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Chain Link 2017 Crochet Conference, Part I

You may have already read some other blog summaries about the CGOA-sponsored crochet conference that took place July 26-29 in Itasca, Illinois, but everyone's perspective is different. So, better late than never I share my reactions to our fun and fabulous weekend. "Fun & Fabulous;" that's one reaction I would say ALL attendees would have in common!

click for larger image

This year we returned to our roots; and our annual conference is once again called the Chain Link Crochet conference. We are not currently sharing the weekend event with the Knitting Guild which returns us to the unique position of being the ONLY guild and conference exclusively for crocheters.  We have also amicably parted ways with Offinger Management Company; and we owe them a debt of gratitude for all the support they have given CGOA since 2003! A special thanks goes out to our most recent Executive Director, Karen Knies!

Thanks to the diligence of our current Board of Directors, we have transitioned to a new management company, Celtic, which is located in Chicago. I had the privilege of meeting our management team during the conference weekend; and I was very pleased with their enthusiasm for our group and the professionalism they bring to our team. I am truly excited and looking forward to seeing CGOA fulfill its philosophy to the max: "When You Think Crochet, Think CGOA"!

Our Board announced that Chain Link 2018 will be held in Portland, Oregon in July! Be watching the website for details; the hotel block will open the same time as registration this year in March. If you teach crochet and can bring some new and clever approaches to crochet techniques, CGOA would love to receive your application to teach in Portland. All details and deadlines are usually available in early October..

Many, many thanks to the Northern Illinois Chapter of CGOA (NIC) who were our hosts at this year's Chain Link conference. Their help and welcoming kindness throughout the weekend was, indeed, a return to our roots. From our first conference in 1994, we depended on willing volunteers to host, plan and show crochet pride in their local community. NIC volunteers offered a welcome table, hosted the Warm Up America challenge in the Red Heart Lounge, and wound yarn in the marketplace.

NIC Chapter member, Tom, and his kids helping wind yarn
They made centerpiece baskets full of prizes and helped to make sure our goody bags were chocked full too. Sincere appreciation also goes to our many sponsors this year whose generosity was amazing. Show your appreciation by picking up their products next time you shop: Annie's, Berroco, Boye,  Caron, Clover, Crochetville, DMC, FW magazines, k1c2, Karen Whooley, Knitters Pride, Kreinik Threads, Leisure Arts Premier, Ravelry, Susan Bates, Tulip, Unicorn Wash, Willow Yarns.

The loot I brought home
Chapter President, Pattie Aaron and her team were outstanding ambassadors and received great support from board member Karen McKenna. You couldn't have done it better, NIC members! Look for Karen to return to the stage as the very able Chairperson of our next conference in Portland!

I love color; and our hotel, the Westin, was awash in color all weekend. From yarns in every color of the rainbow to the crocheters in their finery. It was an on-going fashion show. Adding to the bling and the fashion was even an exquisite Indian wedding that took place as well.

Board Member Cari Clement's Skirt!
Miss Pearl's exhibit in the Red Heart Lounge

Colorful wedding procession
Our Annual Business meeting was very well attended and our current board is an impressive group of women, led by President Bobbie Matela, Inspiration Manager at Red Heart Yarns. Already, since returning from the conference, we Past Presidents have been asked to offer input on a new Nomination Form. No input needed; it is beautiful! That Nomination Form has arrived in your email box; so please do put on your thinking cap and nominate yourself or another member you think would be interested in bringing his or her talents to a board or chairperson position.

The hospitality suite was also the site of the ever-popular CGOA Design Contest, ably chaired this year by Tamara Kelly. I entered the Design Contest and was happy to be among others representing Freeform Crochet with my sculpture: Rock Steady Seasons of Indiana.

Rock-Steady Seasons of Indiana
At our Excellence in Crochet evening, not only did we get to meet many of this year's Masters of Crochet recipients, but the Hall of Fame Committee also sponsored a guest speaker, Gilbert Witte. His extensive collection of books, magazines and pamphlets is archived at the Tennyson Library of Crochet at the University of Illinois.

Hall of Fame Committee member, Cari Clement, introducing Gilbert
Gilbert Witte Speaking
Gilbert provided us with informative and detailed information on how to access the archives at U of I. Afterwards, the Hall of Fame committee hosted a dinner in honor of Gilbert at a local restaurant with committee members, some board members and other crochet history buffs in attendance.

Clockwise from left: BJ Licko-Keel, Delma Myee, Bobbie Matela,
Claudette Newhall,, Margaret Hubert, Marty Miller, Nancy Nehring, Laura Hontz, Cari Clement Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Sue Medinaceli, Jackie Daughtery

Thanks to Andrea Lynn Van Benshoten who again coordinated the committee that chooses the annual CGOA Commemorative Hook.

2017 Commemorative Hook handmade by Mike Baker
The conference Marketplace was smaller this year and was described as a "boutique" type of market. I was not disappointed. You must understand, though, that I have been crocheting non-stop for 45 years! "Need" is not a word that figures into my shopping decisions at this point! LOL!!

I was blown away by the "crochet-centric" name attached to one of the vendor's business: #chetnanigans. I consider myself a wordsmith; and I love a play on words when it comes to crochet. Admittedly, the wonderful couple running this booth had me baffled for a minute. Luckily, I asked them to explain the meaning of their business; and just about the same moment a lightbulb went on inside my head and I got it!

Sean and Holly are the personable owners of this company and they were having a sale to boot! That cinched it for me. I didn't "need" another crochet hook holder, but I "wanted" one mostly to support them and to show my appreciation for their support of the vendor market. As it turns out, my purchase was meant to be: it is a perfect way to display the annual commemorative hooks I have collected over the years!

2017 Commemorative Hook, far right
I also bought the perfect yarn from Leading Men Fiber Arts for a project I have been concocting that matches perfectly the art yarn that I bought at an alpaca farm outside of Columbus, Ohio last spring.

Solid Blue Merino Silk: Ghost Light from Leading Men Art Yarns
Finally on the last day, I took a class I had long awaited for: Modern Irish Crochet with Myra Wood. It was so good to have Myra back as a teacher, looking healthy and happy, and the class was all I hoped it would be.

Freeform Crochet Artist, Myra Wood
I started off this blog post referring to my love of color, and Myra's class was a wonderful and colorful way to wrap up my crochet weekend. Also while on the topic of classes, long time friend of CGOA and 2017 teacher, Pauline Turner had to cancel her trip and her classes. She was hit very unexpectedly with a serious bout of intestinal issues; and although she is so much better, she was not cleared to fly the long distance from England. Devastated at the thought of cancelling and not seeing her crochet friends, Pauline sent a video that was played at the annual meeting. She had many in the room in tears which goes to show that crochet is an international language that unites us all!

This latest update just arrived in my inbox from Pauline: "The messages of good will that arrived through the post and via facebook have lifted me enormously. My energy is up to high 90’s and getting closer to 100%; muscles still need a little more work. I'll be travelling to Sweden to work for a week on 11th Sept. So hopefully, if I am selected to teach in Portland next year – I will be with you all."  

A highlight of our Banquet Fashion Show was the presentation of the 2017  Hall of Fame Inductee,
Carol Alexander!

2017 Hall of Fame Inductee: Carol Alexander

Carol's vast crochet knowledge and genuine kindness made her an excellent mentor and friend to the many designers whose designs she published over the years. She had many fans in the audience that night!

I know that I am already planning on being in Portland next year for the conference. Please comment here if I can count on seeing YOU there!


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