Category Archives: Editorial

Don’t Shop-Block Your Fellow Artists


OK, I had to find a nicer way to say it.  Unfortunately inspired by true events. 

I thought about it and thought about it.  And this was the nicest way I could think of to say that and still get the sharp point across.  Don’t shop-block your fellow artists and professionals.  (And likewise don’t let anyone do it to you.)

Just don’t.

When you’re doing shows, especially juried shows, there are internal cultural parameters as to what’s acceptable professional etiquette and behavior from participating artists, and what is not.  Not too unlike wearing white to a wedding when you are not the bride and it’s not your wedding day, you never want to block or steal a sale from anyone else.  And though most of these rules should be rather common sense to everyone, since they are mostly about basic manners and professionalism, unfortunately they are too often not clear to everyone.

One of those rules is to never violate another artist’s sales space.  We all paid for space at an event, it’s your job to govern your own space, but also to support the show as a whole and to support each of your fellow artists by maintaining a professional approach to everything.  Never come over to a fellow artist’s booth and talk to the customers in their space or block them from being able to shop.  It doesn’t matter if you just talked to them a few minutes before somewhere else.  It doesn’t matter if they’re your best friends whom you haven’t seen in years.  Unless they left their glasses on your table, you don’t go after them into someone else’s space.  You just don’t do it.  Not to mention that it can be seen as stalking.  If you just must talk to those customers, do so privately and in the public arena, not in someone’s space.  Not ever.

And the same goes for friendly chatting with your fellow artists in their spaces.  It’s one thing if you’re friends with that other artist and you’re chatting privately, but as soon as a potential customer shows up, you politely exit, get out-of-the-way or at least shut up right then.  And you keep your chatter to a minimum, because everyone is there for one main reason – to serve the customers at the show.  Nothing else should have a higher focus than that.

You never stand with in front of someone else’s space and block traffic flow to their booth either.  It’s incredibly rude!  In fact, it’s a faux pas for customers too.  Congregating in front of an artist’s booth that you have no intention of shopping at, thereby blocking traffic flow so others cannot easily see or enter that artist’s booth, is a terrible thing to do to someone.  However, because we all want customers to have a good time at an event, we artists generally try to be polite and patient with customers who do this, for a little while.  (If you’ve done this unawares – now you know better – don’t do it again!)

Artists should abso-frickin-lutely know better.  Traffic flow is gold at a show.  Every booth and logo and display is all counting on traffic attention at a show.  You can only sell as much as you are seen.  And you never want to mess with that for anyone!  Talk about bad, bad show karma!  And if it’s obvious that you are doing something like that intentionally, it can get you black-listed – for good reason.

Why is all this important?  Because shows (especially juried shows) are for professionals.  Shows survive and do well as a whole marketplace.  To be respected as an artist and human being, you have to consider the long view and the reputation you build every single day with every single action and choice you make.  And how well can you represent not only yourself, but the other businesses (shows) you align yourself with.

So just on a purely professional class basis, you never, ever EVER do something that could cost your fellow artist a sale.  You know what it’s like.  It doesn’t matter if you like that fellow artist, if you do the same work as they do, or if you’re friends or enemies.  It doesn’t matter if you had the same idea they are selling out there right now or you’re so sure that your product is better and it’s killing you that they were juried into the same event.  You never show your ass or cost them a sale.  You have the decency and professionalism to keep your mouth shut and let them do business.  Express any concerns you have to the appropriate planners and then move forward being the good person and professional you know yourself to be.  Don’t stoop to lower level behavior.

These professional principles aren’t just for the show circuit though.  They hold true anywhere, even online.  It’s happened to me.

I marketed a service offer to my followers on one of my social sites once.  (I’m not just a crochet designer/writer, I work in other fields too.)  In this case, I offered some tech help to some fellow professionals whom I care about through one of my various public pages.  A page you have to subscribe to, to see.  And guess what?  Someone immediately commented about her “identical” services on my post, on my page!  She was just dying for the world of my own readership (not hers) to know that she also wanted to offer what I’m offering.  In all reality, she stepped into my booth space and hawked her wares.

Dude!  You don’t do that!

Needless to say, I took her remark down.  It’s my page, I can do that.  I didn’t choose to respond to her remark though, because anything I could say would either cost me sales, or cost her own sales/reputation.  And it would just leave a bad taste for everyone.  After all, her remark was already… professionally awkward, to say the least.  There was no way I could tolerate her move professionally.  However, I also wasn’t going to compound her mistake by making one of my own in a public response to her  either.  Taking the remark down was as much kindness to her as it was defensive for me.

Whatever your profession, you know exactly what I’m talking about here.

So here’s the thing my dear artists and colleagues of all walks of life.  I’m betting you already know this, or my title wouldn’t have drawn you in.  You’ve probably already had it happen to you at one time or another.  You know of other fields and incidences where this principle can be applied.  And if you’ve chosen an indie-business path, then you also know that you’ve entered a world where everyone expects you to show some class, to elevate your awareness and likewise raise your level of professional behavior.  Because you are everything in your business and your business reflects on your reputation.  There’s no one to praise or blame but you.  That’s part of what makes this path such a growth-inspiring one.

But it behooves us to help set the example.  Reach out there and help those newly inducted into the world of business ownership.  Be a part of discussions and local Chambers of Commerce and get to know other artists and professionals in your field.  And help everyone understand the level of professionalism that is expected of them.  By example if by nothing else. Pass this article around so others who might not realize what they’re doing can wake up and smell the coffee.

We all need to eat.  We all need to survive.  We all have medical bills, and special needs and causes we fight for.  And we all have lessons to learn.  There’s plenty of need and plenty of pie to go around.   So have some class.  We’re all in this together.  There’s no need to cost someone else their piece.

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Filed under Business, Doing the Show Circuit, Editorial, NaBloPoMo

You Can’t Work All The Time


When you’re an entrepreneur, it is easy to be sucked in 24/7.  And honestly, that’s much as it should be.

Why?  Because being in business for yourself is a responsibility that requires your heart and soul in order to run and to succeed.  Your business succeeds as you will it to.  And business is work.  You will find a lot of satisfaction in working for yourself, but the catch is, there’s no clock to punch out and there’s no guarantee of income and success.

But you can’t work all the time.  You have to break sometime.  You have to switch gears sometime.  You have to rest sometime.

I tend to have my fingers in several projects at a time and work way too many hours for the pay I make.  Part of it’s because I work for myself, and that’s often part of that life.  Part of it is because I’m catching up from losing 2.5 months and missing all my fall shows to a broken ankle.  So not only did I miss out on pay because of that, but I have medical bills to pay off too.  Yippee Ki Yay.  And while it feels really good to be getting back to normal (well close), I’m pretty exhausted too. Besides being a designer, I also do social media consulting for a couple of small business clients.  So my brain is constantly going back and forth from creative to computer, as much as I can stand.  Plus there’s the fundraising for Spain and well, everything left on my mom plate at the end of the day.  Someone please do some laundry for me? 

However, this is Thanksgiving week.  I don’t like falling into the holidays at all, much less Thanksgiving.  It’s important to me at this time of year to take time and experience this week with awareness.  And to meditate on the things that matter most in life.

So today, I got ready for Thanksgiving week by spending my time baking.  And with clean up.  It’s still maintenance and creativity, but of an entirely different sort than my business.

We have a tradition at our charter school of making pies for the teachers.  This year (after all, it’s our 11th year there) I did not sign up for the usual volunteer sheet that blankets the whole school.  This year the kids took polls from their teachers and decided what they wanted to make for them and we shared the work individually.  It’s our way of showing our gratitude to our teachers for what they do for us.  And there are a couple of them who may get bonus food.  I’m very thankful for the experts who are helping to shape my children’s experiences and are helping to prepare them for life.

So I go to bed tonight in a house that smells of peach pies and banana breads.  And I make some really amazing banana bread, let me tell ya.  My daughter’s peach pie rocks too.  (Our secrets?  Over ripe bananas and unsweetened peaches.)  Tomorrow I have chocolate truffle pies to make and more banana bread I want to give to our neighbors.

I did have to stop in the middle and go buy a new mixer, but in the end it was a nice break from the usual work at hand.  The baking that is, not the going to the store on a Sunday night bit.  I actually kinda hate shopping.  Except for yarn.  And maybe motorcycles and drums.

Just as it’s important for parents to make time to still have dates even after having kids, it’s also important for business owners to still in a sense court themselves and do something else completely different than baby their business.  And you may find if your ideas are getting stuck and stagnant and you’re worrying about burning out, that this is especially important to do.  You don’t have to take a vacation or do anything expensive.  You just have to switch gears and do something different from what you normally do to survive.  It’s OK if it’s still “work,” but it has to be different than what you’ve been doing.

So unless you have a show this week, this is a good time in the U.S. to take a bit of a breather and allow yourself to do something different, that you haven’t done in a long time.  And if you’re not in the U.S., then it may be a good week to make a date for a break anyway, what with other holidays looming on the horizon.

Take a break, get some rest, let down your hair and entertain yourself in some different way.

What will you pick?


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


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Filed under Business, Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Are We Becoming Another Tower Of Babel?


Comments from my blog post a few nights ago sparked some meditations for me.

Though I don’t want to see us lose our past and forget the eloquent arts of how to write or how to speak, I also see that we’re evolving.

When you stop and think about it, it’s not just that the world is shrinking.  With the influence of technology and our society’s adaption, we are learning and forming new languages and cultures.

We just don’t think about it that way.

Technology is a great tool.
Tower of BabelBut it’s also putting us in a position to be in contact with so much input of data, that we are now evolving at faster and faster rates.

Even our vocabulary.  Language and behavioral evolution that previously would have taken much longer to evolve, after traditional historical fashion, is now happening in days.

It’s a fascinating realization.

Someone across the world in a country I’ve never seen, much less understand, can have an affect on my ideas and decisions.  Even if only to simply decide whatever they’ve chosen to have for dinner sounds good to me too.

It’s an amazing frontier, and a bit of a frightening one as well.

We romanticize about secret societies and orders of human history.  But we are creating them even as we speak.  We’re developing languages and micro-cultures that only the members of which really understand.  Only this time, it is not mountains and rivers that divide or unite us.

Twitter, texting, Facebook: these all have language specifics, expected behaviors and values. “Secret codes.”  And if you’re not “in” the culture, then you don’t know. Not too unlike being in the military, or being a sci-fi geek. Each subgroup has its values, it’s language, it’s own support system and even its own humor.

So it brings us back to that evolution factor and how fast this is taking us just exactly where?

Because I definitely think there’s an argument that can be made for the potential to create an experience not too unlike the story of the Tower of Babel. Where the language and cultures become confused.  And instead of unity within a single people, an undeniable division and separation of cultures is born.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

The Balance Between Communicating Too Much And Not Enough

Three Communication Tips To Help You Get Your Point Across

Four Dysfunctional Attitudes About Communication

When There Isn’t Enough “Me” To Go Around…


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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo

When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?”


I was so irritated.

It happened.

I’m not going to say their name, give you details, or talk about the proposal, but I certainly am going to write a warning for anyone who will listen.  And I don’t frellin’ care that I want to yell about it all over the internet.

It happened.

Red_Wine_GlassAnd it was asked by the owner of a new business, who days after asking me to commit to a project, came back and bemoaned the fact that she had a slim budget for her grand opening.

Was there any way I could negotiate a lower price?

“I can appreciate the prices you charge because of your extensive expertise, but…. I’m paying for all this wine and I don’t have enough money.”

blinkhuh

What. The. Hell.

Really.  After a week of knowing my price, and me setting aside time and making preparations.  Really?

So dear readers:  would you take a 50% pay cut if your boss asked?  Bet not only you wouldn’t, but you’d tell him where to go!

DON’T DO THIS!  ARTISTS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

And just because you’re used to buying 3rd world cheap, doesn’t mean you’re justified in asking for my services, scheduling me and then asking me to slash my pay.  (What d’ya wanna bet that ain’t box wine you’re springing for.)  I could have far better respected you coming clean and saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t have as much money as I thought,” than to ask me to work for half price.

“I have 200 people on my mailing list that I will advertise your business to when I advertise my event. So you’ll get exposure.”

Really?

“Exposure” is the rotten kiss of hard-work-for-nothing in many cases.  Every newbie thinks at some point that every flirtatious offer to exchange products or services for “exposure” will be good for them.  Too often it just isn’t.  And for some businesses, too much of that kind of financial risk is just the kiss of death.

And 200 people on your mailing list?  That’s all?  If the wind is blowing the right way, I might get one contact out of that.  IF your email ad is done nicely.  But statistics are not in favor of even that.

“I’m sure people who attend my event will become future customers for you.”

Here’s where my eyes start to glaze over just a little.  I’ve heard all this before.  People who try to present themselves as having assets they don’t really have.

In over a decade of being in business for myself, not once has making a donation, or participating in someone’s private event ever… let me repeat that… EVER sent me a lead, much less a sale!

Now.  I do a lot of charity work.  I’ve often donated to cancer causes with no questions asked.

But here’s the big key.  I don’t do it for exposure.  I do it because I choose to give back to the world through a kind heart and generosity.  Because that feels right to me and because I want to.  That doesn’t mean I don’t put my name on my donations, but giving for exposure is the wrong reason.  Spending business assets on possible “exposure” has never paid for me.  Not saying it won’t for someone else, but it never once has for me.

Artists and designers and consultants and musicians and all those other entrepreneurs out there need to be just as respected for their time and expertise as someone who works for the man.

And whatever this weird fatal attraction is, where society is dying to have us colorful creatives around, but you want us to pimp ourselves out for cheap, has just gotta go.

Stop dissing our fields.

Stop diminishing our returns.

Stop using us.  And artists, don’t you go caving either!

We have every right to feed our kids and have a warm bed too.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Follow Your Heart – It’s Not Really That Clichéd – Crochet Ruminations


You know the best advice I can give an artist seeking to sell for profit is to follow your heart when it comes to creativity and listen to your customers’ feedback.

Every time I’ve ever tried to do something my heart wasn’t really into, from that creative artistic point of view, it never would sell well.

In the beginning, I got a lot of shoulds on what to make from peers and others who had input to give me, but who weren’t ever buying from me.  “You should make dog clothes!”  I don’t own dogs and I don’t know the first thing about shaping for them, I don’t think so.  “You should make purses!” Well, I might make a couple, but if I’m not really a bag lady myself, how can I possibly find it interesting enough to create them for profit or be in tune with what people want in a crochet purse. “I just want to see you succeed,” another artist told me at a show after giving unsolicited advice.

And you know what else?  Not once has a customer treated me that way either.  Kind of interesting.  Maybe they like my ideas just the way they are.

And that’s just it.  I have always succeeded by being me.  And not by trying to imitate someone else.

I believe people buy handmade and art because they are expressions of someone, and they are drawn to that spirit.  When it’s authentic, they’re fans.  When it’s not, there’s nothing to distinguish you the individual from someone else.  And when we listen to fans and to the people who are actually putting money into our hands, we’re listening to people who have tapped into our creative spirit.  Which can be really helpful when we’re feeling a bit lost and need direction.

Anyway, so though it sounds clichéd, seriously – follow your heart in your craft.  Pour yourself into it.  And if you can’t?  If there’s a block? Then find an avenue that isn’t blocked.  Nowhere does it say that you have to be a yellow pencil.  Be inspired by someone?  Sure.  But genuinely do your own thing!

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Filed under Business, crochet, Crochet Ruminations, Editorial, NaBloPoMo, Writing

Happy Veterans Day: Watch Your Language


It had been a long weekend in the Texas sun.  The state guardsman reached for the refrigerator door and a welcome shower of cool air fell over his long military sleeves.

Looking over the grocer’s jugs of milk, searching for the best date, his hand lingered on a handle for just a moment.

That’s when he heard it.

“Kill any babies.”

The tone was aimed directly at him. And it wasn’t in the form of a question.

Quietly the father retrieved the milk his wife asked for and he straightened.  He was on the way home from weekend guard duty.   They would be deploying for hurricane relief soon.  It would mean a pay cut, but that’s what guardsman do. They go where they are needed.  Local relief, wars in distant lands, bringing war criminals before the Hague so they can stand trial for their crimes against humanity; guardsmen and reservists help fill the gap.

On the one hand, it’s sad that our military is paid so small for such great sacrifice and threat of safety.  And yet, you wouldn’t want a military that was made up of people who were only there for the money.  It would be a dangerous thing.  You need men and women who are willing to be of service, to offer a sacrifice of their personal wants and needs for those of another, to help maintain this bubble we live in and call the U.S..  And today guardsmen are depended upon more and more.

So much is given when someone says to Uncle Sam, OK – my life is yours to command.  Not to mention given of the mothers, mates and children left behind.  Not to mention, sometimes even unto death.  Our military needs to know its people love  them.  So to hear something like this is just… demoralizing.

I chose to write about an uncomfortable subject today, in honor of Veterans Day, because it’s a silent abuse that no one talks about.  That father was my husband.  And this kind of treatment of veterans is not often talked about but it happens.  All too frequently.  It happens to the families who support their soldiers.  It happened to me just for “allowing” my husband to enlist in the army guard after 9/11.  Not to mention the persecution against children of soldiers.

I don’t know what the answers are, but the story needs to be told.  It’s bad enough when free people forget to say thank you to those who voluntarily give up their freedom to serve the greater good.  But this other stuff? Whatever it is?

“Kill any babies.”

My husband straightened up, milk in hand.

Taking a deep breath, he looked at the older woman, but only briefly.

He steeled his jaw and pivoted away, replying just simply this:

“Not today.”


To our brothers and sisters in arms and to the families at home waiting for them: we salute your sacrifice and service and we embrace you as our own. We promise to teach our children to value what you give.  May God be with you all and bring you safely home. 

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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Heartbeat In My Ears…


My true story. 

There’s a heartbeat sounding in my ears.

“See mom, these are the Hot Wheels I want to keep, because they have moving parts.”  The rest can go to the fundraiser.

Moving parts are always more interesting.

Thump-thump.

I hear the crashing sound of a demolition crew.

Wait….  That’s not right.  I’m sitting at a stop light.  At an intersection on the edge of town.  Nothing but trees and cacti on my right.  I turn to my left.

Heartbeat.

There’s an infinity in the space between moments.  Did I leave my body?

Heartbeat.  Silence.

My child!

If I left my body, it wasn’t for long.  But I’m frozen.

The pickup driver’s hair is blonde.

Flash…..

My earliest childhood memory takes place in my father’s arms at an amusement park.  My parents told me that I must have been about 18 months old when they took that trip.

I’m staring at a ride that looks something like a huge airplane propeller with rockets on each end.  It’s painted red, white and blue, with one end red, the other blue and a band of white at the axis.

The propeller spins and there is a boy in the blue rocket.  His shirt is yellow.  He’s screaming his head off and I can see a look in his eyes.

Flash…..

A black pickup is hanging in mid-air.  It twists and grows larger.

Fractured glass.

The driver’s hair is blonde.  There is a look in his eyes.

My hand flies out in front of my son.

Flash…..

It’s Friday before Spring Break 2005.  I’m going to see Grandma Dot and Grandpa Jack.  I packed the antique dishes Grandma Dot’s great-uncle gave her, that she passed on to me.  He was the US ambassador to Mexico once and he brought her back this set of white dishes.  I want to ask her for more details to complete the story about these dishes.  She always remembers the stories to everything.  But when I tried to ask over the phone, she wasn’t sure which set I was talking about.

They were last to load into the trunk.

“Darling, let me keep the kids.  I know you wonder if this might be the last time they’ll get to see the kids or not, but you’ll be stressed out trying to keep them away from the breakables at your grandparents.  I’ll keep the kids.  Just go, enjoy your time with your grandparents.”

My husband is wonderful.  Though guilt worries me.  What if this is the last time Grandpa is able to see his great-grandchildren?  But John’s right – Grandma’s house is not child-proof by any means.  I remove the car seats from the back seat, say goodbye to my children and leave them with John.

I always say prayers in the car when I go on a trip.

It’s Friday before spring break and Interstate 35 is filled with college students, excited for the break.  Mid-terms are over and I see kids hanging out of cars at 65 miles an hour whooping up the day.

It’s dangerous.  But I also remember college mid-terms and how delirious they make you feel.  Stress that only the young can take.  Why do we do that to them?

At mile marker 299:  The highway suddenly goes from three lanes to two, with no warning.

Some kids cut off a yellow moving truck; they’re trying to merge and going too fast.  The yellow truck practically stands on its brakes and every car around it suddenly fishes right or left to avoid collision.  There is a full shoulder on the left which only lasts for about one mile.  The young man in front of me and I quickly and successfully move to that left shoulder and safely get by.

Suddenly, there’s a force from behind me that is so great.

Can sounds blind you?

I look to my rear-view and see the demolition hitch.  It’s coming through my back window towards my head.  The white Ford F-350 doesn’t have a grill on the front.  There’s something else attached.  It looks like the front of a snow-plow.

The truck is so much higher than my silver Altima, that it never hits my bumper.  Unbounded, it plows through my back window and seat. The trunk of my car is center-punched down the middle.  Slammed, I collide into the car ahead of me.

For an instant, everything is black.

My hood blows.  Glass sprays like snow.  My shoulder hurts like hell.  My air-bag never deployed.

Just two weeks before this, I saw a little silver car smashed between the highway median wall and a semi truck on the way to the kids’ school.  I came home and told my husband, “I don’t want to drive a little silver car anymore.”

I guess I got my wish.

I start shaking uncontrollably and burst into tears.  I am going numb.

Flash…..

It’s just like a movie stunt, except without exciting music, and without a drumbeat.  Just my heart, ringing in my ears.

The little black truck is hanging high in the air – twisting, flying towards us.

I am frozen.  Caught between stories in time.

My stories.  My traumas.  My time-warp.  The words ring through me, “I just got a new home and now my child and I are going to die.”

And those aren’t spoken words.  There is no “hearing” of them.  They impress on the very soul, like a stamp.  Like a vice.  Punching through the heart and being.

My hand flies out in front of my son.  The truck slams to the ground on its nose and bounces, flipping towards us.

The driver’s hair is blonde.  I’m boxed in.  I can’t back up.

There’s nowhere to go.  I am frozen.

It is silent.


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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo, Writing

The World Needs More Letters…


Here’s an inspiring TED video I wanted to share:

The above video is about the world needing more love letters.  And well, it struck the romantic cord inside of me.

It’s been awhile since I made a point of writing letters, but I used to.  I used to write letters every Saturday to my friends at college who waited to get mail from home.  Even though it was a small and close-knit theology school, going to college there was sometimes a lonely place, where you wonder if everyone you ever knew back home forgot about you once you left.  You work so hard, have little money, live in a strange world with people you don’t know and many feel the vacuum left behind without the nurturing comforts they were used to most of their life.

Trust me, letters and care packages from friends were nearly as welcome back in my college 20 years ago as they are in the military.  And not everyone had loving family and friends back home to write them for them.  Little handwritten Saturday notes with goofy cartoons and stickers were a way to brighten someone’s week.

Later I wrote letters for cancer victims and children.  Again, it’s one of those things people forget about doing anymore.  Sometimes at the very onset, people get a flood of attention and well wishes, and a bunch of greeting cards with little more than a name signed.  But come 6 months later?  When things are still scary and no one remembers anymore?  There’s not even that signed card.  Three months, 6 months, a year after a loss, a trauma, a triumph: these are times people need encouragement most of all.  And yes, we need them after triumphs too.

You could send them an e-card, perhaps.  And that’s something.  But there’s nothing like the power of a handwritten note that says, “I’m thinking of you.  I’m still here.  And I’m proud of the fight you’re putting up.”

I also used to keep hand-written journals.  In spite of being a dysgraphic adult I far preferred journaling by hand than by computer.  I have ever since reading Harriet The Spy when I was a kid. Unlike Harriet, I wasn’t interested in writing down what people did when no one was looking, but I did very much enjoy the meditative process.  It’s something I haven’t done in a long time.  But today, I can still pick up one of my handwritten journals from 4th grade and immediately travel back in time.  Flowing through every stroke of the pen, every stroke that I made, I reach back in time and hold the hand of that child I once was.  Remembering what it was like to be that kid.  Even from so long ago, the connection is so strong I almost remember the stroking of each entry as if in the moment.

The handwritten word is so very powerful.  And it’s a wonder that a dysgraphic person like me ever learned to love it.  Even if I do struggle with it to this day.  It’s too easy to take the art for granted.

I have tried to collect letters and recipes in the handwriting of each of my family members possible, alive or dead.  Even my grandparents had trouble understanding my desire for hand written recipes.  They wanted to type them for me and I kept saying, no.  Please give me recipes in your own handwriting.  Because that’s unique.  And when I touch the letters, it’s like reaching out for your hand.  I want my own grand kids to know you, some way, some how in a way that can’t be done so personally.  What better way than through food prepared and written about by your own hand?

Handwriting is an art form and it carries more emotion in the formation of each character than anything typed.  There’s simply more voice in the strokes of the hand-written word, vs. the print of the digital.  And I must admit, like my Grandma Dot, I have saved every single real letter I’ve ever received since childhood.  One of my favorites contains advice that a group of out-of-state high school friends collaborated on and sent me, trying to help me with a stalker situation I didn’t know how to handle.  Each one signed their names.  I have no idea where any of them are today.  But I hang onto their letter and hope to see them again someday.

I can’t think of the last time I’ve received a handwritten letter myself.  I think this weekend I will challenge myself to hand-write a letter to someone.  Maybe roll the dice or draw a name and just do it.  Even if I might have to do some recon to find a mailing address. Maybe just write something to leave out in the world somewhere for someone else to find unawares. But just sit down and for once, write a real letter.

What do you think?  How about you?


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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo, Writing

Or perhaps it’s simply that we cannot hear ourselves…


“[The musician]… said that he felt just about everyone could train to be a decent singer, but the main challenge was that people don’t hear themselves the way other people hear them, so their pitch is off. They hear one pitch in their heads, but what they’re actually singing (and what other people hear) doesn’t align with what they think they’re singing.” ~ Steve Pavlina

The above quote is from an article on the Law of Attraction by Steve Pavlina (see link above).  I wanted to share it tonight, because it struck me that this analogy is a good reminder about life in general.

What are the messages that we project? Are we really in tune with that?

In my line of work, in charity work, in the education system, in local business – I run into people every single day who think they’re professional, but don’t project it. Who think they are loving, but do not project it. Who think they are thoughtful and considerate, but do not project it. Who think they have life figured out, but they don’t project it. Who think they are kind, when they absolutely are not.

And we can say well… they are doing the best they can.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps it’s simply that they cannot hear themselves.

If Buddha, or Jesus, or Krishna, or another spiritual master were in our presence. Perhaps Mother Teresa? What would we reflect and sound like in their presence? Would our song suddenly be in tune?

Why should it be any different with our fellow man?

It strikes me as one of the lessons of Job (as in the man from the bible). That great wonderful person we think ourselves to be? You know, how supposedly we have committed to being something greater than the sum of our molecules? That spiritual life we wish to embrace?

Are. We. Really. That?

Do we really mean it when we say we are committed to the service of the greater good? Because we cannot serve others very well when we cannot get past ourselves.

So when there’s a little squeeze, when we are pushed out of our comfort zone, do we show the world something different? Do we project being a good and kind person?  Or do we say, “The energy’s off,” or “That person’s not right.” Do we say, “It wasn’t meant to be?”

Do we write off, or worse yet – harm, a fellow child of God because we do not (or wish not to) hear that it is we who we are the discordant ones?

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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo, Writing

The Spider Invasion Has Begun!


Part 1:  Or…  “My Supplication To The Gods Of Seasons,”  As It Were….  Is that a change in the air…?

We had our first actual taste of fall weather here in Austin the day before the fall equinox.  And I do mean taste.

Not just that metaphorical brief fleeting experience of an amazing flavor. But that thing you experience: when the air you breathe outside has more than just essence, but a distinctively fresh flavor to it. And it’s a breathful taste that I find invigorating.

Yep, the web is that big.

Yep, the web is that big. And he’s 5’10”.
Want one? Click the picture.

For here in Central Texas, we don’t often finally get to taste fall until later in the year. You know… closer to winter.

We’re always behind the rest of the world in our spring and fall seasons.  And when the seasons do arrive here, they are generally more like speed bumps in the switch between two main seasons of hot and cold.  A veritable two-week tribute to spring or fall, but so rarely a full court press of the real thing.

Never the case with summer though.  Never with summer at all. Do you miss summer where you are?  Come visit us in July and get your fill.  You’ll never miss it (or us) ever again.

So to have that first taste of fall arrive here on the actual equinox is like some sort of amazing blessing. Nay.  It’s more than that. It’s a sign.  A bright sparkly one.  The seasonal gods have smiled upon us this year.

Miniature snowman scraped together off the truck.

Miniature snowman scraped
together off the truck long ago.

Dear seasonal gods:  While we have your attention, could we maybe have a snow day this winter?? With real snow to play with and not just wet ice?  I mean, if you don’t mind and all. After all, it’s been years.  The kids are teens now. And well, we want to make snowmen together again, even if only miniature ones. Oh! And snow ice cream too.  …oh please, please, please…

But please also make sure no one has to get out and drive in it though. No one here knows how.

At the first hint of “the taste,” I immediately threw open all the windows. Fresh air in the house, it’s so wonderful. And it whispers to me. Not only were we blessed with an actual spring this year (lasting more than two weeks), we’ll be blessed with an actual fall too. :)

With October finally here, the most wickedly fun of all holiday months (and dear hubby’s and my birthday month), I’m feeling more alive. Even if more in spirit than in body.

And that’s saying a lot. Because I haven’t felt myself since breaking my right ankle at the end of the summer road-trip adventure that I took with my teens. It’s been two months + 11 days of blurred trauma, surgery, and complications. :/ As of today, I’ve only just been walking about 3 weeks.. ish.

There’s definitely an interesting story to tell there, and one I want to share with you, as I’ve learned quite a bit too.  But it’s a story that will have to wait for now.

spiderwebinafternoonsunWhy?  Because the spider invasion has begun at our house, and it demands adoration. Its story refuses to be put off.

Well, at least not after tomorrow.

Stay tuned for part 2….


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Filed under Crochet Patterns, Editorial, Halloween, Writing

The Story Of The Face-Planting Yellow Bird


I am way behind on blogging lately.  So black sheep of me.  And it’s not because I’m not writing.  It’s because I am, elsewhere and in other ways!  Life is amazing and crazy, but I’m totally enjoying the ride. I haven’t blogged about our new house or anything since writing a review for Andee’s book!  Our new home is simply totally awesome.  I can’t explain it enough – where you live matters.  Even when the changes seem small.  It matters.  This place is so good for us right now.  It’s not too fancy, but it feeds the soul.  And isn’t that what we all could use more of?  I must get some good photos and try to show you some of the amazing things happening in my back yard.  I have tadpoles!  TADPOLES!  :D  Can you believe it?  I love it!

And school will be out for the kids soon!  Which even as a parent, I dearly look forward to.  Summer’s when the kids and John and I finally get to just connect as a family, without all the crazy running and stress because of this assignment or another, or because of club or school events, etc..  We think of a 40-hour work week as full-time work, but most kids, most good students, spend far more time than that on education every week.  It doesn’t seem to be until summer when we can just be ourselves and pursue our own interests individually and as a family together. And just honestly get some well deserved rest.  And me? I tackle some more focused work and planning done during that time too,  ‘cuz I work from home anyway.  Summer is my time to get ready for holiday shows.  And I’m adding a book to my work load as well.

Well, there’s a lot of news to share with you!  Including a couple of awards this blog has won (even while I wasn’t writing), how my daughter started her own blog (she has a quirky personality online and off) and how we’re getting ready for A-Kon in Dallas next weekend.  You should totally see Jess’ tail coat that she designed, then created a pattern for and then made, with some expert guidance from Paula, an amazingly talented seamstress in our town.  I am so incredibly grateful for her, because she knows how to help Jess with her far-too-advanced-for-me ideas.  Oh, and my son is in the middle of doing “flower-sack babies” for health this week.  It’s been rather comical watching him juggle “McGregor” his flower-sack baby AND his cat.   And of course there is much writing taking place.  Articles, books, etc..  I’ll have to tell you about them as I can/am allowed.  Oh yes, I will keep you in the loop.  (And hopefully, all this points to an income.)  Plus our high school Spain trip with EF Tours looms ever nearer, and we are fundraising like crazy suckers trying to get our funding together.  So much.  So much.

Well, I thought I’d start up on the blog again by telling you about an interesting experience I had yesterday. It involves a little yellow bird…
So I’m sitting outdoors with my laptop to work yesterday morning, enjoying the shade and pleasant temperatures. I know that later it won’t be this pleasant and I’m soaking up as much of my new backyard as possible. When suddenly a little brown and yellow bird plunges (falls, not lands) from above into the little flower bed next to me. At first glance, I thought it was a larger sized humming-bird with its slender beak. Then I see the color, size and shape and realize not at all. It looks like a warbler or a bunting, but not sure. Brown top, bright yellow breast.  The beak was totally different from I would have expected and the bird had white stripes on the side of the head on either side of its eyes. It looked kind of like a cross between a sparrow, chickadee and the yellow part of a goldfinch, with the beak of a hummingbird. Really slender little beak.  [Update: beak and yellow color looked a little like this prothonotary warbler! But with striping and such.]

At first I really thought it fell out of a tree.  Then I thought it was diving after a bug in the mulch, but I noticed again that it was leaning heavily to one side. Suddenly it falls forward and does a total face plant!  With its tail straight up in the air and its beak straight down into the mulch! “Are you OK?”  I speak to it, then get up and come over when it stays still. It’s not dead, but it’s obviously exhausted somehow.

It doesn’t struggle much when I pick it up from its face plant and it opens its beak wide. One of its eyes droops closed a bit. It does not look like a baby to me, but I sense extreme exhaustion and hope he isn’t dying. I take it to the waterfall in my yard and get a drop of water on my finger to give it. Then I carry it to my bird feeder to pick up some seeds. I open my hand and it sits quietly in my palm, leaning slightly to one side, letting my fingers support it. I notice some tiny “ruffled” feathers on its neck. Which I then reach to smooth, wondering if it’s injured.

At that touch, after being so calm all this time, the little bird freaks out as if it just woke up and suddenly realized I was there, chirps at me and flies away, landing on my neighbor’s roof.  I watched for a while, it didn’t roll off.

I wonder if one of the neighborhood cats took a swipe at it? Or maybe a grackle or hawk? I looked for a nest above where it fell, but did not see one.

What a curious experience! I wish I could have gotten a photo!

Well, so that’s my latest little backyard adventure story.  I shall have to catch you up on the rest of life, my mis?adventures with a snake in my pond and maybe wrangle a few decent photos somewhere.  Until then, be well.  Stay safe.

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Filed under Editorial, It's An Aberrant Life

Book Review and Giveaway! Texting Mitts by Designer Andee Graves


booklet cover LA websiteWell everyone, you’re in for a treat this weekend!  My crochet buddy Andee Graves has a new crochet book out called Texting Mitts!  And not only do I get to be a part of her blog tour celebrating the book’s release, but you have a chance to win a copy too!  If you can’t wait to get your “mitts” on it (see what I did there?) you can find the book at JoAnn stores and Leisure Arts website.  Which is good, because as of this writing, Amazon is temporarily out of stock!

So Who’s On The Tour?

Well I’m the last stop on this week’s blog tour, but if you’d like to catch up on the others, here’s the whole list of us.  A great list of crochet designers and enthusiasts you should consider checking out if you don’t already know us.

As the last stop on the tour, I was trying to think about how I could really add to the blog tour for you and for Andee with my post.  And of course, rebel that I am, I gotta do it my way anyway.  And if it ain’t honestly informative, lively or fun, it’s not really my cup ‘o tea.  So Andee, readers, et all, hang on for the ride – I hope you like it.  Gritty or not, here we go.

First, let me share how I know Andee.

I guess Andee and I actually initially met online in the Crochet Liberation Front group on Ravelry.  But getting to know her really soared later when we finally met in person at the Crochet Liberation Front’s 1st Ever Crochet At Cama Retreat.

Andee_and_Julia

Andee and Me!

She was funny, laid back and we’re both October babies!  So we were both enjoying the crochet retreat as part of our birthday gifts to ourselves.  Hers near the beginning and mine near the end.  :)  I liked her immediately!

I discovered Andee to be an enthusiastic crochet designer, and excellent teacher as I watched her interact with people.  She has a deep background in massage as well, and she demonstrated a lot of understanding about making the most of crochet while minimizing damage to your hands and wrists and more.  She gave an excellent talk at the retreat addressing carpal tunnel syndrome and other issues many crocheters face, which of course as someone fascinated with hook shapes and hand holds, I found fascinating too.  Plus Andee carves hooks at home too.  These aspects to her of course add to her foundation in design.  The importance of caring for our hands is a subject near and dear to her heart.

Onward For The Tour: Fingerless Mittens – Why I Like Them And You Should Too

Chunky Vs Mitt LAAlong those lines comes Andee’s most handy book full of fingerless “Texting Mitts” designs.  (I couldn’t resist.)

Let me tell ya – fingerless mittens are a must for me.  I’ve been in business for myself for 10 years now.  I started out doing shows and selling my finished goods.  And many of those shows were local outdoor festivals.  But while everyone else was suffering in the chill, I wore my wool cape and fingerless mittens and muffatees that were an asset to me “in the field.”

Diamond Back Mitt LAAnd today, while I use Square to accept credit cards at shows and use my smart phone for commerce, even at chilly indoor shows during the summer fingerless mitts can be an essential tool because smart phones don’t work without skin contact.   (It happens – Central Texas where we sometimes over compensate indoors for the heat outside!)

So if you’re looking for a useful kind of gift, that isn’t really limited to just winter use, definitely consider fingerless mittens.  I know folks who use them for typing at work too.

So What About The Book?

So what do I think?  Well, let’s start with first impressions.

It’s been awhile since I looked over a Leisure Arts crochet book.  And reading over Andee’s new book involved a colorful and visual experience I hadn’t remembered before.  So, being who I am, I had to make a trip to my local craft store to thumb through the books and see if it was my imagination or not.  Sure enough, I found that books more recently published by Leisure Arts were sporting a whole new design approach not found in my mother’s or grandmother’s books.  It threw me a bit at first, but in analysis, I actually think it’s good.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

2013-02-15_20-26-00_-2.0Ev-1Colorful and color-coded text.  A definite visual plus.  If you like to use highlighters and colored pens in your notes, you’re going to be surprised when you see that a lot of the text is already color coded in helpful ways.  One such helpful note is how all the size variations are printed in different colors in order to make them easier to find quickly when you’re working.2013-02-15_20-26-14_HDR-1

Visual Icons.  Wherever you see a little video camera symbol like this one, it means you can go to the Leisure Arts website and watch a video demonstrating that specific stitch or technique!  Now ain’t that about time!

2013-02-15_20-31-00_HDRShopping Lists.  I suppose this is something most good patterns already sport, however I do like the way they put it together, highlighting it and making it very easy on the eyes to read, complete with universal standard yarn symbols for the weight.

Easy To Read Stitch Glossary.  These back pages are pretty well laid out, with clear sections, making it easy to read and find what you’re looking for.

Xst Mitt LALarge full color photos.  Many photos are a full-page in size and they seem to be very crisp to me.  If you are a visual crocheter, you’re going to appreciate these.

Three Column Layout.  I personally find three columns per page to be the sweet spot as far as ease on the eyes.  I like it way better than one or two, which is what I usually see.

The Designs/Patterns Themselves

“Texting Mitts” offers a pretty decent collection of fingerless mittens with different stitch techniques as well as design looks to try.  Whether your style is lacy, textured, casual, or tailored, you’ll find a design to suit your needs in here.  Projects range in skill from beginner to intermediate.  And all the patterns are designed for sock-yarn, or any other super fine lace-weight yarn.  I can see that the construction for all of these is geared towards flexibility and active use.  This is a plus.

If the tamer yarn color choice presented in the photos are not really your type, don’t worry, the design structure is solid for bolder, and earthier tones.

LA

Also, if you’re wondering if this book is only suitable for making gifts for women, think again.  While looking over Andee’s book my 13 yr old son leaned over and pointed to a design he’d like me to make him.  (In camo or black of course.)  So don’t knock it until you try it.  I can’t help but wonder if it would have been a good marketing move for LA to have included a male model, even a teen one?

Cabled Columns Mitt LA

The two mitts pictured here are the ones that I took a little time with to try out the patterns.  These are the Seashell Mitts and the Twisted Cable Columns Mitts.  The Twisted Cable Columns Mitts will help you exercise your foundation single crochet (Fsc) skills.  But if Fsc has you stumped, Andee has a neat little technique for you to try in the Seashell Mitt pattern.  I would like to see a little more time taken to explain the round joins and beginnings when involving the cross stitch and chain 3, as there’s a step that seems to be assumed in there that someone with less experience might not be able to figure out.  Also, the patterns use stars, () and [] , so be sure to hit the glossary in the back to familiarize yourself with their use in the patterns upfront.  And it’s clear to me that swatching is going to be important for many folks as well.  I’m a more relaxed crocheter as far as stitches, so right off the bat my no-gauge test was turning out larger than it should have with the right sized yarn and hook.  So do swatch for size.  I would also have liked to see just one advanced pattern to ice the cake with.  But that’s just me.

The Upshot?

Texting Mitts” is  an artful book with a nice selection of design variations and is full of what I consider “crochet intelligence.”  From a critical technique point of view, these designs have interest and challenge that will appeal to most crocheters.  All the patterns are fingerless mitts, but each pattern brings something new to the table in design or skill.  I encourage buyers to experiment with other colors and post their photos and their reviews.  Overall I like the new colorful and thoughtful layouts Leisure Arts has come up with for reading their pattern books, even if it does take me a little getting used to the change in colored text.  And I like the 3-column layout.  I think in the long run the attention to details like this will be very helpful both as a teaching tool, and for those who have eyesight issues.

Enough! I Want A Copy! How Do I Win, Win, WIN!?

I thought you’d never ask!  First off, this contest can only be open to US residents (I’m sorry, it has to be).  And it’s Presidents’ Day Weekend, so I thought we’d make this a little special.  To enter the contest to win a free copy of Andee’s book “Texting Mitts,” here are the giveaway contest rules:

  • First, you also must be a U.S. resident with a domestic mailing address.
  • Second, you should subscribe to both Aberrant Crochet (my blog) and Andee’s crochet blog.
  • Then, leave a comment below, answering this fun holiday trivia question: “If you could make a pair of fingerless mittens to give to any president in U.S. history, who would they be for and why?”
    (Answers do not technically have to be rational, but must include the name of a U.S. president in history.)  ;)
  • Include your email and website/blog (if you have one) in the comment form. (Emails are not viewable by the public.)
  • Winner will be chosen by Random.org!

My answer to the trivia question?  I would totally make a pair of fingerless mittens for President Abraham Lincoln and Founder Benjamin Franklin.  Benjamin Franklin wasn’t ever president of the United States, but he was a diplomat who traveled the world and he spent time out there in a storm with a kite! And Abraham Lincoln?  All that writing, lawyering, giving speeches and leading a country during one of its darkest times.  I bet some fingerless mittens would have been appreciated by them both.  And Abe as movie legend in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter?  Wielding a pen in congress and an ax in battle?  I bet some fingerless mitts would have comforted sore hands after a long day of saving the world!  

OK, so now how about you?


PLEASE NOTE…
1. You have until Tuesday, February 19th at 2pm CST to enter…
2. That means the giveaway will close Tuesday, February 19th at 2pm CST.
3. A winner will be chosen via random.org later in the day.
4. I will announce the winner on my blog shortly after (so come back to check!)
5. Please be sure to have your email address linked to your comment or there is no way for me to contact you!
And that’s it!

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!   :D    HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND AND HAVE FUN!
Oh, and disclaimer: I have not received any monetary compensation for putting on this giveaway.  Though I did receive a copy of Andee’s book to review.  So this contest is purely for fun!  I mean, just in case you’re wondering.  They say it’s always good to be clear about these things.  So, there you have it… clear?  We love you!  Enjoy!
PS – All photos courtesy of Leisure Arts Publishing.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Crochet Community, Crochet Patterns, Editorial, Giveaway

Whazzup Crochet?


SO!  It’s been quiet in Aberrant blogging and social-media land lately thanks to our moving and helping family move.  Really, my last blog post was not meant to be some kind of prophecy.

Honest!

I had just finally reached a point where there was no way to focus on anything but putting one moving/buying/selling-a-house foot in front of the other.  Overwhelming!

Additionally, for the first time, I didn’t succeed in my annual NaBloPoMo.  And I didn’t even crochet for most of this winter!

shocking :: the horror ::

I know what you’re going to say.  That I had good reason for it.  And I did….

But, yeah.  Well.  I’ma still kicking a couple of stones over it.
But, now we’re finally at “done” point!

OK…  Well, so I’m not totally unpacked.  (Not even much.)  But I expect that to take a while!  And we are moved out of our two big storage units now too!  Whew!

Trivia fun (make me feel better): How many boxes do you have yet to unpack from your last move?  And from when was that?

Stay tuned because I get back to blogging this weekend!  Starting off with a cool award I won and reviewing a friend’s new (her first) published crochet booklet!  A suite of great projects y’all!

And I have stories to tell!  (BOY do I have stories to share with you!)

So stay tuned and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Do something fun with great people this weekend and don’t forget the chocolate!
(Make mine dark!)


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Filed under Editorial

Talents and Weaknesses – Crochet Ruminations


Something to keep in mind is that talents and weaknesses often go hand in hand. Sometimes if you look hard at a weakness, a talent (part of the solution) will show its face.

Not everything is completely as it seems. There are hidden gems and opportunities everywhere. We have but to look.

What about you? 

Meditation for the day:  What weaknesses do you see in yourself or in the world that can be turned upside down to find a strength or talent? 

Share your experience below!


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Filed under Crochet Ruminations, Editorial, Random Thoughts

I Never Set Out To Sell Crochet – Crochet Ruminations


It wasn’t in the plan.  Really.  I crochet because I can’t help but do it.  It’s very meditative for me.  Like playing piano, or writing, it’s something that helps me stay that nice person most folks like. 

We neeeeeds it, gollum! 

And even when the whole family has been gifted out of their minds, I still crochet. It’s just one of many ways that I express my inner geekery. 

I say we all have a madness in Life and crochet is just one of mine.  Which stands out just a little in a climate that’s rarely cold.

There’s always a new idea in my head somewhere and I never tire of thinking on a different angle for this or that when it’s crochet.  I have about 40 different unfinished projects going at a time, so there’s always something I can work on.  If I’m feeling less than benevolent to a particular project (and some projects do end up in the “dog house” for awhile), I put it aside and switch to something else so I can come back with a fresh attitude another time.

When it comes to conversations, even then I can’t shut up about crochet.  I find myself drawing analogies to the artistic process involved with crochet design, or industry quirks, marketing tools or a myriad of other crochet related micro-conversations that I find myself tying to more common life scenarios.  And there I’ll be, with folks staring at me going – did you really just relate that to crochet?

Uh, yep. Yep I just did.

It’s more perfect than you think.  Like “Zen And The Art Of Crochet” and “What Crochet Taught Me About Popularity” kind of material.  That’s the way it is for me.  And I’ll argue there’s nothing wrong with it either.  Substitute “cooking” in place of crochet and most folks would hardly blink an eye.  We all have our ways to explore the inner workings of self, business, relationships and world.  There’s nothing wrong with mine.  Whatever gets your attention.

But selling crochet?  That started out because I’d crochet while waiting on my kids.  People started noticing what I was making and wanted one too.  Before I knew it, “I want one! I want one!” and I was in business.  The fact that anyone wants to pay money for my expertise is just awesome.  It helps pay for my madness!

How about you?  How did you get into crochet related business?  And if you’re not yet, what do you think might get you to or why would you not want to?


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Filed under Crochet Ruminations, Editorial, Random Thoughts

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

Living On The Edge…


Home Front News?

We are ever closer to closing on the sale of our home, and we have found another house to put an offer on.  It’s exciting, and scary and ever more I begin to understand why selling/buying/moving is supposedly ranked up there in stress level to divorce and death of a loved one.  Though I still say the latter two trump since they tend to be rather permanent in nature.  I spent 7 hours on the phone Friday alone, just working on details and filling out virtual paperwork, asking questions, etc..  I wish I loved all this paperwork, legalities, accounting, making all the arrangements, etc., but I do not.  Still, I am the one most able to carry out all that needs be done for our family to make this move.

Additionally in news this week, our daughter was inducted into the Nation Honor Society at school.  Yay, applause for her, we’re so proud of her hard work to get here! :)

In spite of the crazy schedule, my blog has managed to stay fairly current lately due to the fact that I have spent a lot of time writing – ahead of time – working on posts and ideas to schedule for publishing later.  It’s the secret any good blogger knows – always be working on several things, so you always have something you can finish up and publish.  Though in my case, I don’t tend to plan too far out, unless working on one of my research pieces.  I’m not much for stale conversation and prefer to get most things I’m thinking about now, out sooner than later while it still seems relevant to me.  Only makes sense?

Anyway, the truth is even while some posts went to print this week, I haven’t had time to sit and write much at all.  And it really shows through my Crochet Hook Challenge.  After all, the last post has been a bit too long ago.  My Challenge is living up to its name!

But stay tuned, Mrs. Maplesworth is ready and coming up next!

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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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The New Frontier – Crochet Ruminations


Crochet Ruminations – The Start Of  A New Thing

There are times when I have a series of thoughts and mini-conversations running through my head.  And when those “attacks” come, I don’t always have time to explore them.  But I’ll go ahead and draft the musings up in preparation for a deeper blog post to savor later when better time and exploration can be dedicated to them.

And sometimes they do turn into much more and get published.  And sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they never evolve and really are just shorter capsules of ideas in the moment – tasty tidbits of ponderings and half-eaten conversations that honestly don’t have anything more to do, or become, right now.

In looking over my list of possible blog posts, I’ve realized that sometimes one of those posts is only supposed to be just a few “deep thoughts.” Just some occurrences of ideas to fling out there for consideration and/or discuss amongst peers, if anyone wants to engage.  And that’s just that.

So in that spirit, instead of saving a zillion drafts every time something crosses my brain (my list of drafts is getting too long to manage!), I’m launching a series on my blog simply tagged Crochet Ruminations.

With that intro, here’s the latest….

The New Frontier…

Technology has brought us to the beginning of a new frontier in the world and we’re the pioneers laying the groundwork for what is to come, for ourselves and for future generations. History is literally being made.

How this new frontier works for crochet is being driven by the people actively in it. People like us, anyone who is willing to move to uncharted territory and figure it out.

The same is happening in other fields too. The internet is the “new land” to settle.  There’s no reason why anyone who has the will can’t figure it out and benefit.

The thing I find extremely important to register in our heads though, as Laurie points out (a.k.a. Fearless Leader from the Crochet Liberation Front), it takes working with others, not shouldering the responsibilities of the world alone, or shoving everyone else out of the way. That is not to invalidate the need for personal hard work and responsibility.  However, it is said that successful business people know at heart what school doesn’t teach us. That life is not a closed book test, that we don’t succeed by cutting others off, that the only way to succeed is to do it with the help of others.  And that often a sign of a successful person is one who continues to train and learn and someone who recognizes and values the expertise of others. 

We walk a fine balance of working hard on our own, but also benefiting from the help and insight from others.  Whether we hire them, or we accept help from a friend.   Trying to go it completely alone, making sure everyone knows we did it by ourselves and without help, does not work outside the classroom.  It is not a place of balance, nor a sign of success (and neither is the opposite).  In reality, no one expects you to perform alone in adulthood – only on standardized tests.  And those who believe they do not need advice, training or learning, who only boast on “did it myself” laurels, surely exhibit signs of impending implosion.

Coaching, master minds, discussions, hiring experts, studying, training, practicing, learning new tools and technologies, comparing notes with peers, understanding that old ways don’t always work today and that some old things never lose their effectiveness and sometimes what works for someone else is not right for you – all these things are important.  Settling the West was not born on the shoulders of one person.  In fact, to try to do such, was almost certain death.  People had to come together with their varying talents and work ethics to form the foundation for something great.

In thinking about this, what things do you see as it affects the crochet world that we should be mindful of?


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I realize my life is more interesting, but you still need to get one of your own…


Ever have one of those lives….?

“Is there anything you don’t do?”

These are the words I have heard over and over again the last couple of months, from completely unrelated directions.  From folks who do not even know each other.  Whether it’s the crochet hooks I carve, the piano tools in my truck, the two-week gluten-free paleo meal plan I wrote, the charities I support, the new kids’ robotics group I’ve embraced, the books I’m writing or the tech event I’m going to help the host with – these words have recently popped up everywhere.  And I’m not even touching on all the mom hats in my life.

I can make one of these for you if you like it.            $1.50, free shipping and my thanks!

On the one hand, the question is a bit confusing and absurd.  Of course there’s plenty I don’t do.  What kind of question is that?  Wait, am I supposed to answer that?  Still, the repetition from all directions was getting my attention.  And I had to work hard not to suddenly stare at the speakers when the words popped out of their mouths, as if I was caught on the set of Twilight Zone or Doctor Who (oh if only).

So the question has been repeating in my life and now inside my head.  “Is there anything you don’t do?”

The words were expressed each time with amazement and shared as a compliment.  Which I found a bit embarrassing with each broken-record-exact-quote-repeat. I nearly found myself ducking, as if catching some ball out of the corner of my eye that had been chucked at my head.  Yaaaaahhhhhhh…….!  Where’d that come from?  I didn’t say anything to warrant the statement.  It came out of no where.

Sure, I have a lot of interests and have done a lot of things.  A lot of people have.  And I’m a pretty open person.  But I don’t generally tend to talk about every facet of my life, except as it relates to someone or a conversation.  Maybe if you ask a question or get to know me, but there’s no need to talk about unrelated facets when we’re trying to get something done.  It’s just not logical to do that.

The only exception is really this blog, where I tend to write about whatever crosses my brain and the keyboard at the same time.  Sometimes it’s analysis I find interesting, want to record and think others might enjoy.  And sometimes it’s simply analysis that I myself am in need of, and work out in writing. Sometimes I’m even experimenting or actively exercising my writing skills.  It’s a blog.  It’s fluid like that.

Still there was no logical reason, not even from my own behavior, to warrant the repeated question.  These people don’t even read my blog that I’m aware of.  But I find that when the Universe repeatedly throws something in your lap, especially from seemingly unrelated directions, perhaps it’s begging a second look.  What are you hounding me for Universe?

And I’ve begun to wonder – what is it that I don’t do?

I mentioned this repeated message to an acquaintance a couple weeks ago.  They suggested that perhaps what I’m not doing is getting rest and taking care of myself.  That I’m doing too much and not saying no enough.  This is not too unlike a conversation a good friend of mine and I had about 8 years ago.  About how when people are so amazed at your super-human ability to accomplish and handle so much, that it probably should be a sign of being out of balance and how it’s not healthy, nor necessarily something to be proud of.  That no one is meant to keep up that kind of pace and not pay a dear price.  If you care about your kids and family, pace yourself and invest in your quality of life so you can stick around and be a good parent and mate, not a crabby-cranky-exhausted-sick one.

Truthfully, I must admit that I’m not sleeping enough this week since the kids went back to school and because I’ve stayed up late to get work done.  Even tonight I’ve been wrangling with cleaning up an audio file for hours.  However, I also know in my heart that rest and downtime is not what this message is about.  I’m pretty anal about that already.  No one knows better than I the importance of pacing your life.  It was one of my life’s biggest lessons and nearly cost me mine.  I literally woke up one day and could not get up.  Umm, been there done that, got that bat right between the eyes.  And that’s not it this time.

So back to the question, only this time slower, with a grin, a twinkle and a sly tone….  What is it that I don’t do?  Hmmmm….

The interesting thing is that though it took me by surprise and now has my attention, this experience does not feel like a warning.  No… I’ve felt that warning before. 

There are new things afoot in my life…  This time it feels like an invitation.

And perhaps one to play a game I haven’t tried before.

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