Sunday, May 30, 2010

A life on the ocean wave

I didn't really mean to go MIA for a week.  I had plans, I had photos and then when I woke up on Sunday morning I realised that I also had a cold.  Nothing more than the average summer cold but when your tried and tested remedy (Lemsip and the occasional slug of port) is out of bounds it hits rather harder.  The boy had to go away for the week as well which left me feeling very sorry for myself.  I'm still a bit snuffly but a million miles better than I was, and I did get some knitting done in the three days I had to take off work (three days! For a cold! I feel like such a big girl's blouse!)

Anyway, these pictures are mostly from last weekend which was glorious, and sunny and wonderful (please note distinct difference to current climate), and we spent many happy hours lazing in the garden in a little nest of quilts and cushions.

My one picture that has a different photo credit (Dad) comes from earlier this week when, as it was clearly still sunny in Devon, a certain someone was persuaded to do a little light modelling work for the afternoon,

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Mum, with Ishbel (or Ishbel with my mother if you want to focus that way),  For a colour I chose from the internets (Handmaiden Mini Maiden in Topaz) I am so pleased with how well it suits her and full credit to Purlescence yarns for having good colour representation on their website.

My weekend of seaside dreaming started, as many good things do, with a button:
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or three, and ended with a bib
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(or three, but no pictures of those yet).

The buttons were the final finishing touch to baby bear's little sailor jacket - incidentally the pattern to which is printed in this month's Knitter magazine if you fancy a peak at it.
May 155

This is the 0-6 month size, with a chest measurement of 18 inches.  It's not a gauge mistake, and in fact my version is a smidgen larger than the pattern, but given the difference between this and a lot of other smallest size knits I've made so far I can't help but think that this is going to be part of teddy's wardrobe sooner rather than later. (Note to self, buy teddy).  I'll let you know how it fits come September.

The yarn on the other hand I cannot rate highly enough.  I'm a big fan of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino but have always been slightly twitchy about the microfibre content because I would rather knit all natural for a little one.  The Sublime Baby DK is merino, cashmere and silk, not a trace of plastic in sight; the colours are gorgeous and I want to knit something for myself in it. 

H and I spent a long time choosing buttons to make the jacket just perfect, much of which was spent giggling over putting little gold anchor buttons on for the truly naval effect.  I think if we'd found some in silver we might just have gone for it but these blue and white stripy efforts give the baby the choice between being the terror of the seas from a law enforcement point of view or something slightly more piratical.
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Given that research into H's family history (and we're going back a good while now) suggests that before the family moved from Ireland to Scotland they ran a rather profitable protection racket with a sideline in smuggling, and my family have salt in the blood, my money's on Mummy's little pirate.

The babygro, if you're in the market, is from M&S as part of a five part set that had to come home with me one lunchtime - this one says Cute Whale, and the rest are similarly themed - perfect for our little landlocked boy or girl; if she's a girl she'll just get pink trousies to match!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Once upon a time, not very long ago, there was a knitter.  And as the knitter sat on the shores of Ullswater watching her husband sketch mountains, she did a little casting on.

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The knitting fates were kind to her that day so she didn't make any mistakes, but the weather fates were playing silly whatnots and as our happy duo sat, sketching and knitting and eating their lunch, the sun that had bloomed during their morning walk, scooted away behind gusty clouds as the wind whipped up across the water and swirled across their promontory, careless for the sunbathing walkers, now hurriedly putting on all their extra coats and jackets.

A little further down the lake, they stopped again for tea and sketching, and this time, the knitter was able to make a little more progress, interrupted only to pass her husband fizzy pink sweets or an escaping putty rubber as they perched on a rock, high about the track.
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And so Ishbel was started.

Sadly the knitter didn't get to stay on the lakeshore for long enough to complete a whole shawl (must remedy that some day!) but a little knitting later and we have:
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a very happy birthday girl!  Because this Ishbel is not for me but for Mum, whose birthday is today.  When I phoned at the unseasonably early hour of 7.30, having been prodded into wakefulness by a certain little bear, she was already up, had already opened it, and was already very happy!

The yarn is Handmaiden Mini-Maiden in Topaz.  Although other projects on Ravelry have suggested knitting a small/large combination to be sure of the yarn, I went for it and this is the whole large, with 7g of yarn leftover.  Either I have tighter tension than Ysolda, and most of Ravelry, or I'm making a mistake in the pattern (consistently), or I'm just really lucky.  I'll go for lucky.
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I don't have any modelled shots as the birthday girl is several hundred miles away, but as she is off on an expedition of great style I'm very hopeful that Dad might take some pretty pictures and send them to me - pretty please?  That's a hint by the way.  Of the not subtle variety.

Meanwhile, it is also my aunt's birthday and H's brother's birthday and, and this is the most important part, it is wonderfully, gloriously hot and sunny, and we're out to make the most of it.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Fear not if you think I've forgotten about the baby knitting in all the joys of immersing myself in a new quilt - it is my constant friend!  I've finished and blocked the little sailor jacket but it needs some really good buttons to finish it off and I need the time to go in search of really good buttons so for now it's still laid out on a towel in the conservatory, hopefully not fading in the sunlight - actually maybe I'd better move it sooner rather than later.

No, the knitting on the needles, or rather off the needles, is of a different fibre, a different pattern, and for a different purpose.  H and I, rapidly learning the language of baby, have come to understand that a series of little baby bibs might not be such a bad idea for moping up a gummy baby during feeds, rather than simply changing the whole outfit each time.  In fact it's such a good idea that we thought we'd like to have some for when we bring the baby home; which in shop terms means either expensive and interesting or affordable and white.  H, being a man of colour, said no, and I, being a lady of yarn, said 'ah-ha!'

May 132
And lo and behold, look what the stash produced - three balls of Sugar and Cream cotton (Summer Breeze, Strawberry and Faded Denim), all from previous trips to the US, combined with the infamous Mason-Dixon Knitting Baby Bib O' Love pattern.
May 129
I believe I may need just a few more than three bibs for the baby, particularly given that one is very baby girl and another very baby boy but I'm sure I can cope with that!
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The only change that I made to the pattern was to skip out the buttonholes and put snaps in instead. It makes it sound so easy writing that doesn't it - yes I knit a bib and added a snap.  The reality involved, H, a hammer, a block of wood and a lot of trial and error before we finally managed to figure out how to set the snaps securely, and even then there was a fair amount of wastage.

On the plus side, I know these bibs will stand up to rigorous use, and everything that I have read suggest that snaps are a million miles easier to do up one handed when you have a wriggly hungry baby in one arm.

Top tips for snap setting:

1 - get a decent size of snap - these are probably a little on the small side, but they were what we had in the sewing box; and

2 - stretch the knitting a bit and wiggle the prongs into or through the knit fabric before you start hammering - it helps to line things up accurately and makes the whole process a little easier.

So what other colours would these look sweet in do you think?

Monday, May 17, 2010

A quick dip?

The biggest problem with having exciting new crafty books to read is that it tends to give me exciting new crafty ideas; sadly without magically providing me with either the time or the extra budget to start whatever new project my fingers are itching towards.  Very occasionally though, it might just all work out.

The book in question is my latest treat, The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making by Jane Brocket, which arrived just in time for me to take to the Lakes for visual delight once the sun had gone down and all the soaring hills were hidden from view.  It's not what you would call a traditional quilting book and I don't think it's designed to be; if you want a book where the pattern or the technical quilting takes the lead then this isn't the book for you.  A lot of the patterns are a very simple construction, and I probably could figure out many of them without detailed instructions.  But then I've got a heap of books on techniques and beautiful piecing and I love them to bits, and to the great detriment of their spine bindings; this book taps into the other part of my soul that resonates to quilt making, a serious affection for really stunning fabric.

As a book it is part coffee table, part inspiration to make my own versions of the quilts in the book, and part inspiration to take other things that I find beautiful and try to represent them in fabric.  Above all, these are not the quilts that take years to put together, and my inner speed demon combined with the knowledge that my crafty time is going to be seriously curtailed come September makes me think that simple but beautiful might be a good way to go.

Of all the quilts in the book, I really love the Swimming Pool quilt, a myriad of squares arranged quite at random as the light and reflections of neighbouring objects dance across the surface of a pool.  I started with a little internet surfing, making mental notes of what might work, what colours I would need to include for my own pool, and then I stopped, went upstairs, opened the stash cupboard and started pulling out all sorts of bits and pieces in blues, turquoises and greens.

Cotton Patch have a wonderful series of 10" square selection packs which I rather gravitate towards because it allows me to have a decent chunk of lots of the new ranges of fabrics without they're being too small to do anything useful with (charm packs) or too expensive to have a good collection (fat quarters).

I started with a Kaffe Fassett blues collection, rejected a couple but kept the rest, added a few squares from an Amy Butler pack, and a couple from the Kaffe Fassett greens collection and almost without trying I had nearly half the number of squares I needed, albeit at a slightly smaller 5" cut square to get four from each square.  I added leftovers from my stars quilt, fabrics rejected from my stars quilt, and two very special fat quarters which I used in their entirety.

May 087

Both came from Paris on our first wedding anniversary; crazy wonderful colourful fabrics that needed to be used for something special and something lasting.  So now my pool has crazy daisy petals floating on the water,

May 092
and wild blue Hawaiian blooms reflected in the ripples.

I did all the cutting up at the start of the month and the pile of fabric has sat on my desk, waiting for the day when I would have enough floor space to start playing.  And on Saturday afternoon I did (as long as I kept the baby bump out of the way of the cup final!).

A quick check for tonal balance (all hail digital cameras with black and white settings)
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and I spent a peaceful Sunday listening to Twilight on the audio book (again) and sewing long lines of squares together.

I still need to add a poolside edge as well as backing and binding, which I will have to buy but this:
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Is my fantasy back garden pool - and not a water meter in sight, or any newly purchased fabric!
May 139
Don't you just want to dive in?

I'm contemplating a spotty border, possibly some of the slightly irregular spots from Amy Butler's Love range to mimic the raised tiles around the edge of a pool, but I don't know whether that's too twee or whether the quilt could carry it off - what do you think?

And now, lest you think that I had completely forgotten about my duties as a crysallising (is that even a word) Mummy blogger:

Carie 24weeks.5

24 weeks of baby bump, and it's mother.  Ages ago hopping through Ravelry I saw someone's profile picture that just said: "I'm so crafty, I make people!" - I've got to get it on a shirt before the summer is over!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


My unintentional nautical theme seems to be continuing.  Actually, it may all be related to a true love of good fresh bread. 

On the Saturday of the last bank holiday, my wandering around Warwick market took me past Warwick Wools and a very pretty window display showing lots of blue and white stripes and the latest Sublime baby knitting book.

They were waiting for a re-stock but one week, a message on my answerphone, and a craving for more French bread (and those really nice scrumpy scotch eggs) later....
May 112
Well how could I resist? I mean really, the cuteness, and the sailor collar.  I've always loved sailor collars; one of my very last summer Sunday-best dresses that Mum made was dark blue with white pin-head spots and a huge wide sailor collar with dark blue ribbon around the edge; it may have been a Railway Children phase or something but I thought it was wonderful.

This is the first Sublime pattern I've ever knit and it's going OK so far, although I have made a few amendments and done a bit of ripping and re-knitting.  Don't you just love that the rip and do over in baby things takes an evening or so; unlike the trauma and medication (chocolate and a nice glass of wine) inherent in frogging anything big person sized.

I knit the back pretty much to pattern, and then started on the front.  This is the left front
May 115
and that little skinny stripy is supposed to sew all the way up along one edge and across the top.  Yep, not going to work is it.  The idea is that you knit all the way up the front and straight onto the collar and then the two sides of the collar join with a seam down the centre back.

I'm knitting the 0-6 month size which I suspect is going to be a bit nearer the 0 than the 6, and the nearer we get to the 0 the more I think it would be horribly uncomfortable for a little baby to have even a squishy seam running down their back so I cast on at the start of the stocking stitch part and knit to the collar cast on on each and then worked from the left front, cast on the collar stitches less two for the eliminated seam, and then straight across the right front so my collar is all in one piece.

To add the edging I picked up stitches all the way around the edge, knit the garter stitch rows and cast off.  It does mean that there is an extra blue row on the edge of the front than on the back, but I don't think it's going to be obvious unless you really look for it.

May 121

I've finished the sleeves today after a little more rip and re-knit after (a) I ran out of blue and (b) I decided that the sleeves looked a bit long anyway, so now I just need to darn in a gazillion stripy ends and sew it all up!

Monday, May 10, 2010

All at sea

I've been desperately holding on, wanting to start my next post with something like "and the bath towels have it!" but at the moment all I can safely say about the election result is that the correct result was the most excitable reaction we got from the baby - maybe a future politician? or the next Nostradamus? I really hope not - and that's to both options.

Anyway, after scouring the news regularly for nearly four whole days now the only conclusions I can reach are:

- David Dimbleby has amazing stamina.  The man is 71 years old and broadcast through the night for 18 hours straight, Thursday night into Friday morning.  I was in bed by the exit polls and I'm considerably less than half his age.
- The fact that no-one has any idea what's going to happen is getting increasingly hard on all journalists and political commentators, and seriously repetitive for the rest of us.
- I'm starting to feel sorry for Gordon Brown; sitting in Downing Street knowing that you are in name Prime Minister but will not be in the near future, but without any end date is I think unfairly prolonging the agony.
- and finally - if aliens arrive and, in classic sci-fi style, peep "take me to your leader!", what do we do?  Will they wait for the end of the negotiations?

Enough of all this shenanigans, let us return with blissful wool-induced semi-somnolence to bask in the prettiness of yarn.

March 060

You see, once upon a time, not so long ago, I saw a very very pretty pattern for a baby blanket.  And I knew in that moment that if I knit said baby blanket there was no way that I was going to part with it.  This was a 'knit once' kind of a project and for a baby all mine.

So as cousins, friends, more friends, friends again and cousins again all produced increasing numbers of small people around their kitchen tables I made blankets and Baby Surprise Jackets and cute cardigans, dresses with little sheep on, and all manner of things wonderful and woolly.  But I remembered that blanket and promised myself that the day I had a successful 12 week scan, I would be ordering the yarn for that blanket.

Well it took me a few days more than the 12 week scan to place the order, but in a remarkably short space of time, I was the happy owner of the yarn pack to the Jade Starmore design, Point Reyes.

This is just the yarn pack, and the pattern is in the out of print Pacific Coast Highway.

It's the perfect fair isle for a land-locked baby pirate.  We have whales blowing spray;

May 106

yachts sailing through a flock of seagulls,
May 105

and lighthouses to keep all the yachts out of trouble!
May 103

It's knit as a tube so all the two handed knitting is nice and easy and then somehow I will be brave enough to cut the steek and knit a checkerboard edging. 

May 104
For now though I have another three repeats to work through so life may be on the ocean wave for some time to come.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Colour Theory

There's an article on the BBC news website today asking whether the weather will affect the outcome of the general election - apparently Labour voters don't go out in the rain or if there's something really good on telly in the evening.

I really enjoyed the leader's debates and H and I have read and discussed lots of the more serious aspects of the parties' campaigns but now we're definitely in the silly season of election coverage; the day when I will be extremely disappointed if the party candidates and leaders (and wives) are not colour coded (because clearly we would have no idea which one was the man who has been Prime Minister for the last three years unless he wore a red tie). On a vaguely related side note, I always felt sorry for Emma Nicholson, a Tory MP from the south west who crossed the floor to the Lib Dems when I was a teenager to much coverage on the local Spotlight news, and at least a week wearing a vibrant mustard jacket and skirt; it's not a kind colour to anyone but at least the guys can get away with just a tie.

Anyway in the spirit of election silly season, and having cast my vote first thing this morning, may I present the family Bear's guide to who will win:

- By the colour of our bath towels: Conservative (we switch between red and blue, sorry Nick Clegg)
- By supper: Hung parliament; Labour/Lib Dem coalition (it's chicken tacos with tomatoes and yellow pepper)
- By the sky: Hung parliament: Conservative with the support of the Lib Dems, although volcanic ash could produce a Labour fightback around sunset. It's grey today so perhaps this signals a return to a Major-esque government!
- By the jam: Conservative majority (four and a bit jars of blueberry and passion fruit - I was playing on the bank holiday.  There is a scrapping of lemon curd left, but no strawberry.  We still have a fairly full jar of marmalade but I don't know who gets orange - Scottish Nationalists perhaps)

May 081
- By the tulips (Option 1): Hung parliament; Lib Dem with Labour and Green Party support
May 002
- By the tulips (Option 2): Hung parliament: Conservative/Labour coalition with more Green Party support
May 017
- By our own colour coding: The end of the world with a slight Conservative influence (I'm wearing a black dress with my turquoise Ishbel scarf)
- By the baby: We asked what he or she thought about the parties and possible outcomes:
                     Conservative: small wiggle
                     Labour: kick
                     Lib Dem: wiggles
                     Hung parliament: small pause then lots of wiggling and two good kicks.

And as for the real outcome; let the waiting and counting begin.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

In which Great Britain is not a roundabout

In my mind there are two mental lists of preparations for the baby.  The first starts with useful things like a cot and a car seat and encompasses a lovely long list of knitting that I'm optimistically thinking I can get done by mid-August to be on the safe side - well what else is maternity leave for?

The second list is more contemplative; the things that I want to teach this little one: all about our faith, how to knit and sew, the tools that he or she will need to grow up happy, content and confident. These will be repetitive if not constant lessons to cover many many years.  But then there are some other things that we're really going to cover sooner rather than later.  You see the boy is from Yorkshire, with a Liverpudlian mother and a Glaswegian father; I'm from Devon, and we live in Warwickshire, all of which have some fairly unique local dialect, and all of which is assimilated into our general conversation.

They're the words that you never even think of as strange until someone gives you a funny look of complete incomprehension and I'm sure that the rest of the UK and the rest of the English-speaking world has all of their own quirk words.

If you fancy a challenge see what you make of these:
~ Sunday was dreek;
~ Longbridge is an island, in the middle of a land-locked county;
~ Warwick has several grockle-shops and many many grockles (particularly during the summer);

I'm thinking I'll need to write an English-Family Bear dictionary!

I've had plenty of time to ponder all of these things because we took the long bank holiday weekend to completely ignore the top half of the 'things we need for the baby' list and curled up to relax instead.  H went to the gym and sketched out a few possible paintings of Ullswater from the photos we took last week and I tailed him into his studio (formerly our conservatory/junk room, newly reorganised) and curled up on the old flowery sofa we have in there with different colours of cotton and a little gentle hand quilting.
May 040

So far in my embryonic quilting career I've always preferred to make up my own colour combinations, usually throwing together as many different colours or patterns as I can, and with the exception of jelly rolls, I've avoided anything too matchy-matchy.  It turns out that only lasts as far as the matchy-matchy is not the epitome of cute and the perfect colour to match the baby's room; I fell for Moda's Love U range and in particular the baby quilt panel:

May 031

I did very little to make this; the panel stayed as is and the end of the bolt of the white ABC fabric was just enough to add the side panels. Even the dotty border is from the same range, all of which came from Quilter's Den in Warwick.

I machine quilted the central border in red and then around each little alphabet square in blue.  The rest of it was my first foray into hand quilting; around the tree, the central letters, the birds, butterflies and the tortoise in blues, red or green.  For the alphabet letters I've picked out just the letters that spell H and my names.  As we aren't called ACEGIKMOQSUWY or even BDFHJLNPRTVXZ it isn't an even distribution but as I've found with most of my hand quilting, you can't see it a mile away, it's only when you get up close and run your fingers over the surface that you can feel the texture of a quilted bit; the blue leaves that I picked out in the tree or the feathers on the little red birds.

There is a different pace to hand quilting and although I think I will probably stick to machine quilting, certainly for the larger quilts, it is very therapeutic, sitting and chatting and gently outlining in pretty thread.  I'm going to hand quilt my block of the month quilt because I'm doing quilt as you go and I can spin and turn the blocks quite easily.  I found I really struggled with even a small lap quilt when I wanted to turn corners quickly and I couldn't reach the middle of the quilt easily.  Long straightish lines are great though.

My other discovery, or rather, something that I need to discover is a thimble that works for me.  I have a little metal thimble that I wear when I'm sewing on a binding but part of my thimble technique is that the loss of feeling makes me move onto another finger and protects by essentially taking it out of action.  It works for binding but a weekend's worth of hand quilting has left me with dimply and slightly bruised fingertips from pushing the needle through.  Please, all you quilting maestros, take pity on my sore, hot little fingers and tell me what wonderful gizmo you've found that might help.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

All sorted

I'm feeling tres bien Francais this morning after my little trip to Warwick for quilty essentials included a detour around the market and I re-discovered the wonderful French bread stall. There's something eternally optimistic about strolling through town on a wonderfully sunny morning with a properly wonky baguette sticking out of your bag. All I'm really missing is a slice of brie to go with it; I'm seriously craving brie this morning and there's nothing to be done but grin and bear it until September - I promise you now that one of my first non-pregnant meals is going to include brie, stilton and pate - yum!

Actually I can't complain - the baguette is perfect, and in very great danger of disappearing rapidly under cover of butter and some marmalade made by a colleague as my Christmas present!

And speaking of cravings ....

Well I'm still running the pineapple and olives combination (and completely failing to see why no-one else thinks that's delicious - seriously, you should try it, it's really nice), and so the bear has an olive hat and I have intentions towards a pineapple hat, but the other repetitive craving as defined by H (something Carie eats a lot of, I buy a lot of to treat her, and then it all sits in the kitchen cupboard) has been licorice, and licorice allsorts in particular.

Well what should the dedicated knitting Mummy do but this:

April 215

It's the Olive You hat pattern but knit on 4mm needles with Rowan Baby Cashsoft DK in Horseradish, Baby Cashmerino in black and the orange is Mission Falls 136.

As you can see, I knit this in the couple of days we spent in Cumbria, and I would have a picture of the hat with matching allsort, but you're going to have to trust me when I tell you that it is exactly the same colour as the Co-op allsorts because sadly by the time I'd finished the hat, the allsorts were all gone (apart from the pink and blue little round ones that are all covered with sugar dots like hundreds and thousands, I've never liked those and pregnancy hasn't made any difference there).

Instead, we have more Cumbrian backdrop - I miss it.
April 220

The hat is roughly sized for 0-6 months, I'm hoping it will fit for the end of October (roughly 2 months old) because it seems to be a good colour for Halloween. I might even manage to knit a matching jacket given how much yarn I have left over from the hats but that needs a bit more thought.

This week, in honour of some impending birthdays, my knitting has become blog-shy - just too many family and friends have been known to drop in from time to time for me to be willing to spoil this surprise - it's all on Ravelry though and currently blocking up in the baby's room (which still looks most decidedly like our spare room!).

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the sunshine continues all weekend because I have some quilting and binding and generally playing with fabric to do - have fun one and all.