Robin is the indie designer behind the DEHeadHugger Craftsy Pattern Marketplace store. There, you can find a number of patterns for vibrant, stylish knit hats and blankets. Most of them have hopeful and poignant names such as "Bumpy Road" and "Weathering the Storm" and "Room for Hope." You see, the whole idea behind Delaware Head Huggers is to create knit caps, and donate them for those who are dealing with the effects of chemotherapy. That's why she calls them "chemo caps." In fact, all of the money she earns from her Craftsy Pattern Marketplace store goes toward Delaware Head Huggers as well as Kozy Kovers for Kids. Through the Kozy Kovers for Kids effort, she knits blankets that are donated to children in foster care and crisis. Between Delaware Head Huggers and Kozy Kovers for Kids, Robin told us that "8,400 hats and 880 blankets and counting in less than 3 years" have been donated.
And then, when Hurricane Sandy hit, Robin became even more giving.
Seeing an immediate need, she sprung into action, and announced via Facebook that she will be giving 100% of November's proceeds from her Craftsy Pattern Marketplace store to hurricane relief efforts. Her generosity---as well as her designs---struck us, and we were eager to get to know more about her. So she took some time away to answer some of our questions. We enjoyed meeting her, and we think you will, too!
So, first of all, our readers should know that the "DE" in DEHeadHugger stands for Delaware. I am a New Jersey native, and was raised there until I went off to college. So many of my friends growing up went to school in Delaware or moved there after school. Plus, one of your biggest towns is Newark, and so is ours in New Jersey (of course, they're pronounced differently). And now here you are sending relief to New Jersey-based shelters. So, first things first: What's up with the Delaware-New Jersey connection?
I am originally from Queens, NY and my husband is from Long Island. We moved to Delaware about 12 years ago, but still have lots of friends and family in the NY & NJ areas. I just realized that the way my Craftsy name appears it could read as de (instead of the) headhugger! Oh my! Thanks for pointing out that it stands for Delaware!
Now before we get to Hurricane Sandy, let's look a little further back. You have a history of being charitable. As your bio on the Craftsy Pattern Marketplace states, "I run Delaware Head Huggers where we donate handmade chemo caps to patients throughout the US and Kozy Kovers for Kids where we donate handmade blankets to children in foster care and those in crisis." Give us some background on when and why you decided to dedicate so much of yourself and what you make (and earn) to help others.
In December of 2009 I contacted the main branch of Head Huggers about donating hats. I have lost many loved ones to cancer. As has just about everyone. I used to work in healthcare and know how terribly draining and taxing chemo can be. Sue Thompson started the Head Hugger ideal in MD and she told me that no one was doing anything in Delaware, so it would be great if I could start a group. So, I did! While in the process of spreading the word about DEHH, I spoke to a woman who was originally from Massachusetts who told me about a blankets for foster care program there. I researched and found out that Delaware did not have anything similar and Kozy Kovers for Kids was begun too. Children entering the foster care system frequently have nothing to call their own when they start and I thought that a blanket that they could take with them, even if they move from home to home might help. Our blankets also go to local emergency rooms and to the police to have on hand for any child suffering from abuse or neglect.
I run both of them from my home. I get many hats and blankets from people all over the country – Florida, Louisiana, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, etc. I’ve gotten hats from Hawaii even! I pay for all the supplies and shipping myself. Each hat or blanket gets a tag that states it is a gift. The blankets all stay within driving distance at this point, but the hats are shipped anywhere in the United States, to individuals or to treatment centers or hospitals.
People have been incredibly generous with helping me by making hats and blankets. We’ve given out over 8,400 chemo caps and 880 blankets with more coming in every week. We were just able to supply a local college with 35 handmade blankets for a Christmas party for children from a foster home here in DE. It’s amazing to be able to do things like that thanks to so many people helping.
I'd like to add one other thing: if anyone is going through chemo (or knows someone who is) and they could use some hats, they can email me and I will send some to them completely free of charge. I can only ship within the US now due to how expensive shipping overseas is, but I want people to know that we’re here and I’ll send hats. My contact information can be found on the Delaware Head Huggers website.
Okay, so you donating 100% of your Craftsy Pattern Marketplace sales to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts is incredible. What made you decide to go beyond the standard (though no less generous and helpful) Red Cross donation, and do something different?
I know so many people and have heard so many horror stories about all that was lost in NY & NJ that I just had to do something to help. I can’t go get everyone and bring them here, so I tried to figure out how to help the most. I know that the shelters are unfortunately overwhelmed and undersupplied. So, when I heard that there were some “stuff the bus” and church campaigns that were working directly with shelters, I made the decision to help there. To me, it’s a more immediate sort of help. I’m donating 100% of my sales on Craftsy and on Ravelry because we were so lucky to escape the storm with no damage that we just have to do something to help everyone who is suffering right now.
There's a definite pattern (no pun intended) where you discuss on Facebook how your donations are specifically "baby supplies and formula," and how through Delaware Head Huggers, you donate "handmade blankets to kids in foster care and those in crisis." Talk about your connection with children, and have you had the opportunity to meet any of those who you have directly helped?
The formula and baby supplies were just what was needed first and foremost by the shelter that we were sending supplies to that time. This next round might be pet supplies or food. It’s really whatever is needed most. I do think that children need extra care and attention. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to some people who have received hats or blankets, but most times not.
We could go on and on about how generous you are (and really, we should), but we also need to get to something else important: your designs! Your generosity, it would appear, is rivaled only by your creativity. Looking at these hat patterns, we're struck by the colors, the textures, and even the names you give them ("Weathering the Storm," "Room for Hope," etc.) are fantastic. When did you start knitting, and how long have you been designing?
I started knitting in November 2009 about one month before the charities started. I taught myself and love it. I probably started designing a year of so after that, although the hat designs really took off in December of 2011. A close friend passed away and I designed a hat to honor her memory. People liked it and I kept doing more. I’ve done 64 hats now I think. I’ve designed a couple of blanket patterns also, all with the thought of simple but interesting. Thank you for the compliment, but they are all fairly simple designs.
Many of your patterns seem to be specifically for hats for those who are dealing with the effects of chemo. But they also just seem like great hats for anyone! Have your patterns found that wider audience, and is that one you're looking to reach?
Most of my patterns are posted for free on my blog. Every so often, I put together a bunch of them in an ebook for people who prefer to have them all as PDFs. Some patterns are for sale only and that was done to help cover shipping and supply costs for the charities. Shipping is expensive, so if I can sell some patterns, it helps cover the cost of getting more hats to people who need them.
Most designs are named by the DEHH followers on Facebook. It’s a fun way to keep everyone involved. We try to keep things on a positive note and the ones that were designed during Hurricane Sandy – Weathering the Storm and Raindrops – just seemed fitting!
And yes! You hit it on the head. I’m trying to design chemo caps that anyone would want to wear. So many people have told me that they don’t like the ‘usual’ chemo cap look. Younger people especially need something that is warm and functional but also stylish. So, I try to make sure all the hats I design would work well as chemo caps and are nice and warm but also would be good looking enough for someone to want to wear ‘just because’. I know that a lot of people make my patterns for healthy people and that’s great. All audiences are amazing. I am still in awe that anyone even looks at what I make.......to me I’m still a beginner knitter!
What are your biggest influences as a pattern designer?
I guess my biggest influences are just form and function really. I try to make sure the hats will be warm, but I’m also always looking for that ‘different’ look. I love to play with super bulky yarn and see how a stitch pattern looks so different there than when worked with thinner yarn. I have also made some scarves and bookmarks and I find that I really just love to experiment and see what works best.
What would you say is your most popular design, and why?
I don’t honestly know which pattern would be the most popular, although a lot of people have told me that they like The Giving Tree pattern . Lion Brand recently put two of my patterns on their site....Karmic Kuddles and Braided Hope. It’s fantastic to see them up on a yarn company site.
What kind of designs can we look forward to at the DEHeadHugger Craftsy Pattern Marketplace store?
I usually design a new hat or 2 a week. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep that up or if I will have exhausted all my ideas soon, but I will certainly try! In between, scarves, bookmarks and accessories, I will hopefully manage to get on and off my needles, too.
We want to thank Robin for taking the time to answer our questions. We hope you enjoyed this conversation with her, and we also hope you'll visit her store and explore all the great patterns she has available!