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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Wow it seems to come round fast – but the nominations are open once again for British Knitting and Crochet Awards. Why not nominate your favourties…favourite crochet blogger for instance or indeed crochet book published this year. Obviously don’t be compelled or anything – but quick hint below if you are stuck for ideas. Go here to vote http://www.letsknit.co.uk/awards/

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If you have read this blog for many years you will know how much I love Spring. New life, new flowers, lighter days. The happy joy of Easter holidays and plenty of fun and cute projects to plan and make.

Over the years I have created so many crochet projects which have been intended for this season. I love to design for new mums and babies too. It is worth trawling the pattern books, magazine and websites for quick and easy holiday projects which will provide a cute alternative to bought gifts.

High on my list are a couple of baby hats for new arrivals. I also have a desire to start toy making again. At the moment I am in the midst of writing my next book which is why you are not getting so many behind-the-scenes photos. However when I am finished the making part and I start ‘making for me’ I will show you what is on the hook again.

Crochet Campervan Doorstop Pattern

Patterns to buy

Don’t forget there are a few spring-time makes which are available on my free patterns, including Bobby Bunny. Don’t forget that some of my published patterns are also available on the LoveCrochet website.

Cute Booties

Lastly it is worth me mentioning the springtime booties I designed for the book Fun Feet: 30 Super-Cute Booties to Crochet for Babies and Toddlers. Little lambs and ducklings are perfect for new cute babies especially when the are born at this time of year.

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Right at the beginning of writing my blog I published two patterns which were quick and easy egg cosies. This bunny and chick duo are a great beginner project for anyone starting to learn how to crochet in a spiral. I think they make a great gift idea for children at Easter.

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I thought it might be fun to re-release these two free patterns for a limited time. So from now until Easter 2017 you can download these PDF’s for free. Please subscribe to my news letter as it is great to keep in touch. If you do make the pattern and can see improvements then I might revise the pattern and then put it up for sale next year.

bunny-egg-cosy-emma-varnamHow cute is this lovely fluffy tail?

So you can down load you patterns here:

Fluffy Bunny Egg Cosy       Cheeky Chick Egg Cosy

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You can see that I evolved this egg cosy into my Bunny baby toy for my book How to Crochet. If you have a copy of the book it is worth revisiting this pattern for a lovely table gift for young friends on Easter Sunday. An idea might also be to hide him in your garden for a little bunny hunt.

I am giving you plenty of time to get your Easter preparations sorted and this way you can get festive without binging out on chocolate – what am I saying? I love to binge out on chocolate.

Any lovely comments would be most welcome – hope you like them x

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emma-varnam-lake-district-steiger-hatI fell in love with the Lake District well before I had ever been there. From the seclusion of my childhood bedroom I admired the fells and the watery beauty of this landscape through the paintings of Beatrix Potter. I also enjoyed the excitement and pure escapism of the world of Arthur Ransome and yearned to be an Amazon sailing on the lake. Many world renown poets have written some of the very best poetry about this little corner of England. I cannot and will not even attempt to match it. But their compulsion to capture its beauty is easy to comprehend when you are here.

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Lake View

My first in-person visit followed my graduation. As a family we made a pit-stop on our way home to the West Country. I can remember sitting beside my father on the lakeside of Windermere. The peaceful view of the water was before us, with the grandeur of the Langdale Pikes behind. I breathed out. We can only have stayed for a couple of days, but is was one of those breaks which seemed so significant. I was conscious that I was in one of those ‘in-between’ times. A chapter had closed and a new adventure was about to begin. I was happy to have the Lake District as a backdrop to that transition. At that point, the Lake District wielded its way into my heart.

Since that time I have lived in the North West. In my early twenties I would often make day-trips with friends to the fells. We would get up early and head for the hills. With Wainwright as our guide we would try a new route up a mountain and stand on-top of the world admiring the view. Fortunately I married a man who has a deep love of hill-walking, even if a busy life makes it an unusual event.

emma-varnam-lake-districtFoolhardy adventure

We made another very significant trip to the Lakes only 3 weeks after the birth of Little B. I have no idea why we were so gung-ho, but we stayed in a lovely hotel with a very tiny baby and made it our mission to walk in the snow with our tiny bundle. He was so small and his snow suit was so large, that you could barely see his tiny face. I have a significant memory of changing his nappy in what seemed like a blizzard. Under my breath I protested vehemently about the ridiculousness of such a trip. But from this late winter trip two things have sprung. We love to visit the Lakes in winter and an adventure which appears challenging rarely seems quite so daunting when compared to snow based nappy changing.

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Winter Beauty

So here we are in another February, enjoying the rest and beauty of this astonishing landscape. We will not see the famous daffodils and the rhododendrons are very much in bud form, but we love it still. The bare trees make it easier to see wide views. The bronze bracken matches the colour of our son’s hair. Plus, there is snow to be found.

We have established such a tradition of our winter break, that plans are made of places we will visit and things we will do. You will not be surprised to know that this extends into yarn-based activity. I knew weeks ago that I would be making my third ‘Steiger Hat’, designed by Juliet Bernard for Yarn Stories. My first was made two years ago on the same Lakes break. I gave this blue and white beauty to my good friend Sally. She can wear a beanie hat like no other person I know. It was a special hat and it needed a special owner.

My very own

My second version is now owned by Big B. This year I knew I wanted to make a version for myself. This time the making would be different. I determined I would force myself to make the hat in the round, continental style and use the two handed method of fairisle. Have I lost you? Yes well, we are talking a technical challenge, which requires a holiday to master. But what a joy to finally ‘get it’. Juliet has shown me how to knit continental style – a number of times…. finally I have worked it out and using the two handed method to make colour changes. What a revelation. I will not go back to my old ways.

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In less than a day my hat was finished and I wore it proudly on the snow-capped mountains. Knitting or crochet can be your best souvenir. Making and creating items that hold memories of a special time. The third version of this pattern will be for Little B. He has already chosen his colours and his commission will mean that I can perfect my technique. So if you spot a family of three skidding their way up an icy mountain in matching jaunty hats, you will know it is the Varnam Family in pursuit of a glorious view.

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stylecraft-blogstars-emma-varnamIn Knots

Do you ever feel like you lead a double life? You do quite sensible things during the day, perhaps even a little bit serious. But by night you create. You knit, crochet, sew and bake. No one really knows, apart from a fabulous on-line community. Well I must admit that I frequently feel that. It is not often that I am able to have a full and frank conversation about crochet or even blogging. A conversation that combines the two is like gold dust.

stylecraft-blogstars-emma-varnamWeekend Bliss

Last Saturday I had a fabulous opportunity to spend a day with my fabulous Stylecraft Blogstar friends. There was a similar get together last summer, which I unfortunately missed. Not this time my friends – no fear. I live relatively near to Stylecraft’s headquarters so it was a simple hop and a skip over the Pennines to meet the group.

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In this photo you can spot, Jane (Jane Crowfoot), Phil (The Twisted Yarn), Sarah (Annaboo’s House), Heather (The Patchwork Heart), Julia (Hand Knitted Things), Lucy (Attic 24), Helen (The Woolly Adventures Of A Knitting Kitty), Me, Sandra (Cherry Heart), Lucia (Lucia’s Fig Tree), and Kathryn (Crafternoon Treats).

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The wonders of Skype meant that we could also chat to: Angela (Get Knotted Yarn Craft) from Australia and Zelna (Zooty Owl) who lives in South Africa.

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The beautiful factory mill studio was beautifully prepared with drinks and snacks. Each of us had a prepared bag of new season yarns and brand new colours for the Spring/Summer season. I must admit I was a little star-struck. Let’s face it I was in the company of some pretty big blogging names. You will be happy to know that everyone is as chatty, friendly and generous as you would hope. Can you spot me looking a little smug and soaking it all in?  I am surveying the range of yarn greatness. Look if you know your knitterati, you will know that admiring that blanket are Lucy, Jane and Sarah. Eeeeek!

Show and Tell

We spent the morning looking at the new yarns and the patterns which are available for this season. I particularly like Jeanie, which is an aran weight yarn and has that classic denim look, but is very soft and surprisingly light. I am currently thinking about what I might create.

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We had a great time catching up and getting to know each other better. Then chatted about hints and tricks for social media. Both Lucia and Heather had brought some of their gorgeous blankets to show and tell. We all ‘oooed’ and ‘aaahhed’ over the designs and colours.

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In Knots

In the afternoon we had a go at Tunisian crochet, taught by the gorgeous Sophie. I just love this photo above. Can you sense the concentration! There was almost silence in the room. If you ever think it takes you a while to pick up new stitches. Then have a look at this photo. We all took time to get our flow with our new Tunisian crochet hooks.

I must say that I had a wonderful day. A mind full of laughter and inspiration. I can’t wait for the next time! Thank you so much to the Stylecraft team – the gorgeous and generous Annabelle, Juliet, Sophie and Charlotte, for making us so welcome and making lots of lovely hot drinks.  Thank you also to Sophie, Helen and Phil for the fab photos.

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stanley and emily -emma varnamIn the last few weeks I have been juggling making new patterns for my next book and trying to make a second version of my toys for a rather famous retailer. Not too shabby, but a little bit stressful. Before Christmas I found out that my book, Cute Crocheted Animals would perhaps go on display in a high street shop. How exciting! But the shop wanted to display the real toys for customers to see.

stanley and emily -emma varnamCrafting Carefully

If you have made any of the animals from the book, you will know that these little fellas are not a quick project. To get a little chap of real loveable character you will need to spend a fair few hours crafting your creatures carefully.

stanley and emily -emma varnamI had this terrible feeling that the original little guys might go walkies. So I thought that I could make a second version of Emily and Stanley as demonstration models.

Coming back to the patterns

It has been rather lovely coming back to the patterns, over a year on. Many of you have noticed that I have added extra character to the faces and have asked me how I have done it. I am sorry that I don’t appear to have added this into the book. But I place two small stitches under each of the eyes and pull the sides of the face slightly together.

stanley and emily -emma varnamHomemade not machine made

Don’t forget that the joy and magic of a homemade toy is that it crafted by hand. It is not meant to look like it was made by a machine, but rather lovingly crafted in the hands of the maker. Now I almost can’t part with these guys too…

stanley and emily -emma varnam

I love seeing photos of the animals you have made so please keep posting them on facebook or on ravelry, so that I can enjoy them! Have a very happy crafting and creating weekend.

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wallpaperswatchesRedecorating our house has never been something I run towards. I think first of the upheaval and then about the dust. Many of my family members have a brilliant eye for interiors and they enjoy creating the vision and then seeing the project completed.

Recently I came across these wonderful mural wallpapers and I feel almost tempted to abandon my decoration fear and add a little jumbo yarn texture to our kitchen walls. Mural Wallpaper have quite a good range of knit-inspired papers. There are large chunky wools and some colourful intarsia patterns.

 

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I have seen this garter stitch paper in my local yarn shop. It looks so warm and cosy and brings a smile to the face of everyone who visits.

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If we lived in a chic mill building with loft apartments, I might be tempted to hang this multi-yarn beauty. Soft and fuzzy, good enough to make you want to cuddle the wall.

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But I can’t deny that for our own house I chose a subtle white aran. Enough detail to show the stitch texture but not too over-powering for a domestic setting. Perfect for any yarn lover.

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If you fancy papering a feature wall in your house, then do have a look at the range available at Murals Wallpaper. You never know we might think of creating a cuddly wall in our kitchen this year.

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Interview and Pattern

Well this is all a bit exciting. The lovely people at Prima Makes Magazine have done a feature on Cute Crocheted Animals. The patterns for Stanley and Katy cat are featured in the magazine. There is also an interview with me. I love this magazine as it features all the crafts I like to have a little flutter with. It also features a good section of recipes which I think is an excellent edition. If you see a copy on the shelves have a little leaf through and get excited about all your Spring crafts.

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