The Big Acorn Race

A Squirrel Picnic Story with Crochet Patterns and Projects


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Mayor Snack Frog Free Crochet Pattern

Did you know that you can get the crochet pattern for Mayor Snack Frog (the frog who referees the big acorn race) for free? All you have to do is hop on over to the picnic. From his dapper black hat on down to his roly-poly belly, Mayor Snack Frog is brimming with good cheer. He’s the life of the party. Learn more about his adventures in the Squirrel Picnic webcomics and enjoy making a frog of your own.


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Podge’s Sunflower Crochet Pattern

Podge’s sunflowers just keep getting taller and taller. At this point, she’s expecting to be able to climb them all the way up to the clouds by September!

I should probably clarify, these sunflowers are only tall by Podge’s standards. At just 1.75 inches wide, they look tiny to us humans.

If you are new to miniature crochet, this pattern would be a great one to try. It calls for fine-weight yarn and a B-1 (2.25 mm) crochet hook, which are large in the world of miniature crochet. However, if you find you are having trouble getting your fingers to work with these materials, try the pattern again with a heavier yarn and larger hook (worsted-weight and a G or H hook should do) until you are comfortable moving down to the smaller sizes.

Celebrate the dog days of summer by crocheting some sunflowers of your own. They would make great appliques for small items like phone cases, coin purses, and barrettes.

Sunflower

Podge’s Sunflowers

Difficulty rating 1Finished size: 1.75 inches

Materials

Fine-weight yarn in brown
Fine-weight yarn in yellow
For the sunflowers in The Big Acorn Race, I used Lion Brand BonBons Cotton Yarn in Chocolate Brown and Yellow
B-1 (2.25 mm) crochet hook
Yarn needle or tapestry needle

Abbreviations

ch = chain
ea = each
FO = fasten off
rep = repeat
sc = single crochet
slst = slip stitch

Instructions

With brown, make a magic loop.

Rnd 1: 6 sc into the magic loop. Close magic loop. (6)

Rnd 2: 2 sc in ea sc around. (12)

Rnd 3: * Sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc, rep from * 5 more times. Join with slst to 1st sc. (18) FO.

Rnd 4: Join yellow with a slst in any sc of Rnd 3. * Ch 5, slst in next sc, rep from * 17 more times. (18 petals) FO and weave in all ends.


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Announcing Another Winner! (Instagram Giveaway)

June 2016 Winner of Instagram Giveaway

Congratulations go out to @thequiltingdoberman!

You have won your very own copy of The Big Acorn Race. Please email squirrelpicnic(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address and I’ll pop your prize in the mail today.

In other news, did you know that you can now find The Big Acorn Race in Barnes & Noble (and wherever books are sold). I don’t know if that’s a big deal, but when I saw that the book had ventured beyond the realm of Amazon and out into the big wide world, it really gave me quite a thrill. It’s like watching it fly out of the nest. (Sorry, weird metaphor. How would I know what that’s like? I should’ve interviewed a bird before saying such a thing.)

We’re working hard on getting the book into yarn shops nationwide as well. I’ll keep you posted on where you can find these little squirrels and their adventure.


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2016 Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower CAL Closes, Winners Announced

Thank you to everyone who participated in the first annual Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow Crochet Along. I had such a wonderful time watching your pillows transform each week from spiral centers to colorful flowers in bloom.

The crochet along ran from early April through May, during which time I sent out 2-4 page pdf newsletters with tips and tricks that expand upon the instructions included for the pattern in my book The Big Acorn Race. Some special highlights included a coloring template of the pillow front to help crocheters choose colors for their pillows in advance and a brand-new pattern for a pillow back done with a spiral.

Let’s take a look at the finished pillows…

It was exciting to see the great variety of color combinations. From the vibrant to the subtle and delicate–each is so beautiful and original! From what I gather, everyone enjoyed most the spiral and the rounds that create the stripes and petals. Those are my favorite rounds too.

The back of the pillow is just as much fun to do as the front! I could tell that participants really enjoyed adding their own style to the backs of their pillows. Several participants chose the new spiral pattern for the back, and I was excited to see the magic created by combinations of colors with slight tonal variations and of solid colors with variegated yarns. Some participants chose to repeat the front for the back as well. I need to try this one myself. It looks so cool! Others created their pillow backs in bands of alternating colors. I love the variety!

And I was really pleased to hear that everyone seemed to learn something new from my tutorials. It’s my pleasure to share what I’ve learned over the years and to do my little part in helping to grow the popularity of crochet.

It has been very exciting to see everyone’s personality and creativity shining through in their pillows. I couldn’t pick a winner if I tried! So, as I usually do, I’ll let the Random Number Generator pick two winners for me. (I placed the names of participants who sent or posted photos of their completed pillows into a spreadsheet. Participants who filled out a survey received an additional entry.) And the winners are…

2016 CAL Winners

Congratulations Emily Simone and Katy Board!

Emily and Katy, to claim your prizes, please email me at squirrelpicnic(at)gmail(dot)com with a mailing address.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this first ever Squirrel Picnic crochet along. I had such a good time, and I hope you did too. Even if you weren’t able to enter the drawing, I’d love to see your completed pillows. Would you share a photo with me? I’ll even add it to this gallery if you like, so everyone can see your handiwork.

It’s been fun meeting you all and getting to know you better. See you around the picnic!


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Tips on Assembling Your Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow and Adding an Edging

Assembly

Now it’s time to assemble our pillows and add one final embellishment to the edge.

So grab your completed Pillow Front and Back, a 14” round pillow form, the yarn you’d like to use to crochet the two sides together, and the yarn you’d like to use for the edging.

Start by arranging your Pillow Front and Back so that the right side of each (side you want to see) is facing out. Pair up the stitches on the edge of the Front with those on the Back as in the photo below. Hold the Front and Back together so that the Front is facing you.

Attach your yarn by making a slip knot and placing it on your hook. Insert the hook (from front to back) into a set of paired up stitches, yarn over, pull through both stitches, yarn over again and pull through the slipknot on your hook.

Pair up stitches IMG_2559

Continue with this method, pairing up and crocheting together the front and back stitches, until you are about halfway around. Insert your pillow form and continue crocheting the two sides together. When you get to the end, join with either a slip stitch or an alternative join. FO. Because the edging will likely cover up whichever join you use, this is really just a matter of personal preference.

After you have fastened off and woven in your end, smooth out any lumps or bulges, and readjust your crochet cover if needed.

Insert pillow form IMG_2575

Edging

I created this edging to complement the petal and triangle shapes created by Rounds 14-16. See how the petals in the edging line up with those in Rnd 14 and how the triangles line up with those created by the background in Rnd 15.

IMG_2612

The key to getting everything lined up is choosing the correct starting stitch. It’s really not very hard. Here I’ll show you how. Hold your pillow so that the Front is facing you and a petal in Rnd 14 is pointing straight up. Trace an imaginary line up from the center of this petal. Count back (to the right) 4 stitches. This fourth stitch will be where we begin this round.

Begin edging IMG_2600

Take the yarn you’ve chosen for the edging, make a slipknot in the end, and place it on your hook. Sc into our beginning stitch on the edge (#4 in the photo above). Now you can probably see that when you follow the pattern for the edging you will be creating a petal right in line with the petal of Rnd 14. Cool! Continue with the pattern.

IMG_2638

I hope you enjoyed making a Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow. Would you share a photo? Email squirrelpicnic{at}gmail.com. I’d love to see it.

IMG_2630


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The Big Acorn Race Instagram Giveaway

Big Acorn Race Giveaway for FB

Hodge and Podge and Eric want to give one lucky picnicker
a copy of their new book, The Big Acorn Race.

Three quick hops and you’ll be entered to win:

1) Hop on over to Instagram and follow @squirrelpicnic.

2) Repost this photo.

3) Tag it @squirrelpicnic #wannawinthebigacornrace

I’ll draw a random winner on June 2. I can’t wait to see who wins!


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Tips on Crocheting the Back of Your Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow

Pillow Back IMG_2385

Way back in April, I mentioned 3 options for crocheting your pillow back: use the Pillow Front pattern to crochet the back as well or use the Pillow Back pattern to crochet a plain back or one in many colors. If you decide to use the Pillow Front, go on ahead. You know what to do. 🙂

There are several ways to use the Pillow Back pattern to achieve a unique look. Use 1 color, use 2 or 3 or 4 or more. Lay them out in any pattern you like. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Crochet each round a different color, working in the same sequence or mixing it up. For my back (in the photo at right), I used 5 colors in alternating stripes. Each sequence is varied only slightly (some go blue, pink, purple, green, yellow and some go blue, purple, pink, yellow, green).
  2. Crochet blocks of color. Work 1 round in one color, then work the next 2 rounds in a different color.
  3. Crochet blocks of color that get wider as you work outward. This might look something like this:
    Rnd 1: With A                               Rnds 9-12: With B
    Rnds 2-3: With B                          Rnd 13: With A
    Rnd 4: With A                               Rnds 14-18: With B
    Rnds 5-7: With B                          Rnd 19: With A
    Rnd 8: With A                                Rnd 20: With B

Spiral Back

If you enjoyed making the spiral on the front of the pillow, perhaps you’d like to make a spiral for the back as well.

Special thanks to Sharon Pridmore and Elaine Womack for testing this pattern so that I could share it here with everyone!

Spiral Back

Materials

(A) Approximately 150 yards medium-weight yarn in main color
(B) Approximately 150 yards medium-weight yarn in contrasting color
Size F-5 (3.75 mm) crochet hook
Yarn needle or tapestry needle

Instructions

Note: Unlike the pillow front, the back is worked in multiples of 11 so that we end up with the same final stitch count as the front. Most importantly, as you complete Rnd 1, note that you are only working 7 sts into the magic loop.

Rnd 1: Make a magic loop with A. Into the magic loop, sc, hdc, 2 dc. Attach B. Into the magic loop, sc, hdc, 1 dc. Pull the magic loop tight to close. (7) (See these tips on starting a spiral with a magic loop.)

Rnd 2: Continuing with B, 2 dc in next sc and ea of next 3 sts. Remove your hook. (11)

At end of ea rnd, remove your hook and pick up next color to begin next rnd.

Rnd 3: With A, 2 dc in ea st to the end. (22)

Rnd 4: With B, *dc in next dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (33)

Rnd 5: With A, *dc in next 2 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (44)

Rnd 6: With B, *dc in next 3 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (55)

Rnd 7: With A, *dc in next 4 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (66)

Rnd 8: With B, *dc in next 5 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (77)

Rnd 9: With A, *dc in next 6 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (88)

Rnd 10: With B, *dc in next 7 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (99)

Rnd 11: With A, *dc in next 8 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (110)

Rnd 12: With B, *dc in next 9 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (121)

Rnd 13: With A, *dc in next 10 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (132)

Rnd 14: With B, *dc in next 11 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (143)

Rnd 15: With A, *dc in next 12 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (154)

Rnd 16: With B, *dc in next 13 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (165)

Rnd 17: With A, *dc in next 14 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * to the end. (176)

Rnd 18: With B, *dc in next 15 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * 7 more times, 5 hdc, 5 sc. FO with alternative join method and weave in end.

Rnd 19: With A, *dc in next 16 dc, 2 dc in next dc, rep from * 2 more times, 5 hdc, 5 sc, join with slst. (187)

 

 


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Tips for Crocheting Rounds 14-19 of the Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow

In the next 3 rounds of our Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillows we crochet the petals, a background for them, and a round to hold them flat. All while adding even more color and fun!

Rnd 14: Making Petals

Starting this round is probably the most difficult part. When you change color by pulling up a loop of the new color as your first chain, it’s rather hard to keep this chain from getting longer when you have to reach 3 stitches away to get to your first stitch. To help hold your chain in place until you are able to secure it by weaving the tail in, make the 1st petal over the tail end of your yarn. Position the tail so that it is just above and behind the stitch you are working into. Insert your hook and crochet the stitch around the tail. The tail will be enveloped by your stitch. This is also a handy trick to speed up weaving in ends. If you crochet your first 3-5 stitches like this whenever you are changing yarn at the start of a round, all you will have to do at the end is weave the rest of the tail in a different direction to secure it.

Crochet over the tail

When you get to the end of the round, join with a slip stitch to the 1st stitch.

join with slst to 1st st

Rnd 15: Filling in Behind the Petals

We will be working into the stitches of Rnd 13 (both the stitches we skipped and the bar of the hdc we crocheted the petals into) and the sc stitches of Rnd 14, which occur between each petal.

The key here is to hold the petals forward so you can access these skipped stitches from behind the petals.

fold the petals forward

The next stitch gives us an interesting situation, as it is the one we used in Rnd 14 to make our petal. The stitch itself is already occupied (pretty cramped actually), so we will need to crochet into the only available loop: the bar of this stitch. Hdc stitches have something called a “back bar” or a third loop below the front and back loops we usually use.

You can even use this technique of crocheting into the back bar to create a fabric that resembles knit stitches. Pretty neat!

After working into the next skipped stitches, work into the next single crochet of Rnd 14.

2 dc into the sc between petals

Continue the pattern around as instructed.

This round creates a vibrant backdrop to our petals, really making them stand out!

Rnd 16: To Hold the Petals Down

To make sure that everything lines up perfectly in this round, be sure to work your first stitch in the next tr stitch and not the tr at the base of your initial chain. (If you don’t do this your petals will lean to the right.)

crochet into the next stitch to get lined up

Your next stitch should be directly behind the chain space of the closest petal. Into this stitch and the chain space together, work 2 hdc. This holds your petals down neatly (and provides the increases needed for this round).

Repeat the pattern around. After crocheting into the chain space on the last petal, you should have just 5 hdc remaining. This is because we started with that 1 lone hdc in the beginning that got us all lined up.

Join with slst to End Rnd 16

Ta-da we’re almost done with the front of our pillow.

Rnds 17-19: Wrapping Up Our Pillow Front

These final rounds are like a breath of fresh air — so nice and easy. So sit back and enjoy some refreshingly mindless crochet. Well, you do have to count, but otherwise it’s a piece of cake. See you next time when we crochet the Pillow Back!


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Tips for Rounds 10-13 of the Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow

I hope you are enjoying crocheting this one-of-a-kind cushion. In this installment, you will find information specific to this pattern about working in joined rounds and the role of the initial chain. Different designers approach this in different ways, so I thought it would be worthwhile to address how my instructions are written. (Feel free to use a different method if you prefer.)

And then it’s on to Rnd 12! This is one of my favorite rounds. It represents a special change of heart for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a bit of a perfectionist bent. Well, this particular round really taught me to loosen up and have fun. At first I was inclined to write the pattern so that people would have to count all those hdc stitches in Rnd 10 as they went in order to get their “wheel spokes” absolutely positively evenly spaced. But then something inside me said, “Just let loose. This pattern is supposed to be fun.” So that’s what I did. And I’ve been satisfied with the results in every pillow I’ve made. I hope you are able to let loose too and really enjoy this fun round.

You Don’t Have to Cut Your Yarn after Each Round!

One important thing to note about this pillow front is that you don’t have to cut your yarn at the end of each round if you don’t want to. You can carry it up the back instead. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method in my opinion. When you choose not to cut the yarn after each round, you end up being “tied” to many balls of yarn and you’ll probably have to untangle them now and then to keep them straight. I do this by keeping them in order and always bringing the next color to the front of the line before I start the round. This keeps the colors tidy at the back of your work, which is really just for your own enjoyment (no one will ever see it!). However, if you don’t pull the yarn a little taut when you start using it again, you run the risk of the join being loose later down the line. If you choose to trim your ends each time you change color, you won’t have to worry about anything coming loose because you will weave in your ends before you assemble your pillow. So it really may just be a matter of how much you enjoy or don’t enjoy weaving in ends!

I get an odd thrill when I can run up my yarn between rounds this neatly. Too bad it’s on the WS of the work and no one will ever see! But I will know. (WS of Pillow Back pictured.)

I get an odd thrill when I can run up my yarn between rounds this neatly. Too bad it’s on the WS of the work and no one will ever see! But I will know. (WS of Pillow Back pictured.)

With that, let’s begin Rnds 10-13!

Rnd 10: Let’s Talk About Initial Chains and Changing Colors

Start by inserting your hook into the loop of A that we left off with last time. Pull a loop of C through the A loop and chain one more time. (Whenever we change color in this way, the first loop you pulled up will count as your first chain.) Also note that this initial chain serves not only to change color but also to get us to the height we need to work the stitches in the round. In the patterns throughout the book, unless otherwise noted, the initial chain doesn’t count as a stitch. (See page 35 for more information.)

Initial Chain

Here’s another example that might illustrate it more clearly: To begin Rnd 11, you’ll pull up a loop of D and chain 3 more for a total of 4 chains.

Rnd 10: Skip the Alternative Join Stitch

There are two ways to skip the alternative join stitch: Either hdc into the stitch before the join, sk the alternative join, and hdc in the next stitch of A. Or if you find it hard to get your hook into this last B stitch, skip it and hdc into the A stitch with the alternative join (not into the join itself).

To end the round, join with a slst to the first stitch. Be sure not to mistake the chain for the first stitch. In fact, from this point on, it might help you to use a piece of waste yarn to mark the beginning of each round.  At the end of Rnd 10, you should have 90 sts.

To end the round, join with slst to the first stitch of the round.

To end the round, join with slst to the first stitch of the round.

Rnd 11: Working in the Round

This is also a good time to talk about working in the round. There are a few schools of thought on where your first and last stitches should go. In the book, I talk about working the first stitch of a round into the next stitch (not the one at the base of the initial chain). The last stitch is worked into the back of the slst join that ended the previous round. I feel that this gives it a more seamless join.  This method also means that the initial chain does not count as a stitch. Again it is only used for changing color and achieving the height needed for the stitches in that round.

Rnd 11 first and last stitch

Be sure that you don’t make your slip-stitch joins too tight. You’ll need to be able to work into the back of them at the end of the next round. You can always tighten them after you finish the round by pulling a bit on the working end.

Rnds 10-11 not only gave us an opportunity to get on the same page about beginning and ending rounds, but those parts in the middle were pretty nice too. I enjoy easy rounds because they let me zone out and crochet without thinking too hard. They offer a nice change of pace, and they get me relaxed and ready for the more complicated parts. I’m not gonna lie, Rnd 12 is more complicated, but once you get the hang of it, I’m sure you’ll find it a piece of cake.

Rnd 12: Around the Post

Let’s get started on this exciting round. First grab your ball of E yarn and follow the pattern to the first stitch that we will skip. To find the hdc directly below the skipped st, hold your work upright so that the next stitch is at the top. Trace an imaginary line down from this stitch to Rnd 10.

This hdc will never be exactly below. Technically it will be either to the left or right of the sk st. Just decide whether you want to work into the hdc before or after the sk st and choose the same way each time. Consistency is key, but keep in mind this is not meant to be exact. It’s much more fun to eyeball it.

Whichever stitch you choose, keep your eye on it or hold it between your left thumb and forefinger as you wrap your yarn around your hook three times to begin the dtr.

To crochet around the post, insert your hook into the space before the hdc, behind it, and out to the front on the other side. Yo and pull the loop through the st. Yo again and pull it through the first 2 loops on your hook. Yo again and pull it through the next 2 loops. Yo again and pull through the next 2 loops. Yo one more time and pull through the last 2 loops.

A Tip for Working Double-Treble Crochet Stitches

One trick that might help you with double-treble (dtr) crochet stitches is to try to hold the initial 3 yarn overs with your right fingers as you insert your hook and work the first part of the stitch. This will help you “hang on” to those wraps without tightening your gauge.

Continue with the pattern to finish the round.

Rnd 13: Take a Breather

I hope you had fun with Rnd 12! Thankfully Rnd 13 is super easy, so enjoy a nice relaxing round. Now is a great time to weave in your ends so far, unless you’d prefer to do them all at the end. See you next time for Rnds 14-19!

rnd 13 IMG_2168