Sunday, March 28, 2010


It did strike me the other day that if I am intending to find my child under a gooseberry bush come September, dressing him or her in gooseberry colours might not be my brightest ever idea. However, I was saved from adding that to every new mother-to-be's list of crazy and unlikely baby concerns by the recollection that the gooseberry season in England generally runs from mid June to early August and so if I just look for the bush with a berry on or under it, I'll be OK to find the baby. Also, I hear rumours that this method of delivery is now considered rather passe, even by the hippy-crunchy earth mother brigade, and that something involving hospitals and improbable biology may be closer to the truth - I'm sure they'll clear it all up at the NCT classes. In the meantime, maybe I should plant a gooseberry bush just in case!

Whatever method of arrival the baby bear chooses (and if you're reading this and you're from social services, trust me, there really isn't any need to send the men in white coats), I do now have a little something to dress him or her in:
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A Baby Origami jacket, also known as Judy's Grandmother's Baby Jacket from Greetings from Knit Cafe.

If I'm being brutally honest, I don't think that the pictures of this jacket in the book are that great, and it wasn't until I saw some of the finished jackets on Ravelry that it became a definite on the 'to knit' list.

This is the newborn size and it took about 2.5 50g balls of the Rooster Almerino DK. The only modification I made was not to slip the last stitch of each row; my edges are pretty neat and I like the look I have better than the book pictures. What I think it really clever is the way that the shoulder seams are knit up. Essentially you pick up and knit up on edge to the neck, down the opposite edge to the cuff and then 3 needle bind off. Initially I thought it might give a bit of a ridge but it's smooth and almost flat and looks very smart, I'm tempted to try it out on a baby surprise jacket because I've never been entirely happy about the way in which those shoulder seams either look neat but with a seam, or slightly messy but flat seamed.
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This could be the front, or the back, the jacket is completely reversible and you can change it according to whether the baby is asleep on his or her back, or having a little bit of tummy time. I've also made the ties long enough to tie under an arm at one side so I suspect I'll be going for this as the back, and the clever cross over bit at the front - I mean, who wants to waste that cleverness on a side of the baby that won't be seen?

The only thing I might change if I knit this again is to shorten the sleeves; to my inexperienced eye they just seem a little on the long side, but the jacket looks very cute with the cuffs turned up so it's not a real problem.

All this finishing left me with a ball and a half of yarn leftover, and a good knitter can never see good yarn lying fallow, so after a little consultation with Ravelry, I made these:
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The wonderfully titled Page 81 Booties by Susan B Anderson (it's a pattern to some booties photographed on page 81 of Itty Bitty Hats). They're soft, cozy, and double thickness so (a) the baby will have warm feet and (b) they're sturdy enough to stand a chance of staying on (so say the mothers of small babies who work in my office).

They are also a high ranking project in the category 'things to knit on the train to totally freak out the ordinary commuter'. Given that you start with a selection of squares and end up with two shoes, it is not perhaps so very surprising that the bloke opposite me kept craning a worried glance!

So here we have it, the baby bear's first outfit (the woolly section anyway).
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Now all we have to do is wait for the stork to tap at the door to pick up the baby clothes; I'm presuming that's how they get the clothes from your house to put on the baby so that it's dressed when they pop it under the bush, otherwise it would get cold or prickly, especially if you were looking in a field of gooseberries - and it's the only explanation that really covers the need for storks in the whole baby process ... air mail, so much more efficient than Royal Mail.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Happy Birthdays

You know by now that it is an obligation incumbent on every member of H and my families to have a birthday that either exactly or very almost matches someone else's. Until this year, H's Mum had escaped that particular blessing, but this year we have two Happy Birthdays to sing.
First, to H's Mum; 21 and a bit and the delighted recipient of the Banana Monkey socks.

And second, to this little girl, known to us as Heidi:

Heidi is 3 today, (this is her at Christmas, hence the antlers), and she lives in Changsa, Hunan Province, China and she is a very special part of H and my family; our little Bamboo Baby who we started to sponsor through Pearl River Outreach in the autumn.
The Bamboo Babies are Chinese orphans, and the Pearl River sponsorship program pays the stipend for the Babies' carers so that they are in foster care, not an orphanage. I don't know a huge deal about adoption psychology but from what I've read, if a child has been in foster care before she is adopted the she grows up with the idea of there being just one Mummy and Daddy, rather than a new Mummy every day, and it helps her to attach to her forever Mummy and Daddy when she is adopted.
I hope and pray that she finds her forever family soon, but for now we know that she is well looked after and loved and cherished by us and her other sponsors and she will always be a part of our family, albeit at a distance.
Happy Birthday: Sheng Ri Kuai Le
PS: Heidi is not her real name, but as a matter of policy Pearl River keep the children's chinese names private, and give them anglicised names for public use, so to us Heidi she is.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Thursday Everyone

Good Evening Knitters! Welcome to another day on planet yarn!*

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Firstly, as you see, I have completed the bananarama monkeys and they have (as of this lunchtime), been cautiously entrusted to the Royal Mail to deliver them to a birthday-girl to be. No two skeins of handpainted yarn ever end up exactly the same but I love that in the first sock (the one on the left), I've got clear strong swirls of unadulterated banana yellow, but when it comes to the second, the yellow has got a little muddier, with that 'few days out of the refrigeration unit' banana brown starting to creep in - a case of art unintentionally imitating art perhaps!

More importantly, I am now being stalked by babies. As well as the baby bear who is my joy and delight, there are another five girls in our office expecting a stork fly past sometime between the end of June and the beginning of October. It's not that big an office so that's quite a statistic.

Add to the mix a happy addition to some friends of H's in early June, and (to my very great delight) a first baby for another of my cousins in early October and it'll need to be a veritable squadron of ciconiidae to service the Midlands this summer. That or someone needs to start farming gooseberries - choose your euphemism at will.

Now not all of these peeps fall into the handknitting bracket but I'm good friends with two of the other girls plus bumps at work, and new family should always be welcomed with wool so I'm busily hatching my plan. Actually the e-mail from Mum announcing M and G's happy news concluded with: "get knitting girl", and all good girls obey their Mamma's (occasionally).

Anyway, this is where I need your help. M's sister received one of the many alphabet blankets of 2007 so whilst I want to knit a blanket, I've been scouting for other patterns, and I think we have a winner in OpArt from Knitty. For those that don't want to do the clicky thing, it's knit with two colours in horizontal stripes radiating in a square from the centre, knit so that they have a twist and the squares appear to be spiralling.

The question is which two colours would be best for a gender neutral baby, given that I need a decent contrast between the two to make it work. I'm thinking maybe turquoise and light green, or a coffee caramel and cream, or bright red and yellow, but the problem is that I don't have much of an idea what colours M&G favour, let alone the wee babe.

Anyway, please let me know what you think would look good. I might even try to add a poll if I can figure out blogger that far. And Mum, if you could tap up Auntie P next time to talk to her for any subtle hints, without telling her the whole project, that would be really great.

*Brownie points to anyone in the UK who now knows which radio station we listen to in the morning; utter bemusement to the rest of the world - just chalk it up to English eccentricity.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Comfort knitting

Yesterday was one of those days that gets euphemistically described as 'interesting'. Suffice to say that I encountered both the very worst and the very best of the medical profession as a lack of information from the former carefully picked out my weakest and most vulnerable point and harnessed all of my inner paranoia to run ragged with my carefully maintained sense of calm until the latter came along with sense, information and solace.

The rational and intelligent part of my brain knows that all is well with both me and the little bear and we have nothing to fear. The irrational subconscious that lurks deep inside and speaks in the dark hours of the night is still working on restoring the happy equilibrium.

In all this maelstrom of emotion and general ranting I have been comfort knitting, with what must be one of my favourite yarns of all time:

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Rooster Almerino DK - the colour is called Gooseberry; and as babies are traditionally found under such bushes, it seemed only appropriate to be turning it into a little something for the wee bear.
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I know it looks rather extraordinary at the moment, and its growth spurt yesterday did nothing to change that, but it is the start of Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater from Greetings from Knit Cafe. The bit I'm currently knitting is the main body which is knit from side to side, and then sleeves are picked up and knit down, and with some magical form of origami it all turns into a baby jacket.

Mostly I love the texture:
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The garter stitch is nice and squishy but the honeycomb is softer and squishier and, by trapping the air in little pockets, it should keep the baby toasty warm against the autumn breezes.

I'm loving knitting it, and it's the perfect colour, and the very thing to chase the clouds away and go back to enjoying getting ready for this new little person.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Made with love by Mummy

I'm rapidly discovering that the problem with making things for your own baby is that you know that however it turns out you only have two options; (a) bin it/ frog it and deny all knowledge or (b) love it and live with it. Suddenly it's no longer enough to make a cute baby cardigan, it has to be the best and the most wonderful baby cardigan EVER, otherwise it clearly won't be worthy of dressing what will no doubt be (at least in the minds of its parents, grandparents and great-granny) the most wonderful baby ever to be born, and the same goes for anything else that I make.

I know it doesn't really matter how something turns out because in reality, the baby won't care as long as it is warm, dry, cuddled and well fed, H and I will be too sleep deprived to really care as long as the baby is actually dressed, and our parents will be too polite/know me too well to say anything!

However, in my ongoing search for the cutest ever baby makes, I discovered an American website called Sew Baby, who do E-patterns for bibs, booties and all sorts of little things (hurray no postage), so yesterday afternoon my desk looked like this:
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Actually it still looks quite a lot like that, I'm not the tidiest of sewers!

And what was I making? Well, may I introduce:

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Piggy, and
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All three from the one pattern, Animal Soft Blocks, by Precious Patterns
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I bought needlecord for the ears or gator eyes as John Lewis in Solihull didn't have fleece in quite the right colours and I think it works pretty well. I've orientated the ears so that they stroke outward because that seemed like it might be fun for little hands.
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They've actually got quite a nice variety of texture in each block; the body of the block is cotton quilting prints from the stash (I know that Gator has Amy Butler spots and a Kaffe Fassett print body, and the elephants on the giraffe came from the African Textile stand at the NEC quilt show two years ago, but beyond that I've no idea), the gator teeth and giraffe horns are silky ribbon, and the eyes and noses are DMC embroidery thread.
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At the moment we have no idea what the Baby Bear thinks of them - actually I did get sick cleaning the bathroom this morning but hopefully that just means that the baby doesn't like cleaning bathrooms which is completely understandable - but H thinks they're good, and I think they're cute so they've had a bin-bag reprieve. Now all I need is a nursery to put them in!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pretty little things

I'm holding out on you. I have started a little bit of baby knitting for the little bear but I haven't got the pictures to show it just yet, and to be fair, a lot of my knitting time at the moment has been spent in knitting up the second Banana Monkey sock in time for the recipient's birthday.

I also cast aside all things woolly on Sunday and curled up in a ball in a patch of sunlight on the sofa to finish off my second quilt square before the next class, which has snuck up on me and is on Saturday.

I'm doing the more novice version of the block of the month club at Quilter's Den in Warwick; we started in January, and technically we should finish 12 blocks by December, just in time to turn it into a cozy quilt for the winter. How much I actually get done once the baby arrives, who knows - I hear vicious rumours that crafty time is seriously depleted by a stork-shaped fly-past but for the moment I'm choosing to ignore them (those of you that are already mothers may laugh hollowly at my expense!)

The first block, made just as morning sickness started to get its teeth into me, is I think called Mary's Puzzle or something like that. We made triangle blocks and then chose whatever orientation we like the best.

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I'm contemplating re-sewing the centre seam, but I think I might just be staring at it too much, and I'm pretty certain that in the wider quilt it will pass the 'dashing past on horseback' test.

Block number 2 is Tumbling Blocks

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All handsewn using paper piecing. It's slow going, and intricate, and I loved every bit of it until it came to appliqueing the tumbling pyramid onto the backing which was a bit awkward. I clearly haven't got to grips with pulling the freezer paper out from underneath at odd angles, but still keeping the nice straight edges, and I fear a few of my points may be slightly more child-safe scissors than razor sharp, but it's all practice.

What I do know is that I could quite happily have gone on and on adding tumbling blocks and I now have a serious hankering after a Grandmother's flower garden style hexagon quilt, and some possible options in the stash for a little one ..... I really must get the boy back to working on a time-extender for me; or possibly a super-speed super-power. It would certainly be more use than my current super strong sense of smell which has just picked up a cheese and pickle sandwich, despite the fact that no one in my team is eating one.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Housewife, 29

Whilst superstitiously touching all available wood (Ikea bookcases are sort of wood aren't they?), I may actually put into writing the suggestion that I have stopped being pregnant-sick.

Wow, it's been a minute since I wrote that and I haven't been smoted by the fates with a dash to the porcelain throne - maybe it's true, or maybe I'm just getting wise to how much I can achieve without getting so tired that I have to lie in a corner and groan?

Given this newfound lease of life it seemed only fair that I let my inner 1950's girl let rip. After all, I missed the chance to use a wonderful box of cupcake goodies that Zee gave me for Christmas, and my new Cupcake Courier, when we had a cake day at work to raise money for Haiti; and I missed the chance to go all out with pink icing and heart shaped sprinkles on Valentines day, or something red and gold for Chinese New Year, and I kind of forgot to do anything green for St Patrick's day despite living not too far from the third largest Paddy's day parade in the world (according to Midlands Today who may very well be biased).

I also rather felt for H who whilst an excellent cook has a limited repertoire unless someone stands by and tells him what to do. When you're asking him to cook because you need to lie on the sofa and groan, the instructions for chicken risotto will not be forthcoming any time soon, trust me on this one. Our diet over the last couple of months has been a bit 'interesting', so it seemed like a good time to try to make it up to him and say thank you for the care he is taking of me (and the baby bear) with some good old fashioned show-off cooking.

I made home made pizza (ham and mushroom for him, and butternut squash and sage for me - NB no tomato sauce on mine, just slices of peeled butternut squash and fresh sage - it's delicious), and:

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Chocolate -raspberry tarts, a la Nigella again but I added the chocolate hearts from the leftover pastry. The tarts themselves are dark chocolate pastry, the filling is marscapone, melted white chocolate and double cream and the raspberries make it part of your five a day!

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See, fruit, it's healthy really!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Monkey and the Banana

Lest you were concerned that in the excitement and bouncing (gently) round the room thrill about the impending arrival of baby bear I had abandoned any idea that things could be knitted in a size above 6 months old and plunged headlong into the wonderful world of baby knits (and sews and quilts and .... and ....), please be completely reassured that I have. I've utterly and completely lost sight of any woolly objective other than keeping the wee bear nice and healthy as far as I can, and ensuring that when he or she makes their arrival they will have the best possible knitted ensemble that any baby of currently unknown gender could possibly want. (We're waiting for a surprise so I'm knitting gender-neutral).

However, H's Mum has a birthday in the not too distant future and as (a) she is exceptionally appreciative of knitwear and ranks very highly in the list of people that I like knitting for and (b) I've been waiting on the yarn for the baby, I thought a pair of socks on the needles might not be a bad idea.

H had the choosing of the yarn from a selection I extracted from the stash (he isn't allowed to see the whole stash at once of course!) and having decided that his Mum has lots of pink and blue socks, we've gone green and yellow to balance it out and a very familiar pattern.
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The yarn is Shelridge Farm Soft Touch Ultra which is just wonderful yarn - H loves the pair of socks he has knitted in it and they've worn incredibly well. As I was winding it up I was running through the pattern options in my mind and it kept saying bananas to me, which led me, inevitably, to Cookie A's wonderful Monkey pattern, as knit by just about everyone in the woolly world I think.
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I've been working on these socks in odd moments this week, and on the train back and forth to work, and I think they're exerting subliminal messaging.
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What else could explain this:
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A fresh loaf of Banana Bread (recipe from Nigella's Domestic Goddess), which somehow lost it's end before the camera made it to the kitchen. An answer might of course be pregnancy cravings but as they seem to revolve around olives and pineapple I'm sticking to my first theory ...
March 024
.... beware the power of the socks!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Baby Knitting

When H mentioned that he's been knitting more than me in the past few months he was for once being serious. He found a Baby Surprise Jacket stuck half way through a row, trailing yarn and looking perilously close to being tipped into a glass of fizzy ginger while the real knitter lay semi-somnolent and groaning on the sofa, and being a well trained man of yarn, he recalled that half rows were a bad idea, and polished off the end of the row with remarkably even tension.

It may have been a baby surprise jacket, but not for the little bear; I'm too cautious to count my bears before the scan! I did cast on something for our little one last week, but having knit two sleeves and a good chunk of the body, I have concluded that the colour is just all wrong and it's getting frogged. Having wailed at the poor boy about the fact that the yarn wasn't quite the right colour and that this clearly meant that I will be a terrible mother because I can't even choose the right colour yarn to make the perfect baby sweater etc etc (hormones make such a lovely addition to my usually perfectionist personality, oh yes!), H wisely concluded that the wrong yarn should go back into the stash to be knit for someone else that it will actually suit, and I should purchase the 'right' yarn. Phew, I'm so relieved.

The baby surprise jackets, for there are two, are for my two newest second cousins, both baby girls.
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This one, which should be entitled 'Winter Sunshine', went to little L who arrived in January.

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Whereas this one, 'Josephine's Coat of Many Colours' will hit the post tomorrow, going south to fairy princess T, who arrived rather quickly the week before last, much to the surprise of her father, who ended up doing the delivering - perhaps a BSJ is rather apt!

And just in case you thought I'd forgotten, may I present (drum roll please)

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H's Olympic socks.

The eagle eyed among you will note from the bagginess and the soft and fluffy nature of the feet that these did not meet the camera for some while, and may perhaps have been stolen from H's feet while he was sleeping (I did put clean socks back on!). We are about to discover what Malabrigo thinks of my washing machine's wool cycle!
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The pattern is a little subtle because of the variegation in the yarn but I think H rather likes it that way!

And finally, a massive thank you to everyone who sent their congratulations for our little bear-to-be; we loved reading every one of them and meeting a whole load of de-lurkers and I think I'll have to print that page some day and put it in the baby's book-of-random-thoughts-and-stories-from-Mummy-and-Daddy.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The tale of an Olympian

Hello? Remember me? I trust that the boy kept you all adequately entertained in my time of unforseen and unavoidable absence from most things fun. I think I may now cautiously predict my return, at least for a little while.

I first discovered blogging and the wonderful world of the knitting internets about four years or so ago, about the time of the First Knitting Olympics. I loved the idea but lacked the courage or the confidence in my own ability to choose a suitable project and see it through to the bitter end. I feared choosing something so easy that I felt I hadn't competed properly, or something so hard that it would be met only by amused chuckles at the naivity of this rapidly accelerating knitter.

Truth be told, when I say how much fun everyone had, I rather regretted not jumping in with both feet and thinking about it later and I promised myself that next time I would be there at the start, needles poised in mittened hands (fingerless of course), yarn flying away behind me, woolly hat crammed down over my ears, feet toasty warm from the power of my hand knit socks.

I had this great plan, and I had the project; Fiona Ellis' Bonnie sweater from the very first Twist Collective. But as all really good plans are want to do, this one went a little astray.

As the time drew near for the flame to hit that cauldron, I realised that there was no way I was going to be able to knit that sweater; just to knit each day would be quite enough of a challenge, without adding cables to the mixture, and with the length I wanted to add, I no longer had sufficient yarn for the entire project.

So I had a little rethink and decided that socks I could do. More particularly, having seen the boy's hijack and being very well aware that there is no stash of socks waiting for him somewhere (well there is, it's called his sock drawer but he's seen them all before), I felt that a pair of boy socks would be appropriate.

I handed him Cookie A's Sock Innovation and asked him to pick a pattern, and he perused 'his' sock yarn stash and choose a wonderful Malabrigo sock in Stonechat.

17 days; one pair of socks. I can do better than that can't I? So I asked H to choose a pattern for me and a skein from the stash and set out. 4 socks, 17 days. I really should be able to do that.

Things didn't get off to the greatest of starts when I didn't actually see the Olympic flame lit until Sunday afternoon because of lack of time to watch the video (and I'm a stickler for not cheating at these things), and after one thing and another, I found that yesterday morning I woke up to one finished sock and about an inch and a half of its pair.

You'll have to trust me when I say that I finished H's socks after great stints of knitting yesterday because just after I kitchenered the toe to the Canadian National Anthem following their wonderful victory in the ice-hockey final they were hoiked out of my hands and onto his feet. Where they remain. At art class. Away from my camera. I take it he likes them.

And that second pair .... well the yarn is wound!

The thing is, I've started work on another project; one that will consume more of my love and time than the Olympics or even knitting ever will, and one that I very much hope that I will be working on for the rest of my life.

Baby Bear, expected at the beginning of September, and wrigglish and camera shy just like its parents. If you know what you're looking for you can see the heartbeat (white dot in the middle), the head on the right, a little hand waving from behind and those two UFOs on the left are feet we think! If you don't - it's going to snow tomorrow but clear up nicely towards the end of the week.