The Crochet Liberation Front Presents The Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving (And how to survive the holidays without going insane) E-Book Edition Written & Illustrated by Laurie A. Wheeler Book design, copy, & illustrations: Laurie A. Wheeler ©2011 Laurie A. Wheeler All Rights Reserved No part of this manuscript may be reproduced in any means physically or electronically without express written permission by the copyright holder. All names used in this book, other than the author’s, have been changed to protect the not so innocent. Imprint: CreateSpace Published by The Crochet Liberation Front 1880 SW Camano Dr Camano Island, WA 98282 http://www.crochetliberationfront.com This book is dedicated to my mom for teaching me how to make gift giving a joy, how not to suck at gift giving, how to be a great hostess and that things that sparkle are always cool. “Hey Look Mom, I made another book!” Acknowledgements Great thanks go to my CLF Tribe on and offline. Special thanks: Judith Manriquez for her unwavering support and invaluable assistance in this evolution of me. Thomas and Rev. Gabrielle Chavez for their work on the Compass Way that has been the greatest tool in overcoming PTSD . More thanks of course go to my family who are ever so supportive of my whimsical ways. Last but not least, great thanks go to you dear reader for reading this book. Hey don’t peek, but there’s a gift bag pattern in the back of this book… Did you peek? There you go on the naughty list! Introduction This is not a book of patterns or crochet instructions. This is a book on the art and science of gifting. I have a rule about holidays, I don’t just mean the Christmas season (and yes, that is the holiday I celebrate in the winter), I mean any holiday including birthdays; the rule is this: NO STRESS. As a kid, I looked forward to every holiday with a mix of joy and excitement, tinged with dread. The joy and excitement was reserved for knowing that my mom made everything special. There were treats, decorations, events, parties, and really cool presents. Furthermore, it meant we got to visit with my mom’s side of the family which totally equaled fun and love. The dread? Holidays at my dad’s side of the family. Whereas my mom and dad made sure my brother and I had a completely magical experience at home for the holidays, going to my dad’s side of the family was like visiting the dentist. Okay, maybe you like going to see your dentist, but I do not like seeing dentists (sorry to all the dentists out there, but you mofo’s have yet to figure out that my roots go to China and you never numb me properly, and yes, yes it does hurt damn it.). All fears of dentists aside, going to my dad’s family was in a word: stressful. The holidays were a Jekyll and Hyde experience. On mom’s side of the family there were cool ornaments and decorations, nothing quite like in the magazines, most of them were made by us kids. There were gifts for everyone, often crocheted or sewn, my aunt made us all bean bags in 1976 and that was the height of cool. There were games and candy, laughter and fun at my uncle’s and aunt’s house, and even at ours. It seemed like a moratorium on getting in trouble at mom’s family; kids could be kids. The holidays (all of them) were for the children, and the family delighted in our childhoods. 7 Dad’s side? The houses were immaculate, the presents wrapped with precision, the décor flawless. An LP would be playing the soundtrack of “The Sound of music” or if we were lucky it would be playing on the T.V. and we would get to listen to Julie Andrews declaring her love of whiskered kittens and brown paper packages. I love “The Sound of Music” even if it is associated with holidays at my Dad’s family. You see we were meant to be proper ladies and gents, we weren’t allowed to be loud or laugh too hard, and there was no running or playing anything other than boring card and board games. Lord have mercy on your soul if you got your party dress smudged. It didn’t help that my dad’s siblings and he had a competition on who could buy us kids the most noisy and obnoxious toy. This was a dirty trick. You see, we kids would see massive boxes of immaculately wrapped gifts and then we’d take our turns opening gifts. What the hell do you think a kid wants to do with a metallic train with real lights and a horn and it moves? Play with it, duh. So, batteries would be found for all the loud, light up, obnoxious toys, and we wound up excited kids would be continually hushed and told to be good. I remember wondering how we weren’t being good. Then we’d get a chance to play with the toys after maybe ten minutes some kid would let their moving, noisy, obnoxious toy (that an adult gave them) loose and oh boy, all holiday hell broke loose. Parent of said child would take the toy and “discipline” their child, then the great parenting competition would begin. Seriously, that’s what I thought of it even as a kid, once one of us got into trouble it’s like the other parents were losing street cred by allowing their kids to be kids and have fun. Then the crying started, more than once I saw my mom cry in frustration; she hated these holidays. More often than not, she’d have us bundled up quickly and we’d leave. 8 It was this dichotomy of holiday experience that made me declare the holidays in my own life to be stress free. I had two vastly different experiences upon which to draw. Don’t get me wrong, both sides of my family have issues, some of them pretty damn big issues, but when it came to holiday traditions and behavior I decided I preferred mom’s side of the family. (Now, if you want career advice and how to be a manager or an executive I’d draw upon my father’s side of the family.) I know I’m not the only one to have had stressful holiday memories, in fact I know for a lot of people the holidays still are a huge source of stress. For that I am so sorry! The holidays, any holiday, is a chance to join together and celebrate all that is good in life, it’s a time to be together as a family; Life’s really short, it’s not worth the stress of having to be perfect and look like a magazine picture of what the perfect holidays are “supposed to be.” In this book you will find articles dedicated to holidays, how to avoid stress, stay sane, and on the art of gifting. My mom taught me that art, I’ve blogged about gifting a lot, and those are some of my most popular posts on the Crochet Liberation Front website. So, in here find some advice that’s intended to ease your life and help you enjoy the seasons or days that should be the best times of our lives. Laurie A. Wheeler Founder and Fearless Leader The Crochet Liberation Front 9 Part one TOTALLY AWESOME GIFT GIVING!! Gift giving is one of the most stressful parts of any holiday season. It used to just be the winter holidays and birthdays that had us stymied and stressed. Now people give gifts for every holiday big and small, including things like kindergarten graduations. No matter the economy it’s hard to budget the myriad of gifts, or even the “right” gifts for the people in our lives. It seems like our gift lists get longer every year, and so many of us have to watch our wallets these days. If you’re talented at handwork you can make lots of gifts, and these can be totally awesome! I’m often amazed at the stories I read on the Crochet Liberation Front message board by members who have had their handcrafted gifts rejected by family members. It always shocks me when it’s someone’s mom. My mom would like my stick figure drawings and call me an artiste, which drove me nuts as a kid, because I didn’t like them at all. Now that I’m a mom, yeah I like my kids’ stick figures too. That being said, hyper critical people exist, the reason is perhaps to show us how cool we are for not being hyper critical. If you are one of those hyper critical people, then I’m sorry you will probably hate this part of the book, but in just a few pages there is a section about not giving sucky gifts and you’ll probably enjoy that section. So here are some holiday gift giving rules for those of you who have hypercritical people in your life: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 11 Ask them what they want. If they don’t like handmade gifts, don’t make them anything. If you can’t afford their gift, ask for alternatives. If they are particularly nasty, just get them a gift card and call it good. Gifts are called gifts for a reason; you don’t have to give them, so if someone is really horrid consider not giving them anything at all. Ask them what they want If you have really particular giftees in your life, then the easiest thing you can do is to actually ask them what they want. I know, it takes out the surprise and magic of gift giving to a certain degree, but it will make everyone happier in the long run. I have a few of these people in my life and I still manage to surprise them, here’s how: I ask them what they want for Christmas in May. I listen to them talk about the gifts they didn’t like during the season. When I go over to the person’s house I scope it out for collections of things, color choices and things that seem to interest them. I look around for past gifts that I’ve given. I have one relative that will regift things she doesn’t like, so if I see something I have given her out on display or being used I know I was on the right track. If someone is picky, particular, “discerning”, or hard to buy for, get them a gift card to something they will enjoy or get a group of people in the family (cause hey if it’s not family why go to all the trouble to please someone?) to pitch in on an experience gift. If they don’t like handmade gifts, don’t make them anything. Notice I am not mentioning make them something. I mean you can, I have made gifts for the person I previously mentioned. She’s liked some, disliked others. How do I know? I crocheted her a beautiful scarf out of my handspun silk once, at a gathering of friends and family I saw someone else wearing it. No it could not have possibly been a copy or someone else made the same pattern. It was definitely a one of a kind. That being said, the person I had gifted really liked the person she gave it to, so at least I knew it wasn’t a total fail. Are my feelings hurt? Nope. Gifts are freely given from me to the giftee, I do prefer to be told when someone prefers something else, that way I don’t waste my time hand spinning and crocheting something for them. 12 If you can’t afford their gift ask for alternatives My husband isn’t picky, but he is hard to buy for because he has almost all of the tools he wants other than the ones we can’t afford. Sometimes he’ll mention he wants something for his birthday or Christmas and we just can’t afford it right now. So, I will ask him what alternatives he has in mind for gifts or even better if we can set up a fund for the toy he desperately craves. I’ve done the same with my children and a few younger nieces and nephews in the family. Asking what else they would like helps me find things they still want that fit into my price range per gift. What if they are nasty? If a person is rude enough to berate me for a gift (which hasn’t happened since I was in my mid-20s) I will gladly inform them that they can return the gift to me and/or jump in a lake. Gifting is what it is; it is an expression of care. I do not have to gift you anything; it is my choice to give freely. You can say thank you and accept the gift even if you don’t like it. There is no excuse for being rude as a receiver of gifts, not even if you are a parent, parent in law, or over the age of 8. (I give kids room to voice their approval or disapproval, because really who wants a sweater for a birthday present unless they ask for it?) No one ever has the right to be verbally abusive or emotionally manipulative to anyone else. It’s this kind of behavior that creates holiday anxiety and that’s all kinds of wrong. So, with these people if you want to be nice get them a gift card and call it good. 13 What if they are super hyper critical? Well, I’m very thankful that I don’t have one of those in my life. I have had them in my life in the past and here’s how I dealt with them. Nothing I could give was right, not even if I asked them and they told me outright in great detail what is they preferred to receive. I stopped caring about what I gave them, I gave them food gifts. I reserve food gifts for people that a) really love food b) I don’t know well c) I don’t care if they like it or not. Ooops, did I give you food? Well, it must be because you really like it! Gifts are called gifts for a reason; you don’t have to give them, so if someone is really horrid consider not giving them anything at all. I don’t always gift during the holiday season, it doesn’t mean I dislike someone or don’t care about them. I just find it less and less important to make it on the date. I create for those I love all year long; I sometimes show up out of the blue and just gift someone for no reason. Our holidays have gotten so commercial anymore that it’s ridiculous. Look people he/she who dies with the most stuff doesn’t win. Whatever you gift, gift with the heart, if people can’t accept that they are the ones with the problem, not you. 14 Best Gifter EVER! Ever wonder how to be the best gift giver ever? There are some simple tricks, some of them I already shared on page 11, but here’s the real secret: I listen. When you listen, you don’t just listen with your ears, listen with your eyes too. People tell you what they like by displaying it in their home and on their bodies. I’m often amused at people who buy me jewelry, because I don’t wear any or very little. I wear my engagement ring, my wedding ring, and the cross I was given when my grandmother died; it was hers. By the way it was her house that those awful holiday celebrations on dad’s side happened. Some people buy me jewelry because I don’t wear it thinking I don’t own any: I do, I just don’t wear it. I do wear shawls and use shawl pins and my very thoughtful mother-in-law has purchased me hand crafted beauties! She noticed I wear them and what style I like, that means more to me than the gift itself. Note: When you pay attention to the things people like you are more than likely to get them something they will treasure. Whenever I visit family and friends I keep my ears pricked for hints of what they may enjoy or want. I look at their clothes, what colors do they wear most often? Are they sports fans or deeply involved alumni of their alma mater? With a gaggle of teenaged nieces and nephews I try to stay current with their interests. They all like getting crocheted goodies from me so I try to remember to ask them or their parents what their favorite colors are in case things have changed in the past year; for the adults I check out the décor of the house or their personal style to see what kind of fashion they are into to make things that match them. I’m fortunate, most of the people in my life actually feel hurt if I don’t make them things. One year I bought everyone’s gifts and they all thought I was upset with them! The truth of the matter was that I had been really busy and didn’t have time to make them anything, but nothing encouraged my crochet gifting more than the shy requests for my one of a kind gifts! 15 If you have a deep need to keep a list of your gift recipients here’s a handy suggestion: Name:_______________________ Birthday______________________ Holidays celebrated _____________________________ Favorite color(s)________________________________ Hobbies:_____________________________________ Interests:____________________________________ Handmade Yes/No Keeping a notebook can keep you organized. Do I do this? No, I’m not that organized, I keep a mental record of favorite colors and some birthdays. Holidays celebrated is important in my multi-cultural family, we have all races, religions and preferences of holidays in our clan, keeping up takes a list and I do have those marked in my calendar. It’s the thought that counts Indeed, it is the thought that counts. It doesn’t take a whole lot of thought to be a thoughtful gift giver. Paying attention to people’s interests, favorite things and colors, textures, style, and hobbies doesn’t take a great deal of effort. What amazes me is how few people take the time to truly listen; listening is a portion of the greatest gift. 16 How not to SUCK at gift giving Hyper critical folk aside, nothing is worse than the person who gifts without thought or even the person that repeatedly gifts things that are unwanted. I’ve used my cousin as an example on the blog in the past, and I will do it again. My cousin’s mother-in-law is the most un-thoughtful gift giver on the planet. For years she has gifted my cousin things that she doesn’t like, couldn’t possibly like if you know her for more than two seconds, and things that she has expressly asked not to have; such as anything in the orange color range. My cousin hates the color orange, nay she despises it with every bone in her body. For almost 20 years her mother-in-law has given her orange things; is it subliminal? Is it on purpose? My cousin is too polite to tell the woman that she hates the gifts, but really? Poor cousin Heather has mentioned many times over the past two decades that she dislikes the color, you’d think her mother-in-law would take the hint. What? I’m telling stories out of school? What will the woman think? Don’t worry she’ll never get this book or bother to read it. She sucks at giving gifts. To the point that both my cousin and her husband have requested either no gifts or donations to charities instead! Ever mindful of the situation with her in laws, I have made an effort to make sure I get this loved one things she wants. Those things crocheted or not, are never hats, because she doesn’t wear hats for vanity purposes. She does use scarves, fingerless gloves and things that are fun and fashionable. Notice, I just showed that I do something important; I listen. Remember that listening makes you a great gift giver, it separates you from those who suck at it. What else can you avoid? See the list for crocheted goodness on the next page. 17 How to make crocheted gifts NOT suck Make sure items are finished properly Don’t make garments without asking first. For babies ask parents what kind of preferred fibers Don’t give items that can choke small children or animals Make home décor in colors that are neutral or the favorites for the recipient Give a note with care instructions Make items that will be used Put a note in the gift asking that it be used or donated to charity if not. For those not close to you make small gifts Crochet the gift bags or tags and buy gifts for those you aren’t sure will enjoy crocheted gifts. Think about the person and their life style. Finishing makes for great gifts! There is a bias against handmade gifts and one of the reasons is what I call the “macaroni and glue” factor. On line you will see a million blog posts that explain that crafting is inferior to art, or articles that declare a line between artisan work and crafts. You can get into semantics all you want, I believe in handcrafting. Some people love to claim that crocheted gifts are inferior because so many of us use acrylic yarn. Really? If that’s the case then 90% of store bought purchases are inferior too. The difference between something that is handmade and handcrafted is this; an experienced crafter finishes their work. 18 Finishing is wide term which can involve the following: Weaving in all ends properly. Blocking and steaming Starching Adding notions Weaving in ends is important if you want your gift to look polished. On scarves and other items that can be spruced up with a fringe you can incorporate ends into that, which is why a lot of my projects have fringe. For many lace projects or garments blocking and steaming solves a multitude of sins. It will make your pieces lay flat or shape better. For lace ornaments blocking and starching gives the piece the firm texture necessary to show itself off and preserve the piece. I use a spray starch or in a pinch, potato water to starch lace ornaments. Notions are things like: buttons, ribbon, zig zag tape, zippers, beads and bobbles, jingle bells or sequins. These can spruce up even the most plain of projects and offer interest to the piece. What you want to remember when sewing or gluing items onto a piece is to ensure they are secure. Don’t create a choking hazard if you are giving a project to a child or animal. Instead of using googly eyes, you can use safety eyes (most likely purchased on line or at a craft store) or better yet embroider them onto the piece. If you need more information on this topic I highly suggest you get a copy of Edie Eckman’s “The Crochet Answer Book.” She covers the whole gamut of finishing techniques. Garments and Babies I don’t make sweaters or fitted garments for anyone but my kids and myself. First of all I’m a fitting junkie, I like to make sure the item I’m making will actually look good on the person for whom I’m creating. That being said, if you are going to make a garment, check with the recipient about how they want to care for garments etc. 19 Our lives are busy and some people don’t like to hand wash clothes. Likewise, people are more aware of sensitivities and allergies to fibers these days, so you will want to ensure whatever you make them will not cause them to break out in hives or have an asthma attack. If I’m making a gift for baby I like to ask the parents their preference of fibers and styles. Some parents have very strong views on colors and fibers, I’d rather ask a few questions and make something that will be used by the receiver of my gift than insert what I think is best on the parents. Creating a cashmere layette may sound hoity toity and it is, but will it be used? And oh good lord will it be tossed in the washing machine? I’d cry if that happened to something made out of cashmere. It’s not about being cheap; it’s about wanting the work to be used, cared for properly and not ruined For such items I include a note with care instructions. Writing these on a 3x5 inch card makes it easy for the recipient to keep and store the instructions. Care Instructions Machine wash in warm water and mild detergent. Air dry on a flat surface. What happens if they don’t follow the instructions and they ruin the piece? Well, I shrug it off and choose not to make things out of that kind of material for them again. I’ll use my beloved cousin as an example again; I used to make her things out of silk and wool; she shrunk and fulled every single thing I made her over a two year period. I would roll my eyes and shake my finger at her, mostly because I know she knows how to take care of such items, we were both taught how as children. I finally gave up and started making her things that she could toss in the washing machine and drier. Frankly, my cousin is so practical that she prefers getting my bag o’ soap every year anyway. (Again knowing your audience is the key!) Gift Tags, Bags and just buy it… If there are people in your life that will not appreciate your handiwork, then by all means just buy them something. It’s not a failure on your part, it means that you aren’t wasting your valuable time and talents. It doesn’t mean you don’t like the person (maybe you don’t), it just means you aren’t giving them your crochet. Even if you do buy a present , you can incorporate crochet. One of my favorite things to do when short on time for crafting presents is creating ornaments or jewelry that can double as decorations on the present. Instead of using gift ribbon I will crochet a lariat or floral pins/hair clips. One year I made snowmen, candy canes and gingerbread ornaments and tied them to presents. You can do this with any holiday theme and these are things that are quick to crochet. You can crochet a stash of gift bags or if you’re really short on time use loose weave fabric and crochet the seams and a pretty edging! It doesn’t have to be hard, just finished well and fun to make. 21 Think about the people you gift Whenever I make a gift for someone I like to sit down and think about them. What do I know about who they are? It’s more than colors and fibers, it’s about the person. When I crochet for my best friend who is a professional photographer, I know she often braves terrible weather to get those amazing nature photographs she is for which she has been awarded at various art shows. I create fingerless gloves that allow her to work with her camera and keep her warm while she goes tromping off into storms. I know she doesn’t like wool, so I make her things out of camel and silk, mohair and peacock feathers, yes I hand spin for her; she’s special and she takes care of the things I make for her! Call me corny, but I really do meditate a little bit on each project and think wonderful thoughts of each person as I work. I want them to feel the love in what I make, I’d like to think that they do since no one ever complains about my gifts. If I didn’t have anything good to think about them, I wouldn’t make them anything; after all these two little hands only have so many projects in them. I have two favorite gifting experiences, one involved my niece the other involved a Christmas exchange. A few years back my niece was turning 16, for such a big milestone my husband and I decided to buy her a gift card from a store that she enjoyed to give her. As an afterthought I crocheted up a little coin purse keychain using a plastic bottle that I’d cut up and punched holes in. The coin purse was cute, but I didn’t think much of it as a gift, it was just something fun to put in her gift bag. When my niece opened her gift bag she saw the card and was happy, but when she pulled out the little coin purse key chain she squealed with delight. “Auntie Laurie! Did you make this?” “Yes, sweetie it’s just a little something for you to hold your car keys.” I replied “Oh my GAWD it’s awesome, you recycled that plastic didn’t you? I am so about recycling and repurposing! This is awesome!” She declared. I was so flabbergasted! I never expected her to go that gaga over a coin purse, but she loved that I made it. In fact recently she told me she liked my presents best, “Because you take the time to think about each one of us and then take more time to make us things.” Spocky the Snowman Years ago we used to have a holiday party with our friends with whom we played role playing games, at this party we had a white elephant gift exchange. For several years running I made cool dice bags, some with camel hair, some with yak or silk, blends of odd or rare fibers to make the recipient gamer be the coolest at their local gaming table. After a few years of this I got bored and decided to do something different. Most of us in the group were Trekkies (Fans of Star Trek) and so I thought it would be fun to crochet Spocky the Snowman, sadly I have no photos of this Amigurumi master piece. I also re-wrote the words to Frosty the Snowman, so that good ol’ Spocky had his own theme song. Spocky was the first gift chosen and unwrapped, we had a 3 steals rule in our game and Spocky was nicely fought over! Knowing the gifting audience is important, I knew everyone liked Star Trek and I knew they would find this funny. One last word of advice, it’s not about what you like when you give a gift. I don’t like wood working, but my husband does so I buy him tools to do so. He buys me crochet hooks or makes me hooks and other yarnie equipment. Being a great gift giver doesn’t have to be hard, you don’t have to make huge presents, you don’t even have to make things at all; you can listen and know in general what people will like; if you are lucky they will make requests. 23 Part Two Staying sane in your crafting Or at the least not stressed (Created by Stephany Toppin for the CLF) Crafting Strategies Crocheting for the holidays can cause stress even when you are a great gift giver and everyone loves what you make; it can also cause injuries if you don’t take care of yourself. We all should start earlier than we do, unless you are that one person on Facebook who kept posting updates about your holiday crochet jump start in July. July is a great time to start your holiday hooking, that being said most of us just aren’t in the mood to start in the height of summer. Here are some tips to make life easier for you if you are like me and it’s a week away from Thanksgiving and you’ve crocheted all of one gift. 25 Make small gifts Crochet squares for afghans all year long and keep them in a box. Make ornaments that double for gift tags Crochet around fabric to make gift bags Crochet gift bags If you’re on a short deadline don’t start big or time intensive projects. If you are making something large and won’t be finished gift a swatch with a sketch or note telling the recipient their gift is in process. Don’t start a new to you technique Create gifts from memory or well known patterns Take breaks often Drink lots of water Stretch and move around Fearless Leader’s Favorite Small Gift List 26 Hats/Scarves Doll Clothes & Accessories Matching hat/scarves for boy/girl and dolls Slippers Soap bags Decorative wash cloths Ornaments Hair accessories Ski bands Wrist warmers Fingerless Gloves Gift bags Coaster sets Dog/Cat toys Gaming pouches Messenger bags Felted bags Wine bags Magnets Jewelry Novelty items Dolls Plushies Embellish socks, gloves, towels, and other finished items. Mix projects involving glue and fabric The Tote of Holding Each year when I am faced with holiday crafting desperation I have a secret weapon to which I resort. Throughout the year I crochet small squares and swatches, little projects and put them in a box. This is my box of holding; it holds the ingredients for holiday magic. When in need of a gift I can do a frantic lucky dip into my giant tote and find something for someone or at least the parts for present, in that box. Here’s how I do this: 1. In leisure time I crochet motifs in a range of colors and make a stack. I weave in ends at the time. Nothing is worse than having to weave in ends at a later date when under pressure. These become bags, afghans, and are the parts of presents to be. 2. I make at least 20 decorative cotton facecloths a year and those get put in the box. I use motif patterns to create beautiful and functional small gifts. 3. I love to make hats, I make a lot of hats in different sizes, and I pop the extra hats into the box. 4. Sometimes a holiday mood or idea hits me in March or April, I crochet little ornaments, finish them and then put them in the box. I could drone on and on, but let’s put it another way, for each little project you make another and put it in a box. Here’s the really cool part, you will forget about putting these things in the box, and when you resort to the box of holding you will be amazed at how organized you were earlier in the year! Nothing like a good pat on the back to take some of the holiday stress away! 27 BUT IT’S ALREADY THAT TIME OF YEAR!!! Ah, I see, it’s already the holidays so all of my brazen advice about being organized well in advance is just stressing you out. REPEAT AFTER ME!! NO STRESS IN THE HOLIDAYS!! 28 Tips and Tricks for Holiday De-Stressing Create Enjoy Relax We crochet (craft) because we love it. Remember why you crochet (craft) Only work with materials you enjoy working with The “should” about creating needs to go Take frequent breaks Work on multiple projects Keep a list Use realistic deadline Hydrate! Make things that you like 29 The important things… If you are stressed out, worried about time, money or being able to make what you’ve planned, if you find yourself snapping at your kids, animals or beloveds, it is time to stop. Let’s have a reality check here, life is short, especially for us human beings. Even if you live to be 100 years old it’s still a blink in the eye to the vast universe in which we live. Our holidays are a time to rejoice, celebrate and connect with each other. If you feel pressured, insufficient to the task, not good enough or that what you are making goes unappreciated, you need to focus on the important things in life. Self talk and other gremlins Self talk is something that can help us and can hurt us in any aspect of life, but for some reason we creative types have this ongoing “not good enough” tape in our heads. Mine used to sound like my high school art teacher who told me boldly that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body; wasn’t that kind of him? As you can see from my illustrations, I am not very good at drawing. I never have been, some of that is because I am visually impaired. I can do great abstracts, and color work, but I can’t see straight lines and have no depth perception. All that I do, I do through sheer will and spacial relationships, and these stick figures are the very best I can produce. Funny how that one negative statement said by an authority figure seemed to cancel out all of the positive statements that were made before and after that event; it took almost 20 years to undo the damage. It’s not that I didn’t pursue creative ideas or projects, it was the invisible line I put up between myself and art. My embroidery (all free hand) and my crochet (mostly Irish Crocheted lace until about 10 years ago) was “just something I did.” It had no value to me, it was just a way I kept my hands busy and entertained friends and my kids. I can’t count the times I spoke that man’s words in response to a complement on my creative work, “Oh, that…I don’t have a creative bone in my body, I was just playing around.” 30 One fateful day I met someone who helped change all of that. Her name is Ann Hopkins and she is a creative fairy godmother. She goes around her community encouraging and loving people where they are and promoting the arts and crafts. I met her when I first moved to Camano Island, Washington a decade ago, she invited me to her home to learn how to become a hand spinner. I was in heaven at the thought, I had always wanted to do it since I was a little girl. I was also terrified of doing it wrong and that somehow I wouldn’t be good enough. Ann saw through my thoughts immediately at our first lesson and she turned beet red in anger, puffed up her chest and exclaimed, “Ok, who told you that you aren’t talented?” “Um?” I looked at her in shock and then down to my slubby bumpy yarn, “I don’t think I needed telling. Look!” I pointed to the yarn on the wheel. “No, I know what’s going on ,I’ve seen it all before. Some dumb bunny told you that you aren’t creative. I can tell, you’re tense, you’re stressing and you’re worried about mistakes.” “Well there was an art teacher in high school…” “OH there ALWAYS IS!” She boomed and paced around the room. After ranting on for about ten minutes about the damage art teachers* do to young people, she turned to me and said, “Honey you can believe anything you want about yourself ok.” And that was it. She refused to name books on spinning techniques and told me to just practice, she cheered on all of my efforts, and cooed over my projects. A few months down the line we were talking and she wanted me to submit some of my things to an art show. I laughed and told her that “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” No anger this time, she just looked over her glasses at me and chuckled, “We’ll see about that.” Two years later I was showing and selling my art yarn, designing crochet pieces, and creating 3-D artwork, thanks to Ann. Notice it took almost 20 years to undo one mean statement made in my childhood. Ann let me be myself and merely encouraged what I did do, never falsely, always with care and love. I am ever so grateful to Ann Hopkins, she is one of my human angels. 31 Let me be your angel. I don’t care who told you how uncreative, untalented, or un skilled, you are. I don’t care who called you lazy, stupid, or worthless. I don’t care who said these things not in the exact words but maybe implied them. I do care that you understand that these things simply are not true. You are a human being, therefore you are creative. Being good at an art form or craft requires skill; skills require time and practice to perfect. It’s that simple. If you are new to crochet (or any craft) you cannot expect perfection or to be quick. Be gentle with yourself and choose projects that you enjoy. You see during the two years I was healing from the damage done by my art teacher, I was having one hell of a good time. I was playing and experimenting, there was no pressure to perform, there was no right or wrong, I was just playing! In fact Ann should brand her creative therapy! Sometimes I would go over to her house to spin or dye wool and I’d find her on her back porch with massive bubble wands and creating gigantic soap bubbles. Her eyes sparkling with mirth, Ann would mischievously grin and pass me a wand, “Everyone needs a bubble wand.” She brought me back home, right back to that place in the holidays that I loved: Having fun. You see if you aren’t having fun you cannot possibly be creating at the top of your game. You will be far more productive if you lighten up, stop beating yourself up, and letting that negativity win. *Ann Hopkins is an art teacher, and neither of us believe all art teachers do damage, but Ann has zero respect for anyone who puts down a person’s creativity. 32 These tapes that we play over and over in our heads continue a cycle of stress that is useless and unhealthy. See if any of the statements below are things you say or thoughts that run through your head: What I do doesn’t matter I’m not good at x I have no talent I’m not good enough If I was creative I’m not creative I don’t know what I’m doing If I could only be like I should be better at this by now If I stopped making mistakes I’d be done They won’t like what I make It’s not that important It’s not worth as much as buying a present I’m cheap My stuff isn’t as nice as “x”’s things. I’m too stupid to learn I’m too lazy If I had a real job… I’m sure there are other statements that can run through our minds that stop us from really creating at our best. These kind statements block us from anything other than sore necks and shoulders, cramped up hands, and thrown off tension. 33 Trying not to think these things when they pop into your head is just going to make you think about them all the more. As Carl Jung would say, “What we resist, persists.” So here are my favorite tips for dealing with the negative self talk meanies: I start humming “Climb Every Mountain” from Sound of Music I gently remind myself that I am creative I take a break and stretch I make time to be with other crafters and laugh I take a bath I get up and wiggle and dance to be silly I blow soap bubbles I play a video game I talk to myself in silly voices Basically I treat myself well and act silly… it helps, a lot. This is the most important thing of all. We’ve been taught that to be good people (especially women) that we should deny our wants, needs and desires in order to ensure that those of others are fulfilled. Yet, we give ourselves away so much, put our needs last, and devalue our worth so poorly that we end up with nothing to give anyone else after long. You can take care of yourself and still be a good person. It is not egotistical to understand that you are creative. It is not egotistical to know that you do good work. It is not arrogant to know that what you do has value. Like I said in the beginning of this section, life is short. It’s too damn short to find out that you’re talented right before you die. It’s too damned short to take so seriously all of the time. Life has enough problems and you need to remember what’s important, we’re only here for a little while and we might as well enjoy the ride. 34 Teacher Gifts, Bosses and Neighbors OH MY! Ok! I get it, you’re down to the wire and you need to fix your problem today! Make a dozen of the same thing in different colors Simple wins! Keep things small Involve food ~ Bag o’Candy perfect project Use buttons, sequins, beads to spice up simple projects Use novelty yarn to trim and add some glam. Idea Use motif’s (granny squares, triangles, hexagons etc) to create gift bags or even bags o’ candy (coffee, tea, cookies, etc) 35 Nieces and Nephews and In-Laws, Oh MY! Rule 1: If they don’t like handcrafted gifts, then buy them something. Rule 2: It doesn’t have to be huge to be special. Rule 3: Accessories, Toys and Games are winners! Rule 4: If you like making it, it will turn out beautifully. Let’s face it we’ve all had those projects, you know the kind; the project seems like a good idea before you start it, but a few rows or rounds into the piece you hate it. Rent a clue: If you hate it, stop, frog or start something else. Don’t keep soldiering on, your sanity is not worth it. You will never finish a piece you hate in a timely way. If you didn’t ask what people wanted before the seasonal crochet crash course in panic, now might be a good time before you start the next couple of projects. Here’s what you do: Pick up the phone, dial the number of said relative and ask what their favorite color, texture or accessory is (if you don’t know.) Send out an email with a list of items you want to make and ask people to tell you their top three favorites. Do NOT ask them what they want you to make at this stage, I can guarantee you someone will love your work and tell you how much they do love it and want you to make a California King-sized bedspread out of size 30 cotton thread. “You’re so talented you can do it!” If you sell items at bazaars and have left over inventory, HELLO instagifts! Don’t leave out the boys! The boys, or I should say young men now, love to get presents from Aunty Laurie. I have made hats for the skiers, blankets for cuddles, teddy bear backpacks and backpacks for teddy bears. They have game systems and want pouches or cozies for mp3 players and the like. Oh one more thing, boys (and men too) like soft things, soft cotton, acrylic, fuzzy and comfy, they’ll confirm go ahead and ask them! 36 Let me repeat Rule 4: If you like making it, it will turn out beautifully. You’ll finish your projects far more quickly if you enjoy making them! More Ideas 37 38 Sons and Daughters, Husbands and Wives OH MY! These should be the people who treasure what you make the most. If they don’t, you need to ask yourself why? Do you value what you do? Do they really know how much you enjoy doing it? If they put you down for this, do they put you down for other things? If you just answered yes, you need to start evaluating your self- worth. Almost everyone I know who loves to crochet has a family that also loves that they crochet. Those that don’t have poor self esteem and have surrounded themselves with people who don’t improve matters; if you’re one of those seek help. It’s just a symptom of a much larger problem. Now I’m going to assume that you have a relatively healthy family life and the people in your life support your crafting habit. This is the fun part! These gifts really shouldn’t be hard to create, you know these people best. The one danger: wanting to create heirlooms and master-pieces and not budgeting enough time for all the other projects. Hint: Don’t start these projects late. Don’t do these projects for the holidays. Your family will love heirloom gifts at any time. These are also the people who know how much time it takes you to make things. They are also the people in your life more likely to make requests, and those requests are hard to deny. If you’re down to the wire ask family members to help out around the house a bit more (if they are old enough). Give yourself one or two weekends to craft, which includes taking that project bag and leaving the house and distractions to get things done! If they like certain items that you’ve made for bazaars, pull some out of your inventory for their presents. If you’re running too short on time remember this: No one ever died because their present wasn’t finished on time. 39 White Elephants, Acquaintances, and Friends, Oh MY! RULE: White Elephant Gifts: Keep it simple and fun! Amigurumi Coffee Sleeves Bag o’Candy Mini-Stockings Snowflake Ornaments (there are tons of patterns for these) Flannel heart ornaments Acquaintances Keep these gifts neutral in nature; you don’t know an acquaintance well. Use what you do know about them, if they always wear purple a purple scarf is a good idea for a gift. If you see them drinking coffee all of the time a reusable mug with a cute coffee sleeve is another good idea. These gifts don’t need to be fancy, but you can spruce them up with buttons, beads, sequins, etc. Friends Friendship is an interesting concept. Everyone defines friends in a different way. Let me give you my definition: Friends never put you down, ever. Friends are never cruel to you, that being said they tell you the truth as kindly as they can. Friends are never hyper-critical of you and what you do. Friends support you, friends share in your joy, friends are not jealous of you; friends are giving and open to receiving. 40 This means making gifts for friends should never be a stressful exercise. It’s a lot like making gifts for those closest family members. If you are worried that a friend will make fun of your gift or not appreciate it, then you need to look at that friendship. Also refer to how to not suck at gift giving, because as their friend you know what they like and aren’t going to impose what you think is right for them upon them. If they like to dress Boho and you like tailored, make them something Boho; you aren’t wearing it, they are. Real friends that know your love of an art or craft will have remarked on things they like that you make, rent a clue that’s what you give them. What if they crochet? Some of my most treasured gifts are from fellow crochet lovers or other hand crafters, because I truly know the time, effort and skill required to make a gift. Every year for my birthday my friend Ann lets me choose three skeins of her yarn, any skein out of any fiber. It’s an honor and a real gift to get her yarn, even though I can spin my own. When I have something of hers, I have a piece of her, a minor reflection of her humanity; that’s what it means to create. Ideas 41 Instructions for flannel stocking ornaments Materials: Use a loose fabric such as flannel, cotton, organdy etc Metallic size 10 crochet cotton, size 1.75-2.2mm hook Stitches used: sc Using the diagram above (feel free to use tracing paper or cut out the page at the back of the book to use as a pattern), cut out two sides for the stockings. Notice there are two outlines, the faint outer line is where you cut the fabric, the second line is where you poke holes with an awl or crochet hook, or just hand sew the seam. You will crochet the seams on the right side of the fabric, the crochet will add interest to the ornament. Crochet the two pieces together starting at the top and single crocheting into each hole (spacing noted on the drawing) all the way around (crochet 3 at corners ) until you reach the top of the stocking at the end. At the top of the stocking single crochet around in single crochet, add a picot every three stitches to make it fancy, make a chain of 15 and insert hook into beginning of chain, fasten off. This will make the loop for hanging. Sewing, If you just want to hand sew the ornament, do NOT poke holes in the fabric, use a blanket stitch or whip stitch around the piece, attach ribbon for the hanging loop. You can fill the stockings with candy canes or other goodies or little toys. 42 Stress Busters Here’s what I do to re-engage my creativity, find ideas when I am facing a creative block, and to restore my creative energy. I go onto Ravelry and do a pattern search for quick and easy gifts or holiday themed items. I leave the house with a project bag full of hooks and yarn. I go to my local LYS to sit and stitch or to a local coffee shop. I go through my box of holding to look for parts or projects I forgot I made. I put the crochet or spinning or needle felting down and do something else. I go shopping, not always to buy things, but to see what is popular or to get ideas. I go to art galleries or shops with lots of creative objects. I get out a big box of crayons and scribble. I write blog posts about other people’s creativity. I meditate I take a walk outside and look at colors, textures, leaves. I go yarn shopping. I make a list of the things I’ve finished I also ask myself a few questions when I’m stressed: 1. Is what I’m stressed out about going to endanger my relationships? 2. Am I worried about how I look to other people? 3. Am I displacing my worry about other things onto my crafting? It’s important to know the root of your stress, we crochet (craft) because we enjoy it. Holidays are for enjoying, too. So, if you’re stressing you are defeating the reason for the season. The magic of the season does not rest solely in your hands, it’s a communal effort. 43 Birthdays, Weddings, and Babies This book is about being an awesome gift giver and there are more times of the year than the winter holidays that we give gifts. I use the same rules for all gifting, I ask about or observe favorite colors, textures, and interests and I create around these things. That’s why I am known as an awesome gift giver. For tricky gifting, I will sit and meditate for a few moments about the person. What kind of music or food do they like? What shapes remind me of them? What did they like in the past? What is their lifestyle like? Do they have time or the knowledge to hand wash items? What are their preferences for their kids or pets? If you don’t know the answer to some of these important questions, then you need to ask them. I have never known anyone to be offended by being asked what they think is important, especially on wedding and baby gifts. People are happy to share their views on the subject of fiber content or wash and wear. If you decide to make garments, remember that you need measurements for well fitting adult or youth projects. You can measure the giftee or ask for their measurements, they won’t know what the finished project looks like until they get it (or you do a fitting or two). Ideas 44 Crocheted motifs (granny squares etc.) are a great way to create reusable bags and purses. Look there’s only so way to make a rectangle shape for a bag, so find some paper, you can use shipping paper, butcher paper, construction paper you name it. Measure out the size of the front two rectangles and cut out a paper pattern, the cut out a paper pattern for the sides and the bottom. Make squares, triangles, hearts, circles, you name it, fit them to the bag and join them together. You can sew in a lining or not, add store bought handles or crochet handles. Heck this can be the wrapping for a present and be a reusable present in addition to what you put in the bag! 45 Part Three Strategies for stressful holiday gatherings Back to the Beginning If you read the introduction you will remember that my childhood holidays were spent in two entirely different atmospheres. One was happy and the essence of what I believe celebrations should be, the other was full of stress and anxiety. For some reason negative experiences seem to impact us so much more than positive experiences. Did you know that it takes 100 real positive praise statements to undo the damage of one hurtful statement? Seriously, it’s true! When my own children were little I dreaded going to family gatherings. My stress levels would skyrocket and I would find myself on edge. It drove me nuts, we had a great time at home, but the drive to the relatives’ houses was strewn with nit picking and arguments. I was worried about how the kids looked, how they would behave and what they might or might not say when they got their gifts. I knew I was being unreasonable, but for some reason I was re-enacting those icky holidays held at my father’s side of the family. One year I decided to really look at why I was worried about all of these things and I had a huge aha moment. I was taking on responsibility for everyone and everything. It’s easy to do when you are a mother; the entire world blames you for your children’s errors and never says much of a word when they turn out okay. If you have anyone in your life that is slightly opinionated on parenting or children, this can make it even worse; especially during the holidays when people’s issues are likely to rise to the surface. Not only did I worry about what my little ones were doing, how they were behaving, and expecting them to be “good children” (You know quiet, not wound up or excited, versus real goodness which means no hitting, biting, scratching or kicking.), I was also worried about what people thought of my gifts. I decided I’d had enough, I didn’t want my kids to dread the holidays, I wanted them to enjoy them and their family. I didn’t want them to feel obligated to join in, I wanted them to join in because they desired to do so. 47 That was the year I did not crochet a single present for anyone. I was destressing my life, evaluating my view of the world and my relationships. I was in my mid-30s and tired of being so worried about what everyone thought of me. I felt judged because I was a college educated former executive who chose to stay home with her children. The only person who was really judging me? Me. I judged me, I devalued myself for not being a wage earner. I judged me for not being productive in a way the world could see. Boy, was that a trip. I wanted others to value what I did, all the while I was busting my own chops for doing what I needed to do. Something odd happened that Christmas. The very same niece, who loved the keychain (which happened 3 years later), opened her store bought gift and her face fell a little bit. “Aunty Laurie, why didn’t you crochet me something? Don’t you love me anymore?” Holy cow. My heart just about stopped beating, there I felt like the kids would rather have store bought things than my “silly little crocheted stuff” and the opposite was true. I rushed over to hug her and I told her that I had thought that she wouldn’t want my crocheted gifts any more since she was a teenager now. (I used to crochet her doll accessories and clothes and horse blankets for her toy horses. She’s in college now, and still has everything I ever made her.) Each child that unwrapped their present from me had the same reaction, and then the adults. They were all disappointed that I hadn’t crocheted them anything that year. I had never expected such a reaction, and I am blessed for the experience. They did know I loved them, they didn’t see what I was doing as frivolous or silly, they liked my fun and quirky gifts. They felt special because in our busy lives, I had taken the time to make them something with my hands. The CLF started the next year and I’ve been on this bandwagon of value and destressing ever since. What you do DOES have value. What you do does touch lives and hearts. It does mean something to the people you gift. Those that don’t care or don’t want it, fine then make them happy by not wasting your time and skills on them. Never underestimate the power of love that is expressed in your gifts. This knowledge shouldn’t add any pressure; it should relieve it and inspire you to create more. 48 Does this mean that I’m up crocheting on Christmas Eve? I’m also up late crocheting for my kids birthdays and other special occasions. Yup, I still end up finishing a project here or there that night. Sometimes I even start something that night fully inspired by the magic of the season. I’ve even woven in ends of a present on the drive to a family gathering! These times aren’t stressful though, I’ve relaxed, I know that they’ll enjoy knowing I could have given up and purchased a gift but decided to work up to the last minute instead. I also know I’m not responsible for their reactions or even what they think of me as a person. What they think is completely irrelevant to who I am, what I do as a hobby, what I do as a profession. What I think is far more important, because that seems to be what either opens the doors in my life or makes me have to crawl through windows. Tips for stressful social gatherings If you feel anxious then excuse yourself and take a walk. If you have a nit-picker or very negative person being rude to you, you don’t have to accept the treatment. Find someone else to visit with. If you are the butt of family jokes, or the scapegoat, choose not to attend the gatherings during the season, opt to get together on a different day. Make up a good excuse if you have to. Play with the kids or the dogs or the cats Offer to wash the dishes or some other methodical chore. It isn’t to be “good” it’s to take you out of socializing and gives you a meditative task. Leave early Look so many families have issues and those often come out during family gatherings. One thing I know to be true is that this is not the time to try to get people to understand your point of view. Almost all fights happen because we have this “need” to have other people see our point of view. Guess what, it probably won’t happen, any more than you are willing to bend to their point of view. 49 Here’s the truth: You will not die because people disagree with you. You will not die because they don’t believe you. You will not die because they believe differently from you. You will not die because they do not like your gifts. You will get stressed out and sick from holding on to anger, bitterness and allowing stress to rule your life. (Ask me how I know.) I learned this the hard way. I spent my twenties and early thirties trying to get my family to see my point of view on a very serious matter. The crappy family gatherings on my dad’s side of the family were just a symptom of a far more dysfunctional problem. No one was going to see my point of view, and I wasn’t going to budge. I still hold the same point of view by the way, but I just don’t need anyone else to agree with me. I know my truth and it’s valid regardless of what others believe. Knowing that and being confident and aware of who I am made all the difference in the world. I developed my washing dishes strategy in my early twenties. In my first marriage, my mother in law hated me. It wasn’t just your average hatred, nope the woman prayed for me to die, and I wish I was joking. This was a close knit extended family and we would go over for dinner every Friday. Every Friday this woman would try to pick me apart. I didn’t want to fight with her, so I would collect all the dishes and go wash them. While she was busy nattering away about how awful I was, I was washing dishes. I will not pretend that I didn’t see her face in ever dirty dish and try to scrub her out! I knew it wasn’t going to help me to fight with her. I lived in a foreign country, I had no family nearby, and I didn’t want to leave to go home. (Someday I’ll tell you my whole life story, but it doesn’t belong in a holiday book.) Washing dishes kept me from blowing my top. 50 If things get really ugly, just leave and know this; no family is without dysfunction. You know those awesome holidays with my mom’s family? Well, about half of those people were drunks, they were fun drunks but drinking is a huge problem on that side of the family. My mother would bundle us up and take us home early from those family events too, drinking bothered her a lot. I don’t remember any of the events being negative because of the attitudes involved. Mom never made a fuss, she just said she had to get us into bed and that was that. I find leaving while everyone is still getting along to be the best strategy and make sure I let those who need to know that I love them, know that I do love them every single time I leave. I’ve lost too many people in my life and I know that life has a funny way of ending without warning. Love is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and to others. 51 Last but not least… What you do has value. In fact, what you do has a great deal of value in both creative and monetary terms. I write about crochet and value on the CLF blog with great frequency. I replay the message of value over and over and over, because I know that it takes that much positive messaging to overcome even offhand negative implications. This is what you need to know: You are a beautiful human being You are beautiful not because of anything you do, you are beautiful because you exist. What you do has value not because it is done with hands and hook, but because of whose hands wield the hook; that person is you. What you make has value because you are using the innate human ability to create. Even if you are just beginning your crochet journey, what you do is creative and therefore something magnificent. Each flaw, each mistake, each imperfection is not something for which you should be ashamed but a testament to the human ability to learn and grow. If you were perfect you would have nowhere to go in your journey, you would be at an end point and from there the only place to go is into decay. Rejoice in your unique creative ability, because it is a personal expression of who you are. Does that mean you must take offense if someone rejects your creations? No. It’s not worth your energy or time to resent those people, no matter how uncaring, rude or unappreciative they are of your work. Move on, embrace yourself, don’t waste time on earning approval that will never come. Accept that they have hurt your feelings, acknowledge this to yourself, and then gift someone, perhaps yourself with something wonderful. 52 You have value not because anyone else, including me, awards it to you. You have value by your very existence in this present moment. Your joy, your pain, your happiness, your sorrow, your anger, your contentment and your love are unique expressions and experiences of your physical and emotional being on this planet at this time. That is valuable, anyone who tells you differently is just trying to sell you something that you probably don’t need or can’t use. What you do is valuable What you crochet has value in both creative and monetary terms. You are not cheap for crafting presents, in fact it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even if your motivation was to save money and stay on a budget, your handwork has an amazing value. Let’s put it into some real monetary terms. Have you seen what was on the high fashion runways in Paris, London and New York? There was crochet and a lot of it, most of it was rather simple in its design. Granny squares and mesh, fillet mesh and a bit of lace here and there; none of it terribly complex. Those pieces sell for hundreds of dollars. They are not over priced, don’t even go there, ask instead why you so undervalue your work? Here are some facts: 53 Crochet cannot be made by machine Cheap crochet in retail stores = overseas sweat shop jobs You are not a sweat shop Crochet is a skill, like woodworking or metal working, it requires time, practice and specialized knowledge to master When you create a scarf, be it from your own design or from someone else’s pattern, you are making an item that could be sold for a price in some market place. Not only have you used materials that were manufactured, you have used your knowledge, skill and most importantly your time to create the scarf. Your time is the most valuable thing you possess, it is the one thing you do not renew. You can renew your materials, you can increase your skill and knowledge, but you never get time back. As the song says, “Time keeps on slipping, into the future…” Beyond the material value of what you create, the items you create are memories for the recipient. They are mementos of the relationship you have with the person for whom you gave, freely without strings or contractual agreement, your skill, materials and time. They don’t need to know this, but you do. When you begin to value what you do, others will follow suit. You don’t do this by explaining to everyone how much time it takes, or what people are willing to pay for things. You do this on the inside. You do this by knowing and acknowledging that you are valuable, and what you do has value because it is you who are doing it. I know this sounds esoteric. But let me illustrate the point with my own story, I will be honest and transparent with you. Here’s a little story about me, value and The Crochet Liberation Front. The Joke’s on Fearless Leader In 2007, I created the Crochet Liberation Front HQ group on Ravelry.com. It was a joke and I was amazed that anyone joined me. Within six months we were 1000 members strong and I was happily goofing off on the message board still rolling with mirth that people were laughing at my joke. I did not take the CLF seriously, I didn’t think that I was doing anything special or important. I was goofing off, having fun and being silly and avoiding doing things like laundry. When we put the CLF First Ever book together, I took that a little more seriously because I didn’t want to let anyone down. I wanted to prove that our group could produce something amazing and we did. 36 contributors from around the world, and I put that book together in less than one year, on my laptop at home. When I started blogging and people kept coming to read my posts, I was amazed that anyone would bother to read my ranting and encouragement. After all, it was just little old me, in my pjs in the middle of the night at my best friend’s house, because I can only get dial up at home. That’s right, I still have dial up, because I live in a rural area and they will not bring high speed internet to my neighborhood, I and five hundred other people are out of luck. I know three other people who have businesses on line, we met at the local library; it has wifi. When we started the Annual Crochet Awards, it was for fun and to promote that which is wonderful in our crochet world. I couldn’t believe how seriously people were taking the awards. When I was plotting and scheming that first award ceremony with Mary Beth Temple (who was our hostess on her former podcast Getting Loopy) I remarked at how I was floored by how seriously people were taking the awards. “I don’t get it” I said laughing, “It’s a damn joke.” Mary Beth is not a woman to mince words and I am eternally thankful for this, because her words stayed with me, even if I was slow on the uptake. “Laurie” she said sternly, “you are the only person left on the planet that still sees the CLF as a joke.” I stopped laughing. I heard what she said, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the words and their meaning. Not. A. Joke. The CLF continued to grow and then life got in the way, in 2009 and early 2010 my family suffered a series of deaths that rocked our world. I just kept trucking, I knew this would pass, but it still hurt like hell in the passing of it, and I looked so forward to our first retreat in 2010. It was healing and I was finally able to digest what Mary Beth had said to me way back in 2008. In the two years between me “getting it” and the “ah hah” moment of understanding the essence of what we are, what we do and what we can do in the future, I received many letters from readers of the blog and private messages on Ravelry.com. People who were walking with me through their own losses and struggles, people who needed to know they had value, people who had not considered their true worth as a person. I knew I was doing something right, I just couldn’t define it. After the retreat of 2010 I decided to express the value of the CLF in terms the world could understand, I decided to monetize. Doesn’t that sound fancy and sophisticated? Yeah, I decided to make money. 55 Julia Meek Chambers of Austin, Texas (Bikermom on Ravelry and @aberrantcrochet on Twitter) gave me the number of a business coach in Texas. Everyone kept telling me I should monetize, I should do more with the CLF. I couldn’t say I disagreed, but I have these damn principles that get in my way. I didn’t want us to be ad laden like so many websites, and I didn’t want to sell out to people who would clutter our website with ads that had nothing to do with crochet. I didn’t want my hands tied about what I could and couldn’t write. In essence all I could see was what I didn’t want to do, or couldn’t do out of principle. I imagine that sounds familiar to you? Most creative, intuitive, and spiritual people that I know have the same hang ups. For some reason we pegged money right up there with the devil himself, instead of seeing it as a tool for doing things like paying the bills and buying groceries. In October of 2010 I called that business coach. Her name is Judith Manriquez and she is an amazing woman. Smart, sharp and to the point, Judith cuts through confusion, doubt and the mental mire we create with laser like precision. I don’t think she realized what she was getting into working with me and the many roadblocks to success that I had put in place. But then again, she likes a challenge, so she probably did. I love this woman, she has helped me liberate my thinking and the expression of who I am, and she’s learned to crochet along the journey. Once when I had exasperated her, she exclaimed, “Chica, listen up. All that crap you just told me, that’s exactly what you’re preaching against on your blog. You write about valuing yourself all the time on your blog and that is the one thing you’re not doing. You don’t need to do any more than you are doing now, you can just do that and make money.” It’s taken me all of 2011 to figure out a way to do that without feeling like a sell out or buying into a system. Why? Even though people had been telling me for years, I let those negative tapes from experiences long ago get in the way. “Crochet is just something I do,” translates into “I just blog for fun.” It doesn’t matter that every year my blog hits double and I don’t advertise. It doesn’t matter that our Facebook Page is on track for reaching 2 million views by December 31 and I don’t advertise. Funny enough, I had to go back and read my own blog posts to see “IT”. Don’t worry, I see it now, I know my value. 56 Have I made mistakes on this journey? Yes. I have made many mistakes and I can bet you a load of cashmere super fine yarn that I will make a whole lot more mistakes as I move forward in my life. One of the biggest mistakes I made was thinking I had to do it all by myself in order to be authentic. Why? Because, like you, I was taught that you have to give and give and give and give and give, and that asking for anything you really want or need is just plain greedy. It’s not nice to be greedy. I’m not a greedy person, I never will be a greedy person, and if you’re worried about that for yourself, then the answer is the same; you will never be that person. This is not about money, this is about value. The more I began to understand what Mary Beth and Judith and Julia and Vashti and Heather and Sara and my best friend, Bec were telling me, the more I opened up and opportunities just keep flowing in and my creative flow increased. I am valuable because I am Laurie Alice Wheeler. That’s it, I am not valuable because of my life story, my life story is valuable because I am here living it, writing it, day by day, hour by hour. What you make to sell or to gift is valuable in so many ways. You are valuable because you are you. Your business, your crafting, and your relationships do not define who you are, they are defined by who you are. 57. I hope this helps you, these stories, these ideas and these strategies for successful navigation of the holiday seasons. If you were looking for a bunch of patterns, then I am afraid you have been in for a disappointment. There are thousands of great patterns online. These are some of my favorite places to look: http://www.crochetliberationfont.com http://www.ravelry.com http://www.jellyyarns.com http://www.krwknitwear.com http://www.designingvashti.com 58 Using the same instructions as for the ornament on page 42, use this template to make bags o’ candy! Notes: Feel free to write down thoughts or ideas in this blank pages. Using the same instructions as for the ornament on page 42 cut out hearts instead, you can add some cloves etc to the inside and crochet all the way around to make some yummy smelling ornaments! About the Crochet Liberation Front The Crochet Liberation Front is dedicated to empowering those who choose crochet as their creative mode of expression. Crochet is the tie that binds the thousands of members of the CLF from across the globe, bringing people from all walks of life, belief systems, ethnicities and economic status into one large parlay about living in this world. Coming soon CLF 3.0. CLF 3.0 is the working title for the next evolution of the Crochet Liberation Front. A membership service dedicated to enhancing the knowledge base, standards, and professionalism in both making and designing crochet. Benefits will include on demand classes, reports, mastermind groups, and professional networking classes and opportunities. Cut a fabric rectangle of the desired dimensions and use the directions on page 42 to make a gift bag. Just seam up the sides, and then crochet the edging at the top of the bag If you sc around the top then dc the second round, you can thread ribbon etc to make a draw string. Learn more about the Annual Crochet Awards on the Crochet Liberation Front Website and be ready to cast your vote to decide which designs, designers and publications will hook supreme! www.crochetliberationfront.com About the Author & Illustrator Laurie A. Wheeler is the founder and “Fearless Leader” of the Crochet Liberation Front. Author, activist, artist, communications and personal growth instructor, web mistress, crochet lover, and expert on crafting as a business, Laurie lives and works on Camano Island in Washington State. Laurie has been an international sales analyst and executive, traveled the globe, loves a really great pound cake and has a weakness for sparkly and fuzzy yarns. You can follow Laurie’s antics and adventures on the Crochet Liberation Front website http://www.crochetliberationfront.com , on the CLF Facebook Page, and on Twitter as @crochetlibfront.
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