giveaway

In the last few years I have noticed a significant thing – generosity is always repaid and often many times over. On this little blog site I like to share with you books, designers and websites whose work I admire. If I get to meet those people in person and they are lovely friendly people I am always very keen to promote their work. People don’t pay me to be nice about their products or shops, and I have the luxury of just promoting the people who have given me really great experiences or customer service.

Blacksheep Wools is a website and a shop I discovered in the Spring. I enjoyed their shop. Their customer service is brilliant. All of the ladies and gents I have met at their yarn barn are lovely people. Since then I have got to know Sara and Steve and learnt about their great family business. If you have met them at one of the Knitting and Stitching shows you will know how much fun they both are and how knowledgeable they are about yarn.  Behind the scenes I have also met the gorgeous Lesley and Amy who keep you up to date with all the news and offers. They really are fabulous generous people.

Due to my own shopping experience I have been happy to promote this shop and website. This weekend totally out of the blue they have run a Bank Holiday competition where you can win my books and lots of yarn and accessories to get you started on the projects. Brilliant! I knew nothing about it and it is the best surprise ever. So get yourself over to their website to win.

Thank you Blacksheep wools x

{ 0 comments }

mysteryscarf8

Do you know that in October this little blog will be 4 years old, how strange. It still remains my most favourite place to chat and share thoughts and ideas about my crochet/knitting/creative life.

Recently readers have asked could I add a Facebook page so that they could share ideas through their pages. I have resisted it for such a long time but now quite like seeing the chat and more natural sharing of ideas over on that space. If I am honest I  like Twitter for information and alerts. I simply adore Pinterest, seriously we should not talk about that addiction. I am hoping that crochet fans will pop over to the Facebook page to share their creations with me.

blacksheepyarns1

This week I visited the glorious Blacksheep Wools. The Blacksheep family have become yarny friends of mine and I love the family atmosphere and sense of joy and fun they bring to their business. They asked me to gatecrash their regular Tuesday morning knitting group. What a creative fun group of ladies. There were some beautiful things being made. I spotted a number of projects I wanted to make, specifically the Zen shawl by Doris Chan which was made by the fabulous Brenda.

Two ladies had made my Mystery Scarf from Inside Crochet. What a thrill it was to see a finished scarf. It made me a bit teary.

blacksheepyarns2

Another lady had made her own version of my Seaside bag – how cool. I love it when people feel confident to make the design their own. She really enjoyed the spike stitch pattern and told me that many of her friends thought she had bought the bag rather than made it.

I spent a happy few hours chatting, sharing and getting new ideas. There is something so reassuring and fun about meeting people who make things you design. That is the reason I have introduced Emma Varnam Designs on facebook so that makers can share their creations with me. But the blog will always be my favourite virtual space.

Babsmystery1

Here is the scarf made by my dear friend Babs – what lovely colours. But seeing her creation lightens my heart.

{ 2 comments }

fluffypompom2

I do love a pom pom. Little B and I have had a fabulous time making little creatures with spare wool. Here is our little Penguin – so cute.  Making pom-poms is so much easier than when I was a gal. Threading wool through a cardboard doughnut for hours on end would never induce you to make a garland or hair-band.

The new pom-pom makers are a complete boon when it comes to creating the fluffy spheres. When Kirstie Allsop featured them on her craft programme, retailers sold out of them within hours. I did a quick tutorial of how to use a pom-pom maker here.

lucysmithimagingThe image above is copyright Lucy Smith, Smith Imaging

Recently I was browsing the gorgeous Mollie Makes Handmade Wedding magazine and was inspired by some mohair pom-pom garlands. I knew I just had to make them for my friend Lucy, who is the most amazing photographer. (More about Lucy in the next few weeks). I think a pom-pom garland would make a great decoration for a winter wedding. Such a pretty idea.

fluffypompom1

Making pom-poms with mohair yarn is so satisfying they are like little baby chicks of colour – SO FLUFFY

fluffypompom3

If you are similarly obsessed and would like to pom for charity, Kirstie Allsop is attempting to break a world record using pom-poms. Simply make 3 or more pompoms, tie them together and attach your name, then either drop them off at your local Hobbycraft store or bring them to the Handmade Fair this September. Hobbycraft stores across the country will also be holding ‘pomination workshops’ during the summer holidays for children to join in the fun. Check out the website here for more information.

Worth mentioning is that Let’s Get Crafting magazine are giving away a pom-pom maker in their current issue so if you have yet to experience the modern way of making these fluffy beauties check it out!

{ 0 comments }

MC3

In preparation for my book signing and demonstration a couple of weeks ago I put a call out to my twitter friends asking them for their top crochet tips. Many of them were super generous and shared with me their developed wisdom after many hours of teaching crochet up and down the country. I even had a lovely late night conversation with the uber-tutor Ali Campbell. That was lots of fun.

I then chatted away with good friends I had taught to crochet. They gave me their words of wisdom – things I has passed on but had forgotten. So here you go – these are my top five…feel free to add your own.

1. BLOCK!

Ok you can’t learn to block before you have learnt to crochet – but I suggest that unless you are making an amigurumi toy, your work is far too precious not to block. It makes all the difference. If you have ever said to yourself, ‘My crochet doesn’t look like it does in the book/magazine!’, ask yourself this question, Did you block it? There are lots and lots of articles available online about this. I have also written a section in my new book and indeed on this blog. Do it!

2. BUY A DECENT CROCHET HOOK

If you know you like this lovely yarn hobby and have begun acquiring a small yarn stash and a couple of pattern books, I suggest it is time to splash out and buy a good crochet hook. I literally have no sense of humour if someone steals mine…my eye starts to twitch. Personally I love Clover Soft Touch hook, but the are other ergonomic ranges which are loved by the professionals including Tulip and Knit Pro. I am a firm believer that my crochet is faster with a good quality hook and other friends testify to this fact. In fact it is a shame I am not on commission for the sales of my favourite brand!

3. LEARN TO MAKE A MAGIC RING

Even seasoned crocheters can find the magic ring (adjustable ring) difficult to master. This is a way of creating a foundation round of stitches that form a circle and you can avoid an unsightly hole in the middle. I have found the easiest way is to use a slip-knot method, illustrated beautifully in my book (shameless plug). Once you have mastered this technique toys and accessories look much more professional and are far more durable.

4. USE STITCH MARKERS

Designers and professionals need to use stitch markers…so I would suggest that you use them too. Stitch markers don’t have to be complicated or expensive.  For ease of removal and sight I use a contrasting piece of yarn to mark my place. No need to hunt around the project bag for hidden safety pins or plastic swirls. The odd unwanted stitch or two in an amigurumi toy can really effect the look of the design – so choose the pattern wisely if you want to go free form and use stitch markers when the shape really matters.

5. DON’T BE AFRAID OF COLOUR

So many people find colour choice daunting. I fully understand that, but my top tip to enable you to break out of a colour inertia is to find a card or magazine cover you like and match your yarn choice to the colours in that pretty photograph. This particularly helps if you are drawing hues together for a stash busting blanket. You might feel all alone without the prescription of a magazine or designer colour scheme. Don’t fret, let your birthday card do the choosing. This technique will enable you to be a bit more colour adventurous.

The photograph above was taken by my lovely husband as a demonstration shot for the illustrations in my book. He took hundreds and I never really thanked him for the hours of dedication – but it does show the process of making a magic circle and my precious gorgeous crochet hook.

{ 0 comments }

mysteryscarf5mysteryscarf6mysteryscarf7mysteryscarf4

I have been thrilled to design and make a mystery project for Inside Crochet Magazine this summer. What a lovely honour and a challenge. It is funny to make something that you know has to be divided into 3 equal sections. For this project I used the beautiful chalky tones of Bergere de France Coton Fifty. A lovely cotton yarn to work with. This project, my friends is not for the beginner. It uses motifs and requires you to read through the pattern before you begin. The motifs are joined as you go – but if you don’t fancy that why not sew them together. I number of lovely people have sent me images of their scarf as they are making it. What a joy that is. Especially when they use different colour-ways. My friend Babs is making a particularly fine version which I adore. The photos which Britt Spring took for the magazine are so gorgeous. Good photography and styling make all the difference.

mysterscarf1

I always had in mind that this scarf would be worn on a hot summers evening. I chose Mediterranean colours – thinking perhaps of our holidays in Majorca. But you could use the same pattern to make a lacy table runner if your prefer.

mysteryscarf2

Often I forget to take photos of my design before they head off to the magazine. These are mine – taken in haste. Now you can see why a professional photographer makes all the difference.

mysteryscarf3If you get a chance to have a look at this issue of the magazine it is very good. It has a lovely cowl on the front cover and….a very nice book review inside with an excerpt from my book. How kind.

{ 2 comments }

summerflowers1

I like flowers – always have. A bit like Art, my tastes have changed over the years, but surprisingly I return to the old favourites – daisies, roses, delphiniums – English cottage garden flowers. I am not particularly green fingered. I only need to look at a house plant and it keels over, but I not alone in that.

alnwick8

Since we moved into our house, I have been collecting images of plants and flowers that I have wanted to grow in our ‘new’ garden. But always in the back of my mind I had the thought that we needed to complete some serious structural work. We have been blessed enough to have this done now and so all those plans and photos which I have been collecting can now be released.

howick3

Slowly, slowly we can gather the plants and see if we can build that tranquil place of colour and living greenery. When you look at inspirational grand gardens it can all seem a bit intimidating. My own folks are very talented gardeners and landscape designers and I think that in comparison I lack the vision and the imagination.

foreverengland1

What I have learnt on my creative journey is that our hobbies are not things we should be scared of – NO! Let us grasp the literal nettle and get on with it! What is the worse that can happen?whfall13.11

{ 0 comments }

booksigning7

I am not entirely sure why this is, but my second solo book has taken off much faster than my first. I think that so many more people want to learn to crochet now and although the patterns in the keyring book are actually deceptively simple – they may seem complicated a first glance for any beginner.

frontcoverUK1

I must say that this series of ‘How to’ books which GMC have published are really very good. I have my eye on the How to Quilt – there are some really pretty projects inside the cover.

booksigning4

I think meeting people who are keen to knit and crochet is a wonderful pleasure and you always have such a giggle. One of the lovely ladies who I met on Monday was Rosie, she works at Inspirations and has just begun to crochet. She was keen to learn about Amigurumi, so within a short space of time I taught her; the magic ring, working in spirals, increasing and decreasing. She is all set now!

booksigning2

I had a lovely day this week in Preston and the amazing craft emporium that is Inspirations. This week they have been having a series of Christmas in July events. I had not appreciated what a big business card-craft is. Wow! The range of stamps, paints, dyes, sparkles, embossing etc… It makes the mind boggle. I had the pleasure of meeting some card-craft celebrities who were all very lovely and generous.

booksigning1

Now you may think this is strange but I have never really set up a craft stall myself – or book signing for that matter.  So I was feeling a bit nervous. Firstly I bought some sweets. I wanted to tempt people towards me….even if no-one ate them, I knew I would. The other really thrilling thing about the book signing was receiving all my designs back from my publisher so that visitors could see them for themselves. It has been two years since I have seen the keyrings! This is the hallway before I set off!

booksigning5

There were a couple of projects I designed for the book which didn’t make the grade. For instance this little cushion. I still love it so it is a joy to see it back at home.

booksigning6

Now I need to pack it all away again – keeping everything safe from Mr Moth until I get on the road again for another book adventure.

Thank you to all the lovely people I met at Inspirations and for the lovely lunch provided for me. Thank you also to Simply Crochet and Inside Crochet Magazine for the lovely reviews – you are very kind.

 

 

 

{ 3 comments }

p5rn7vb

bohemian2

Sometimes I am not very good with colour. I wish I was consistent and had a colour style. I can’t really do that Scandi chic look, all white and grey, because the brights and the pastels creep in. I wish I was a tasteful Farrow and Ball girl, with all those sophisticated chalky whites. But then a cheeky cerise potters in, with a clashing red and bang there goes your sophisticated colour scheme.

In recent years I have been thrilled to watch and appreciate the styles of Selina Lake and Sarah Moore. I think their colour palette, their love of vintage and chintz is really where my style heart lies. It makes me happy not to feel quite so off kilter.

bohemian3

Now where is all this leading to? Well there was a problem with a blanket. For all the be-moaning of my schizophrenic colour choices, I am my friends, a finisher. I do like to see the end of a project. With that in mind I am careful what I start. I also don’t like too much waste. I like to wade through the yarn stash and make something useful from all those remnants.

springblanket

About a year ago I came across a delightful baby blanket pattern. In it’s original form it would have been all fluffy duck yellow or sugar mice pink. I was keen to try a more modern palette. Using a new trick I have for pinning down my colour indecision I chose the front cover of Homes and Antiques for crochet square colours. Lots of fun was had making square after square.

bohemianImage taken from Selvedge magazine – Susanne Biovsky

When it was time to join up the squares disaster struck. I tried colour after colour, blue, yellow white – ewww. They all looked horrible and made me want to run away from my project bag. Then the new issue of Selvedge magazine arrived, July/August. There on the front of the magazine was my answer. There is a wonderful article about the Viennese fashion designer Susanne Bisovsky. Her work inspired by folk costume provided the perfect palette match for my blanket.

bohemian5

The answer was to chose a charcoal grey as the backdrop to all those zingy hues. Perfect. This style also enabled me to go a bit ‘fancy’ with the edging.

bohemian4

So there you go, my magazine addiction continues to save the day and one begins the inspiration and another provides the ending – perfect.

I am being a bit cheeky but I do get a mention in this issue of Selvedge Magazine on page 38 for the Gawthorpe Hall project #ambitiondone

{ 4 comments }

lotsofkeyrings1

It has been a long time since I saw these little beauties. Maybe two years has passed since I sent my final batch of keyrings to my lovely publishers GMC. Well in preparation for the book signing on Monday they sent me back all of the keyrings from my first book and the project items from my new book How to Crochet. It is like being re-united with old friends.

Little B was so delighted when he saw the keyring box. It was like going through a box of chocolates. Loom bands are so very popular this summer, but ironically they use a crochet hook to work the little rubber bands. If you are looking for an opportunity to develop little crafty skills then these little trinkets are really do-able small projects.

 

{ 0 comments }

fingerlessmittens

This post might make you wince a bit. Every year I mention at this time that I am in the middle of some Christmas commissions. By the end of this weekend I am hoping I will have finished four Christmas projects. Wow, it is hard to get your head into that space. Lots of crafters are already thinking and planning their Christmas gift projects.

On Monday I have the pleasure of going to Preston, to a craft superstore Inspirations by Cardcraft. I will be there as part of their Christmas Event between 10am and 4pm. If you fancy coming along and saying ‘Hello’ that would be lovely. I am hoping to have a look at some of the paper trends and I am also a big fan of quilting – although I never make the time to make my own.

The lovely people at the Craft Institute have done an interview with me about my Christmas plans here if you are interested.

{ 0 comments }