Sunday, 24 September 2017

Book Review - Cute Crocheted Animals by Emma Varnam

Emma Varnam is one of the sweetest people I have met in the design world. Recently I was able to help her with a little matter and the next thing I know, she sent me a signed copy of her book as thanks! How generous is that? So, I have decided to review it, because this book is a treasure trove of talent and fun and you should have a copy.

Emma and her book

The first thing that you will notice about this book is the photography. The colours are beautiful and they make you just want to flip through the book again and again for the pictures alone. The book is well thought out in terms of layout and content. The index is clear and concise, so you can either bliss your way gradually through the whole book, or you can jump right to where you need to go to get started.

The photography is spectacular
The contents page is well laid out

This book isn't just a generic make the body and change the ears type of book. Each character is lovingly described in terms of structure and accessories. The faces aren't all the same and there are little touches everywhere that show not only attention to detail, but a desire to produce the ultimate complete item, rather than having to look elsewhere for embellishments. There is a whole cast and crew of animals to make, and each one of them are gorgeous. My two little boys have requested just about every animal in the book, and I'm glad that my daughter can't say much beyond Mumumumum. LOL. Believe me, we'll end up with the whole menagerie and an entire wardrobe of clothes!

The attention to detail is phenomenal

When it comes to the wardrobe, again Emma has not stinted in effort. It's not just a generic dress and coat. There are button tops and cabled tops, and tops with a design or stripes. There's a hooded coat, a short coat, a long coat and more. There really is an entire wardrobe that you can make for these gorgeous characters.

An entire wardrobe awaits

But the wardrobe doesn't just end at clothes. No, there are accessories as well. Anything that you see in the photographs of the animals has a pattern to go with it.

Accessories are included in the list of patterns

Now all of this might seem overwhelming, but do  not be alarmed, because the patterns are well written with clear instructions so that even a beginner could take on the creation of a treasured friend for a little treasure.

Instructions are clear and concise

This book is a gift that allows you to keep on giving. A rabbit with an outfit for a birthday, and a new outfit for Christmas. I don't know about you, but I loved dressing up my toys when I was young. I even sewed together a waistcoat out of fabric scraps for my favourite teddy. I'm looking forward to getting my hooks into some more of these patterns so that I can share the joy with my children too.

Clear Instructions: 5*
Layout: 5*
Variety: 5*
Attention to detail: 5*

Worth purchasing? Goodness, YES!

Happy Hooking

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Blogstars Meet-up, February 2017!

Oh me, oh my! Where do I even begin to talk about my experience on the weekend? What experience you ask? Well, that is probably the best place to start.

Twice a year, the Stylecraft Blogstars head over to the mill at Slaithwaite to meet up with the fabulous Annabelle, Sophie, Anna and Juliet (and others whom I haven't met yet - we'll get to that though), and talk about the upcoming season and (SQUEE) new yarn! Those of you who have been following me, know that I'm in Australia, so while it's technically possible for me to attend, realistically it will be a few years before I can get over there to actually physically do it. 😭

So, this time arround, we tried SKYPE. I wasn't the only non-UK member this time, my beautiful friend Zelna of Zooty Owl joined us from South Africa. We had a bit of a dress rehearsal a few days before, because the best laid plans of mice and technology "gang aft agley" (translated - go pear shaped, lol. Dear Mr Burns just rolled over in his grave!) With a bit of fiddling, and a definite "I don't think this will work, Mum." from an "anonymous" source, we actually got there, with Zelna and I in a joint SKYPE chat with Annabelle. That was it, the bar was set! This was going to work!

In anticipation of the weekend, Stylecraft had sent Zelna and I yarn packs in opaque bags with big lettering saying "Do not open until February 4th". I have to tell you, it was the most unusual form of torture to see the box with those puffy bags and not touch them, but I did it! (Mind you, I did consume more chocolate than normal). You will have to wait until the next post to find out some of what they contained, because some of that news is still embargoed. I know! It's killing me not to tell you!

Now, one thing you don't think of when you're talking about international chat, is time zone differences. The Blogstars arrived at the mill on Friday afternoon and went for a trip to the Knit and Crochet Guild Archives. Apparently it was fascinating, but you're going to have to check their blogs for what it was like, I cannot help you there. So, for Zelna and I, the weekend actually started on the Saturday morning. It isn't so bad for Zelna as she's only two hours ahead, but I'm a full 11 hours ahead at the moment, so when they commenced at 10am, it was already 9pm my time. I have to say though, I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I wish it was every weekend!

So, here's a shot of my talented companions, from Left to right: Jane of Janie Crow, Phil of The Twisted Yarn, Sarah of Annaboos House, Heather of The Patchwork Heart, Julia of Hand Knitted Things, Lucy of Attic 24, Helen of The Knitting Exploits of Josie Kitten, Emma of Emma Varnam, Sandra of Cherry Heart, Lucia of Lucia's Fig Tree and last but certainly not least, Kathryn of Crafternoon Treats. The gorgeous Sue of Shropshire Scrapper Suz unfortunately couldn't be with us this time.

That's a lot of talent for one room, and for me, they're all my crochet idols, so by the time I was due to sit down at my computer and log into skype, I was ready to either pee my pants or vomit! (So I went to the bathroom and at least eliminated the first option, lol).

Now, you must be wondering what went on. Well, lots of introductions, lots of laughter, and a great deal of learning by everyone. It was a thoroughly well thought out day. The first item on the agenda was of course the yarn on the table - or in my case, the parcel beside my chair. I was finally allowed to open it, and there was much laughter in the room at my OOh's and Aaahs and Oh Wow's. They got it, they knew my excitement - it was such a beautiful moment for me because they UNDERSTOOD! I tell you now, it was better than Christmas morning when you're still a child. It was the "best Christmas morning ever" lol. I wasn't the only blogstar keen to get a look at what was inside. 😜

Now this is the kind of meeting that all yarnies want to go to - nobody bats an eyelid when you pick up hook or needles and start working way. In fact, it's encouraged! But of course, it wasn't just a stitching event, lol, so eventually we turned our eyes toward the projector and got down to business.

I'm the shorter one with the silver computer lol. They were all saying how we had special treatment with "Front row seats!" I have to agree, it was an excellent spot to sit, and we had copies of the powerpoint presentation emailed to us beforehand.

I could show you what was in it, but then I'd have to kill you. Suffice to say, my heart was constantly having little flutters! There should be a warning before they show you lovely things like that!

Here I am, in the dark like a good little mushroom, lol, being introduced to the others. Very kindly they all came one by one up to my screen and gave their name and blog and said hello. (Like I wouldn't know who they all were because I admire them so much, giggle). The blur in the corner is me waving to them all. You can see how excited I was. Later on I turned on the overhead light, but at that point I wanted to be unobtrusive while the powerpoint got underway.

Here we are after the powerpoint, and I'll show you the view I had....

It's a bit blurry I'm afraid, but I spent several hours just absorbing so much. Now that I've seen the podiums I understand why, but I kind of felt like a little kid at the adults table. LOL. 

After all the important stuff was done, we then had a workshop on Tunisian Crochet. I've had a bit of a dabble with this before, I've tested a pattern for a friend, but it was a bit of a mental exercise to remember how to do it. I'll show you what I managed to cobble together in the next post, because the yarn I used to do it with is one of the new yarns by Stylecraft and it is awesome!

Happy Stitching!

A special thank you to Phil Saul, Sophie Cromwell and Helen Kurtz for allowing me to use their photographs. xoxo

Friday, 21 October 2016

Color Inpiration with Courtney {Desert Dusk Mandala Madness}

I'm really privileged as I journey with yarn to meet some totally fabulous people and to make some friendships that I know will last for the rest of my life. My friendship with Courtney is one of those special miracles that keep on blessing me through and through.

I love her eye for colour, she produces the most amazing palettes and I love to help people, which she does too. So when I asked her to do a guest blog post for me on colour choice and colour inspiration, Courtney jumped at the chance. I'm thrilled to pieces with what she has written for you, and I hope that we'll be able to bring more colour creativity to you in the future. I also hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I did, I know I learned a thing or two. 


Color Inspiration with Courtney 

(Desert Dusk Mandala Madness) 

One of the questions I am most often asked is where I come up with my color combinations in my crochet projects.  The simple truth is that I pull inspiration from the world around me.  I see color everywhere and paint that color into my fiber work. 

Today I would like to talk about the inspiration behind one of those projects and show you how I pulled the colors from an object in my home and translated them into a crochet project.

The project I’m going to be talking about today is my {Desert Dusk} version of Mandala Madness by Helen Shrimpton.  The pattern for this project is available here:  Mandala Madness Pattern

When I decided to do this project it was a crochet along and so the finished piece was a mystery.  I was having very real trouble picking a color palette without knowing what the final piece would look like.  I could not settle on anything that thrilled me.  I had just come home from a trip to Arizona, where I’m from, and a funeral, and I was missing my desert home.  I was wandering around my house thinking about home and at that moment my eyes fell on a small hand thrown Native American Pot that I had purchased on one of my many drives through the Painted Desert in Arizona… and I knew I had found my inspiration.


Finding the inspiration for your colors is the first step and it’s your biggest hurdle.  You need to choose something that speaks to you.  An inspiration piece that is just that, inspiration.  This piece speaks of the warmth of the desert days, the colors and the heat and the stark contrast of mountains unrelieved by vegetation or moisture.  Garnering color only from the sun.  It is a true representation of home for me and so it speaks to me.  

When you choose something to pull color from you need to choose something that speaks equally to you for your own reasons.

The next step is deciding which colors to pull from the inspiration piece.  In this particular piece there aren’t many colors so I pulled them all.  The dusty orange, the gold, the charcoal, the silver, the denim blue, and the icy blue. Six colors all contrasting each other would make my palette.

When choosing your colors, you want to pay attention to basic color theory.  Now color theory is a huge concept that fills encyclopedias and has been argued by scientists and painters and changed through the centuries.   But it honestly doesn’t have to be intimidating.  

My preferred method is to have contrasting colors, cool colors, and warm colors and some form of neutral that allows me to play them off of each other.  For this project I knew I wanted the orange and the gold so I made sure I had the blues as a cool color and then the two colors of grey to be a neutral base color to set off those bold contrasting colors.

For more information on color theory feel free to explore, there are some fairly easy to use tools available.  Here are a few wonderful links to start with if you are interested. 

This link will explain basic beginner color theory:

This link will give you an idea of how to choose your colors based on the color wheel:

I set about pulling these colors from my stash yarns and you can see a little more about that and see how each section progressed in my project page here:  {Desert Dusk}

 If you are interested in reproducing this colorway, I have worked out it’s equivalent for you in Stylecraft Special DK.  The following colors should give you a very similar pallet in a very lovely soft and versatile yarn. 

Spice 1711
Mustard 1823
Aster 1003
Sherbert 1034
Graphite 1063
Silver 1203

A very good tool for learning how to draw colors from an object or picture is a color palette picture.  You can find these in multitude on Pinterest.  I have a Color Inspiration Board which I invite you to take a look at:  My Color Inspiration Board 

Color inspiration can be found anywhere.  I have found it in a field of flowers and in a woman’s winter coat while she had lunch with her children, as well as in many of the things in my own home.  I wonder if you will find inspiration in your own home?  The things you surround yourself with would not be sitting on your shelves and tucked away in your corners if you weren’t drawn to them. 

Until next time,

Courtney a.k.a. Spin A Yarn 32

You can find Courtney at the following places:
Spin a Yarn 32 on Facebook

Spin a Yarn 32 on Ravelry
Spin a Yarn 32 on Etsy