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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twas the Day After Christmas

and all through the house ... was a big fat mess! 

We've been enjoying the holiday season just a bit too much since Thanksgiving, and now the time to clean up has come!  I find that as my creativity (aka last-minute gift making) goes up, my time on the computer goes down.  But, hopefully you will forgive me, and I will try to get back on a more regular schedule come the new year.

But, here is the Long Clownie I made for a family out west to replace a long lost one ...





Here's hoping you and yours had a wonderful Christmas, and many happy wishes for the New Year!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Drama on the Farm

Just got a letter from Caroline Owens with some interesting news -- turns out King is not living up to his name!  She explained how a breeding harness is put on the rams and different colored crayons are fastened on the harnesses to monitor breeding activity.  A ewe will not return to heat once she is pregnant, so as Caroline says "the worst thing you can observe in the breeding pasture is double colors on your ewes."  So, King was installed with a red crayon and sent out to work with a select group of ewes.  Every ewe had a red mark within 16 days.  Great!  So, they changed King's crayon to green.  Well, one ewe marked green the very next day, and over the next two weeks, all the ewes had marked green :-(  Thankfully, an unrelated ram named Baritone came to the rescue as did a ram lamb who was saved from market day.  Caroline was also able to purchase a new white Coopworth ram named Zeus, and he was turned loose on the three remaining un-bred ewes.

I also got word that "Roly-Poly Princess" is up to her old tricks again -- she has been stuck upside down several times in the last week.  When the Owens check the flock, she is one of the three "repeat offenders" they are looking for.  Oh, I hope she makes it ok and we hear some good news soon (and I get another box of fleece -- actually, I think I'm going to let someone else process it this time!) 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Design or Deception?

Some of my crochet designer friends have been going through a rough patch lately because their patterns have been stolen and sold by others.  Obviously, taking someone else's pattern, changing the name on it, and putting out there for sale is morally and legally wrong.  But, where is the line drawn?  The other end involves the stitches and techniques themselves -- no one can copyright the single crochet stitch or the front post double crochet.  But that leaves a very large murky middle.  And where's the line between drawing inspiration from other designers' creations and copying them?  I know I struggle with that -- it feels like it's very hard to come up with new and different things to crochet.  Often, the only real difference between certain designs is the color combinations used -- is that enough to not be treading on someone else's pattern?

I certainly don't have any definitive answers to these questions, but I'd like to suggest some ideas for the designers out there who are trying to do the right thing (and hopefully give those who are trying to make a quick buck something to think about!)

1)  Creating and designing crochet items is such a fun and satisfying endeavor.  That good feeling comes from the creation process, and you've got it in you!  It's ok to look at pictures of other designers' work to learn about color theory and combinations, about different looks and to identify the different techniques used, but stop there.  Don't look at the actual pattern!  You're much less likely to "copy" anything, whether on purpose or by accident, if you minimize your exposure other people's patterns.  Focus on buying or finding books and magazines that teach you all the different crochet stitches and techniques, but not actual patterns.

2)  Once you've gotten inspiration from other designs out there, then it's got to come from you, in your own voice.  Identify the item you want to make, the color(s) you want to use, and the stitches/technique that will provide the structure.  Then, once you actually start making the item and writing down the instructions, don't worry yet about standardization of the language, just get your thoughts down, as though you were trying to explain to a friend how she/he could also make the item.

3)  If you decide that you do want to sell your pattern, then you do need to go back and standardize the stitch and technique abbreviations, but keep some of your own uniqueness in there.  If you've got a better way to explain how to make a crocheted cable for example, then use that as a way to set yourself apart and to ensure that you are bringing something new and different to the world of crochet.  Now, isn't that better than worrying about treading on someone else's turf?!  (Though it seems only the people who are trying to do the right thing are the worriers :-)

I've been thinking a lot about the design process lately, not just because of the recent events, but because I think that's where we really get to experience the beautiful side of being human.  Designing and creating are in each of us -- bringing it out in ways that make us and others happy is what it's all about.  On the eve of Thanksgiving, it's what I'm grateful for, and no pattern stealer can take that away!!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Roots



I went to a birthday party last weekend for a very special little one-year old.  It was so much fun to watch him eating his cake and playing with his friends.  The ways that children entertain themselves and each other is so fascinating.  What was also very interesting was the birthday boy's reaction to his gifts and the other children's reactions.  A number of the gifts were quite high-tech -- lots of flashing lights, buttons to push, sounds and songs warbling out of the speakers.  He played with them briefly, showed them to his friends, who poked at them as well, but then attention was drawn to other things or the boxes in which the gifts came!  One of the gifts that seemed to have the most impact was a simple set of building blocks.  They were made of a special hard foam that's environmentally friendly and non-hazardous, which made them prime for the chewing and drooling that was going on. 

It got me thinking about the expression "going back to basics" or "going back to one's roots."  I always then think of a tree, with its roots digging deep into the ground, unseen but oh so important in terms of the health and stability of the tree! 

So, what's this got to do with anything?!  I'm still working on my new website, probably because I've been letting myself get caught up in some bells and whistles that I thought would be cool to have on there.  But, attending the birthday party has reminded me how important it is to keep it simple.  Simplicity doesn't mean amateurish, not elegant, or without functionality; it just means that there's a good reason for each element being adopted, that it is centered around the mission and purpose of the site and that it imparts information in a clear and communicative way.  So, back to the drawing board to pare things down and to keep it simple.  Ah, I feel better already and hope to launch very soon!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hug a Sheep Day!

Yes, it is actually "Hug a Sheep" day :-)  You can't tell me that these pictures aren't some of the cutest you've ever seen!



This article is really a fun, quick read about why Sara Dunham started the day.  Well, I hope I get a chance to hug Princess one of these days, but I have re-adopted her for the upcoming year, so  it's a possibility.  In the mean time, enjoy the day!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Now That's Color!

Here's a great example of beautiful color use!



I especially love the story behind this granny square ripple blanket. My friend Lori was testing this crochet pattern for the designer, and Lori wanted to use scrap yarns to stay true to the granny feature of the ripple.  Lots of folks, including the designer, were giving her a hard time about using red, and pink, and green, and orange... and being quite critical.  But she did NOT listen and created this beauty!  Turns out the designer did use this picture for her pattern and got lots of favorable feedback and sales.  Guess she wasn't complaining about the colors anymore ;-)

Great lesson for all of us here -- there are times when you need to just go with your gut.  Even in the face of naysayers and critics.  "No pain, no gain; no guts, no glory!"  Sure, you risk crashing and burning, and, if that happens, you acknowledge it, dust yourself off, and get back up.  But, more likely than not, you're going to come up with something new and innovative.  It's your chance to shine, so go out there and take some chances!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Color Wheel

This is a topic I find so interesting -- color.  I'll never forget how, in my college philosophy class, the professor talked about how it's possible that each person sees something different even though we all point to it and say "red" or "blue."  And I recently met a new friend in the fiber world, Tracy of Crochet Happy through our mutual friend Lori, and she's interested in color theory as well.  So, I got a chance to guest blog for her about the topic!  Here's the post.  She's got some great resources listed, and stay tuned here for more information.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Starting a Crochet Business Part Time, Post 2



Ok, so last time, I talked about starting a crafts business as a part-timer, but this post I want to specialize a bit and talk about crochet as a business.  There is about 1 crocheter to every 4 or 5 knitters out there, maybe even fewer.  This is both good and bad – less competition but less potential customers for crochet patterns.  As for actual crocheted products, unless you come up with something small, easy to make, and marketable and can devote many hours a day to crocheting, it's going to be tough. 

I'm not trying to discourage anyone, just inject a bit of reality and help you think through the possibilities.  Here are some ways to explore whether you are really ready to take the plunge!

1)     Experiment -- read about and try as many different types of crochet as you can.  It will help you discover what you like and don't like making.  You can't do everything, though it can be very tempting when you're starting out.  Heck, you're willing to make just about anything to get a sale or get some buzz, aren't you?!  DON’T.  It is really not sustainable over the medium to long run, and you will start hating what used to be a hobby that you loved.  Don't let that happen.

2)    Hone your skills – you need to be a really good crocheter in order to be able to grow beyond just making gifts for friends and family.  You don't have to know every technique and stitch of crochet or how to make every type of item, but you need to be able to consistently produce professional looking products.  Ways to test yourself and improve would be to check out Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today's Top Crocheters, a book that has a number of advanced techniques in it.  Also, the CGOA offers a certification program that helps you build your knowledge and skills.     

3)     Specialize – now that you've probably eliminated some areas of crochet that are just not right for you, start perfecting what you do like making and start experimenting with that area.  This will prepare you for the next step – designing your own crochet projects!

I am really looking forward to hearing about your journey!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Princess's Love Life

I love getting up in the morning and having an email waiting for me from Caroline Owens.  And, the title of the email and above says it all!  It's breeding season on the farm, and Princess has found her Prince.  Actually, his name is King, and he's the new white Coopworth ram on the farm.  Quite handsome, isn't he?  They are hoping for a nice set of chunky white twins from this pair.





Doesn't Princess look nice in her protective coat?  Let's hope for some good news from these two soon!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ahoy Matey!

As I look out my window at the rainy, miserable weather, I can't help but think about the fabulous vacation we just took to Bermuda.  It was so easy and fun -- we drove up to Baltimore, boarded the Royal Caribbean ship, and set sail for Bermuda.  After sailing for about a day and a half, we docked at King's Wharf.






 

 We got to spend an evening, the next day, and the next morning in Bermuda before setting sail to go back to Baltimore.  While in Bermuda, we visited the Maritime Museum, which had the history of Bermuda's discovery and development as well as a Dolphin Quest (swim with the dolphins) exhibit.  There's quite a thriving arts community there as well, and we visited the Crafts Market, the Arts Center, the Glassworks, and the Clocktower shopping mall.

Kings Wharf Dockyard Bermuda


Lounging at Snorkel Park during the afternoon was pretty sweet too!

Snorkel Park Beach Bermuda



Alas, no visits to any yarn shops (apparently they do exist there! and this post by Stacey at FreshStitches was interesting and informative).

But, we are back now, and reality is setting in -- no more breakfast buffets, no more lounging by the pool and soaking in the hot tub before getting ready for dinner, and no more winning $5 in the penny slot machine!  I gotta start planning the next trip ;-)







Friday, September 28, 2012

Starting a Crafts Business Part Time, Post 1



As a number of you already now, I started Many Creative Gifts in 2005 as a part time way to showcase my crochet items, mainly on Etsy.  I'd make a baby hat or some type of crocheted accessory and post it on the site and wait to see what would happen.  Etsy was in its infancy, and I'd get a decent amount of views and interactions with potential and actual customers.  I also made good use of the "alchemy" feature by searching for customers who were looking to have customized crochet items made for them.  It was an eye opening experience in terms of learning about proper pricing and meeting someone's very specific needs and desires in a final product. 

Now, though, I'm not sure a person new to Etsy could achieve the same experience.  There are sooooo many vendors on Etsy now, I'm just not sure exactly how any one particular vendor can stand out, unless he or she has a very specialized niche that pushes them up the list in a Google search.

So, where to start?  I'm not discouraging an Etsy shop (or one of the other arts seller platforms); I'm just suggesting you have a very specialized angle if you go that route.  Otherwise, consider these possibilities:

1)   Go local – make it known to your family and friends that you've got something you make that you would like to show them.  No pressure, but if they like it, would they like to place an order for themselves or as a gift for someone?  See how that goes.  Although you might not get the same kind of honest, possibly harsh, feedback that you would from strangers, it's a gentler, less scary starting point.  And, frankly, if they are smiling and encouraging you but not willing to fork over some $$ for at least one item, then that's telling in its own way too.

2)   Stay local for a bit – you really might have better luck in local crafts shows and stores at first.  Despite the ease of buying things online, the shopping experience is still best had in person.  Especially if you are in the fiber arts, potential customers like to see the colors in real life, touch the product and get a real feel for it, especially if it's a wearable.  So, take advantage of that and find ways to display your wares.  And be sure to make a few things that you can either carry around with you to show off or wear yourself – that's often how you will get questions or reactions.  Keep business cards and other "swag" with you to hand out to help people remember you and know how to contact you in the future because, even if they are not ready to buy that very minute, you want to leave a good impression for the future.

3)   Start blogging and create a Facebook page – I know, there are a million blogs and pages out there, but again, you've got to start somewhere.  Just like the literary agent  encouraged me to do, start letting people know what it is you do and what it is you have to offer.  Put up some pictures of your products and explain a little about either your creative process or why you created what you did, etc.  The handmade movement has started to evolve from just offering the product itself into presenting a story, a whole package, the whole you.  I'm not saying come up with a sob story to tug at people's hearts because, frankly, it's still about the product in the end.  I'm saying be authentic and just share a bit.  Again, you don't have to spill the beans on all your personal details, just give people a small window into why you and your offerings might appeal to them.  You and your products are unique in some way, and you need to share that.

Ok, that's a lot of information for now.  More will come :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

CrochetSavvy.com

I've been on a cleaning binge!  I guess it's because the dust bunnies got too big to ignore, lol.

But, I'm taking a little break here to share with you a great new site that my wonderful friend Lori found -- crochetsavvy.com.  They have a free digital crochet magazine that can be downloaded in PDF form (there's a print version available for purchase as well), and I have to say, I think they've got a really fun, fresh approach to not only crochet, but fashion and trends as well.  Also, I really like their added focus on using crochet for charitable pursuits.

The Fall 2012 issue has an interview with Kathryn Vercillo, who's written a book titled "Crochet Saved My Life."  I'll be writing a separate blog post about Kathryn and her insights into the health benefits of crochet, but I think you'll like getting a jump on reading about some amazing and courageous women.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Running a Part Time Crafts Business



So, as I last left off, I was describing the amazing event that the Summit of Awesome was and how I hoped to use that experience to keep learning and growing as a crafts business.  Oh, did I mention that I met with a literary agent who. albeit very nicely, kinda shot down all of my book ideas.  But, you know, it was good because I could have continued working on those ideas, using up valuable time and not really getting anywhere (though I still think I'm on to something and will probably start sharing my ideas with you soon through posts to see what kind of reaction I get).  Actually, what she said was very interesting – to get picked up by a literary agent who'd be willing to work with a good book idea, you need to be sharing those ideas and having about 10,000 unique visitors to your blog a week, reacting to those ideas positively!

Now, dear readers, this is where you come in – I really do need you to help me know what you're thinking and feeling about my posts, both good and bad.  Do you like a topic?  Can't stand it and don't want to hear another word about it?  Or, hopefully, can't get enough of it and want to hear more?  Then, please, please, PLEASE, let me know.  Either below through comments, or on my Facebook page, or however you'd like to communicate with me.  I mean, seriously, I will continue to share with you the things that I have found interesting because you can't ask me to provide information about stuff if you don't already know about it, but still, if there is something you want, let me know.  I don't need to hear myself talk, I want to give you the kind of content that is of interest to you, but I can't read your mind :-)  So, as Captain Kirk would say, engage!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Understanding Japanese Crochet Patterns

I had a student recently who said she was taking my Beginner's Crochet class so that she could learn how to make amigurumi figures.  It got me thinking about how many wonderful Japanese amigurumi patterns are out there ("amigurumi" after all originated in Japan) but how hard they are for us English-speaking crocheters to figure out.  Well, after a bit of searching, I found this great website that helps in translating a Japanese pattern:  http://weloveamigurumi.livejournal.com/434126.html

I also realized that many crochet patterns from other countries often use the universal language of crochet symbols in addition to written instructions.  I haven't yet found a really comprehensive glossary of crochet symbols to share, but I will keep searching or, better yet, put together one of my own!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summit of Awesome



So, this past Saturday was the Summit of Awesome, put on by Hello Craft.  And, I must say, it lived up to its name!  First, where else can you just walk in and come upon a table full of fun materials to start creating with?!






There were lots of good presentations on various aspects of running a crafts business:  a woman from MailChimp spoke about the different features available to send out newsletters and other email messages to subscribers; there was a lawyer who talked about the ins and outs of copyright, trademark, and public domain in the arts;  the founder of Spoonflower talked about how he and his partner came up with the idea and how it's been growing over the last 5 years, but not as smoothly as it might appear.  I also really appreciated the presentation from a representative from Outright who explained some of the features of that accounting service (which I already use, but probably not to its full potential).  Actually, after the whole day of presentations, I realized a few key things:

1)     I am operating at a very middling understanding of all the benefits that a number of these online services can provide.

2)     And, to do things right and at the level I would like to do things, I need about 30 hours a day.

3)     And, it's true what they say – a crafts business is probably about 20% crafting and 80% business!

But, you know what, you do what you can do!

I ran into one of my crochet students, and it was great to see her.  I'm impressed by her crochet work and that she has quit her day job and is giving this a try full-time!  Her company is called Penny & Paul, and she is currently making the cutest baby beanies and little shoes.  She's inspiring me in so many ways, and I hope to report soon about some different ways in which we are going to team up :-)

I also ran into a number of other really talented crafters there, and as I said, it was a really inspiring day, though by the end, I had a headache and felt a bit overwhelmed.  I plan, though, to use the experience to really (once again) step back and think about how I use my very limited time.  I'm sure I'll continue to share those struggles with you over many upcoming posts.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Bonanza!

Ah, I got a chance to stop by Barnes & Noble the other day and not only did I find the latest issue of the new Inside Crochet magazine, but I also found the Fall 2012 issue of Love of Crochet magazine and a new edition of "Crochet Traditions" by Interweave.  Well, you know how I spent that evening!

I have to say, now that Claire Montgomery is back at the helm of Inside Crochet, the magazine is better than ever!  I think Charles Voth did a great job as Interim Editor considering the circumstances he found himself in, but it's a good thing for us that Tailormade Publishers took over the magazine and revamped it.  There's a pattern in there, the Dover skirt, that is just beautiful. It's meant for pre-teens, but I think I could make a big girl version for myself ;-)  But, who am I kidding, I've got so many other projects going and that need to be going before I get a chance to make something for myself....

 


The Fall 2012 Crochet Traditions issue has some amazing examples of fine-thread and lace crochet in it.  And, the articles!  So much great information about the history and origins of different crochet techniques, you really should think of this more as an anthology-type book rather than just a collection of patterns.




Now, I admit it, the only reason I got the Love of Crochet issue is because it has my Kindle and iPad Covers pattern in there as a web bonus!  The magazine bought a lot of patterns from the old Inside Crochet magazine, without contacting the designers or anything, but our contract did have some language in it that pretty much allowed the old IC to sell our patterns to others without permission or further remuneration.  I keep emphasizing "old" IC because the new IC is not playing those kinds of games.  I know a lot of designers are still feeling really burned by the old IC, but I say, shake it off and move on and think of it just as more exposure!!

Love of Crochet -- Coming Soon!

It's so good to see more and more quality crochet publications! 


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Three Cups of Coffee

A few weeks ago, there was an article in our local Express free newspaper about a traditional coffee ceremony in Ethiopia and how some local residents are trying to maintain the tradition here in DC (it's a ceremony performed in the home; Ethiopian restaurants here in the US don't usually offer them).  Essentially, over an hour to an hour and a half time period, participants drink three small cups of hand-ground coffee and socialize.  Sounds good to me!  It made me think about how wonderful it would be to have such a gathering and combine it with the warmth and interactions of a sit 'n stitch.  Ethiopians have a rich culture of crocheting as well, and that tradition has been carried on by many island nations, most predominantly by Jamaica, whose residents follow the teachings of Haile Selassie and the Rastafari movement.  There are a number of recent documentaries that explore the history of Rastafarians, Bob Marley, the history, culture, and music of the beginnings of the movement and where it is now.  I saw one during the DC Filmfest and, despite some controversial aspects, no one can argue against the message of peace.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I'm Back!

I can't believe the summer is almost over and that I took such a long break from blogging!  It really hadn't been my intention to be away from it for a whole month, but time slips by so quickly.  I have been working on a new project for the new and much improved Inside Crochet magazine as well as a couple of new things for my own shop. 

I've also given two crochet demonstrations at the Sit n Stitch at the Renwick Gallery!  If you find yourself in DC and want to visit a more intimate, more specifically-curated museum, then the Renwick is definitely for you.  The museum is located across from the White House and focuses on American arts, especially craft work, and currently has this great exhibit called "40 Under 40: Craft Futures".

Renwick Gallery
 I especially love checking out this website that shows a Flickr set of photos of how the exhibit was installed.  I unfortunately missed the demonstration of the glass spinning wheel, but just seeing it was pretty amazing.  It really does look like a work of art even at rest, but here's a picture of it at work.



Also, I continue to work at getting my new website up and running.  As I should have predicted, any time there's an update or "fix" in a computer program, seems like more things go wrong!  But, I've almost got a handle on it, and I'm really hoping you'll like some of the new features I'm trying to build in.

So, how did you spend your summer?!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Owens Farm Update!

So, apparently, the sheep are having the time of their lives right now!  The lambs have been weened, and it's too early for breeding season, so the sheep are basically on vacation.  Sounds like they are out in the pasture, just hanging out, grazing, and lazing about.  The lambs, on the other hand, need lots of attention.  They are susceptible to worms and parasites, so Caroline Owens is keeping a close eye on them and deworming as needed.  The pigs and chickens are multiplying as well (one mother pig had 11 piglets!), and the garden is full of blackberries, cucumbers, beans, and herbs.

One question that Caroline anticipated in her update letter is "don't the sheep get hot in their wool and blankets at this time of year?"  But, interestingly, their wool protects them from extreme heat as well as extreme cold.  The thick fleece has insulating properties, so a sheep with an inch of fleece is more comfortable than one with less wool.  Summertime shearing is actually bad for the sheep because adequate wool growth not only keeps them cool in the summer, it prevents sunburn!  By the winter, their coats will be full and warm.  Glad to know that Princess is having a great summer!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Many Creative Gifts Wrapping

So, after the scare with the email/password disclosure, I've been very wary of any emails I get from unknown sources, especially if they have links in them.  But, I got a nice note from a subscriber and decided to check out the link.  It's a handy list of creative ways to wrap gifts!  My two favorites are giving a new mom a diaper bag full of goodies and filling a coffee mug with small gifts.  Many thanks to Jacqui for the heads up about this wonderful article.

I know I've just been terrible so far this summer with the lack of blogging and sending out the newsletter, but hopefully, it will all be worth the wait!  My new website is almost ready to be launched, and I've got some projects and ebooks in the works that I think are going to knock your crocheted socks off.  So, please be patient with me, and I will try not to disappoint :-)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Scary Times

So, I have been spending the entire morning changing all of my passwords because Yahoo! screwed up!!  This is so annoying!  But, we should all be practicing good password protocols anyway...

1)  change your password every 3 or 4 months.
2)  don't use real words or names
3)  use lots of numbers and symbols among letters, including caps
4)  try not to write down your passwords (yeah, right!), especially in an accessible place
5)  be careful with the security questions also -- don't put stuff people would know about you

Ok, so let's see about getting other stuff done this morning!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Princess the Sheep Update

It's been a busy time of year for the Owens Farm, but I got an update recently from Caroline Owens, who writes that Princess and her lamb are doing just great.  "Baby" is a whopping 60 lbs now (compared to the flock average of 40 lbs) because, as a single, she got all the milk and got off to a very good start.  She went to "Sheep Camp" recently and is now halter-trained.  In the mean time, Princess and the other ewes are out to pasture, regaining the weight they lost during lactation.  This is their summer vacation -- They won't do much except graze, nap, and chew their cud until Fall breeding time (sounds pretty good, especially the napping part ;-).

I have not yet followed up on the carding of the fleece -- it continues to sit in a very large bag in the corner of my bedroom!  I have the feeling that there are going to be wafts of fleece floating in the air if I try to do this inside, but it's too hot to do outside right now, so it's going to have to wait a little while longer...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Small Talk

I had such a nice class last Wednesday with two Beginners' Crochet students who came by the store for Crochet 201.  I got one of them started on making granny squares and the other on a crocheted shawl project.  It's really a lovely shawl called the Small Talk shawl by Cheri McEwen that can be made with a light DK for summer and a worsted weight for the fall.  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/small-talk-shawl.

One thing we discovered as we were working on the pattern is that there are a couple of pattern instruction rules to keep in mind when you're working on a pattern that has lots of stitch groupings and repeats:

1)  when you see "(...)" that means do everything in the parentheses into the next stitch or space because the pattern writer is giving you an instruction to make a certain combination of stitches into one particular space.

2)  when you see "[...]" that means do everything in the brackets the number of times the pattern tells you to because the pattern writer is giving you an instruction that you need to keep repeating in order to get to the end of that row or round; this can also be done  by using "* ... *", which indicates that you should keep repeating what's in between the asterisks until the next instruction is given.

3)  usually, at the end of the instructions for a row or round, the pattern writer will tell you whether to turn or not turn the work in order to start the next round or row, but sometimes that instruction is omitted because the default rule is to turn your work at the end of each row or round unless instructed otherwise.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Last Chance!

Progress is being made on the new website, and I hope to be unveiling it soon!  So, yes, the blogging has taken a back seat...

In the mean time, please help me out and "pay with a tweet or facebook" and get your free Flower Power pattern!  It's only until the end of the month, so grab it while you can :-)

Also, I'm planning on doing a special week of crochet tips and tricks on Facebook starting in July, so go and "like" our Many Creative Gifts page and stay tuned.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pattern Buyers Beware!!

Some of you may know that I am a professional member of the CGOA (Crochet Guild of America).  It's a wonderful organization that publishes Crochet! magazine and is "a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the art of crochet."  Recently, I've been seeing a lot of email group traffic on how various websites, many of which originate in Russia and China, that have members who sell crochet patterns in violation of the designers' copyright.  One CGOA member found a black & white photo of her pattern (to make it look vintage) on Yardsellr, illegally being sold.  Another foreign site is offering patterns for free, though that's not the intention of the designers!


All I ask is that, if you find a pattern you like on a consolidator's website, please do a little more searching to see if you can figure out who the designer really is and if there is a way to buy the pattern directly from her or him.  There are ways to contact sites and report copyrighted materials for removal (sites who honestly didn't realize their members were using their services unlawfully will usually act quickly to remove the copyrighted materials), but I think the best way to put these people out of business is to not buy from them!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Off to Sea (See?!)

Ah, Memorial Day.  A chance to enjoy a day off from work, but it's still important to take the time to think about why we have to have such a day and give thanks.  Since I was already in a contemplative mood this morning, as I was reading the paper, I came across the most interesting article.  Gregory White wrote an article about the profound effect that reading a book review in the newspaper had on his life.  Now, mind you, it started with a book review, not the book itself, in an actual newspaper.  See, Mr. White was in prison at the time, having committed an armed robbery at age 20, in maximum security from 1981 to 2003.  The reviewed book was "Black Jacks: African American Seaman in the Age of Sail" by W. Jeffrey Bolster.  The review reminded Mr. White about the dreams he had had as a child to become a sailor, how he had joined the Navy at 17, but how he had made some bad decisions along the way that got him discharged from the Navy and into prison.  But, this one book review led him to contact the author of the book, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, who sent him a copy and encouraging words and, over the years, became a mentor and friend.  It's an amazing article about this man's desire to change, hard work, and triumph.  Here's the full article from the Washington Post.

Actually, the article I'm interested in reading is the one that would be written by the professor.  Can you imagine having written a book and then receiving a letter from a prison inmate recounting the impact  that a review of the book has made on him?! We often just don't realize or think about how small actions on our part can have profound impacts on other people.  Something to think about...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Brand Ideal


I was reading an article on Facebook's upcoming public stock offering. Mark Zuckerberg is quoted as having said "We don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services.... These days, I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits." That's a good message to remind yourself about once in a while.
Then, I got an email about the release of a new business book called "Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies" by Jim Stengel. I'm also now enrolled in Amanda Aitken's "Girls Guide to Web Design" Jetsetters' class (now you really know why I haven't been blogging lately!). One of the first exercises that Amanda has you do is fill out a three-page questionnaire on how you want your website to look, but it's really so much more than that. Her questions are getting at the heart of what you want your company (and, in some ways, yourself) to look like. 
All of these sources and exercises are getting at the same thing, something that Mr. Stengel has dubbed "brand ideal." What is it that your company, and you, stand for? What are you trying to accomplish (and if your only answer is "making money," try again!)? We all know that any business enterprise is trying to make money, but, these days, it really does have to be about so much more. 
Some describe it as "finding one's passion in life." It's funny, I got rejected by a date way back when because, at the time, I didn't really have a passion I was pursuing. Oh, sure, I enjoyed my job very much, and I enjoyed going to movies, eating out with friends, and so on, but I didn't have a particular activity I was engaged in with the level of passion this guy had with playing the piano. He described how he'd rush home after work in order to be able to play, learn new songs, and spend hours at it. I remember thinking at the time that I couldn't imagine pouring over something with such focus and dedication. Fast forward, and here I am, often spending hours each night working on some aspect of Many Creative Gifts -- the crocheting (and knitting :-) itself, the patterns, the website, the blog, and on and on. And, most importantly, loving every minute of it. You have to -- it's a lot of hard work to achieve that level of focus and dedication, to hone your craft to the point where it's not just a hobby, but frankly is worth sharing with others and, if you so choose, turning it into a potential business.
So, do some hard thinking on this for yourself. We only get 24 hours a day, at least 8 of which I hope you are spending sleeping, so how are you spending your time? Are you spending it on things you enjoy doing? I know that there are things that we all have to do that we don't like doing, but putting all of that aside, what is your passion? And, what are you going to do about it?! If you have a passion and just want to do it for yourself, then that's awesome because there is always the danger of trying to monetize your passion and, instead, losing your love of the activity. But, if you want to turn your passion into a business enterprise, there are a lot of ways to go about doing so, and one of the ways I hope to help you through this blog is by curating some of the resources I've come across that I think have been helpful to me in pursuing my passion. And, Steve, by any chance if you are reading this, I only have one thing to say -- thank you!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happenings

What a busy week the last one was!  I had a beginners' crochet class on Wednesday night then off to the Renwick HandiHour on Thursday.  Much fun!

I unfortunately did not make it to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  I'm especially sad this year since the Owens Family was there, displaying some of their Coopworth sheep (was Princess there?!).  I haven't gotten a specific update on Princess in a while, but I did get a nice letter and brochure in the mail, explaining that April is quite a busy time on the farm with all the new baby animals -- 135 of them!  Apparently, this year, they used a "teaser ram."  They send in a vasectomized ram to synchronize the ewes' heat cycles, which occur every 17 days.  The first heat apparently is a weak one, in which the ewe releases only one egg (and twins are the goal), so the teaser is sent in so that the ewes don't end up pregnant.  Then, in the next cycle when a ewe is more likely to shed two eggs, they send in the breeding rams.  It worked!  Out of 71 ewes bearing lambs, 58 had twins or triplets!

Which reminds me, so I now have two dog brushes and am ready to give the carding a try.  I have to say though, I'm getting a little nervous about this -- the lady on the YouTube video makes it look easy, but... ;-)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A New Look


Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but as you can see, I've been up to some behind-the-scenes changes, more of which should be coming to light soon.  So, what do we think of the new look?!  Would love some feedback on the changes :-)  Though, I have to say, not sure that the new Blogger dashboard is as user-friendly as the previous version, but guess everyone's needing a change these days
 
And, I'm still recovering from the Metro Yarn Crawl, but what a great time! As I mentioned, I got 9 out of 10 store stamps and decided to go back to Knit + Stitch = Bliss in Bethesda to enter their drawing.


 And I won!!  What a great gift:


Six hanks of Tahki's Cotton Classic Light in a beautiful mauve color that does not quite come through in this picture, a kit to make a hat, three great knit and crochet pattern booklets, and a really nice tote bag.  I've already picked out a crochet pattern that calls for 6 balls of the Tahki, so I hope to get started on it soon and get some pictures of it up here.

I'm also hoping to start some of the other great projects I've been thinking about and start using up some of the way-too-much yarn I have now.

More changes coming, so come back soon!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Last Day of the Crawl

Well, mom and I hit up the last two shops on our list on Friday.  We first headed to the Mount Vernon area to see In Stitches Needlework.  This is a great shop for needlepoint, but frankly, their yarn selection is limited (though they were having a great sale on Sublime yarns). 


 But, it was a beautiful day for a road trip, and we then came back up US 1 to get to Fibre Space in Old Town Alexandria.  They now have a classroom upstairs, so the former classroom on the main level is filled with even more yarns!  Since I already had gone overboard in yarn purchases, I picked up a great little project bag for only $10 in support of Project Knit Well.



Hard to believe the Metro Yarn Crawl is over!  I ended up with 9 out of 10 stamps on my card (the only shop we did not make it to was The Knitting Boutique in Glen Burnie, MD, but hopefully I'll get up there before next year's crawl :-)

In the upcoming weeks, I'll be posting pix of my purchases and projects related to the Yarn Crawl, so stay tuned!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 2 of Metro Yarn Crawl

Whew, we hit up 4 stores today!  Started by heading east to get to The Tangled Skein in Hyattsville, MD.  It's a great big shop with a large selection of yarns and notions.  Friendly staff as well, and I got a lovely lace-weight silver yarn to weave in with my grey mercerized cotton yarn for an idea I have for that next great project of mine ;-)


Then, it was on to The Yarn Spot in Wheaton, MD.  I didn't get a chance to meet Jennifer, with whom I'm been corresponding about the fleece, but I did get to meet Victoria, who could not have been nicer and gave me some great tips for the next step of carding/combing the fleece.  Can't wait to go back for a spinning lesson :-)  Got some Schaeffer Yarn while I was there -- great deal!

Onward to Rockville, MD, to visit Woolwinders.  This is my mom's favorite shop -- it's a bit smaller but has a beautiful feel to it, still a great selection, and is in such a quaint area.  Even though my wallet was getting quite empty by this point, I broke down and got some Berroco Weekender Chunky to make a bolero for the spring/summer.

Finally, we stopped by Knit + Stitch = Bliss in Bethesda, MD.  I can't believe that I bought sock yarn that calls for a size 2 needle!  It's just so beautiful though, how could I say no to something named Strawberry Latte?!

We've got one more day of shops to visit (it's back to Virginia!), so there will be a third installment.  Then, I hope to be posting pix of the yarns I picked up and the projects they will turn into!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Metro Yarn Crawl 2012

Ah, it's that time of year, and I am going to try really hard to visit almost all the store (I don't think I'm going to make it all the way to Glen Burnie this year though :-(

So far, I've been to Aylin's Woolgatherer and Uniquities Yarn Shop, both in Virginia (the website www.metroyarncrawl.com has a suggested routes map that's very helpful).  Uniquities is located in a lovely part of Vienna, Virginia and has an amazing selection of notions, knitting and crochet "equipment".  Their yarn selection is extensive as well, and the ladies there could not have been nicer!

Then, off to Aylin's we went.  That shop was much harder to find, but thanks to the ladies at Uniquities, we knew that we had to go to Loehman's shopping center, look for the building in which the 7-11 is located, go over to the side of the building, and go to the third floor.  But, it was worth the trip!  I love Schachenmayr's mercerized cotton yarn, and the shop has a great selection of colors, and also an extensive collection of knitting and crocheting booklets, with a number of European brands.  We also got to meet Aylin, who turns out to be from Turkey originally.  After making my purchases and tasting her delicious borek (Turks can never let you leave without feeding you :-), I made my way back to DC!

The next adventure is on Thursday, this time in Maryland!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What's on Your Needles?!

Yeah, that's right, I said it... needles!!  My dirty little secret this week is that I've been knitting and I've been pretty obsessed about it!  Two summers ago, I got the most beautiful, sherbet-like yarn from Kitschy Stitch in Rehoboth Beach.  It's a pastel pink-orange combo in a DK, lace weight, and I've been wondering what to do with it.  So, I went searching around on Ravelry and found Lala's Simple Shawl, and something just clicked!  Got some Addi Turbo needles in a size US 6 and off I went!

Here are the results so far:

I hope to have it done soon and will post the finished product :-)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Before and After

Melissa Marro is going to be so proud of me!  I have been struggling with a cluttered, dysfunctional kitchen for just too long.  So, I finally decided to do something about it!  See how awful it was:

But, the space actually had such potential -- especially the 10 inch deep "alcove" in the wall in which I had put shelves but wasn't making full use of all the space and instead piling everything up everywhere.

So, I drew out a very basic design and called The Closet Factory.  Thankfully, Carin answered the phone and "got me."  She came over with her computer and helped me really plan out a shelving system.  I wanted it to be modern, sleek, simple -- and that's what I got!!

And, look how great it looks once I put in my display-able items (and hid the rest behind the doors):

Nothing like beauty and function!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Clear Gear

Loving my new bags from Clear Gear.  I was listening to a local radio station that has "Free for All Fridays" -- the Friday morning show invites listeners to come to the studio, play some games, and hang out.  One of the listeners was Jill, and she said that she had just started her own company, selling these clear bags for storing and carrying things.  I just had to go check out the website and ended up ordering a set.  Really nice and sturdy, great sizes -- really helped corral some yarn that was making a break for it!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Linked (Looped) Double Crochet Stitch

Welcome April!  So far, it's been colder here than it was in March, but no complaints as long as it stays sunny.  And I am definitely looking at spring as being a new beginning and yet another chance to get back on track (or at least not wobble off of it!)

Much has been going on behind the scenes.  I've got a new video posted on how to make the linked (looped) double crochet stitch.  It's a fun alternative to just doing a regular single or double crochet stitch since it looks a little like both.

Hope you'll check out my other videos on YouTube at www.youtube.com/manycreativegifts.  I'm finishing up some projects and starting my spring cleaning (which I don't think really has ended since last spring!)  But more posts on that coming soon!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Facebook Timeline Page Countdown

So, looks like Facebook is at it again -- all pages are going to convert to the new format on March 30th.  Ugh.  I really like the current page layout and had kind of gotten it looking the way I wanted.  Now, time to go through this all again :-(.

Thankfully, the folks at Smaller Box recently posted an article about how to prepare a new cover image (850 x 315 pixels), a new profile image (180 x 180 pixels), and application icons (111 x 74 pixels) for your new Timeline page.  I'm playing around with the page now and hope to launch it before they force me to, but we'll see...

I feel one of those "need to rethink everything again" feelings coming on.  Probably because I am going through one of those frantic crochet project finishing phases again, while the electronic side of things languishes.  I need an intern (aka free help!).  Mmmm, maybe that's not such a far fetched idea -- I give some young, eager student a chance to show his/her stuff, and s/he gets a project to add to the portfolio.  Anyone know anyone looking for such a challenge?!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Craftsy

I love how there are all these great crafts communities building online.  I've just recently joined Craftsy, which is a crafting site with sewing, quilting, jewelry making, etc., in addition to crocheting and knitting.  It's different than Ravelry and Create the Hive in that its emphasis is on "learn it. make it."  So, there are online classes and workshops to take plus the ability to buy (and sell) patterns.  It's got a very cute and vintage feel to it and is quite user friendly.  It will be interesting to see how it develops and grows.

Not sure what else I've got to share right now -- still in catch up mode and realizing that March is quickly slipping away from me and the darn newsletter is going to be late again!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crochet Bunny Peep

With the nice weather we've been experiencing the last few days, I got to thinking about upcoming holidays, like Easter.  I really enjoyed making the Crochet Easter Basket last year as a fun giveaway project and wanted to come up with something else for this year.  And, here it is!  The Crochet Bunny Peep is actually pretty quick and easy to make, so I hope everyone will enjoy this little treat :-)