Review: How to Crochet

Every season brings a new selection of crafting “How to” books and crochet is no exception. This latest publication from GMC Books is written by Emma Varnam, a familiar designer on the British crochet scene and well respected for her clearly written and imaginative patterns (she has a cheeky humour which is captured brilliantly in her work, such as the crochet Campervan she designed for Inside Crochet (you can see more examples of her work on her lovely blog) and the rather cute Bunny Toy you can find inside “How to Crochet”.

This little book is available at the very reasonable price of £7.99 and would fit easily into a project bag, making it the ideal gift for those friends who say “I’d love to learn to crochet…” Emma’s approach of matching projects to the skills you need to learn means that by working through the book, nothing is too daunting. No prior knowledge is assumed and Emma guides you through from holding the hook to making your first garment (a rather pretty shawl).

Whenever I teach a class I always take along a selection of crochet books and my copy of “How to Crochet” arrived just in time for a session with ladies from the local WI. It was well “road tested” by a group of complete beginners who declared it “A lovely book” and many said the price and layout appealed.

For the intermediate or more advanced crocheter, this book has little to offer in terms of expanding your skills –  but for the absolute beginner this is a perfect – and very welcome publication.

Affordable and with achievable projects which will inspire you to take your crochet further, I’m absolutely sure this book will set many people on the road to a life of crochet.

Details:

Paperback: 108 page

Publisher: GMC (7 Jun 2014)

ISBN 978-1861089472

With a RRP of £7.99 you can find this book on Amazon by clicking here

 

Your Handmade Home

YOUR-HANDMADE-HOME_NO-7Issue 7 of Your Handmade Home has just gone on sale and once again I’m really impressed with the colourful and stylish projects inside. It was also a bit of a thrill to see the simple crochet coasters I designed for Dorling Kindersley are featured on the cover! It should be available in most news agents, but is also available to buy online (with free p&p) by clicking here

Keep an eye out for future issues, which will feature some projects I have designed exclusively for Your Handmade Home readers. Meanwhile, get hold of this issue, with tips on upcycling,  sweet kitchen accessories and great makes for kids it really is an inspiring read.

New Crochet Design: Sandpiper Sweater

This week sees the publication of Crochet Gifts 4 from Practical Publishing. As usual it’s full of great crochet projects for all abilities, including this rather sweet “Breton” style sweater. I love designing for babies and this pattern is simple enough for a beginner (there is a little bit of shaping in the sleeves, but otherwise it’s just double crochet). The red buttons add a touch of style and practicality. For larger sizes, the button closure can be omitted, making a simple slash neck opening which is easy for independent toddlers to pull on and (more likely) off!

You can find the Ravelry listing for this project here and Crochet Gifts 4 is in the shops now.

 

New Design – Topsy Turvy Doll

LGC62-053.eip.pI have to admit to being just a little bit in love with this little lady. From the moment the yarn arrived from Let’s Get Crafting I knew she would be perfect. You can find the pattern in issue 62 of Let’s Get Crafting, which is on sale now. As always it’s full of inspiration for all skill levels and there are some really great projects this month. “Tilly” as she became known in our house, is an ideal first toy project, I deliberately set out to use simple increase and decrease techniques and if you haven’t “done” hair before, this knitted wig is very simple and perfect for beginners. I have a yearning to make a “fairytale” version of this doll, with long, long  plaits for Rapunzel.

LGC62-060.eip.p

If you are more confident knitter, knit the skirt in colourwork or stick to the plain design here. She’s “yours” now, so go ahead and make her just as you like!

As always, the photography is what really makes this design so special. Product photography is a real skill and the team at Cliqq have excelled themselves again. I know the Let’s Get Crafting team work hard to get the styling just right and I am thrilled with the pictures they have used for my little doll.

LGC62-063.eip.p

Also, thank you to all the readers who send in photos or post pictures on facebook of their makes. It’s a thrill to see my designs make their own way in the world!

Happy Making xxx

Photo Credit: All images by Cliqq Photography, supplied by Let’s Get Crafting

 

Friday Freebie: Birdhouse Doorstop

I am slowly updating all the free patterns which have appeared here over the last few years. This week I have a little door stop for you, just the thing to wedge open the back door and let some fresh air in on sunny days (ever the optimist I believe we’re in for a warm summer). This pattern was originally written as a fund raiser and appeared on the blog last May. There are so many ways you could use this basic template to embellish this little house and make it unique. What about a little country cottage with roses around the door or a cheerful beach hut?

You can find the pattern under the free patterns tab, or click here. I hope you enjoy it.

As with all my free patterns you can make and sell items for profit. A credit is nice and as always I do like to see photos of your makes, you can “tag” me on instagram, facebook or twitter (whichever is your preferred social media).

While we’re in a summery mood, I’ve also updated my crochet Bunting. You can find the free pattern here.

 

Introducing Meredith (crochet pattern)

image

Eagle eyed readers will recognise this as an adult version of the “Granny Square Toddler Tunic” I posted for sale last month. At the time, I wrote that I had made adult versions of this in the past and decided it was only fair to show you just how feminine and flattering the granny square can be.

In my youth there was a fashion for sewing huge granny squares together to make slash neck tops and t shirts, the results were often baggy, shapeless and very revealing.  Meredith solves this problem with a little neck and arm hole shaping and the “cross you heart” effect of the diagonal lines of the granny square gives the illusion of waist shaping. A hem edging in double crochet with a shell trim adds weight, which “pulls” the granny square. This extra length also helps to make it a more flattering shape for most figures.

For this version I have used a beautiful yarn. Willow Tweed, from the Louisa Harding range is a blend of Alpaca, Silk and Merino. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used this yarn for garments and accessories. It hand washes beautifully, becoming softer and silkier each time. You’ll need about 500m of double knitting yarn to make a version to fit a size 10 / 12 (you want a cm or two of negative ease).  I used a 3.5mm hook, anything bigger and your trebles will have a tendency to pull out of shape and look untidy. A useful tip, if you’re ever working with granny squares, a smaller hook  can go a long way to giving your motifs a professional finish.

I’ll be wearing this tank top for Woolfest this weekend. With a little vest underneath it’s great with jeans and come winter I’ll pop it over a blouse or long sleeve t shirt. If you ever needed proof that granny squares can be elegant and stylish this is it.

For more granny square inspiration, take a look at the “Crochet Inspiration” board on Pinterest or one of the dozens of books which celebrate this humble motif. If you can make a granny square, there is no end to what you can create, so pick up your hook and have fun.

Happy Making x

 

 

 

Introducing the Ellie Hat

Ellie Hat pairI have just added another new pattern to my online Etsy and Ravelry stores. This elegant hat is so easy to make, a beginner could manage it with ease.

The yarn used in the product photos is Eden Cottage Yarns Langdale Aran, a beautifully soft 100% Merino yarn which available in an extensive range of colours. This pretty green reminded me of spring, which is when the hat was made. The adult version has a raised front treble row to form a textured brim.

Ellie Hat close upWith a few “tweaks”, there is no reason why you can’t substitute a DK yarn for the aran specified in the pattern, using a 4mm hook will of course make a smaller hat, but the principle of increasing on each round makes alterations fairly easy.

DK version, made using Shilasdair Luxury DK

DK version, made using Shilasdair Luxury DK

Instructions are provided for newborn and adult size, for my DK version I simply followed the adult instructions.

Eden Cottage Yarns will be at Woolfest next weekend (27th and 28th June) and you’ll be able to see the hat on their stall and take a look at the beautiful range of yarn blends and colours hand dyed in Yorkshire. I’ll be at Woolfest too, just on Saturday this year, and I already have an extensive “wishlist”!

You can download the hat pattern from Etsy or Ravelry,

Photo Credit: The photos of the Ellie Hat crocheted in Langdale Aran are (c) Victoria Magnus for Eden Cottage Yarns

New Pattern: Target Garland

target garlandThis is such a brilliant pattern for summer! Mine hangs along the roof line of the wood shed and made in wool, it seems to cope well  whatever  the weather (in fact it’s beginning to felt a little and looks even better than it did 3 months ago!)

It’s a proper “stashbuster”, of course you could choose specific yarns to complement the theme of a summer party (think out door weddings, school fetes or upmarket barbeques), but I think part of its charm is the simplicity.

If your kids have been asking you to teach them to crochet, this is just what you need, after this amigurumi will be a breeze and they’ll be tackling all kinds of projects. I know from experience, it’s a great portable project too, ideal for bus or train journeys as the little circles are so portable and it fits in the smallest handbag.

You can find the pattern on Etsy and Ravelry for the bargain price of £2. All you need is a hook and a ball of yarn and you’ll be on your way. If you are crochet beginner, these little garlands make fabulous gifts, I often make this (or a variation) as baby shower or new born gifts for distant friends or relatives as it is easy to post and you can’t get the size wrong.

knited bird spotted small bestAlso available is this cute bird hanging, I must admit this was always a favourite  knitting design and I can’t think why it has taken me so long to release it as a single pattern.  I’ll be adding more patterns this week, so do look out for them and tell your friends x

Review: Sweet Mandarin Cook Book

Sweet Mandarin front cover hi resThis is a long overdue review of a fabulous book written by the team behind one of my favourite Manchester restaurants.

This book arrived on my desk way back in January, I was desperate to start trying the recipes, but it was weeks before I got a chance to dive in  and test it out.

Mr T senior died, I was ill, life got in the way and writing this review “fell off” my to do list. Until Friday night, when I turned to my current favourite recipe and realised in horror, as I turned the the soy sauce splashed pages I had never told you all what a brilliant book this is. The food splatters are perhaps an indication that this book has been well used. It fact, we cook from it at least a couple of times a month and every recipe we have tried has been easy to follow and delicious (almost as delicious as the food served at Sweet Mandarin itself, but not quite)

peninsula chicken recipeMany of the recipes are naturally gluten and dairy free, but wherever possible advice is given about substitutions or variations in the basic recipe. The Pork Rib Broth is delicious and the Steamed Mussels in Chinese Rice Wine were a huge hit when served to friends who “Don’t like Chinese food” – they are now converts – and proud owners of their own copy! Mr T has a particular fondness for the Peninsula -Style Chicken with Cashew Nuts, which is what we ate on Friday, with apologies to Helen and Lisa, we’ve tweaked the recipe slightly to add plenty of chopped spinach in addition to the carrots and spring onions (simply because I was too lazy to cook a side dish and the frozen spinach was handy)

peninsula chicken on plateI only just managed to take a quick photo as I dished up, poor Mr T does try to be patient when I whip out my phone to record our “eats”, but it was the end of a long week and he “needed” pampering and I had to admit I was pretty hungry too.

Manchester has more than its fair share of great Chinese restaurants (Mr T have eaten at most of them over the years), but Sweet Mandarin is worth seeking out, avoid China Town, head towards the Northern Quarter and enjoy a fabulous meal (here’s a map if you are tempted). The restaurant is particularly friendly for anyone on a special diet, with gluten and dairy free options and a great choice for vegetarians. If you can’t make it into Manchester, buy the book and recreate many of their specialities in your own kitchen, and if all else fails, you can find their delicious sauces in the “free from” aisle of most large supermarkets, Mr T recommends the Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce!

Book Details

Published by Kyle Books at £18.99, find the Waterstones listing here.

Recipe: Multi Seed Crackers

chia crackers 2Just lately my Instagram feed has been full of people posting about chia seeds and questions about what to do with them. These tiny seeds are being described as “the latest health craze” and this piece from the Huffington Post is worth a read if you haven’t come across them before.

I first came across them while visiting a wholefood cafe in Philadelphia a few years back. Our soup came with a side dish of dips and amazingly crunchy little crackers. They were described”grain free,  multigrain crackers” on the menu. Intrigued, I asked the waitress if the chef might be interested in a recipe swap and in return for  emailing him a copy of my Marmalade Cake, he sent me this.

For a long time I couldn’t track down chia seeds in my local health food shop, but eventually found them online and now they are widely available. The recipe only works if you use the chia seeds, they absorb the liquid and help the mixture to bind. Believe me I tried without and the result weren’t as successful.

The recipe is based on cups, so if you don’t have a set of American measuring cups, grab yourself a small tea cup or a tablespoon measure and use that. This recipe makes about 15 crackers and they store well in an airtight tin. If you like them, double up the recipe and make a bigger batch. They are a delicious accompaniment to the vegan standby of hummus or guacamole, but equally good with cheese (and home made pickle of course). They are suitable for most “free from” diets, being gluten, grain, dairy, egg and nut free.

You can find the recipe by clicking here.

Yes, they look like bird food, reminiscent of the dry, tasteless “health food” bars I bought in the 1980’s. Don’t be fooled, they are crunchy, tasty and it’s almost impossible to stop at one. Don’t ask me how many I nibbled while trying to get a good photo (we wait all year for the sun to shine and then when it does we find reason to complain!!)

 

 

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    In a garden with no view - the clouds are our entertainment - moody day today! #nofilter The result of last night's crochet in front of the tv, just need to find a couple of cheeky monkeys to fit them!!!#crochet  #lovecrochet  #kidswear Fennel! Just spent two hours digging up this "thug" & it  looks like there will be more digging tomorrow. Ah well my florist friends will enjoy the seed heads come autumn! #growyourown #gardening #garden Potato cakes! Just made a batch for Mr T while having a tea break -  using last night's leftovers - I know how to spoil him!! #lovefoodhatewaste #fomesticgoddess What happened to summer? Pulling on the crochet for my morning walk around the garden!
#crochet #lovecrochet #handmade Now is the ideal time to start thinking about making Christmas gifts. These lovely coasters are the perfect warm weather project and can be made in any cotton dk (Pattern featured in Your Handmade Home issue 7 ) #crochetpatterns #crochet #handmade Every kitchen chair needs a comfy cushion & a bit of crochet!!! A quick way to update a plain cover.
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