Hooking for Good – Blanket Statement

Hi, Jenny Brown - ripple blanket

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Oh my goodness! I don’t know whether to jump for joy or fall into a puddle of tears…but this is the last donation for this season’s “Hooking for Good.”

Hi, Jenny Brown - crochet ripple blanket for Binky Patrol

I should admit I’m a little addicted to ripple patterns.  I snuggle every night under a ripple my mom made me long ago, and it’s my fall-back when I need to crochet a blanket fast (or in the case of this thin-worsted, very slowly).  It’s not just that zig-zag pattern or the fun math that makes each row rise and fall. I think it’s also the word “ripple”: not only fun to say, but  a wonderful idea of making a small action that can result in far-reaching waves. You know, like donating something you made for some who needs it.

Crochet Ripple Blanket for Binky Patrol - Hi, Jenny Brown

This blanket is going to Binky Patrol – an organization that distributes blankets to children “born HIV+, drug-addicted, infected with AIDS or other chronic & terminal illnesses, those who are abused, in foster care or experiencing trauma of any kind.”  For those who aren’t crafters, they offer an easy no-sew blanket tutorial on their home page. I also love their idea of getting a group of friends together to help each other make blankets.  If you live near Northern New Jersey or NYC and want to do this, please comment and we will make it happen!

If you’d like to crochet or knit a blanket for another organization, you can find a great list of charities that will distribute them in this post by Starting Chain or this one by Crochet Concupiscence.

Hi, Jenny Brown - crochet ripple blanket for Binky Patrol

I should also say sorry to Mr. A and the Babes.  Both of them really bonded with this blanket, and I loved that they would snuggle under it as I worked each row.  They’ve both been very understanding about the fact that I’ve been donating almost everything I’ve made in the past few months, but they weren’t excited about letting this one go.  Both asked for me to give him the blanket, but A specifically asked that I make another with the same yarn (Heartland by Lion Brand, if you also have a yarn-snob 5-year-old at home & are allergic to wool). Maybe this thing isn’t over after all.

Jenny Brown


Hooking for Good: Hat Week

Hat Week - HiJennyBrown.com

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It’s time for a confession…I’ve been cheating on my crochet – with knitting!

Knit Hat - HiJennyBrown.com

I know, right?  I really don’t understand why knitters and crocheters are the craft version of the Hatfields and the McCoys, but somehow I feel like I have to apologize for picking up needles.  Personally, I blame dumb TV shows and commercials where folks are making granny square with knitting needles (held like weapons, of course) and ribbed sweaters with crochet hooks (although that can be done, but not the way they’re doing it). It gets us all riled up and we take it out on our poor fellow crafters.  So yes, like everyone else in the US, I blame all my problems on the media.

Crochet is still my first love, but when it comes to hats, especially for little boys, I just gotta knit.  There’s really nothing cuter, and poor little Babes was hatless.  I made his brother a green and blue knit hat a while back (he picked the colors, folks, not me)

Alexander and the green and blue hatSo I made Babes one with the leftover yarn (yep, I still had the yarn).  He’s very into “matching” right now, so the timing is perfect.

Babes' hat - HiJennyBrown.com

BTW – Babes has been secretly working on his “Ravelry face”: the chin-down-look-away.  Some day you’ll see him on Sad Etsy Boyfriends, and you’ll know he started here first.

Babes does the look-away - HiJennyBrown.com

In case you’re looking at that ribbing and wondering: “Does Jenny Brown think she’s good at knitting?” No, no I don’t.  I haven’t put in enough hours to consider myself anything more than a beginner, but I’m OK with that. That’s why I started the ribbing of hat number two, which I will be donating, in super dark grey – see any mistakes?  Nope, me neither.

knit hat - HiJennyBrown.comI’d like to admit 1. I had to pay him a quarter to model this hat and 2. This hat fits me.  Actually, so does Babes’ hat.  These kids just have big, cute heads.

I improvised the design with some leftover Cotton-Ease.  The hat is off to Emily’s Hats for Hope, which was started in my new home, NJ, by a 17 year old. Since 2011, they’ve donated over 15,000 hats to people who are homeless or are living in low-income communities.  They also mentor groups in the US and beyond, so check out their list for a group near you.

I made a crochet hat to donate as well, but I asked Erin which buttons to use…

Crochet Hat Close-up - HiJennyBrown.com

And then to try it on…

Crochet Hat - HiJennyBrown.com

And now I can mark her off my Christmas list.  I mean, really, it’s just too cute on her.  I promise to make another one to donate soon.  The pattern is the Women’s Peaked Cap by Yarnspirations, and it works up super fast once you get the front-posts down.

Want to donate hats to charity? Here are a few tips:

  • Use a yarn that feels super soft – imagine how cozy and comforted your recipient will feel the first time they slip on your hat.  Also, double-check the charity’s website before using animal fibers. (Some organizations do not accept certain fibers that may be itchy or require special laundering.  Also, label any items with animal fibers so they will not be given to someone – ahem – with an allergy.)
  • Be careful when choosing a pattern – most organizations have specific guidelines about the types of hats they will accept.  Some organizations prefer really dense, warm hats.  Others, especially those for cancer patients who may be wearing hats indoors, prefer light-weight, patterned hats.  The good news is that most sites have their own suggested patterns, so it’s a great chance to try something new.
  • Think about teens, men, and older women – everyone loves to crochet a teeny, fuchsia baby hat: definitely make one of those.  Then, make a plainer, larger hat that someone older and less flashy will love to wear.  And don’t forget about those big-headed kids!

A few organizations that accept knit and crochet hats (or google your own):

  • Emily’s Hats for Hope – accepting hats for people who are homeless or are living in low-income communities
  • Halos of Hope – donating hats to people fighting cancer  (I’ve donated to them before)
  • Your Local Women’s Shelter – many shelters accept donated hats for the women and children they serve.  Use womenshelters.org to locate an organization near you, then email them or check their website to find out if they accept donations.

Now get your hooks and needles out and live every week like it’s hat week.

Jenny Brown

Hooking for Good: Make Your Presents Known

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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.

hello banner from crochet bannerama - Hi Jenny Brown, Banner Beach Photos251

Quick Crochet Cowl – I wore the one from this tutorial during our Crochet Bannerama photoshoot.  So cozy!

lego necklace - hijennybrown.com

Lego Necklace – we made these for Liam’s birthday party, but they’d be great holiday gifts for a crowd.

Crochet Ornament - hijennybrown.com

Crochet Personalized Ornaments – Who doesn’t love a personalized gift?  Some glue, a little crochet thread, a cheap store-bought frame, and you’re all done.

And if you need a gift for your favorite crafters – why not send them some crochet-inspired postcards?

holiday postcards - hijennybrown.com

Or this unique banner pattern?

Crochet Bannerama - Hi, Jenny Brown

Or visit the shops who donated for our giveaways this season!  Thanks to Creatively Happy One, Moon Star Adri, and Opportuknits, Kari Chapin!

winner - hijennybrown.com

Today’s winner gets a present today, too!  Melissa W. was our randomly selected winner and will receive a pair of adult and a pair of child armwarmers.  Ann Espo donated this amazing prize – thanks Ann!  Her goal is to grow her business so she can begin to hire women transitioning back to their families and communities after incarceration.  If you’d like to support her or see more of her wonderful designs, visit opportuknits.etsy.com.

See you Friday where I admit I’m cheating on my crochet with….KNITTING!

Jenny Brown

Introducing: 2014 Crochet Holiday Postcards

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Woo-hoo!  It’s that time of year again – the day I remember (and am constantly reminded) that I’m not getting any younger.  At least they soften the blow with cake. (Little Liam has been talking about “buttercream” all morning – who knew he was a frosting connoisseur?)

Won’t you help me take my mind off sinking deep into my late-30s by talking about something else?  Something I like just a wee bit more?

Ah, yes: Crochet!

holiday postcards - hijennybrown.comEverything’s better with yarn – right? The top-left design is new for this year – I kept dreaming of something woodsy and cozy, and this is what came off the hook:

Hi, Jenny Brown -Merry Christmas Post CardThe original crochet piece was photographed by Erin, my awesome partner in crime.  Doesn’t it make you want to sip hot chocolate by a cozy fire?

11-24-2014, Hi Jenny Brown Post Cards31 Hi, Jenny Brown-Postcards

I also brought back the “peace on earth” and “have yourself a merry little christmas” themes that sold out last year because they are just too cute to ignore. They’re a little larger (4 x 6) and thicker (130-lb glossy cardstock, baby) this year.

Oops – almost forgot about the back.  It has a traditional postcard layout with a crochet twist:

Hi, Jenny Brown - Crochet Postcards backIf you’re as excited about these as I am, head over to Etsy and use the coupon code “officially” for 10% off.  (And if you were wondering, yep – I’ll be giving $1 from each pack to Action Against Hunger).

OK, now off to get some of that cake.

Jenny Brown

Hooking for Good – This project has gone to the dogs

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I wonder if you’re thinking to yourself right now “Hey, Jenny Brown! You said we would have a blanket tutorial Friday!  Where is it? It’s already Saturday!”

Hey, friend – I’m sorry. I totally expected to have it done, but I should have known better.  I frogged it completely Tuesday due to some tension issues and started from scratch.  On Wednesday, I was nothing short of confident.  Thursday, not so much.  At 1 a.m Friday, I posted this photo on Instagram…

crochet blanket - hijennybrown

By 4 a.m., it was all over.  I got through the last ball of yarn and laid it out flat. (sorry there’s no picture – I just can’t even). It wasn’t as wide as I had hoped, a problem I realized was due to some skipped stitches at the first color change.  Fun fact – that also caused the first wide stripe to ripple madly like ribbon candy.  The color changes were also a little more dramatic than I expected, so my original idea of using scraps of white/off-white/pink/fuchsia/red/orange/yellow was a little less awesome than I had anticipated.  Yeah!  All that hard work and late nights, and I was going to have to frog this blanket also.

Defeated and in need of a little cheer, I went to New York City last night.  I saw info about a knit/crochet meet-up at a Manhattan bar, and I thought that would be just the thing to pull me out of my self-pity party.  And it would have been, if anyone had been there.

Walking back to Penn Station through the frozen night, I passed folks bragging about their salary being “on point” and others trying to stay warm under thick piles of felt blankets. I had one of those precious holiday-movie moments: crying into my burrito outside the Empire State Building (was that “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Die Hard”?) I’m going to start next week with a renewed attitude and a better focus on what’s important – promise.

Oh, and Erin thought of the perfect home for my not-quite-perfect blanket: our local animal shelter. She reminded me that dogs are slightly less judgmental than humans about these sorts of things (although cats are much worse). She has a bag of food her cat has refused to consume, so we’re donating that as well.

If you’d like to donate to your local animal shelter, here are some tips:

  • Make a blanket: Snuggles Project and Comfort for Critters collects knit, crochet, and sewn blankets for animal shelters, and their sites include patterns for making your own blanket.
  • Have items shipped directly: Many shelters accept donations of food, litter, and cleaning supplies, but you might not have the time to drive your donations there.  Amazon Pantry has an entire section of pet supplies, which allows you to pick out items and have them shipped directly to the shelter.  I got this idea from Erin, who used Pantry to send coffee, tea, and sugar to the Wheeling Freeze Shelter (which provides a warm place for folks to stay during the coldest time of year).
  •  Share your time: This Humane Society article outlines the benefits of volunteering at your local shelter and ends with  how to find the best volunteer opportunity for you.

Jenny Brown

P.S. Don’t forget that we have another giveaway this Tuesday on Facebook and Instagram!

Hooking for Good – Crochet Plastic Mat

plarn up close2 - hijennybrown.com

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A year ago, I went to the Wheeling fair and met the ladies of the local extension office.  They were crocheting plastic sleeping mats that they donate to the city’s winter warm-up project. The mats, along with warm clothing, hot drinks, and blankets, are distributed to people in the area who are homeless.

plarn up close - hijennybrown.com

I gave the ladies my info, and a few days later, I was invited (by phone!) to a meeting where they would demonstrate the process of crocheting the mats out of plastic bags.  Craft Husband dropped me off at a local community center, and when I opened the door, I felt I had stepped into a bygone era.  Ladies were sitting at row after row of long, decorated tables with chocolate-wrapped pumpkins sprinkled down the center.  They served a snack (sandwiches, chips, coffee, and cake), talked about their previous charity project, and shared happy memories of a club member who had recently passed away.  Then they had their craft lesson, and those who could crochet pulled out a hook, and those who couldn’t asked questions and cheered the others on.  It was anachronistic and earnest and perfect.

plastic crochet mat - trial - hijennybrown.com

I’ve been working on this mat on-and-off since then, and I have to admit it was difficult for me.  I’m not great at making plarn, my hands still aren’t used to crocheting plastic, and my tension has completely changed over the past year (good news guys – I’m loosening up!)  I’m glad it’s finished and will soon make someone’s nights a little better, despite the imperfections.  Whether you’re sharing a crochet mat, a moment of silence, or a thick piece of sheet cake, someone in your community needs what you’re able to give.

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finished crochet plastic mat - hijennybrown.com


1. Collect a Lot (a lot, a lot, a lot) of plastic bag – I didn’t believe it myself, but each mat will take hundreds and hundreds of chopped up plastic bags.  I think the ones from grocery stores and gas stations were easiest to crochet, and I regret mixing in the thicker bags from clothing and book stores. (One look at those wonky sides and weird color changes, and you’ll realize that’s not the only thing I regret.)

2. Cut the bags carefully – I think 2 inches is the perfect width for the bag loops,  but unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until half-way through.  You should experiment a little to see what works best for you. Also, enlist a helper, if at all possible, to do the cutting and balling while you crochet away.

crochet plastic mat plarn explosion - hijennybrown.com

3. Give yourself a break – Physically, I found that crocheting plastic (especially those thick bags) did a serious number on my shoulder.  Frequent breaks were totally necessary to keep my arm in working order.  Please also give yourself a break mentally, especially if this is your first plarn project.  There’ll be plenty of time to perfect your technique – your best is perfect for now.

4. Find instructions that work for you – I like these from First Baptist New Orleans: straight forward and easy to replicate.  To make the plarn, take your pick from the videos on YouTube – just be sure you pick the 2-ply loop rather than the continuous 1-ply strip. Some organizations do offer classes, so check in your area if you learn best in person or want to meet like-minded crocheters.

 teaching william to crochet - hijennybrown

5. Give it away – if possible, contact a local organization that distributes items to people who are homeless and ask if they accept sleeping mats.  If you are unable to find an organization to donate to nearby, a quick google search will help you find the right recipient.  Seriously, there are tons and tons of organizations, so please know that wherever you live, there is someone nearby who would love to have your handmade mat.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you will make a mat and if you have any questions about the process.  I’d be happy to help any way I can.

Jenny Brown

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

Hooking for Good – Quick Crochet Cowl

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

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Craft Hope is amazing – they have collected and distributed over 100,000  handmade items to folks in need around the world, and I love participating whenever I can.  For Project 25, they are collecting various sewn, crocheted, and knitted items for We Are Kenya, which will provide over 200 students with the necessities to thrive in school. The cut-off for projects to be received at the US collection point is Nov. 15, so if you finish something this weekend, you can totally make it.  My mom and I made three scarves that we hope will be warm and cuddly for the kiddos that receive them. Hi, Jenny Brown - scarves for craft hope

Making the orange and white one on the right reminded me of my favorite quick cowl pattern, which is great for the holidays.  The pattern is easy and mindless, so it’s perfect for beginners or last minute presents.  It’s also not as bulky as other patterns, so it’s a lot more wearable (think bosses, mothers-in-law, teens).  Because the pattern is simple, it’s a great option for a variegated or novelty yarn.

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Quick Crochet Cowl - Hi, Jenny BrownSupplies 250-280 yds worsted weight yarn (I used Red Heart Unforgettable because it’s pretty and acrylic, so it’s perfect for us wool allergic crocheters) Hi, Jenny Brown - Red Heart Boutique for Quick Crochet Cowl “I” hook Yarn needle Scissors Abbreviations ch = chain dc = double crochet sl st = slip stitch sk = skip Instructions Ch 38 Hi, Jenny Brown - Red Heart Boutique for Quick Crochet Cowl row 1. Dc in 6th ch from hook, (ch 1, sk 1 ch, dc in next ch)  16 times, ch 4, turn.  You’ll see 17 “squares” (aka, ch 1 spaces) across the row. Hi, Jenny Brown - turn Quick Crochet Cowl Hi, Jenny Brown - first row for Quick Crochet Cowl row 2. Sk 1, dc in dc, (ch 1, sk 1, dc in dc) 15 times, ch 1, sk 1 ch, dc in next ch, ch 4, turn Hi, Jenny Brown - second row for Quick Crochet Cowl Hi, Jenny Brown - second row turn for Quick Crochet Cowl Repeat row 2 until you have about 1 yard (from your fingertips to the middle of your chest) of yarn left, or until the scarf is as tall as your intended recipient (I’m 5’6″, and this is almost exactly my height.  If you’re making this for a kid, you’ll want to stop sooner so it’s not overwhelming).  Do not cut yarn. Hi, Jenny Brown - ready to join for Quick Crochet Cowl Finishing Holding right sides together and being careful not to twist, match top and bottom ends together.  Sl st ends together by inserting hook through corner last dc (on end) and corner chain (from foundation chain), pull up a loop, then pull it through loop on hook. Hi, Jenny Brown - start sl st join for Quick Crochet Cowl   Hi, Jenny Brown - how to sl st join for Quick Crochet Cowl Continue for each ch or dc.  After last stitch, fasten off and weave in ends. Hi, Jenny Brown - final sl st join for Quick Crochet CowlTurn cowl inside out and wrap it around your neck.  Resist urge to keep it for yourself.   Bonus Points – replicate woven scarf Instead of joining cowl, lay scarf flat.  Thread yarn onto needle, and using a double thickness, weave yarn through first vertical row.  Cut yarn, leaving a long tail at top and bottom. Hi, Jenny Brown - woven crochet scarfWeave using opposite start (if you went over the first row, go under) for next row.  Continue until entire scarf is woven.  Tie yarn for each row at top and bottom to secure.  Trim fringe evenly. Hi, Jenny Brown - scarves for craft hope

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PSST: I’ll be giving away a pretty blue version of the cowl this Tuesday – follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for all the details Tuesday on how to win.  I’ll share the winner in my post Wednesday.

Bye, Jenny Brown

Hooking for Good!

hooking for good - hijb

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

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

Happy Halloween – Minecraft Trunk or Treat

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Mr. A is, in his own words, “obsessed with Minecraft.”  Me, not so much – why pretend to make something when we can make it for real?  Wait, now that’s an idea…  10-30-2014, Trunk or Treat, Minecraft Car167-MOTION

We planned our little scheme for A’s school Trunk or Treat.  Luckily our combined craft stash is pretty stocked, so all we bought were red tablecloths & duct tape (to make the pixelated lava flow) and balloons for the Creepers, Endermen, and Pigs (just add tape & a little paint marker).

10-30-2014, Trunk or Treat, Minecraft Car100Erin (who took all these cute pics) made the kids’ hats using Crafty Gemini’s Fleece Hat pattern (with “pixel” appliques) and shirts (painters tape and a little fabric paint).  10-30-2014, Trunk or Treat, Minecraft Car200-MOTIONShe even put pixels on Steve’s pants and shoes, which I kind of want to do to my everyday clothes.

Trunk or Treat, Minecraft Car - HiJennyBrown PigTail

I crocheted over wire to make the pig tail.

10-30-2014, Trunk or Treat, Minecraft Car76

Craft Husband made the chest (our treat box) and diamond/emerald pick axe (there was some debate among the trick-or-treaters), which was the hit of the night.

hi jenny brown -Trunk or Treat, Minecraft Car71

What kid doesn’t want a handmade weapon?

10-30-2014, Trunk or Treat, Minecraft Car52-MOTION

I made the adult “costumes” (at this point in my life, I don’t want a costume more complicated than a sign).  Erin was TNT & I was a health heart. Just a little posterboard, paint marker, electrical tape and yarn scraps.

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

Do you see a resemblance between my costume and something else that makes a constant appearance on this blog?  I can say this is the first time I’ve ever dressed up as a crochet project (but probably not the last).

whoworeitbetter - hijennybrown

We had HUNDREDS of happy kiddos come to our car, and we loved hearing their excitement and seeing their cute costumes.  There was a prize for the best car, but we didn’t win.  Please excuse me while I lie in my bed all day, mourn our loss, and eat all the leftover butterfingers.      hi jenny brown, Trunk or Treat, Minecraft Car218

Happy Halloween! I hope you have a safe and sugary night!

Jenny Brown