How to Block Crochet… Kinda

how to block crochet...kinda - hi, jenny brown

how to block crochet...kinda - hi, jenny brownYou know that feeling when you finally finish crocheting an impossible pattern, weave in a nearly insurmountable pile of ends, and wonder…how can I make this process longer and more frustrating?  Well, then blocking is for you!  There are plenty of reasons to block crochet pieces – to help them fit better, to show off a fancy stitch pattern, or to justify the $25 you spent on blocking wires.  Below are some super helpful tips on how to block crochet.

1. Be honest: do you really need to block it?

Blocking crochet will take the wrinkly piece you’ve been slaving over for months and help it reach its full potential – but news flash, it’s not that fun.  So before you even get started, decide if you really, really, really need to block your piece.  Maybe you can just lay it upside down on a table and push it a little with your hand and hope that some healing shiatsu magic will flatten it out (my personal favorite).  Maybe you can just put it in the dryer, and if it doesn’t turn out, pretend that it ended up in there accidentally.  Or maybe you can put it in a pile with other pieces and hope that they’ll all encourage each other to magically smooth out (I lied, this is my real favorite). Try wasting some time coming up with your own technique.

how to block crochet...kinda - hi, jenny brown

2. Buy unnecessary items

A quick googlation will find you tons of blocking pins and boards and stiffeners.  I strongly suggest buying them all and storing them deep in your already overflowing craft room…but you don’t need to.  Most pins are rust proof (the only thing you really need to worry about), and you can make your own blocking board with a piece of classy cardboard covered with an old towel (if you’re blocking with water) or waxed paper (if you’re using starch). Or just pin to your ironing board…it’s about time you use it for something.

Below is a dry blocking technique colloquially known as “I’m too lazy to find a piece of cardboard and dig through the towels, so I’ll just pin it to this corkboard dry and hope that does something.”

how to block crochet...kinda - hi, jenny brown3. Make it harder (or not)

Most of the time you’ll just use water to soften up your piece before holding it in place with no fewer than 759 pins, but sometimes you’ll want to stiffen the piece up a bit.  I like to use non-aerosol spray starch because it’s the only kind available at my local supermarket.  If you just want a little stiffness, you can wet the piece down with water first, then after pinning, spray a little starch on top.  Or, if you’re trying to create a doily that can stand up by itself (true story), you can wet it completely with starch 4 times, using 2 full bottles, then paint it with watered down glue.  I don’t suggest that.

how to block crochet...kinda - hi, jenny brown

4. Regret the results

This is the part where you realize that you didn’t really do your best.  Did you only get the piece kinda wet because you felt like that would probably still work?  Did you pin one side really tight and the other side kind of floppy?  Did you, in a moment of pure exasperation, iron it flat as a melted pancake? Worst of all, did you punk out and only use 500 pins? Well, no worries.  Remember that pile of unblocked pieces?  You can just put that puppy right back in there and try again another day.

how to block crochet...kinda - hi, jenny brown

I hope you got some really helpful tips, but if you want to block something properly, I suggest checking out this tutorial by Annie’s Craft Store.

Bye,
Jenny Brown

Knitting Group Egos

Knitting Group Egos - Hi, Jenny Brown

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.Knitting Group Egos - Hi, Jenny Brown

“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?”

Knitting Group Egos - Hi, Jenny Brown

“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!

Knitting Group Egos - Hi, Jenny Brown

“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…” 

Knitting Group Egos - Hi, Jenny Brown

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.

Egos come out in every knitting group. Mean comments I've heard (and said) at knitting groups - Hi, Jenny Brown

“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

Knitting Group Egos - Hi, Jenny Brown

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.

Bye,
Jenny Brown

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!

Tips and Tricks for Double Strand Crochet

Double Strand Crochet Tips and Tricks - Hi, Jenny Brown

Double Strand Crochet Tips and Tricks - Hi, Jenny BrownI’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 Techniques - Hi, Jenny BrownDouble 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

Double Strand Crochet - Hi, Jenny Brown

  • 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.
Crochet Double Strand - Hi, Jenny Brown
Photo by Erin Markan – Piece by NaomiRAG
  • 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.

Double Stranding with Novelty Yarn - Hi, Jenny Brown

  •  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

Crochet Couching - Hi, Jenny Brown

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.)

  1. Complete the chain and first row of your piece with the main yarn as you normally would
  2. Hold the novelty and main yarn in your non-dominant hand as you would for regular double strand crochet
  3. Begin next row by crocheting main yarn over novelty yarn (like when you’re doing tapestry crochet) until you get to a puff ball
  4. Push puff ball to right side of piece (this will happen naturally when you’re working on the right side)
  5. Chain 1, skip 1, and sc in the next sc to secure puff ball
  6. Pull novelty yarn slightly to ensure there are no loose loops
  7. Repeat to end
  8. In next row, continue in the same way, single crocheting in ch spaces when necessary

Double Strand Alternative – Surface Crochet

Surface Crochet - Hi, Jenny Brown

If you’re having trouble holding two strands at once but still want to have a multi-strand effect, try surface crochet.

  1. Keep yarn at back of piece. Push hook down through first space.
  2. Pull up loop and pull yarn gently to tighten loop on hook, if necessary.
  3. 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.

Surface Crochet with tall stitches - Hi, Jenny Brown

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.

Bye,
Jenny Brown

Why You Need A Craft Husband

Craft Husband Crocheting - HiJennyBrown

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?”

Why every crafter need a Craft Husband - Hi, Jenny Brown

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.

Craft Husband Crocheting - HiJennyBrown

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.

Craft Husband - Hi, Jenny Brown

A Craft Husband will go with your to craft events

And they’ll actually enjoy it!

Craft Husbands can reach the things you can only point at - Hi, Jenny Brown

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?

Craft Husband - HiJennyBrown

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.

Why you definitely need a craft husband - Hi, Jenny Brown

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.

Why you need a Craft Husband - Hi, Jenny BrownA 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)

Happy Birthday Banner - HiJennyBrown

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).

Bye,
Jenny Brown

5 Common Crochet Mistakes: Fix it or Forget it?

fix uneven ends - hijennybrown.com

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.

My chain is too tight - hijennybrown.com

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!

what to do when your hat is too small - hijennybrown.com

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.

FORGET IT: If you’ve already woven in the ends, wash and block the hat to see if it can be pulled to a better size/shape.  If it still won’t work, send it to an organization that accepts new, handmade hats.  If it’s too big/small for any human, look around your downtown for statues with a shrunken or inflated cranium.

fix uneven ends - hijennybrown.com

3. My edges are a disgrace

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.

fixing crochet circles - hijennybrown.com

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.

Weaving in Ends - hijennybrown.com

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.

Bye and Happy NyQuilling,
Jenny Brown

Some photos courtesy Erin of Folks Collected.  Thanks, Erin!

10 Tips to Crafting Your Own Community Project

A Garden in Winter Hat Donation - Hi, Jenny Brown

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…

A Garden in Winter - courtesy Val Dale on hijennybrown.com
Courtesy Val Dale

 

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!

Sarah & Ella - courtesy Sarah Worth on HiJennyBrown.com
Courtesy Sarah Wirth

 

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.”

A Garden in Winter Hat Donation - Hi, Jenny Brown

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?’

knit hat - HiJennyBrown.com

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.

A Garden in Winter Hat Donation - Hi, Jenny Brown

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).

craft husband on knit the bridge - hijennybrown.com

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).

Crochet Crocus for NaomiRAG by Hi Jenny Brown

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?)

Heart Party - hijennybrown

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.

2-9-2014 Professional Building Hearts-9855

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.

Hi, Jenny Brown Flowers for Pop des Fleurs

Knit the Bridge has Pop des Fleurs, A Garden in Winter is using their event page to discuss other actions they can take, and everyone’s favorite giver of crochet hearts, Nallie Radloff, is adding some wood love.  Don’t wait until it’s over to think about what’s next because you want to feel like this forever.

10. Now Just Do It!

I can’t say it any better than Val did: “We can all think of 15 reasons why something won’t work.  Instead, think of HOW it will work and then ‘just do it!'”
BONUS TIP: Make friends with a good photographer!  Thanks to Erin Markan of @fcollected for her great photos of all our projects over the years (and happy early birthday, friendo!)
Bye,
Jenny Brown

How to buy your first crochet hook

hook and heart - hijennybrown

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.

how to buy your first crochet hook - hijennybrown.com

 

While you’re at it, also check out the Hi, Jenny Brown guide to Buying Your First Ball of Yarn.

Bye,
Jenny Brown

Buying Your First Ball of Yarn

Buying Your First Ball - hijennybrown.com

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.

Buying Your First Ball of Yarn - Hi, Jenny Brown

Bye,
Jenny Brown

2014: A Little Too Good

Professional Building Hearts-HiJennyBrown

2015, I don’t want to give you a complex or anything, but you’re going to have a lot to live up to cause 2014 kinda killed it.  I mean, seriously:

I casually talked to some famous people

Judge John Hodgman Show - via maximumfun.org Jenny - Creative Live with Michelle Ward

No bigs, just John Hodgman & Jesse Thorn on the Judge John Hodgman Podcast and Michelle Ward during her Creative Live class in San Francisco (I also met Creative Live fan-girl favorite JKO, FYI).

Hi, Jenny Brown won an award for crochet photography (thanks to our amazing photographer Erin Markan) from Crochet Concupiscence. Thanks, Kathryn!

awesome blog award - crochet concupiscence

Our crew moved to New Jersey and have yet to get a spray tan (or meet a person with one, btw) and enjoyed being just a train ride away from NYC.

Etsy Craft Party - Hi, Jenny Brown

I released a New Pattern: Crochet Bannerama

Crochet Bannerama by Hi, Jenny Brown- 3 Pattern Multipack for crochet garland, banner, and bunting that you can personalize

and two free crochet project that use my letter, number, & punctuation patterns:

Teacher Gift Crochet Cup Cuff Project PatternLast Day First Day Back to School Crochet Reversible Photo Prop

One of my yarn bombs survived in the wild for 3 months (confirmed by Richelle of the Red Scorpio in November and by Jenna of Promo Analyzer in mid-December) and counting

hello yarnbomb front hi jenny brownrepost of redscorpios photo on hijennybrown.com

Hello Yarn Bomb - picture by Jenna of promoanalyzer.com

and I made a couple other cool yarnbombs (with help from Erin & Craft Husband).

Stop Collaborate & Listen yarnbombyarn bomb - barber pole crochet yarnbomb

and a giant heart with the folks of Ohio Valley Handmade

Professional Building Hearts-HiJennyBrown
All We Need Is Love - Yarnbomb

I kinda killed it with school crafts

lego necklace - hijennybrown.com 10-30-2014, Trunk or Treat, Minecraft Car - hijennybrown.com

 

I gave some pretty good advice

You Know What You Should Make - Hi, Jenny Brown

 

10 tips to help kids love crochet - Hi, Jenny BrownI had so much fun with Hooking for Good: donating 9 items to organizations throughout the country, donating $1 from every sale to Action Against Hunger, and giving away amazing items by Kari Chapin, Ann Espo of OpportuKnits, artist and podcaster Heather Saulsbury, and Adri of Moon Star Adri to you awesome folks.

Hooking for Good Crochet and Knit Donations - hijennybrown.com

And I LOVED seeing your FOs made with my motif patterns and project ideas!

A photo posted by Jacqui J (@yarnosaurusrex) on

 

Plus, I was humble all year long.

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!

See you next year,
Jenny Brown

“You Know What You Should Make?”

You Know What You Should Make HiJB

You Know What You Should Make HiJB

Someday, scientists will discover the specific gene that forces the majority of the population to approach the maker nearest them and confidently inquire: “You Know What You Should Make?”

It does not matter if this is a thing even remotely related to what the maker creates.  It doesn’t matter if it’s even a good thing to make.  It doesn’t matter if the person receiving such information shows a modicum of interest.  Due to this genetic disorder, the teller is forced, beyond their biology, to tell you what you should make.

And every time a YKWYSM? happens, I become instantly defensive.

What I want to respond to “You Know What You Should Make?”:

  • A call to your therapist?
  • A stiffer drink?
  • Something you saw on Etsy, only cheaper and just for you?
  • Let me guess…it’s ugly, right?
  • If you say “hats.” “baby clothes,” or “baby hats,” I WILL FLIP OUT!
  • Yes.  In fact, I’m working on it right now.  I spend a large quantity of time working on new patterns, projects, and plans.  Would you like to hear about them, or do you just want to tell me your half-cocked idea?

I try to be really open to new ideas, but there’s something about that phrase that shuts me down.  Why do I feel like it’s an attack?  Why do I want to run screaming from every iteration?  I’m sure it comes from some lack of self-confidence, because it’s so difficult for makers and solopreneurs to assure the real or assumed doubters that we’re running real businesses.  You can’t imagine the average person running into an emergency room and yelling to the doctor: “You Know What You Should Do?” You assume the surgeon is a professional and has more knowledge than you.  It’s both a benefit and a hindrance that people feel so connected to indie businesses that they freely share their thoughts and ideas.

And the worst part?  Every once in a while, they have good ideas.

So, let’s view all the YKWYSM? folks as free research: they feel connected to us and possibly, our business.  They want to feel helpful, and good news, we can give them what they want.  And they are reacting to what they believe is the true nature of our business (something we might not be communicating as well as we think).  So wall off your heart, and the next time someone says, “You Know What You Should Make?”, suppress your smirk. Try your best to fight the Pavlovian response to this inquiry that amazingly combines eye-rolling and side-eye.

Give a tiny smile, connect to your curiosity, and imagine the tall drink you’re going to have after this…

“No, what?”

Phew, the easy part is over.  Unfortunately, now you have to listen to what will probably be a ramble of knitting, crochet, glue guns, glitter, and something they saw on Ellen.  Let your mind race – could you actually make that thing?  Would people want it?  What would be your spin on it?  Craft in your mind for one blissful moment.  Or, just look into their eyes as convincingly as you can until they take a breath. Now you can exclaim:

“Totally.  Can you email that to me?  I’m so bad about forgetting all the great ideas people tell me.”

That’s right, put the onus on them.  Just think of how important they’re going to feel! Or, if you’re feeling kind, just say thank you.  Then excuse yourself and grab that tall drink you were thinking about.

Bye,
Jenny Brown