We chat to crocheter Jani about her adorable hat-modelling dogs that are taking the world by storm
If you haven’t seen them before, let us introduce Sookie and Ivy, a pair of pooches that just love getting dressed up! From food-themed hats to animal snoods, there’s nothing that their talented owner Jani can’t crochet for them. Finnish-born and Boston-bred Jani adopted Sookie in 2011, skipping her college stats class that day and heading to the animal shelter on a whim. 11 years later, Sookie is an irreplaceable member of the family.
When Sookie Met Ivy
“Sookie is a quiet, calm sweetheart,” Jani says fondly. “She is all love all the time, and I could speak endlessly on her sweetness. My wish would be for everyone to meet her because she will steal anyone’s heart!” A couple of years later, Ivy was discovered as an unnamed stray with an embedded collar, an upper respiratory infection and a skin infection – but she didn’t have long to wait to find her forever home. “The second I met her I knew she was meant to be mine,” Jani remembers. Although Ivy took a little while to find herself, Jani says, she soon transformed into the “sassy little firecracker” you see today. “She is the first to let you know what’s on her mind and she is very outspoken and opinionated. She is so funny and I sometimes think there’s a comedian trapped in her little body!”
It Started With A Carrot
As a result of a particularly stormy winter with regular power outages, Jani learnt to crochet as a way of occupying her hands, and as soon as she’d mastered the stitches, Sookie and Ivy were in for a treat. “I started making the girls snoods shortly after I learned how to crochet,” Jani tells us. Beginning with cute animal-themed headwear, Jani quickly moved on to creating her first food-themed hats – carrots for Easter 2021. "I then made the broccoli hat set, which was the first time we went viral on TikTok. This snowballed into making more food-themed hats (all of which are dog safe foods) and turned into our ‘thing’. I don’t even know how many I have made at this point!” As you can imagine with such unique creations, it’s not so easy to find patterns online for the types of projects Jani wants to create. “I take what I have learned from making various amigurumi projects and modify them to work as dog hats,” Jani says, adding that she often uses cartoon images to help her emulate things in yarn form. “I love figuring out new ways to bring the projects I have in my mind’s eye to life.”
In terms of inspiration, Jani gets new ideas from all over the place. Whether a follower has commented a great idea on one of her videos, or she sees something in a film that has potential, Jani is always finding inspiration in unexpected places. “It’s a fun hobby to have because I never know where it will take me next or when inspiration will strike. I love being able to express myself through crochet and I feel very blessed to have this creative outlet!” With so many adorable hats to choose from it’s hard to pin down a favourite, but Jani says she would have to choose the sunflowers she made Sookie and Ivy last year. “I think the girls look so adorable as sunflowers and I love hats that make them look pretty. They are the sunshine of my life and the videos I have of them in their sunflowers hold a special place in my heart!” she smiles. “I want to make them more flower hats this spring because they make the most perfect little flower girls.” Making these amazing hats is one thing, but we're sure you’d agree it would be a crime not to share them with the world! Luckily for us, Jani has a way with the camera too.
Before adopting Sookie and Ivy, Jani’s main interest was in landscape photography, but since welcoming her two adorable subjects into the family, that interest quickly turned to doggy portraits. “I often want to expand the types of photos I take now, but whenever I have my camera out, I end up taking photos of the girls!” Jani laughs. “They both love taking pictures because they always get treats and praise, and I love capturing those memories that will last me my lifetime.” Nowadays, Jani takes more videos than photos and shoots take anywhere between ten and 20 minutes, with Sookie and Ivy proving to be very keen models. "The girls love filming their little videos and get excited as soon as I start setting up. Sookie especially finds filming to be a wonderful time and I often feel bad when we’re finished!” Jani’s videos are full of humour, and she says it’s Sookie and Ivy who take the reins when it comes to the funny storylines. “I obviously come up with the initial ideas, but their reactions and how the videos play out is entirely reliant on them. I go into filming with very little expectations and it’s a surprise to me too to see how things end up.” When putting the videos together, Jani adds in captions for what the dogs look like they're saying from their funny expressions and reactions. “After years of ‘talking’ on their behalf, I have a pretty distinct voice and speaking style for both girls that I try to portray in their videos,” Jani tells us. “Putting their reels together is a very fun process and I get to see actions and hear noises that I missed in the moment while filming. I get a lot of good laughs watching their footage back!”
Recreate the Magic
We don’t know about you, but we’re always trying to capture the cuteness of our furry friends on camera – but it’s definitely easier said than done! We wondered if Jani had any tips for us. “My biggest tip for taking pictures and videos of dogs is to keep it fun and engaging! Pictures are so much easier to take when you have your dog’s attention and that can be accomplished as easily as holding a treat or a toy. Having a solid “sit” and “stay” command definitely helps too!” she adds. “Outdoor photography can be easier when first starting because of the natural lighting. If you’re planning to take photos indoors, a good flash or lighting set up is ideal for taking sharp, high-quality photos and videos.” The most important thing though, Jani says, is to make photo shoots a positive experience for your dogs. “Once your dog associates taking photos and videos with a good time, they’ll be more receptive to participate again in the future,” she explains. “Some days they may not be interested in being photographed or participating in a video and that is perfectly ok, too! Always make sure your dog (and you!) is having a good time above all else.” Noted, thanks Jani – now where’s the camera?!