The Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving E-Book Edition

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
No part of this manuscript may be
reproduced in any means physically
or electronically without express
written permission by the copyright
All names used in this book, other
than the author’s, have been
changed to protect the not so
Imprint: CreateSpace
Published by
The Crochet Liberation Front
1880 SW Camano Dr
Camano Island, WA 98282
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!”
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!
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
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
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
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
Part one
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
If you have a deep need to keep a list of your gift recipients here’s a handy
Holidays celebrated _____________________________
Favorite color(s)________________________________
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.
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.
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
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
The difference between something that is
handmade and handcrafted is this; an experienced crafter finishes their work.
Finishing is wide term which can involve the following:
Weaving in all ends properly.
Blocking and steaming
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Doll Clothes & Accessories
Matching hat/scarves for boy/girl and dolls
Soap bags
Decorative wash cloths
Hair accessories
Ski bands
Wrist warmers
Fingerless Gloves
Gift bags
Coaster sets
Dog/Cat toys
Gaming pouches
Messenger bags
Felted bags
Wine bags
Novelty items
Embellish socks, gloves, towels, and other finished
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!
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.
Tips and Tricks for Holiday De-Stressing
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Use motif’s (granny squares, triangles,
hexagons etc) to create gift bags or even
bags o’ candy (coffee, tea, cookies, etc)
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!
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
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.
White Elephants, Acquaintances, and Friends, Oh MY!
RULE: White Elephant Gifts:
Keep it simple and fun!
Coffee Sleeves
Bag o’Candy
Snowflake Ornaments (there are tons of patterns for these)
Flannel heart ornaments
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
 I put the crochet or spinning or needle felting down and do something
 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.
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).
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
Heck this can be the wrapping for a present and be a reusable present in
addition to what you put in the bag!
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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:
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
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 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 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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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!
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 , on the
CLF Facebook Page, and on Twitter as @crochetlibfront.