Irish Crochet Lace Workshop at Worldcon

September 4, 2019 at 6:13 pm | Posted in Conventions, Crochet, Lace | 2 Comments
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Quite a few months ago, I made a suggestion to the Programme team at Dublin 2019 – an Irish Worldcon that when having a Worldcon in Ireland, wouldn’t it be lovely to have a workshop on Irish Crochet lace, which is one kind of lace that’s native to Ireland? Having made that suggestion, I was pretty sure that a) it would be taken up and b) I’d be asked to teach the workshop. I was right on both counts.

Basically, it meant that on top of everything else, I needed to find a suitable pattern, collect the necessary materials and prepare a handout. The pattern was easy: I had seen this shamrock in one of my historical intruction manuals before, and it does have all the basic ingredients that make Irish Crochet different from other kinds of lace crochet:

Irish Crochet Lace Shamrock

Irish crochet lace aims to imitate dimensional needle laces by using two threads – a fairly thin thread for the crochet stitches and a thicker “cord” which other stitches are worked over, replacing the loops of chain stitches often found in modern lace crochet.

Materials were also fairly easy: I wanted participants to use the same materials I used for my class samples, so I had a good idea of how much was needed and the instructions would work with the threads. Since the thread sizes in historical needlework books are incomparable to what’s used today, finding materials that work together and adjusting the pattern to match is often the hard part of recreating those patterns. The real challenge was finding the right-sized crochet hooks. None of my collection of small hooks has anything resembling metric sizes. I made a guess that 1.25 or 1.5 mm hooks should work, and the lovely people at This is Knit reserved their stock for me. Since hooks in this size don’t seem to be a heavily sought-after item and I needed 10 of them, we ended up with a few 1.75mm hooks in the mix as well, which in hindsight may have been a bit too big.

So I made a couple of samples in May, got distracted by all the other Worldcon stuff after that, and made another sample just a couple of weeks before leaving for Dublin (this was mostly to figure out how much thread the pattern needed, so I could prepare the thread packages for participants), and wrote the handout on pretty much the last weekend possible that enabled me to still get it copied before leaving.

The workshop itself was fully booked, as I’ve come to expect for this kind of workshop at a Worldcon – they all were, no matter what the subject matter. We had fun, and I hope everybody got something out of it. For those who couldn’t get in, and others who may want to try Irish crochet lace, here’s the handout.

IrishCrochetDublin2019

Happy to answer any questions!

Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon: A Review in Ribbons

September 1, 2019 at 7:42 pm | Posted in Conventions | 4 Comments
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So, there was a Worldcon in Dublin, and I ended up being much more in the middle of everything than I ever was in Helsinki two years ago, where I just carefully dipped my toes in. This time, I jumped in at the deep end, and in spite of being a lousy swimmer, survived to tell the tale! Lots of memories came up when I finally unpacked my suitcase after traveling around Ireland after the con, so here’s what I found inside:

Dublin 2019 - Memories!

The colour-coded hi-vis vests were used to indicate staff members on duty for a particular area. Since I was mostly running around the Warehouse location in a few different roles, it at least gave me a chance to be off-duty once in a while.

Iain J. Clark posted about the process of creating the Souvenir Book cover on his Facebook page, and we got to see quite a bit of the artwork including the original painting as part of the “Art of Putting on a Convention” display.

The staff badge with its ribbons deserves a closer look:

Dublin 2019 staff badge with ribbons

Let’s go top to bottom: The badge itself has lovely artwork from Jim Fitzpatrick.

My official role was as one of three Displays Area Heads, responsible for organizing all the displays in both locations excluding the Art Show. We ended up having about 50 different displays, with plans constantly changing pretty much till the con closed!

On to the ribbons: I got introduced to the magic that is Worldcon ribbons two years ago in Helsinki. Some of them are functional, others just for fun. I think the set I ended up with tells a good part of my personal Worldcon experience, so let’s use the ribbons as a guide!

I Made This Happen! This ribbon was given out at volunteer registration to everybody who helped prepare for this Worldcon pre-convention. It has pride of place, since I spent uncounted hours in the past year (first email in my Dublin 2019 inbox dates 2018-09-06, so yes, it really has been a full year!) making sure things were going to happen in the Displays area. There’s almost 4000 emails in that inbox, and that excludes all the general mailing lists, so is just the “work” emails I got. Yes, more than 50 emails while sleeping happened almost daily in the last few weeks before the convention!

Volunteer: Everybody working for the convention is a volunteer, and I’m proud to have been one of them. At least for me, working together with other volunteers is where most of the fun is! This ribbon also gives access to the volunteer lounges.

EXHIBITS: The light blue ribbons come from my division, Exhibits. As a division, we were responsible for running pretty much all of the space in the Forum at the CCD and in Warehouse 1 at Point Square: Dealers, Fan Tables, Creative Alley, Art Show, and Displays. Seeing all that planning come to life during move-in was amazing. I also worked for Exhibits two years ago in Helsinki, but in a much smaller role and totally ignorant of the bigger picture. This year I got the full benefit of a front-row seat, including all kinds of last-minute crises! I think Exhibits is a natural home to creative me, and I had loads of fun even when stressed out.

Displays Staff: Organizing the 50 displays we ended up with is a load of work. We ended up with three Area Heads (which is already one more person than you’d usually have – normal is one Area Head plus a Deputy), and we still had more than enough to do. Without the lovely volunteers on our staff, it would have been frankly impossible to pull off. Everybody matters, and that’s what makes this so great.

Raksura Colony Tree Builder: I gave out this one to everybody who contributed to my personal project for this Worldcon. I may have been a bit overambitious to take this on on top of everything else, but getting to enjoy the results was prizeless.

Programme Participant: This one came with the Programme Participant package. I ended up being on eight programme items, which may have been a few too many, in hindsight. But it’s so hard to say no to interesting things! Five of those were in conjunction with the community art project and totally self-inflicted. I also suggested to Programme that somebody ought to run a workshop on Irish Crochet Lace at an Irish Worldcon. While I would have preferred that somebody local do this, I was totally expecting to have to run it myself, and that’s exactly what happened. We had fun, everybody learnt something new, but preparing and running this was another nontrivial amount of work added to my load (And yes, for everyone waiting, I will post my class handout with additional notes). I also got drafted into a panel on Hyperbolic Crochet together with a mathematician, which went well. And last, I got talked into running the cross-stitch section of one of the speed-crafting sessions. Loved the idea – people getting the opportunity to try out three different crafts during a 2-hour session, rotating between different instructors.

I made an exhibition of myself in Dublin: That’s a fun one, also from Exhibits. My exhibition mostly being running around like a headless chicken the first couple of days, I guess.

Glasgow 2024: This obviously wasn’t stressful enough, so I went and pre-supported the Glasgow 2024 bid, so we can do it all over again 5 years from now?

Mother, may I? Got this one from one of the people at the Raksura Colony Tree celebration, while unsuccessfully trying to herd everybody around. We were laughing a lot and enjoying ourselves immensely.

Sure, it’ll be grand: I was offered this one at the Dead Dog Party after the con was officially closed and I had done most of the move-out from the Warehouse. I took it because “grand” really is a multi-purpose word that can mean almost anything in Ireland, and I heard it used as such by our lovely hosts. Yes, this was an Irish Worldcon, not only in name, and I loved it because of this.

Whew, that’s quite a lot! Given all that, it’s not surprising I didn’t manage to catch any daytime programme items except for an excellent talk about pulsars by Guest of Honour Jocelyn Bell Burnell on Thursday. I did make a point of going to the evening events, though. For me, those are some of the best parts of a Worldcon!

Dublin 2019 - Events Programmes

Programme leaflets for the evening events. Opening ceremony/1944 Retro Hugos on Thursday, Worldcon Philharmonic on Friday. No printed programme for the Masquerade on Saturday, and the Hugo Awards Ceremony on Sunday.

Those leaflets make excellent souvenirs. Love the sketches of the Retro Hugo and Hugo awards bases on their respective programmes. Actually showing some of the work that goes into making such an event a reality seemed to be an ongoing theme, which we also took up within Displays – showing both pictures of the making of the different awards given out and a lovely display titled “The Art of Putting on a Convention”, which showcased some of the artwork that was used for the convention’s promotion and publications.

And, last, some printed items of my own:

Dublin 2019 - Printouts!

Thanks to some of the artists working for the convention, we were able to put together a set of excellent colouring pages for people to enjoy. Iain Clark’s “Green Woman” was one of my favourites, and you may see more of her in the future since I think she needs to be a quilt!

On the right is a letterpress-printed poster from the workshop the National Print Museum was running during three days of the convention. You could typeset your name and add it to the prepared plate with the Dublin 2019 logo. This was also one of the 50 displays on our list, and right next to the craft workspace where I spent most of my convention time. I think it makes an excellent souvenir, and it’s always nice to be able to work with technology where not everything’s hidden under a sleek hood!

Wow, looks like I had rather a lot to say about my Worldcon loot. It’s been over for two weeks and I still end up really excited just thinking about it.

Hyperbolic Crochet at Worldcon75

August 18, 2017 at 8:52 pm | Posted in Conventions, Crochet | 6 Comments
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I’m a geek at heart. I read a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and follow a few related places on the internet. But until a couple of weeks ago, I had never been to an SF  convention. I needed to remedy that omission, and I did it in style: Worldcon is the yearly convention of the World Science Fiction Society, and it takes place in a different city every year. This year’s Worldcon was going to take place in Helsinki, as Worldcon75. Since I love the Nordic Countries and haven’t been there for a while, this was my chance to combine two good things, and I took it.

After paying for my membership, progress reports started to trickle in, and in all of them there was a call for volunteers. Worldcons are a completely volunteer-run endeavour, so without people to help, nothing would happen. I generally enjoy being more than a passive consumer of things when possible, so the call for volunteers made me go look at the website, where the different areas they were looking for volunteers in were listed. Almost immediately, my eyes stopped in one place: Craft Corner? – sounds great, and I’m sure I can make myself useful there. A few emails later, I was discussing ideas of things to offer to people in the craft area of Worldcon with the lady responsible for the Craft Corner, and I want to talk about one of the ideas we actually implemented today.

What kind of craft might be of interest to geeks of all sorts? I’ve been fascinated by hyperbolic crochet for many years and had the opportunity to see the original Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef in London in 2008 – and even to create a small part for it! Thinking back to that I mentioned the idea to offer a community project making hyperbolic crochet pieces together. As opposed to a reef, where you need lots of people and many many hours to get anywhere even remotely impressive, I thought we could create a single big pseudosphere, with different people working on the piece throughout the five days of Worldcon. I was curious myself how big a piece we’d be able to create.

When I arrived for Move-In the day before Worldcon started, the area that was planned for this project was still just an empty bit of floor with a couple of dividing walls. We obviously needed some furniture. When asking where to get tables and chairs, the reply was: “How many do you need?” A table – and lots of chairs was my spontaneous answer. And both materialized just a few minutes later thanks to some of the lovely volunteers making the whole con possible. I made the perfect choice with that one … crafters don’t want to sit there all alone, they tend to form groups and chat while working. There were almost always people sitting on that table when I went by. Unfortunately I have no pictures of the workspace to share with you, simply because I forgot to take one with all the excitement of the con.

I had created an instruction sheet to be displayed at the workspace. The idea was to explain what this is all about as well as to give clear instructions for people on what to do. I think I mostly succeeded with that one. If you want to have a look, here it is: Hyperbolic_Crochet (link to PDF). There’s an error in the footnote, UK and US need to be the other way round, but I only noticed that on the last day. We had five laminated copies of this, and put two up on the dividing walls and taped the other three to the table.

So, what did we make from those instructions? Here you go:

Hyperbolic Crochet Community Project @Worldcon75

You’ll notice that’s more than one piece, in fact, there are four – the big piles of wool on the left and right, the one from colourful thread in the middle, and a start of a fourth one right below that one.

So, how did we get there? What worked, and what would I do differently if there’s a next time (and there might well be)?

  1. Workspace: A table and lots of chairs was perfect, as I already mentioned above. If circumstances allow, a bit more cozyness would have been nice, but we did just fine with a bunch of plastic folding chairs.
  2. Materials: We had a grabbag of unloved wool from somewhere, which all the big pieces are made from. While this worked, I’d prefer to get new yarn (any cheap acrylic or cotton would be perfect for this kind of project) in all the colours of the rainbow for several reasons:
    • While I tried to only keep similar-sized yarns in the bag for the project, this was approximate at best. All the yarn having the same properties would give a more consistent result. You can see how much cleaner the piece made from perle cotton looks. The perle cotton was actually intended for my tatting workshop (but that’s a whole other post), but whoever did the shopping seemed to have gotten a great deal and we had much more than we needed. Add a 2mm crochet hook I had with me, and there’s a good-looking project!
    • Not everybody who wanted to contribute was able to work with wool. While we had the cotton thread as an alternative, it would have been nice to have all the projects suitable for everyone who wanted to help.
    • Yarn of unknown origin can also bring other allergens with it. Our bag seemed in part to be infested with cat hair – not a good thing for a community project where you want to draw lots of people and not make anyone sick.
  3. Instructions: Those mostly worked fine. There were a few hiccups here and there, but the nice thing about hyperbolic crochet is, that as long as you don’t care about exactly modelling a specific mathematical object, it is fairly forgiving of minor hiccups. As long as you keep increasing at mostly the same rate, things will look good.
  4. Number of projects: As I wrote above, my original thought was to see just how big a piece we could make together. Given the sociable nature of crafters in general, I should have known beforehand that that wouldn’t really work. With the bonus project from the perle cotton, we already started at two and added an additional hook for the bigger yarns pretty soon, from which a third project developed, which was a good number, I think. There were additional projects trying to sprout on occasion, but since we didn’t have any more hooks to go around, things mostly kept concentrated to those three projects. So, next time get a few more hooks and actually try to do a small reef or something?
  5. What will you do with it? This was one of the most frequently asked questions by both contributors and onlookers. And it was a question I didn’t have an answer for. It wasn’t something that I had been thinking about beforehand, because I wasn’t even sure that this project would take off at all. I left the results with the people running the exhibits area of the con, and currently have no idea where they are.

All in all, I consider this project a success. The workspace quickly developed into a meeting space for craftspeople to come for a bit of downtime and a chat, and it gave me a go-to place as well. I’m not the best at going up to people and starting conversations – this way, loads of interesting people came to me! This is actually one of the ways that volunteering helps me to get more out of a big event like a Worldcon – you have things to do and automatically get into contact with other con-goers that way.

Since that blog post already has way too many words, I’m leaving you with another picture of that pretty hyperbolic pseudosphere made from perle cotton:

Hyperbolic Pseudosphere from Nr. 8 Perle Cotton

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