My travels: The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) Summer Show 2016

A few weeks ago, I decided to take an overnight trip to my old stomping ground of Washington, D.C. for my first The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) summer show. TNNA is a membership organization for needlearts professionals. The summer show was a bit closer to home this year and I decided to visit after interviewing Beth Whiteside on the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show. I’m so glad I did! I’m sharing some of the highlights with you today.

Underground Crafter at The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) Summer Show 2016
My view from the hotel window, a project I worked on during the train ride, and my official show badge.

At the top of the highlights list was having the chance to see some of my designer pals in person and meeting others face-to-face for the first time. Tamara from Moogly and Jessie from Jessie At Home were kind enough to make introductions since they are show veterans. (You can read Jessie’s TNNA highlights post here.)

I had a chance to sit down with Stacey from FreshStitches for a fabulous podcast interview, but unfortunately, technical issues messed up the recording. (Luckily, Stacey has decided to forgive me.) Stacey is launching a new yarn line with Louet and the colors are fabulous! I also got to see Lisa from LMB Designs and Mary Beth Temple again.

Underground Crafter at The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) Summer Show 2016
I finally met Linda Dean, Tammy Hildebrand, and Amy from Crochetville in person and I got to hang out briefly at the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) booth.

In retrospect, I should definitely have taken more pictures while I was there! But since I was only going to be at the show for one day, I was trying to make my way around to as many booths as possible to meet the different exhibitors.

Underground Crafter at The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) Summer Show 2016
Assorted samples from the trade show floor. Clockwise from top left: Chic-A badge holder, Love + Leche sample, Handy Caddy, The YarnIt, Unicorn Fibre samples, and Retromatic Fripperies giftie.

I did take a few pictures when I finally found the Molly Girl Yarn booth. You may remember that I met Angela, the dyer behind Molly Girl, at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival a few years ago when her company was still called Yarn Monkey Productions.

Underground Crafter at The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) Summer Show 2016The Molly Girl booth was super fun because it was interactive. Angela gave out “blank” color cards and you could attach your own samples of the yarns you wanted to try. I can’t wait to play around with her new lines. (If you love Molly Girl Yarn, too, check out my free crochet pattern for the Faux Mistake Rib Watchman’s Cap in 8 sizes.)

And, just before I left, I got to meet Teresa from Teresa Ruch Designs for the first time. I was first introduced to her lovely Tencel yarns last year when I designed the Ella’s Rhythm Shawl for Yarnbox.

Underground Crafter at The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) Summer Show 2016
Teresa sent me home with this vibrant skein of her 3/2 Tencel yarn in Orange. Yum!

Believe it or not, I was able to stuff a few more goodies in my bag, too, before leaving the show at around 6 p.m. to head back to New York City. I have some secret projects and reviews in the works that I’ll share with you soon.

Keeping busy

Recently, I’ve been hard at work designing all sorts of secret projects.  It’s been hard to blog when I can’t really talk about what I’m working on, and of course, there’s also that pesky thing about only having so many hours in the day.

Last week, I had two designs accepted for upcoming publications.  These two are extra exciting because I’m allowed to talk about them a little bit!

I’ll have a knitting design in a collection of patterns Knit Picks will be publishing next February for their Chroma line.

Knit Picks Chroma Worsted in Parakeet (left) and Galapagos (right).  Picture (c) Knit Picks.
Knit Picks Chroma Worsted in Parakeet (left) and Galapagos (right). Picture (c) Knit Picks.

This pattern has a really quick turn around time, so Knit Picks actually knits up the sample.  They will still send me yarn but I’ll be able to work on my own sample at my own pace.  Since I’m a very slow knitter, that is very good news indeed.

And, I’ll have a crochet design published in the winter issue of Pom Pom Quarterly, a relatively new, multi-craftual magazine based in London.  (I love their story, which you can read here.)  This design will be in Quince & Co. Puffin.

One of the great things about designing patterns for publication is that I get to try out so many new-to-me yarns.  I’ve heard really great things about Quince & Co, so I’m looking forward to playing around with the Puffin.  And I had my first foray into Knit Picks yarn earlier this year, when I made this secret project in Swish and Swish Tonal.  I loved both yarns, so I’m very excited about getting my hands on that Chroma…

In other news, I won’t be able to attend the Knit & Crochet Show this summer.  This seems to be the annual story of my life, but I had actually thought this would be the year.  I had to cancel my trip at the last minute.

I won’t be sitting at home sulking next week, though.  Instead, I’m scheduled to take an online Pattern Grading class with Kim Guzman (interviewed here) on Crochetville (interview with co-owner, Amy Shelton, here).  And for those of you who are attending the show and the CGOA Fun Night, look out for some Underground Crafter goodies from me in the bags!

Blogiversary and A Tour Through Crochet Country!

Today marks my two year blogiversary, and I’m one of the stops on A Tour Through Crochet Country!  If you haven’t been following along, this is a wonderful blog tour organized by Crochetville.  The tour features over 50 Associate Professional or Professional members of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA).

Click here for the free pattern for the Recantgular Sampler Blanket.

If you’re new here, welcome!  I’m a crochet (and knitting) teacher, designer, and blogger.  In addition to sharing my own projects and news on my blog, I also do a lot of interviews (I’ve even won a few awards) and book reviews.  I’m really honored to be part of A Tour Through Crochet Country.  To celebrate National Crochet Month and my blogiversary, I’ll be sharing a free pattern below.  But first I’d like to talk about how important the CGOA has been to me.

As many of my regular readers know, my grandmother taught me to crochet.  After she passed away in 2007, I didn’t have any important people in my real life to talk with about crochet.  Through my membership in CGOA and my involvement in the CGOA Professionals listerv, I’ve had the chance to virtually meet many wonderful crocheters who share the same passion for the hook as I do.

Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.
Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.

Back in 2009, I had the honor of being introduced to a wonderful mentor, Mary E. Nolfi, through the CGOA mentoring program.  When I was first exploring design, Mary guided and encouraged me.  Her primer is a great intro for aspiring crochet designers.  I still remember my excitement at emailing her when my first designs were selected for publication.   I’m also grateful to Michelle Maks, yesterday’s stop on the the tour, for taking a chance on me when she was the editor of Crochet World.  I’m thrilled to have another mentor, Marty Miller (March 13’s stop on the tour), who is helping me explore tech editing.

Now I’m paying it forward by volunteering to write book reviews for the CGOA newsletter and blog, and by serving as a mentor to another designer.

My first designs, published in Crochet World in 2010.

And, of course, CGOA membership has other benefits, even if you aren’t a professional (or aspiring professional) in the industry.  You get a subscription to Crochet! magazine and discounts at national retailers as well as on CGOA educational offerings.  You can also participate in your local chapter.  (I’ve been a member of the NYC Crochet Guild for years and in addition to great monthly meetings where I can hang out with fellow crocheters, they also offer classes and local discounts.)

I’d like give a shout out to a some other CGOA members I’ve met (in real life or virtually) who have been very helpful to me in the past few years.

Vashti Braha (interview) has taught me so much through her Crochet Inspirations newsletter, which has also inspired me to keep experimenting! Kim Guzman (interview) is so generous with her knowledge online and is a great teaching author.  Juanita Quinones (interview) is a wonderful tech editor that is volunteering on the Home work project on Ravelry, which is giving a second life to vintage designs.  Mary Beth Temple (interview) is a very strong advocate for crochet and has been a professional inspiration.  Charles Voth (a.k.a. Stitch Stud) (interview) is a talented – and nice! – designer and tech editor who always shares so much of his knowledge with his fellow hookers online.

If you’ve made it this far, your probably asking yourself, “Didn’t she promise a freebie?”

Charity Crochet for Project Night Night – The Rectangular Sampler Blanket

Early in my career, I worked for an organization that provided temporary housing for hundreds of homeless families, so the tour’s featured charity, Project Night Night, is really close to my heart.  I wanted to create a project that was beautiful to look at but also fun to make.

blog Rectangular Sampler angle view

The Rectangular Sampler is a variation on the traditional granny square that incorporates a stitch sampler to keep things interesting.  There’s a granny rectangle, an alternating v-stitch, staggered puff stitches, and a fun edging.

blog Rectangular Sampler flat

Click here for the Rectangular Sampler Blanket pattern!

This makes a great stroller blanket or play mat, or even a baby or comfort blanket.  I plan to donate my sample to Project Night Night, and I hope you’ll consider making one to donate to Project Night Night or a local children’s charity.
Rectangular Sampler V st detail

I crocheted the sample with Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in Pacific, Cordovan, and Alaska Sky.  None of these pictures really do justice to the Alaska Sky, which is a pale, sky blue.  I like using non-traditional colors for children’s blankets because I think it gives them a longer life cycle when they can be displayed in more settings.

blog Rectangular Sampler on chair

And now back to a A Tour Through Crochet Country

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the tour.  I’ve actually had the pleasure of interviewing several of the CGOA pros on this list, so I’ve also included the links to those interviews below.  I hope you will stop by and check out all the posts (and tutorials, giveaways, and discounts) the other participants have to offer.  Enjoy the rest of National Crochet Month!

March 1 Shelby Allaho

March 2 Ellen Gormley (interview) and Nancy Nehring

March 3 Phyllis Serbes and Mona Muhammad

March 4 Amy O’Neill Houck and Akua Hope

March 5 Mary Jane Hall and Lindsey Stephens (interview)

March 6 Edie Eckman and Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby

March 7 Jennifer Cirka and Annette Stewart

March 8 Andrea Graciarena and LeAnna Lyons

March 9 Dawn Cogger and Angela Whisnant

March 10 Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten and Renee Rodgers

March 11 Joy Prescott and Donna Childs

March 12 Pam Daley and Deb Burger

March 13 Tammy Hildebrand and Marty Miller

March 14 Jocelyn Sass and Jennifer E Ryan

March 15 Andee Graves and Kimberly McAlindin

March 16 Laurinda Reddig

March 17 Brenda Bourg and Susan Lowman for CGOA

March 18 Rhonda Davis and Tammy Hildebrand for CGOA

March 19 Julie Oparka and Cari Clement for CGOA

March 20 April Garwood and Mary Colucci for CGOA

March 21 Alaina Klug

March 22 Erin Boland and Jenny King

March 23 Margaret Hubert (interview) and Jane Rimmer for CGOA

March 24 Bonnie Barker and Marcy Smith for CGOA

March 25 Kim Guzman (interview) and Susan Huxley (interview)

March 26 Susan Lowman and Michele Maks

March 27 me! and Brenda Stratton

March 28 Kathy White and Lori Carlson

March 29 Amy Shelton (interview) and Donna Hulka

March 30 Linda Dean and Kristin Dragos

March 31 Karen CK Ballard and Gwen Blakley-Kinser (interview)

Interview with Amy Shelton, CGOA President and Crochetville Co-Owner

This post contains affiliate links.

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.

Amy Shelton.

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.

 

Amy’s version of the Collette Poncho by Jenny King Designs. (Click for pattern link.)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!)

 

Amy’s Dreamcatcher Crystal Earrings design.

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.)

 

Amy’s Midnight Relaxed Cardi. (Click for free Red Heart pattern.)

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.

 

Amy’s Business Card Case design.

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.

 

Amy’s version of Doris Chan’s Lipstick on Your Collar.

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.

 

Amy’s version of the Circle Vest by Kimberly K. McAlindin.

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.

 

Amy’s Ladybug set for the PJ party at STITCHES Midwest 2012.

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!

 

 

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers andCurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.