littleduck

Dear Lovelies, I am so sorry that the blog has been performing strangely. Not sure why, but hopefully for the rest of the week things will remain normal. Please check in at the the weekend for some gorgeous hat photos.

Little Duck above was photographed by Smith Imaging

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ppirefund

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Hello Lovelies, I am sorry my blog was down for a couple of days. Not sure what was going on there. But my technical whizz has sorted it. Thank goodness for Big B! So what are you making at the moment? I have a couple of commissions in the pipeline, but I have tried to be kind to myself and not overload the projects. In previous years I have felt that my Christmas making has really taken a back seat and that has been a bit of a sad frustration. Making something personal for a friend or family member is one of my joys. When I can’t do that in the run up to Christmas due to unrealistically over-committing, then that is my own jolly fault. But it is not clever or wise.

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So this year I have made a start. Actually when I was editing the photos to fit them onto  the blog, they made me laugh. Basically I have reverted to what I know. Hats, keyrings, teacozies. I have made another hat using the Lumio yarn.  I simply love this reflecting effect which is woven into the yarn. We did a test drive of Little B’s hat the other night, and it looked fabulous.

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I have also perfected my go-to teacozy pattern with Debbie Bliss Donegal Aran Tweed. A really rustic country look. I just need to buy quite alot of teapots to go with each gift.

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Finally I have made some bead keyrings. I saw this idea in Prima Craft magazine. I can’t remember which issue, but it seems like fun. Gradually I am making some in all my friends favourite colours. We have started the Christmas crafting….but we have by no means finished!

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ICbookazineHello Lovelies, about twice a week someone writes to me to ask if I can send them a copy of my crochet Campervan pattern. For a while now you can download it from the Inside Crochet website, however if you are finding this difficult, the pattern is available again in a brand new Bookazine published by Inside Crochet.

There are over 60 patterns in this publication which is good value I think. Read more or order your copy today at http://www.selectps.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=43&products_id=567

If you do make a campervan, please do share photos of your creation over on my facebook page Emma Varnam Designs

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ev - ls1 Not mine…oh my no, but the talent of all the fabulous photographers that I have worked with over the years. At the end of the summer a good friend of mine, Lucy Smith offered to help me with some new ‘proper’ photos. I know Lucy’s work well. She is the most wonderful wedding photographer, but she also takes great portraits and family shots. Great photographers have the knack of alchemy, capturing a personality, the real person, a person relaxed. It was wonderful to watch Lucy work; clever, intuitive, funny and inventive.

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When I see images of my work by proper photographers it seems to make all the difference. The photography of Britt Spring is simply wonderful for Inside Crochet. She can make a design so beautiful. The images in my books are also so beautiful and wonderfully lit.

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Look at this pretty image of baby Amber taken by Lucy wearing a little hat I made. Isn’t she scrumptious? This is an image her parents will treasure forever, and I will treasure because it shows up the stitches of the crochet.

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When you take your own photos, perhaps even use the myriad of filters and frames on Instagram, then I think you can appreciate the real skill in the trained photographer. That my friends is craft.

Have a wonder into Lucy’s website to look at her wonderful work and all watch the gorgeous video which really gives a flavour of this fabulous woman. Smith Imaging

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Back in July, when we embarked on our summer holiday. I had in my project bag a number of commissions from Let’s get Crafting magazine. I had already completed a pattern for knitted and crochet stockings for the tree. Now we were into the full thrust of Christmas crafting, how funny. I can remember distinctly working on these baby Santa mitts very, very early in the morning, when the rest of the house was fast asleep. Happy silent making, fortified by a strong filter coffee. Don’t they look sweet on this bonny baby?

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I also made these angels, which were actually really satisfying to make and I think you could use them for place settings as well. You could use all sorts of decoration to embellish them. It would also be a nice idea to embroider the date on the skirt if you were giving one of these away as a gift for Christmas.

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Finally, perhaps my favourite project for a long time. These mug hugs made me giggle from beginning to end. I loved making them and then Little B and I spent time positioning their arms. Lots of fun.

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Over the years I have amassed quite a few festive patterns which I make as gifts. Knitting and crochet for friends has already begun. One of my favourite finds is  a ball of Lumio from SMC which has a reflective strand throughout the wool.

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I found this ball when visiting friends at Black Sheep wools. I have set myself a challenge recently to see if I can make something that Little B will wear, and this techno yarn geekery spoke to me. So I made this chunky hat last night. I also found this gorgeous faux fur  pom-pom. This Rico Wild Wild Wool fur pom-pom is very good quality and worth paying for if you are giving this hat as a gift. You could keep one as a pet. Well as the predicted the pom-pom is not required but the novelty of sparkly hat is looking promising.  How cool is that!

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rowanfinest2

For so many of us, we returned to knitting when a friend or member of our family was expectant with a new little one. I took up the needles again when my dear friend was pregnant with my now huge godson, Harry. In some way we should blame (thank) him for this blog! I then began designing knitwear because I wanted to create my own designs for Little B. Unsurprisingly, gone are the days when you will catch him in a home-knit made by Mummy, bespoke or not.

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I think knitting a baby hat is a perfect gift for any expectant parent. Little ones need a bit of head protection as the air gets chilly. Let’s face it, hats get flung to kingdom come from buggies, so you can never hat enough baby hats. I created this design using one ball of Rowan finest wool. My lovely friends at Black Sheep Wools asked me to road test this yarn for them. If you pick up a ball you will think, ‘What a dinky size!’ You will wonder if you can make a hat using just one ball. But if you do have a go at this pattern I know you will be delighted. Rowan Finest is a blend of extra fine merino, cashmere and royal alpaca wool it knits up in a 4ply tension and is such a treat to hold.rowanfinest1 rowanfinest6

Now in Britain we traditionally have not knitted in the round much. Our cousins across in the pond in America are far more inclined to work without seams and use a circular needle. If this is not a technique you have used, please can I encourage you to have a go. Let’s face it, avoiding seams in a baby hat makes perfect sense. There are plenty of tutorials on the web to show you how to connect the beginning and the end of the row. If you are already sock knitting this will be no problem at all.

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With the green hat I was inspired by a French fashion house to create this bow and button detail. I hope you like it and I think it might become my signature little girl hat topping.

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So dear friends I have an exciting new for you. This pattern is available exclusively for you from the Black Sheep Wools website here. I also have a special discount for you if you buy this wool from Black Sheep wools. My readers will get a 10% discount on Rowan Finest wool if you use the code FINEST11 – this offer ends Saturday 25th October 2014

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summertableclothedging14.1I cannot tell you when it was that I decided I wanted to edge a table cloth for summer. I had fully intended to edge a round table cloth for use outdoors on our garden table. Don’t ask me why I bought the most humongous rectangular tablecloth instead. I have no idea. Luckily plain white tablecloths were much reduced at our local supermarket and this large white monster was being sold off cheaply. We also have an enormous kitchen table, so whilst my outdoor table remains naked, the kitchen table has new finery. Perhaps this arrangement is fortuitous, because the whole process of edging this monster (whilst working on other projects) has meant that that the TA-DAHHH moment has rather missed summer.

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I think I had in the back of my mind the idea of using up some of my remaining stash of Bergere de France Cotton. Just as I was ready to put the finished cloth on the table, this rather lovely email came from Julie via email. Julie made a rather fine version of my Campervan Doorstop a while ago and called him Archie.

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This year she has made the Mystery Wrap I made for Inside Crochet magazine. Isn’t it beautiful? You know what – how beautifully blocked this version is and I do love the colours. Anyway see her pictures got me thinking. I got out my original version of the mystery scarf and laid it out as a table runner. Very bright and quite autumnal. (Mine is a bit crumpled in comparison).

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The following day we visited my favourite garden centre who were having a little Shindig and my boys bought me a bunch of the most lovely late summer blooms from this lovely grower/florist.

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I do love dahlias, look at that colour! So pretty and they pack a punch. I am not sure if it was a subconscious purchase but what a wonderful combination. So yes, it took me ages to finish my summer tablecloth. But do you know I am kind of glad it did.

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You know how much I love Debbie Bliss. Seriously, a brilliant woman. Well I love to read her magazines.  I particularly like this issue. Why? Ok let us get this out of the way, I have have an article in this issue about the adventures we had with the Gawthorpe Hall designs. That was nearly a year ago, I can’t quite believe that. This article gives you an in depth look into all the inspiration behind those designs and you can download the patterns from Ravelry.

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My lasting memory of the visit to Gawthorpe was all the laughter we had on that day. You can read about the day here. On the car journey on our way back from Lancashire to Cheshire. I was driving Debbie and Claire Montgomerie back to the train station. I can remember one particular roundabout just outside Burnley where I nearly crashed the car – we were laughing so much.

If you ever get a chance to hear Debbie speak, take the opportunity – she is so self-effacing and downright funny. If you are in London this weekend she is holding a Woolly Woofers workshop in The Queen Elizabeth Room at Southwark Cathedral from 2-4pm this Sunday. Visit Debbie’s facebook page to check out the details.

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So put that aside, there is a very kind review of my book as well –  *blushing*

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‘But what about the content?’ I hear you cry. Yet again there is an excellent mix of patterns in this issue, modern and fashionable knitwear. The colourful aran collection is absolutely stunning.

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I always fall in love with the modern accessories. Look at this hot water bottle cover – so scrummy.

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Few designers really share their thought processes and design inspiration, but Debbie always includes a really good section on what is currently inspiring her and there is also a wonderful article with her top knitting tips. There is also an article about my new knitting crush, True Brit Knits. I spied these badges a while ago and knew I wanted one. The ‘prefect’ style appeals to my sense of humour. Sorry. Pop by their lovely website if you fancy your own.

Finally there is a great review of the Knitwear – Chanel to Westwood exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. I went to the exhibition last weekend and loved it. The crochet items were particularly impressive. Such style, such drape – couture at its best.

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The shop was well stocked as well.  So all in all. I love this magazine, plenty to get your teeth into and very quintessentially Debbie. (Of course you can always buy online here)

Disclaimer: Whilst I do collaborate with Team Debbie Bliss – I am under no obligation to publicise Debbie Bliss- Conway Bliss apart from being a mega fan/stalker and official part-time cheerleader.

 

 

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autumncolour14Last weekend I felt the need to blow the cobwebs away. Big and Little B had adventure plans and were kind enough to let me step out into the countryside and have a few hours to myself. I went to a local National Trust house and decided to take a walk  in the garden. Wow, if I was looking for colour inspiration it was there in abundance! I really enjoy the late summer colour combinations. I think it was the eminent gardener Christopher Lloyd and his garden Greater Dixter which made riotous colour combinations fashionable/acceptable again. It is the later blooms of summer and the changing colour of foliage that make these colour schemes sing.

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This weekend I met two of my oldest friends in London…we had a fab time and one of the outstanding experiences was viewing the fabulous poppies at the Tower of London. This astonishing installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red marks one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War. Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies will progressively fill the Tower’s famous moat. Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war. If you get a chance to see this wonderful mark of remembrance I would certainly recommend it.

I am constantly reminded that creativity and art has the power to communicate so succinctly ideas or feelings that are so hard to articulate. We were blown away by the sight. You can actually purchase one of these poppies and it raises money for the armed forces charities. What a wonderful creative idea. Colour – inspirational, soothing and evocative.

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doorstops

I’ve said it before… I know I will say it again. If you are keen to make homemade gifts for the house, crochet is the perfect yarn craft. Knitting has a softness and subtly that is perfect for the cosiest jumpers and hats. If you are using knitting for toys and cushions you need to know that you might get a bit of stretch.

The double crochet stitch (or single crochet in the US) is so strong and robust that it is my choice for household items. In the last few weeks I realised that I had finally got the majority of the doorstop designs back in the house. So I collected them together from their various door homes to photograph them together.

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There is only one design I have never written up as a pattern. This house doorstop was created as a commission for a wedding present. When I come to think of it, all these doorstop patterns have been developed from my keyrings.

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There are a couple more of these designs in my head, I just need the time to sit down and make them. Sometimes I am tempted to give the doorstops away. But if I am honest there is quite a bit of detail in each one and the thought of doing a duplicate is a bit onerous. I just need to come up with another fifteen designs and I have a ready made book….or not!

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