The Big Acorn Race

A Squirrel Picnic Story with Crochet Patterns and Projects


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The Big Acorn Race Launch Party

What a fun time we had celebrating the launch of this little crochet story and pattern book…

Squirrel Picnic

It was a cold and slushy day in April when several intrepid friends braved their way through treacherous conditions to come together and celebrate the launch of The Big Acorn Race: A Story with Crochet Patterns and Projects.

The Big Acorn Race Launch Party

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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


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Tips for Making the Spiral in the Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow

This week in the crochet along, we made the spiral that begins our Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillows. Crocheting spirals is one of my favorite techniques. It looks a lot more complicated than it really is. Once you start you won’t want to stop!

To get started, grab the yarn you want to use for A and B in the pattern. You’ll need your G-6 (4.00 mm) crochet hook as well. The spiral is also the pattern used for the gauge swatch, which I’ll go over in more detail after we have our spirals made.

Rnd 1: The first step is to make a magic loop with A. You’ll find a step-by-step tutorial of this on page 34 of your book. (I hope to put together a video of this soon!) There are other methods to make a magic loop, but after years of trial and error, I’ve found this one to be the easiest.

Work your first 4 stitches into the magic loop, but don’t close the magic loop just yet.

Remove your hook and pull on the loop where your hook was so that you won’t lose your stitches when you attach and begin working with B.

Magic Loop

Attach B by making a slip knot and placing it on your hook. Hold the magic loop in your left hand. To sc into the magic loop, insert your hook into the loop from front to back, yo, pull through the loop, yo again and pull through both loops on hook.

Once you’ve made your B stitches into the loop, you’ll need to close the magic loop.

1) Here’s what yours should look like so far. (Except maybe for the kinks. My yarn was very kinky for some reason.)

Magic Loop 1

2) Gently hold the A stitches between the thumb and pointer finger of your right hand. With your left hand, pull slightly on the tail end of A while watching which of the A loops gets smaller. See how in the photo below, one loop has shrunk!

Magic Loop 2

3) With your left hand, pull on the shrunken loop until the magic loop magically closes! Except for that one loop that got bigger. No worries. We’ll take care of that next.

Magic Loop 3

4) Pull the tail end of A again until this last loop is snug. And you’re all set!

Magic Loop 4

Rnd 2: Now pick up B again. You’ll be working into each of the A stitches (yellow in this photo).

9 Spiral IMG_2014

For each round in Rnds 3-7 you will be working into all the stitches of the opposite color. So for Rnd 3, pick up A again, and work 2 dc into each of the B stitches. The last stitch will be the one with the long loop of B. See it’s not so hard at all.

But be sure to count your stitches just to make sure you match the pattern throughout. Otherwise things might get complicated and we don’t want that. Here’s what your spiral will look like at the end of each round.

Fasten Off B with the Alternative Join Method (aka Needle Joining)

1. Cut the B yarn leaving a tail of at least 6 inches. Fasten off as you normally would by drawing the tail through the last stitch. Thread the tail onto a yarn needle or tapestry needle.
1 Alternative Join IMG_20672. With right side of fabric facing you, pass the tail under both loops of the next stitch from front to back.

2 Alternative Join IMG_2069

3. Insert the needle into the center of the last stitch of the round, under the back loop only, and out to the wrong side of the fabric.

3 Alternative Join IMG_2074

4. Pull gently to adjust the stitch so that it looks invisible. Weave in the end on the wrong side of the fabric.

4 Alternative Join IMG_2076Gauge

Now is a great time to measure the diameter of your spiral. Your spiral should measure 7” from one side to the other, through the center. (You can give or take up to 3/8” on either side without being too concerned.) But if it is really quite a bit smaller, you’ll need to try again with a larger hook. If it is larger, try the spiral again with a smaller hook.

See you next time for Rounds 10-13!

Rnd 9

Rnd 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Tips for Choosing and Substituting Yarn for the Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow

I’m excited that so many people are interested in making Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillows! As you get started, I thought I would provide some tips about choosing yarn for this project. In the coming weeks I’ll share even more handy-dandy tricks to help you make this unique pillow.

How Much Yarn Will I Need?

First, consider: what kind of back would you like to do?

  1. Make a back in the flower pattern just like the front.
  2. Make a back in the colors and order that you choose.

1. Flower Pattern for Front and Back

Tall n Fast Flower Pillow Back 2To use the flower pattern (Pillow Front) to make both the front and the back, you will need approximately:

70 yds medium-weight yarn in yellow
70 yds medium-weight yarn in purple
64 yds medium-weight yarn in green
50 yds medium-weight yarn in pink
+ approximately 15 yds medium-weight yarn in pink for assembly
60 yds medium-weight yarn in blue
30 yds medium-weight yarn in white
+ approximately 15 yds medium-weight yarn in white for the edging

2. Pillow Front (in Flower Pattern) + Back in Colors of Your Choice
Tall n Fast Flower Pillow Back 3To make the Pillow Front, you will need approximately:

35 yds medium-weight yarn in yellow
35 yds medium-weight yarn in purple
32 yds medium-weight yarn in green
25 yds medium-weight yarn in pink
+ approximately 15 yds medium-weight yarn in pink for assembly
30 yds medium-weight yarn in blue
15 yds medium-weight yarn in white
+ approximately 15 yds medium-weight yarn in white for the edging

Then choose whatever colors you like for the back, keeping in mind that you will need approximately 172 yards total to crochet the back.

Can I Use My Own Colors for This Project?

Certainly! Be adventurous! Make your pillow as unique as you are.

If you’re not sure what colors to use, I recommend Design Seeds. On her website, Jessica Colaluca breaks down photographs into color palettes. I’ve found these palettes are great inspiration for designing crochet projects.

What Fiber Content Is Best for This Project?

yarnI encourage you to choose a yarn with a fiber content that you feel comfortable working with: one that makes you happy, because this is meant to be a happy project! (For the most part, I’d recommend cotton, wool, or acrylic, but feel free to experiment with another fiber.)

Using Scraps and Checking Gauge…

Here are a few more tips to help keep the happiness going.

  • Choose a medium-weight yarn.
  • Make sure to buy enough! Luckily this pattern doesn’t call for very much yarn. Perhaps you even have some on hand that you would like to use.

Do you know how to determine if you have enough when you are using leftovers? It’s pretty simple as long as you have the original label from the yarn (or can get the information online). You’ll also need a scale that can weigh grams or ounces. Let’s use an example:

My yarn weighs 1.25 ounces. My label says that this yarn is 170 g / 6 oz, 288 meters / 315 yards. Here are the steps to determine how many yards I have:

Multiply the number of ounces I have by the total number of yards in a full ball.

example: 1.25 x 315 = 393.75

Divide this number by the number of ounces in a full ball.

example: 393.75 / 6 = 65.625 yards

  • Once you have your yarn in hand, be sure to check your gauge. (You’ll find the gauge details for this pattern on page 73 and additional instructions on page 30.) I made this mistake and didn’t check my gauge when I used Cascade 220 to make this pillow last year. The pillow ended up a little small, and even though I was able to shove the pillow form in, the finished pillow was lumpy.

Got My Color Scheme, Now Which Colors Should I Put Where?

Once you’ve chosen your color scheme, the next step is deciding where each color should go in the pattern. I came up with a handy-dandy tool to help you, and it requires you to color! Print out and color in this black-and-white sketch of our pillow front pattern using colored pencils or crayons in your chosen colors.

It’s a great way to test out your color combos before you start. Your final colored-in sketch will also be a nice tool to help you tell which color you are using for which letter (A-F) as you read the pattern. Enjoy!

Color in a Tall n Fast Flower

 


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Join the 2016 Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow Crochet Along!

Tall n Fast Pillow CAL Announcement April 19-May 31Starting April 19, follow along as we crochet this unique pillow over the course of 6 weeks. The Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pillow 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. 

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. (Some of these tips and tricks will also be posted to the Big Acorn Race blog each week, so if you’d rather not receive both you can cancel the newsletter at any time by emailing me at squirrelpicnic{at}gmail{dot}com.)

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 plus crochet-related goodies, which will be given through a random drawing of participants at the end of the 6 weeks. 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!

And now some information to help you decide if this crochet along is right for you…

Schedule

April 5: Pre-CAL: Choosing Yarn and Establishing Gauge

April 19: Week 1: Making the Spiral

April 26: Week 2: Rnds 10-13

May 3: Week 3: Rnds 14-16

May 10: Week 4: Rnds 17-19

May 17: Week 5: The Pillow Back

May 24: Week 6: Assembly and Edging

May 31: Finale: Announcing the Prize Winners and Presenting a Gallery of Pillows by You!

Difficulty

Difficulty rating 2

 

This project is suitable for crocheters who know basic crochet stitches such as the slip stitch, single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet, and treble crochet, simple increases, and are comfortable with more complicated stitches such as the double-treble crochet and techniques such as crocheting around the post of a stitch and simple color changes.

Materials & Tools

The Tall ‘n’ Fast Flower Pattern calls for Caron Simply Soft Solids. (Feel free to substitute a yarn of your choice.) The amount you need depends on how you choose to crochet the back of the pillow. In the pattern I give you a few different options for how to crochet the back:

  1. Crochet Rnds 1-18 in green and Rnds 19-20 in purple, or
  2. Use the colors of your choice in any order you choose, or
  3. Repeat the instructions for the front to make a back in the flower pattern as well.

Yarn for 2016 Tall n Fast Flower CAL

1. Pillow Front (in Flower Pattern) + Back in Green and Purple

35 yds medium-weight yarn in yellow
90 yds medium-weight yarn in purple
140 yds medium-weight yarn in green
40 yds medium-weight yarn in pink
30 yds medium-weight yarn in blue
30 yds medium-weight yarn in white

2. Pillow Front (in Flower Pattern) + Back in Colors of Your Choice

To give you even greater customization, you may choose to make the Pillow Front as instructed in the pattern and then make a back using the colors of your choice. Use these yardages as your guide:

To make the Pillow Front you will need approximately:

35 yds medium-weight yarn in yellow
35 yds medium-weight yarn in purple
32 yds medium-weight yarn in green
25 yds medium-weight yarn in pink
+ approximately 15 yds medium-weight yarn in pink for assembly
30 yds medium-weight yarn in blue
15 yds medium-weight yarn in white
+ approximately 15 yds medium-weight yarn in white for the edging

Then choose whatever colors you like for the back, keeping in mind that you will need approximately 172 yards total to crochet the back. This is the method I’ll be doing for the CAL, so I’ll be giving you some pointers on this option when we get to it.

3. Flower Pattern for Front and Back

In the pattern, I also give you the option of using the flower pattern (Pillow Front) to make both the front and the back. If you choose this option, you will need the following approximate amounts of each color in Caron Simply Soft Solids:

70 yds medium-weight yarn in yellow
70 yds medium-weight yarn in purple
64 yds medium-weight yarn in green
50 yds medium-weight yarn in pink
+ approximately 15 yds medium-weight yarn in pink for assembly
60 yds medium-weight yarn in blue
30 yds medium-weight yarn in white
+ approximately 15 yds medium-weight yarn in white for the edging

You’ll also need…

G-6 (4.00 mm) crochet hook
Yarn needle or tapestry needle
14″ round pillow form


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Tiny Daisy Crochet Pattern

Pattern for Crochet Daisy from The Big Acorn Race

Are you and your squirrel friends as excited as I am that winter is finally over and springtime is here? Celebrate the arrival of spring by crocheting some daisies like those featured in The Big Acorn Race.

I made the daisies for the scenes from the book out of fine-weight yarn (Lion Brand Bonbons Cotton Yarn in white and yellow) and a size B-1 (2.25 mm) crochet hook. If you have never experienced mini-crochet before, these flowers are a great opportunity to practice. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

  1. Ease yourself and your hands into the task of crocheting on a small scale by using a heavier weight yarn and appropriate crochet hook for the pattern first. I’d start with a medium-weight yarn for the first daisy, just to give the pattern a try, then move down in weight from there.
  2. Crocheting tiny takes patience. If you find yourself getting frustrated, put your work aside, and go do something else for a while or even put it away for a day or two. Your work and your nerves will benefit from a fresh perspective.
  3. Be sure to stretch your hands now and then. Whenever my hands start to tense up, I find it helpful to take a break and do a few hand and wrist stretches like these offered by Kathryn of Crochet Concupiscence.
  4. Have fun! Trying out something new always brings ups and downs, but paying attention to the aspects of the new project that you really love will help you crochet it with a smile on your face.

Tiny Daisy from The Big Acorn Race

Difficulty rating 1

Finished measurement: about 1” in diameter from petal tip to petal tip

Daisy Crochet PatternMaterials & Tools

Small amount of fine-weight yarn in white
Small amount of fine-weight yarn in yellow
B-1 (2.25 mm) crochet hook
Yarn needle or tapestry needle

For this daisy I used…

Lion Brand Bonbons Cotton Yarn in white and yellow (10 g./0.35 oz; 26 m/28 yds)

Petals

With white, ch 3 and join with slst to 1st ch to form a ring.

Rnd 1: *Ch 4, slst in 2nd ch from hook, sc in next ch, slst in next ch, slst into the ring, rep from * 7 more times. (8 petals made)

FO and weave in ends.

Center

With yellow, ch 2.

Rnd 1: 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook. FO, leaving a long tail for sewing. Weave in other end.

Assembly

Use the long tail to sew the center circle to the center of the petals. I like to pull the tail tight as I sew the center on to draw the stitches in and give it a three-dimensional look.

Weave in all remaining ends.