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wavycowlpink1Hello my name is Emma and I have a cowl obsession…..I am so glad we got that out of the way. This relationship with a small sartorial crutch has been going on for a while and the collection of hand-made and shop bought is subtly growing. I keep thinking I need to find a new ‘favourite’ pattern, but really, why? What’s not to love. The cowl can be an accent accessory. A splash of bright colour in a sombre outfit. It can also act as a warm necklace. Like wearing a chic comfort blanket. (Perhaps not quite a good image). Well I love my cowls and they never fall off or untie like a pesky scarf. Put them on – and forget about them. Easy, lazy vanity.

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When I get asked to trial a new yarn, I often turn to my go-to accessory. The lovely Jenni at Love Crochet asked me to work up a pattern in Lang Silkmerino . I turned to my Wavy Cowl pattern in my book ‘How to Crochet’. It really is true that a good yarn needs a simple pattern to shine. This cowl in the softest pink is such a luxurious joy to wear.

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But be warned dear friends. The subtle softness and barely discernible sheen mean that you will attract a small amount of attention. Few people can resist having a quick feel of the texture. I had planned to give this cowl away…..but then over the weekend I wore it twice and my son was so taken by its cosy qualities that he wore it (in the house) for a couple of hours.

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I have already started my second cowl within a week using Rowan Alpaca Colour in Topaz. You see the obsession has not ended.

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The pattern for this cowl is in How to Crochet – Emma Varnam – published by GMC.

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We have chatted before about my ambition to develop our garden. We had the joy of making massive changes to the hard-landscaping last summer. In the autumn we begged, borrowed and stole plants from various gardens we knew, in the most part from my generous parents. This year has been an utter joy. Even though our plot is relatively small I can lose a few hours in the evening or at the weekend, just pottering around. Happy pootling moments. However I still lack confidence in my plant decisions, finding the right spot, knowing what works and what doesn’t. I need inspiration.

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A couple of weekends ago, we spent a glorious weekend visiting my folks in the West Country. If I needed inspiration, I didn’t need to pay any entry fee. I just popped outside after breakfast. If I had any request it would be to inherit their eye. In their garden they spend hours, thinking, planning, editing and doing basic hard graft. Beauty is not automatic, it is hard won.

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I think perhaps the real joy and indeed genius is that they have thought about the views. How arches, gates, trees can frame the scene. They have created curved paths and pretty journeys. An enchanted space.

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However they also think about the small details, the placing of an interesting pot, a pretty sculpture, the opportunity to sit and enjoy. All these things, the views, the plants and the details make a delightful garden. This year more than ever I have studied plant combinations. Our climate and soil are very different, but there are some shared varieties that look elegant and pleasing throughout England.

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Perhaps the clearest take-home message is that if you garden you never finish gardening. I was telling my Dad what a pleasure and a triumph their garden is. He shocked me with his surprise; ‘Do you think so? It isn’t exactly how we would want it. There is always something that you would change.’

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Well I think it is magical and I am always fortunate enough to be able to enjoy it. That is if they don’t charge me entry next time we visit for the weekend.

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© kirsten mavric © kirsten mavric

My designs are always inspired by people. Like my father, I do like to people-watch. Sometimes designs are a developed concept from a toy I enjoyed in my childhood. My latest design for Inside Crochet Magazine (issue 67) is dedicated to all the little girls we know as a family. Lots of our friends have the most delightful little girls. Fun-loving, joyful and brimming with imaginary play. I love sitting and watching how they play out little scenarios. How they enjoy positioning and repositioning toys and furniture. It makes me smile.

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For a while I have been looking at cloth dolls houses and had a crochet version on my to-do list. This year I was determined to design my own.  The Take-Away Dolls House and my Bonnie Bunny and Bed-Set were on my 2015 ambition list.

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This design is easy crochet – but fiddly construction. Patience is needed and you will need to do some sewing. But oh the delight of creating a little heirloom project. I like to use felt for my details, but crochet flowers and trees would work just as well. I have made some basic furniture. Other designers across the web have created crochet furniture for dolls houses, so you could mix and match.

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The little mouse looks rather content in her house! Well, my little friends, Betsy, Macy, Libby, Amelie, Eve, Esther and Evie – this design is dedicated to you and your imagination – come round and play!

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My last post featured my new blanket design for Black Sheep Wools. I hope you like the design – if you don’t crochet you might think, ‘ah, that looks pretty, I should get round to learning.’ If you are a crocheter, you might be thinking, ‘Should I start a new project?’, ‘I should finish the other 3 projects I have in my basket first?’, ‘I can see how many colours are used in that blanket, that is ALOT of sewing and weaving in ends.’

Let’s face it, some crochet projects are a breeze and others need dedication. What we need is a little psychological motivation and an eye on the prize. When I have a large project that I need to finish I have a couple of techniques I use to keep myself on track.

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1. When joining squares or hexagons for a blanket I always like to join as I crochet. It is not the easiest  method but certainly it ensures that you can see the blanket growing and the joins are robust and less likely to unravel. The Garden Route Blanket uses this technique and I have some photos in the pattern to help with this process.

2. Break the project up into sections. I either work in rows, or set myself a goal of how many motifs I will make in one sitting. Often when I am finished at the end of the day I might lay out my crochet on a chair and have a sneaky wee ‘admire’, before putting the project away in the basket.

3. Weave in ends as you go. For this latest blanket, when I got half way through joining the squares, I did all the weaving in of the ends. This ensured that it wasn’t a mammoth task at the end of the project.

4. Set yourself a fake deadline. My design work usually has a deadline. I really don’t like missing these dates, so I tend to set myself a fake deadline just so I can avoid missing crucial dates. Hopefully for you crochet and knitting is a relaxing hobby, where you can avoid the stress and time restraints of life. However we have all promised to make baby blankets that have been sat in the project basket way past the due date, and in some cases those babies have been toddlers before their blanket has arrived. Set yourself a realistic time-scale and a fake deadline.

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5. If you hate it – Frog it. (Frogging is ripping back a project). This is your hobby! If you are really hating a pattern, don’t get hung up about it, rip the wool back and make a pattern you do like. Life it too short to get hung up on a crochet pattern you are not enjoying and there are so many patterns you can get your teeth into.

6. Do a C.A.L. Lots of crocheters are loving the Crochet-A-Long projects. A new part of the pattern is released gradually as a surprise. By breaking the projects up into manageable sections many crocheters are finding this a better way of working. Why not try this kind of project to keep your interest alive.

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I am so excited that my new design, created exclusively for Black Sheep Wools is released today on their website. This blanket was inspired by and created on our family trip to South Africa and the colours were chosen to reflect the vibrancy of the colours in that amazing country.

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There is a guest blog post which you can read about the blanket and our trip here. There are also three colour packs available for you to choose which are exclusive to this design and they area amazing value! If you do enjoy making it, please pop by and tell me what your think.

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MissRC1  MrsH1I have talked before about the joy of sharing my love to knitting and crochet. I love going to a workshop or trunk show and just chatting with fellow yarn enthusiasts. Quite often I pick up a hint or trick from them. Now in terms of teaching beginners, I haven’t found much time to teach classes. However I have a few select people who I have taught to crochet and all of them are now crochet ninjas. The talented J, has had her original designs published in magazines. Babs will tackle complex and beautiful designs by Jane Crowfoot or Toft Alpacas. Little Miss RC is one of my first pupils. Look and this sublime zig-zag blanket from my Debbie Bliss Baby Blanket design. Look at that perfect tension.MissRC2

Then last night Mrs H popped round to show me this knock-out blanket. She used my granny square design from my book How to Crochet. However she decided to co-ordinate the colours to go with her interior. Not only is the tension and the accuracy spell-binding, but the colour combination is stunning. She credits the lovely ladies at Black Sheep Wools for their help and guidance making her yarn choice. Well I have always found them helpful and she has this gorgeous design as a perfect demonstration of her new skill. How it delights my heart to share these projects with these lovely people and to share them with you.

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If you have finished projects using my designs – do feel free to share them on my facebook page.

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pegdolls5I have some significant childhood memories which persist in my mind as being great ideas for the garden. The first is searching for Gnomes in my Grandma’s garden. Every time we came to visit she had move them into new spaces. I must have been quite a small toddler but I was always delighted to find them. Years later when we go to visit our local garden centre (Bud Garden Centre), the wonderful owner Brenda, has hidden little gnomes and animals amongst the plants. Even as quite a big kid, Little B loves to seek these old friends out. We all love a treasure hunt.

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Little B has begun collecting small sculptures and creatures to hide in the garden so that our younger visitor might enjoy finding them. This thrills my heart. This weekend I thought I would take it a step further and make a few little peg doll fairies that we could hide in the foliage. There is plenty of inspiration to be found on the internet. I sat down at ‘far-too-late’ o’clock on Friday night with the paints and wooden pegs. But then after a stressful week at work this is my crazy way of processing the working week.

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I used valuable washi tape as masking tape to create colourful trousers. Whilst this is an silly waste of beautiful tape, it did give me an idea…..

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So my little fairies all donned Breton stripe jumpers. Styling the hair was great fun, and amongst the collection there is definitely a Little B boy.

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None of them are perfect – they are just meant to be fun and if one gets lost or buried then never mind. I hope some little people find them dancing amongst the branches of our garden and it forms a delightful childhood memory for them to treasure in their adulthood.

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One of our number has been honoured today in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. My darling yarn hero and friend, Debbie Bliss has been recognised with an MBE for her services to Hand Knitting and the Craft Industry.  In my mind this is very well deserved. My own knitting and yarn journey was inspired and encouraged by Debbie’s designs. When I first returned to knitting in my mid-twenties it was because I wanted to knit Debbie’s creations. I have a wonderful hobby, past-time and semi-career thanks to Debbie’s inspiration.

She has set a style and a look which is very British, very cool and very desirable. Baby-wear and fashion has often followed her lead, if not recognising the fact. Well today I am grateful that the Queen has recognised her contribution.

So often we admire and love people in public life and more than likely don’t take time to say ‘thank-you’. We feel a little bit childish, a bit embarrassed, ‘well they probably know anyway’. Often they do not. Why not take time to celebrate your heroes today – whoever they may be. Thank you Your Majesty for recognising mine.

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I can be a bit naughty. Sometimes when I am introduced to new people by friends they will say with varying degrees of enthusiasm, ‘Oh Emma knits, you should see what she makes…’ Often the poor unsuspecting new person will look shifty and floundering for a follow-up comment say, ‘Oh do you do much of that?’, I will then reply, ‘Quite a bit….’

Depending on how much I can tell they want to be rescued from this situation I will either be kind and change the subject with, ‘What do you like to do at the weekend?’ or allow a long silence. Sometimes I meet people who have a genuine interest in craft. Lot of people want to rekindle the skills they acquired in childhood. Actually lots of people would love to teach their children these skills. As summer approaches the most consistent ‘follow-up’ comment of these fledgling knitting/crochet conversations is; ‘I can imagine knitting in the winter, but now as the evenings are warmer, doesn’t it get too hot?’ Well no my new acquaintance, that is the beauty of crochet, cotton is such a great staple of the lacy crochet style and there are so many patterns that you can make that won’t irritate your warm hands in summer.

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In the past few weeks, in between commissions, I have been adding to my summer household collection. Using my cotton stash to edge an decorate items to make outdoor lunches and garden parties pretty. I found a pretty embroidered tablecloth in a thrift store and decided to give it a new life by adding a zig-zag edge. I used Sara Singuilia’s book, Crochet. Such a perennial favourite with me. There are a couple of projects in this book which are ideal for summer accessorizing.

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For years I have meant to make tablecloth weights. Seriously for as long as I can remember this has been on my crochet ‘to-do’ list. Finally I have got my act together. I bought a bag of stones from the garden centre and then just started a basic amigurumi shape working in the round. I don’t think I could ever write up this pattern. You sort of need to work with the size of stone you have. However what I would say is that you can find the clips from Ikea in the curtain section.

I will also be getting out my napkin weight this year. A large flint encased by cotton crochet. Simple and effective and throughout summer almost in daily use for outdoor suppers.

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I do know that I am rather ‘dedicated’ to my craft, (there would be less kind phrases that could/have been used) but I can always find a little project to keep me occupied no matter the weather.

 

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