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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

    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

    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

    Project Tests for New Crochet Classes


    I’m still testing new crochet designs…

    …for the five classes I teach next month! This started months ago. It never stops, actually.

    I have other new crochet ideas in progress for this year’s classes too. For Tunisian Eyelet Meshes I have a draping collapsible “Leanin’ Loopholes” wrap to finally start when the new Lotus colors arrive. Another project in motion for the Stitch Games class is an argyle (only a few rows done, no photos yet).

    When CGOA puts out a call for class topic proposals in the fall, I submit more than enough: all the topics that I’ve enjoyed teaching in the past, plus interesting variations on them, plus new ones. Designing new crochet examples starts the moment I find out which ones I’ll be teaching. (Not on purpose, it just happens.)

    Meanwhile

    Meanwhile I stand ready (with camera) to receive a giant new lot of Lotus yarn. Can’t wait to get my hands on the new colors. Doris has her designing cones already so I know UPS will be here any day. Once the yarn arrives–on giant cones–I get some of it turned into Z-Bombes (1-pounders). A bit of it becomes Magnum cones (2-pounders). A lot of it will be “pull cakesASAP.

    I also stand ready to design with it. I’ll need some new crochet for the road trip up to the conference, right? Doris got started immediately with a new design in emerald green. This reminds me that I also need to lock in the new color names for the ball bands and snip cards.

    I’m on Day 35 of my 50 blogging days of crochet conference prep and I’m feeling behind! I still need to get some crochet patterns reformatted into print versions (for some of my classes and for kits in the market booth).

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    • June 23rd, 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

    Best Crochet Conference Shoes Ever


    Having attended twenty-five crochet conferences in twelve years, I’ve found that a lot depends on my weird, favorite conference shoes. Tomorrow’s post will be about the clothes, which are partly determined by the shoes.

    I get asked about my choice of shoes a lot. (In the future I can just refer people to this post.) I wear one ultra-comfortable pair of Z-Coils all day, and maybe fancy heels or sandals for evening. This year I’ll have a new pair of Z-Coils, the “Z-Breeze” with an enclosed heel.

    When I go all out and wear sensationally uncomfortable shoes, it’s for only two hours at a time. I love fabulous-looking shoes, but I stop having fun after about two hours of wearing them if they’re uncomfortable. Another way to say this is, I have an insane amount of fun at these conferences when I wear mostly Z-Coils. Shoes make or break events like these.

    Here’s a little gallery I created of Z-Coils from around the ‘net:

     

    Benefits (and a few drawbacks) of these Conference Shoes: 

    After a month or two of wearing them, my lower back strengthened as the shoe’s coiled heel took over the job of shock absorber. Until then, I didn’t even know that my lower back had been my “shock absorber” whenever I walked on tiles and pavement, or lifted heavy things. (For other people it might be their knees, ankles, or thighs.) I could lift almost double the weight than I could before, without problems. It turns out that I have good upper body strength. It was my lower back that was limiting it.

    Some people only find out about Z-Coils when they develop walking difficulties. In my case, I met a local knitter who first wore them while recovering from a knee operation. She loved them so much that she continued to wear them long after. I liked how weirdly futuristic they looked on her. When I tried on a pair I was hooked! This was about ten years ago.

    [Do I have to do a disclaimer that I’m not a doctor? Not only am I not a doctor, my lower back has never been examined by one. And while I’m disclaiming, I’m also not a representative of the Z-Coil co. and they’re not rewarding me for blogging this.]

    What this means at crochet conferences is that I can stand on my feet all day every day while teaching or in my market booth, and carry stuff from my hotel room to the far end of a convention center and back.

    I don’t start the conference already exhausted from carrying luggage and dashing through airports to change planes in the middle of the night. I never take long flights without Z-Coils. These conference shoes come through for me even before I arrive at the event.

    By the second and third days of a conference, other people’s legs and backs are tired. They look around constantly for somewhere to sit. It’s thanks to Z-Coils that I’m looking around for a place to go dancing instead! (Doris is rolling her eyes right about now.)

    [I’m adding this link to Pia Thadani’s blog post about her first time attending this conference last year. Her pointers and photos convey everything very well.]

    These are significant benefits, right? Now magnify them when I don’t get enough sleep. What if I have to sleep in the airport and switch planes at 5 am? My Z-Coils “have my back”. It’s such a relief to rely on their strength when travel mishaps occur.

    Two big drawbacks. One is that I don’t feel hot in them (as in sexy). Skirts are out of the question with Z-Coils for me. Some women can make it work, but I’d always feel self conscious. I love how I look in delicate, ultra feminine shoes and dresses, but I can only happily wear girly shoes for a few hours at a time.

    The other drawback is that Z-Coil shoes are expensive (+/- $250.) Mine lasted me ten years, though! Plus you can replace some parts yourself. It’s not a big drawback when I think it through, I just get sticker shock. It’s a bargain, actually. I’m telling myself this as I prepare to buy a new pair of the best conference shoes ever.

    Interested? Then you must see the Customized Z-Coils Pinterest board I found today!

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    • June 20th, 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

    Vashti’s Crochet Classes in 2016


    Here’s everything there is to know about Vashti’s crochet classes in 2016. (Who’s Vashti, though? Is she a good teacher? See what others say–scroll down.)

    Vashti’s Crochet Classes, the Five 2016 Topics

    Each class is three hours long and held at the national crochet conference of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA). Everyone’s welcome to attend this July 13-16, 2016 at the Embassy Suites North Charleston Airport/Hotel & Convention Center in North Charleston, South Carolina.

    1. Stitch Games for Multicolored Yarns: Click here for its resource page of links. Click here for the CGOA description.
    2. Steek (Cut) Tunisian Lace for Fun Fast FashionsClick here for its resource page of links. Click here for the CGOA description.
    3. The Starwirbel Way, How to Shape Spiraling Star Stitch LaceClick here for its resource page of links. Click here for the CGOA description.
    4. Tunisian Eyelet Meshes 101Click here for its resource page of links. Click here for the CGOA description.
    5. 21st Century Love Knot MeshesClick here for its resource page of links. Click here for the CGOA description.

    Have a look at the new “Vashti’s Crochet Classes” Pinterest board.

     

    What are Vashti’s Crochet Classes Like?

    These classes consistently sell out! Read what lots of students have said about them here. For example:

    • Not only is Vashti very knowledgeable but her very fun and friendly character adds so much to the class and inspiration.
    • I have learned more than I ever imagined possible in 3 hours. Vashti is an amazing teacher, so generous and very, very talented in the teaching department. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    • Vashti is very calm and that makes her very easy to listen to. She does an awesome job!
    • Fabulous! Instructor made me feel as an equal – which was delightful. Super friendly and passionate.
    • Vashti is a natural teacher – very organized and clear!

    About Vashti Braha

    I. Love. Teaching. Crochet.

    As of 2004, I’m a full-time professional crochet thinker and tinkerer. I produce industry-standard crochet patterns, classes, articles, and other materials to promote crochet as many things: an art, hobby, learning tool, and practical medium. If I were you, I’d sign up for my newsletter because I try to write about what I don’t see others writing about crochet.

    Email me directly: VashtiBraha@gmail.com or visit Vashti’s Crochet Lounge, an open forum in Ravelry where the friendly members and moderators are first-rate. Find in Facebook   Friend in Ravelry  Follow in Pinterest .

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    • June 3rd, 2016 by Vashti Braha


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