Hooking for Good – Poms Away!

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pompoms - hijennybrown.com

This week’s giveaway was from an amazing artist: Heather Saulsbury of the Creatively Happy blog and podcast (please check out both!) I figured it was only fitting for my donation this week to an art project, so of course I was reminded of my promise to Christen Mattix.  She is knitting a blue yarn line to the sea from a park bench on the street.  It’s part performance art, part yarnbombing, all amazing.  Anyway, on one of her posts about what should happen when the line finally hits the water, I commented:

comment on christenmattix.com

Friend, I am many things, but I am not a liar.  Scratch that, I totally lie all the time.  No, not all the time.  Like, what would you say is an acceptable percentage?  All right already, let’s just say I made the pom-poms and get on with it, eh?

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My mom taught me before to make pom-poms with two cardboard discs, but I totally forgot how (even though I blogged about it).  This video by Bernat Yarn is amazing, except that it mentions a template that I don’t have – I just used a duct tape roll for the outer circle and a scotch tape roll for the inner circle. If you watch the video for 1 minute and then say I got it, ya don’t.  Watch the whole thing or you’ll totally miss the ingenious tips about cutting (not that I did that).

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Is there anything better than cutting into a pom-pom and watching all the tiny strings break away?

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Man, I really used that template up.

For the smaller pom-poms, I used the fork-method and some really aggressive trimming. You can google the technique, or check out the book Pom-Poms, which is where I learned it. The boys helped me with this a little bit, but they don’t quite have the hand-eye coordination for tiny, perfect movements yet and their forks looked like they had been attacked by rebellious blue spaghetti.

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So, if you didn’t make a blood oath to Christen, you’re probably wondering how else to use a pom-pom for good?

  • I attended a class with author Leanne Prain, and she said pom-poms are the perfect way to get a kid started on yarnbombing.  I trust her because she did, like, write the book on it.
  • Have a friend who is stretched a little too thin? What about making her a pom-pom wreath or garland and leaving it on her porch?  Or maybe the two of you could make the same thing for a local senior center/classroom/new local business…whatever!
  • Knit the Bridge (which just won a Mayor’s Award – congratulations!) is starting on a new project called Pop des Fleurs that will require a LOT of handmade flowers for the testing and installation phases.  Check out their “puff flower” tutorial here.
  • Pom-pom hats are totally in right now, and that might come in handy next week…

And after you’re done with all that making, you deserve a little reward!  So our randomly selected winner for today is:

Congrats, Carina-hijennybrown.com

Congratulations to Carina, who just happens to be the awesome crocheter and knitter behind the blog Häkelmonster!  I hope you enjoy Heather’s prize-pack of awesomeness!

Bye,
Jenny Brown

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Shave and a Yarnbomb – 2 bits

crochet yarn bomb barber pole carlisle barbershop

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I really love Erin’s parents.  They’ve never been anything but kind to me.  They always have chocolate in the house.  They are both peace-loving barbers.  And they kindly agreed to let me deface their front yard.

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Actually, it was their darling daughter who arranged for me to cover their tree in crochet.  E’s family lives in Carlisle, PA, across the street from a famous car show, and attendees park in her parents’ huge yard to be close to the action.  It’s like a spur-of-the-moment party in a (hopefully) big, dry yard.  Unfortunately, although the décor is tight, it’s missing one little thing… a big ol’ barber pole.

E promised to put everything together if I crocheted it.  I thought this was a perfect opportunity to try out an idea I had – instead of charting a barber pole with stripes, why not make individual strips that could be spun around an all-white base?  Then I could make caps to cover the ends of the red & blue strips.  Seemed easy enough, and since I wasn’t sewing it on, there was no reason not to try it.

When I yarnbomb, I really don’t worry about size and rows and such…that’s why the first version of the white base was too tall and had to be frogged completely.  Luckily I had a helper to get version two started (and if you’ve read my post about helping kids learn to love crochet, you know this is all part of the process).

Anybody else ready to hashtag all their future projects #tada?

Version two was a little wobbly – good news: E didn’t care. Phew! I made a little kit for her with needles, extra yarn, and all the pieces tagged in the order each should go up. Since E doesn’t crochet, I also marked which side was the front.

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Erin has helped with a few yarnbombs, so she had no trouble getting this big ole’ thing up.

erin (Pic by Johnny Oyster – thanks Johnny!)

Of course, she did have a little help.

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My favorite part is the sparkly cap (made by double-stranding gray cotton and some sparkle crochet thread).

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And we did get a few rave reviews from some young locals (E’s & her sister’s yarn-loving kids).

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Hopefully this will open Erin up to some future collaborations. If you want to collaborate with us on a yarnbomb, let us know in the comments!

Bye,
Jenny Brown

PS – photos by Erin Markan (unless otherwise noted).  Thanks, Erin!

10 Tips to Help Kids Love Crochet

Alexander at Knit the Bridge - hijennybrown

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I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve held something yummy in my hand and said “Just take one little bite.  Just lick it.  I KNOW you’ll like it!” only to be met with the most incredulous snarl imaginable.

Sometimes I forget: you simply can’t tell kids what to like, even if you’re really, really, really, really sure they would like something…say, the wonderfully awesome craft that is crochet?  Even if they don’t become prolific hookers themselves (although wouldn’t that be the freaking best?), there are a few ways to get them to appreciate crochet without being overbearing.10 tips to help kids love crochet

*Also, please be cool with the fact that some of these pics are dark and blurry, even for me.  If you’ve ever tried to catch a kid in the act of crafting, you feel my feels.  The pretty, focused, well-lit pictures are by Erin Markan of Folks Collected.  Thanks, Erin!*

1. Make them something to love

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You’ve probably already done this, so cheers!  If not, this is your chance to blow their socks off – make them a minecraft blanket to cuddle with while they play the game, crochet their favorite animal in their favorite color to make a mystical new creature, or hook them something with their name on it. I usually stick to tv or video game toys because those get the most “OOOOHHH!”s.

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2. Make the ugly thing you don’t want to make

Alexander and the green and blue hat

I asked Alexander if I could knit him a hat, and he insisted on it being green and blue stripes.  Oh, the very idea was nauseating, but I bought some really soft yarn and went with it.  He really loves it and never misses an opportunity to tell someone I made it.

3. Let them read your crochet books

I know your crochet books are holy, but if you have one or two they can peruse (especially if you’re willing to make something they pick), leave them just within reach. Liam still loves this Amigurumi book, but he’s lost interest in my stitch dictionaries (who can blame him).

Liam with book - hijennybrown

If you’re not ready to share pattern books, you can pick up a kid’s book with a knit or crochet theme.  I have and love Extra Yarn.

4. Involve them in your projects any way you can

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Alexander and I just donated a square to Yarnbomber for his new project.  I picked the type of yarn I wanted to use ahead of time and shoved it all in a bag before we rode in the back seat together on a trip to NYC. Although Alexander doesn’t crochet yet, I asked him if he would help me by picking the color order so I could do the crochet.  I think he felt important without being overwhelmed with involvement (with plenty of time between color picks to play Minecraft).

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When Yarnbomber received our donation and posted it online, Alexander’s mom was sure to show him the post and define the word “brochet” for him.  He thought it was “cool” that hundreds of people liked our work, and he is relishing his involvement in the “bombsquad.”

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I think I’ll have no trouble getting him to help with the next project.

5. Show them something huge and unusual

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Eisa & Annie

I know that what you make is amazing (duh), but if you have the opportunity, seek out a chance to show them crochet in a way they never imagined.

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Marcus & Paige

Our Knit the Bridge crew brought a ton of happy, crochet- and knit-loving kiddos.

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They were also on-hand for our heart-bombing (although they mostly ate the heart-shaped cookies Erin made).

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They also love looking through my instagram feed for “yarning” or checking out installations and projects by wonderful artist like Olek, Knits for Life, and Twinkie Chan.

6. Let them touch your yarn

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If you haven’t closed the browser window already, let me explain: letting them tear your yarn apart and string it across the house gives them permission to love yarn.  I use an old set of lockers to store my stash: I put the most-loved yarn high and the crappy acrylic down low.  I bet you can guess what they go for…

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Bonus if you let them play with your projects (these are coozies for the Warsaw Bar yarnbomb – they make great mittens).

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And these are the sample pieces for the Teacher Gift Cup Cuff.

7. Explain what you’re doing

The easiest thing in the world.  No prepared speech needed here, just tell them what you’re making, who it’s for, and why you think they’ll like it. Let them know it’s not a mindless task but a way for you to share your talent with someone who will love it. (M&Ms optional)

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8. Ask them for their input

These are the cutest critics you’ll ever have.  I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve given me very sweet feedback or seen a problem I didn’t (which, I know, is hard to take).

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Prepare yourself for less-than-positive reactions.

9. Put a hook in their hand

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Let them pick the giant pink, bubbly Q hook and try to make a stitch.  Let them turn your golden Js into light sabers.  Let them spill all the hooks on the floor and put them, one by one, back in the container.

Liam Knitting - hijennybrown

I try to elevate my hooks one step above toy, one step below tool.  They’re free to play with them, but they’ve got to be picked up, put away, and kept out of that spaghetti, please.

10. Let them walk away

Alexander at Knit the Bridge - hijennybrown

Occasionally the boys will ask to help me, or to make their own design, or to learn how to crochet/do yarning.  I hold their hands, I go through the motions, and I patiently allow them to quit and walk away a few minutes later. They’re not ready to crochet yet, I know, and I try not to let my impatience show.  I know that some day they’ll be great crocheters…or should I say…brocheters.

Do you have any tips & tricks for getting kids to love crochet or other crafts?  Share them in the comments!

Bye,
Jenny Brown

I left my heart…

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I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed my little trip to San Francisco! I loved being on Creative Live, where I nervously sat in the front row for “Create Your Dream Career.”

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It was such an amazing experience, and if you’re not familiar with Michelle Ward, I urge you to visit her website, watch her 3 tons of  interviews & videos, and read all the amazeballs blog posts that will help you find out what you want to do when you grow up (because some of us still don’t know). She totally changed my life.   I was also lucky enough to be surrounded by talented, intelligent women who were quick to offer advice and help. You guys are so awesome! (This photo was taken by Kate, who was a wonderfully kind producer).

Create Your Dream Career

While I was there, I was really missing Alexander and the Babes.  Luckily E sent me tons of pictures and videos that ranged from heartbreaking to earpiercing, but all were very sweet.

I know it’s not how the song goes, but I think I left my heart in New Jersey.  I mean, look at this little boy stuck to the screen, calling for me to look at him.

I don’t know if the goldfish were a bribe or what, but I would give Alexander a million crackers for such a kind compliment (luckily he can’t read yet).

Somehow I was able to take some focus away from my class & homesickness to do a little yarnbombing.

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I used some extra letters from a new project I’m working on (ooooh!) made with my lowercase alphabet pattern.  I crocheted the background and sewed everything together on the plane heading to San Francisco.  I added chained loops to the back so I could lace my sign up without fussing with a needle. It worked so well, I think I’ll be using this technique again.

back of hi jenny brown yarn bomb in San Francisco

What’s that building in the background?  Why, that’s the Creative Live offices.  Inside is the kindest staff and all the s’mores & San Pellegrino a girl could dream of.

Create Your Dream Career Audience

I forced a few of my fellow students to hold up my sign before I laced it in place.  If this doesn’t tell you how insanely bright and hot those lights are, I don’t know what would. Sorry these beautiful faces are so blurry, but you can check out their perfect profile pics on their own sites: Jen of Jen and Company, Jenna of San Francisco Pic (and soon another cool site we’ll talk about soon), Jen of JenBaxter.com, and my fellow maker JenaceyStacey of by Stacey Monique.

Luckily my little sign was not alone on 17th Street – this store had yarnbombed bars:

17th Street store with yarn bomb bars - San Francisco

And I saw this fence decoration in Haight-Ashbury:

yarn fence - Haight-Ashbury

There’s even a Yarnbombing 101 class in SF this weekend (and boy am I bummed I’m not going to be there for it) taught by the extremely talented Knits for Life and The Dapper Toad.

Of course that wasn’t all the yarny fun to be had in town.  I also did some yarn shopping at ImagiKnit and some general craft perusing at Mendel’s. I want to set up a vacation home in their ribbon section.

IMG_20140911_165339(1) mendels craft store on Haight Street

I also ate with reckless abandon.  The best way to get comfortable with the idea that you will be broadcast around the world from every angle for 7 hours a day/3 days straight is to let your weight worry have the week off.  I ate delicious vegan tacos at Gracias Madre (sorry no pic, they were too good to pause), enjoyed creamy/crunchy banana pudding goodness at The Ice Cream Bar, and chased my beer with mac ‘n’ cheese at Southern Pacific Brewing.

The Ice Cream Bar Southern Pacific Brewing

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games, and I was exhausted from all the mental gymnastics I went through during the class.  After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that there are going to be some new exciting things going on here at Hi, Jenny Brown.  Same great patterns, just a few more bits of awesome.  So please join our new mailing list to get the details before anyone else.

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Bye,
Jenny Brown

Yo, VIP – Let’s Hook It

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I am always amazed at the beautiful hats, blankets, and banners y’all make with my patterns.  It is some seriously cute stuff, and I am so wowed by each of you!

But say you’re addicted to putting your crochet outside…  Will they work for that too?

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YEP!

Oh, and by the way: If you weren’t a child of the 90s, or you just want to relive the magic – enjoy! Thanks to youtube user emimusic for this flashback.

Bye,
Jenny Brown

Happy New Year!

*Hi, Jenny Brown has moved to hijennybrown.com. Please come on over to read this post and see our new content!*yearinreviewHello, all:

Looking back over photos from this year, I realize I was part of some pretty wonderful things: leading a group of knitters, crocheters, sewist, and embroiders who covered a downtown building with over 100 hearts of all kinds and helped sell the building; participating in the largest yarn bombing in the US; releasing a new pattern and celebrating over 500 patterns sold; and selling out of my first postcard run.

I think the best thing about this year, though, was the company I kept (and that means you).  I am so lucky to have Craft Husband, Erin (who took all the in-focus pictures above), and all my little helpers.  That’s not even mentioning the great folks who comment on this blog, kindly buy my patterns, and keep  me company while I continuously wrap yarn around that hook. Oh, and I spent a lot of time having fun and goofing off this year.  I need to do more of that.

I’m so inspired for the new year…but tomorrow is for resolving.  Today is for reveling, and I have a lot to revel in.

Thanks and Happy New Year!
Jenny Brown

Bar Cozy

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The bar where I crochet (eh, drink while holding a hook) on Wednesday nights is now a little cozier. Annie, who runs the place, and Paige, fellow crochet lover and long-time friend of Annie’s (and short-time friend of mine) hatched an idea to cover the place in yarn. The two of them used leftover yarn to make a ton of pieces, while I got stuck on two little pieces.

One, a nice little sign with the bar’s name (using my letter and number patterns) and adding “W”s to the cozies Paige made from my Knit the Bridge leftovers.

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And Two: my hamburger panel.  Remember him?

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I also made one panel with orange and blue granny squares.  It’s the one that sticks out like a sore thumb!  The color scheme Annie chose was decidedly fall, but bright colors and I have a love affair that can transcend any suggestion.

While looking for a clear shot of that panel, I realized that you really needed to see this picture instead.  I feel like CH seems pretty safe here, but Annie’s barely visible hand, cupped over her mouth, seems to suggest otherwise.

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Maybe she forgot he’s a professional at craft-related stretching.

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Things went quickly, except for my slow seaming.  I was so slow, in fact, that a ladybug landed on me and had no plans to leave.  Can you tell that I a) put a hat on my hair while it was still wet that morning and b) am not extremely thrilled with having wildlife take up residence on my glasses?

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And here it is, all cozy for the winter.  Stay warm, little Warsaw!

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Bye,
Jenny Brown

La Hamburguesa

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It should be known that I took 8 years of Spanish (4 in high school/4 in college) and I remember nearly nothing.  My Spanish is limited to the Pledge of Allegiance (practical application? unknown) and recognizing parts of Spanish Wikipedia entries. That’s where I found: Una hamburguesa vegetariana rodeada de aderezos: A veggie burger surrounded by toppings.  OK, I had to look up surrounded.  And toppings.  Ugh.

Speaking of which, here’s a sneak peak at a project I’m working on:

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It’s for the bar where I knit and eat veggie burgers.  Yes, you can get their burgers with eggs, but I do not like eggs on anything: not on toast, on a plate, in my shopping cart, etc., etc., etc.  I was going to say more, but the very thought is grossing me out.  I did like crocheting it, though!

The pattern is from Amigurumi! Super Happy Cute Crochet.  I’ve made a few little things from this book (including another hamburger that I gave to my nephew, who likes to assemble it then throw it at the nearest person).  The egg is obviously freehand.

The deconstructed burger will be part of an upcoming cool project – stay tuned!

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Bye,
Jenny Brown

10 “Helpful” Yarn Bombing Tips

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Craft Husband and I spent part of the weekend volunteering with the Knit the Bridge installation.  I’m not exaggerating when I say this was one of the best experiences of my life.  I can’t believe how much this project inspired me, how much I appreciate meeting such wonderful folks, or how much I loved seeing this thing manifest from an idea to a work of art.  Just…wow.

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I also can’t believe how much my face, feet, and calves still hurt.  Yup, yarn bombing is rewarding but painful.  What’s that?  You would like me to share my infinite yarn-bombing wisdom with you so the same fate won’t befall you?  Why, don’t mind if I do.

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1. Protect yourself – If you’re installing during the day and, like me, you’re paler than Jim Gaffigan, maybe you should reapply that sunscreen.  No, keeping it in a bag near you is not as effective as actually putting it on your skin.  And yes, your husband is annoying when he tells you to reapply every hour.  But also, he is right.

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Oh, and watch out for loose strings, and don’t forget your sunglasses.  They add that level of mystery that every artist needs.

2. Watch your posture – Why are we so sore?  Hmm…

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Oh yeah, because we abused ourselves – hunching over, laying upside down, and sitting on our legs.  Maybe we shouldn’t have done that.  Or maybe we should have stretched more.  Or maybe it’s finally time to get that personal masseuse.  I think I will name mine Igor…

3. Pack right – Bring the essentials, but don’t bring a giant bag (especially if you’re doing a traditional installation where you don’t *necessarily* have permission and may have to make an early exit).  Things we found invaluable: Diet Coke, hard hats, spare scissors, wire cutters, extra water, and bandaids.

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Some folks brought knee pads.  We called these people “smart.”

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4. Be your own ruler – We keep a tape measure in the car for yarn bombing emergencies (although Craft Husband swears it’s for something else).  But sometimes you need to use nature’s measuring stick – your body!   OK, that sounds  a lot worse than I intended.  But anyway, when you’re scoping a potential site or are about to install, it’s really helpful to know what part of your body is roughly an inch long (knuckle to knuckle on your thumb), a yard (opposite shoulder to finger tip), or a foot (can you guess?).  We used every one of these during the Knit the Bridge installation and never had to pull out that pesky measure.

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5. Learn something – I was not really excited to volunteer for the tower crew Sunday because I’m not very handy or construction oriented.  But this was a really amazing opportunity to learn something new, use a million twist-ties, and show off my mom’s hard hat.

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Also, it meant I was allowed in the restricted area, which therefore meant I could get this picture.  Heh heh heh.

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6. Bring a friend – one of the leaders said she liked us because we “entertained ourselves.”

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If you can swing it, bring somebody along to keep your company during down-times or to help pump you up when the endless whip-stitching has gotten the best of you.  And if no one will come along, befriend some strangers.  Just like your mama taught you!

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Bonus:  there will definitely be someone to tell the EMT you’re allergic to Penicillin if things go south.

7. Don’t get defensive – When you see the 100th comment on your project that says “this yarn should have been used to make something for charity,” you do not need to mention the bazillion hat donations you made while Commenter 100 knitted themselves another sweater.  When they say it’s just a waste of yarn, you do not need to motion wildly at their never-to-be-used yarn stash.  And if they dare say it isn’t really art, you do not need to march them directly to their nearest gallery and yell “They should have used their painting skills to refurbish houses!  That would be a great volunteer project! And look at all the paint they wasted!” You don’t have to, but I do encourage it.

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8. Plan – Seriously, I am in-freaking-awe of the Knit the Bridge planners. From the community involvement aspect to the precise measurements, they had things down.  If I do a yarn bombing object that actually fits, I am elated.  They did this times 500-fold like it was no big thing.

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9. Love the gawkers – I could not get enough of this Grandma who I watched fix her hair so she would look great in her photo with the bridge in the background.  Positive gawkers are instant feedback that let you know you’re doing something provocative and amazing.

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10. Be thankful – Many thanks to the organizers of Knit the Bridge!  We had a great time and we can’t wait to cover the next two bridges! OK, just kidding.  OK, not really.  OK, really.

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And now it’s time to reapply that aloe.

Bye,
Jenny Brown