Stitches Midwest - Worth It Every Time!

I first heard of Stitches Midwest in 2013. I had recently opened my Etsy shop and just been accepted to appear in the upcoming One Of A Kind Show in Chicago. I knew it was time to step it up a notch and fill in some holes in my self taught crochet knowledge so I searched for area events and voila... my discovery of Stitches Midwest. As luck would have it, Drew Emborsky (The Crochet Dude), who was a big inspiration of mine and a name I recognized, was teaching a class, so I knew it was serendipitous. I enrolled right away and was grateful for a local find!

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

While it seemed to be more a knitting event, I had a blast and the class I enrolled in was simply fabulous. There were several A-Ha! moments and "oh man that's HOW you do that" light bulbs going off in class with Drew. I learned so much and could not have been happier and, in fact, we are friends to this very day! I also shopped until I dropped (for real) in the market and discovered all sorts of tools, fibers and delights. I learned Tunisian Crochet and discovered the Big Alpaca Bump from Becca Smith. That was also the year I met indie dyer Katie of Dragonfly Fibers, who I have worked with ever since.  A total success!


In 2014 I returned with Katie to grab my enormous haul of incredible hand dyed delights she made for me. For real... it was So. Much. Yarn. I wandered a bit and got to discover Karen and her company Fringe Supply Co with her lovely rosewood hooks and notions for fiber folk. That was also the year I met Stephen West and Steven Be,  which launched our fiber affair. (more on that later). So all in all... another success!

I had to skip 2015 due to being on location for a shoot so was super excited to return in 2016, even though the event itself somehow seemed a bit smaller. My fiber business was taking off and thriving, I had just launched this blog and was dialing in to go full time and full steam fiber dream chasing so I had a feeling it would be special. It was more special than I could have imagined.

Due to my schedule, I wasn't able to take any classes but was able to see some amazing humans and tear it up in the market. I got to spend some time with The ShibaGuyz Shannon & Jason Mullet-Bowlsby in person. We had basically become social media besties at that point so being in the same room was just too fun. And of course, Jason & I landed in a deep discussion about photo apps. I mean, no one was surprised by this.

And HUGE Bonus, Shannon introduced me to Theresa & Ron of The Buffalo Wool Co.. Not only are they two of the nicest human beings I have ever met, they have an incredible story and fiber. You know I didn't leave empty handed. Please check them out - you will NOT regret it. 

Then I made a mad dash over to Steven Be's booth for what can only be described as fiber fabulosity and the birth of our fibar antics and mayhem! At this point, I had to resort to using my auxiliary shopping bag because the yummy fiber finds were just to good to leave. I needed to get All. The. Yarn. It was my introduction to Freia Fibers and I have never looked back. And of course there's always time for fun fiber antics with Steven.

I hopped over to Yarn Culture New York where I met Patti and discovered her amazing fibers, including Crave Yarn. I was immediately in love with the colors and textures of Crave Yarn, appropriately named by the way because I was craving it on sight and it was SO SOFT! I also had to grab some of her Rosy Green Wool Cheeky Merino because it was very interesting and a bit heavier than most DK weight fibers and the colors are so vibrant. Total score!

A quick haul to the car to unload the day's finds and then a yarn break to recharge. It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car. Convention entrance seemed to be a good place to park for a minute.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

Fully recharged I was super excited to stop by and see what the gals at Dragonfly Fibers had for me this year. I also finally got to meet Nancye, the other half of the magnificent dyeing duo!

And I was not disappointed. Normally I am drawn to their bulky Super Traveller but the new gradient kits had me swooning over worsted & dk weight like never before. Their colors are always so vibrant and fun.

 

Before heading out, I wanted to stop by the Halos of Hope to thank them for all they do. I have been partnered with Halos of Hope since 2014 to make and send chemo caps to cancer centers nationwide. You can read the full story here. 

Even though I had partnered with Halos for years, I had never met Pam in person. It was such a treat to see her there. She is spunky and fun and fabulous and genuine and exactly all the things you can imagine of such a kind person.  I was blown away by this beautiful woman and sharing a few minutes with her.  We bounced around Stitches Midwest booths and laughed and it was so much fun to connect. The absolute highlight of my day and a perfect way to cap off Stitches Midwest 2016.


When the Early Bird registration email for Stitches Midwest 2017 arrived I was ON IT! I was particularly excited when I realized Shannon & Jason (The Shibaguyz) would be back teaching the classes I missed last year. SCORE! And they added Jason's photography class. Um... HELLO please take my money and sign me up!

Now... before I get into the market madness and all my fabulous finds (and trust me, this may have been the BEST YEAR YET), let me do a little classes review first. Short review: THEY WERE SO GOOD. I learned so much. Longer review...

The Alter to Fit class was great to fill in some gaps in my self taught design knowledge. I also learned so much from hands on measuring and what I call Designer Math. If you ever want to get a pattern but Alter it to Fit, this is the class to take. If it comes to a town near you sign up, you can also get started online here.

Fab Crochet Fabrics was so good, though it did fly by. The class was small enough that Shannon & Jason taught a bit more conversationally than by following a strict layout. I feel like we could have gone on all day. It was such a joy to discuss and learn about texture, drape and how to determine the right yarn and stitch for your project. What a great thing to be in a room full of creative people on the same page as you. I just didn't want the class to end. THESE WERE MY PEOPLE!

The photo class was great but definitely too short. What was super cool is that it was interactive. Learning stances. Learning about lighting. Not from seats but from being up with our cameras or phones and doing it. It was great to have a photography class that focused on FIBER. What we are trying to show and feature in our work. So many great tips tricks and hacks too that I am blown away.  OK... so that is the classes.

 

Now on to the market... and Oh - Emmmm- Geeeeeeeee. If you follow me on Instagram you saw the awesomeness as it happened!

One of the best parts of Stitches Midwest is seeing fiber friends who are too far to see often. One of my faves is Steven Be. At first when I didn't think I would make this year's event missing out on a shopping day with Steven be was the worst part. But then when I was able to attend, well it was of course a highlight. His whole team, Missy, Pippin, Erin and the King Bee himself, are all so much fun to play yarn with.

And they curate some of the most FANTASTIC fibers that make me swoon. Colors and texture... it is a sensory overload upon arrival in the best way.  I may have stopped by a few times over the course of the event, going back for more each time. I even got a new Blue Sky Kit for the most incredible cocoon I cannot wait to make.

Speaking of seeing fiber friends, of course I stopped by Dragonfly Fibers a few times and may have left with 2 large bags of yarn. Thank you Nancye!

 

I made my way over to Yarn Culture New York to visit with Patti and see all her new fibers. Oh my goodness, her offerings are always so classic and modern all at once. It is that perfect balance. The new "joy" weight of Rosy Green Wool Cheeky merino is so fabulous and is indeed full of joy. Of course I had to grab some in shades of blue and cannot wait to design something fabulous... for the Fellas! We had time to chat a bit and cook up a few new ideas together so stay tuned... because some fun things from us are coming soon.

The other great thing about Stitches Midwest is discovering all of the amazing new Fiber Friends. I found an incredible hand carved size S Crochet Hook when I met Sandy & Dennis from S & S Camelid Co. They have an Alpaca Farm and sell the big Bump's of yarn! Rugs will be made!!!

making important yarn decisions with Dami of Magpie Fibers

I also met Dami from Magpie Fibers. Dami gets me. I had breezed by Magpie on my first trip as I must have been in a daze and missed her offerings. Thankfully she tagged #StitchesMidwest in an Instagram post and it caught my eye as I searched the hashtag. So I made a point to head to her booth.

After staring at her fibers for what must have been an eternity, she came over. Clearly I needed assistance lol. You know how it goes... you see a fiber you REALLY want to work with but you don't have a plan yet? Lord knows I don't need to grow my yarn stash. So the staring game begins. Between me and the yarn. It tells me to take it home and I tell it I must first devise a plan. Dami could see I was clearly in over my head staring down her incredible offerings so I am glad she came over to introduce herself and help.

I think what made me an instant fan of hers was that before she asked me if I needed assistance she offered to join me in the stare down. THIS IS SOMEONE WHO GETS IT! So we stared. Then we chatted. Then she helped me come up with a plan and I cannot wait to show you what I make.

Truth be known, there was no way I was going home without some of her fibers. But at least I can feel better about it now with a plan. :-)

So many incredible finds. Over the next few months I will be showing you some close ups and launching special collaborations and projects that showcase some makers and finds from the Stitches Midwest market. We have some really special stuff planned for you guys and you know that means a few AWESOMESAUCE giveaways too.

Click the photos below to get to the vendor site of some of my fave finds. 

If you have ever considered attending an event like Stitches, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Being around YOUR people. Supporting small businesses. Learning and meeting fabulous humans.  It's been 5 years since my first Stitches Midwest. Some years I took a class and some I didn't. Every year was different. Some vendors the same and some new ones to discover. Always awesome. Always worth it.

And of course... when you go... make some time for antics and a hat lesson with Steven. Enjoy.

Mama Knows Redux: Tips & Tricks Working With Big Stitch Merino

Since sharing my first project with Mama Knows Luxury, I have been asked about how the fiber works up. I am no expert on Merino Top (the official name for Big Stitch Merino) but have been working with this stuff for weeks now so can only speak from that experience. And my experience has been AWESOMESAUCE. I mean I have beat the heck out of it. I knit it. I crochet it. I frog it. I do it again. I have no complaints.

I am finishing a hat design, did a scarf and just published a free basket pattern after doing the barstool/placemats ... oh and I am kicking around a blanket idea. For real you guys. I JUST LOVE IT and am having so much FUN. You know I will always give you the straight talk about fibers. This is fab! It is big chunky merino and I was having a blast and it is super fun and holds up so far.

Sarah has a blog post that she wrote that dispels and explains many of the myths about working with Big Stitch Merino. And as I continued with exploring and playing with my Mama Knows Luxury stash, I also found a few tricks of my own. And now I will share those tricks with you :-)

Trick one: Do NOT pull it. No yanking, no tugging and certainly NO PULLING. When I frog the wool, I just do it a little gently. Then it stays pretty in tact with no fraying or separating. Also - when I frog it, it is better to leave it laying out yarn ramen style instead of making it back into a ball. This just keeps the fiber from one extra set of tugging.

 

some rare occasional extra fluff

some rare occasional extra fluff


Trick two: Do not pull at it (in case you missed it the firs time). Yes, there is some shedding and I had two snag issues while working up the fiber. To me that is minor and nothing to fret about. Certainly not as many as you might expect based on the nature of the fiber. You may see a little morsel shed off here and there or even a little chunk of the fiber as you work up. LEAVE IT ALONE. Do not pull at it or pick it. Because then it will fray and cause deterioration of the fiber. What I did was just tuck it in. Easy peasy.

Trick three: Get the Felt Kit from Mama Knows. For real. This will be your new best friend. And, to be honest, I use it for my bulky merino too such as scarves and sweaters. I use this kit not just when it comes to the ends, but if a little tiny bit starts to fray off (which only happened once to me) then i just felted it back into place. Boom! GET THIS KIT.

Trick four: This is the mack daddy of all my tips. You ready? Hand felt the merino as you work it up. WHAT? That sounds so tedious and hard! Michele you must be crazy. Did you just say that? HA! It is so easy. Watch this little video and you will see it is so easy and so helpful. It secures the fibers. It toughens it up. It makes it your friend. It is a few extra minutes of work that will make your project come together with so much ease it is worth it.

Well, now that we've got a handle on how to handle this yummy Big Stitch Merino... how about another project? Sticking with my "More Than Just Big Blankets" theme, I came up with another fun home decor item. Super easy to make and great if you want to get your feet wet with Merino Top wool. I bring you: The basket. Again, I opted for hand crochet but you can certainly use the Big Stitch Hook. Get the free pattern here and get the fiber from Mama Knows Luxury.

So go get some big chunky fiber and explore... don't worry about those myths. Have some big ol' big merino fun!

Got Gauge?

I get lots of questions about pattern writing and gauge. I touched on gauge briefly in my How To Write A Crochet Pattern post, but thought it would be a good idea to dive into gauge a bit more. And yep I get it - gauge can be very overwhelming and kind of annoying. But because nobody crochets with the exact same tension and yarn substitions vary, well... Gauge matters. That is really the bottom line.

I've invited my friend Amy to take the reigns and drop some knowledge. She's not just my friend and a badass tech editor, she's also a super knowledgeable yarnie who spends her days as Creative Director for Universal Yarn.  Amy take it away....


Gauge (It’s not a dirty word, I swear!)

If there is one word in crochet and knit terminology that drives stitchers crazy, I think it’s gauge. The word, the concept, the idea: gauge. But it doesn’t have to be so ominous, really!

Briefly, gauge refers to how many stitches you have in your crochet or knit piece of fabric over a given width. Most patterns list gauge over 4 inches or 10 centimeters. To determine your gauge, stitch up a piece of fabric (usually in the stitch pattern called for in your pattern) that is more than 4 inches wide and tall, and measure!

You can find handy-dandy square measuring devices like the one shown here, or you can use a simple ruler or measuring tape. Count the number of stitches in a 4 inch width. In crochet or a bulky weight yarn with knits, this may be half stitches. For example, you may have 9.5 stitches = 4”.

Whatever. Then count the number of rows high over 4 inches – this is your row gauge.


There are a few reasons why gauge is important. First and foremost, by achieving the same gauge listed in the pattern, you can be assured that your item will be the same size as the one pictured. For example: say you see a gorgeous scarf and want to make it and get the pattern. The gauge in the pattern is listed as being 20 sc x 24 rows = 4” / 10 cm using a sport weight (#2 yarn) using a 3.5 mm hook. This breaks down to 5 sc = 1”/2.5 cm (20 sc divided by 4). And say your stitch count is 40 stitches, and the finished width is 8”. This makes sense, because at a gauge of 5 sc = 1”, 40 stitches divided by 5 = 8”. So before you even begin, you have knowledge of what you need to do to achieve the look you want.

A good place to start is always with the same hook size and weight of yarn recommended in the pattern. If the stitch count of the pattern is not too large, personally, I just dive right in and start the project. Work several inches into the project, measure, and assess.

If I was making the scarf I described above, and it measured 8” wide and I was happy with the resulting fabric, I would happily continue with my project. If my theoritical scarf was wider than 8” and I was using the correct weight of yarn, I would adjust hook size and choose a smaller hook in order to get smaller stitches. If my scarf was narrower than 8”, I would go up in size.

Everyone has unique tension on their yarn. And this is something you can learn about yourself and remember as you’re starting a project. Always keep in mind that the hook or needle size recommended in the pattern may not be the size that is right for you to get the listed gauge. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong! It means that you tension your yarn differently than the person who designed and made the sample in the pattern.

Yarn Ramen happens when you don't check gauge and go to far and have to start over. Avoid Yarn Ramen. Check your Gauge.

Yarn Ramen happens when you don't check gauge and go to far and have to start over. Avoid Yarn Ramen. Check your Gauge.

When it comes to projects like scarves and shawls and things where a specific size is not that important, gauge is not overly important (don't tell Michele I said that). Though it can be helpful to keep an eye on it because if your stitches are much different than what is listed in a pattern, you may require more or less yarn, and the size of your object will be different than what is listed in the pattern. It may also affect the drape of the project and how the stitch pattern looks and behaves.

Garments are another story. If you are making an item that is going to fit your body, it is absolutely essential to get gauge. Before starting a project in a new yarn with a new pattern, make a swatch, and if at all possible, make sure it’s in whatever stitch pattern is listed in the gauge section of your pattern. Make approximately a 6” x 6” swatch in the stitch pattern and measure out 4” in both stitches (width) and rows (length). If your gauge doesn’t match the pattern, pick a new hook and start again.

I know knitters and crocheters who dread making gauge swatches, and I know those who sincerely enjoy it. I happen to fall somewhere in between. I know it is a necessary step in the process, and I treat it with importance. Though I will not claim to always have fun doing it! But when swatching, it gives you an opportunity to learn about a stitch pattern and the way it behaves with your hook size and yarn before committing to a large project. It’s sort of a “get to know you” with your tools before diving into a long-term relationship. Spending a relatively short period of time doing this can potentially save time, heartache, and precious wasted yarn and sanity in the end. It is the best route to wearing your well fitting garment!

HAPPINESS! Got Gauge and a GREAT FIT!

HAPPINESS! Got Gauge and a GREAT FIT!

 

About Amy:  Amy Gunderson is creative director at Universal Yarn by day. By night, she is a freelance designer, tech editor, and graphic artist specializing in crochet charts and other knit & crochet related graphics. See Amy's Ravelry profile page here.

 

Mama Knows And That Ain't No Lie!

Ok... I have to force myself not to use all caps for this entire post because I am so excited I want to yell and jump and dance and make sure everyone knows it. I MEAN THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! for real... I have had the time of my life collaborating with Sarah and Mama Knows Luxury. She knows fun too by the way!

I had seen all of these big chunky merino projects over the last year. Blankets and knits and hand knitting and arm knitting. It was all exciting and curious and totally overwhelming. I wanted to try but those big projects didn't seem to call me by name. I had a feeling I would start with a bang then see them over in that endless pile of all my other "in progress" projects. I wanted to do something different to try this stuff out. This stuff I talk about is big bulky huge balls of merino wool. I reached out to Sarah with my crazy idea for bright colors and home decor with a twist. I am so glad she was on board for this because I have had SO MUCH FUN!

Ok... let me sidebar a minute:

If you read my post about Brand Partnerships, then you know how important partnering with the RIGHT brands is for success. Partnering with Mama Knows Luxury was more than Right, it was perfect.  Originally, we had agreed to have this collaboration post for Easter. I had a big fun Easter spread planned. And then my sweet Sadie got sick. So we moved the project to be for Mother's Day. Then my Sadie suddenly died. And my world fell apart. I didn't want to create. I wasn't feeling inspired. I hardly wanted to make anything. I tried. I took out the project bag so many times trying to force myself to feel creative but all I felt was sad missing my Sadie.

A big Box Of Fun waiting for me

I emailed Sarah feeling terrible. I had never missed these deadlines or not delivered on a collaboration. I was so excited she wanted to work with me I was worried I would ruin the relationship missing all these deadlines. But then Sarah emailed me back. She said "Take your time and get yourself right". She got it. My head space wasn't there. And because I partnered with the RIGHT brand and the RIGHT small business owner in Sarah, the stress was lifted in an instant. I had the freedom to take the time I needed without added stress.

Then it happened. Time passed and I found myself reaching for these big fluffy chunky merino balls. In fact, they helped bring me back. Like magic balls of yarn. So thank you Sarah for being who you are and to all of YOU reading this.. partner with the RIGHT Brands because it makes all the difference.

OK... now back to this AMAZING project.

At first I just wanted to squeeze all of the yarn. I admit, once I got going there was some play time before getting down to business and it was awesome. I knit it. I crocheted it. My husband threw the big yarn gum balls (as he called them) at me. It was just FUN.

My initial idea was inspired by my favorite placemats but that didn't quite work out. Making them square was sort of boxy and didn't have the look or feel I had envisioned. But the yarn was so fun to play with that it was not long before I had a new plan. I switched to round placemats and then it hit me... barstool pads AND placemats. GENIUS!

Then...I decided... hand crochet. I WANT TO HAND CROCHET. 

Ok if you have never tried hand crochet then let me tell you: IT IS SO MUCH FUN!!!!! This is the perfect project for it because you can make each Barstool Pad with a single ball. Which, by hand crochet, I kid you not... 15 minutes. 30 if you are having fun and undo it only to remake it again! Think about it... a brilliant fun handmade home accent you can MAKE in 15 minutes. YES!

I decided to make my first set LSU Colors... because... GAUX TIGERS! They are great for mini playroom stools and big barstools too. You can make them in any team colors for your game day accents.

As I was making these magnificent fun barstool pads I had a brilliant idea. My FAVORITE coffee house is a super chill place in Peoria called Zion Coffee Bar (more on them later but if you follow me on social media you know it is my joint). so I asked them if they would let me come in and add a pop of color and BAM!!!!  How amazing is this?


Now for Phase II: The tables. My friend has the perfect North Carolina home with such beautiful decor. But what she is missing is a pop of color. So I sent her a set of these beauties and will you look how much fun they bring to your summer tables!

Big_Stitch_Extreme_Crochet.jpg

This whole experience, even with the challenge I faced personally losing my Sadie, was incredibly perfect. Sarah is the real deal. A woman with a passion for people who make things. It is what this blog is about . She made the project beyond my dreams awesome. I Love how the pads came out. I loved learning hand crochet. I loved playing with this big chunky merino. I love the whole shebang. If you have been wanting to try big merino but afraid of the big projects, this kit is for you.  A perfect start and introduction to Big Stitch Merino.

And standby... because there is more to come from me and Mama Knows Luxury.

Write That Pattern! How To Write A Crochet Pattern

I was recently asked by Vincent of Knot Bad to help him learn to write patterns for his wearable items. That request for help was followed by a long series of texts over the next several days with lessons covering everything from how to determine gauge and yarn requirements to general verbiage and then... like magic he published his first wearable pattern. YAY! Success!

I was also helping two other friends begin writing patterns this week and since I know so many ask about writing patterns and bringing ideas to life, I thought why not share my process with everyone and make it a blog post. Now I am sitting here typing and thinking, I wish I had saved my texts with Vincent so I could paste them here for ease. LOL. No worries... we can dive in. Let me start by saying: YOU CAN DO THIS.

To begin, I always go back to something Drew Emborsky (AKA The Crochet Dude) told me when I was first starting to write my own patterns and overwhelmed and clueless: Start simple. Make it a tutorial and just tell people what to do. It is so simple it is almost mind blowing. Write down what you do. Revolutionary right? But that's all a pattern really is: instructions to tell someone else how to achieve the same result you did. A roadmap.

My first patterns were more like tutorials and not at all technical. But they got the job done: to tell people how to make what I made. As my designs grew in difficulty, my pattern writing skills were becoming more developed as well. So while tutorials saying do this, then do this are great and can often do the trick, for garments with sizing and items with design variations I would need to go beyond that with solid pattern writing.

It all starts with an idea and some yarn...

For me, my process always starts with an idea. I have in my mind a look to achieve. As I work to achieve that look I take detailed notes. I have learned over the years that I should use pencil. There is a lot of erasing in my process. I also have a single design book that is in my studio but also carry mini design books in my bag for ideas that hit on the go. I prefer the grid pages of Doane Paper for my travel books and have a journal notebook for my main designs.

My note process is twofold: I write down what I do in words, but I also draw the stitchwork. This is known as Charting. I know it is intimidating to many, but the truth is that charting is a HUGE time saver. I can literally see the chart in my mind when I imagine what I want to create. I can visualize the stitches and it helps me create the exact look I am going for. It is also great for when I am in the groove and don't want to write all the words. I can just chart and come back later to fill in the complete steps.

Once I have got my notes and finished garment it is time to write up that pattern. Woo Hoo! Now starts the real work and is much less fun. Though, I have to admit... I kind of like this part too. As you sit down to turn your notes into your pattern, don't feel like things are "known" or make assumptions. The thing about writing a pattern is information: you want to give as much detail as you can to the person making it. Success is when I never hear from a customer except to show me what they have made. That means I have communicated clearly and they are able to create the item.

I have written enough patterns where now, I have a template that works for me and is set up to always give me prompts to add information. It is super helpful so I don't leave things out. Information your pattern should have at the start:

WHAT IS IT: What are people making? Who designed it? My cover page always has my logo, website, copyright detail, pattern name and photos right off the top. Boom!

WHAT DO YOU NEED: Remember, you are giving someone all the information to make your design. I always list supplies and stitches off the top. For stitches: I give the abbreviation and the stitch name. People crochet & knit all over the world so be clear. I refer to the Craft Yarn Council for best practices on abbreviations.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW: Again, the most important thing is to communicate as much information as possible for the user to get the result they want. On my sizes I use standard sizing but also give information on specific areas (bust or waist, etc) as well as any information on how the garment fit is designed. Sizing details will vary based on what the pattern is for. Again, I refer to Craft Yarn Council standards for best practices on sizing

GAUGE: OK... I could (and will) do a whole blog post on gauge. Gauge is my nemesis but it is essential. Gauge is the way to success, especially if you are using multiple stitches. In this case you need to communicate to the user how to achieve gauge and what stitch is used. No one has the exact same tension so in order to achieve the look, the user will need to know gauge.

Phew.... still with me? Now we get into the actual pattern... the meat and potatoes. YUM!

Design / Pattern Writing Essentials: Yarn, Coffee, Notebook, Markers, Tape Measure, Notions.

Take a look at some of the Free Patterns on this blog to get a feel for this part of the process. This is where you actually tell the people what steps to take so they can create the masterpiece you designed.  But this is not the time to feature all of your creative writing skills. Less is more here. No fluff. Just clear and precise directions.

And anyone who has purchased my patterns knows that I try to lay out the steps concisely and clearly as well as include charts and schematics. It is ok if you do not know how to do charts or schematics. You can also include photos if that best illustrates what needs to be done. As long as you are clearly laying that road map out then you are all good.

OK. So you've got your item made, notes transcribed into steps to follow and you've added photos or charts as needed. GO YOU!!!! You have nearly got yourself a pattern. Have a sip of coffee and get ready for the home stretch.

Give the pattern a once over, then a twice over, and maybe even a third look to scan for mistakes & make sure you got all of your notes from your notebook on there. Now you need to take it out for a spin. Grab some of your fiber friends and see if anyone is available to test your pattern out. Often times I miss things. It happens. In June I published 24 patterns that month. I would be lying if I said they were all perfect out of the gate!

Having fiber friends test your pattern is an invaluable opportunity for feedback from everything to gauge to fit to stitch counts to grammar to you name it. I am fortunate to have a great pool of testers and would not get my patterns out there without them.

Now you've had an idea, you've brought it to life and created a way for OTHERS TO CREATE. Woo Hoo! Publish your pattern and do a little dance.

Can't wait to see all of your design ideas coming to life. Happy designing.

Stop. Block. And Roll. Tips for Blocking Your Knits

Hey now! Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and let's chat about blocking to get the best fit of your handmade garments.  I know blocking... not the sexy part of making your own clothes but man it is just too important to skip. Ok...  let's dive in!

Remember school fire drills when we were kids? Or the visit to the local firehouse Fire Safety Day lessons where they teach you stop drop and roll? Well, in crochet & knitting the drill we need to remember is stop block and roll. Say it with me now: Stop. Block. And Roll.  

I know, I know. There are about a million blog posts out there about how to block or why to block or what to block. So why add another? Let me give a little disclaimer:  These are my views ONLY. These methods work for me and my products without fail. I do not disparage against any other method. I have tried many and landed here.  As a designer, I get asked A LOT about blocking. When do you do it? How do you do it? Must you do it? So allow me to dive in with my voice on the subject.

First things first: What type of garments should be blocked? Short and simple answer:
YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BLOCK.
PERIOD.

OK... next: When do you block?
There is no hard and fast rule on this one.  Typically it is best to block BEFORE assembly. You want your stitches to settle to their resting place. If you assemble THEN block it is common to have a "pull" effect at seam parts of assembly. Additionally, you lose the ability to manipulate the fabric to where you want it to assemble and rest.

But check the pattern is the best rule to follow. As a designer, I often incorporate blocking into the design and pattern flow. For example, some of my patterns are made in "parts" and I will have you assemble two pieces then continue on working with the assembled piece. In this case I make it a point to have the crocheter "block before assembly". I have gotten MANY messages thanking me for this noting how it changes the fit. Because it does! That's why I say it. So if a pattern tells you when to block, it is best to assume that relates to the result of completed item. If the pattern doesn't say, I follow the Block Before Assembly rule. Any pieces that you will assemble should be blocked FIRST.

And last... the big one: How do you block?

Remember before when I said there are a million opinions on blocking? This is usually where they come into play.

Some people swear by Wet Blocking and refuse to hear another way. I am not one of those people. Wet blocking is the process where you immerse your fabric in lukewarm water or solution such as Soak or Eucalan. Then you gently "squeeze" out the excess water. Typically this happens by taking the fabric and laying it on a towel and rolling it so that towel grabs that moisture. Shape the fabric to required shape and measurements and you can can either lay flat between on another towel to dry or you can pin it flat on blocking boards. Whichever you do - do not wring it out if you go for wet blocking methods. Nor should you "hang dry". No bueno.

Also, I hate wet blocking. I don't do it. OK, I rarely do it. I do it when I must.  I did it for the purpose of knowing how, learning the method and finding out it is not for me. Other than that I am not a fan. Why am I not a fan you ask? Well for one, it is messy. I don't like messy.  Also, it takes so much time and space. You have to fill the bin with solution, immerse your pieces, flat dry them... blah blah blah. That may work for individual garments. But for me it is not efficient. I create small batch items for my big annual show to sell and need speed and efficiency - and not sacrifice quality. Wet blocking proved to be good but not right for me.

I am a Steam Blocker. Steam Blocking is most universal and works for 90% of the fibers out there. Steam Blocking especially lends itself to cottons which is my current fiber obsession.

Steam Blocking is my JAM! And while there are many ways to do it, I have 3 that I love and work for me and give me beautiful garments. Allow me to elaborate on these.

Megan Pierce iron blocking

When I first started steam blocking I used my Black & Decker $20 iron and rocked the steam option. I put my fabric on my ironing board and lightly steamed to moisten the fabric. I then placed the fabric on a towel to dry. I still use this method for many items in fact, but did upgrade to a slightly better iron with a good steam option (Got a Sunbeam which was $30). I use this method for blankets, heavier wool items such as sweaters and scarves and cowls.

Another Steam Blocking tool I use far more frequently and especially with garments, is my Conair Steamer. Yeah baby. My husband got me this gem one year for Christmas and while some women would not be happy with such a chore related gift I was ELATED because I knew it would mostly be used for my knits and not his shirts. I live by this thing. It is probably one of my favorite tools of the trade. I cannot rave about it enough. It is also awesome for steaming my photo backdrop but that is for another post.

What I love about this is that the clips and hanging bar on the unit hold the fabric perfectly. I just hang my item and steam away. Literally the easiest thing to do of the whole process. Then I place the fabric with pins on my blocking board to settle and dry. Boom!

And a bonus for garments like dresses that may need to be re-blocked or blocked after assembly I just hang them and steam them right on my dress form. Easy peasy.

As I used to travel a lot for work, and still travel as much as I can, I needed a portable steaming method for blocking magic. I settled on the Rowenta Travel Steamer. Mostly because I already owned one from my wedding weekend over a decade ago. But also, when the one I owned died a painfully explosive death in a hotel room, I still went with the Rowenta Travel Steamer and have not regretted it. It is great for steam blocking smaller items, steam blocking on trips and a really awesome thing to have in my booth for shows and show prep.

dampblocking

Something great you can also do is "Spray Block" or "fake steam block" if you do not have any steam options but, like me, have an aversion to wet blocking. This is where you lay your garment on the towel, spray with a water bottle to dampen but not "soak" and pin into shape and place to dry. By controlling the amount of water you are controlling how damp the fabric gets which will help you keep the shape and form.

When you block and how you block will always depend on variables such as what the pattern calls for and what the fiber calls for. But the question of blocking is always the same: YES. Got blocking tips? Share below in comments.

BLOCKING SUPPLIES:

I have placed some links within the post but here is a quick ref shopping guide. Remember - these are affiliate links. I may get commission or compensated for purchases made through these links. It helps run the blog. So thanks.

Sunbeam Turbo Steam Iron works like a charm
My Conair Steamer that I love so much
Travel Steamer - for blocking on the go
Blocking Boards (you do not need these, but I prefer them and use these. Any towel & flat surface can work)
Blocking Wires (I only use these for lighter garments or even lacey items)
T-Pins(I like these because they are long)

CrochetBlockingTips

And because I can't leave you without some basics here are 5 Blocking Myths Debunked:

1. You do not always need to block. We've established that is just silly talk. You ALWAYS need to block

2. You do not need to block swatches? I hear this ALL the time. Um... yeah you do. Unless you do not care about gauge, repeating the pattern, completed measurements of your garment or consistency. I mean, yeah. If you don't care about those things then you can skip blocking swatches. In other words: YES BLOCK YOUR SWATCHES.

3. You have to wet block for "true" blocking. Um... no. I hardly EVER wet block and have achieved consistent gauge, finished garments for my finished goods and true crochet bliss. Like I said earlier, there are MANY ways to block. Find what works for YOU then stick with it to get consistency. If you ALWAYS wet block then go for a steam block be prepared to get a different result. Find your method of choice then stick with it.

4. "Oh I will just block it later" also known as: Blocking hides my mistakes. Negatory Ghost Rider. While blocking will allow your stitches to "settle" into place and may occasionally help hide a hiccup or two. Don't use it as a repair method. If you make a mistake and wait for blocking to fix it you will likely be twice as upset. Just frog it. Fix it and move on.

5. "My tension is off, I will just block to achieve gauge". See above. NO! That is why you swatch and that is why you block your swatches. You want consistent stitching. Garments you will wear and enjoy. Blocking will not magically add 5 inches to your garment width. Swatch. Check your tension. Then move on.

And last... but never least... a special shout of thanks to our community members Megan Pierce, Everything Evie Crafts & Triple Knot Studio for helping with these awesome blocking photos.

Happy Blocking!

A Noble Project

I have followed Amy of Noble Character Crafts since about the week I joined Instagram. I have always been enamored by her use of color and attention to every detail for her afghans. The girl has skills.  I have also gotten to know her a bit over time and found she's also incredibly kind, thoughtful and inspiring.

So when she messaged me to invite me to be part of a big collaboration project, it took me all of about two seconds to respond YES!!  Amy was collecting unique hand knit and hand crochet squares from several makers on Instagram. We were all given free range to make whatever kind of square we want as long as 1) we used machine wash fiber and 2) the color scheme had to be cream and grey. Sounds amazing!

At first I overwhelmed myself with how much artistically I could do in a 7" square. I knit it. I crocheted it. I did a few variations of both. But in the end I took myself back to basics and remembered the simplicity of my very favorite stitch combo isn't really intricate at all. So I took some of my fave washable acrylic from Universal Yarn and made a square that inspired me.


I asked Amy to share with us her inspiration for this incredible project:

Collaboration Squares

Collaboration Squares

At the beginning of 2017 I had seen a project involving a few makers that collaborated together to create a super scarf. One maker made the scarf, another added an embellishment, and each one passed it on to the next adding their own special touch. I was so inspired when I saw that project, that I wanted to be a part of something similar, but even bigger and involving a lot more of the amazingly talented makers I had had the privilege of getting to know on Instagram.

I have always loved creating afghans and seem to always have at least one in the making at all times. Granny square afghans are probably my favorite, so I had the idea to create a masterpiece involving 48 makers and 48 squares, and the vision for the 2017 Collaboration Afghan was born! I asked each maker to send me a 7" square, either knitted or crocheted, in the pattern of his/her choice. We used a neutral color palette of grays and creams to tie everything together, while still showcasing each maker's individual style in his/her design.

Amy piecing together a Masterpiece

It was so hard to choose which makers to invite to be a part of this collaboration with so many gifted knitters and crocheters out there. Our team of contributors varies from those that simply make for the love of creating, to those who rely on their handmade business for a source of income.  Stretching all over the US, Canada, and the U.K., our experiences range from those that have only been stitching for a few years to those that can't remember not stitching. Our various backgrounds, demographics, and personalities couldn't be more different, but this one thing unites us...the love of creating beautiful things with yarn, hooks, and needles. Each of the makers are people that I have been so honored and thankful to get to know, learn from, and collaborate with for this project that strives to put community over competition.


I am so honored Amy invited me to be part of this project. I Loved seeing all the posts on Instagram as various squares were created and Amy would often share when they would arrive. See all the Collaboration Afghan posts here. The finished blanket is more magical than I could have imagined. A true work of art and One Of A Kind. And you can enter to win it here.

The Cotton Club!

While it is true, I am a cozy vibe, snowboard loving, scarf making kind of gal, anyone who knows me knows I am truly an ocean loving Pisces to the core. Nothing gets to me like the fresh waves and salt air. When I lived in Australia, there wasn't a single day that went without a dip in the South Pacific, of course it helped that I lived and worked a short walk from the beach. With this in mind, it was probably only a matter of time before my two passions (yarn and ocean) collided.

beachside-knittng

About two years ago, while on location in Florida for a shoot, I got the idea to make myself some lightweight cotton garments to wear. But while on location with super long shooting days, and still prepping for the Chicago One Of A Kind Show... well let's just say such an undertaking would have to wait.

Last year, while in Miami for several weeks, the idea reignited and so the journey began. Over the last year I have experimented with various fibers and cotton was always the winner for this idea. Like the commercial says, it is the "fabric of our lives" after all. I began my process of swatching and sketching and found the old ideas I had tucked away coming to life again. In the process, I quickly fell in love with a few specific cottons that lent themselves in both color and texture to my vision.

Thus my first Summer Cottons Collection was born.

cottons-design-process

Within a few weeks I had edited it down to a variety of looks I would want in my own closet. I drew inspiration from the many coastal places I have been and created pieces that spark a memory from each place they are named for.

I have put my heart into my first Summer Cottons Collection. This collection features garments made from some of the softest cottons and breathable for those summer days. Garments I enjoy both making and wearing. And I hope they are garments many others will enjoy both making and wearing.

The collection is made up of 20 new designs for makers to enjoy and be inspired by and a handful of made to order garments available here. And you can try the Inwood Summer Beach Top free pattern here.

For a deeper look at the fibers, read on to learn about the materials. (disclosure: the following contains affiliate links where I may get credit or commissions but these are not sponsored posts and opinions are my own).

Wool And The Gang Shiny Happy Cotton
Ok... this is by far the most superior cotton of all the fibers I have used and tried gearing up for this collection. Yes, I work with WATG often, no they did not pay me to say that. My order receipts can be proof enough how much this material factors into my designs and offerings. Why is it so special? First of all, it is just a wee bit thicker than most other cottons on the market. It has that few added strands that makes a difference in how it holds structure of my stitches. And still, it does not sacrifice drape effect for being a wee bit thicker which is awesome because when designing with lightweight fibers drape matters!  Last, I do not know what their color process is but this cotton has a sheen like none other. It truly is Shiny Happy Cotton and I love it! And because WATG is awesome, you get 15% off with code WATG144S through 6/9/17!

Betta Knit Pima Cotton
I discovered Betta Knit last winter when I collaborated with them on the Stella Jumper design and fell in love with their chunky wool. I was thrilled to discover they are offering Pima Cotton for summer. This cotton is great for those drapey and lacey designs. It holds the stitch structure well for a finer fabric. This is technically a category 3 DK yarn but in truth it works up like a sport weight and I just love it. I designed my Megan's Bay Shrug specifically for the way this fiber drapes. And... Betta Knit is giving you 20% off with code 144XBK through June 30, 2017 WOOT WOOT!

Lion Brand Yarn 24/7 Cotton
Lion Brand continues to deliver for affordable yarn options. The 24/7 Cotton is mercerized adding a sparkle and sheen even after multiple washings. Trust me, I tested this claim out and it passed the test! This fiber is interesting because it is a little bit "rope-like" for lack of a better term. It was interesting to work up and I quickly fell in love. It is perfect for my Saratoga Shrug design! I loved it so much I reached out to Lion Brand and we teamed up to collaborate on a design specifically for this collection and this yarn. More coming on that very soon!

Universal Yarn Cotton Supreme
The name says it all. It truly is Cotton Supreme. One of my favorite things about this fiber beyond the awesome texture is all the colors they offer. You can get so many blends and without much effort in yarn change, your garments will have style and color all their own. This is a heavier weight cotton, definitely more category 4 worsted. And yes still gives you the soft drape of the finer fibers. It is ideal for garments like my Manchester Tunic where you can let the yarn do the color work for you!

DebbieBlissCottonDK

Debbie Bliss Cotton
I discovered Debbie Bliss Cotton well into this project. In fact, most patterns were already out for testing when I came across this gem. I discovered it while checking out a new Local Yarn Shop Wool & Company that opened about 15 minutes from my home. (More on them in a future post). This fiber is delicious! In colors and in texture, I was delightfully surprised. It says it is DK, but more of a sport weight for sure. You can order from them here and they provide free shipping in the US!

I know there are endless other cottons out there and have tried many. But these are the ones that inspired and are featured in this collection and I encourage you to try them out. Do you have a favorite cotton you want us to know about? Share in the comments below. And tag #stitchandhustle on social media so we can see your summer cotton projects. Happy summer and see you in the Cotton Club!

And to celebrate.... I am giving away the whole collection of designs. Yep - ALL 20 PATTERNS could be yours! Enter below

Meet Tina from Wool And The Gang!

Disclosure: Wool And The Gang provided materials free of charge for the purpose of this post and giveaway. Content is my own.

I am always both humbled and excited when I get an email from Wool And The Gang that says they have a new product launch and would I like to be part of it. I want to say, "duh you don't even have to ask" lol because UM HELLO!!!!  They are only like one of my favorite brands on the planet. But their new product Tina Tape had me extra excited.

It is 100% Vegan, something a lot of my customers ask for and is made using renewable energy. Oh and it is made of fibre from sustainably sourced eucalyptus trees. Like I do not even know how that is done but sign me up. Read more about the process here.

To celebrate the launch WATG is hosting a Make-A-Long and we have teamed up with Wool And The Gang to give you a Tine Tape Kit so you can join the fun. Enter below and tag your projects on social media #TinaTapeYarn and #MakeAlong

Handmade Mother's Day Gift Guide 2017

Ok you guys... in an ideal world I would make every single gift I give. But let's be honest... that is just not possible. Plus, I like to support other artisans and makers buying from them. So I am still giving the gift of handmade (but made by a fellow creative). With mother's Day around the corner, here is my official handmade Gift Guide.

Flowers are such a traditional Mother's Day gift. How about a handmade twist. If you follow me on social media, you know the wooden handmade flowers I have are one of the most valuable and important things I own. How about giving mom, or nana, or anyone, flowers that will last forever? I bought these from Stephanie at Triple Knot Studio and LOVE them. They are made so well, and she gives such care to shipping. They will actually be both a Mother's Day gift and a housewarming gift for my bestie. A perfect gift that lasts a lifetime.

One of my favorite new handmade items was actually a birthday gift to me from my husband and would be perfect for mom too. This HANDMADE breakfast tray was custom made by Sam of Giving Tree Woodshop and legit... I cannot express to you how much I love it. I use it almost every single day as either a snack tray, work station on the floor or in bad. It is so perfect. The legs fold up and are held by a strap (because let's face it, clutz that I am would snap it off if it wasn't) so it can literally be used so many ways. Sam worked with me to pick the right wood and finish and man... I love it. And it was SO AFFORDABLE ( I expected to pay double what he charged to be honest) so yeah... this would be a delight for mom. Serve her up some awesome treats on an awesome handmade serving tray.

Looking for something with a special message? For Christmas I got my fellow makers a handmade wood burned ornament from Ashley at Made of Embers. She also made the coasters for our Stitch Up Chicago gifts bags. Ashley makes wall hangings (I have one in my studio) and wooden serving spoons and so many other things. She is so creative. So if you've got a Mother's Day message to send, send it hand burned with love.

For something truly unique, check out Globe In. I talked about the importance of finding the right brand partnerships recently, and I could not be more excited that we partnered with Globe In for Stitch Up Chicago. Not just about Fair Trade, but in short, Globe In brings artisans from around the world to your door. I still use the items they sent me from my Comfort Box. Maybe get mom a subscription for the Artisan box or a really special handmade gift from around the globe.

 

If you are looking to send mom a project to keep her busy (or hint you want her to make you something) then check out the kits from Mama Knows Luxury. Because trust me, Sarah (mama) KNOWS! I myself am currently working up something fun with her big merino wool and I tell you that this would be such a treat to get as a gift. For real... this is so much fun that you may want to get a kit for yourself. She is even giving you guys a discount: code hustle10 is good for 10% off anything until June 30, 2017. WHAT?!?

 

So there you have it... awesome handmade finds for mom or even to Treat Yo'self ;-)

Manos Del Uruguay Milo & The Naples Shrug

Ok ... so I could hardly contain my excitement when I was told Manos Del Uruguay would be sending me their new Milo fiber to try and review ... and what colors would I like. Um... ALL OF THEM? Can that be an option?

No but seriously, even though the palette of this fiber is more muted than the vibrant colors I typically work with I wanted them all.  They are so fabulous and so enticing it was hard to choose.

As I looked at the colors I had this instant image from the Florida beaches on a full moonlit night. I selected to make an ombre item that would be like the shoreline beach up to the dark sky.

The colors I chose were:
Natural
Potosi
Lisboa
Indigo
Manchester  

Can you see it? Beach to night sky? Ah - PERFECT!

When the yarn arrived I was ecstatic about my choices once I saw how truly perfect they worked together. It was exactly the blend I envisioned.

Now, the yarn states that it is "fingering weight" but in truth it is closer to sport weight. Ish. You know how it goes... no strands are ever quite exactly the same. Either way - it was definitely thinner and lighter than my normal chunky yarn vibe. I worked up a couple of swatches and I knew a shrug would be perfect. I pulled out an old motif and got ready to put a new twist on it.

The Milo works up so quickly and so smoothly. It has an interesting texture because of the linen blend but it is not stiff with that starch-like feeling so many other linen blends that I've used have.

I could not be more please with this yarn and am already starting another project with it! because yes.. it is THAT GOOD! I want to make so many things with it. 

Thank you so much to Fairmont Fibers & Manos Del Uruguay for sending me this yarn to try. I am definitely a new fan.

You can get the Naples Shrug pattern here to make your own.

Webs Yarn has Milo in stock and also if you buy a certain amount you get their club discount. I love their customer service - here is the link. (nope - not an affiliate link - I just like shopping with them).

 

 

Disclosure: Fairmont Fibers & Manos Del Uruguay sent me this yarn free of charge for the purpose of this review and collaboration. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are my own.

Takover Maker: Alexandra of Two Of Wands

As mentioned in my post to launch this series we are reminded: our community is awesome because of its members. And man we have some great ones in this maker community who CONSTANTLY blow me away. And to say I am excited about this week's takeover maker is an understatement.

I first "discovered" Alexandra when I featured maker Katie of The Queen Stitch and she mentioned her. I INSTANTLY fell in love with everything about her, her brand Two Of Wands, her vibe. All of it. After some chats on IG, we quickly found out we had so much in common. Especially her current 'hood is my old stomping grounds and so much more. Ah... good times! I knew she would be the perfect maker to wrap up our Maker Takeover Month. Follow along with Alexandra's takeover here and get to know Alexandra more below when I asked her the Stitch & Hustle Maker Five: Questions:

1. Tell us your name and a little about your craft and business.
Hi! I am Alexandra Tavel of Two of Wands :) I call my company a "modern approach to a timeless art form" because I am always striving to design chic and sophisticated knits that are both cozy and functional. I offer all of my designs as patterns and finished pieces and try to design for modern makers who are looking for somewhat simple, somewhat speedy, somewhat statement-making projects. The resurgence of yarn crafts in recent years has opened up a younger more fashionable audience to the benefits of knitting and crocheting but in today's fast-paced world we only have a limited amount of time and we like to see quick results. I keep this in mind with all of my designs. Since I launched the company in 2013 it's been a whirlwind of amazingness and I'm so happy to be part of such an incredible community of makers!

2. What inspired you to start your handmade adventure?
I've been making things since birth because of my talented artist mom, so I've always had a bit of the creative bug. I even studied fashion design and costume construction technology in college! When I moved to NYC right after school I started working in the non-profit world and stayed there for eight years. It wasn't until 2013 when I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a friend that I got back on the artistic path. After coming back down from the mountain I met a women who read my tarot cards and when I drew the Two of Wands card she explained to me that I had two options in front of me - the first was the stable but unfulfilling choice of staying put, and the second was the more risky but empowering choice of taking a leap into something more creative that spoke to my soul. It took me about 9 months to finally make the decision, and I named my company after that tarot card. Now I have people asking me all the time if the two wands represent knitting needles, which I hadn't thought of originally, but now makes it even more meaningful!

3. What is your one favorite thing about what you do?
I'd love to say "I get to work from home and make my own hours!" but the truth is I am constantly working - from home, from the street, from the subway, from my studio, in the grocery store, at the movies .... you get the picture. It's so much work and can be exhausting, but the best part about it is that I wake up every single morning excited to start the day and get back to my latest project. It's been so fulfilling getting to connect with my customers and followers and see them use my patterns to create their own handmade treasures.

4. What is one goal you have for this year? How are you doing with that goal? How can we, me, the community help you with that goal?
This year I've decided to branch out into a home collection and I'm SO excited about it. I'm the kind of person who has endless ideas and dozens of sketchbooks in my bag at any given time with drawings and notes exploding from the pages. Sometimes it's hard for me to edit down and I am almost always trying to catch up with my goals and deadlines. This is one of those scenarios as I thought I'd have this collection ready to launch in February. It's now almost April and I'm about 10% there, haha. I am also trying to get back into jewelry making, something I was doing for a few years before I started Two of Wands and have had on the back burner for a while.

5. Since this is about community, what other makers inspire you (can be any maker field, does not have to be fiber arts of course)?
I am endlessly in awe of the creativity of Katie Jagel from The Queen Stitch. I met her at last year's Our Maker Life conference and basically stalked her instagram and forced her to be my friend, haha. She is a crocheting genius and makes the most unique pieces!

Last but not least… Link us up baby! How can people connect with you:

Website: www.twoofwands.com
Etsy Shop: twoofwandsshop.etsy.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/twoofwands
Instagram: @twoofwands
Twitter: @alexitavel
Ravelry: www.ravelry.com/designers/alexandra-tavel

 

Takeover Maker: Vincent of Knot Bad Crochet

As mentioned in my post to launch this series we are reminded: our community is awesome because of its members. And man we have some great ones in this maker community. And to say I am excited about this week's takeover maker is an understatement. I first "discovered" Vincent of Knot Bad when he commented on our mutual friend Caroline's instagram page. I clicked his name to see his page and was immediately like WOW! So much fun and talent. And that is what is great about this community - just a few commons threads and a few clocks and we are all connected through creativity.

I've gotten to know Vincent more over time, especially recently while helping him build up his blog and pattern writing. He is so freaking awesome I cannot stand it. I'm so excited to see what he brings this week for his Stitch & Hustle IG Takeover and get to know Vincent more here when I asked him the Stitch & Hustle Maker Five: Questions:
 

1.  Tell us your name and a little about your craft and business.

Hi! My name is Vincent, but many know me from my brand name, Knot Bad! My craft and business is all about crochet! I just picked up the craft in August of 2015 and have been hooked ever since. I sell my finished products that are primarily Amigurumi, which are stuffed dolls! I like all things nerdy like Pokemon and it’s so much fun to see them alive! I also sell the patterns and I have recently been dabbling in crochet-wear!

2. What inspired you to start your handmade adventure?

Crochet is always something the intrigued me in high school and college for some unknown reason but I just could never get the hang of it. After leaving my service sector job, I was motivated to finally push myself and learn how to! I’ve been crocheting for fun ever since and I have been so fortunate to turn it into a business in such an organic manner!

Knot Bad Panda-monium

3. What is your one favorite thing about what you do?

It’s hard to choose just one aspect, it’s such a fun experience every day! Being able to bring to life my imagination, meeting so many people through my art, and seeing other’s reaction when they see what I have created with just my two hands is always a wonderful feeling that I don’t think I will ever get tired of.

4. What is one goal you have for this year? How are you doing with that goal? How can we, me, the community help you with that goal?

One of my many goals that I have this year is to become full-time with my business, or at least make a huge dent into making that a reality! So far, so good! For have only starting a year and a half ago, I’m proud and grateful to be where I’m at today. The main way to help me grow my business is just spreading my name around, it helps so much! (If you like my work that is!)

 

5. Since this is about community, what other makers inspire you (can be any maker field, does not have to be fiber arts of course)?

Within this realm of fiber arts, other makers that inspire me are Sierra from @KnittingWonders, Stephanie from @Allaboutami, Jessica from @the.hook.nook, and Jenn from @croochetshop! There are simply just too many people to name off, but also a huge shout-out to all the other lovely makers contributing to Stitch and Hustle's Takeover! He’s not in this realm, but an idol of mine is Elon Musk. He’s considered a maker, right?

Last but not least, link us up baby! How can people connect with you?

Website: https://www.knotbad-crochet.com/
Etsy Shop: www.knotbadcrochet.etsy.com
Instagram: @knot.bad
Twitter: @knotbadcrochet
Patreon: Knot Bad Crochet

 

It's The Knit Show

One of my favorite things about the fiber arts community is how innovative we are and how freaking awesome we are. For real. We are inspired and creative and fun and not afraid to just chase those crazy fiber dreams and then share it all with each other. It IS community.

I remember when I was starting out that there were a few who stood out as leaders and represented what I wanted to someday be part of. These were and are people who not only create and spin strings into magnificent things, but emulate the fiber arts loving vibe I feel in my core. I am talking about people who pass on the tools and knowledge to help others achieve their own fiber dreams. People who understand the type of hustle this blog is about.

One of those people I have always admired is Vicki Howell.  We have never met but gosh I feel like I kind of know her.  She is always so real and her spunky vibe comes though on her shows and videos and projects. I have always loved her creativity and it has really inspired my love for color and trying new things. I was super excited when I heard about her new project: The Knit Show.

Super excited for two reasons: One.. it is SO COOL! A series for fiber arts that I can binge or watch at my own pace and be incredibly inspired. And two: IT IS A KNIT SHOW! Vicki launched a kickstarter to build the funds to launch The Knit Show and I was more than happy to support. She has lots of fun reward levels and I am so excited to see this come to life.

The Knit Show will film early summer in Austin, Texas and be ready to air in time for prime, knitting and crochet season! (So, Fall.) Think about it... getting cozy with a Knit Show binge whilst... you know... knitting. It is just too cool.

You can find everything you possibly need to know, (including the SUPER COOL spoof videos they’ve produced and Rewards Levels) here

Can't wait. Are you excited for The Knit Show like I am?

 

Photo Hacks Too: Lighting & Instagram Live

I have gotten a lot of messages since my knit date with my gal Megan from Peppermint Pine shop about the table top tripod set in my crochet bag that we used for her Instagram Live video. So I thought this would be a great time do an update on my Photo Hacks post. Yup this post has affiliate links. I get credit if you buy these items. Let's dive in!

Checking the light meter setting up for pics

First let's talk lighting. Natural light is your friend. It is correct, easy to edit and gives you accurate coloring. Oh.. and it is FREE! But let's be honest, it is not always available. For me, I have one perfect area in my house that has amazing light. But for only 2 hours a day. When the sun shifts or if there is cloud cover then my photo plans are tanked. And while you can do a lot in post with apps and edit, it is extremely helpful to have some options.

I have an advantage having been a Production Manager & concert lighting technician and my husband still working in the field. So I get some cool toys I admit. But still, you don't need insider trading for badass lighting hacks. Here are a few I am fond of and use myself. Just remember this one thing: simulating natural light is not actual natural light. When you can, use natural light. Always. ALWAYS.

I bought this light kit on amazon because it has a great storage case and lots of options. There are LOTS of light kits so buy what is best for you but one thing is that no matter what light kit you get... BUY NATURAL BULBS.

The next thing is a bounce card. This will help you get more length of time out of that perfectly lit area of your home or studio. Basically, a bounce card is going to reflect light into a shadowy area. You don't need to be a photography pro to use one and in fact, this will illuminate your products in ways beyond imagination.

Next up: that table top kit from my knit date. It is what I call my secret weapon because no matter where I am I can always get the right angle. The right perspective and even the right distance. These will be your secret weapon too.

And for the products themselves, these are my MUST HAVES that live in my little crochet on the go kit and I use them for almost anything. Just not website product shots lol. Perfect for on the floor when I need that right angle. On the table. For Facetime so I can knit and converse at once. Yup... these are the ones you saw in the IG Stories with Megan and for less than $20 I got all I needed.

First up is my Jellyfish Mount. I love this thing. It holds my phone, my husband's phone (he has an iPhone +) and is so versatile and small and portable.

Now for my table top tripod. There are tons on the market. But let's be honest - this has a specific function. It is not for primary product shoots. I want something that is portable, lightweight and frankly can fit in my needle and hook case to go where I go. I also don't want to break the bank. I also didn't want something so flimsy that I would spend even more money replacing it. I did some solid research and this was where I landed and I love it!

There are lots of products on the market and everyone will always have their preferences. I can only tell you that I have in fact spent some money and time and found these to be the best, and for less than $20 it is worth a shot!

So get out there, get in the light and get your pics.

Takeover Maker: Macy of ImCrazyForCraftin

As mentioned in my post to launch this series we are reminded: the biggest gift of community are its members. We have some amazing ones. And this week's takeover maker kind of blows me away. Like a LOT.

I discovered Macy on Instagram about a year ago shortly after I joined. She always had such cozy creations and positive vibes in her posts. She had to take a break for a while to focus on some life things and I messaged her just to say I missed seeing her on my feed. We soon struck up a conversation and I discovered a few more things about Macy that only made me go WOW even more and I just adore her.

For example, we both have strong ties to our grandmas and that is a very awesome connection. More than just spoils and gifts, we both thrive on relationships with them. I also discovered... wait for it ... she is 16.

WHAT?

So poised. So talented. So kind. Just blew me away. And here she is starting her business, creating cozy delights, being part of a community and inspiring others. And that is just WOW. It is also one more thing I love about this creative community. It is open to all who want to create and share their talents and passion. At any age!

Macy is wise beyond her years I tell you. So follow along on IG as Macy takes over this week and shares her maker inspiration and creations and things she loves. Get to know Macy more here when I asked her the Stitch & Hustle Maker Five: Questions

1. Tell us your name and a little about your craft and business.
2. What inspired you to start your handmade adventure?

I'm Macy. The owner, designer, photographer, and dreamer behind I'm Crazy for Craftin.' I'm 16 years old, and I've loved crafting for as long as I can remember. I started my business when I was 10, and opened my Etsy shop when I was 13.

 

 

3. What is your one favorite thing about what you do?

This whole experience has been such a wonderful time of learning and growing. One of my favorite things about what I do is getting to meet new people. I've met lifelong friends at craft shows, and met so many wonderful people through social media.

4. What is one goal you have for this year? How are you doing with that goal? How can we, me, the community help you with that goal?

Macy and her cozy creations set up for market

Macy and her cozy creations set up for market

I've set lots of goals for my business this year, but the most important one to me is making my business "my own". Not that it isn't right now, but I want to come up with my own ideas, and not copy anyone else; just get inspiration from them.

 

 

5. Since this is about community, what other makers inspire you (can be any maker field, does not have to be fiber arts of course)?

A few makers I'm inspired by are Nicole from Miskunn, Hailey from Ozetta, and Rosalynne from Rosalynne Love (just to name a few!). It's so wonderful to connect with other talented makers in person, and through Instagram.

Last but not least… Link us up baby! How can people connect with you:

Etsy: www.imcrazyforcraftin.etsy.com
Facebook: I'm Crazy for Craftin'
Instagram: @imcrazyforcraftin

Takeover Maker: Chantal of Knitatude

As mentioned in my previous post to launch this series we are reminded: the biggest gift of community are its members. We have some amazing ones.

2017-03-31 11.52.20.png

The first amazing maker for our April Maker Takeover is Chantal of Knitatude. Ok... let me be clear.... I have a total maker crush on this gal. She IS the real deal. She inspires me SO MUCH in so many ways. Why you ask? Well not only is she a badass knitter (really she is amazing) but she gets it. She just gets what it is about to be an empowered woman creative who supports other empowered women creatives. Chantal hosts a regular yarn & small business meet up in her local community and has just launched a second IG account to help others as well. She, like me, believes that by helping others succeed we too will succeed.

On top of all that, the goofball in me totally adores the goofball in her.  So follow along on IG as Chantal takes over and shares her maker inspiration and creations. And get to know Chantal more I asked her the MAKER Five questions here:
 

1. Tell us your name and a little about your craft and business.

Hi my name is Chantal and I'm the sole knitta behind Knitatude - aka Knitting with Attitude. I knit chunky scarves, headbands, toques, blankets, write patterns, try to take over the world and make crochet and knit essential tool kits with inappropriate sayings on them. I'm a huge believer in staying true to oneself. I have practically no filter, so on my feed you will see some sassy comments and me making an ass out of myself. I am such a huge advocate for makers in our community and because of it I've started to delve into the world of supplying maker advice. You can usually find me doing IG lives on topics of social media tips and how to stick up for your own company in multiple ways.

2. What inspired you to start your handmade adventure?

I feel so bad saying this - but Knitatude started off selfishly. I wanted an infinity scarf for Christmas and when I didn't get one I took matters into my own hands. When people started to like my items it was so humbling and I loved making others feel good. That feeling has only grown since then. Not to mention I fell madly in love with the aspect of making things with my own hands I thought "Now this is some cool shit!".

3. What is your one favorite thing about what you do?

I love making people laugh. My tool kits are exactly this. Funny, inappropriate sayings that when actually read get those wide eyes, shocked open mouths and chuckles. It's what I live for every market because I love seeing people who have as dirty of a mind as I do when it comes to knitting and crocheting. Also I love that I host a knit night every week. This community is so rich and vibrant and caring and I adore getting to see all my fibre loving peeps each week!

4. What is one goal you have for this year? How are you doing with that goal? How can we, me, the community help you with that goal?

Oh boy. I have so many! My MAIN goal is to get people knitting in general and breaking the stigma and stereotypes around it. I'm so tired of being called a Grandma because I knit and I'm not ancient. I also want people to stop saying "Not you're grandmas knitting" cause it isn't helping. The second is; I want our community to start charging what we are worth. There is literally nothing that peeves me off more than someone undervaluing their work and undercutting themselves and everyone around them. To break the stigma around "knitting is cheap" we have to make knitting not cheap! Which I think simple communication and yelling it from the rooftops will help.

5. Since this is about community, what other makers inspire you (can be any maker field, does not have to be fiber arts of course)?

Nicole from @saltwaterteajewelry / @woolfield.studio is not only my best friend but she legit is my rock. I bounce ideas off of her, ask her a billion questions a day, drown her in my rants and everything you can imagine. This girl is the shit. She takes me for who I am, doesn't take any of my shit and won't hesitate to question me on anything that she thinks won't be in my best interest business wise and in my personal life. She is a crazy talented boss babe as owns her own shop (Greater Goods YYC), her jewelry biz, volunteers her time to an all female small biz networking group called YYC Girl Gang as my vice-prez and is now opening her own consulting company for makers. She is a diamond in the rough.

The whole team from We Are Knitters - I don't know how they do it but they inspire me to keep trying new things, getting out of my comfort zone and give me all the heart eyes when it comes to knitting.

Kelly from Knit Brooks - I seriously can't even begin to tell you how much I look up to Kelly. She may be soft spoken in her videos but the amount of love and care that comes out of this human is jawdropping. She's always there to lend a hand or give advice and is just a instagram convo away. She's super down to earth and makes just the most beautiful stuff. Beautiful person inside and out!


Last but not least… Link us up baby! How can people connect with you:

Website: knitatude.ca
Etsy Shop: www.knitatude.etsy.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/knitatude
Instagram: @knitatude
Twitter: @knitatude

C O M M U N I T Y for the win

Warning... This topic may make you need a cup of tea but I feel it is essential. Especially since I have seen several posts on social media lately of drama and hurt feelings among makers in the maker community on Instagram. I have been on the receiving end of this not too long ago and I can understand how it can weigh us down. Because while this may be our business, being handmade and from the heart it is also all so very personal. So I am honored Nicole of Naturally Nora Crochet reached out to me to do a blog-hop on this topic of community and share perspectives. Feel free to share YOUR perspective in the comments or join the conversation in your own small group.

I joined Instagram as a social media tool to share pics and life moments with friends and family. About a year later it became clear I could also use it for my small business so I started an account for my small handmade business. Now, when I did this, I thought it would be all about previewing new items to customers and getting customer feedback. I had no idea what a wonderful community of makers and creatives I would connect with beyond that.

Shortly thereafter, I was launching Stitch & Hustle to serve that very community so to me it was all a bit serendipitous.

Through this community I have met some of the most wonderful people. I have teamed up with so many incredible makers at various stages, not just to "promote" each other but to truly have an exchange of creative ideas and inspire and share our creative ways. I have had the incredible honor to be partnered up with Ali of Ford Explorer Knits to host Stitch Up Chicago and so many other great collaborations. To me, that is what "community" is about and should be about. But let us go deeper.

MAKERS BUSY MAKING

I only started hearing the term "community over competition" after joining Instagram and actually since about mid last summer. The term baffles me and has for many months. And so after much thought, I've decided I don't agree with the term and it's a false misleading term.

I realize I may not have a very popular opinion but this weighs heavily on me as I see so many makers trying to find their voice and stride and I have some experiences recently with some who only amplify this conflict.

I've decided I believe in community AND competition. Yup. BOTH! And you do not have to, nor do I have to, nor should anyone have to sacrifice one for the other. Take a breathe. Take a beat. Have that cup of tea and marinate on that a minute.

I've decided I can root for your success while still striving for my own AND that rooting for your success and supporting your creative journey doesn't have to be at the expense of my own. It doesn't have to be one over the other. They are not mutually exclusive nor are they competing principals. To me, it is possible and in fact essential to be both supportive of others and lift them up AND strive for the best success possible for myself.

Three Makers. Angels Of Crafting celebrating our success & each other

Three Makers. Angels Of Crafting celebrating our success & each other

Additionally - my support of fellow creatives is not linked to a level of success. That's right. You do not have to have 20k followers or 10 followers for me to support your journey and root for your success. As I said when I launched this blog - it is a whole other level of hustle. It is not about what you can do for me. It is about what I can do for you with NO EXPECTATION in return.  It is about being IN community with one and other and in service TO one and other.

Don't be fooled though. Being IN community does not mean I will not work hard every day for my own success. And yes; Success IS linked to one's level of work. I believe we should constantly be works in progress striving daily to be better and do better than we did the day before. I am not an "everyone gets a trophy" kind of gal. I think we should work hard. And as we work we will find some work harder some work less. And that is OK. Success is relative to the work we do. Period.

I hope I'm explaining it well because to me the bottom line is this: I want you who is reading this to succeed and thrive but I want to be there succeeding and thriving along side with you and will bust my ass to do so and not feel bad about it a single day. Your success will INSPIRE me. And I can only hope mine will inspire you.

And speaking of inspiration... this takes us to the world of copying. I want to tell you something: there are only so many stitches and it is all math. There, I said it. But that doesn't mean we can't be creative. It is WHY we need to be creative. Play with color. Work with texture. Change an edging. Make it your own. Add YOUR voice.

Nicole of Naturally Nora crochet inspiring me and blowing my mind with this scarf

What I love about Nicole of Naturally Nora crochet is her brand and personality comes through every single design and every single post. I would like to think mine does in my own work as well. So if we BOTH post a double crochet shawl the same week, I will not feel one has copied the other. I will be CELEBRATING that a single stitch can speak so loudly and clearly for EACH of us. That our own voice is there. That is kinda cool.

 

So know this: who you are at your core, the creative within... that can NEVER be copied. Not by anyone. That is the voice you stay true to in every stitch.

We realize this is a deep topic. But it is so necessary to remember the most important part of any community are its members. I am so honored to be able to share these thoughts because I want you to know I AM rooting for you. And I am rooting for me too. Not one OVER the other. I am doing BOTH. Simultaneously.

Prior to the plan of this post with Nicole, I wanted to expand this blog to make it more diverse and give different points of view. This seems like a fitting moment to BE ABOUT community and as luck would have it was already planning to do just that. So as they say - timing is everything and sometimes the timing is perfect.

It is because of my love for this creative community and hope that I can add value that is the WHY of this blog. Even though run Stitch & Hustle and it is my baby - it is FOR the community. It is not about “me”. Being just me behind the curtain so to speak, I often wonder if it is only “my perspective” so I wanted to give others in the community an opportunity to show their work, show work they admire and makers they enjoy and are inspired by. I want to spread some good vibes and give OTHER perspectives.

I carefully selected four makers to Take Over in April. Each will take over the Stitch & Hustle Instagram for a week to share their work, their inspiration and their perspectives. I am stoked -  we have four AMAZING artisan makers coming on board for this who I just simply LOVE. I selected them specifically for a few reasons:

Each has a very specific point of view and it is not "like" each other so I believe there will be authentic variety in points of view which is an incredible gift of being part of this community.

Each maker is someone I respect and admire greatly and who inspires me in more than just my maker ways, but in who they are as people.

I believe each of these amazing artisans (like each of YOU) can add value in ways I can’t even imagine and hope that you will also receive good vibes from this program & community takeover.

I hope that each will inspire you and you will celebrate them and celebrate yourself. What an amazing thing that they want to share with us all. I've decided April is community month around here. Let's celebrate each other. And if more than one of us makes a garter stitch scarf well hot dang let's celebrate that too!

Please head over to my friend Nicole's blog to read her thoughts on this really important topic.