Monday, 31 March 2014

Getting lost

Its been another busy week here and I've been stuck in the studio most of the time. I quite a few projects on, all for magazines and all very different and challenging. Today I had to head to the post office with the first bundle of finished amigurumis, so I could at least get a bit of fresh air.

I haven't been to my nearest post office here before. I live just outside York and my day job is in the center of town so I can usually use the post office there. I've lived at this side of York for over a year but I still don't know it very well and usually only go as far as the local coop but Google maps said the post office was only 15 minuets walk so off I set.

Well I don't know what happened but I got lost. I hadn't taken my phone so didn't have a map I'd just scribbled down roads I needed to turn down and soon I couldn't find any of the right roads. I like to think I have a good sense of direction so I just wondered about in what I thought was the general direction I was heading. Before I came to the post office I found a lovely wooded area.

 I been tramping around streets that all look like the same kind of suburban hell when I saw the signs for the woods. I know one of the shops I know was near a wood so I though it might make a nice short cut. As soon as I was under the canopy of trees the sound of birdsong was overpowering. It felt like something out of  a fairy story. There were no other people to be seen just me and the birds, squirrels and foxes. I didn't actually see a fox, I saw a big ginger cat that I thought was a fox but I'm sure they were there.
 Instead of taking a shortcut I walked right around the wood. It was wonderful. I had been inside for 90% of my time over the four previous days working all hours and it was like I'd been given just what I needed without asking for it.

 The daffodils were out and I could see in a few more weeks the ground would be covered in bluebells. I'll be coming back for that, that's for sure.
I found the post office in the end I had managed to walk in a huge loop around it. I finally found a street that was on my list and released I was heading home so by retracing my steps a bit I was able to find the post office. It really is only about 10mins from my house but I don't mind if I get lost again it seems there are lots of things round here to find.

Back home and back to work. Its all magazine stuff so I can show anything yet. I will just this once give you a sneaky peek of an upcoming Craftseller project.

This is made of squares that you crochet together as you go along. I need 72 squares for the project and so far I've made 40 and I've run out of yarn. I hope it gets delivered in time as my deadline is the April the 8th but at least now I can have a little break and have a catch up at handmade monday

Monday, 24 March 2014


I know I've mentioned the book I did some crochet patterns for but I thought it deserved its own post so here goes.

Just over a year ago I was checking my email on the bus to the day job. I got a lovely one from my editor at inside crochet. At the end she asked if I might me interested in doing some designs for a book she was working on.

I said yes of course and got a reply saying she wanted a rag doll, polar bear, bunny, finger puppets and a turtle backpack. The deadline was just over a month away and even though I was pretty new to pattern writing for publication at this point and I knew it would be hard work, I had to say yes, it was so exciting.

They needed the written patterns first and two weeks into my deadline I was still waiting for the designs to be signed off and to receive  the yarn. To say I was cutting it fine was an understatement. I was then also asked if I could design a bear for the how to section in addition to my other projects. Why not I thought (I must have been mad).

There was nothing to it but to knuckle down and work. I wasn't going to get the yarn in time so I was going to have to make a mock up of the designs using anything I had to test the pattern so I could get the written patterns in.

First up was the polar bear
 I was asked for a polar bear with a scarf. I knew I wanted it to look like a proper polar bear and not an amigurumi style bear. This first photo is of the mock up. To this day this mock up bear only has two legs. He only needed two for the photo and even then I nearly ran out of yarn. He's still in my UFO (unfinished objects) box, one day I'll remember what yarn I used and be able to finish him. I think it was smoothie something. Hes a cutie he deserves to be finished.

 Here is polar bear mark II finished in the rowan handknit cotton and ready to go off to the publishers.

In the book :) This was the first page of the book I saw as it was released on dks website before the book came out. It was a very exciting moment.

Next up the rag doll.

 When I saw they wanted a rag doll I thought they wanted a doll plus clothes so it could change its dresses. I've never made a doll like that so I was a bit daunted but thankfully this wasn't the case, they just wanted a simple doll. I didn't need to do much of a mock up on this one as I knew the pattern design would work. The publishers did want to see a mock up of her face so the design team could okay it. I had hardly any time to whip this up and email them a pic. Do you like the way I just plonked a ball of brown wool on her head to make it look like hair? Professional to the last that me ;)

 Here she is ready to be sent off. I did the hair properly this time. Its a time consuming and repetitive job, every strand has to be knotted into place but I think its worth it. It makes it safer for kids - no way is it going to be pulled out, also it can be played with and styled. Well we all played with our dolls hair when we were kids didn't we, so I kinda figured she needs good hair.

The finished photo from the book. I'm so pleased with how she turned out, she looks really pretty.

What shall we look at next?

Finger puppets

 I have never made finger puppets before so I had to make mock ups of these. The lion, monkey and elephant were easy. I used the basic pattern from the bobble bunch to create their heads and then made a body that you could put your finger up. The parrot - well I think that one was luck rather than good judgement. I can not remember how I worked out the pattern design. I was in the blur of just getting it all done. I rather like it though, it is defiantly a parrot. The crocodile was more tricky, I just couldn't get it to look right and I was never happy with it. Some you win - some you lose.

 The second problem I had was when the yarn for these bad boys was chosen by the publishers design team. They picked a 4ply, DMC natura cotton, I had worked the pattern out for a DK weight yarn and now they were going to be too small. Panic time. I knew I might have to adjust the pattern and that meant a lot more work and I was really running out of time. Thankfully it turned out this yarn fit the pattern perfectly. I have a very strong love for DMC natura cotton yarn now and use it a lot in my designs. I'm sure you can understand why.

Look the fit on little peeps fingers. How cute is this photo from the book. I've can even forgive the crocodile after seeing this.

Okay its bunny time.
I don't have any pictures of the mock up of this. I don't know why. I do have a very ugly sketch I'm embarrassed to say I sent in to the publishers but I'm not sharing that here. I had been asked for a stripy bunny with long ears. I've written a lot of patterns for bunnies so this was pretty straight forward. I gave them a stripy bunny with long ears :)
  I was using the DMC natura again which worked perfectly and the colours are lovely. I'm a big fan of yellow so I was happy with the colours the design team wanted. I think it looks like hes wearing pajamas.
 I must have made him look a little to sad as the finished bunny from the book has been cheered up. I don't mind this at all, he looks fab. I also really like the way they have him sitting in this photo, its given me lots of ideas on how to improve my own photos.

This is the group shot at the beginning of the toy section. They all look jolly together along with the rattles by Emma Varnam

OK where next...

Turtle backpack
I have never made a turtle and I have never made a backpack. My fist thought was its gonna be big, its going to take up a lot of the time I had available to make everything and I was going to have to make it twice. This photo is of the mock up created to write the pattern.I got a very fixed design guide for this from the publishers so I just worked with what I knew. seven hexagon motifs joined to form a round and make the shell, one head, four legs and a tail. I went about it like I was designing a cushion. It worked out ok for my first attempt at anything so big.

 Finished in the colours given to me by the design team. One of the great things about this is that it is a bigger project, the hexagons and parts can be made gradually and when constructed together you get a real sense of achievement. I didn't have the luxury of time so I had to break the land speed record for crocheting to get this done and in on time.

 I love it now of course. Its all lined and I put a zip in (my least favorite job ever). I think the blue buckles are cute too.

From the book. I think the size is just right, I didn't have a little kid to try it on so its great seeing it how it should be worn. Its actually a really nice pattern and seeing it I'm tempted to make another for my nephew Lucas.

Ok last up - The how to bear

I don't have a picture of the mock up or the finished bear before it was sent to the publisher. I think I was getting tired by this point. I'd been working long days for over four weeks. I had never had a work scheduled like it and I was having to fit it around my day job at Duttons.
 This bear was for the section in the book were it shows you how to make amigurumi style toys so I had to make a complete bear and one in pieces. They have done a great job with the book and this section is really well laid out, making it easy to understand how to assemble the toys.

With all my work done and posted off I just had to wait and nearly a year later the postman delivered me this. I know I'm biased as some of my patterns are in it but I really was blown away with how stunning this book is. First off its huge a big heavy coffee table book with stunning photography and projects.

It takes you from first picking up a crochet hook and learning your first stitches. Then with every stitch you learn there is a new project you can make simply that will give you experience of that stitch. It builds your knowledge and skills until you can tackle anything. Its not just a book for beginners though, there are lots for any skill level to enjoy. There is not a duff project in it everything is beautiful and shows off crochet in a way to be proud of.

I love this book so much, I'm already making the blanket from the cover and I want to make the lacy cardigan next. I love that I have patterns published in this book it makes me feel very happy to be a crochet designer.

You can buy the book from amazon

Its time to link up with handmade monday :)

Monday, 17 March 2014


Its been a lovely busy week here at the studio. I've been working on the latest project for Craftseller magazine which I can't tell you about yet sorry. I can say when I had finished one of the little critters and put him in my palm I fell instantly in love, hes just so cute that I couldn't quite believe it.

Thats the thing I love about crochet, it can always surprise. The design of the pattern takes a lot of methodical thinking and working the maths out. I don't mind this, I'm a big maths geek and I can spend days working out the best way to transfer the design into 3d crochet form. The best bit though is when you get everything hooked up and sewn together and you meet your new creation. No matter how long I spent at the design side I still get a surprise when that new little critter has arrived and its really cute.

I love my job :)

On to magazines.
Its a lovely thud on the floor that can only mean one thing - Mr postman has delivered a magazine

I wasn't expecting my chicks to make the cover of craftseller so that can as a lovely surprise. So much so that I completely forgot I'd done two projects for this months Craftseller.
I was flipping through when I  came to this photo. I remember looking at it and thinking it was nice and quite like a bag I had made recently. I went on reading and enjoying my cup of tea not thinking anything more about it. It was an embarrassing amount of time later when I released it actually was my work.
I guess it just goes to show how busy I am at the moment - that or I'm going mad.

I did notice this at the back though.

In the coming next month section is a little sneaky peek at my spring cushion looking very pretty.

So that's two magazines with my work on the cover this month. A lot of the other craft magazines are also showing pictures of my work as they contain reviews of the crochet book I contributed to with photos of my dolls.

I had a moment in the newsagent, pointing at magazines saying "I'm in that one, I'm in that one, I'm in that one..." like the big child that I am. Its a bit of a change from three years ago when I was just starting to really think about writing patterns and I'd be in the newsagents clutching crochet magazines hoping one day they would print my work.

Its actually only just 18 months since I got my first email with my first magazine commission  a bunny and chick for Lets Knit Easter magazine.

I must have done a good job cause they asked me to do another project for this years Easter special.
 This is my first cot mobile. Its made up of bunny's and chicks, Easter eggs and hearts. I absolutely loved making this and have plans to make more. Each little Ami project takes a short amount of time so its a project that will build quickly. I really wanted this spiral look and so the construction is a little fiddly but totally worth it. This is one of the patterns I'll be adding to the tutorial list when I get my act together.
Finally I am going to be really busy for the next months. With the help of a great friend I am going to be building a new website. I will be re launching all my older patterns and there will be lots of new one. There will be more tutorials and instructions. Its a shed load of work but it'll be worth it. First pattern of the hook is Jane the snail. I've re made her in three different colour ways sorry these photos aren't very good bad lighting but they give you an idea.

The Jane the snail pattern is available as an instant download from my etsy shop here

Well that's it for this week but I'll keep you posting on how we are getting along and I'll be blogging as I go.

Now its time for handmade monday

Happy crocheting

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Craftseller daffodil

Thank you for the lovely responses from everyone who's been making the daffodil brooch from this months craftseller. With your help we've discover a typo in the pattern that means the petals aren't coming out right.

Round 2 of the petal round should read it should read - Rnd 2: (dc, ch2, 2htr, 2tr, dtr, 2tr, 2htr, ch2, dc) in each chain space around.

I'm sorry to anyone this has caused a problem for. Hopefully now you'll all get you petals pointing in the right direction :)

I've been making some more daffodils and playing around with colour to give you some idea of the different looks you can get

 Top left I've started in orange for the trumpet and changed to the bright yellow for the petals. Top right is worked completely in yellow except for the last round  in the pattern of the trumpet where I've changed to orange for the frill. I also added a few knotted strands of orange inside the trumpet to look like stamen.
 Bottom one is my favorite, the trumpet is worked in pale yellow and changing to white for the petals.

Close up and showing a slight side view.

There are so many colour combinations you could try. I know in my garden I have one with white petals and the trumpet it a peachy pink, I think I'll try that next.

Happy crocheting x

If you have made this and what to share a picture of your finished daffodil you can post a picture on Craftsellers Facebook page or my Facebook page

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Love crochet

Love crochet is a quarterly magazine and its jammed full of fantastic crochet pattern. In the past they have published some of the patterns I have done for craftseller magazine but for their Easter issue the wanted an original commission. Easter of course means bunnies :)

 It was a lovely surprise to see they made the cover. This is my 5th cover design not bad for a fledgeling crochet designer only just in her second year of working for magazines.

For these bunnies I turned  my normal pattern writing process on its head and started these from the legs up. I've used the rico cotton essentials again as its such a lovely finish for amigurumi and has the largest range of colours of any cotton range I've found. Love crochet wanted them in vintage colours and I think this rose pink and pale blue work well with the cream and pale grey of the bunnies.
I think the best thing about these bunnies is that they are so customizable. With this basic pattern it only takes a little bit of imagination and a few crochet skills to make this bunny with any outfit. most obviously they could be made into a bride and groom but you could really go to town and come up with any thing.

I may have a play myself and come up with some more outfits for bunnies.

In other news I have been playing with my new yarn and decided it was time to make something for me. I love this green yarn and couldn't resist hooking it up straight away and making myself this little crochet hook case.

 Its made simply in cobble stitch and then the inside is just felt. Its not perfect but as its just for me I don't mind. I can decide about maybe adding some decoration to the fount. It defiantly need some way of keeping it closed so maybe a button and a loop?
All my lovely hooks together hopefully now I won't loose my 3.5mm so often.

I'll leave with a sneaky peek at my latest pattern for my etsy shop - new hearts.

Monday, 3 March 2014

March already

Well the last month has sped by and its March already and its starting to feel a little bit like spring.

I've been having a spring clean and taking stock of my yarn stash. As you might guess I have a lot of yarn. Making amigurumi you need a lot of colours but you don't use a lot of each so the stash keeps on building and its easy to miss when you've run out of a colour I use all the time. I also have to check if any of the colours have been discontinued by the manufacturers. This is really important as I don't think anyone would be happy if I wrote a pattern and use a yarn colour that they could get anymore.

After the stock-take comes the stock up
I was really impressed by wool warehouse I have never used them before but they were great. easy to use website, free delivery and it arrived the next day. This about a third of what I had to buy to top up my stock and is mainly the rico cotton aran. Its a new range for me and I have a lot of projects planed for it :)

I have been busy working on more magazine patterns. I had two in the latest issue of craftseller
 The first project was a piggy cup warmer. This was pretty simple apart from they needed it on a really short deadline. I had an afternoon to make it in order to get it in the post the nest day. Kinda like a speed crochet design challenge. I was pretty calm though until I realized I didn't have a take away coffee cup to measure. I don't drink coffee so I had no idea of the size. This is where the internet comes in very handy and Facebook friends came to the rescue. I love the finished photos from the magazine it looks very cosy.

Thankfully they gave me a bit more time for the next project. This daffodil brooch had its own set of challenges as I wanted it to be made in one piece and I wanted the pattern to be as simple as possible and quick to make. Most importantly I wanted it to be pretty. I think it worked quite well and it has inspired me to make more flower patterns.

I'm hoping spring will be a busy one here on the blog I have a lot of things in the pipeline and I'll try and keep things updated a bit more often.

I'm going to join in on handmade Monday again too :)