emma -varnam-crochet-cactus

I could never had imagined the fun I have had with crochet. I love to make as part of my relaxation…smoothing out my ruffled brain at the end of the day.

However there are plenty of moments that just make me laugh out loud. I can remember the day I made my first crochet cactus.

emma-varnam-crocheted-succulents

My book editor had seen that Little B and I were enjoying growing Cacti and Succulents and she said; ‘Why don’t we see if you can create crocheted versions?’

emma-varnam-crocheted-succulents

I thought…’don’t be ridiculous…that will never work…and then about 2 days later…the obsession began.

That weekend I had found the Rico Bubble yarn at my local yarn store (Black Sheep Wools) and I knew immediately what I would do with it. It was perfect for cactus spines. I sped home and immediately sat down in my favourite chair to start hooking. An hour later my first, crazy, spikey cactus sat on the mantlepiece. I began giggling away to myself at the pure joy of making something quite so ridiculous. Not long after my book was published and now there are copies in French, German and Dutch.

One of my greatest joys is to see photos of cacti and succulents posted on social media, People change the colours and the sizes and some even sell their woolly creations on market stalls.

Recently I thought it might be fun to create a small starter pattern for those of you who might like to dip your toe into woolly spikey plants. I have added a new downloadable pattern to my Etsy shop which has two basic patterns for your to follow. You can create a Ball Cactus with flowers and a ridged spikey cactus. I have also included the pattern for the crochet soil and all you need to do is pop them in a spare pot or teacup.

New exclusive kits will be available for purchase which have all you need to create this pattern. If you enjoy making these two cuties you can return and buy the book. To give you some help with the process I have posted a video tutorial in my tutorial section of my blog. But I have got to tell you… they are addictive.

Please do tell me what you think. I know that I will be beginning my Festive Cactus present making so very soon.

{ 0 comments }

There is a moment, perhaps half way through, more likely two thirds, when I am at my optimum project moment. For every substantial knitting or crochet project there is that terrible balance of enjoying the making and yet wanting to finish.

Do you know what I mean? I love the making but there is something really brilliant when you finally sew in the last end and hold up you finished woolly – that ‘TA-DAH’ moment.

My biggest struggle is found in knitting when I am making a garment. My latest project cast-off this week is a boxy fairisle cardigan made with Stylecraft Highland Heathers.

I have enjoyed using the yarn. The colour has a depth to it which is beautifully subtle, almost a tweed. The blue has flashes of pink and green. I also like the simple fairisle motif and the contrasting edge. Throughout I have been intrigued to see how the project will turn out. I have enjoyed the simple stocking stitch rhythms. So it is with mixed emotions that I have cast off the final sleeve. I don’t even mind the sewing up and this time I invested in using the magical mattress stitch. (FANCY).

Although I know this cardigan will be a welcome addition to my winter wardrobe, I now slightly grieve its loss.

emma-varnam-v-stitch-blanket

The crochet equivalent would be blanket making. My ‘V’ stitch Vintage Virus Blanket which I started at the beginning of lockdown has been my longest ‘WIP’ of this year. There were moments that I questioned why I started it at all. But then almost 50 rows from the end, I began to become quietly addicted. I was frequently found in a corner, secretly hooking away a few sneaky rows. When I had finished the blanket I missed its warm comfort and its familiar pattern.

In Homer’s Odyssey, the character of Penelope waits for her husband to return from war. She has many suitors in that time and she keeps them at bay by promising that she will not consider anyone until she has finished her weaving. Every night for three years she unravels the work she has done the day before. Well it might have kept the pesky chaps at bay, but perhaps she was also enjoying the simple pleasures of an excellent ‘Work in Progress’.

cornwallis-rowan-emma-varnam

As we head towards Christmas I have a number of commissions on the go and a few gifts that I want to complete. But I have yet to decide on a delicious ‘work in progress’ that tempts me into snuggle into the sofa and I cannot almost bear to finish.

The Cardigan I have made is 9794 by Stylecraft – I have used colourways Loch and Gorse and I made mine in the Medium size. I am a Stylecraft Blogstar so I am able to view and access Stylecraft yarns before they have been released.

The scarf in the photos is Arabian Nights knitted using West Yorkshire Spinners sock yarn. There is a post about that project here.

You can find my simple free pattern for the V-stitch blanket in this blog post.

{ 0 comments }

Oh my, oh my it is a little bit chilly isn’t it? Never mind…sweater weather… a perfect excuse for the yarny amongst us to get out the needles and hooks and work on new cosy garments.

sweater

I was on one of the (endless) Skype meetings this week and found myself playing a brand new quiz: ‘Whose sweater game is strong?’

Being just ‘head and shoulders’ rather than a whole person, does really demonstrate who is head and shoulders in the ‘working from home’ outfit.

If you are being mean with the heating then a cosy jumper is just the thing. I’ll be honest the bright colours of a ‘top-down’ fairisle yoke will really catch the eye. How much more impressive would it be if you can admit you made it yourself? This the Birkin Sweater by Caitlin Hunter and I adore it. I finished in the Summer and it has made a few outings this week on the work meetings. I always worried that it would be too small. But surprisingly I was wrong and it has worked well.

stylecraft-lime-tank-top-emma-varnam

This week I have also delved into my drawers and found my cosy tanks. They have the advantage of keeping you body warm and yet you have the flexibility of movement. This zesty lime green tank is a design from Debbie Bliss (my darling friend) but when I make and buy her designs I pay cold hard cash for them…because I’m a discerning customer too and hey we all need to eat!

marius cardigan- emma -varnam

The cardigan is always a good choice to stay warm. In a changing climate as you can take it on and off quite quickly without messing up your hair or make-up.

arabian-knights-emma-varnam-pink

Now you might think I am mad, but even in my own home I have found myself putting on a cosy scarf. Bear with me… having a colourful but thinish scarf around your neck can bring added warmth, jazzing up what is ultimately quite a boring polo neck or sweatshirt. If you use a 4ply sock yarn you can get lots of warmth without it being very bulky. Have a look at this post to see all the details of the pattern.

So what am I making at the moment? Well for a few weeks I have been making a Stylecraft pattern using their new Highland Heathers yarn. Being a Stylecraft Blogstar I am fortunate to view all the patterns ahead of the season. Annabelle and Juliet from Stylecraft always know that there will come a moment in the season preview that I will say…’ooooo I like that!’. That usually means I will will want to knit that design for myself. So I am making the romantically named 9794 in Loch and Gorse. I am a very big fan of this new yarn. It has a lovely tweedy quality and I am currently using it quite a bit for some new projects. Hopefully in a few weeks I will finish the cardigan and be able to show you.

If you have any ‘Zoom’ style tips, I would love to hear them. I think strength of colour and a little interest in the neckline is the way to go. Oh, and if you can manage it from 8 hours of screen time…a little smile.

{ 0 comments }

I almost don’t want to say it, but I think that this might be a difficult winter period for those of us living in the Northern hemisphere. For some of us – we have felt rather stuck indoors for a while. I seem to have a very selective memory and can easily forget those heady hot weeks of April and May. But bearing in mind: ‘the nights drawing in’, I have decided to get proactive.

A good friend of mine, sent me a link to this very interesting article in the Guardian this week. I found it helpful. Essentially it takes the good practice of our Scandinavian neighbours who have much darker and colder winters than the Brits. They acknowledge and embrace the season, focus on it’s characteristics and proactively get involved and organise activities that can only be done during this season.

Don’t get me wrong – up to now I have been fortunate enough not to suffer from S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder). I have many close friends who it effects deeply and they dread the long dark season. The newspaper article reminded me to dig out all the advice and joys of the ‘Hygge’ phenomenon that was very a fashionable a few years ago. So I have made myself a few little promises to get into the ‘hygge mood’

Vintage-look-life-dk-scarf-emma-varnam
  1. I’m going to dig out the fairy lights. They bring twinkle and sparkle to any dimpsy room and can instantly lighten my mood
  2. Get out in the daylight in the middle of the day. I can’t always do it but even if I could carve out 15 minutes at lunch time to have a stroll outside I know it will be beneficial
  3. Ensure we do an outdoor family activity every weekend. It might just be in our garden – but with warm/waterproof clothes it should always be possible
  4. Plan for a start cosy knitting and crochet projects. There is nothing better than snuggling up under a homemade blanket as your are working on it.

I’ve said it so many times – but I am blessed to have a yarny hobby and it is a real benefit to me in the winter months. I know I have lots of friends that want to learn to crochet. So this weekend I am running a ‘Giveaway’ of my book How to Crochet over on my Instagram account. If you follow, like and tag a friend you will be entered into the draw.

I still love and enjoy all the projects in that book and there a many patterns that I use and give as gifts every year.

What are you top tips for staying Winter Happy? I would love to know.

{ 0 comments }

baby-bunny-animal-etsy

I feel like I say this every year. If you are a crafter around the time of the new Autumn school term, your mind turns to Christmas. I know it’s way too early. But the benefit of darker nights is more time curled up on the sofa with either your hook or needles. Plus it does take time to make those handcrafted gifts.

It is a strange thing, I often do my most festive work around July. A totally topsy-turvy time. In the last few years I have designed a make-a-long for Knitting and Crochet Magazine: A stocking advent calendar one year and then last year I designed some Christmas Tree decorations along the theme of the 12 days of Christmas. They were a lot of fun.

christmas-stocking-emma-varnam

This year I have set my own little challenge. I wanted to create a collection of my own toy patterns that I would style and sell independently. It seems like a crazy idea for a time-poor creative…but then if not, now when?

I have really enjoyed sending off my kits to new customers and it has been fun to connect to people from across the world. I started off with the downloadbale patterns for my baby animals. Then I began adding signed copies of my books. Last week I added a range of 5 watercolour postcards of my Cute Crocheted Animals. I love these images and I hope you will too.

christmas-stocking-emma-varnam

Finally, in time for your festive making I have added a pattern and kit of a stripy Christmas stocking. I have very good memories of peeking at my Christmas stocking in the early hours of the morning. The best times were when you could see a new cuddly toy peeking out the top. It got me thinking…why not design a bespoke stocking that fits my new designs.

emma-varnam-kit-baby-animal-shop

So there you are. Who wouldn’t want one of these cute friends greeting you on Christmas morning? If you pop over to the Etsy shop you can see, that you can download all the patterns, or order them as a kit. If you buy the two together it does make sense as there is a bit of discount on the combined price. Tell me what you think about the kits and the designs.

cute-crocheted-animals-cards

If you order this weekend I am adding a special gift for blog readers. If you enter EVBlog in the message whey you order I will send you a free set of the Cute Crocheted Animals Postcards as a ‘thank you’ pressie.

I am so glad that we can share this little adventure together – if you do make any of the patterns please do share your images. It delights your heart to see your makes.

Happy weekend!

{ 0 comments }

I was chatting with my husband only this week and we were talking about ‘the balance of life’- no small talk there. I was sort of being a bit apologetic that along with the day-job I have other looming deadlines.

emma-varnam-pink-linen-jacket

Luckily we are both fairly comfortable with the juggling of work/life/passions in our family life.

‘The way I see it – knitting/crochet is a bit like you breathing…you need it to survive’. He said it not in a dramatic way, but quiet and understated and I don’t think he is far wrong.

Survival

I seriously don’t think there is day that goes by when I don’t pick up the hook or the needle. At the end of a busy work day – the slow meditative stitching is important to process. The stitches smooth my thoughts back in order. Long journeys are made useful and even joyful with a yarn project. I will admit in this strange isolating times, I yearn for a long train journey. The more I am under pressure, the more important my creativity. I don’t really care what people think – if you know me well and we meet at a social occasion I might get out the wool – but I am always very much present – I can hear you – nothing is lost.

Solace

At the saddest or most challenging times in my life, I have NEEDED craft. Something quiet, distracting and ordered. My hands are very practiced at the repetitive rhythms – so no concentration is required… but something good is happening. I have come along-side a number of friends who are grieving or perhaps facing some difficult health or work issue. Sometimes I feel helpless to make any positive difference but I am thrilled to teach them to knit or crochet. The craft is a gift that must be shared not just for what it produces but how it can heal and soothe.

Beach-Basket-emma-varnam

Solution

Most of my making is prompted by one of two things. Either finding a practical solution…. ‘Wouldn’t it be helpful to have another potholder…?’ or ‘that beanie hat is looking a bit worse for wear…’ Make-do-and-mend is a great reason to knit and crochet. Oh the satisfaction of solving a practical problem by making the solution yourself.

Sharing

My design work is really about fun. There may be a new yarn or a new colour combination that has sparked an idea. The best bit of designing is that rush…the magnetic pull to start swatching. I don’t know if it has ever been claimed that crochet is and adrenaline fueled sport – but this bit – the race from idea to first stitches definitely pumps the endorphins. Funnily enough I have some memories where I can look at a design and remember where I was and what it was that inspired the idea. Once I am happy with the final product I’m really keen to share it with you. I love writing the books because they give me an opportunity to share the tips and tricks I have learnt along the way. Sharing our craft is a huge motivator for me and when I see one of my designs on social media or even better in the flesh…well that is an incredible thrill.

…to say I love you…

There a very few adults I will make for now. The pain of re-gifting is the ultimate craft betrayal. Too many re-gifting incidents can break the heart of a crafter. Better to send a bunch of flowers or buy a bottle and let your heart remain in tact.

Without a shadow of a doubt the very best people to make for are children. When you make a toy for a child and they grab it, kiss it, hug it and then name it….that my friends is the jackpot. That is woolly gold.

Children understand the currency of craft-gifting. If you receive a beautifully crayoned portrait of yourself drawn by a four year old, you know you have made it. Perhaps being a bit of a child at heart is why I make a lot of toys. Many of them have to be kept for photographs, some go on book tours, but my favourite are those who are created for a special person. Recently I was sent a video of one of my godson’s playing with a fluffy cloud I had made for him. The joy in his face, the passionate kisses he gave the cloud, the peel of giggles. I’m an old hand – but oh my the tears might have welled up a little.

I turned my phone round to show my husband the little film…’there you go darling…that’s the reason why….’

My blog has been nominated for the Love Crafts Crafties Award – If you enjoy my blog and would be happy to, I would love it if you would vote for it here: Vote

The-Crafties-All-Badges-200px-2020-Nominee-Multi-Craft”style=

{ 0 comments }

emma-varnam-v-stitch-blanket

Finally after many many weeks I have finished my Vintage ‘V’ Stitch Blanket. Right at the beginning of this blanket journey, I had grand plans to crochet a row of pretty ‘V’ stitches for every day of the Covid Pandemic. As is natural and normal it didn’t quite work to that plan. Some days I would crochet 10 rows – those would be lazy Sundays. Some weeks I didn’t manage a line at all.

emma-varnam-v-stitch-blanket

As in my previous post – the idea was to represent each day and then create blocks of 7 lines of colour seperated by a line of cream to create weeks.

In all I have worked 16 blocks (weeks). The overall blanket is about 200cm long and 160cm wide. It is large and heavy and generously covers a single bed. In actual fact it mostly covers a Super-King size bed.

To finish off the whole blanket I worked a linen stitch edge. This is a nice and simple edging and doesn’t add extra fussiness to what is a rather bright and clashing palette.

My intention has always been to honour the scrap blankets of the war-time era. A make-do-and-mend aesthetic. Grab what I had in my stash and work it into the design. But let’s be honest. There was a little order. I didn’t repeat a colour within a one-week block. By adding in the regular cream lines there is a subtle regularity to the design.

Nearing the end of a big project like this – there is a strange conflict. I was keen to get to the edge, try out how it would look. At the same time there is a sadness of saying goodbye to an old friend. Certainly I was very cosy under the mass of yarn as I finally finished off the design.

emma-varnam-v-stitch-blanket

The ‘V’ Stitch Blanket will now be our cosy blanket of choice for our bed during the Autumn and Winter months. That is if our son doesn’t adopt it in the meantime… there is a real possibility of that happening.

If you want to make your own version – please do use your stash of yarn. The majority of yarn I used was Stylecraft Special dk from my stash – to give you a list here are the colours: Cream, Dandelion, Mustard, Copper, Silver, Bottle, Apple, Duckegg, Petrol, French Navy, Lapis, Cloud Blue, Boysenberry, Bright Pink, Powder Pink, Bright Pink, Lipstick, Claret, Candy Floss.

You will need:

Lots of yarn of the same thickness (weight). I have used Double Knit yarn.

4mm crochet hook for the main pattern.

(If you have it, a 5mm crochet hook for the foundation chain)

Some small sharp scissors.

A tapestry need with large enough hole (eye) to thread yarn through.

Pattern

Using A and 5mm hook, chain 187

Row 1: 1dc in 2nd ch from hook, dc in each ch to end, turn. 186 sts.

Row 2: Using 4mm hook, 3ch, miss dc at base of ch, miss 1dc, (2tr, 1ch, 2tr) in next st, *miss 2dc, (2tr, 1ch, 2tr) rep from * to last 3sts,  miss 2dc, 1tr in last st, turn. (63 V clusters).

Change to yarn B.

Row 3: 3ch, *(2tr, 1ch, 2tr) in next ch sp, rep from * to end, 1tr in top of 3rd ch, turn. (63 V clusters).

Row 3 forms the pattern. Change the yarn colour every row. Weave in the ends as you go with your tapestry needle. Work until your blanket measures 180cm. The width will be approximately 160cm dependent on your tension.

V-stitch-pattern-emma-varnam

Edging

I crocheted 10 rows of linen stitch for the edging. I did an initial row of double crochet around the edge. Making 5 dc stitches for every two rows. Use a 5mm hook and this will avoid some puckering of the edge. Here is a basic stitch pattern for linen stitch. My advice is to work (1dc, 2ch, 1dc) into each corner.

If you start making a Vintage ‘V’ Blanket please do share your images over on the Facebook page or tag me in via Instagram. I would love to see them. Remember to really get the Vintage look the more colour clashes the better. In my blanket I have made every 8th row a cream row. But you could substitute this with a muted grey or even black which brings a little bit of neutral colour order to the overall look. Happy Making!

Abbreviations: st=stitch, sts – stitches, ch- chain, dc = double crochet (UK)/single crochet (US),
tr = treble crochet (UK)/double crochet (US), sp – space.

{ 0 comments }

Seeing that I have released some new designs this week – I thought I would share a little insight into how I design and the processes I go though.

emma-varnam-design
emma-varnam-design
emma-varnam-design
emma-varnam-design
emma-varnam-design

{ 3 comments }

I have a small thing to share with you. It has been a very long time in the development. I have created a series of 5 patterns which I am selling as single patterns.

Over the years I have designed toys for my books, for pattern houses, and magazines. But I haven’t really designed a collection which I can sell as a designer. This is something I really want to do – take the project though from the little spark of an idea and then birth it as a pattern in my style and finally as a limited range of kits. Its so exciting. I have been thinking, chatting and dreaming about this project for about a year.

emma - varnam - Baby - animals

I have two very lovely and very experienced yarny friends who have helped me think about the concept. When we meet up we chat through our ideas and dreams and their advice is invaluable.

If you follow me on instagram you might remember that in February I was sharing pictures of these little animals out and about in the snowy hills of the Lake District. Designing and making time during any holiday is so important. The stillness of holiday give me time to tweak and to play.

I have no idea of how many yarns I trialed….so many. There are also some animals that I wasn’t really happy with – who didn’t make the cut…

Finally I settled on 5 little characters – Bobby Bunny, Gertie Goose, Pat Puppy, Sam Lamb and Poppy Piglet.

Then the hard work begins… the pattern writing. I worked with my good friend and pattern editor Lynne Rowe. Lynne and I have worked on many publishing projects together and she knows what makes sense to crocheters. She spots the things which I leave out.

I then approached some regular makers of patterns and some expert crocheters – thanks to Linda, Sioux – super stalker and Babs for trialing the patterns. You are awesome.

emma - varnam - Baby - animals

The yarn I have finally chosen comes from the UK yarn house – Sirdar. You know I work with and love lots of yarn houses. They are all great. I chose Sirdar because I wanted to use their Snuggly Yarn ‘Bunny’ for the tummies of each animal. It made sense for the other yarn in the design to come from the same yarn company. I also wanted the yarn to have a good price point for you and be widely accessible across the UK.

emma - varnam - Baby - animals

Sirdar Snuggly Bunny is a fancy yarn and when you are crocheting with it you will need to pay attention – feel and look where you are putting your hook. The final feel of your toy is totally worth the concentration.

If you are interested in these designs they are available for digital download from my Etsy Shop.

Tell me what you think – I would love to know – which one is your favourite? If you end up making them will you post your baby toys and I would love to see images #crochetbabyanimals.

Finally you might notice a bit of change in my logo and brand. The launch of my pattern range seemed a good time to make the change. Plus my good friend Gemma said, ‘Emma is it time for a rebrand…..?’ in that way that isn’t really a question. She was right.

So there you go – exciting/scary times. All in a period of lockdown. I hope you like this new step and thank you to so many of you for supporting me.

Happy Weekend.

{ 4 comments }

How are you at the moment? Are you finding that your crafty life is actually more of a life-line than it has ever been? Me too… After a long day sat at the screen in Skype/zoom/team world I crave the time spent with my yarn. Every stitch seems to smooth out the crinkles in my brain.

This week I am thrilled that the new issue of Inside Crochet Magazine will start to appear on the doormat or the shop shelves. I’ve had a look at the patterns and the colourful and zesty colours are brilliant for the summer season.

It seems an age ago that I designed the Crazy Daisy Cushion for this issue. If you follow this blog you will know how much I love using crochet in the garden. There is nothing more luxurious than piling swathes of cushions and blankets on to the grass.

The great thing about outdoor soft furnishing is that your colour scheme can be a bit more adventurous. This design is very quick to make as it uses Stylecraft Special Aran and 5mm. Drag out your stash to aran and let your imagination go wild.

emma-varnam-inside-crochet-daisy-cushion

I have got to admit that I adore designing for Inside Crochet Magazine. The images they take are glorious and I get so excited to see how they have styled my work. I made two versions of the same pattern, using up as much of the yarn as I could. Do tell me what your think and it always lovely to hear how you are getting on with your lock-down craft projects. For now have a happy weekend and let those needles or hooks fly with creativity.

{ 0 comments }