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Rainbow Valley Shop

Sunday/Monday - Closed
Tuesday to Friday - 9am to 12pm, 1pm to 5pm
Late Nights Tuesday/Wednesday - 7pm to 9pm
Saturday (October to June) - 10am to 12pm, 1pm to 4pm
Saturday (July to September) - 9am to 1pm

I was born and bred in South Wales, in and around Cardiff but in the New Year of 2004 moved to the Cambridgeshire Fens, England.

Helen Free, designer and textile artist

I started crocheting as a child, my Dad taught me.  I was never very serious about it. I got back into it in my early 20's.   I had just bought a house, couldn’t afford to go out and needed something to occupy my evenings.

I started getting requests for items I had made and, in an effort to make ends meet when the interest rates went sky high, decided to make items to sell.

I hadn’t even considered there would be a market for the patterns until I started getting requests for them.   I was always good at just "making things up as I went along" and never thought of it as designing until I discovered the wonderful world of crochet online.   I met a group of lovely ladies who encouraged me to write down my designs and sell them.

Rainbow Valley Patterns

Rainbow Afghan Crochet Pattern

My first pattern, the Rainbow Afghan, was a success and still remains one of my best selling.   It is based on an Artex ceiling pattern. I remember thinking it looked like Rainbows.

The original one was made in bright Rainbow colours before I made the pastel one for babies.   If you think is looks too girly, try it all in blues for a boy.

Pond Puppets crochet pattern

These Puppets were originally designed for my son.   I made him a couple to play with and ended up making and selling 24 at the WI market in the month before Christmas.

They have evolved over the years and I have started re-writing the earlier ones in the same style as the later ones.   There are now twelve sets of bright and cheerful puppet patterns to choose from.

Snakes and Ladders Garden Game

The Snakes and Ladders is the second garden sized game. The "board" doubles up as a snuggly blanket.   This one was designed with younger children in mind.   The first one was more ambitious - a Chess set.

There are now cuddly toys on this page as well, including my favourite creation, Valentino Hare.

Denim Delight Designer Clothing

Then I started playing with thread.  I experimented with working directly into fabric to produce clothing.   Denim Delight uses a loose weave denim and the seams are crocheted together.   Not difficult but a little bit fiddly.  There is a free pattern using this technique if you would like to have a go.

I have also designed a Lacy Lingerie set in sizes up to a UK 22.

Rainbow Earrings crochet pattern

Thread crochet also led me to Jewellery.  The Rainbow Earrings are part of another set.   Due to demand, I have released them as a separate pattern.

There are a more Jewellery patterns available in different styles.

William Kennet crocheted clematis

Just before Christmas 2009, I slipped on the ice and badly hurt my wrist.  I could wiggle my fingers so figured it wasn't broken.   I spent all Christmas in pain and frustration at not being able to crochet then, as it wasn't getting better, I finally went to see the Doc.   Imagine my surprise on finding out it was broken and then having to spend six weeks in plaster!!!!

When I finally was able to crochet again, it hurt!  I was not able to carry on with the project I was working on before the accident as it needed a tight tension and lost all motivation.

Our Craft Club decided to hold a "Summer Challenge" and the result of this was my Clematis.   You can find more information about the making of it on my blog.  As you can see, I found my motivation again.

The Clematis was never intended to be a pattern but, after numerous requests, I finally gave in, wrote and published it.

I was doing ok but not wonderfully well with my designing.   My patterns were selling steadily but never at the level that could be classed as an income, let alone a living.   In fact, it was probably more realistic to say that I spent more than I earned from it.   Especially when you consider that my wages from my part time job was supplementing my crochet.

Inside Crochet

I met the Inside Crochet team at the Knit and Stitch show in London, October 2010.   A photo of my Clematis had appeared in a previous issue and, when they realised I was "The Clematis Lady", they were delighted to see me.

Inside Crochet Baby Boy Inside Crochet Baby Girl The result of this was getting "published" in the magazine. There is no way to describe the feeling of seeing your name in print for the first time.

It is still really exciting but the first time is always special.

And the best news, my pattern sales soared. This was the beginning of a long, if rocky, relationship with Inside Crochet.

The complete set of Alphabet Mobiles are available as digital downloads.

Crotat Tutorial

A favourite technique of mine is Crotat. It is a form of tatting made with a crochet hook. Unlike the other forms of tatting, it combines with crochet to stunning effect.

I produced a "How to Crotat" guide for Inside Crochet, along with some other patterns.

I now have a whole section on How to Crotat, along with some Crotat patterns.

In November 2011, the care home I was working in closed down and I was made redundant. I started looking for another job because, despite the fact that I love designing, my bank balance doesn't. In the meantime, I decided to concentrate on building up the business.

And the "rocky relationship"?

The company who owned Inside Crochet were not very good at paying their designers.  In fact, they were not very good at paying anyone.   There are lots of stories (including proof) on line about them.  I was paid very late for my patterns - but at least I got paid.  Many designers didn't. During the time I was involved with them, they changed their name from KAL Media to All Craft Media and finally went into administration early in 2012.  I was never paid for my final pattern.

The craft magazines were taken over by Select Publishing later in 2012 and things have improved greatly.   The new parent company has a proven track record and a good business reputation.

Aran Poncho crochet pattern Duck Bathmat and Flannel set

Inside Crochet is now published by Tailor Made Publishing.  I have designed more patterns for them including this warm Aran poncho made with 100% wool from Donegal in Ireland and the Duck Bathmat and Flannel set.

Of course, I don't just write patterns for magazines, as you can see from this website.  I have designed a lot more patterns and have shops with a variety of online selling platforms.


DMC Home Banner Kit Let's Knit May 2014 Let's Knit December 2014

As well as Inside Crochet, I have worked with DMC and YarnMaker using hand spun yarn.

I have had a few patterns in "Let's Knit". (I haven't gone over to the "Dark Side", they are crochet patterns).

My newest magazine adventure was with Reloved.

Modern Crochet is about Art.

One of the things I love about crochet is the versatility of it.   It is no longer Granny Squares and Doilies, although these still have their place and are widely popular.

It doesn't matter whether you wear it or hang it on the wall.   It is about colour and creativity.   It is about pushing the accepted boundaries.

Four Seasons Flower Wall Hangings

The Four Seasons were made because I wanted to "Crochet Art".   I wrote the patterns as I went, more from habit than any things else although the original idea was more as a fun project for me.

I had no idea they would be as popular as they were and this particular picture went viral on FaceBook!

The backgrounds are worked with Tapestry Crochet and the flowers appliquéd on for a 3D effect.

Going International

Deutsch Svenska Nederlands

Rainbow Valley is now international!   The German section went live in October 2013 with the Swedish section following in January 2014, with a selection of patterns on both sections.

I had planned that Spanish and Dutch pages would be going live later in 2014 with the possibility of French not long afterwards, however, this had to be delayed.   New EU distance selling regulations, which came into force in June 2014, meant a major overhaul of the site.   This was followed by the badly thought out and implemented EU VAT regulations in January 2015.   I was uncertain about whether I would still be able to sell to the EU until just before Christmas 2014 when HMRC finally clarified the situation.

An amazing group of people banded together to form "The EU VAT Action Team" and have been putting a lot of time and energy into fighting this very unfair legislation.

April 2017 finally saw the launch of the Dutch Section.  The French section is a work in progress but there are some patterns there.

December 2017 saw some amazing news regarding the EU VAT.   You can read the official press release and watch the video made by one of the people who made this all happen.

However, Brexit has completely messed all of this up.  When we come out of the EU we will no longer have the concessions that we fought so hard to get.  Although, to be truthful, nobody knows as yet exactly how we will be affected.

I love teaching!

Rainbow Valley Weekend

My lessons have been proving popular which means more time teaching and less time spent designing.   However, as I enjoy teaching as much as I enjoy designing, this is no hardship.

I currently hold regular weekly lessons at the shop.   I love seeing my students who have been struggling with holding the hook, bloom and produce a piece of work they are pleased with.

I worked with Unravel and Unwind in Rochester, Kent to organise my first weekend of workshops in July 2014.   It was so much fun we started doing it twice a year.  More recent events have meant that I can't go on a regular basis any more - but more about that later.

Kits and Supplies

Crochet Kits

Then there are the Crochet Kits!

I started with Christmas patterns and am working my way through older patterns to make the "kit friendly".   All new patterns are being produced as kits as part of the design process.

As an off shoot from this, I started selling crochet yarn and accessories.

Originally it was only the excess materials from the kits as I have to buy full boxes and only use one ball at a time.   I now have an extensive range of yarn and thread, hooks and needles and haberdashery.

Crochet Along with Rainbow Valley.

Secret Garden CAL

Space Odyssey CAL

In January 2017 I started my first CAL, Secret Garden.   This was scary!  I had never done anything like this before.

Fortunately, I was well supported by some friends who are now known as the "E Team".   Quite apart from all the practical tasks they took on, they held my hand through countless panic attacks.

It was all worth it. We have seen some gorgeous versions of the blanket appearing all over Facebook.

Space Odyssey was released in September 2017, Kiss Me Quick in March 2018, Treasure Island in March 2021 and Festive Flowers in September 2021.

Wonderland is the newest CAL due to start in January 2023.

Rainbow Valley - The shop

Rainbow Valley Shop

Even more scary was the shop!

I had been dreaming of a shop for a long time but had not been brave enough.  A series of events persuaded me to make the decision at the end of July and a series of coincidences meant that I had the keys at the end of August.

As usual, when I make a decision, I want it all to happen "yesterday".

My trusty friends rallied around and, although the shop was no where near ready, the opening day on September 8th, 2018 was a huge success.

I was hoping that by Christmas I would have finished stocking the shop, adding it all to the inventory and getting it all online.  This didn't quite happen but I am almost there.  Despite the fact that it is a lot of hard work, I am enjoying the challenge and don't regret a thing - except maybe not leaving a little more time between getting the keys and opening.

Rainbow Valley Shop

The Future?

I am in the process of building Rainbow Valley into a business which can actually earn me a living, something I thought I would never be able to do.

Ok, so this means an 84 hour week with no time off for good behaviour.   It means sleepless night and "Should I really have done that?" on a regular basis.   It means accepting the fact that I am never going to get rich doing what I do.

But how many people can say that they earn an income by doing their favourite thing?