Today, I’m interviewing Amy Shelton, the co-owner of Crochetville and the current President of the Crochet Guild of America. Amy is obviously a big supporter of the crochet community, both online and “in real life,” and she happens to be a pretty busy lady, too – so I’m really glad she had some time to share her thoughts.
You can find Amy online as AmyS on Crochetville and Ravelry, on her Ravelry designer page, and on Twitter. You can find Crochetville online at the main site, the pattern store, on Facebook, and on Twitter. All photos are copyright Amy Shelton/Crochetville and are used with permission.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Amy: My third-grade teacher taught all the girls in the class how to crochet. (The boys weren’t interested.) We sat on the back steps of the elementary school during recess and learned how to make the basic stitches. My mom and grandmother were both skilled crocheters, so they helped me further my skills and knowledge at home. By the time I was in 8th/9th grade, I was making all sorts of thread projects using my mother’s Magic Crochet and Decorative Crochet magazines.
UC: Many crocheters know you as one of the owners of Crochetville. How did you go from being a member to a co-owner?
Amy: It’s sort of a long story. Are you sure you really want to know? Actually, I think it’s a pretty interesting story, and I’m happy to share.
In 2004, my aunt sent me a gorgeous purple scarf using four or five different novelty yarns that she had crocheted for me as my Christmas present. I hadn’t crocheted much for several years, but the scarf made me pull out my old hooks. I searched for online crochet message boards and came across Crochetville in January, 2005.
At the time, there were fewer than 800 members and the site used free message board software. In February of that year, Donna Hulka (co-owner of Crochetville with me) had to move Crochetville to a new site host and new message board software due to the number of members and site visitors. I didn’t post much at the time, as I was admin for a message board for a small indie business in another industry.
In 2006, I became involved in helping run the site when someone with extensive message board admin experience was needed to help Crochetville make the transition from being a small site where everyone knew each other intimately to a much larger site with new members joining on a regular basis. Within a month of my involvement, Donna made me a co-administrator of the site.
As 2006 progressed, Crochetville continued to grow exponentially. The number of concurrent members and guests on the site meant we had to move from a shared server to a dedicated server, because our site volume was crashing the entire server. Crashing the sites of those businesses that share the server with you doesn’t tend to make you a lot of friends!
Dedicated server hosting plans are quite expensive. Donna and I decided it was time to turn Crochetville into a business so it could pay its own bills. We could no longer justify paying Crochetville’s operating expenses out of our personal household budgets. In January of 2007, we took the plunge and formed the legal entity of Crochetville LLC. We’re pleased to say that Crochetville LLC has been profitable from the very beginning!
We now have over 63,000 registered members and an average of 123,000-170,000 unique site visitors each month. Our periods of heaviest traffic tend to be the months of October through February.
UC: Sometimes joining an online community can be a bit overwhelming. What suggestions do you have for a newbie who wants to get her (or his) feet wet on Crochetville?
Amy: Crochetville is now so large (with over 2.4 million posts) that it can definitely be a bit overwhelming for people new to the site, especially if someone is also new to message boards in general. Crochetville is a very friendly community thanks to all of our wonderful members who spend time there every day. Here are my tips on how to make friends and begin to feel at home at Crochetville:
- If you’re new to message boards in general, take the time to read our FAQ document. It has lots of information on how to navigate the forum, respond to a discussion thread, start your own discussion thread, and more.
- If you’re just new to Crochetville, spend some time on the main page of our site. Make note of the different sections into which the site is organized. Read the folder descriptions so you’ll know where you’ll be able to find certain types of information. That will also help you know the best place to start a new discussion thread.
- Before making your first post, spend some time reading through current posts on the forum. Once you’ve got a feel for the atmosphere of the forum, jump right in and post a thread to introduce yourself. Jump into any other discussions of interest. Our forum members are some of the nicest crocheters I’ve found. They’re always happy to welcome new members, answer questions, help direct you to patterns.
- If you have a crochet business, take some time to read our general advertising policies. If you have an indie crochet business (pattern designer, hook maker, yarn dyer, etc.), read our free advertising policies. There are many different ways you can promote and advertise your business for free on Crochetville, getting your name out to hundreds of thousands of dedicated crocheters throughout the year. Indie businesses frequently have very limited advertising/marketing budgets, if they have one at all. We know it’s difficult to get the word out about your business, so we’re happy to provide an easy, free outlet to help you reach your target market of dedicated, enthusiastic crocheters. (UC comment: Thanks for sharing this great resource for indie crochet entrepreneurs!)
UC: You’re currently the President of the Crochet Guild of America – thanks for your volunteer efforts on behalf of the crochet community! How can crocheters become more involved with the CGOA or local chapters?
Amy: Serving on the board of the Crochet Guild of America has been an amazing experience. I’ve truly enjoyed the opportunity to help promote CGOA’s mission to preserve and advance the art of crochet. I encourage everyone to join the CGOA. The cost is only $35 per year and many benefits come along with membership.
For more information on CGOA, please visit the website. You can check out the list of member benefits here. One of the best things about CGOA is Chain Link, our crochet conference. Held twice a year, the conference offers crochet classes to suit every level of crocheter. There is also a show floor with vendors selling yarn, patterns, hooks, tools.
For those aspiring to become a crochet professional, CGOA offers a free mentor program to members. You can be paired with a crochet professional who will provide information, assistance, and encouragement to you. Members can also become involved at the national level by serving on various committees.
There are also many CGOA local chapters around the country. Most chapters offer monthly meetings where you can meet with others who share your love of crochet. Some meetings are informal sit-and-stitch events while other meetings may include classes, workshops, and other in-depth instruction. Many chapters also contribute to various crochet charities on a regular
basis. To find a chapter near you, visit this page. If there’s not a chapter near you, consider starting one. You can find information on how to start a chapter here. (UC comment: I also recently learned about the Cyber Crochet online/virtual chapter on Ravelry when I interviewed crochet tech editor, Juanita Quinones.)
UC: I’m sure it is hard to find time to crochet for yourself with such a demanding schedule. When you do have a few moments to crochet, what are your favorite types of projects to make?
Amy: It is sometimes difficult to find time to crochet, but I do my best to work crochet time into my schedule as often as possible, even if it’s only a short period each day. Garments and accessories are my absolute favorite things to crochet. I love to make tops, sweaters, jackets, shawls, scarves, and handbags.
UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including community builder, designer, and teacher. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?
Amy: Don’t quit your day job right off the bat! Most crochet professionals are in the business because of their deep love of crochet, not because it’s a get-rich-quick industry. It takes a lot of effort and time to create a regular, sustainable crochet income.
If you want crochet to become your full-time job paying you a full-time living wage, be prepared for a lot of hard work. Most professionals find that in order to make a full-time income from crochet, they have to wear many different hats: selling designs to publishers, independently publishing patterns, teaching (locally and/or nationally), writing books and pattern leaflets, tech editing, and more. The more you can diversify with different income streams, the more financially successful you will be. The number of people who can make a full-time living from crochet is quite small indeed when compared to all those who consider themselves crochet professionals or aspiring professionals. I don’t want to discourage people or crush anyone’s dreams, but it’s important to recognize the current reality of the industry.
If all you want is some extra income as a supplement to your other income, then things will be much easier for you.
Social media is becoming more and more important as well. You need to have an outlet to reach customers and build a relationship with them. Having a presence on Crochetville, Ravelry, Facebook, and your own blog or website is imperative. Be careful with what you post. Customers want to feel a connection to you, but you don’t need to draw them into the minute details of your personal life.
The best piece of advice I can give is to take advantage of CGOA’s free mentor program. The professionals who volunteer their time to serve as mentors are doing so because they love this industry and they want to give back some of what was given to them on their way to professional status. I think it’s pretty amazing that they’re willing to train and instruct their future competition, all for free, don’t you? (UC comment: I participated in the mentor program a few years ago, and learned so much from my mentor, Mary Nolfi. I can’t speak highly enough of this opportunity!)
Do a lot of research and network with other professionals. Attend Professional Development Day at CGOA’s Chain Link conferences. You’ll get to meet and talk with many other professionals in pretty much every crochet discipline. At Chain Link, designers can also participate in Meet-and-Greet sessions with crochet editors on Saturday. It’s an excellent opportunity to show your portfolio to editors face-to-face, a chance that you’ll only find at this conference.
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
Amy: My crochet friends who know me well can tell you that I have a love for making garments designed by Doris Chan. The first conference I attended, I think 90% of my crochet wardrobe were pieces designed by Doris, and I hadn’t even realized it at the time! So I’d have to say my favorite crochet books include all of Doris’s books.
For reference books, I love Edie Eckman’s books, Margaret Hubert‘s The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet (which I have on my iPad), and Lily Chin‘s Crochet Tips & Tricks. Dora Ohrenstein’s books are also a valued part of my collection as well as several different Japanese stitch dictionary books.
UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?
Amy: Crochetville will be unveiling our new blog in the near future. (If we haven’t done so by your time of publication.) The blog will provide us an ideal format to post our own articles about the crochet industry, crochet tutorials, book and product reviews and more. We have many exciting things planned for the new blog in 2013!
I really enjoy reading Vashti Braha‘s crochet newsletter. She includes wonderful insights into her design process and detailed information about stitches or techniques she’s currently working with. You can sign up for her newsletter here. (UC comment: I’m also a huge fan of Vashti’s newsletter, and I interviewed her about it here.)
Doris Chan’s blog is another favorite full of crochet information.
UC: Besides the blog, what else is new at Crochetville?
Amy: Crochetville has undertaken a new partnership with Red Heart Yarns this past year. We have joined together for a vendor booth at the Chain Link conferences/Knit and Crochet Show events as well as STITCHES events across the country. We currently plan to have a booth at these six shows per year, and we’re looking to expand our travels.
You’ll find a variety of Red Heart’s yarns in the booth, especially Boutique yarns, Aunt Lydia’s bamboo threads, Luster Sheen, and other yarns that are sometimes difficult to find in your local stores. We also carry a good selection of Susan Bates crochet hooks and tools. If you live anywhere near one of these conferences, come by our booth for the perfect chance to see and touch the yarns in person.
Our booth also features exclusive crochet kits, crochet books (and author book signings), custom-made jewelry, shawl pins,and buttons in colors designed to perfectly match/coordinate with Red Heart yarns, Dreamz interchangeable flexible Tunisian crochet hook sets, and something new: access to our digital pattern store.
You can purchase digital patterns right in the booth, print them in the booth, then log in to your account later to download your pattern to your own computer or mobile device. This makes it so easy to buy and print a pattern, buy the yarn and other supplies you need, and take everything with you so you can start your project immediately.
We do our best to make our booth the most fun booth at these events. Drop by to play our game show called “Let’s Make You Squeal.” Drop by many times throughout the day to see what will be on sale for a 15- to 20-minute period during our special Flash Sales.
Thanks for stopping by, Amy, and sharing your advice with us!