Teaching Crochet – Preparation

I have been a vocal music teacher all my adult life.  For 35+ years, my teaching experience has included classroom, rehearsal, and private studio teaching.  Needless to say, I am not a stranger to working with students and talking to groups.  In 2 days, though, I begin teaching crochet to people who have actually paid to hear what I have to say.  Let me tell you, it’s one thing to know how to do something, and quite another to teach those skills to other people.  I know from experience in the vocal music world that being a performer does not qualify anyone to teach others to be a performer.  I have spent countless hours studying and learning to be a better teacher of singing.  Frankly, I’ve never stopped learning, even after getting my Master’s degree.  Even though I am an experienced teacher, the subject matter is completely new.

Segue to teaching crochet…just because I’ve been crocheting for 40+ years doesn’t make me qualified to teach others to do so.  Over the years I’ve tried many different projects that challenge my knowledge and skill as a crocheter, so I’m confident I have a lot to offer.  Just to make sure I can actually teach it, I’ve enrolled in the Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructor’s Program.  After looking through the materials, I’ve discovered that I already know much of what’s included, although now I must think about these skills and concepts in a structured manner.  As part of the course requirements, I am asked to teach 15 hours of crochet.  Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot but it actually adds up to a lot of preparation.

JoAnne Turcotte of The Knitter’s Edge has graciously agreed to allow me to try out my teaching chops at her store.  After agreeing on a topic – Creating a Sampler Cowl – I set about doing some research and figuring out what I would teach.  More on that later….Suffice it to say that I’ve spent a lot of time and effort preparing for the class, set to run for 4 weeks, 8 hours of class time.  I know I’ll learn a lot from those who take the class – common problems and mistakes, how to communicate concepts, what works and what doesn’t, and more.  I expect, the more I teach crochet, the more I’ll learn myself.  After all, I didn’t get to the proficiency and expertise I currently enjoy in voice teaching overnight!

I’m excited to begin this new journey.  Stay tuned for updates along the way…

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Vogue Knitting Live 2015

I absolutely love going into New York City!  The energy is incredible; plus, I can go in for the day, then return to my quiet suburban home, leaving all of the craziness behind.  Combine that energy with an incredible experience in knit and crochet, and you have the ultimate in NYC experience, in my humble opinion!

Earlier this month, my daughter and I headed into the city with other crafting enthusiasts to attend Vogue Knitting Live 2015.  No driving necessary this time.  Our local yarn shop hangout, The Knitter’s Edge, sponsored a bus trip that dropped us right at the door of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

This is the view where we were dropped off….seriously!46th street

Just down the block, that’s the Booth Theater where Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper is playing.

 

 

 

Here it is at night…Theatre

 

 

 

 

 

Once we got into the hotel and up to the show, we browsed the knit and crochet art gallery…VKL15 1 IMG_2616IMG_2619 IMG_2620 IMG_2621

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and bought these beauties to try our hands at miniature knitting – the book is signed by the author, of course!Purchase 2

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Wonders of the World were featured in another display – Great Wall of China, Sphinx, Easter Island, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Taj Mahal and Chichen Itza. VKL Seven wonders of the worldSeveral yarn companies and designers were featured in exclusive fashion shows throughout the day.  We caught the Vogue Knitting show…VKL 2015 fashion showThe event even featured a yarn tasting station where you could pick up hooks and needles to try some of the yarn offered at the show…VKL15 5VKL15 4

 

Yarn tastingAnd, yes, I was that groupie who had to ask for a pic with Vickie Howell.007

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best of all, The Marketplace featured over 60 vendors on 2 floors of the hotel.VKL15 6  This is just one of the floors, with the runway for the fashion shows at one end.  The vendors offered luscious, luxurious yarns, along with knit and crochet accessories like needles, hooks and buttons.  Yes, I drooled!  And, then wondered whether or not my bag would hold everything I wanted to buy.

Natural fibers and creative colorways are all the rage these days, and they were well represented among the merchants in attendance.  We found a few favorites among them.

Long Island Livestock Company raises its own llamas and alpacas out on the eastern tip of Long Island.  Most of the wool they sell is spun from their own llamas and alpacas, and colors are natural and un-dyed.  We couldn’t resist buying some of the luxuriously soft yarn, especially because each hank came with a picture of the animal who “contributed” the wool.

We fell in love with the yarns at The Yarn Company.  Who could resist a yarn whose color is “Atomic Skunk”?!  Odyssey by Verdant Gryphon is a wonderfully soft superwash merino wool.  And, last but not least, we found a beautiful camel hair and silk blend called “Refuge DK” in onyx at Kismet Fiber Works.  That yarn is slated for a beautiful pair of mittens.  Check out what I added to my stash…VKL yarn purchasesAnd, of course, we couldn’t be two blocks away and not eat at the Brooklyn Diner – Times Square.  Their world famous pigs in a blanket, followed by quinoa salad and bacon wrapped scallops made everything so much better…yum!Brooklyn Diner TSThat’s just a short recap.  I’ve already starting dreaming about going to Vogue Knitting Live 2016.  Can’t wait!!!

 

It’s a New Year!

Well, I have to say I’m really glad Christmas is over.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the time with my family and friends, and having the time to kick back and relax.  But, this year, unlike others, I got a really late start on Christmas gift crafting.  That meant that I got the last gift finished at 4:00 on Christmas Eve when I had to get ready to go out.  While I spend just about every spare minute crafting, this was a bit too much.

However, I must say I am pretty proud of how this year’s gifts turned out.  And some of them will become patterns in the near future!Roly Poly scarf 1

This particular gem was made for my daughter who had seen me making a caterpillar cocoon for a friend. She loved the yarn and color combination, so, of course, it had to become a scarf for her.  I used Caron’s Simply Soft in ocean, blue mint, sage and dk. sage.  The scarf is luxuriously soft and spongy.  This photo doesn’t do justice to the intense, silky colors.  It’s knit on circular needles in alternating sections of stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch.

 

Justice League scarf 1Justice League scarf 3

 

 

 

 

I’m particularly proud of this bad boy.  My grandson is obsessed with super heroes and the Justice League.  I was having a hard time figuring out what to make for him so I headed over to Ravelry and did a search for Justice League.  I couldn’t believe I actually found a scarf with all of his favorite super heroes on it.  You can find the pattern here.  Because I wanted the scarf to fit my little guy, I chose KnitPicks Brava Sport instead of using worsted weight yarn.  This scarf took a long time because it was double-knit.  It gave me the opportunity to learn a new technique, though!

Basketball scarf 2

Basketball scarf 1

 

Then, there’s this cutie pie!  My 2-year-old grandson is obsessed with basketball.  I wasn’t a fan of the rather cheesy designs I saw online with basketballs hanging from the ends of the scarf.  Instead I went with something a little simpler, using some of the yarn leftover from the Justice League scarf.  I double crocheted each row lengthwise and added enough fringe to fill out what was left from the color changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also made a pair of 3×3 rib boot cuffs out of Plymouth Yarn Company’s Homestead and a wonderfully soft garter stitch scarf out of Lion Brand’s Heartland.  All in all, a very successful Christmas gift crafting season!

I think I’ll start a little earlier in 2015, though…

Making Strides and Breast Cancer 2014

Just over a week ago, I walked in the Making Strides Lehigh Valley 5K, something I’ve now done for the past 4 years.  This year, in addition to walking, I joined my daughter-in-law on the survivor committee.  The survivor committee provides communication with and support for the survivors, as well as planning and creating a special place for them on the day of the walk.

Survivor Committee

Members of the Survivor Committee – Kerra, me, Meg, Susan and Linda

Survivor Tent

Survivor Tent

In our tent on the day of the event, the survivors who stopped by signed a banner that will be saved for display at future walks.  14Making Strides 10They were treated to a specially made t-shirt and a sash.  And, MadameStitch contributed 100 crocheted flower pins – they were a big hit!  So easy to make, I crocheted the flowers, then attached a length of ribbon to the back with a hot glue gun.  To finish it, I attached a self-adhesive pin to the back.Survivor flower pins

Flower pins beautifully displayed in the survivor tent.

Flower pins beautifully displayed in the survivor tent.

Survivor flower pin 2About 1449 participants took part.  Downtown Bethlehem is a beautiful and historic place to walk.  This year was even more gorgeous on a bright, crisp October Saturday.  Sure beats the blizzard we had one year and the hurricane the next!14Making Strides 514Making Strides 1314Making Strides 1514Making Strides 14The family joined in, including my daughter, my son and grandsons, and his mother-in-law.  The 4-year-old happily walked over 2 miles!14Making Strides 914Making Strides 12MadameStitch was proud to provide the flower pin gifts for the breast cancer survivors who came out to walk, including the woman who stopped by the tent who had surgery just 2 weeks before the walk.  Wow, what an inspiration!!!

Travel Tales

Well, I’m back from my trip visiting family.  While it’s good to be home, I have wonderful memories from this very brief visit!  It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that I loved the time I could spend with my daughter (who met me there), my sister and her family, and my mom.  We had such fun cooking dinner together each night for 10 people, seeing the old home town, and shopping at a fabulous outdoor outlet mall (where I spent too much money).

On our last day, my daughter and I scooped up my mom and headed to Kansas to visit a yarn shop I found online.  It was a rainy, windy day, perfect for spending time with yarn.  Our visit took us to The Studio in Overland Park.The Studio 1 This store has been in existence since the late 1960’s and has enjoyed several locations around the Kansas City area.  The store has just recently moved to Overland Park because the new location offers them the space they need for expanded knitting and needlepoint supplies, along with areas for classes and workshops.  I honestly think the ability to create a culture of learning and sharing determines the ultimate success and longevity of a store these days.  After all, one can buy anything online so there has to be some other draw to get people to come to a physical location.

As soon as we walked in we were greeted by the sight of women sitting around a table or in comfy chairs, happily crafting and chatting with one another.  As we perused the yarns, Cindy showed me some of the beautiful choices, including Knit One Crochet Too Sebago which naturally I had to purchase for myself :-)  My daughter also bought some yarn that will eventually become a scarf.  The shop carries an extensive array of needlepoint supplies as well which sort of made me want to take up the craft.The Studio 6 The Studio 5 The Studio 4 The Studio 3 The Studio 2

I always enjoy seeing how other stores are laid out and what yarns they’ve chosen to carry, what they’ve decided is important for their customers and the area they serve.  However, I’m still madly in love with and faithful to The Knitter’s Edge.  I haven’t seen anything that rivals it, and I’m so glad it’s near me.  In fact, I’ll be there on Saturday for a class with my daughter’s knitting group.  Darn!

Happy crafting!

On the Road Again….

Decisions, decisions!  I’m about to head west to visit family for the weekend and I must decide what projects to take with me.  I have learned the hard way that I will never leave home again without some sort of craft to occupy the smallest nooks and crannies of free time.  I cannot stand having idle time and idle hands.  Can you relate?!

Thank you, airlines, for not taking away my constitutional right to carry hooks and needles on the plane.  I’ll have to leave those nail clippers at home because they’re deadly weapons but my crafting tools are just fine :-)  God forbid that I should have to take the chance of packing these goodies in my checked bag and that bag not making it to its destination.  I can do without a change of clothes but the crafty stuff is a necessity.

Here’s where things get a little dicey.  I always have multiple projects running because, quite honestly, I think I have ADD when it comes to knitting and crocheting.  That doesn’t mean I can’t finish a project (although there are plenty of UFO’s in my stash), just that I get bored working on the same thing all of the time.  Besides, a girl should never be confined to one choice.

So, here’s my dilemma.  I’m only going to be away for 3 1/2 days.  Not much time, right?  Au contraire, mon ami!  Much can be accomplished while sitting in the airport, or when the iPad is stowed during takeoff and landing, or while just sitting around visiting with the family.  So this is important, people!

Let’s see…the 100+ flowers I need to crochet for the Making Strides Breast Cancer 5K…Survivor flowers

…the Birthday Cake Cowl with fabulous yarn for moi…What the Flock

…the Chunky Tulip Stitch Infinity Scarf that will find it’s way to Etsy…Tulip Stitch scarf

…or, the Bear Hugs Knit Scarf made with Homespun?Bear Hugs Scarf

Well, because the flowers have to be done in a couple of weeks and I only have about 40 made so far, that’s a no-brainer – it’s going.  As for the second choice (there has to be a second choice because of the aforementioned ADD) I’ll get back to you on that and show you my progress when I return.

Until then…..

Forgotten Treasures

As many of you know, my grandmother was the person who taught me to crochet.  She’s also the reason I’m so obsessed with granny squares.  As I was sorting through some things earlier this summer, I came upon a suitcase my mother gave me when my grandmother died.  It was filled with crochet goodness that I had completely forgotten I had.  Take a look:DSC_2764

 

This delicate crochet thread table cloth is absolutely stunning.  I can’t imagine how long this took to complete!

 

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The pineapple pattern is combined with clusters of tall stitches and constructed in large squares.

 

 

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My grandmother’s engagement picture has found a treasured place in the dining room along with this gorgeous table topper!

 

 

 

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Next I found an afghan, crocheted in acrylic worsted weight yarn.  The single crochet stitches are worked into the back loop only for more visual interest.

 

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The x’s are formed by working double crochet stitches in the row below.

The colors are still so vibrant after all these years.

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I also found this little granny square gem…

 

 

The rest of the items in the suitcase were doilies, either all crocheted in white cotton thread, or fabric circles edged in crochet.  No doubt these pieces will find a place in my home as I continue to redecorate.

I have no idea whether or not my grandmother actually made these pieces herself.  I wish I could remember that little bit of history.  But, regardless, I will have these beautiful mementos of one of the most treasured people in my life.

 

Granny’s Little Baby Blanket

Granny's little baby 2Baby blankets are such a wonderfully thoughtful and welcome gift for an expectant mother.  I simply love making them!  When I found out last year that a family member was pregnant with triplets, I immediately got busy figuring out what kind of blanket I wanted to make because I knew it would take me some time to make 3 blankets.  It didn’t take long to choose my beloved granny square as the basis for “Granny’s Little Baby Blanket”.

Granny's little baby 1Each blanket is 7 rows of 7 squares (49 in all) and each square has 5 rounds.  The final dimensions of the blanket are 33″ by 33″.  I chose Plymouth Yarn’s Dreambaby DK because it has such a soft feel, is incredibly durable, and offers a wide range of color possibilities.  I knew the triplets were going to be boys so I chose 3 color combinations in blue.Color combo 1 correct

 

Royal/Lemon/Blue with flecks

 

 

 

Color combo 2

 

Denim/Mint/Lime

 

 

Color combo 3

 

Teal/Eggcream/Blue-Orange

 

 

 

Border close up

 

The edging is 4 rows of single crochet.

 

 

 

For 4 months, granny squares became my constant companion.  Meetings, car trips, watching TV…you name it, I was crocheting.  All summer long, the piles of granny squares grew and grew.  And, at the end of the summer and into the fall, assembly and edging was completed.

Piles of granny squares

I finally passed the blankets on to the triplets.IMG_1835  Look how cute and cuddly they are!

 

If you’d like to make one of these precious blankets, visit Craftsy, Ravelry, or Etsy.  The pattern is available on all 3 sites as a downloadable pdf.

 

All Tied Up! is Published

My latest pattern – “All Tied Up” Crochet Top Kitchen Towel – has been published!  You can find the pattern as a pdf download at Craftsy and Ravelry.Pattern pic 1This pattern has a wonderful back story.  When I was a young bride, my grandmother would pull out a box of goodies every time I came to visit her.  You see, she lived in Missouri and I had moved to Texas.  The box was filled with items she had collected for me since my last visit.  At the time, I have to admit I didn’t truly appreciate how special that box really was.  Of course, many years later, as a grandmother myself, I get it!

One of the items in that box was a kitchen towel with a crocheted top.  The colors and designs of the towels were my grandmother’s style and she wanted to pass them on to me.  I don’t know whether or not my grandmother actually made them herself but there always seemed to be a plentiful supply.  And, they were gifted to me with the utmost love!

What makes this even more special is that my grandmother was the one who introduced me to crochet when I was teenager.  I was instantly hooked (haha) on the art, so much so that I would take my projects to school.  Anyway, I have taken one of the my grandmother’s towels and used it as a model to create a pattern from it.

What makes this pattern unique is the tie at the top instead of the typical button tab.  Pattern pic 3The crochet topped towel can easily be attached to any knob or handle in the kitchen, making it a more versatile choice than other options.  Making up this towel is a wonderful way to use up scrap yarn in your stash – it only takes about 50 yds of worsted weight.  The towel whips up in no time, making it the perfect handmade gift for any occasion!

I’ll be selling ready made versions of this on Etsy soon, so watch for the announcement.  In the meantime, pick up those hooks, find a beautiful towel, and get crocheting!!!

Pattern pic 2Pattern pic 4

A Special Gift

At the end of every semester I put on my accompanist hat and play piano for my dear friend’s elementary school choral concert.  Her program consists of 3rd and 4th grade choruses, recorder, and Orff ensembles.  This year’s spring concert was a play about a talented quiltmaker who gives her quilts only to those who truly need them.  The music provided by the ensembles was interspersed within the play and was performed beautifully.May 20 2014

My friend and I share many passions, among them our careers in music, our love of wine, and our passion for knitting and crochet.  Every September we travel with our husbands to the Finger Lake region to spend a weekend wine-tasting, eating great food, and playing a favorite rummy game called “Hand and Foot”.  She and I carve out a day each summer to enjoy lunch at the New Leaf Restaurant in Fort Tryon Park, visit a yarn shop somewhere in the NYC area, and visit Zachy’s in Scarsdale for a wine run.  I’m sure, if we had the time, we would figure out more ways to do the things we love!

I expect nothing in return for playing for these concerts.  Usually, though, I receive a bottle of wine or a gift certificate to The Knitter’s Edge, more than sufficient thanks.  However, this time my friend gave me a thank you gift that made my jaw drop.  Everything was included in a red metal tub, great for turning into a planter at some later date, wrapped in clear cellophane, and tied with a red “Mrs. Field’s” ribbon.  The individual items were layered in the tub in a way that meant I could only reveal one gift at a time.  Included in the tub was a thank you note,

a t-shirt from the production, Quiltmaker t-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

Wine

 

 

a bottle of red wine (chosen especially for me by my friend’s husband),

 

 

 

and a gift certificate to The Knitter’s Edge.

The absolute best part, though, was a skein of Katia’s Bombay mercerized cotton yarn, and a pattern called “Birthday Cake Cowl“, downloadable from Ravelry.Kattia cowl 2

The colors couldn’t be more perfect, a testament to how well my friend knows me!  Even with all the projects I currently have on my needles and hooks, I couldn’t resist starting it last night.  It’s knitting up so quickly, I’ll have it done soon, and will be able to take it along on summer business trips.

What a fabulously unexpected gift!  Thanks, Marie!!!