Saying Goodbye, Signing Off

Milk Thistle Shawlette Crochet PatternEleven and a half years ago, I was working as a school teacher in different district than the one I’m in now. I had 3 years of  teaching as well as summer camp counselor experience under my belt when I decided that I needed a break from children over the summer (teacher burnout is a real thing). I was looking for a way to put my newly acquired graphic design certification to use as well as years of crafting experience. I went to AC Moore and picked up some yarn and hooks. My great-grandmother had patiently taught me to crochet when I was nine. And when I was in college, I picked up the craft again when I wanted to make my mom a blanket for Christmas. So re-teaching myself how to crochet was akin to learning to ride a bike. I was up to speed in no time.

Very quickly, I had several crochet patterns written out. I thought I could make some money selling them on eBay. This was where designers sold patterns to a larger market in the pre-Ravelry era times. Not long after that, I had worked up a store name, logo (thank you, husband!), design template, and a format in which to present everything. I was the first designer to create free, online videos for crochet and the first to include links to them in crochet patterns. And thinking back to those days, not everyone understood the technology and I spent some time fielding questions from people wanting to know how to access the videos from their printed pattern. Oh yes.

Fast forward a couple years later, I had a handful of designs for sale on my own site along with many crochet videos. I had been in a few books and magazines and I had even done a few episodes of a crafty tv show. It was all very fun and exciting. I met a lot of other designers online and at trade shows, too, some of whom I’m still in contact with today.

NexStitch: Metedeconk Beach Tote Crochet PatternBut along the way I discovered something I wasn’t expecting: I really enjoyed the graphics end of things even more so than the crochet. I have, for as long as I can remember, been very much a computer person. My 2nd grade teacher was the first in the county to get a computer in her classroom and I always wanted to be on it. I went to computer camp at the local college as an almost 6th grader to learn to code. And in 7th grade, my parents bought our first (and last!) computer (I bought the next one in high school and then I bought my parent’s computer years later). So when my previous school district sent me to get certified in graphic design, I was game.

Over time, I started getting gigs to do graphics for other crochet designers, some of whom I still work with today to put out their catalog and pattern line. I’ve helped others with stitch diagrams for personal pattern lines and even some books. It’s been fun getting to know people in this very different way, and in some cases, to help guide their vision of their own pattern line by having the freedom to make suggestions on branding, marketing, social media, etc., all of which I love equally because it taps into a side of my mind that I don’t get to exercise while at the Day Job.

And then Hurricane Sandy hit.

I had come across an article on CNN about a website in which teachers were making money selling lessons, activities, graphics, and more. I was intrigued. I made an account, created a freebie and a paid product, and then quickly forgot about it. I made a sale a few weeks later but by then the storm hit. My school was shut down for 3 weeks and I had lots of free time which I spent coming up with clipart products for sale. I found myself really enjoying it, especially as the sales started rolling in over the holiday season. I said to myself, “Let’s give this a year and see where I’m at.”

Loveland Neck Scarf Crochet Pattern

Loveland Neck Scarf by NexStitch: Stylish Crochet Patterns

Two years later, I’ve been very successful with my clipart store due in part to getting in on scene before the bubble hit, the wave of new sellers that arrived as a result of a lot of marketing on behalf of Teachers Pay Teachers. Even still, when someone says, “glitter,” I’m who they’d think of. I’ve had the chance to use all the knowledge I gained from NexStitch, as well as all the mistakes, and roll it into a more successful brand that has the potential to command a salary worth leaving teaching for. This has been my dream all along. And while I still have a long way to go, the gap between my dream and reality is far less now than it was when I spent all my time working on NexStitch (sadly). I’m even at the point where I’ll be creating a second store with my husband which I hope will have equal success as my current one.

So, I’m signing off with the thought of “onward and upward” from here. Closing NexStitch, for me, is a positive move in the right direction. It represents a benchmark I’ve been trying to reach, so there are only happy tears here.

I’ll be closing my online site at the end of the year and will probably keep my Ravelry store opened for a little longer than that in case anyone wants to buy something before then.

Thank you so much for being faithful followers and in some cases, great friends.

 


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NEW! Milk Thistle Shawlette Crochet Pattern

Milk Thistle Shawlette by Amie Hirtes of NexStitch: Stylish Crochet Patterns

Details

  • Project overview: The shawlette is worked from the top down starting with a pattern of open fan and v-stitches that decrease nearly to a point. Silver-gray stems and leaves jut outwards from the shawl’s edge and are worked into decrease stitches from the body. A row of violet flower buds and receptacles is worked followed by several rows of double and treble crochets to create be beautiful thistle flowers.
  • Yarn: Tilli Tomas, Plie (100% spun silk; 120 yd/50 g): 2 midnight borealis (Color A); 1 atmosphere (Color B); 1 gloxinia (Color C)
  • Skill: Intermediate
  • Size: 65″ wide x 13″ long (blocked)
  • Hooks: US E/4 (3.50mm) and US G/6 (4.00mm) or hooks needed to obtain gauge
  • Notions: Stitch markers, yarn needle
  • Extra: The entire shawlette has been translated into two large stitch diagrams, one for the body and one for the edging! There should be no hair-pulling moments crocheting this shawlette, rest assured.

Milk Thistle Shawlette Crochet Pattern

Milk Thistle Shawlette Crochet Pattern

 

Milk Thistle Shawlette Crochet Pattern


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INSPIRATION: Milk Thistle Shawlette

Milk Thistle Shawlette by Amie Hirtes of NexStitch: Stylish Crochet Patterns

 - MILK THISTLE SHAWLETTE

I heart Google Images.

I do about 11 billionty Google Image searches a day for ideas, inspiration, research, and in some cases shopping. It’s a virtual playground for visual people like myself who lead with their eyes in making sense of the world.

So when over the summer I had a germ of an idea flittering whimsically around my head that I couldn’t make sense of, I turned to Google Images to bring that idea to fruition. I had three skeins of the lovely Tilli Tomas, “Plie” in midnight borealis (royal violet), gloxinia (red-violet), and atmosphere (silvery gray) and I couldn’t make sense of what those colors reminded me of, more so the violets.

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http://www.omegadyes.co.uk

I went to Google Images and started my query: ”violet red-violet.”

Up popped a potpourri of images that ranged from a bird to peace signs to the bar at a restaurant to many types of flowers. ”Hmmmm…flowers.”

Query #2: “red-violet flowers.”

Towards the top of the search I found this image of some lovely flowers with a cute shape.

Query #3: “alliums.”

“They’re so cute!” I proclaimed. They reminded me of the Billy Buttons (weeds in some countries) that I had shipped in from overseas for my wedding.

Instantly my mind tries to connect with what crochet stitches I could use to make the shape work and I was rather stumped. Somewhere buried in the last search was a picture of a thistle.

Thistles! I love thistles. “THHhhhh-isssss-lllll,” said in my best Bugs Bunny voice.

Query #4: “thistle” then, Query #5: ”milk thistles.”

Milk Thistle: A type of thistle belonging to the daisy family which has small strands of milky white that run across its leaves and boasts medicinal properties for the liver.

I was stoked at how well the colors I had chosen, including the silvery gray, fit with the colors of a milk thistle. The stem of the flower has a greenish gray hue and while it didn’t match perfectly with my yarn, it would work well enough.

I set myself to the task of figuring out how I was going to incorporate the design element into my burgeoning shawlette. I was adamant in my desire to make these really appear as flowers.

How did I do?

Learn more about the Milk Thistle Shawlette over on Ravelry.


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Pants-on-Fire De-Stashing!

Scarp Yarn Mat

THINK: Seaglass. That’s what the color palette was inspired by. There’s a Plassard blue-green papery yarn that carries throughout that ties it all together.

There. I did it. I’ve managed to use up all the old novelty yarn that I had lying around here, the pile of yarn that I felt was holding me back from moving forward. That pile of yarn, to me, represented a bunch of old, failed ideas. It’s been in my stash for over 7 years now. Ancient times. Every time I’d look at it, I’d think to myself, “Wow, I’ve made nothing…from nothing. What a total waste.”

Two days ago I was on Pinterest and came across a pin of a scarf made from scrap yarn. I’d been thinking about making a mat to put on my desk at the window for kitty. I thought about all that old yarn that I didn’t want to throw away nor use in any actual designs for the website and thought, “Hmmmm…” as I pulled out my hook and yarn bins.

The first one I made with the intention of keeping it here in the office and decided it had to go with the beach vibe I’ve set in place. So I gathered a lot of blues, whites, and blue-greens and one lone nappy orange novelty yarn and went to work.

Scarp Yarn Mat

I wound up pulling out the gray eyelash yarn because I thought kitty wouldn’t like laying on it with those lil buggers in her face.

It’s just a simple single crochet mat in the shape of a rectangle, but I can’t tell you how happy I was in making it!

The next night I decided to use up the remainder of the yarn: lots of reds and pinks with a smattering of yellow, green and blues.

The key is to pick one or two yarns that you have a lot of that you carry through to the end. The other yarns can start and stop organically and the whole mat will still feel like it has unity. I used a huge hook, which I believe it a honkin’ size Q. I could be wrong. It’s not labeled (need to do that). I would have thought it would be yarn to pull the yarn through the loops, but the real challenging part was keeping my “feed” of yarn from tangling, especially when one of the yarns was starting to go.

Scarp Yarn Mat

You can see I just let everything hang loose on the floor!

This whole process was truly cathartic.

Kitty agrees.

Chillaxin’: You’re doing it wrong!


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(Re)-Pinning on Pinterest: The Pitfalls for Crochet and Knitwear Designers

Pinterest Re-PinningSigh. I can feel a two-ton weight is going to drop over my head for even broaching this subject, but can we talk about how crocheters (and knitters) are using Pinterest?

I love Pinterest. I love being able to have a place online where I can store images that I love, with some of those images leading to websites with good content, even great content. Legal content. Freely-shared-by-the-owner-of-said content.

But many times when I’m on there I see a picture of something that I love – a dress, a sweater, a hat – that’s been either knitted or crocheted and I think to myself, “OK, I know when I click on the image, it’s going to lead to a site that is posting that pattern without permission.” And yep, it is. I swear I can spot one a mile away. It’s always a picture from a foreign crochet/knit publication. It’s sometimes from a domain with .ru at the end. And it’s always a site filled to the brim with scanned images I don’t recognize with a smattering of things I do recognize.

And sometimes it’s my own stuff.

Let’s talk about Pinterest the company for a second. They’re a really tiny company. They have very few employees. And they don’t respond to emails (not any of the many I’ve sent). Pinterest, right now, is like the wild west: we’re left to our own devices as owners of content to not allow ourselves to get ripped off if someone posts a picture illegally.

You might ask, “What if the picture is legal (you know, it’s just a picture of a pretty crocheted sweater that I love, love, love!) but the link – the link to where the picture leads to – is not?” Well, again, we designers are on our own.

THAT’S WHERE YOU COME IN.

I’m asking for your support as a designer to check the links from the picture. Click on the picture. See where they lead. And if it’s a site that’s posting images that are clearly scanned from books and magazines, please don’t allow the link to be posted along with the image that you so covet.

“Well, how the heck do I do that? How do I get rid of the link but keep the picture that I just want to look at and be inspired by?” you’re wondering. Once you’ve re-pinned the item and it appears on your board (or in your “feed”), hover over the image and you’ll see a button that says, “edit.” Click it. You’ll see a link that the image leads to. Delete the whole link. Then click, “save.”

Keep the image, delete the link.

In the end, this kind of activity – posting links to illegal sites – hurts designers. If it’s bad for crochet designers, it’s bad for crocheters in general.

Is that a deal? Can we “shake” on this?



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CROCHET PATTERN RELEASE – Loveland Neck Scarf

I continue to be taken back to a place and time that I miss, a time when all things were less complex, a time even before I existed: Jersey shore, the mid-1800′s.

Inspiration

There’s a very small section of Point Pleasant that still exists today, an unincorporated section called, “Lovelandtown,” a small hamlet community. I lived seconds away and would go over there when I wanted to hang out at the river or play at the one small playground near the canal. It was the last stop on the bus ride to school and still had dirt roads and narrow streets that the large school bus couldn’t navigate. At one time, it was littered with simple, two-story homes that featured chicken coops, an outhouse, a coal bin, and in some cases hog pens. Sounds very rural, doesn’t it? Country by the sea, really.

Families from Philadelphia and New York City would take their summer vacations in the greater Bay Head/Point Pleasant area and were often dressed more to the liking of the city rather than the country-by-the-sea environs.

To that end, I’ve designed a dainty scarf that is reminiscent of the colors of the deep blue-green, Jersey shore ocean, a lacy scarf that might have been worn during the era. May I introduce you to, “Loveland Neck Scarf.” 

Loveland Neck Scarf Crochet Pattern

Loveland Neck Scarf by NexStitch: Stylish Crochet Patterns

Details

    • Project overview: This scarf begins on one end and is worked across to the other end where the edging is created. Then, the opposite end edging is work separately.
    • Yarn: Delicato Layers, Prism lace weight yarn (100% tencel, 630 yds./4 oz.) 1 skein #N0618 Lapis
    • Skill: Intermediate
    • Size: 12″ x 57 1/2″, unblocked
    • Hook: US D3/3.25mm hook, or size required to obtain correct gauge
    • Notions: Stitch markers, yarn needle
    • Extra: The entire scarf has been translated into a large stitch diagram! There should be no hair-pulling moments crocheting this scarf, rest assured.

What the pictures don’t illustrate is how soft this yarn is! 100% tencel is a lovely thing. So is a 630-yard skein of yarn. This scarf uses approximately 85% of the skein, so if you desire to make it longer, you can. And have I even mentioned the delicious drape it creates? You simply can’t compare. I was amazed after I blocked it how it responded to my abuse, what with all the photos I had to take and the different ways I had to wear it. I fully expected it to be a mess by the time I was finished. Nope.

And while a single skein might cost $30, it’s an entire scarf for less than $30 made from the finest yarn! Treat yourself!

Loveland Neck Scarf

Loveland Neck Scarf by NexStitch: Stylish Crochet Patterns


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CROCHET PATTERN RELEASE – Metedeconk Beach Tote!

I know, don’t faint. I’m just releasing a pattern. It’s only been…two years (730+ days, but who’s counting?) It was about time. I had motivation thanks to Ravelympics (or whatever we’re calling it these days).

Inspiration

I must be missing home a lot because home has been on my mind. A lot. I miss living 5 minutes from the beach and a stone’s throw from the river, the Metedeconk River. There was always something to do for an independent, adventurous kid who liked being outdoors and discovering things on her own.

NexStitch: Metedeconk Beach Tote

Metedeconk Beach Tote by NexStitch: Stylish Crochet Patterns

What makes the area interesting is that, despite any preconceived notions you might have about New Jersey, it’s a very diverse area. Historically-speaking, the area was a resort town (Bay Head and Point Pleasant, before they were their own towns) for the affluent city folk who’d take the train down to it’s last stop in Bay Head and come and hang out amongst the cranberry bogs and sand dunes. Some stayed permanently and took on clamming, crabbing, fishing, and hunting for work and sport. It was a simple way of life that, in many ways, still exists there today (minus the hunting and rampant summer tourism).

(Click to enlarge)

The Metedeconk is an ecologically diverse river, since being joined with the Manasquan River via the Point Pleasant Canal it now contains both freshwater and saltwater. As a kid, I’d go tool around by the canal and watch the fishermen cast their lines, ride my bike to the river to look out into the water, and then head over to the beach to collect shells and whatever interesting detritus made its way to the shoreline (I wasn’t supposed to be there alone. Don’t tell my mom). I didn’t usually have any of my travels planned so I’d just head up there without anything to put my finds into; I’d roll them up in the end of my shirt or a towel and bike it home, no hands on handlebars required.

But far be it from me to leave you shorthanded like that. So may I present you my, “Metedeconk Beach Tote.” This bag is large enough to put a buff, masculine Olympic swimmer in and still have room for your suntan lotion and a trashy summer novel. The bag is lined, but that’s optional, of course. And it features a large handle opening because, can I just tell you how annoying it is to have stuff crammed in, giving yourself an arm wedgie? Now you have a visual of that in your head, don’t you? Sorry.

Details

  • Project overview: This beach tote is worked from the bottom up beginning with an oval bottom worked in the round. A scalloped shell pattern forms for the body of the bag which leads into a ribbed border and then a sand stitch. Lastly, a semi-circle design is worked along the inside edge of the bag and the handles are attached with tabs. All of the patterns are created by working into either the front of back loop.
  • Yarn: 10 skeins of Katia, Linen (OK, here’s the problem. This yarn is discontinued. Ack. It’s a DK weight, cotton/linen yarn. Garnstudio makes a 100% linen yarn called, “Drops Lin” that comes is lovely colorways and is priced similarly. Universal Yarns makes “Summer Linen” in even more colorways and is cheaper than Katia or Garnstudio. Or, off-road it. It doesn’t need to be a linen yarn!)
  • Skill: Intermediate
  • Size: 181/2″ wide x 18″ high, excluding handle
  • Hook: US H8/5.00mm hook, or size required to obtain correct gauge
  • Notions: 2 D-shaped bag handles, yarn needle
  • Extra: The main shell stitch pattern is illustrated in a large stitch diagram and the steps to create the upper portion of the bag are clearly laid out in several illustrations.

NexStitch: Metedeconk Beach Tote Crochet Pattern

 


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A Sea of Doubts

I just cleared out most of the designs in my design graveyard sitting on top of my light table here in the office. At first, I thought displaying everything here would help me try to make one of these designs come to fruition. But after having them stare me in the face for so long, they were hindering me, like a constant reminder of what didn’t work, of failures. It was holding me back.

Besides, all that lovely yarn was making too fabulous of a spot for Roxie to crash out on, further jeopardizing their existence.

Roxie in my yarn stash

She looks comfy, no? Resistance is futile.

But really, I feel like lately (where “lately” is a euphemism for “a long time now”) I’m just spinning my wheels trying to make things work, to make things perfect.

I’m a perfectionist. There. I said it.

I can’t help it (or maybe I can?). I don’t like to put my name on things that aren’t the best quality. I don’t like to expend the effort into something that from the get-go I don’t think will be the next best thing.

To that end, I’ve got a pile of designs in varying stages, even some as far as being laid out in Quark (graphics program that I use to put together the text and photos from a design) and not pulled the trigger on releasing it. I can’t tell you how many countless hours I’ve spent getting that far into the process only to pull it back. I shudder to think how, if all that time were added up, how much it would equal. Weeks? Months? It’s probably months upon months.

I’ve psyched myself out. And in putting this post together, I’ve chosen to call myself out for it publicly. Somewhere in my crazy head I believe I have to put it out there into the universe and let it go. Let go all the self-doubt, the anxiety, the trepidation, the “who’s gonna like that?” destructive script in my head. It hasn’t yielded anything positive for me.

And so today I frogged a few designs and put others away in cubbies out of immediate site. I’ve left two important projects up there, ones that I have the most enthusiasm and desire to finish, at the moment, ones I think have the best chance of being “born.”

I also ordered a fresh new round of yarn. I picked up some Rowan Panama, Prism Delicato, and Classic Elite Sanibel. Hoping I can make something really awesome and infuse some positive thinking with these yarns.

In the meantime, I’ve been hard at work on a stitch diagram for a scarf/wrap I’d like to make using one of these yarns. I’m trying a different design approach: start with making a stitch diagram in Illustrator, type the pattern out, and then create the item. We’ll see how it goes. Wish me luck. Or skill. I’d rather you wish me skill than luck!


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And the Winner of the Felted Crochet Handbag is….

Lisa Garrett!

Congrats Lisa! I have your email address. I’ll be sending you an email shortly to get your contact information so I can send the handbag along to you sometime next week. If I don’t hear from you by Tuesday, July 24th, I’ll be forced to pick another winner (the rest of you’d like that, now wouldn’t you?) ;-)

Thank you so much to everyone for not only participating, but for leaving such overwhelmingly kind comments about the bag. Considering the strong response I received about it, I’m considering self-publishing the pattern. So you just might be able to own your own facsimile of this very bag (with some tweaks to the design, of course).


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