Later this month, I’ll be going to In the MKNG, a creativity festival in Bethel, New York. I’m going to tell you about some of the fun activities going on at In the MKNG in this post, including sharing a sneak peek of the supply kit for one of the classes I’ll be teaching!
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If this is your first time hearing about it, it’s a creativity festival taking place for two days (Saturday and Sunday, September 29th and 30th, 2018) at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. There is A LOT going on at In the MKNG, including…
Live music by 9 performers and groups including headliners Sister Hazel and Brennley Brown,
Saturday afternoon, Jessie At Home and I will be doing an interactive presentation (with goodie bags and giveaway prizes!) on the Creator Stage called the Care and Styling of Handmade Shawls. You can get a preview in Jessie’s Facebook Live.
On Sunday afternoon, I’ll be teaching Crochet Rag Doll Characters. We’ll work on a small lion rag doll in class, but you’ll get all the supplies you need (and some patterns from me) to make more rag doll characters at home. Here’s a sneak peak of the supply kit which is included in the cost of the class.
Since you’ll need to change yarn colors from time to time, Fiskars provided Kids Scissors, which are my favorite for crafting on-the-go. They fit in your project bag and you don’t have to worry about slicing your fingers when you reach in for more supplies.
There are some more goodies that I don’t have pictures of because they are actually being shipped to Jessie since she is driving me up to In the MKNG. Fairfield is providing Poly-Fil, my favorite stuffing for my crochet rag dolls. And, I will pack all the supplies in each kit into its own Canvas Tote provided by Canvas Corp. Oh, and because I thought it would be cute, I’ll also include an Underground Crafter pencil in every kit.
Other than those three activities, my schedule at In the MKNG will be flexible. I look forward to meeting celebrity makers, listening to music, and getting my hands on some amazing craft supplies.
So, will I see you there? Let me know so we can set a time to meet up if you aren’t taking one of my classes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!)
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.)
I am so incredibly pleased to share an interview with Kim Guzman today. As a lover of Tunisian crochet and a member of the very active Yahoo group that she co-moderates with Angela “ARNie” Grabowski, tunisiancrochet, I’ve been a big fan of Kim’s work for years. (Kim also does a lot of “regular” crochet design, too, as she discusses in this recent blog post.)
Kim is incredibly prolific as a designer, author, and teacher, and always seems to me to be the hardest working woman in show (er, um, yarn) business. Yet if you are active on Crochetville, Ravelry, or almost any other social network where crochet is being discussed, you have probably interacted with Kim, who is very generous about sharing tips, advice, and her knowledge of crochet.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Kim: When I was about 9 years’ old, my parents joined the Army together. During their basic training, my sister and I stayed with my grandparents. It was quite a long stay with grandparents and I believe that she taught us to crochet just to give us something to do while away from home. She started us off with granny squares and I learned from verbal instruction only. It wasn’t until I was about 18 years old that I purchased my first patterns. I wasn’t even aware of patterns and had been designing my own for all that time.
UC: When were you first introduced to Tunisian crochet, and how did you come to work with it so often?
Kim: In about 2000, Darla Fanton had turned the crochet world on its ears with her double-ended Tunisian crochet designs. She did a lot of books, but the publishers wanted more. Annie’s Attic sent me some double-ended hooks and asked me to try my hand at double-ended Tunisian. I had never done it before, but I immediately set to work. My double-ended designs weren’t accepted. I found that I preferred the look of regular one-sided Tunisian and I had three books commissioned within six months.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Kim: I have been designing since I learned to crochet. It was at least 10 years of crocheting before I sat down with a pattern and taught myself how to read it. Not knowing about patterns was the key to my “no fear” attitude toward design. My grandmother’s doilies inspired me to design my own when I was only 10 years’ old.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Kim: My creative inspiration is usually in the yarn itself. I bond with a yarn for awhile by swatching with it. When I come up with a stitch pattern and drape that I find pleasing, I bond with it awhile until it tells me what it wants to be. While I do browse the internet and catalogs for trendy clothing, I don’t usually have the ability to see something in fabric and be able to translate their shapes into crochet. Well, I take that back. I don’t usually find myself doing that. But, publishers will sometimes choose a photo of something in a pleasing shape and then ask that I translate that shape or construction into crochet. It’s design-on-demand. I never feel like my design-on-demand work is very good. It doesn’t come from the heart.
Kim: You act as if I’m organized. ha! I am the furthest thing from organized.
For the Beginner’s Guide, I thought about yarns and projects. I thought about beginner projects and intermediate projects. And, I just started crocheting and writing. I put every little trick I know about Tunisian crochet in that book. It includes things normally not found in Tunisian crochet books like seaming horizontally or vertically, how to change colors, how to work with a lot of colors, step-by-step on how to felt projects and so much more. Everything that I had seen over the years which I had seen caused some questions. Even how to work with a self-striping yarn so that wide pieces of the body of a garment match the same sort of striping in the upper pieces around the arms and neck is included. It was the very first time I was given full control over what went into the book and I went all out. (UC comment: I highly recommend this book for Tunisian crochet newbies! You can read my review on the Crochet Guild of America’s blog here. Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)
For the Cables book, I did it right after I finished my Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide. (UC note: This book is expected to be published in March.) When I was working on the stitch guide, I did a swatch of a cable, then I did another, and another. I had about 10 cables in next to no time. I wanted to somehow keep the cables together, but I had already done the required number of stitch patterns for the Stitch Guide (65). This would have put me over the expected number by ten, so I decided to pull those cable stitch patterns from my proposed stitch patterns and create a separate book. Since the cables required special instruction, I didn’t want to put them in a book with only charted stitch patterns. I wanted them to have a further instruction. (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)
In Short Row Tunisian Fashion, which is currently available in hard copy and download, I have six projects which use the short row technique in Tunisian. But, the real surprise is the crescent wrap which includes a pineapple stitch pattern. No, not a regular crochet pineapple stitch pattern. It’s Tunisian crochet from start to finish. I believe it to be the first ever published pineapple stitch pattern in Tunisian crochet. (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)
Then, in March, my new Stitch Guide will be available. It’s already available on Amazon for pre-order. I’ve never done a full stitch pattern book before. But, I’m especially pleased with it because, although there are some classic Tunisian crochet stitch patterns, most of them are completely out of my head. I wanted a charted book and this book really challenged me because I had to draw out all the symbols myself. But, it was well worth it and I feel that this book is my biggest contribution to crochet yet.
UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?
Kim: I think the sweetheart, Margaret Hubert, put it best: “Don’t quit your day job.” While I have somehow been able to do these wonderful things as my career, as a single mother, it has been tough! There isn’t a lot of money in it. Most times, we’re just barely surviving and we’ve had to make numerous sacrifices. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been able to stay at home with my kids and do a job that I love. I can’t think of a better way to go through life.
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
Kim: I am especially fond of the Japanese stitch pattern books. They have spent more time with me on the couch than in the book shelf.
UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?
Kim: Well, I’m just going to look at my computer and see what websites I always have up there.
Facebook. Seriously, I think I would go into withdrawals if I didn’t have my Facebook peeps. 😉
Crochetville. Staying on top of the students’ questions for my classes and responding to any pattern questions asked in the forums.
Annie’s. Also, staying on top of the students’ questions. I like to respond to questions immediately. I respond as quickly as I possibly can. If I was doing a project, and I had a question, it would really be bothersome to have to set it down and wait for a week to get a response. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, but I really do my best to get to questions immediately.
UC: You’ve been teaching online for years. Tell me about your experiences as an online teacher.
Kim: I prefer teaching online over teaching in live venues. Like I said, I’m a single mother. I have a small child. I want to stay home with him and I don’t want to leave him for a week at a time. Online teaching allows me to stay at home with him. But, it’s more than that. Online teaching gives me the opportunity to give well-thought-out answers to my students. And, I don’t walk out suddenly remembering that I forgot to teach something.
I have been teaching online for over 10 years. I’ve been teaching project classes, but I’ve just started adding some design classes to the mix which will begin in February at Crochetville.
Thank you for stopping by, Kim, and sharing your answers with us!
Welcome to everyone visiting for the first time! My name is Marie Segares and I’m a crochet and knitting teacher, blogger, and designer from New York City known as Underground Crafter. I learned to crochet from my maternal grandmother when I was about 9 years old, and have been hooked ever since. She tried to teach me to knit, but let’s just say that it never “stuck” – everything I tried to make ended up looking like a really oddly shaped trapezoid. Since I was in college, I have always turned to crochet as a way to express my creativity, relax, and make gifts that I could afford (but which were worth much more than what I paid in supplies).
In 2008, I became a Craft Yarn CouncilCertified Crochet Instructor and Teacher, and I’ve been teaching crochet lessons on weekends and evenings around New York City. About 18 months ago, I picked up knitting again with the help of an awesome video (reviewed here). I started teaching knitting to beginners about a year ago.
My Goal for Design Week
I’m currently teaching a knitting class at my local union, and my students wanted to learn to use circular needles and design their own hats. Although I generally teach crochet or knitting about 4-6 hours a week, I usually don’t make anything during class. I often end up with little swatches that I rip out afterwards because it is pretty difficult to make a project while teaching!
I plan to use Design Week to get started on my own hat project using the steps for designing a beanie that I shared with my students. (I make no guarantees that my actual beanie will be finished by the end of Design Week!) If I like my hat, I’d like to write it up as my first knitting pattern.
Although Stacey has an outline for the week on her blog, my posting schedule will actually be based on the hat design process I’ve shared with my students.
A few weeks ago, I taught my first crochet class for a group of kids (as part of a series of classes) through the Queens Library. I’ve taught crochet classes with kids and adults combined before, and I’ve also taught one-on-one lessons for kids. In preparation for the class, I decided to check out Teach a Group of Kids to Crochet by Kay Meadors.
There are several nice things about the book. It is filled with great color pictures of multicultural girls and boys having fun while learning to crochet and wearing samples of simple crocheted projects. The book includes many close up, step-by-step hand photos of all of the basic stitches for both righties and lefties. The back cover has ruler marks on three edges so it doubles as a gauge ruler. And there are 15 projects that kids would definitely like to wear and use in vibrant (or camouflage, for the boys) colors.
I must say I was disappointed. This disappointment has little to do with Kay Meadors, or with Leisure Arts, and mostly stems from my own assumptions about what the book would include. (You know what they say about making assumptions!) Since I haven’t found many reviews of the book online, I thought I would write up something very detailed so that you will know what you are in for if you buy this book.
I was under the impression that Leisure Arts allowed teachers to make copies from any page this book. I thought that by purchasing it, I would save myself hours of recreating handouts I’ve made for adults to be more kid friendly. In reality, you are only authorized to make copies of 2 pages from the book. These 2 pages are a stitch guide including a single photo (one each for right- and left-handers) of each basic crochet stitch. I did attempt to copy these 2 pages, but the combination of the hand (a fair skinned flesh tone) and the font color (light blue) made it nearly impossible to make a legible black and white copy. I tried color copies, too, using my home four-in-one printer, but I wasn’t able to get much that was readable. (I ended up using my standard handouts for adults in the class. That worked out, since only the teenagers were interested in handouts anyway.)
Inside of the book, Kay says, “It would be helpful if each student purchased a copy of this book so that they have the written projects available outside of class. Projects may not be copied for students to take home.” At the same time, she suggests that prospective teachers approach schools, and children’s groups that are organized through churches, Scouting, and 4-H organizations. I may be biased since I live in New York City, and school and library programs here can’t charge students for materials, and many local Scouting groups frown upon additional costs being charged to families. Perhaps if you are teaching in a wealthier community, asking each student to purchase a $14.95 book would be a viable option.
On the other hand, asking students to buy this book would be akin to telling students to buy the instructor’s version of a textbook. The first 15 pages of introduction, FAQ, and tips are targeted at the teacher, and there are “Teacher’s Notes” on just about every other page thereafter. Without this teacher information, the book could be significantly shorter (and therefore, cheaper) for the student.
Now that we’ve established that unless you plan to have commercial color copies of the 2 page stitch guide made, or instruct each student to buy the book, Teach a Group of Kids to Crochet doesn’t have much value as a classroom teaching aid, let’s look at how it works as a stand alone teacher’s guide.
Kay does give some tips for first time teachers (such as reminders to start with hands-on demonstrations so the kids won’t get bored) but she doesn’t really address specifically the unique issues related to teaching children. I was hoping to find suggestions for dealing with the variable levels of motor skill development and reading skills at different ages, working with a mixed age group, and incorporating parents and helpers into the class. There wasn’t any such information, but I did get some of the general information on teaching that I previously learned when becoming a Craft Yarn Councilcertified crochet teacher and instructor.
The patterns section gave me some good ideas for simple projects for children. Kay has written the patterns in full words rather than using pattern abbreviations, which I think is appropriate for children. However, I think several of the patterns are too long and detailed for most children (e.g., a 3 page pattern for pillow covers).
Overall, the book suffers from a kind of identity crisis. It is written to look like a book for kids, with big pictures, vibrant colors, and wacky fonts. But about half of the content is intended for the teacher. It might have been better to write two shorter companion books – one for the teacher and one for students.
I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars. If you are a new teacher and will be working with kids, it has some helpful, general crochet teaching tips. The book has many simple and fun project ideas. The book is attractive looking and might be helpful to have in class. If you are teaching in a community where asking students to buy a book would be appropriate, you might find it a useful student workbook. (I would actually recommend having the students buy a book written for kids instead.) If you’ve been teaching for a while, you won’t find much new information here, and might be better off buying a book written for kids to share in class.
If you are shaky on your own crochet skills and plan to teach one or two younger relatives to crochet, I think this would be a 5 star book. It could remind you of all the basics (with plenty of full color photos) and give you both plenty of patterns to work on together.