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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:

This might also interest you:

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DesigningVashti Update 2020

I’ll be blogging most days of this Great Quarantine of 2020. Some posts will be short check ins, all will be crochet related.

Newsletter Update

Vashti wears her crocheted angora "Orbit Halo" cowl in a stone-walled breakfast cafe in the old part of Paris
Lots of travel happened, more on that below. I’m sporting an angora Orbit Cowl at a cafe in old Paris (Le Marais district).

I sent out issue #100 of my crochet newsletter to over 8,000 subscribers on September 1, 2019. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed out on issue #101. I haven’t sent it yet. There was a big disruption in the newsletter-sending force. The service provider I’d used for nine years revamped their pricing for legacy accounts like mine. (I’d already been paying too much!)

I’ll be using a new email service provider starting with issue #101. I’m mulling the topic now. It’s thanks to this corona virus quarantine that I powered through the technical steps needed to switch to the new service.

Just before CGOA issued their call for teaching proposals (October 2019) I was updating early newsletters to republish on my blog. Here is a completed one: Issue #2, Stitch Equivalents. I tried a few blog templates, a few new swatches. I’m pleased with it.

What, only issue #2, you say? CGOA‘s teacher call came out while I was working on #3.

New Classes for CGOA

October was a blur of class topic testing, research, and photo optimizing. The submission process becomes arduous when the topics you submit are new ones. I had a lot. It’s so worth the extra effort. What crocheter doesn’t want new class topics to choose from?

I tapped into an endless fountain of new class topics, it seems. It took me by surprise. This was the bulk of October for ol’ Designing Vashti. Maybe I should expand the October update a bit and blog about this behind-the-scenes activity.

The grand outcome: CGOA’s Class Selection Committee chose seven topics. This means I’ll be teaching a class in every time slot of the conference. (Note that this summer’s conference will likely—not 100% certain yet—be postponed or canceled. The chance that by July it could commence as planned does look slim right now.)

Three views of a Parisian yarn shop: inside, outside, and my souvenir purchases with tote bag
The first of two yarn shops I visited in Paris. This one carried gorgeous locally dyed French yarns. I chose Mamy Factory’s cashmere Archiduchesse for my mom, partly because grandmothers on her side of my family are called Mamie.

Wow the Travel!

From November to January I was either traveling, or preparing for the next big trip, or recovering from jet lag. I didn’t recognize my life; I’m not a big traveler. Usually I do weekend road trips and one long distance domestic flight, at most (often to a conference).

Souvenir yarn and 3 crochet hooks (size 2mm, 2.5mm, and 7mm) from Phildar yarn shop in Paris
Souvenir purchases at the second yarn shop I found in Paris. It offered only Phildar yarns. These are my first Phildar crochet hooks. I chose 2 mm, 2.5 mm, and 7 mm.

November 2019 was all about Sedona, Arizona. It was work-related for my husband, and I fully enjoyed the resort room provided to us. It had a fireplace omg. There was a cool-looking pomegranate tree outside our window.

December was all about Paris, France. I love just being able to say that. It was an early surprise birthday present! My husband, son and I spent almost three weeks there. It was epic.

Crochet-wise, I expected to crochet a French market bag I designed, but didn’t get far enough on it. I did visit two delightful yarn shops where I bought yarns and crochet hooks made in France.

Imagine being in Paris when you find out which class topics you’ll be teaching in 2020. (I didn’t even know until a month before that I’d be going.) Not only does it alter the course of your days and months to find out whether your classes were picked for the conference. It also matters which and how many classes.

Some class topics take more preparation and testing than others. Others coordinate with each other so that prep for one also applies in some helpful way for another. A few are unique head trips that require gear-switching. One requires perfect text instructions, while another needs extreme close up photos or giant floor models. This is some of the stuff I thought about on the flight home.

Jetlag January

I began January blissfully jet-lagged and facing the big messy room I used for creating the topic proposals in October. Back then I’d closed the door on it until I knew which ones CGOA chose. Now I could clear away all the materials for classes that were not picked. That’s a perfect task while jet lagged.

I gave each chosen topic its own pocket folder. These seven pocket folders start out as in-bins. If I have a thought about what would work great for a topic’s class handout, I drop a note in its in-bin. If I see a relevant design in a magazine, I tear it out and toss it into an in-bin.

This update is almost complete: we’re at February now. That’s when I created this Mindbender Mobius class information page. February was a big prep month for two of my newest class topics: Tall Stitch Virtuosity and Return-Pass Hijinks. I remember it as full of eurekas. (I’m mulling whether any would make a good newsletter #101 topic.)

Aside from crochet, January and February were also about realizing it was time for us to move—to get our house ready to put on the market. I think the France trip helped give us the refreshed headspace to admit this and get going on it. We’ve lived here for 25 years so it’s a big change. We started renovating the kitchen…and…it’s still a construction zone. Just in time for a quarantine.

Quarantine Crocheting

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. I need to continue preparing to teach classes even if the event is postponed or canceled, but it feels weird. I need to share and connect with crocheters, especially everyone I’m used to seeing at conferences. My crochet inspiration is erratic. I wonder if that’s the case for you too, lately?

I’m just going to be blogging my quarantine crocheting. Please pop in and say hi. Check in directly at https://www.designingvashti.com/blog/ or subscribe to this blog, or to my newsletter. You could also sign up for alerts from my Facebook page or from my Twitter feed. I announce every new blog post in these places.

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Crochet Conference Wrap Up (with worksheet!)

The new CGOA Master's Program pin. I've earned two charms so far: Writer, and Fundamentals (because I wrote a few chapters of it).
I like this new pin for CGOA’s new Master’s Program (view full size image). These pins were given out on a special night at the conference. I earned the Writer charm for writing two sections of the Masters in Fundamentals.

 

Do you know what I do on the plane flight home from a conference? I fill out a simple worksheet.  It’s a nice way to reflect on everything.

I’ve done this since 2008. That’s at least ten conferences. (In some years CGOA had two conferences, a national and a regional. I’ve also attended a TNNA show here and there.) It has really come in handy so I’ve turned it into a PDF that you can download below for free.

Here’s the story on two of the six entry fields of the worksheet.

“What Got Crocheted?”

This is the first question. What it really means is “Of all the crochet supplies I packed, what did I actually get to?” Can you relate? Originally it was to help me be realistic about how many crochet projects and balls of yarn I need to stuff into my luggage! I know I’m not the only one who packs too much crochet for a trip LOL.

Nowadays I just plain enjoy reflecting on it. Sometimes I’ve even crocheted more rows on a project because I look forward to saying so on the worksheet, so it’s also motivational.

This year, what got crocheted is a swatch idea I’ve always wanted to try: to substitute the chains in a spiderweb pattern with love knots:

I also added so many more rounds to “Astrowirbel” during the 5.5 hour flight to Portland that I almost doubled its size.

“Goals Met & Unmet”

This part of the worksheet used to be more freelance minded, such as, “I finally sat down with X editor.” It has become much more, though. It’s a way to commemorate new friends I’ve made. It has also helped me see that a goal I started with wasn’t very realistic for the event, or as important in retrospect. Or, that I accomplished more than I realized while I was having so much fun.

This year, an unmet goal was to go out into Portland and see lots of roses, the Powell’s City of Books store that sounds amazing, a Peets coffeehouse, and get some supplies for my room. I was too busy teaching, or making sure I ate well between classes.

Some goals I met are: no typos in my class handouts (except a minor one in the Self-Healing Stitches class). I met and spent quality time with Dela Wilkins! I got to know CGOA’s new management company, a great group of people. I think they’re going to be a great fit with CGOA.

Post-Conference Worksheet PDF

Direct link to the PDF: Vashti’s Post-Conference Worksheet.

Keep it in mind for CGOA’s 25th Anniversary Conference July 10-13, 2019, in Manchester NH!

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New Angle on Diagonal Tunisian

A diagonal corner of the Four Peaks scarf.

I put off writing about the Tunisian on the Diagonal class because I kept feeling like I had nothing to say, but also too much! Here’s another paradox: I feel like I’ve been teaching this class since 2010 and yet I never have, exactly. How can all of this be true?

I figured it out after writing the section about its 2009 roots below. Crocheting Tunisian diagonally is a huge topic based upon simple and powerful principles. Vary one thing a little, factor in some momentum, and everything ends up dramatically different.

I’ve taught big sections of this. The 2018 class will be the master class. (It’s great for all skill levels, thanks to the “simple principles” part I just mentioned.)

For contrast, travel back to 2009 with me for a bit.

2009 Tunisian Increase Methods

Nine years ago my first diagonal crochet design happened: the Five Peaks Shawl prototype. (The pattern was published in 2010 in Interweave Crochet Magazine).

Left triangular swatch is starting to curl along one edge. Other triangle is symmetrical with nice drape.
Effect of the “squeeze-it-in” method shows in the left swatch. Not recommended for a shawl.

 There was almost nothing on diagonal Tunisian crochet from corner to corner, or “C2C”. With C2C you increase steadily along both row ends to widen, then decrease steadily until you end at the opposite corner.

The default increase method back then didn’t have a symmetrical, polished drape. I blogged about it (and the photo at right) in June 2009 because that’s when I was working out the increase method for the Five Peaks Shawl.

2009 Tunisian Hook Choices

Tunisian crochet hooks larger than size 6.0 mm (J) were scarce in any style and length, whether straight, flexible, double-ended, short, or long. When you found one, you put up with whatever its material, surface finish, and hook shape was. Remember that?

My options were either a long straight 6.5 mm (K) or a discontinued 9 mm (“M/N”) flexible hook from eBay. I needed a size between these two. Too bad!

Back then, publishers needed designers to use crochet hooks that were commonly available in stores. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to sell the Five Peaks pattern to a magazine. Fortunately, Tunisian hook choices were improving. Only three months later I blogged “Heaven is a Crochet Hook for Every Need”. Nowadays I keep a range of Tunisian hook sizes and lengths.

The Evolving Tunisian Crocheter

We Tunisian crocheters have been enjoying a renaissance for our craft! It had barely started in 2009. Back then, most crocheters still assumed the nature of Tunisian crochet was to be thick, kind of stiff, and with a stubborn curl. Not something that could cascade and swing from the shoulders like a waterfall, or look like a lacy weightless veil.

Each time I’ve taught a Tunisian crochet class since 2010, the students bring more skills and experience to the room. Newer Tunisian crocheters understand things faster. This became really noticeable around 2013. 

Five Peaks classes were the first I taught on diagonal Tunisian crochet. It was ahead of its time in 2009. Since then I’ve learned to start every Tunisian topic with a quick review of the relevant basics. People of all skill levels seem to welcome this. It seems to pull together and standardize the new things everyone is learning from different designers. 

For 2018 I’m excited to be starting out with a review of a different set of basics because when we crochet Tunisian on the diagonal, there are clues we can be looking for but may not recognize for awhile. Things may look wrong for awhile and yet be so, so right. 

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Creative Planned Pooling: Class Resources

Creative Planned Color Pooling Crochet Class 2018 Vashti Braha
Updated on 7/18/18. View the high-res image. This is a conveniently clickable group of things I mention and display in Creative Planned Color Pooling classes. I teach the next one on July 28, 2018 in Portland OR. (An earlier version of this class was called “Crochet Stitch Games” and included game-like serendipity techniques; between then and now, planned pooling has become a popular technique!).     — Vashti Braha

 

Thinking of signing up for this class? I wrote Color Pooling Developments with you in mind.

Crochet Patterns & Crochet Alongs

  • Jempool pattern. It’s the blue scarf on the left in the above photo.
  • Crochet AlongThe Jempool CAL (a source of some great info!)
  • See all of Vashti’s color pooling projects and swatches at this self-updating Ravelry link (log in to Ravelry first to see all of them).
  • Crochet to the Color Playbook pattern set. (This is a freeform “stitch pooling” way to modify accidental pooling, rather than doing planned pooling.)

Recommended Issues of Vashti’s Crochet Inspirations Newsletter

My Color Pooling Blog Posts

Photo Albums & Inspiration Boards

Recommended Color Pooling Sites

  • PlannedPooling.com where you can plot the color sequences of your yarn and see how it pools based on your plan.
  • Pooled Knits Ravelry group.
    • This group is how I first found member sanne7788 who does the most inspiring pooled Tunisian crochet I’ve seen so far! (Scroll down to see them all.)
  • Planned Pooling With Crochet Facebook group for crocheting argyles, founded by Summer Cromartie. Especially see Brenda-Leigh Bennett’s 10/21/16 resource page there!
  • Deborah Bagley wrote a meaty multi-part series on several kinds of planned pooling. Start with the introductory roundup of it: Hook and Learn: A Feast for Your Color Pooling Eyes.
  • Laura Bryant: Ikat knitting effects with her ikat-style hand dyed Prism yarns, featured in Vogue Knitting. I took Laura’s pooling class at my local yarn shop and here’s my ikat attempt with slip stitch crochet.
    • If I had to pick only ONE book to read about planned pooling, it would be her 2013 Artful Color, Mindful Knits: The Definitive Guide to Working with Hand-dyed Yarn.
  • Marly Bird: Fantastic YouTube videos and blog posts for crochet planned pooling that argyles.
  • Glamour4You, Sewrella, Rockin’Lola (her granny stitch argyle guest post), Naztazia: Bloggers with popular tutorials for crocheting pooled argyles. Also see Kathy Lashley‘s post, a rare one on the “lightning bolt” effect when pooling in the round, and Kinga Erdem who explains her bold zigzag argyle using just half double crochets [UK: htr].
  • Karla Stuebing: 2013 article, “Art and Science of Planned Pooling.” It’s about knitting but very inspiring for crochet.
  • Wannietta Prescod: this blog post links to her earliest inspiration and to her influential Sweetspot 2009 article for Knitty.
  • Planned pooling crochet patterns, a self-updating link: Ravelry doesn’t seem to have a category for this technique yet, so I used the keyword “pooling”. Of 23 search results it looks like 20 are true planned pooling. Of these, 17 are argyles, and most appear to be seed stitch (as of 4/16/18).
  • Planned pooling knitting patterns, a self-updating link: as with the crochet search link above, I used a keyword search. Of the 91 results (as of 4/16/18), about 80 are true planned pooling designs.

Any Books on Planned Pooling with Crochet?

  • Found one! Yarn Pooling Made Easy by Marly Bird. Published by Leisure Arts, 2017.