Tag Archives: Fearless Leader

Holiday Crochet: A few tips on gifting.

I’ll get back to my regular schedule programming of putting up cool crochet ideas for the holiday mad crafting season, but I thought I should take a moment and give some gifting advice.

So often in forums and in email groups I hear the sad tale of hard working crocheters who lovingly make gifts for family and friends only to have them unappreciated by the recipients. I have to say I have not had that experience, my family actually has no problem over loading me with requests, and I’ve had to get very serious about stating what I can have done by when etc…such as, “Yes, you will all get blankets, however not all of them will be done right away. Throughout the year and into 2011 I will be making these. I love you all, the order they are made are not in order of preference.”

But, I hear the lonely voice out there saying, “I wish my family did that…”

Well here’s the deal folks, in any gift giving whether it is handmade or store bought a few simple rules apply:

 Know your audience. ~ What are their interests? Do they like the out of doors, are they computer geeks? Are they forever attached to a cell phone or hand held gaming device? Do they have allergies? What is their lifestyle like? Are they super busy? Can they afford dry cleaning? Would they bother to wash something by hand and air dry it? Do they have babies? What are their ideas about resource use? Do they want natural fibers? Do they care?

And here’s a big one: What is their favorite color?

I’ll give you a totally non crafting related example: My cousin hates, and I mean, HATES orange. Her mother in law of almost 20 years consistently buys her house hold decor and plates etc in what color? Orange.

Ok, do it once, it’s cause you didn’t know. Do it again and again after being informed that someone doesn’t care for that color (my cousin has not informed her mother in law in a rude way, but she has let her know…) and sheesh it seems like you the giver, doesn’t really care.

When I make items I spend almost as much time thinking about the person and what they like/dislike, what they enjoy doing, their life style, interests, and what or how the item might be used as I do making the thing!

Which is why my handcrafted gifts are most welcome, and why my lovely nieces and nephews  give me their gift  requests. They know I hear what they want, and do my best to make it happen. Effort is appreciated, and it doesn’t take much effort to ask: What’s your favorite color.

If they don’t like it after all of that? Well screw ’em, they are just ungrateful (EVIL GRIN).

Experts make it look easy…

Regardless of the craft, event, activity, an expert is going to make something look easy. I remember watching cooking shows on PBS when I was a kid, and then “trying it at home.” I was always so frustrated when I couldn’t make those fancy icing flowers like they showed me on T.V.! In fact, I thought I wasn’t any good at making icing flowers. What I had not considered was the fact that a) it was the first time I was attempting the feat  and b) the person on the T.V. made them all the time, mostly likely on a daily basis.

So it goes with crochet. Because I learned so long ago, I have forgotten how alien yarn and hook once felt in my own hands. I do remember learning to hand spin yarn however, and that helps me to slow down, and recognise that where hook and yarn are mere extensions of my appendages, for other people that may not be the case.

It’s really hard on people who are around me all the time, watching my fingers fly and my projects get made and given away or sold. I make it look easy. Throwing bullions, making lace, whiping out flower after flower in minutes, amusing little girls like Gandalf did the hobbits with fireworks. Sure, I’m a showboat, I love making flowers to dazzle the kids, or ripply snakes for those who don’t want flowers.

So when someone who knows me, decides to pick up the hook I over see a cloud of frustration cross over their brow. Sure they learned to chain as a kid, and the basic stitches, but why oh why aren’t they zooming along. I mean, it’s JUST crochet right? It’s no more technical that cooking right? Oh wait, it’s a skill.

Part of me gets a kick out of their frustration and confusion, not in a mean way; but it does make me feel better to know that they now understand that what I do IS a skill. I practice it all the time, I still make mistakes, but I’ve learned to fix them. I still bite off more than I can chew, but I’ve learned to finish the project, I still don’t weave in my ends on my own hats, but I do on others 😉 ! But, it’s not so easy that you can just grab a hook and run with it, with out a few bumps a long the way.

Invariably, I work with people quietly and slowly. Watching what they are doing, guiding them, and empowering them. Learning what is the cause of certain problems: “Oh that’s not you, it’s the yarn, it likes to do this and thus and so…” or “There are lots of ways to hold your tension. Here are two I do, but I’ve seen other people do it this way or that way. Be comfortable.” and always, “If you are getting the results you wanted, then you did it correctly!”

As the holidays approach like a derailed train, take it easy on yourself if you are a beginner/ocassional crocheter. Don’t worry if you can only get a hat or two done. After a few years of practice you too, can be your own mini crochet sweatshop.  And, yes, those of us who do it all the time, we do make it look easier than it is, but unlike many reality tv show stunts, I urge you to: TRY THIS AT HOME!

CLF News..updates: The Book, The Retreat, etc


Well, my head is no longer spinning, but it will be a long time before things feel 100% ok again. As the reality of my father in law’s death sinks in, the more I really miss him. I think I fell in love with my husban deeper after meeting his dad! Joe and I could play name that tune together, and argue international politics for fun, and he had this great ability to make you want to do more, and be more. He thought our First Ever Book was a great concept, and was really proud of my figuring out how to do it on a shoestring!

He chuckled mightily at the thought of our adult book, his eyebrows raised, and asking, “Not too racy though right?” LOL..I teased him not answering, but he knew me well enough to know that it wouldn’t be raunchy!

Speaking of books…Needless to say, I’m a little behind schedule on getting things uploaded. That’s on my agenda this week. I have another website to work on too, and I’m behind in that AND I have work to do on the CLF Website. BTW  pdf is selling well of the CLF First Ever Book! Thanks to all of you who have purchased it from our own website!

The Retreat: Almost finalized the details. I have one more meeting with the people at the park and then I’ll get that portion of the website up. I think you’ll all be terribly happy with the prices etc…It’s going to be very informal, but chock a block full of crochet fun and crochet goodness.

Before the New Year the Retreat information will be available! BTW any business (especially yarn companies) that want to sponsor the retreat in the way of donations will get little web ads on the CLF website! And definately full acknowledgement at the retreat! I’ll be contacting many of you because we want to do a yarn tasting 🙂

So just getting back into things. Thank you all for your patience!

Christmas time crochet and the list goes on…

So, I decided this year I was going to crochet presents. I crochet fast. In fact, I crochet very fast. I really could be my own one woman sweatshop. Heck if I get really desperate I can pay my daughter poorly so she can join in on the sweatshop action (tongue in cheek!)…

So, life got hectic in October. Beyond, my normal work, I added extra, and then of course my father in law passed away so very quickly that we’ve spent the last week just trying to wrap our heads around the situation. Oh my he is very missed.

We know our holidays are going to lack a little luster this year, and probably for the next few to come. So, today when we got together with my husband’s siblings and their families, I asked, “Who’s up for afghans?”

I have teenage nieces, and a 10 year old nephew, they were the first to raise their hands! I mean I know they like it when I make them things, but wowsies! How cool was that?! I told them all they will be lapghans, and I’ll make them in favorite colors, and that it is unlikely that they will be all done by Christmas. But I can give them hats and scarves first in a stitch pattern that I’m doing their comfort-ghans in.

I told thim it’s an Aunty Laurie hug. Just because right now we all need a lot more hugs and we live far away from each other. No immediate hugging gets to happen.

I love being able to do this. I’m half way through the squares for my mother in law’s comfort-ghan. She gets the first one, because as much as we all lost a very important person in our lives. Her loss is the hardest, she lost the love of her life. I can’t do a lot about that, but I can crochet some love.

So my crochet list gets longer just as the holidays hit, but that’s ok 😉 Even if a few are late, that just gives me an excuse to visit later with crocheted hugs to hand out.

I’ll post photos of the squares when I get a chance to scan them. I’m using Bonnie Pierce’s 24 Blocks on a Roll. Beautiful squares with bullion stitches! You can check out Bonnie’s fantastic work on her website!

When the crochet won’t work…

   Normally I crochet under stress, in fact it’s my preferred coping mechanism. This weekend I made sure I brought my crochet with me to get through the devastating moments and hours and days of watching my husband and his family suffer through the aggressive onset of cancer that claimed my father-in-law this  Monday morning.

  Normally, I can just sit and let my hands work. I couldn’t. Normally, I would make something to ease the pain and stress. I couldn’t.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been unable to crochet due to physical and emotional exhaustion.

Not that I didn’t try, mind you. Sure, I pulled out a hook, some yarn, any old yarn and made a ring, and started some lace (my stress go to stitching habit), but my hands wouldn’t work. It was like they were too sad to function. Even the hook acted strangely in my hands, like it was a stranger not a well worn, used friend.

I carried my yarn bag with me everywhere I went, kind of like Linus and his blankie. Watching my husband and his family love and tend to their father, watching my mother in law try to cope with such devastating and horrific circumstances. I just couldn’t do it. I think beyond being unable to help them, or offer them more than a hug, or a back rub, or a listening ear, even a cup of tea, but nothing really helps; what made me feel most helpless in those moments was being bereft of my crochet. It was the signal that something awful was happening when my brain just didn’t want to go there.

Watching the man who accepted me and my children from the day I met him, go from being one of the most vital, active, intelligent and gifted human beings I’ve had the pleasure to know, to a helpless man given hours when we thought we had years, was heart wrenching. The man who once told me how glad he was that his son finally had someone to love him, and be with him; that he had been worried his bachelor son would have no one to care for him when he was without his father. He said that to me ten years ago, I never forgot it. After all, isn’t it what every daughter in law craves? Needs? To hear that her husband’s family is so glad to have her?  On my part, I was able to tell him throughout the decade I have known him, how much I loved and cared for him as my father in law. No regrets on that one.

To have the wind taken out of your crochet sails, really does signify something. I’m still musing on what it means. Emotional and physical exhaustion for certain come into play. Worry, anxiety and fear certainly don’t help the creative process.

But then we were watching a very creative life end and mercifully it happened with enough time for most of his nearest and dearest to attend him. Even more mercifully he passed on in peace.  Perhaps that’s the reason it couldn’t and wouldn’t happen. When creativity ends, we need to pause, to think, to feel, to be present in that moment, or moments.

The crochet will come back. I have comfort-ghans to make. That I can do, but maybe not for a day or two.

Spookilicious Spider Hat!

Originally uploaded by angelacatirina

As promised! I’ll posting some of my favorite Halloweeny projects from Ravelry.com. This morning’s offering comes courtesy of AngelaCatrina! The Along Came a Spider Hat is totally Spookilicious!

What an amazing and fun idea! Too much fun!

You know me, I’m a sucker for a funkydoodle hat!

I was going to post the links to the pattern because they were once available. Sadly this designer no longer has her patterns for sale,and she has wonderful projects in her project page.

If she ever does go back up online, I want to know because I will link her greatly creative and funkified patterns here on the blog!

Speaking of Halloween… It is 4am I am not in bed yet, because why? I was digging through my “office/room” looking for the hat that goes with my Pirate Outfit. I turned the entire place upside down, and yes, there is mucho mucho yarn and fiber to contend with…I HAD to find it, because the outfit so doesn’t work without the hat!

In fact, this hat is beyond special to me, because when I wore in pubic the first time for the CGOA regional in Portland Oregon (Fall ’08), Doris Chan loved my hat! Yes, DORIS CHAN loved my hat!
I was most pleased that she noticed the fact that the outfit comes together through the hat.

When I designed the outfit, I found that it was lacking something when I put it on. Sure it was cool and the epaulets are a neat touch, but it swamped me small frame. So I made a glorious Chapeau a la Pirate and voila, the whole thing really does becomes one great piece. Panic happened when I could not find me piratey hat…the good news? I had it safely put away where it couldn’t get hurt…Which of course is why I could not find it 😉 Since when do I put stuff away right?

Now for my hook collection, where is that L hook?  …

When it rains it pours… (Or crochet feast or famine)

So, I went to my local yarn story today to pick up the very wool which will become my warm socks that I so desperately need. The owner Sirrku is a knitter par excellence, and a brilliant crocheter besides, sher’s IS one of the most CROCHET friendly yarn stores, and I am blessed to have her just a hop skip and jump from my house. She recently moved her premises into a lovely new space with gorgeous hardwood floors, and PLENTY of room to display her yummy wares.

You can get good old fashioned kitchen cotton in a fabo range of colors, good workhorse acrylics and wools, and then delightfully fine and fuzzilicious baby alpaca, scrumptious Merino, and to DYE for silk/mohair lace weight yarns. I love her store. And she carries both crochet hooks and knitting needles in equal measure. I love her shop. It’s called PinchKnitter’s and is in Stanwood, WA. What? I am recommending a store with a knitcentric name? Yeah I am, because it’s named after Sirrku (the owner) she has been “pinch knitting” for folks for years before she opened the shop, and I like the play on words…And she’s the only game in our small town AND makes no bones about welcoming you regardless of your craft of choice!

So, what does this have to do with when it rains it pours? Well, we have talked around my teaching classes there for about a year or so, with nothing much happening about it. Mostly due to my schedule being wackadoodle and her changing shopfront’s twice (each time to bigger and better!…I’m so proud of her!)…So starting next February I will be teaching several beginning classes, and one lace class (which I think an advanced beginner would have a easy enough time for it.)!

“Laurie ” She says to me, “I am getting oodles of requests for crochet classes, so write your blurbs and email me! We’ll shoot for February!”

So if you want to learn how to make Irish Crocheted Roses, or want to expand your personal stitch dictionary I’ll be teaching a basics  “Make decorative washcloths” expanding stitch vocabulary class through out the Fridays in February, I’ll just do the one Crocheted Roses classes, which can be done in lace thread or in large yarn (doesn’t matter, shapes all work the same 🙂 ) and we’ll see how it goes !

If you go in before that time, look for the CLF postcards on her counter! Ooodles of fun they are!

So more crocheting is feasting on my table. OH and I’m almost done with that hammock, one more 400 yd skein of yarn and we should be big enough to hold most of the collection. At this rate I think my niece might fit into it as well! LOL