Hidden in plain sight – the Crochet Cactus


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.


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.


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!’

Baby Lambs and flocking to farming

During the past year I have become obsessed by farming programmes on the telly and consequently sheep. The lambs, breeds and the wonderful farmers that raise them have become a renewed fascination. My own baby sheep design – Sam the Lamb has become a new favourite.

There are so many programmes that cover farming on British telly – that you could spend many hours, many evenings immersing yourself in the wonderful stories and landscapes. My own family poke fun at me and say that they think if I needed to I could deliver a lamb, solo.

I don’t think that is true… but my evening past time has highlighted a number of issues for me. Farming is such hard work and is not ever just a job, but has to be a passion and vocation. It shocks me how little a farmer gets (if anything) for the shorn fleece. Wool – once a prized commodity has almost no value – yet it is such a wonderful material. It keeps you warm when you are cold and has wonderful wick-away properties when you are hot.

I won’t pretend that I have stayed loyal to wool. I do love to wear it. But I have plenty of fleece in my wardrobe. I have also enjoyed and used lots of synthetic yarns and certainly blends using cotton and bamboo in my yarn work. But watching the programmes has made me think.

What has made me laugh is that for some breeds the farmers seem to do a full wash and blow dry on the wool coats before a show. In other parts of the country the stray fibres will be plucked from the sheep’s face like a full beauty session. They will then have the lovely cream fleece rubbed either with peat or sprayed with a colour to turn a cream down to a slightly darker beige. This means that the colour of their head and legs stand out! My word these woolly divas get the full treatment.

The opening of my eyes to new breeds across the nation has encouraged me to make my little sheep in a new colour. I think my Lamb looks rather fetching in their county-show style fawn wool. Certainly very cosy.

I have put this new colourway in my kit selection which you can find in the shop. You might have noticed that part of the blog has a new shop feature. This will enable me to launch some new patterns and new products straight to you. Tell me what you think.

Watching the farming programmes has made me think of animals that I have yet to try. I haven’t yet made a cow and it might be very wonderful to create a highland cow. So whilst it might seem a very idle past time watching very hard working farmers from the comfort of my sofa, the crochet hook is always in hand and the yarn is ready to celebrate another treasured animal.

Billy Bear – My first crochet toy

The first toy you ever have – always has a special place and for a maker is a gift of love. I have updated my Billy Bear pattern to create my very best guide of a first crochet toy.

People often ask me what they should make if they are just starting to make crochet toys. If you have begun crochet making a granny square then the jump to working in the round or making ‘amigurumi’ can seem a bit daunting. Perhaps it is just the name. But essentially you are just working the most basic double crochet stitch in a spiral to build up a seamless shape.

Billy Bear with his striped jumper and simple legs and arms is a brilliant introduction to all the techniques I use in my other toys. My preference in all my toy designs is to incorporate the limbs into the fabric of the crochet. This will ensure that no matter how much play a treasured bear might have – their arm will not unravel. I also like joining each leg together before you work the body. Before you have your first go – this technique might seem complicated. But never fear it is actually quite simple.

I have written the pattern for you with helpful photos and honestly I am keen for you to fly with you toy making and to feel confident with all the techniques. If you are are a real crochet starter and not sure that this will be your thing, I have introduced a few simple kits to my shop so that you can buy just a few of the items you need before you start building a huge stash. You can choose from a beautifully classic duck egg colour or the softest powder pink. One of my customers messaged me to ask if I had a bespoke colour that she could use and I was able to help her and pop it in the kit. So if you have different stripe in mind, do message me.

Followers to this blog will notice a little change. I have added my own shop to the blog so that you can buy kits and books directly from me. It’s a new exciting venture and I am so delighted to connect with you and help you develop your crochet.

Pop over to the shop to have a look and tell me about any other items or patterns you would like to see.

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.


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.


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 festive ready


I feel like I say this every year. If you are a crafter around the time of the new Autumn school term, your mind turns to Christmas. I know it’s way too early. But the benefit of darker nights is more time curled up on the sofa with either your hook or needles. Plus it does take time to make those handcrafted gifts.

It is a strange thing, I often do my most festive work around July. A totally topsy-turvy time. In the last few years I have designed a make-a-long for Knitting and Crochet Magazine: A stocking advent calendar one year and then last year I designed some Christmas Tree decorations along the theme of the 12 days of Christmas. They were a lot of fun.


This year I have set my own little challenge. I wanted to create a collection of my own toy patterns that I would style and sell independently. It seems like a crazy idea for a time-poor creative…but then if not, now when?

I have really enjoyed sending off my kits to new customers and it has been fun to connect to people from across the world. I started off with the downloadbale patterns for my baby animals. Then I began adding signed copies of my books. Last week I added a range of 5 watercolour postcards of my Cute Crocheted Animals. I love these images and I hope you will too.


Finally, in time for your festive making I have added a pattern and kit of a stripy Christmas stocking. I have very good memories of peeking at my Christmas stocking in the early hours of the morning. The best times were when you could see a new cuddly toy peeking out the top. It got me thinking…why not design a bespoke stocking that fits my new designs.


So there you are. Who wouldn’t want one of these cute friends greeting you on Christmas morning? If you pop over to the Etsy shop you can see, that you can download all the patterns, or order them as a kit. If you buy the two together it does make sense as there is a bit of discount on the combined price. Tell me what you think about the kits and the designs.


If you order this weekend I am adding a special gift for blog readers. If you enter EVBlog in the message whey you order I will send you a free set of the Cute Crocheted Animals Postcards as a ‘thank you’ pressie.

I am so glad that we can share this little adventure together – if you do make any of the patterns please do share your images. It delights your heart to see your makes.

Happy weekend!

Plump Cowl – A quick knit


On a recent pilgrimage to the lovely Yorkshire town of Skipton, I made a visit to the very pretty shop; Cool Crafting. This very sweet haberdashery is the home of the lovely felt rabbit Luna Lapin. I have visited the Cool Crafting stall at the Knitting and Stitching Show many times. I love the fabrics they sell, the thick and luxurious felts and the beautiful animals kits. This shop and its contents did not disappoint. I had a lovely chat about crafting and spotted some of my own books, which was an absolute delight.

gooseberycowl-emma-varnamSo Soft

I have a rather shameful stash of yarn and have no need for any more. However I couldn’t resist buying a hank of the super squishy Mrs Moon Plump Chunky. I bought Gooseberry. The shop were selling a lovely quick knit kit pattern for a cowl. This colour is a funny one for me – even though my skin tone suits bright and clear colours, this chartreuse green always seems to suit me and gives my face a bit of a tan. I have never been able to work it out. Ah well. With chunky 10mm needles the pattern took me a few short hours and by Monday morning I was wearing my Plump Cowl to work.



Top 10 gifts for Crocheters

xmasgifts16.3There is nothing better than giving a gift that someone really wants. When you really love your hobby it can be a bit daunting for your friends and family to understand what would be on top of your gift list. So here I am like a festive yarn fairy to give you a few pointers. These are my personal recommendations based on my love of yarn and my eye for something pretty.

zigzagcrochet2Yarn Baby

Ok, I am going to help you here. Unless you really do know what you are doing – do not, I repeat DO NOT, buy yarn for your crocheter. Why would you? You will be taking away one of the pure joys of the hobby, the choosing of luscious squiggy yarn. So my suggestion would be to buy a rather generous gift token for your crocheter.

Go into your local yarn store and ask them for a pretty gift token and then add in the card you gift them the gift of time so that you can allow them to browse the shelves.


Project bags

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a crocheter can never have enough project bags. Seriously, you will never disappoint if you buy a yarn fan something to put their yarn in.

My top tips are the witty bags which are available from Loop London, where they have some rather pretty project bags of different sizes; including this rather gorgeous bird themed bag by Miesje Chafer
I am also enjoying using KnitPro Joy Project Bag it sits beautifully on the side table next to the sofa and inside has some rather handy pockets for hooks and scissors.

Hooks, Needles, Bits & Bobs

I am going to get straight to it. My preferred hook is a Clover Soft Touch Crochet Hooks If you are buying just one or two hooks then a 4mm and a 5mm hook will always be useful. But you can go the whole hog and buy a set and you will be loved forever – Clover Hooks Set of 9

If I am honest – you can also not have enough scissors or tapestry needles. These are easy to pick up in any hobby shop. But if you are looking for covetable beautiful things, then I would suggest a few choice items from Merchant and Mills. Pick out a pair of sharp scissors and these needles in a gorgeous case – Thank you Father Christmas!

Subscription Boxes

crochyay-subscription- box

This year we have seen the growth of monthly subscription boxes, what a genius idea. Every month a new box of goodies arrive with a pattern and all the items you need to make the project. I love this idea and have suggested it to many beginners as a good way to build their skills without having to amass huge yarn stash. For fun and funky I would recommend the lovely Crochyay. For lovers of pretty and things then you should try Little Box or Crochet.



I do have a small magazine vice. I find it very, very difficult not buy the latest issue when browsing the supermarket aisles. If you ask me what one of my favourite Christmas gifts would be, I would have to say, ‘Get me a subscription!’.

For beginners then a subscription to either Simply Crochet or Crochet Now magazine would go down a treat.

I am a huge fan of Inside Crochet Magazine and would suggest this for intermediate crocheters.


Ok, I admit it, I am being a bit naughty here. But if you are buying for a beginner, then I will highly recommend this book ‘How to Crochet’. Yes, I did write it… I know, I know. However I have used it to teach quite a few people and lovely readers do send me emails to say how useful they have found it.

My new book Cute Crocheted Animals is not for the beginner, but is for anyone who wants to develop their toy making skills and enjoys making cute characters. I have started seeing beautiful animals popping up on social media. Such a lovely thing to make for the children you love.

My other suggestion would be Granny Squares by Sue Pinner. A great book which updates the classic vintage pattern.

My friend and uber-designer, Claire Montgomerie has brought out a new book, Hooked. Now I will admit I have not been able to get my mits on this yet. But I can always highly recommend her work and will be adding this book to my Christmas list.


A Bespoke Gift Box

Finally if you want to take all the hassle out of choosing something for your hooky mad loved one then I would suggest ordering a bespoke gift box for the super stylish Cool Crafting. You can choose the value of your Crocheter’s Good Things Giftbox from £20 – £100 and your parcel will be sent on 20th December. But hurry you don’t want to miss that order!

I hope you like some of these suggestions and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date with all crochet news. Let’s start off your Christmas Crochet gifting by offering two £10 vouchers for Stylecraft yarn, which are redeemable at any ‘bricks and mortar’ yarn shop. If you leave a comment below with your top Christmas Crochet gift on your wish list I will draw out two names at random on Friday 9th December – just in time to put in the post! Good Luck and Happy Shopping.





It’s in the bag – Project bags I love – Knitpro Joy

knitpro-joy-project-bag There is nothing better than a good excuse to crochet and a train journey is a very good excuse. I have made long train journeys most of my adult life. I adore the space and time they provide to create and think. If I am away for a week, I carry a substantial project page, as featured in yesterday’s post. For a day trip I need a bag I can pop into my handbag.


This gorgeous tote was sent to me by Knitpro and is part of their Joy range. It has lovely hand blocked printed fabric in my favourite blue and white colour combination.

As you can see the bag fits nicely in my handbag. It has a handy long zip which means it is easy to get your yarn in and out of the bag. The square shape is also ideal as it means that the bag sits nicely on a table or your lap while you work. There are a few small pockets inside to pop my tape measure and tapestry needles. I like it very much.

Other temptations

Do beware though, if you go onto the KnitPro website you might find some devilishly useful cases for hooks and interchangeable needles. Very tempting

So on my ‘crack of dawn’ journey this morning to old London Town, I shall be sporting this beauty. Inside there should be enough space for all the yarn I need for my next project. Please share with me your favourite project bag, I love to discover new innovations.





It’s in the bag – Project bags I love #1


I can’t deny it, I have quite a collection of project bags. I don’t think I will ever give up collecting them. At any one time I can have 3 or 4 crochet projects on the go. As I flit between commissions, it is useful to have the yarn, hooks and pattern in separated out.

happy-crochet-projecet-bagTwo types

For me project bags tend to fall into two types; firstly there is a large bag which will come with me on holiday or sit adjacent to my spot on the sofa. Secondly I use a smaller bag that will fit into my handbag, ready for a day out. This week I am going to review two bags sent in the post and give you the low down on their features.

Firstly let’s have a look at this absolute beauty of a project bag by Happy Crocheting. I have been eying up a bucket bag like this for ages. I do like a bag to have useful pockets, but this design takes a crafting tote to a whole new level.

The pockets on the side have specific places for your hooks, pens, notebook and accessories.. Suddenly I feel all organised.

In terms of capacity you can fit in a good quantity of yarn. I am in the process of finish a single bed blanket using DK yarn and it easily went into this bag. Having the shoulder strap and the carry handle is useful. When you open the bag, there is a very large zip which means you can flip the top of the bag right back and it acts as an open basket. It is this feature which ensures it will have multiple purposes in our house. I can leave it by the side of the sofa and then dip in and out while I am working in front of the telly.

happy-crochet-projecet-bagThe best bit

However it is out- and- about that this bag comes into its own. On a recent trip down south I took my crochet on the train. On several occasions my cheeky ball of wool ran off embarrassingly under another passenger’s chairs. Argh, how frustrating. I thought even then, ’I wish I had a bag with me with a hole for my yarn so that I could keep it clean and contained’.


Lots of project bags have a feeder hole for yarn, but it does mean that you work ends up being on one side of the bag and your yarn on the other. The genius of this bag is that you can sit the bag on the floor – your yarn can be captured in the bag while you work.  There is a larger slit in the top of the bag so that you can change the ball of yarn over or even quickly pop your project away if you need to pack up quickly.

happy-crochet-projecet-bagThe test run

I took this bag with me for a test-run the other weekend. Little B was at a go-karting party and I was happy to sit and crochet while he sped around the track. This bag allowed me to discreetly work on my commission without getting muck and dust on my yarn. Perfect.

These project bag is currently retailing at £22.99 on Amazon, you can also have a look at the blog and Facebook page by Happy Crocheting. They are a small British company, who understand the needs of an avid crocheter. Well worth checking out and you will not be wrestling my Crochet drum bag off me any time soon.




Holiday adventures – yarn shops abroad

yarn, shop, ifil, barcelona, spainHolidays often mean getting away from it all, but for a avid yarn fan you might find more time to indulge your hobby. This year, we have been fortunate to have lots of short holidays with masses of variation. I have made an effort to visit local yarn stores; to enjoy the cultural differences, to be nosy and pick up the odd woolly souvenir.

yarn, shop, pollenca, mallorca

Mallorca – Fils i pedacos – Pollenca

We have been to the north of Mallorca so many times. Whenever we visit, it is a ‘must’ for us to shop in the gorgeous market town of Pollenca. However in all our years of visiting we have never stumbled upon a yarn shop. This year, needs must. I had run out of yarn for a project and a quick Internet search happily found us Fils i pedacos in the center of the old town.

Away from the bustling heat, the interior was cool and quiet. I was unprepared for the size of this shop. There were many tall book cases filled with yarn and at the back of the shop was a sizeable project table, ideal for a stitching group or sewing class.

yarn, shop, pollenca, mallorca

Brits are very used to browsing in a yarn shop. Unless pushed for time, we will go in, spend happy minutes cruising up and down the shelves looking and wool and cotton, then latterly flicking through the pattern book to look for inspiration. At this stage we might marry a project to our yarn choice and look for help from an assistant. Further research told me that in Spain the tradition has been for yarn shops to have a counter system, very much like the old grocery story. You will arrive and immediately ask for the help of an assistant to find the yarn and the pattern you want to purchase.

When I arrived in the shop in Pollenca, it was obvious that the shop assistant was happy for me to browse. I quickly found the balls of DMC cotton needed for my project. The dominant yarn provider in Spain appears to be Katia, which is not so popular in Britain but some online companies like LoveKnitting hold their yarn and English translations of their patterns.

Key to my visit to the Pollenca shop was finding a 5mm hook, which I had forgotten to pack. I also picked up a lit crochet hook, which is both my most hysterical and practical holiday souvenir of the summer. Great for nighttime crochet alfresco, with none of the blinding distraction of a head-torch. The shop was such a beautiful and cool haven to visit and it was fantastic to see what patterns were popular with local knitters. I will certainly visit again.

ifil, barcelona, yarn shop

Barcelona – Ifil

Our weekend trip to Barcelona was short and sharp, but by this time I had a taste for yarn tourism. I read an excellent article on Spanish yarn shops here and discovered that after our visit to Parc Guell, it would be an easy walking adventure to find Ifil. Here we were very much off the beaten track and deep within normal life of a local.

What a stylish shop this was – modern, bright and spacious. The boys graciously bowed out and found a handy coffee shop to rest their weary feet. Inside the shop I marveled at the layout and patterns. It seems that Ifil not only sell well known brands but also have their own design range. The designs are stylishly displayed on postcards or hung on the walls. Instead of stacking the yarn vertically on bookshelves, the wool is found horizontally in a series of open ‘bins’. It reminded me very much of old record shops.

ifil, barcelona, yarn, shop, spain

I have never been more frustrated and ashamed that I cannot speak Spanish. There were so many questions I wanted to ask the assistant and I was very inspired by the ‘in-house’ designs. At one point I was sorely tempted to even buy some fabric to make a dress they had displayed, but gave myself a sensible talking to, secure in the knowledge that I would never get round to starting the project.

One of the advantages of visiting a yarn shop abroad is seeing the colour choices and the preferences of style. Ifil specifically stocks patterns which will appeal to a beginner and intermediate knitter. I was very attracted to their colour combinations of brick and aqua, gray and citrus.

loop-london, yarn, shop, islington, britain

London – Loop

Ok I know London is not abroad, but it is not local to me and when visiting our capital many Brits can also feel like a tourist at home. In June we popped down to London to visit the fabulous London Zoo and more specifically the penguins.

We had a little bit of time at the end of the day and decided to have supper in Islington. I am not sure if it was co-incidence or deliberate choice on my part – but our chosen restaurant was very near the iconic wool shop, Loop.

Compared to my Spanish discoveries, Loop is small and packed to rafters. As you enter, you know you will be some time and that at each step there will be something interesting to see. On a Saturday, the shop was busy, international visitors were seeking the advice of the many shop assistants on hand to help. I was content to scan the shelves; looking and the colours, squeezing the hanks of yarn, perusing the patterns. Here the yarn enthusiast can sate their desires. If you are a lover of the complex and the intricate, you can find a pattern and the finest yarn to create your dream.

I managed to resist buying yarn but was far too tempted by the notions. I bought unusual buttons, a pretty project bag and some kilt pins to keep my shawls in place. This is very much a yarn destination where knitters and crocheters make a pilgrimage and come away a smidgen lighter in the pocket but with a delightful souvenir of our happy capital.

If you have a favourite yarn shop which like to visit abroad, please tell me and leave a comment; it might start a whole new way of making travel plans!

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