Cute Crocheted Animals by Emma Varnam book review

I recently bought Cute Crocheted Animals by Emma Varnam. The book is full of adorable patterns and I have already made my own Nancy Bear, shown above. First published in late 2016, it’s still readily available in 2021.

Crochet 5 animal types

There are crochet patterns for 5 different animals here: bears, rabbits, cats, mice & foxes.

This book is ideal if you like the idea of making amigurumi toys, but dislike small hooks & fiddly work. You make all the animals with a 3.5mm hook.

The animals are quite large – about 30cm/1 foot tall. My Nancy bear made with DK yarn was even taller. So these are substantial toys.

There is a boy & girl version of each toy but the patterns are unisex. Every animal has a different head pattern, but you make the body & limbs the same way for all of them.

While the patterns share much in common, each animal pattern is detailed in full. So you just follow each animal pattern from start to finish. Some pattern books complicate things by telling you to turn to page x & complete some steps from another pattern, but there’s none of that hassle here.

Front and back cover of Cute Crocheted Animals by Emma Varnam
Front & back cover of Cute Crocheted Animals by Emma Varnam

Crochet clothes for your animal toys

What sets this book apart is the wide variety of clothes & accessories patterns. You can crochet a whole wardrobe for your animals!

Since all the animals are the same size, you can mix and match the clothing to create your very own custom toy.

There are nearly 40 clothing & accessory crochet patterns included for tops, trousers, dresses, coats, shoes, hats etc. The wardrobe has everything from an aran jumper to a poncho. The possibilities are endless.

Nancy Bear's dress and handbag
Nancy Bear’s dress & handbag – too cute!

Kids would have great fun changing the outfits on their animals, and dressing them up for special occasions. Adults too. 😊

The clothes use either 3.5mm or 3mm hooks. Because the animals are quite large (30cm tall approx), the clothes are not too fiddly to make.

What types of yarn & craft supplies do you need?

Most patterns in the book use Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino & Rialto 4 ply premium wool. Debbie Bliss yarns switched to being available exclusively from LoveCrafts in 2018.

Don’t let this put you off because you don’t have to use those yarns. The key thing is to be consistent in the yarn substitutions.

If you want to use DK yarn for the animals instead of Cashmerino, they will just be slightly bigger, because Cashmerino has an unusual gauge & is more of a sport weight.

If you make your animals with DK, I’d recommend using 4 ply with a 3.5mm hook for clothes made with Cashmerino and using a 3.25mm hook instead of a 3mm hook for Rialto 4 ply clothes patterns.

For my own Nancy Bear I used Drops Lima DK yarn in shade 206 light beige. I used Drops Baby Merino 4 ply yarn for all her clothes.

You need quite small amounts of 4 ply yarn for the clothes, so it’s a great way to use up leftovers. You need a couple of 50g balls of yarn to make an animal though. I started my own bear out of stash but ended up having to buy some more to finish her!

You could also use aran yarn for the animals and DK for the clothes, but you will need to increase your hook size. I’d try 4.5mm for the animals and 3.5-4mm for the clothes. The thicker yarn you use, the bigger your toys will be too.

Aside from yarn, you will need toy stuffing and safety eyes. The foxes and bears also use plastic safety noses. You could just stitch on eyes & noses if you prefer. I found using the safety nose gave my bear a better finish.

Coats & cardigans, and optionally dresses, also need small buttons, which can be tricky to find.

If you are in the UK or Ireland, I bought safety eyes, noses and assorted buttons from CelloExpress & found them very efficient. Somehow I didn’t find enough buttons that were quite right for my cardigan in the hundreds of random buttons I got though. So I’ve now got a mini button stash habit as well as a yarn one! 🤣

More about the book

Cute Crocheted Animals uses UK crochet terms, but there is a list of equivalent US terms at the back of the book. The patterns mainly use double crochet UK (single crochet US), so are easy to convert.

This book is full of beautiful photos. It’s a joy to look at all the close ups & group shots of the animals. They make you want to cast on ASAP!

The 5 animal types are presented as adorable animal couples, each with their own names & personalities. After each animal pattern, you get the patterns for that animal’s wardrobe. Each animal has their own outfit in the book, but you can use all the clothes patterns for any animal.

Nancy Bear's cardigan
Nancy Bear’s cardigan

There is a separate wardrobe section in the book, with close up shots of all items and the page number for each pattern. This is really handy for deciding how you want to dress your toy.

Finally there is a “Basics” techniques section at the back of the book. This has lots of useful info including:

  • notes on yarn substitution
  • equivalent US crochet terms
  • other materials needed – stuffing, eyes etc
  • descriptions & illustrations of crochet stitches
  • explanations of various techniques used – seaming, colour changing, embroidery stitches & blocking
  • links to relevant websites & yarn stockists
  • alphabetical index

My experience making Cute Crocheted Animals

The beautiful close up photography & the variety of animals & clothing you can make set this book apart for me. It’s very good value for money.

I like the way the patterns mainly use simple crochet stitches. You can make the animals with just double crochet (single crochet US)! You only need 2 hook sizes for the entire book too. With yarn substitutions, it’s best if you have 1-2 extra hook sizes available for certain clothes to fit right.

You make all the animals following the same approach. There’s a lot of overlap among the patterns. So once you have made 1 toy, you can confidently tackle the rest.

Many patterns use Debbie Bliss Cashmerino yarn. That’s a tad unfortunate, because it’s quite dear, not widely available and tricky to substitute. But you can just use any DK yarn instead like me. See my yarn substitution tips above.

I love the flexibility of being able to mix and match all the clothes and accessories. It’s easy to give your animal a completely different look just by changing their clothes. Plus, you can crochet more outfits for lots of “dress up” fun that gives these toys longevity.

While much of the book is beginner friendly, more explanation would be helpful in places.

For example, at the start of making the animal feet you need to crochet into both sides of the chain. The pattern just mentions this briefly and there are no further instructions in the techniques section. If you haven’t done this before, you could get stuck here. Here’s a photo guide for this crochet foot technique which may help.

I also would have liked more information on assembly and finishing. When making toys, how to stuff the toy and do the face features is usually key to the end result.

I’ve a fair bit of soft toy making experience, but I struggled with shaping the bear’s face. The animals have simple head patterns, where you crochet one piece in the round. When stuffing the head I found it hard to form a proper bear head shape. The animal photos in the book all have well shaped heads but there is no guidance on how to achieve this.

There are plenty of close up shots so you can judge where to place the eyes, nose and mouth, but little written guidance. It took me many attempts to get the eyes & nose looking OK. I also was not sure where to focus the body & limbs stuffing or how much to use. So there was some trial and error there too, although the pictures were more helpful here.

Happily my Nancy Bear turned out well in the end. She was a present for my Mother & now has pride of place on her couch. 😊

If you would like to crochet some soft toys, I’d certainly recommend this book. The animals are easy enough to make overall & it’s super fun designing their wardrobe too.

Where to buy & more info

Nancy Bear crochet animal toy from Cute Crocheted Animals book
My finished Nancy Bear made from Cute Crocheted Animals book

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