Friday, August 10, 2018

Chain Link 2018 - Portland!

It's been 2 weeks, and I've finally recovered from this year's Chain Link Conference, the annual conference of the Crochet Guild of America. I will have to make a note NOT to take a cold to Chain Link next year and certainly not to bring it home with me as well. I was fortunate that the conference was in Portland, OR only an hour's drive from my home. 


One of the best things about Chain Link is the classes. There are always more interesting classes than I can take, and they're all crochet or crochet related! No pouring through the listings for the one crochet class among all the knitting classes like at most fiber related shows. 

Modern Irish Crochet

This year I was determined to get into Myra Wood's Modern Irish Crochet classes. Last year they filled up before I registered. I jumped right on it this year and got in. Modern Irish Crochet is an updated version of the original Irish crochet that was a cottage industry in Ireland beginning during the 19th century potato famine. Myra gave a brief history of Irish crochet and how some Russian ladies learned it and gave it a modern spin after the Soviet Union fell. The first class was all about making the beautiful and colorful motifs used in this technique.  

Myra had some vintage Irish crochet pieces from her family. These are made with impossibly fine thread, and are just gorgeous.

In the first class, we learned how to make motifs working from Russian stitch diagrams. These are similar to American stitch diagrams but have a few different symbols. It didn't take too long to catch on. We used size 10 thread or larger yarn in a variety of colors. Color is one of the differences between original and modern Irish crochet. Here are some of Myra's motifs.

You'll notice the motifs in the photo above are joined with a mesh. That was the subject of the second class. Looks simple, right? Think again. Since the motifs are pinned to a styrofoam board while you join them, it's not possible to manipulate your hook and do yarn overs the usual way. The technique is quite awkward at first, and it will take me a bit of practice to become proficient. Here's Myra demonstrating.

And here's my practice piece with the mesh just started. 

Mine isn't nearly as nice as Myra's work above, but I intend to keep practicing because the goal is to make a garment like this lovely top.

To accomplish that, in the third class we learned to make a muslin template to our exact measurements. The template can then be used to make an Irish crochet garment or really any sort of crocheted garment. If this sounds like something you'd like to try Myra's Craftsy class is on sale. Or check out the other classes on her website.

Self-Healing Stitches

The other class I took was Self-Healing Stitches with Vashti Braha. Vashti is always coming up with a new and innovative crochet technique. One day she decided to see what happened if she cut (steeked) armholes in a piece of crochet. She found out that you can do that with some stitches and not have the whole thing fall apart. This class was on the last afternoon of the conference, and I think we were all a bit zoned, but we bravely forged ahead and took scissors to our crocheted swatches.

Some stitches work better than others. Here are my swatches. Some have been tidied up a bit to stop stitches that weren't completely self-healing from running away. The two-toned Catherine's wheel actually made a nice hexagonal hole that I really liked with only a bit of capturing loose stitches. 

Cutting the right stitch pattern is an easy way to make a buttonhole, armhole or neckline.
Check out two of Vashti's patterns that use this technique - the Smokestack Convertible Vest and the Mesmer Veils Set. Her patterns are great because they always teach you something usually with a photo tutorial.

Design Competition

One of the main events of Chain Link is the design competition. Anyone can enter, and there are a variety of categories from fashion to artistic expression. Here are a few photos of some of the entries. 

Fun cowl with innovative cables by my friend Sue Perez. Check out her blog for interesting crochet and a lovely photos of her bike rides in rural Wisconsin. Find her other designs on Ravelry. 

A colorful wrap from Kristin Lynn who I'm also honored to call a friend. When you go to Chain Link, you get to meet all the fun people! Kristin's other designs are also on Ravelry.

I love this honeycomb pillow complete with bees. Unfortunately, I can't tell you the designer because this year the names weren't on the labels. That was a bit disappointing.

Great colors and motifs in this afghan.

Two gorgeous doilies.

Pretty lace top.

More gorgeous lace. This is by the queen of thread work - Kathryn White. Find her patterns on her website and Ravelry.

I'd love to make this interesting cardigan.

For a slide show of the winning designs go to the CGOA website.


The banquet is the last event at the conference. It includes a fashion show. This year the induction of the newest member of the Crochet Hall of Fame Pauline Turner was also at the banquet. Pauline gave a very interesting and funny talk and slide show. She was instrumental in popularizing crochet in Britain in the 70s. Here's an interview with her on the Underground Crafter blog. She's written a number of books, and some of her designs can be found on Ravelry

Unfortunately, my seating location wasn't good for photography so I don't have a photo of Pauline or any of the fashion show which is the other highlight of the banquet. Find that on the the CGOA page on Facebook.

Here's one of the centerpieces my guild chapter, Always in Stitches made for the banquet. Since Portland is the Rose City, we made roses. Lots and lots of roses!

Outside the banquet room there was a lovely flower arrangement complete with balls of yarn and swatches. These are real flowers not crochet, but look closely for the balls of yarn and swatches.


This year's marketplace was small, but there were some high quality vendors. I found no shortage of things to buy. One thing I really appreciated is that almost all the yarn vendors had crocheted samples displayed. Hallelujah! Here are a few of the vendors.

Renegade Yarn had a great selection of yarn.

They also had unique items such as bangles made from Tunisian hooks and fun crochet and yarn themed mugs. 

I am not supposed to buy any mugs since we have a cupboard full of them, but I couldn't resist this one. If you mind a bit of profanity, skip the next photo. 

Inner Yarn Zen teamed up with designer Karen Whooley to celebrate Karen's 20th anniversary as a designer. 

Karen designed a cowl/shawl combination called Into the Deep using a gradient dyed by Inner Yarn Zen. In addition to selling the kits at the conference, they're also available on Karen's website


Next down the row was Oink Pigments. I love how she displays her yarn in vintage suitcases.

She also was selling earrings that are little skeins of yarn. I was only able to resist these only because a kind friend bought me a pair a while back. (Thanks, Julie!)

Newton's Yarn Country is a regular at Chain Link. Love their mile long table of color.

For people who needed to start crocheting with their newly purchased yarn right away, there was a yarn winding station nearby. You might recognize the lovely and talented Vashti Braha from one of the photos above.


The best part of every conference is meeting up with fiber friends.

If you can ever manage to get to Chain Link, do it! It's the best show for crocheters. Next year it's in Manchester, NH on July 10-13 and will be celebrating CGOA's 25th anniversary.

Now, I need to practice the skills I learned in my classes before I forget how.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Black Sheep Gathering 2018

Last weekend was the 2018 Black Sheep Gathering. This year the location was moved from Eugene to Albany, OR which meant it was only about a 30 minute drive for me. Yay! Here's a little photo recap of some of the sights.

The fiber arts competition always has some great entries. There were some really cool needle felted pieces this year.

And some wonderful crocheted items. My favorite was this many-colored cardigan. The judges apparently liked it too.

I could use this snuggly chevron afghan on my couch. 

Of course, the main attraction was fiber and yarn. This is the RedFish DyeWorks booth. They sell silk and silk blend yarns. 

Three Fates Yarns is from right here in Salem. Stephania is one of my favorite local dyers. The pretty blue and green yarn in the basket on the table was her special colorway for this show. 

Huckleberry Knits is another local Indie dyer. Check out her gorgeous gradients. So tempting!

Believe it or not, I didn't buy any yarn. Yeah, I know. Just not normal. However, I did buy these gorgeous Czech glass buttons from Aria Design Studio. I fell in love with the dragonflies, but take a look at some of the other beauties in her Etsy shop. They're amazing. I'm not sure if I'll put these on garments or make jewelry with them.

The Whimsical Ewe sells adorable felted critters.

I love this little otter and his sweater. She buys wool sweaters at thrift stores, cuts them up and felts them to make these wee sweaters. The skeleton on the Halloween kitty is amazingly detailed.

Mr. Tortoise munching dandelions!

Perhaps my favorite booth was Badger Mountain Soap because she uses vintage crocheted tablecloths to decorate her display. 

She made a "ceiling" for her booth from several tablecloths. Not only lovely, but it cuts the glare from the overhead lights.

I was happy to see the Skaska Designs booth again this year. Last year I bought 2 crochet shawl patterns from them. When I got home and looked at the patterns, I found there were no photos of the shawls. No problem, thinks I. I took photos of them. Um, no. I hadn't. But they were there this year so I was able to take some pics. Skaska also sells scrumptious yarn. I bought some last year that I think I'll use for the shawl on the right. It will be considerably brighter than the sample.


To end the day I joined Kelly and Marsha of the Two Ewes Fiber Adventures podcast and some of their other listeners for a little happy hour in the camping area. It was fun to see the Ewes again and meet the other folks. So nice to put a face to the Ravelry names! Kelly's husband Robert graciously grilled some sausages and for the gathering. To find us, you could just follow the delicious aroma from the grill. If you haven't already, do check out the Two Ewes' interesting and funny podcast. They also sell some of their handspun and dyed yarn and fiber on their website. Very nice stuff!

I hope everyone in the US had a happy and safe Independence Day. Remember the words of Benjamin Franklin at the end of the Constitutional Convention. He was asked what kind of government we now had -  monarchy or a republic. He said, "A republic, if you can keep it."