I’m Michele aka The Crafty Tipster.
Surrounded by Creativity & Art
Growing up, I had the inspiration of two talented women who used needles, hooks, thread and yarn to make wonderful things. With my grandmother it was crochet. She went big, her favored project was afghans. Everyone in the family was gifted with one of her lovelies – even our fur babies had custom-made Oma-ghans. My mom can crochet, but, her favorite creative endeavors use needles and latch hooks.
My great-grandmother was also a master with a sewing needle and crochet thread. She went to grade school in Germany. In order to graduate she had to be able to embroider. We have two of her pieces. You can see the progression of skills from one to the other. The ‘graduation’ piece is so perfectly done, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t done with a computer. We also have several of her doilies and antimacassars. Her crochet is every bit as perfect as her embroidery.
Oh, and if all that maternal inspiration wasn’t enough, my grandfather made the most beautiful string art. He and his father had run a small fishing tackle store. They made their own rods with silk threads. When the shop closed, he had a large stash of thread left. He came up with the most beautiful way to use them and turn them into art. He used a Spirograph to design his pieces and wound all of those wonderful silk threads around itty bitty nails. And, he made stunning Christmas ornaments where you pin in a series of beads into a styrofoam ball. He used all sort of beads, velvet ribbon and lace and his pieces are amazing. Some were kits from Lee Wards and others were his own designs. If that wasn’t enough, he liked to needlepoint and had done some photography and hand-colored photos too.
With all that going on around me, is it any wonder that I would find the thing that gives me the most pleasure would be creating things from pieces of string and yarn?
The Beginning of My Own Endeavors
I’ve been crocheting and playing with colorful string since I was 9 or so. I spent a summer with my grandmother, who valiantly tried to teach me how to crochet. Keep in mind, I was the little girl, who only a few years earlier, almost flunked kindergarten because I couldn’t tie my shoe lace. (Different times and priorities then today for sure.)
Clearly, my grandmother had a challenge on her hands.
Little did she know what she started.
In home economics class we worked on a small needlepoint. Mine was similar to a piece my grandfather had made. But, I wanted to finish it and make it displayable. So I crocheted a back, crocheted a bit of ruffle and turned mine into a little pillow. It won a ribbon at the Allentown State Fair.
Another project I made that year was a hand puppet. It even had a mouth that opened and closed. It too won a ribbon.
One piece won an adult category; the other won in the children’s/home ec category.
Life changed after that. A big move to North Carolina. High school, volleyball, soccer, volunteering at the local hospital and doing everything possible to earn a college scholarship led to my crafty endeavors mostly being put on hold. I did some crocheting, but, not much.
The Beading Diversion
Not sure what led to the idea, but, during a very stressful job situation, I took up seed beading. It was great therapy. Mom joined me and we spent months making seed bead earrings. They were stunning; if I don’t say so myself. The living room carpet, adorned with stray seed beads, began to glitter and sparkle as it too became a bit of a work of art.
We did try selling them at a Christmas fair. The event and venue was one that was known as a bargain-hunter’s paradise – unfortunately, we didn’t know that until later. Pretty much the only sales were made by someone who made plastic needlepoint canvas stuff. We sold one $5 piece that we guilted someone into buying. She took one of Mom’s beaded angels and was clearly trying to figure out how she made it. When she bent some of the wire and slightly damaged the piece, we pretty much demanded she buy it.
Shortly after that, Mexico flooded the market with seed bead earrings and they were everywhere. And, they were cheap. Some so cheap that we couldn’t even buy the beads for what they were selling for. So, hidden back in my closet, somewhere, is a shoebox full of lovely beaded earrings.
The Corporate Teacher
In my professional life, I found myself morphing from maintaining mainframes and servers to tech writing and corporate training. Even when doing direct technical support, I found myself often going into training mode. After all, if I could teach my users how to use the system better, they wouldn’t need to ask for help as much. The same went for any training materials I wrote up – the better it was, the less they
bothered called me.
My classes were well received. My students thanked me for helping them understand the new ERP system and providing training materials they could keep and use daily. And, despite what were extremely difficult circumstances, we always managed to have a few laughs and some fun.
Finding My Niche in a Fiber-Loving Family
There’s a lot of similarities in working in the IT field and making things. As a programmer or tech writer, you essentially start with a blank screen and create something that fits together in such a way as to be meaningful. As an artist, you again start with nothing and create something that’s meaningful.
I tried following my Mom’s and grandfather’s lead into needle arts. I had mixed results.
My needlepoint stinks. I don’t miss any holes and do cover the canvas. But, my pieces turn out all bumpy and uneven. Mine is nowhere near as nice as what they made.
Embroidery went better. Cross stitch and other forms of embroidery were more my speed. But, cross stitch, like needlepoint, seemed to just be about filling in little squares with color. I found it was get’er’done rather than something I felt I could be creative with.
I do enjoy the sculptural aspect of working with felt. Combining felt and embroidery with other embellishments is fun for me. And, needle felting is also something I enjoy.
But, when every small string-like thing I encountered was examined for crochet worthiness; it was clear where I should be spending my time.
Finding My Passion
Crochet has become my primary crafting endeavor – the smaller the better. Well, that’s not entirely true, I tend to avoid that special insanity of trying to crochet with a single strand of sewing thread. I admire those who do and much of their work takes my breath away. Though I have done it when I needed a particularly small embellishment, like a flower, for an already tiny project; it’s not my thing.
I’m not much of a pattern follower, I generally have a vision and try to make it reality. Need a few stitches less here or there and I never really kept track of things.
But, that sort of process doesn’t lend itself to being duplicated. It also meant I was essentially reinventing the wheel every time I made one of my little bears or other pieces. So, the tech writer was invited to come out a play too; and, I began keeping track of what I was doing.
And, as more and more folks saw my work; they began asking if I could teach them. Now, the teacher was also invited to the party.
Hail, Hail the gang’s all here!
The Crafty Tipster is Born
In 2009, I launched The Crafty Tipster. I had big ideas and a big plan. I started out with a bang. I talked about embroidery. I added vintage knitting patterns, even though I don’t knit. I posted family crafts, Christmas crafts and all sorts of things. Crochet was clearly my favorite but I got to play with clay, beads, glitter and other stuff too.
Sadly, I let other projects distract me. Add in a serious illness and well, the Tipster went fairly silent for almost 4 years.
In 2019, life changed yet again; professionally and artistically.
I’m teaching again – this time crochet.
I’m sewing little bears and making crochet sweaters for them.
Crochet thread is being turned into doilies and motifs again.
And, once again, I’m returning to what gives me joy.
I guess, for a teacher, I can be a bit of a slow learner sometimes.