If you’ve ever taken a small child to yoga, you’ve probably heard the sing-a-long mantra song “I am Happy.” The Babes, who has the lyrical talent of a young Weird Al Yankovic, has changed the lyrics from “I am happy / I am good” to “I am sweaty / I am good.” It really fits this time of year – even munching some kettle corn at the farmer’s market has the boy perspiring.
But sweaty or not, Erin was on a mission to find some models for my newest charity crochet donations. Luckily we found a few who were the perfect size for these teeny hats (and later became a pretty tasty burrito). Thanks for the great photos, Erin!
And yes, fueled by the power of kettle corn, sweaty Babes did some modeling, too.
The knitted hats were sent to the maternity wing where the twins were born. They were both given handmade hats when they were born because they were preemies, and I was so touched by the gesture. Thank you, stranger, who made that day a little sweeter.
Sydney, who is 16, is collecting hats for kids who are hospitalized as part of earning her Girl Scout Gold Award. She also donates 5 hats for every item sold in her Etsy shop.
I used a couple different patterns for these 10 hats, but you can get all the details to make your own in my Ravelry profile. I recommend them all – they were really easy to follow and made such pretty hats!
For more information on items I’ve donated and ideas for projects you can try, check out the new Charity Crochet page.
PS – Before you ask, I double washed all the hats after we took them off these dirty, dirty vegetables. We also washed the vegetables and ate them.
PPS – Yes, I know a post including yoga and the farmers’ market is very pretentious. What did you expect for a tiny commune?
I consider myself lucky to have the time and yarn to contribute to amazing yarn installations, charity events, and awareness campaigns across the country. If you’re like me, you totally idolize the folks with enough organization and know-how to put these events together.
But I have a secret – you can do it, too, and you don’t need a ton of money or a huge network of friends or even an original idea. All you need are these 10 tips based on the experiences of real event organizer and all-around inspiring folks. But don’t take my word for it…
1:IDENTIFY A NEED (OR JUST A WANT)
If no ideas come immediately to mind, scroll through your Facebook feed, roam down Main Street, or talk to friends about the needs of your community (and yes, beautification and public art are needs). Think about your specific talents and how that could help people in your community – just passing along the knowledge you have is enough.
Still haven’t come up with something? Right now I’m going through New Tech City’s Bored and Beautiful Project, which features 5 challenges in small audio snippets to help you put down your phone and turn on your boredom, and eventually, your great ideas.
2: SHARE YOUR IDEA
You’ve got an idea, but you’re not completely sure how to implement it. And deep down, there’s some nagging part of you that worries it’s not even a good idea. That’s OK – share it anyway!
You may have seen yarnbombers attaching scarves to statues and trees as a gift to those who are cold or homeless. Sarah Wirth (an old high school buddy – Hi, Sarah!) shared one such picture on Frederick’s Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership Facebook feed, which caught the eye of SHIP’s founder, Ed Hinde, and Val Dale, who offered to start a Facebook event page. The freezing temperatures in January encouraged them to act quickly, so they encouraged folks to collect new and gently used scarves, hats, gloves, and jackets to be distributed the next week. Val worried that the event might not have enough time to go viral with such a tight timeline: “I expected 40 to 50 to attend, with maybe a couple hundred invites. Instead, it truly caught on fire…I think the idea just really resonated with folks. It was something they could do that would make a first-hand impact. It was visual in its symbolism. There has been a lot of focus on poverty and homelessness in our community. It gave folks something tangible they could do together.”
It was so successful, in fact, that organizers started to worry there would be too many people and donations. Luckily, the Rescue Mission offered a truck to collect more donations, participants identified additional locations for leaving donations in advance, and a local police officer monitored traffic.
3: DON’T WAIT FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT
It sounds cliché, but no one has your same unique mix of experience, talent, and connections. As Stacey Monique would tell you: Why Not You?’
If you need more convincing, Emily’s Hats for Hope Initiative, which has distributed over 15,000 hats to people who needed them, was started by a then 17-year-old. I think you can do it.
4: GET OVER YOURSELF AND ASK
There might be a little part of you that thinks you’re not cool or popular enough to pull this off, but friendo, this ain’t high school. The only difference between you and the fancy event organizers you see on the news is that they actually asked for help. That, and they have way more expensive nail polish.
I’ve contributed to a few yarnbombing projects lately that I learned about on Instagram, of all places. They make it easy by spelling out specifically what they want, where it should be sent, and how it will be used. I think Yarnbomber is probably the best example of this: he announces his projects using one of his many beautiful scenic photos, gives a firm deadline, and let’s people be creative. He also lets folks know that their items may not be used at all, which helps manage everyone’s expectations while also adding an exciting air of mystery. When I saw my square in his latest installation, I was ecstatic!.
It also doesn’t have to be a “thing.” Ask a fellow blogger to share your event. Ask your English snob buddy to read over your invitation. Ask your local craft store to put event fliers in every bag. The worst they can say is no.
If you’re still a little scared to ask, practice on me. I promise to say yes.
5. GIVE PEOPLE MULTIPLE WAYS TO HELP
The most successful events allow people to contribute in a way that’s easiest or most rewarding for them. For the A Garden in Winter event, people could contribute by buying new warm weather accessories, donating gently used items, or making their own (which is of course what I did). Folks could also come to the kick-off event and tie donated items, or they could just offer support on the event page.
With Knit the Bridge, the largest yarn bomb in the world, You could make a piece or a full panel, you could sew panels on during the installation, you could zip tie machine-knit panels to snow fencing, help direct a crane, donate cash, buy t-shirts, or help tear the thing apart. Really, there were no bad options (and Craft Husband and I did quite a few).
6. RECOGNIZE YOUR VOLUNTEERS
This is your chance to be the mushy, enthusiastic person that usually only comes out when you catch “The Princess Bride” on cable (still at the Wesley part? Awesome!). Whenever you can, post about donations coming in, or include stories about the folks you intend to serve on any social media stream available to you. I was so excited to see the picture NaomiRAG posted when she received my crochet crocuses for her upcoming installation (I am so looking forward about that one!) And don’t forget to check volunteers’ feeds and like the heck out of their posts (not just the ones about you).
Don’t forget to tell them thank you in person, and don’t worry about throwing in a few extra exclamation points here and there! Also drop the names of any government officials, organizations, or businesses that helped you into press releases, blog posts, or tweets. Don’t be spammy, but it’s OK to be sincerely grateful.
7. BE SENSITIVE
Some projects, like A Garden in Winter, may require a little more forethought and sensitivity on your part. Sometimes folks get so wrapped up in the “good” they’re doing that they forget about the end recipient. Leading up to the event, the A Garden in Winter organizers posted in their Facebook group that participants should treat what some would call encampments as the “homes and neighborhoods” of residents who are homeless. As Val said, “Homelessness is a condition, not a person.”
Contact organizations who also help the people you are planning your project for, and ask them about the language they would use. They might also be able to review invitations or press releases for you or help identify how best to help a variety of populations.
8. FIGHT THE URGE TO SAY IT’S NOT ENOUGH
No one’s saying you have to solve all the world’s problems with your first event. When the Young Preservationists decided to decorate abandoned or at risk historic building in downtown Wheeling, my group jumped at the chance to decorate a beautiful Victorian building. The event and decorations caught the eye of Glenn Elliott, who had recently moved back to Wheeling and couldn’t resist the vacant building. A couple hearts downtown didn’t save an entire town, but it did save one building and helped a man move from advocate to owner. (Why is this not a romantic comedy yet? Lifetime Channel, are you listening?)
Oh gosh, I miss these guys. We were so glad the Professional Building had a new owner that we went back a year later to give her a little more love.
Knitteapolis recently got permission to yarnbomb the Mall of America sign in red panels & hearts for Wear Red Day with the goal of raising awareness about heart disease in women. The final result was so pretty, MoA allowed it to stay up longer and pictures and videos of the event were EVERYWHERE I looked that day.
I’ve seen people afraid to volunteer to organize or participate in events because they’re not “doing enough.” As Val said, even events that have a direct benefit, like providing warm clothing or food, can have a bigger effect: “I think whenever we engage the community, it raises awareness. News coverage, which there was, reaches an even broader audience. You want the word out in as many venues as possible. While the news covered it after the event happened, I do think that people who saw it would then consider the topic and what they might do to be involved in the issue. It would be my hope that it will increase participation.”
9. PLAN THE NEXT STEP
Once your successful campaign or project is over, you’re going to be on the highest high…and you want to capitalize on that before you lose momentum.
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!
Week 4 Giveaway – Armwarmers by Ann Espo of OpportuKnits won by Melissa W. Congrats, Melissa!
Week 3 Giveaway – A Step Back in Time digital package by artist and podcaster Heather Saulsbury won by Carina. Congrats, Carina!
Week 2 Giveaway – Earrings by Adri of Moon Star Adri won by Sarah W. Congrats, Sarah!
Week 1 Giveaway – Crochet Cowl by Hi, Jenny Brown (that’s me!) won by Kelly K. Congrats, Kelly!
Monetary Donations: I promised to donate $1 for every item I sold on Etsy, Ravelry, and Craftsy to Action Against Hunger, an organization that provides nutrition assistance, clean water, and emergency services around the world. I’ve already sent $51 and will make another payment on Dec. 31. Thank you to everyone who made this contribution possible!
This project has been absolutely amazing for me, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to make and donate all these things! Thank you again to everyone who donated something for our giveaways; to my favorite award-winning photographer Erin Markan for helping with logistics, photos, and ideas; to Craft Husband who donated the postage and hours in the Post Office line to send out prizes and donations, and to all of you who commented, made items, or shared a kind word. I really appreciate you all!
Oh my goodness! I don’t know whether to jump for joy or fall into a puddle of tears…but this is the last donation for this season’s “Hooking for Good.”
I should admit I’m a little addicted to ripple patterns. I snuggle every night under a ripple my mom made me long ago, and it’s my fall-back when I need to crochet a blanket fast (or in the case of this thin-worsted, very slowly). It’s not just that zig-zag pattern or the fun math that makes each row rise and fall. I think it’s also the word “ripple”: not only fun to say, but a wonderful idea of making a small action that can result in far-reaching waves. You know, like donating something you made for some who needs it.
This blanket is going to Binky Patrol – an organization that distributes blankets to children “born HIV+, drug-addicted, infected with AIDS or other chronic & terminal illnesses, those who are abused, in foster care or experiencing trauma of any kind.” For those who aren’t crafters, they offer an easy no-sew blanket tutorial on their home page. I also love their idea of getting a group of friends together to help each other make blankets. If you live near Northern New Jersey or NYC and want to do this, please comment and we will make it happen!
If you’d like to crochet or knit a blanket for another organization, you can find a great list of charities that will distribute them in this post by Starting Chain or this one by Crochet Concupiscence.
I should also say sorry to Mr. A and the Babes. Both of them really bonded with this blanket, and I loved that they would snuggle under it as I worked each row. They’ve both been very understanding about the fact that I’ve been donating almost everything I’ve made in the past few months, but they weren’t excited about letting this one go. Both asked for me to give him the blanket, but A specifically asked that I make another with the same yarn (Heartland by Lion Brand, if you also have a yarn-snob 5-year-old at home & are allergic to wool). Maybe this thing isn’t over after all.
I’ve been scrambling a bit to finish my last project for Hooking for Good – due partially to the holidays, partially some wonderful out of town visiting with the in-laws, and partially to my never-ending to-do list. Just thinking about it is giving me anxiety.
Luckily, these late nights are a little easier after checking the ol’ mailbox. It’s been full of some pretty heartwarming Hooking for Good happiness. If you’re looking for an excuse to start donating your handmade items, I can say the mail makes it totally worthwhile.
First, I got a letter from Youth Services in Wheeling, which is the current home of the plastic mat I made. I was so touched that they took the time to write me a letter, including the story of one of the residents and a picture of the mat in action (it will be given away when the shelter closes for the season in March).
I also got a postcard from We Are Kenya – I love that they used the word “cozy” to describe the scarves my mom and I made. So sweet!
I don’t know if this is normal, but there is never a point in my life where my brain is on mute. There is always a song on in the background, and during the holidays it’s either “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (which I totally nail), “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” (Bowie 4 Life), or “Happy Xmas.” But this holiday my head keeps buzzing with “Three Little Kittens, they lost their mittens…” over and over and over. I stupidly clicked on a YouTube video of it for Mr. Babes (a desperate attempt to get out of “The Wheels on the Bus” purgatory), and now the poor boy is addicted. And I really want some pie.
So when it came to deciding what I’d donate this week, the answer was easy – MITTENS! This pair is going to Mittens for Detroit, which distributes handmade gloves and mittens to those in need. If you’re not a crafter, they also accept monetary donations to buy gloves. I used Red Heart’s Mittens for All Pattern and leftover Cotton-Ease. I’m still working on my knitting skills, so please don’t judge too harshly, OK? I think we’ll be back to crocheting next week…
My goodness, those hands are wiggly. Let’s zoom out a bit on that one:
Oy, they sure were excited to wear these mittens. They totally deserve some pie.
I usually let the kiddos pick the name out of a bowl or I use a random number generator, but this week I let Craft Husband pick the number. It just happened to be another former Marine! (Think it’s a coincidence, or should I start investigating CH?) Congratulations, Auntie B! Please send me your email address so I can forward your prize. (Psst – If you didn’t win, keep reading!)
P.P.S.: I’m heading to Oklahoma this week to visit my in-laws before the holidays, so there’ll be no post Friday. I really want to go light on the packing, so I’d like to offer you a little something to keep me from schlepping the last few postcard packs across the country. Today only – use the coupon code “OKLAHOMA” to get FREE SHIPPING on your postcard purchase. They’ll go out first thing Thursday before I jump onto that plane. Thanks in advance for helping me zip that overstuffed suitcase shut!
It’s time for a confession…I’ve been cheating on my crochet – with knitting!
I know, right? I really don’t understand why knitters and crocheters are the craft version of the Hatfields and the McCoys, but somehow I feel like I have to apologize for picking up needles. Personally, I blame dumb TV shows and commercials where folks are making granny square with knitting needles (held like weapons, of course) and ribbed sweaters with crochet hooks (although that can be done, but not the way they’re doing it). It gets us all riled up and we take it out on our poor fellow crafters. So yes, like everyone else in the US, I blame all my problems on the media.
Crochet is still my first love, but when it comes to hats, especially for little boys, I just gotta knit. There’s really nothing cuter, and poor little Babes was hatless. I made his brother a green and blue knit hat a while back (he picked the colors, folks, not me)
So I made Babes one with the leftover yarn (yep, I still had the yarn). He’s very into “matching” right now, so the timing is perfect.
BTW – Babes has been secretly working on his “Ravelry face”: the chin-down-look-away. Some day you’ll see him on Sad Etsy Boyfriends, and you’ll know he started here first.
In case you’re looking at that ribbing and wondering: “Does Jenny Brown think she’s good at knitting?” No, no I don’t. I haven’t put in enough hours to consider myself anything more than a beginner, but I’m OK with that. That’s why I started the ribbing of hat number two, which I will be donating, in super dark grey – see any mistakes? Nope, me neither.
I’d like to admit 1. I had to pay him a quarter to model this hat and 2. This hat fits me. Actually, so does Babes’ hat. These kids just have big, cute heads.
I improvised the design with some leftover Cotton-Ease. The hat is off to Emily’s Hats for Hope, which was started in my new home, NJ, by a 17 year old. Since 2011, they’ve donated over 15,000 hats to people who are homeless or are living in low-income communities. They also mentor groups in the US and beyond, so check out their list for a group near you.
I made a crochet hat to donate as well, but I asked Erin which buttons to use…
And then to try it on…
And now I can mark her off my Christmas list. I mean, really, it’s just too cute on her. I promise to make another one to donate soon. The pattern is the Women’s Peaked Cap by Yarnspirations, and it works up super fast once you get the front-posts down.
Want to donate hats to charity? Here are a few tips:
Use a yarn that feels super soft – imagine how cozy and comforted your recipient will feel the first time they slip on your hat. Also, double-check the charity’s website before using animal fibers. (Some organizations do not accept certain fibers that may be itchy or require special laundering. Also, label any items with animal fibers so they will not be given to someone – ahem – with an allergy.)
Be careful when choosing a pattern – most organizations have specific guidelines about the types of hats they will accept. Some organizations prefer really dense, warm hats. Others, especially those for cancer patients who may be wearing hats indoors, prefer light-weight, patterned hats. The good news is that most sites have their own suggested patterns, so it’s a great chance to try something new.
Think about teens, men, and older women – everyone loves to crochet a teeny, fuchsia baby hat: definitely make one of those. Then, make a plainer, larger hat that someone older and less flashy will love to wear. And don’t forget about those big-headed kids!
A few organizations that accept knit and crochet hats (or google your own):
Emily’s Hats for Hope – accepting hats for people who are homeless or are living in low-income communities
Your Local Women’s Shelter – many shelters accept donated hats for the women and children they serve. Use womenshelters.org to locate an organization near you, then email them or check their website to find out if they accept donations.
Now get your hooks and needles out and live every week like it’s hat week.
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!
I wonder if you’re thinking to yourself right now “Hey, Jenny Brown! You said we would have a blanket tutorial Friday! Where is it? It’s already Saturday!”
Hey, friend – I’m sorry. I totally expected to have it done, but I should have known better. I frogged it completely Tuesday due to some tension issues and started from scratch. On Wednesday, I was nothing short of confident. Thursday, not so much. At 1 a.m Friday, I posted this photo on Instagram…
By 4 a.m., it was all over. I got through the last ball of yarn and laid it out flat. (sorry there’s no picture – I just can’t even). It wasn’t as wide as I had hoped, a problem I realized was due to some skipped stitches at the first color change. Fun fact – that also caused the first wide stripe to ripple madly like ribbon candy. The color changes were also a little more dramatic than I expected, so my original idea of using scraps of white/off-white/pink/fuchsia/red/orange/yellow was a little less awesome than I had anticipated. Yeah! All that hard work and late nights, and I was going to have to frog this blanket also.
Defeated and in need of a little cheer, I went to New York City last night. I saw info about a knit/crochet meet-up at a Manhattan bar, and I thought that would be just the thing to pull me out of my self-pity party. And it would have been, if anyone had been there.
Walking back to Penn Station through the frozen night, I passed folks bragging about their salary being “on point” and others trying to stay warm under thick piles of felt blankets. I had one of those precious holiday-movie moments: crying into my burrito outside the Empire State Building (was that “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Die Hard”?) I’m going to start next week with a renewed attitude and a better focus on what’s important – promise.
Oh, and Erin thought of the perfect home for my not-quite-perfect blanket: our local animal shelter. She reminded me that dogs are slightly less judgmental than humans about these sorts of things (although cats are much worse). She has a bag of food her cat has refused to consume, so we’re donating that as well.
If you’d like to donate to your local animal shelter, here are some tips:
Make a blanket: Snuggles Project and Comfort for Critters collects knit, crochet, and sewn blankets for animal shelters, and their sites include patterns for making your own blanket.
Have items shipped directly: Many shelters accept donations of food, litter, and cleaning supplies, but you might not have the time to drive your donations there. Amazon Pantry has an entire section of pet supplies, which allows you to pick out items and have them shipped directly to the shelter. I got this idea from Erin, who used Pantry to send coffee, tea, and sugar to the Wheeling Freeze Shelter (which provides a warm place for folks to stay during the coldest time of year).
Share your time: This Humane Society article outlines the benefits of volunteering at your local shelter and ends with how to find the best volunteer opportunity for you.
P.S. Don’t forget that we have another giveaway this Tuesday on Facebook and Instagram!