Category Archives: Crochet Education

Sometimes You Have To Quit To Succeed


When you’re beating your head against a wall, it may just be time to quit.  After all, repetitive head-wall collisions are not very productive, nor comfortable.

This is true with anything in life.  Whether you are struggling with a design you’re creating, a stitch technique, figuring out a pattern or raising your children.  In order to think and see clearly, sometimes removing ourselves from a stressful situation is the proper course of action.

In order to come back afresh after a break. 

It might seem counter-productive when the pressure is on, but this technique can help resolve all sorts of situations where things aren’t going the way we want or need them to.  Even when we’re doing everything right.  Temporarily walking away can help us return with a different view and sometimes even go so far as to help us reboot.

As a pianist, I have often used the technique of “walk-away” for a couple of days when I had trouble with a piece of music I was working on.  Sometimes you practice and practice and yet there’s still a part that just isn’t coming out right.  And that’s when it’s really important to switch gears and work smarter, not just harder.

When increased practice and working harder don’t produce the desired results, the answer more often than not is to step completely away from the music for a day or two.  And miraculously, when you come back – voilà – everything falls into place and you can suddenly play the music. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but it works.

There are some important reasons to use this technique in music.  When working harder isn’t making it better, you risk planting seeds that you don’t want.  Your practice begins to ingrain the habits of the wrong notes, and then mistakes start becoming part of your muscle memory and performance. “Practice makes perfect.”  But practice can also make mistakes permanent.  Additionally, frustration can “poison” the music and the end performance and result.

The same is true for our hobbies and art, when I’m struggling with a crochet design or even the times when we’re dealing with difficult people or situations.

Sometimes you have to pull yourself out of the forest and go visit the coast in order to come back and see the trees again.


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Filed under Crochet Education, NaBloPoMo

What You Like About Me Is Owed To Grandma Dot (Advice That Changed Me) – Crochet Ruminations


As far as advice that changed me?

The first thing that comes to mind for me are words from my Grandmother when I was a child, after I showed her a crochet sculpted hockey puck I made.

You see, a thought occurred to me as I was learning to crochet: that I could do more than what everyone around me was doing. That I didn’t have to just make doilies and afghans. That I could use a hook and yarn to sculpt, kind of like clay. So I set about to prove my theory.

As silly as it might sound, showing Grandma and hearing her words was a pivotal and freeing moment I have never forgotten.

“Well look at that clever thing! See there’s nothing you can’t do and bring into reality when you set your mind to it. If you want it, and work for it, you can do it.”

That was all I needed.  I’ve never been the same since.

As an adult, I realize those words may seem clichéd, but that tiny young moment contained so much power for me. Something huge shifted inside of me. I have since heard stories from others who were criticized for not doing things “correctly,” even having their hands smacked with rulers when they messed up, and other stories!  And no wonder as a result they never really picked up the art of crochet. None of my family ever did something like that to me.  And Grandma Dot always took time and marveled at my ideas.  She made me believe.

You never know what it is that will make a difference for someone.  How about you?  What piece of advice changed your life?  Who was it in crochet that made a difference for you?

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Filed under Crochet Education, Crochet Ruminations, Editorial, Random Thoughts

What Gripes Me (Crochet Hook Shapes) – Crochet Ruminations


The inconsistency of the shaft and work space issue is exactly what gripes me about many hooks being sold on the market today, and it’s present in wood hooks as well a metal. When I give lectures/demos about hooks, I talk about this. That widening of the shaft causes a lack of consistency in the stitch loops, which besides causing strain on your hand, also causes changes to your stitch appearance.

I don’t know why this is happening in hook-making today, but I suspect it has to do with the time involved in making the hooks and in the case of metal hooks, strength. (And perhaps lack of knowledge?) So many of the older hooks I find are just better made. The quality of the metal is better. My favorites metal hooks have hand-machined and cut heads. The shafts are strong and they will flex, not snap or permanently bend like modern hooks will.

And you know what it reminds me of? How good knives and swords are made.  Good knives and swords are strong and will flex with pressure, but not break. And especially in miniature crochet, we put a lot of torque on those hooks.

Perhaps part of all this points to the possibility that metalsmithing and true metallurgical knowledge is not what really goes into our metal tools anymore?  

What about you?  I’m intrigued to know.  What quirks do you notice about crochet tools that get under your skin? And what can we do about it?


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Filed under Crochet Education, Crochet Ruminations, Editorial, Random Thoughts

Crochet Hook Engineering – Types of Tools – Crochet Hook Challenge


The first silent auction for Grandmother Tree’s crochet hook (the first of my challenge series) is already underway.  You can check out the final photos and view the bidding here.

I’ve been working on a new hook this week to be released for next, but I haven’t had a lot of time to take photos and blog about it.  I’ve found myself calling her “Mrs. Mapleworths.” :)  I’ll let you guess on the reason.  Stay tuned for her story coming soon!

But since we’ve talked a bit about crochet shape and anatomy, I thought I’d show you a video I made about one of the features I like to engineer into my hooks sometimes.  It’s a smooth slanted end that makes a great tool for picking out stitches that I want to work with.  Sometimes I find that the actual hook of a crochet tool is itself not always conducive to isolating a part of a completed crochet stitch I want to put another stitch into.  Hooks are great for creating stitches, but not always the best tool for isolating loops after the stitch/fabric has been created.  Sometimes I don’t want to use a whole “bar” to put a stitch into, I want to use only part of that bar.  (It does create a different look.)  For that reason, I sometimes use this slanted end feature to help isolate a loop I want to use without distorting the rest of the crochet fabric around it.  It’s an easier way to do what I want, without disturbing the structure I’ve already created.

So check it out and see what you think!  If you find it interesting – please share!

Are you aware of other discussions about crochet hook engineering or do you personally have comments on designs you wish you had in a tool?  Please let me know!


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If You’re Not Breaking Stuff, You’re Not Innovating


 

Well friends, my world is full of exciting news.  We had an offer on our historical home this weekend!  So now we are officially on the road to becoming first-time home sellers.  I’m not sure what kind of kink this may put into my blogging and hook carving schedule, but my goals remain the same.  I am still carving and blogging about a new hook every week and I am still participating in the November NaBloPoMo.  I’m doing it.  Hell yeah I’m doing it

Eeek!  Please do cheer me on! (And wish us a smooth and successful house selling and buying process! The houses we were previously interested in have since sold, so now we have to find somewhere to buy!)

Hour 7
Innovation:

There should be consistency enough along the throat and/or shaft of the hook to at least keep all loops on the hook the exact same size.

So I left off yesterday with the photos demonstrating what a wedge shape design in a crochet hook will do to your stitches.  In this case, Grandmother Tree’s hook was technically two different sizes in the throat.   If I left the hook this way, the top and bottom loops of any given stitch made with the hook would be inconsistent in size.

However, due to the curvature and angle of the hook, I needed to not only come up with a way to create consistency in size, but also while striving not to sacrifice the strength or length of the hook.  Or for that matter, sacrifice usability.  We still need a comfortable hook.  Doesn’t matter how precise the top is if it’s too uncomfortable and not shaped well enough to hold.

It’s somewhat difficult to photograph, but there is a slight twist to this wood with the hook’s curvature.  After all it is carved from a small live oak tree branch and we all know they do not grow in a straight line in any direction.  We still need a comfortable handle, and we need adequate room on the hook that remains consistent in size so our loops remain the same size as we work.

So here’s the design I came up with.  Check it out.

By creating an impression in the throat at the top of the handle, and then narrowing the back and sides, I was able to create a consistent size all the way up to the handle slope and reduce stress on the top loop.

It’s a short hook, so there wasn’t a lot of room to work with, but I succeeded in my goals.  Not only does the hook pass the sizing test up to the handle, but as you can see here, the loops on the hook are the same size – no stretching!  There’s adequate room to work for most stitches that most crocheters will use.  (For instance, I would not recommend this hook to make my Giant Halloween Spider Web, as there’s not enough room on the hook to make the special stitches.)

Hour 8:

Now it’s starting to shine.

Now that the design issue is solved, it’s time for the finishing touches.  I need to refine all the edges, double check the handle shape so it’s comfortable in the hand and put a buttery smooth finish on the hook. I use several different grades of sandpaper and diamond tip tools to do this.  And though I do use some steel wool on occasion, I honestly far prefer not to use it.  There’s some expensive stuff that I like much better instead and to me it’s worth it.  The slick finish it creates for me is amazing and it doesn’t leave metal splinters in my hands.  And since I intend not to use sealant on this hook and to leave it “al natural,” I really want the best buff I can get.  Towards the end of this process, I start using a piece of soft felt to hold the hook as I polish.  And it’s about time for me to find a nice piece of cloth to wrap the final product in.

Stay tuned!  Final photos and the silent auction is next!

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Filed under crochet, Crochet Education, Crochet Hooks

Kumihimo Could Be The Ultimate Stash Buster


Today was well spent at A Good Yarn taking a beginning Kumihimo class from Jeannie.  She’s a good teacher!  And the class proved to me what I suspected…  Kumihimo might just be the ultimate stash buster.

Kumihimo is the Japanese term and method for braiding.  There are many different types, but we learned a basic yatsu umi, or 8-strand round braid.  Jeannie even introduced us to using beads.  For a basic yatsu umi starter project, we each started with four strands of about two yards each, doubled over to make eight strands to work with, and create a key chain.  Most everyone else stopped with a normal sized key chain, but since I was camping out for part of the day anyway, I kept going until I had no more threads left to work with!  So mine’s actually long enough for a necklace now.  I’m thinking about taking the split ring off and instead adding a decorative clasp for an offset design.  Maybe add a crochet element.  Not sure yet how, but pretty sure this is going to be a necklace.

The fun thing about Kumihimo (and I should have taken some photos of Jeannie’s examples to do her justice), is that you can use up scraps of yarn and thread that might not be long enough to do much else with.  She had examples of several made from a variety of yarns, thick and thin, including pigtail-eyelash.  How much stash you can bust with braiding depends on your end project idea, of course, but it adds one more thing to my bucket of tools and growing skills.  I look at kumihimo and see possibilities for jewelry, where crochet might not give me the result I want, but also, I think this could make a much stronger, less stretchy purse strap for some of my weighty beaded purses, over crochet.  One of my fellow classmates mentioned wanting to make some for decorating Christmas presents.

Here are some photos of my yatsu umi.

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This is the basic beginner's small Kumihimo kit, long with my yatsu umi hanging out the backside.

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The yatsu umi has a spiral effect when you use contrasting colors.

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Beading adds a nice element to the spiral braid.

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My yatsu umi is long enough to make a necklace! I'm thinking I might take off the split ring and instead turn this into an offset necklace with a decorative clasp.

If you find yourself in Prescott, AZ, I can’t recommend the local yarn shoppe – A Good Yarn – enough. They are incredibly helpful, friendly and a bright spot to visit. I also LOVE Debra’s “Buck A Ball” community donation project. Drop off your unused yarn leftovers, or balls you aren’t going to use, and Debra puts them in a box for $1 a ball, with all proceeds going to the local women’s shelter. Umm, yes I found some goodies to buy in the box too. Gracious and community oriented, this store is one of the most crochet friendly yarn stores I’ve ever shopped. And you can tell that Prescott locals value them too, as they stayed busy with many local friends coming and going, friendly chatter, along with newbies who dropped by today as well. I met a lady from South Africa today who said she’d heard so much about this store she just had to come. Seriously, you can’t help but be in great hands!

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Carma, Jeannie and Debra! When you are in Prescott, you must visit these super friendly ladies and tell them I sent you!

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Artist Information & Notes, Crochet Community, Crochet Education

How Much Are You Worth?


What is the true cost of handmade items at a show?  I’m not really talking about taking a bead and sticking it on an ear wire. There’s almost no training or skill involved in that.  There’s not much honing of a craft going on there.  Though it does take time to assemble, it’s small and not considered skilled labor.

How much do you make an hour for your expertise?  How much should a hand crafter make per hour?  What is right for a living wage?  It’s easy to forget sometimes the nature of how some jobs work.  In many jobs, you get paid a set wage + benefits.  Some jobs involve a commission, which is generally highly taxed by the government even if it is really what you feed yourself with.  Other jobs, like waiting tables, are often half of minimum wage with the expectation that you will make up the rest in tips.  That was a rude awakening when I landed my first waiting job right out of college.  I was taxed out of my $2.13 an hour each week as if it were twice that, because it’s assumed I would make up the other half of minimum wage on tips.  And I didn’t.  Sigh, those were the days.

So how much should a hand crafter make?  Well, one obvious thing to consider is the cost of table fees to get into the show in the first place.  Just here in Austin, there are shows that range from $40 a table to over $3000.  It’s a chunk of change, and somewhat of a gamble playing the odds whether you will sell something at the venue or not.  Space rental is not cheap.  Neither is security, electricity or many other expenses people might not think of.  If you take credit cards, you have expenses there as well.

You have the cost of materials as overhead.  When it comes to yarn, it’s interesting to me that so many buyers really have no idea how much yarn can cost these days.  To buy enough to create a garment is a pretty substantial chunk.  Are we using “That Old 70′s Yarn?”  Or something nicer like silk or cashmere or even a microfiber?  Either way, it’s way more now than it was when I was a kid.

Then there’s the amount of materials as well.  Just because a hat you find at WalMart cost $5 doesn’t mean it has a comparable amount of fiber in it to something handmade.  Nor does it mean the yarn can be purchased in the US for so little either.  Where many often use one yarn for a design, I often use three myself.  So that’s a jump in cost for me.  Plus there’s the value of other elements, like antique buttons or sterling silver findings.

And then we come to the aspect of time and of skill.  What would you pay an expert to do and what would you pay a beginner?  There should be a difference.  There’s something to be said for a skill that has been honed over time.  Because the quality of labor is much different.  Why should an expert be paid the same as a beginner?  There’s a reason why we pay doctors what we do, they are highly educated, trained and skilled.

But let’s say we have a beginner.  Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.  Even people receiving training to flip burgers get at least minimum wage.  If an item requires $30 of materials and takes 4 hours to make, you have at minimum a $59 item, before taxes.  Right?  What if you decide not to charge minimum wage?  Even at $5 an hour (a minimum suggestion from Crochet Liberation Front founder, Laurie Wheeler), you still have a $50 price tag.  At minimum.  For beginner grade work.

I like some points Laurie made on this subject in previous years on the Crochet Liberation Front forum, “The best way I know of raising the value of anything, is to value it yourself.” 

Followed up in her article last year “At What Price?” Laurie has this to say:

“FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS FUZZY DO NOT…and I repeat…DO NOT UNDERSELL YOUR WORK!!  …. Materials + Time x Skill = $$…. Time is valuable. Especially in today’s fast paced world, time is PRECIOUS, your time is VALUABLE. If you spend 2hrs on a  hat and you spent $3 on the materials and you only charge $4.00, $3.00 covers the materials and you just made FIFTY CENTS an hour. Really?  You are not a SWEATSHOP…You are WORTH more than that… “

Also, I’ve heard many women make comments that should never be made, like: “Oh but I enjoy doing this so I don’t charge very much.”  WHAT? Seriously? Did I just hear that?  SO you should only get paid for what you don’t derive a sense of satisfaction from?  (I’ve never heard a man say something like this, btw.)  If you’ve ever been guilty of saying something like that, stop and consider the craziness of what you’re suggesting.  Not to mention how it undervalues the work of all hand crafters when you do that, including the ones who rely on selling their wares to put food on the table.  Just because you don’t have to rely on it to feed your kids, doesn’t mean you should undersell your work.

Factors to keep in mind as you consider pricing also include rarity, how labor intensive, precision of the work, and expertise and range of experience. Some items, you’ll have to judge.  You may have to tweak your prices or process a bit here and there.  Just because you are capable of making wash cloths out of cashmere doesn’t mean it’s practical and that everyone will buy one for what it’s worth or at all.  Hmmm… So maybe there’s a cap there somewhere on what kind of materials you expect to use for what items and the price range most of your customers will fall into?

There’s also travel time, packing materials and postage.  If I’m doing custom orders and find myself driving all over town from yarn shop to yarn shop trying to find what will make my customer happy, it becomes an expense that has to be accounted for, because they want a custom item and not something I have ready to go.  And it requires me to take time off from my regular business and work only for them until they get what they want.  That can be a lot of time, especially if they don’t really know what they want or it’s difficult to secure!  Think about the fees you would pay a graphic artist when you don’t have a clear idea of what you want.  Usually you get one or two proofs and that’s it.  Consider that custom handmade should not be much different.

So when you’re pricing, you have a lot to consider for variables.  And once you have that, stick with it and do not let buyers bargain with you.  Not only is it poor form at shows, but when you do it, you give people permission to essentially cut your pay!  Set a fair and reasonable price, based on the variables we’re discussing and decide ahead of the show how you will deal with such requests.  If you want to offer a discount for multiple purchases, that can be nice, but price your individual items accordingly so you are still coming out on top in the end. Do not stoop to the rude folks either.  They are not your market.  Be polite, but do not waste your time on them.  You want to know at the end of the year, after all those last-minute material purchases and all the time invested and you sit down to do those taxes, that it was worth it.  If you never stand up for yourself, who will?

Now that you’ve read all this and taken stock, how much are you worth?  Think about it and add to the discussion in the comments!  :D


If you liked this article, you might also like: When Artists Hear “I Can Make That.

Go ahead and click a link below to “share this.”  You know you want to!  : )

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Filed under crochet, Crochet Community, Crochet Education, Doing the Show Circuit

Are You Blogging About Crochet?


Because if you are, I want to hear from you.

How about Tweeting about crochet?  Likewise.  Oh and don’t forget to use the #crochet hashtag when you do.

Though I should clarify, if you’re a linker on Twitter, I probably won’t follow you back.  You gotta interact with your followers.  Sorry, that’s just what it’s all about.  (I know, if you’re new to twitter, it can be confusing. I’ll write an article on that later.)

What am I up to?  It’s developing rather organically and not clearly defined yet, but you can call it crochet conniving.  Refer back to my post Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet.  It was written tongue in cheek, but I am also somewhat serious.

Crochet suffers a deficit online, as least in the US.   Obey Crochet has also written about this.  She is not the only crocheter who thought she was alone in the world.

And more than that, there’s the average public ideas of what crochet actually is to enlighten.  Sure, doilies and granny squares are awesome.  But there’s so much more than that!  Tapestry Crochet, Tunisian Crochet, Broomstick Lace, Miniature Crochet, and Freeform Crochet, just to name a few of the many, many variations out there.

There’s just so much more.  And overall crochet is an incredibly portable craft, not to mention relaxing (ok, once you’ve got the hang of it).  AND its the only fiber art left that cannot yet be truly replicated by a machine.  Even that mass-produced stuff you see at the store, is hand created, often by children.  It behooves us to preserve this distinguishable art.

If you like crochet, join the quest to celebrate it!  :D


Did you know these are also crochet?

Go ahead and click a link below to “share this.” You know you want to! : )

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Filed under crochet, Crochet Community, Crochet Education, NaBloPoMo

Crochet At Cama 2010 Memories


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New Term Tuesday: America vs. Europe


It’s frustrating when you’re trying to reproduce a cute crochet pattern you found and yet it just doesn’t look anything like the photo you saw.

The problem could be something as simple, but profoundly affective, as this: Basic American crochet terms are different from European (including British and Australian) crochet terms.

And just because you grew up in the US doesn’t mean you necessarily learned crochet vernacular according to “American Crochet Standards.” Many patterns published in America during the 1800′s and early 1900′s also used terms from standards we refer to today as European or British.

So we’ll clear that up a bit today. And if you like to collect antique crochet patterns (as I do), take note because there are terms you’ll need to watch for, no matter which side of the ocean it came from.

What influenced the differences? I’m not really sure. However, the basic stitch we call single crochet in America, for instance, is called double crochet in Europe. As you can see, discrepancies in stitch terminology such as this can make a huge difference in end results.

Reference point: Australia, the UK and Europe in general all fall under the umbrella of “European terms.” Canada and the U.S. fall under the umbrella of “American terms.” Some refer to them instead as “American/British terms” or “UK/US terms.” For the purpose of this article, and the sake of clarity, I’ve simply left it at “European vs. American.” This list comes from my notes and cross-references over the years.

Here’s a quick list of American/European terms and their counterparts:


American: chain stitch (ch)
European: chain (ch)

These terms are essentially the same everywhere.


American: slip stitch (ss)
European: slip stitch (ss)

I have also seen slip stitch referred to as single crochet (sc) or “single stitch” in some British patterns, especially from the late 1800′s. Additionally, I’ve seen the terms “mitten stitch” and “close joining stitch” used.


American: single crochet (sc)
European: double crochet (dc)

I have also seen this referred to as “plain stitch” in some British patterns, especially from the late 1800′s.


American: half double crochet (hdc)
European: half treble crochet (htr) or extended double crochet


American: double crochet (dc)
European: treble crochet (tc)


American: triple crochet (tr)
European: double treble crochet (dtr or dbl tr)

I have also seen this referred to as a “long stitch” in some antique patterns.


American: double triple crochet (dtr or dtrc)
European: triple treble crochet (trtr)

I have also seen this referred to as an “extra long stitch” or “long treble” in some antique patterns.


American: triple treble (trtr or trtrc)
European: quadruple treble (quadtr)


American: yarn over (yo)
European: wool round hook (wrh) or yarn over hook (yoh)


American: skip
European: miss


American: gauge
European: tension


American: bind off or fasten off
European: cast off


OK!  So these are the most common basic English terms you’ll run into out there while comparing crochet patterns from across the oceans.

Today it is pretty standard practice to print on the pattern whether the pattern is written according to American Crochet Standards or British/English/Australian/European Crochet Standards.  I list all four there, because I have seen each of these in variation.

There are also Japanese, Chinese, Croatian, Scandinavian, South American and other terms as well, not to mention universal symbol crochet.  But this will get you started with the most common terms published in English.

Thanks for reading!  If you have resources and ideas to share, feel free to post them in the comments.

Until next time then….!

Go ahead and click a link below to “share this.”  You know you want to!  : )

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New Term Tuesday – What Does “Frogging” Mean?


This cute "Frog King" crochet frog is designed by Barbara S. of Amigurumi Paradise. Click the photo above to download this free pattern from Barbara's website and check out her other awesome critters!

In crochet as well as in knitting, the term “frogging” refers to pulling your yarn stitches out.  Confused as to what frogs have to do with that?  It’s because when we frog something made of yarn or thread, we “rip-it, rip-it” apart! (Get it? Rhymes with “ribbit?”)

Hence you’ll hear phrases about how many times someone had to “frog” a project to get it right, or how far someone got before they had to “frog it all.”

“Frogging” can also be used as a handy yarn world curse word of sorts too.  As in the case of, “Well, ain’t that just froggin’ great…!”  We could also carry that on to the variant “so sorry to hear that – how froggy that must be.”

Why yes, we are yarn geeks after all and we do experience frustrations from time to time in our work.  Perhaps yarn art vernacular will evolve further someday and instead of something being totally “wicked” or “bitchin’,” maybe we’ll say it’s “totally froggin’!”

Errrrrr…  Well… maybe not.

And so now you know what the term frogging means!  :D

That’s it for this day’s post for New Term Tuesday!

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