Karen C.K. Ballard, Featured Needlework Historian

Welcome to our blog tour! Here at Crochetville, we celebrate National Crochet Month with our NatCroMo Blog Tour. This year, we’re interviewing crochet designers, teachers, and hobbyists throughout March and our theme is crochet memories. You can browse all of this year’s blog tour content on our page NatCroMo Blog Tour 2020.

About Karen C.K. Ballard

Please allow me to introduce our featured needlework historian – and crochet presenter, teacher, and artist – of the day, Karen C.K. Ballard of Threadwinder.

Karen says, “My standing as a professional CGOA member defies description, because I do a bit of everything. I have taught how to crochet using my own crochet designs in classrooms; have designed and sold my designs; won a first place in one of the categories of the 2012 CGOA Design Competition, have given presentations at historic sites, and have participated in collaborative art projects. But, I am most known for my writing on crochet (and other needlework) history and feel that my writing and giving presentations are close to teaching. You can find my writing in various PieceWork magazine issues, various publications on antiques, and in CGOA’s Chain Link Newsletter.

Today Karen will share some of her crochet memories with us and we’ll showcase three of her crochet classes.

Karen C.K.’s Special for Our Readers

As a special treat for the NatCroMo Blog Tour, Karen C.K. is offering a giveaway of vintage crochet publications.

Karen says, “Prior to retiring from a career in computers, I started collecting needlework tools, books, and ephemera. Upon retirement, my collections, especially the printed materials, led me to study and redefine myself as a needlework historian. But in collecting published materials I frequently end up with duplicates in my collection. I like sharing these through Nat-Cro-Mo, with people whom I know will truly appreciate them.”

This year Karen is offering three great prizes:

  • 1937 The National Crochet Bureau booklet Prize Winning Crochet Designs
  • 1925 The Needlecraft Publishing Company’s Priscilla Centrepieces & Doilies Crochet Book
  • 1852 Five large-format pages of W. Carter’s filet crochet charts (numbers 8, 12, 14, 16, & 18) Prize Exhibition Patterns

One prize will go to each of three winners. Shipping to the USA only.
Enter Karen’s giveaway here: https://crochetville.com/giveaway-vintage-crochet-publications/

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Karen C.K.’s Crochet Memories

Would you share with us one of your earliest memories of crochet?

“I was just seven years old when my Great Aunt Laurene taught me to crochet, she didn’t name the stitches, but I now know she just taught me to chain and slip stitch. I was crocheting fabrics with those two stitches long before I ever heard of Bosnian Crochet.”

Would you share with us one of your memories of becoming a crochet teacher?

“I taught myself how to read patterns and to do other stitches from books during 1970, while pregnant with my son. A few years later – as the Vietnam War was coming to an end – I worked for the Center for Naval Analysis as a statistician. Our duties had been severely cut back, so my first teaching experience was teaching other ladies how to crochet during our leisurely, hour-plus lunch hours.”

Would you share with us one of your most memorable experiences as a crochet teacher?

“After retiring from a long career as a computer technician for the Federal Government, I worked for a short time demonstrating and teaching crochet at a local craft store. One day a deaf lady asked me to teach her. I agreed to do so, closing the class registration early so that she would be my only student. Her caretaker dropped her off and I quickly learned that not only was she deaf, but she couldn’t read lips, had narcolepsy, and she wanted to learn on an advanced pattern that she brought with her. That was the most challenging class I ever tried to teach! But I learned what questions to ask prior to attempting to teach another deaf student.”

Showcase: Crochet Classes by Karen C.K. Ballard

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WWII Knitting and Crochet

In a nutshell: “I write about and present crochet history.” Find out more: threadwinder.info

About: “In past (pre-COVID-19 years), I have given presentations on WWI and WWII crochet and knitting at historic sites, libraries, and crochet and knitting groups. The above photo was taken at the conclusion of a presentation I gave to the Prince William Purlers on WWII knitting. The presentation was a follow-on to one a gave a couple of months earlier on WWI knitting. When I talk to crocheters, I stress the role crochet played during the wars. I also have given talks on yarn reels to both the knitters and the crocheters.”

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WWI & WWII presentations at various historic sites, guild meetings, and other venues

About: In the photo above, “I am discussing what I call the WWII ‘Workbasket Campaign’ at Harper’s Ferry, WV. I coined the term ‘Workbasket Campaign’ to describe the organized WWI & WWII efforts to solicit, gather, ensure quality, and distribute knitted and other needlework items for the military, wounded, and Allied refugees, in addition to patriotic items for the home-front.”

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Needles for Victory – WW II

In a nutshell: “I have given my presentations upon invitations from various groups. Contact Karen at threadwinder (at) aol (dot) com to arrange similar presentations.”

About: The above photo was taken at Eisenhower Farm in Gettysburg, PA. “It was great presenting with April Hirschmann Gammache. She covered the knitting and I covered the late war, when patriotic Homefront crocheting was more prevalent. This time I didn’t lose my voice!”

Follow Karen C.K. Online

Here’s where you can connect with Karen C.K. online so you can keep up with her love of needlework history, presenting/teaching, writing, and crochet art.

Special Thanks

Karen says, “I would like to give a special shout out to a few of the many crocheters/knitters I admire or who have encouraged me through the years:

Randy Cavaliere , who volunteered to be my mentor and encouraged me to emphasize my unique knowledge on crochet history.

“The late Susan Huxley, a terrific cheerleader and adviser on my dream of becoming an author.

Prudence Mapstone for her encouragement in pursuing crochet art and whose organizational skills are phenomenal.

Melanie Gall, who has cut two CDs of historic wartime knitting songs and entertains with a historic knitting show, for her many talents and organizational skills.

April Hirschmann Gammache, a perfect partner for giving a WWII Workbasket Campaign presentation.

Rhonda Reese, for her exceptional organizational skills.

Gwen Blakley Kinsler, her art, authorship, organization, historical knowledge… an all-around amazing woman!

Nancy Nehring, for her encyclopedic knowledge of crochet hooks.

“There are many others, I could go on and on, crocheters and knitters are really special people!!!!”

Thank you for joining us on the Crochet Memories NatCroMo Blog Tour! Today is the last day of the 2020 tour, so we hope you’ll follow along with us again next year!

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