Tag Archives: craft

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet


When the subject of crochet comes up, and I begin to talk, it’s like a door opening to sunshine and happiness. Or sometimes, a door to a fascinating volcanic firestorm.  (Gee, what does that look like anyway?) And people always comment, “Wow, I never realized ____, and you’re so passionate about crochet!”  Usually there’s a new spark in their eyes, a little like the one in mine.

And I know I have accomplished my goal:  Infection. 

That’s what I call it.  It’s a term I coined in speech class and later applied to marketing on a shoe-string for charities.  It’s always been my secret weapon, something I’m really good at.  But all contagions have to start somewhere.

Before I can do my thing… I have to care.

How did two people start with $0, no budget and create a charity event that drew thousands of children from 10 cities, live news coverage, local celebrity appearances, and get a community together for the cause?  Even surprised the crud out of me?

Infection.

You take your vision, your passion and believe in it so much, know how to communicate effectively and show everyone, from the inside out, their own reason to be excited too.

Infection can be evil, or it can be good. I propose we have a lot to learn from viruses.  I propose that Joy is just as easy to spread as Hate, but your heart has to be in it if you are to become a Source.

Me?  So far my talent for infection has largely been used to help charities.  And I’m excited if after our conversation someone is more likely to pick up a hook or consider crochet in a new light or be even able to tell the difference between crochet and knit or even weaving.  I’m especially excited when I have demystified something. It’s been a little while since I’ve actively infected someone. 

Not to sound too much like Dr. Evil or anything….

I think it’s time to set my sights on new goals and higher aspirations in crochet as an art form.  It is time to infect the internet and the world with global domination of the versatility, practicality and coolness of crochet.  I seek a cro-pocalypse.  A veritable domain of the hook, with zombie-like contagion and cult indoctrination – only without the blood, flesh craving and Kool-aid.

But let’s leave the Borg mentality out of it.  Crochet thrives best on flavors of individuality.  It is after all derived from a single, lone hook.  (Though I’m not against experimenting with two, who knows what new species that could bring!)

It’s time fellow crocheters. Whatever it is in crochet that you love to do.  Whatever part of the large crochet umbrella you specialize in… fill your soul and infect your world!  ;)

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


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Help Me Travel The World To Study Hands And Crochet Hooks!


27 Comments

Filed under Artist Information & Notes, crochet, Crochet Community, Inspiration, Random Thoughts

The 2011 Flamies Crochet Awards Live in Georgetown, TX!


The Crochet Liberation Front’s Annual Flamies Crochet Awards are coming live to Georgetown, TX April 18th, with classes from Crochet Liberation Front founder, Laurie Wheeler and designer Karen Whooley in the Austin area all weekend. This is part of what’s been keeping me busy lately!   :D  I’m really excited!  Some of you are probably going to wonder what all this is about, so I’ll try to explain and tell a bit of the story.  Go to http://CrochetLiberationFront.com to register for the event though!

What on earth did Julia get involved with? 

Well, here’s the back story - as told by me!

If you’re here, then you already know I’m a crochet designer/artist. My main work is in the arena of One of a Kinds (OOAK).  And though each year I tend to make mainly what I’m asked to (more hats than anything else), I don’t really align myself with any one specific crochet medium either.  Clothing, throws, jewelry, miniature, free-form or tapestry crochet (not to mention my fascination for spider webs and love of hook carving) – whatever catches my whim is what I work on.

I have one main rule, that crochet is a love for me and it’s gotta stay fun, because honestly, that’s where the creativity comes in.  If my heart and passion isn’t in it, then frankly, it won’t be nearly as good and I don’t want to burn out on something that I find largely meditative and expressive.  It’s one of the few escapes I can take with me just about anywhere.  So no – I don’t really want to lose that.  The fact that my crochet creations ever turned into something people were interested in buying was a complete surprise to me and as far as I’m concerned it’s a bonus.  Like any art, you have to do it for love, in spite of everything else.  I crochet whether anyone buys it or whether I donate it for cancer or not, and so if someone loves what I make enough to buy it, kudos to me for being able to justify my obsessions.  I say we all have a “madness” or two of some sort, and crochet just happens to be one of mine.  All that being said, no where in all my talk about loving the creative process am I supporting under-valuing one’s work, time or expertise.  Better believe I charge for my skill and time.  I’ll save more about this sad occurrence of under-valuation for a future blog post.

“What is the Crochet Liberation Front – some sort of hook wielding terrorist organization?”

I hear such comments from time to time when I mention The Crochet Liberation Front.  And I just chuckle, because it’s nothing of the sort and all in fun.

There was a time it would never have occurred to me to look for crocheters online.  Largely because I’m not a joiner by nature.  Oh I’m social, but just not into memberships and clubs much.  I spent a lot of time at shows lecturing and demoing about crochet and expanding the horizons of the masses when it came to the possibilities of crochet.  Some of you met me that way.  Maker Faire Austin was my absolute favorite experience, setting up a nook for kids and adults to just hang out to learn and crochet or finger knit with each other.  I was there both years it came to Austin and really missed it when it couldn’t come back.  That perfectly suited my personality, being absorbed by the simple joy of making.  No labels, no judgments, no “right” way. (I’m really not into drama and politics. As far as I’m concerned it gets in the way of true creative joy.)

However, three years ago I found a group that worked for my individualistic personality.  I became a member of the Crochet Liberation Front (CLF) about six months after it began, helping to promote and preserve the last fiber art left that cannot be replicated by machine.  They shared the same passion for innovation and preservation I already had and I found friendly camaraderie without expectation or labels.  I had spent a lot of time feeling like a lonely voice when it came to education and pushing the boundaries of expectations in crochet.  It was amazing to find others “like me.”  How could I not?

At its heart and intention, the CLF is a bunch of crocheters who just want to have fun, complete with a sense of humor to go along with it.  We do however seek to broaden the horizons in our industry, and promote the beauty and innovation present everywhere in crochet.  Many of us have felt general dissatisfaction with attitudes, industry dynamics, treatment of crochet designers and patterns available, especially in the US.  I’m not super in touch with the common industry at large because it usually fails to supply much of anything innovative, technical or unusual enough for my tastes. Not to mention the fact that I do not use patterns. And besides, after all, I AM Aberrant Crochet and it wouldn’t be much in keeping with my personality to be keeping step with the Jones. That makes me a little different, because personally, if everyone else is doing it, I’m much less interested.  Even if I started it.  Seriously, if the world starts obsessing over crochet spider webs, I will be the first to lose interest.

However, all that being said, even I have noticed what seems to me an odd perception that crochet is only beautiful if it’s from somewhere else, like Russia.  As if the only thing that exists in the US are granny squares, shawls and doilies.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a very healthy respect for the history of crochet and its development.  And granny squares, etc. can be awesome.  However there is so much more to our fiber art.  And I know I don’t appreciate being pigeon-holed as to what my art is supposed to look like.  If you’ve seen photos of my work, you can totally get where I’m coming from.  I’m pretty proud of the fact that customers at shows so often marvel at my creations and the fact that they never thought crochet “could look or feel that way.”  Education at its finest!

Die-hard crocheters seek to preserve this art and promote its continued genius and development.  Crochet is the very last fiber art left that cannot be replicated by machine.  At all.  Not one iota (yet).  I kid you not.  Google “crochet machine” and you will find machines made in China that knit a chain, but they use the term “crochet” interchangeably.  However, crochet is purely and always created by a hand and a hook.  No machines.  There is always a cap on just how much one pair of hands can create at any one time.  Even that mass produced crochet you see at the store?  All of it was created with a human hand and a hook, and all too often by children.  (I’ll save the subject of repetitive motion injuries in children for yet another blog post.)  You can see a bit of where our passion for our craft comes from.

OK, what’s the deal about the “Flamies?” How does that fit in with crochet? Did it simply catch fire?

The Flamies” are a grass-roots (I almost typed a grass-fire!) style annual crochet awards that we started some three years ago, and their popularity has grown by leaps and bounds. The CLF itself was started somewhat as a joke by Laurie Wheeler (we call her Fearless Leader), looking to provide a fun home for crocheters around the world to commune, talk shop and celebrate crochet. Something different and outside of the usual boxes available to folks out there.  And BOY do we have fun! Well, the group took off.   And not too long after, due to disenchantment with the yarn industry’s lack of support or celebration for innovative crochet (in the US in particular), it was decided to create our own awards – the Flamies.

The Flamies, you ask? Umm, yeah. Kind of a long story, but it’s a reference to the Flaming Crochet Hook of Justice, which has been waved liberally over the years.  And yes  – the Flamies are a nod of fun to the Emmys and Grammys as well.  In fact, my tapestry crochet charted pattern for my Flaming Crochet Hook design was published in the Crochet Liberation Front: First Ever Book.

Long story short, a bunch of us decided to stop waiting for the industry to provide what we wanted and we began creating it ourselves. We even created our own crochet awards.  And you know what happened? IT TOOK OFF! Today, yarn companies, magazines and designers are competing for the Flamie crochet awards and this year a whopping 30,000+ turned out for voting! The winners will be announced live this year!  Talk about becoming the change that you seek in the world! 

The Landmark Tavern - Georgetown, TX

The event? It’s happening a bit on the fly, but the Flamies are coming LIVE to Georgetown on Monday, April 18th. The editor of Interweave Crochet magazine, and designers from both coasts are flying in for this event, including Mary Beth Temple from Getty Loopy, along with Fearless Leader kicking off her US Tour here in Texas! Nothing like this has ever been done in our niche industry before. It might be just crochet to everyone else, but this is big for us!

Tickets are being sold to the live event held at the Landmark Tavern, (wonderful neighborhood wine bar) on the Georgetown Square where we will have a red-carpet event with photographers, April 18th 7-11pm. And I’m so lucky it’s right here practically in my own back yard.  If you want to come and hang out with crochet creative types (you don’t have to crochet, but you must be friendly), it’s $25 a ticket which includes a drink ticket and snacks.

This is a semi-formal event! Wear your best crochet if you have it! If not, wear your favorite fiber thing!  We’ll be walking the red carpet at The Landmark, so it’s a chance to dress-up. Businesses also have the opportunity to buy tickets to this events in blocks. For a minimum of 5 tickets, the price drops to $20 per ticket.  Go to http://CrochetLiberationFront.com for more details on registration for the event and about the CLF in general.

I hope we’ll see you there!


Calendar of Weekend Events:

April 16: 11am‐ 2pm Meet & Greet in Georgetown, Texas at Dukes BBQ (right on north bound I35): This is a family friendly event, free for crocheters to attend to meet up, admire each others’ crochet and organize local meetings and relationships. We’re expecting a lot of people to attend this event.

April 16: 7‐9pm Fearless Leader & Friend’s soiree at The Knitting Nest in Austin, Texas.
A more adult evening of wine and song. Promoting all that is crochet in one of the leading yarn destinations in Texas. So far at least 25 people confirmed.

April 18: 7‐11pm The Flamies LIVE! Red carpet event in Georgetown, Texas at the Landmark Tavern (a gorgeous wine bar). This year’s awards ceremony will take place as per tradition on the Getting Loopy Podcast with Mary Beth Temple, and at the live event which will be web cast so the millions of crochet fanatics around the globe can see the best of the best! Party goers will receive a drinks ticket, nibbles, goody bags and prizes! We have room for 120 guests!

Go to http://CrochetLiberationFront.com for more details on registration for the event and about the CLF in general.

9 Comments

Filed under Community, crochet, Crochet News, Events

About Doing Craft Shows: Observations, Likes and Advantages…


Bookmark and Share

Almost my entire background in business is from doing face-to-face sales at shows. In all honesty, I prefer it, as being seen on Etsyand other online markets can be rather difficult to achieve.

Seeing is Believing

I find that with some items, like my crochet designs for instance, that being able to touch what I make, and see in person how I do what I do, makes all the difference in the world. No one can tell from my photos just how soft my garments are. But in person, if I don’t watch it, I’ll have people hanging out in my booth just to “pet” my items. “Err, yes… ma’am…? If you don’t mind, please don’t rub it on your face unless you’re buying….” There is also only so much texture you can bring out in a photo as well.

Demos Add Interest

I’m also a teacher by nature and so I constantly demo my work at every show. I let people watch me work and even show them my tools, how they work, tell them about the custom makers behind my tools, show them the techniques I’m using, ask their opinions even. It’s very experiential, or at least I try to be on a positive scale. People are not just shoppers in my booth. They usually become contacts. When people get to observe you as you work, and you stop focussing on selling to them, and focus more on enjoying yourself, them having a good time and maybe even helping them out (I share my favorite yarn shops and online resources all the time), they are then allowed to relax and simply enjoy themselves. I find that people often buy not just because they like the item, but because they enjoyed the experience and because they are buying a piece of you. And they remember and come back too.

Missed Marketing

It depends somewhat on your product, but I also try not to forget men and children at shows, as they are the most missed sales potential for most shows. It’s true that the majority of shoppers are women, but skipping men and children altogether is a miss! Guess who’s usually tagging along (often bored to death)? If you plan to have at least a couple items geared towards these neglected markets in your booth, you just might make sales you wouldn’t have otherwise caught! And besides, there’s less saturation and competition while most booths neglect this market! For instance, being an artist of fine pottery is great and most of your customers will be adults, but just imagine a couple bits of miniatures for “kids,” even if they are higher priced. You’d be surprised who just might have to snatch it up!

Outdoor Shows

When it comes to equipment for outdoor shows, I highly recommend EzUp. Not only have I found them to be generally much better quality, but they were highly recommended to me by several seasoned artists years ago. I have also seen several lesser grade tents mangled in just a few gusts of wind. It can even be shocking how quickly a poor quality tent can be turned to rubble. This is an area where you really do get what you pay for. I don’t care how lightweight and easy aluminum frames may seem – they just do not hold up very long. And since many outdoor shows are set up near busy roads, between buildings and other structures, wind can really tunnel through such areas in a very focussed manner. May not seem like much on the street, but in a virtual tunnel and a tent full of your wares involved, it can be gustier than people realize and even devastating. Many event planners are not artists themselves and may or may not have ever set up at a show themselves, so these types of details are not always noticed or planned for.

The best affordable EzUp in my opinion is the “Express” model which has a steel frame that uses an entire support system “web” inside the tent canopy. You can see the Express model here. They are much stronger and will – with proper weighting and/or staking – last much longer should windy conditions develop (and they do).

Also, most long-standing outdoor shows will usually require white top or blue top tents. White is generally always safe. Check with shows in your area to be sure.

Even though your tent will come with stakes, good (heavy) weights on all four legs are a must. This, of course is to keep your tent anchored down and from blowing away. Many shows will actually fine artists whose tents disrupt, or cause damage, at a show. Plus you’ll be held responsible for paying for the damage to other artists’ stuff that your tent may have caused. Also, weights are doubly important as a part of your arsenal of tools because some shows do not allow staking.

Know Your Surroundings

I just want to also mention here to watch out for hidden holes, spaces with trees where birds roost and leaky plumbing, etc.. Like I mentioned before – event planners are not often artists themselves. They may put together an event, but may not have actually ever set up at one themselves and they just may not be aware of all the things to look for. I’ve attended a couple events where everything looked like a great spot for a little market, only to find out oops! – that’s the “bird poop” tree or the building next door channels water off the roof right there, etc.. This is especially important when trying out a newly created market event. Usually the long-time shows have figured this stuff out.

Creative Display

Almost anything can be turned into a display tool. Shutters and fireplace screens can display jewelry, small bookcases can add height, plant hangers and hooks can hang from your tent, decorative candelabrum with flat style holders can be used to display clusters of smaller items, etc..

I’ve seen some artists use gridwall to anchor in the center of their tent and display clothing and other items on that (which also provides extra anchoring weight.) I bought a used hat tree for my crochet hat designs and it was a life saver. Because before I had that, sometimes my styrofoam heads, in spite of my efforts, would catch a gust of wind and there’d go flying a head across the place with my crochet along with it.

Leeping_Deer_Tapestry_Crochet

My tapestry crochet piece. It’s about 5 feet square. This design was adapted from the work of Catherine Cartwright-Jones and her machine knitting book called “Enchanted Knitting.” This motif was originally designed for a hat and came from a tattoo design found on an ice princess mummy. An anniversary gift to my mother-in-law.

Don’t forget the power of PVC pipe. You can see the roughly 6 foot frame my husband made for me to display a 5 foot square tapestry crochet piece here.

It’s very sturdy and “modular’ as it can be completely dismantled and stored in an old lawn chair bag.

I have also seen (believe it or not) stained glass hung from pvc pipe frame that was wired to a tent frame. This was done indoors, using a tent frame with the canopy removed. (See, even if you’re not doing an outdoor show, a tent frame can still be very useful.)

Networking to Find Shows and Improve Experience

Get to know other seasoned artists and artisans. Most people are good people and most want to be helpful and help others on their path to success at shows. And in all honesty, it makes for a better show experience all the way around, if everyone is helpful to each other and helps the newbies learn the ropes. Seriously! I can’t tell you how many wonderful and seasoned artists have helped me out over the years, giving me insight that can only come from years of experience, saving me some serious headaches and helping me make good decisions too. It doesn’t matter if they are in your exact field or not. There are many things about shows that are all the same. And these folks can tell you where to get the best equipment, the best prices, and even what’s a good compromise and what’s not and to stand up for yourself as an artist. Likewise, if someone steps out to help you, be sure to appreciate them back!

Depending on your market, check with local cities (most have at least an annual event), schools and art/craft clubs. If there is an Etsy Street Team in your area, I highly recommend joining it. Or find a local art or craft group and join it. Many of the better groups are juried, so do keep that in mind. A juried group means you have to pass the muster before you can join. And you may find shows that are juried as well. This is a way to keep the quality and standards high, as well as maintain the integrity of the market – which in the long run spells success for its participants. Even 6 months or a year with a group like one of these will be invaluable for the information, experience, opportunities, and relationships you will gain. Plus it’s always nice to do a show with folks you know who can watch your back and support your work.

Advantages to Help During a Show

I personally feel if you can get help to run your booth, it’s well worth doing and the bigger the show, perhaps the more helpful additional hands are if you can get them. Two people to run a booth is good to start until you get to know your venues. However, when I did a couple shows with our Etsy Austin Street Team, several of us shared a single booth space to help gain exposure for the team as well as each of us. And it was (surprisingly) a very nice experience in that there were several of us available to help sell everyone’s items, watch the crowds and handle the credit card sales, etc..

Getting help with your booth is especially good if your helper(s) can offset any weaknesses you might have in public presentation. If you’re not so great with how to arrange your set up, maybe your helper has more the eye for how to arrange the booth to be a pleasant space people want to stay in and not feel like they’re about to be trapped. Or, if you’re like me – good at the talking, but less good at handling multiple points of sales at the same time, a helper would be great to help handle extra customers or paperwork stuff while you focus on your presentation. The “expert” and the “support” person makes a great basic team.

Confidence in Numbers

Another good reason to have help is strength in numbers or just support when you’re not sure what to do. I personally still struggle with what to do with bad situations with ugly competitors. Truly I just want everyone to be nice and I don’t personally know how to be mean on purpose when you need to. For instance, at a *juried* show I did last year (which was surprising because usually juried shows also mean better manners all around), I ended up with a competing hat maker’s husband standing in front of my booth, wearing her hats. Before I realized what was really going on, he started annoying people and blocking folks from being able to walk into my booth. It took a friend of mine coming over from her booth to say something to him before I could figure out how to politely get the guy away from my traffic. That was one of those situations where I really could have used my own husband or someone to help me with that one. I’m just not geared to be mean, nor able to be very confrontational in my own booth space.

So, if you have a hard time with stuff like that, having help with you who can run interference for you can be invaluable.

So What’s Holding You Back!

These are just some observations from my own experiences over the years. I hope you find them helpful in your own quest to branch out and sell face-to-face at shows. I’ll write a Part II to go with this at some point, as there’s certainly a lot that can go into being prepared for a show. So let me know if you liked this article and would like to see more.

In the mean time, if you have some ideas you think will help others – feel free to post them in the comments below!

11 Comments

Filed under Business, crochet, Doing the Show Circuit

Thinking About Advertising with Craft Cult….


So I’m thinking about buying some advertising with www.CraftCult.com. Craft Cult has been a great service for Etsy shop owners. One of my Spider Web Umbrellas was chosen for a treasury created by Etsy and I wouldn’t have known it had happened if it hadn’t have been for Craft Cult, alerting me when I checked on my shop. It was also via Craft Cult when I found out my item had been chosen for a Halloween Costume Gift Guide as well.

Craft Cult is a fantastic service with great tools – all for free. If you have an Etsy store, do check them out. And me? I might just thank them by taking out an advertisement on their site. I’m also thinking I’ll likely benefit from it too.

However, I’ve never taken an ad out on someone else’s website before. Heck, I only just heard about something called Google Base, which I haven’t figured out how to really use just yet. Learning all this online marketing stuff is sometimes a bit overwhelming. All too often I’d rather just pay for a show since I prefer talking to folks one on one and do my usual demos and help folks out. After all, that’s what got me into all this in the first place.

Still, I enjoy learning and playing around with digital work on Adobe. In fact, I did a much better job than I expected with our old wedding photos and my grandmother’s damaged old farm photos too. And I’ve some particular ideas about things.

The CraftCult ad space has to be 100px X 150px. So I’ve been working up an image to help promote my Halloween items, since they have a short shelf-life each year. I’m using the Spider Web Umbrella photo as the background.

I haven’t tweaked it all out quite yet, but so far – what do you think?

Pixie Worx! Love's Halloween!

Pixie Worx! Love's Halloween!

1 Comment

Filed under Artist Information & Notes