Last year's HappyBerry hampers were so much fun to design and put together with all my crochet patterns, videos tutorials and yarn goodies! They were a real hit! I was blown away with how much you loved receiving them and crocheting the exclusive projects.
This year we have said goodbye to the hampers, but fear not, it was only so I could launch an even better crochet kit.
A lot of you didn't like the subscription based model, mainly because so many people had the subscriptions for the whole year it meant many of you missed out getting a spot! So this year I launched a pre-order system instead where you can buy one off kits as and when you feel like one. This also works well if you would like to send one as a gift to someone special. (I even pop in a gift card at no extra charge if you type in a gift message). So there are no more scary and confusing tie-you-in contracts. It is first-come, first-served now though so if you have any concerns about missing out on a kit, you can simply join my dedicated mailing list where you will be the first to hear about when they go live before I advertise them on social media.
My crochet kits are also smaller so that I can design and produce more, so more of you have a chance to receive these already limited crochet kits, and if you miss out, about a month after the mystery kit has been dispatched many of them do become available in the marketplace as previous kits, but this is not guaranteed and you will lose out on the FREE UK postage (and of course the fun surprise!) so do bare this in mind.
Each kit has a theme and comes with an exclusive HappyBerry crochet pattern in US and UK terminology, both as a written printed pattern in the kit, an online downloadable PDF as well as any accompanying video tutorials in case you get stuck.
You will have access to these digital versions in the HappyBerry online club, where you also have the option to pop me a direct message for support if you need to.
All of my crochet kits are designed by me, Laura Eccleston, so you can be assured of 100% HappyBerry goodness.
You will also receive lots of yummy scrummy squishy yarn to enjoy! Plenty to complete your project and have lots left over. This will usually be 2 to 3 balls of yarn, or a single yarn cake. You will also receive a hand-picked crochet hook that compliments your project as well as an extra themed treat! All this crochet goodness is then wrapped up in a silky organza bag so you can keep your project all together in one safe place.
All of my crochet kits are available internationally too! You can check the cost in your local currency on the mystery kit crochet page and I offer FREE UK delivery for all pre-orders and reduced tracked international shipping as standard.
HappyBerry Crochet Kits - February Unboxing - YouTube
I also realise that fibre content is important to some of you, especially if you are allergic to wool or are vegan conscious so all of my mystery crochet kits, although a mystery, now display the fibre content on the listing so you can rest assure in knowing what fibre content you are receiving in your kit.
Also my crochet kits are never sent wrapped in horrible plastic wrap. Instead they are delivered in my HappyBerry fully recyclable boxes, with a fun stitch pattern on the side that you can even crochet!
If this all sounds super exciting then you can find out more today at www.happyberry.co.uk/kits and I look forward to welcoming you into the exclusive HappyBerry crochet club!
Recently I came across a yarn company promoting their new eco-friendly yarn, and yes it contained recycled plastic, brilliant you might say, but that's still plastic and it was covered in cotton.
What's the issue with that you may ask? Well, cotton may be a natural fibre, but it is far from being a friend of the planet these days. So this led me to think about writing up a blog piece explaining the bad guys and the not so bad guys in the world of yarns. I am by no means a saint when it comes to choosing my yarns, I use acrylics and cottons, but hopefully this article will help you become more knowledgeable about your yarn choices before you feed that stash.
This article won't go into the processing and transportation of these fibres so much. All processing, production and delivery has a carbon footprint, that's unavoidable. Instead, I will be discussing the starting life of a fibre and the end result on our hooks, which some may come as a surprise. Only read on if you want to become more conscious about your buying habits though. No-one will hate on you for burying your head in the sand. I know I do sometimes! Because it really is a mind-field and there is no easy answer. It will be a depressing journey I'm sure in many ways, but also one that will hopefully empower you to make better choices, with realistic suggestions for your buying habits and crochet projects.
Warning! May induce stress and reluctance to ever buy yarn again!
Acrylic, polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyamide (AND recycled plastics!) Environment Rating: Poor The obvious bad guys are going to be the damaging plastics even if they are recycled. We don't always think of yarn fibres as being plastic as they are called different things like acrylic and nylon, but these fibres are all plastic man-made fibres. Cheap, vegan friendly and great for durability of socks, I love a bit of acrylic, but I have to be careful in the products I decide to make because they should not be washed if possible. Every time we wash an item made from these fibres, tiny micro-plastics end up in the oceans and the same goes for recycled plastic yarns. They sound good, but in reality you still have the washing problem. You can buy bags to contain the clothes preventing this, but you still have the lump of plastic gunge to deal with afterwards. Either way it ends up in landfill or the ocean. Vegan Rating: Good No animal products are technically used in man-made fibres. A lot of vegans don't consider acrylics etc as vegan yarns, but vegan yarns are just basically plastic man-made fibres. You win and lose on that one as plastics ultimately harm animals in the long-term. Interestingly though, plastic is made from oil, which is ultimately an animal product, albeit a long dead one! Fire Rating: Average Fire rating is average, synthetic materials do generally resist ignition to lower temperatures and can be treated with fire-resistant properties to increase their fire-resistance even more, however once they ignite and burn they can melt onto skin and causes burns. What can we do realistically? Well you can of course avoid them altogether, but this can be expensive and not always easy to achieve right? Instead, and what I like to do is to choose crochet projects that don't require washing as much, such as bags, blankets or toys. Re-use your yarns too, frog old projects you don't want anymore or buy second hand yarns from charity shops. Also keep all the tiny loose ends you chop off, they can be used as stuffing in your toys (much better than buying polyester filling). You can also buy it less often, saving your pennies for better options. Simply save the sparkles for Christmas and the nylon for your socks, that will go a long way to becoming a more conscious buyer.
Cotton Environment Rating: Poor As soon as we think of cotton we think "oooh what a lovely soft natural product", it uses no animal products and is 100% bio-degradable so is extremely easy to recycle, but! and this is a huge but, it is one of the worst fibres to grow. It uses so much water it equals to about 6% of the global fresh-water supply! It uses so much water to grow that a whole sea in Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea has almost but completely disappeared due to cotton production. This has meant the ecosystem of that area has become severely damaged, which is turn affects wildlife and local communities. The desertification of growing this fibre is high. Vast amounts of land are also given up to growing this plant, in fact 2.4% of the world’s arable land is given up to growing cotton. It also requires a lot of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides to grow, which quickly ends up in the ecosystem, affecting local water supplies and community health. Even organic cotton, which uses natural and synthetic pesticides, has been linked with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. Vegan Rating: Good No animal products are used in man-made fibres and there's also no plastic waste, a win win for vegans, but fertilizers and pesticides used in production can damage local wildlife. Fire Rating: Poor Surprisingly cotton is pretty bad when it comes to fire. It can ignite quickly if untreated and is not as fire-resistant as many assume it is. In fact cotton burns hotter, causing more damage and is hard to put out and will continue to re-ignite. It is also heavier so it has more fuel to burn, but try not to freak out too much, just avoid using it near fires or mix it with polyester to increase its retardant level. What can we do realistically? So yes, cotton is pretty bad when it comes to growing in large quantities, but it is a beautiful product and is 100% natural and biodegradable so how can we be more conscious of using it? We could pick cotton blends over 100% cottons, such as bamboo cotton blends, and we can use recycled cottons as well as re-using our own yarns. We can also help make others aware of using so much cotton especially when it comes to fast fashion, which is the biggest culprit. We can help to see it as more of a luxury product, so less water and less land space is used to grow it. Treat it as something special to be used infrequently. That way you don't have to give it up entirely, but you're also not fueling its demand.
Sheep/Goat Wool Environment Rating: Average Natural, bio-degradable and earth friendly? Sadly not quite. Natural, yes, bio-degradable, yes, but sheep poop and a ton of chemicals used to clean the fleeces at the factory are just the tip of the iceberg. Sheep are sadly very damaging to our environment. They damage soil quite considerably and can prevent trees and shrubs from growing leading to flooding issues. It's a bizarre concept to consider when we think about the British countryside and all that we know about it. Sheep have been fundamental to our landscape for hundreds of years, but breeding sheep from beginning to end damages everything from the earth, the air and our water. They and cows alike are one of the biggest contributes to climate change. In New Zealand alone, methane emissions coming mostly from sheep, make up more than 90 percent of the nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Makes tough reading when you see cute little lamb lambs jumping around in the fields. I know it does for me. Also the processing of wool is often not a British one with much of our so-called British wool ending up in as far flung places as Australia and New Zealand for processing. Goats are not much better as they are voracious grazers, often with a taste for scrubs, trees and other vegetation, turning whole woodlands into grasslands if left unchecked. Vegan Rating: Poor It's a sheep product, enough said and often mass farming practices can be painful. Fire Rating: Good Wool is an excellent fibre when it comes to fire though. It is difficult to ignite as it requires more oxygen than is available in the air to become flammable. Wool's excellent fire resistance comes from its naturally high nitrogen and water content. What can we do realistically? We can't ignore the benefits of wool as a fire resistant and natural bio-degradable product, but we can be more conscious of where we buy our wool from. Perhaps choose a local, independent sheep farmer that has kinder breeding practices, over far-away destinations on mass produced farms with little consideration for their animals or the environment. Also check where the wool has been processed and cleaned. We could also treat our wool purchases as more of a luxury, which shouldn't be too hard as it can be expensive! Or, we can opt for better alternatives such as alpaca.
Alpaca Wool Environment Rating: Good Although alpacas can be as bad as sheep and goats when it comes to water consumption and wee, they consume less over-all so produce less waste. They are also much cleaner than sheep in that they designate areas to poop, thus making cleaning up much easier and less toxins end up in the ecosystem. They are also more picky about their trees and shrubs they nibble on, allowing foliage to grow easier, and their softer hooves affect the land much less so than sheep. The biggest benefit however is that they produce more fleece than a sheep so you don't need to keep as many and you don't have to use chemicals to clean the fleece as there is no lanolin in alpaca fleece like there is in sheep's fleece. You can literally spin yarn right off the back of the animal if you really wanted to! No chemical processing is required so the fibre never needs to leave the country or place of origin. Vegan Rating: Poor but... Alpacas are animals, there's no getting around that, but it is worth noting that shearing a fleece off an alpaca does not harm them as much as it can do on a sheep and they don't have to be sheared as often. Sheep are often subjected to skin removal near the buttocks to prevent disease and dipping in insecticides and fungicide chemicals whereas alpacas are not and don't have to be. Fire Rating: Good Alpaca is more flame resistant than plant or synthetic fibers, just like sheep's wool. It also doesn't melt onto the skin like synthetics do. What can we do realistically? Well, alpaca yarn can be very expensive, so you may have to save your pennies for this one, but it is a truly brilliant natural fibre compared to most and has a much smaller carbon footprint compared to most. As long as you're not a vegan it's a great choice.
Bamboo Environment Rating: Good (-ish) Bamboo is a better choice than cotton. It is natural, it is biodegradable and requires a lot less water to grow than cotton. Less land is required to grow it as it grows fast and tall. Also harvesting doesn't destroy the plant so the soil is better protected if grown correctly, which also reduces the chance of flooding. Bamboo also produces more oxygen than trees and absorbs more carbon dioxide so could be an environment changer. Bamboo is also very hard-wearing so will last longer, requiring you to keep your garments longer (it can also be much softer than cotton). Bamboo is also grown without pesticides, but this is when things start to get sketchy. Once harvested, the majority (not all) of bamboo production is subjected to a lot of chemicals to turn it into fibre, and by the end we often end up with very little actual bamboo in the final product, instead you end up with a rayon based synthesised fibre (aka viscose or fake bamboo). This finished fibre comes from the extruding of cellulose by applying vasts amounts of chemicals, which results in hazardous air pollutants, which can be poisonous to those producing it. Not good and kinda misleading if it states bamboo all over it I know, but it isn't always like this as some bamboo production is done under a closed-looped system, where harmful chemicals are recovered and recycled or avoided altogether. The National Resources Defense Council asserts that a truly environmentally sound bamboo fibre must be spun directly from the tree, often called bamboo linen, where the fibers are mechanically combed out and spun into yarn instead of chemically processed. Although these fibres are tougher, there is usually no discernible difference in the end product. If you have concerns about where your bamboo is processed, check with the yarn brand or retailer and keep an eye out for bamboo linen organic yarns. Vegan Rating: Good Bamboo is plant-based so as long as no pandas went hungry, vegans should be happy. Fire Rating: Poor Bamboo is effectively a wood alternative so its fire resistance is low. What can we do realistically? Bamboo, over-all is a great alternative to cotton, however we do need to consider where it is processed once it is harvested because that's when it starts to lose its environmental benefits. That said, it has some huge benefits to the environment, which cannot be denied.
Silk Environment Rating: Good A natural fibre from either the silkworm or moth, true silk is a strong and durable fibre that is completely biodegradable and can be recycled. Made from two natural proteins, sericin and fibroin, silk manufacturing can be a harmonious and low waste process if done correctly, with the pupae eaten and outer-cocoons used as fertiliser or as stuffing. The silk worms also feed on mulberry leaves, which don’t require the use of pesticides or fertilizers to grow, but the trees can be damaging to the environment in other ways due them requiring a lot of water to grow and being an invasive species in some countries. Chemicals are also used in the cleaning of the cocoon (de-gumming) so look out for silks that are undyed, unbleached or 100% naturally dyed. Vegan Rating: Poor (ish) This is an interesting one and depends on the production and type of silk. Usually the silkworm is killed off through boiling before it has a chance to leave the cocoon and become a moth. Even the moth has become dependent on humans to survive, often born blind and unable to eat, but there are more ethical silks which allow the moth to leave the cocoon first, known as Ahimsa silk, Peace Silk or wild silk. There are also new synthetic silks such as Spider silk made from yeast, water, and sugar (not spiders), which is fermented. Fire Rating: Good Like wool, silk burns slowly and is difficult to ignite. It may also self-extinguish. What can we do realistically? This really is more of an ethical question than an environmental one. Production of silk can exploit local workers and harm silkworms so look for ethical and eco organic silks, which can often cost more, but worth the investment if you're worried. Also look for naturally dyed and processed silks.
Conclusion. If you haven't got a headache by now then I am impressed! What we can conclude from this is that every fibre has its plus points and its bad points, some worse than others. There is no simple answer. You may think I should never buy yarn again! I can sympathise, but hopefully this has given you a better understanding of the benefits and negatives of certain yarns to allow you to make more informed decisions when picking a yarn for a certain project.
My best picks would be bamboo or alpaca yarn and the worst would be cotton and any of the plastics, but each have their place and if used responsibly, that has to be a brilliant start. Thick of mixing your cotton with a bamboo, reduce your consumption of yarn and buy local where possible, recycle where you can and think twice before chucking anything in the bin and should be on the right track!
Let me know your thoughts by joining me on my social channels. Do you have a favourite yarn to use? Do you prefer acrylics over cotton? What's your top vegan yarn to use? I would love to know.
This is essentially an advert for the companies mentioned, but I have not been paid to promote them. All reviews and opinions are my own. Links may link to affiliate pages, where I may receive a commission for orders.
KingCole Pattern no 9115
I thought it about time I wrote a blog post, and what better than having a re-cap of my experiences from the Stitches Creative Craft Trade show at the NEC in Birmingham this week.
This craft show is a little different from the consumer craft shows as it's for businesses and companies of all sizes to come together to network and do business with each other. It is a fantastic opportunity for crafty entrepreneurs as well as established businesses to discover new companies and products all in one place. So I decided to pop along to check out some yarn companies and wholesalers who I can work with and collaborate with on my new launch of crochet kits this year, with my crochet hampers being such a success last year.
Rico Essential Cotton Yarn
I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew what I wanted to achieve and that was to discover some amazing new yarny people I can work with and I certainly wasn't disappointed in that area. I was super excited to catch up with KingCole who have been absolutely amazing in helping me achieve my ambitions with my crochet hampers and kits, and so far we have enjoyed Opium Palette in our Summer 2018 hamper, ZigZag sock yarn in our Autumn 2018 hamper and the gorgeously sparkly Shine DK in our Winter hamper so I was excited to see what new yarn ranges they are bringing out this year! Stay tuned on that one.
I was also super excited to meet the team at Rico as I am a big fan of their yarns, especially their cotton ranges. I was not disappointed. I was interested to see that they had a Vegan yarn on display as well. A great team of people and a gorgeous range of yarns. So much colour and softness!
Novita Welcome Home - YouTube
I was also delighted to see some foreign brands make an appearance such as Gründl from Germany, Lion Brand from the USA, Novita from Finland and the lovely Shannon from Cascade yarns in America.
Novita especially, took part in the fashion show, showcasing some of their new knitwear designs coming out soon, which absolutely blew me away. I instantly fell in love with their Nordic imagery and natural yarns! I think I want to literally move there now and start raising sheep.
I was also honoured to meet Mr Bonfanti himself, from the Italian button company Bonfanti’s buttons. These stunning buttons have earned well-deserved recognition from the best tailors and Italian fashion houses over the years and are certainly no plastic mass-market rubbish. Made from real mother of pearl, precious metals and resins, these buttons are truly exquisite to look at and touch. They will definitely be making an appearance in my crochet kits at some point!
The team at West Yorkshire Spinners were also there, which I made a bee line for as they had such a pretty and well designed stand! Lovely team of people, who seem really passionate about their yarns and what they do. (You'd be surprised how many companies barely even discussed their products!) I was excited to see their Re:treat yarn on display and I'm looking forward to seeing their new colourful yarn ranges coming out later this Spring. What I love about West Yorkshire Spinners is that everything is made in the UK, spun, dyed the lot, so much so you can possible even trace your yarn back to the very individual sheep who donated his fleece for you. I bet he was happy on that day in the Summer we had last year! *Phew
Meeting the lovely Rachel at Baa Ram Ewe
Last, but most definitely not least, I was so happy to come across and meet the lovely team at Baa Ram Ewe and discover their amazing yarns in person, which I will definitely be trying to incorporate into my crochet kits later in the year. A gorgeous range of British Yorkshire yarns encompassing everything wonderful about rural life here in England such as yarns from the Masham Yorkshire sheep breed, Wensleydale and Bluefaced Leicester wool and even UK Alpaca fibres.
Yorkshire, as you may have guessed by now, is truly the home of wool here in the UK and I'm so happy to see companies like Baa Ram Ewe promoting it. They also have the cutest shop up in Chapel Allerton, which I have to visit one day!
Of course there were also a fair few companies that didn't rise to the occasion, who shall remain nameless; overcrowded stands, inaccessible yarns and just plain rude sales reps, but the one thing that shocked me the most was the reaction I received a few times when I explained what HappyBerry did. The disparity between online and offline businesses still seems huge. As an online business that uses social media a lot, I was often met with confusion, judgement and just plain disregard when I talked about what HappyBerry was all about. I was really surprised that some quite fairly large companies weren't open to the idea of the massive online craft community. On one particular occasion a sales representative of a rather large yarn company here in the UK felt it necessary to continuously repeat their requirements of doing business with them. I left that stand feeling quite angry at how closed minded they were.
I felt it appropriate on only two occasions to ask if the business would like to take a photo with me so I could share what they did with my followers and showcase their gorgeous products to a wider audience. It reminded me of the time I started in web design back in 1999 and how difficult it was to convince companies to have a website, even after explaining it was an online catalogue and the modern way to showcase their work. Although many companies have websites now I was shocked to discover they barely had a presence on social media. Yes, social media is horrible when used negatively, I think we can all agree on that, but the crafting community is wonderful and I love how we support and encourage each other. It's a shame to see these offline companies missing out on that. I have also only just discovered that there's a magazine dedicated to the craft business community, who share articles by experts and what's hot and new in the crafting world... yet, barely a presence online.
Just weird imo!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my post. Do join me on Instagram for up-to-date information on what I am designing, sharing and posting, such as my journey to the Stitches show. I have extra exclusive video tutorials over there and I'm also sharing what's on my hook! I hope to see you over there.
Lately, I've been feeling a little left out of the latest campaigns on discussing how crochet has been great for mental health. Don't get me wrong, it is fantastic to focus the mind, help with quitting smoking for example, and help with recovering from an illness, but for me, well, my story is a little different.
As a designer, and prolific pattern sharer, either on YouTube or my website, I sadly can't remember when I last crocheted something and wasn't stressing about writing the pattern down, what colour combos work best and if a design will work, and that's even before I've started getting the camera out lol! And I definitely can't remember the last time I crocheted from someone else's pattern and did something just for me. It's almost like I can't anymore as a little voice inside me says, "just design your own!" Sounds terrible I know, and on occasions crochet has become quite overwhelming and I have to actually take a break from crochet for the sake of my mental health!
But all is not lost as I have a lot of other creative interests that I refuse to let become anything other than hobbies. Something I can keep to myself and at my pace, and that is really important for staying sane. When a hobby becomes a job, it is no longer enjoyable and you need to keep that balance. So to keep that balance with crochet I often take a break from time to time (I even travel without a hook... deliberately sometimes!!) and try maybe some embroidery (you can follow my embroidery art journey here), or my other passion, jewellery making. So today I thought I would share with you how to make Cabochon Jewellery with a crochet theme. I hope you enjoy and feel inspired!
You will need; (all these items are available on Amazon)
- A picture of your choice; either designed on paper or cut from pretty paper
- Pendant tray
- Matching glass cabochon to fit pendant tray
- Mod Podge sealant glue (or similar)
- Rubbing alcohol or some kind of solvent cleaner (I actually used a CPU cleaner being a geek)
- Large hole punch, preferable the same size as your cabochon (mine was 1" in diameter)
- An old brush you don't care about
- Kitchen roll or tissue
- Glue gun (optional)
- Strap or chain for necklace
Step 1 - Design/cut your image
You can use pretty paper if you like. Mollie Makes magazines are good for this as each issue often has designer papers for your various craft projects, but you can also use wrapping paper or even dried flowers. Just make sure that whatever you use isn't too thick. Once you have your chosen design (I designed my own), cut it out either using scissors or much easily by using a large 1" hole punch. Note* A clever way of making sure you see what your punching out is to hold the image and hole punch upside down before punching. That way you can line it up perfectly!
Step 2 - Clean
Once you have your image, put on your gloves and clean your cabochon glass bead with some alcohol solvent cleaner. This will remove any dirt or smudges, like fingerprints, from the flat edge, which you don't want appearing on your final necklace. Just dab a few drops onto some kitchen roll or tissue and wipe as necessary. Leave to dry.
Use parental help if young as you don't want to get solvent cleaner on your skin or in your eyes.
Step 3 - Seal your image
Now you want to stick your chosen image or flowers to your cabochon glass bead. The best product for this is definitely Mod Podge as it works as a glue and sealer at the same time, and the best way to do this is to place a large drop in the middle of your picture, then stick the cabochon on top. When you do this it will spread out the glue to the edges naturally as you push down, leaving no brush marks! Wipe off any excess gently with your brush or a tissue and move your image around as needed. Leave to dry.
Once dry add extra Mod Podge around the edge to seal and secure in your paper to your cabochon. You want to avoid any moisture creeping in and damaging your paper.
Then add a layer or two of Mod Podge to the back of your image, sealing in your image totally.
Allow to dry in-between coats. It should take about 10 minutes or so to dry. Try not to add too much at once as it may soak the paper.
Step 4 - Attaching
For attaching your final cabochon image to your pendant tray you can either;
1. Add a drop of hot glue to the centre of your pendant case and very quickly push your finished cabochon into the casing.
The glue will spread out as you press down, but you must do this very quickly otherwise the glue will dry too quickly and the cabochon won't fit.
Or 2. You can add a layer of Mod Podge to the interior or your pendant case along the bottom and around the inside edge and then push your cabochon inside.
Either option works fine as the cabochon should sit inside your pendant case even without glue, so it is only to secure it in place in case it falls out.
I prefer the second option with the Mod Podge because as you push your cabochon inside it will squeeze out a little Mod Podge around the edge sealing it in further against moisture.
Wipe off any excess glue from either method and leave to dry. Any excess glue should scrape or peel off easily when dry.
And now you're finished! Add a chain or strap of your choice and enjoy.
I hope you enjoyed this quick photo tutorial.
Please do share your cabochon creations, or any of your HappyBerry creations with me on either Facebook or Instagram! I love to see what you create! And remember, stay happy, keep smiling and most of all, keep enjoying what you do!
This article is NOT sponsored by Mod Podge, Mollie Makes or the weird CPU stuff I used.
As of March 2018! If you've been following me on Instagram you will hopefully have been following my crafty escapades in Japan throughout March! and hearing all about the lovely craft stores I managed to visit in Tokyo, Kamakura and Nagoya.
It's been a couple of years since I've been back to Japan and a few things have changed. Sadly one of my favourite stores in Shinjuku has closed called Yuzawaya, which used to be in the Takashimaya department store just up for the main JR train station, it was a huge store, but the company itself continues and I managed to visit one of their stores in Nagoya. There is apparently one in Kichijoji too above the station, but I didn't get time to go back there and find out sadly. That said, there is a Tokyo Hands store in the Takashimaya department store in Shinjuku, which has a very tiny craft section. I wouldn't go out of your way to visit here though, unless you want to pick up some stationary, paper crafts or games, as the selection was very small and was limited to various findings and tools really. It did have a very good leather tool section though.
So as of March 2018, these are the stores I visited in Japan! I hope you find this information useful if you too plan a visit to Japan. So let's start with...
Yuzawaya store in Nagoya 〒460-0008 愛知県名古屋市中区栄3-4-5 栄スカイル6F www.yuzawaya.co.jp (Japanese) Instagram: @yuzawaya_hobby Great for: Yarn, Books, Fabric, Buttons and more
I only had a few days in Nagoya so sadly I only had time to visit this store before heading back to Tokyo, but it was a lovely little store and has everything you need. This store is only a small store as part of a larger department store called the Skyle Shopping Centre, it is just a short walk North East of the Nagoya Science Museum if you plan to visit there. The store is on the 6th floor and has everything from fabric to buttons, trimmings and craft books. It also had some discounted fabrics here in various sizes and I managed to pick up some cute Rilakkuma and Sumikko Gurashi quilted fabrics here! They also had a good selection of Applemints crochet books. There are however lots of Yuzawaya stores throughout Japan and Tokyo too so it is worth checking their map on their website to find out where their other stores are located.
Kamakura Kyu Q in Kamakura
神奈川県 鎌倉市 御成町 2-16 kamakuraqq.storeinfo.jp (Japanese) Instagram: @kamakuraqq Great for: Hand-dyed Yarns, Buttons and Workshops I actually found this adorable little store by chance as I was walking south to the beach through the old part of this pretty seaside town famous for its giant Buddha statue. Run by a lovely lady, all their yarn is hand-dyed locally in Kamakura, with "the climate, temperature, humidity, all giving a slightly different texture to the shade." Since following them on Instagram I've also discovered that they hold various workshops throughout the year on an irregular basis that are for all levels who want to hone their skills. Definitely worth a visit if you're planning a beach trip!
Avril in Kichijoji, Tokyo 2-34-10 Kichijoji Hon-cho, Musashino-shi, TOKYO 180-0004 www.avril-kyoto.com (Japanese/English) Instagram: @avril_kichijoji Great for: Yarn, Ribbons, Trimmings and Workshops
I absolutely adored this shop. I specifically wanted to visit this store because I had heard some great reviews about their yarns and I was not disappointed. Just a short walk from the main JR train station, this store could easily be forgotten as it it down a quiet back street away from the hustle and bustle, but it is worth investigating. From floor to ceiling this little yarn store is filled with speciality yarns
from cottons to silks, to bamboo to hemp, in large reels. Just pick up a reel and ask for how much you need and the lovely staff there will spin it up for you there and then into balls. They also sell the most exquisite trimmings and ribbons, as well as small kits if you can't carry too much or want a gift (for yourself of course!). They also run regular workshops in knitting, weaving and felting. I couldn't choose what to buy! I was in there for a while. Avril actually have a few stores throughout Japan, so if you can't make it to Tokyo you can also find stores in Kyoto and Osaka.
Kichijoji is also home to a lot of other yarn and crafty stores so do take the time to investigate and look around, and up!
Tomato in Nippori, Tokyo (Fabric Town) 6 Chome-44-6 Higashinippori, Arakawa, Tokyo 116-0014 www.nippori-tomato.com (Japanese) Instagram:Unknown Great for: Fabric and lots of it!
Where to begin with this store and fabric town in general. Again, just a short walk East from the main Nippori metro station in Tokyo this store is one of many in this area, which is often referred to as Fabric Town or Textile Town as the whole street is given up to fabric stores of varying degrees. Tomato is probably the largest fabric store here, and is actually made up of a few stores on either side of the road. I went into two of their stores, but the one of the north side of the road (or left if coming from the station) was bigger and better, and also had a lot of fabric on sale! The store was very busy, and sadly I didn't find anything interesting enough in the 100 yen sale bins, (yes 100 yen a metre!! that's about 70p or 90 cents!), but I did find some adorable cute onigiri panda fabric for only 250 yen a metre. I also picked up some beautiful blossom floral fabric. If you plan to buy a lot then come early and grab a small cart as you will have to carry the rolls to the counter for cutting. They pass it back with a sticker and you pay to the side. Also make sure you pay on each level. I could have spent a fortune in here, but it was just too busy. It is very popular!
Okadaya in Shinjuku, Tokyo 新宿区新宿3-23-17 www.okadaya.co.jp/shinjuku (Japanese) Instagram: @okadayashinjuku_concierge Great for: Yarn, Buttons, Fabric and Books
Okadaya is one of my favourite stores to visit as they are always so friendly in there and is just a short walk north of the train station at Shinjuku. This store is actually made up of two stores, the smaller side store to the right is for fabric and the main bigger building has everything else really. When you first go in it looks more like a cosplay make-up store, but if you head upstairs to the different floors you will find everything from yarn to buttons, to ribbons to books. They have a great selection of knitting and crocheting books on the 5th floor. It's a small store otherwise, just over lots of levels, but it is packed with crafts. It has a button for every occasion and every size! I picked up some blossom buttons as it was blossom season of course, and a couple of crochet books. I could have bought more for sure, but I had to be strong! You will also find some familiar yarn brands here, as well as Japanese yarns.
So that is it for now, this list is certainly not exhaustive by any means as Tokyo and Japan has a lot of yarn, fabric and craft stores all over. I think it is wonderful haven for the crafting enthusiast whether you're into sewing, knitting or crocheting, leather making, paper crafts, needle felting or even pom pom making. You will definitely find an abundance of stores all over Japan, but I hope this gives you a head start if you're planning a crafty trip to Tokyo and Japan in general sometime soon. Happy crafting!
This post is probably a bit of a rant, but I wanted to put my thoughts together on this subject to try and bring about change in the way that freelance designers, and bloggers get taken advantage of. If you are just starting out it may be worth reading this as what glitters, may not always be gold, and if an offer seems too good to be true, then most likely it probably is!
So what is this post all about, well, many people these days dream about having a huge social media following and yes I love my followers and love being a crochet designer. I feel super blessed to be able to be a freelance designer in crochet and knitwear, especially after slogging away for the first twenty years of my life working for other people and being treated usually pretty badly (don't get me started on being female in the office place), but in some way I think my experiences have made me wise to the incessant sale pitches of companies today, and the way they take advantage of designers.
Having worked throughout London and the West Midlands for various design and marketing agencies since the age of nineteen, I pretty much learnt how to be a designer on the job since leaving Art & Design college back in the day. I never went to University because even back then I was put off by the huge debts incurred, but I was lucky. Instead I landed a position in the Internet design world, just as the Internet was taking off. In those days you couldn't even study web design at University as it just didn't exist as a course (can you imagine such a thing! no social media??), so everything I learnt about web design and coding was pretty much self-taught by me in the first three years of my first job. Those early days too found that being a girl actually worked to my advantage in getting jobs because the majority of web designers in those days were guys, and coders at that, with very little design experience, even in London. The first job I got in London I got just because I was the most enthusiastic (which was lucky because my CV wasn't that amazing) and because I was female, and that was a novelty. Of course yes, slightly sexist reason to hire someone and to fill a quota but hey, it got me a well paid job in the capital so I didn't complain. A few years later though I did discover that one job I took I was paid significantly less than the guy who was hire at the same time, for the same job, which made me question all my other positions in my career.
So over the years I grew despondent for the design industry I was working in, especially as a woman. Even when I was hired for a senior position I was undermined by men in the workplace. I'll never forget one afternoon when my line manager was out, and I was told to always keep an eye on the junior designers when he was unavailable, so that day I asked one of them how they were getting on with a certain project because they were mucking about throwing stuff around the office. I was never one for confrontation so I was gentle in my approach, but he promptly looked at me and told me to "f*ck off and mind my own business".
It wasn't all bad, I was always a bit of a tomboy anyway and mucked in with the best of them (I also met some great guys who were very professional, I even married one of them!). Even with the numerous sexist comments I have received over the years it never really bothered me. It was part of my career life, something I had to put up with, but I had reached a point in my life when I just couldn't put up with it anymore, having my dress sense questioned because I didn't wear a skirt or heels, being called a silly little girl whenever I dared to question something and the endless innuendo and laddish behavior. I guess I grew up, they didn't, and they were older than me!
So I left the industry. I was fed up of people taking advantage of my skills, paying me very little, being undermined and being treating like this. There was also never any prospect of advancement in the company, (these positions were always filled by men usually from outside the company). I never worked under a female IT boss, or even a line manager. All the women I was lucky enough to work with only ever worked in administration, HR or at best as content managers. It was a pretty lonely workplace as a woman, and it was hard to make real friends. Even on lunch breaks my male colleagues would subconsciously not invite me to the pub for a drink just because I was a girl.
When I became a Mum I didn't want to go back to work. It was hard enough as it was without becoming a Mum too. Could you imagine? I remember one time I actually said in an interview once in my younger days that I had no interest in having children, just to get a job! I was that paranoid. So I decided to start my own business. (and yes, I did get the job, make of that what you will).
In the early days of HappyBerry I never planned to make any money from it, which is probably why it did so well as I gave everything I did away for free. I was busy just being a Mum. I did and still do sell a few prizes patterns in various places, but my main aim was just to enjoy designing for the first time in my life. I put my web designs skills to good use and built a website of my own and things went from there. The YouTube channel was actually never planned. I originally only started a YouTube channel to visually show someone how to do something in one of my patterns because I was struggling to explain it, but then people asked for more so I did more. 400,000+ subscribers later, I'm still visually sharing my designs and I love being able to help and inspire other crafters out there. I can't even imagine how many people can now crochet because of those videos. It is truly amazing.
What I love the most though is having that direct contact with everyone out there, inspiring people, especially women and hopefully changing lives maybe through mini enterprises, or helping those recovering from illness. Whoever they are, it is so much more rewarding than being cooped up in a very uninspiring grey office (with no windows at one time in my career) and working for someone else, usually just to make them rich and they take the credit for their employees hard work.
So what gets my goat now? Companies trying to once again take advantage to better their own businesses and make themselves rich on the back of other designers. Don't get me wrong, it feels fantastic to be approach with business opportunities, and I welcome them, and many people starting out as a freelance designer would surely welcome them too and perhaps even be excited at being noticed, but I have often found from my experiences that these supposedly amazing opportunities (they always say that = *warning bells*) pay ridiculously low, often less than minimum wage for a lot of work that is extremely demanding on your time. I'm not sure what their strategy is when approaching freelance designers, but I often wonder if it's on the assumption that the designer or blogger will have no business acumen and will be sold on just the delight of being approached, but be warned and don't be a fool. Don't sell your expertise and time for so little. If something seems to good to be true, too exciting and is massively over sold to you with terms like "fantastic business opportunity" "we really love what you do (but never explain what you do)" but most of all NEVER say what they are asking of you in their first email and are vague in their approach. There will be an element of privacy on their part yes, but someone who truly values your time will understand that they need to explain in their first email what they require of you and what they want you to help them with. They shouldn't ask you to call them, because who has time for that?! If they don't have time for you in that first email, I think that says a lot about any forthcoming relationship. YOU will be the one doing all the running.
So I would be extremely hesitant in responding. If they have explained to you what they want in that first contact just take your time to understand what it will mean for you, how much of your time will be taken up by them and work out what your time means to you in cost and calculate what that works out by hour. Some of the supposedly amazing opportunities I've been sent would often pay less than the coffee shop down the road is currently hiring waitresses at! Also be wary that sales people will try and sell an idea to you and totally polish your ego at first, but come accepting that opportunity, often change their tone and become increasingly more demanding on your time, especially after any first payments have been sent to you. They own you now!! I jest lol.
My advice as a freelance designer is simply to focus on what you enjoy doing and working up your own business. If people approach you then great, but don't rely on these people to make you who you are. You can do that by yourself and through collaborations with other freelance designers or social media bloggers. Never sell yourself short and value your time.
Over the last few months I have been lucky enough to receive a few different yarn subscription boxes to review and they have all been a delight to open, and I have done a fair few unboxing videos in that time. I hope it has inspired you to try something new, but today I wanted to share with a final few monthly yarn subscription boxes that I love before I introduce to you something extra special that may be coming your way very soon. Read on!
So firstly I want to share with you some of my favourite monthly yarn subscription boxes and talk about what makes them unique, the good and the bad (if I have to be picky), starting with; Happy Yarn Mail
Frequency: Monthly Cost: $19.95 (£15 approx) Origin: America Shipping: Worldwide, FREE to US Dispatched: 25th & 30th of every month Type and Theme: Crochet Package Positives: Hard copy pattern plus video tutorial Negatives: No added extras
What I love about Happy Yarn Mail the most is that it is by the lovely Ashleigh, who is a blogger and crochet designer behind the Sewrella blog. She has introduced a monthly yarn subscription package that includes one of her own exclusive crochet patterns and all the yarn you need to get started. It is more of a kit than anything else so has no added extras, but you certainly get enough yarn to make the pattern. (If the pattern includes extras like eyes and material that is also included). What is great about this subscription is that if you find it hard to read patterns, it comes with a video tutorial to back it up from Ashleigh herself. The pattern also comes as a hard copy so no need to go online if you don't want to!
Find out more at happyyarnmail.com and receive 10% off by using coupon code HAPPYBERRY
Frequency: Monthly Cost: From $19.95 up to $34.99 (£15 to £25 approx) Origin: America Shipping: Worldwide $4.95 Dispatched: Every month Type and Theme: Primarily Knitting Positives: Lots of premium yarns Negatives: Internet access required for patterns, limited crochet
KnitCrate offer 4 different subscription packages or boxes, the first is their standard package, sadly the only one that includes a crochet pattern. This comes with 1 knitting
pattern and 1 crochet pattern and all the yarn you need to make either one, so you would probably have to choose your favourite. This package comes with no added extras, but the yarn is some of the best I have received. What I like about KnitCrate is that you get access to a lot of premium hand-dyed yarns that would be very difficult to get hold of in the UK.
Their second subscription is for their Artisan Crate (pictured above). This package has no crochet, but instead comes with 2 knitting patterns. The yarns again are gorgeous and you do get an added extra, in this case the Wheat Printed Project Bag as seen underneath. This package is more expensive as you can imagine, but is more fun to receive, if you like knitting that is!
Their next subscription is again a knitting one and is for sock lovers. Slightly cheaper than their standard subscription but only contains 1 sock knitting pattern. It does however come with an added extra! It also of course comes with all the yarn you need to make your socks.
Their last subscription is just for a sock yarn, so no patterns. You receive 1 hand-dyed premium fingering weight yarn from their in-house brand, Knitologie that comes in a limited edition colorway.
YARN CRUSH BOX - September
Find out more at and receive 20% of your first order by using coupon code BERRY20 and visiting: https://mbsy.co/hwd22
Frequency: Monthly Cost: From $26.99 or $32.99 (£20 to £25 approx) Origin: America Shipping: Worldwide Shipping Costs Dispatched: YC: 22nd of each month/SC: 5th of each month Type and Theme: Knitting & Crochet Positives: Premium hand-dyed yarns, extras and hard copy patterns Negatives: Primarily knitting based
YARN CRUSH BOX - November
Yarn Crush has 2 subscription boxes, their first is their Yarn Crush box, which contains 2 patterns, 1 knitting and 1 crochet and the yarn to make either one so again you may have to choose your favourite. This is fun if you love to knit and crochet, but you only get 1 skein of yarn in this box, that said it is a premium hand-dyed yarn with some really unusual textures such as the 100% Tibetan Yak Down in their September box, with very vibrant shades. This box also comes with an added extra that isn't always craft related!
Their second subscription is a knitting one and is their Sock Crush box, slightly cheaper it comes with just the 1 sock knitting pattern and again 1 skein of premium hand-dyed yarn. This box also comes with an added treat!
What I loved the most about Yarn Crush boxes is their packaging as not only do they come in actual boxes with super cute messages inside, they are very colourful and fun to receive on a dull day in the UK!
Having received a lot of various subscription boxes over the last year it is hard to choose who is my favourite, but what I have received from you guys is the question as to why I don't have one of my own!
It was something I did actually think about 10 years ago when I first started HappyBerry, but life just got in the way really. I think now I feel more settled and connected to crochet in such a way I feel I can share something exciting like this, so I have been working on something interesting for you guys, and a little different!
I didn't want to bring out just another yarn subscription box, so instead I looked at developing a full-blown hamper of goodness and just crochet goodness at that! that I can put my heart and energy into. The penny dropped over Christmas with yet another message, this time from one of my lovely Instagram followers, of; "Hi Laura any ideas or possibilities of a Happyberry yarn monthly box? As I would definitely be one of the first to sign up", and I realised how much I enjoyed putting together Christmas hampers for my family.
So I would like to introduce to you HappyBerry Hampers! It won't be a monthly hamper, but instead a quarterly hamper, so will be dispatched 4 times a year with seasonal themes for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. This is so I can put the time and effort into producing something amazing. I don't want to rush things out for you each month. I want to be able to take the time to design and put together a real treat for you. It will also be a surprise each season!
Each HappyBerry Crochet Hamper will contain (without giving too much away):
- One substantial exclusive crochet project with all the yarn and materials to make it. This will come as a hard copy written pattern that you can read straight away, so no internet access required, but you will also be able to access it online as a PDF if you go away and forget to take it with you on your holidays. It will also come with exclusive video tutorials in case you find it hard to follow written patterns and even a secret way to contact me directly if you have any problems!
- The hamper will also include balls or skeins of yummy scrummy yarn that will hopefully introduce to you something new. Maybe a new texture, or brand, or colourway! This yarn will be more than enough to complete the main project with extra for other projects.
- The hamper will also include all the materials you need for your crochet project, which could include stuffing, zips, material, needles, even crochet hooks so you really don't have to worry about not having the right things to hand. I may introduce to you a new way of crocheting altogether like Tunisian, or Knooking who knows! I'll be gentle at first don't worry.
- The pattern will be aimed at testing beginners so hopefully everyone can enjoy giving it a try, whether you find it easier to read patterns or watch video tutorials. I will also give you options on other things you can make with the pattern to hopefully inspire you and develop you as a crocheter.
- If that wasn't enough already, you will also receive lots of extra treats!! This could include extra mini pattern kits with all the materials to make them, from crochet to cross stitch or material projects or felt ornaments. There could be buttons, craft tools, fabrics, who knows! But you won't be disappointed I'm sure.
- Everything contained in my hampers will have a retail value of approximately £50 with FREE UK shipping and discounted international shipping! You can also opt to subscribe yearly and save 10%.
- Each hamper will be for a season based on our British seasons with a relevant seasonal theme, and will only be available for that season. It will also remain a surprise as to what is contained in the hamper until the next season comes along, so no spoilers here or on social media! A real surprise treat.
Subscription slots and purchases are limited as every hamper is lovingly made to order, so do make sure you don't miss out! If you sadly do however, don't despair as a waiting list is in place so you can be the first to know if extra slots become available.
So much love will go into my hampers that I hope you will be excited as I am!
** COMPETITION NOW CLOSED ** Winner was cuppabooks1 - See latest post. Win an Heirloom Furls Crochet Hook worth $79!
Last year I was lucky enough to get my hands on a beautiful Furls crochet hook, but I've just never used it as I'm a creature of habit and just too in love with my Clover Softtouch hooks. So! to pass on the love and not let this gorgeous hook sit unused and unloved, I'm going to give it away to one lucky crocheter! To enter simply follow me on Instagram and comment on my competition post to tell me what you would make with this hook! The best answers will be put to a panel of HappyBerry judges and 1 lucky winner will be chosen. I feel it's going to be a tough choice!!
Competition ends Friday 2nd June 2017.
If you don't have Instagram then you can also comment below with your answer, simply tell me what you would make with this crochet hook if you won it!
It's been a really productive last couple of months and I truly feel that I am back on track with a new direction and passion for HappyBerry. The support I have received from you guys has been fantastic, and I have read every message and comment, so thank you so much! You are all so wonderful and kind, and it has really helped me on my creative journey.
Since my break from YouTube I spent some time rediscovering some old hobbies, and I have particularly been taken by something I haven't done in years and that was sewing and embroidery, which I have found very therapeutic.
So much so, it has enabled me to pick up the crochet hook again, and I have been working on some exciting new crochet projects (as well as my very long awaited crochet book of course!), which I'll talk about all in good time. For now, what I am excited to talk about is my plan to share my new embroidery journey with you guys, with a new selection of embroidery video tutorials.
The video tutorials will be like a fun sew-along for beginners, where we can make an embroidered project of various flowers and fauna together through me sharing various different embroidery stitches and techniques.
The first two embroidery video tutorials have already been released if you would like join in, and they are for the Raised Fish Bone Stitch and the French Knot to create the yellow flower you see above. You can view them below.
In time this project will work up to a collage of creative embroidery stitches for you and I to sew together. I am not sure how it will plan out or even what colours we will use, but I hope along the way you can join me in this immensely rewarding and therapeutic craft and learn some wonderful techniques with me as your guide.
The materials I am using are nothing fancy, just grab yourself some cotton yarn (I split mine into thinner strands), a normal sewing needle (not a yarn needle as they are too big), some cotton fabric (anything goes from linen blends to those cotton fat quarters we all love), and an embroidery hoop, which you should be able to pick up from most craft stores (I got mine from HobbyCraft if you're in the UK), and some scissors.
I recommend Rico Essentials Cotton DK, which splits lovely and holds strong. So far I have used Banana (yellow) and Nougat (brown). Click here to get yours shipped today! Takes you to LoveCrochet.com - Make sure to use the code SAVE20 to save 20% if you spend over £30!(until May 27th 2017)
Lastly, I really just want to say thank you again so much for all your kind messages of support and encouragement over the last few weeks. I have been so touched and quite overwhelmed, and it means so much to me.