My Books

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.

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Fun food – just because

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There are lots of brilliant things which I enjoy about crochet. I’ll be honest, what I really like is that it allows me do indulge in my playful side. In the last week I have been binge watching a programme on Channel 4 about the Duchess of Northumberland. She has the most amazing imagination and incredible drive. A few years ago we visited her incredible garden at Alnwick and it is the most amazing vision. The television programme charts her two year journey to create a fantasy play space for children. It is obvious from the footage that she has a mind that enjoys thinking about how children play and a desire to spark their imagination. I love that about her!

Frequently when I am designing I try to access the childlike part of my brain and imagine making imaginative items that I would have enjoyed as a little girl. Over 18 months ago Stylecraft yarns asked me to make some items with their organic cotton for a celebratory tea party for the Queen’s Jubilee. I so enjoyed making cakes and biscuits that I began to go down a bit of a crochet food rabbit hole… and so that is how the creative part of my new book began.

I have forgotten to share it over the summer. Mostly due to busyness – but that is a shame because I am so excited about the patterns in this book. For a beginner or someone new to amigurumi I think small engaging projects are really motivating. The graphics which the team have done are so brilliant as well. It has a totally different look to my other books.

Once I have made 25 items…25 count them and written the patterns… I kind of go off making any project which is similar. But then if I had small people to crochet for I might make a range of the food items to add to a play kitchen or pretend garden.

Of all the items that really attract people – the burger and fries really seem to prompt a giggle. I am a fan of the avocado … because its stone tummy pops out!

So – I am glad that we have created this book, the patterns are pretty simple for the beginner and there are more complicated makes like the pineapple if you want to stretch your skill. I try with all my books to make the patterns that I know I want to make. If I start to go back to those patterns for gifts or things for our home…I know it is a success for me. See what you think and do you think there is an item of food I have forgotten?

If you would like to buy a signed copy from me – then there are just a few copies still in the shop… I will also send you a couple of very cool stickers!

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Planted – Crocheted Houseplants

You know that my favourite designs are born out of…well laughter. If it amuses me…and make my son smile – it’s a win. Then, if you like it…if you want to make a design all the better.

I could never have dreamed that so many of you loved my first plant book – Crocheted Succulents. The fun we have had making cacti and succulents has been such a bonus.

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It never occurred to me to make a sequel and then very slowly ideas started to come to me. The first design finished was the African Violet. A sort of ‘revenge project’…”Yes take that African Violet… you are so hard to look after in real life… I’m going to make a crochet version and that’ll teach you. Never again will me over-watering leave you as a soggy mess.”

Honestly the glorious Poinsettia fits into this category too. I find their falling leaves in early January too hard to bare. It feels like a less festive re-run of autumn. Now I can keep my beautiful red leaf plant for a following Christmas.

There are few new cacti for this book. We love them so much, why wouldn’t I add to the collection. I’ve had quite a lot of fun with flowers this time and even the Auricula which wasn’t meant to be part of the book has snuck in. Often the way. A last minute homework bit of luck.

It is difficult to choose favourites. I have many of the return projects out and about in our house at the moment. They always look incredible when mixed up with real plants… a yarn ‘trompe l’oeil’.

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I’m going to be interested to see which ones you choose first to make. I suspect you might start with the cacti and then work up to inserting more wire and canes for gravity defying sturdiness.

In general – this is just so much fun. My great hero – Debbie Bliss told me that one of her first commissions was a knitted houseplant. She made it for a very famous national singer/songwriter. That feels like stepping into the footsteps of a very wise and generally hilarious woman and I am very fine with that.

Tell me which projects appeal to you. If you want to see a little video where I talk through the projects I have popped one on my YouTube channel.

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The confessions of a fly-by-night

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If I was a very clever crafter, I would concentrate on just one thing. You would say – Emma Varnam – the crochet toy designer… or Emma – she designs lovely blankets…or Emma – she is the creator of crochet cacti. That would be my focus and it would make such brand sense. It would make better business sense.

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But that isn’t what floats my boat. As a creative i enjoy dabbling in a range of crafting activity. Don’t get me wrong the crochet is always with me, but in the last month I have paddled in quite a few creative pursuits.

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The garden as you know is a place that I love to be in. This year I have concentrated on growing more flowers to cut and have in our house. It has been great that I have drastically cut the number of cut flowers I buy. Most of the flowers we now have indoors come from the garden. I have also been able to grow plants that it is not easy to buy from the shops. We had a really really hot time a few weeks ago. Some of our plants look very crispy and they have suffered. Since then (even within the same week) the North West of England got quite bit of rain. I now have quite lush looking foliage and so few flowers. I keep going outside to will them on. But I am worried now that my dahlias and sweetpeas have suffered too much.

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We have also had our main summer week away. I did take some crochet with me, but can you believe it was almost too hot to stitch! Outrageous. During the first lock-down I kept a little painting diary and decided it would be fun to take the paints away on our summer holiday.

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Painting 3 or 4 sketches each day became my daily routine and I loved getting back to this fun. I’ll try and share a few more images with you, but I feel I need to finish off my little painting diary.

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The Stargazer blanket is my current private ‘work-in-progress’. Thank you if you have enjoyed seeing it develop and once it is finished I am going to try and write up the pattern for you. I do need to finish it first as it will give me an idea of yarn quantities. If I could stretch time I would find a little space to make sewn quilts. I simply adore patchwork and it holds such a nostalgic place in my heart. I know I don’t have the sewing time, but the patterns and colour combinations do have a great influence on my blanket making.

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All in the background is the ‘design-work’. The projects I am working on to bring you either a new design in my shop or a new book. I have just finished the first part of my next book, and at the same time I have received my very first copy of my new book; Crocheted Houseplants. I could never have guessed that so many of you have enjoyed making cacti and succulents from my first book. It is crazy to imagine. But as lots of us have found a new love of real houseplants in our life, it is also fun to recreate their beauty in yarn. In the next month I shall share more of the patterns with you. But for now, here is the front cover. I do hope you like it.

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Now I am off back out into the garden and I am going to feed my pots to see if I can stimulate them into flower for August. Have a lovely week – Emma

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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!’

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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.

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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

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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!

Your handy Yarny Christmas Guide Read 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’

Vintage-look-life-dk-scarf-emma-varnam
  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.

Getting Winter Ready Read More »