Thursday, September 16, 2021


I was so excited this past weekend because I attended the annual New Jersey Sheep and Fiber Festival in Lambertville, NJ. I went on Saturday and had a blast. I was hesitant to go at first but then I decided to go. I was concerned because when I got there, I was at first the only one that was wearing a mask. But I wore my mask and kept going.

At our New Jersey festival it is set up with four barns. Two have the vendors set up and there is a barn for all the sheep and another barn for competitions of the different breeds of sheep.

I was meeting another friend there, but I was so glad I got there early because I got my animal fix. The sheep of different breeds were so beautiful to see, and I was in my glory just to be able to pet all those that wanted a little extra lovin. The pictures are mostly those that I got to enjoy upfront and personal. Not all the sheep wanted to be loved. Their wool was so thick, but they just enjoyed the attention, and I enjoyed the time with them. I didn’t want to leave that area. But I did have some shopping to do.

Every year they always have things going on. There are weaving and spinning demonstrations, sheep shearing, angora rabbits and as usual they have the dog and sheep gathering show. This is where the dog would show you how he gathers the sheep. I guess they didn't want the crowds to gather so they had no special time just continuous ongoing all day. I love to see how excited the dog gets to be able to do his job. He sure gets a lot of exercise.

I was pleasantly surprised to see so many vendors to choose from. I did a little damage in buying yarn and beads. It was good for the vendors and there was a good crowd that grew as the day went on. The very first vendor I came to had yarn that I wanted to make the Snefald shawl. This will be my first steeking project which I am excited to make. The picture on Revelry showed it in brown tones with a gold pop of color and that is what I wanted. So, they had those colors and that was my first purchase. Oh, but I wasn't finished. I continued right to the next booth, and she had a sale going on. Well, I couldn't pass up a sale now could I. So that is where I purchased the Light Brown Hare yarn. That's the name of the company and I've gotten that yarn before. I purchased three hanks, each was 100% superwash Merino in fingering weight and 400 yards. Two will be for another shawl and one I just don't know what I will do with that one. What is the famous sentence - it is so pretty so I gotta have it.

Then, I found my favorite booth. It had all that I wanted. That is where I got the mini hanks and medium hanks for dying yarn. This is Highland wool. I also got one hank of a yak/silk/merino blend. I always wanted to try and knit with yak. They also had Highland wool zebra stripe in fingering weight. This has over 400 yards. I purchased only two because it had a lot of yardage. But then after showing someone the yarn they pointed out that I could have gotten more and over-dyed it with another color. Oh my goodness, now that will be something else to look out for in my future purchases. The prices at this booth were great so I wish I would have gotten more. Oh well, you live and you learn.

A picture of all my goodies

I am about to venture into another part of the craft world - spinning. Yes, I decided to do that next. I had tried drop spindle spinning and just didn't put enough time into learning how to do it. I even purchased a beautiful hand carved drop spindle which has been sitting for years. Maybe once I get the hang of spinning, I will be able to understand how to do the drop spindle. So one of my craft buddies in Australia showed me her electric one and she loves it. So there you go, I was convinced. I will be sharing more about this in future posts. There is no bordom my way, just not enough time. So, to prepare myself for that I purchased some roving.

I said I purchased beads. I forgot that there was a vendor there usually with beads and there is one for buttons. I had to get some beads but unless I had a pattern I don’t know if I have enough. I got two colors with over 1,000 beads each, so I think I can find a project to add those to. Or, I can make jewelry with them. Only time will tell.

There is only a couple of vendors for food. I usually go for the 4H Club that is usually there. They sell hamburgers, hotdogs, butternut squash soup, chili and deserts. But one thing they had which was simply heavenly was fresh sweet ears of corn. Oh, my goodness, it was so good. The best corn I've ever had. Well, of course because you are surrounded by cornfields, so it came from one of those and it tasted like it was picked right off the vine. All I can say it was a far cry from what you would get at the supermarket. There was no comparison. It needed nothing on it, cooked to perfection. Next year, I will need to bring something to wrap some up to bring home or ask them where there is a local farm that I can buy some at. The ones from the 4H Club are young but they are so nice and helpful. There was one young girl that I had to tell her how much I appreciate her inviting smile and just how she carried herself. Someone is teaching them the right thing.

I was glad I went to the festival even though there was hardly any mask wearing. It is a small festival, and I got my animal fix and yarn purchases that can last me through the winter. But it got me excited to think of next year and going again to see what treasures I can find.

Well, that’s all for now. Keep enjoying what you love and stay safe.

Friday, September 3, 2021


I hope that this post can help new knitters and crocheters start to understand yarns. On my blog I want to help as many newbies to grow in the craft and make their experience more pleasurable. I don’t know who is looking at this blog whether it be new knitters/crocheters or ones from different countries. But we need to keep in mind that we all started at the beginning and felt lost in the world of terminology and techniques. If something at any time is not clear, please reach out so that I can explain further.

The world of yarn can bring a little struggle even for those like myself that has been working with the craft for years. So when you are starting out it is even more confusing. Because I attend several zoom sessions for knitting and crochet, sometimes we assume that all on the call knows the basics. But that is not always true. Depending upon who taught them or what level they are at they might not have been shown the most basic things.

There are so many yarns and yarn companies out there today, but three main packaging’s are usually used. And there are a couple of rules to follow so your experience will be a pleasant one.

Yarn is either wound in a:

1) ball

2) skein

3) hank

With a skein and ball there are two ways to use it.

1) Inside tail (called Center-pull)

2) Outside tail

Some skeins have it marked which side to pull out the center pull and others don’t.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t use the center pull, but you might have to dig inside the middle to find it. What can happen is when you try to find that tail in the middle, you can get a glob of yarn and you think it is knotted. So you might have the tendency to pull and pull just to make a bigger mess. To alleviate that problem, you must understand that it is not a knot but that the yarn has just tangled around each other, and it needs to be gently released and then it will work out fine. Also, when you are working with a skein of yarn and you get to a place where that it seems to be all tangled up, avoid the urge to pull until it is a knot. I shake the yarn and try to see where it is tangled around each other. Yes, I said shake. It won’t knot up but you can see where things are just wrapped around each other by taking the tine to really examine before getting agitated. That can loosen it up so you can work with freeing that little mess.

Even though it is so much nicer to work with the center pull, you don’t want to frustrate yourself with the process of trying to find the center yarn and potentially creating a mess. The easiest thing to do is work with the outside tail. Also, something to remember is there are larger skeins of yarn that gives you enough for a blanket, such as A Pound of Love by Lion Brand. This is a squishy soft yarn and I use that from the outside not the inside. When worked from the inside it could become a hot mess. It can collapse on you and then you would need to take time to untangle, and you don’t want to do that, I’m sure.

The next time you are either in a craft store or your LYS (Local Yarn Shop) look at the different yarns, sizes and feel the yarn for softness, roughness or scratchiness depending upon what it is made out of. Don't just be fixated on those pretty colors.

Now your LYS (Local Yarn Shop) has all three yarns usually (skein, ball, hank). The ball and skein you need not do anything with it but start your project. But the hank there is another step that needs to be done. Sometimes if someone comes in to purchase yarn and they buy a hank they might not always ask if you need it to be wound into a cake form for easy use. Using a hank without being wound is a true disaster that you really don’t want to experience and depending upon the yarn you purchased it can be costly. If you are into old movies of the 70’s and back you might remember seeing someone holding bent arms up as yarn is placed around those arms and another person is winding the yarn into a ball from it. Or you might remember your grandmother doing that using the back of a chair or some other sort to hold the yarn as it is wound in a ball. We don’t have to do that anymore. Some still do if they don't have the tools and that's fine. There are though two tools that are used called a swift and ball winder. My ball winder is a manual model. The yarn shop that I worked at there was an electric ball winder which really made it easy and fast.

To avoid frustration you always want to remember to ask for the hank to be wound and the yarn band to be included. You should keep one yarn band for each yarn you purchase. This has very important information on it, especially if you didn’t get enough yarn for your project and you need to get more. We can’t rely on our brains to remember all the details of our purchase. Because I work on multiple projects, one way I control my yarn for each project is cut a piece of the yarn and tape it on the yarn band and I include the name of the project. But this is for the future when you have more than one project going. Make it easy on yourself because it is going to get harder as we venture out and our yarn stash grows as well as our desire to make more projects. The excitement of pattern finding can be endless even when you are a beginner because there are so many resources. You have to learn tips and tricks from those that started out in controlling their yarn stash and projects. Because if you come to really enjoy your craft the words will come out: What happened, or I looked around one day and it just happened. No worries, you will figure it all out. Just keep having fun with what you love to do.

Thursday, August 19, 2021


Thanks to the Craft Yarn Council for reaching out to us to expose their graduates using these interviews. They want to help us expand in what we want to do or continue to do. It got me thinking of getting back involved in any way I could. I would make the excuse that I was too tired to do more computer work after I am on the computer all day for my day job. I said leave it for the younger crowd to do all of this social media stuff. But after this interview I really talked to myself and came to the conclusion that I’m going to always be tired and why can’t I share this platform with the younger crafters. No, I don’t particularly like all of the social media and that’s why you won’t see me on Facebook or Twitter because it becomes too much when you are working full-time. I still want to have time to enjoy my crafts. I did start an Instagram account under Shadowmccray. I want to change the name but I'm having a problem with that. I miss what I use to do and that is why I need to return in whatever part I can do. So move over I’m coming in with my blog, Instagram and I want to start a podcast. What’s one more in the mix out there. You can read below my spotlight intervieew through the Craft Yarn Council.

Welcome to the July CIP Instructor Spotlight! Each month, we interview a different CIP student or graduate to learn about their experience in the Certified Instructors Program and how they've taken what they learned to help them in their teaching career.

We hope this interview gives you helpful insight into how other instructors run their businesses and inspires you to continue teaching others the craft you love!

This month, we are talking with Knit and Crochet CIP Instructor Cheryl McCray!

CYC: Thank you for taking part in our Instructor Spotlight series! We are so excited to learn more about you as a Certified Instructor in Knit and Crochet. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been knitting and crocheting?

Cheryl: It is my pleasure and thank you for the opportunity to share my journey. My name is Cheryl McCray and I’m a Jersey girl. I was taught to knit by my aunt at age 10. She was the only one in the family that picked up knitting. And I thank her so much for opening my world to what became up to this day years of enjoyment. For crochet, I went to the local library for sessions. I look at my journey as full circle since I have taught at several libraries; it took me back to my childhood. It is quite funny to me how life goes. I have been able to share my passion for both knitting and crochet from the very young, in between, seniors and even those that are legally blind. So, I have been able to teach across the board.

CYC: Why did you decide you wanted to start teaching knit and crochet?

Cheryl: Where do I begin the story of my journey? I was always into some form of creativity. I’ve always been that person that led the life of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ because I wanted to try so many things. I was into sewing, rug hooking, knitting, crocheting and a little bit of other crafts. But I wanted to work with animals, which I did in later years volunteering at a zoo for six years. And I volunteered with the deaf and blind. But I struggled because I had a lot of interests but not enough time. I sure had so much fun learning new things, so life was in no way boring.

But it was 2008 and for a lot of people, they can relate to being a part of the displace war between 2008 – 2010 and I was one of them. Where was I going to go from there? Well, at my place of employment they had a Career Center, and their focus became on the displaced employees. They tried to help you with your resume, and they had a company come in and have sessions to give help on what you might want to do next. They went around the room and asked what your interests are. I chose two areas of strong interest and love for which were animals and my crafts. I was so excited about the idea, as they put it; ‘Do what you love, and it is not a job’. And since there was always someone that would ask if I was a teacher, I thought this would be the way to go.

So, I started right away on that journey. For me, they suggested to look outside the box and try to start a business doing my crafts. They talked about using the internet and suggested starting a blog for exposure. I took college courses prior on creating websites, so I started my blog called ‘My Journey with Yarn and Beyond’ and had that for several years. I sent for business cards and came up with the name – Miss Craft Diva. Frankly, I don’t remember how I heard about the Craft Yarn Council’s program for knitting and crochet but when I did, I wanted to do that. I told a few people what I was going to do, and they told me that I didn’t need any piece of paper to teach. Well, I am glad I did not listen to them.

I signed up for the knitting program and got excited to learn and grow into what I thought could be my business path. After attending FIT in New York for a long weekend of wonderful learning and excitement for the knitting instructors’ program, I went ahead and did the crochet instructors program at home. It was a lot of work but tapped into areas that I had not concentrated on before. Between the initial certification program from the Craft Yarn Council and the critique I received after I sent in my completed work would set the stage for my classes.

CYC: Why did you decide to become a certified instructor and what did you enjoy most about the CIP program?

Cheryl: As I stated, I was told that you don’t need a certification to teach. But it is not just for teaching, it is a program that has been put together to build knowledge. I would start my sessions with my students telling them that there are standards that have been set up by the Craft Yarn Council and to know those would help in understanding how to become better at the craft. The difference with learning through the Craft Yarn Council and searching the web is that a structured program is put together for you in a way that you can learn and grow faster. So, when those that told me I did not need to be certified, I did because it gave me that structure of learning and I didn’t have to search all over the place on what I needed to learn but it was prepared for me. It gave me what I needed to give that structured foundation to my students.

Just the exposure of a well put-together program that is prepared for you is worth the time and effort to explore taking the courses. I wanted to use this certification to pass on a hobby for those that need a stress reliever – which was my pitch. Everyone needs a hobby to destress to relax more and have a break from all that the mind gets entangled with, especially now with going through the pandemic, it puts that stress on such a higher level.

CYC: Tell us about some ways that you promote yourself as a Certified Instructor in the yarn community.

Cheryl: When I heard that Michael’s was looking for teachers, but they had to be certified, I knew I made the right choice to go through the certification program. Even though I could not build a business to do as a full-time job, which was my hope, I pressed on to do it on a part-time basis.

The way I promoted my business at the start was by putting together a professional email that I sent to all the surrounding libraries. I have been able to use my Craft Yarn Council certifications as a stepping stone into the libraries, a yarn shop and craft stores because I was creditable. Also, by word of mouth. That is how I heard about the local yarn shop looking for workers and instructors. I also did research on events and enjoyed teaching for a yearly craft event twice. I had to come up with the session I was going to teach and my own pattern for the project. I also volunteered at knitting and crochet events which I enjoyed and that also built my reputation. I would wear my certified button given by the Craft Yarn Council and it became a talking point. Also, with the areas that opened for me because I was certified, I was able to build a resume.

CYC: How have you been staying connected to your students?

Cheryl: My connection was easy because my students enjoyed the sessions so much, they would get in touch with me. But I would call, email and text them with any answers to questions they had in the middle from one session to the next. CYC: What are some creative ways you are teaching students at this time?

Cheryl: At this moment I am not teaching since the sessions at Michael’s have ended and the yarn shop I was working at moved farther than I wanted to go. I help friends and a couple of seniors I visit with their projects. And in general, when I come across those that need help, I am more than happy to assist. I am still looking for the next opportunity - I miss teaching on a regular basis. It was harder working full-time, teaching in the evenings and weekends. I used to say at the yarn shop that this is for those that are retired.

CYC: Do you have any yarn crafting blogs you go to for inspiration or community?

Cheryl: I had my own blog called ‘My Journey with Yarn and Beyond’ for several years and enjoyed every bit while I could do it. I don’t do a lot of reading blogs on a regular basis. I will look at some podcasts.

CYC: If you had to use the same color yarn for the rest of your life, what color yarn would you use?

Cheryl: That is very difficult since I love color. Since the pandemic I have not been able to do what I looked forward to in the spring/summer/fall months and that is to visit gardens and bird watching, both of which are packed with color.

But if I had to pick one color it would be lime green. Growing up it was red, but in recent years it is lime green. It is bright, bold and cheery.

But just recently I am now dabbling into yarn dying and to see the colors come alive through yarn has been exciting. I feel like I am a mad scientist mixing the formula to see the surprise results. This has been fun.

CYC: What tips or advice can you offer certified yarn instructors to promote their business during this time?

Cheryl: We live in such an informational world with so many opportunities overflowing to sharpen skills and go beyond our wildest dreams; just take advantage of that. When you are instructing someone, you want it to be fun and enjoyable. You want their learning experience to be memorable in a way that they want to continue and grow further. If you are getting into the business, just do your research first and put some ducks in a row before just plunging in. But all else said, just have fun with your love of the craft.

CYC: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Cheryl: I would say to keep stomping out the stigma that knitting/crochet is for old people only. That is still out there, and I think that is one reason people do not want to join in. I have heard people say that they were teased because they want to knit/crochet. Let’s continue to encourage those to try it and ignore comments from others. And also that it is not only for women, because there is such a large population of men that are enjoying the relaxation of the craft and creating some amazing things. And lastly, black people do many crafts such as me and want to be more recognized as great crafters and instructors and want to also be used at festivals and craft events for our talents.

CYC: Cheryl, thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge and love of Knit and Crochet with our CIP students and graduates! We wish you all the best in your yarn business!

We hope you enjoyed this month's CIP Spotlight Interview! Stay safe and healthy and we can't wait to share next month's interview with you!

Thank you,

Craft Yarn Council

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Love of Shawls

If you don't like to make sweaters because you don't want to worry about shaping and the fit, then enter the world of shawls. They are wonderful items to make since they come in such an array of shapes and sizes. It is a different type of shaping and they can fit naturally if done correctly and to know how to wear it helps. Some shawls look better as a neck wrap hanging loosly in front and others hug the body like a blanket. Shawls are one of my favorite item to knit and/or crochet. There are so many beautiful designs today. But the way my time is at this moment I really don't want patterns that are too intricate. But I still want to see some design and a different shape to work with.

Now that I am back with my blog this will help me dig deep into the past to see what I can find to pick up again. I did go through my UFO's of shawls and found three that I need to get back to. I really love the patterns but a new project got in the way. I think it was that I didn't have to think that much on the other projects I started so the shawls went on the back burner.

My favorite crochet shawls are ones with pinapples. You can see what I made through Instagram or click on the link to see my projects on the right hand side. I loved looking at the pineapples on a doily. You know those that your grandmother or great-grandmother would make with those steel crochet hooks. No thanks. But now-a-days designers are coming up with beautiful patterns using the pineapple stitch so I jumped in on making a couple.

When I pick out a project I like to see what I will learn from each pattern I work on. With shawls it has been a host of learning and keeping my skills fresh. It's not that I don't know how to yarn over or knit two together but it is the combination of them and other ways of shaping the shawls that fascinate me. The combination of techniques can truly bring out some beautiful shapes and designs.

Since I knit and crochet I work with shapes across the board and different techniques which makes it so interesting. So I would encourage that the next project you pick out that you ask yourself what would you be learning from that project. This would give you an opportunity to grow more in the world of knit and crochet.

One thing you must do depending upon the shawl is look it over to see if it needs to be blocked. You can see from my picture of the three UFO shawls I could not go without blocking them. Right now two of them look all shriveled up and to be brought alive by blocking. You are doing your work an injustice if the stitch pattern needs to be brought alive and that is what blocking does. I have crochet shawls that didn't need to be blocked and I was able to use acrylic yarns on a couple. But if it especially needs to be blocked then I use a yarn that is mostly wool. It is amazing what blocking does to a lace shawl.

The first shawl from my UFO treasures from left to right is called 'On the Spice Market'. Two main technique in this shawl are slip stitches and German shortrows. The second shawl is the 'Estuary Shawl'. The third shawl is called 'Downtown Line' uses regular wraps and turns to make the beautiful design. Alot of make one's which I'm not always in the mood to do. I love how the pattern switches the main color to be the contrasting color which gives that different look.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

I Have New Goodies!

Between 2020 and 2021 has brought about different changes for all of us in one way or another. One change of sadness is losing our favorite places to eat because they just couldn’t sustain their business and the big one in our lives is the closing of local yarn shops (LYS). It’s great to see those that are hanging in there. You know what that means. We need to try when we can to support them so we can have that place to see the yarns in person and touch those wonderful fibers.

The one extra that has become a part of my life, which has been a plus, is joining Zoom calls for knitting and crochet. And one group I have been apart of is a LYS called Beyond Yarn in Union, NJ. The group name is Rockin Knitters and it has been a really nice group that I have enjoyed every Saturday at 11am est. So, they are celebrating their two years in business. Hurray for them! I got to visit for the first time last week but won’t be my last. It was nice to see in person those that I only saw on Zoom especially the person that hosts the gathering Steen. The owner Theresa was so nice to talk with. They had a raffle and sweets to eat. I couldn't believe that my friend was on the fence whether to go or not and she went and won the basket of goodies. It was a really nice day.

I brought three patterns with me and got the yarn for all three – Yay! I can’t wait to start working on them. The first yarn purchase was for the pattern Strickmich by: Martina Behm out of the Cobasi DK which is 55% cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% silk and 21% elastic nylon. It has been something I’ve been wanting to knit but didn’t have enough yardage in that weight from my stash. This is a scarf with cables. The second pattern is Empower Lace by: Rosemary Hill. They have a few patterns that I like and will be making. I picked out the Berroco Ultra Wool DK which is a 100% Superwash Wool. It's like a neck cozy. The last pattern is called First Printed Circuit and I got two colors of Berroco Vintage Chunky in the brown and yellow. This is a small shawl.

I’m getting ready to go down that rabbit hole again. Once you get to know me better there is one thing that you will hear me say or see is that I don’t just work on only one project. My projects have projects, and they are fine with that life – well they don’t know any difference because it has always been. But I’m having fun and at the end of the day that is all that matters.

So, the yarns there at the shop are pretty affordable and there is enough variety to choose for a project or two like I did. So if you are close enough to do a road trip or if you are visiting the area go and get some yarn for your next project. Congrats to Beyond Yarn for making it pass the two-year mark and through this terrible time of our lives – the pandemic. May you have many nore years of providing a stress reliever for many.

Keep doing what you love and don’t stop. Until next time take care.

Thursday, July 29, 2021


It has been a while since I blogged. I didn't know if I was going to blog again because of work and time. Well I really did enjoy blogging and I told myself that I'm going to always be tired after work so I might as well do something I love.

I had an issue with being able to post but I figured it out. So let's see how this is going to go. But I will need your help. I would like to know what are you looking for? What would you like to read about? If you look at my blog you will see that I knit, crochet but I have also started dyeing yarn. I'm just a baby with that so I wouldn't want to be asked any deep questions, but I can give a tip or two.

So I'm giong to post on Wednesday's every other week. I do want to start a podcast also. It's going to be busy, but I'm going to love doing it and I hope you can enjoy reading my blog and looking at my podcast about my latest projects, past projects, UFO's and my oopsies with my yarn dyeing. So let me know what would interest you and stay tune.