I have been preparing for my upcoming trip to America for the CGOA Chainlink conference in Manchester NH, so my blogging time has been zero – sorry about that – trust me, I am super thrilled people are interested in my creations, and I do want to tell you more! The trip to America is to compete (probably for the last time) in the design competition, and I wanted to share with you a bit about my journey to get where I am now as a designer.
The road travelled: I have been pretty serious about crochet for the past 10 years, with design experiments galore along the way. I have made heaps of mistakes, learned a few things the hard way and probably frogged kilometres of yarn by now for all the redo-s. I have a stack of weird crochet blobs in my cupboard which were me trying to figure something out – the by-products of an inquisitive mind.
My first designs were small and not particularly great, but they helped me to figure out how things fit together and often, how NOT to do something, or which fibre or yarn weight was not appropriate for the task.
Here is my very first garment design: a cute girlie dress - but wrong fibre (I used a 4 ply Luxury Merino from Bendigo Woollen Mills - should have been cotton), flowers are made separately and SEWN together (err, hello – madness, it’s not going to stay together long, and JAYG is way better), and crocheted fabric does not “gather”…. But here it is anyway, this is what I did at the time.
I went with baby size to try out a few more ideas, feeling better about these – but not too many parents want to hand wash their baby’s gear, they have enough other stuff to do, and an alpaca collar, while it might be a beautiful colour is probably going to irritate young skin, and the buttons are probably just the right size to be a choking hazard..... Hmmm. Still, this little cardi was joined together more professionally!
Then I moved on to child-sized garments, and I was feeling better about what I was making by now, but dc and tr stitches in dk merino does not a flowy fabric make!! It was Summer when this photo was taken, and I had imagined the dress to be worn over tights and a skivvy for Winter, but still, it’s missing a bit of length…. My first model though, is gorgeous!
More child-sized garments and I was settling in well. You might recognize the foundation for the #babyhoodie pattern published in Simply Crochet issue 67 in these three jumpers I made for my nephews back in 2010 (aren’t they all so cute!?) These were all made with 8 ply Luxury Merino from Bendigo Woollen Mills, and they stood the test of repeated wear. Always happy to see something much-loved and worn to death!
One of my favourite child-size makes around this time is this bespoke commission for a hooded poncho, modelled by the young girl it was designed for. I crocheted this with a machine washable light but warm yarn that was actually finally draping really well and suited to its purpose! (Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino).
I then discovered Pauline Turner's International Diploma of Crochet, and completed Part One in 2012. I designed my third ladies garment as part of this course (photo below – a laceweight alpaca cardigan), and THEN I stumbled across the CGOA design competition soon after. I had nothing to lose and so shipped this cardigan off to see how it went. I was gobsmacked when it won 3rd place in the Fashion category in 2013!! Whoo hooooo!! Not bad at all. And reason to keep going!
I have competed every year since then, and had a couple of patterns published in American crochet magazines, which was a huge step forward. #tunicageometrica was my first pattern publication in 2016 after it placed 2nd in fashion at #cgoa2015. It was a GINORMOUS learning curve to size and write this pattern! This one is made with lace weight merino and alpaca yarns, and a very small hook...
Scheepjes’ creative director Simy Somer contacted me to publish this design, and it took me a LOOOOOOOONG time and MUCH effort to retrospectively size and write the pattern!! It’s thrilling to me that Olgas are now popping up in different parts of the globe, but man that was hard work!! I had never intended it for pattern publication (ie. my notes were rubbish), but I got there in the end, and it was the beginning of my collaborative relationship with Scheepjes! Olga is made with Maxi Sugar Rush mercerised cotton (and a very small hook).
Last year I attended my first CGOA conference to be part of the event and to meet Simy. I crocheted hard to hopefully impress the judges again with my Spiderlace Maxi Dress. Success!! A second Grand Prize - unbelievable!! My husband and I went straight to the bar after the award announcements, where Rocky-the-barman served cocktails and my fellow bar-goers helped me celebrate, despite being strangers up til that point!! Lol. This time I had kept excellent notes for my future pattern, just in case, but I was so exhausted by the intense make and my first CGOA conference experience, that I felt trying to write the pattern was in the too-hard basket. I had so much else to do!
I came back from the conference having to re-make my #colourcatchtunic sample as the original version wasn’t going to plan, complete submissions for ideas I had pitched to Scheepjes and Simply Crochet magazine during the conference, and Simply Crochet wanted to interview me after my second Grand Prize win! It was super exciting – living the dream, right? - and also pretty overwhelming...... At the same time, I wanted to launch this website before Olga was published. There really are so many things I have learnt along this journey – how to use a range computer programs is a big chunk of that list, and I am still learning (and sometimes wanting to throw my computer on the ground).
My design plans for CGOA 2019 started brewing last November, just 4 months after returning from the 2018 conference. I figured if there was ever a time to attempt a trifecta of Grand Prize wins, it was after the unlikely reality of winning the first 2 – so its 2019 or never! I was going to have to put some hard-yards in!! But if I don’t make it three for three, then I wanted to have launched a pattern of my design submission. I wanted to actually be organised ahead of the event with a ready-to-publish pattern to launch at the end of the conference instead of always feeling like I am playing catch-up – THAT is a win any which way you see it: Goal set!!
Then I got to thinking that my chances would be better if I could make a second item to submit…. So I did that too. Just in case. But no pattern for that one. Is anybody tired yet? I have just re-read this and I am feeling like I need a little lie-down.
The design competition has numerous categories: fashion, accessories, home décor and afghans, Tunisian, artistic expression, thread crochet, and all categories are eligible for the Technical Merit, Grand Prize and People’s Choice awards. Each category is blind-judged by a panel of three experts: name tags are removed before the judges get to see the creations, so they are really assessing the thing itself. This is why everything has to be secret until judging happens and I can’t show you anything yet.
So this is where I am at: My two garment submissions for the competition have already been shipped and have safely landed at their destination. (Relieved - yes!) I leave for the US in a week to attend the conference July 10th– 13th, take crochet classes, network with other crochet-obsessed people, be there for the award announcements and participate in the fashion show banquet held on the final night.
My secret pattern is ready to go, and I am excited and super-pumped, nervous, anxious, tired and happy all at once!! I am totally going to forget to pack something important….
No matter what, I know I have come a long way these past years, and I have already won in that I finished what I set out to do, and I love to crochet!
Very soon I will be able to share this year’s designs, and launch my secret pattern!!
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