Hooking for Good – Happy Giveaway Day!

Moon Star Adri earrings

Thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s giveaway, which featured these beautiful earrings by Moon Star Adri. I asked y’all to share with me something great about a friend of yours, and you guys were so kind!  Thank you for sharing these messages not only with me, but with someone you care about!

Moon Star Adri earrings

Many thanks to Adri, who designed these earrings specifically for this giveaway!  I’m happy to say that the winner of this exclusive design is:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52Cth3N8cUs]
Congratulations, Sarah!  I know you’ll look beautiful wearing them!

Babes picks a winner

What’s on my hook?  I’m finishing up a blanket tutorial for Friday, and I’ll share information on where you should be donating a blanket this season. Until then, if you’re looking for a way to help your community, consider donating to a local food bank.  Crafty or not, it’s an easy thing to do that makes a big difference.

I’m logging everything from Hooking for Good on the aptly named page – so drop in there to see what we’ve made so far.

Back to hooking – see you Friday!

Bye,
Jenny Brown

Hooking for Good – Crochet Plastic Mat

plarn up close2 - hijennybrown.com

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.

plarn up close - hijennybrown.com

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.

plastic crochet mat - trial - hijennybrown.com

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.

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finished crochet plastic mat - hijennybrown.com

TIPS FOR MAKING A PLASTIC CROCHET MAT

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.

crochet plastic mat plarn explosion - hijennybrown.com

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.

 teaching william to crochet - hijennybrown

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.

Bye,
Jenny Brown

P.S. – did you think I forgot about the giveaway?  No, ma’am!  The randomly selected winner of our first “Hooking for Good” giveaway is Kelly K. (who happens to be behind the awesome shop “Our Secret Treehouse“)  Congratulations! Just email hijennybrown[at]gmail.com to claim your prize. Congrats, Kelly!If you didn’t win, you can always make your own, or check Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Tuesday to win the next prize. It’s a pretty cool one…

Hooking for Good – Quick Crochet Cowl

Hi, Jenny Brown - start sl st join for Quick Crochet Cowl

squarecowl

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. Hi, Jenny Brown - scarves for craft hope

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

Quick Crochet Cowl - Hi, Jenny BrownSupplies

  • 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) Hi, Jenny Brown - Red Heart Boutique for Quick Crochet Cowl
  • Needle
  • Scissors
  • “I” hook

Abbreviations

  • ch = chain
  • dc = double crochet
  • sl st = slip stitch
  • sk = skip

Instructions Ch 38 Hi, Jenny Brown - Red Heart Boutique for Quick Crochet Cowl 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. Hi, Jenny Brown - turn Quick Crochet Cowl Hi, Jenny Brown - first row for Quick Crochet Cowl 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 Hi, Jenny Brown - second row for Quick Crochet Cowl Hi, Jenny Brown - second row turn for Quick Crochet Cowl 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. Hi, Jenny Brown - ready to join for Quick Crochet Cowl 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. Hi, Jenny Brown - start sl st join for Quick Crochet Cowl   Hi, Jenny Brown - how to sl st join for Quick Crochet Cowl Continue for each ch or dc.  After last stitch, fasten off and weave in ends. Hi, Jenny Brown - final sl st join for Quick Crochet CowlTurn 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. Hi, Jenny Brown - woven crochet scarfWeave 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. Hi, Jenny Brown - scarves for craft hope

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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.

Bye, Jenny Brown

Hooking for Good!

Hi - hijennybrown

There’s something about the holidays that makes me feel super creative and motivated to make.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m mainlining peppermint mochas, candy canes, and peppermint bark (have I mentioned peppermint is my favorite?).   I don’t make holiday presents (anyone who has seen a disappointed sister-in-law open a handmade scarf is feeling me here), so I need somewhere to funnel all that creative energy.  That’s where I came up with the idea of “Hooking for Good” –   a chance to use my hook and creativity to give back a little from now until December 31. So how will we celebrate Hooking for Good?

  • Monetary Donations: I will donate $1 for every item I sell on Etsy, Ravelry, and Craftsy to Action Against Hunger, an organization that provides nutrition assistance, clean water, and emergency services around the world.
  • Handmade Donations: I love donating handmade items, so I’ll finish one a week and  share all the details so you can try it, too.
  • Freebies, Project Ideas, Discounts, and Giveaways: You’ve been good all year and deserve a little something! I’ll be giving away a handmade item or pattern each week through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the HiJB email list, so please follow me to get the goods.  I’ll also email a holiday discount to everyone on my list.hooking for good - hijbThat’s a lot of goodness to fit in, so I’ll be posting more often than usual through the end of the year.  I’m so excited that we’ll get to chat more often!  Please come on back Friday for info on one of my favorite charitable craft organizations, instructions for an uber easy gift idea, and details on how to win something straight off my hook (I told you we would have a lot to talk about). Bye, Jenny Brown PS – throughout the season, please share your own projects and ideas (crochet or not) – just link them below or use the hashtag #hookingforgood

Crochet a Photo Prop, Help a Kid, and Prove Your Middle School Art Teacher Wrong

I recently listened to an episode of “After the Jump” where Grace talked about the positive side of jealousy – how it can be a force to show you what you want and who you want to be like.  It’s in that light I say: I am jealous of my far-away friend, and fellow FH alum, Megan.  Gosh, she juggles volunteering, family, and work like it ain’t no thing and still has time to be a gentle scold of the super complainy, negative facebook set (e.g.: me).  How she has time for it all, I’ll never know (I just spent an hour & a half rearranging my Pinterest boards), but when she said she needed volunteers for her latest project, I of course raised my hand.

hijennybrown creative crochet frame photo prop

Her idea was inspired by the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles and a mentoring project she did last year with a group of girls from different backgrounds.  As Megan told us: “I asked them to write on a piece of paper a positive word that defined them. Surprisingly, many of them struggled to do so, and it took a lot of talking and working with them to find words they were comfortable saying about themselves. Sadly they were more quickly able to point out their weaknesses than their strengths, and what I learned in talking to many is that they are afraid to say positive, strong statements about themselves. They don’t seem to have a voice.”

yelling creative photo prop frame crochet hijennybrown

The plan: get a group of grown-ups to each write a positive word that describes them on a piece of paper, take a selfie with it, and then Megan would incorporate them all into a video that she would show to the girls she mentors.  Cool idea, and one I thought could have benefitted middle-school Jenny Brown, who, after another “D” in Art class, lost all confidence in her creativity.  What a series of (I’m sure well-meaning) Art teachers took as “laziness,” and “sloppiness” was actually a lack of self-confidence and know-how.  I still struggle with presenting something creative without apologizing for it first.

hijennybrown photo prop creative bench crochet

And so I wasn’t surprised when some of the women who volunteered for this project also had a difficult time finding a positive descriptor.  Something that really helped me was Jennifer Lee’s “Right-Brain Business Plan” class, where she gave a simple solution: take a poll.  Just ask friends/ family/customers/whoever to describe you in three words.  You don’t have to limit them to positive words, but I guarantee you’ll get some because you’re awesome.  Duh.  My beautiful, intelligent, hilarious sister gave me “creative.”  That was a year ago, but I knew it was the right word for this project.  Oh, and I knew it had to be crocheted.

7-29-2014 Hi Jenny Brown, Creative32

FRAMED CROCHET PHOTO PROP

Supplies:

  • yarn (I used worsted-weight cotton, but you can use anything from bulky yarn to crochet thread to get larger or smaller letters)
  • crochet letter pattern (might I suggest mine?)
  • crochet hook (The size will depend on your yarn, but I used my 2nd favorite hook – yes, there’s a hierarchy – my 4.0 Addi Turbo)
  • small, sharp scissors
  • yarn needle
  • washi or masking tape (optional)
  • photo frame (The size will depend on your yarn & word)
  • double-stick or single-stick tape (I used a combo because I ran out of double-stick, which is way easier to use)
  • backing paper, fabric, or photo to fit your frame (I turned over the dummy photo already in the frame)

Putting it all together:

1. Crochet your letters, then weave in the ends with your yarn needle. Clip any stray strings.

2. If you want to be sure your word is super straight (obviously not a concern of mine), add a guide line to the back of the glass/plastic with washi or masking tape.

3. Add tape to the back of each letter.  Place letters on front of glass: I always place the first letter first, then the last letter second, and so on, to get the spacing as even as possible. Check the front of the letters to see if any tape is showing and clip any excess.  As you can see from this side shot, there is a little curling and a few visible tape doughnuts.  However, the front-on shots show neither of these.  The lesson: be generous with the tape, but don’t drive yourself insane.
tape crochet frame photo prop diy

4. Remove tape from back of glass/plastic and clean if necessary.  Insert glass/plastic, background, and backing.

5. Smile and say “Cheese!”

Even if you don’t crochet, please don’t let that stop you from writing (or stitching, or knitting, or drawing, or whatevering) a positive word for yourself.  I’d love for you to share it with me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter, or in the comments below.  I promise not to be *too* jealous.

Bye,
Jenny Brown

7-29-2014 Hi Jenny Brown, Creative76

*P.S. for the sticklers out there, these aren’t technically “selfies.” My frame was too big or my arm was too short, depending on your outlook.  My amazing, talented, (also) hilarious friend, Erin, took them for me.  Thanks, Erin!