Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Are you feeling Christmassy?

Then we shall begin.

It started so simply with a pattern. A very clever pattern with interchangeable cardigan fronts to save the washing machine from too much stress and strain when a little bear might decide that wearing dinner is better than eating it. I knew as soon as I saw it that the Hey Presto sweater was on the must-knit list, and then I got to thinking..... and we all know that can be a dangerous thing.

The Hey Presto jacket is for size 6 months. On the basis that the baby of two people who both top 6' is not very likely to be diminutive of stature, I'm guessing that we might need a 6 month size jacket just that little bit sooner, maybe around about the end of December. And if you're looking for gender neutral colours that aren't white or cream or soft yellow, well everyone likes a nice warm red in the winter .... it's clear what's going to be coming off my needles, and sure enough:

April 281

One Hey Presto baby jacket in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. Knit to the pattern and accessorised with swirly red and white buttons from the bargain bin at House of Fraser.

So far, so innocent of all plotting and seasonal theming of my child.

Well we knew that wouldn't last, I mean what would you do with enough red yarn to make another front, and a little cream in a matching weight?

The first draft, sketched on the back of a post it note taught me that charting your knitting patterns on the back of a post it note is a really bad idea and you'll end up frogging:
April 003
It didn't get any longer before the artistic director (H) and I decided that this was not good.

Take 2 however, sketched out on the back of a bit of junk mail found in the glove box on the way to Cumbria proved that sketching on junk mail really is the way forward, and so, without much further ado, may I present Baby Bear's first Christmas jumper:

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And because it's going to be December, and a little chilly, no small bear should be out and about without a matching hat to complete the outfit:
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The hat is the Candy Cane hat from Itty Bitty Hats. I finished the hat before we left last week and dragged a couple of models out into the garden for a photo shoot before we left.April 254

Somehow George manages to emote the feelings I think the baby would share if I decided to wake him or her up and take them into the garden for an early morning photo shoot. He was determinedly unimpressed by all of my photography skills so I popped him back in the house and went in search of another model, and here she is:

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Azaria (she carries a star) is hiding underneath in a very positive frame of mind!

My favourite thing about this hat in terms of construction is that I finally mastered the jog-less join for knitting stripes in the round.

I used the Meg Swansen technique of changing colour and then as you reach the end of the first round in the new colour, lift the stitch of the old colour and knit it with the first stitch of the new colour to start the second round of new colour.

Before it was blocked I could still see the vague diagonal ripple caused by the start of the round moving on by a stitch each round but now, well:

April 260 April 261
I can't find it unless I look for it, and no-one is going to be looking that closely on a wriggly baby.

So, it's 28 April and I've started, and finished, some of my Christmas knitting - are you going to call the men in white coats? And do they bring yarn sedatives....?

PS - did you know it's only 240 days until Christmas? (ducks and places tin helmets firmly on head and baby bump)

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Happy Place

As a continuation of our last pre-baby wedding anniversary, H decided that we should have a little tiny spring holiday and whisked me up to the Lake District for some space, fresh air, and pure escapism from the daily grind.

The boy did good. This is the view from our hotel room:

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It's on the shores of Ullswater, with grounds that stretch all the way down to the lake, and woodland and daffodils and all sorts of pretty. It is remarkable that we came home and required some considerable effort to tear ourselves away, not just from the lovely hotel but the pretty scenery and the lack of other people. Clearly the pair of us are destined to end up hermits, woolly hermits with nice quilts and stunning cave paintings (H's work not mine) - actually that sounds pretty good right now!

The compensation is that the garden has been working very hard to put on a welcome home display and following my this year's resolution to pick my tulips and daffs so that I get to really enjoy them, I recharged two of the vases.

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I'm aiming for some sort of colour scheme but as my tulips are a combination of mixture packs ordered last autumn and whatever re-grew from last year, it's a constant and pleasant surprise to see what each opens out to be.
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The one in the middle is a Lily tulip, and I think it might be Burgandy.
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The cream with purple flecks might be a re-grow from last year because I know I had some that were pale ivory with lilac edges.
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centre middle is a Parrot tulip called Rococo and I think the one on the right is a Flaming Parrot
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The enormous red tulips are a complete mystery - they grew when we moved in.
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I love the way they have that under-ripe tomato colours in the centre.

H went for a round of golf yesterday afternoon so I set up the sewing machine to finish off another quilt block from this month's class - folded Flying Geese:

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Mine are clearly pale pearly white geese, with the volcano-enhanced sunset catching the edges of their feathers as they circle the kind of crimson sunset we've been seeing over the last week or so.
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One third of the way all done.
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I've picked the backing and tacked up each square to quilt as I go with the idea of having each block as finished as possible so that I might actually finish the quilt even with the baby bear giving all possible assistance!

And finally, lucky 21 weeks (ish)
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19 weeks to go, or should that be to grow?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In which beautiful things have been arriving by post

Today I am a happy girl. I'm usually fairly cheerful but today is a day of great joy and celebrating.

First and most importantly, it is four years to the day that I married my lovely H. Words cannot really do justice to how I feel about this man - lets just say that he has, and richly deserves, a lot of hand-knitted socks.

Secondly, the postman has been bringing me a wonderful array of pretty parcels in the post. I know I ordered them but it's still exciting to come home from work and see a little something on the dining room table.

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First we had some yarn, from Laughing Yaffle (which is just a genius name), accompanied by a set of Knit-Pro interchangeable stripy wood circular needles which failed to make it into the photo because they were already in use! It's sock yarn (one for the boy and one for me) in Blue Parrot and Flamingo Sunset; beautiful colours on a base that feels similar to Opal in the skein.
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Then something to read while I knit, I've only dipped in but so far so good.

And last but not least:

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Fluffy sparkliness from Faith's new shop, Purldrop Studios. I ordered these the weekend before last and they arrived yesterday which is impressive speed from the US. They also came beautifully wrapped and with husband-bribing sweeties - can't fail.

From left to right the colours are Florida Tidepool, Blue Martini (the closest I'm going to get to a stiff drink this side of the autumn), and Magic Pumpkin.

As I said, smiles all round! Now I just have to go and solemnly present my husband with his anniversary gift of Fizzy Colins (jelly snakes) and the day really will be made!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mine all mine

I suppose technically this post should be entitled "our all ours" seeing as the little bear is just as much his or her Daddy's baby as he or she is mine but that would loose all the fun of the pun so I'm sticking with it.

It has always been our plan to have a little "I'm a baby girl" outfit and a little "I'm a baby boy" outfit in my hospital bag so that we can bring our little bear home dressed by Mummy without it having to be all neutral so my absolute favourite little girl cardie, Stephanie Pearl McPhee's Baby All Mine, was pretty near the top of the knitting queue.

Well you can see why:

April 156

It's just so cute! The yarn is Rowan Wool Cotton in Tender, a lovely soft dusky pink. I started originally with Rowan's extra fine merino DK in a similar colour but it was just too lilac and all wrong for a little girl who has a pretty good shot of sharing my colouring so that got ripped out and will make something pretty some day for someone who suits that colour.

And as even in September a little lass might need a hat to keep her toasty warm on her first journey I couldn't see her do without.
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I started with the basics for the February Baby Hat but used the last two repeats of the Baby All Mine pattern to knit the majority of the hat and then fudged the decreasing when it looked about right.

The button on the hat band matches the little pearly coloured little flowers on the cardie itself, just because it looked fun.
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Only time will tell whether this is the first knitwear for my first child or whether it has to go in the cupboard to wait for another time but H likes it enough to comment that he almost hopes that the baby is a girl so that she gets to wear it. I've got plans for the baby boy jacket so we'll see whether he reverts to the current equilibrium when he sees it.

I've got to 20 weeks now, and we've had our second scan (with the baby as wrigglish and tricksy as ever, determined to hide from the sonographer if at all possible), We got to see a whole heap of spine and very wonderfully, all four chambers of the baby's heart. I've no idea if the sonographer knew what variety of bear we're having but we said we didn't want to know, and there's no way I could guess from the scan - half the time we couldn't have told you what we were looking at!
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Well here's the bump - any guesses?
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My expression is mostly surprise - the bump had a little growth spurt in the last few days and I'm loving looking properly pregnant and starting to feel the odd little flutter. We're over half way now little bear and I can't wait to meet you!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shiny Pretty Happy Little Things

I am a happy cookie. It is fair to say that my oven gets a decent level of action given my love of baking and H's love of roast Sunday lunch and so it needs a fairly regular clean.

The slight hitch with that at the moment is that sticking my head in the oven, even with our most environmentally friendly of cleaners is just not an attractive proposition, and something that I'm just not convinced the little bear would appreciate. H was more than happy to step up to oven cleaning duties but frankly when I'm home I'd rather be spending the time chatting and relaxing together ..... so I got a little help - in the form of a man with a van and a wonderful steaming aluminium boiler that came out of the van and sat on the road, smelling ever so faintly of roast beef while it boiled clean everything that could possibly be removed from my oven, my stove, and my cooker hood.

The last thing that I heard as I left for work was the screwdriver taking the back plate off to get to the fan, and H assures me that at one stage the entire oven door came off to be properly cleaned.

I think this might rate as some of the best money I've ever spent on this house - it's so shiny and makes me so happy.

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The hood is clean and shiny
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The hob is probably cleaner than it's been since we installed it because all of the little gas jets have been cleaned out and all the really awkward little bits. And my oven ...
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So shiny!

In other non-cleaning related news it looks like it might be sunny today so if I get home from work early enough I can take some pictures of some of the latest knitting. I sewed some buttons on the baby's if-it's-a-girl outfit yesterday and H liked it enough to almost wish that it is a girl just so that she can wear it. We've no idea what variety of bear I'm growing, nor will we find out until he/she makes an appearance so we can both just wait and dream.

And finally, Spring appears to have made it. In April. Well you've just got to work with what you've got. Our primroses, daffs and tulips are all out at the same time and having made the decision after last year that while they all look very pretty in the flower beds, I'm only going to get to see them during the week if I pick them, the vases are full of spring greens and yellows (all my early tulips seem to be yellow for some reason).
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The daff in the middle is a Double Daffodil called Tahiti. With those little extra fiery orange skirts in the centre it is by my own classification that I've just made up, a decadent daffodil - and I love it. We have a vase full upstairs on my dressing table and they make me smile every morning.

What is it they say about little things?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chasing time

I'm playing catch up from the weekend, both physically and pictorially. It was busy but wonderful but apparently my wee passenger feels that this requires lots of sitting on the sofa under a quilt and snoozing of an evening, so that's what I've been doing - that and soaking in a bath in an effort to turn off my brain which with the neuroses only found in that classic combination of pregnant woman and slightly stressed lawyer will happily take something minor and tiny that happens at the end of a working day and fret over it non-stop until the following morning.

So, the weekend. Well on Sunday the boy ran a running race. He got a much better time that he was expecting and was generally very happy although tired and sore. I played official photographer to him and a number of our friends, none of whom are particularly keen on the way they look while running, but all of whom like the victory poze.

Saturday was a very special day, as the little bear got to show Granny how big he or she has become while I tagged along. Mum and I met up roughly in the middle; the magical land of turquiose pigs:

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OK, so it was Bath, with the added treat of a little mosaic pig outside the abbey.

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I've never been before but it is a beautiful town with lots of wonderfully photogenic bits that made me long for the proper camera - I think the little point and shoot has done a decent job though.
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Our main aim was of course to be ladies who lunch and to catch up on all the news, both baby and otherwise but we cunningly disguised this plan with maternity clothes shopping. I am now an unreserved fan of Blooming Marvellous - they have pretty things that fit me and don't make me look weird or just not like myself. Also they fit. Did I mention how they fit? When you're already shopping in that little section of the shop marked "how lanky are you? we're amazed you got through the door", and you then want to combine that with the section marked "you're going to get HOW big?", let just say choice is rather restricted.

In the eyes of shop buyers to be both tall and pregnant is an abomination that should be prevented by making sure that the only way you will grow a baby whilst remaining decently covered in clothing is by co-opting the spare duvet cover. Happily Mum got to play dress up Barbie dolls with a 6 foot pregnant real life model for a whole morning (in which we had the shop largely to ourselves which made it even more wonderful), and I now have a beautiful set of maternity clothes that I love - and they fit - I mentioned the fitting part, right!

We had a lovely long lunch followed by a stroll along the river bank, and just enough time to sit at a cafe by the abbey and eat ice-cream (me) and drink tea/eat delicious fresh chocolate (Mum) before heading for the north/south divide once again.

I also took the chance to have Mum take a picture of the increasingly bumpy me. I've taken a couple of pictures a while ago but I didn't look very pregnant, just rather fat and that's just not very morale boosting when you're already contending with having spent a couple of months feeling permenantly nauseous.

So here we are (both of us) at just under 19 weeks:
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Yep, a lovely, if slightly self-conscious picture of me - not really sure if you can tell if I'm pregnant or not - I'm clearly going to have to work on my angles, also my expression is reading a little bit of concern that if Mum takes just one more step backwards she'll be in the road in front of a horse and carriage tour (very Austen).

All in all it was a lovely day out - thanks Mum xxx

Thursday, April 08, 2010


Well I now know I can blather on about my cute little person-to-be without you all running shrieking for the nearest hill begging for mercy and relief from the baby madness. You may regret being quite so encouraging soon; we're not half way yet and once it arrives I feel I may turn into one of 'those' Mummys - hee hee, I just typed Mummy and meant me - that's so wonderfully weird!!

Anyway, to answer Rachel's question, the handspun is mine, all mine. It's far too precious to use for someone who grows, and who may not even be appropriately dressed in pink. Perhaps after I've knitted something for me, and if the little bear turns out to be an Ursula she could have a hat.... or perhaps that won't be necessary - I've been knitting:

April 091
I bought Itty Bitty Hats one lunchtime a few weeks ago, and the girls and I spent a happy remainder of our hour flicking through the pages and picking out our favourites. I now have a very clear idea of what they would each like to wear themselves should I ever feel inclined to size up a few of them, but when we reached this pattern they all stopped, burst out laughing and made me promise to knit it.

It's not just that the hat is incredibly cute and the sort of thing that only a little baby could really carry off (although S wants to give it a go if I'd knit one in her size), but it somehow resonated with a group of girls who have watched me steadily work through and return to my olives and pineapple for lunch phase.
April 086

These are obviously pimento stuffed olives (that's what the other loose red dots are) whereas my palate has tended towards mixed olives with feta, or (today's lunch) a pot of pitted green Spanish olives just on their own (note to Mum: I also ate a salad with rice, split peas, chick peas, rocket, blueberries and mango, a small bread roll and an apple; it wasn't just olives I promise).

April 087

The back is similarly spotty and I even overcame my inherent avoidance of crochet to add the edging, although I haven't quite mastered a seamless join.

My absolute favourite part though has to be the tassels. I'm going to have to knit a whole load more hats in this style just to add funky tassels - gosh what a trauma and penance that's going to be.

So, the specs: It's the Olive You hat from Itty Bitty Hats by Susan B Anderson. The cream is Cashsoft Baby DK in Horseradish, the green is leftover Gooseberry Rooster Almerino DK, and just when I thought I was about to get a food related hat knit entirely from yarn with foodie colours, I discovered that the red, which is Extra fine Merino DK, is called Blood. Hmm, perhaps not so appetising.

Now all I have to do is figure out a Licorice Allsort hat (with appropriate tassels of course) and we'll have all the cravings covered. Actually, that gives me an idea ...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Before I forget, thank you for all the comments on the little blue baby jacket. H has decreed that he likes it and with a bit of distance I'm feeling a little more enthusiastic about it. I think the solution might be a really killer hat to set it off, and the cashmere hat can go with something else. I'm poring through the options in Itty Bitty Hats at the moment so we'll have to see what comes off the needles.

I've realised recently that I run the very great risk of turning into a knitting baby bore. Actually it might just be a baby bore generally; when I finished talking to Mum the other day and she handed the phone to the outstretched hand of my father, her parting comment was to tell me that I didn't need to repeat everything about the baby to him, she'd fill him in later. What? my father not interested in the every day minutiae of the growth of his first grandchild and the steady expansion of his daughter's stomach? Clearly this cannot be right so I told him all about the baby anyway - baby bore? moi?!

Anyway, whilst technically this is my party and I can wave baby knitwear around until the cows come home if I really want, we might break up the Lilliputian parade every now and again.

My spinner's itch returned with a vengeance just before Easter as the combined result of a quest for mind-free yarn play and some very beautiful handspun photography on someone's blog (you know who you are Pat), so I rescued Miss Sonata from her corner and had a little look through the fibre stash.

I'm trying to be a little bit project monogamous when it comes to spinning - fewer bobbins being the main incentive for that one - so in the end I picked up the rest of a braid of fibre that I started so long ago that I can barely remember.

April 026

I'd spun one bobbin and my recollection was that it had taken forever and not been as much fun to spin as whatever I'd just spun beforehand (probably BFL for some sock yarn), so it had been pushed to one side.

April 030

I know that it was a braid that I bought at the Iknit London day many moons ago and I think I bought it from Fyberspates (but don't hold me to that one). I fell in love with the colours without much idea about how to spin so I have no label, no notion of the fibre content, no clue at all really. I've christened it Apple Blossom, in lieu of any other name.

I suspect that the main component is merino but I think that there must be something mixed in with it, possibly tencel, because it's got a silky sheen that I haven't seen in any of the other merino tops I've spun. If any of the more experienced spinners have any ideas please chip in.

April 038
Anyway, by the time we got to Good Friday I'd spun my two remaining bobbins and I waited, and waited and waited and sat on my hands and waited a bit more until Easter Sunday when I decreed that the bobbins had sat long enough and started plying.

Et voila:

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What you can't tell from the pictures is just how much yardage that is. I knew the bobbins had felt like they were taking a while to get to the end of the third of the braid but I also knew that I was spinning pretty finely and the two go together.

It wasn't until I was looking quite near to having filled my plying bobbin will no sign of wood showing on any of the three bobbins on the lazy kate that I started to wonder just how much yarn I was making.

H's initial guess was 80 yards but I allowed him another shot on the grounds of lack of experience so he changed to 450 and I went for 400. We sailed passed both guesses with a whopping 658 yards of barber pole 3 ply, followed by another 148 yards of Navajo plying to finish up the other two bobbins. That's a crazy 806 yards of yarn, no wonder it felt like it took forever.

And before you think I've spun a 3-ply lace-weight, this is a light to medium 4-ply weight.

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The solution to the mystery, discovered after the washing and skeining is that that braid of yarn, it wasn't 100g. This is 146g of yarn and I love every inch of it.

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The question now of course is what to knit with it. Socks would just be wasteful so I'm thinking a shawl, it's just a question of choosing a pattern that will complement and not be overwhelmed by some fairly strong colour changes - any ideas?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Happy Easter

I'm a day late I know so I hope that you all had a wonderful, relaxing and possibly sunny Easter Sunday. We had a fabulous day starting with our traditional egg and soldiers breakfast (which wasn't in the least spoiled by having to have solid yolks), followed by a truly joyful church service; all the children and a fair few of the adults (H included) were given green, gold, and pearl helium balloons to hold and at the end of the first response we all let go and the balloons sailed up into the church rafters. It's not a structurally complicated church so there's nothing for them to get caught on and they'll just sit there until the helium escapes and they all come floating down again; H and I are wondering how much helium you would need to put into a balloon to release it on Easter Sunday and have it descend at Pentecost - rather more than an ordinary balloon would take we think, but we haven't done the maths (yet!).

Our lunch was delicious, roast lamb with rosemary, thyme and garlic, roast tatties, yorkshires, snips and green beans followed by an experiment that is now unanimously voted onto the Easter menu in perpetuity.


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Is a Nigella recipe from the current edition of Delicious magazine (the one with the pink cover and pictures of macaroons on it) for Passionfruit Meringue Cake, slightly altered to be Lemon Meringue Cake as H isn't so fond of the passionfruit.

It looks a little messy in construction but essentially it's two lemon sponge cakes with meringue toppings filled with whipped cream and lemon curd. It's light and fluffy and insanely delicious,
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And we're going to have no trouble at all in seeing off the entire cake. Actually supper last night mostly seemed to involve just another slice of cake. It makes up for my attempt at home-made hot cross buns which involved huge amounts of effort and were totally not worth it. Just looking at the cake pictures is making me want another sliver - cake lunch anyone?

The brief stint of bright daylight also let me get out and about with the camera to photograph the latest baby knit.
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This is the Skye jacket by Martin Storey from Rowan's latest baby offering - Classic Miniatures. The pattern suggests using Hand Knit Cotton but I've switched out in favour of Pure Wool DK in Frost turquoisy-blue. And as with all good outfits, it has a hat to match:
April 054
A cashmere hat no less - Rowan Pure Cashmere DK in Cork which I found on sale. It is everything cashmere should be - soft and fluffy and soft and snuggle and soft and ... well you get the picture.

Oh if you're wondering why the hat has feet, may I present:
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Little chick the hat model - beautifully sturdy at the moment as he is harbouring a tummy full of Lindor mini eggs!
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The pattern is well written and accurate for what it is and I don't really have any complaints except that I'm feeling very 'meh' about the whole outfit. It's also distinctly baby boy when I was aiming for gender neutral but that's down to user error and can always be rectified by a quick stretch of lazy daisies if this little bump of mine turns out to be a girl.

I think that the problem is that it's too classic (but really, what did I expect from a book called Classic Miniatures), too old-fashioned for my baby-dressing style (who knew that I had a baby style), and too universal. I feel as if it could have been bought and so I'm reacting in exactly the same way as any other knitter who presents their non-knitting relative with a handknit scarf that took them hours to make and gets the (supposedly complimentary) comment: "it's wonderful, it could almost have come from a shop". I want everything I make for this baby to be drop dead gorgeous cute, and I just haven't hit the mark with this one.

I'm in two minds whether to accept that it's work-a-day and when the baby has thrown up over every other clean item of clothing in the house I'll probably be glad of it, or try to rescue it with some sort of applique - stars maybe? What puts me off the rescue mission is that this jacket has raglan shoulder seams front and back, and however neatly I sew up, I cannot sew up seamlessly in a way that looks acceptable from the outside and so there are little bump seams on the inside and I wonder how truly comfortable that's going to be for the baby.

When so many other designers really push the boat out in going seamless, or as near to seamless as they can get for baby knits perhaps Rowan needs to move with the times. And yes, I know I could have converted to knitting fairly seamlessly if I'd put the time and effort in to re-jig the pattern but sometimes a girl just wants to knit and not think.

On the plus side, I've now got what I hope is enough yarn for the restart of the Baby All Mine cardie for my if-you're-a-little-girl stash of baby knits, and I know I'm going to love knitting it; please pass the needles!