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It's super chaotic here at the moment, so no time to do a proper write up, but I thought you might need this.

We have World Book Day on Thursday, and big beast wants to go as Mr.Twit.  Whipped up this quick beard pattern to festoon with bits of food.  Eldest nephew has just called to ask for one to be Mr.Gum so gotta go. 

If you have a beard emergency, this free, shorthand crochet pattern is for you xxx

...So what to do?  So often I’d go into stores and see things that were really expensive and I’d think “I can make that”, and would trot home, and ta daaa!  It was really frustrating, I could see that there was a market for the things I was making, but just couldn’t compete with the mass produced, Primani’s of the world.
I did sell a few things; I managed to find a store that wanted to sell sock monkeys, but after the first 5 I really was fed up of making them, and after the store had taken a cut I was left making around £6 per monkey.  That worked out at my earning around £1.50 an hour after materials.
The ever encouraging Rose at Butler’sEmporium encouraged me to make and sell hats, she was a proper business woman and insisted I sell them at £40 per hat.  Now this is much more like the value of my time and materials, I ended up making around £20 per hat, but after number 5, again, I was getting itchy and wanted to make something else, but also that I'd saturated the local market with massive pompom hats.
I learned to crochet while on maternity leave with the littlest, about five years ago.  I followed some on line tutorials and took to it pretty quickly, and then set to finding cool things to make for the beasts.  I’d come across patterns and had that same “I can make that” thing.  In particular I was looking for a skull & crossbones appliqué patch, and I just couldn’t find any that were any good, so I made one up myself.  Then there came a whole run of appliqué things, and then dressing up stuff – bathats, cuffs, helmets.  (You can tell from these pics that this is before I learned how to take pics and Instagram!)
 Simple little skull applique, first pattern I ever wrote.

 Little T-Rex, the second pattern I wrote.
It was Mr. Steel&Stitch who encouraged me to put them on line.  He’s MUCH better at finance than me, and he pointed out that all I’d have to do was write it out once, and then just email the pattern whenever someone bought it.  So I finally got it on Etsy, and started selling two a week.  So I put more on, and just kept going.
That’ll have to do for now, the big beast needs help with his pyjamas, but  I’ll get the next instalment on soon.

I will get to part two of 'How to Make Money from Crochet', but in the meantime I thought I'd share this with you...

I've been working so hard on The Book (that would be 'Crochet Dress-Up' published by CICO books, you can order it now :) ) that I haven't made a 'just for us' pattern for ages.  I promised the beasts that as soon as I'd finished I'd make them something.  This is what they wanted - Baymax from Disney's Big Hero 6, they are completely in love with him, well to be honest so am I.  In fact so's my sister.  Oh, and HER childrenActually, who isn't in love with Baymax?  

Rather than trotting off to buy a little plush thing, or a plastic monstrosity for them to play with I did my usual thing of making one.  A MASSIVE one.  I think he comes in around £15 if you use Cygnet Super Chunky (depending where you get it from of course), and an excellent way to save on stuffing is to keep all the leftover threads from when you finish a project - I geekily made a special 'threads' bag - and use that when you've collected enough.

He has been exceptionally well received, played with a LOT and now sleeps in Big Beasts bed.

So here's your free pattern, it's not been tested so any feedback would be great.

Big Hero 6

You will need 5-6 balls of super chunky yarn and a 12mm hook.  I use Cygnet Super Chunky – it’s really inexpensive, is really nice to work with and is good and robust.
1-2 bags of stuffing – he’s a big fella!

Felt is good for the eyes and mouth, although I used an old sock and a bit of zpagetti yarn, so whatever you have to hand.

Work in the round, and use a stitch marker, unless you like to live dangerously.

Abbreviations (US terminology)
Mr – magic ring (yo u can always replace this with a 3ch slip stitched together and work the stitches into it)
Sc – single crochet
* * - repeat section
Sctog – single crochet stitches together
Sl st – slip stitch

1. Magic Ring 6 – sc   (6)
2. 2 sc in each stitch   (12)
3. *2 sc then sc in next stitch*   (18)
4. *2 sc then sc in next 2 stitches*   (24)
5-7. sc ine ach st
8. *sc2tog then sc in next 2 stitches* sl st to finish (18)
Leave this open, you’re going to sew the open end to the body in a bit.

1. Magic Ring 6 – sc   (6)
2. 2 sc in each stitch   (12)
3. *2 sc then sc in next stitch*   (18)
4. *2 sc then sc in next 2 stitches*   (24)
5. *2 sc then sc in next 3 stitches*   (30)
6. *2 sc then sc in next 4 stitches*   (36)
7. *2 sc then sc in next 5 stitches*   (42)
8. *2 sc then sc in next 6 stitches*   (48)
9-16. sc in each st
17. sc2tog, sc next 22, sc2tog, sc next 22  (46)
18. sc next 11, sc2tog, sc next 20, sc2tog, sc next 11 (44)
19. sc2tog, sc next 20, sc2tog, sc next 20  (42)
20. sc next 10, sc2tog, sc next 18, sc2tog, sc next 10  (40)
21. sc2tog, sc next 18, sc2tog, sc next 18  (38)
22. sc next 8, sc2tog, sc next 18, sc2tog, sc next 8  (36)
23. sc2tog, sc next 16, sc2tog, sc next 16  (34)
22. sc next 7, sc2tog, sc next next 16, sc2tog, sc next 7 (32)
23. sc2tog, sc next 14, sc2tog, sc next 14 (30)
24. sc2tog, sc next 12, sc2tog, sc next 12  (26)
25. sc2tog, sc next 10, sc2tog, sc next 10  (22)
26. sc2tog, sc next 8, sc2tog, sc next 8, sl st to finish.  (18)
Stuff body and head, and then sew together at open ends.

Legs – make 2
1. Magic Ring 6 – sc   (6)
2. 2 sc in each stitch   (12)
3. *2 sc then sc in next stitch*   (18)
4-9. sc in each st, sl st to finish
Stuff legs and sew to body.

Arms – make 2
1. mr 9
2. 2 sc in each stitch   (18)
9. sc3tog, sc next 15  (16)
10. sc2tog, sc next 14 (15)
11. sc2tog, sc next 13  (14)
12. sc in each st
Start stuffing about here, it get’s a bit tricky if you leave it all to the end
13. sc2tog, sc next 12  (13)
14. sc2tog, sc next 11  (12)
15. sc in each st
16. 2sctog, sc in last 10, sl st to finish
Finish stuffing and attach to body.

Sew on eyes and mouth and *fist bump "fa la la la" *

p.s. you can find other free patterns if you have a roam around my blog, I've tried to put them in the sidebar, and promise to update and tidy that up soon x

For weeks I've been threatening you with the secrets of how to make money from crochet, and have yet to deliver the goods.  Partly this is because I wanted it to be a neat little list, a ten point guide of cute little soundbites that made it all sound easy and obvious, and partly because I don't want to be condescending and every time I've tried to write something that's how it sounds.

Finally I’ve settled on sharing my experience, and the journey I’ve gone through to get to this point – the point where I’m officially a ‘crochet designer’ and making money from it.  And for the sake of keeping things web-page readable it’s going to be in installments

Are you sitting comfortably?

Part I
Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved to make things (don’t worry, I won’t keep this up, oh, it seems important to tell you at this point that I’m an identical twin, because we’ve got the same making and lifestyle ambitions, but have gone very different ways about, and it has some relevance to how things turn out), but I’ve always made stuff, fabric and soft materials are my favourite, and while I have had a go a most things, sewing and stitching are always my fallback – the same goes for my twin.

This is us.

When I left school my sister and I went to art college, but I left after the first year to follow a more academic route, my theory was that I’d always be good at making and drawing so  I didn’t need a qualification in it, I might as well get a qualification in something else.  My sister went on to do fashion at university (more of that later) I did Philosophy and then a post grad in Museum Studies. 

I fell in to urban design (don't ask) and have been there for ten years on and off, but have literally never stopped wishing that I had followed a more creative path, and have never, ever stopped making things.  It’s a compulsion – soft critters, sock monkeys, crazy jewellery, and eventually our house got too full and I had to start shifting it, so I opened an Etsy shop on the side.

What you learn very fast is that you’ll never make enough money from selling things unless you’re prepared to charge what your time and what the materials are worth.  I think this is actually really hard for most of us (especially us British chaps, we start with an apology and hope for the best).  But if you’re charging $60+ for a soft toy, unless you’re a master of branding or HRH Kirsty Allsop, it’s unlikely you’ll sell it, but charging any less isn’t a viable business option.  So, what to do?
As mother to two energetic beasts, half-term is always daunting, but we're on day two and I haven't buried either of them in the garden yet, so it's going quite well.  In fact the half-term is acting like a sort of stasis week between the leaving of the the real job and the beginning of the Adventure, so it's remarkably welcome this time, in a few more days it's all going to start to feel very real.

On the living in a more sustainable (aka 'cheap') way, Mr.Steel&Stitch dragged us shopping at the weekend (he LOVES it, true story) and was coveting a cushion.  This cushion was £45 whole pounds, and had an applique badger on it with some lovely hand stitching.  It was a very nice cushion, but all I could think was 'I could make that!'  So I frogmarched him home and set about raiding the craft stash to see what we had to make something similar.

This is the result - no, it's not a badger, but it is our cat, Treacle - it literally cost nothing as it's made from bits that have been hoarded, and I used two slightly rubbish cushions squashed together to make one, much fatter, much better cushion.  You can make it too!

1. Cut two pieces of fabric for the front and back of your cushion
 2. Draw a template of your creatures face - draw round the whole thing and cut the base piece out.  Then cut the elements like the mask and eyes out and layer them on the base.
 3. Pin all the pieces in place and stitch to main cushion fabric.
 4. Stitch front and back together, insert cushion and finish sewing up edges.  I finished this off with a blanket stitch in gold thread around the edge.

The only thing spent was an evening of extremely satisfying craft goodness.

Wow, what a week!  the Book was featured in 'Love Crochet' Magazine, I was browsing the crochet magazines in a shop and did the biggest shock-intake-of-breath next to a totally unprepared man, because my pattern was on the front cover!  Not big, in a corner, but still!

I also got my first copy of The Book, which was ridiculously exciting, and have been brandishing it on the school run and in the office.

Which brings me to the fact that today was my last day in the office.  That's it, goodbye security, groceries, lovely work pals and office chatting, hello uncertainty.  I had to run off without saying goodbye because I was ready to explode in unbidden, overwhelming tears.  It's such an exciting journey I'm embarking on, but I really will miss the comfort and support of those guys and that job.

Big breaths.

p.s. I realise I haven't even begun to explain how to make your craft work for you, but now I've finished work, and after half-term I promise I will!
Ok, so I could write a post about all the things that have happened this week, but THIS is far more exciting.  The Book is available to pre-order!  Look!!  Crochet Dress-Up by Emma Friedlander-Collins, da daha daha dah da da da dahhhhhh (that's a fanfare).

It's been very nearly a year since the process began, when I emailed the lovely ladies at the CICO offices some fairly shoddy photos and a couple of links to this blog and my Etsy shop.  After a meeting at their offices where I turned up with an enormous pile of all the dressing up things I'd made for my beasts, the learning curve began.  And now we're here!

I really have to go and carry on making stuff for the next book, but will pick up again next week and explain how to get a collection together and make your crochet work for you too. xxx