Noodling about – summer creativity

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I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying my current yarn projects. The lovely knitted ‘Safe at Home’ blanket is now almost half way. I have completed 4 terraces of cute, colourful homes. Each line of houses is separated by a lovely chunky line of navy garter stitch.  There are A LOT of stitches on the needle, but the pure simplicity of the knitting is joyful.

I have left this blanket for a couple of weeks, but I think this weekend I will return and see about adding a new row. In my mind, my deadline is September so that seem more than do-able.

The Stash Heap Challenge blanket I am crocheting is really bringing me a lot of joy. I have put a special page up here on the blog, with the simple colour and stitch recipe. Just in case you want to get involved. Just to keep the cro-jo going I have divided up the blanket into square of 5 x 5 granny squares. I have tended to crochet all the mini-granny-solids for one colour and then I join them together with a contrasting cream square. At the moment I have been able to use just cream dk yarn in my stash. But I think I might have to buy some additional balls to finish the blanket completely. Honestly, I thought the blanket would decimate my yarn stash. Now I am not so sure. Is it possible for yarn to multiply on its own accord?

Pop over to the YouTube if you want to see my progress so far and if you would like to get involved.

In the last 2 years Quilting has really inspired my crochet design. The colour and graphic nature of the shapes translates brilliantly into blanket making. It can be no surprise that during the research I become intrigued by having a go a patchwork and quilting. Just as an experiment. I have done some patchwork in my past. I made a patchwork duvet cover to take to university. Rock and Roll Baby…Rock and Roll. I have also made some patchwork curtains for the spare room. I love them so much.

But my recent adventures in patchwork have taught me a few things. Firstly, I need practice. Tutorials and top tips are invaluable. I might be quick and accurate with the crochet hook. My finishing might be precise with yarn. But oh my, oh my… my sewing skill is not to be admired. I’m not particularly accurate and can quite easily make a right old mess.

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I have made a sewing roll, inspired by Kate of the Last Homely House. This was a good project to have quick go at hand quilting. Then at the weekend I made a pot holder using the ‘Wonky Star’ motif. A machine quilted this. The finished mat is quite sweet. But I wonder if I would have been faster making it in crochet.

Will I keep going? Perhaps. I have one small project in my head that I would like to complete. But honestly, I don’t want to invest too much in fabric. I mean I am just trying to whittle down the yarn stash. I don’t need to grow a whole new scrap heap.

If you are making your own Stash Heap Challenge Blanket, please do tag me into your project photos on Instagram. I would love to see them.

Noodling about – summer creativity Read More »

Fangirling – Jimmy Beans Wool

As part of the launch of my 10,000 Crocheted Hats, I have made contact with the US yarn company; Jimmy Beans Wool. It has been a wonderful experience. I have made one of the hats from the book in their Madelinetosh DK, which is a fabulous hand dyed yarn. Firstly I have really enjoyed learning about their history. Originally the founder Laura and her husband Doug set up their shop, which sold both coffee and yarn… and then the yarn took over. Their company has expanded and they are now based in Reno, Nevada – sort of near San Francisco. Whilst I have never been there, looking at their yarn shop online it seems incredible. Plus I am so impressed with how they have grown their business and invested in hand-spun yarn and graduate scholarships. They have a very inspiring story.

Last week we did an Instagram Live – which was lots of fun. I think we could have chatted for hours. But I also interviewed Laura separately and thought it would be fun to include it here for you to read.

Emma: For British readers – could you tell us a little about how Jimmy Beans started?

Laura: Absolutely! As many stories do, ours starts with a song. Back in 2002, my husband Doug and I were brainstorming names for our crazy new yarn shop adventure.

There’s a Todd Snider tune called “Doublewide Blues,” Doug started telling me I was “cool like Jimmy,” and the nickname stuck. So, of course, ‘Jimmy’ had to be included. Initially, we paired coffee with the yarn at our Truckee, California location, hence the “Beans” and the “Wool” in Jimmy Beans Wool.

Eventually, the wool took over, the coffee faded, and fast forward to today, and we’ve traded our cozy corner in Truckee for a sprawling space in Reno, Nevada.

Along the way, we welcomed new brands into our family, such as della Q, Madelinetosh, Simply Shetland, Dream in Color, Shibui Yarns, and Yarn Citizen! Our journey has been filled with peaks and valleys, but at its core, it’s a story of loving yarn, lots of creative thinking, and a little luck.

Still, our commitment to providing top-notch customer service and fostering a crafting community remains at the core of everything we do.

Emma: Laura… I’m totally fan-girling you. You have such a passion for the yarn business and have such energy. What does your average day look like?

Laura: Emma, thank you for your kind words! I’m equally thrilled about your book, and it’s an honor to have it in our store!

Unfortunately, my day-to-day routine is a bit irregular due to a fair amount of travel. I split my time between Reno, Nevada, where Jimmy Beans is located, and Fort Worth, Texas, home of Madelinetosh. Trade shows, customer visits to local yarn shops, and vendor meetings are scattered throughout my schedule. On top of being a mother to my son, Huck, a wife to my husband (and the JBW co-founder!), Doug, and juggling my roles as a tackle football player and a big-time runner, my day-to-day routine is quite hectic!

When I’m not on the road, I start the day by checking in with the team via email and Slack. Making sure everyone’s on the same page is crucial, even when I’m not physically in the office.

Throughout the day, I make time for conversations with other LYS owners. These exchanges are invaluable for gathering insights and learning how to improve.

And then there’s the business of keeping our inventory stocked. I work closely with the buying team at Jimmy Beans and our operations staff at the Maddy Tosh Group to handle everything from dyeing yarn to mill orders and managing sea freight logistics, as it’s a vital aspect of our operations! Ensuring our customers have access to quality products requires a lot of planning and coordination behind the scenes.

Last but not least, there’s budgeting and forecasting. I meticulously plan for the quarter and year ahead, even down to the office supplies—every little detail counts!

So, my days (and weeks!) are a mix of travel, communication with my team and other shops, and a lot of number-crunching to keep Jimmy Beans thriving and our customers happy. While also trying to sneak in time for family and me, too! 🙂

Q: In Britain, it appears that very few people can make a sustainable living from the yarn industry. What do you think has been the key to your success?

Laura: The yarn industry can be challenging to navigate, but our success stems from a few key principles.

We’ve always prioritized innovation and adaptability, constantly evolving to meet our customers’ changing needs. Our success was born out of creating essentially the local yarn store experience online when there weren’t many others like us in the early aughts of the 2000s.

We’ve carried that tenacity and ‘out of the box’ thinking as we continue growing and evolving the brands.

Additionally, our emphasis on building strong relationships within our team and with our mills, customers, and other local yarn shops has been instrumental in fostering trust and loyalty.

Emma: You have taken your yarn business to the next level – with supported scholarships, charitable foundations – expanding the exclusive products… what is the secret to your business success?

Laura: We owe our accomplishments to the tight-knit community that has supported us every step of the way! 

We don’t just sell yarn; we’re actively involved with the customers who have become friends because we know firsthand the positive impact knitting and crocheting can have.

Our commitment goes beyond just writing a check. Take our Beans for Brains scholarship, for example. It’s not just about generosity; it’s about recognizing the struggle many face to pursue their education. As someone who scraped through school on niche scholarships, I know the difference they make. So, when we can pay it forward, we do.

It’s also about pushing boundaries and staying ahead of the curve. We’ve always strived to be pioneers in our industry, aiming to be the first to market with innovative products and experiences. For example, we were among the very first companies to launch subscription services and advent calendars, and we quickly embraced Mystery Knit-Along events. Our goal is to be on the cutting edge, providing our customers with the best products and experiences possible!

So, is there a secret to our success? With all of that said about innovation, maybe the secret is simply abiding by the golden rule:  treating others as we’d like to be treated. Or maybe it’s the belief that a rising tide lifts all boats. By supporting each other through initiatives like royalty-based collaborations with people like Gaye Glasspie of GGMadeIt, scholarships, and the MT Community Love Fund, we’re not just building a business; we’re building a stronger community.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about profit margins or market share. It’s about doing what’s right for our business and the community that supports us. And that, to us, is the true secret to success. 🙂

Emma: What makes your yarn stores special?

Laura: Like most yarn shops, our yarn store is a hub where makers come together to share their passion for all things yarn!

While our Team Beans (what we call our team!) provide personalized recommendations and a seamless shopping experience, our commitment to fostering a community truly makes us special. From our regular knitting and crochet meet-ups to classes and workshops led by industry experts (we recently hosted ARNE & CARLOS!) and even our cozy knitting and crochet retreats, there’s always something happening to connect with fellow crafters and expand your skills.

Moreover, our store isn’t just a local stop; it’s a destination in its own right! We’ve grown over the years, thanks in no small part to our General Manager Shannon’s exceptional design eye, turning it into a place that draws makers from near and far. Whether you’re joining us in person or participating in our online events, like the Taylor Swift Make-Along, we aim to provide a space where knitters and crocheters can unite and share their love for the craft.

When it comes to shipping, we understand the excitement of receiving your yarn. That’s why we work diligently to ensure your order is carefully packaged and swiftly sent so you can start your project as soon as possible! (We shoot to have packages out the door within 24 hours.)

Ultimately, our yarn store is more than just a place to buy yarn—it’s a welcoming place to find inspiration, learn new techniques, and connect with like-minded makers.

Emma: Do you ever feel fear? Are there some business decisions that you wish you hadn’t made?

Laura: I do! I’ve found fear to be a natural part of being an entrepreneur, but I’ve learned to embrace it as an opportunity to grow and learn new and better ways to improve.

While there have certainly been decisions that didn’t pan out as expected, each challenge has ultimately led to some unexpected opportunities!

For instance, in 2017, we faced a monumental challenge when our store in Reno, Nevada, was hit by a devastating flood. The chaos and uncertainty of that time were overwhelming, to say the least. However, amidst the crisis, we saw an opportunity to turn adversity into a moment of solidarity with our community. We launched the #SaveTheYarn campaign, rallying support and turning a challenging situation into an opportunity. Additionally, the flood prompted us to reevaluate our space needs, ultimately leading us to find a larger location that was essential for our growth and expansion!

We’ve also weathered the economic ups and downs, which has been a daunting responsibility, especially for me as the founder. Knowing that people and their families rely on us to make a living has always weighed heavily on me. Despite the financial uncertainties, we’ve remained committed to our team, never resorting to layoffs and always finding ways to adjust budgets without compromising our values.

Another significant source of fear has been around launching our in-house brands. The uncertainty of how they’ll be received, the substantial investment required, and the complexities of onboarding a new company have all been daunting challenges.

So, while fear has been a consistent presence in my journey as an entrepreneur, it has also been a catalyst for some of our most significant successes. 🙂

Emma: What would be your top tip for a yarn designer/entrepreneur?

Laura: My top tip for aspiring yarn designers and entrepreneurs is never to stop learning.

The yarn and technological/marketing/finance industries are constantly evolving, so staying informed about emerging trends and technologies is essential while staying true to your unique style, brand, and voice.

And one more thing—don’t be afraid to take risks and adapt! Some of our greatest innovations and successes as a business have come from being creative and thinking outside the box.

Emma: Do you still knit every day – if so what is your go-to happy project? What’s on the needles right now?

Laura: Knitting is still a big part of my life, although these days, I don’t always have as much time for it as I’d like!

When I can pick up my needles, I love working on mindless, instant-gratification projects like sweaters, hats, and scarves.

One of my favorite projects, which I always return to, is Lena Skvagerson’s Mankind Beanie in Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage. I’ve knit that pattern over and over!

Emma: Is there a particular yarn you like to return to?

Laura: Ah, yarn favorites! While I’m always on the lookout to try new blends, there are some classics I keep coming back to—Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light and Madelinetosh A.S.A.P. are two bases I love to work with.

Lately, though, I’ve been really into Yarn Citizen’s Trinity Cashmere – it’s like knitting with clouds (I may be a bit biased, but it’s so unbelievably soft!). 

Emma: For your company you obviously have to travel quite a bit. Where have you found the most inspiration?

Laura: Traveling has always been a huge source of inspiration for me, whether exploring new yarn shops and trade shows or immersing myself in different cultures and traditions.

I’ve been fortunate to visit some incredible places over the years!

Still, inspiration can strike anywhere – from India’s bustling streets (that’s how Shannon and I came up with Jimmy’s SmartStix) to the Peruvian mountaintops (where I felt inspired to make our ever-so-popular Alpaca Tape Measures!).

Emma: What’s your next big dream?

Laura: As for our next big dream, we’re always dreaming big here at Jimmy Beans Wool!

We’re constantly looking for new ways to innovate and grow, whether expanding our product offerings, launching exciting new clubs, or reaching even more crafters worldwide.

But above all, our ultimate dream is to create an environment that supports creativity for our customers, teammates, and business partners.

I’m driven to promote and strengthen small businesses and independent artisans, both locally and globally.

Emma: Finally have you visited Britain, – and if you do… can I meet you – you are an inspiration!

Laura: I’ve visited Britain every couple of years and would love to meet you and the rest of the wonderful crafting community across the pond! Maybe you and I can connect next year before or after h+h Cologne?!

Thank you so much for your kind words and the opportunity to be featured on your blog! It’s truly an honor to inspire others through my passion for yarn and creativity.

If you would like to read my interview with Laura – you can pop over to their blog here:

Fangirling – Jimmy Beans Wool Read More »

Blooming Lovely

I have a lovely new book to share with you – but first a confession. I am sorry but I am completely rubbish when it comes to telling you about new books. I will tell you why. I work away in secret for months. The exciting part is the making and the creating. Some close friends occasionally get ‘behind the scenes’ photos sent to them…..’What is that Emma?’ … ‘It’s a Gerbera… can you not tell?’ That sort of thing. But it all has to be in secret.

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Then begins the pattern writing….arghhhhhhhhhhhhh! So if I have been a good girl, I will have made very detailed notes. The height of well behaved crocheted authorship is writing the pattern on the computer as I design. That happens rarely. But then after all the deadlines and writing, the designs and the words go off to be photographed and pattern checked. Then the editing begins. There is lots of to-and-fro. Lots of lovely and clever people are involved. And still all is secret.

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So when the final book arrives after months of being designed and typeset, it can feel a bit disconnected from the first flush of creativity. But I’ll be honest, I really love my newest book; Crocheted Flowers. If you have followed this blog for a while, you know how much I love our garden and flowers have always been close to my heart.

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After writing Crocheted Succulents and Crocheted Houseplants, this book was the logical next step. But to be honest, creating something which is so beautiful and delicate is a bit of challenge. There are 30 flower design you can choose from. They are really good fun to make, quick and easy and the perfect way to use up oddments of yarn. The blooms range from cheery sunflowers to ruffled roses, cool cornflowers and a bristling thistle.

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Some of the flowers are crazy easy to make – and I have tried to capture flowers from different seasons. So shall I pick out some favourites. Well the daffodils brought me so much joy. The anemones, viola, primrose and pansies were all based on actual flowers in our garden.

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With every book I write there is a very extensive techniques section that gives detailed instructions on all the skills you need to make these realistic blooms and you can flip through the stylish gallery pages beforehand to choose your favourites.

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If you have enjoyed my previous plant books I think you will love this one. There is an exclusive 20% discount for my followers available from my lovely publisher: GIFTSHOME. You will need to use the promocode R5622.

If you want to purchase any of my other plant books you can pop over to the shop – where I have a few signed copies. The cacti have been an absolute boon in my gift making for a couple of years.

See my books

I do hope you love it. As a book it is really close to my heart, flowers bring me so much joy and I have designed flowers which really do delight my heart. Plus…. they won’t wilt.

Blooming Lovely Read More »

Jolly Dolly

Here come the Girls!!! Finally….finally I have published the long awaited, much procrastinated doll pattern. Here they are: Amelia, Ella and Holly. All slightly different, but using one very simple pattern. I do hope you like them.

It has, I think taken me three years to finally launch this idea. In design terms that is quite a long gestation period for me. I usually get an idea and then keep going until I have finished it. But some how I couldn’t quite find the design I really loved. After making ALOT of sample dolls, and doing a significant amount of craft sulking (leaving a project in a corner for about 6 months), I am now really thrilled with how the girls have turned out.

Get the pattern now

So what is important about the design process. Well firstly I have used my favourite, integrated limb design. The great thing about crochet and working in the spiral amigurumi form is that you can create the limbs with fewer seams. With fewer seams that can unraval in time the dolls can take more wear and tear. Let’s be honest they need to be robust for all the cuddles and adventures they will be going on.

The three different variations mean you can choose to create just shoes with socks, shoes with tights or even boots with tights. It is just a combination of where you swap in and out of the colours. You can have socks and bare legs, or boots and leggings that go into a long sleeve top. It is your choice to make whatever you prefer.

I like adding plastic toy safety eyes. I like the little twinkle they give. But you must choose to embroider the eyes if you are making a toy for a very young child. I have added in a pattern for a little pinafore dress – very much like the ones I have made for Emily rabbit all those years ago. But as with my very first rabbit design, I have given you the option of making a very simple material skirt instead. There really isn’t a need for a sewing machine. It would be easy enough to hand sew.

So why did the design take me so long? Mostly because I really, really wanted to get it right. Getting the right shape for the face is so important to me. I also want to ensure that when you make the Doll, it is easy for you to replicate the look. I have made 3 different prototypes for the face. Then there is the hair. Creating doll hair is not easy. In one version of my design it took me a full 3 hours to embroider the hair onto the head. Well – that wasn’t going to work. It drove me mad and I didn’t want you to have the same frustrating experience. I think I have now found a way to create the hair which is fun, understandable and a reliable technique. In comparison it is very quick and easy to understand. You can add in wispy strands if you like and alter some of the looks with ribbons and bunches at different levels.

Finally it took me a very long time to find the yarn I wanted to use for the original design. I am very keen that my patterns are at an accessible price point. I think it is great if you can use up your stash. For the fine features of the face, I have wanted to use 4ply yarn. But it wasn’t easy to find a yarn with a good choice of colours which could dip into a wide range skin tones and wasn’t too pricey. For the design I have used Drops Alpaca. I love this yarn, it has an excellent yardage and a broad range of colours without breaking the bank.

Obviously I have just made a basic dress and skirt for the first pattern. However if you have suggestions for additional clothes you would like me to design for the dolls I will get the creative juices going. The pattern is available in my shop – but if you prefer you can also get hold it though my Etsy shop.

After many false starts, trial and error I am happy with how the girls turned out. I have asked a few of my reliable makers to have a go at the pattern and I am delighted with their makes. So sweet. They have been very patient waiting for me to get my crochet hook into gear.

So there you are, Amelia, Ella and Holly – a great gang of girls just ready for hearty adventure and yarny friendship. Isn’t that what we all need?

Get the pattern now

Jolly Dolly Read More »

Favourite Stitches – Shell like

Recently I was asked by a fellow crafter what my favourite crochet and knitting stitch is. Now if you are interested, for knitting, moss stitch is thing of textural beauty. But it is a labour of love. For crochet my usual answer is .. a shell edging. I love it with a passion. You are lucky that it does not appear on every item edge. It is so pretty and so simple. (We will get into the technicalities and the uses later). However in the past year I have been designing more. The new book 10,000 Crocheted Hats has by necessity required me to be more adventurous in my stitch choice and I have begun to wonder if I actually do have some new favourites.

So I thought in the next few weeks I might share a few with you and the reasons why – what do you think? If you have a favourite crochet stitch pattern I would love to know.

But let’s return to the original favourite – the Shell edging. If you can treble stitch – you can make a shell. All you need really is multiples of 4 stitches + 1 stitch if you are doing a straight edge. But working in the round you only need multiples of four. My personal favourite technique is to miss the next 1 stitch, work 5 treble stitches into the next stitch, miss the next stitch and then slip stitch into the next stitch. What you get is a lovely fanned shell. Beautiful. Now If you are working into a slightly curved edge or round a corner then you are going to need more treble stitches. Either way it will look very pretty. In How to Crochet – I used the stitch twice – both for the fingerless mittens and the potholder. Both good patterns – which I continue to make.

For Emily the Rabbit’s dress in Cute Crocheted Animals I used it at the hem edging and Barbara the Elephant’s little nighty in the Wild Animals book – had a pretty edge. It is such a simple stitch which adds a little feminine detail

This morning I found a new practical use for the shell edge – solving two problems in one. In the middle of the night – a water glass returning to a hard coaster, can rather go through you. Being of that delightful age of once-woken…now permanently awake…my mind went to the distraction of crochet and the eternal challenge or reducing the left-over yarn stash.

I have just finished my latest blanket project and have a few odds and ends left over. I dug out an old pattern of mine and set to, making a couple of silent crochet coasters. The glass-to-table decibels are reduced and if there is a smallish spillage they are also delightfully absorbent. This favourite patten has a little shell edge. (Of course it does). Three were made in the early morning light.

So it is no wonder the shell edge has been my favourite crochet stitch for well-over a decade. What is yours?

Just for this week I am leaving this pattern here for you as blog readers to use for free. Please tag me if if you make any of these for yourself.

My Flower Crochet Coaster Pattern

You will need:
  • Your choice of dk yarn from your stash
  • 3.5mm hook
  • Tapestry needle
    Stitches used UK terms:
    • Chain stitch (ch)
    • Space (sp)
    • Slip stitch (sl st)
    • Double crochet (dc)
    • Treble crochet (tr)

    PATTERN

    Using 3.5 mm hook and Creamy white yarn 4ch, join with a sl st to make a ring.

    Rnd 1: 3ch, work 11tr into ring, join with a sl st to ch. [12sts]. Break off yarn and fasten off.

    Rnd 2: Change to next colour, and join with a sl st in any tr, 3ch, 1tr in the same st, 1ch, (2tr in next st, 1ch) to end, join with sl st to third ch. [24 sts]. Break off yarn and fasten off.

    Rnd 3: Change to next colour, join with a sl st in any chain space, 3ch, 2tr in same ch sp, (miss 2tr, 3tr in next ch sp) to end, join with sl st to third ch. [12 3tr clusters]. Do not break off yarn.

    Rnd 4: (miss 3tr, 6 tr between next clusters, miss 3tr, sl st between next clusters) to end. [ 6 shell sts]. Break off yarn and fasten off.

    Rnd 5: Change to firs yarn, join with a sl st to any sl st, *(1dc, 1ch) 5 times, 2dc; rep 5 times. Break off yarn and fasten off and weave in ends.

    Favourite Stitches – Shell like Read More »

    Peachy Keen

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    I know for a fact that the garden and colour fashion has invaded my making. I don’t know when… but probably two years ago when I fell in love with the Café au Lait dahlia. Then last year everyone in gardening was going hoopla about a new Cosmos colour – Apricotta. We didn’t grow it in our garden. But I was tempted.

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    Just looking it up now… and I promised I haven’t checked beforehand. Do you know what the pantone colour of 2024 is? Peach Fuzz! Now that is scary. Well there you go. We cannot avoid it. The garden and probably blush tones in fashion have been invading my little grey cells. Peachy colours with a little duck egg blue have been giving me some joy in my ‘Safe at Home’ knitted blanket.

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    Then my current ‘on the hook’ crochet blanket is my new ‘Tutti-Frutti’ crochet patchwork design. Zingy, joyful squares and half squares. Every block is giving me some joy. I won’t deny that there is some weaving in to do. But I’m a happy weaver. I have actually sewn the squares together, as I did with the Stargazer Blanket. I have used the mattress sewing technique and you get a nice tight and flat join.

    The funny thing is that this Spring the peachy – it is a happy accident that just behind the pots on our patio, the acer emerges with a peach/apricot new leaf. The combination is such a joy. I think that my favourite have been the Narcissi – My story. So blousy and very long lasting. They will be a win again for next year. (I bought all my bulbs this year from Peter Nyssen – they have been so reliable).

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    So there you go, as I am getting older my tastes are predicably going to the tones of silk cami-knickers and coffee and walnut cake. Well never mind, both are a kind of luxury and if we eat with our eyes, I will be more than delighted with my Tutti-Frutti blanket.

    Peachy Keen Read More »

    Garden changes

    We are making a few changes in the garden, including digging a new flower bed which has extended pretty much into the centre of the lawn. Risky dramatic business – not really. But I have been thinking about this project for about 18 months.

    What I have discovered – pulling up turf and digging over the soil, is my oh my how full of clay our garden is. It is no surprise that our grass lawn is pretty much a moss lawn. There is very little drainage. Nowhere for the North West wet weather to go.

    Long ago I have put aside the plant desires of the warmer south-west. My folks can grow completely different plants. It is far easier to think ‘what’s good here?’ If you want to be fancy you can say that we are very much like the Lake District. Acers, rhododendrons, azaleas all do well. Plus the Magnolia’s which dot the surburban streets of our city are knock out.

    So with very little outlay I have dug up and divided many plants which are already flourishing in the garden. With an unusual amount of forward thinking I asked for garden vouchers for Christmas and that enabled me to splurge on some desirable roses. These have all gone in.

    In the mornings I stand at the kitchen window, coffee in hand and admire the view. At the moment I see a rather muddy scar. But I know it won’t be long before the transplanted plant babies take root and soon they will be bulking out.

    Foreman Stanley is very delighted that we are outside more. He management style is quiet observation. But is very overseeing productivity in crochet as well as gardening.

    So we will see how we get on. I am hopeful that the new bed will provide me with some more space for cut flowers. Last year I hardly bought any cut flowers for the house and that is a year round ambition. I would like to just cut what we have in the garden. Reading and watching videos about flowers is my hobby hobby. Yes crochet is a hobby/work, knitting is now a hobby… but gardening is the HOBBY.

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    The real goal is to be able to sit in the garden, amongst the flowers – with a coffee, a cat and the crochet. It is the flowers we grow which inspire so much of the making. So as I look out on a rather wet and dimpsy day I don’t think we will be in the garden. But at least I can concentrate on the crochet – the coffee and the cat will just have to be inside. Have a happy week.

    Garden changes Read More »

    Home of Garter Stitch Joy

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    It all starts with left-overs. There is a nice contained discipline in thinking – what would be fun to make out of this? I know that I can’t be the only person to see the beauty of making something out of what is left. Then there is the middle of the night, crashingly early morning creative planning. Compelled by a little nugget of an idea I tiptoe towards my yarn stash and with the subtlety of a baby elephant start extracting balls of yarn and some needles or a hook, ‘to have a quick go’. These are special moments.

    This time it is the left-over aran yarn I have accumulated from my last book. I love aran weight yarn, but my preference is to knit with it rather than crochet. And let’s not be snobby – a basic garter stitch with even tension and a lovely firm twist is a thing of joy.

    safe-at-home-blanket-emma-varnam

    I wanted to slash through the accumulated aran yarns of two colour schemes. To combine the warm peachy oranges which I have used for one project and match it with the blues/duck-egg and greens of another. Not in any way perfect but joyful none the less

    Back in my memory and in the depths of my pinterest collection has been the Safe at Home Blanket by Margaret Holzmann. There is something so graphic, so simple about this pattern. Why do little houses bring us such joy? Is it because they are one of the first thing we draw? However simple the pattern, it is the changing colours of the windows and the doors which speaks to me. Even in real life a row of beach huts is so appealing or the joyful cottages on the dock of Tobermory. The small house sat happily, yet contrasting with its neighbour.

    safe-at-home-blanket-emma-varnam

    So in amongst a myriad of projects I should finish. I have started a new blanket. You and I both know that a knitted blanket will take me much longer than a crochet version. I could try to replicate that pattern in crochet. I haven’t looked but I am sure it has been done. But sometimes its just nice to follow a pattern and not feel the need to design. I know I will make a few tweaks to the design. I plan just to put 8 houses in a row. I also want to add a strip of plain garter stitch between each row of houses. But that is my preference.

    This is going to be a long project. If I get it finished for the autumn I will be thrilled. The pattern is wonderfully simple and if you fancy making your own you can buy it as a downloadable pattern from Ravelry. The windows and doors use the intarsia technique and when I started I didn’t realise that you can put the last stitches from each house front on a holder when you work on the roof. This sets you up nicely for the next house.

    Quite a few people have commented on my very first post of the houses, so I wonder if people might like to start their own Safe at Home Blanket. If you do – please tag me into the photo on Instagram.

    beach, hut, doorstop, pattern

    Looking through my photos I realise that the last blanket I knitted was my Croknit blanket which combines knitted and crochet squares. There you go simple garter stitch knitting again, and in aran. It must be a particular preference. I had also forgotten that I have created many years ago a beach hut door stop. The stripes are a obvious favourite.

    Well there you are simple garter stitch home making – good for the soul and excellent for the stash. Happy Weekend. x

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    January traditions and updates

    emma-varnam-bears-paw-patchwork

    Whilst January is a month of new starts… new promises… new/old intensions, I like to squeeze in a few little January traditions. Firstly, catching up with good friends. Whilst Christmas can be a whirlwind, I do like to sprinkle a few ‘catching up’ with pals in the diary. Last weekend I indulged in seeing my yarny best friends for our traditional laughter-advice and wisdom session. It would not be easy to speak so consistently about yarn, knitting and crochet with many other people. Understandably some of my other good friends would reach for a telephone for distraction. But when I see my crafting besties – the conversation is in full flow and the fingers are moving just as fast as we work on our current project. By the end of our time together my creative tank is full, and I drive home with new ideas and resolve.

    marmalade-emma-varnam

    In the dark weekends of January, I also love to indulge in the sticky alchemy of Marmalade making. This year I have less time to squeeze in all the batches I want to make. But I did manage to make to different types. A tawny – using the whole oranges in method and a dark and thick cut, especially for my Dad. Every year the same recipe is used and yet…every year there is a different result. But that this the fun of it. Homemade marmalade on toast is surely one of the greatest delicacies. It would ideally be on a toasted white bloomer with salted butter which is melted ever so slightly. Toast is such a rib and hip sticker that I ration myself to almost just once a month indulgence. But then it does mean I can nearly eek out the marmalade to last a full year.

    emma-varnam-inside-crochet-daisy-cushion

    So, this weekend I will be seeing some other fab friends – and I hope to take some lovely photos. I cannot wait to have lighter days so I can take a few better photos. I know I wanted to mention to you two very exciting things. Firstly, if you read Inside Crochet magazine, my second of the monthly columns is in. This month I am talking about being inspired by fashion. If you do read it, I would love to hear what you think. This February issue is particularly good. There are some really fab garments. There is also a great Vintage Cushion supplement and one of my designs is in. A lovely cosy round cushion.

    emma-varnam-cute-crocheted-food-shortlist- award

    I just heard the my lovely little book Cute Crocheted Food has been shortlisted for the Creative Book Awards. I am so thrilled. This book was so much fun to create and it made me smile everyday during the design process. It is lovely to think about other people enjoying it. I will keep you updated on how we do. But honestly there are some fabulous books shortlisted so it is just a thrill to be in excellent company.

    10,000-hats-emma-varnam

    Finally My latest book arrived in the post this week: 10,000 Crocheted Hats! I know…. Really – yes really. The combination of different, brims, main hat section and crowns multiplies up toe 10,000. I started the projects in February last year and so it is amazing to see the book now. I promise to share more about the book next week, but in the meantime – thank you so much for popping into the blog and having a January catch up.

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