Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tunisian Crochet Dishrag or Washcloth

A conversation on crocheted dishcloths came up again the other day, and I thought I should share mine. Since it is so super easy, I'm posting it here.

You can find stitch instructions here at my site:

Tss & Tps (K&A Purl) Washcloth

I used an old worsted weight yarn that was really scratchy for the sample. I've also used Aunt Lydia's Rug yarn with great results.

Your yarn and hook choice will affect the overall size, but I use an L or 8mm hook for these.

Ch 20.

Row 1: Forward- Pick up loops in ea ch st across row. Return, Drop Loops off as you normally would.
Row 2: Forward- Tss in ea st, work last st as you normally would. Return.
Row 3: Forward- Tps in ea st, work last st as you normally would. Return.
Repeat Rows 2 & 3 to desired length... sample has 15 rows.
Last Row: work Sc or sl st in ea st across row. End off and weave threads.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Crossed Tss, or Diagonal Plait stitches from history

Some of my friends at the 'tunisiancrochet' group at Yahoo, were trying to understand some stitches found in various places. The stitches in question were originally published in1886 by Therese de Dillmont in her massive book: The Encyclopedia of Needlework.
Rebecca Jones included these stitches in her book: Tricot Crochet-The Complete Book (Lacis Publications 2000).

Both of these books contained instructions that were vague and difficult to understand, but I have generated more modern instructions.

Front Crossed Tunisian Simple stitch- FXTss this offers instructions on the easier stitch to understand- what Ms. deDillmont called Straight Plaited Tunisian Crochet. Scroll to bottom of the page.

Giving the Diagonal Plait stitch a more modern name... would be Diagonal FXTss. My modern isntructions for this stitch are:

Row 1: Forward and Return- Pick Up loops in each chain and Drop Off as you normally would.

Row 2: Forward- ignore outer loop. Tss in 1st st. *Sk 1 st. Tss in next st. Cross in front of st just formed and Tss in skipped st. Repeat from * across row, work last st as you normally would. Return as you would for any TC st.

Row 3: Forward- ignore outer loop. *Sk 1 St. Tss in next st. Cross in front of st just formed and Tss in skipped st. Repeat from * across row. If needed, work Tss in next to last st and work last st as you normally would. Return as you would for any TC st.

Repeat Rows 2 and 3 to create pattern.
General Notes:
If working with Odd numbered stitches, you will have 1 Tss to begin Even Number Rows, and 1 Tss to end all the Odd numbered Rows.
If working with Even numberd stitches, you will have 1 Tss to Begin and End all the Even Numbered Rows; but no extra Tss on the Odd numbered rows.
Photo was taken from The Complete DMC Encyclopedia of Needlework, page 297 - Running Press, Philadelphia, Penn. 1978. This is a reproduction of the original book.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What uses more yarn?

I recently was directed to a blog that had an experiment to 'scientifically' determine which needlework style uses more yarn: Knitting, Classic Crochet, or Tunisian Crochet.

The blogger's group of friends stitched several swatches with worsted weight yarn, and 6mm sized tools. Their conculsions were that Knitting and Crochet used about the same, but TC used significantly more yarn.

I believe the experiment was flawed for the following reasons:

To accurately compare the yarn usage, an experiement should create comparable fabrics; consequentially, the swatches must stitched using different tool sizes for the various needleworks. Eva O. did this when she was at Bella Online, but that experiment was pulled offline when she left. Eva's results reflected my own, and what many TC stitchers in the industry have experienced: Classic Crochet uses the most yarn, Tunisian Crochet uses slightly less than Knitting.

Actual yarn amounts are extremely varied depending on individual tension and gauge, so saying that Knitting uses 3 times or 1/3 less yarn is grossly over stating the facts... unless the yarn useage was determined by crocheting the piece with a hook size that is appropriate for knitting needles and way too small for crochet.

Mechanics dictate that Knitting will use less yarn, because all of the stitches are interconnected to one another. The extra steps in forming stitches of Classic Crochet and Tunisian Crochet dictate that they will use more yarn. How much more is determined by individual tension, gauge, size of hook/needle, etc.

Using larger hooks for Tunisian Crochet will actually lessen the amount of yarn you use, because it loosens up the stitches to create a fabric closer to Knitting and Classic Crochet accomplish with smaller tools.

Trying to use one size of tool for all the various needlework styles will create different fabrics: a J sized hook with worsted weight yarn would be much too loose for most crocheters, same with the 6mm needles. A J sized hook with Tunisian Crochet will create a fabric so dense you could use it for a rug... if you could control the curl.

In other words, the 6mm hook is a one size too big for what most stitchers use for classic crochet, and it may be up to 2 sizes too big for what most yarn lables recommend for knitting. For Tunisian Crochet, that 6mm hook is two to three sizes too small.

All of these will skew the final results, because the appropriate sized stitching tool wasn't used for each style of needlework.

I would be interested in seeing what results her group gets when they use the size of tool that is more appropriate for the worsted weight yarn...

Such as.... a 5.5mm (size I) hook with classic crochet; 5mm needles with knitting and an 8mm hook with Tunisian Crochet.

http://thing4string.blogspot.com/2007_01_01_archive.html Scroll down for Unraveling the Truth, to see the whole blogpost.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Entrelac with Texture

This is the photo shot with a flash to more accurately illustrate the aran color of the piece.

Entrelac with Texture

The Yahoo group I own with Kim Guzman was discussing Entrelac... again...
And I suggested that they try working each block with a different stitch.

This is a sample of what I've done with Tunisian Crochet Entrelac and Textured stitching.

This photo is underexposed, to highlight the texture.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

XO Cables

Again, this one will need a extra stitch in the middle of the O, to prevent huge gaping holes.

Mixed Stitches Cables

One of the Joys of Tunisian Crochet is the various Basic Foundations and how combining them creates such diversity and variety.
These Cables are made by combining Tunisian Knit, Simple and Kim & ARNie Purls.

TC Banjo Cable in Knit Stitch

For those who are trying this on their own,

I've come to realize that there must be a stitch

in between the two sets of cables, or there is a huge

gaping hole, big enough for a golf ball to pass through

in the middle of the cables.

More Tunisian Crochet Cables

Yes, I'm still at it, although research is showing that some cables are not the best in TC.

This is similar to a Banjo Cable from knitting and is done in Tunisian Simple Stitch... the basic Afghan Stitch.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So You Want to Teach Crochet....

With actresses like Julia Roberts, Tyne Dailey, and Alyssa Milano actually stitching on camera, this has encouraged others to learn how to knit and/or crochet. Yes, you can make money teaching crochet, but there are some steps I recommend you take beforehand, to insure a better sucess.

I strongly suggest that you use a facility or organization or business that is already established to host your classes.

Being associated with an established business will insure a better success rate, and lend important validation to your credibility.

By having your class in a public building, this eliminates certain safety risks and that awkwardness of trying to host classes in your home.

Possible hosts include:

  • Local Yarn Shops
  • Retail Chains like Michaels, or Hobby Lobby
  • City Recreation Departments
  • YMCA
  • Continuing Studies Departments of Colleges or Universities
  • Art Museums (listed as Fibre Arts classes)

I’ve heard one experienced designer convinced her college to let her teach a class in crochet. If I were to teach a class at a college, I would approach these departments:

  • Art
  • Psychology- emphasis on stress management and the altered brain waves of needleworkers
  • Fashion or Interior Design
  • Physical Education- emphasis on Eye/Hand coordination
  • Physical Rehabilitation- teaching medical professionals how to crochet, so they can teach their patients how to regain their coordination and hand strength

The flollowing organizations probably won’t be able to host ‘paid’ classes, but you can volunteer your time to gain experience in teaching.

  • Senior Citizen Centers
  • Boys & Girls clubs
  • Boy/Girl Scouts or other Service organizations (I don’t know of any Rainbow or Camp Fire Girls clubs still in existance.)
  • YWCA (the only one I know of is now a ‘home for troubled girls’)
  • 4F clubs Group
  • Homes for troubled youths Women’s/Family Shelters
  • Church Groups (to crochet for charity)
Once you have located businesses or organizations that would be appropriate to host your classes, now you must...

Get organized and Create a Class Curriculum

Whether you are approaching a Local Yarn Shop (LYS), a major hobby store, or an education facility, you must have an organized plan of action.

These are the things I recommend you take with you to the meeting with the class coordinator.
  • An Outline of each proposed class, and what material will be covered each class meeting
  • All of your lesson sheets or booklets that will be used in your classes
  • A list of tools and supplies that the students will need for your class.
  • The number of hours for each meeting and the number of times you will meet
  • The Maximum and Minimum number of students you prefer
  • The Days/Nights and times you prefer to teach, or better yet, those times and days you absolutely cannot teach. Give the organization as much leeway as you can in choosing when to host your classes.
  • And finally, provide possible marketing descriptions for your classes to be used in catalogs or in-house posters

This level of preparedness clearly illustrates your level of professionalism.

Professionalism helps to overcome a business owner’s or class coordinator’s trepidation of investing time and money to host classes of an ‘untried’ teacher.

Maintaining this level of organization even when you are seasoned veteran teacher will allow you to see what was successful and what wasn’t.

I will NEVER try to teach Granny Squares to a Beginners’ Crochet Class ever again! However, offering a 1 Night Intro to Tunisian Crochet has shown more success than a 4-6 week class.

Make an appointment with the business owner, class coordinator, or programming director and bring all of the Class Curriculum information you have created in the previous section.

DO NOT BE LATE to this appointment, but I don’t suggest you arrive much more than 10 minutes before the appointment. Your time is just as important as theirs, so don’t make it look like you have all the time in the world for this appointment.

Points of Negotiation

When I approached the Continuing Studies Department of my local university, they told me what they could pay me per hour and that was twice what I was expecting. It sounded great on paper, but there are other ways of making more money with the time and energy you invest into a class.
  • I have used an ‘X amount per Student’ style of payment with recreation departments. I actually make more money that way. If you have more students, you make more money.
  • For a senior citizen’s jewelry class, I charged only for the supplies, and not my labor.
  • I would recommend that you open the negotiations by taking ‘$X per student per class meeting,’ so that your classes are 100% self funding. That will then allow the class coordinator to either counter with something better, or at least see that you are willing to share the risk in these new classes.
Registration deadlines are wonderful- if you can convince your class host to use them. The folks in my town will wait until the day of class to sign up, and I never know what to expect.

However, I started including the statement, ‘class size is limited, so register early,’ in all of my class descriptions and most of my students would sign up early.

I have provided the Syllabus I use when I teach classes here:

Also, this blog post details my theory on teaching crochet to modern stitchers.

©Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved.
For copyright permissions and more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tunisian Crochet Woven Cables

Ok, so I'm obsessing on Aran Cables right now... I'll probably be post several of them in the days to come.

Yes, this will be in Book 2.

Tunisian Crochet Braids

Well, I was so excited at how well some of the Aran stitches are coming along for Book 2, I thought I would share them with you here.

Tunisian Crochet Braids

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Homespun Scraps Lap Throw

I received some Lionbrand Homespun scraps at a yarn swap with my local needlework group. For fun, I worked them up in Tunisian Simple Stitch and a size M hook.

I really like the 'self-stripping' that the newer Homespun colors achieve.

This is Tabby Mom and one of her kittens.

Homespun Scrap Lap Throw

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pattern Notation Polls- Results

I ran numerous polls a few weeks ago to see what folks are wanting in their pattern instructions & notations. Although these are not scientific, and they only represent the opinions of about 150 people, they do seem to accurately reflect what we are hearing on message boards.

The vast majority who responded are seasoned crocheters. These numbers do not reflect the voices of newbie crocheters who may not have learned how to read patterns, yet. Also, 70% of the respondents either learned to crochet first, or crochet is all they do. These numbers do not accurately reflect the attitudes for those who learned to knit first.

There were some points of interest; one that shocked me was that folks who took a class to learn crochet, did not learn how to read patterns in their class! Heads up, teachers, this should be something to include in your crochet classes.
See my blog post:
ARNie’s Theory of Teaching Crochet, http://crochetcoalition.blogspot.com/2008/03/arnies-theory-of-teaching-crochet-for.html
and my syllabus-

Another fact, that I really caught my attention is that the vast majority of folks- 77%- had to learn how to read patterns on their own! If the vast majority of folks are having to use nothing but their own skills to understand pattern notations, then yes, publishers must include more words than the simple stitch counts.

My results on several of the questions reflected a standard bell curve: a few advanced stitchers didn’t need many or any words at all, a few beginners wanted it all- words, pictures, graphs, schematics, but the majority of folks were satisfied with the current methods of writing crochet pattern instructions.

31% prefer either less words, or no words at all ie, symbols, charts and graphs. What surprised me was the high number of people - 21% - who prefer a pattern to read like a book, ie, lots of words to describe what to do.

However, a large enough number of crocheters preferred Schematics, charts and graphs with their patterns, to indicate that these could be something to offer, perhaps for an extra fee. This is one of those instances where I’m seeing that crocheters are recognizing the value of various pattern elements and are showing a willingness to pay more for them. Yet, when given a choice, they are still careful with their spending; those who responded to my polls, preferred to choose which various pattern elements they purchase.

Charts, graphs, and symbols appear to be ‘alien’ concepts to crocheters. A little less than half of the people (who responded) actually preferred symbols; yet, most of those that couldn’t read symbols- wanted to learn. Over half did not know how to read or just didn’t like graphs and charts.

One point showed some change from my polls two years ago: this time, more folks had learned to crochet from someone close to them- like a friend or family member; a smaller number were self taught. Now combine this with the fact that most of the folks had to learn to read patterns on their own, bolsters my belief that the reason crocheters need more words in their pattern instructions is because their stitching skills progress faster than their pattern reading skills. How can people learn to read patterns, if the person teaching them to stitch, had to learn on their own how to read patterns?

Another point that could substantiate this belief, is the fact that 71% of the respondents would take extra steps to work a pattern, no matter how difficult it was to read and understand. This could simply mean that crocheters are tenacious. It is more likely that crocheters would attribute their lack of understanding instructions to be their own weakness, and not that the pattern instructions were badly written.

The remaining poll questions were for the benefit of indie designers and publishers, and the statistics were so close, that I posted the numbers for everyone’s personal interpretation:

What patterns need Stitch Counts for each row?
Afghans & Blankets-complex or simple 42 (36%)
Straight Stitching Garments 26 (22%)
Complex Stitching Garments 69 (60%)
3 Dimensional projects 38 (33%)
Doilies 45 (39%)
I won't work a pattern without row counts. 26 (22%)
Althought there is a majority for Complex Stitching Garments, the remaining results are all so close in stats, that any one of them can't really be 'eliminated' from the list; which makes me believe they are all about equal in importance.

What should ‘Skill Level’ on a pattern designate?
Stitching Skills 40 (34%)
Pattern Reading Skills 32 (27%)
Complex pattern construction 70 (60%)
I hate those insulting labels. 20 (17%)
Although there is an obvious majority for Complex pattern construction, Stitching and Pattern Reading Skills are both individual crocheter's skills. When you add those two together, it does appear that a slight majority believe 'skill level' should reflect the crocheter's skills.

©Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved.For copyright permissions and more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Aran/Fisherman's sweater is Finished!

Well my quick photography leaves much to be desired.

It isn't blocked, because I'm probably going to dismantle this sweater and I may use a different stitch and will definitley need a shorter length for the sleeves for this particular size.

I'm not disappointed in the finished results, but I will need to do a lot more R&D on this before I will feel comfortable in publishing the pattern.

Oh, FYI, I this will be marketed as an oversized sweater, and I'll probably only have 3 sizes that will 'fit most.'

I will announce at Ravelry and the 'tunisiancrochet' board at Yahoo when the finished pattern will be available for sale.... probably late summer... just in time to have it completed for those cool fall nights.

Fisherman's Sweater- Finished Photos

The Fisherman's Sweater- Finished Photos

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Sorting Hat says I belong in Ravenclaw!

The sorting hat says that I belong in Ravenclaw!

Said Ravenclaw, "We'll teach those whose intelligence is surest."

Ravenclaw students tend to be clever, witty, intelligent, and knowledgeable.
Notable residents include Cho Chang and Padma Patil (objects of Harry and Ron's affections), and Luna Lovegood (daughter of The Quibbler magazine's editor).

Take the most scientific Harry Potter Quiz ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tunisian Crochet Fisherman's Sweater- Back

I have cropped and touched up the photos just a bit.

Tunisian Crochet Fisherman's Sweater- Front

No sleeves, yet.

Not fully blocked.

Tails still waving...

I have cropped and touched up the photo a bit, since first posting it.

But this is the front of of the TC Sweater I'm designing.

I had to cover the flash with my finger so that the texture would show up better.

Friday, March 7, 2008

ARNie's Beginning Crochet Classes Syllabus

Supplies Needed:
Size H or I Crochet hook
Red Heart Yarn pastel or medium dark colors. Very pale and very dark colors are difficult to see and makes the learning process troublesome. Variegated yarns are also recommended to better see where to stitch.
I strongly suggest you purchase only the Red Heart for this class. The more expensive, textured yarns and threads are much more difficult to work with. You can get very discouraged trying to learn with these yarns.

Lesson #1- Getting Started
We will cover the very basics of Regular Crochet including
Techniques: How to get started, & how to end off.
Stitches: Slip Knot, Chain Stitch, Slip Stitch, Single Crochet Stitch
Projects: We’ll complete at least one Lace Coaster, using the stitches covered in the class.

Spider Web Coaster Instructions
Ch 6, connect to form ring.
Round 1: (Ch 4, Sc into ring) 8 Times. Sl st into 2 chs of 1st Ch4Loop.
Round 2: (Ch 4, Sc into next Ch4Loop) 7 times. Ch 4, and sl st into base of 1st Ch4 Loop. Sl st into 2 chs of the 1st Ch4 Loop.
Round 3: (Ch 5, Sc into next Ch4Loop) 7 times. Ch 5, and sl st into base of 1st Ch5 Loop. Sl st into 3 chs of the 1st Ch5 Loop.
Round 4: (Ch 6, Sc into next Ch5Loop) 7 times. Ch 6, and sl st into base of 1st Ch6 Loop. Sl st into 3 chs of the 1st Ch6 Loop.
Round 5: Ch 1. 3 Sc into this loop. 6-7 Sc in next Ch6Loop, and every other Ch6 Loop. 3 Sc into 1st Ch6Loop. Connect to beg ch, end off and weave threads.

Lesson #2- Working with Rounds
Some basic rules when working with round objects, how to attach new colors, and how to weave loose threads, Crochet abbreviations for reading patterns.
Stitches: Double Crochet Stitch
Projects: 2 coasters- Spring/Fall/Winter Flower Motifs,
The following is a tutorial I have that offers some of the finer points on working in rounds. I present a printed version of this for my students.
Flower Project Links
Celtic Ring Granny Squares

Lesson #3- Plain Ol’ Crochet
Techniques: Crocheting into a chain, Crocheting into a stitch, crocheting around a block, practice reading patterns.
Stitches: Half Double Crochet Stitch
Projects: Ice/Roller Skates, and 1 block with a decorative edging that can be used as a coaster or wash cloth.
HOMEWORK: Crochet 2 blocks like the washcloth for the next class.
Online Pattern links
http://chezcrochet.com/page76.html scroll down for ice/roller skates

Lesson #4- Connecting Blocks, Stars & SNOWFLAKES!
Techniques: How to connect Patchwork pieces together, more practice reading patterns
Stitches: Treble Crochet, Picot Stitch
Projects: Hot pad made from homework blocks, Stars for your Christmas tree or for your Patriotic projects, and Snowflakes (winter or summer- these are so much fun for the students and a great sense of accomplishment.)
Links to online patterns:
http://chezcrochet.com/page74.html Stars
http://chezcrochet.com/page71.html Snowflakes page 1

Lessons #5 & 6- Diagonal Stitch
Diagonal or Corner to Corner Stitch: A nifty way to create afghans that builds from one corner and decreases into the far corner; creating a perfectly square piece with nice, even edges.

©Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com

For a complete description of my Copyright Permissions click the link below, then click the Back Button on your broswer to return here.


ARNie’s Theory of Teaching Crochet for a Modern Stitcher

So many factors affect a modern person’s ability to learn to crochet, and most of them are not conducive for learning this or any other needlework.

  • Time Shortage- they simply don’t have a lot of time to sit and practice at home.
  • No one to help- if they are paying to take a class, that means they have no one to help them at home.
  • Rewired Eye/Hand Coordination- it has been my experience that working with computers: typing, video games, spread sheets, graphics programs... all of this is a completely different type of Eye-Hand Coordination. Spending a lot of time in front of the computer will ‘rewire’ the brain’s Eye-Hand Coordination, so that these folks will truly struggle with manipulating tools.
  • Instant Gratification- with today’s fast paced lives, they are trained to expect results quickly, and if they don’t get those results quickly, they believe they have failed or this is too difficult for them to continue wasting time on.

Consequentially, I don’t teach crochet classes in a traditional progression of skills. I want my students to feel a sense of accomplishment after every class session; which encourages and empowers them to practice more at home.

I explain the Eye-Hand coordination theory to them, and continuously tell them to be patient with themselves: they are training their brain to do something completely alien. Give it time to learn.

To accomplish these goals, I have designed a curriculum that allows the students to focus on only one thing during a session.

Traditionally, we were taught to crochet into a chain the very first thing. This forces the student to learn the mechanics of the stitching, as well as, stitch placement all at the same time.

Or, we were taught a granny square, which seemed to be one of the most simplest things to learn... unless you have never seen one before, and then it becomes a maze of where to put the hook-when do I chain-which stitches do I skip-where is that stupid corner....

I believe this is too much to learn all at once, especially since folks who take classes usually don’t have anyone at home to help them with finer details, such as recognizing the various parts of the stitch to identify where the hook must go.

Consequentially, my first lessons are all worked in rounds and I don’t focus too much on ‘connecting to the beginning stitch of each round.’ The first stitches they learn are Chains and Single Crochets, and slip stitches.

The mechanics of these are fairly intuitive: the hook grabs the yarn and pulls it through the loop on the hook. The hook goes into a stitch, grab the yarn, pull it through the loop on the hook. Then the next natural progression: the hook goes into a stitch, grab the yarn, pull it through, then grab the yarn again & pull in through to connect it all.

By allowing the student to work with Chains and Single Crochets in rounds, it allows them to focus more on their mechanics and they don’t stress out over finding where the hook goes next.

It's been my experience that this breaks down the various elements of crochet into separate lessons:

  • First, conquer the Physical aspect of how to manipulate hook and yarn, plus how to get both hands working together in concert
  • Then, learning the Visual aspect- how to identify the various parts of a stitch and where to place the hook within those parts- is much easier

Separating these skills, and allowing the student to learn one first, allows the Modern Stitcher more success early on. At the end of a two hour session, they can take home a lacy coaster (that won’t look half bad) to show their families. And I can’t tell you how many of these students bring back numerous ‘lacy coasters’ that they worked on over the week.

The next lesson I teach the Double Crochet stitch, since that is the one stitch used most often. I continue to work in rounds, but not working into stitches. I designed a few flower motifs that still work into chain spaces, that will allow students to focus on the mechanics of forming the Double Crochet stitch.

In this lesson, I also teach how to attach new colors, so that they will have colorful Flower coasters to take home. Again, that sense of accomplishment- really caters to a goal oriented person, and if they are paying for a class, they are goal oriented. They won’t have to hide their first crochet projects in a drawer because they look so awful; they can proudly display them to say look what I accomplished in only my second lesson!

This sense of pride and accomplishment does more towards the success of students than anything a teacher can do. No amount of patience, persistence, or tenacity on the teacher's part can compare to the encouragement of the student’s own success; so I give them that success from day one, and every day they leave my class.

After they have learned the Double Crochet stitch, the students are familiar enough with the mechanics that they can focus on the visual aspect of crochet: recognizing the various parts of a stitch to learn where to put the hook in forming new stitches.

The next two classes they learn: Half Double and Treble Crochet stitches, plus picots, how to crochet into a chain- individual stitches, how to crochet two blocks together & how to crochet around a block.

Each lesson has a specific project to further the sense of accomplishment and success. I use Star motifs to teach Trebles, and Plain Ol' Crochet row by row to make a simple washcloth to teach them the Half Double crochet. In these lessons, I also give them some of the snowflake patterns at my site. These are super quick and give my students an enourmous sense of pride in such a short time.

Finally, I spend the last two lessons working on the Diagonal Stitch or Corner to Corner stitch. Yes, this seems like a very complicated technique to teach beginners, however, I had such horrible results with granny squares and mile a minute strips that I will NEVER teach them to a beginner’s class ever again.

The Diagonal Stitch offer students a method of building blankets that will always have a nice straight edge, lots of texture, endless potential for color variation, and allows them to work into a Chain Space, instead of individual stitches.

Even with folks who have been crocheting only 1 month, they learn this method in 2 classes or 4 hours. I encourage them with the words: once you learn this method, you will never want to make blankets row by row. Be patient with yourselves, this is a little complicated, but I would not teach it, if I didn’t believe you could learn it. And for beginners, it offers the best method for creating perfect blankets every time.

All of my tips and tricks for teaching & learning the Diagonal Stitch are in my booklet
Diagonal Magic Primer.

Finally, if I have a student who continues to struggle after the second week, I put a long hook in their hands and teach them Tunisian Crochet. In my years of teaching, Tunisian Crochet (aka Afghan Stitch) is much easier to teach and to learn. I tell these students that my goal is to teach them a stitching hobby that they can love and have fun with. That does not necessarily mean classic crochet- for them. After they have mastered Tunisian Crochet and trained the mind and hands to work together, then come back to Classic Crochet... if they want to.

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com
For a complete list of my Copyright Permissions, please click the link below and then click your browsers Back Button to return here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What your needlework Publisher isn’t telling you....

All the time, folks ask: how to get into the Crochet Designing business, or how do I get my designs published, or what did I- ARNie- go through to publish my book?

Most folks would think that Needlework Publishing is just like Prose Publishing with all the built in protection of various Intellectual Rights: copy rights, foreign copy rights, multiple printing revenue, revenue if the copyrights are sold to another company, media rights {tv, film, internet}, where do the copyrights go after the publisher takes the book out of print.

In mainstream publishing there is a generalized pay scale based on experience and talent. Each periodic publication states up front what they will pay for a piece, and what steps to follow in submitting a work for publication.

Magazines state up front that they will not pay the author for a piece until the piece is actually published, but the time limit on keeping that piece without paying for it is only a couple of years.

Book publishers negotiate with agents on what the author gets paid or what level of rights the author keeps in exchange for a smaller payment, including royalties or a per centage of future revenues.

Book publishers offer advances or ‘good faith’ payments to authors that they purchase a finished product, but can’t actually pay the full price until the book is actually printed.

Most folks believe that Needlework Publishing is just like Prose Publishing... right? They are both Publishing industries....

Most folks believe this, and I was one of them. The simple fact is that None of this is true for needlework publishers.

Designers get paid one time for their project: no foreign publishing revenues, no revenues when the copyrights are sold to another company, no revenues if the project is used in numerous publications. Only in the last few years have needlework publishers offered royalties for multiple printings of a leaflet/booklet... but it is solely the discretion of the publisher when and if they do a second printing.

Designers loose all Intellectual Rights to the piece: no ‘creative rights’ over changes in the design or instructions, no rights if the editor or publishers would rather market this Man’s sweater as a Plus Sized Woman’s sweater, no rights or revenues if the project is posted on a website or used for other marketing purposes.

There is no standard pay scale for experience and talent; designers must negotiate with each publisher for each design submitted. And no, you can't let a literary agent negotiate for you, because literary agents don’t represent needlework authors or designers. Needlework Designers and Authors don't get paid enough money for literary agents to work with them.

As in mainstream publishing, needlework publishers can ‘accept a design and put it under contract,' but won’t pay for the design until it is actually published in a book or magazine. However, needlework publishers can and do keep those designs under contract for years... 5 years is a general time limit when the publisher will return the copyrights to the designer along with a small compensatory fee, but the publisher is under no obligation to do so, unless stated in the contract.

If a publisher offers revenues or royalties for multiple printings, and then just doesn’t print anymore until the contract runs out with the designer... there are no agents or lawyers involved to hold the publisher accountable.

There are no agents involved to make sure publishers actually use and pay for designs in a timely manner.

There are no business managers to keep track of numerous contracts and the individual details of each contract of all the projects under contract, that haven’t been paid for.

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com
For a complete list of my Copyright Permissions, please click the link below and then click your browsers Back Button to return here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Conclusion: Selling Finished Crochet Pieces

In Home Parties
I've had folks in Florida tell me that they host in-home parties (like Tupperware) to sell their finished crochet pieces and they do just fine. However, I did not hear them say they were making a living at this; just pleased with their results.

This sounds like a fabulous way to sell crochet... if you live in a community or apartment complex where you know your neighbors... or if you work in a large office building where folks know each other... This would work, but only if you have a large list of potential clientele that you don’t mind bringing into your home.

You would need a quiet isolated room in your home, where the rest of the family would not be tempted to intrude. Your party room, kitchen, and bathroom would need to be very clean. You would need to have refreshments, and games for ‘ice breakers’... basically, you would need to organize and host parties in your home- quite often to make your crochet pay for itself AND the expenses of hosting frequent parties.

I work out of my home; my husband is a territory sales rep, so neither of us know lots of people that we would want to invite to our home. Also, I have an open floor plan where my ‘entertaining room’ is my tv room and connected to my dining area. And I have a cat who would make the party miserable if he were locked out of that room, and make a nuisance of himself while he was in the room.

Nope, in-home parties would not work for me.

Portfolios & Contract Crochet
I had one lady tell me she created an 'artist’s' portfolio of her finished pieces and took them to local interior decorators. Her services were stitching pieces in the colors/yarns/patterns that the decorator and client chose.

Other ladies have told me they use the portfolio concept to sell their services for stitching samples for several Local Yarn Shops.

At least with this concept, you can create a finished piece ahead of time for the portfolio, and not include those projects/yarns that you absolutely hate to work with. You can also gently guide a customer into what will or will not work with the yarn they’ve chosen.

This could be a viable option, if you live in an area that has the need for a lot of interior decorators/designers. Not so in my little town in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas.

This would be great, if you live in a town with numerous independent yarn stores.... but our Local Yarn Shops have all closed, and they were primarily needle point and cross stitch shops that tried to branch out into knitting and crochet.

I love this idea of a Portfolio, but to be a successful stitcher, you would need to invest in that portfolio as much as artists, actors, & models invest in their portfolios... in other words... you really should let a professional put it together.

You would need to pay a professional photographer for the photos of your designs... and preferably one with experience in photographing things like this. Your ‘professional portrait photographer’ at Sears or WalMart is not a good option.

A top quality portfolio could make you look like a true professional worthy of top pay, but portfolios like that are expensive... and like a high priced craft show... still offers no guarantees at selling your stitching services.

Don’t misunderstand my cynicism here, I think this is a fabulous idea to crochet for pay; but as with any business; you must do your research in order to be successful. And you must be a top notch sales person with this marketing plan; because if you can’t sell the concept to Interior Designers or Yarn Store owners, you won’t have any business.

Contract Crocheting for Publishers...
I have heard that some folks do quite nicely as contract crocheters for publishers. However, I've heard complaints that an editor can dump 3 huge projects in your lap (lace table cloths, queen sized bedspreads with detailed graph work done in sc), and then they get angry when the crocheter couldn't finish all three huge projects in a week or two.

This is where you must be able to meet strict deadlines or have the time to work 8 hours a day crocheting. And your stitching must be perfect and fast, so that you can make a bedspread in a week.

Pattern Tester for Designers & Publishers....
As a pattern tester, you need to be an intuitive crocheter, so you can correct mistakes or ascertain that this is a mistake and how to correct it.

There is ok money in this from major publishers/designers, IF you can convince them to use you.

The biggest problem with contract crocheting and pattern testing is getting your name into the hands of those folks who need those types of crocheters. And honestly, I have no information on how to do that.

Before you approach an interior decorator, or a publisher for contract crocheting, chart available time that you can dedicate to crochet. Interior designers & publishers will have strict deadlines that you must meet, or they can cut your pay, or not pay at all for pieces that are excessively late.

As you can see, there are many many options of getting paid to crochet, but each avenue has it’s pitfalls and risks. Only you can determine what is the best avenue for you, and knowledge is the first step. Research, Research, Research. Armed with enough research and proper planning, you can be successful.

One final option is Designing and Publishing your own projects, and I will cover that in the days/weeks to come.

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com
For a complete list of my Copyright Permissions, please click the link below and then click your browsers Back Button to return here.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Diagonal Stitch in a Circle

I love the Diagonal Stitch.

I love working from the center out with projects, because that allows you to use what you have on hand... when you run out of one color, you tie on another.

These are patterns I created using the principle mechanics of Diagonal Stitch, but work them in a circle.

http://chezcrochet.com/page97.html Pattern and Booklet Details
http://chezcrochet.com/page92.html ordering instructions

More Diagonal Around the Block

More examples of working the
Diagonal Stitch Around the
Block... these all start in the
center of the piece and stitch

Diagonal Stitch Around the Block

I love the scalloped edge that Diagonal Stitch creates, so I created a technique that leaves that scalloped edge intact, for instant edgings!

This is also a great technique for using up scraps, or onesies and twosies skeins of yarn.

http://chezcrochet.com/page97.html Pattern and Booklet Details
http://chezcrochet.com/page92.html ordering instructions

Diagonal Stitch-Mazes

I’m posting some photos of projects I’ve done in Corner to Corner or Diagonal Stitch.

These projects are in Diagonal Magic: Connect as You Stitch

General instructions are located here:
More Fun with Corner to Corner

You can find more information here:
http://chezcrochet.com/page97.html Pattern and Booklet Details
http://chezcrochet.com/page92.html ordering instructions

ARNie's Diagonal Stitch Projects & Techniques

Well, I’m taking a break today and posting some photos of projects I’ve done in Corner to Corner or Diagonal Stitch.

All of these techniques have instructions at my site, or can be purchased in booklets at my site.
This is from Diagonal Magic Primer but you can find
general instructions here:

Saturday, March 1, 2008

So you aren't ready to do craft shows...what else is there?

My area of Texas is inundated with folks who crochet themselves, so I bombed when I tried to sell my finished pieces, but don’t let my disastrous results at craft shows or other sales events deter you from even trying to make your crochet- at least pay for itself.

I’ve heard crocheters all over the US have great success in selling things at craft shows. Keep in mind that their Success, could be less money than I made in my Disasters. Here are a few other ways folks are making money with crochet.

You will get those folks who claim the ‘quality machine made crocheted things in stores’ are much cheaper than what you are asking for your products.
You can explain, that the mechanics of crochet are impossible to recreate with a machine; every piece of cheap crochet you find in a store was crocheted by hand, by ‘slave labor’ in a third world county.

Unfortunately, there are a gazillion variables that can determine your chances of making money with crochet: your locale, the demand & appreciation for hand made goods, the time you can devote to your work, your abilities, your cash flow management as an entrepreneur, your ability to work under a deadline, etc.

These are my experiences, or what folks have told me they do, and I include the negatives I considered when making my decision on how to be profitable with crochet.

Special Orders....

I did crochet a few special order pieces for folks, but have since stopped. When folks pay even a little extra for something that is specially designed for them, they expect nothing less than perfection... even if their idea of perfection is impossible to attain.

When customers asked about my doing a special order blanket, they would choke when I wanted $200 for a large piece, not including the yarn. They could buy the same thing at Wal Mart for $30. (not really, but that was their attempts to shame me into lowering my prices).

I would then offer to teach them to crochet so that they could spend 60+ hours crocheting their piece and only pay $50 bucks for the yarn. At this time the tension would be so high, that they would leave muttering that they would get their grandma to do it and she wouldn't charge them at all, not even for the yarn!

My thoughts were: if you would do that to your grandma, then I don't want to do business with you...

I’ve had folks write to me from all over the country saying they are pleased with their special order business, and I’ve had just as many folks tell me they refuse to do special orders any more.

Those that do special orders, these are the limits the place on their services:

  1. They do only certain projects: like baby blankets or other smaller pieces.
  2. They have a product list and offer to stitch in different colors or different types of yarn/thread.
  3. They place a reasonable delivery date for the special order: 2 weeks or more for blankets.
  4. They set their price, and terms ahead of time, and do no negotiate. I want $XX to stitch this baby blanket; you buy the yarn; I keep the leftovers.
  5. They DO NOT stitch anything and everything folks ask of them.

The one time I did a big special order, I lost money on the deal. I spent hours working with Boucle yarn, mailed the piece to her, it wasn't exactly like she wanted, so she mailed it back and I had to carefully frog half the piece in Boucle yarn and then re-stitch it. Did I mention that I frogged Boucle yarn? yeah, it was that nasty. :-P

I have crocheted a few other special orders, that weren’t as painful as this, but with none of them did I make enough money to cover the amount of time I spent.

This is the one important aspect of Special Order crochet: you get no choice on what you are crocheting- even if the yarn and design are not working together, you still have to finish the piece. (boucle yarn comes to mind.)

Some folks have told me they are pleased with their 'special order' crochet sales, but that they had to limit the types of projects they do or they would be overwhelmed with projects.

Which made me think: If they are turning customers away, they were undervaluing their labor in their pricing. Yet, if they go up on their prices, they would loose many of their customers.

Also, many of the ladies who do Special Order crochet were retired with social security checks, so their crochet was supplemental income. It paid for their hobby.

I have never heard the Special Order Crocheters say what happens to pieces that they work up and then the customers turned down. My 2 dozen shawls comes to mind, that I'm sure I made some battered women and their daughters quite happy, but I made no money on the deal.

Tomorrow’s Post: Parties & Portfolios

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com
For a complete list of my Copyright Permissions, please click the link below and then click your browsers Back Button to return here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

CP- Pattern Notation and written instructions


If you don't mind or have a few minutes, would you click on the Comments section and tell me what is the single most important thing to you , when looking at and reading the pattern instructions. What element helps you to determine: Oh, I just gotta make this pattern; or I'll never try this pattern.

The polls are designed to let you -the average crocheter- give a Designer your thoughts on what is great about current pattern instructions and what makes you so angry you could scream.

I'll be posting the results in two weeks.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Part 8: Bells, Whistles and Signage

Both my Husband and my friend Beverly preach Signage Signage Signage. In their retail training, they were taught to put a sign on everything; signs will draw folks to a product.

The key to signing your booth is simplicity. I always had fun with fancy fonts and graphics and it usually was a waste of supplies. I have learned to keep things very simple: Name of Product and Price. In Big Bold Lettering. Black lettering.... and a few colored graphics or borders around the lettering... can't help it; I love color. And those signs must be at eye level... my mistake was trying to put the signs at My eye level... I'm 6'1"... I tower over most of my customers, so I've learned to keep my signs at their eye level. Eye level is Buy level.

I also have chosen to Price Point my products instead of trying to tag each individual item. Hot pads are one price, wash cloths are one price, coaster sets are one price.... everything on this table is one price.

This became my number one labor saver. Some items sell better at different times of the year, so I could mark them a little higher. The customers at some shows prefered multiple piece gift sets with a different pricing structure. It things got dusty at an outdoor show, it was no major chore to drop them in a washer, since I didn't have to remove tags.

Price Pointing your product- instead of tagging every individual piece- allows you more freedom in providing what a clientele wants at any given venue. And you don't have to spend the money on purchasing little tags... that can make your merchandise look shop worn, when those tags get dirty.

I’ve had great success with Assortable or Multiple selling. Buy 1 for $5, 2 for $8, 3 for $9, 5 for $10. This puts money in the cash drawer, and draws people into the booth to look.

Every Crafter has told me to have some cheap little item, to ‘pay the booth rent.’ I have put that inexpensive item in the front of the booth to act as a Bell and Whistle. The sign with a small price can draw folks into a booth just as easily as the colorful blankets/afghans that line the walls.

Bells and Whistles (something my husband preaches) are those unique aspects to your booth that will draw people in from the aisle. You can’t sell merchandise unless folks come into the door of your ‘store.’

  • Signs are an excellent way to draw folks into your booth.
  • The Multiples Discounts/Assortable Pricing have been a big success with me, but your Signs-detailing these discounts- must be easy to see from the Aisle.
  • Offering a Free Gift with $XX purchase is another trick.
  • Having a ‘clearance’ section in the back corner of the booth will also draw folks in.
  • I have tied bunches of helium balloons to the corners of my booth to make it stand out... but the only people who saw them were kids who wanted to buy them.
  • Shiny- sparkling things will draw folks in, so I used ‘remnant’ squares of sparkly fabric as table skirts.
  • Again, the only people who were drawn to the sparkly fabric were kids... who would drag mom into the booth.
  • I have used portable stereos with ‘soothing’ music (which is why so many stores used to pipe in Muzak: studies showed that people spent more when they were relaxed.) But most craft shows are now banning portable stereos- if everyone has music playing, it becomes noise.

I don’t pay extra for electricity and lighting, since it never paid off for me....not even with my jewelry.

My most successful Bells and Whistles were Assortable Discount Signs, my room dividers with colorful crocheted blankets & the tall bakers' racks with my pattern books on them.

When you are visiting craft shows and other sales venues; look at the booths that are getting the most attention, and also look at those booths that no one seems to even notice. What is catching attention? What is it about the 'invisible' crafter that no one wants to visit their booth? Sometimes you learn more of what 'not' to do, and that information is just as valuable.

Tomorrow’s Post... ARNie’s experience has convinced me not to do craft shows... what else is there?

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com
For a complete list of my Copyright Permissions, please click the link below and then click your browsers Back Button to return here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Part 7: The Nuts and Bolts of Booth Design

I have two people in my life that are ‘Retail Lifers’ and both have had extensive training on product presentation and how to ‘sell’ anything.

My husband believes that a craft show booth should have the front of the booth lined with tables, so that the products are ‘front and center’ and I sit behind the tables talking to customers... He prefers a Trade Show setup.

This is drastically limits the space you have for displaying products, but certainly allows plenty of room for you and any backstock.... just remember to leave a hole/door for you to leave the booth for restroom breaks, etc.

My Good Friend, Beverly, prefers to line the outer edges of the booth with product and allow the customer to step into the booth to shop without being jostled by the traffic in the aisle. She prefers a Country Peddler Craft Show set up.

Beverly is always telling me that folks will want to touch and closely examine all of my finished crochet items. They can’t really do that if they are being jostled by other shoppers, while they stand in the aisle.

However, you must invest in a double wide booth, if you are going to allow folks to step into your booth. Nothing kills sales quicker than claustrophobia- yours or the customers.

Either one of these- in general- is perfectly sound marketing... depending on your product.

My husband’s training has taught him that the color Red catches folks’ eyes the quickest and will sell products faster. Which explains the cover of my book, despite all other needlework publishers choosing to use pastel colors on the covers of their books.

However, it’s been my experience that lots of color will draw folks into the booth... if they are neatly displayed in rows and columns. Having lots of color that is scattered around, just makes a booth too busy to look at and see anything.

Nothing screams ‘amateur’ like a card table without a floor length skirt.
  • Amateur screams ‘shoddy construction and low quality products.’
  • Always, Always, Always, cover your tables with skirts that reach to the floor.
  • This also allows you to hide your travel trunks/boxes and back stock, ice chests for your lunch and snacks, thermoses, or travel mugs.
  • I prefer to use Black Cloth to skirt my tables, since this is a technique Artists use on paintings. Dark colors in the ‘background’ make all the lighter colors really stand out and catch attention. I have about 24 yards of fabric I bought at a thrift store. I have left the fabric in this long length, and I use packing tape to 'affix' it to my tables. I then put another cloth on top to hide the tape. This allows me to change the configuration of my tables from year to year.
  • Remember, you are selling Merchandise, not fixtures, so make the fixtures as invisible as possible.

The best display piece I’ve seen (and used myself) for displaying blankets is a free standing Room Divider. (Actually, my fixtures were designed to be towel holders in a bathroom- a Hobby Lobby find).

These can easily be used as your Booth Boundaries, instead of having to invest in special apparatus that supports a curtain, or a collapsible tent. Keeping your Costs down helps keep your profits up.

Also, by using display fixtures to create your booth boundaries, you cut down on what must be stored and carried to sales events. KISS... Keep It Simple to Store!

Room Dividers are easy to carry, set up and fold up; they collapse into an flat space, so they don’t take up a lot of storage space; they keep colorful blankets in nice neat rows/columns to make their colors easier to see... and they can be very inexpensive- compared to other traditional display fixtures.

Watch the hobby store adds for 40% off coupons and clearance sales of their furniture/ room dividers. You can also use gardening Trellises for this purpose; just connect two or three matching trellises together with strap ties or links of chain. You can get these on clearance at the end of your growing season at national home supply stores.

OH, not every room divider will work. It must have horizontal rungs that extend across the width of the piece, to make it easier to hang blankets. I have seen woven wicker room dividers, that with a lot of work to remover the wicker, would reveal the horizontal rungs for blanket display.

Now, room dividers with numerous compartments or grid-work can be ideal for scarves and towel toppers.

If grid work trellises/room dividers are all you can find, you can use clothes pins or bull dog/pinch clips (office supplies) to hang smaller blankets on them; that technique is not as professional looking, but will work in a pinch.

For space management and effective shopping, use tables that are only 18-24 inches wide. Trust me, trying to put more merchandise out on wider tables, does not sell it better. Folks can’t reach things across a wider table, and they just can’t ‘see’ everything on a 3 foot wide table.

This also frees up space inside your booth.

Every square inch has display potential. You’ve paid for that space, USE IT. This is why so many crafters are going with the ‘wire grid’ system for their walls: it allows them to display merchandise all the way up the walls.

However, so many cafters are using this system, that your booth could melt right into the booths surrounding it. You always want your booth to be unique, so it will entice folks in. Also, that grid system requires support mechanisms that require tools and do you really want that much work in just setting up display fixtures?

I have used collapsible Baker’s Racks in my booth to utilize that ‘upward’ display space. Again, they can certainly act like a boundary or wall for my booth, especially when I use clothes pins or pinch clips to attach a colorful blanket to the back of it. They are easy to fold up and store, or, set up and use them to house the craft show inventory at home.

Best of all, they have a value of their own, if your situation changes and you don’t need them, you can sell them and recoup your costs. Only professional Crafters will want to buy a grid-wall system, or a collapsible tent.

OH, I don’t recommend using a collapsible tent for indoor craft shows. The lighting is bad enough without having a canvass ‘roof’ blocking out that light. Don’t think that adding ‘lights’ under that tent will help either; they trap a lot of heat, and when combined with body heat from lots of customers... you are setting up a situation where folks will not take time to shop.

Where to put your ‘office or cashier area’ , ie, where you sit...that is your choice, and I’ve seen it two different ways that seem to work the best for my area.

Some vendors- who buy double or triple booths- will line the boundaries with display fixtures and put themselves in the middle of the both-front and center- at a table. That allows shoppers to walk in behind the vendors as they shop the walls.
The drawbacks to this set are: it can get very tight behind that table when you and customers are trying to squeeze into only 4-5 feet of space. With you sitting at the front of your booth facing out, and your product behind you, you cannot watch for shoplifters, and you cannot see if customers are needing assistance. You make more sales if you can easily and quickly offer to show a customer something you have in back stock.

The other method that works well in my area is to put you and your office- either in a back corner or down one side of the booth- always behind a table. This allows you ‘personal space’ that customers can’t get to- especially your cash box or register. Since you are facing the product and customers, it will help deter shoplifters and will allow you to easily address your customers.

I have put that table at the back of a single booth, to allow my customers to step out of the aisle to shop. I couldn't afford a double booth at this show, and putting the table and the office at the back of the booth was the best option. However, there wasn't much space for us vendors and the back stock, and the table had to be moved every time my partner or I had to leave.

Tomorrow’s Post: Bells, Whistles and Signage

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Part 6: Nooks, Crannies & Niches

Finding that Niche of Profit

When I first started attending craft shows, I tried to carry a little bit of everything I did: jewelry and crochet from small to large, cheap to pricey. I thought that might be the best way to see what would sell and a general price range...and my success was dismal; I almost always covered my booth rent, but rarely made more than the expenses of the entire weekend.

So I began to study all of the ‘professional’ craft show vendors; first of all, they attended a craft show every single weekend.

I discovered that they all had one thing in common: they had one thing or one category of things they sold.

The leather worker didn’t sell gold and silver jewelry; he sold hand tooled leather pieces.

The man who hand worked exotic woods, didn’t sell hand stitched dish rags; he sold hand crafted wooden bowls, pens, and such.

The couple that worked together: he sold his photographic art, she sold her knitted wash cloths and slippers- not blankets or baby sweaters... just wash cloths and slippers. The photographic art took up most of their double booth, and she had a table with all her knitted products.

From my experience, you must find a niche and do nothing but that niche to be profitable with crochet at craft shows or other sales venues.

I know of a family that does nothing by crocheted towel toppers, and wash rags. That’s it. But they have hundreds of sets of these on hand at all times. They have more variety of towel designs than most retail stores in our area.

They took their little niche, and they fill every nook and cranny of their double booth with a variety of that 'niche product.'

And they make enough money at it, that they have been doing it for years.

The key is: to have numerous copies of that one thing... in every color of the rainbow and every color for every style of stitch you do.

Inevitably, if you make a washrag in a shell stitch with blue yarn, someone would claim to want a dozen in yellow... if you had them right now. You will always have someone wanting a pink baby blanket in the same stitch of this green one- but they don't like the stitch of the pink blanket you do have... or they'll want this baby sweater in a different color and a larger/smaller size.

OH, and never commit to fulfilling these requests unless they are willing to put half the money down that day... or it is something that you normally carry and will sell another day. Rarely do these kinds of customers return to buy that item you rushed to finish over night.

Unfortunately, in my part of Texas, only a few crochet things sell very well: baby stuff and kitchen stuff and -later in the year- Christmas decorations. These are generally smaller items that can be sold at a smaller price and still make a profit.

In today's market, customers are accustommed to variety, and as merchants, we must supply that variety, or we won't sell what we do have. Whatever your research tells you is the niche of crochet for your area, you must have a large selection for folks to choose from. At least, this is what the most successful crocheters in my part of Texas are doing.

I finally realized that I simply could not handle the high level of repetitive stitching to sell finished crochet items, so I chose to do what I’m best at: writing books on crochet and designing for patterns. My book sales have been successful: I sold through the first printing of the book in 18 months, and I’m partially through the second printing that had 5 times the number of units from the first printing.

Now that I’m adding more pattern booklets, my sales for those are increasing... but these are all online sales. I sell enough online, that I don’t take the risk for doing a lot of craft shows in my area... yet. (I do have plans to start doing more sales events in the future, but my health/allergies tend to limit what I can do out of town.)

Finally, when you are writing up your pros and cons of trying to sell your finished crochet pieces, there are some basic things to consider:

  • Do you have a monthly sales event where you can develop a return customer base? Constant exposure is critical to developing a profitable crochet business. If they don’t want it now, they know they can buy it from you when they do need it.
  • Can you devote every weekend or at least twice a month to doing sales events?If not, you probably won’t be successful, and you should consider other ways of selling finished crochet pieces.
  • Can you afford to pay for the gas, lodging, and food to travel out of town to shows? Is the booth rent and other expenses (food & lodging) cheap enough that you can afford to loose that money? No matter how well the organizer advertises, there are no guarantees you will sell your crochet.
  • Is your family financially sound enough to cover potential losses for the first few years, until your business develops a steady clientele?

Tomorrow’s post: The Nuts and Bolts of Booth Design

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com
For a complete list of my Copyright Permissions, please click the link below and then click your browsers Back Button to return here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why I Sneeze...

I had a migraine yesterday, which told me that the weather was changing.

This afternoon, I began to sneeze my head off, and when I looked outside... the color of the sunlight was gray... and I knew we had a dirt storm blowing in.

This shot was taken at 5:30 pm CST, Feb 25, 2008.

The red tint of the sky is good ol' west Texas dirt.

The bright thing in the middle is the Sun.

No, there are no clouds.

Part 5: Why is that kitten sleeping in a Muffin Hat?

Answer.... because I had dozens of them and didn’t know what to do with them. No, not really, but a good title catches the attention.

Don’t make my biggest mistake: crochet a lot of things ahead of time, that you cannot give away as gifts.

I had wanted to take advantage of our active historical re-enacting community and a local Renaissance Faire, so I made dozens of crocheted shawls, & sewed muffin hats from satin and plaid flannel.

While I was busy crocheting all these shawls and sewing all those muffin hats, the Renaissance faire in our area had an embezzler keeping their books and they went bankrupt. I never got an opportunity to sell my crocheted shawls and muffin hats to their targeted audience. I didn't have enough merchandise to try for a larger RenFaire in a big city, and couldn't afford to travel 5-600 miles round trip every weekend for 2 months.

In my college days, I was marketing director for a Science Fiction/Fantasy Convention, and I remembered that the convention had a huge SCA attendance, as well as D&D gamers in costume.

I decided to take my products to the SF convention and sell them to the Fantasy and SCA people. However, I failed to ask about that SCA element before I paid my rent... only to find out that this convention had been taken over my combat video gamers when their local Convention went under.

The SF Convention organizers didn’t bother to ask the SCA to participate at the convention, and they weren't interested in D&D-so they didn't schedule matches...so the customers who would have bought my hats and shawls...didn’t come.

I tried to sell my shawls at another Old West Rendezvous and to online sutlers, but the Civil War and Frontier re-enactors didn't want my shawls in man made fibers, nor the muffin hats.

After storing these for several years, I gave the muffin hats to our local Cancer Society for chemo caps, and the shawls to our battered women's shelter... only to have shawls and ponchos become all the rage 6 months later.

Trying to keep up with trends is a very difficult thing for a small business owner. You can drive yourself crazy trying to ride the waves of the Fads, that are usually gone, before the average crocheter can catch up. You can also create serious financial hardships, if you spend serious money on supplies for finished items you can’t sell.

I got extremely lucky (depending on who you ask) when my local Hobby Lobby had a management turn over and they marked half of the yarn department 75-90% off. I bought $300 worth of brand new yarn, for $75.

I made all those shawls, from that yarn; plus towel toppers and hot pad/coaster sets, and gazillion other little things. I could afford to give those shawls away, because I had very little expense in them.

Do your research before you invest too much time and money in crocheting your items to sell at various venues in your area. At the very least, crochet those things that you can use as gifts for family and friends.

Tomorrow’s Post: Nooks, Crannies & Niches

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com
For a complete list of my Copyright Permissions, please click the link below and then click your browsers Back Button to return here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Crochet Partners: Yardage vs. Ounces

Howdy, folks, excuse me for a minute while I post a response to some dialog going on at Crochet Partners Yahoo group.

The original post complained vehemently that designers should be considerate enough to post 'yardage' requirements for their designs instead of generalized ounces. Others chimed in with similar complaints: why not use the number of skeins- instead of ounces; why do designers use the most expensive yarns for their cutest designs; why use yarns that aren't 'excessively' available and affordable.... yada yada yada... we've all heard these complaints a million times.

Rather than create more tension at CP, I'm posting my thoughts here....

A. Don't blame the Designer; their hands are chained. (okay so I couldn't resist that pun. ;-)
  • You can trust me on this one: all Crochet Designers would much rather use yardage requirements than ounces-simply because that is more accurate, but if a yarn is sold in ounces, then that is how we must 'measure' the usage.
  • The common crocheter will not understand how to compute yardage into ounces, and ounces into yardage.
  • I've worked with Jan Q. Public, and you can never underestimate the stupidity of Jan Q. Public. When selling merchandise to the public, you must cater to the least intelligent, because they can't do it for themselves.
  • (just ask the lawn mower company who had to pay millions in damages to a family who tried to trim their bushes by turning the lawn mower on its side. Now the lawn mower company must include instructions that 'the lawn mower' cannot be turned on its side to trim hedges and bushes.)
  • Trying to use a formula that computes ounces into yardage, is not the best, either. If a yarn is measured in ounces, a skein can be off by a few grams, and still be within accepted weights, but the yardage is way short. I cannot tell you how many times I've run out of yarn on a project, because not all skeins have the same yardage-when they are measured by the ounce.
  • Designers can't use the 'skein count' for patterns, because the yarn manufacturers are changing the size of skeins so often. You look at older patterns that use a skein count, and if you are lucky, they will tell you how much the skein weighs. 5 skeins of yarn, can have a radically different amount of yarn from just a few years ago, and in a few more years.
  • Since most designs are- in some way or another- supported by a yarn company, then designers must use the types of yarns that yarn companies want to promote.
  • If you are designer trying to make a living, you must design what a publisher will buy.
  • If you are a publisher, you must publish designs that will cater to your largest advertisers: yarn companies.
  • Designers don't always get a choice in what yarn is used in their designs after they sell it to a publisher- whether that is a periodical publication that must depend on yarn company ads to survive, or a yarn company using the design for a marketing tool.
  • Make no mistake, most patterns are designed to sell yarn, not the other way around.

B. There are numerous reasons why the industry -as a whole- treats Crocheters like Foster Kids; and folks, the problem is largely based on how we shop. We have no one, but ourselves to blame.

  • More and more, I'm seeing crochet designs using minimal instructions, much like Knitting instructions or some publishers are using more graphs.
  • This is much easier for the designer to write; the publisher to print; and greatly reduces the final cost of a design because less labor and supply costs went into that pattern.
  • This would make Crocheters appear to be 'lazy,' since most crocheters want pattern instructions that explain stitch by stitch, row by row, what to do... like spoon feeding information to school children.
  • Knitters don't use row by row, stitch by stitch instructions... the designer and publisher expect the knitter to be (dare I say this...) smart enough to be able to figure out what to do on their own.
  • We just finished a conversation at Crochet Partners about who does and doesn't like 'symbol' crochet notations... and from my imperfect memory, it seemed like most folks don't like symbol notations.
  • Crocheters want pattern notations that are more expensive to produce, but then they purchase the least expensive thing they can find.

I did a survey two years ago, asking Crocheters various questions on their spending habits and what they prefer to crochet. The results validated most of what I suspected:

  • The Majority of Crocheters prefer to use inexpensive yarns, simple classic designs-if they crochet clothing- and stitch utilitarian projects more than anything else.
  • They don't keep their finished projects, they give them as gifts to family and friends or to charity groups.
  • They crochet more items in a year than knitters, and because crochet uses much more yarn than knitting, crocheters feel they must use inexpensive yarns/threads.

You probably won't believe, this, but my sister and I had this conversation this morning: If Crochet uses more yarn than knitting, and crocheters finish more projects than knitters, then why won't yarn companies cater to us Crocheters? Why won't they supply what we want? My sister doesn't crochet, and she had the answer:

Because Knitters spend more money than we crocheters do.

I offer my humblest apologies to those who don't fit into this next statement:

If you don't like the way things are, whining about it won't help. You must actually DO something, to make a difference.

If you prefer yardage measurements, then buy only those yarns that provide that information on the label; and yes, you will need to pay more for that yarn.

If you want top quality patterns that use yardage measurements, instead of generalized ounces, then you will need to pay more for them.

If you are angry that this cute design uses a yarn that you can't afford, and why don't they make that cute design in a cheap yarn... then you will need to learn how to design your own things, or how to translate other patterns with your yarn of choice.

If you want someone to tell you stitch by stitch how to create this cute/hip/trendy design, then you will need to pay more for it.

As a whole, we crocheters need to stop relying on designers to spoon feed us stitch by stitch instructions, and learn how to 'figure some things out on our own.'

Understand, folks, that I am one of you. I buy Red Heart, because it was cheap and with my allergies I couldn't work with animal fibers. I buy yarn at thrift stores, and yes, two days ago I bought an 8 oz skein of unmarked yarn-probably Red Heart- for 50 cents. I learned this from my grandmother, who never bought 'new' yarn- she crocheted the scraps that friends would give her or what she could find at garage sales.

I rarely buy new patterns, because they are the same pattern on the clearance table as they are hot off the press. The single most important reason I don't buy new patterns is because most patterns don't fit a woman who is 6'1" and a plus size. For me, I will spend more on Red Heart to crochet a sweater than what I could purchase a completed sweater at Wal Mart... yes, even I have said those dreaded words.

I am finally learning that Crochet is an Art and my work deserves better quality supplies.

Until we all believe that we are Artists who deserve top quality supplies and be willing to pay top dollar for those supplies, we must accept our place as Foster Kids in the needlework industry.

The simple truth is:

  • if we want the industry to treat Crochet and Crocheters with the same level of respect as they do Knitters;
  • if we want the industry to invest in our hobby as much as they do knitting,
  • then we will need to spend more money.

Money talks, and if you don't like the status quo, buy the things that knitters buy... or learn to design your self with the yarns you can afford.

Oh, the article I wrote from that survey can be found here:

http://chezcrochet.com/page87.html it is a lengthy article... 4pages long.

Sorry, folks, I offer my humblest apologies, but I fought a migraine all day, and I really got cranky at all the whining. Get real. You cannot expect Champagne Quality for the price of tap water. I've been one of the cheapest crocheters on the planet, but I accepted that fact and learned how to cope. Now, I'm learning how to cope in a different way: if you are going to put that much work into something, then it is worth quality supplies.

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit ChezCrochet.com
For a complete list of my Copyright Permissions, please click the link below and then click your browsers Back Button to return here.