Saturday, December 31, 2011


December 994
It's dark and rainy outside, and only the throbbing beat of some questionable music somewhere in the neighbourhood suggests that it's anything other than a dreary winter Saturday.  We've been counting down the last few hours of the year in a quietly insular kind of way; a little family in hibernation, reading, colouring, playing with toys and knitting, and now Kitty is fast asleep in her cot, H is playing Sonic and I'm here - it's very flash I know!
December 1006
Looking back at last January, it seems that I did manage to make some New Year's Resolutions of sorts, the most specific of which was to buy a new organiser for the cutlery drawer that actually fits.  So how did I do with that one ....
December 999
ah. well. yes - lets pass over that shall we.

I wanted to take the time to uncover buried projects and really enjoy the books and materials I have, and I think I can put a tick against this one. Twelve of my knitting projects used yarn that had been in the stash for over a year, although unaccountably the yarn seems to have expanded to fit the space again, and I tackled a few things that had been on the 'make me' list for a while, such as the birthday bunting that I made for Kitty's party, her pirate trousers (scroll to the bottom) and a pretty spotty dress with ice-cream's on it that I can't remember blogging about (now sadly outgrown).

I've got some more specific aims for this year (and not just the cutlery drawer organiser either), so with a vague promise to come back this time in 2012 and see how I've done, this is my plan for the next twelve months:

  • I've got some great projects lined up so I want to continue to enjoy the stash. 
  • I'm going to knit my Bohus Wild Apples kit and finish my 7 Chakras socks.
  • In a moment of weakness, H asked for a jumper and chose a pattern from a shortlist that's been loitering in my Ravelry favourites for, well lets just say 'a while', and the colour of the called-for yarn.  I've a few things to finish first and then it's all systems go.
  • I'm going to write up my Phoenix socks pattern and publish it properly.
  • I'm going to design some knits for Kitty.
  • Now that I've got the borders, backing and binding for my Christmas quilt, it's time to put it all together, quilt it and finish it up.
  • I've got fabric in the stash for three four complete quilt tops, and most of the fabric for two more.  I'm going to make them.
  • I'm going to keep sewing for Kitty; another pair of reversible trousers, and a couple of dresses at the very least.
  • I'm going to sew something for me (don't know what yet - any suggestions)
Crafty Creating
  • Every year I make Christmas presents right up until the last minute and all those Christmassy crafts get put away until after the presents.  This year I'm going to have Christmas throughout the year and make the things I want for our house and our tree.
  • I'm going to tie down some of the pretties that float through my brain and actually make them.
  • I've stalled a bit; I can take pretty enough pictures but I really want to work on staging still lifes and my portrait photography - yay more pictures of a little girl who is incapable of keeping still.
  • December 767
That may be my specific plan for a creative 2012.  But above all of that my intent for this coming year is to  Cherish and Nourish.
December 730
Cherish - every little moment with our rapidly growing girl, and my lovely H; not focusing on the time we have to be apart but fully living every minute together.
December 1005
Nourish - our bodies with good food and our hearts and souls with good words.

What are your New Year's plans? and do you know anywhere that sells really large cutlery organisers?

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I'm four rounds off finishing Kitty's Christmas jumper (and a little darning in of ends and sewing of seams) so there's hope that she'll get it before the 12 days of Christmas are up.  I think I can count that as finishing in time, yes?

One of the other reasons that I didn't worry too much about not having finished for the day itself was that she did have a large Mama-made parcel under the tree to open. 

December 652
She isn't short of quilts or blankets, but they were all made for the bump that turned out to be her, rather than for her specifically.  That and if she keeps growing at the current rate she's going to need something a little bit bigger.

This is the next size up; about 46 inches square and on me it's a lap quilt, but for her it's big enough to play tents and hide-peepo and wrap up in until she's snug.

I'm possibly setting a new personal record for the time between buying the fabric and making the quilt as it came from Il etait une fois at this summer's Quilt Festival at the NEC.   I walked past the stand, took one look at a print of a little curly haired girl on a swing and knew that it was coming home with us.

December 659
The picture blocks of the little girl and the apples and houses are sold by the block and the other fabric comes by the metre (a really really wide metre). 
December 658
It's really the simplest of simple quilts.  I cut the blocks to 9.5 inches square and played around with them until I liked the layout, then sewed them into rows and then into the quilt top.

December 670
The backing is another length of the gorgeous multicoloured check, and the binding is the same.  To quilt it, I used a red/pink/yellow variegated thread and stitched lines with my walking foot about a 1/4 inch either side of each seam to mirror the check fabric.
December 662
Kitty had caught occasional glimpses of something interesting under construction through an open doorway or perched on the back of the sofa but all attempts at further investigation were swiftly curtailed. As I mentioned in an earlier post, she unwrapped it, hugged it, and lay down and rolled in it.  I love that I made her something that she loves, now all I need are some new labels that say 'Mama made it'. December 669

Monday, December 26, 2011

Artist in residence

My grandmother's painting of the tower of Magdalen College, Oxford, with a softly lit Cherwell flowing around the Botanical Gardens in the foreground, hangs on the wall of my sewing room; H's sketches, still lifes and landscapes are framed around the house; and my father once knocked out a mean pencil drawing of our teddy bear David dressed in my blue gingham baby romper on a scrap of spare paper.

With such genetic potential, and a smidgen of Mama's crafty ways thrown in for good measure, no one was surprised that Kitty likes drawing and colouring.  There's only one hitch with such creativity in a house full of artists, well two hitches to be precise.  Firstly, neither Daddy nor Mama try to eat the raw materials (cue chalks and a packet of wax crayons going back into the cupboard), and secondly, well lets just say I haven't yarn bombed the travel cot and H hasn't felt the need to add a touch of colour to the spine of my hardback copy of Great Northern.

Father Christmas came up trumps on the edible art materials front, with a little box of Stockmar beeswax crayons.  They are really lovely crayons, smooth and easy to make a mark with the gentlest of pressure, you don't need to force the colour onto the page, they smell nice, and if she eats them I'm pretty relaxed about a combination of natural colours and beeswax.  Her little box has 8 colours, but I think we may be adding to them in the future.

I think the crayons were her favourite present until Christmas afternoon when we unwrapped a big shiny parcel from Grannie and Grandpa:

December 568
Can you tell what it is yet?
December 580
When we were little we had magic paper painting pads; you brushed them with water and a picture appeared in a pastel rainbow.  That was then, this is now.  Magic paper, meet your future self, an Aquadoodle.
December 582
(please also note the effect of roast potatoes and sticky toffee pudding as hair styling product!)

Kitty loves it, and we've found it curiously addictive - even after she'd gone to bed
December 595
San Salute from the Accademia Bridge

Thank you Grannie and Grandpa - we all love it!

Merry and Bright

December 478
The days leading up to Christmas are not exactly stressful, because I adore this time of year, but full of busyness, making sure that all the jobs are done and all the loose ends come together at the right time and in the right order so that Christmas Day (and the following 12) are calm and restful.  With help from H, who crucially managed to find somewhere else in the house on which to balance the partially completed jigsaw that has been dogging our dinner times for the last few months, freeing up that end of the table to be loaded with roasted edibles, we had a wonderful Christmas, and today we spent the day curled up like well fed house cats with a saucer of cream; warm and cozy from head to toe.

December 479
Kitty mastered the art of unwrapping presents fairly quickly, demonstrating a determined insistence for removing every last scrap of paper and throwing it over her shoulder before turning her attention to the goodies inside.  As is only fitting for our only daughter she has been spoiled rotten at every turn, and a happier little girl you'd be hard to find.
December 510 December 514 December 528
(unwrapping and playing with her present from Auntie Zee and Uncle D)

My highlight of the day was watching her unwrap her Mama-made quilt (pictures to follow if it ever stops raining); she took all the paper off, hugged it, spread it out around her, lay on her back, kicked her feet and giggled, and then wrapped herself up in it.  Clearly someone (Daddy?) has been teaching her the proper way to respond to handmade (it's also a cute quilt if I say so myself).

I'll be doing some more detailed posts on some of the Christmas crafting over the next few days but for today I leave you with some snippets of our day:
December 490
Scrambled eggs for breakfast
December 500 December 503 December 505
reading That's Not My Snowman with Daddy (and yes, in the background is a metre of Jaffa Cakes, from Kitty to Daddy)

December 558
Talking to Grannie and Grandpa in Devon
December 557
It's for you! - chatting to Gran and Grandad in Yorkshire.

December 616
A trip to the playground in between rain showers this afternoon.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

December 250
It's Christmas Eve.  The veggies are peeled, the chicken is prepped and stuffed according to my Great-Grandmother's recipes, a pile of red and white parcels are smothering the Christmas tree skirt, and Kitty is asleep in her cot, dreaming of mince pies and shiny things.

December 435
This morning I made two dozen mince pies (not all of which remain), cleaned and tidied the house (a somewhat pointless task with a toddler on the loose, but worth doing for the honour nonetheless), and corralled and folded the laundry from its various drying points around the house.

December 426
Our Sunday club put on a brilliant nativity for the Christmas Eve Crib Service, and Kitty reprised her role as 'smallest star', perched up on Daddy's knee on the steps at the back of church for the best view, giggling and clapping her way through the production, and then this evening, lovely friends came to visit, bringing a most interesting and excitingly large box for Kit (unconfirmed reports suggest that even the generous benefactor's seriously grown up sons were intrigued by the size of said box).  Kitty hugged it, and then started to work out that wrapping paper is supposed to come off so it's been tucked away until the morning.

December 459
Tomorrow I'm looking forward to time with our wonderful church family and a day spent in the company of my little family of three, watching Kit drink in all the sparkle and the wonder. 

For the very first time I haven't finished the Christmas knitting; Kitty's jumper is minus a sleeve and a half and the shoulders to neck section.  A serious assessment at 11.30 on Friday told me that I could either spend Christmas Eve madly knitting and scrape in under the wire, or spend Christmas Eve getting ready for Christmas, and just enjoying my family.  Given the option between helping Kitty make shiny ornaments (with a kit from the front of her Waybaloo magazine), curling up to read the Gruffalo (again), and cooking with H while Kitty napped, or knitting frantically, the yarn didn't stand a chance.

For one, Kitty isn't going to turn round to me when she's all grown up and accuse me of ruining Christmas because her jumper was a couple of days late, but she will remember that Mama and Daddy used to read her stories and sing carols and |Christmas songs, and that we all plomped down on the floor to make the most noise with her rattles and shakers, and for another, I really like the yarn, I really like the pattern and I don't want to rush through the knitting and loose that pleasure, or tinge a jumper with the frustration of deadline knitting.

So my plan for the rest of this evening is a nice long bath and a quiet night with half an ear open for sleigh bells.
November 327
H, Kitty and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and we'll be back in time to wish you a Happy New Year.

May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child
be yours this Christmas

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dress Rehearsal

The nursery Christmas extravaganza opens to previews tomorrow, with the command performance on Thursday when H and I are going to see our super special snowflake be a star.

Her costume is finished, and I'm pretty pleased with it.  I'll take some proper pictures on Thursday, but here's a sneak peak.
December 306
I popped her into her ensemble this evening and let her run around for a bit to test drive it and to see if anything fell off.  There are limits to what interfacing and felt can achieve so I had to add a safety pin to keep the point of the star upright, but other than that it seems to work well.

December 313
The only possible drawback, and I really should have foreseen this one given how much she enjoyed playing with the raw materials, is that she does have a bit of a fascination with the skirt ...

December 319
and may well spend most of her time in the spotlight with her head in at least one layer of gauzy skirt.

So Kitty, is it fit for purpose? Let's see (cue music):

Twinkle, twinkle, little star

December 355

How I wonder what you are.

December 362

Up above the world so high,

December 368

Like a dia....hang on a minute Mama

December 372


December 373

diamond! in the sky.

December 374

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

December 375

How I wonder what you are.

December 380
(exit stage left)

She's going to bring the house down.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Twinkle twinkle little star

December 258
We have a star in the making.  The babies group at Kitty's nursery are performing the crucial role of stars in the nursery nativity plays, which from all I've gleaned from her favourite carer involves trying not to crawl into the audience to find Mummy/Daddy/toast, and doing the actions to twinkle twinkle.

We've been practising the twinkling today during both of her bath times (morning and lunchtime, the latter to remove sausage from her hair, and the former because occasionally babies just need a bath), and this afternoon I set about her costume.
 December 259

I've made a little pale gold layered tulle skirt for her to wear with a cream t-shirt and white tights from a metre or so of fabric, and I'm planning for her to have a big star that she wears sort of like a backpack, with elastic loops to keep it on her arms.
December 264
Kit tried to help me draw a star, but as that mostly involved trying to chew the ruler while sitting on the felt, we didn't get very far, and most of my progress has been made after she went to bed.
December 260
I've laid out the radial lines in water soluble marker and I'm slowly filling them in with sequins and beads and all sorts of sparkle liberated from the bottom of my embroidery bag. 
December 261
I'm still deliberating over whether I want to fill in the gaps with swirling embroidery, and it might be a moot point because this needs to be finished for Tuesday morning - what do you think? No embroidery, gold embroidery or sparkly white/silver?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Tomorrow shall be my darning day" or "Avoiding the Christmas Knitting Part 3"

December 039
I said it, I said that I was surprised that my MIL didn't wear out her socks more often given that she wears them daily.  The Knitting Muses, curled up in their cosy stash-lined eyrie in the Great White North (not Mount Olympus - too hot), put down their needles, untangled the yarn from around their ankles and stretching out a lanquid arm, twisted a finger through the wind and rain to snag a tiny hole in each heel of yet another pair of lovingly knitted socks.  I think they must have something against Colinette Jitterbug - it's always the Jitterbug socks that come back for mending.

December 041

But with fairy godmother-esque timing, the Fates smoothed out the winds, and gently shooed the clouds away so that my darning day dawned sunny and bright, and I had time to take a few photos and put together a tutorial of sorts to mend a short row heel.

So, step one: Have a good look at your heels.  If the yarn has broken, it's likely that some stitches will have dropped back down, and it will all look a bit of a mess.

Top tip - If you see the yarn wearing thin, darn it with duplicate stitch before you get a hole - it's so much easier (and if I took my own advice I wouldn't have a pair of beloved handspun socks with holes under the ball of the foot)

You are looking to find a round of nice plump stitches, one or two rows before the longest of the short rows.  If you want you can go to the last rows of the pattern, but I think it's a little easier to work with a buffer zone.  If you need to ladder some stitches back up to make this round complete then that's fine as long as the yarn you are using is still in decent nick.

Step 2: take a couple of DPNs a size or two smaller than the ones you used to knit the project and slide one under the right hand leg of each stitch on your chosen round.  Spread these stitches over two needles, turn your sock over and repeat for the other side of the round.  Your sock should look like this:

December 043
Step 3: time to rip! First, work out which side of the heel was the last that you knit, ie. if you were working top down it would be the side on the bottom of your foot, for toe up it's the back of the heel.  Snip a thread in the row above the row you have on your needles and tease out the ends.  You should be able to simple pull the knitting back now although occasionally there will be tangles where things have felted together and when you get to the holes you might have to do a bit of jiggery pokery to find the right end to pull.

At then end, you should have something a bit like this:

December 052
with two ends coming from the sock and a little pile of squiggly yarn.  You can see my two ends at either end of the base of the triangle of needles. 

Step 4: Count your stitches. I frequently end up with one or two fewer on one side than the other.  If you're the same, pick up loops at the corners until it works, this is darning not restoration of a priceless treasured antique.  At the same time, arrange one half of the heel stitches over two needles and the rest on one if you like to knit using 4 DPNs or two if you prefer 5.

Step 5: Double check that the heel you are about to knit is going to line up nicely with the existing toe.

Step 6: Using the new yarn, and starting at the middle of the two needle side, knit 1 round.  As you go around the corners, check that the stitches you are making are nice and neat; knit through the back loop if you need to close anything up.

Step 7: Knit your favourite toe.  Mine is as follows:

Round 1: Knit to 3 stitches before the end of needle, k2tog, k1; k1, ssk, k to 3 stitches before the end of needle, k2tog, k1; k1 ssk, knit to end.
Round 2: Knit

Repeat these two rounds until 24 stitches remain at the end of a round 1; knit to end of needle 1 and graft shut.

Step 8: Gather up your courage, maybe award yourself a square of chocolate and a gold star, and repeat with the other sock.

And there we have it:

December 136
Two Hopscotch socks returned to circulation with wildly contrasting crazy heels.
December 138

And if all else fails, Mandy's failsafe is just to needlefelt the holes closed!

PS - I've decorated for Christmas - do you like it or is it taking too long to load?