"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back Atcha' -- A Two Legged Trip into My Crazy World

As my own customer service representative part of my job is reading and answering emails sent from hither and yon.  (I'm proud to say that I've had blog hits from people in 60 different countries!)  I've been getting some interesting emails from blog readers and customers lately asking me questions that required more than just a minute to answer.  Today, I thought I'd take a few minutes to share two of those with you along with the answers I sent because they offer some insight into my creative process and some useful information about my finished projects.
Grandpa's Sweater Scrubby
I enlisted the help of Linda, one of my loyal customers, to test the "Grandpa's Sweater" scrubby pattern (thanks again, Linda!) which began a somewhat lengthy string of emails back and forth about the pattern itself and the creative process.  In one, she mentioned that she'd thought about working a craft fair or two with items she made and also asked if I often used other testers.

Here's part of my reply:

Every pattern I work goes through a different process.  Let me sort of walk you through the one you tested:

1.  draw it on paper in the proportion I envision
2.  find a tutorial on how to crochet cables because if I've ever done a project with cables in it, it was about 20 years ago
3.  crochet, frog, crochet, frog, crochet, frog, crochet... (yep, only four times with this one)
4.  finally get to a finished product that is close to my original design but more practical for the intended use (KISS) taking notes as I go
5.  actually write the pattern pretty much as it will appear when it gets to your hands
6.  frog the prototype and remake it following my instructions--this time with the #10 thread added
7.  type it up, add pictures, convert to .pdf
8.  beg my best customer to test it for me (LOL, but no joke!) and send her the .pdf

I did send it to another online friend [ed:  That would be Megan!] who's great at finding my typos and any confusing language, but she hasn't actually made the pattern.  I was an English major (not for long, but I was), so the writing part is usually a pretty smooth but time consuming process.  This was the first time I used an actual tester because I know this pattern looks intimidating to a newbie and I really wanted to make sure that just about anybody could pick it up and make it without having to tear it apart.  Nothing makes me more nuts than paying for a pattern written in the designer's shorthand.  Heck, I could write it in shorthand and not pay someone to do it for me.  This may be work for me, but it's a hobby too.  Like you, when I pick up a pattern written by someone else, I want to have the thinking done for me. . .

. . .The reason I give my blessing to sell the finished product is pretty simple.  I want to do it too!  Last year I did a couple of small Holiday craft fairs (selling my handmade jewelry) and they were so much fun.  I found myself crocheting small pieces all winter and selling them at a small local flea market.  My nephews are all about stuffed animals, but paying up to $15 for a pattern you can only use once is not a smart idea in my book, so I choose which patterns I purchase carefully.  They love that they can show them off and say, "My Auntie MADE this for me."  One of the factors I think about when I purchase a pattern is "can I sell the finished product?"  Not just whether it would sell, but will I be allowed.  Let's face it, I could crank out my scrubbies and sell them on Etsy and have another two or three people on Etsy doing the same thing.  So what?  There are so many sellers on Etsy that few people are going to notice that two are selling identical items and how many of those scrubbies can one person make anyhow?  I figure if you took your time and did all the work, you deserve a couple of bucks for it.  Besides, I would love to have people tell me they're going out and selling my stuff and meeting new people and having a great time doing it. . .

* * *

This one's from Leah and it's typical of a conversation I may have had when I worked as a "department store retailer.":

Big Girl Towel and Pot Holder in progress
Hello!  I stumbled upon your patterns while looking for a good kitchen set (I'm making a wedding gift a bit last minute) and fell in LOVE with your Big Girl set.  The elegance of it instantly caught my eye.  And then I dug a little deeper, scrolled down the blog, found your other sets, and now I'm having trouble deciding which set of beautiful craftsmanship I want to imitate.  So my question is, do you have any comments on the effectiveness of the individual sets?  Which potholders are thicker, which scrubbies are more effective, which towels are more absorbent?  And also, have you ever adapted one of your patterns for a round potholder?  If you have, I would love to buy that as well.  Totally understand if you can't accommodate my greediness (not to mention indecisiveness...) but I wanted to get your thoughts before I dove in any further.  

And here's my (edited) answer:

First things first:  The absorbency of the individual item will be dependent upon the yarn you use.  I've found that I really like (okay, absolutely, totally LOVE) the softness and loft of Peaches 'n Creme by the Pisgah yarn and dye company.  Lily Sugar 'n Cream isn't quite as fluffy soft, but that means it's going to scrub a bit better.  Regardless of which yarn you choose, using a #10 crochet cotton held together with your worsted weight yarn to make a scrubby will give it a bit of extra texture to help get your dishes clean.

Other tips I've received for making scrubbies include using a worsted weight acrylic instead of cotton or using nylon netting that you can purchase at the craft store in rolls.  I prefer the cotton because my goal is to avoid synthetics whenever possible.

On to the specifics:  All of the towels will have pretty much the same absorbency.

BGJ Towel Collection
The thickness of the potholders is defined by the density of the stitch used.  The Chubby Nubby and Tiny Bubbles styles have the closest, tightest texture which makes them my thickest designs followed by the Broken Links.  Grandpa's Sweater and Big Girl won't be quite as thick.  All of the pot holders are two layers thick in the interest of safety, but I cannot guarantee that they will protect your hands for long periods at very high temperatures.  As with any kitchen item, use care and common sense when you're handling hot tools and pans.

The same goes for the scrubbies; the Tiny Bubbles and Broken Links will probably give you a bit more "tooth" because of their texture, but the addition of the crochet cotton helps to level the field a bit.  When I sit down to design a new set, I begin with the scrubby because I want to make sure that the texture of the design will clean your dishes not just look pretty hanging over your sink.

As for a round pot holder...  I really hadn't thought about it.  I'll add it to my ever expanding list of things to do.

* * *

Here's one last tip that helps me when I'm working a pattern:  If you find that the decorative portion of your project is wider than the rest of it (which can happen with a towel and is actually specified in at least one of my patterns), go down one hook size for that part, then return to the recommended size when you return to the more basic area.

As always, I very much enjoy receiving emails and comments from any of my customers and readers.  I do my best to answer them in a timely manner and they never fall on deaf ears.  I worked for a series of major department stores for more than twenty years and the most important thing I learned from that experience is how NOT to do business.  Rather than follow the old rule "The customer is always right," I prefer to live by my own rule:  "It doesn't matter who's right!  Make  the customer happy."  If I can develop a design, be it crochet or jewelry, in which the customer has been a participant, and the customer/client/patron/friend is happy, I'm happy.  Thank you all for visiting, reading, sharing advice and feedback, and most of all inspiration.

Friday, October 1, 2010


May 1997-October 2010
She clings
As though there is nothing more
No hereafter
No white light
I know
In my heart of hearts
Her soul lives
Beyond this life
Travel on old friend
I grieve
And in my grief find strength
To persevere
To live well