just can’t wait until Deb’s book arrives
in 2015, check this book that I co-authored with Jackie Young in 2003!

Deborah teaching Rhett; Photo courtesy PeterMontaniti

Crochet is primarily a folk art, passed from mother to daughter, grandparent to grandchild, friend to friend,
sister to sister. Few joys are more fulfilling than that of sharing the love for your craft with another --
watching the "interested outsider" become the confident crocheter. Each time we teach another person how to crochet, we gain a colleague with whom we can enjoy stitching and crafty conversation; and we empower them to express their own creative vision in a tangible and satisfying way.

A popular campaign for spreading crochet love, run by the Craft Yarn Council (CYC), is
called "Each One, Teach Two." The program emphasizes that one does not need to be an expert, nor a
"qualified" or certified teacher, in order to help another person learn the basics. However, we all know that
there is, for many people, a difference between being good at doing something, and being good at
communicating that skill to another.

There ARE some important things to keep in mind when teaching a child or an adult to crochet; and when
kept in mind, these principles will be vastly helpful in avoiding frustration for teacher and student, fostering
the fun and minimizing the struggles. Some of the following principles apply universally to teaching ANYONE anything; but some are specific to the way children or the way adults learn. So, let's examine the two sets of students separately.

Teaching Children

Olivia; photo courtesy Peter Montanti

The following 7 ideas have been developed over many years while I taught well over one hundred children,
ages 6-16, to crochet. The vast majority of them have continued to enjoy crochet long after their scout,
school, camp, or family "lessons."

Don't Start Too Soon
Most children who are interested in handcrafts will have the physical coordination necessary for crochet,
between the ages of 7 and 9. Some children can learn as young as 4 or 5, but usually if they have already
exhibited some talent in eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills such as being able to cut out "on the
lines" with scissors and print or write letters with some accuracy and control. Some children may develop
this kind of skill as late as 10 or 11; so attempting to teach crochet before the nervous and muscular systems are ready is an exercise in frustration. It's better to wait, and give an interested child some simpler handcraftssuch as leather lacing, finger weaving, and braiding to help develop the necessary coordination and to satisfy the itch to be making something with yarn.

Keep it Simple
Once a child who has shown both readiness and interest, it's best to teach one skill at a time, giving plenty of opportunity to practice that one before adding another. Learning to chain is a huge accomplishment for most children, and most of them will want to make lots of chains and use them in a variety of ways, before really
desiring to learn how to stitch into the chain. Enjoying and exploring all the possible ways that chains can be used (bracelets, anklets, lanyards, hair ties, belts, ribbons for presents, leashes for stuffed toys, jump ropes,
etc.), can be very satisfying.

When the CHILD, not the adult teacher, seems on the verge of becoming bored with chains, it's time to add another skill. Keep it Simple by using words with which the child is familiar. Answer the questions that are
asked, but don't offer more and more unnessary information. Usually children want a simple answer, and will ask another question when they feel the need for more information. When you are demonstrating, show one single motion at a time, in s-l-o-w motion. Show it that way several times, and then say the steps aloud as
the child attempts to copy your slow motions. Once the child is comfortable with the correct motions, show
him/her the normal speed for making that stitch which shows the flow and rhythm of crochet.

Many frustrations develop because demonstrations are done at the normal speed, and the child has
too many different things to watch at once (where is your left thumb, what's your right wrist doing, how is
that yarn moving, what's keeping tension on the yarn????) The series of motions that are second nature to the experienced crocheter must EACH be understood, in sequence, by the child who is learning.

Keep it Short
Teaching sessions need to be short, and should NEVER extend past the time the child becomes restless or
looses focus. After all, this is neither a chore nor schoolwork to be accomplished, and needs to stay fun.
Watch for signs of mental or physical fatigue, and end a session before the child feels it to have become
burdensome. For a young child (6-8) 15-30 minutes is plenty, and should be followed with activities that use the large muscles and focus the eyes at a greater distance. Short sessions on a frequent basis are much more effective than occasional marathons. This principle also applies to the size of the first project. While a long neck scarf does give ample room for practice of turning chains and counting the stitches in a row, it also postpones any sense of accomplishment too long for most children. The goal should be to find or create projects that can be completed in 1 to 4 hours of work, spread over a few days or a week. The younger the child, the faster the need for a sense of having completed something.

Use Appropriate Materials
The younger the child, the larger the hook and yarn should be. A 5 to 7 year old child will find it
easiest to manipulate super bulky (#6) yarn and a hook sized between 8 and 11 mm (L-P). Kids
between 8 and 10 will be more comfortable starting with a K or L hook (6.5- 7mm) and bulky (#5)
yarn. Older children, like adults, have the physical coordination to manipulate a J or K (6-6.5mm)
hook with worsted (#4) yarn. The yarn should be smooth in texture-- not too fuzzy, not loopy and certainly
not slick or shiny. Bright colors are engaging to children, and absent allergies, wool is more forgiving to the
hands than acrylic. The yarn, of any fiber, should feel soft, and should be spun tightly enough that it does not split too readily. Child sized scissors with blunt tips, and a very large yarn needle will also help the child to
reach independence as soon as possible.

Don't Over-Correct
While many adults suffer from paralyzing perfectionism, most children do not. They tend to allow themselves permission to be beginners, have no expectation of perfection, and are proud of their accomplishments even
if the accomplishment is not perfect. The very fastest and surest way to make a child hate learning anything,
is to be too picky in correction. Stitches made by immature hands WILL be uneven; there will be skipped
stitches and stitches worked twice or three times. None of these are a real problem, unless the child notices
and asks how to make it better.

While it is important to develop correct habits in starting with a slip knot, the direction of wrapping
the yarn over the hook, and inserting the hook under the wole top of each stitch.... the rest is non-
essential and will come along later, after the basics are well understood and comfortable. I find great success the first projects usisng single crochet worked in rows are felted. The process of felting the item has a
marvellous way of closing up holes where stitches were skipped, evening out too-loose and too-tight stitchesand taking care of hanging threads. (Remember that yarn must contain at least 50% wool in order to felt).

Make Projects Relevant
Do you know any children who love to wash dishes? Those are the only children who ought to make a dish
cloth! Beginning projects ought to be items for which the child has a fun and ready use for in life. After
chained bracelets, simple hats, simple stuffed critters (felt can be glued on for features-- a simple square with yarn legs and arms, and felt features makes a great early project), small bags for treasures, wristlets, and doll or pet blankets (any dishcloth pattern can be used to make a doll blanket) are items that children can use or give to their siblings and/or friends. Doilies, dishcloths, blanket squares..... not so much.

Encourage Creativity
Patterns are lovely tools that help us to make things we want. But many adults are obsessed with "doing it right", and find it difficult to take any sort of artistic risk, to make any changes in a pattern's directions. Part of the exploration of a child's learning process is the constant asking "what if I do it THIS other way?" That questioning and the experimentation that follow it are essential to full understanding. Even if the result is abject failure to replicate the pattern's photo, if the child likes the result, then it's a GREAT PROJECT! A hat that's too big can be turned upside down, have chains attached for handles and become a carry-all bag. The next hat can be made with more attention to gauge and measuring-- and the experience is invaluable! A pattern for a flower with 5 petals can just as easily become a flower with 6 or 7 petals. Children learn best, remember best, and have the most fun learning, when they are encouraged to add their own special touches to whatever they are doing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chain Link/Knit & Crochet Show 2014: Recap

July 24, 2013
As I drove up to the Radisson in Manchester, NH and saw that it had been yarn-bombed ~ outside in the plaza in front plus the dog statues that greet us and the bench right bythe door ~ I said to myself, "Why didn't we think of this before??" Many many thanks to Jennifer Ryan for conceiving the idea and for organizing all the wonderful volunteers who contributed motifs and helped put them ALL OVER. It was sensational!

Tree in Parkway
Dog Statue at Entrance
I bombed the same dog in 2010 with yarn from our goody bag by Lion Brand!
My bombing of the dog back in 2010 was gone by morning. It goes to show that asking permission has some benefits, but does take some of the excitement out of yarn bombing!

Entrance of Hotel

Parkbench at Entrance of Hotel

Reception Desk
Stairs to Parking Garage
Enhancement Around the Plantings of the Breakfast Cafe

Even the Ladies Room was Bombed!
These are my dear friends Sue and Claudette who came from Boston to have lunch with me!
It realy did make me smile to walk through the hotel and see all the crochet making a difference!

The first thing I did after checking in was go to the CGOA Registration to pick up my 20th Anniversary commemorative hook! So beautiful and what a treasure!

20th Anniversary Commemorative Hook
This beautiful wooden hook ade of dye-impregnated wood veneers features the anniversary color, emerald.and was made for us by Sharky's and it also includes a charm and emerald gem.

At the registration desk, I encountered this beauty that carries out the unofficial  theme of the weekend: yarn joy!

CGOA Registration Adorned!
Soon after I arrived, I made my way to the Market Place to judge the winner for my $100.00 Founder's Award. It was a pretty easy choice: "Backyard Visitors." This entry also won first prize in the art category. To me, it conveyed the spirit of CGOA:  friendly crocheters welcoming newbies and sharing all they know. Congratulations, Sachiko Adams! See photos of all the winners posted by Doris Chain, Chair of the Competition, soon.

Backyard Vistors by Shachiko Adams
I spent the rest of the afternoon connecting with old friends and meeting new ones in the Knit & Crochet Serenity Zone. Thank you, Red Heart, for your sponsorship! Since I was there such a short time and not taking classes, I wanted to talk to as many as possible to show my gratitude for their votes on my award and to encourage them to be active members of CGOA. I brought along a bunch of crochet gifts and handed them out along the way!

Kathy, winner of several thread crochet awards, & Betty

20th Anniversary Logo Cake!

Well-Wishers: Kate Steinke, CGOA Board member, and Lindsay
Pam, Susan and Me from the NI Chapter
HOF-14 Chair, Kimberly McAlindin Presenting My Award
Cake & Champagne Was Served to Everyone
Right after my induction, the Market Preview started and everyone rushed to shop. I spent some time greeting well-wishers in the CGOA booth.

Juanita, a dear Courtesan at Cro-Kween Designs

Pattie from my local chapter
Poster in the CGOA Booth
Thanks to Nicole Wawok for the photo that will go down in history marking my place in the Hall of Fame. It is kind of scary blown up that large!

An exhibit of my books and art was in the CGOA booth
CGOA Member, Carlotta, crocheted this gorgeous 4-tiered anniversary cake!
Pam Oddi (L) and Delma Myers
Pam. Past President of CGOA, and Delma are the only 2 left who have attended every conference for 20 years! Read more about their thoughts on CGOA membership. Thanks for your loyalty to CGOA, Pam & Delma!

Cari Clement (L) and Marty Miller
Cari and Marty are both Past Presidents of CGOA; and Cari is the brains behind the Jean Leinhauser CGOA Hall of Fame. Thank you for you contributions!

I don't always remember new friends names!

Joan Davis
Joan taught at the very first Chain Link Conference in 1994. Lookin' good, Joan!

Jack Blumenthal, CGOA Board Member, from Lion Brand
Irene & Ariel
"When Baby Sleeps, Mommy Plays with Yarn ~ While I Sleep, Mommy Plays with Yarn"

Mary Rhodes, an early CGOA member
Thank you to Kareen Gibson of Offinger Management for all the social media posts that she constantly added to the CGOA Facebook page during the conference to let the world know what a wonderful and unique experience is enjoyed by all who attend the Chain Link Conference/Knit & Crochet Show. I hope you were there; I hope you had fun; and I hope to see you in San Diego, July 22-26, 2015!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

CGOA Celebrates 20 Years ~ Part 8: The Chain Link Newsletter

Monday, July 21, 2014

This is the last in my series which looks back over the last 20 years of the Crochet Guild of America as we get ready to launch the 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Annual Crochet Conference on July 24 in Manchester, New Hampshire. 

I've been so excited all year long, working on the planning committee with the other Past Presidents and thinking about how far we've come over all these years due to the dedication of passionate crocheters who have contributed so much! More recently, I have been humbled and honored to find out that this year I was voted as the Inductee to the Jean leinhauser CGOA Hall of Fame! Please join me on Thursday at the Annunal Member Meeting for the ceremony. I look forward to seeing all my crochet friends!

Jean Leinhauser CGOA Hall of Fame
The humble beginnings of the Chain Link Newsletter in 1992 were simply a form letter to communicate with and keep in touch with avid crocheters who had heard about my very early musings of what was a dream to have a crochet conference with fabulous teachers and class...a dream that was realized on August 18, 1994.

In response to my Letter to the Editor in Threads magazine in which I looked for Crochet Pen Pals, the overwhelming number of letters I received dictated that I use a form letter at first. Typing laboriously on an Apple computer and mailing them out was worth it. I had wonderful fun reading about crocheters' experiences and love of the craft, as well as to share my dreams, plans and crochet news I could find.  I still have many of those letters. They were special and I remember that some had little gifts enclosed, like a doily, flower motif or an oirgami bird; some were writen to me on artfully created handmade stationery. It was in the days before email, and it was so exciting to get letter after letter in my mail box from people who were as passionate about crochet as I was! Their excitement and encouragement gave me the courage and the motivation to plan that first conference in 1994.

I quickly saw a need for a crochet community from the heartfelt letters I received. From that first simple form letter, the Chain Link newsletter evolved. I had to cut and paste the graphics and copy them on a mimeograph! 

Vol. 1, No. 1: Our Chain Link newsletter

Later, my dear friend and neighbor, Gerry (a non-crocheter) laid out the newsletters for me for 2 years. One of the Pen Pals volunteered to create a logo for the newsletter masthead.

First Chain Link Masthead

Once the Crochet Guild of America became an official organization in 1995, we had volunteers who took over the work of the newsletter. It continued to evolve as a professional document that linked us together. It was a place where we could share ideas and news about crochet as well as many other create ideas from the editors that gave their time.

In March 2002, DRG Publishing (now Annies)  launched Sharing the Art & Soul of Crochet, a magazine that brought new ideas for crochet lovers.

Crochet! ~  March 2002
On August 1, 2003, we had hired Offinger to manage our organization and a plan had already been worked out for Crochet! magazine to become the official magazine of CGOA. It has remained so ever since and the generous folks at Annies have supported our organization from the very early days and they have borne the cost of inserting our Chain Link Newsletter into the magazine, For Members Only, since that time. We are indeed very appreciative.

CGOA ad designed by DRG
In their ongoing support Annies also created a CGOA ad which they included in the magazine for all these years, complimentary!

2014-The Ad Today, compliments of Annies: "When You Think Crochet, Think CGOA!
Carol Alexander, the original editor of Crochet!, served on the CGOA board and retired in 2014. Ellen Gormley, a long time CGOA member and crochet designer has come up through the ranks and assumed the role as Executive Editor with the Autumn 2014 issue.

The Chain Link newsletter looks much as it did back then; the logo on the masthead has stayed the same.

The Editor of Interweave Crochet is the current President of CGOA

Indeed, we’ve come a long way, baby!! Now we have cyber-friends in all parts of the world who we can visit on a daily basis. We can even chat face-to-face on our computers to supplement out emails and messaging. There are no boundaries, but still there is something very special about being in an organization that works for the betterment of crochet and its members through education and the camaraderie that comes from sharing a passion for crochet that can't be seen, only felt when we join together for our annual meetings and monthly at our local chapters.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tennyson Library of Crochet

Wednesday, July 16, 2014-For an update on this exhibit, Knot Forgotten, and my visit to the University of Illinois to see it on July 15, scroll below.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The University of Illinois has ushered crochet into the world of academia! This is a rare opportunity for crocheters in Illinois and anyone else who might be nearby Champaign/Urbana during July. I plan to check it out and it looks like a very interesting event. To read the story of the man who donated and cataloged his great-grandmother's collection, see the website.
Knot Forgotten: The Tennyson Library of Crochet at Illinois

July 1-31, 2014

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Main Library (1408 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL)
Join the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Illinois as it celebrates the acquisition of the Tennyson Library of Crochet. There will be an exhibit on the first floor and in the Marshall Gallery of the Main Library, in addition to a variety of great events. 
*Crochet and Kvetch on Wednesday, July 9 at 3:00pm in the 4th floor staff lounge.
*Lunchtime exhibit tours on July 15 and July 24 from 12:00pm-1:00pm.
*The statues in front of the Library will be dressed to impress in crocheted attire during the month of July.
*Knot Forgotten Extravaganza Friday, July 18.
-Crochet class for children (age 8 and above, 8 children total) from 10:00am-11:00am in the Marshall Gallery.
-Crochet class for adults from 2:00pm-3:00pm in the Marshall Gallery.
-Reception, including ugly sweater contest, from 3:00pm-5:00pm in the Marshall Gallery.
July 16, 2014: Update

Murphey and Me
It was indeed a pleasure and well worth the 2 1/2 hour trip to Urbana, IL for me to participate in the Knot Forgotten: The Tennyson Library of Crochet at Illinois lunchtime exhibit tour yesterday.

If you are wondering what "Murphey" has to do with all of this, well it is like this...She is a loyal Courtesan in my Fan Group on Ravelry. She planning a trip for a family reunion from Kansas City to North Carolina, and when she read my post about this exhibit on June 12, she decided to plan her route to be able to be there. I, coincidentally had thought July 15 would be a good day for me to be there too, so we made plans to hook up and meet each other in person! Crocheters are like that: nice people and fast friends!

Gilbert Witte, a long time employee of the University of Illinois Library has donated a  collection of crochet books and pamphlets, plus ephemera, which documents the history and practice of the craft. Named after Witte's great-granmother, Flora Emily Tennyson, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library will house the collection.

Gilbert Witte
Reading about this collection is just not the same as actually seeing it. Gil is an avid collector and began to collect crochet literature when he received some from his great-granmother. From there he has spent about twenty years adding to this collection with purchases from EBay and elsewhere.

To celebrate the acquisition of the collection, the library is sponsoring related activities throughout the month July. Most interesting to me was the timeline created by Gil using scanned covers from magazines in his collection, starting with his earliest that dates 1840. The wall at the entrance to the library is lined with color images of these covers in chronological order and the changes in crochet and in fashion are so evident as one views the timeline. I was thrilled to see that the last photo chosen, representing modern crochet art, was art by Nathan Vincent who happens to be included in one of the chapters of my book, The Fine Art of Crochet!

Carole, Witte and Me
Displayed in cases were many examples of crochet, crochet hooks and books and other things of interest to crocheters or needleworkers in general. Is anything you see here in your collection as well?

Antique hooks: vintage to modern
A very old hook set with interchangeable hooks
The small case that holds the interchangeable hooks
A collectible metal jar with image of a crocheter
As a part of the month-long festivities, the University granted permission for two statues at the entrance of the library, "Daughters of Pyrrha," to be yarn-bombed. Designed by Urbana resident, Rachel Suntop, who loves crochet, they are exquisite and artful. Rachel explains her inspiration, “I chose to adorn each of the sculptures differently. The northern sculpture uses a natural hemp yarn that is loosely crocheted to show the airy and free form structure of the material. In contrast, I created a tightly crocheted fabric with the undyed cotton yarn for the southern sculpture. Done on a much smaller scale, it has a more structured, intricate and delicate look. Elements of unpredictability, such as rain, wind, the natural aging of the material and human interaction will add a further element of surprise.”



Anyone is most welcome to visit the Tennyson Library of Crochet at any time and review any of the books in the collection. They may not be removed from the library. Contact Michelle Yestrepsky, Administrative and Program Assistant. To find a list of holding in the Library's catalog, then clickon Library Catalog and search by author, Tennyson Library of Crochet.