knitpro-joy-project-bag There is nothing better than a good excuse to crochet and a train journey is a very good excuse. I have made long train journeys most of my adult life. I adore the space and time they provide to create and think. If I am away for a week, I carry a substantial project page, as featured in yesterday’s post. For a day trip I need a bag I can pop into my handbag.

knitpro-joy-project-bagJoy

This gorgeous tote was sent to me by Knitpro and is part of their Joy range. It has lovely hand blocked printed fabric in my favourite blue and white colour combination.

As you can see the bag fits nicely in my handbag. It has a handy long zip which means it is easy to get your yarn in and out of the bag. The square shape is also ideal as it means that the bag sits nicely on a table or your lap while you work. There are a few small pockets inside to pop my tape measure and tapestry needles. I like it very much.

knitpro-joy-project-bagOther temptations

Do beware though, if you go onto the KnitPro website you might find some devilishly useful cases for hooks and interchangeable needles. Very tempting

So on my ‘crack of dawn’ journey this morning to old London Town, I shall be sporting this beauty. Inside there should be enough space for all the yarn I need for my next project. Please share with me your favourite project bag, I love to discover new innovations.

 

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happy-crochet-projecet-bag

I can’t deny it, I have quite a collection of project bags. I don’t think I will ever give up collecting them. At any one time I can have 3 or 4 crochet projects on the go. As I flit between commissions, it is useful to have the yarn, hooks and pattern in separated out.

happy-crochet-projecet-bagTwo types

For me project bags tend to fall into two types; firstly there is a large bag which will come with me on holiday or sit adjacent to my spot on the sofa. Secondly I use a smaller bag that will fit into my handbag, ready for a day out. This week I am going to review two bags sent in the post and give you the low down on their features.

Firstly let’s have a look at this absolute beauty of a project bag by Happy Crocheting. I have been eying up a bucket bag like this for ages. I do like a bag to have useful pockets, but this design takes a crafting tote to a whole new level.

The pockets on the side have specific places for your hooks, pens, notebook and accessories.. Suddenly I feel all organised.

In terms of capacity you can fit in a good quantity of yarn. I am in the process of finish a single bed blanket using DK yarn and it easily went into this bag. Having the shoulder strap and the carry handle is useful. When you open the bag, there is a very large zip which means you can flip the top of the bag right back and it acts as an open basket. It is this feature which ensures it will have multiple purposes in our house. I can leave it by the side of the sofa and then dip in and out while I am working in front of the telly.

happy-crochet-projecet-bagThe best bit

However it is out- and- about that this bag comes into its own. On a recent trip down south I took my crochet on the train. On several occasions my cheeky ball of wool ran off embarrassingly under another passenger’s chairs. Argh, how frustrating. I thought even then, ’I wish I had a bag with me with a hole for my yarn so that I could keep it clean and contained’.

happy-crochet-projecet-bag

Lots of project bags have a feeder hole for yarn, but it does mean that you work ends up being on one side of the bag and your yarn on the other. The genius of this bag is that you can sit the bag on the floor – your yarn can be captured in the bag while you work.  There is a larger slit in the top of the bag so that you can change the ball of yarn over or even quickly pop your project away if you need to pack up quickly.

happy-crochet-projecet-bagThe test run

I took this bag with me for a test-run the other weekend. Little B was at a go-karting party and I was happy to sit and crochet while he sped around the track. This bag allowed me to discreetly work on my commission without getting muck and dust on my yarn. Perfect.

These project bag is currently retailing at £22.99 on Amazon, you can also have a look at the blog and Facebook page by Happy Crocheting. They are a small British company, who understand the needs of an avid crocheter. Well worth checking out and you will not be wrestling my Crochet drum bag off me any time soon.

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stylecraft-poncho.4When I went to visit the Stylecraft studios back in August, one Autumn pattern caught my eye – a beautiful chunky poncho. I started to caress and fondle the sample pattern and then without warning popped it over my head. ‘Ah’, I declared, ‘this will do!’

stylecraft-poncho.2In the round

A deceptively simple pattern, this poncho is reversible as it uses a knitted broken rib pattern. Worked from the bottom up on circular needles it has no seam. If you haven’t used this technique at all, this would be a great beginners pattern. I must say that the final texture of this yarn is gorgeous. This yarn reminds me of other colourful yarns which have an artisan look but at a fraction of the price. I used just 5 balls. My poncho was knitted to the medium size instructions, but I think I could have gone for the small size in the end .

 

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Do to my crochet schedule, I do very little knitting at the moment, so this project felt very indulgent. I worked my poncho in New Orleans, because it very much suits my palette. But there are new shades available in the Carnival Chunky range.

stylecraft-poncho.1What to wear?

I know that I am not a very good model for this look, but I will probably live in this poncho in the colder weather. In the deepest of the chills I could wear it over my warm woolen coat for extra cosiness. The poncho will probably be a stalwart of the weekend wardrobe, worn over a denim jacket with dark trousers or dungarees. When my knitwear has texture and colour, I try to ensure that the rest of my outfit is slightly more toned down. The key of course is to enjoy wearing something you have made yourself.

What will your must make item be for your Autumn/Fall wardrobe?

I am lucky enough to be a Stylecraft Blogstar – you can see other Blogstars here

 

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batik-cowl-stylecraft-emma-varnam-blogstars

When I first saw Stylecraft’s yarn Batik, I knew immediately what I was going to make; a beautiful cowl for wearing during Autumn weekend. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a usual occurrence, however there are times when a Pinterest image sticks firmly in your mind. You know that one day, a concept, a colourway or a garment will manifest itself into a design.

The colour of the yarn, which is subtly variegated reminds me of a watercolour painting. The hues change in their intensity. I had in my mind two specific images which I love; a cardigan and a scarf which use a gingham garter stitch technique to give a vintage up-cycle vibe. This is a look of effortless cool, a laid back make-do-and-mend.

batik-cowl-stylecraft-emma-varnam-blogstars

Since beginning Little B’s Barcelona blanket, (still not finished), I have wanted to have a go at making a something which uses the diagonal corner-to-corner technique. The design uses a subtle rainbow palette interchanged with alternate rows of Cream. I started with Cherry, followed by Coral, Old Gold, Sage and then Storm

batik-cowl-stylecraft-emma-varnam-blogstars

I know the Batik Cowl will be a staple of the Autumn wardrobe. Ideally worn to brighten dark polo neck jumpers – but most of all it looks fabulous with denim. Today I have got it on with a Cream roll-neck, far too warm, but I am enjoying having a new accessory in my repertoire.

batik-cowl-stylecraft-emma-varnam-blogstars

If you think it would be helpful to write up this pattern, will you leave a comment below. It is a fairly quick and easy make – but I never know where it would be popular or not. Do also check into the blogs of my other Stylecraft Blogstars and see how they have used the Batik yarn. Check out the beautiful blanket by Heather at Patchwork Heart – utterly gorgeous.

 

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rowan, magazine, 60The arrival of new Rowan Yarns magazine is always a source of excitement for me. Especially the Autumn/Winter issue, it is like the September issue of Vogue arriving on the newstands.

With the resurgence of yarn craft and the increased availability of patterns through the internet it is easy to forget how important this yarn house is to World knitting and crochet. Many websites, designers and books have taken inspiration from Rowan’s style. I have always enjoyed the quality of the photography in the Rowan publications. You can see how much their style has influenced others.

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The History of Rowan

The Rowan Magazine is never just a collection of patterns, there are always excellent, insightful articles to read. As I have been a fan for over 15 years, I loved the article on the history of Rowan. There is also a great behind the scenes glimpse of the front-cover photo-shoot in Anglesey.

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Take it slow

This issue is particularly good, more of a coffee table delight for the eyes. If like me you can be a bit quick and distracted with your craft projects, the patterns in this issue will tempt you to invest in quality yarn and luxuriate in an heirloom project.

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My top picks

Top of my list has to be this gorgeous jumper by Sarah Hatton. I have met Sarah a number of times and she really is the most inspirational and generous designer. She has the ability to get the zeitgeist of fashion and turn the ‘now’ trends into wearable knitting patterns.

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Second on my list has got to be this brushed fleece poncho, Caliban by Lisa Richardson. A relatively quick knit, you know you would wear this all Autumn and Winter!

Rowan-Yarns-60-Barley_1Rowan-Yarns-60-Barley_Hat_1

A really clever addition to this issue is that stitch patterns and colourwork have been incorporated into more than one pattern. So if you are daunted by making the cable pattern of Barley in a jumper, you can instead practice your technique in a more manageable hat.

rowan - yarns - garnola

Hooked up

Sometimes crocheters don’t realise that Rowan also publish patterns for their hooky craft. I already have far too many cowls than is healthy for a grown woman, but you know how much I really want to make Granola.

Get your own copy

It was the lovely people at Laughing Hens who sent me my copy of the Rowan Magazine and ever since I have had it on my bedside table. Shall I tell you a secret? I love many different yarn shops and online retailers, I spend quite a bit of money in them all. I always love the Laughing Hens website because they show the full range of patterns for a pattern book and have a useful option to buy the yarn for each projects. It is a thing of wonder and my top-tip of this week.

Giveaway

I have one copy of the Rowan Magazine issue 60 to giveaway and if you would like to have the chance to win it – please leave a comment below telling me your favourite thing to knit or crochet in the Autumn. I love to hear your views. I’ll pick the winner on Monday 19th September 16 at 6am. Don’t forget that if you don’t want to miss any giveaways – subscribe to the newsletter at the top of the blog. – Bon Chance!

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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.

pumpkin, crochet, baby, hat

Secondly why not make this crochet pumpkin baby hat – how cute is this? One of my favourite patterns, my own son looked so cute in this hat – I just wanted to eat him. I think it is the twirling tendrils which make all the difference. You can download it free from here.

pumpkin, crochet, baby, hat

Finally if you love teacosies, you will love this book; Teacosies 4. I have quite a few patterns in this book, but this is one of my favourites. It seems to work well with the days getting a bit cooler and the need to snuggle up nursing a steaming cup of freshly brewed tea.

pumpkin, crochet, tea, cosy, cozy

If you do end up making one of these patterns – please do send me your photos. If you would like to be kept up to date with my news and new patterns published – please do subscribe to my newsletter at the top of the side bar.

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ideas, party, craft, pom-poms, ballons, headband

Craft doesn’t just have to be a indoor pursuit, there are plenty of things that you can make which will bring fun and colour to your garden

gardenparty, flowers,

For the past few years we have invited friends round to our house and garden at the end of the summer holidays. Although a big gathering takes some planning and is all ‘go’ on the day, the memories we have made on those sunny summer afternoon are priceless.

gardenparty, net, [pom-poms, colour

Bring in the colour craft

Strangely the garden can look quite green by the end of August. Some of the best of our flowers have gone over. No matter,  it is easy to bring more colour and craft into your garden by making some simple pom-pom garlands.

I had brilliant fun using scraps of neon netting to make very fluffy pom-poms. I tied these to the trees at a child-friendly height and they create a real sense of fun and wonder.

garden party, pom-pom, pin, wheel,

A festival welcome

To get the party atmosphere I chose a festival inspired colour scheme. Just to make sure our guests knew where they were going we hung paper fans, pom-pom garlands and ribbons onto our garden gate. These blew in the breeze and brought a party atmosphere to the patio.

garden party, seating, crochet, bunting

Cosy Comfort

It is really important to create lots of comfy seating areas so your guests can chat and lounge about.  It is also a perfect excuse to show of your crochet skills and get out all your handmade blankets and cushions.

gardenparty, garden, trail, fun

Going on a fun hunt

We have lots of young friends and I enjoy making things specifically to entertain children. Firstly Little B and I like to set up a garden trail. We had animals and characters within the garden and set our guests the task of finding all our hidden creatures. If you promise a small prize for a completed treasure hunt you will find there are oodles of willing participants. In addition, we really enjoy making the search fiendishly difficult.

gardenparty, ideas, washi, tape, words, pom-poms

Say it in words

Why not set the tone and mark out the party areas with a combination of signs. A welcome sign is always inviting for your guests.

I was also inspired to use some coloured masking tape to write playful words inside our garden den. Play and fun is the name of the game and hidden messages which only they will see delights young minds.

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I used my new Posca pens to write on our kitchen window so that no-one was in doubt where the music was coming from. This looks more difficult than it is. Firstly I sketched the words on a piece of paper. I stuck this to the outside  of the window and then traced the shapes on the inside with the Posca Pens. Quick, simple and effective

gardenparty, pom-pom headband

Dressed for the occasion

Let imaginations run wild with a few items available from the dressing up box. This year I made a few quick and easy tutu skirts, by knotting strips of netting around headbands. Let me warn you – don’t get disappointed if a five year old turns down your offer of wearing a fairy tutu because she has made a very deliberate choice of her favourite party dress and doesn’t want to spoil the look. Never mind, the pom-pom and flower headbands were popular with all our little girl guests.

summerparty, tea, light, jam, jar

A little night light

Don’t forget to bring a little romance to the evening by dotting some tea-lights around the garden. From mid-spring I start collecting jam-jars so that I can begin the cover them in crochet, bringing a little sparkle to the proceedings. All these ideas are a bit of colourful crafty fun which provides a focus for my evening makes and allows me to dream of balmy summer evenings filled with giggles and fun.

If you are looking for more outdoor crafty inspiration please have a look at the books in my previous blog post here, and also have a look at the excellent Middlesized Garden blog which has a fabulous post on garden parties here.

If you have any crafty ideas for the garden please do leave your suggestions below.

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cute-crocheted-animals1The Animals

I am so excited to introduce to you my new book, Cute Crocheted Animals. This is my favourite of all the books I have had the privilege to write. Inside you will find ten little cuddly character. A boy and a girl for five different animals; fox, mouse, bear, cat and rabbit

Each little person has their own character and a cute little outfit to wear. Once you have chosen your animal, you can mix and match, tops, dresses, shoes, jackets and hats.

cute-crocheted-animals3The Wardrobe

I have been keen that the wardrobes reflect a quintessentially British style. Plus if you know a budding ballerina or sports fanatic there are outfits to suit.

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It was so much fun designing little outfits for these guys. I had in my mind the children I knew and how they would love, play and cuddle these animals.

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Our own darling cat Stanley also gets a look in – he is very much a ‘mews’. He is very much a star of the book and his own little character forms part of the narrative. I am almost tempted to crochet him his very own red tank top.

The book is published today; 7th September.  If you are visiting the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace on Friday 7th October I will be doing a book signing and demonstration on the GMC stand. More importantly if you get to flick through a copy of the book please do leave a comment to tell me what you think. I would also love to see any photos of animals made. That would thrill my heart.

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beach, hut, doorstop, pattern

I have a new pattern pick me up for you this Monday. Why not make your own crochet souvenir of sandy summer holidays and create a Beach Hut doorstop. This pattern will bring the fun and the sun into your house whatever the season.

beach, hut, crochet, doorstop, pattern

The base

The pattern is actually quite simple. The sides and base are worked in one piece. The ends are straight, but a roof is achieved by decreasing the gable to a point. I designed an attached roof as it allowed me to create a texture using a spike stitch.

Decoration

The decoration is created by either making small bunting triangle and using felt shapes to appliqué onto the crochet base. My suggestion would be to use any DK cotton you have in your stash to create decoration and detail so you don’t have to buy brand new balls of yarn.

beach, hut, doorstop, crochet, patternAt the base

Whenever I create a doorstop I always ensure that I create a little weight in the base by placing a bag of rice or lentils in the bottom of the shape and then fill the rest of the doorstop with stuffing. This will ensure your doorstop will keep its shape and do its job properly.

After many years this popular pattern is now available for purchase on the LoveCrochet website. It is a great project for a beginner who is wanting to take on more decorative work. I do hope you like it and please do post your photos if you make one.

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jack, rabbit, cute, crocheted, animalsMy new book Cute Crocheted Animals will be published in a matter of days. I am so very excited. I wanted to give you a little background to why I designed the patterns and wrote the book.

My childhood memories

I have very distinct childhood memories of sitting in my own imaginary world playing with my toys. I was very fond of one particular pretty rag doll,  happy dress her for bed, settle her in a small wooden toy cot and smooth her woolen hair as I imagined her drifting off to sleep. The play-acting of the nurturing role is universal I think. An added joy is to choose and dress toys – creatively putting different combinations of clothes, shoes and accessories together.

All of these moments of play and flights of fantasy are such a precious part of a carefree childhood. It occurred too me that it would be delightful to create animal characters that could be dressed, loved and cuddled for a new generation.

Design development

Over the years I have designs and developed lots of different animal patterns and I really enjoy making rabbits. I was commissioned to make a lovely bunny for Inside Crochet Magazine and that bunny was dressed a a pretty Liberty print dress. Over time I kept thinking it would be great to develop a whole wardrobe of clothes for a bunny. I also wanted to develop my pattern design to make the toy easier to dress.

I started talking to my publishers at GMC, and we began thinking about different animals I could create and the kind of outfits I could design. It was lots of fun and soon little characters began to emerge. I drew the animals and their outfits first and then I had conversations and email discussions with my precious editor Wendy. The outfits are intended to have a quintessentially English style. Children I know should recognise and like the clothes which their animal will wear.

That must be me!

Each animal in the book has a character of its own. A couple of weeks ago I visited my oldest friends and their children. I had taken a copy of the book with me to see what they thought. I sat quietly in an adjoining room listening to their conversation; ‘That cat is definitely me, listen to the description – that is me!’ ‘Well we all know I am the fox… I love her cardigan…’. Such precious sounds. A happy smile spread across my face as the imagination of young people was sparked. W

hen you make things with you loved ones in mind then, nothing is more satisfying then to hear them participate and enjoy the journey with you and get the joy of creating small toys which have a character of their own. If you get to see the book, even if you can’t crochet – I hope you will see and read the humour within it. Some of it is my own crazy imagination, lots of it is due to the fabulous creativity of my editor Wendy and designer Rachel, who captured the joy of the project too.

I hope you will like it and will be able to think of someone you could make an toy for.

 

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