What happens at a Crochet Conference?
More specifically, what happens at a CGOA Conference?
Six months ago, I jumped into my new solo business venture – to make my income as a crochet designer.
Coming from the corporate world of business , I knew I needed to thoroughly research my market.
Part of that research involved checking out the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) website, finding information on established designers, the popularity of crochet as a hobby, where you could take crochet professionally.
Whilst on the website, I found the details of the upcoming CGOA Conference. The conference is held annually with the location moving each year, and for anyone who loves crochet.
Again, as someone accustomed to, attending trade and industry conferences in their field; it was entirely normal for me to to sign up, and plan to attend.
Chicago! here I come ………
My family thought it a little strange, to travel all the way from UK to Chicago, to attend a 5 night conference completely focused on crochet.
Funny, isn’t it, if your husband tells you he is going on a golfing holiday with his buddies – do you look at him like he has grown an extra head?
If your children come to you and ask if they can go on their school trip – do you look back at them in a bemused fashion?
All of us like and need to belong ….
we enjoy spending time with; and talking to other people, who have the same interests as us.
When we are passionate about something, we want to find out more; when something catches our interest we are keen to learn more about it.
We want to practice and get better at what we enjoy doing; improving our skill, adding to our repertoire.
We want to purchase accessories that go with our interests, storage to keep those accessories in one place, new tools, books, DVD’s, take lessons with experienced teachers, who can help us to practise and improve.
The CGOA Conference then, all of the above, and so much more.
Step inside …..
As I walked through the doors, and stepped into the hotel lobby, I realised immediately, this was no ordinary industry conference………………. people were sitting in comfy chairs and sofas, all around the lobby, crocheting.
Everywhere, I looked people were happy and smiling, chatting to each other, and working on their latest crochet project.
OK, well maybe they all know each other, and are attending the conference in groups…. – uh no …. as I found out once I had stored my luggage, and wandered downstairs.
No-one looks at you strangely, if you stop by their table, or sit down near to them.
All the people I met were open and friendly, and all very happy to talk about what they were making, and asking you the same in return.
There was a relaxed, chilled out vibe in the air, I felt like I had found my tribe.
Considering crochet is often seen as a singular hobby – crocheting alone at home whilst watching CNN or Netflix, it was great to find that everyone was keen to mix, and mingle with each other.
During the short formal part of the Conference – the Business Meeting element – everyone got free yarn on their seats (thank-you to all of the sponsors – we got lots of free yarn throughout the different events #leisurearts #redheart #bernatyarn #susanbates #lionbrandyarn).
Again, looking around the room from crochet hobbyists to well known crochet designers – everyone was listening intently, whilst they crocheted! The observant would have seen sneak peeks of some lovely upcoming designs!
So many classes – in excess of 50 different classes, on techniques that were brand new to me, from leading industry teachers, published authors, and amazing designers at the top of their game – the quality of teaching, the samples, handouts etc. were amazing and truly something for everyone from beginner to advanced.
The Northern Illinois Chapter (a Guild has Chapters – like local clubs connected to the centre) were on hand throughout the conference; with not only the winding station (for new hanks of yarn purchased in the market-place), also lots of info on the local area outside the hotel.
They also crocheted everyone butterfly conference pins, and the stunning snowflake table decorations for the banquet.
A Buddy breakfast was held for all newbies (first time conference attendees) to wear their white butterfly pins to identify themselves, and the mentors they had been matched with wore blue butterfly pins.
This helped throughout the conference to encourage conversation, if someone was looking a little lost.
From a newbie perspective it was very easy to spot mentors, if you had questions – Margie was my lovely mentor.
This is a lovely idea and another way to meet new people.
You each take a crochet item you have made and would like to receive, using materials under $15, and gift wrap it with your contact details.
You hand in your gift and take a ticket, each person who gives a gift, receives a gift, and then you can get in touch with the person who made the item.
The quality of the various gifts I saw was amazing, and hours would have gone into making them all.
My gift was made by Dee Anne Kimmel – a lovely shawl made from Lion Brand Mandala, which I was thrilled to receive and very much appreciate all the time, effort and care that went into making it.
Fashion Show and Banquet
Attend wearing something you have crocheted, and if you are feeling brave enter one of your garments into the fun Fashion Show.
All entries very different, showing lots of skill.
Meet the editors!
For crochet designers; (you know like I am trying to be!), there was the unique opportunity for a meet and greet session. The editors from leading crochet magazines, and brand ambassadors for yarn companies were all together in one room, seated at different tables, for you to meet with 121.
This was really a money cannot buy experience, a thousand times more valuable that pitching to each one via email.
To be able to talk to them face to face; ask all the cheeky questions; like “how much do you on average pay for a design?”, “how do you handle copyright?”. To discuss with them how you should submit your ideas, and concepts.
From their perspective; looking for new designers; they could touch and feel examples of your work, and see whether they liked your “style”, designs, and whether you were someone they could see themselves working with in the future.
Wow! I just got to talk with Shira from Lion Brand!
Regular readers know that I genuinely love Lion Brand yarn, I like wearing it, I like designing with it, and I like the company, a family company now with 5th generation running it.
Shira Blumenthal is their Brand Ambassador and family member.
I love watching Tea with Shira on YouTube, so how thrilled was I to not only meet Shira,
but to do an Instagram Story with her,
and I can tell you she is just as lovely and warmly genuine in person,
as she comes across on her You Tube channel.
So should you attend CGOA next year?
If you are a hobbyist crocheter, you will love the great classes and the laid back atmosphere in which to make lots of new friends and crochet as much as you like.
Want to improve – consider the Masters Program, enter a piece in one of the competitions. Shop till you drop in the market place, swap yarn with other crocheters. Enter a piece you have made into the Fashion Show.
If crochet is your job, designing, tech editing, testing, selling finished items then definitely – huge business benefits, talk to more experienced designers and ask them what their challenges are and have been.
Network, find people at a similar development stage to yourself. Spend time with the editors and the yarn companies to ask all the questions you want to on how you can progress. Professional Development Classes – learn how to move crochet from a hobby to your business.
The 2018 CGOA Conference will be in Portland, Oregon in July, keep checking their website for more details, and if you are not a member of CGOA, then why not join!
I will be booking my seat! Will I see you there?