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This has definitely been the year of the Granny Square for me. I have loved finding new ways to use this crafty classic and make a whole range of objects and accessories. You might think that having one theme for my book might feel restricting. In reality it tends to free my imagination and curiosity. I try to think of new ways to make, fold and use a basic crochet square.

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The colours

Back in the summer, when all the Stylecraft Blogstars got together we were given a choice of three colour packs. I chose the ‘Desert’ theme. I knew our blogtou11r would be live in autumn and it occurred to me that the colours would be perfect for cosy project. In this pack there are four balls of Batik Elements Iron and 1 ball each of Rose, Cherry, Coral, Old Gold, Heather, Graphite. Pretty, pretty, pretty.

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I make a very awkward model for this garment but you can spot cheeky Stanley getting in on the act!

The pattern

I have created a cocoon shrug. Quite surprisingly it is just a huge granny square! I know that doesn’t seem to make sense. The pattern is very very simple and for the two weeks of the blogtour you can down load it for free. Then I will make the pattern available for purchase.

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Waste not – want not

I had a little bit of the yarn left over from making the Maple shrug and I made a little additional project which I will share with you at the end of the blogtour. If you haven’t used Batik before I know you will love it. Batik yarn is very very soft and the marled effect of the blending gives the crochet material a pretty faded look.

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Getting hold of some yarn

For those of you who fancy making your own version of the Maple Shrug you can download the pattern for free Maple Cocoon Shrug – Emma Varnam. I would love it if you would subscribe to my monthly newsletter as well. If you would like to win a pack of the yarn then please do go to the Stylecraft Competition page and enter **here**. I should hear who has won the prize tomorrow!
Congratulations to Catherine who won the yarn pack and thank you to so many of you who entered! I am also so grateful that so many of you have left kind comments.

This year there are sixteen designers and bloggers involved in the blogtour who have used the Batik Shades with added Batik Elements as their inspiration. That means sixteen chances for you to win a pack of yarn and get a unique free pattern. Tomorrow please visit the awesome Polly Plum and her fabulous blog Every Trick on the Hook. She creates the most wonderful Granny Squares and I can’t wait to see what she has created.

Other bloggers involved include my lovely blogstar friends; Crafternoon Treats, The Twisted Yarn, Patchwork Heart, Hand knitted Things, Cherry Heart, Annaboo’s House and Keep Calm and Crochet on; Catherine’s Crochet Corner, Lucia’s Fig Tree, Zooty Owl, Attic 24, Janie Crow, Crochet Between Worlds, Get Knotted Yarn Craft,

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Dear Lovelies, It is a big big weekend. My new book Granny Squares Home: 20 Crochet Projects with a Vintage Vibe is published on Saturday. I am so excited to share the projects with you. What I have aimed to do is to take the basic crochet granny square and demonstrate that you can change the yarn or the construction  and create modern items for your home. These projects are not complex.

If you can already crochet a basic granny square you will find each item easy to grasp. I designed home-ware that I would desire for my own home; cosy lapblankets, bedspreads with a vintage vibe or practical caddies for the bathroom. It gave me a opportunity to write up old patterns like my hot-water bottle cover which I had not yet got round to publishing. You will also be pleased to know that I have not forgotten cute cuddly toys and there are a collection of bright and joyful nursery designs.

Thank you

I am so grateful to my publisher GMC, for the fabulous job they have done producing the book. The photos and the styling are so pretty. Even the paper quality is something to behold. My lovely editor Wendy is so utterly joyful to work with, but there are lots of people behind the scenes like my own dear friend Sue, pattern checker Jude, editor Cath and photographer Emma. I am so grateful to them all.The photos above show just a few of the twenty patterns in the book. Please tell me what you think.

Giveaway

This week I am hosting a giveaway of my book. If you would like to win a copy (UK terms) then please leave a comment below tell me why you love to crochet and what you favourite thing is to make

The competition runs until 6am on Saturday 14th October 2017 – Good Luck!

This giveaway is now closed – Congratulations to Rebecca who won the book picked from the random number generator.

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pupkin, crochet, pincushion

I know how many of you love a free pattern. You also love it when a pattern is seasonal and cute. So I wanted to show you some of my most popular pumpkin patterns. People from across the world love these designs and they are just perfect for a quick and easy Autumn or Fall gift.

Firstly the King of the pattens in this Pumpkin pincushion. You can download it for free here. I still use this very pincushion everyday. Even though this is simple amigurumi design – the overall look of this pattern makes it perfect for autumnal table decorations or a birthday gift for an autumn born crafter.

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Dear Lovelies, exciting news! I have 5 pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace. The show runs from Wednesday 11th – Sunday 15th of October. You can use these tickets any day apart from the Saturday 14th October.

Knitting and Stitching Show 2016

The show at Ally Pally is one of my utter favourites. Theres is so much to see and do. Over the years I have met and caught up some of my yarn heroes; Debbie Bliss, Erika Knight, Louise Walker from Sincerely Louise, Jane Crowfoot, Sue Pinner, Emma Wright. That is a pretty good list isn’t it? When I go I love to see new ideas, new colours and have a look at the sample patterns. I find the the fabrics and the yarn equally compelling. I also take the time to pick up some accessories and books that I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to buy.

This year I am hoping to visit on the Friday of the show, so if you see me dotting about, please do say ‘hello’. I will obviously be visiting the Stylecraft booth, Black Sheep Wools, Cool Crafting and many others. I have spotted that Polly Leonard the founding editor of Selvedge Magazine is visiting on Friday so if I can hear her speak I will be thrilled.

Knitting and Stitching Show 2016

If you would like a chance to win a pair of ticket then please leave a comment below. You will need to live in the UK. I will close the competition on Monday 2nd October at 6am. If you don’t want to take your chances you can book your tickets directly online via the Knitting and Stitching website and if you use the discount code is up and running on EMMA17.  This gives a £2.50 discount off advance adult tickets and £1 off concessions (£12 instead of £14.50 / £13)

Knitting and Stitching Show 2016

I’ll be contacting winners on Monday 2nd October in the evening. Good Luck!
Congratulations to Wendy, Amanda, Alida, Karen and Petra who were all chosen by the random number generator, I so hope you enjoy the show.

The competition is now closed but you can book tickets using my discount code: EMMA17.  This gives a £2.50 discount off advance adult tickets and £1 off concessions (£12 instead of £14.50 / £13

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On the rare occasion when someone I know looks at me incredulously when I talk about crochet and quips, ‘Isn’t that just for old ladies?’ I find it so very hard not to shout quite loudly in their face – ‘WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN THE LAST DECADE?’. You will be relieved to hear I don’t. Mostly because I am British and I am so very tired of the comment. More fool them and indeed their eyes must have not seen anything in terms of magazines, books, youtube, shops or pinterest. ‘Knitting and crochet is so very now, darling…get with the project babe!’

If I wanted to convince them further I would happily slip Sarah Shrimpton’s latest book under their nose; Supersize Crochet: 20 quick crochet projects using super chunky yarn. The projects she has designed are both desirable for the modern home and by using chunky yarns the items are quick to make. Sarah is a fellow Stylecraft Blogstar and her wonderful designs can be found at Annaboo’s House.

As you can imagine, I have quite a broad range of crochet techniques under my belt, but there are a few stitches in this book that I have yet to try and so it won’t be long before I have a go at making Sarah’s basket design. They have a wonderful stitch detail that I feel I must try.

Funky Projects

Also on my to-do list will by the fab Hanging Pouch. Possibly a must for any house with a family. So practical and funky. If I get around to it I think Stanley would really like a homemade basket.

I must say that with all craft books it is easy to go straight to the pattern and fail to read any of the blurb. For my own books I put quite a bit of background information and handy hints within the text. These small asides usually give you lots of insight into the designer and provide you with an enjoyable read as well as the instructions. I have taken time to read the introductions in this book and you really get a sense of Sarah’s joyful personality and the inspiration behind her work.

I will be recommending this book to lots of my crochet friends. For a moment there I wondered about giving away my copy…but I won’t, it will stay in my ever expanding crochet library. You can’t get a better endorsement than that.

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New colour, new yarn

When I went to visit Stylecraft yarns with my fellow blogstars in the early summer we looked through a wealth of exciting new yarns, brand new trends and patterns and were able to spot some new collaborations. One of the joys of our blogstar days is having the chance to chat and to share ideas. On a previous trip Lucia Dunn had done a quick ‘show-n-tell’ of her blanket. She talked passionately about how she uses colour in her work and her home. A collaboration was born between Lucia and the fabulous designer Jane Crowfoot.

Colour Collaboration

Over the months the two artists worked together to create a new colourway of Jane’s Persian Tiles blanket design using packs of Stylecraft DK yarn. Lots of designers would be precious about their colour choices, however Jane is very generous and collaborative. “As the designer, it is incredibly interesting and exciting for me to see other people’s versions and colourways. I have seen some really beautiful interpretations of the project – some of which use many shades and yarn combinations and others that use a restricted palette”.

Colour inspiration

Lucia has used the inspiration of her home country of Italy. She has picked up the colours of the pastel houses of seaside villages. “The pattern Jane has designed is amazing and just inspired me to come up
with new colours. I hope that my palette will give anyone, in whatever part of the world, the feeling of happiness, holidays, general wellness, sun and sea.”

I think the new colour combination almost creates a brand new design. It is full of joy and vibrancy. I wonder if seeing a designer re-work the colour palette might give more crocheters confidence. Perhaps even permission to play with the colours in their own work.

If you would like to follow Lucia’s colour scheme then the Eastern Jewels yarn packs, with the option to buy the pattern for crocheters that don’t  already have it, will launch in stores from 25 th September 2017. I predict this will be an instant classic. Please also read the theory behind the colour choices in Lucia’s blog. It is a fascinating read.

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Very occasionally I get interviewed by a magazine or a website and they ask me what other hobbies I have. Well it is not so easy to fit in much beyond my many hours with the crochet hook. But when stressed and needing to clear my head I will most often disappear into the garden.

Our garden is not huge, but it is large enough to have broad range of flowers and shrubs and a happy place to eat and play. It can be no surprise that my crafty making has rather crept into the outdoor space.

Each year we have a little summer gathering for friends. The bunting, the blankets and the garlands come out of storage and we enjoy changing our space from basic back garden into a festival space. You can have a quick look at previous years here and here.

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This year my super crafty friend Gemma made me some very pretty felt flower hoops to hang in the trees. Utterly gorgeous and they matched rather well with a crochet mandala I had made earlier in the season. I had hoped to make a few more but ran out of time. I keep thinking that they must be more of a cross-over between our crafty world and the outdoor space.

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Coincidently a brilliant gardening blogger, Alexandra contacted me. She writes the amazing Middlesized Garden Blog. This blog is one of my very favourite Sunday morning reads and over the years her hints and tips have greatly improved my plant care. Alexandra queried if I had ever crocheted with ‘plarn’. Essentially ‘plastic-yarn’.

She visited Spain this year and spotted some beautiful awnings and sunshades which create shade on the Spanish Streets. Essentially the locals make crochet mats out of upc-ycled plastic bags and then suspend these sunshades between the buildings to create colourful protection from the sun. The image she sent me peaked my curiosity and I began a journey of discovery of how people turn discarded plastic bags into mats and baskets. Please read her fabulous blog here

Here in Britain the plastic bag is becoming thankfully quite rare. I had to raid a forgotten stash to find some bags to experiment with. After a couple of hours I had made this plant container using some supermarket carriers. Don’t get me wrong, this is not easy work. Essentially I created a core strand of plastic bag and then made a long strip of plastic and crocheted round the core to create the spiral of the basket. Anyone who has worked with t-shirt yarn will tell you that your wrists to ache rather after a while and you can feel like you have done a few bouts of wrestling once your basket is finished.

Many people believe that working with thick yarn and large hooks should be easier than working with much thinner yarn. In fact it is much harder on the hands. But I cannot deny I had a lot of fun experimenting. I decided to sacrifice two bin bags to see how easy it would be to create a plastic granny square. I made a small mat quite easily but it would be lots more fun to collect a wide range of colours to create the most authentic granny square vibe.

This little experiment has got me thinking. Recycled plastic is impervious to rain and makes brilliant weather proof decorations. I think there maybe more projects to think about and there should be more crafty decoration in the garden.

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I have this little plan in my head. But oh my goodness my progress is slow. In recent months I have not been able to share with you the projects I am working on. Due to the release dates and embargos, most of my designs appear months later. I am lucky if I have remembered to take a photo. Once I have finished my current commission, I am taking a little break from designing. I feel the need to just make.

So I have a plan. I want to make a ‘Granny Square’ jacket for the winter. Oh my, could be terrible, could be fantastic. I realise that people may very well cross the street to avoid me, but we will see. When I started to work on the project I began with the sleeves. I occurred to me that I could tone down the shouty nature of the granny square by making the sleeves in just one colour.

Initially I swatched the design in crochet, but realised that this would NOT do. I knew immediately they would lack drape. So I have returned to my beloved knitting needles. So far so good. I chose the classic double moss stitch. So chic. This stitch is much beloved of classic British knitwear designers; Debbie Bliss and Kim Hargreaves. The double moss stitch is also a staple stitch for aran jumpers. But oh my friends, it is slow. Achingly slow. Each stitch alternates between a knit and purl stitch. The yarn is worked backwards and forwards. Slowly the knitted fabric grows.

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So why do I persist? Mostly because I have learnt that to make an heirloom project it is worth putting in the effort. Every large project which requires time and effort is an act of faith. Will you like it? Will you actually wear it? Who knows, but that is the risk. In fact you know that risk everytime you gift a handmade project to a friend. Either your work will be a treasured jewel or quickly discarded on to the re-gift pile. But not this cardigan. This is my own little yarn adventure. I am not taking notes. I am just making. The base colour is the fabulous ‘Pillar Box Red’ Stylecraft Life DK. This is a new colour this season and I was immediately drawn to it.

I am on the second sleeve now… thank goodness. You may wonder why I started with the sleeves. Mostly in a veiled attempt at self-discipline. If I finish the sleeves I will whip along with the squares. I can’t wait and I’ll share the journey with you. This cardigan/jacket could be a wardrobe staple, could be a disaster. We will see.

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Apollo-Aurora-emma-varnamFairytale Ambitions

It occurs to me that when I was a little girl, listening to fairy tales I was not that interested in the central heroine. The appeal of being Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty passed me by. The far more interesting character seemed to be the Fairy Godmother. She wasn’t waiting for something to happen to her. She made things happen. She was the fixer. Quite frankly she had all the fun. So I wonder if this has been my life-long ambition. Rock up somewhere unannounced, sprinkle a little star dust, a little bit of whimsy and then disappear again almost as quickly. I think I am probably living this small girlhood plan through my yarny exploits.

Let’s start at the beginning. A couple of weeks ago I got my hands on a new yarn by Designer Yarns; Apollo. It comes as a satisfyingly large ball of 300g. The colour choice I had was Aurora, which is really a rainbow of colours from fuchsia pink, through to golds and aqua marine. Now I don’t normally veer towards variegated yarns or blended tones in my design work. But I was attracted to the soft and silky texture and I was intrigued to see how the tonal repeat would work.

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The yarn was so soft that I thought, ‘this would make an excellent baby blanket’. The unusual colour combination nearly put me off, but then I remembered that some good friends are expecting their third child and this more adventurous approach to the traditional buggie blanket might serve them very well. Let’s face it, the third baby very rarely get anything new or bespoke.

I had plenty of projects already on the hook and wanted a little simple project. I began a standard corner-to-corner square. As the colour changed, I became more enchanted by the results. If you are interested, the blanket is approximately 101cm (40in) square and I used about 450g of yarn, which equates to 1 and half balls of yarn. When I had completed the main square of the blanket I then edged the work with a linen stitch border. I do not mind telling you that I am overly pleased with the finished project. It is so soft and the tones are so imperceptibly blended. I showed the finished blanket to some colleagues at work and they couldn’t seem to find where one colour started and another ended.

Apollo-Aurora-emma-varnamFairytale Poncho

So there you go, one rather different baby blanket. But I had some yarn left over….what to do, what to do? Luckily I had spotted an excellent pattern for a child’s poncho in Colourful Crochet by the fabulous Marianne Dekkers-Roos. This is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it. So as quickly as I could, whipped up sweet poncho for my friend Betsy. Betsy is the most scrumptious little girl. She is the champion big sister of Rufus and will be an equally stunning big sister to the owner of the colourful baby blanket.

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I was too excited to wait until the baby arrived and if I am honest I would have paid serious money to see the delight and utter surprise on Betsy’s face when I arrived unannounced at her door, laden with her Aurora Poncho. Frankly this is a close as you can get to be a woolly Fairy Godmother and I’m living the fairytale dream.

 

Designer Yarn Choice – Apollo will be in the shops Autumn 2017. There are lots of different shades for your to try.

 

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Oh my word my friends, our moment has come. You know what is trending this Autumn? The ‘Granny Square’. (Which is fortunate, as I have a book on the very subject, coming out in the next month – say nothing). I digress. You and I know that the humble crochet granny square has been reclaimed now for about a decade. But fashion has taken a while to catch up. That eminent fashion house Moschino focused on granny square chic for their Resort Wear 2017 collection. Now Zara have a lovely range of jumpers in their Autumn range. Bright, bold and beautiful, but also very easy to make.

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Colour Pop

The gorgeous Debbie Bliss asked me to design a granny square themed bag for her Autumn/Winter range and I was delighted to oblige. I chose zingy and fashionable colours from the Rialto DK range and then brought the whole look together by using a lovely dark gray to link each square together.

This bag is fairly easy to make if you have mastered the basic square. I also made a base working in the round. For the finished sample, I really went to town with lining the bag and using metal eyelets to thread the bag handles through. Attention to detail, don’t you know. I adore working with Debbie, mostly because she is such a kind, funny and glorious person, but professionally she has such a keen eye for colour and a fabulous sense of fashion. Take a look at all her new designs for autumn. If you can knit or crochet, you will be able to find your ‘trending’ item which you can get ready for the next season and won’t have to leave the comfort of your arm chair.

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