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Narrative History of CGOA

A Narrative History of CGOA
by Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Founder
March 2013

  In 2014 CGOA will celebrate its 20th anniversary and a committee is already at work to come up with some exciting programs and activities to celebrate this momentous event! That’s a lot of years and so much has happened. This is an overview of the organization’s history while at the same time try to highlight the passion, creativity and dedication given from the countless volunteers who has contributed to the success of the ONLY organization for crocheters.
  I will not use the space to acknowledge each and every one of the hundreds of volunteers who have contributed to the success of our organization, but do know that if you have given of your talents, it has been greatly appreciated! I started out calling this a “brief” history of CGOA but soon realized that so much has happened over the past twenty years that shows the dedication and willingness of volunteers to contribute to our organization. So bear with me and I have highlighted things that I think are important and useful for new volunteer boards going forward so you can skim quickly. I’ve included many photos, many never-before-seen, which bring the narrative to life. The past is past, but it can certainly influence the future!
  October 1991 was the start of it all when my letter to the editor of Threads magazine hit the newsstands!

I got an overwhelming response 29 states and 6 countries from that mention and sent a form letter to everyone. It was the start of the CGOA newsletter. Back then the “headquarters” of CGOA was an Apple Computer; there was no email, Tweets or Facebook. Blogging was unheard of. In fact, the very first Our Crochet Chain Link newsletter was free and it was a hand-written cut and paste job that anyone who wanted to connect with other crocheters, could get for $1.00.
  In July 1993, I attended the trade show of the America Crafts and Creative Industries (ACCI) in Chicago. I walked the exhibits and told anyone that would listen that a crochet conference was in the works and a guild would be resulting from it. As Rita Weiss, who later became a President
of CGOA, said in our newsletter, “I thought this lady was crazy when she stopped by our booth and told Jean and I she was starting a crochet guild.”
  As a result of my making so many wonderful contacts in this one spot, financial support was offered from DMC Corporation, Coats and Clark and the very first Vogue Knitting Special Crochet issue gave us free promotion! I was invited by Richard Caron of Monsanto to attend the Knitting Guild of America conference in Gatlinburg, TN and I had wonderful conversations about starting a guild with the executive Director as well as members of the Craft Yarn Council. I believe this kind of generosity and support speaks to the power of crochet passion and to the need at that time for a guild. Crocheters getting together and sharing what they love was cause for celebration!
  The Chain Link newsletter continued to evolve and had taken on a professional look, thanks to a willing volunteer with computer experience, aka as my neighbor and good friend. Together we made it happen! In February 1994, a talented volunteered designed our first newsletter masthead.

In May that year the cost of the newsletter increased to $9.00 and a membership fee had been set for CGOA at $35.00 which included the newsletter.
  In the February 1994 newsletter, Susan Kenyon was introduced as conference chairperson. Thanks, Susan, for you undying support over the years!
On June 4, 1994, the charter chapter, soon to be known as Northern IL Chapter, held its first meeting at a library. Several who attended that day are still members of the chapter and many members have gone on to become officers or chairpersons at the national level, volunteering their time and talents to CGOA.

  From corresponding with crochet pen pals to producing a newsletter to sharing tips and tidbits, crocheters united and expressed interest in having some kind of get together where they could share and learn from each other. It happened August 11-14, 1994; Ancient Roots, New Beginnings took place at DePaul University in Chicago and there were 90 avid crocheters in attendance.
  I approached designers whose work I had admired in books and asked them to teach. On a very limited budget, I asked if they would be willing to teach for free and the vast majority said yes. They were so happy to be among enthusiastic crocheters and to have the opportunity to share their creativity that it was satisfaction enough.
  Notable crochet celebrities in attendance at that first conference were Annie Potter of Annie’s Attic, Pauline Turner who taught the 2-day Post-conference workshop, Bill Elmore –The Elmore Method, Karen Manthey-Crochet Fantasy magazine, Nancy Nehring, and Arlene Mintzer, and representatives from Caron International and Monsanto.
International Guests:
Chunghie Lee & Pauline Turner

Deborah Hamburg, Annie Potter, from Annie's
Attic and Gwen

Bill Elmore, Delma Myer, who has come
from Alaska for every conference to date!

  At that conference, volunteers came forward and the Founding Officers and Directors were selected to lead The Crochet Guild of America. In the August 1994 Chain Link Newsletter, I wrote, “For those of you who attended, I THANK YOU!! You had the foresight to know that a gathering of crocheters was bound to be good; you took a risk by coming, but put your trust in me. Together, we made it happen: the spirit of volunteerism throughout the conference was amazing.
  I left the conference not only in a state of euphoria, but with a great sense of satisfaction and relief knowing that a dynamic group of people have volunteered to take on responsibilities to keep the momentum going.” I served as the first President from 1995 through 1996 and a volunteer stepped forward to plan the 1995 conference and we were off and running!
  I learned many things at the conference, but most importantly I learned that we should never again think of crochet as a “Second Class Citizen.” I included a logo from the American Association of University Women which I had held on to for years. It said, “Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.” Says it all, right?
  Our newsletter has a new volunteer in charge and we have advertisers! Charter member, Josie Rafferty, suggested that 1994 conference attendees create  5 X 5 inch squares to commemorate the event. Our newsletter had its first free pattern Other chapters are beginning to form around the U.S. and we have a crochet book library, developed from donations from many members, with books available for members to borrow.
Between the excitement of experiencing the first conference and planning the second, I flew to Dallas in March 1995. With the support of Lion Brand Yarns, I presented an Honorary Life Membership in CGOA to Vanna White at the Hobby Industries Association (HIA) show.

  Jim Davis gave us permission to reprint a Garfield crochet-themed cartoon.

  August 3-8, 1995: The Graceful Hand Guides the Hook Conference took place in Somerset, NJ. There was a second juried art exhibit, “Art of the Hook,” an expanded marketplace, another post conference workshop. We had so much industry support that we published a thank you booklet.
Note card: 1 of 3 Rick Caron, Keynote Speaker
With the sponsorship of Monsanto and DMC Corp., we published a professional membership brochure which featured our new logo designed by a talented volunteer who isn’t even a crocheter!


Some very artful squares were donated and members of the Northern IL Chapter joined them to make a commemorative afghan and note cards depicting three sections of the afghan were designed and sold to increase CGOA revenue. 

Rick Caron, Monsanto

 Annie Potter presented a slide lecture of her travels to research the history of crochet and I clearly remember her donating her book, A Living Mystery: the International Art and History of Crochet as a fabulous door prize; the weekend was a resounding success!
  In November that year, CGOA entered the cyber world and went online and we had an email address thanks to Pam Oddi and her foresight as to where we wanted to take our organization.
By June, 1996 Pam with the help of BJ Licko-Keel had unveiled our website:
  California Crochet-Scapes, held in Irvine, CA in August 1-4, 1996 and again, we had another success. There are now 12 chapters around the U. S. and the world. With great pride and a little sadness, I stepped down as Founding President and Bonnie Blackburn was elected the 2nd president of CGOA.
I was honored to be presented with this elegant fillet tribute to my service, designed and crocheted by Pam Oddi.

In April, 1997, Board Members promoted CGOA at a booth at the I Love Needlework Fair in Milwaukee, WI where they unveiled a newly designed professional display.


The conference returned to Chicago area in 1997, hosted by the Northern IL Chapter. Chicago: City of Ethnic Celebration was held August 7-10, 1997 in Schaumburg, IL. In addition to the juried exhibit, we added contest, “Hats Off to Crochet” and for the first time we partnered with the Craft Yarn Council to offer the Certified Crochet Instructor Course during the conference. We held our first “Meet the Editors” panel, a pre-cursor to Professional Development Day.  At the annual business meeting, the CGOA By-laws were presented to the membership and approved along with not-for-profit status. We held our first survey and tallied conference evaluations.
  In September, 1997, Bonnie announced that due to personal issues she had to step down as President. V.P. Pam Oddi assumed the position of President. Our new exhibit display is now being used hitcher and yon to promote the guild and we traveled as far as PA to exhibit at Stitches. Our newsletter expanded from 4 to 6 issues per year, for members only.
  March 16-22, 1998 was declared National Crochet Week by CGOA. In June, The Craft Yarn Council assumed duties as the administrative team for CGOA,
August 13-16, 1998 Atlanta: A Tapestry of the South was the theme of the Chain Link conference held in Duluth, GA (Atlanta). CGOA supports Warm Up America and is awarding prizes to the individual and chapter that donates the most finished afghans to the organization. Stitches Squared was the theme of the Design Contest. For the first time we had a welcoming reception with dessert and the Who’s Who of CGOA were there to meet everyone. We also had an instructor luncheon.
  In commemoration of Chain Link 1997, a cookbook, The Melting Pot, was put together by a volunteer committee. It included recipes from 14 nationalities or ethnicities donated by members.

We now have a message board on our website:
  In January 1999, we introduced the 2-year membership discount and gift memberships. In March members were given a free CGOA bookmark pattern for National Crochet Week.
  Chain Link Conference 1999:Play and Crochet in the Pacific Northwest was held August st 20-22 in Bellevue, WA. We now have 550 members and 34 chapters. “Bring Your Best to the West” juried exhibit and “Bag It & Re-Bag It Contest kept the creativity flowing. “We exhibited at the National Needlework Association trade show to promote CGOA and crochet. The Professional Development Committee was formed this year and our first Designer Day was held pre-conference. Sixteen CGOA members formed the Crochet Hook Collector’s special interest group at the conference. Their mission is to research, preserve and document crochet hooks.”Pam Oddi completed her term as President and stepped down. Karen Klemp was elected President.
  We continued to exhibit at Trade and Consumer shows with volunteers giving of their time to travel to these venues and we launched a Masters of Crochet program.
  March 2000-The CGOA website was name among the “Best on the Web”by C & T Publishing. Congratulations to Pam Oddi who has shepherded our website all these years.
   Also this month,, with so much to celebrate, National Crochet Week became National Crochet Month!
  March 25-April 8, 2000 CGOA Tour to Ireland & Wales designed and led by Gwen Blakley Kinsler and managed by Offinger.Participants enjoyed 13 days of education, hands-on experience, fun and breathtaking scenery. We met members of the British Knit and Crochet Guild. Maire Treanor hosted us in Clones and we took classes from Kathy Earle both of whom went on to become teachers at our Chain Link Conferences.

 In April 2000, we began offering free patterns in the newsletter for the Stitches Squared contest winners from the 1998 Atlanta conference.
  June 16-July 31, 2000-Chain Reaction juried art exhibit co-sponsored with the Textile Arts Centre (TAC) of Chicago. Arline Fisch juried the exhibit and according to Karen Carlson, the Executive Director of the TAC, “This was one of the well-received exhibits we have had. This exhibit represents two ‘firsts’ for us. It is a traveling show and a show catalog was produced thanks in part to a grant from Solutia, Inc. (formerly Monsanto)”

Here are some comments from those who saw the exhibit: “It’s bizarre that crochet could be so delicate and at the same time so massive, from translucent to matte.” “The mood ranges from serious to silly! Even if it is silly, it can be profound.” It is so diverse, not at all what you think of as crochet.”  
  June-The Professional Development committee added a Mentoring Program to their list of offerings. Now those who strive to become designers can receive direction, support and help from other professional CGOA members.
  August 16-22, 2000 Chain Link to the Future conference took place in Cleveland, OH. The North Coast chapter
outdid them-selves with extras, including this unique cake and the followIng poem:

Chain Link to the Future
Crocheted into the hearts
Of people everywhere,
Are those treasured memories
Of past conference shared with friends.
May the common threads,
That touch our lives,
Be crocheted together with love,
This and every conference.
For those that traveled
Near or far – crocheters
Make it special
Let’s always chain link to the future.
Looking forward to seeing you at
Chain Link 2001(Head West for a Golden Crochet Opportunity) 
in Sacramento, CA
  The Hook and The Book: The Emergence of Crochet and Knitting in American Popular Culture” was on view at the Library Company in Philadelphia from January 22- September 28, 2001. On display were a variety of materials including books, pamphlets, broadsides, trade cards and photographs as well as authentic crochet items borrowed from Philadelphia area institutions. Gwen Blakley Kinsler and Nancy Nehring were both invited to speak at the symposium that was held in conjunction with the exhibit opening. In June we offered our first Correspondence Course, Victorian Button, designed by Nancy Nehring.
  May 17-20, 2001, Crochet Horizons took place in Milwaukee, WI. This crochet get-together was promoted by Offinger Management Co. who was to become our own management company in the not to distant future. The great response and enthusiastic welcome by crocheters influenced the company’s decision. Also this month, CGOA started its own Pattern Line and featured a fabulous sock pattern by teacher and CGOA Vice President, Jackie Young. It proved to be a best seller!

  Chain Link 2001August 9-12, 2001, Head West for a Golden Opportunity, was held in Sacramento, CA. This year we held our first Chapter Challenge as a way for chapters to show their exciting programs and activities and win a prize:chapter dues paid for one year. The juried exhibit was called “Pioneer Spirit” and the contest was “Around the Campfire.” The Craft Yarn Council offered a free class to prepare participants to become crochet teachers. We offered classes for kids at Camp Chain-Along.The Hook Collectors interest group introduced their first Commemorative Hook.
 It is a custom design in tulipwood by Turn-of-the-Century, laser engraved with CGOA 2001. Each succeeding commemorative hook can be seen here:

  The board decided to share $5.00 of each CGOA membership fee with the member’s chapter. A new committee, was formed, to represent us in the yarn industry.
   A membership campaign kicked off during the conference with prizes being offered to the members who sponsored the most new members. A yarn line,, was added to the offerings within the CGOA pattern line and was introduced at the Industry Showcase. Pauline Turner from England judged the first-ever Chapter Challenge and said that the difficult decision was made possible by her experience as an English Judge. The Northern IL Chapter took home the first place prize of a year’s membership in CGOA, closely followed by the Pine Needlers of Lakewood, NJ. Karen Klemp’s term as President ended after two years and Tosca Mark was now at the helm as CGOA President.
  The first of many of Heidi Petach’s original design crochet cartoons appeared in the Oct/Nov issue of our Chain Link newsletter. Her delightful talent in using play on crochet words entertained us for many an issue!

March 2002-Dynamic Resource Group (now Annies Publishing) came to a very special agreement: Their new magazine,
Sharing the Art & Soul of Crochet! became the official magazine of CGOA with Our Chain Link newsletter  inserted inside the magazine for members only. This very generous offer has been very much appreciated continues today.

Chain Link 2002, August 1-4, in West Palm Beach, FL introduced a new format: 4 days of classes and shopping. In the Tropics It’s Hot had a unique and well thought out logo depicting the theme of the weekend. 

The logo includes palm trees that symbolize royalty; the hibiscus flower which symbolizes communication which we do with our love of crochet; two crochet hooks frame the logo symbolizing the many squares that crocheters make. It was designed by 70 year old member, Vivian Williford.

In September, after many happy years of collaboration, our administrative support from the Craft Yarn Council came to an end. Reach Unlimited, an independent management company, took over our administrative services and our headquarters moved to Lockport, IL.
  CGOA offered its second tour, to Ireland and Scotland from March 29-April 12, 2003.
  Lily Chin, CGOA member and teacher/designer was named the Fastest Crocheter in the World in a competition sponsored by the Craft Yarn Council.

  Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of CGOA: August 1993-August 1994!
Celebration logo and pin: 

July 24-27, 2003 Sweet Home Chicago, our 10th annual conference was held in Chicago land back where it all started and hosted by the Northern IL Chapter for the third time, in Rosemont, IL. Many extra special events were included this year as part of the anniversary celebration.
Tosca finished her term as President and Gwen Blakley Kinsler stepped in for another term as CGOA President
Martingale Press in cooperation with CGOA published Todays' Crochet: Sweaters from the Crochet Guild of America as the official anniversary book. Filled with gorgeous sweaters from our members, this project was managed by Nancy Brown and Susan Huxley.


The Celebration Committee chaired by Gwen Blakley Kinsler and Rick Caron worked from August 2002 to plan a kickoff to the year-long celebration at Chain Link 2003
The juried exhibit, Rhythm of Crochet, at Chain Link 03, which traveled to various venues for one year, included works of Peoples’ Choice winners from past exhibits and a catalog was produced with the financial support of Solutia, The Yarn Group of TNNA and The Bead Society of Greater Chicago.

 The committee developed a brochure titled, 30 Ways to Promote Crochet, which was distributed at our booth in June at TNNA for shop owners.
  On August 1, 2003, Offinger Management assumed the role of Management Company for CGOA. We welcomed Mark Bennett as our Executive Director and all of the board members breathed a sigh of relief to have this professional organization to lead us into the future.
  During National Crochet Month 2004, the celebration committee continued the year-long celebration and gave back to chapters by choosing and promoting a special traveling teacher, Melodee MacDuffee, who brought mini-conferences to their hometowns.

Thanks to board members input and the generous talents of Offinger graphic designers, we rolled out a 
new full-page color ad in Crochet! magazine to promote crochet and our guild.

We reached out Girl Scouts at our year and in cooperation publishing we Crochet Day” along Scout Patch that received after class.
  Our first Regional Conference was held in Atlanta, April 23-25, 2004. We have established a with a volunteer to answer crochet questions.
  The celebration continues…In June, we had the opportunity to provide 10 crochet garments, one for each year of CGOA, designed by our members for the . Many comments were heard afterwards that the crochet was the most exciting part of the show! Thanks to the talented designers who participated!
July 22-25, 2004 Chain Link XI in Manchester, NH was the culmination of our year-long celebration and we shared a beautiful cake with the celebration logo on it. As the celebration wound down, I turned the gavel over to Nancy Brown who assumed the role of CGOA President.

 In February 2005, Bill Elmore, an “original” in many ways and an advocate for men who crochet, passed away. In his 80s at the time, Bill attended our first conference and he was the author of The Elmore Method.
  In March 2005, President Brown described a “tremendous transformation” experienced by CGOA over the last year and a half! With the support of our management company, our membership doubled! March 31-April 12-CGOA tour to the Celtic Isles led by Past President, Tosca Mark. At the spring regional conference, the members voted and approved by-law changes which gave every member a vote whether they attend a conference or not; also, Directors and Officers terms were adjusted to coincide with the fiscal and physical guild year.
  May 2005 saw impassioned crocheters like Ellen Gormley and Kim Werker contributing to our Chain Link newsletter. They later went on to become well-known designers/authors.
  August 2005-Chain Link conference was held in Oakland, CA and for the first time we partnered with the Knitting Guild of America that held their regional conference concurrently with our national conference, both managed by Offinger. Called the Fiber Arts Market, our Chain Link conference retained its name and was held under that umbrella. Participants benefited by being able to take crochet and knit classes interchangeably during the weekend. The Professional Development Day was hailed as “the best ever!”
  January 2006-the publishers of our official magazine, Crochet! gave it a fresh, updated look and it now has almost twice the number of pages! In September, we saw two new correspondence courses added: Overlay crochet by Melodee MacDuffee and Tapestry crochet by Carol Ventura.
  July 2006 Chain Link was held in King of Prussia, PA and was our biggest and best ever, according to President Brown! A contest to design custom bras was held as a charity fundraiser and the Bra-vo silent auction raised $1135 for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Penny Sitler replaced Mark Bennett as our Executive Director. For the first time our crocheting ‘lounge” had industry sponsorship. We welcomed Stacy Charles Yarns whose generosity funded the event! In December, Nancy Brown’s tenure as CGOA President came to an end and Rita Weiss took over the helm. At this point, the membership is voting for board members and then the board votes to decide who will serve on the Executive Commitee. The CGOA Pattern line introduced Stitches Squared, patterns from the 1998 Design Contest were introduced as free patterns. Many thanks go to Marian Kelly who edited each pattern square.
  July 11-15, 2007 Chain Link Crochet Conference took place in Manchester, NH. Chic Street supported by Westminster Fibers debuted. Exhibitor and crochet/knit members showcased their latest creations on the marketplace runway. Teach Me to Crochet, sponsored by Coats was held on the show floor.
  We have just under 3,000 members and 61 chapters and our board is focusing on increasing membership this year. The board also introduced a fabulous new benefit: discounts to members from retailers like Annie’s Attic, Mary Maxim and the Leisure Boutique. May 2008-As part of a membership campaign, the board has designed a business card available online to members. Each member is encouraged to do their part to bring attention to our organization by promoting it with this card.

The November issue of Chain Link newsletter featured a new series I wrote called, Hooked on History – Fast Forward to the Future. I was named the official historian of CGOA and I wanted to share our history as an inspiration for the future. I completed the series in May 2010 when history caught up with me!
  July 25-27, 2008, we once again held our conference in Manchester, NH. Although we’ve held a contest for many years, this year our board outdid themselves and went after support from industry leaders who provided $3500.00 in prizes for the contest winners! For the first time, the Professional Development committee offered, Meet the Editors, an opportunity for designers to submit face to face design proposals. It received overwhelming response!
  January 2009-The CGOA library re-opened and the cataloging was updated under the able care of the Cajun Crocheters Chapter. Our library was renamed in honor of long time volunteer librarian, Linda Sauter.
  August 6-9, 2009-Chain Link conference in Buffalo, NY: Celebrating 15 years of CGOA!

Fun and games to celebrate were offered website and at our gala banquet we had birthday cake with the winning logo plus “bling” contest won by Joan Davis for her “Sparkle-licous Pineapple Shawl.” Gwen Blakley Kinsler designed a CGOA badge and the pattern was given for free. It is still available on the website:

  The Jubilee Crystal Logo Design contest was held and among the fabulous entries, was this winner designed by Mary Servillo of Queens Village, NY and a member of the Long Island Chapter of CGOA.
  May 2008-As part of a membership campaign, the board has designed a business card available online to members. Each member is encouraged to do their part to bring attention to our organization by promoting it with this card.
December 2009: Rita Weiss” tenure ended and Marty Miller was elected as the new President of CGOA in January 2010.
January 2010-CGOA Now, the official blog of our organization is now up and running! Check it out at:  In March, the board unveiled a very clever pattern book they created at Chain Link 2009. You can now enjoy CGOA on Facebook and Twitter. In May, the CGOA Master of Advanced Crochet Stitches & Techniques became available for intermediate crocheters to learn and master advanced technique and stitches. In November, the Buddy Program, an expansion of the newbies soiree, was launched and proved to be wildy successful!
  July 8-10, 2010-Chain Link conference - Manchester, NH. This conference achieved records:
Sold out classes; super-happy market vendors; prize money and recognition; super-successful buddy program and Club Caron dance party brought out sides of personalities that had never been seen before! To date, it is the largest conference we’ve ever had!
  January 2011-We now have a unique CGOA chapter: CyberCrochet chapter which is online:
The Education committee held a pin design contest for the Masters of Advanced Crochet Sttiches and Tecniques program. In December 2010, Marty Miller stepped down and Amy Shelton became the new President of CGOA in January 2011.
That same monh,  Board member, Cari Clement, shared a new project, CGOA Hall of Fame. 
 A committee formed and they initiated a search to recognize those who, over the years, have made a significant and lasting contribution to the art and craft of crochet. All CGOA members were encouraged to send their suggestions for the first inductee.
July 27-31, 2011 Chain Link conference was held in Minneapolis, MN. In cooperation with the Textile Center in Minneapolis, Lion Brand sponsored the bus that shuttled participants to the Hall of Fame program. Jean Leinhauser was inducted posthumously. A moving tribute was given by her colleague Bobbi Matela and the board voted to rename the Hall of Fame to the Jean Leinhauser CGOA Crochet Hall of Fame.
  In addition to our representation by Offinger at Stitches events, the board has tapped into the volunteer spirit and enthusiasm of various chapters, incuding the Northern IL, Happily Hooked on Crochet, Chain Gang and NYC chapters to enhance our booth to bring awareness of our organization with demonstrations and crochet projects on display. Penny Sitler stepped down as our Executive Director and Karen Knies introduced herself as our new Ex. Dir in the Winter 2012 newsletter
  June 27-July 1, 2012-Chain Link conference in Manchester, NH. Our design Competition has become a highlight at our conferences. This year we had a very special commemorative hook made of pyrex!
  I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey and will use it as a keepsake of your organization. I also hope that I have inspired you to join CGOA and to become an active volunteer to add your own creativity to making the next twenty years of CGOA just as exciting as the last!


Ann Le Roy said…
I enjoyed reading a History of CGOA.

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