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When you have a serious hobby – you know like breathing, thinking, knitting – you need serious kit. I can’t say I am particularly faithful to one knitting project bag as opposed to another. As the ol’ cliché goes – ‘horses for courses’. If I want to be subtle I might wrap up small projects in a zip-lock bag and pop the whole caboodle into my grown-up handbag. A big holiday requires a cavernous bag of Mary Poppins proportions. It needs to fit yarn and notions of a huge quantity. Preferably it will have pockets to ensure that I can find things easily.

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However being an ‘ambi-yarnist’ (made that up – but fluent in both knitting and crochet) I have not found a needle case which suits and accommodates both my craft needs at once. This is until now! Oh yes, my yarny friends, the very fabulous Debbie Bliss has developed the perfect needle roll, making space for needles, rulers, scissors, crochet hooks, tapestry needle and the indispensable Sharpie pen. As we would expect it has the gorgeous graphic knitting pattern and very ‘on-trend’ lining. I am thrilled.

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Look it even matches my jacket. So going away at the weekend now is simple; yarn stored in an accessible and pretty pretty shopping basket and all the vital tools of the trade in the handy needle roll. Suits me Sir!

You can purchase this item via the Debbie Bliss Online shop along with many other beautiful products that will delight knitting/crochet and just utterly stylish people.

Disclaimer: I will make no excuse for promoting, exalting and purchasing items made or designed by Debbie Bliss and her family. She is a fabulous woman, an inspiration and a national treasure – Buy British – Buy Bliss

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garndensayinggardenmay15.6.jpggardenmay15.5gardenmay15.4gardenmay15.2gardenmay15.7gardenmay15.3gardenmay15.8gardenmay15.9If you have followed this blog for a while, you will know how much I love flowers and for a long time I have enjoyed visiting beautiful gardens. Last year we were fortunate enough to do some much needed landscaping outside our house. Suddenly the garden felt more like our own. A flood of enthusiasm and a real desire to get our hands dirty came over us. Last Autumn, my folks who area EXCELLENT gardeners, came to visit with a boot full of perennials from their little piece of Eden. Now in the Spring we can see the earth gradually being covered with new lush additions, along with some well established trees and shrubs. Watching my family garden I have come to the realisation that a garden is never ‘finished’. The joy must be found in the development, the alterations, the adding and the taking away.

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Have you ever thought it might me nice to see your crafty creations on the big screen? Well if you have a bit of time and would like a small challenge then your work could contribute to the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival.

The producers of a short film called Knit Me Some Happiness are looking for 25cm squares, either knitted or crocheted, in red or white by 1st June 2015. But you will need to be quick as the deadline is tight,  but if any of you can help, please contact juliet@ukhandknitting.com

All the squares will be made into larger blankets at a later stage for the charity Emmaus.

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yarnshopeday15.2Do you know I had such a lovely time on Yarn Shop Day the other weekend. I popped over to my friends at Black Sheep Wools and spent a happy few hours chatting and teaching some of the techniques used in Amigurumi. As usual I met some lovely, lovely people and was thrilled to share our joint love of all things crafty.

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I have an exciting new design which I can soon reveal which I have created exclusively for Black Sheep Wools and I am happy to do so, because the welcome is always so fulsome and the customer service is excellent.

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I shall be voting for them in this years British Knitting Awards. You can also vote for your favourite brands, shops, yarns, designers and oh….dare I mention it…..your favourite yarn related BLOG. (Hint, Hint) Don’t be put off if you can’t fill a nomination in for each category – you can just use ‘n/a’ instead. You could also win £200 of knitting goodies – so why not vote?

Black Sheep Wools have also posted a little video of Yarn Shop Day online, there is a sneak view of Stacey demonstrating arm knitting – really impressive stuff.

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makeittoday You know that in the last year I have tried to take a more measured approach to my design commitments. Life at Varnam Towers has been a bit hectic and if I am not clever I can find myself over-committing on the hooky front. I have also tried to ensure that I only design products or garments that I actually like and would use. That might sound strange, but believe it or not you can soon find yourself making things that don’t inspire you. I am not always very good at saying ‘No’. This month has been lovely. I am pleased to see Bonnie Bunny, her clothes and her bed published in Inside Crochet.

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I also have seen my geometric cushion published in Make it Today magazine. There are some lovely designs in this issue.

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There are also some nice articles that I have been asked to contribute to. I was really honoured to talk about summer crochet trends in Craft Business Magazine.

craftseller1There is also a really lovely article about the blog in Craftseller Magazine. If you are standing in the supermarket near the magazine shelves – why not have quick look!

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Museum collections and archives have always been a huge inspiration for me – both in my design and professional life. Some of you might remember that last year I produced a cushion cover pattern inspired by the Gawthorpe Hall Textile collection.

Well this year I have discovered the Knitting and Crochet Guild Archive, which is an amazing resource with knitted and crocheted samples going back to the 1830s as well as a huge collection of pattern leaflets and every kind of knitting needle and crochet hook you can imagine.

The new yarn company, Yarn Stories have come up with a very special design competition for knitters and crocheters from all around the world to enter.

They gathered together a selection of inspirational images of items in the archive on Pinterest  and would like you to design a 15 cm blanket square in DK yarn inspired by the archive, which can be created in either knit or crochet.

The competition is now open and closes on 5th June 2015. There will be a judging panel including Debbie Abrahams, Jane Crowfoot and Angharad Thomas from the KCG archive as well as members of the Yarn Stories team and they will choose 10 finalists by the middle of June. Then Yarn Stories will throw open the judging to knitters and crocheters all over the world to vote for their favourite square during July and August. The overall winner, announced on 4th September, will receive £100 of Yarn Stories yarn and each finalist will receive two balls of the Yarn Stories yarn of their choice.

But the excitement doesn’t end there. All the finalists’ squares will be put together into a blanket pattern that will be available on the Yarn Stories website with 50% of the revenue going towards the continued protection and support of the archive. The finished blanket will be at The Knitting and Stitching show in October for you to see.

You don’t have to be a guild member to take part, but it is an organisation that I recommend you join.

If you fancy having a go, then pop over to the Pinterest board and get inspired and you can send your entry to:

Yarn Stories/KCG competitionm, Spa Mill, New Street, Slaithwaite, Huddersfield HD7 5BB

Or by email to information@yarnstories.com

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Sagardencentre2A couple of weeks ago we went on an exciting family adventure to South Africa. A big, much anticipated trip to visit a lovely friend and to see lots of animals, beautiful landscape and an incredible culture. There are lots of aspects of this trip I would love to share with you. Obviously any time away will involved some great crochet opportunities – I will share that yarn adventure with you soon. Time away is also an opportunity to visit beautiful gardens and being inspired by local flowers and plants.

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The planting and growing conditions are so very different from our own here in Britain. However I was inspired by the beautiful succulents which grow so freely in gardens and on the coastline. Here in the north of England, we are really too damp for succulents to enjoy life. But I thought that in the summer I would try to recreate the dry soil conditions in pots to make a mini-hommage to our South African trip.

planttheatre2For a while I have wanted to create a little ‘plant-theatre’ to display a number of small pots. I have planted up a few new pelargonium and a couple of new succulent plants as well as some that have survived our frosty winters.

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Then I thought I would try to make a South African inspired display for the garden table. I took a shallow basket which was in the garage and then lined it with a hanging basket liner. I mixed quite a lot of sharp sand with compost and then crammed the plants in so that they are snug. We will watch and wait to see if the basket survives our rather lush and rainy weather. I hope during the summer this basket will be a little reminder of our African trip.

 

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I do so much crochet now that it is always a bit of a treat to get back to the knitting needles. In the new issue of Let’s Get Crafting I have designed a few items which will help you get used to cable stitches. I made a couple of mug/cup cosies which look really pretty in this picture decorating flower pots. The three styles are of different difficulties so you can try your hand at swapping those stitches about.

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I also made this cable stitch cable ring. Not high on the fashion stakes but really, really helpful for storing your cable needle when you are mid-row. Those of us who love to cable know very well that the cheeky cable needle can needle its way very easily down the side of the sofa. So this design is a really practical solution.

I do say it quite often that regular knitters might not always look at Let’s Get Crafting – but it is worth checking the patterns out on each issue via Ravelry, because there are always some cracking toy designs.

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You will have noticed that in the past few months most of my designs have been for children. I find myself returning to my first love creatively. Like so many crafty people my return to knitting was stimulated by a desire to make hand-knits for new little babies arriving on the scene. My first garment as an adult was a jumper for my godson, Harry. He is now a strapping teenager and thankfully is still happy for me to thrust knitted garments upon him. These day it tends to be cool skiing beanie hats. What a kind chap to indulge me still! Little B is not really keen at all to wear anything I make. But can appreciate the skill and had suggested on our recent holiday that I teach him to crochet. In fact life was far too exciting to sit down and concentrate on hook and yarn, but we might have another go in the summer.

My recent projects for Debbie Bliss have been a great delight. I think there are more crochet nursery designs to be developed and when it comes to toys you can’t beat amigurumi crochet for its seamless durability.

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My recent creation for Inside Crochet was an imaginative leap of what I would have enjoyed playing with as a child. I had a little wooden dolls bed which I adored playing with. Oh, the many simple hours, tucking up dolls and teddies under the quilt. My Mother had made a pretty mattress, pillow and quilt for the bed, edged in a cotton lace. The whole set is something I still treasure.

The design comes in two sections. Firstly you can make the little Bunny. You don’t have to be gender specific and can avoid having coloured pants altogether.

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I then created some clothes to dress the bunny in. A simple cotton dress, a cute raglan jumper and some jeans, (with a handy hole for the cottontail).

Finally there is a little bed, made with t-shirt yarn. Inspired by the set made by my Mother, I created a simple cotton sheet and pillow edged with a simple crochet pattern in fine embroidery thread. There is also a fancy stash busting blanket to complete the set. These are the type of designs I love to make. They are from the heart, they are intended to bring joy and I am fortunate that people like Debbie Bliss and Inside Crochet are happy to publish them.

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Hello Lovelies! I am so sorry that it has been such a long time. Family Varnam has been on a bit of an adventure, which I hope to share a little bit with you. There has been lots and lots of travelling and quite a bit of crochet so I will look forward to updating you on that.

In other news, I am delighted to be joining my friends at Black Sheep Wools for Yarn Shop day.

Love Your Yarn Shop Day is a fabulous idea thought up by Let’s Knit magazine for shops to show off what is so great about visiting a bricks and mortar store. This special day is on Saturday 2nd May and there will be all sorts of fun, free workshops and demonstrations going on at the Black Sheep Craft Barn in Warrington. All events throughout the day will be free to attend. I  would love it if you could come along and say hello. I will be there between 2pm and 4pm giving hints and tips on Amigurumi Toy making, so if you would like to come and chat you can keep me company.

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