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  • Crochet Conference Prep, the Aftermath


    This past June and July I blogged fifty days of crochet conference prep. I returned home from the conference on July 17. Today is August 18. What happened between then and now?

    crochet conference prep: swatch buntings

    I crocheted together lacy Tunisian Lotus swatches in the car. It reminds me of Mexican “papel picado”. Worked out well for teaching!

    This is the first day that I could imagine sitting down to compose a blog post and enjoy it. That’s a full month of recovery from having a booth while also teaching several new crochet topics.

    Here’s how the past 30 days went:

    • I needed an immediate inventory of what I came home with, so the first thing I did was unpack a gazillion boxes of booth and teaching stuff.
    • After counting everything, I put away what I could. This left me with five big heaps that had to be sorted and packed up carefully for future events. It took two weeks to work through these heaps step by step.
    • It also took about two weeks to completely unpack suitcases and get through all of the laundry only because I felt like such a zombie.
    • Filled lots of orders that continued to come in every day from my website. (I love this about conferences: so many visitors to my website!)
    • Discussed new color #20 of Lotus yarn with our mill.
    • Slept and slept. Slept some more.
    • Sat still happily without my mind racing. No adrenaline rushes, worries, or multitasking. Enjoyed what others were posting about their conference experiences.
    • It took days to go through all of my emails.
    • It took a full four weeks for all incoming and outgoing booth and teaching monies to be settled. (This would surprise me except that it took longer last year.)
    • Thoughts: “I could maybe blog this. Or, tomorrow.” “What do I want to crochet next. No idea.” “What about next year? Not sure.”

    Crochet Conference Prep Results

    How it was better than last year’s:

    I was careful to keep a more accurate and readable list of starting inventory. This way, after returning home, it was easy to compare with the ending inventory (and trust the numbers!). I had to force myself to be disciplined about this. While packing up the merchandise to ship up to the show, I could see when my starting amounts got fuzzier last year.

    This year we shipped by UPS to a nearby UPS store, not to the event or show management company. It worked great this time: fast, cheap, and convenient.

    Thanks to a tip from Doris who used to transport and manage the entire CGOA Design Contest, I purchased some giant clear blue zippered storage cubes. These are perfect for loading up every inch of a car with soft items (yarns and crocheted items).

    Last year I felt like a zombie for much longer—months. A 2015 creative slump lasted for so long that I started to fear I was done with crochet designing altogether. This year I took endurance-building tonic herbs and nutrients for the weeks before and after the event. Maybe they worked! The creative slump only lasted 3 weeks this time. (Last year I also had jet lag.)

    I like the pattern info tags I created at the last minute for the three shawls that George Shaheen of 10 Hours or Less designed in my Lotus yarn.

    The “papel picado”-style swatch buntings (pictured above) that I crocheted on the way to Charleston worked out really well for me in classes because I grouped them by technique and theme. I’m going to do this with more Lotus swatches.

    *Blogging those fifty days of prep kept me focused on the present next step while also accountable to an observer (my blogging self). Plus it leaves me with tips for my future self.

    How might crochet conference prep be even better next time?

     

    This post is getting long so I’m moving this part to a future post.

     

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    • August 18th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Pineapple Lace and the CGOA Conference


    Pineapples are the theme for this year’s crochet conference. CGOA’s Hall of Fame Award winner happens to be a pineapple lace queen!

    You know these are freshly crocheted because these yarn colors are the new ones we just received from the mill. Even my husband is amazed. (Not shown: Lavender Ice. That’s for another day.)

    If you’ll be attending the conference this month, come by our booth #203 (on the right after you enter the market). Lots of pineapple lace to see and try on!

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    • July 2nd, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Custom CGOA Conference Calendar


    This year I created a public, sync-able CGOA Conference calendar. Anyone can add it to their own calendar if they’re using Google Calendar, or an application that supports the iCal format. (iCal link:

    https://calendar.google.com/calendar/ical/gi85adpe6u2tngfd6kg4qgo08s%40group.calendar.google.com/public/basic.ics )

    For years I’ve used a private version of this. It’s so handy! Besides using it on a mobile calendar app, I print it out and depend on it heavily at the conference. It comes home with important notes written all over it. (In case you don’t know, the CGOA conferences are as important for professional crocheters as for hobbyists.)

    CGOA Conference calendar

    Screenshot of my public conference calendar (orange) and private conference cal (purple) is on the right. Print window is opened to the left and I’ve selected “Landscape”. As we get closer to July 13, I may find more items to schedule. 

     

    Conference attendees can easily merge this calendar with their own calendar. If you use Google Calendar, look on the left for “Other Calendars”. Search “CGOA Conference” or use the link in this post (above). Check the box next to it to add its events to your own calendar. Any new items I add to the calendar will automatically update on your app if you “subscribe” to this calendar.

    Print your CGOA Conference calendar like I do

    I’m using Google Calendar. First make sure you’re in the month of July 2016. Then:

    1. If your calendar is not in a weekly format already, click “Week” along the top. Click “Wed.” to start the week at July 13.
    2. Then click the “5 Days” tab along the top so that the 5 days starts with Wed the 13th.
    3. Click the “More” tab in the top right and select “Print”. Once the print window opens up, find the drop down menu for Orientation and choose Landscape. Then click “Print” at the bottom. (see my screenshot).
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    • July 1st, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Conference Prep Crazy Zone


    Conference Prep Frenzy: A Two-Week Zone

    For Future Vashti’s reference: I shifted into conference prep frenzy at a specific time three days ago: end of the night on Monday, June 27th. It’s like stepping into the cockpit of an airliner, flicking on all switches and activating ‘all systems go’. (Like in the movies, anyway.) It’s obvious when it starts.

    The next morning I did my teacher’s conference prep ritual: put on a pot of coffee, spread a big white sheet on the floor, lined up a row of empty boxes, and labeled each with a class topic:

    Teacher's conference prep ritual! Box per class topic on the white sheet.

    The five boxes on the white sheet, one per class topic. This is how I get the final big picture of all the teaching stuff to ship soon(!) to the conference.

    Completing the Teacher’s Conference Prep

    I rounded up everything to bring: first the completed designs, then the handouts, yarn and other materials for students to use, optional materials like printed patterns, key newsletter issues, visual aids like class swatches etc., topic-related teaching aids like a “blocking demo kit” for the Weightless class and a “beading demo kit” for the love knots class.

    Doesn’t it seem like with a pot of fresh coffee, one could just whip through this? The reality is that it does start this way, but my completed designs are spread all over the house and I forget about some. It’s as if the white sheet cordons off an area of the house (and my brain) that keeps it under construction for 24-36 hours. That’s what makes it a ritual, really. I get through the first layer so that the next layer can be seen.

    After that time I can condense it all into 1 or 2 shipping boxes. That’s the quick and easy part.

    More Show Booth Conference Prep

    Here’s what else got done since I blogged 2 days ago:

    • Wound new Lotus colors in a few 100 gram balls—so that I could label and take photos of them—so that I can add them to the website. (Also means I committed to color names for them: Carbonite, Lavender Ice, Orange Luxe, and Emerald Deep.)
    • We build our booth with grid panels. Found out how hundreds of them will get to the show floor! Thanks to Linda Dean whom I can’t wait to finally see again.
    • Placed final order for crochet hooks I’ll need for the booth and classes.
    • Finalized arrangements and logistics for how everything and everybody gets there and gets back!
    • Formatted several crochet patterns for kits, classes, etc (printed):
      • a fun new one-ball pattern for Lotus that Doris designed for the booth (a printed crochet pattern). More on that later.
      • My Mesmer patterns (scarf, stole, sized vest variations on a steeky theme and with double-ended hook option) as one printed pattern set for the class, and extras for booth.
      • Did the same with my Starwirbel pattern.
      • Still have 3 more patterns to do if I can.
    • Back & forths with tech editor on edits of class handouts and patterns formatted for printing and kits.
    • Delegated my distress to my husband over both of our home office printers breaking within weeks of each other! He’s got that now.

    I know from last year that there will come a point when I won’t be able to focus on pattern formatting or class handouts, so I’ve been doing as many as possible these past few weeks.

    Woke up the next morning to emails from others who were now also ‘all systems go’ with their conference prep too. And now today is Thursday June 30: twelve days from lift off. I predict these blog updates will get posted more erratically but I’ll keep trying. It forces me to find a peaceful moment to collect my thoughts.

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    • June 30th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    New Lotus Yarn Colors Arrived (finally)


    Five New Lotus Yarn Colors are Here!

    Now that the new yarn shipment is here I’ll make this a quick post and then go back to checking it all in. I weigh each cone and list it with its lot (a way to keep track of inventory, etc). I’ve learned it’s best to treat each raw cone from the mill as a unique item. Each has a different amount of yarn on it and is part of one particular lot.

    Here are the speediest photos I could take. I figure the best thing is to put a new color with others that it harmonizes with. These five colors all fill gaps in our existing range. That’s a total of twenty Lotus yarn colors for 2016.

    I’m pleasantly surprised by the rich and elegant look of the new colors. The orange could have been bright; instead it’s warm and rich. The emerald green is a full jewel tone. Even the neutrals are rich-looking and make my fingers itch to crochet them (it takes a lot for a neutral to hit that spot for me).

    New Lotus Yarn Colors Need New Names. Hmm.

    The ideal name for each color meets three priorities in this order:

    1. The color name has a maximum of 12 characters so that it fits well within the space I’ve left for it on the ball band.
    2. The name conveys the spirit of the exact color. Like our “Bamboo Green”: it is not minty just because it’s a light green; it’s more pistachio, and clean like a new spring shoot: bamboo. “Satin Grey” is exactly that. So is “Dark Roast”, and “Rose Red” (it’s not a hot fire red). A mental picture of the color can help correct whatever it looks like on someone’s monitor.
    3. It’s nice when the color name refers to the signature sheen and drape that makes this yarn a keeper for us.

    The final Lotus color names I’m considering:

    • Pale Violet or Lavender Ice or Smoky Lilac or Icy Amethyst
    • Emerald, Emerald, or Emerald
    • Soft Caramel or Mushroom Bisque or Cafe au Lait or Honey Taupe or something
    • Carbonite or Slate Patina or Graphite or Charcoal or Gunmetal Glint
    • Orange Riche or Persimmon or Tangerine
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    • June 27th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    CGOA Award Event Plans


    I’ve mostly blogged lately about getting ready to teach and have a market booth at the big crochet conference next month. Here and there I’ve mentioned some special events I also plan for, such as the fashion show banquet and design contest. This year I’m making special preparations for the Hall of Fame event when my friend accepts the CGOA award. 

    The CGOA Hall of Fame recipient for 2016 is my close friend Doris Chan. We met at CGOA’s 2004 conference in Manchester NH. There could be no Lotus yarn if we’d never met.

    For the past few days I’ve been tracking down which of Doris’ earliest designs I have. My mom has the most important one of all, and she’s in Iowa. Back in March 2004 I used a pattern by Doris called Celebration Shawl to crochet a Mother’s Day gift.

    Back then I had no idea who designed the shawl I made. I just leafed through my issue of Crochet! magazine and thought it looked like fun to make. The yarn was soft, cheerful and warm. I knew my mom would enjoy wearing it in a dreary Iowa winter.

    Doris didn’t know that her design had been published somewhere. When she saw the bag I made to go with it, that really threw her off. The bag wasn’t part of her pattern. I just crocheted it on the plane from the leftover yarn.

    Of course she had to ask me about it, and the rest is history. The next year I crocheted her a silver wire bracelet that is a miniature replica of her shawl pattern. (Blue bugle beads kind of look like Fun Fur yarn, right?)

    Twelve years later, Doris gets the Hall of Famer CGOA award! This will be a very special conference.

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    • June 25th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    How to Get CGOA Conference Updates


    [New here? The Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) hosts and boasts the longest run of annual crochet conferences in the USA, since the first one in 1994, often with teachers flown in from other countries. The next CGOA conference is July 13-16, 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina.]

    Here’s what I do to stay current on last minute changes, meet-ups, and other late-breaking news as each year’s CGOA conference gets closer.

    Exclusive News Sources for CGOA Members

    Chain Link, the Member Newsletter

    If you’re already a CGOA member, look for the members’ Chain Link newsletter that is inserted in the center of your complimentary issue of Crochet! Magazine. Look especially for the autumn issue of the magazine; mine arrived a few days ago (June 20).

    In fact, that’s what gave me the idea for this blog post. I noticed that whenever I’m getting ready for the big crochet conference of the year and a Crochet! issue arrives, I drop everything and turn first to the member newsletter. 

    The President’s Letter on page 1 of the newsletter always mentions special event preparations and highlights. This year, Susan Sullivan talks about:

    • $5000+ design competition cash prizes
    • A photo booth, crochet lounge, and other event features
    • Yarn bombing in Charleston!

    I learned of this year’s pineapple theme on page 6. I’m not sure if every conference has had its own theme, so this is fun to think about. For example, what if I get to the conference and everyone’s wearing some kind of pineapple lace thing but me? I don’t crochet lace pineapples very often. I think about crocheting a small one to pin to my conference badge. Or maybe gather a string of small ones into a flower shape?

    Yahoo Groups for CGOA Conference Talk

    Sometimes I find out about formal and informal conference happenings in these two Yahoo groups: [CGOA_Membership] and [CGOA-TKGA-Buddygroup].

    Good Conference News Sources for Everyone

    If I were not yet a CGOA member, here’s how I’d stay well informed (and inspired!) in the month leading up to the big conference:

    1. I’d check in periodically with the CGOA Ravelry Group. See especially the Charleston 2016 thread. It’s a great way to learn from crocheters who live in and around Charleston, and from CGOA members who have attended several conferences. Board members pop in to answer questions there. I’ve been finding out about restaurants and yarn shops to visit in Charleston and which classes people are thinking of taking.
    2. I’d check in periodically at the conference area of CGOA’s website.
    3. I’d “like” CGOA’s Facebook page and get notifications when the page updates.
    4. I’d Search “#CGOA” (with the # hashtag) in Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I find interesting stuff this way. Try #crochetconference too. This is how I found out that some folks driving to the conference are going to yarn bomb their car with crochet. I’ll be driving up this time too. Fun to know that I might spot crochet on the freeway! Or be spotted!

    [I would join before the CGOA conference happens because the conference classes cost less for members.]

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    • June 22nd, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    My Ideal Crochet Conference Clothes


    Next Packing Step: Conference Clothes 2016

    Now that I’ve re-committed to the Z-CoiL® shoes I can focus on the conference clothes. At home in Florida I wear jeans and light-colored t-shirts (with or without Z-Coils). For the past 25 crochet conferences I’ve packed almost no jeans or t-shirts.

    Lots of crochet conference attendees wear their most comfortable jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers and that’s great! That’s the easiest packing of all. (People do tend to dress up for the Saturday night banquet.)

    Please don’t let what I’m about to say worry you if you’re a first-timer and you want to wear t-shirts and jeans! My choices are based on how I want to wear my crochet designs, and on all the professional, organizational, and event roles I play. (Designer, teacher, presenter, model, director, officer, etc.) So, ideally my conference clothes meet several needs at once.

    For these reasons the tops I pack are mostly plain stretchy black in different sleeve lengths and neckline styles. The best ones work great under a striking crochet vest, wrap, or cardigan and:

    • are made of a breathable material that travels well
    • look stylish enough
    • work for both daytime and evening
    • shedding yarn fibers won’t cling to it!

    These tops are perfect for modeling and I pack extras for attendees who didn’t plan to model on banquet night. Other neutral colors can work too, like charcoal, navy, tan. In crochet classes I think people don’t want to look at a lot of black all the time. Nowadays I feel good teaching in soft, breezy tunics with fine details.

    Pants: I look for the same qualities as in tops. Additionally, I love a wide waistband that sits a bit below my waist. A long boot cut in a structured fabric looks best with the Z-Coils. I have a clear picture of what works the best for me, but sometimes I have to shop too much to find it.

    Some years I get lucky with these brands: White House/Black Market, Ann Taylor, Chico’s. I found almost nothing I can use the other day, though—only capri pants, lovely skirts, and prints. I’m all ears if you have other brand suggestions for me.

    Not everything goes with the shoes. Too bad! I won’t compromise there, despite my stylish friend Annie’s consternation. If ever there were a time when Z-CoiL® shoes are indispensable, this epic conference is it—the teaching (15 hours over 3.5 days), the show booth, and of course helping the Hall of Fame committee celebrate the wonderfulness that is Doris J. Chan!

    By the way, I’ve also resumed editing and refining the class handouts now that my houseguest Annie has left. We had a fantastic week rollerskating, tracking night blooming cereus, and visiting the mermaids of Weeki Wachee.

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    • June 21st, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Crochet Class Yarn Sponsor: Lorna’s Laces!


    Why is a crochet class yarn a big deal?

    Crochet classes at national CGOA conferences are a big deal. In fact, they have been the raison d’être of the event since the first one in 1994. Of all the places I’ve taught crochet, this event is my first choice. These classes are unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced–as a student in many of them too, not just a teacher. Each one is intensive and three hours long (sometimes double that). They’re not cheap but you get what you pay for and more. I’ve also made life-long friends in these classes.

    For some in-depth CGOA classes, the yarn either helps make the most of the 3 precious hours, or it can actually add obstacles. Conference attendees have to try to pack the best yarns and crochet hooks for the classes ahead of time, and it’s not easy. You can’t even buy the right yarn in the conference market if the class takes place before the market opens. Stitch Games is one of these classes this year.

    The crochet class yarn for Stitch Games could make or break that class! Lorna’s Laces really came through. They are graciously (can I say heroically) providing enough of the perfect hand dyed yarn for everyone in the class to use.

    How Does a Crochet Class Get Sponsored?

    When a yarn company donates yarn for a CGOA class, it means the teacher has carefully selected that yarn as being the ideal way to experience the class topic. S/he then contacts the yarn company personally.

    For Stitch Games I’ve swatched and designed with a gazillion yarns since 2009. I’m happy to say that Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, in bolder colorways, is the ideal crochet class yarn. We’ll have a full three hours-worth for everyone in the room.

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    • June 10th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Today’s Sarasota Yarn Shop Class


    I taught a small, intimate two-hour crochet class in my favorite Sarasota yarn shop today. It was a test of a few ideas I have for next month’s Stitch Games class in Charleston.

    Color-POP-corns for the Sarasota Yarn Shop

    A few days ago I imagined using the popcorn stitch to illustrate a way to group colors of a bold variegated yarn. I’m glad I crocheted a swatch in time for this class! It was perfect. I think I’ll turn it into a summer handbag.

     

    Some of the students were amazed that you could get the look of alternating two or more yarns with just one yarn. I hadn’t thought of this advantage, but it’s true. (Sometimes, alternating different strands of yarn in a project interrupts the crochet flow.) It’s great to have this option built in to just one ball of yarn.

    The swatch on the right was crocheted by one of the students today. Susie is actually the resident crochet teacher for the shop! Isn’t it beautiful?

    Both of these yarns are exclusive custom colorways hand dyed for this Sarasota yarn shop, A Good Yarn. I’ve used several of their custom yarns for Stitch Games class samples: Seshen, Bonefish, Bare Bones, Tunisian Spoonbill, and Slip Stitch Ikat Cowl.

    I’ve tested many CGOA crochet class topics at A Good Yarn over the years, and a tropical theme always seems to work well 🙂 The popcorns swatch looks just like Florida peaches against the Florida sky.

    Florida Peaches 2016

    Florida Peaches 2016

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    • June 4th, 2016 by Vashti Braha


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