Interview with Johnny Vasquez from New Stitch a Day

Every Monday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be interviewing crocheters.  Today’s interview is with Johnny Vasquez, a crochet teacher.

As a crochet and knitting teacher, I’m constantly looking for online resources to share with my students so they have additional supports when I’m not around.  I can’t remember how I first came across New Stitch A Day, but I regularly refer my students (and my crocheting and knitting friends) to it.  Today I’m excited to share an interview with Johnny Vasquez, the Founder of Craftory Media.

I should mention that Johnny offered to use his technological abilities to set up a Skype video interview, but I wasn’t able to figure out scheduling on my end, so he was gracious enough to do a regular interview via email.

You can find Johnny one the New Stitch A Day website and blog, TwitterFacebook, and Ravelry group.  You can also find him online as JohnnyVasquez or on his designer page on Ravelry, at Fiberstory.tv, and at Yarn Nation (coming soon).  The pictures in this interview are used with his permission.

 

Johnny Vasquez.
Johnny Vasquez.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Johnny: My great grandmother was big into the fiber arts. She was a weaver, a spinner, knitter, and hand dyer. She’s gone now, but my dad still has her spinning wheel and loom.

My grandmother, on the other side of the family, worked as a seamstress for years and has been knitting and crocheting most of her life. I often got crocheted afghans for Christmas. But they were exactly what you would think they would be like: Red Heart scratchy yarn in horrible color combinations. Basically whatever colors were on sale at the local craft store.

The funny thing is, even though yarn craft was all around me, I never had an interest. I thought knitting and crochet was for old people.

Then I heard about this Kickstarter project by Rebecca Burgess. She wanted to source all of her clothing for a year from within 150 miles of her home. The idea was to be more connected to the people who are involved in making these garments that are so intimate to our lives.

She documented going to an organic farm to plant the indigo dyes, buying waste wool from a sheep stock rancher, and working with an old mill to process that into yarn. She took that yarn to a local knitwear designer and had it turned into a hat.  (UC comment: You can read more about Rebecca’s Fibershed Project on her website here.)

At that moment a light clicked in my head. Something about the story of how that hat was created really resonated with me. I decided I wanted to knit a sweater so I could be more connected to my clothing.

But first I needed to learn to knit. So I went Walmart, bought a teach yourself to knit kit, two balls (skeins I found out later) of Simply Soft, and the rest is history.

New Stitch a Day

UC: What inspired you to start teaching?
Johnny: I’ve been teaching in different capacities most of my life.

I started teaching bible study in Jr. High.

In high school, I directed plays and was section leader in choir. I also started an alumni chapter for a leadership program that had all of LA county as its jurisdiction.

In my college years, I was a substitute teacher and taught an after school drama program.

So I’ve led and taught for a long time. When I learned to knit and crochet, the transition was pretty natural.

Johnny juggling (or, is he just throwing the yarn in the air?).
Johnny juggling (or, is he just throwing the yarn in the air?).

UC: Why did you launch New Stitch a Day?
Johnny: That’s a LOOOONG story.

I was in Chicago at a yarn store called Loopy, and I was chatting with this lady about knitting. I had only been knitting about 6 weeks. She was looking at one of those perpetual knitting calendars and mentioned that it would be cool to knit one swatch a day for a year from the calendar and then turn it into a sampler afghan. I thought . . . “that would be cool . . .”

A few months later at Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a couple of stitch dictionaries. At the same time I had been following another blog called New Dress a Day. The girl who ran that site gave herself $1 a day to make a new piece of clothing out of stuff she got from the bargain bin at a local thrift store.

I thought that was a great project and I was reminded of that lady in Chicago and her stitch a day calendar. I figured it would be cool to do my own blog to help me become a better knitter and I would call it New Stitch a Day.

That thought festered in my mind for a few days, until I was trying to knit a particular stitch out of one of the books and I couldn’t figure out the instructions. I tried going online to find a video to help and there was none for that specific stitch.

I’ve been doing stuff with video since I was a pre-teen. When I was a freshman in high school, I made a short film instead of writing a final project in English. I’ve worked on a reality TV pilot, some short films, and an indie music video.

Light Bulb!

I knew I could put together better videos than a lot of what I was seeing and I had an HD camera in my iPhone. I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to put out a new video tutorial each day. But I’m also the kinda of person who thinks, sure, I can do a triathlon with three months of training. My ambition is often bigger than my ability.

Johnny's mustache cowl.
Johnny’s mustache cowl.

UC: Tell us about how it’s grown since then.
Johnny: I started doing 1 video knitting tutorial every Monday through Friday.

The first video took me 8hrs to complete. I got that down to about 4 hours per stitch, but for the first year and a half I never did get a stitch a day out.

Eventually I added one crochet stitch video on Saturdays, but that was pretty sporadic.

One day in the spring of 2011, my wife and I were in New York for work and we tweeted to the Lion Brand people that we wanted to visit their store, which also happened to be their offices. They said to let them know when we dropped by.

When we got there we were greeted by Jessica, who handled their social media at the time. She let me know they loved what we were doing and wanted to know how they could help. A few months later, they were our first official sponsor. They provided yarn and paid a small advertising fee to have their product featured in our videos.

That’s the first time I thought this could be a real business. By June, my wife was graciously working a couple part time jobs and both our parents helped out from time to time so I could work full-time on the site.

New Stitch A Day is a family affair.  Here's a yarn monster concept sketch by Johnny's brother, Donnie.
New Stitch A Day is a family affair. Here’s a yarn monster concept sketch by Johnny’s brother, Donnie.

By the next June, I was getting a bigger and bigger vision for what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t have the man power to do it. My wife, Lacie, was pretty tired of living in CO where it was actually cold during the winter. So I convinced my brothers to help out. We sold pretty much everything we couldn’t fit in a couple suitcases and moved back to Los Angeles.

Today we put out 1 knitting and 1 crochet tutorial every Monday through Friday and it takes us about 2.5 from start to finish for each. And they’re completely free to watch. In fact, all of the more than 500 videos we’ve made so far are Creative Commons, so people can use them on their sites and even sell them in their patterns for free.

Yarn Craft Academy

One thing we started at the beginning of 2013 is our Yarn Craft Academy, which is our premium education classes. This is where we go in depth on topics like double knitting, Tunisian crochet, and making amiguriumi toys. The classes last between an hour to two hours and most come with two practice patterns to test out your new skills.

The coolest thing though, is we do a free version of every class about once a week. We do this through a live Ustream event and I actually get to interact with people all over the world in real time through the chat room. If they want to watch the class again, they can purchase a recording that has a bunch of bonus content. We also have an all you can eat option where people can pay per month to access all of our classes.

Another cool thing is everyone gets to vote on what classes we do next. Every couple of weeks we have a survey where we post 8 options for future classes. These come from suggestions from our audience in previous surveys. They pick their top 3 or 4 and we turn them into classes.

We’ve only been doing those for about 5 weeks, but we’ve had an average of 1,000 people register for each, often in as little as 36 hours.  (UC comment: That’s great news, Johnny.  It’s wonderful to see your site expanding.)

Check out Johnny's live free classes every week.
Check out Johnny’s live free classes every week.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
Johnny: I actually don’t own a lot of crochet books. I have four and they’re all stitch dictionaries. My favorite of those is The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet.   (UC comment: My review of this book and an interview with author Margaret Hubert.) But Erika Knight recently put out a book called Simple Crocheting and I’m really eager to pick that up. Actually, I think I’m gonna order that as soon as I’m done with this interview . . .  (UC comment: My review here.)

Side Note: Erika Knight edited the Harmony Guides, which we use all the time for New Stitch a Day. I met her a couple weeks ago at TNNA. (UC comment: The National NeedleArts Association trade show.)  She’s super cool and very British. I love her sense of style, especially the neon pink tennis shoes she wore with her pant suits every day.

Johnny Vasquez in his MailChimp hat.
Johnny Vasquez in his MailChimp hat.

UC: What advice do you have for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
Johnny: Well, first, don’t call your site “(Something Random) a Day”. It’s a huge commitment and for the most part unnecessary. If I were to start again I’d call it knitting stitch weekly, or crochet stitch a week. There are advantages to posting content on a daily basis, but it’s very taxing if you’re doing it by yourself. I’m lucky to have an uber supportive wife and a brother who gets the vision.

Two: Building an email list is incredibly important to communicating with your audience. If you visit our site, we call people who join our email list VIPs and they get special benefits that random visitors to our site do not get. Things like free patterns, invites to live classes, special discounts, and contests and giveaways.

Email is really important to interacting with our community, so we have lots of opportunities to sign up on our site. If you don’t have an email list, it’s free to start one through MailChimp. (Disclaimer: MailChimp did give me an awesome crocheted monkey hat to say that.)

Three: Don’t be afraid to put stuff out there for free. And by free I mean people don’t pay you money for it. We give out free patterns all the time, but you have to be on our email list or share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest in order to download it (see Sidewinder free for an example).

Four: Community is essential to success.

If you’re a designer, feature some of the projects people have posted on Ravelry of your stuff in a monthly newsletter.

If you own a yarn store, pick a customer of the week and put them on your Facebook page.

If you blog, ask your audience who they want you to interview or what questions they want you to answer. Better yet, interview someone from your audience!

When people feel involved in your process they will help you succeed. We have rarely done advertising for New Stitch a Day but we’ve grown to almost 17,000 email subscribers through word of mouth because we make people feel like family.  (UC comment: Thanks for sharing these great suggestions, Johnny!)

Sign up for an early invite to Yarn Nation.
Sign up for an early invite to Yarn Nation.

UC: What is next for you and New Stitch a Day?

Johnny: For New Stitch a Day we’re working on a new year long Knit and Crochet a Long we call the New Stitch Afghan. We’re planning a monthly design contest where our subscribers have to use a stitch from our site to make a 12 x 12 inch afghan square. We’ll put three up for a vote on Facebook and the winner each month will win a prize of some sort from one of our sponsors. That should get started in late March.

But what I’m super excited about is our newest venture called Yarn Nation. This is going to be the heart of a new network of sites we’re developing for the yarn craft industry.

Want a sneak peak? Here’s some of the stuff we’ve got planned:

  • Fiberstory.TV – Interviews with People doing cool stuff with yarn
  • Yarn Tripper – A travel show for fiber enthusiasts
  • Knitting Helpline – A live Q&A show where you get your knitting and crochet questions answered by industry professionals (preview here)
  • Yarntreprenuer – Business advice for designers, yarn store owners, and fiber arts professionals of all kinds
  • Yarn Review Daily – Daily video product reviews
  • The Yarnist – a new kind of online magazine for yarn lovers.

Yarn Nation will be a community that connects these awesome sites together and will let you share your passion for yarn with people all over the world. You can sign up for a free invite by visiting YarnNation.

We’ve got some other cool stuff planned too, but I’ve already said too much!

If you want to become a New Stitch a Day VIP sign up for our email list and get free tutorials in your inbox every day plus a bunch of other cool stuff.

Thanks so much for having me! If you have any questions put them in the comments. I’d love to chat with you all!

 

Thank you for stopping by for an interview, Johnny, and for sharing such great resources online.  (Hint: New Stitch A Day will be featured this Sunday as one of my favorite online crochet resources.)

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.

Year of Projects, Year 2: The List

This post contains affiliate links.

I’m so excited to be embarking on a second Year of Projects along with the folks in the Come Blog-A-Long group on Ravelry.  Last year, I aimed to work my way through Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters – you can read more about why here – and in some form or fashion, I blogged my way through 13 out of 18 chapters.  I learned a lot and met some great people, but at times, I felt restricted by using one book.  For this year I decided to try something different.  My 2nd Year of Projects list includes a mix of projects and techniques.

The Projects

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I like to donate charity projects each year made from stash yarns.  My first project goal is to crochet 52 granny squares for charity. (I crocheted 40 this year, so I’m hoping this is manageable.)  To keep things interesting, I plan to use 52 different patterns – there will be no two squares alike!

Granny square books from my collection for inspiration.

I also plan to participate in the (newly renamed) Ravellenic Games for the first time this year.  I will attempt to complete my very first pair of knit socks.

Sock knitting books from my collection.

I’ve already started my Holiday Stashdown Challenge, and I have quite a few small holiday projects that I’m planning to make in 2012.  But I’d also like to make my mom a very special bedspread in time for her birthday in February.  So far, I have a few ideas, but I haven’t settled on anything.  This will need to be a really great one, since she is celebrating a milestone birthday next year.

The Techniques

This year, I’d like to learn a few new skills, and improve others that I picked up in the past year.

Learn to spin.
Continue to develop my Bruges lace skills and create my own Bruges lace pattern.
Learn overlay crochet, a technique frequently demonstrated by Melody MacDuffee.
Create my own hairpin lace pattern.
Try double-knitting.
Try out domino (modular) knitting.

 

Make something cool inspired by Pop Knitting.
Add knit entrelac to my entrelac repertoire (along with single crochet entrelac and Tunisian crochet entrelac).

I’d also like to create a crochet lace shawl pattern or recipe to use in my spring crochet classes at DC37.  I’m familiar with broomstick lace, hairpin lace, pineapples, and Tunisian lace, but I can always learn more about crochet lace!

The final list

I learned last year that I need about a month to work on each technique, so my final YOP list for 2012-2013 has only 12 items on it.  I seem to work best with books as my inspiration, so I’ve included links to the books I’m likely to use for each goal.

  1. Crochet 52 granny squares for charity. Likely inspiration: 50 Fabulous Crochet Squares, 99 Granny Squares to Crochet, 101 Granny Squares, 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans, 201 Crochet Motifs, Blocks, Projects and Ideas, Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs, Contest Favorites Afghan Squares, Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook, The Granny Square Book, and When Granny Meets Filet.
  2. Knit my first complete pair of socks.  Likely inspiration: The Knitter’s Book of Socks, Socks a La Carte, The Sock Knitter’s Handbook, and Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks.
  3. Make my mom a special bedspread for her milestone birthday.  (Suggestions for stunning crocheted blanket patterns are welcome!  I might even consider knit patterns, but since I’m a slow knitter, that might be too daring.)
  4. Learn to spin.  Likely inspiration: Respect the Spindle and Start Spinning.
  5. Design my own Bruges lace pattern.
  6. Learn overlay crochet. Likely teachers: The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet and Crochet Master Class.
  7. Create my own hairpin lace pattern.
  8. Try double knitting. Likely teacher: Extreme Double Knitting.
  9. Try domino (modular) knitting. Likely teacher: Domino Knitting.
  10. Make a small project inspired by Pop Knitting: Bold Motifs Using Color & Stitch.
  11. Learn knit entrelac. Likely teachers: The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting and Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting.
  12. Design a crochet lace shawl pattern or recipe for my DC 37 crochet class students.
What’s on your list?

 

FO Friday: Grannies on parade

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished up nine granny squares this week to donate to the Crochetlist April charity challenge, the Binky Patrol in Arizona.  These were all made with acrylic stash yarns.  Since the squares need to be 6 inches, I’ve made minor modifications to each pattern to adjust the size.

The first two grannies are from The Granny Square Book by Margaret Hubert (reviewed by me here).

This is The Jeannine Square.  I added another round of single crochet.

This is the Blooming Granny.  Both of these patterns also appear in The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet.  I made a few modifications to the final row of the pattern and then added three extra rounds.

You may recognize the next square I finished.

I shared this one in my post on Sunday.

This was one of the bullion squares I was working on as part of my Year of Projects goal.  I used the first four rounds of the Hybrid Peas pattern by Margaret MacInnis and then added a half double crochet border.

My next block is from Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook by Ellen Gormley (reviewed by me here).

I used the Star Power block and added three more rounds.  I think this pattern is super cute, and since it doesn’t have a photo in Ravelry yet, I will probably need to make another one.  You know, just to do my part :).

The next three blocks have been sitting around in my stash since 2007 and originated from patterns in 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans by Jan Eaton.  I kind of forgot about these blocks after I moved, and they were just rescued from their hibernation in plastic sleeves over the weekend!

The first two blocks were originally intended to be part of a gift for my aunt.  I later decided she wasn’t crochet worthy :).

This was actually a finished Willow block, but I unraveled a few rounds and then used two single crochet rounds to square it off at 6 inches.

This block started as the Tricolor Square, but it was also too large.  I unraveled a few rounds and then finished it with a round of single crochet.

I originally made the next block after I finished the CYC Certified Instructor Program in Crochet to keep in my teaching portfolio.  This one started out as the Coffee and Cream pattern.

Once I started going through my teaching materials, I found this partially completed granny square I made during a granny square class last year.  I added a few rounds to finish it off.

And, finally, since I tried to make a project from as many of the books in my granny square collection as possible this week :), I made this version of Motif 100 from Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs (reviewed by me here) by Edie Eckman yesterday morning on the way to work.

Overall, these grannies have been nice diversions in a stressful week, where I worked until past 8 p.m. every night (usually 10-11 hours a day).  I don’t think tomorrow or Saturday will be any better.  But it is comforting to know that I’m slowly dwindling my stash while making something fun for a good cause.  Since I’m not making a blanket, I don’t have to stress about coordinating colors.  My guess is that these blocks will ultimately make their way into several different Binky Patrol blankets.

Also, thanks to everyone who shared their opinion about where to host a 365 project.  The general consensus is that Flickr is the best option since I plan to use a camera and not my phone (Instagram was a close second).  Once things slow down, I’ll set up on Flickr.  (And yes, I have been taking my daily photos.)

Interview with Sandie Petit, founder of Crochet Cabana

This post contains affiliate links.

In the early 2000s, when I first learned to read crochet patterns, there weren’t many good crochet websites.  One that I would visit time and again for help understanding a new technique was Crochet Cabana.  Even now, as a crochet teacher I often refer beginners to this wonderful site.  So I’m really excited to interview Sandie Petit today, the founder of Crochet Cabana.

Besides the Crochet Cabana website, you can find Sandie online on her blog, her Facebook page, her YouTube channel, her Etsy and Ravelry shops, and on Twitter.  She is less frequently seen on Crafty Corral, her first crochet blog, and Tumblr.  You can also buy Crochet Cabana items at Cafe Press.  All pictures and logos are used with her permission.

Sandie Petit.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Sandie: In the summer of 1980, I went on vacation with some girlfriends in Mississippi. They pulled out their hooks and started crocheting and offered to teach me. That got the ball rolling. When I returned home the local TG&Y became my primary source for patterns, yarn, and hooks. The yarn was Sayelle at the time. For many years I thought Boye was the only kind of hook manufactured! With the advent of the Internet a whole new world opened up to me and I now have quite a nice hook collection! My house is often overrun by yarn and I have more patterns than I could complete in several lifetimes!

First Crochet Cabana banner.

UC: What was the original inspiration behind Crochet Cabana?
Sandie: Crochet Cabana began in 1997 as a couple of pages on my personal website, Sandra’s Backyard. The original purpose was to have an area where I could jot down what I knew about crochet for my own reference. I also wanted to provide information for those just learning to crochet. I wanted to write it all down, with pictures, in a way that I hoped could be easily understood. All of my first tutorials were written with the new crocheter in mind. As I learned more myself – both in the field of crochet and also in web design – more was added.

In my wildest dreams I never imagined the site would get so large. As I got requests for information on this or that topic, I would add those topics also to the site. In 2001, my husband purchased a domain name for Crochet Cabana as a gift for me. Then in December 2004, we decided to purchase hosting space so I wouldn’t have to keep moving the site as it grew too large for the present host.

 

Current Crochet Cabana banner.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Sandie: For designing, inspiration is everywhere. The world around you. Television. The Internet. Sitting in a doctor’s office or in traffic I might notice a particular color or pattern that is intriguing. Quite often it is a matter of need. I need a gift and I have xx amount of time (usually a very short window). It’s actually quite difficult to come up with something new and I always wonder if someone else has already done it. There are so many wonderful designers out there! I don’t feel that I do that much designing really, but when I post a picture of something I’ve worked up I know someone will ask for the pattern as soon as it’s posted.

As to inspiration for tutorials and videos, that generally comes from visitors to the site who inquire if I can show them how to do this or that. If enough people seem to be having the same problem or are interested in a particular technique, I consider adding it to the site. I do fairly often get requests for me to do a video or tutorial on how to work a particular pattern. That is something I cannot do because of copyright issues.

(One of Sandie’s videos.  We start our foundation chain the same way!)

UC: You are a true pioneer of the DIY/craft scene on the internet. What were the benefits of establishing yourself online early, and what are some of the changes you’ve had to deal with in recent years?
Sandie: How nice of you to say! When I first began, I had no clue how to put up a website. My husband created the original site and showed me how to update it. Since then, I’ve done most of the work myself though my family, who are much more computer literate than I, have been a great help over the years. My daughter created the logo presently on the Cabana.

One of the benefits of being established so many years ago is that I can appreciate the technological advances available today. I clearly remember having to move the site over a dialup connection! What took many hours then would take mere minutes now. I am still using the same program to update the site (Microsoft Front Page). It is no longer supported so I will eventually have to find a new program to use – which is something I dread.

In those beginning days, way back when, one didn’t have to worry about Internet theft. In recent years, there has been a problem with people taking the work of others and claiming it as their own. Just a few months ago I found photos lifted from one of my tutorials on which the person had placed her own name right on the photos and put them on her site as her own. It was a foreign site and though I requested she remove them, that didn’t happen. You really have no recourse in these situations and it is quite discouraging since it is a lot of work to take photos, edit them, and add all the text to a tutorial, as well as making videos. Sadly, this has also happened to other designers. Sometimes you will even find people selling your patterns on Ebay, particularly if they are free patterns. They just copy them and sell them. It’s really terrible. In fact, I removed all the patterns I had on the site after one such incident. Since then, I’ve put a few back and opened Etsy and Ravelry shops. There are still quite a number I haven’t put up anywhere again. I am really torn about what to do as I love sharing my work with others. (UC comment: What a shame!)

Another change is that people are more and more moving to video teaching. I LOVE video teaching. It is amazing to me that I can create a video demonstrating how to do something, giving the tips I’ve learned through the years, and have someone in another country watch it and learn the technique. I guess I am showing my age here, but it just fascinates me. I often wish I had my own video studio and staff! I still have much to learn. I hope the industry doesn’t change too much while I’m learning!

Yet another change I have seen is the availability of e-books and e-patterns, both free and for sale. Being able to get a pattern you want immediately certainly has its up side. One thing I like about this is if I sell a pattern this way, I know exactly who purchased it and if I update it or find a significant error, I can let them know quite easily. Along with this is the self-publishing industry, such as Lulu, which has grown tremendously in the past few years.

The problem with all this availability is that much of it is free. This hurts the designers for whom crochet sales are a significant part of their earning power. I think this may be why we are seeing more complex designs as magazine publishers have to find a way to entice people to spend their discretionary income. It’s a dilemma I’m sure we will be addressing for some time to come as the industry works to find a balance between paper publishing and e-publishing.

One of Sandie’s charity scarves, donated to Knit Your Bit.

UC: You do a lot of charity crochet. Can you tell us about some of your favorite charity projects, causes, and organizations?
Sandie: There are so many worthy organizations out there. I find that people generally gravitate toward a cause that is in some way meaningful to them. For example, I have lost many loved ones to cancer so if an opportunity arises I might donate to that cause. I had two preemies so I will occasionally donate preemie hats and afghans.

I also like to help out organizations that are based in my own state when I can. I also love to make scarves and squares. Those things came together for me in Scarves for Special Olympics where I could donate to the Louisiana branch of their organization. I was even able to deliver the scarves and meet the people there. That was rather exciting. They do require you to use particular brand and colors of yarn and there are size specifications, but I find that a challenge. I like to try and find different ways to make the scarves unique within those boundaries. This is an annual project so if you haven’t participated in the past you can always pick up and join in the next go round.

Then there is the National WWII Museum’s Knit Your Bit which is also located nearby and accepts scarves. I have had many family members in the military, including my son, and I am happy to be able to do something for the soldiers who put their lives on the line for us. Knit Your Bit gives a bit of a thank you to those soldiers. They accept any pattern, any color so it’s very easy to participate. Most of the vets are men so colors tend to lean in that direction.

I also like to be sure my work makes its way to the people for whom it was intended. With that in mind, I am cautious about sending to people I don’t know. I have known Sandy Holladay for many years and have no qualms about sending items to her for The Bridge and Beyond Project, which helps the homeless. She accepts many different items including scarves, mittens, and socks. She does amazing things with donated squares, putting together afghans which are then given to one of several local missions. Each day I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, clean clothes, and food to eat. It’s a shame there are so many who don’t have these basic needs met.

Heartmade Blessings has been around quite a number of years. They accept 12” squares which are put together into comfortghans. Several people I know personally have benefited from this effort.  (UC comment: I’m actually working on several squares right now to donate to Heartmade Blessings as part of the Crochetlist March charity challenge.)

Crafting for a Cause is a wonderful group that supports our Native Americans. Most of the items made are sent directly to the reservation so you can be sure they are getting where they are needed.

In addition to official organizations, I like to donate where I can locally. As time goes on, postage costs for mailing packages has gone up so anything I can deliver is a plus.

That said, I occasionally like to send to SIBOL, way across the pond from me. I just love to go to Sue’s blog and Flickr page and see all the beautiful things. Everything is so artfully shown. She accepts 6” squares which are joined into lapghans for nursing homes in her area. Her challenges are fun too!

One of Sandie’s charity scarves, donated to Knit Your Bit.

UC: You are a CGOA Master of Advanced Crochet Stitches and Techniques and a CYC Certified Crochet Teacher. Tell us why you decided to pursue these certifications and how/if they’ve been helpful to you.
Sandie: I am going to share with you my REAL reason for taking these courses. Shhhh. I never think my work is good enough and I thought that if I took these courses someone else could tell me if I was doing things correctly and, if not, I could learn the proper way. Having the certificates does not mean that I am a wonderful crocheter, but it does mean, to me, that I’ve run the course and persevered to complete it successfully. I may have a tiny bit more confidence than I had before since I did pass the courses.

I also thought that having the certificate would give a bit more weight to my qualifications as an instructor if I decided to teach community education classes or even paid classes through a craft store.  (UC comment: I am also a CYC Certified Crochet Instructor and Teacher, and will actually be attending classes this weekend to become a CYC Certified Knitting Instructor and Teacher.  For more discussion on the pros and cons of certification, see this post.)

The two courses are very different. I did learn some new techniques through my work on both courses, particularly the CGOA course because it covered more of a variety – like hairpin lace, which I’d not done a lot of before.

I find that every step you take is one step closer to your goal. You mentioned knitting. I’ve been trying to learn to knit for many years. I can cast on and I actually can knit, but if I drop a stitch, that is it for me. However, every time I try I get a little bit further in my understanding. It is the same with crochet. When I did the CGOA course, I did not work much with thread and I had to complete a filet thread project with thread, which I did successfully. I did not pick it up again until recently, but those things I learned at that point have come back to me and I find I just love filet!

I don’t know if the certificates mean anything to those who look at my work. I think your work really has to speak for itself. When I pick up a magazine or look online at a pattern I may purchase, I don’t know if that person has a certificate or not. I just like the pattern, the colors, and the way it was photographed, perhaps the stitches used or the yarn. I think taking the course was for me more than anything.

I would dearly love to take Pauline Turner’s course. I understand it is difficult and I think if I passed that one I would really feel like a crochet master.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
Sandie: There are so many! Those that jump right to mind are Quick and Cozy Afghans which I use quite a bit; the Vanna books, particularly Vanna’s Afghans A to ZDonna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet; and Margaret Hubert’s The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet. I have dozens of pattern and reference books and leaflets though. That just scratches the surface. One of my recent purchases was Super Finishing Techniques for Crocheters by Betty Barnden. Her Filet Crochet book is great also.

One of Sandie’s charity scarves, using the “V for Victory” pattern by Rachel Vives, donated to Knit Your Bit.

UC: Do you have any favorite crochet websites/blogs to share?
Sandie: I don’t get around to the blogs as much as I used to, but here are a few that I visit often:

Generally, I look at my blogroll to see who has updated and I will visit the top five or ten of them and sometimes the sites they recommend in their blogroll.

After reading other interviews on your blog, I also started following Vashti.   (UC comment: Thanks Sandie!  I am honored to have you as a reader.)

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Sandie!