My Books

Hidden in plain sight – the Crochet Cactus

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In the town where I spent my early childhood there was an amazing game which the local shops played. It must have been during Carnival week, in the early autumn. Each shop window displayed an item which was totally unrelated to their business. The competition trail asked children to spot and name all the incongruous hidden gems displayed in the windows. I loved this trail. I am sure it was never as extensive as my memory serves – but the joy of spotting something hidden was an utter thrill.

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When I worked in museums – staff knew that there was nothing I enjoyed more than treasure trail and we took the game of my childhood and would hide tiny woolly sheep or teddy bears amongst the exhibits and display cabinets. My inner child is never very far away. I think it is this penchant for whimsy that makes me so fond of making crochet cacti.

When I made my first crochet cactus I became almost giddy with delight – I popped it in a teacup and sat it on the mantlepiece amongst my other house plants. It sat there, in disguise for many months. Only a few guests spotted it was not real. During that time I added to my woolly plant collection for the book Crocheted Succulents. Each completed plant tickled me. They were fun, quick projects – but most importantly wilt due to neglect or more likely overwatering.

In the years that have followed I have seen hundred of photos of completed cacti by readers of my books. Each one is a joy to behold. Last year I launched a beginners kit and pattern for anyone who wanted to dip their toe in the crocheted succulent pond.

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A few of my friends have sheepishly admitted that they have no intention to learn to crochet…but ‘hint, hint’ they wouldn’t mind one of my Cacti. Well I have made a few and there are a small number available to purchase in my shop. If you visit our house – you will spot a few homemade cacti dotted amongst the bookshelves and nestled next to my real houseplants. No one can resist picking them up – and a broad smile stretches across their face. ‘Oh to have plant you can’t kill!’

Cute Crocheted Woodland Creatures

It is so exciting to introduce a new book to you. Especially this latest one – which I designed and wrote in the midst of our lockdown life. There haven’t been too many things to celebrate in the Covid year, but perhaps being confined to home has enabled some of us to concentrate on our crafty adventures.

If you have made some of the toys from my previous two Cute Crocheted Animals, you will want to know that these creatures are a different design and shape. They are larger in size and have a natural seat which ensures each animal sits nicely on a shelf or a bed.

When I was a child, I was enchanted by the books of Beatrix Potter. The animals had such character – they are often naughty, cheeky and courageous. My big ambition is to design toys that you will enjoy making
and that children will adore. A toy like that needs character and personality and I believe the best soft toys are handmade. Each stitch has love woven in.

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I have aimed to design woodland creatures that are bursting with personality. They all have their own clothes and accessories and you can swap the clothes you choose between each character.

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I loved making a my favourites; rabbit, mouse and fox in naturalistic yarn. But in this book there are animals I have been wanting to design for a while. The cheeky Danny Deer, a sweet little Mole and a Finn Frog, complete with flippers and armbands.

If you have used my books before you know that I am very keen on a thorough techniques section. I like to have the diagrams telling you how to do each stitch. Still very important. As I have written more books I know how important it is for you to have my top tips and tricks for successful toy making… all of those are added in to the techniques section.

I do hope you have loved my woodland menagerie. If like me your dreamed of enchanted forests filled with woodland animal playmates, and you
want to share those dreams, then why not try make one of these magical cute crocheted woodland creatures?

I would love to hear what you think – please do leave your comments below.

The Reluctant Teacher and the birth of Mrs V’s Crochet Society

I have never really taught. I have too much respect for great teachers. I don’t dare step on that hallowed ground. I had some incredible teachers when I was at school. Inspirational, funny, fiercely clever. I have good friends who are stunning teachers and when I have had the privilege of watching them – it is like art. They impart information, adapt the subject matter to make it relevant to a child who is struggling and then manage to control a huge room full of very different individuals…in a finite time…how do they do that?

I have been asked a few times to deliver crochet workshops and managed to deflect the question. But I have taught a few people individually to crochet; a one-on-one session. They have tended to be good friends who I know have ‘needed’ to learn. Famously I have one good friend who I have always refused to teach. It has become a thing. I always said… ‘you don’t want it enough, there is nothing that you actually want to make…therefore I won’t teach you.’ Isn’t that dreadful. Out of frustration she has scoured department stores and in fact door-stepped a rather famous yarn producer and persuaded her to teach her the basics… The Granny Square she produced following that encounter is one of my most treasured gifts.

I still won’t teach her.

When the second lock-down came I felt a huge ache of friends saying …’Oh no… we are going into the darkest days of a British Winter…I cannot cope!’ It occurred to me that for those of us in the yarny community the announcement was softened. Many of us thought, ‘well it’s not good, but I do have a lot of projects to finish before Christmas… I will hunker down’. It seemed selfish not to share the consoling balm of our hobby. I put out a quiet call to my friends on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to learn the basics. I thought I might get perhaps one or two flickers of interest.

In fact I was overwhelmed. The only answer was to set up a Zoom tutorial. Mrs V’s Crochet Society was born. In the end we had about 9 willing students. I set a time and date for a little introduction meeting and then the realisation hit…how on earth was I going to do this?

In the introduction session I showed everyone the sort of things they could make and pointed out some good books and websites that are worth visiting. I also wanted to glean what their ambitions were. Was there something that they wanted to make? How keen were they…etc.

We set a date and time for our first actual on-line tutorial. In that intervening week I ordered yarn in their favourite colour, some hooks in the correct size and obtained enough copies of my book, ‘How to Crochet’ so each participant had their own to refer to. It took me a while to settle on our first project but in the end I devised a simple cowl pattern – something you could proudly wear once you had finished. Later that week I drove round our city dropping of this yarny starter kit, thinking all the while, ‘What am I doing! I can’t teach and certainly not remotely!!!’

Experience told me that for both the teacher and the students it was a good idea to set a session limit. I committed to 4 sessions, weekly on a late Sunday afternoon. Technically it wasn’t a total breeze. I am fortunate that my husband is a whizz with video and computers. So I was able to swap between a camera looking at the my face and then an camera positioned over my hands.

On the first session we covered making a slip-knot, completing and foundation chain and successfully learning the double crochet stitch. It is hard not being able to actually stand over the shoulder of someone as they crochet. All the students showed incredible patience both with me and with each other. At the end of the first hour and a half, everyone was off and running with a simple double crochet cowl.

For some the stitching came easily. For others the mid-air manipulation of the yarn and the hook was frustrating. What totally surprised me was that by the following week virtually everyone had made their cowl!!! That blew me away. Some people were on to their third!

I was so amazed after the first week to be able to get a cowl underway (albeit a bit wonky!) I loved that despite my imperfections it looked great! The second one I embarked on was a lot neater and I was so pleased to find it looked more like the photo in the book! – Helen

In the second week we picked up some problems, perfected techniques and began looking at treble crochet and the granny square.

At week three some students had begun a chunky Granny Square blanket, others had begun a Christmas production line of cosy cowls. The progress and passion was inspiring. I introduced everyone to amigurumi in week three and the magic ring. This is complex stuff, but if you get it – you never go back.

On each session there were good friends of mine, their daughters, teenagers and even an awesomely talented 9 year old. Everyone had a mixture of crafty experience and competency. I taught Kate to knit a few years ago for her Duke of Edinburgh award and I knew instinctively she would love crochet – I loved learning to crochet!! I’ve tried knitting before but just as Emma said, once you crochet you never go back to knitting, and I don’t think I will! The technique is so fun and really simple once you’ve got it so it’s really easy to continue developing more styles and patterns! – Kate

In the final week I invited some expert crocheters to join us on our last zoom tutorial to share their top-tips and favourite makes. They joy of hearing these new crocheters and established experts conversing was thrilling.

My little star Hadiah has such passion for the craft and as a close neighbour I would often see her on my doorstep. She kept asking me to teach her amigurumi. She wants to make the little rabbit in ‘How to Crochet’. I think perhaps this was the second and most compelling reason for working out how to teach on-line. Her Mum, Mars was delighted;

Mrs.V’s crotchet club is an inspired thing. My 9 year old has absolutely adored having sessions on-line learning to crochet. She’s now developed a creative hobby that will keep her busy for the rest of her life. Since the classes, she’s been busy making crochet presents from star Christmas tree ornaments to cowls for friends and family. It was lovely to see her engage with Emma on-line and get excited every Sunday when she knew she was going to have another lesson. She even told her classmates about her lessons with a celebrity in the crochet world, and took in a signed copy of her crochet book as evidence of her crochet superhero Mrs. V!

I think that for some of my friends, that little autumn workshop will be a one off adventure. Others I know have become gloriously addicted and like Alice have fallen down the rabbit hole of crochet adventures. Bella said: I never imagined I could actually master crochet as it looked so complicated. I was surprised how quickly I picked it up’ I loved it

It is also a weird thing that often I seem to lead a double or triple life. Some friends and work colleagues never really know that I crochet or even write books about it. The thought of teaching my oldest friends felt awkward and certainly I didn’t think I could do it successfully (see my previous reticence). Setting up the online tutorial made it far easier. I am sharing with you this experience to encourage you to take a step either to share your skills with a friend (they will appreciate it) or discover a new craft in this difficult year… it will be enormous fun! – my friend Charlotte pretty much sums it up.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. -Francis of Assisi

I was probably the most reluctant beginner and realised that my hesitancy to learn crochet came, not from a lack of interest, but a lack of confidence. I would look at Emma’s crocheted masterpieces with admiration and decided that I wouldn’t even bother learning because I’d never reach those heady heights. Once I had put my pride to one side, accepted that learning is a journey where you are ALLOWED to make mistakes ( and indeed should make mistakes), I did what was necessary, picked up the hooks and yarn, leaned into the advise and was soon doing the ‘impossible’…I am the proud creator of two crocheted scarves. They might not be perfect but I am ok with that ❤️

If you would like to make your own beginners cowl here is the Yarn Recipe:

You will need: 1 x ball of Stylecraft Special Super Chunky XL, 1 x 10mm crochet hook, 1 large eyed tapestry needle

The Cowl Pattern –

Using a 10 mm hook and super chunky yarn, you are going to make a slip knot and then chain 21 stitches.

You will double crochet into the second chain from the hook. (20 stitches) Work a double crochet into each chain to the end.Turn the work. Work 1 chain. 1 double crochet in each stitch to end. 20 stitches. This is your pattern. Work straight until your crochet measures, 50 cm/20 inches.

Row 1: Using 10mm hook and yarn A ch66 sts.Do not fasten off.

Finishing Create the circular cowl by twisting the yarn once, so that point A meets point A, and point B matches point B. Then slip stitch the side edges together. Wear with pride.

My little Crochet Society was created by my super talented friend Eve

Your handy Yarny Christmas Guide

If you are reading this…I hope you have found this article subtly and rather nonchalantly left open or shared your craft obsessed ‘loved one’.

Yes you could buy them something from a large retailer… but how much more delightful to shop small, bespoke and quite frankly clever. So here goes…

Gorgeous Gubbins from Beyond Meaure

These are fabulous gifts that will delight the knitter, crocheter or even sewist. Pop over to the joy that is Beyond Measure. Grace has a beautiful online shop and when I go to yarn festivals I always head to her stall to be tempted by the treasures she selects.

Winter 2020 edition of the Cohana mini snips.

These incredibly tiny scissors are so cute and are perfect for keeping in a bag, tool box or pencil case.

As always, Cohana have sought out the best manufacturers to create their vision of beautiful, high quality tools. These snips are made by Hasegawa Cutlery, a manufacturer of cutting tools established in 1933 and located in Seki, Gifu Prefecture, Japan’s foremost cutlery-making town.

The scissors work by gripping and pinching lightly to cut your thread or yarn.  Despite their small size, these cute mini-scissors have great cutting ability!

The small silk tassels are carefully handmade by Imasato, a specialist in tassels and knots founded in 1907 and located in Yame, Fukuoka Prefecture. For over 100 years, Imasato has been making tassels for Yame Chochin paper lanterns, which are a traditional handicraft. 

Available with grey, gold, blue, turquoise or pink silk tassel, plus limited edition creamy beige/metallic version for Winter 2020

Each pair comes with a little leather pouch and in a beautiful Cohana gift box. Snips measure about 3.5 cm long.

£1 from each pair sold (any colour) will be donated to the Runnymede Trust who generate intelligence to challenge race inequality in Britain through research, network building, leading debate, and policy engagement.

Wooden needle cases

These are great for DPNs and crochet hooks

Made from wood, this lovely case from Serradura of Lisbon is ideal for storing your tools. With a push on lid, it will keep your crochet hooks, DPNS, or even pencils safe and neatly stored!

Measures 7.5 inch or 19 cm long. Usable inside length 3/4 inch or 2 cm diam by 7 inch or 18 cm long. 

Maybe the advent calendar would be a nice seasonal thing too?

Create your own Advent tradition with this beautiful Advent Tree from Jurianne Matter. 

Paper and Wood advent Tree

Build the tree using the wooden pieces then every day, select one of the 24 sweet decorations to adorn the branches, adding the star on Christmas Day.  Or add them all at once if you can’t wait and enjoy the tree throughout the winter season!

The tree comes in a special A4 storage box so it can be used for many years to come and also makes a wonderful gift to post!

Everything you need is in the package; no tools or glue required:

1 easy to assemble Advent Tree comprising one beechwood trunk (33 cm high), one beechwood base, and twelve ‘branches’.

24 pre-punched ornaments of traditionally crafted heavy-duty paper plus one star for the top of the tree.

Made with FSC-certified wood and paper and printed with vegetable inks.

Tiny Tins

I fell in love with these little tins by Yorkshire artist and jeweller Leigh Shepherd.  Leigh creates the little drawings herself and they are set in resin in the lid. Perfect for your pins, buttons, needles and bits and bobs.

Available empty or add a small pack of 20 copper bulb pins (great as stitch markers).  They also work well with their beeswax thread conditioner.

In tiny tins, choose from Beehive, Fern, Acorn, Sycamore, Winter Trees or hand painted Sprig designs and also available in our natural dye collection

Tiny Tin measures 5 cm long – fits pack of two small buttons or pack 2 acorns.

Beehive and Acorn tin also available in medium size, 6 cm long – fits beeswax block and pack of large/small beeswax buttons.

Tangled Yarn

My next top shopping tip is from the glorious Tangled Yarn. Very local to me – but actually an online shop, Rachel has impeccable yarn tastes.

Just this week I have ordered some important items to keep the inspiration going.

For Knitters I would suggest, ChiaoGoo TWIST Interchangeables are possibly one of the best Stainless Steel circular needles you will find. Beautifully presented in their own case, each needle tip has it’s own labelled pocket, so you know exactly where to find it. There are pockets for storing the cables and additional accessories too.

Also on my list would be the Cocoknits Accessory Roll is comprised of an outer wrap that encloses four removable triangular envelope-style pouches attached by snaps. The elastic bands hold the roll closed, and can be customised with any of three additional colours provided. Convenient at home or on the go, the Accessory Roll organises all your little essentials. Fill up each section with your knitting notions, craft tools, makeup, jewellery, earbuds, phone charger, and bottle opener – whatever you need to have at hand. Take the whole roll, or simply unsnap one or two pouches to toss in your bag and be prepared for your active day.

I have just ordered for myself two Toft Alpaca Fur Pom Pom’s They are the perfect way to finish off a hat!

Available in a range of bright colours, each pom-pom is attached to a press stud to enable you to swap between colours easily. To wash, remove the stud with the pom-pom and re-attach once your piece is dry. They are by far the fluffiest pom-poms around!

Also I purchased the utterly beautiful Fair Isle Weekend Book. It takes you on an exciting trip to Fair Isle, a windswept island in Shetland, famous for its traditional colourwork knitting. During her many trips to Fair Isle, Mary Jane has been fascinated and inspired by the island’s rich textile traditions, learning about Fair Isle knitting by looking at old textiles and sharing stories and knowledge around a cup of tea. Now, she has created a gorgeous collection of designs which she would take with her for a weekend trip to Shetland when a carry-on bag is all you take with you.

For Crocheters….

This is not cheap but then I use mine everyday; a set of beautiful hooks. Tulip Etimo Red Crochet Hooks are not only a thing of beauty but they are great to use too! If you crochet you will love these! They are ergonomic, with a cushioned support grip that fits comfortably in the hand making it possible to crochet for longer with less fatigue. The matte red tones of the hook tip do not reflect light and are gentle on the eyes.

Socks

At this time of year, sock knitting is a wonderful thing to do in the evenings.

Exmoor Sock by John Arbon is designed to be perfect for socks, whilst still having the versatility to suit garments and accessories that relish a hard-wearing, machine washable yarn. It comes in handy 50g skeins so is ideal for knitting stripes or colourwork!

A wonderful yarn Exmoor Sock enhances the durable character and bounce of the fibre from local Exmoor Blueface sheep – a crossbreed of the Exmoor Horn (full-bodied and hard-wearing) and the Bluefaced Leicester (renowned for its softness and lustre).

Another great idea would be to buy a book on Sock making. My friend Christine is the Queen of teaching beginners how to make socks. I can testify that she taught me and I use her method every time. Pop over to her website to grab a copy of her book: Super Socks.

Kits…

Ok I’m not going to pretend… a kit at Christmas is a glorious thing! And yes I am going to suggest that you buy one of mine from my Etsy shop. Because…well I have put lots of love and care into choosing the yarn and writing the pattern and I think they make a great gift.

For a beginner why not buy a crochet cactus kit and you can combine that with my Crocheted Succulents book for a cracking gift.

To melt the heart why not choose from one of my Baby Animal kits. Perhaps Bobby Bunny, or Sam the Lamb and now very popular is Tony the Pony. In the run up to Christmas you can get 20% off a Gertie Goose Kit to ensure you have a glorious goose for the festive period.

If you are on the Etsy Shop it is worth look at my book selection. How to Crochet is perfect for beginners and the Granny Squares books are also very popular. Pop over and see what you think.

Support your local yarn shop

All of the suggestions above support small producers, authors and online shopkeepers. If you are aiming to shop small this Christmas I promise you that every order placed will thrill an individual business owner.

But also in these lockdown times please don’t forget your local yarn store. You may not even be aware of what bricks and mortar shop is near to you. Well my top tip would be to pop over to the UK Handknitters Association website. They have an excellent search facility which helps you find your nearest shop. If nothing else, you can telephone or contact the shop to buy a gorgeous gift token. I promise you one thing, there is nothing finer than having the opportunity/excuse to buy new yarn in the New Year.

This is a good list my friends! Exciting classics that will thrill and delight! But what would you suggest? If you commented on my last blog post I cannot thank you more!

Getting Winter Ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Book – Crocheted Succulents – how it started….

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Do you have moments of creativity which you seem to remember forever? You know, when you stop and think…’ah I’ve had an idea!’ When I was creating an writing my new book, Crocheted Succulents, there seem to have been more than the normal moments of joy and excitement.

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It was quite a few years ago that I started to find succulents fascinating. In the last few years they have grown in horticultural trending. My real love affair with these fleshy beauties began in South Africa. Seeing so many of their regular, colourful leaves in their natural habitat was enchanting. It dawned on me that with our ever changing environment, growing succulents might be an important skill to develop. I began buying the plants and increasing my knowledge of their care.

At the same time our son began collecting and purchasing Cacti. I don’t have quite so much love of the spiky fellas. But B finds them very endearing and gives each of his collection names like Bob and Muriel. I know don’t ask me why.

At our local garden centre, Bud, the gorgeous own Brenda encourages B with top tips and points out all the new and fascinating varieties that have begun to appear. She suggested that we went on a course to learn how the look after our growing collection.

Well if you have followed this blog or my instagram account you will know that I have used these plants often in my photos. It was my editor who suggested, why don’t you think about making some in crochet? She is a genius….

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How this process usually goes is that we have an idea….I then think..’no I don’t have time. Then I spend 3 or 4 days thinking of nothing else. For this particular book I had a discussion with my crafty friends Lucy (Attic 24) and Christine (Winwick Mum). By then end of a very long conversation of me talking round the houses of creating the book. They rather astutely realised that even though I didn’t really have the time to write it. I was going to anyway.

emma-varnam-crocheted-succulentsA lightbulb moment

The deal was finally sealed in my mind on a little Saturday shopping trip to Black Sheep Wools. I found some amazing spiky yarn by Rico. It is called Bubble. I knew immediately that it would be brilliant to create the fine spikes on the outside of the cacti. I went home and like a crazed woman on a crafty mission created my first design for the book. When I had stuffed it, placed it in a plant pot and stuck it on the mantelpiece, it made me chuckle with delight. Not event thinking I took the photo and sent to some of my close friends. I must be a VERY random person to be friends with.

emma-varnam-crocheted-succulentsThe Book

Well 24 projects later and the book was finished. I did quite a bit of research in my local Library. I bought a load of gorgeous plant books and you will find that each project is based on a real plant. If you have basic crochet skills you will find the projects quite easy. I have provided lots of description of how to construct the project and how you can manipulate the leaves or create flowers to decorate your cactus. There are also some patterns for pots and lots and lots of technical diagrams.

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I really can’t take credit for how beautiful the book looks. The lovely people at GMC have done a fantastic job. Particular thanks should go to Wendy, Jonathan, Neal, Martin and Wayne. Jude Roust and Nicola Hodgson did all the checking (thank goodness). Lots of lovely people have asked me if I will make them a crocheted succulent. My answer with a cheeky twinkle is…why not buy the book and see if you can make one. They are alot of fun, and best of all you can’t kill them!

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Yarn Shop Day 2018

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I have been part of Yarn Shop Day for a couple of years. I utterly love it! Every year it has grown, more and more ‘bricks and mortar’ yarn shops get involved. There is a real sense of community. Each year I have got involved I have popped into see my local yarn shop – the yarn shop I most often go to when I buy yarn – Black Sheep Wools.

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I got up super early and packed up a couple of my cuddly friends; all the chaps from Cute Crocheted Animals and some of the projects from Granny Squares Home and Granny Squares Weekend. I learnt from my experience of last year and set off with lots of time to set up and get settled.

emma-varnam-yarn-shop-day-2018Early Birds

This year lots of lovely people came early – ready to meet and greet star guests like Christine – Winwick Mum. The first few to arrive were lucky enough to get a special gift bag from Stylecraft yarns. What a lovely surprise. There were also some free patterns available of Milo the Cat and Dixie the Llama. Such a gorgeous wee pattern by Heather of Keep Calm and Crochet on.

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I can’t tell you how lovely it was to see knitters and crocheters who have either really enjoyed my books or blog. In some cases I met knitters who wanted to learn to make amigurumi and it was great to pass on a few tips. Quite a few people bought the Little River Pattern and Yarn Pack – I was thrilled to show them the lap blanket in real life.

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Seeing Friends

When we were not chatting I was able to catch up with my friends; Sara from Black Sheep Wools. We could literally chat and giggle all day. I also saw my dear friend Winwick Mum and we had a few minutes plotting and scheming new ideas. She had a quick inspect of my socks and gave me a few new pointers.

Workshops

I also watched Debbie Tomkies doing an amazing yarn dying workshop. If you get a chance to go on one of her workshops, take the chance. It is like a lesson in colour magic. Debbie was kind enough to gift me a skein of her hand dyed yarn and I really believe and a pair of jaunty socks will make their way to one lovely soul from this skein.

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The very lovely Melanie was in the wonderful Rowan shop, teaching people to knit. She was super busy all day – we never really got a chance to chat and perhaps it was a good thing, because the yarn in that corner is so, so tempting.

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My lovely friend Gemma came and visited in the afternoon. She is super talented and after just a few project designed and made her own Granny Squares Bomber Jacket – we larked around look very retro in our bright creations and it is good that my son and her daughter didn’t walk out with embarrassment. They are instead almost as enthusiastic about craft and all things woolly as we are.

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I had such a lovely time. If you came over to say hello and bought a book or even just a quick chat – thank you. You have no idea how encouraging and wonderful it is. I must also say thank you to the lovely Black Sheep Wools family. The care and customer service is wonderful and the cake is a thing to behold and travel for. I am rather looking forward to next year. Well done Let’s Knit Magazine for a wonderful community day and a celebration of our woolly treasure troves.

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Granny Squares Weekend – new book excitement

I am so excited this week. My new book Granny Squares Weekend is published. I am so thrilled with this book because it contains many of the projects that I love to make for myself and now I can provide them for you to recreate for yourself. Advance warning – I will be running a book give-away to blog readers! Stay tuned….

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Hello New Cute Animal Makers

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Over the weekend I caught up with all my Blogstar Friends over at Spa mill. We saw the new yarns and patterns from Stylecraft for the Spring Summer. I took a couple of my animals from my book Cute Crocheted Animals and my friend Sandra Cherry Heart said that she would like to try my book and have a go at making one of the animals. Go over to her podcast 42 to see how she got on. I am so very excited. I wanted to give you a little background to why I designed the patterns and wrote the book.

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My childhood memories

I have very distinct childhood memories of sitting in my own imaginary world playing with my toys. I was very fond of one particular pretty rag doll,  happy dress her for bed, settle her in a small wooden toy cot and smooth her woolen hair as I imagined her drifting off to sleep. The play-acting of the nurturing role is universal I think. An added joy is to choose and dress toys – creatively putting different combinations of clothes, shoes and accessories together.

All of these moments of play and flights of fantasy are such a precious part of a carefree childhood. It occurred too me that it would be delightful to create animal characters that could be dressed, loved and cuddled for a new generation.

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Design development

Over the years I have designs and developed lots of different animal patterns and I really enjoy making rabbits. I was commissioned to make a lovely bunny for Inside Crochet Magazine and that bunny was dressed a a pretty Liberty print dress. Over time I kept thinking it would be great to develop a whole wardrobe of clothes for a bunny. I also wanted to develop my pattern design to make the toy easier to dress.

I started talking to my publishers at GMC, and we began thinking about different animals I could create and the kind of outfits I could design. It was lots of fun and soon little characters began to emerge. I drew the animals and their outfits first and then I had conversations and email discussions with my precious editor Wendy. The outfits are intended to have a quintessentially English style. Children I know should recognise and like the clothes which their animal will wear.

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That must be me!

Each animal in the book has a character of its own. A couple of weeks ago I visited my oldest friends and their children. I had taken a copy of the book with me to see what they thought. I sat quietly in an adjoining room listening to their conversation; ‘That cat is definitely me, listen to the description – that is me!’ ‘Well we all know I am the fox… I love her cardigan…’. Such precious sounds. A happy smile spread across my face as the imagination of young people was sparked.

When you make things with you loved ones in mind then, nothing is more satisfying then to hear them participate and enjoy the journey with you and get the joy of creating small toys which have a character of their own. If you get to see the book, even if you can’t crochet – I hope you will see and read the humour within it. Some of it is my own crazy imagination, lots of it is due to the fabulous creativity of my editor Wendy and designer Rachel, who captured the joy of the project too.

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I hope you will like it and will be able to think of someone you could make an toy for.

New Book – Granny Square Home

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Dear Lovelies, It is a big big weekend. My new book Granny Squares Home: 20 Crochet Projects with a Vintage Vibe is published on Saturday. I am so excited to share the projects with you. What I have aimed to do is to take the basic crochet granny square and demonstrate that you can change the yarn or the construction  and create modern items for your home. These projects are not complex.

If you can already crochet a basic granny square you will find each item easy to grasp. I designed home-ware that I would desire for my own home; cosy lapblankets, bedspreads with a vintage vibe or practical caddies for the bathroom. It gave me a opportunity to write up old patterns like my hot-water bottle cover which I had not yet got round to publishing. You will also be pleased to know that I have not forgotten cute cuddly toys and there are a collection of bright and joyful nursery designs.

Thank you

I am so grateful to my publisher GMC, for the fabulous job they have done producing the book. The photos and the styling are so pretty. Even the paper quality is something to behold. My lovely editor Wendy is so utterly joyful to work with, but there are lots of people behind the scenes like my own dear friend Sue, pattern checker Jude, editor Cath and photographer Emma. I am so grateful to them all.The photos above show just a few of the twenty patterns in the book. Please tell me what you think.

Giveaway

This week I am hosting a giveaway of my book. If you would like to win a copy (UK terms) then please leave a comment below tell me why you love to crochet and what you favourite thing is to make

The competition runs until 6am on Saturday 14th October 2017 – Good Luck!

This giveaway is now closed – Congratulations to Rebecca who won the book picked from the random number generator.

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