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.