What It's Like to Join a Local CGOA Chapter

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Post by Stacy Vaka of Crochet Kitten.

I have been a member of CGOA off and on since 2007, but I am ashamed to admit that I had yet to join a local CGOA chapter until just last week.

I'm sure my reasons for putting it off will sound familiar:
  • I'm shy and I won't know anyone there.
  • My schedule is already packed as it is.
  • I'm not sure I'm going to get anything out of it anyway.

I'm actually blessed to have the Crochet Guild of Prince William County as my local chapter. I've heard many great things about this chapter both from CGOA's newsletter Joined Together and from The Washington Post. I even see the chapter mentioned every once in a while in local community bulletins for events they're hosting. It really sounded like a great group to join, and yet I was still hesitant to attend that first meeting for all the reasons listed above. But since my goal for this year is to grow Crochet Kitten from a hobby business to a "real" part-time business, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone and take the plunge.

I'm really glad I did finally join, because I discovered that my reasons for not joining were really nothing to worry about after all.

"I'm shy and I won't know anyone there."
It's always a little unnerving to join a new group of people who have known each other a while. That was my excuse for not joining in December, as I was concerned they may have something special planned for the holidays that would highlight my status as an outsider. So I decided to delay joining until January.

As I approached the community room for the first time, I was welcomed by a woman who seemed to be expecting me and directed me where to go. I'm not sure why I was surprised. New people were clearly not an oddity in this group, as was evidenced by the sign with instructions for newcomers at the check-in desk. In fact, I was not the only newcomer there; two other ladies besides myself were there for the first time that night.

I took a seat at the end of a long table of ten or so other crocheters who were all busily working on projects. They all looked up and gave me an enthusiastic greeting and welcome. Unsure of what to do with myself after that, I took out my own project and began to work on it.

Here's the thing about joining a crochet group: when in doubt, you always have your crochet to fall back on. If you want to introduce yourself to someone, simply ask what they're working on. If you're not sure what to say after that, work on your project a bit while your brain mulls things over. As I worked on my own project, I picked up bits of surrounding conversations, and yes, even shy me felt comfortable joining in the conversations after a while.

"My schedule is already packed as it is."
The Crochet Guild of Prince William County meets one Monday a month for two hours. While that's not much of a time commitment, I just wasn't excited about having one more thing on the calendar. However, the best part about my first visit was the realization early in the meeting that for once I may not have brought enough to crochet. As the mother of a preschooler, I'm used to only being able to crochet for a few minutes at a time, and so I plan my projects accordingly. This was the first time in I can't remember how long that I was able to sit and crochet for a solid two hours. I got so much crocheting done that night, and I began to think about how much more productive I could be if I could count on those two hours every month.

"I'm not sure I'm going to get anything out of it anyway."
As it turned out, my decision to join in January came with a key advantage: since it was the first meeting of the year, I was able to hear the rough outline of what the chapter's plans for the year was. Now that I've finally gotten a taste of what I've been missing all this time, I'm really excited for what the chapter has in store for this year. In fact, I'm so excited that I've decided to turn this into a series of blog posts about my top 10 reasons to join a local chapter. Each month I will focus on a new benefit and how it has helped me to grow in my craft.

Top 10 Reasons to Join a Local CGOA Chapter
Reason #1: Local NatCroMo Events!
Reason #2: Special Guests!
Reason #3: Charity Projects!
Reason #4: Swap Meets!
Reason #5: Field Trips!
Reason #6: Local Crochet Experts!

Book Review: Happy-Gurumi: 20 Super Cute Amigurumi Toys to Crochet

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Title: Happy-Gurumi: 20 Super Cute Amigurumi Toys to Crochet
Author: Vanessa Chan

Book Review by Marie Segares, UndergroundCrafter

Happy-Gurumi is a collection of amigurumi patterns by Vanessa Chan from The Pudgy Rabbit, who studied animation in college and made stop-motion puppets before picking up the crochet hook.

The book features 20 patterns, including 1 beginner, 11 easy, and 8 intermediate patterns for 13 creatures and 7 other (mostly food and balloon) projects. The brightly colored projects are photographed over vibrant backgrounds, making this book a real treat for the eyes.

Each pattern includes an introduction, a skill level, and a materials list, along with several pictures, many of which include pun-filled comic book style caption bubbles. Quite a few of the patterns are embellished with felt, and there are diagrams at the bottom of the relevant patterns that the crocheter can trace and use to cut the felt. (There is a link at the beginning of the book to help with printer configuration for ebook readers as well.)

After the patterns, there is a Crochet Basics section that includes conversationally written information about yarn and other materials, and illustrated tutorials for basic stitches, crocheting in the round, and assembly. The book ends with a list of abbreviations and an author bio.

The visual presentation is whimsical and fun. The patterns seemed to be geared more towards an experienced amigurumi crocheter and, as such, there are more detailed assembly requirements than most beginner-oriented amigurumi pattern books. You can see all of the designs from the book on the Ravelry source page here. As with most pattern books, you will enjoy it more if you like the patterns! This book would be ideal for a crocheter with a firm grasp on crochet basics that wants to take her/his amigurumi up a notch by working on projects with more details and embellishments.

Full disclosure: A free electronic review copy of Happy-Gurumi was provided by Martingale. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

CGOA Member Spotlight: Beth Graham

Friday, January 15, 2016

I'm Marie Segares from Underground Crafter and this is the first post in my new series for CGOA Now! Each month, I'll be shining a spotlight on a CGOA member and sharing a bit of her story with an interview.

In this month's post, I'm featuring Beth Graham. Beth is a crochet teacher and designer living in Ontario, Canada. I first "met" Beth online several years ago, and we've been virtual friends ever since! We've bonded over our love of crochet and our (prematurely) gray hair. 

Beth teaches at her local yarn shop, Shall We Knit? in Waterloo, Ontario, and on Craftsy. (CGOA members can get 50% off her Fun & Fantastic Textured Stitches Craftsy class by using this link.) You can find Beth online on Facebook, Ravelry (as BethGraham, in the Beth Graham Design group, or on her designer page), and Twitter.

All images are used with permission and, unless otherwise noted, are © Craftsy.
Beth Graham.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Beth Graham (BG): I learned to crochet 14 years ago, after moving to Canada from the United States. I’d seen my sister-in-law do lots of crochet – in fact, she’d made my son’s beautiful and beloved “yellow blankie” when he was born several years prior to our move – and thought that crochet would be just the thing to keep me occupied during my first long winter.

I’m a left-hander who had previously failed at many crafts, in part because I believed them to favor right-handers. I finally was successful after getting Mary Thomas’s First Steps in Crochet, which began with the assurance that crochet is really a two-handed activity

Something about that new information freed me to try again, and now is fundamental to my approach in teaching adults.

It's a Trap, crochet pattern by Beth Graham. Image © Anne Podlesak.
UC: When did you start teaching crochet?
BG: I began teaching crochet about 7 years ago at my local yarn shop at the same time that I returned to university for a teaching degree. The shop owner and I both assumed that my gig would be short lived, that I’d stop once I got an elementary teaching position. In that weird way that life has of twisting and turning, though, the public school thing never completely happened, and here I am, concentrating on crochet teaching and absolutely loving it!

As other teachers know, we often get as much from our students as we give them. My adult learners constantly help me improve my own crochet – as well as my teaching skills – and I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to work with them. With my new online class, Craftsy has allowed me the potential to reach even more folks who would like to learn with me.

Swirly Blanket, crochet pattern by Beth Graham. Image © Gillian Martin.
UC: How long have you been a member of the CGOA? What’s your favorite thing about being a member?
BG: I’ve only been a member of the CGOA for about five years and confess that I haven’t been an active participant to this point. My favorite thing about being a member is reading what other folks are up to throughout North America. I would love to become more active in the organization.

Scarf Theory, crochet pattern by Beth Graham. Image © Beth Graham.
UC: Has teaching influenced your design work at all? If so, how?
BG: My design work is almost entirely influenced by my teaching interests. I’m a former librarian and proofreader, so care a lot about clear communication and sharing knowledge and resources. My designs are all meant to support beginner to advanced beginner crafters and help them gain the confidence and tools to tackle more difficult projects.

(My secondary, sneakier goal in design is to persuade knitters of the beauty and utility that is crochet. Keep that under your hat!)

Bandwagon Blanket, free crochet pattern by Beth Graham. Image © Beth Graham.
UC: What are your favorite types of crochet projects for relaxing?
BG: Lately, I’ve been working almost exclusively on my Bandwagon Blanket, which consists of Tunisian crochet mitered squares made from sock yarn scraps. I am loving how patchwork-y it is! 

Playful Textures Scarf, a crochet pattern by Beth Graham from her Craftsy class, Fun & Fantastic Textured Crochet Stitches. 
UC: What are your favorite types of crochet projects for challenging yourself?
BG: I really crochet mostly to relax, and I design to challenge myself.  My overarching challenge? Offering patterns that use simple techniques and at the same time have a satisfying, classic appeal to both encourage newer crocheters and to convince knitters to give this craft a try. 

Simple Textures Dishcloth, a crochet pattern by Beth Graham from her Craftsy class, Fun & Fantastic Textured Crochet Stitches. 
UC: What are your favorite types of crochet projects to give as gifts?
BG: My favorite gifts are things that can be used – and used up – so dishcloths are my natural go-to. I recently designed the Simple Textures Dishcloth to accompany my Craftsy class, and I’m sure will be making lots more of those to give away. 

UC: What’s your crochet Resolution for 2016?
BG: I am so very close to finishing my Bandwagon Blanket, so that’s first on my list. I would also like to learn more about slip stitch crochet. (Tanja Osswald has some lovely, intricate slip-stitch designs that are on the top of my list.) As well, I want to continue to improve as a crochet teacher.

A Crinkle in Time Cowl, crochet pattern by Beth GrahamImage © Gillian Martin. 
UC: What’s next for you?
BG: I’ve got a design coming out soon in the Knit Picks Independent Designer Program and another about to be released in the latest Crochet One-Skein book from Storey Publishing. I want to continue balancing work with third-party publications and independent designs throughout 2016.

Thanks so much, Beth, for sharing your love of crochet with us.

New CGOA Blogger - Caissa McClinton @artlikebread

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hello, CGOA!  I am honored to join the team of Crochet Guild of America bloggers!  


I have been a member since 2011 and I am happy to serve my professional organization in this way.  I learned about the CGOA through the Yarn Thing Podcast with Marly Bird.  In fact, I owe my entire yarn crafting life to podcasts!  The only reason I ever picked up a crochet hook was because I was inspired by an episode of Craftypod with Diane Gilleland.

Before crochet, I was mainly a paper crafter, garment sewer, and jewelry maker.  I couldn't figure out why someone would want so much yarn!  My, how things change!  After realizing I would actually be making fabric by crocheting, I was in!  I had already sent in my request to join Ravelry (yes, it was in the invitation days) and as soon as I was approved, I ran out to the library and got a couple of crochet books.  I asked my mom for a crochet hook (a blue, plastic 3.75mm hook with a "Bates-style" head) and picked out some blue eyelash yarn from Michael's.  I was able to chain but quickly realized that it was really hard to see the stitches.  I still made a chain bracelet, though!  
It was 2008!  I wore the bracelet with pride!
So I went over to Jo-Ann's and (yikes!) spent over five dollars on a ball of maroon acrylic yarn, then went back to the book.  I then discovered that while I could make the chain, I couldn't advance any further because the directions said insert hook into stitch  I didn't know where in the stitch they meant!  By my estimation, there were three possible places to do that and I just wasn't sure what to do.  I don't remember how it came up, but I learned that a lady at my work named Evelyn could show me how to crochet.  She patiently showed me the double crochet stitch and from there things started to make sense.
Thanks to Evelyn for showing me the double crochet!
 Crochet really took off for me after I read Stitch N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker.  After doing all of the activities in that book, I felt equipped to make almost anything, and indeed, I was.
I am glad to have found the CGOA and I am looking forward to becoming more involved as a blogger.  I have started (and have yet to finish) the Master's Program.  Maybe y'all can cheer me on in my progress!  I am the founding President of the first Mexican Chapter of the Crochet Guild of America, but I currently live in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale Metro.  If you need help starting a chapter, please let me know!

I'm very interactive, so let's keep the conversation going.  How did you discover crochet?  What was your first crochet project?  

Please leave a comment here on the blog, and let's connect on social media!  I can be found on facebooktwitterPinterestInstagramTumblrGoogle+,  and YouTube.  Join my monthly newsletter about crafts, crochet, and education.
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