Squirrel Picnic

Handmade with Love and Stuff


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In a Nutshell: News from the Picnic

Here in Colorado, summer is breezing along. It’s been a summer of exploration, discovery, and reflection.

Denali seen from TalkeetnaEarly on, I did some traveling. In June, my father and I went on a trip together to Alaska, just the two of us. It was the trip of a lifetime. We flew around Denali in a Cesna, took a jet boat up the Susitna to Devil’s Canyon Gorge, watched the Aialik Glacier calve into the bay in Kenai Fjords National Park, and hitched a ride with the sled dogs at Seavey’s Iditarod Tours in Seward. We saw moose, black bear, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, puffins, porpoises, sea lions, otters, and humpback whales!

Then earlier this month, Shelby and I, along with his dad and his dad’s girlfriend Dottie, road the Cumbres-Toltec train from New Mexico to Colorado. The route is full of switchbacks and turns around some beautiful country and steep mountain cliffs. Returning from these outdoor adventures, I have been keen to get outside as much as possible to enjoy Colorado nature, but to tell you the truth, it’s been just too darn hot. In the end, it all worked out because I have a lot of crocheting and designing to do, which I like just as much as being outside!

Some incredible things have been going on at the picnic. Regarding the book, there have been interviews and I’ve received some help getting the book into stores. It’s still a challenge, but I’m happy to make progress by baby steps. In other news, I’ve been hard at work on some new designs and some special plans. Here’s what I’ve been up to: Continue reading

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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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A Look Behind the Scenes at My Craft HQ and Travel Studio

Squirrel Picnic's Craft HQ

Squirrel Picnic’s Craft HQ

Just last week, I showed you a book by Cut Out + Keep and wouldn’t you know, this week they’re returning the favor by featuring my Craft Headquarters and Travel Studio on their special feature, Craft Room Tours.

I have to be honest, when Cat, CO+K’s founder, first approached me to participate in this feature, I thought “Why in the world would anyone want to see my “craft space?”

I’m sure you too have seen those glowing photos of pristine craft rooms with sparkling white cabinetry, appliances, and lighting. They are usually decorated with functional and fashionable decor that any crafter would envy. I swoon over those pictures… and then look over at my messy apartment bedroom/craft space in dismay.

My compact travel kit makes it possible to take my crochet with me everywhere I go.

My compact travel kit makes it possible to take my crochet with me everywhere I go.

Lucky for me this experience has changed my attitude. The best part about participating in this interview is that it helped me to rethink what a craft space is and what one really needs to practice their craft. It made me question whether a studio has to be confined to any one place. Why can’t my craft space be anywhere and everywhere I take my crochet? But most importantly it inspired me to be grateful for what I have.

So head on over to my interview to see more photos, learn what I keep in my travel studio and where I go for inspiration, read my tips on how to organize your supplies, and see where Hodge and Podge live when they’re not on the road with me. I hope you enjoy this little sneak peak into the world behind the picnic.


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Bringing the Picnic to Cut Out + Keep

promo_squirrelpicnicI’m so excited to tell you that I’m being featured as the Knit and Crochet Superstar on Cut Out + Keep this week. Each day they will release one of my original patterns for their fun-loving community to enjoy. I’m not sure they are quite aware of the extreme cuteness that is in store for them!

Cut Out + Keep is an online community of over 180,000 members who share free step-by-step crafting tutorials. I’ve had a wonderful time exploring some of the 69,000 projects available in a variety of craft categories like jewelry making, sewing, baking, even home décor and beauty.

As I mentioned, I was asked to select 7 of my patterns to be featured throughout this upcoming week. Boy was it hard! Trying to choose these patterns gave me the opportunity to think about what this blog means to me. At the end of the day, I really hope that I’ve added a touch of joy, and maybe a little silliness, to the world. My favorite patterns are the ones that continue to make me smile — so those are the ones I chose for their feature. I hope that being a member of Cut Out + Keep will help me make a few more people smile too.

Be sure to check out my interview and the super-kooky photograph I provided with Hodge and Podge. If you’d like to look around Cut Out + Keep, I recommend typing your favorite item (for me, it was robots) into their search engine. You’ll be amazed by what the members of their community have been up to. And of course, if you like what you see, you should become a member too!