CFF – another workshop

The second workshop I’m holding at the Cheshire Fibre Festival is called Magical Mandalas and is all about mandalas.

Magical Mandalas

Until early last year I really didn’t take much interest in mandalas.   One day my concentration levels were particularly low (did I ever tell you my boredom threshold is a tad low? – it affects my concentration as well) and I just picked up my hook and doodled with a colourful mandala.  I chose some colours I love and within no time it had turned into a beautiful mandala – that’s the one on the left of the photo above.  Suddenly it lifted my mood (colour does have that effect, don’t you think) and something just clicked.  From then I just couldn’t stop making them, designing them, playing with the colour.  And, as is usual, I didn’t stop at that, I researched the history and I used all my crochet experience to make them quickly and neatly.

So the workshop will introduce you to the history of mandalas, their uses, the maths (there’s always maths in crochet!) and will include hints and tips on how to make perfect mandalas.   As well as comprehensive notes, there will be several mandala patterns including a new one designed for this workshop called Merryman’s Mandala.  Oh, and some lovely yarn – I like to use Stylecraft Classique Cotton DK- so there will be 5 colourful 50g balls in the workshop kit, along with a handmade lockable stitch marker and a ‘handmade with love’ label.

This workshop isn’t entirely new, I’ve held it several times before and each one has been great fun, there’s just something about colourful mandalas that brings out energy and lots of fun!

The workshop starts at 2pm and ends at 4pm, and costs £25, booking essential – details of contact are on the CFF page.

By the way, I’ve recently added some more information on the CFF page about travel and transport.  If you’ve not looked at the page recently you may want to update yourself.

Happy crocheting xxx

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CFF – all about Jenny

The latest blog post is from Jenny Barnett, needlefelter extraordinaire!

Read all about Jenny, by Jenny – and enjoy!

Hello from Jenny Barnett, felt maker, sculptor, illustrator, author.
I’m really looking forward to joining you all at the first Cheshire Fibre Festival on 1st October 2016
I’ll be bringing along a collection of needle felted animals, kits and books, and some lovely ceramic and felt dolls, knitters and tiny handmade felt garments and inspiration. I’ll be showing visitors how needle felting is done, and they can take away fibres and equipment to make their very own little wool sculpture.
In the afternoon I’ll be holding a needle felting workshop, making badgers and some butterflies and toadstools. Sorry the workshop is already full, but I’ll bring along some kits to make these, along with the popular hares, fox, sheep, chickens, seal, robins and unicorns and more…
I’ve been lucky to have many years experience as a freelance sculptor working for the giftware industry, modelling collectable figures for  Wedgewood and Royal Doulton, and then designing my own creations and commissioned portraits and exhibiting at festivals and events like Woolfest, Wonderwool Wales and Yarndale.
I’ve been a felt maker for over fifteen years after trying it at local college and workshops, and love using wool.
When needle felting I use the wool just like clay, making a range of creatures with lots of character, and with the wet felting technique, I combine the wool with my clay sculptures, it’s a a lovely tactile combination.
I’ve held lots of workshops showing others how to enjoy creating with wool, and have put all this collection into a popular needle felting book, and I’m now working on another felt making workshop book, due to be published later this year.
We have travelled around for a while in our narrowboat home, and have settled in Cheshire alongside our other old narrowboat butty called the ‘Maid of Hare’, a whole boat dedicated to studio space and full of wool and clay. My writer husband renovated the boat, and now we plan to work on more illustrated books and ideas together.
You can follow progress on Facebook and further workshops and events will be posted on these links too.
Look forward to meeting you at Cheshire Fibre Festival.


A naming game!

As you know I’ve been busy designing kits and 2 workshops for the Cheshire Fibre Festival.  With all this designing comes a naming game – just what do I call each new design?  I managed pretty well with the kits but I’ve only recently finished the workshop samples and now need to name them.

Having just finished the very last item – a new mandala for the workshop, I set my mind to thinking.  I love alliterations and I love names with meaning; suddenly I hit upon the new names:

The Merryman’s Mandala and the Sandlebridge Stripes blanket.

You saw a sneak peek of Sandlebridge a few days ago – so here’s a sneak peek at Merryman’s.


Ha, ha!  More yarn than mandala….but I don’t want to give too much away!

But where did I get these names from?

Well over to you……… I am running a little competition.  Do you know where I got these names from?  You have until 3pm (UK time) on Saturday 23rd July to come up with the answer.  Post it in the comments here on the blog, on my Ravelry page or on my facebook page .  All correct answers will go in a prize draw, and one correct entry will be chosen by random number generator.

And the prize?   A pattern of your choice from my designs.

A clue – the names have something to do with Cheshire Fibre Festival (either vague or specific!).

Happy crocheting xxx

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Cheshire Fibre Festival – workshops

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There are 3 workshops available at the Cheshire Fibre Festival.

I’m pleased to be hosting 2 of them, each of which is 2 hours long and I plan to pack a lot into those 2 hours.

The first is Crochet Blankets – Stripes or Squares?

Crochet blankets are very popular. They are large projects and generally require a hefty investment of money and time.  So they shouldn’t be projects that you start and give up on or get frustrated with.  This workshop aims to help you decide which type of blanket is best for you to make and which you will finish!

I’ll talk you through the pros and cons of each style of blanket, and provide hints and tips to make your blanket projects neater and quicker.   And I’ll include my brand new crochet blanket design, which is adaptable (yes, it can be made in stripes or squares!). Here’s a sneak peek:

Ok, I’m not giving much away in this photo!

As well as the pattern and comprehensive notes, you will receive 7 balls of Stylecraft Special DK, enough for a lap blanket or a couple of baby blankets, or the start of your next huge blanket.

This workshop starts at 10am and finishes at noon (check here for date and venue).   Cost is £25, with just a £10 deposit to secure your place.  Just bring your usual crochet kit, including a 4mm hook.

To book message me with your email, or email me at agrarianartisan (at)

Keep your eye on the blog for details of the other workshops 🙂

Happy crocheting xxxx

CFF – all about Nic

It is less than 3 months to the Cheshire Fibre Festival and between now and then I will be providing lots of information about the event.  First is an introduction to one of the vendors, and my co-organiser, Nic.  But rather than me introducing her she’s taking over the blog today – so make a cuppa, sit back and read all about Nic, by Nic!


Hello, I’m Nic and I’m the one woman whirlwind and dyeing ninja behind Yarns From The Plain . The aim of today’s post is to introduce myself as one of the vendors and co-organiser of the Cheshire Fibre Festival, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with these things. My first forays into knitting and crochet? My biggest successes? My most horrendous failures? My wide and varied career before all this? What happened to lead me here? After all, Valerie wants to keep her readers entertained, not send them into a catatonic state…

So, to help me organise the stream of consciousness that is my life, I thought I would use some subheadings (after all, I always used to tell my pupils to have a structure).

First steps

I can’t ever remember learning to knit, but Mum and I both assume she taught me. I remember making things with holes in for a long time. I also remember two squares I made for Brownies that were to go towards Oxfam blankets – probably for Cambodia. I remember those in bright yellow and blue. My date pointed out they were Oxford United colours. I also made Big Ted his own version of a Dr Who scarf and when I found it in my parents’ loft several years ago, I was quite impressed with my consistent tension.

Big Ted
Big Ted

Crochet is easier – I distinctly remember being taught by Mrs Crowdy in the Craft Room at Thame Summer Playscheme one year. She taught me how to make granny squares with half trebles (although I thought they were called trebles). I seem to remember wanting to make a tabard with them (sorry, but I was a child of the 70s) and for the best part of 30 years, that was the extent of my crochet. Seriously. In fact, I wasn’t really sure about how to fasten off neatly enough for a finished edge, so I started one granny square around about 1985 and just kept adding onto it, sporadically over the years until it was 6’6” across. I still wasn’t finished, but about 10 years ago I decided I was being ridiculous, and got it out of the bag and threw it onto the chair I was sitting in at the time.

Career Path

My first degree is in Chemistry and I started out as a Graduate Trainee Commissioning Officer in the nuclear industry in West Cumbria. That involved a lot of writing Operating Instructions, Emergency Instructions, training of Control Room Operators and some scrambling around five stories of scaffolding checking pipework. After four years I took voluntary severance and retrained as a Primary Teacher, relocating to Manchester and then Cheshire, where I’ve lived for the last 20 years. Throughout that tine, I have continued to make things – cross stich kits, soft toys, cards; always making. About 10 years ago I knitted a fun fur scarf and then at the end of that year I made a baby blanket for a colleague, realised it was reducing my stress, and haven’t stopped since.

Beyond needles and hooks

On one trip to a wool show I bought a drop spindle. It took me a long time to get spinning with it, but finally it broke through and my parents bought me a wheel for my 40th birthday. I love spinning! And all that glorious fluff! Of course, I then was always looking for the perfect colour to work with. I went on a one day dyeing course and enjoyed that, bought some materials and promptly put them away (story of my life!)


In 2012, I got involved in the Woolsack project, making cushions out of wool from British reared animals to give to any home or visiting Olympian that wanted them. I knitted, crocheted, spun, wove and felted a range of cushions, including some where I dyed fibre prior to spinning and knitting it and others where I dyed commercially available British yarn.

It was a blast, and as I worked through the project I became more and more interested in British produced yarns and fibres. It became an itch I wanted to scratch and in 2013 I tried very hard to only buy British (didn’t succeed, but almost did!) Towards the end of that year I had tried to dye some fibre and kept not quite getting the right shade. Coupled with some undyed yarn I had bought at Yarndale and then subsequently dyed, I took along a couple of boxes of my hand dyed yarn and fibre at the Spinning Guild one day. Guild members swarmed all over it like locusts!

Mobberley 4ply

From there to here

During 2014 I continued to dye small amounts of yarn and fibre in the holidays, but continued working full time in a senior leadership role in an Outstanding primary school. The start of the new academic year coincided with an amazing opportunity to apply for a part-time HNC course in Contemporary Constructed Textiles, specialising in weaving. I realised that even if the Governors agreed to let me have unpaid leave to attend once a term, I would not be able to continue with my workload and take on the additional work of my course, so I took the decision to leave at Christmas and set the business up alongside my college work.

Yarns From The Plain’s ethos

I love colour and I love British, so that is the key thing that underpins my work here. All my fibres are British or British Overseas Territory in origin. So are my yarns and I am delighted to say that currently all my yarns are prepared in Britain from British (or BOT) fibre and all but two of the twelve bases I currently have in stock are spun in the UK. Everything is done by hand at home – the dyeing, the drying, the rewinding, the labelling, the production lines when making up kits. It’s a joy, and I love my woolly life, even if I had underestimated just what a 50kg delivery of yarn would look like…

Nic x




My week

This has been a funny week; the weather here in the UK continues to drown us with monsoon-like rain and British politics has entered an ‘interesting’ phase.  But life continues as usual – and for me that means planning, crocheting, pattern writing, charting……

So here’s a quick summary of my week (so far).

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I’m just about keeping on top of my ‘to do’ list for the Cheshire Fibre Festival (CFF).  I met with Nic earlier this week and she passed me some lovely flyers (copy on the CFF page), which I’ll be distributing with enthusiasm!  I steamed through a new cowl design (destined for a one-ball kit at CFF) which one of my lovely friends is now testing for me.  And I’ve been crocheting a new blanket (or 3) for one of the workshops, however my left shoulder has started to complain a touch so I may have to slow down.  Over the coming weeks I’ll be giving you some insight into CFF through regular blogs posts.

Nic and I also finalised 2 more crochet kits in our collaboration, both lovely colourful scarves.  These kits will be available very soon, in fact they will make an appearance at the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention this weekend.  Here’s a preview of the new Fruitilicious Scarf – using 3 colours of aran weight yarn

Photo courtesy of Yarns from the Plain

I had a lovely surprise yesterday when I found one of my designs has made it into the top 5 most favourite patterns on LoveCrochet.  The design is Angel Wisp shawl.


I was so pleased and tremendously proud to be in this top 5 – the other 4 designers in this group are some of the great of the crochet world.  Angel Wisp is one of my earlier designs, and is made in a lovely kidsilk  mohair yarn.  I haven’t designed anything using this type of yarn for a while but by amazing co-incidence there is a new design on my hook using it!

I hope you’ve been having a good week too.

Happy crocheting xxx