There are yarnbombers who make pretty pieces, those who make political pieces, and those that make just plain crazy pieces… but me – I like mine cheesy.
The idea for this cheesy yarnbomb started with a ball of light orange yarn that wasn’t quite right for my project. For some reason it reminded me of cheese, and I whipped two squares up right away.
I made the granny square background with leftover fringe from my big crochet fail (which meant I had an end to weave every couple inches). Then I used my number and letter patterns to create the word “Craft” and the “100% real cheesy” signs. Last I crocheted over wire to make the “couples” cursive (that’s a technique that still needs some work, eh?).
My favorite project consultant suggested adding eyes to the cheeses, which I think makes them look so sweet in love. Originally I planned to melt pieces of plastic together to make custom wrappers, but then Erin reminded me that sandwich bags existed, and luckily, the cheese was a perfect fit. I was fretting about how to sew them to the background, but I tried Super Fabric Glue“, and it held perfectly.
By this point I had fallen in love with this cheesy yarnbomb – and I was trying to think of any excuse to keep it forever. But I knew that wasn’t right. My knitting group friend KG suggested a local park, so Craft Husband and I checked it out.
The park looked beautiful with autumn leaves falling slowly from the branches and crunching underfoot. We followed the pedestrian bridge across the highway and back before I decided on this landing for the piece. I love the idea of someone seeing it from the bottom of the ramp and running up to see what it is.
PS – If you’re hungry for more punny yarnbombs, let me know in the comments below.
Lately, our once little William has been insisting that he is a grown up. He drinks “coffee” (water in a coffee cup). He plays video games (or at least yells at the controller). He even works from home (by doing little chores). And although his “grown-up” life is totally full, there’s nothing he’d rather do than ride that big yellow school bus with the rest of the kiddos and go to class (but only if it’s OK for mommy to sit right beside him).
Last October, I signed up for a class with Kim Werker, Betsy Greer, and Leanne Prain in Brooklyn (where I serendipitously met internet friend Kelly of Our Secret Treehouse). Afterward I tried to make non-awkward small talk with my craft heroes, and Leanne mentioned that a great way to get kids involved in yarnbombing is to let them make pom-poms. I tucked that in the back of my mind for just the right project.
Fast forward to this spring: I was hanging with the folks of Metuchen Yarnbombing, coming up with ideas for a yarnbomb booth at the town’s upcoming art festival, when I blurted out “pom-poms!” When our first plan was denied due to the possibility of irreparable damage to foliage (???), Jen bought the perfect kid-sized fence to cover in yarny cuteness. On Friday night, our crew gathered at the appropriate street corner and looked over the sample pom-poms we each made. It had been sticky and hot all day, there weren’t many folks walking around, and I figured we were in for an evening of sitting around winding yarn. I remember asking a group of teenagers if they wanted to try making a pom-pom… And then, the droves… For the next 3 hours, I repeated the key phrases “Don’t wrap too tight or your fingers will fall off,” “Are you safe with scissors?” and “It’s OK if you cut me, but let’s be careful so we don’t hurt anyone else” again and again. I’m not afraid to put scissors or needles or pins into the hands of newbie crafters, but there was such a crowd, and it was getting darker by the minute. Luckily, we made it through the entire night without a single injury. (There was also the added danger of pom-pom projectiles, as some genius told the kids that the only way to get a pom-pom to fluff up was the throw it in the air. I even told the super shy kids that the higher they threw it, the fluffier it would be. I can’t get enough of kids making that face that just says “Really?”) I wish I could show you a picture of the fence completely covered in poms, but truthfully, we let most of the kids walk away with their new little buddies. How could I judge someone for falling in love with their first little yarn creation? I was completely exhausted by the time we left, but as I told CH on the way home, “I wish I could do this every day.” So if you need a crazy lady to come tell your kids “If you keep wrapping the yarn so tight, your fingers will fall off,” give me a call. Otherwise, you can make your own pom-poms with kids with just their hands or even a fork at home.
I’ve been working hard on a secret yarn-bomb project that involves a lot of different yarns and techniques (that will hopefully all come together in a beautifully cohesive display, right?), and one of my favorite is double strand crochet.
Double strand crochet is the same as regular crochet, but you’ll be holding two strands straight in your non-dominant hand instead of just one. As you work each stitch, be sure you have equal tension on both strands and are pulling both strands through each loop. The technique is simple, but it may take some time to perfect the tension and check for mistakes.
Common mistakes people make with Double Strand Crochet
Tangling Yarn – Keeping one ball on each side of you, like this cutie, will reduce the opportunities for knots and tangles
Using a hook that’s too small – Working with a hook that isn’t big enough will crush your yarn and really put a stain on your hooking hand. Try a couple different hook sizes to find the perfect look.
Dropping one strand – When you drop a strand for part of a stitch, you’ll be tempted to continue the stitch with both strands and pretend this little incident never happened. Don’t do it! You’ll totally see that wonky weak part every time you look at your piece.
Not keeping even tension – If you have one strand looser than the other, you’ll get bumpy loops all over the place. Not cute.
Forgetting to Rest – The increased thickness of the yarn will make hands tired, so be nice and give yourself a break here and there.
Benefits of Double Strand Crochet
Create a stronger fabric– double strand crochet is perfect for items that need a little extra body, including baskets, potholders, or cozies (like the one I made for my Kitchen Aid mixer, because why not?)
Add extra color and dimension– When Erin and I got up close and personal with NaomiRAG’s work, we realized she used double strand crochet to give her pieces more color and depth. It’s the perfect alternative to tapestry crochet, and I’m sure you’ll agree the end result is totally amazing.
Make novelty yarns easier to handle – Novelty yarns catch a lot of flack, but there are times when nothing else will do… like, say, when you need to make a giant muppet-esque orange circle. It is really difficult to see previous stitches in the funkiest novelty yarns, so adding a plain yarn (in a similar color if you don’t want it to show) will allow you to count your stitches easily and place those increases in the perfect place.
Calm a crazy yarn – If you’ve got a loud, variegated yarn in your stash that you totally hate, try double-stranding with a coordinating or neutral yarn. You’ll calm that ugly right down.
Why you should really, really, really make a swatch first
You might not know how two yarns will work with each other, so it’s best to do a quick swatch to see how they’ll interact and if you like the effect. Also, this is a great time to try different hook sizes to find out which will look best. If you’re using a novelty yarn, you may also want to vary your stitches – taller stitches look much better with fun fur because it gives the yarn more room to puff out.
But the main reason you should really, really, really make a swatch first is that double strand crochet is a total pain to frog. With double strand crochet, the two yarns will pull out side-by-side, and you’ll have a heck of a time getting them neatly and knotlessly separated. (If you have a Craft Husband handy, you can ask him to pull one strand while you pull the other and each roll the yarn back into a ball.)
How to double strand using crochet couching
Some yarns look great with regular double stranding, but if you’re using a novelty yarn with special bits and bobs (like this puff ball yarn), then you’ll want to try this technique. (Please keep in mind – I think I made up this term. If you know the real name, please let me know – but I thought it was similar to it’s embroidery cousin, and I’ve been watching a lot of British Sewing Bee lately.)
Complete the chain and first row of your piece with the main yarn as you normally would
Hold the novelty and main yarn in your non-dominant hand as you would for regular double strand crochet
Begin next row by crocheting main yarn over novelty yarn (like when you’re doing tapestry crochet) until you get to a puff ball
Push puff ball to right side of piece (this will happen naturally when you’re working on the right side)
Chain 1, skip 1, and sc in the next sc to secure puff ball
Pull novelty yarn slightly to ensure there are no loose loops
Repeat to end
In next row, continue in the same way, single crocheting in ch spaces when necessary
Double Strand Alternative – Surface Crochet
If you’re having trouble holding two strands at once but still want to have a multi-strand effect, try surface crochet.
Keep yarn at back of piece. Push hook down through first space.
Pull up loop and pull yarn gently to tighten loop on hook, if necessary.
Continue by inserting hook into next space, pulling up loop, and pulling yarn gently to tighten loop on hook, if necessary.
You can crochet into the surface crochet stitches as you would any chain to add height.
If you have any questions about double strand crochet, leave them in the comments below or come talk to me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Last night I showed Stretch an instagram from a popular crocheter and speculated that she was now single. “Do you think she needs a Craft Husband?” he asked.
Before I could retort, our friend (who claims to read this blog – hi, Liar!) said: “What’s a Craft Husband?”
What what? A Craft Husband (Wife / Boyfriend / Girlfriend / Friendo ) is your crafty partner in crime who is required to love you even if you do leave pins on the floor and tiny yarn snips in every crevice. So basically, the best person ever.
A Craft Husband has just enough craft knowledge to be dangerous
Craft Husband can tell the difference between knitting and crochet, the instances when you should use Red Heart, and the identity of quite a few yarn blogs and bloggers (although after last night’s incident, I may ask him to spend a little less time getting to know bloggers). He’s also better at picking the right item from a craft store than a grocery store.
A Craft Husband will go with your to craft events
And they’ll actually enjoy it!
A Craft Husband is a helpful planner
If you’re looking for your own Craft Husband, might I suggest finding a tall, architect type? Stretch (hence the name) is the best at reaching all the high places I can only point to. He knows how to make yarnbombs structurally sound(ish). Oh, and he’s darn good at picking colors. I mean, it might not be the best color scheme, but he can actually decide on a yarn and take it to the register in under 30 minutes. How does he do that?
A Craft Husband thinks outside the craft
While all that craft knowledge is great, it’s also good to have someone to think outside what you think is even possible with yarn. He doesn’t know all the craft’s limitations, so he can think freely of new ideas and techniques. This occasionally backfires because he doesn’t know how much time making takes, so he’ll join me in the delusion that I can crochet anything in 24 hours.
A Craft Husband proudly wears the things you make
Finding someone who will love your handmade gifts isn’t that difficult, true, but Craft Husband will tell folks immediately they’re handmade, who made them, and why they are special. There’s nothing better than having someone you love explain cables to a stranger or discuss the never-ending nightmare that is seaming.
A Craft Husband allows you to carry double the stuff
If you think that’s nothing, you’re not doing enough projects (or enough damage at the craft store)
That’s probably a little too much praise to heap on a Craft Husband, but it is his birthday today: the big 4-0! Thanks, Craft Husband, for all you do and for all you will do (Did I tell you Erin and I are working on a 7 foot yarn bomb? We’re gonna need a tall guy).
I make the most crochet mistakes when I’m a) in a hurry or b) sick, and lucky for me, both conditions are true this week! It inspired me to share with you 5 common crochet mistakes and tips to help you locate and fix the problem or ignore it completely.
1. I can’t get the hook in the starting chain
FIX IT: As a founding member of the Tight Crocheters Club, I know it’s hard to just relax and go with the flow on your starting chain, but seriously, you gotta chill. Frog the original chain and try making even, looser chains. If your chains are too tight or sloppy, chain with a hook one size larger than the one required for the pattern, then use the smaller (original) hook for your first row.
FORGET IT: If size doesn’t matter (say for a yarnbomb or applique project), use a hook one size smaller than the one you used for the chain to complete your first row. Better yet, you can always summon your angriest thoughts and drill that hook into the starting chain whether it likes it or not. Why does your sister only call when she wants something? Why hasn’t your husband taken out the recycling already? Why are your favorite yarns always being discontinued? Use that anger for good!
2. This hat is too big/small
FIX IT: I know you’re tempted to tell yourself that your mother-in-law won’t mind having her head continually squeezed during every wear, but she really will – plus, she’ll tell you about it every chance she gets. If you haven’t yet woven in your ends, measure the final hat and try it on (if it’s for someone with a similar head size). Mark any ill-fitting places with safety pins and take notes on the row and location. Then remove all the pins, frog that bad boy, and make a perfect hat.
FIX IT: There are plenty of reasons why the edge of your rows look like garbage, and I’m guilty of every one. You may be missing the last stitch of each row, forgetting your turning chain, failing to skip the first stitch if you’re doing double crochet, and on and on. The best way to figure it out is to count each row and see if you are adding or subtracting stitches.
FORGET IT: If it’s not too terrible, add an edging to cover everything up. If it’s just ridiculous, consider your frenemy’s Christmas present finished ahead of schedule.
4. My circle is not…circular
FIX IT: If your circle wobbles or turns in on itself, you may have too many or too few stitches in each row. Check your pattern to ensure you are increasing correctly, and try a smaller hook for ruffling circles and a larger hook for turning in circles. If you’re not following a pattern, try increasing or decreasing the number or stitches in your starting round or try a larger (dc instead of sc) or smaller (sc instead of dc) stitch for each round.
FORGET IT: You might be able to do a row of even decreases or increases around, or simply a row without increases, to get your circle back on track. Or maybe you can just squish it down with your hand until it’s flat-ish.
5. I hate weaving in ends
FIX IT: Beautifully woven-in ends will make your finished project look polished and will ensure it lasts a long time. Try weaving in your ends as you go (and remember to have a long enough tail so ends remain secure). You may also want to splurge for some cute bent tip darning needles that make weaving in a lot easier. Maybe you need pretty glass needles from Moving Mud (are you listening, Craft Husband?)
FORGET IT: Don’t bother and pretend it’s intermittent fringe.
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!
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.