What have I been making? Shocking Pink

I like the fact that there is a seasonal rhythm to our year. I like the fact that in January I dedicate weekends to full blown marmalade production. Now at the end of August the trees are heavily laden with plums and my mind turns to sticky jam making. All is pretty pink and has soft tones in that late summer light.

This year has been very book focused. So much so that I have failed to share with you my latest book published in any detail. I promise I will. One book, started in the very early Spring is now finished. Things will happen in the background now and I won’t see it until Spring next year. Then over the summer I have been designing items for the next book. These are all things I can’t share with you as the develop, which makes for a very quiet and dull blogging life.

But….but… when I am designing, I also need my hobby projects. Items which have no pattern, no purpose apart from delighting me. Firstly lets talk about my new Granny Squares Jacket. I have called it my Dahlia jacket, as the colours are inspired by the vivid tones of glorious Dahlias. I made a red Granny Squares jacket years ago (2017!), way before the last seasons fashion obsession of our joyful classic squares. I love it very much and it often makes an appearance around Christmas time. This original jacket is made in Stylecraft Life DK and it has knitted sleeves using a double moss stitch pattern. I knitted the sleeves as I wanted to eliminate the bulk of a crochet stitch. But even as I was making it, I thought…perhaps I could create these sleeves in a crochet linen stitch for the same type of drape.

In early summer I went off the Black Sheep Wools for a book signing event and the evening before I thought…’it would be helpful if I had a summery Granny Squares jacket….something bright and colourful…’. The idea of the Dahlia version was born. I took the idea of the colours in our garden at that time and threw in a little bit of neon pink for added zing. Sitting with my family watching the TV, both boys would look across and then immediately avert their eyes, declaring…’argh! it’s too bright!’. Good I say. Exactly the look I am aiming for.


So I used my first jacket as a template, and made the set it sleeves in crochet linen stitch. I made this jacket slightly smaller as I always make my knitwear far too large. I am more than happy with it… it is bright and joyful. Looks great with white. I think it will work in the early autumn. I can only apologise to friends who are forced to spend time with me wearing it.


I know some people may ask, have I created a pattern? I am sorry that I haven’t. For a number of years I designed crochet garments for Inside Crochet Magazine, which I loved. But I found the sizing challenging and I am always very conscious that creating a design needs to encapsulate all sizes and shapes. Perhaps in the future I will work with a tech-editor on this design. In the mean time I will enjoy wearing the jacket in all it’s crazy colours.


For those who have interest – the colour recipe is from Stylecraft Special DK – I have used Bright pink for the base and added in Spice, Dandelion, Powder Pink, Vintage Peach, Pomegranate the real zinger is Fiesta… I adore it. I have used linen stitch for the edges and have created a collar, exactly like my first jacket. It hurts the eyes to look at. No photo really does the colour justice, but boy does it make me smile x

If you are looking for something simpler to make, I have seen that lots of people have returned to my free Autumn pumpkin pattern which is in my shop. This has been available for years and it is a really simple pattern for the season ahead.

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Pyjama Patrol and daring to dig

For days on end I have been out very early in the morning and peered down at very unpromising flower pots. Day after day nothing seems to appear. I was getting a bit concerned. We have had a very cold spring and I have been worried that I had planted out my dahlia tubers far too early. The cold and frosty winter ‘did-for’ last year’s tubers. Even though they still had their summer soil keeping them cosy and were wrapped in newspaper, their hibernation in the garage was disastrous. Not one tuber survived. Unwrapping my precious collection was like a very soggy version of a rotten potato Christmas.

So I started my collection again – some very reasonable sale bargains. My ‘Cafe au Lait’ tuber was a must at any price. All were placed in a pot of soil to ‘start them off’. But I have gambled with weather and with no cold frame or greenhouse, resolved to just place them near to the house on the patio.


So there we are daily pyjama patrol checking on the promise of floral glamour for the summer. Finally tiny, tiny little lime green shoots appeared on the surface…hurrah. Then like nothing I have ever seen. The shoots grow almost visibly. Another debate appears on the horizon. When do I turf the tulips out of their pots to make space for their summer cousins; the sweet peas, the cosmos and the dahlias. This weekend has seen the great change over. The whole process takes much longer than I think.

I allow myself to indulge in pure hobby inefficiency. It you were watching – you would witness how random and cluttered the whole process appears. I revitalised old compost with some new peat-free (OBVS) and dig deep into the pots to find hidden bulbs. Hours fly by and I almost forget about meals. Finally everyone is in their new home. Yes I have too many sweet pea plants. Surely they are the courgette of the flower world. Yes, in their new home the sweet peas are sulking. They always seem very unhappy to be moved in to larger, pots of beautiful yummy compost. Proper mardy.

The pot collection has grown… I don’t know how… really I don’t. But I do know that growing in pots has given me confidence with plants I would never had the courage to raise. I would never have put the tulips in the borders had I not seen the success in the pots.

I have added hollyhocks and and delphiniums to my collection this year. It is a daring thing to do. I love their cottage garden prettiness so much, that I can’t bear it when they get eaten. It is heart breaking, But we will see. If dahlias have taught me anything it is…who dares wins.


The image are some dahlias and cosmos from last year. I always forget how big they get and so I have put in the ugly supports in already – it will save me snapping stems unintentionally. I have top dressed the pots with Strulch. I love it (no ad/or gift here) I genuinely love it for my beds and copied my local nursery who have used it for top-dressing.

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In anticipation of rest

Does it start on a Thursday night? Perhaps more frequently around 11am on Friday? The planning, the dreaming of weekend making. It is the agony of choice, decisions…decisions. The joy of mediative stitching is so physical so psychological that it needs planning. Have I got all the yarn I need to complete that scarf? What is my mood? Knitting or crochet? Shall I make that new pattern I spied on Instagram? Friday night knitting is the best.

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of projects that I SHOULD be doing. But the start of the weekend is all about kicking back and enjoying the hobby. Poor planning can get you into mad dash territory. If you are particularly passionate about a project and prepare enough in advance then you can order yarn on-line or work in a visit to your local yarn store. I wish I was always that organised. Yesterday I felt a real yearning (yarning) to finish my most recent Sophie Scarf. This is a beautifully simple knitted neckerchief design by Danish designer Petit Knit. I have a burgundy version I have worn ALOT this winter. Last weekend I cast on my second in a red tweed. But…, but I have played yarn chicken * with this project and so very near the end I have run out of yarn.

Yes… yes… I should know better…my goodness I know… but this is why we all have yarn stashes of part used yarn. In the tiny gap between the school run and making supper I dashed to my nearest yarn stockist (not my favourite place) and was disappointed to find their diminishing stock and fairly bare shelves. Darn…Grrr….Mmmm. Plans are scuppered.

Now it is at this point that we need to get our yarn faces straight. Not a disaster…an opportunity. What is the plan?

Sometimes you will be saintly and return to that long languishing WIP (work in progress). Sometimes you might punish yourself with a …’well forget it all together… I won’t knit/crochet at all tonight!’. (Who am I kidding?). More frequently I will do what I did this weekend. Find a different colour and start the same project. Same mediative stitch, same excellent pattern, new colour. Result.

So you are set up now. A little cheeky date with your yarn. The lamps are on. Perhaps you will have a chilled glass of your favourite tipple. Perhaps you will have the last of the Christmas chocolate. Your place on the sofa is calling. What you really don’t want now. I mean really don’t want is that text/message/phone call. ‘Hey we are going out…do you fancy coming?’ Decisions…decisions. Who am I kidding? Break the ball band lets go!

* Yarn Chicken – is where you estimate that you have enough yarn to finish a project. You dare your self to get to the end. Most of the time we lose yarn chicken. Very rarely we win.

The Green scarf is the Sophie scarf from Petit Knit knitted in Stylecraft Grace. The Pink Blanket is my Soft Summer Blanket – yarn recipe in this blog post. The hexagon blanket is my Spring Garden Blanket which I have never written up.

In anticipation of rest Read More »

Oranges save January


Eurgh…. don’t you just hate Janurary…?’ My friend had just popped round with a belated gift and like many friends could find no Winter light at the end of this tunnel we call January.

‘Yes I know what your mean…but honestly I think Marmalade has put a whole new perspective on this month. I can’t wait to get stuck in! The sticky performance might take up even 3 weekends!’.

Suddenly our conversation brightened and orders were placed and promises of spare jars were made. Very like the Paddington films; marmalade has transformational powers.

I first started experimenting with this sticky alchemy a few years ago. My first attempts went spectacularly wrong and dear blog readers pointed me in the right direction of brilliant recipe books and fail-safe texts. There is nothing I adore more for a weekend breakfast than a thick sliced piece of toast, lavishly spread with salted butter and topped with a ‘homemade’ (I stress HOMEMADE) marmalade. Be still my furring heart.


I first felt inspired to make my own because acquired jars of homemade marmalade were not getting me through a years worth of Saturdays. Like many valuable things in life. My very favourite jar is not made by me… but rather one of my dearest and oldest friends. Like a cup of tea, or a meal made by someone else, the fact that the jar has been cooked by her own fair hand – and not mine, makes it all the more delicious.

But it occurred to me that I could fill the gap by making my own and the seasonal window for the Seville Orange harvest makes January a very special month.

You need to be alert early in January to ensure you bag your special oranges. I popped out on the 2nd to visit my local grocer to see if he had a delivery. These oranges are not lookers. They look more lumpy and less orange than your fruit-bowl fruit. He spotted me immediately and with a knowing nod and a cheeky smile gestured to the box stacked out on the pavement – full of golden orbs from Seville. I was delighted and phoned home to enthuse. ‘I’ve got them…the hunt is off!’ I think all were relieved.


So for the next few weeks there will be a two day performance. The first day of juicing, scraping, slicing and soaking and the second of watching, waiting, measuring, peering, checking and pouring. All in a haze of sticky citrus. The final jars will be held up to the light, to see how clear the elixir appears.


If the first week goes well, I will move onto thick cut and dark marmalade. I have ‘NEVER’ made a consistent product. It saddens me. My Dad and my husband prefer this type and in recent years the taste has been grand but the consistency is sloppy….delicious but very below par. This year… this year.


I have also bought some pink grapefruits so I am thinking of mixing it up on the third weekend. We will see. The priority my friends is to make enough marmalade to last me a year of weekend breakfasts. In addition there are special recipients – people who value the process – people I love. This is perhaps a more accessible form of ‘creative gifting’. Let’s be honest, not everyone wants a knitted or crocheted item from me (HOW VERY DARE THEY!) but some love a jar of homemade marmalade and I am delighted to show my appreciation of our friendship with a ceremonial handing over of the jar.


So we have begun and I am thrilled. It is my scientific month-long sticky hobby. Delightfully it makes me look forward to January.

The World Marmalade Awards are held every year in Dalemain in the Lake District. If you feel inspired to make your own, why not enter a jar into the competition and join the band of this most delightful of traditions. You can also visit the festival which occurs in April this year.

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Yarn Diaries – November -Granny Square Scarf


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!


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Dear Blog – Happy Anniversary


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.

Dear Blog – Happy Anniversary Read More »

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.


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?’


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 Spikey Story Read More »

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.

A new thing – Baby Animals Read More »

Blocking Boards – All the Chetnanigans


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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