marius cardigan- emma -varnam

Some projects are instantaneous, you have an idea and virtually storm into the house, pushing animals and small children aside to get to your yarn stash. Immediately you begin casting on, or making a magic ring and there it is; a compulsive project. Fun and immediate.

marius cardigan- emma -varnam

Other projects take months, perhaps even years to gestate and become a real item. This was very true of my Marius Cardigan I finished just a few days ago. Back in October 2016 I attended a ‘Steeking’ class at Black Sheep Wools with my lovely friend and tutor Juliet Bernard. Not only did she provide me with confidence that you could cut knitting, she also taught me how to do two-handed double stranded knitting. If you have followed my blog at all last year, you will know this was a personal delight, a revelation and has opened up many more opportunities with my pattern choice.

Throughout the year I built up my knitting skills, attending a bird making class with the sublime Arne and Carlos and then a sock making class. Around this time I admired a beautiful fairisle cardigan that Juliet had completed. I had cardigan envy let me tell you…an obsession developed. Juliet explained how much easier it was to knit a garment like this in the round and to then cut in the arm holes and the button band. I started watching a few more steeking tutorials. Arne and Carlos have a series of four videos on their You Tube Channel.

marius cardigan- emma -varnam

So there I was sitting in the Arne and Carlos sock workshop, chatting away to other students and I started admiring a beautiful cardigan worn by one of my fellow knitters. She told me about the way she learnt to knit in the Norwegian style and signposted me to the lovely pattern shop, Scandinavian Knitting Designs. I knew then that I needed to embark on my most courageous project yet, choosing the traditional Marius Design and settled on a Duck Egg and Red colour combination.

Right in time for the festive period started the project back in the first week of December. I wish I had recorded the date! The gauge is quite small, with the rib made with a 2.5mm needle and the main knit stitch uses 3mm circular needles. I embarked upon the two sleeves first and then worked the body of the jumper. There is a certain moment when you work across the body and then incorporate the two sleeves to create a unified yoke. Have I lost you at this stage?

marius cardigan- emma -varnamThe guideline

Throughout the whole process I wove a yellow guideline up through the centre of the work. Marking where I would eventually cut my material. After weeks of plain knitting I couldn’t wait to work on the intricacies of the white colour work. Knitting line by line is quite obsessive. I find the concentration required an enjoyable discipline. Your mind cannot wander onto any other topic. Eventually when I had finished I placed a line of yarn into the very last stitches of the collar. I then made two placket button bands.

marius cardigan- emma -varnam

The genius of the Norweigan style is that you not only make a rib  button band but also a stocking stitch lip which will cover the edge of your cut opening.

The Cut

It was quite a few days before I had the courage to make the cut. I am not sure what I was more scared of; using the sewing machine to snarl up my knitting or taking the scissors to my work. On each side of the guide like I made two zig-zag lines with the trusty sewing machine. Then in the daylight I used the scissors to cut open the front of my cardigan.

You can watch a video of my cutting the knitting if you like. My heart was in my mouth.

I used my sewing machine to attach the button band and folded the lip over to cover my exposed cardigan edges. Finally I picked up the stitches of the collar and attached the buttons.

marius cardigan- emma -varnam

It is at this stage that there is a temptation to wear your newly created garment. But we must all resist and add the finishing touch of blocking the knitting. Experience has taught me what a difference this last step makes to the final look of the garment.

marius cardigan- emma -varnam

There are two big questions: am I pleased with the finished work? Yes I think so – it is a little snug on me…. perhaps not the most flattering shape for my figure, but the fairisle pattern is very pleasing. Would I use this technique again? Oh yes definitely, I have no fear at all now. It makes utter sense to work in the round, so much faster and you have no pesky seams. I will be taking my scissors to my knitting again. This may be my first cut but it wont be my last.

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I just wanted to pop in and see you mid-week to say there is a brand new quick and easy pattern of mine in the new issue of Crochet Now Magazine. Every month they are sharing a brief interview and pattern from a Stylecraft Blogstar. I love being part of this happy group and I was delighted to make something with the lovely Batik yarn. This month there is a great free gift of a colour wheel, which I am really enjoying playing with. Anyway tell me what you think. Have a lovely rest of your week and don’t forget to leave a comment to say hello x

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For all of us there are some colours that really appeal. They may have memories attached to them. They might be colours that make your complexion sing. They might have an ancient symbolism. When I am designing, there are some colour combinations which I keep returning to. Top of my list is Duck Egg and Red. I simply adore this pairing, it speaks to me of the simplicity, of vintage hues and cheery summer colours. Coastal seas and bright deck chairs. Cornish blue with polka dot red. Village Church Hall crockery and gingham table clothes. Time and time again this double act reoccurs in my work. Whilst I dabble in trendy yellow and grey, teal and copper, duck egg and red are the tones you will find in my home.

Granny Sqaure Home - Book- crochet- Emma - Varnam

Cute-Crocheted-Animals-British-Knitting-Crochet-Awards-2017

Over December and into the New Year I have taken a crochet break and exercised my knitting skills. I have been working on a fairisle cardigan, worked in the round with a yoke. I quite happily could have gone with the blue, white and red traditional colours for this Norweigan pattern. Instead I turned to my favoured palette for a bit of a change (not). I promise that I will share with you my finished cardigan.

It has been quite an adventure. However at the same time I have decided to make a knitted mitred square blanket. The vintage crochet blanket in Granny Squares Home has proved so popular that I felt it was only fair to try and make an equivalent vintage pattern which was knitted. Happy colours to brighten up the winter days. What are you favourite colour combination?

marius-jumper-emma-varnam

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breton-tops-emma-varnam

I stood in front of the wardrobe. Frustrated and non-plussed. It needed more space. For starters there were too many unused hangers clogging up the rails. Perhaps I should have another sort through? Well actually I have just done that about a month ago and put my summer clothes in a box on top of the wardrobe. What shall I get rid of? If I am honest; nothing. There are lots of good serviceable clothes in there, lots of things I only wear once a year…the sequin jacket for instance. The problem is that I have way too much of the same thing.

After years of fluctuating, worrying, making huge fashion mistakes, I think I know what my style is. Probably ill advised, but my style. I do love fashion. I enjoy reading about it, watching it, appreciating it. Even as a young teenager I scoured the fashion magazines. From the period of about thirteen to twenty years old I had quite a flamboyant individual style. I made my own clothes, I wore bright colours in interesting shapes. But then in my early twenties, I lost courage. I felt awkward about my body, I didn’t like or enjoy having curves and became boring and conservative as a result.

I wish in some ways I had a the studied discipline of my friend at college; Penny. Now a revered magazine editor she had the wisdom to buy few item of clothing but each was classic, an investment. Instead I have the flighty habits of a magpie, seeing something inexpensive and trendy and wearing it immediately. As the years have rolled on I make fewer fashion mistakes. I have some well chosen classic pieces. I still wear a jacket I bough twenty years ago; glorious.

But there, stood in front of my wardrobe in mid-December I made a decision. In 2018 I would aim to buy no new clothes.

Stunned silence.

Many have done it before and some have no choice. This is a first world contrivance. But a good discipline in which I expect to discover some truths.

Firstly I think the project will instill a little more creativity. I will have to venture into areas of my wardrobe I very rarely use.

Secondly I think it will hone my sense of style still further. If I haven’t worn something after one year, I am unlikely to ever wear it.

Thirdly I expect I will save a heap load of cash and avoid some ill advised ‘sugar-low’ impulse buys.

The Rules

Having done some research I have established a couple of rules:

  • I can buy hosiery and underwear, let’s not be ridiculous.
  • I can buy shoes, especially for work, but I will aim to be disciplined
  • I can make new clothes – the creative juices will flow

So there you are. Will I survive? Not sure. I have already identified areas where I might find the whole experiment difficult. White shirts, I will need to be very careful to look after my white shirts. But it will also mean that I will need to ensure I keep on top of my weight and perhaps even lose a few pounds to enable me to visit long-lost clothing friends. I am looking forward to see what I discover. Will I cement my personal style or will a new more exuberant and will wacky Emma emerge? Only time will tell.

 

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2017mosaic of making - emmavarnam

What a great and crazy year it has been. Looking back I have made so many things. Things I have been able to share with you and some items which are in the pipeline. Granny Squares Home was published in the Autumn and I realise now looking at the photos that this time last year I was making the Vintage style blanket. In many ways the perfect project for a cosy Christmas break. This Christmas I am not ‘mid-commission’ so it gives me the opportunity to just make, perhaps follow the pattern of another designer. That is a very restful feeling. In 2018 I have another book ready to be published and having had a sneaky peek at the photos, I am hopeful it will have the same appeal as me previous two books.

Last year in a crazy wave of honesty I published my new-yarn resolutions. So let’s have a look how well I did….

Keep a record of everything I make – Yes I did this…suprisingly. I made over 90 knitted/crocheted items (madness).

Keep looking and spotting – Think I did this but not enough

Make notes of new ideas – Failed – need to do more next year

Write down the yarn I use in my notebook – Failed again – totally

Dream big dreams – Sort of… more of a doing year than a dreaming year. Will try again

Have creative fun – Certainly

Compliment my hero or people who inspire me – I did some of this but I will do more!

I have begun to write my new list for 2018, which I will share with you and I would love to hear yours if you are wiling to share – but my most abiding rule is to be ‘thankful’. Thank you if you have enjoyed and commented on the blog this year. I am looking forward to a new creative year.

 

 

 

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snow-baby-penguin

On the other day a very good friend of mine asked me, ‘How do you get your ideas? Do you never run out?’. If you are a crafty person you will probably guess my answer: I have more ideas in my head than I have time to make them. Very often the ideas in my head take months to make their way from an unconscious thought through to a final design. When we were in Italy in June I fell in love with the monochrome tiles in our hotel. Their worn age and the simple patterns were so addictive. The idea of these patterns lodged itself quite firmly in my head. Then in September I began to play with ‘plarn’ it was such a fun idea to make things with old plastic bags, but other commitments meant I could really make very much more with this material. Then on a trip of Black Sheep Wools to pick up another ball of red yarn for my Granny Square I spotted the incredibly fluffy ‘Flutterby’ by James C Brett. I knew immediately it would make a brilliant and super cool baby blanket.

But why the Penguin?

So there you are the journey of an idea.’But what about the penguin?, you ask….ah well…can you guess who was with me on my yarn shopping trip. Yes the very same Mr B, lover of all things to do with birds and especially Penguins. It was he who picked up the grey ball of yarn and said, ‘This feel like a baby Penguin!’ – so there it had to be designed an made.

snow-baby-penguin

Hooks and Tips

I have used a 6mm hook to make both items. I would suggest that you just use a remnant of orange yarn for the beak. With fashion yarns like this one you need to have a good long end to sew in. They are more slippery to secure so I like to sew in the ends very firmly.

snow-baby-penguinCute People and their cute toys

It is a very long time since I have designed for the gorgeous Inside Crochet and I do so love working with them. My only problem was wrestling the Penguin off Mr B so that he could go and have his photograph taken. It wasn’t long before he was returned. Claire the stylist knows how much the Penguin would be missed, and her own daughter was so fond of our snowy feathered baby that she had made it a pom-pom necklace as a surprise gift for Mr B. There you go, the joy of making cute things for cute people. Priceless.

These two patterns are published in the current addition of Inside Crochet Magazine – Issue 97

 

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granny-square-jacket-emma-varnam

I have no idea when it was that the idea came to me. It might have been in discussion with my friend Gemma. It might have been looking at crochet jumpers in the High Street store, Zara. It might have been the aftermath of finishing my last book on Granny Squares, but the notion came upon me. I needed, felt compelled to make a Granny Square Jacket.

granny-square-jacket-emma-varnam

Making a crochet Granny Square Jacket is not a task to embark upon lightly. In the 1970’s a granny square jacket was ‘de-rigeur’ and like many aspects of fashion from this period, the Granny Square can veer from striking and fashionable over to mad and a bit batty. Having written ALOT of patterns this year, I knew this design was just for me. No noting down, no scaling up for different sizes. A one of unique, bespoke project. I did a fair bit of research before I began my design, I looked at Pinterest and vintage 70’s patterns to work out how many squares I should make and the very best arrangement.

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Colour Choice

Any Granny Square garment is quite a fashion statement. I decided that I wanted to tone down the look with a block colour sleeve. I also know from experience that you have to really be very careful with the crochet stitches you choose so not to make very stiff and bulky garments. For that reason it occurred to me that it might be better to knit the sleeves. I did not take the easy route my friends and chose the very beautiful but labour intensive double moss stitch. So before I began any part of the crochet I knitted the two sleeves. They took quite a bit of time, but it was a discipline I felt I had to follow.

granny-square-jacket-emma-varnam granny-square-jacket-emma-varnam

When I got onto the granny squares the project seem to fly by. I had just a couple of rules. There were to be no half-squares or triangles. I endeavoured to keep the colours evenly spread and the last round of each square had to be completed in the signature red. I forgot to mention that I chose to use Stylecraft Life DK and I chose bright and purposefully clear colours. When I was at University I had quite a few bright red jackets. Red is one of my happy colours and even as I get older the colour still suits me, so why not.

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Making up

I blocked all the squares when they were all completed and marked out the layout. Each square was attached using a slip stitch seam in rows. This is a firm yet flat seam, to create a nice cohesive material.

granny-square-jacket-emma-varnam

When the body was finally constructed I seamed the sleeves and added a crochet linen stitch cuff and linen stitch around the hem of the jacket, the button band and the collar. In my first pass at this I found the neck opening too floppy and open and so I added a few more rows and finally decided to add a moss stitch collar. The final garment is far more wearable because of these additions.

granny-square-jacket-emma-varnam

Am I pleased with the final jacket? Yes I think so – I have worn it many times and when I was shopping the other day my friend recognised my jacket before they recognised me – so certainly this Granny Square Jacket is eye catching – good or bad.

pillar-box-red-emma-varnam

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triangle-cowl-emma-varnam

Learning something new is a great joy to me. It has occurred to me several times this year that I can become really animated when ‘a penny drops’. This year, 2017 I have learnt A LOT of new things. In my working life my horizons have expanded. I learn something new each day. That can quite tiring. In my yarn life I really wanted to challenge myself with some new skills. For crochet this has definitely been the year of the Granny Square, writing two books and making over 40 projects. In my knitting life I knew I wanted to expand my skill.

Knitting Challenge

Back in March I blogged about an excellent workshop I had attended with the fabulous Juliet Bernard. Juliet taught me how to work ‘two-handed’ fairisle and how to steek. She also prompted me to investigate knitting in the round and a more Scandinavian way of making garments. If you are not a knitter, bear with me. Knitting in the round is either done on one knitting needle with two points connected with a cable, or 4 double pointed needles. This means that you work round in a spiral, you have no seams and because you are just doing the faster knitting stitch, you don’t have to do the slower and more awkward purl stitch.

Learning from the Masters

For efficiency and the pursuit of speed I have begun adopting this way of knitting. Well in order to perfect my knitting techniques, Juliet pointed me in the direction of this DVD; 50 Top Tips from Shetland Knitter by Hazel Tindell and Elizabeth Johnston. Essentially it is like being part of knit and natter,  sitting next to expert Shetland knitters and enjoying a download of all the tips and tricks in concentrated form.
I have been knitting for many, many years but I certainly learnt many new things which I have already incorporated into my work. An added joy is to here the beautiful lilting tones of the Shetland accent.

The quality of the DVD definitely has a homely quality, more reminiscent of the YouTube tutorials, but the contented chatting away between Hazel and Elizabeth Johnston demonstrates how easy they are in each others company. I do quite like the pragmatic nature of what they say, for instance they will give you the reason why they do a stitch a certain way and how their years have experience have taught them to take some short cuts. If I had just one criticism I would say that if practically possible it would be good to bring the overhead demonstrations even closer in to the stitching. Here I am knitting and watching at the same time

triangle-cowl-emma-varnamMy copy – mine

My young son couldn’t quite believe I was watching this video. I pointed out that there was not much difference between an expert commentary on knitting to an expert commentary on Minecraft gaming and he seemed satisfied with that. It is possible to buy this DVD form either Hazel’s website here where you can buy the DVD to keep or as a download. I got my copy free to review, if it is any indication as to how helpful I found it I have decided to keep my copy as opposed to giving it away in a competition. I really want to refer back to their tips as I start improving my fairisle knitting. My copy is far too precious.

triangle-cowl-emma-varnam

Inspired by the DVD I started a new fairisle project in the round. I made a snug knitted cowl with a triangle pattern. The yarn is Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal and I used the patten as way to practice some of the new knowledge I have gleaned from my crash course in Shetland Knitting. In the image above you can see the right side and the reverse side with the floats from two stranded fairisle. It doesn’t matter how long you have been knitting or crocheting. Everyone of every age can learn something new. The joy of a craft is improving, evolving and experimenting.

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