Hello Lovelies, I cannot believe that Yarn Shop Day has come around so quickly again. On Saturday 6th May I will be making my way over to Black Sheep Wools in Warrington to spend the day with my lovely friends at the Yarn Barn. In 2015 I was part of Yarn Shop Day with Black Sheep Wools and they won the British Knitting Awards for best event, that was how good it was. There is nothing more wonderful than supporting you local bricks and mortar yarn shop and this glorious day is supported by Let’s Knit and Let’s Get Crafting magazines

This year I will be showing you the gorgeous crocheted characters for Debbie Bliss and you can chat to me about my latest – Cute Crocheted Animals: 10 Well-Dressed Friends to Make
Come and take a peek at my designs and get some 1-2-1 advice on your crochet technique.  If you have already made one of my animal designs I would love to see them.

Workshops

I have two drop-in workshops planned

Amigurumi Crochet How to | 10am – 11.30am | 1.30pm – 3pm

I will be sharing my top tips on how to create cute features for the faces of your adorable animals. A slight slip of the stitch here or another stitch there can really change the face from being happy to angry. I will also be demonstrating working in the round and how to attach limbs.

Sarah Hatton will also be at the yarn barn. I love Sarah. He designs are so fresh and modern. She is truly a British Knitting celebrity and I always love to hook up with her when we are at the same knitting shows. You will recognise her name from being featured in many Rowan publications over the years and in her own books, most recently Modern Mini Knits. Garments from this book will be on display for you to discover Sarah’s designs. Sarah also teaches workshops too, having taught many here at the Craft Barn in Warrington.

Knitting Tips & Tricks | 10.30am – 11.30am | 1pm – 2pm
Sarah will be holding drop-in sessions where she will be showing knitting tips and tricks that will improve the overall finish of your knits, sharing her most favoured methods of sewing up and finishing. She will be happy to answer your knitting questions and help to advise on your next project too.

Knitting SOS with Sarah Hatton | 2pm – 3pm
Bring in your latest project for a quick once over. Sarah will be on hand to help with any knitting mishaps that you might have encountered recently.

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Added Bonus

Being a Stylecraft Blogstar I know that I will also have some goodies available from my friends at Stylecraft and you must also plan to take time to eat some fabulous cake when you are there.

Please do pop across to say hello and have a little yarn knatter.

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pooh-bear-crochet-tsum-tsum-emma-varnam

I don’t often take commissions. In fact I said the other day that I don’t ever. Why? Well it is difficult to explain and there are many reasons. I think the joy of making for me is about the joy of giving. My very best design ideas and projects tend to come from little conversations, small asides. Little seeds of inspiration grow in my brain and often the people who have inspired them have no idea they were a participant.

One such conversation happened over the Easter break. We were away, having a sunny break by the seaside with many families. Good friends of mine have the most delightful 6 year old son. Spud and I get along. Indeed I get on very well with both Spud and his sister Eve. (I made Frank the sausage dog for Eve).  Although many decades separate us in age, we all like fun, whimsy, creating and collecting. Now Spud is a collector of a specific toy, the Tsum Tsum. This is a small beanie plush toy which Disney have created. They have taken their iconic characters and created stackable soft toys with a Japanese aesthetic. They are really rather cute, quite affordable and therefore deeply collectible.

Tsum Tsum

Spud brought many of his Tsum Tsum toys on holiday and promised to give me the full tour. The only problem was, on a busy holiday, I was rather elusive. The photo above his Spud in hot pursuit to detect that wayward Emma Varnam. When we did eventually make a date we set aside MUCH time to survey his most treasured artifacts. The conversation was delightful. On full inspection I realised that it would be very easy to make a replica out of crochet. Perhaps it is because amigurumi has its origin in Japanese design but the link was obvious. I asked Spud which character he was missing and he told me with a slight hint of sadness; Pooh Bear….Bingo!

Back from our holiday and washing, spring cleaning and chores completed, I scrattled around in my yarn stash to find the correct colours. I had a quick look at Pinterest, knowing full well that if I had made the creative connection, others would have got there before me.

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The design is oh-so simple. There are plenty of designs available to purchase on Etsy and Ravelry if you fancy a go. Annoying though it might be, I am able to freehand this kind of design and so by the end of the evening my Pooh Bear Tsum Tsum was complete. I was almost giddy with excitement to see Spud.

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Handing it over to him, to see his face, to see the excitement of his sister Eve and the anticipation of my son, is the stuff of dreams. I love writing books, I love designing for magazines. To see your work in print is a real buzz. But to see something you make lighten up a face, to see that enchantment and for you to feel that love too. That my friend is the magic of making and what a gift it is both to the recipient but mostly to the maker.

 

 

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uniball-posca-craft-ideas-emma-varnam

Well now that Spring is here and Summer is not that far away I keep thinking about new craft ideas for the garden and the house. Last summer we had loads of fun using our Posca Pens. We wrote on glass, windows, paintwork and mirrors. You were lucky to leave our house without being scribbled on. The lovely people at Uniball sent me some new pens for the new summer season. I have plans for these pens over the Easter weekend. I think they might very well be a cheeky addition to our Easter Egg Hunt.

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Say it on flowers

The easiest and changeable activity you can create is drawing quick messages on glass vases or mirrors. I find the pen paint very easy to remove so you don’t need to worry about a messy clear-up. I started my Easter decoration with a quick and cheap flower arrangement. You can have a look at my attempt of last year on this blog post.

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Nifty instructions

Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, I quite like a bossy instruction with my food. I made these festive cakes for our friends on Sunday and thought I was fun to write a cheeky wee note. Like I say, these pens will get a lot of use.

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Sparkling Form

Ever since I read the fab book, Nib + Ink: The New Art of Modern Calligraphy by Clarie Perano, I have had my love of calligraphy reignited. Like many, I have had a crush on stationary from a VERY early age. Uniball sent me these sparkling ink pens and I will not be able to part with them. They give the same effect as embossing without the fiddly need to use a hairdryer. They surprised me really, a much better iridescence than other gold or silver gel pens.

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I think if you are a fan of colouring you will adore the extra dimension they will give your pictures.

Uni-ball have offered to give one set of each pens for my readers. If you either leave a comment with what you might like to do with the pens here entries will close on Tues 18 April 16 at 6am and I will randomly pick one winner. I am looking forward to hearing your suggestions.

uni-posca, paint, pen, glass, calligraphy

uni-posca, paint, pen, glass, calligraphy

Thank you to Uni-ball for sending me a free set of each of these pens. My opinions are my own.

 

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Thank you all for your kind comments about my book Cute Crocheted Animals. You do say some lovely things. I also know that these patterns are not for beginners and for some people who have embarked on making a little chap or lass it has been a challenging process.

Colour Changes

Many of you have found the colour changes for the fox snouts difficult. I get that. Stranding different colours at the back of you work in either knitting or crochet can seem complex. On page 110 I have shown you a nice clean way to change from one colour to another. (I also just noticed that I think we labeled the illustrations wrong). But the principle is there and it will make a big difference to the look of your work if you use this technique.

Stitch Markers

I have said it lots of times, but even the very best crocheters use stitch markers. On page 101 of the book I talk about this more, but a little piece of yarn is a great stitch maker and very inexpensive.

Placing the Ears

I have made the holes for the ears where I think they balance best – you could move either left or right by one stitch if your tension is different to mine. It is always worth bearing in mind that with handmade toys the final look will always be determined by the tension or techniques of the maker.

Mistakes

I am sorry for the mistakes or errata that creep into patterns. Even the very best designers have them. It may be a surprise to you that 3 people checked the patterns and the prose in this book. Still there are things that we miss or numbers that go astray. When re-prints are done we aim to eliminate them. It is never the intension to get things wrong. In some cases I have been able to help people when they have not understood the crochet code or the technique. However if you think it would look better if you added a stitch here or lost a stitch there, you should have the freedom to do that.

I have made two videos which I hope will help you with the making of the face of the foxes. It is not movie quality but I hope it helps.

 

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I was so excited to receive my copies of the new crochet toys I designed for Debbie Bliss, that I decided to have a giveaway. During Saturday and Sunday this weekend, leave a comment below with a suggestion for a new animal and I will draw a person at random. You will win a full set of the new patterns with some secret surprise patterns thrown in. How I love a give-away. Please do also subscribe to the newsletter if you have not done already – it would be totally marvelous x

Thank you so much for all your lovely comments and ideas. I am writing them down and over Easter I am going to see if I can sketch some new ideas. I am happy to say that Emily has won my give-away so I’ll be popping the new patterns in the post to her. Please keep commenting and getting involved. x

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fairisle-teacosy-blue-yellow-emma-varnamObsession is an ugly word. I am not sure whether I can admit it, but you know me. When I get the bit between my teeth I have to keep going until I have satisfied that particular crafty itch. Since I conquered my fear of continental knitting and simultaneously realised that the two-handed technique of fairisle knitting was so much neater (stay with me honey), I have become slightly, ever so slightly obsessed.

fairisle-teacosy-blue-yellow-emma-varnamFrom finishing the Steiger hat and then the Arrows Hat I was scouting round for a new project to practice my new found skills. I’ll be honest with you, knitting in the round for stranding is much more easy than working in rows. However it was a good idea to practice the continental style for purl. Not quite so natural.

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Teacosy dream

I really can’t tell you why I thought of a teacosy. I suppose I have made quite a few hats in the last few weeks and really couldn’t justify squeezing another into the drawers of my dressing table. Deep within my knitting book library, I found an old fairisle pattern and then began working up a swatch of the pattern in some left over yarn. The swatching process allowed me to workout the edging and the width of the final design. I have made hundreds of teacosies in my time. I’ll confess a dreadful thing. I don’t actually drink tea. But having a teapot and a choice of cosies seems like a very civilised thing.

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Spring Colours

Don’t ask me why a finally alighted on the colour scheme of blue, cream and yellow. It does however feel like the perfect Spring combination. The yellow and the cream were already in my stash and I just needed to pop out and buy the blue. All three colours are from Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply.  Home from the shops, I immediately cast-on and the rest of the day was spent in a fairisle dream.

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I am hoping to write up the pattern over the Easter break. I couldn’t begin to thing of a name for the pattern but since posting the completed project on instagram and facebook lots of you have thought of some suggestions. Please feel free to add your thoughts below.

Wardrobe plans

For my next move on the fairisle journey, I feel compelled to design a cardigan. I have in my mind a particular outfit I would like to make for summer. Obviously if you live in Australia, then making a cardigan for summer will make no sense at all. Believe me, here in the North-West of England we get quite a bit of use from a cardigan. I have so, so many crochet projects to complete – but obsesssion calls and my knitting fingers are itching to get going.

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cute-crocheted-animals-emma-varnamOver on instagram and on facebook I am beginning to see lovely little chaps appearing from my book Cute Crocheted Animals: 10 Well-Dressed Friends to Make. This brings me such happiness.

I am especially delighted to see that people have picked their favourite wardrobe items for each animal and arranged their own outfits. This was totally my intention.

cute-crocheted-animals-emma-varnamThe little guys were designed to be played with. I spent many happy hours dressing up my dolls and teddies and I think it is perhaps the most natural thing in the world to develop your nurturing skills as a small child to dress, chat and quite frankly boss about a little cuddly toy.

stanley and emily -emma varnamI tried to design outfits which mirrored the style that children were wearing today. You will spot the dungarees, the Breton top, the bobble hat and wellies.

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Please do send me photos of your own version of my the little animals. I just love to see how they are developing. I have also been thinking about extending their wardrobe. If you have bright ideas about new garments, drop me a line.

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emma-varnam-penguin-debbie-bliss I love to create ‘cute’. I think what I really like is the idea of making a toy that will inspire a cuddle. If you have followed this blog for a while or indeed read any interviews I have done, you will know that most of my ideas stem from knowing and loving real people.

Firstly I love Debbie Bliss, my gorgeous inspirational friend. When we meet up (too rarely), we conspire to create new designs together. One of my most joyful experiences is being able to make and create under her design label.

emma-varnam-panda-debbie-blissThis spring I have four toy designs published in leaflet form, two use Rialto 4ply and two use Rialto DK.

You know Perry Penguin is inspired by Little B, what he does not know about Penguins is not worth thinking about. The figure largely in our family life. Perry is a baby penguin with chubby cuteness. My only hope is that when he returns from his travels across the world, touring the knitting shows, he will make his way back home to the open arms of my boy.

Panda Love

The new Panda design is inspired by my sister. She always loved pandas and had a rather special monochrome bear which still exists today. This panda is made with the finer Rialto 4ply which makes the crochet dense and very durable. I like using Debbie’s yarns for toys because they have a soft quality which makes them more huggable and they are not very susceptible to splitting.

emma-varnam-dino-debbie-blissDino Danger

The little green Dino was made with my newphew in mind. He loves his dinosaurs and when I think of him I often remember his doing a rather impressive ‘GRRRRR’. Well this dino, has a cheeky smile and really is quite friendly.

emma-varnam-simon-bear-debbie-blissSimon Bear

Finally there is Simon Bear. A much larger toy than I usually make and with much bigger paws and feet.  He has a Debbie inspired Jumper. He would make a great companion for a larger child and has a very friendly face.

All of these patterns are published as single leaf leaflets and they are available from  yarn shops and online stockists. Please tell me what you think and if you have new ideas for new toys you would like to see, I am always open to suggestions.

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I have finally cracked it. Finally finally finally I can knit in the continental style and I can use the two handed stranded method for fairisle. Do you know what, if you find that a little bit too much information on the knitting geek side, I don’t care. My crochet life means that I have been rather too haphazard in pursuing new knitting skills. Our Lake District holiday meant that I spent time really working and researching techniques. If that doesn’t sound a very relaxing way to spend your holiday. I can only apologise – it is my way of switching off.

So a couple of weeks ago I told you about my new Steiger hat and then the inevitable happened…new skill, new obsession. Being positive I could say that I wanted to embed my technique. Being realistic I became a little obsessed by the speed and ease of my new knitting style. Avid watchers of what is cool and now in knitting books will have clocked the rather elegant tome by Hilary Grant, Knitting from the North: 30 contemporary hats, gloves, scarves & jumpers. The photographs are achingly beautiful and the simplicity of the patterns ensures they are rather elegant.

Firstly I ran off a couple of wrist warmers. They were the work of a couple of evenings. Then I started on my next hat. The Arrow Pom Hat. I hadn’t spotted an errata in the schematic, and the fabulous Hilary contacted me to warn me. But by that time I was already nearing the crown. I loved the process so much.

The top image is my Steiger hat using the new technique and the bottom hat is the old technique. The difference on the wrong side of the work is quite remarkable. The process looks so neat.

Now I am on the look out for my next pattern. Bearing in mind my love of a cowl, I think this must be my goal. If you have suggestions, please do leave them for me in the comments. My knitting mitts are feeling a little bit jittery and I am keen to cast on a new project.

 

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