Country Living Here I Come!

It’s been a long time getting it all together but I am delighted to FINALLY announce that I will be teaching for the Country Living Fair in Nashville, TN April 21 – 23 2017. I am very excited to be doing this – it’s new for me, and having this many workshops is a new thing for the Fair too.

ALL of the supplies for all of these workshops are being provided by Jo-Ann Fabrics so you don’t have to bring a single thing. There are  24 workshops available but of course there are three I would love to direct you to – 

On Saturday at 12:30 I will be teaching a class on Galaxy Tie Dye Mason Jars. These are so much fun to make, and we will bake them in the oven so they’ll set quickly and you can take them with you at the end of your shopping!


On Sunday at 12:30 I will be teaching one of my favorite quick techniques – Arm Knitting! You can take the class even if you have never knit before, and leave with a chunky, neutral cowl.


At 2:00 on Sunday I will be signing the Fabulous Fat Quarter Apron book in the Country Living Store.

And at 3:30 on Sunday, join me as we make a cute and trendy Embroidery Hoop Organizer. No sewing is required although you can add some stitching if you want to.


Remember every single thing you need to make these projects will be waiting in class when you get there.
And just to make life interesting – I have two day passes to give away! Comment here to win, and I will pick someone at random on 4/18 before I leave town.


Please help me spread the word – I want Jo-Ann Fabrics to keep spreading the crafty love!

Remember comment below and I will pick a winner on 4/18/17!

And,  in the end…

I just couldn’t bring myself to sign the Interweave YarnFest contract for 2017.

Kudos to Interweave General Manager John Bolton for negotiating in good faith, and for keeping his word by including everything in the new contract that he said he would.

I agonized over this decision, wondering if I owed anyone (Interweave, the Internet, the crochet community at large) anything and therefore should attend no matter the cost to my business.At the end of the day, though, I cannot attend an event where there is a good chance that I will wind up making minimum wage. If I want to be poor I can stay home, and not fly to Denver to do it!

I could not make the travel budget cover my travel expenses if I wanted to stay in the show hotel. I considered staying elsewhere but the savings in hotel fees were eaten up by travel to/from the event, which is in an oddly isolated stretch of road, i.e. Not Walkable.

I looked at my attendance numbers from years past (remember I have taught both of the previous years of this event) and ran the numbers and at the end of the day, it just wasn’t worth the travel. The possible student gain I could have anticipated from there being two crochet teachers instead of three next time was offset by the fact that I have two years’ proof that my Thursday and Sunday classes were way under-attended. I know those could be travel days for anyone, but in my experience (which is all I have to go on), the crocheters just weren’t there on those days in any number.

I am sorry I can’t attend – I liked the vibe of the show, and truly enjoyed the group of students I met there. There were several I was looking forward to seeing again. And the marketplace is so wonderful – a terrific mix of vendors, including many you don’t necessarily see at the other large shows.

I do not know who is teaching crochet for ’17 but I wish them, the original teachers who signed, and especially the vendors all the best. Sincerely. Just because the event was not for me doesn’t mean it isn’t right for others. 

BTW – thank you ALL who followed along with #FairFIberWage in its various social media incarnations. While the contract didn’t work out for me, the increased travel stipend we negotiated is a big benefit to those teachers who did sign, and I don’t think we could have done it without your support.

YarnFest 2017 – an update

An Open Letter from InterweaveHere is the official response from John Bolton, returning General Manager of Interweave:

“We apologize for the communication around Yarn Fest. We are listening. We have made several mistakes during this process and we want to do our best to make it right. Effective immediately, we are offering all instructors a $1,000 honorarium for travel, hotel and lodging. This honorarium should provide each instructor the funds to pay for their travel expenses for the days they’ll be teaching. In addition, we will be increasing the per student fee we pay each instructor. Lastly, we are removing some portions of the contract that are unnecessary and too restrictive to the instructor. The new contracts will be sent to the instructors by Wednesday September 21st, 2016. We hope this change in policy will properly indicate our respect and admiration for the instructors and the yarn community.
 
Last month, I returned to Interweave and F+W after over three years. I left the business based on some of the very concerns that have been voiced over the past few weeks. I was as distraught as anyone to see some of the decisions that were made. I came back to Interweave because I believe that we can reinvigorate the Interweave brand and business by being a partner within the communities we serve. I assure you that we will be transparent, and act with the long-term interest of the community. Give us a chance to surprise you with our integrity and commitment to all of you.
 
John Bolton
Interweave GM
F+W Media, LLC
John.bolton@fwcommunity.com”
 
Me again – will I be teaching YarnFest in 2017? I am not 100% sure yet. I spoke on the phone with John for over an hour on Friday and now I am waiting for the new contract offer to come in writing. I also want to run a few more calculations to see if I can make this offer work for my business. I liked talking to this man and I think he had some good things to say about the way forward for Interweave and for its content producers and consumers.
What I don’t want – what I never wanted – is a boycott of the event. There were teachers who were going to teach there, even though I had elected not to. The vendors were locked into their contracts months ago who would face serious losses if people stayed away from the event in droves. A boycott would have made our voices heard in the community but not without losses to BOTH sides.
So thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing, and commenting and discussing. Most of all, thanks for caring about a #FairFiberWage. We were heard!

No Apologies

So the #FairFiberWage train chugs along. By and large I think it’s generating some valuable discussions and I am glad it’s happening.
I was waiting for the “who do you think you are, you deserve nothing, quit whining, not everyone gets to do what they love to do” charges to begin because that seems to happen any time a group of artists complains about their treatment, and while there’s been a little of that, it hasn’t been too bad. Someone on Facebook essentially called us a bunch of no-name diva teachers who didn’t have a leg to stand on but I think Diva Teacher might become a thing now and I am ok with that. I am pondering T-shirts, maybe with sparkles!

But apparently I have one more thing to say. I’m reading posts from teachers that say “I am not ok with sharing a room because bad things happened when I did”, or “I have a medical condition or other life issue that makes it harder for me to recover from a long event” or “I’m sorry I am expensive but here’s a breakdown of how many hours I work and how much money I spend on prep to justify my rates”. All of these things are true. And all of these things are relevant to the discussion. 

But at the end of the day none of them matter. I need a safe place to sleep whether or not something bad happened to someone else. I deserve to be paid fairly, because I deserve to be paid fairly, regardless of what my medical or life situation is. I am sorry not everyone can afford to pay large convention prices – hell I can’t either – which makes my classes out of reach for some students but empathy doesn’t change that fact that if I am hired for an event I expect to profit from it.

Not break even, not make a little over expenses. Profit. Because that’s how business works, and I am running a business. 

There is risk when I develop and put out a design, or a video, or a book, and I accept managed risk because if I accept all of the risk then I also get to accept all of the rewards. But if Company A hires me to do X at Z time and location, then we are by God going to negotiate a fair payment for me to do X, or I am not going to do X. That does not make me a diva or full of myself or any other negative thing you want to call me, it makes me a business person. That also does not obligate Company A to hire me – they are entitled to go hire anyone they want who will accept the terms to fill that job. 

What I am absolutely tired of is this:

Company A (or B or Q or Y): We would like to pay you this much money to do this much work.

Me: That is below my rate, can you come up to this much?

Company A: No we can’t.

Me: Thanks for considering me, unfortunately we won’t be able to work together at this time.

Company A: Well so and so will do it for our terms!

Me: Great! Hire so and so! Everyone wins!

Company A: Well so and so doesn’t offer the advanced classes like you do (or have the experience you have, or have the name recognition in this market that you do, or work in that technique or write a good pattern or whatever), and we need someone who does what YOU do. So you should do what you do for what we want to pay.

Me: Already said no thanks – I wish you well in your search.

Company A: CLEARLY YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, LET ME EXPLAIN WHY YOU ARE WRONG! 

Me: Sigh…

Listen, stuff doesn’t work out all the time. I can’t afford to work here or there, they hire someone else. I really, really want a specific job but I don’t get it for whatever reason. Disappointments abound.

But I am tired of apologizing for running a business. And I wish we, as artists and teachers, didn’t feel the constant need to justify our existence. So from me and my friend JoJo, here’s a little music video- 

(Obviously NSFW – read the title before clicking!)

F*ck Apologies by JoJo feat. Wiz Khalifa

The great teaching kerfuffle

The version of this post that I have been writing in my head is longer than some books I’ve written so I will try to be concise.

I will start with the caveat that I am only speaking on my own behalf here. I have spoken to several other teachers who were affected by this mess or have taught the venue in the past. I can say that I am not the only teacher offended and I am far from the only teacher who has withdrawn from the “opportunity” so graciously presented to us. But the opinions shared hereafter are mine – I do not pretend that I speak for anyone else.

Having been teaching for several years – mostly crochet but knitting and crafty business classes too – I made a conscious effort to increase the number of events at which I teach to help my cash flow along. Let’s be honest, print publishing is not what it once was and that’s where the bulk of my income has come from in years past. There are some places I won’t teach and some places I wish I could teach every year but that’s not what they want (I puffy heart love you DFW FiberFest), but I have seriously been working on more teaching opportunities.

So a couple of years ago along comes a new show from an old player, and I get asked to teach, and the contract doesn’t work for me so when I politely decline I am made a better offer and off I go. The show was great, the students wonderful, and I am glad that together, the venue and I could make it work. This year comes, I still have a minor issue with the contract and have a good conversation with the promoter about it. I sign anyway, have a great time, really feel like I am starting to develop some regular students which is terrific in such a relatively new show. And I feel heard about the issue I brought to their attention so I apply to teach for 2017. As an aside, since every venue has a different way to handle class submissions and only one promoter that I can think of off the top of my head keeps your general class pitches on file so you don’t have to pitch the same stuff every year, do you guys have any idea how long it can take to do an application for a large show? We pitch way more classes than we have spaces to fill so the promoter has a selection from which to choose. An application can take a whole day away from other work! And if you don’t get selected to teach that work is wasted.

Anyway I get the email – you’ve been selected to teach! Yay! Stand by for the contract which we will send next week! Yay! I am anxious to read the contract because I hope my issue from this year has been addressed. So I get the contract and I read it, and I read it again and I say “Oh HELL no!”. I wait a day so I don’t send hate mail to intermediaries because none of this is their fault, and I read the contract with fresh eyes because surely it can’t be as bad as I thought it was but yes it still smells, and I send an email saying there’s no possible way I will sign this contract. And I get an email back offering to explain it to me. Now not only am I offended that I was offered this piece of crap masquerading as an employment offer in the first place, I am offended that they think that I do not understand what a piece of crap it is! So I decline their offer of a telephone meeting.

They are shocked! They are appalled! I hear through the grapevine that a second version of the contract has gone out to some teachers (but not me) and it is still a bad contract, but a slightly less bad contract. Other teachers try to negotiate but keep hitting brick walls. I ask a colleague why I was not offered the second contract and was told “you said you wouldn’t teach the event so you are being taken at your word.” Ok, that’s true, that’s exactly what I did say. So I am sad to lose the show but surely not sad enough that I will lose money teaching it, so I sigh heavily and move on. I worry that my regulars with think I abandoned them but there’s nothing I can do about that. Sigh.

Then I hear from a few more teachers, and a few more after that. Some have signed the second version, many are waffling, several have done what I did and withdrawn from the event (and I love each and every one of you!). And then it moves to Twitter (#FairFiberWage or #FiberTeachersNeed if you’re interested, or search me at @Hooked4Life because I am copied in a lot of that pile o’ tweets!) and then the lovely Abby Franquemont had a say about it which you can see on Facebook, and then I decided I needed to add some words. Ok a lot of words. In fact if you are still reading, high five!

Then some vendors chimed in – if there is a teaching kerfuffle going on shouldn’t they know it? Of course they should because it could affect attendance and therefore their business. And some students said “well if you guys are getting screwed, shouldn’t we know it so we can vote with our dollars?” And of course they should too. But every damned time something like this happens the fiber community gets up in arms in our defense (love you guys for that) and then the people who disagree come by and say we need to suck it up and get real jobs, whatever those are for someone with my very specific skill set, and then people yell at each other and a week later it’s over and nothing changes. 

I had a savior complex for a very long time. I ranted on Getting Loopy and I called people out on their bullshit ways, and I fought for recognition at TNNA and other purportedly professional organizations. I was going to make life better for designers EVERYWHERE. And then I gave up doing that. Because it stressed me out, it didn’t change things much, if ever, and oh yeah there were the death threats on Ravelry (true story – and hilarious now that it’s five years past but it requires cocktails to be told!).

So why am I writing this novella? There’s a sea change happening and in what I hope is the extinction burst of my savior complex I feel compelled to point it out.

Teaching was the last hope for many of us to keep making a living and if those contracts are under attack – and they are – shit’s about to get real. Book advances have been decimated in the last few years as well. The rhetoric behind these changes from those in power is eerily similar and sounds like this “It’s ok to take a teaching contract with no guarantees or per diem because if you sell out every seat in every class you’ll make more money!” Or for books “It doesn’t matter if the advance is terrible because you’ll earn out quicker and you’ll make the same amount you would have anyway on royalties !” What both of these proposals do, though, is shift the financial responsibility of a given project making money away from the shoulders of the corporations that profit from the end product, and put that weight on the shoulders of the artists that make these projects possible. If a corporation has put out a big advance on a book or made a financial guarantee to a staff of teachers that corporation has skin in the game. They are incentivized to do the best they can to sell that product because if they don’t they’ll lose a sizable chunk of money, which is much more quantifiable to the bean counters than the more general “we should be profitable” mantra. Profit is good – it’s what keeps all of this content in the marketplace for consumers to benefit from. But a company the size of Hooked for Life should not be expected to subsidize expenses for a company the size of … Well let’s just say that I don’t think it’s coincidence that the parent company’s name begins and ends with F U…

Paint Your Crochet? Why not!

Back in January I lost my mind and attended both the TNNA show (the trade show for yarn, needlepoint and cross stitch, and related products) and CHA (the trade show for all things crafty and big box yarns) in California on the same weekend. Fueled almost exclusively by In and Out burgers and adrenaline I drove up and down Route 5 and saw all the people I could see and test drove all the products I could lay my hands on.

I was fascinated by all of the paints and dyes I saw at CHA and was on the lookout for ways to color my crochet and knitting,  but get an end result that wasn’t stiff – that would enable my textile to retain at least most of the drape it began with! I found my wish with Design Master Tint It. It’s an aerosol dye that gives a saturated color, but doesn’t make the resulting fabric stiff as a board. 

Here is the pillow I created – I hope you like it!

It all started with some white yarn…

Materials:

3 skeins Lily Sugar’n Cream yarn in #00001 White

Crochet hook size H/8/5.50 mm or size needed to obtain gauge

14″ Home Elegance pillow form

1 can Design Master Tint It in Jade

1 Loops and Threads fat quarter 

Coordinating thread 

Sewing machine

Hand sewing needle

3 stick on Velcro tabs

Tapestry needle

Gauge: 12 sts X 7 rows = 4″ (10 cm) in LDC

Pillow Front:

Ch 44.

Row 1: Linked double crochet (LDC) in 4th ch from hook and in each ch across. Ch 3, turn. 42 ldc 

Row 2: LDC in each LDC across. Ch 3, turn.

Rep Row 2 for pattern until work measures 14″ from foundation ch. End off.

 

Just the crochet…

 
I took the finished front outside, laid it on some cardboard to save my porch floor, and sprayed with the Tint It. I layered the color so the finished piece had a strong diagonal feel to it, going from dark in one corner to just barely sprayed at the other.

 

I tested the flow of the spray on the cardboard first, so as not to overspray

 
Once the front is fully dry, work the edging as follows:

Rnd 1: Join yarn in any st, sc around, placing 3 sc in each corner. Join rnd with sl st in first sc. Ch 3, do not turn.

Rnd 2: Dc in each sc around, placing 5 dc in each corner. Join rnd with sl st in top of beg-ch. Ch 1, do not turn.

Rnd 3: Sc in each dc around, placing 3 sc in each corner. Join rnd with sl st in first sc. Ch 1, do not turn.

Rnd 4: Crab st in each sc around. Join rnd with sl st in first crab stitch. End off.

 

Crocheting the edging after the tinting is fnished gives a sharp color contrast

 
Weave in all ends.

 

You may need to experiment a little with hem placement to make the pattern match!

 
Back:

Cut two pieces from the fat quarter, each measuring 15″ wide X 9″ tall. 

Make a 1″ hem across one 15″ side on each piece. NOTE I had to fiddle a little bit to make sure the print would align – make sure you are happy with the alignment before you cut!

Overlap one hemmed edge 1″ over the other hemmed edged, topstitch into place in the side seam allowance.

Press under 1/2″ seam allowance on all four sides.

Pin the fabric back to the crocheted front, and hand sew into place.

Place Velcro tabs evenly spaced across to hold the overlap in place.

 

I am pretending I matched my friend’s chair on purpose…

 
Insert pillow form through the overlap, and Velcro the overlap closed.
One of the things I like about using the Tint It instead of simply using colored yarn, is that the dye lays more heavily on the top of the stitch than in the furrows, which really accentuates the density and texture of the stitches. I can also stitch away without worrying about yarn colors pooling or not laying exactly the way I want them to, because the color is added after. I can see trying this with a stencil too!

Thanks for stopping by – MBT

Hey, is this thing on?

I have migrated the website and blog yet again. The previous server was simply too damned expensive for the value it provided, so here we are elsewhere, again!

MB_Print_1_lower_res

New headshot too! Thanks, Tabetha Hedrick!

While I am still all about the yarn and related crafts, I have also been expanding my publishing horizons into sewing and general craft – in fact my next book is about sewing and I seriously cannot wait to show it to you. Sometime in May, I expect.

While for the longest time one was either a capital K Knitter or a capital C crocheter – or Spinner, or Scrapbooker or whatever else was the craft of choice, I feel like we as a community are finally moving back towards the idea that different people might want to enjoy different crafts at different times. So I am not planning on limiting myself any more, as to which crafts I post here. My plan is to do what I do, post what I post, and trust my readers are smart enough to skip over the parts that don’t interest them without being offended that I have strayed off the One True Path of alpaca, or whatever. We shall see how it goes!

Here are my two most recent releases, the Transition Shawl to Crochet and the Transition Shawl to Knit. The patterns (and the colorways they show) are available exclusively at Patternworks through 6/16, so get them while they’re hot!

Here is the crochet shawl –

803458__1_Transitions_small_best_fit         803458__2_Transitions_small_best_fit

And here is the knit version –

803460_TransitionsShwl_small_best_fit

The yarn is Frolicking Feet Transitions from Done Roving Yarns. The yarn colors come pre-attached and the yarn itself is already wound and in it’s own container. Because of the way the yardages are calculated, when working a shawl top-down and center-out in knit or crochet, you wind up with stripes that are roughly the same size. Most other yarns are divided equally so as the piece gets bigger the stripes get more narrow. Or of course you can stripe something yourself but who needs the ends?

Anyway thanks for stopping by  – more soon!

MBT