Do you crochet in public?

Most people who know me have gotten used to the fact that if I can figure out how to do it, I’m going to crochet in public. I’m going to tell you a secret, though. I don’t do it to show off crochet. I do it to stay sane. I shall explain….

I’ve crocheted in line at Disney World (Epcot’s Soarin’ Ride which usually has at least an hour wait time, but it so worth it).

Crocheting a sock while in line at Epcot

My sister snapped that pic because she couldn’t believe I was going to crochet in the semi-dark of the line. But see, 90 minutes standing in a line with a bunch of people who may or may not be getting “cranky” makes me cranky. I don’t do well in large crowds. So having the soothing movement of yarn going through my fingers helped a lot. It gave me something to focus on to keep from thinking about just how many people there were in the line.

My other big crochet in public place is my gaming nights. I’m a member of our local role player’s guild and we meet twice a month to game. Now, let’s just start off with the fact that I have ADD. Two to three tables filled with somewhere around 10-15 people in a room, all of them talking at once is a total nightmare for me. Especially because this is happening in the evening when my concentration is usually shot. I’ve tried playing without crochet in my hands. It doesn’t work for me. I just can’t concentrate.

Crocheting a sock while playing Interstellar Overdrive

When I first started bringing crochet with me, I got a lot of weird looks. I told everyone I’ll be able to pay attention more if I can crochet while I play. They weren’t entirely sure, but they let me go ahead. And I was right. I was more involved with the game, better able to pick up on everything that was happening around the table, and better able to tune out the other tables.

Now, when I started, I had to use very simple projects. This meant things like the sock pattern I have memorized (and I had to start it early so I could get past the increases before the game started), granny squares, scarves, etc. I tried once to work on a lace shawl. That didn’t work out so well.

However, I’ve started branching out a bit. Last week when we gamed, I had just bought some yummy Cascade Alpaca Lace that afternoon at my LYS. And I really wanted to work on it. So, I found a pattern that was an easy repeat (and even better, a chart to follow instead of written text) and took it with me. As long as I paid a bit of attention to my hands, I was able to work on lace while I gamed.

Lace shawl while gaming

It always amuses me whenever we have new people come to a gaming night. They always look at me weird in the beginning, but then they see that I am actually paying attention. And the regulars have started asking each week what I’m working on.

I’ve also crocheted during board meetings at church (I’m not on the board, it’s so I behave and pay attention), but never during church. Not that I wouldn’t, it’s just that I can’t. I work on the sound board during services, as well as a few other things I have to do, so I’m rarely sitting for too long during service.

By far, though, my favorite place I’ve ever crocheted “in public” was at Cama Beach during the 2011 Crochet Liberation Front Retreat. It was the most peaceful and somewhere I really needed to be in order to find that joy in the fiber again and peace within my self. I leave you today with that photo. Have a great weekend everyone!

Crocheting at Cama

Lace crocheting at Cama Beach

Closing out another year

fireworks

2012 starts on Sunday morning. Wow. I know many of us say this, but it’s true. This year has flown by so fast. So many changes took place this year in my life, with many new changes coming with the new year. I want to share a few of those changes with you in this post.

 

Work-related

This past year saw me making the difficult decision to take time off from designing. I wasn’t sure how long it would last, or if I’d ever come back to it. If you’re here looking to see if I’m coming back, my answer is, “I don’t know yet.” I’m still in semi-retirement from designing. Sure, lots of designs are coming out right now from me, but these are projects I finished many many months ago (some a full year ago). Such is the nature of design work. I’d love to say now that in X number of months I’ll be coming back full time (or even part time) to designing, but I just can’t say that. I don’t know. I’m just now finding the joy in crocheting for me and others again. I had lost that for a while, and I need to revel in that for a bit.

 

I am, however, branching into tech editing and testing crochet patterns. If you’re a designer, or want to be a designer, I have reasonable rates and would love to chat with you about your needs and deadlines. I also still do finishing work and even custom work. I’m currently working on reverse engineering a family heirloom for a client so she can gift her mother with the pattern so they can make more. I’m also working on a testing and tech editing project for another client. I can truly say that I love this aspect of the business. So, get in touch with me if you’re interested. I can send you references as I have been lucky to have fellow designers who trusted me to be my first clients. :) You can use the contact form on the main page to reach me.

 

Fun-crochet

Ah, to be able to talk about that again. :) I’ve been working in lace for myself, and trying new techniques for others. I finished my second ever Tunisian project this year, and it was my first ever color work project. If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me comment that there were 146 ends in that scarf. But it was worth it to see the smile on the kid’s face. :)

 

One of my goals this new year is to crochet for myself. I have been gathering shawl patterns and lace yarn because I love both. I also want to work through the rest of my stash. Yesterday I went through it and got rid of half of it again. Most went to my mom since she retires this next month. The rest I need to add to my bin for the scrap afghan I’m making.

 

Life stuff

Part of the impetus to cut the stash down is because next month I’m moving (yes, again). I’m moving in to a quaint 1927 home with very little storage space. But my two years here at home has prepared me for that! There will be a definite need for shawls and blankets and such as the house is a bit drafty and while northerners wouldn’t agree with me, winters are chilly here…especially in old houses with no heat. Brr. I love that my love and his son are so appreciative of my crochet, and therefore they shall continue to receive crochet items! :) So far, G (my love) has received a hat and a pair of slippers and Mr. B (his son) has received a hat, the Tardis scarf, and a Cthulhu. I have a scrap afghan that resides there to give me something to work on when I visit. It will keep us warm on those chilly nights.

 

One of the reasons I changed my domain a few months ago is because I wanted a space to share things other than just crochet and design. Don’t worry, I’ll still talk about those things, but I also wanted to share with you the other things that are just as important to me: green living, household maintenance, etc. There will be more later, but I’ll utilize the categories here through WordPress to be able to help you see those things you want to see.

 

New Year Goals

So, I don’t do resolutions. I do goals. Yeah, yeah, semantics. But here are some of my goals for this year:

  • Crochet from stash and use it up (or give it away at the end of the year if it’s not used for a project)
  • Crochet at least 6 shawls for myself
  • Learn hairpin lace finally
  • Finish all those UFOs in my bins (or frog them and repurpose the yarn)
  • Live as green as possible: reuse, repurpose, recycle, use natural products
  • Make great food from scratch as much as possible
  • Decorate and maintain a wonderful home
  • Read more books (I started a goal of 100 books back on 12/21/10 and I’m at 90 right now)
  • Take time for me each day (even if it’s just sitting on the front porch with some coffee)
  • Stay active! Walking, etc.
  • Throw a fabulous dinner party

 

 

I can honestly say that I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I know where I am going and I’m thrilled with the people who are going on the journey with me. As we ring in 2012 tomorrow night, I will think of all of you and wish for you to have the same in your life. Thank you for all your support this last year (and years prior). May your new year be blessed!

Thanksgiving

pumpkins

Today is Thanksgiving here in the US. A time where we are to stop and think about the things we are thankful for. Oh, and gorge ourselves on food. :)

I’m thankful for so very many things in my life right now (in no particular order):

  • A family (both blood and chosen) that supports and loves me
  • A spiritual family where I’m free to grow and learn
  • Friends who are there through it all: good, bad, ugly, pretty, and fun
  • The ability to pursue my craft and my art as my business
  • The love of a great man in my life (and his most awesome son)
  • My health, because even on the really bad days, I’m still here and still able to move on my own
  • You, my customers and fans, who have given me reason to keep going and keep doing this

So, with that last one in mind, I want to give you a token of my thanks. Now through Tuesday, November 29 at midnight on the east coast, you can save 25% on your pattern purchases over in my pattern store using coupon code THANKS. There’s a lot of accessory patterns that make great gifts if you’re looking for small items to make for those on your gift list.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend. Don’t eat too much and remember to support small businesses in your holiday shopping. :)

Branching out

I’ve been doing something related to crochet professionally for over four years now. For the most part, I’ve been designing and teaching exclusively. These have been enjoyable, but I needed to branch out and find a way to bring more revenue streams into my business plan.

If you’ve been a reader for a bit, you know I hit a burn out stage with my designing over the summer. I’m still on break, or as I’ve started calling it for the time being, semi-retired. I have no set date on when I’ll pick up the hooks to design again. My brain and my designer soul needs to have the pressure free space to just breathe and just be. I’ve been crocheting for fun again, and rekindling that love of feeling the yarn move through my fingers and my hook to create beautiful things.

Teaching here in Florida has always been tough. Especially over the summer. Now that the temps are starting to cool off and the snowbirds are returning, I hope my classes may start filling. But I cannot rely on that to provide the bulk of my income for the time being.

So, today (with the arrival of UPS) begins the start of a new venture for me. I’ve done some casual pattern testing in the past, but now I’m starting to do official testing and tech editing. A very dear designer friend has agreed to be my guinea pig and be my first official tech editing client. I’m also doing a testing and tech editing combo for another designer friend.

I’m excited about this. I’m also a little nervous, hoping that I can do it efficiently and correctly. I’ve been told I have a great eye for detail, so I’m hoping it will work in my favor now.

I’ll add information to the Services tab of my site here as soon as I get through these first ones. For the time being, I can only tech edit non-sized items (so no garment grading math) at the moment. I may expand into garments once I am a bit more secure in my skillset. Oh, and in case it needs to be said, I only test and tech edit crochet items.

So if you’re a fellow designer and need a tester or tech editor, I’m starting to branch out into that, so contact me if you need someone!

Now, I need to get to work. :)

Got Gauge?

Gauge swatch

So, if you follow me on Twitter, you knew this one was coming. I tweeted last weekend that a rant was coming on gauge after doing some pattern searching. Well, here it is. Buckle up folks, this one is for everyone.

Gauge. That word that many hate. And I don’t understand why.

Well, okay, there’s the issue with doing swatches. For some reason, a lot of people would rather poke their eyes out with a rusty crochet hook than take the time to do a swatch. Now, I’ll admit, I was one of these people, too, back in the beginning. Know what cured me of that? Spending hours working on a project that I hated, but was too invested in to stop or rip out. Oh, that’s right, it wasn’t a garment (I was smart enough to know I needed to do swatches for those). It was an afghan.

What would I have learned by doing a swatch?

  • That while the pattern called for an I hook, I was still too tight of a crocheter and what should have been a twin sized blanket was coming out as a lapghan.
  • Because I was a tight crocheter, this was not going to be a wonderfully drapy blanket. It instead was going to mimic wet cardboard.
  • The colorway I was using made the nifty stitch pattern just disappear
  • The stitch pattern was really hard on my hands and wrist.

Yes, all those things I could have learned by taking an hour to make a simple swatch. Now I swatch. Maybe not always, especially in cases where I’m making something for a second or third time in the same yarn. But even if I just spend a few minutes doodling with the yarn and hook to see if I like the way the stitch pattern is working with the yarn and hook, it helps.

But honestly, that’s not what I was going to rant about. No, my rant goes much further.

Patterns. Patterns should (nearly) always have gauge listed. Look, I get it, some things gauge just isn’t vital. But you know what, gauge isn’t for making something fit. It’s for making sure that if I use the hook you tell me to use and the yarn weight you tell me to use, I’m going to get a finished object the right size. How does that happen? By checking gauge.

It’s okay to put “Gauge not critical to this project”. I do it in some of my designs. But gauge is a jumping off point. What if you, dear designer, crochet tighter than I do? What if you crochet looser? What if I want to use a slightly different yarn? I have no way to replicate the finished size if I don’t know the number of stitches and rows you got in that magic four inch measurement.

It’s even okay for some patterns to say, “Rows 1-5 = 4″, gauge not critical”. At least then I’m not completing the whole thing before finding out if it’s going to be the right finished size.

I saw (and passed on) at least five patterns in the course of an hour on Ravelry because they had some variation of the following listed in the pattern description: “I didn’t check gauge or mark it down. It’s not necessary.” Considering the items I was looking at were fingerless gloves, slippers and hats, they were very much necessary.

Look, I understand that not everyone who posts a pattern on Ravelry is or desires to be a professional designer. I’m not here rallying for charts and standards and pretty formatting (that’s another discussion for another day). But, take five minutes, slap down a ruler and count your stitches. Give us something to work with.

My fear is that there are new baby crocheters who will gravitate toward free patterns while they learn their skill, and then give up because things don’t work out. Maybe they crochet tightly and the fingerless gloves that should fit everyone end up fitting baby dolls only. Maybe they’re still pretty loose and that hat will fit two heads. And maybe they give up and walk away. That makes me sad.

So please, take a few minutes if you’re writing a pattern and mark what your gauge is. And if it’s a project that will need to be blocked, let us know if that’s blocked or unblocked gauge. You have a better chance of people being successful with your designs.

And if you’re a crocheter, trust me, take the time to check gauge. You’ll be happier with your final product.

Thoughts

I finished my slippers. See?

I love them. Super comfy (making the inner sole and upper of the slipper out of yummy yarn helped). And it’s a relatively easy pattern. Not my own, you can find it in Crochet World, Dec. 2005. They’re called Gumdrop Slippers and are designed by Agnes Russell. I have one more pair to make for Kelli.

On to other thoughts….

According to Ravelry, people really like my designs. That blows me away. Perhaps it’s uncouth to discuss that here, but as a somewhat new designer it’s exciting to me. My free patterns are downloaded every day from Ravelry. That just blows me away. It really does. I’m not sure why. I guess it shouldn’t. I should be secure enough in my designs to know when I put a design out there that people will want it. Well, I’m not that secure. Again, I’m still new. Every time I finish a pattern and upload it, I hold my breath. It’s not until that first download hits, or the first sale hits, that I can relax a bit. Seeing a pattern get favorited helps, too.

Why?

Because designing isn’t as simple as I used to believe. As I mentioned in the CLF forum, I used to think designers just came up with an idea, crocheted it up, and wrote it down. Well, I can tell you now that it’s not the case. There is a lot of hard work involved in it. I am constantly designing. Even on my days off my brain is going. Any time I’m out I’m looking at new trends. I now have to pay attention to what’s cool and trendy. I never used to do that. When I see a cute top or skirt or outfit I pick it apart in my head to see if I can do something similar in crochet. I always keep my eyes and ears open to see what new yarns are out there.

I also have to keep all my skills up to date. I’m now learning new techniques so I can utilize those in my patterns and in my lessons. I am a process crocheter so even when I am making something for myself it is often to learn a new technique or learn how to construct something.

When I’m working on a design, it can take anywhere from 10-12 hours a day for upwards of three weeks. There is the swatching and the math before I can even start. Then there’s writing the beginning of the pattern and starting. Usually I have to rip back at least 3 or 4 times and redo my math. And once I finish the item, I’m still not done. I have to proof the pattern and make sure it’s written according to the industry standards. Then I either pass it on to a tester to double check my instructions or I wait a day before making a new item.

Once that’s all done, I’m still not finished. I still have to take pictures (I’m not a strong photographer, yet, so I take a lot of pictures and pick one or two), edit them to include my copyright, and add them to the pattern (if it’s for self-publication…submission things are totally different). Then I upload the pattern to my storefront, and that lately has been taking about 30 minutes to do because it’s been fighting with me.

After that I can consider myself almost done. I then have to add the pattern and project to my Ravelry pages so that others can see it. Ravelry has become the best source of promotion for me.

When everything is done then what? Then it’s on to the next design. I have to constantly design if I ever hope to make enough on this to at least pay my own bills. I’m very lucky that I don’t have to pay rent or utilities right now. I’m very lucky that when money is tight John covers my bills. I’m also dependent upon teaching as well. It’s my somewhat steady income.

So why do I do it? I had someone ask that the other day. I do it because I can’t not design. My brain won’t let me stop designing. I have to create. It’s what fuels my soul. I was told in the very beginning of this journey that if I was doing this to become rich and famous it wasn’t going to happen. If I was doing it because I love to design, then I’d be successful. I do it because I love the feeling of giving birth to an idea. I toil over a design (as evidenced above) and in the end, I have something that looks exactly like it did when it was in my head. Only now I can touch it and see it and others can, too. It’s an awesome feeling. For my really complicated designs, it’s made me cry every time.

There’s also the perks to this. I work from home. I set my own schedule. I don’t have to put in to take a day off next month to go to Disney with my niece for her birthday (a yearly event that sometimes I’ve had to miss). If I’m sick I can rest and do my research online and give my hands a break. Most of my deadlines are set by me so I can be realistic and change them if I know I can’t meet them. I can work in my PJs (come on, that’s a cool thing). I don’t have to put makeup on or fix my hair before going to work. If I want to start work late, I know that I can just work later that day. I can take my work with me anywhere, so if I have a friend in need I can go there to help and take my work with me. Next month I may need to go to take care of my dad after knee surgery (if he decides to do that) and I know that I don’t have to take a week off from work. I can just take my work with me.

So are there downsides? Yeah. There are. I left a job where I was making a very comfortable living. Last year’s taxes showed a loss in my designing and teaching career. Right now I’m holding my head barely above water in that regard, but I’m also not spending money on things I need to. Once my tax return comes in I need to invest in books on pattern grading, decide what I’m going to do about my website and domain, possibly hire someone to do my web design because I just don’t have time anymore, and I need to figure out a way to advertise my lessons more. I need to find a way to get to the CGOA conferences at some point so I can take the classes I need to take. Money is my biggest concern at all times. There’s a lot of work for very little return. Many people want free patterns and tend to shy away from buying patterns. This is hurting designers everywhere. I’m not even going to touch the copyright infringement issue and how that’s hurting designers (this post is already becoming too long).

So why did I go into all this in here? Well, because it’s stuff that’s been on my mind lately. And because I’ve had people ask me “How do I get started?” and “Why do you do it?”. And while I’ve responded in email and forum posts, I wanted this out to where everyone can see it.

My point of all of this? Know that designers work very hard to provide good patterns for you to use. If you like a designer and they have patterns for sale, buy them if you are able. Don’t just search for a free pattern that is similar to what they designed and have for sale. Yes, I have free patterns available. They were all written very well and I proofed them, too. However, I put more work into the ones that are for sale. That’s where my line is on these patterns. If it’s something quick for me to write, I’ll offer it for free. If it takes me more than 2 days to write it, then it’s going to be for sale. I value my work, and I ask that you value designers’ work, too.

Okay, off the soapbox. I need to prepare for a lesson today.

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