Uncategorized

Yarn Diaries – November -Granny Square Scarf

granny-square-scarf-evie-emma-varnam

Sometimes I just want to make…dive in – create and not think about the pattern. Not make any notes… not think about the planning or the design. I know that does mean that if a design comes out successfully that becomes a bit of a pain for anyone who might like to replicate the pattern. Darn.

Well so a few weeks ago I had a little ‘ting!’ moment. You know when you identify a need and match it with some yarn and then a little ‘ting’ goes off in your head.

A young friend of mine has just started a Fine Art degree in Edinburgh. Having attended an east-coast Scottish University, I know that your scarf game has to be STRONG. E has a great sense of style. She is experimental, imaginative and has excellent colour-sense.

(Just writing this – it occurs to me…’what on earth were you thinking…making a scarf for an art student…you mad woman…the audacity). Anyway – foolhardy generosity, I thought it would be delightful to make E a Boho-influenced scarf. I have been working with the new Stylecraft Highland Heathers DK yarn. I love their muted tweedy finish.

Using the colours : Thistle, Thift, Grist, Gorse and Heather. I made 10 granny squares which begin as a circle and then morph into a square. I then made 2 triangles which I placed at each end. I slip stitched the joins together and then did 1 granny square cluster rows in Thistle and Thrift. I finished the whole scarf off with some outrageously chunky tassels.

Once the scarf was completed, I’ve got to tell you – I almost found it difficult to pop it in the post. The shades are not those I would normally wear so perhaps I will make my own version. But boy I did have fun.

You might think that the Granny Square is a difficult look to rock. You might be right. But using it in a scarf is perhaps the best place to start. Just enough detail and colourful interest…not too crazy. A few years ago I made a glorious Granny Square Jacket – it is in November and December that it comes into its own. I have to be in the mood to wear it. But I do love it. In January with the purity of Spring…it seems a bit much.

November is the month to replenish your scarf collection and this idea gives a cool accent which is both warm and brings autumn delight. I know that my art-student friend has already enjoyed wearing her bespoke design, and then is the ultimate goal. Designs inspired by love and makes that are fun to create. Happy weekend!

granny-square-jacket-emma-varnam

Dear Blog – Happy Anniversary

emma-varnam-profile-picture

Dear Blog, Can you believe it has been 10 years, ten years of you and me. Before I say anything, thank you. You have brought such joy to my life.

We both know that you would never have existed if Big B hadn’t set you up. He got so fed up with me saying I was going to do it… that he decided to take matters into his own hands. I am grateful for that – but let’s not forget that it was a clever move on his part. He was finishing off his PHD at that time and distracting me with a little bit of writing and a new project was a very productive way of me not noticing his study time. Smart.

Plus… and I am not taking this away from you – you couldn’t exist without the yarny exploits. If I didn’t knit or crochet there really would be nothing to say. But then you have expanded my yarn horizons more than I could have dreamed.

I definitely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write and publish books without you. I think we are currently on number 10. That is bizarre and utterly unimaginable a decade ago.

You have enabled me to meet so many wonderful people, some of them were heroes that have become friends. Others are followers of this blog and they have become friends. That is a wonderful and joyful gift. The yarn community is so friendly – you have helped me find them and share our passion.

There have been some years that I have found it difficult to post. Busy years with stretching times. In some cases posting on you dear blog has been a lovely refuge…at other times I haven’t been able to find the words.

Since we began our journey together, new pretenders have come on the scene….twitter (opinion, reaction and debate). Then Pinterest…beautiful, inspirational and then basically a search engine. Facebook…mostly connecting to old friends and some information sharing and then… Instagram – which really is a mini you, but there isn’t the same thought, the time to think. I still love you the most.

You are not one of those blogs that people really comment on. I am not sure why. Sometimes I have made efforts to play the numbers game. But if I am honest that calculated theory takes away the intimacy of our conversation. It becomes technical and less spontaneous. I am not entirely sure if people are still reading. It doesn’t matter. This is a space to be generous and conversational. The best times for blog writing are probably about 3am – sleepless nights. Far better to get the thoughts down than to stare at the ceiling. We have posted over 800 times. Will we carry on? Yes I think so – I am still making, creating and designing. There are still things to share and get excited about.

Well – thank you dear blog…you have given more to me than I can ever had anticipated, planned or dreamed. We have had fun…let’s keep going.

In the past 10 years this post is perhaps my favourite – written in the Christmas holidays of December 2015- January 2016 I was designing and writing Cute Crocheted Animals.

This week to celebrate 10 years of the blog I am having a ‘Giveaway’ of new printed patterns and a crochet kit on Instagram. I will also be surprising one lovely commenter of this blog with a ‘thank you’ gift.

If you enjoy this blog of yarny ramblings – thank you so much for following.

A Spikey Story

emma -varnam-crochet-cactus

I could never had imagined the fun I have had with crochet. I love to make as part of my relaxation…smoothing out my ruffled brain at the end of the day.

However there are plenty of moments that just make me laugh out loud. I can remember the day I made my first crochet cactus.

emma-varnam-crocheted-succulents

My book editor had seen that Little B and I were enjoying growing Cacti and Succulents and she said; ‘Why don’t we see if you can create crocheted versions?’

emma-varnam-crocheted-succulents

I thought…’don’t be ridiculous…that will never work…and then about 2 days later…the obsession began.

That weekend I had found the Rico Bubble yarn at my local yarn store (Black Sheep Wools) and I knew immediately what I would do with it. It was perfect for cactus spines. I sped home and immediately sat down in my favourite chair to start hooking. An hour later my first, crazy, spikey cactus sat on the mantlepiece. I began giggling away to myself at the pure joy of making something quite so ridiculous. Not long after my book was published and now there are copies in French, German and Dutch.

One of my greatest joys is to see photos of cacti and succulents posted on social media, People change the colours and the sizes and some even sell their woolly creations on market stalls.

Recently I thought it might be fun to create a small starter pattern for those of you who might like to dip your toe into woolly spikey plants. I have added a new downloadable pattern to my Etsy shop which has two basic patterns for your to follow. You can create a Ball Cactus with flowers and a ridged spikey cactus. I have also included the pattern for the crochet soil and all you need to do is pop them in a spare pot or teacup.

New exclusive kits will be available for purchase which have all you need to create this pattern. If you enjoy making these two cuties you can return and buy the book. To give you some help with the process I have posted a video tutorial in my tutorial section of my blog. But I have got to tell you… they are addictive.

Please do tell me what you think. I know that I will be beginning my Festive Cactus present making so very soon.

A new thing – Baby Animals

I have a small thing to share with you. It has been a very long time in the development. I have created a series of 5 patterns which I am selling as single patterns.

Over the years I have designed toys for my books, for pattern houses, and magazines. But I haven’t really designed a collection which I can sell as a designer. This is something I really want to do – take the project though from the little spark of an idea and then birth it as a pattern in my style and finally as a limited range of kits. Its so exciting. I have been thinking, chatting and dreaming about this project for about a year.

emma - varnam - Baby - animals

I have two very lovely and very experienced yarny friends who have helped me think about the concept. When we meet up we chat through our ideas and dreams and their advice is invaluable.

If you follow me on instagram you might remember that in February I was sharing pictures of these little animals out and about in the snowy hills of the Lake District. Designing and making time during any holiday is so important. The stillness of holiday give me time to tweak and to play.

I have no idea of how many yarns I trialed….so many. There are also some animals that I wasn’t really happy with – who didn’t make the cut…

Finally I settled on 5 little characters – Bobby Bunny, Gertie Goose, Pat Puppy, Sam Lamb and Poppy Piglet.

Then the hard work begins… the pattern writing. I worked with my good friend and pattern editor Lynne Rowe. Lynne and I have worked on many publishing projects together and she knows what makes sense to crocheters. She spots the things which I leave out.

I then approached some regular makers of patterns and some expert crocheters – thanks to Linda, Sioux – super stalker and Babs for trialing the patterns. You are awesome.

emma - varnam - Baby - animals

The yarn I have finally chosen comes from the UK yarn house – Sirdar. You know I work with and love lots of yarn houses. They are all great. I chose Sirdar because I wanted to use their Snuggly Yarn ‘Bunny’ for the tummies of each animal. It made sense for the other yarn in the design to come from the same yarn company. I also wanted the yarn to have a good price point for you and be widely accessible across the UK.

emma - varnam - Baby - animals

Sirdar Snuggly Bunny is a fancy yarn and when you are crocheting with it you will need to pay attention – feel and look where you are putting your hook. The final feel of your toy is totally worth the concentration.

If you are interested in these designs they are available for digital download from my Etsy Shop.

Tell me what you think – I would love to know – which one is your favourite? If you end up making them will you post your baby toys and I would love to see images #crochetbabyanimals.

Finally you might notice a bit of change in my logo and brand. The launch of my pattern range seemed a good time to make the change. Plus my good friend Gemma said, ‘Emma is it time for a rebrand…..?’ in that way that isn’t really a question. She was right.

So there you go – exciting/scary times. All in a period of lockdown. I hope you like this new step and thank you to so many of you for supporting me.

Happy Weekend.

Blocking Boards – All the Chetnanigans

emma-varnam-little-river-cushion-scheppjers-stonewashed

If you have read my blog for a while, you know that I am a huge advocate of ‘blocking’ your work. I have written quite a few posts on the matter and whenever I am asked for my top tip I say ‘Block your work it makes all the difference!’ What is blocking? Well if you don’t know it is dampening or wetting your finished knitted or crocheted item. Pinning or stretching it to the shape you want it to be and then letting it dry. The fibres can relax, the stitches become regular and your can set your finished piece to the measurements you require.

You can read a few of my past blog posts here and here.

chetanigans-blocking-board-emma-varnam

Blocking Boards

I use a range of techniques myself; including soft boards for garments and templates made to size for my socks. However in the last 18 months I have made a huge number of Granny Squares. I have written two whole books and completed a whole heap of blanket commissions. For crochet motifs which are made individually the very, very best way to block is to use a wooden blocking board.

chetanigans-blocking-board-emma-varnam

The very lovely people at Chetnanigans contacted me and asked whether I would like to try their Ultimate Blocking Board and see what I thought. Well – oh my goodness, this my friends is a piece of kit. The following information is really for those who love a bit of crochet geekdom.

No snags – all the finish

Firstly the board is beautifully finished. It is well sanded and varnished and this actually matters quite a bit to me – as I have on occasion snagged my yarn on boards before. The high quality of the finish also means that I can have a really damp item to be blocked the wood won’t get stained or water-marked. The holes are very close together to insert the blocking pins, 1/2 inch apart, which is ideal. This means I have a lot of flexibility in terms of shape and size. I have trialed blocking a triangle and a circle and it works a treat.

chetanigans-blocking-board-emma-varnam

Pins

I must say that I haven’t before seen a blocking board with metal pins – these are stainless steel. The improvement is clear. Firstly – you can put more pins in a square without distorting the edge. A thicker wooden dowel can create little mini-humps in the square. If you are working with fine yarn this will certainly make a difference.

chetanigans-blocking-board-emma-varnam

Perfector Strips

There is also another advantage to this system. The perfector strips….oh yes my friends, a new invention to ensure all your squares are the same size. When I was writing my two Granny Square books this year, I made hundreds and hundreds of squares. Ideally to get them to be the same size – you can use your blocking board to pile up your squares one on top of

chetanigans-blocking-board-emma-varnamanother. However, even though you use metal pins the squares will inevetably draw the pins together. The new perfector strips, keep your pins in check and your squares all the same size. Genius.

Exciting news for you

Now if you are a passionate crocheter, I would certainly suggest these blocking boards as a Christmas Present this year. I was astonished by the quality and robust nature of the pins and the perfector strips. This purchase is an investment piece my friends. But I have two great pieces of news for you. I have a unique discount code for you. If you buy you blocking board from Chetnanigans  and use the code Emma15 This code is valid both on the Chetaningans Etsy Shop and their own Chetaningans website until Friday 26th November – so get ordering.

 

chetanigans-blocking-board-emma-varnam

Other brilliant news is that I have the best ever give-away opportunity for you. One lucky reader will be chosen at random to receive a 8″ Premier Blocking Board Ultra, display stand, blocking pins and perfector strips. This is an awesome giveaway prize and I cannot tell you how excited I am. All you need to do to enter is to ensure you subscribe to my newsletter, leave a comment below telling me why you would love to win this prize. The giveaway will run until Saturday 24th November, when I will be choosing a name at random. Good Luck!This giveaway is now finished – Congratulations to Sharon – who was picked at random!

Getting social

If you are not in the market for a blocking board – have a look because there are loads of products to add to your wish-list for Christmas!

It would be worth checking out their Facebook page and Instagram account – I think Sean and Holly are developing new products all the time – responding to the needs of their customers and they are always looking for suggestions and new ideas.

I have been happy to work with Sean and Holly at Chetnanigans – they sent me their Ultra Board to trial for free to see if I liked it and could recommend it. I happily recommend it to you and I am delighted that they have sent me a discount code for you and a giveaway to share with my readers.

 

Quick – get your crochet stocking on

dorothy-bag-emma-varnam

Dare I say it? Are you already making for the festive season. Seriously I think you might be. I know it seems madder than mad, but I have been designing Christmas treats since May. Can you imagine?

It is worth me pointing you in the direction of two of my patterns. Firstly I have an adorable Project bag – the Dorothy Granny Square Bag which is published in the month’s Inside Crochet Magazine. If you admired my Beach Bag back in July, then indeed I am so sorry I have not written up the pattern yet. Don’t despair. This little beauty will be right up your street. Plus it uses glorious Stylecraft Special Aran.

 

dorothy-bag-emma-varnam

So chunky and quick to make. I saw that a few people had commented and and said it would make a great Christmas present. ‘Good point – well made’. So do swing by and pick up a copy.

Quick Stockings

Also worth mentioning is the Christmas Stocking Crochet along in Lets Get Crafting – Knitting and Crochet magazine. Each month in the run up to Christmas will release quick and easy 8 stocking designs. Rather fabulously you can download the first eight patterns from their website. As I am writing now I am getting excited for the weekend and the opportunity to pick up my hook!

christmas-stocking-crochet-pattern-emma-varnam

If you have a favourite festive pattern please do tell me. I would love to know. Have a great weekend x

 

Save

The Odds and the Ends – Stonewashed Cushion Cover

emma-varnam-little-river-cushion-scheppjers-stonewashed

Do you know why I taught myself to crochet? The odds and ends of yarn. The ever increasing yarn stash. Inspired by the post-war thifty chic, I saw that you could something really quite beautiful from all the clashing colours of crochet. It is a journey of learning and self-improvement I have never regretted. But the stash has never really got any smaller. Actually I think it might have increased. Darn.

little-river-blanket-scheepyers

The first pattern

With my recent Little River Blanket that I designed for Black Sheep Wools, I really tried to use up as much of the 25g ball of wool as I could. However, mindful of the need to leave a little bit of yarn to ensure everyone’s crochet tension was catered for, I left just a little bit of each colour. What to do?

emma-varnam-little-river-cushion-scheppjers-stonewashed

So I made some quick and easy solid granny squares. This is a traditional pattern. You can find it almost in any crochet stitch dictionary. A basic two round square.  I put together eight rows of eight columns and alternated each colour square with a square of Scheepjers Stonewashed Moonstone.

It was quick and easy to make. If you would like to make the squares yourself, feel free to follow the pattern below.

The basic pattern

BASIC SQUARE

Using your chosen yarn with 3.5mm hook, work 4ch and join with a sl st to form a ring.

Round 1:  5ch (counts as 1tr, 2ch), 3tr into ring, *2ch, 3tr; rep from * once, 2tr, sl st into 3rd ch at the beg of round. (4tr clusters). Do not fasten off.

Round 2: Sl st into ch sp, 5ch (counts as 1tr, 2ch), 2tr in same ch sp, 1tr in next 3str,  *(2tr, 3ch, 2tr) into next 3ch sp, 1tr into next 3tr, rep from * twice, 1tr into next 3ch sp, join with a sl st into 3rd of 5ch.

emma-varnam-little-river-cushion-scheppjers-stonewashed

Some Help

I know this standard patterns very well, but if you feel you need to follow a pattern why not look at the fabulous book by Emma Lamb; Crochet Home. I attached each square as I made it. This a very satisfying technique and a cushion cover is a great way to practice before you embark on a blanket. My top advice would be to look at the Youtube tutorial of Sandra Cherryheart. Her tutorials are brilliant and very clear. I tacked the crochet onto an old very plain cushion cover and that means that there is a nice uniformed backing behind the crochet.

emma-varnam-little-river-cushion-scheppjers-stonewashed

Now my cushion has pride of place in our kitchen, but I realise that not everyone has a shabby-chic aesthetic. I find that crochet look particularly good in the garden around this time. Cushions and blankets in a myriad of colours bring comfort and individuality to the outdoor space.

emma-varnam-little-river-cushion-scheppjers-stonewashed

You know what? I am rather thrilled with this last minute odds and ends make. My advice: don’t get hung up on the colour arrangement – let yourself have a bit of fun with a really random pattern. It is easy to overlook the left-overs, but isn’t the magic of craft taking something that would normally be thrown away and creating something beautiful and useful?

Save

Save

Colour Obsession – Duck Egg and Red

For all of us there are some colours that really appeal. They may have memories attached to them. They might be colours that make your complexion sing. They might have an ancient symbolism. When I am designing, there are some colour combinations which I keep returning to. Top of my list is Duck Egg and Red. I simply adore this pairing, it speaks to me of the simplicity, of vintage hues and cheery summer colours. Coastal seas and bright deck chairs. Cornish blue with polka dot red. Village Church Hall crockery and gingham table clothes. Time and time again this double act reoccurs in my work. Whilst I dabble in trendy yellow and grey, teal and copper, duck egg and red are the tones you will find in my home.

Granny Sqaure Home - Book- crochet- Emma - Varnam

Cute-Crocheted-Animals-British-Knitting-Crochet-Awards-2017

Over December and into the New Year I have taken a crochet break and exercised my knitting skills. I have been working on a fairisle cardigan, worked in the round with a yoke. I quite happily could have gone with the blue, white and red traditional colours for this Norweigan pattern. Instead I turned to my favoured palette for a bit of a change (not). I promise that I will share with you my finished cardigan.

It has been quite an adventure. However at the same time I have decided to make a knitted mitred square blanket. The vintage crochet blanket in Granny Squares Home has proved so popular that I felt it was only fair to try and make an equivalent vintage pattern which was knitted. Happy colours to brighten up the winter days. What are you favourite colour combination?

marius-jumper-emma-varnam

Save

Save

Save

Cart
  • No products in the cart.