Squirrel Picnic

Handmade with Love and Stuff


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Crochet Sleepy Bears to Show You Care

Sleepy Bears by Just a Few Stitches Crochet Group

The Just a Few Stitches Crochet Group gets a big head start crocheting Sleepy Bears for kids in their community!

We all know that Sleepy Bear makes a great gift. I love seeing the way a child’s eyes light up when they hug this lovable and cuddly bear. As summer begins to wind down, I’m already thinking about the coming holidays and all those kids out there who really need a Sleepy Bear the most. I’m thinking of the kids who lost someone special to them this year. Those who have survived tragedies like fire or natural disaster. The kids who are afflicted with illness. Those who are struggling to be accepted at school. Those who are battling depression. While a teddy bear can’t be expected to solve all their problems, it can help them to feel loved and to let them know that someone cares.

That’s why I’d like to give you this call to action. Let’s each make one Sleepy Bear to give to a child in need this holiday season. Here’s what we can do to fulfill the need between now and December 25. Continue reading

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Little Tuxedo for a Big Heart

Brigh's TuxedoI’ve heard that the best thing to do when the world feels dark is to send out a little light of your own. Whether you visit nursing homes, give blood, feed the homeless, crochet blankets for the needy, or knit caps for preemies, doing something for someone else helps keep you connected to the world, helps you see the bigger picture, and just plain feels good.

I want to introduce you to two amazing souls who are helping the world one animal at a time. Bob Krugmire fosters animals for three different shelters and rescue programs in the Denver metro area and provides photography services for Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies and Denver Boxer Rescue (in addition to several other non-profit organizations). Over the years, he’s welcomed into his home everything from puppies and kittens to ferrets and a scorpion. Most recently he even adopted a pair of sugar gliders! But of all of Bob’s animals, one pooch in particular has really captured my heart. I think you too will find him to be quite the charmer and a real inspiration. Continue reading


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In a Nutshell: News from the Picnic

The Big Acorn RaceWhat a wild a crazy month March was! The Big Acorn Race is doing well on Amazon. Twelve people give it 5 stars! If you’ve purchased a copy, thank you so very much! If you have a moment and you feel so inclined, would you mind dropping by Amazon to leave a customer review? It would help the book a lot.

Sorry for the self-promotion. Since the release, I’ve been in full-on marketing mode, which is totally not my cup of tea.

One last note about the book: I’m pleased to announce that The Big Acorn Race is now available in all four branches of the Boulder Public Library! If you’d like to check it out from your local library, give your friendly librarians a call or go online and fill out their “Suggest a Title” or similar acquisition form. You never know, they might just decide to carry a copy.

Year of the Sock FB Group BannerYear of the Sock

I’ve just begun working on my socks for April. I got a bunch of crochet sock pattern books from the library and now I can’t decide which pattern to try! I’m excited that so many of you are now interested in crocheting socks. I set up a Facebook group and anyone interested in sock crochet is welcome to join. Whether you are new to crocheted socks or a seasoned veteran, we’d love to have you. You don’t even need to be working on a pair to participate. I’m really interested in hearing your tips and tricks, what types of heel construction you have tried, what your favorite patterns are, and what sock yarn you like best. Together we’ll become crochet sock experts!

Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow Crochet Along

If you’re following The Big Acorn Race blog, you probably noticed my post this past week inviting crocheters to join the Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow Crochet Along. This pattern is just one of 15 super cute crochet patterns you’ll find in Squirrel Picnic’s very own The Big Acorn RaceThe pattern is a lot easier than it looks and extraordinarily entertaining. Each round takes you on an adventure! And I can’t wait to show you the way.

Tall n Fast Flower Facebook Group Banner

Starting April 19, follow along as we crochet this unique pillow over the course of 6 weeks. Each week you’ll receive a pdf newsletter right to your inbox with tips and tricks and detailed tutorial photos to guide you step by step.

In addition, when you sign up, you’ll be registered to win 1 of 2 yarn-filled prize bags, each containing over 1000 yards of yarn, which will be given through a random drawing of participants at the end of the 6 weeks. And best of all, you’ll get a personal email from Hodge and Podge, thanking you for your participation.

Sign up by emailing me at squirrelpicnic{at}gmail{dot}com with the words Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower CAL in the subject line. It’s as easy as that!

Then join the Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Facebook group to share your experiences with the pattern and photos of your progress.

The Big Acorn Race Tea Party

Finally, on April 16 I will be hosting a tea party at Beatrice & Woodsley in Denver to celebrate the release of the book and to thank all the people that helped make it possible. This venue is so perfect for Squirrel Picnic. The décor inside is very woodsy and whimsical. It’s filled with aspen trees and moss-covered walls. The perfect hangout for some squirrel friends. I wish that I could invite you all, but it’s a pretty small space. I’ll be sure to take lots of photos and share them with you here later this month.

Thanks again for all your support. It means so much to me!

Love and hugs,

Jennifer


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The Big Acorn Race: Interview with the Author

Now that the book is written and production is wrapping up, I thought I might share with you an interview I’ve completed to get the word out about The Big Acorn Race. Ever wonder how Squirrel Picnic got its start, who the characters Hodge and Podge were inspired by, or how I go about designing crochet patterns? Read on for the full scoop!

How did you come up with the name Squirrel Picnic?

Podge from The Big Acorn Race by Jennifer OlivarezOne of the most important things to consider when starting a blog is the name, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. So when I set out to start a blog back in 2012, I took a day off of work to set it up. It took me all day to think of the name. Every name I thought of had already been taken. I was pacing my living room when a squirrel jumped down onto the balcony. We treat the squirrels in our neighborhood like pets — we feed them almonds and give them names. I’ve always wanted to put a tiny picnic table out on the balcony with some almonds on it to see if they would sit down to eat a proper picnic. When that squirrel hopped down on the balcony, it struck me — Squirrel Picnic!

How did the characters of Hodge and Podge come about? Are they modeled after people you know?

When I first started the blog, I planned on covering lots of different crafts, from crochet to jewelry making. I did tutorials on needle felting and we went on a field trip to a stained glass studio. It was a real hodge-podge! When I decided to whip up some mascots for the blog, it seemed only appropriate that they be named Hodge and Podge.

Hodge and Podge are modeled after two of my childhood friends.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always enjoyed storytelling. Since Squirrel Picnic began I have been putting together webcomics for the blog featuring the squirrels and their friends the fatimals. One of my favorite things to do is to come up with new adventures for them all. Often I’ll create a pattern to crochet one of the items featured in the comic, and I’ll share it with the readers of my blog. It dawned on me that it would be really fun to write a story for the squirrels that they would enact in an entirely crocheted world and then create a whole series of patterns around those crocheted items.

What makes this book unique?

Building a crochet pattern book around a story is a relatively new concept as far as I know, though I’m not the only one to do it. Unlike some of the other books of this nature that I have seen, the patterns in The Big Acorn Race allow you to make the characters and props so that the story doesn’t have to end. You can invent your own story with your version of Hodge, Podge, Eric, or a squirrel of your own. The sky is the limit to the adventures you can take them on.

What was your favorite pattern to design for this book?

The Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow was my favorite to design. It was a complicated pattern for me, so I took every Monday off during the month of June 2015 in order to focus on the math and work out the details. As complicated as it was, I really enjoyed this work, which is a lot like solving a puzzle to me. I had a marathon of the TV show 30 Rock on in the background while I worked and I remember laughing the whole time. I like to think that the playfulness of that show made its way into my pattern.

Everything in this book is crocheted! How long did it take you to create everything and why did you choose to do this?  

Big Acorn Race PropsI was putting away all the props after photographing the story section when I was struck by the amount of effort that went into crocheting all these things! I added it up and discovered that between March and November I had spent roughly 950 hours creating the backgrounds, scenery, props, and characters for the story! As much work as it was, it was also a real joy. It’s been my focus with Squirrel Picnic from the very start to create a world with my crochet. By crocheting every detail of this story, I hope that readers will feel that they have entered a fuzzy, comfy, colorful little world.

You are a big fan of dioramas. How has that influenced your work?

Yes, I really love how dioramas draw the viewer in. The best dioramas have an exaggerated sense of depth created by multiple layers from background to foreground, which draw the viewer’s eyes farther and farther back into the piece. It’s like entering into another world. I particularly admire dioramas that are loaded with tons of detail. The more detail the better! I love getting lost in all the layers of detail. It makes you feel like you have entered another world. These dioramas are captivating, inviting you to stay there for a while. I’ve tried to capture that in my own work by populating the world of Squirrel Picnic with lots of crochet details.

How did you become involved with crochet?

My mother taught me how to knit and crochet when I was really young, but it never really stuck. Then when I first moved to Colorado in my early twenties, she came out to visit me. While she was here during that visit, she taught me to crochet granny squares. I loved it so much that for several years everyone I knew got a granny square afghan for Christmas and birthdays! Then in 2009, I picked up an amigurumi book at the library and was instantly enthralled at the idea that crochet could create these tiny, adorable creatures. Once I got the hang of crocheting in the round, I couldn’t stop. By 2012 I had created Squirrel Picnic and all the amigurumi friends that live there.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I am inspired by places more than anything else. I love being outside in nature and Colorado is perfect for that. But I also love to travel and study other cultures. I find anime and Japanese culture particularly inspiring, which is fitting I suppose since amigurumi originated in Japan.

Hodge from The Big Acorn Race by Jennifer OlivarezDescribe your process for designing crochet patterns.

Each of my patterns starts with an image which I pour over in my mind until I can see it clearly and can sketch it out. The next step is to make sure that it hasn’t been done before or that I can approach it in a unique way. The hardest part is figuring out how to translate the image into crochet, which often involves some trial and error, testing out different techniques, stitches, and construction until it works. Throughout the entire process I take tons and tons of notes and photos, always keeping in mind the final pattern. I pride myself on creating patterns that are easy to read and follow. I love including photo tutorials, videos, and diagrams with my online patterns because I want my fellow crocheters to have a good time working on my projects.

What is the biggest thing that people don’t know about amigurumi, that they need to know?

Amigurumi isn’t just for kids. Adults can make amis for themselves and their friends. Who doesn’t love a cute little animal or inanimate object with a smiley face. I’ve seen them on the desks of adults in several industries and on the dashboards of people’s cars. Everyone can love amigurumi. I hope they take over the world.

What one tip would you give to a beginning crocheter embarking on an amigurumi project?

Use a stitch marker to mark your rounds and count your stitches often. Most amigurumi is created in unjoined rounds, so placing a piece of yarn (often called waste yarn) before the first stitch in a round is essential to keeping track of which round you are working on. You can move the marker up each round to keep track as you go. At the end of each round that involves increases or decreases, I often count the stitches to make sure that I have the same number as the pattern before continuing on to the next round.

What do your plans for future projects include?

I really enjoyed making the larger props for the book and it has inspired me to work on more sculptural crochet pieces. As for Squirrel Picnic, I have several new comics and patterns for new characters in the works. I’m also planning a Squirrel Picnic Summer Camp that will feature new video tutorials for basic and intermediate crochet stitches and techniques over the course of four weeks. I’ll offer more details on this project in the coming months. 

When will The Big Acorn Race be available and where can we get a copy?

The Big Acorn Race will be available through Amazon.com starting March 10, 2016. I hope you enjoy the book!


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Two Little Country Squirrels in the Big City: Squirrel Picnic Visits NYC

This past weekend, Hodge and Podge and I flew to New York City to explore, get inspired, catch up with old friends, and make some new ones too.

Hodge and Podge in Times Square Continue reading


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You Made This!

It’s so cool to see Squirrel Picnic projects from people all over the world. Thank you all for choosing my patterns and for taking the time to share your finished projects with me.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to these awesome folks, whose projects are featured in this edition: Alicia Kelly Rippingale, Margie Smith, Theresa Estep, Christine Knapp, Elaine Womack, Julie-Anna Smith, Marta Ruso, Ina Ringel, Marcia Cristina, Ankharas, Mona Reyes, Taylor, Janette Vanzanen, bpitard, cyrusmum, plantersmith, ellafofella, nlezama, nessiesparklepony, kaypendragon, mamascents, ShiloSol, lyndeepitiak, rpayne8457, violinone, kaurin, Penella, angelclassy, foxxxy, mrsrefjr, rosecrochet44, lese1, Idskje, walkerlover, Blacky67, and Frau Tapete.

If you’ve made something awesome with one of my patterns, I’d love to include you in a future installment of You Made This! And if there’s anyone I missed, I’m terribly sorry. Let me know and I’ll include you in the next edition. Please send a photo of your project to squirrelpicnic{at}gmail{dot}com. Continue reading


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Hodge and Podge Are Going to New York City!

Hodge and Podge and I are very excited about our trip to the Big Apple this weekend. None of us has ever been. We’ll just be three little wide-eyed squirrels in the big city. Luckily I have some very nice friends who will be looking out for us. We’re going to visit the Vogue Knitting Live marketplace at the Marriott Marquis near Times Square, the garment district (can’t wait to step foot in Mood!), Chinatown, High Line, Battery Park, and the World Trace Center Memorial Plaza to name a few. We can’t wait to get there and hug our friends and explore the city! But first we better pack.

Hodge and Podge Go to New York

Hodge and Podge have packed their bags for their big trip to New York City. What are you bringing, Podge?

Hodge and Podge Go to New York 3 “I’m bringing a book on how to knit. I can’t wait to check out all the goodies at the Vogue Knitting event.
Better brush up on my knitting skills first!”

And Hodge what are you bringing?

Hodge and Podge Go to New York 2

“I’m bringing a donut.”

Huh, I see. Well, I guess we’re just about set then. New York City, here we come!