April Showers bring Crochet Flowers

Crochet Cherry Blossoms - Hi, Jenny Brown

Cherry Blossom Crochet Flowers - Hi, Jenny BrownI thought we could all use an excuse to stop and smell the crochet flowers.  These blossoms are for an upcoming collaborative installation by yarnbombers NaomiRAG and Caustic Wear (does it add to the mystery when I don’t use their real names?) They’re the two creative folks behind the crocus installation this winter.

Although Erin’s just learned how to crochet, she’s been whipping up ripples and granny squares and circles, and she made all the light pink flowers in these pictures.  I’d like to say it’s because she has an amazing, talented, beautiful, humble teacher, but I think she might just have a natural talent for it.  Mark my words, she’s gonna surpass me.

Cherry Blossom Crochet Flowers - Hi, Jenny BrownBut don’t worry – when she’s not crocheting, Erin still has time to take plenty of photos.  (You can see more of her awesome snaps on Instagram: @fcollected).  I love how she made it look like the kids happened upon a fairy wonderland sprinkled with tiny pink blossoms… even though it’s just the park near our house.  Since we all have insane allergies right now, this may be the last flowers we sniff for a while.

 

Cherry Blossom Crochet Flowers - Hi, Jenny Brown

 

Cherry Blossom Crochet Flowers - Hi, Jenny Brown

 

Cherry Blossom Crochet Flowers - Hi, Jenny BrownCherry Blossom Crochet Flowers - Hi, Jenny Brown

If you’d like to make your own crochet flowers for the Sakura Yarnbomb, there’s still time!  You can find the easy-to-follow pattern on the Caustic Wear blog.  The deadline is May 22nd, but they work up really quickly.  The only rule is that they need to be pink, so you can be as creative as you like with your embellishments and yarn choices.  You can see some examples of what folks around the world have done with their flowers in the #sakurayarnbomb feed.

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!

NJ Makers Day Yarn Bomb

Makers Gonna Make - HiJennyBrown.com

makers gonna make yarnbomb - hijennybrown.comSaturday was our state’s inaugural Maker Day, so of course I had to celebrate by crocheting this NJ Makers Day Yarn Bomb.

Mr. A and Yarn Bomb - HiJennyBrown.com

Some folks thought it should have been hung closer to the playground (so visiting it would coincide with a turn on the swings), but I like it on the chain link fence (over the ugly piece of wood holding that metal sign on).

crochet scissors - hijennybrown.com

I only had a day to get it done, so I wanted to make something small inspired by my favorite craft supplies (and Taylor Swift, of course).  The scissors are based on Howie of WooWork’s “Snippy” crochet scissors.  Howie is one of the first “cool” crocheters I found online, and his scissors have been in the back of my head since 2009.  I used his “recipe” for the scissors and as the base for a bigger pair.  I nestled them into what you would technically call a “chain 15 space” on the black background.

Yarn Bomb Ruler - hijennybrown.com

I knew I wanted the ruler to be at least close to accurate, but I didn’t realize how many little black hashes that would require.  Some lines are straighter than others, but hopefully the people of New Jersey will forgive my inconsistencies.  I made the ruler waaaay bigger than required for the space so I could fold it over onto itself (mimicking the way I improperly store my real rulers).

pin close-up on Makers Yarnbomb- HiJennyBrown.com

The pins were 100% Mr. A’s idea, using pinkies-purple for the heads and some stashed Tahki Stacy Charles “Stella” for the points.  A little pricey for yarn bombing, but I love the shine.  I used the same yarn for the needle, which unfortunately is a bit hidden.

Makers Gonna Make - HiJennyBrown.com

The letters, of course, are from my Uppercase and Lowercase Alphabet Multipack.  I used random colors of newer and vintage crochet thread, then sewed them to the background.  If I had more time, I would have been a little more intentional and careful, but I just attached them with a quick running stitch. One of the cool features of the updated pattern is a guide with suggested hook sizes for every type of yarn, plus techniques for attaching letters to your finished projects.

wire-edge of Makers Gonna Make YarnBomb - HiJennyBrown.com

One of my favorite yarnbombing tricks is to add a wire border, something I figured out while making the giant heart.  Mr. A thought it needed more green, so I held the wire along the edge of the black and single-crocheted over it.  It gives the piece enough structure that you can attach it to a fence or other surface with nothing more than a zip tie in each corner.  It probably could have used a little more reshaping, but we had to get this guy done in time to get on to the other NJ Makers Day events.

Yarn Bomb Crew - HiJennyBrown.com Bye,
Jenny Brown

*Photos by Erin Markan of Folks Collected

St. Patrick’s Day: Crochet T-shirt Yarn Koozie

J Crochet Koozie - hijennybrown.com

J Crochet Koozie - hijennybrown.comI’ve been looking for a good excuse to give t-shirt yarn a try, and lucky for me, Promo Analyzer sent me a whole box of goodies…

promo box - hijennybrown.com…including a t-shirt perfect for cutting up.

tshirt yarn - hijennybrown.com

I used this tutorial by Upcycled Stuff  to cut the shirt, and here’s where I should mention the things I did wrong.  #1. I used a shirt with a seam. In my defense, that’s the shirt I was given, and I kinda like the look of the raveled edges poking through.  If you don’t, you know what to do.

cutting tshirt - hijennybrown.com

#2. I still haven’t bought a new rotary cutter, even though that pink one will occasionally pop its wheel.  (I close my eyes every time I retract it, as if that will save me.)

tshirt yarn - hijennybrown.com

#2. during the last step, where you pull the yarn to hide the cut edges, I may have been a little too aggressive and created some extra ends to weave in, and you know how I love that.  t-shirt yarn koozie - hijennybrown.com

Because I was making the coozie to fit a specific water bottle, I made a chain a stitch smaller than the circumference of the bottle, then I worked in the round using single crochets until I ran out of yarn.  Of course, I had to applique a quick “J” to mark it as mine using the Uppercase Alphabet pattern.  It’s the perfect touch to keep your St. Patrick’s Day Guinness out of the hands of your grabby CH.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day,
Jenny Brown

PS – here’s a sneak peek at the other goodness I created (including a cute shamrock from B. Hooked’s pattern). 

Promo Analyzer recraft - hijennybrown.comThe full deets will be on promoanalyzer.com soon! 

Photos by Erin Markan of Folks Collected

Celebrating 1,000 Crochet Patterns Sold

It’s official – Hi, Jenny Brown has sold 1,000 Crochet Patterns on Etsy, Ravelry, and Craftsy.  Thank you so much to all the customers, supporters, and helpers who made this milestone possible! So how does one celebrate 1,000 patterns sold? 1. Throw snowballs at an unsuspecting Craft Husband… Luckily, the day after the 1,000th pattern was sold, the sun shone on our snow-covered NJ backyard and the thermometer rose slightly above the usual 32 degrees.  We ran outside to enjoy the balmy weather and found a mild-mannered target for our pent-up blizzard rage….sorry, Craft Husband!

Celebrating 1,000 patterns sold with snowballs - HiJennyBrownYou might think we’re evil, but check out the peanut gallery enjoying the naughtiness without getting their hands wet! You can watch us torture CH further here.

2. Make something good even better… In anticipation of this awesome milestone, I’ve been working day and night (sorry for the 3 a.m. tweets!) updating the Uppercase Alphabet, Lowercase Alphabet, Numbers & Punctuation, and Crochet Bannerama patterns.  Every pattern now includes new instructions on sewing motif pieces to any crochet project and a sizing guide, with plenty of measurements and estimates, that helps you pick the best yarn, gauge, and hook for your next project. Hi #5 - hijennybrown.com

for example: boucle bulky weight (#5) yarn   

3. Get Creative with the Coupon Codes I’m excited about the new changes and will be offering the updated patterns at 20% off until midnight Sunday, March 15.  So if you’re ready to pick-up the new and improved pattern, just use the coupon code “woohoo20” on Etsy or Ravelry. 4. Give everyone a present… While I was working on the pattern update, I also created a free sample of the Uppercase Alphabet pattern that let’s you preview the new layout and get hooked on crocheting letters (does that make me sound like a dealer?). Free HI Pattern - hijennybrown If you want to get a taste (I can’t stop), just join the Hi, Jenny Brown Email Awesomeness List.  You’ll get a weekly update from me plus a link to the free Crochet “HI” Pattern.  And I’ll give a free Bannerama pattern (a superpack of every pattern I’ve designed) to anyone who recreates that cover collage with their newly crocheted “HI.”  Gold nailpolish not required.  5. Say Thanks (over and over) Thanks again, y’all!  When I started selling patterns, I never expected to sell 1, and here we are 1,000 patterns later.  I know it’s cool to act like it’s no big deal when people buy what you make…but it is a big deal to me.  I love you guys!

Bye, Jenny Brown

All photos by Erin Markan 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