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Crochet Advice for Yarn Shops

I used a CGOA column to provide crochet advice for yarn shops in six Yarn Market News issues - five covers from 2007-2009 shown

From 2006 to 2009 I wrote six half-page “News From the CGOA” columns for a trade publication called Yarn Market News. It was mailed free of charge to all industry professionals. Its focus was on helping even the smallest yarn shop succeed.

Scroll to the end of this post for the linked list to all six full-text articles.

Crocheters nowadays might not know how CGOA professionals have worked for decades to make crochet visible in the minds of yarn shop owners and the rest of “the industry”—the yarn industry. It started with the founder, Gwen Blakely Kinsler. She and Nancy Brown, an early guild President, had a CGOA booth at annual industry events. They persisted.

When Crochet Was Sidelined

CGOA professionals spent long hours in CGOA booths at trade shows and markets, served on task forces and committees of other organizations, provided crochet for displays, and invited members of the wider industry to serve on CGOA’s board.

Maybe we need less of this kind of work nowadays. Crochet is no longer sidelined as much in favor of knitting. (Nancy Brown used to say crochet was treated like a “red-headed stepsister”.) Meanwhile the internet is a big factor in declining attendance at trade shows, and in overall ad revenues.

I have fond memories of performing this free labor with Marty Miller and with many more designing friends! Marty and I helped check in fashion show items at the The National Needlearts Association (TNNA) trade shows, for example. Truly, folks: every fashion show entry was knitted except for approximately two crocheted things.

In that climate, you can imagine that yarn shops needed crochet advice badly. I met many yarn shop people at industry events who wanted to attract and satisfy more crocheting customers, but didn’t know how. I drew on these experiences when I wrote the six “News From the CGOA” columns for Yarn Market News.

The Crochet-In

At peak exasperation we staged a crochet-in, as a result of a Crochet Summit, in the middle of the 2007 TNNA show floor. It was a gentle and upbeat protest. Isn’t it weird that it was necessary?


Wearing Crochet Matters

When I re-read this 2008 blog post it does sound like we were starting to make a difference. Even just showing up with crochet on helped at a time when crocheters were under-served by this industry that we share with knitters. I wrote about the Minuet Vest prototype during this time. Doris and I had a blast doing this! Here’s a comment she left on this 2008 post about a TNNA show:

Wearing your stuff in public at events and in your everyday life does help raise the level of crochet consciousness. I used to get annoyed when the typical response was “Oh, did you knit that?”. Can’t fault anyone for not readily discerning the differences between some knit and some crochet stitches. Nowadays I treat such comments as teachable moments…There will come a day when I won’t feel the need to do this, either! 🙂

Yarn shop owners stopped to ask us about the crochet we wore on the trade show floor and displayed in booths. The crochet classes offered at TNNA shows may have been meager at times, but they were well attended by yarn shop staff. I directly experienced yarn shop owners seeking crochet advice. The only source I knew of was the Yarn Market News column. Isn’t this also weird?

Crochet Advice for Yarn Shops: Today

If improving crochet – industry relations were all CGOA did, the annual membership dues I pay it would be worth it for me. Shop owners still need business advice about crochet and I don’t know where they can get it nowadays. Soho Publishing ceased publication of Yarn Market News with their January 2020 issue.

CGOA has offered to help local stores succeed with crochet since our founding in 1993. CGOA members have always shopped in their local yarn shops and craft stores, looking for inspiration and new products with crocheters in mind. Yarn Market News offered a way for CGOA to speak directly to yarn shop owners and I’m grateful for it.


Full text of Vashti’s “News From the CGOA” columns in Yarn Market News:

  • May 2006 issue: “I Didn’t Know You Could Crochet With That!” [link is coming]
  • January 2007 issue: “The Ideal Crocheting Customer” [link is coming]
  • May 2007 issue: “Who Signs Up for Crochet Classes?” [link is coming]
  • January 2008 issue: “New Guild Goings-On”
  • May 2008 issue: “Hooked on Hooks”
  • January 2009 issue: “Crochet Cornucopia”

This might also interest you:

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An Advanced Tall Stitch Pattern

I swatched a fancy tall stitch pattern recently. It’s actually a section that I isolated from a larger all-over pattern in issue #187 of Duplet magazine (September 2016). Each of its nineteen rows is unique. This is a first-time-puzzling-through swatch, so please ignore the uppermost rows which need re-doing. I worked exclusively from the symbol diagram because I don’t know how to read Ukrainian or Russian.

I added turning chains and opted to link the first tall stitch to them. It’s easier to see this in the extreme close up further down. Also, the first row of very tall stitches (quadruple trebles) along the bottom is not in the Duplet pattern; I started off by testing very tall foundation stitches.

Arch-shaped swatch of a framed folk-style heart with a flower at the center, all in very tall crochet stitch combinations.

Tall Stitch Pattern Symbols

Something I love about symbols for very tall stitches is that the initial yarn overs required show as small lines crossing the long vertical line of the stitch post. You just count the wee hashes. Even nicer for UK and Australian crocheters, the number of them also tells you the name of the stitch. (American crocheters: just use the name for the next shorter stitch.)

Below is a sampling of Duplet’s symbols for the very tall stitches. Notice the four longest vertical lines at the far right edge, with five little hash marks: it means you yarn over five times to begin the stitch. These are quintuple trebles in the UK & AUS, or call them quadruple trebles in the US.

According to the symbols, crochet these four very tall stitches into four tall stitches that have only two hash marks: they are double trebles in UK/AUS or just trebles in US terminology.

An Upside Down Y-Stitch

Cover of Ukrainian Russian Duplet magazine issue 187 (shows yellow sunflowers, and model wears summery Irish crochet top)
Duplet 187

See that symbol in the upper left that looks like an upside-down Y with hash marks ? See how its right leg stands over a sort of horizontal line? That line is some number of chains (4 in my swatch). The other leg skips some stitches that are mostly outside of the picture. This symbol means you begin with five yarn overs, then insert the crochet hook into a chain or the chain space. Work two of the five yarn overs off of your hook, as if to make a treble (UK/AUS dtr). Then, yarn over twice to begin the other leg of the stitch while the 3 unused yarn overs are still waiting on the hook. Work the treble of the other leg into another chain space, and then finish working the remaining 3 yarn overs off of the hook.

A variety of clusters and shell stitches flow into each other to give the crocheting an undulating feeling. It’s exciting to see it take shape, and it kept me on my toes. I’d do a few things differently if I swatch it again. Duplet and Zhurnal magazines offer many expressive patterns and innovative ways to use very tall stitches.

As Class Material

This particular tall stitch pattern is mainly research for me. It’s too involved for the Tall Stitch Virtuosity class, but of course I’ll bring the swatch and magazine with me. When there’s time in class we can take a closer look at examples like this.

It’s not too involved, however, for…my Pinterest board called Tall Stitch Artistry!

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Tall Stitch Circles

Six crochet circles in graduated sizes of tall stitches from half double crochets up to quadruple trebles.

Have a look at these simple flat circles I swatched last month. This is research for my Tall Stitch Virtuosity crochet class. Each circle has a closed center and just two rounds of a tall stitch. The yarn is my own Lotus yarn. Lots of things to notice.

Formula for Tall Stitch Circles

A consistent mathematical pattern developed, and I’m going to trust it from now on. From left to right (see above):

  • Purple circle: chain 7 to begin each round; 36 quadruple trebles in round 1 (see Closed Centers note below), 72 in round 2. For a US quadruple treble (quadtr), yarn over 5 times to begin stitch.
  • Magenta circle: chain 6 to begin each round; 30 triple trebles in round 1 (see Closed Centers note below), 60 in round 2. For a US triple treble (ttr), yarn over 4 times to begin stitch.
  • Red circle: chain 5 to begin each round; 24 double trebles in round 1 (see Closed Centers note below), 48 in round 2. For a US double treble (dtr), yarn over 3 times to begin stitch.
  • Orange circle: chain 4 to begin each round; 18 trebles in round 1, 36 in round 2. For a US treble (tr or tc), yarn over 2 times to begin stitch.
  • Peach circle: chain 3 to begin each round; 12 double crochets in round 1, 24 in round 2. For a US double crochet (dc), yarn over once to begin stitch.
  • Pink circle: chain 2 to begin each round; 8 half doubles in round 1, 16 in round 2. For a US half double (hdc), yarn over once to begin stitch.
Six different tall stitch circles in a stack

It’s thanks to the really tall stitches that I understand where I’ve gone wrong with crocheting circles (of any stitch) in the past. I couldn’t actually tell if they were going to come out alright while I crocheted these. They didn’t seem like they were going to lie flat, but they did, beautifully and consistently, once I gently blocked them.

This means the ol’ 1970’s advice to wing it (instead of using a formula)— to add stitches when it looks like you need to as you crochet each round? That way lies madness, for me anyway.

Closed Centers (note)

I used the magic ring (PlanetJune has good explanation) for all of them. I was unable to fit more than 18 stitches in the ring and still be able to close it completely. So, when the tall stitch circles are made with double trebles or taller (the red, magenta, and purple ones shown), I put 18 stitches in the ring plus the necessary amount of Y-stitches distributed evenly around.

This means the red circle of double trebles required 6 Y-stitches, for a total of 24 stitches in Round 1 (18 dtr + 6 Y-sts = 24). The magenta circle of triple trebles needed 12 Y-stitches in addition to the 18 ttr to total 30 stitches for Round 1 (18 ttr + 12 Y-sts = 30). For the purple circle, Round 1 needs to have 36 stitches in it, so 18 quadruple trebles plus 18 Y-stitches (18 quadtr + 18 Y-sts = 36).

Y-Stitch? Huh?

I don’t have step-outs at hand for showing how to do a Y-stitch for this. Have a look at Tamara’s over at Mooglyexcept that I don’t chain between the tall stitch and the Y-stitch that is linked to it.

Why Really Tall Stitch Circles?

They’re surprisingly beautiful. A simple architecture that one somehow never sees—I found no circles of really tall stitches anywhere. You could accent them with surface crochet in contrast colors, or alternate with rounds of shorter stitches. That would make for a nice future blog post.

Tirple treble circle and Quadruple treble circle shown in a window with rainbow light filtered through them
A triple-treble circle and a quadruple-treble circle with rainbow light filtered through them.
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Crochet Retreat Idea

Editor of Theresa Capuana describes Shanie Jacobs' crochet retreat; book cover design is crocheted.

It’s Day Thirteen of my self-quarantine from the pandemic. One of my favorite ways to use this time is to reduce my large collection of crochet books. As I mentioned recently, my husband and I plan to move. Fewer books will make moving easier.

I discovered an interesting bit in the Foreword of Shanie Jacobs’ Crochet Book published in 1979. I’ve bolded the part that I can’t stop thinking about!

Shanie Jacobs was already an outstanding designer when she first came to my office in 1973 to show me a wonderful bias-striped poncho she had crocheted and which we subsequently presented in our February 1974 issue. She had just returned to New York City after six work-filled months of communal living with two friends and their seven children in an old wood-heated house in upstate New York. The three women had set up a rotating daily schedule that enabled one woman to carry out the household duties and care for the children while the other two crocheted. It was here that Shanie, who had never crocheted before joining the commune, really learned the basis of her craft in an environment of shared experiences where each gave of her specialty.

Theresa Capuana, Needlework and Crafts Editor, Woman’s Day Magazine 1979.

So Many Questions!

Shanie Jacobs, from her website.

I have many questions for Ms. Jacobs! (Unfortunately she recently passed away.) Who were the other two friends and how did this crochet retreat plan come about? It sounds like the other two already knew how to crochet different things. Did Shanie come up with the idea as a way to hone her crochet skills?

What about the seven children: have they stayed in touch with each other? How did they get along? How do they remember those six months? Was anyone else there besides three women friends and seven children? Whose house was it?

A rotating chores schedule among three moms seems workable. I’ve done some long solitary days of marathon crocheting to meet design deadlines for publishers. After crocheting for two days straight, I’d welcome a day of simple routine tasks. What fun to be able to listen in on what the other two crocheters are talking about!

How Did Her Schedule Work?

I’m still thinking this through. Say the three participants are named A, B, and C. A crochets clothing and uses Tunisian and Hairpin lace sometimes; B crochets a lot of motifs and amigurumi and home decor; C is new to crocheting, having only learned how to make rectangle shapes with simple stitches.

A week’s schedule could go like this:

  • Monday: A & B crochet, C doesn’t (she’s doing everything else—cooking, cleaning, shopping, and keeping the kids entertained/homeschools them or takes them to and from school).
  • Tuesday: B & C crochet, A doesn’t.
  • Wednesday: C & A crochet, B doesn’t.
  • Thursday: repeat Monday.
  • Friday: repeat Tuesday.
  • Saturday: repeat Wednesday.
  • Sunday: If everyone takes Sunday off, they can repeat the same work schedule from Monday to Saturday.

For each week, each person has four days of pure crocheting per week, plus two days of chores. Everyone has Sunday as a free day. Every Monday and Thursday, A and B would share what they know about crochet with each other. On every Tuesday and Friday, B would help C learn more about crochet. And on Wednesdays and Saturdays, A would help C with crochet.

Crochet Retreat, 1970’s-Style

After several days of daydreaming and reminiscing about my own (much shorter) crochet retreat experiences, I started noticing the language Ms. Capuana used. She called it a commune and mentioned an old wood-heated house in upstate New York (away from the big city). Just three friends and their kids. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? I wonder if it was.

Six Months Long?

Six months is a long time! Did she plan to take six months? (According to a 1998 profile of her in the Miami New Times, it was three years.) What goals did each of them have and did they meet them? What were the costs and how did they budget and pay for it? Do they think back on that time fondly? Are they still in touch with each other?

Two crochet designers and I met up for a crochet retreat eleven or so years ago. There were no children around and it was nowhere near six months long.

Crochet Retreat 2009 in Longboat Key, Florida: Marty Miller, Vashti Braha, Drew Emborsky
You can see more of my photos of Marty Miller on my Facebook profile for February 4, 2020.

It was heaven! And, as I recall we tended to get restless after a few hours. Maybe the longest we could crochet for was about four hours at a time? I didn’t time it, but I do remember at least one of us getting restless on a given day and coming up with tempting ideas for going out for dinner or visiting a new yarn shop. We all needed to deal with meals every day, and that’s a significant difference from Shanie’s commune, and from crochet conferences. We didn’t do the rotating schedule of one person cooking and shopping for the day.

The Queen of Angora

“The saga of Shanie Jacobs, Miami’s angora queen, is a curious weave of glamour and feminism” –Judy Cantor, Miami New Times (read full 1998 article)

This is how Shanie is described at her website: In 1970 at 30 years of age and a lifetime of unexpressed creativeness inside of her, Shanie learned to crochet. Four years later she took a bundle of original crochet designs to Woman’s Day magazine. Her patterns would repeatedly appear in the magazine for more than a decade.

In issue 88 of my newsletter I wrote, Ever wonder what Shanie Jacobs was up to after she wrote the 1979 Shanie Jacob’s Crochet Book? I Googled her when I dipped into her book for this issue. She was dyeing her own angora yarn to crochet and knit trendy cropped tops for fashion magazines and her website customers!

At her daughter in law’s Facebook page you can scroll through photos of her angora designs and magazine covers. Visit her Etsy shop for angora items and yarns.

If you liked this kind of blog post, I expect there’ll be more of them as I comb through more of my crochet books.

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New-to-Me Size 5 Crochet Thread

Pattern of short row wedges in alternating colors separated by beads shown flat

I’m excited to learn that Handy Hands now carries a size 5 crochet thread called Elisa. Like Lizbeth (the thread that Handy Hands is known for), Elisa is 6-cord gassed, singed mercerized cotton. If you don’t understand all of these terms, just know for now that they indicate improved strength, durability, and appearance. In other words, Elisa is a good choice for crocheting heirloom items, and in my case, jewelry.

This excites me because it’s the kind of thread needed for my Bivector Bangle class. Finding size #5 cotton thread for jewelry (roughly equivalent to fingering weight/sock weight wool yarns) is not always easy. I’ve tested Lizbeth for jewelry and it would be great for its color range, but size 5 is pretty much the only size it doesn’t come in.

Initial Elisa Test

Elisa differs from Lizbeth in more ways besides its size 5 weight: Elisa is made in Austria, in a limited number of colors. (In addition to the five pictured above, a yellow and white are available.) Lizbeth is made in China and the color range is unbelievable. The two threads feel slightly different: Elisa has a softness and slight bounce whereas Lizbeth has the crisp feel that is more typical of this very hard wearing, hard twist thread category. Lizbeth’s “bounce” is a bit more wiry.

My quick Elisa swatch (blue) came out slightly larger than the purple Opera one. I think this is due to the added bounce of a 6-cord thread; the loops want to stand out from my hook a bit as I crochet. I’ll try being more aware of this when I swatch it again, with beads added.

Bivector Bangle Threads

For my first Bivector Bangle I used size 5 Coats Opera thread in burgundy and teal (pictured at the top). It has since been discontinued. Opera is a 3-cord (meaning 3 plies), not a 6-cord thread. This enables it to have a silky, supple feel. Many widely available crochet threads in the USA are 3-cord; some are even 2-cord and may be called perle or pearl.

Crochet Thread Quality

When you’re using a crochet thread with a low number of plies and/or a low amount of twist for crochet jewelry (as well as heirloom items), the quality of the cotton fiber itself matters even more. The longer the fibers, like Pima or Egyptian (“mako”), the better. Mercerizing also adds strength to any cotton fiber.

For me the closest thing to Opera nowadays is DMC’s Cébélia. It’s an elegant mercerized 3-cord with a good color range for its size 10 and 20 weights. Unlike Opera, Cébélia was never a size 5 crochet thread, to my knowledge. I’ve seen it here (USA) in the big chain craft stores for years.

L’il Bivector

2nd version, less wide (smaller wedges): light and dark blue with pinka nd red glass beads.

My second Bivector is a narrower bracelet in two blue threads and glass beads in alternating pink and red. For both colors I used a 6-cord size 5 crochet thread by Manuela. Its dense, wiry-crisp texture is very similar to Lizbeth thread. Maybe you can get a sense of its texture from its photo.

I crocheted both Bivectors about eight years ago. For a third one I tried a sock yarn of loosely twisted silk and merino wool in yellow and green, with pairs of stacked beads.

Understanding Thread Sizes

There’s plenty more to know about crochet thread. It takes a surprisingly long time to understand how the thread and yarn weight categories work (longer than it takes to progress from one crochet skill level to the next!).

Size 5 crochet thread is thicker than Size 10 and thinner than Size 3. Perhaps Size 5 is less common because by traditional Victorian standards even Size 10 was considered “coarse”. Nowadays crocheters use a lot of Size 10. Within each size, there is some slight variation in thickness among brands. Sound familiar? Crochet hook sizing is like this too.

I’ve been blogging about crochet thread types for a long time. For more details on the basics, see Cotton Crochet Thread Sizes and Equivalents and Choosing Cotton Thread for Crochet Jewelry. Also Plying and Spinning Cotton Crochet Thread. See my more recent posts tagged with crochet thread.