As a teenager, Jackie Robinson observed as her mom threaded a needle with yarn and crocheted beautiful blankets and warm caps.
That hobby soon became woven into Robinson's life. “I became interested watching her, so I asked her to teach me how,” Robinson remembers of the time she was about 18.
Robinson, an environmental services technician II and five-year employee at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is known for her whimsical children's hats and clothing crafted from Red Heart yarn using a size G needle. She also creates soft blankets for babies and throws for adults.
“My favorite is blankets, but I do hats, booties, little diaper trousers, scarves and mittens,” Robinson said. She often draws inspiration from Disney and cartoon characters, and creates designs of her own for blankets.
She started off years ago using patterns, but soon found she didn't necessarily need them as her guide. “I went to YouTube to get patterns. I saw a Minion hat there, and it inspired me to try it,” Robinson said. “But my son asked for a Tasmanian Devil hat, and I didn't have a pattern. I just looked at pictures.”
The same was true for a Tigger hat. “Once I set my mind on how I want it to be, I don't need a pattern. I taught myself how to do blankets with a person's name on it. The idea is mine.”
Colt Fulton, son of DIS employee Eli Fulton, wears a Minion hat crafted by Jackie Robinson.
Robinson crocheted a toboggan-style Minion hat for 4-year-old Colt Fulton, the son of Eli Fulton, a DIS network engineering associate. Colt also is the grandson of Becky Turner, development accountant for the University of Mississippi Foundation.
“He wears it just about every chance he gets and loves showing it to people,” Fulton said.
Turner asked Robinson to make the hat. “Jackie did a great job with the fine Minion details and sizing it so Colt can wear it for several winters to come,” Turner said.
One of Robinson's personalized creations was planned as part of the décor in the office of Zonzie McLaurin, associate director of physician workforce programs. McLaurin asked Robinson for “a blanket that would match the picture and decorative vases.”
Several weeks later, Robinson “came into my office with her very contagious smile and said, 'Close your eyes,''' McLaurin remembered. “I did, and when she asked me to open my eyes, I was in tears at what I saw. She made the most beautiful blanket that had my initial of Z as the centerpiece.”
Robinson crocheted a personalized throw for Zonzie McLaurin
Robinson charges a fee for her handiwork that varies depending on the intricacy required. And she's quick. “I can do a hat in 24 hours,” she said. “A blanket depends on if I'm working on it every day, but it's about 10 days.”
She likes crafting blankets the best because it reflects a part of her personality: She's not a procrastinator. Robinson likes to get a job done, then move on to the next task.
“It's more interesting to me because of the designs I put into them, and it makes me more anxious to finish them because I want to see my finished product,” said Robinson, who's now completing a Miami Dolphins-themed blanket for a family member.
Robinson created a baby's anchor-themed sailor suit complete with hat and booties.
"Crocheting calms my nerves after a day of work,” she said. “It's just something I like doing.”
It's also satisfying, she said, to let her creative juices flow in a way that gives other people joy. They include Pam McElroy, a Medical Center accounting specialist, whose little cousin is a blanket beneficiary.
“Jackie shows great designs and detail with her work,” McElroy said. “It will be a keepsake for many years.”
“This is exciting to do for people, especially kids,” Robinson said. “And, they let me do my own thing with it. They trust me.”
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