A few months ago, I was working on a yarny community project when I met Anushka. She’s a thoughtful and smart middle-schooler who was just learning to crochet from her mom. At first, she struggled (as we all have) to get her chain straight and her single crochets working in the same direction… but all of a sudden it clicked, and you could see she had the makings of a great freeform crocheter. The next time I saw her, she was making up her own flower patterns. And the next time she had a Jo-Ann’s haul that had me jealous.
And the last time, she gave me this bear. Can you believe it? She hasn’t been crocheting long at all, and yet here she is doing complicated amigurumi when she should still be making simple squares and circles. She said she watched a YouTube how-to video and made it just for me. Needless to say, I was floored.
And of course, I had to reciprocate. I found a pattern for the “Tammy” Puppy Amigurumi by Mei Li Lee, and this cute crochet puppy was born. Her head was a lot fuller (I have to admit I didn’t *completely* follow the pattern), but I like his hollow cheeks and weak chin. That, combined with the bigger eyes give him a kind of melancholy look that I love…but of course, we’ll let Anushka be the judge of that. I stuffed him with a knee-high full of poly pellets instead of fiberfil (which might be another reason for his weak features) so he could stand up on a table or dresser.
Thanks again, Anushka! I can’t wait to see what you make next.
PS – Photos by Erin Markan. Aren’t they great? Thanks, Erin!
There are few things better than a good knitting group (I know I’m a crocheter, but the truth is that most of the groups I’ve been in have been knitting groups with a small crochet contingent). It’s great to look forward to sitting around with other stitchers and doing the thing you all love (especially with my last group, which met in the best bar ever). Of course, that many intelligent, talented, and opinionated folks in one room, creating some of the most beautiful needlework the word has ever seen, means a few may be playing with a slightly inflated ego. That’s why I can’t get this McSweeney’s piece “There Are No Egos in Our Knitting Group” by Jeremy Blackman out of my head! It reminds me of so many moments of judgment in knitting and crochet meet-ups, stitch ‘n’ bitch groups, yarn stores, and overpriced classes where I’ve encountered the infamous knitting group ego. Below are my flawed remembrances of these meanies.
And don’t forget – if you can’t figure out who in your knitting group has the biggest ego, it’s probably you.
“I can’t show you how to do this because of the way you knit, so you’ll have to figure it out.” – The woman I was paying for group knitting lessons at a local yarn shop
Erin: [Holding up two balls of yarn] “What about these two colors together?”
Me: [Making puking face] “Why would you do that to me?”
“Oh, you do that kind of stuff? I prefer the really big yarnbombs, like cars and things like that.” – A lady at my old knitting group who probably didn’t think I would take this as a personal affront
“I can see your stitches here, here, and here.” – Me, pointing out someone’s visible joining like a total jerk. Honest, it was a joke!
“So you’re looking for *cheap* yarn?”– Yarn shop worker, when I said I was allergic to wool
New Knitter: [Showing her first FO] “You can take a look at it to see if there are any mistakes.” Me: “Oh no, it looks great. It’s really good. Oh, I mean, well, obviously you have a twisted stitch here and some issues here…”
Me: [to a new group of knitters & hookers I was trying to impress] “I’m a pretty fast crocheter.”
Erin: “I always thought you were really slow. It takes her forever…”
“You can leave it, but I would tear it out. Oh look over there! [start frogging]” -Me, to nearly everyone I’ve taught to crochet, most recently to a teenager. I shared this with my mom, and she said these folks will thank me because their next project will be right — so now you know where I get it.
“Why would you make that?” – My mom, when presented with anything I’m working on
“Please don’t buy that stupid, ugly baby yarn that you like.” – Me to my mom when she asked my opinion on yarn for her next project
I hope no one is surprised that the majority of the meanness here is mine, but as someone said to me at last week’s meetup “You’re really not that mean.” High praise indeed.
PS – want to share the mean things I (or other folks) have said to you? Share in the comments or hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I’d love to help you come up with some good comebacks!
No one every told me how to buy crochet hooks, so I took the same approach I’ve perfected in the ice cream aisle – buy everything that appeals to me. I’ve bought some real duds and made some lucky discoveries, but I would have saved a lot of money and indecision if I had known what to get before I got there. So don’t do what I did – just follow this infographic on how to buy your first crochet hook.
Click the image below to view or download a PDF that you can zoom in on and study before your trip to the craft store. Of course, if you have any questions, just search for @hijennybrown on your favorite social media platform and drop me a line.
Last week I was roaming around my local chain craft store when I overheard two ladies begging a clerk to help them figure out what and how much yarn to buy for a pattern they had brought along. Unfortunately he didn’t know, but fortunately, I will butt into ANY conversation. A few minutes later we were doing some quick calculations to determine what needles to buy and how many skeins to throw in the cart. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, and I think it’s only fair to take some time this year to share my yarn, hook, and pattern info with you. This week we investigate the best yarn to buy for a variety of projects. This graphic is perfect for beginners who are ready to buy their very first ball of yarn but are feeling so very overwhelmed. Click the image below to view or download a PDF that you can zoom in on and study before your trip to the yarn store. Of course, if you have any questions, just drop search for @hijennybrown on your favorite social media platform and drop me a line.
I also met so many amazing makers, artists, crocheters, coaches, and enthusiasts this year, and I want to thank you all for your kindness and support. Please forgive me for not mentioning you individually because inevitably I will leave out the most sensitive person, and I don’t want anyone to feel bad on the New Year’s!
It’s the time of year when all crafters start to really stress: Oh my goodness, I forgot about so-and-so, and I will totally need to make them a present because they’ll be making one for me. Oy vey, I forgot about that nephew, who I promised a crocheted blanket back in July. Holy guacamole, how am I ever going to finish 12 pairs of fingerless gloves for the cousins on top of everything else?
My secret is to just buy things from Etsy: same great homemade feel, none of the work. Or, I give most people nothing. I know, it’s terrible – but I have a huge extended family, and I’d rather rotate my focus to a few people annually, so I can make them something special, rather than make one throw-away gift per person. This year I’m so focused on making things for strangers that I’m pretty sure I won’t be making any presents for my family and friends. Think I can get away with saying “My presence is your present?”
No matter what your gift-giving strategy is this year, here are a few projects from the HiJB archives that would make fun and quick presents.
This week’s giveaway was from an amazing artist: Heather Saulsbury of the Creatively Happy blog and podcast (please check out both!) I figured it was only fitting for my donation this week to an art project, so of course I was reminded of my promise to Christen Mattix. She is knitting a blue yarn line to the sea from a park bench on the street. It’s part performance art, part yarnbombing, all amazing. Anyway, on one of her posts about what should happen when the line finally hits the water, I commented:
Friend, I am many things, but I am not a liar. Scratch that, I totally lie all the time. No, not all the time. Like, what would you say is an acceptable percentage? All right already, let’s just say I made the pom-poms and get on with it, eh?
My mom taught me before to make pom-poms with two cardboard discs, but I totally forgot how (even though I blogged about it). This video by Bernat Yarn is amazing, except that it mentions a template that I don’t have – I just used a duct tape roll for the outer circle and a scotch tape roll for the inner circle. If you watch the video for 1 minute and then say I got it, ya don’t. Watch the whole thing or you’ll totally miss the ingenious tips about cutting (not that I did that).
Is there anything better than cutting into a pom-pom and watching all the tiny strings break away?
Man, I really used that template up.
For the smaller pom-poms, I used the fork-method and some really aggressive trimming. You can google the technique, or check out the book Pom-Poms, which is where I learned it. The boys helped me with this a little bit, but they don’t quite have the hand-eye coordination for tiny, perfect movements yet and their forks looked like they had been attacked by rebellious blue spaghetti.
So, if you didn’t make a blood oath to Christen, you’re probably wondering how else to use a pom-pom for good?
I attended a class with author Leanne Prain, and she said pom-poms are the perfect way to get a kid started on yarnbombing. I trust her because she did, like, write the book on it.
Have a friend who is stretched a little too thin? What about making her a pom-pom wreath or garland and leaving it on her porch? Or maybe the two of you could make the same thing for a local senior center/classroom/new local business…whatever!
Knit the Bridge (which just won a Mayor’s Award – congratulations!) is starting on a new project called Pop des Fleurs that will require a LOT of handmade flowers for the testing and installation phases. Check out their “puff flower” tutorial here.
Pom-pom hats are totally in right now, and that might come in handy next week…
And after you’re done with all that making, you deserve a little reward! So our randomly selected winner for today is:
Congratulations to Carina, who just happens to be the awesome crocheter and knitter behind the blog Häkelmonster! I hope you enjoy Heather’s prize-pack of awesomeness!
A year ago, I went to the Wheeling fair and met the ladies of the local extension office. They were crocheting plastic sleeping mats that they donate to the city’s winter warm-up project. The mats, along with warm clothing, hot drinks, and blankets, are distributed to people in the area who are homeless.
I gave the ladies my info, and a few days later, I was invited (by phone!) to a meeting where they would demonstrate the process of crocheting the mats out of plastic bags. Craft Husband dropped me off at a local community center, and when I opened the door, I felt I had stepped into a bygone era. Ladies were sitting at row after row of long, decorated tables with chocolate-wrapped pumpkins sprinkled down the center. They served a snack (sandwiches, chips, coffee, and cake), talked about their previous charity project, and shared happy memories of a club member who had recently passed away. Then they had their craft lesson, and those who could crochet pulled out a hook, and those who couldn’t asked questions and cheered the others on. It was anachronistic and earnest and perfect.
I’ve been working on this mat on-and-off since then, and I have to admit it was difficult for me. I’m not great at making plarn, my hands still aren’t used to crocheting plastic, and my tension has completely changed over the past year (good news guys – I’m loosening up!) I’m glad it’s finished and will soon make someone’s nights a little better, despite the imperfections. Whether you’re sharing a crochet mat, a moment of silence, or a thick piece of sheet cake, someone in your community needs what you’re able to give.
1. Collect a Lot (a lot, a lot, a lot) of plastic bag – I didn’t believe it myself, but each mat will take hundreds and hundreds of chopped up plastic bags. I think the ones from grocery stores and gas stations were easiest to crochet, and I regret mixing in the thicker bags from clothing and book stores. (One look at those wonky sides and weird color changes, and you’ll realize that’s not the only thing I regret.)
2. Cut the bags carefully – I think 2 inches is the perfect width for the bag loops, but unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until half-way through. You should experiment a little to see what works best for you. Also, enlist a helper, if at all possible, to do the cutting and balling while you crochet away.
3. Give yourself a break – Physically, I found that crocheting plastic (especially those thick bags) did a serious number on my shoulder. Frequent breaks were totally necessary to keep my arm in working order. Please also give yourself a break mentally, especially if this is your first plarn project. There’ll be plenty of time to perfect your technique – your best is perfect for now.
4. Find instructions that work for you – I like these from First Baptist New Orleans: straight forward and easy to replicate. To make the plarn, take your pick from the videos on YouTube – just be sure you pick the 2-ply loop rather than the continuous 1-ply strip. Some organizations do offer classes, so check in your area if you learn best in person or want to meet like-minded crocheters.
5. Give it away – if possible, contact a local organization that distributes items to people who are homeless and ask if they accept sleeping mats. If you are unable to find an organization to donate to nearby, a quick google search will help you find the right recipient. Seriously, there are tons and tons of organizations, so please know that wherever you live, there is someone nearby who would love to have your handmade mat.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you will make a mat and if you have any questions about the process. I’d be happy to help any way I can.
Craft Hope is amazing – they have collected and distributed over 100,000 handmade items to folks in need around the world, and I love participating whenever I can. For Project 25, they are collecting various sewn, crocheted, and knitted items for We Are Kenya, which will provide over 200 students with the necessities to thrive in school. The cut-off for projects to be received at the US collection point is Nov. 15, so if you finish something this weekend, you can totally make it. My mom and I made three scarves that we hope will be warm and cuddly for the kiddos that receive them.
Making the orange and white one on the right reminded me of my favorite quick cowl pattern, which is great for the holidays. The pattern is easy and mindless, so it’s perfect for beginners or last minute presents. It’s also not as bulky as other patterns, so it’s a lot more wearable (think bosses, mothers-in-law, teens). Because the pattern is simple, it’s a great option for a variegated or novelty yarn.
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QUICK CROCHET COWL
250-280 yds worsted weight yarn (I used Red Heart Unforgettable because it’s pretty and acrylic, so it’s perfect for us wool allergic crocheters)
ch = chain
dc = double crochet
sl st = slip stitch
sk = skip
Instructions Ch 38 row 1. Dc in 6th ch from hook, (ch 1, sk 1 ch, dc in next ch) 16 times, ch 4, turn. You’ll see 17 “squares” (aka, ch 1 spaces) across the row. row 2. Sk 1, dc in dc, (ch 1, sk 1, dc in dc) 15 times, ch 1, sk 1 ch, dc in next ch, ch 4, turn Repeat row 2 until you have about 1 yard (from your fingertips to the middle of your chest) of yarn left, or until the scarf is as tall as your intended recipient (I’m 5’6″, and this is almost exactly my height. If you’re making this for a kid, you’ll want to stop sooner so it’s not overwhelming). Do not cut yarn. Finishing Holding right sides together and being careful not to twist, match top and bottom ends together. Sl st ends together by inserting hook through corner last dc (on end) and corner chain (from foundation chain), pull up a loop, then pull it through loop on hook. Continue for each ch or dc. After last stitch, fasten off and weave in ends. Turn cowl inside out and wrap it around your neck. Resist urge to keep it for yourself. Bonus Points – replicate woven scarf Instead of joining cowl, lay scarf flat. Thread yarn onto needle, and using a double thickness, weave yarn through first vertical row. Cut yarn, leaving a long tail at top and bottom. Weave using opposite start (if you went over the first row, go under) for next row. Continue until entire scarf is woven. Tie yarn for each row at top and bottom to secure. Trim fringe evenly.
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PSST: I’ll be giving away a pretty blue version of the cowl this Tuesday – follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for all the details Tuesday on how to win. I’ll share the winner in my post Wednesday.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve held something yummy in my hand and said “Just take one little bite. Just lick it. I KNOW you’ll like it!” only to be met with the most incredulous snarl imaginable.
Sometimes I forget: you simply can’t tell kids what to like, even if you’re really, really, really, really sure they would like something…say, the wonderfully awesome craft that is crochet? Even if they don’t become prolific hookers themselves (although wouldn’t that be the freaking best?), there are a few ways to get them to appreciate crochet without being overbearing.
10 Tips to Help Kids Love Crochet
*Also, please be cool with the fact that some of these pics are dark and blurry, even for me. If you’ve ever tried to catch a kid in the act of crafting, you feel my feels. The pretty, focused, well-lit pictures are by Erin Markan of Folks Collected. Thanks, Erin!*
1.Make them something to love
You’ve probably already done this, so cheers! If not, this is your chance to blow their socks off – make them a minecraft blanket to cuddle with while they play the game, crochet their favorite animal in their favorite color to make a mystical new creature, or hook them something with their name on it. I usually stick to tv or video game toys because those get the most “OOOOHHH!”s.
2. Make the ugly thing you don’t want to make
I asked Alexander if I could knit him a hat, and he insisted on it being green and blue stripes. Oh, the very idea was nauseating, but I bought some really soft yarn and went with it. He really loves it and never misses an opportunity to tell someone I made it.
3. Let them read your crochet books
I know your crochet books are holy, but if you have one or two they can peruse (especially if you’re willing to make something they pick), leave them just within reach. Liam still loves this Amigurumi book, but he’s lost interest in my stitch dictionaries (who can blame him).
If you’re not ready to share pattern books, you can pick up a kid’s book with a knit or crochet theme. I have and love Extra Yarn.
4. Involve them in your projects any way you can
Alexander and I just donated a square to Yarnbomber for his new project. I picked the type of yarn I wanted to use ahead of time and shoved it all in a bag before we rode in the back seat together on a trip to NYC. Although Alexander doesn’t crochet yet, I asked him if he would help me by picking the color order so I could do the crochet. I think he felt important without being overwhelmed with involvement (with plenty of time between color picks to play Minecraft).
When Yarnbomber received our donation and posted it online, Alexander’s mom was sure to show him the post and define the word “brochet” for him. He thought it was “cool” that hundreds of people liked our work, and he is relishing his involvement in the “bombsquad.”
I think I’ll have no trouble getting him to help with the next project.
5. Show them something huge and unusual
I know that what you make is amazing (duh), but if you have the opportunity, seek out a chance to show them crochet in a way they never imagined.
Our Knit the Bridge crew brought a ton of happy, crochet- and knit-loving kiddos.
They were also on-hand for our heart-bombing (although they mostly ate the heart-shaped cookies Erin made).
If you haven’t closed the browser window already, let me explain: letting them tear your yarn apart and string it across the house gives them permission to love yarn. I use an old set of lockers to store my stash: I put the most-loved yarn high and the crappy acrylic down low. I bet you can guess what they go for…
Bonus if you let them play with your projects (these are coozies for the Warsaw Bar yarnbomb – they make great mittens).
The easiest thing in the world. No prepared speech needed here, just tell them what you’re making, who it’s for, and why you think they’ll like it. Let them know it’s not a mindless task but a way for you to share your talent with someone who will love it. (M&Ms optional)
8. Ask them for their input
These are the cutest critics you’ll ever have. I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve given me very sweet feedback or seen a problem I didn’t (which, I know, is hard to take).
Prepare yourself for less-than-positive reactions.
9. Put a hook in their hand
Let them pick the giant pink, bubbly Q hook and try to make a stitch. Let them turn your golden Js into light sabers. Let them spill all the hooks on the floor and put them, one by one, back in the container.
I try to elevate my hooks one step above toy, one step below tool. They’re free to play with them, but they’ve got to be picked up, put away, and kept out of that spaghetti, please.
10. Let them walk away
Occasionally the boys will ask to help me, or to make their own design, or to learn how to crochet/do yarning. I hold their hands, I go through the motions, and I patiently allow them to quit and walk away a few minutes later. They’re not ready to crochet yet, I know, and I try not to let my impatience show. I know that some day they’ll be great crocheters…or should I say…brocheters.
Do you have any tips & tricks for getting kids to love crochet or other crafts? Share them in the comments!