I have been on the fence about attending the CGOA Chain Link Conference for years. Travelling from Canada to a crochet event in the U.S. is costly and I never felt I knew what to expect from the trip or if it would be worth the cost. This year, I took the plunge and travelled from Canada to New Orleans for the 2022 Chain Link Conference. Today I’m sharing my personal experience with you and the reasons why you should attend the next Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) Chain Link Conference – even if you’re not American.
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Visit a New Place
The 2022 Chain Link Conference was held in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) this year. I have always wanted to go to New Orleans, but having young children, NOLA didn’t make the top list of places to travel with kids. Travelling to NOLA for the conference not only gave me a kid-free holiday, but I got to explore the city a bit, eat some incredible food and discover new things. If it hadn’t been for Chain Link, I don’t know when I would have gotten there otherwise.
If you really want to get out and see the town/city the conference is in, I recommend staying an extra day or two before or after the conference to do so. There’s always something happening during the conference so if you don’t want to miss any of the fun, try to book an extra day or two for sightseeing. I took a day off classes to do my sightseeing but wish I had booked an extra day to explore.
Meet New Friends
My friend and fellow designer, Carol Hladik whom I’ve been friends with on Instagram for years surprised me and flew to the conference so we could meet. It was so amazing to get to spend a week with her and we met a TON of incredible new people that share our passion for crochet. I was nervous that it might be awkward to introduce myself to so many strangers but it was not awkward at all. People WANT to meet you and talk yarn and crochet with you. If someone sees you sitting alone, you’re going to get an invite to go crochet or have someone come compliment you on your work. Even if you don’t have a friend there to meet you, you’ll find yourself surrounded by friends in no time.
If you attend the conference for the first time, the CGOA has a buddy program where you’ll be connected with someone that has attended the conference before and they’ll give you all their insider info on the conference, answer your questions and more. There is a scheduled meeting the first day for everyone to connect in person and your buddy will hang out with you until you feel comfortable.
View the video version of this post which includes even more behind-the-scenes content:
Learn New Things
CGOA employs top teachers in the industry to teach their classes and the classes themselves are wonderful. This year I took two classes with the formidable Lily Chin (and I didn’t even fan girl when I met her) and learned so much. The teachers are used to working with folks of varying skill levels and they work hard to meet you where you are at and have you leaving their class feeling successful.
The CGOA also has a masters program that is taught during the conference (find more details on the CGOA website) as well as a professional development day for current and aspiring professionals.
You are surrounded by folks wearing gorgeous and unique crochet garments, bags, shawls and other accessories. There are so many stunning projects being sported daily, you’re going to need more phone storage to take pictures of them all. I was so inspired while I was there, I filled half a sketchbook with ideas to start working on in the coming months. Even if you aren’t a designer, you may see a project and just need to make it your next project.
Get Great Swag
Every attendee was given a canvas tote bag filled with great products from various yarn companies, crochet patterns, crochet hooks, various crochet tools and more. And the swag doesn’t stop there! There are multiple giveaways throughout the conference for some amazing prizes (I won a hand-turned wooden yarn bowl and a Furls Crochet Tunisian crochet hook!). Some companies also give out free swag at various events throughout the conference as well. There is also a HUGE raffle fundraiser for the CGOA and the prizes are impressive. I was lucky enough to win the grand prize and there was so much in it, I could barely carry it all to my room and fit it in my suitcase.
Great Shopping (with exclusive products and discounts!)
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the marketplace, attending the conference for the first time. I was told that it was smaller this year than in previous years (due to COVID) but it was still fantastic. Some companies (like Furls Crochet) had special conference-exclusive discounts and products. Furls produced a gorgeous New Orleans-inspired crochet hook that was on sale and available for only the duration of the conference. Ever wanted to try a Furls crochet hook? They had a space dedicated for folks to try out their hooks and some yarn so you can find the right hook for you. There were multiple yarn companies selling drool-worthy hand dyed yarns, accessory companies and more.
Make sure you leave room in your suitcase for your shopping bags and other swag you’ll accumulate. Even having lost my suitcase and having very little of my own stuff, I had to lay on the suitcase I bought to fit all the stuff I got into the bag.
Get Your Questions Answered by Experts
During the conference, there were scheduled “Ask the Experts” time slots where you could take your crochet projects and ask crochet professionals for help. Have a question about something about crochet in general and not a project? No problem! They can help with that too. The experts available had a wide variety of experiences and expertise in different topics and they were more than happy to help anyone with anything they needed.
Connect with Your Favourite Designers/Connect with Other Professionals
The Chain Link Conference isn’t just for designers. Most of the attendees are hobbyist crocheters, there to have a good time and connect with other hookers. The conference eliminates the barriers of technology and connects you with crochet designers and bloggers in person. I was able to meet and connect with a lot of other crochet professionals and meet some of my favourite designers. Meeting my personal favourite crochet designers that are giants in the industry and I was a nervous wreck at first. Most of the one I got to meet are just friendly folks that enjoy connecting with their fans.
Connect with Editors/Company Contacts
If you’re a current or aspiring crochet designer, CGOA provides the opportunity to meet with magazine editors and yarn company contacts so you can build business relationships with them. I was able to meet some editors I have worked with in person and make some new connections with some I didn’t already work with. Again, the conference removes the barriers of technology for you to make real connections with these folks and as a designer, this is priceless.
Participate or Watch the Crochet Fashion Show
At the end of the conference is the banquet. It’s a great meal, followed by a crochet fashion show. This is NOT your typical fashion show. All of the models are attendees and it is a boat-load of fun. People get really into it and it’s a fabulous end to the conference. The best part? Most of the fashions modelled are things you can make (there are a few free-handed items with no patterns). The Furls Girls emceed the event and they were funny and lively, making sure to note the name of each pattern that was available should you wish to make one later.
Crochet Anywhere, Everywhere
Dream of crocheting all day every day? Then you need to go to Chain Link. The conference is held in a hotel and all of the lounge areas are filled with folks crocheting and chatting. Got a break between classes? Find a spare chair with some folks that are crocheting, sit down and start crocheting. People are crocheting in elevators, in restaurants, everywhere.
Show Off Your Crochet Projects
I had lost my luggage on the way to the conference so I only had one project to show off but even that one project, I got so many compliments. There are folks that have multiple new crochet items to show off per day and others, like me have one or two. Compliments are flying constantly as everyone admires each other’s handiwork. Don’t be shocked if someone comes up to you and touches your project and starts oohing and aahing over it. It’s part of the experience.
Need some inspiration for things to make for the next
CGOA Chain Link Conference? Check out these free patterns.
Become a Part of an Incredible, Welcoming Community
Chain Link gave me something that until now, I hadn’t really felt but had been searching for: a sense of REAL community and inclusion. Facebook groups and connecting on Instagram are great but it doesn’t replace that in-person connection. Trying to find that REAL sense of community online can be hard and many people feel like they are on the outside looking in online. The CGOA conference experience is the total opposite of that. I never felt like I didn’t belong or awkward EVER. People who didn’t know me at all were warm, welcoming and treated me like family. People were so generous and kindly offered me clothes and yarn for my classes when they found out my luggage had been lost.
Meeting people I had only ever known online gave my trip even more meaning and deepened the connection that we already have. Although all of the other things that I’ve listed above are wonderful reasons to attend the CGOA Chain Link conference, the absolute best part is the feeling that you have found your people and the life-long connections you make while you’re there.
The CGOA Chain Link Conference is an absolute whirlwind and goes by way too fast but it is an experience I will never forget. I’m already counting down the days until the next one and I hope that I will see you there.
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