Black Sheep Boutique – Emma Varnam

Posted by Amy | Posted in Black Sheep Boutique | Posted on 21-06-2019

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We are very excited to share the next designer to join Black Sheep Boutique – Emma Varnam. Emma is a good friend of Black Sheep Wools and we have been working with her on projects for many years now. You may have already made one of her beautiful crocheted blankets without even realising it was one of Emma’s designs….Garden Route or Little River? With the launch of her boutique it means that all of her current blanket pack kits and pattern books are all in the one place online.

Black Sheep Boutique Emma Varnam

Emma is passionate about both knitting and crochet, a yarnaholic like many of us! She enjoys sharing her crochet and knitting stories on her blog, find crocheted blankets, sock knitting, garments, amigurumi and more. If you haven’t seen Emma’s book Cute Crocheted Animals then do take a look, the sou’wester for a rabbit is just too cute. Crocheted animals with crocheted outfits has got to be the most adorable combination. This isn’t Emma’s only book, find them all in her Boutique shop online. We have also been lucky enough to have Emma Varnam in store at the Craft Barn celebrating Yarn Shop Day over the years. We were so pleased to welcome her again for our Yarn Shop Day 2019 celebrations in April. Voting is now open in the Let’s Knit British Knitting and Crochet Awards 2019, if you did visit our shop and had fun on the day don’t forget you can vote for yarn shop day experience as one of the categories.

To introduce Emma Varnam to Black Sheep Boutique, I sent her a selection of questions to get an insight into her life as a designer.

We are so happy that you have chosen to be part of our Black Sheep Boutique. What does it mean for you to be part of this new venture?

Firstly I love Black Sheep Wools, this is where I go when I want to look at yarn and squidge the wool. I can spend many a happy hour in the aisles and usually treat myself to a cheeky piece of cake. Black Sheep have always been so supportive of my work so it is the natural place for me to collaborate with special bespoke designs.

What inspired you to start designing?

I started to design for my son when he was very little. I couldn’t find designs that really reflected the jumpers I wanted to make so I began making my own. My love of toy design began when I started making him things in the evening which I knew he would love and play with. I believe all the best things are made from love.

You have created lots of fabulous designs, which would you say is your favourite or one that holds a special place in your heart?

Probably Jack Rabbit from my book Cute Crochet Animals. He really has captured many hearts. He has a very British look and indeed I know that he has been made many times by crochet enthusiasts. It is thrilling to see photos pop up of my toys across the globe.

Cute Crochet Animals by Emma Varnam

How do you create your colour palettes?

They usually come from prints or cards which I love. I might take a greetings card which really appeals to me and use the colours that I pick out from the illustration as blanket shades. You can find new and interesting combinations this way.

Garden Route Cottage - Emma Varnam | Black Sheep Wools

Garden Route Cottage – By Emma Varnam

Garden Route Coastal - Emma Varnam | Black Sheep Wools

Garden Route Coastal – Emma Varnam | Black Sheep Wools

Do you ever take a break from crochet and knitting to enjoy other crafts?

Oh I wish i did…If I have another hobby it is gardening. I adore my garden and during the summer will spend endless hours pottering about in it.

Have you tried any new yarns lately? Is there anything that has really caught your eye?

Well I am enjoying the new shades of Rowan Felted Tweed. I like brighter hues so I am delighted that Kaffe Fassett has added to the colour range. They are gorgeous. I have also used Rico Bubble yarn – which is a cool tinsel yarn for my new book which is out now. Crocheted Cacti and Succulents. I have used it to create cacti spikes and it looks FABULOUS! I picked it up on one of my shopping trips to the Craft Barn.

Crocheted Succulents By Emma Varnam | Black Sheep Wools

What is your go to crochet stitch pattern / motif?

Well if it is for toys, you have to say double crochet in the round for amigurumi. Such a brilliant technique, it is like sculpting with yarn. Another would be a shell edging stitch. I adore it.

Do you still find time to crochet / knit for yourself in between designing?

Oh yes – I almost must….sounds crazy but I will often have a pair of knitted socks on the go and they sit permanently in my handbag. If I am waiting in the car for my son, I will whip out my knitting so I don’t spend too much time on my phone.

What direction do you see crochet going in the next 5 to 10 years?

Well I see that we are going back to the traditional skills – but with a twist. Youtube and the internet has made us insatiable for new techniques. People seem to want to learn something new all the time, so more complex patterns are being developed in fairisle and aran. People are beginning to look at things like double knitting and brioche too. The more complex the better seems to be the trend at the moment.
I think we are also questioning our use of plastics a bit more so you might see a growth of blending hardwearing natural fibres like Blue Faced Leicester with softer merino yarns. We’ll see – we do love a yarn that washes well.

We always love seeing your latest books and designs and can’t wait to add more of your projects into the Black Sheep Boutique. What are your future crochet plans? Have you a new book in the pipeline?

Yes I have so excited about my Crocheted Cacti and Succulent book – I giggled permanently when I designed those plants. I have some exciting new projects in 2019 with Stylecraft Yarns and West Yorkshire Spinners and I am hopeful of writing a sequel to Cute Crocheted Animals. I have ALOT of fun!

Emma Varnam Designer Q&A

Something exciting coming soon from Emma, exclusive to our Boutique

Emma Varnam Black Sheep Boutique

Coming soon…..

Since Emma answered our questions she has been announced as Knitter of the Year in Knit Now magazine. Congratulations!

Shop Emma Varnam Black Sheep Boutique
Read Emma’s blog
Follow Emma on Instagram

Sara Interviews Winwick Mum

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 14-06-2019

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We are very lucky to have so many well-known names from the world of knitting and crochet local to us in Warrington. From time to time you will catch them discreetly shopping in the Craft Barn or meeting up with a fellow designer for a cuppa and slice of cake in our tea shop. Quite recently we spotted Winwick Mum and Lynne Rowe meeting up for a natter.

Lynne Rowe and Winwick Mum

In this fabulous yarny emporium (our Craft Barn) we have made friendships over the years with these familiar faces. Continuing to keep in touch, enjoying reading their blogs and updates on social media. Also working with them on various projects and inviting them to spend time with us on Let’s Knit magazine – Yarn Shop Day and other events in store.

Earlier this year we heard on the grapevine that Winwick Mum was soon to be releasing a yarn collection with West Yorkshire Spinners. Eeeek! Exciting news! She is the blogger everyone turns to when sock knitting, full of advice and encouragement so that you don’t give up. Christine already has two Sock Knitting books under her belt. Full to the brim of detailed information, guiding you through your sock knitting journey, from choosing the right needles to casting off your last stitch. She really does take you through every step! If anyone were to be having a sock yarn collection in their name, Winwick Mum would be your first choice.
Say hello to four new additions to the West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply family…….

Winwick Mum Signature 4ply | Black Sheep Wools

Image: West Yorkshire Spinners

Not only did Christine come up with new shades of Signature 4ply she has also designed patterns for an accompanying sock knitting book.

We invited Christine to the Craft Barn for a spot of filming with Sara. I found it really interesting listening to Christine chat with Sara, learning about how she chose the colours, knitting socks and blogging. A lot of work goes into being a Blogger like Christine, it isn’t just something that happens overnight. She is always creating engaging content for her readers, producing free patterns and detailed how to guides along the way. It is lovely to see her dream coming to fruition with the West Yorkshire Spinners collaboration.
We nearly didn’t start filming as we all went off on a tangent talking about cleaning products! I’m not entirely sure that chatter would have been well received. We hope you enjoy watching a relaxed, informal interview with Winwick Mum. Stay up to date with all of our latest videos by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

Knitting my first pair of socks

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 02-02-2018

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In November last year Arne and Carlos came to the Craft Barn to teach their workshop, ‘A Master Class in Socks’. Not being a sock knitter myself the idea of a sock master class sounded complicated and difficult. How wrong I was………

Stacey, who is a team leader in the Craft Barn attended the workshop, thoroughly enjoying a day with Arne and Carlos learning how to knit a toe up sock, with lots of handy hints and tips along the way. A week after the workshop Stacey popped in the office to share what she had been making. She had already finished not one, but two pairs of socks, with a third pair already on the needles. She enthusiastically explained how the sock was constructed, not complicated at all, just very straight forward with nothing that sounded too fiddly or complex. By the end of the day I was in the shop buying a ball of Regia Design Line 6ply and a set of KnitPro Zing 3.5mm DPN’s The idea of something slightly thicker than a 4ply and I was sold, ready to embark on sock knitting. On their blog and YouTube channel Arne and Carlos have a video and pattern for the easiest sock in the world. This is what I followed to knit my socks. There is also a super video that shows how to knit the heel.

I always thought knitting socks would be fiddly, to the point where I would have just one lonely sock, if that, or a tangled mess that was supposed to resemble half a sock never to be complete. I thought they would take forever to knit and I was so wrong. They were really fun to knit, having the various milestones (adding waste yarn, ribbed cuff and heel) along the way kept it really interesting and spurred me on to knit faster. Within just a couple of evenings I had made a sock!

I had been told by many knitters that you can’t beat a pair of had knitted socks, ‘they will be the warmest, comfiest socks you ever have’. Now I can wholeheartedly agree, having worn my own pair of knitted socks they are super warm and cosy to wear.

Slightly squished dancing feet

If you have never attempted sock knitting and feel inspired to give it a go, head over to Arne and Carlos blog and watch their video How to Knit the Easiest Sock in the World. Further down their blog post you will also find a basic pattern to follow. Make sure that you take into account yarn thickness and foot size. This pattern is a great starting point for venturing into the land of sock knitting. I might even try knitting a pair in 4ply next, that’s when I have finished my second pair in Fall Night 6ply.

For this pair of size 4 socks I increased up to 4osts, 10sts on each needle. I used –
Regia Design Line 6ply in shade Summer Night
3.5mm KnitPro Zing Double Pointed Needles 15cm

West Yorkshire Spinners Yarns

Posted by Amy | Posted in New Products | Posted on 21-07-2016

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We have recently welcomed a new addition to our yarn family – West Yorkshire Spinners. The shelves (and virtual shelves too) have been stocked with two of their sort after yarns, Signature 4ply and Illustrious Dk. Each and every shade from both ranges is available to purchase here at Black Sheep Wools, alongside a multitude of delectable patterns.

West Yorkshire Spinners are proud to produce British yarns that are developed and manufactured at their factory here in the UK. Their brand ethos is ‘reared, sheared & spun in Britain’ which truly represents the luxurious yarns they produce. West Yorkshire Spinners have spun commission yarn for many years. It was only recently in 2012 that their own brand was launched.

west yorkshire spinners logo

 

One thing you will notice is the abundance of colour across the brand. From zesty brights to dusky heather shades, it is apparent from first glance that their colour choice is absolutely stunning. The Signature 4ply in particular has been grouped into various different colour palettes, such as the ‘Country Birds’ and ‘Cocktails’. Signature 4ply is a combination of wool and nylon, making it ideal for sock knitting.

wys_signature_4ply

West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply | Birds

Signature 4ply – Country Birds

West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply | Cocktails

Signature 4ply – Cocktails

The colour palette for Illustrious Dk is so beautiful, the shades sit together harmoniously. This was something that WYS focussed on when choosing shades. They wanted to ensure that all of the shades were strong as an individual, but also complemented each other – especially good for colour work.
We currently have one pattern book to support this yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners. All of the patterns have been designed by talented, young designer Emma Wright. The patterns are housed in a beautifully executed book, with inspirational photography and an almost tactile layout showing the yarns, design development, patterns and more. A really inspirational book that you will enjoy perusing endlessly. Did I mention it has ring binder too? So handy for when you are working on a pattern and want to keep the page open without creasing your book, or the risk of it pinging back on you when you are up to a crucial part of the pattern.

West Yorkshire Spinners Illustrious Dk

West Yorkshire Spinners Illustrious Dk

What will you make with the West Yorkshire Spinners yarns? We would love to see! Please feel free to send in photos of your makes to social@blacksheepwools.com.

Sock Knitting Workshop with Winwick Mum

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 22-02-2016

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Over the past 3 weeks Winwick Mum, aka Christine Perry has been teaching people how to knit their very first sock. This was the first time Christine had held a workshop here at the Craft Barn. An avid sock knitter herself with a successful Sockalong under her belt she couldn’t wait to share her knowledge and experience with others on the workshop. The workshop was split over three morning sessions. Christine worked her way through the anatomy of a sock seamlessly, finishing with Kitchener stitch to sew up the toe on week three.

It was interesting going to speak to some of the ladies on their 3rd and final week of their sock knitting journey. I walked in the room and everyone was tuned into full concentration mode happily knitting away. I am always amazed by sock knitting and those double pointed needles. I was assured by all of the ladies in the room that I could easily master them and make my own socks too. To be honest it did get me thinking that socks are something that I should try. Maybe one day, hey!

sock knitting workshop

By the end of the workshop all 9 ladies had completed at least one sock. For one lady this was also her first ever knitted project. Not only had she used double pointed needles, a circular needle and knitted a sock, she had also learnt to knit! One of the other ladies already had orders coming in from friends and family for socks, she had already made 3 single socks.

sock knitting workshop

Everyone used Sirdar Heart & Sole 4ply, one ball makes a pair of socks.

sock knitting workshop

The lovely Black Sheep Carol attended the workshop too. Although she was the original founder of Black Sheep Wools and her knitting needles have seen many projects over the years, socks have not been one of them, someone how socks have just passed her by. When Carol heard about the sock knitting workshop she couldn’t wait to give it and try. Here she is modelling her first ever hand knitted sock. Carol thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and I am sure it won’t be long before she brings in sock two.

carol_sock2

 

carols_sock

finished_socks

We hope to run the workshop again later in the year so keep an eye out on our workshops page for it popping up again soon. In the mean time if you fancy tackling socks yourself why not join Winwick Mum’s Sockalong where you will find comprehensive instructions by Christine on how to knit a pair of socks.

A Pairfect Pair of Socks – Part 2 – by Winwick Mum

Posted by Amy | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 03-11-2015

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Part 2 of Winwick Mum‘s guest blog post………..

In my last post (read part 1 here), I told you about the new Regia Pairfect yarn that I’ve been trying out.

regia pairfect

Black Sheep Wools have six colours in stock: Cinnamon Colour, Wood Colour, Fresh Colour, Waterfall Colour, Moor Colour and Oriental Colour.  They’re all striped in exactly the same way and are suitable for either men or women, which makes them pretty versatile.

I mentioned last time that I was following the guide on the ball band for a pair of size 6 socks.  The ball band doesn’t give you a pattern so you will need to know how to knit a pair of socks (and don’t forget that there are free tutorials on my blog at www.winwickmum.blogspot.com that can help you, so don’t be put off!) but it’s helpful to have the ball band guide so that your socks and stripes line up.  And boy, do they line up!  I am seriously impressed!

The ball band says that with a 64 stitch cast on, you will knit 5cm of the first colour.

regia pairfect socks

Look at that!  You’re impressed too, aren’t you?  And wait, there’s more.  The ball band also says that after the cuff there will be seven stripes of colour before the start of the heel.

regia pairfect socks

Seven stripes exactly and I was ready to start my heel!  The rest of the sock is plain colour knitting which is less exciting, but I raced down the foot of the first sock eager to find the yellow marker that would tell me where to start my second sock.  It was easy to find in the centre of the ball – you just finish off your sock and then keep pulling the yarn out until you find the yellow yarn again.  Then you find the point where the yellow ends in exactly the same way as you did with your first sock and off you go.

I was interested to see just how close a match these socks were going to be.  I was very careful about where I started both socks, but even so, I expected that it might be just a little bit out – after all, dyeing yarn isn’t an exact science … or is it?

regia pairfect socks knitted by Winwick Mum

It would appear that it is!  I was stunned and, being a stickler for matching socks, delighted to see how well they turned out.  I would definitely consider using this yarn again – it’s certainly an easy way to get a Pairfect pair of socks!

A Pairfect Pair of Socks – Part 1 – by Winwick Mum

Posted by Amy | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 26-10-2015

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Super sock enthusiast Christine Perry, aka blogger Winwick Mum has been testing out the new and ingenious yarn from Regia – Regia Pairfect. Read her guest blog post below……………

One of the things that I have always liked about Black Sheep Wools is that they listen to their customers.  You only have to look around the Craft Barn to see how it has evolved over the years to provide the best service; up-to-date yarns and patterns, luscious fabrics, a café with fabulous cake, workshops on a wide range of crafting subjects and more cross-stitch kits than you can shake a stick at – Black Sheep Wools really want to meet their customers’ needs.

So it is no surprise then, that when a particular customer asked about the range of sock yarn a lot (ahem – mentioning no names but you can probably guess who that was!), Black Sheep expanded their range quite considerably to shut her up meet the demand for quality sock yarns from an increasing number of new sock knitters.

Their selection of yarns is ideal for beginners and more experienced sock knitters alike, and one of the most popular brands that they stock is Regia.  My first pair of “proper” socks were made with Regia yarn and I’ve been a fan ever since.  Regia produce some fabulous self-striping yarns, which means that the yarn is striped within the ball so that it changes colour all by itself – no uncomfortable joins on your feet! – and come in various colour mixes from subtle to bold and even in Norwegian Fair isle-style stripes.  There’s no shortage of choice!

However, with those stripes comes a whole new debate – to match or not to match?  I am very definitely a sock-matcher and hyperventilate at the thought of putting odd socks on my feet.  In fact, I have been known to spend a ridiculous amount of time getting my yarn just right so that my socks will match – so Regia’s latest yarn is right up my street.  They have developed a yarn called “Pairfect” which makes it easy to match the stripes on your socks, or so the yarn band claims.  Naturally, when my friends at Black Sheep Wools threw a ball in my direction, it would have been rude to not to catch it with both hands and cast on straight away!

regia pairfect yarn

How does it work, then, this idea of easily producing two identical socks from one ball?  It sounds too good to be true!  According to the ball band, you use the yellow yarn as a guide and follow the instructions printed inside.  This does involve removing the ball band which I don’t usually tend to do as the ball will quickly unravel if the end is not secured, and once removed, I think the ball looks a little like a hot air balloon, or perhaps an old fashioned fishing float, but it’s not a big problem to tuck the end in safely.

regia pairfect yarn

 

Having made many pairs of socks, I’m about to do that “I don’t need to read the instructions” thing that my husband has often been guilty of, but on closer inspection, I’m glad that I did.

regia pairfect yarn

This is where the Pairfect yarn comes into it’s own.  First of all, it tells you exactly where to start your pair of socks – which is just as the yellow yarn ends – and it’s easy to see where that point is.

regia pairfect sock

Next, and most helpful of all, the ball band tells you how many stitches to cast on for the size of sock you want to make.  It’s never an exact science as the number can change from yarn to yarn even if it is the same weight, so it’s very useful to have this guide.   I’m making a size 6 pair of socks so will be casting on 64 stitches.  In my next post, I’ll show you how I get on!