Monday, October 31, 2011

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones

October 730 October 734 October 735
Kitty says: "Booo!!!"

We got home from a weekend away this afternoon with just enough time to get ready for the enslaught of trick or treaters.
October 759
Kitty helped me open the door and waved at everyone who came and helpe me hand out Spider cakes (not made with actual spiders) and some twisted guts flumps.
October 753
My Halloween rule is that all the trick and treaters have to tell me a joke and tell me about their costumes before I hand over any goodies.  This evening's best:
  • Why did the cow cross the road? To go to the moo-vies.
  • Why did the hedgehog cross the road? To see his flatmate.
  • What do chickens do to relax? Play on the eggs-box.
October 751
We've had a good evening and there are even a few cakes left for us.  Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In which we have tea. Finally.

A few years pre-Kitty, H went off for a hockey weekend to Canterbury, and my brother in law had some sort of cricketing shindig so Zee and I planned a day of frolics and entertainment in London. 

We were to go to an exhibition at Kensington Palace, take a trip to Liberty's, stock up on Persephone Books and have a good afternoon tea before going to see Calendar Girls at the theatre in the evening.  All was planned, the tickets were booked and nothing could stop us.  Except the noro virus (sadly not related to yarn). 

I was struck down half way through the week and spent the rest of it in bed, desperately trying to recover in time for the Saturday and we made it to just about everything, except for the tea.  Rather than scoffing delicacies in a warm cafe, we detoured to Russell Square and I snoozed while Zee read her new books.  I promised her then that one day we would go back to Theobalds Road for tea, and on Thursday I kept that promise.
October 612
We started the day with a stroll down Marylebone High Street, window shopping Rachel Riley and the cake shops until we reached the very wonderful and delectable:

October 623
VV Rouleaux - ribbons, pompom trim in every colour under the rainbow, and glittery feather butterflies.  I love the voluptuous sample bows all over the shop and it generally takes all of my will power to come away without a length of everything.
October 628
Kitty fell asleep in her buggy as we arrived outside Liberty's stunning autumn flower displays, so we gently coasted around the Christmas shop and then Zee settled down to browse the craft books with a snoozing Kitty by her side and I wandered around looking at yarn, and fabric, and all the lovely little haberdashery things like Liberty print bias binding, flowery letter shapes, and lavender bags.  Liberty's is food for my soul; I just drink it all in.

October 630
We had lunch in Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street, sat out in the courtyard under the amazing upside down covers that drain all the rain down their centres and into the flower beds.
October 643
October 631
We shopped, we navigated by the maps on the Boris Bikes stands in the pouring rain, and eventually we reached our mecca.

Bea's of Bloomsbury's (at 44 Theobald's Road, Bloomsbury).  First recommended on Yarnstorm and tucked away in my brain, from the outside it doesn't look like much, a small unassuming cafe with a couple of tables out on a busy road, it was worth the wait.  We settled in to a table next to the counter, and parked the buggy up next to the window, to match their Halloween decorations.

October 647
We ordered a Sweet Tea apiece, Zee chose her Earl Grey and I had a St Clement's juice and then this arrived:

October 646

Scones with cream and jam (and yes small sister your heritage requires cream then jam, regardless of whatever unusual customs you may have acquired through marriage), meringues with a mango sauce, hazelnut madelines, mini chocolate brownies and blondies, chocolate marshmallows (they're the triangles on the top layer and they were incredible) and cupcakes; red velvet with creamy frosting and raspberry and vanilla.

October 650 October 649
Well after all of that, we couldn't just leave without taking a little something home for the boys as a treat from Kitty; cupcakes for Uncle D and a two inch thick slab of millionaire's shortbread and a rich moist chocolate Guinness cake.
October 656
It's just around the corner from Persephone, it has cake and comfy chairs - I think it may just be a slice of perfection.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Darn, darn, darn, darn

It is a sad fact of life that no matter how treasured, how handwashed only in the nicest wool wash, or how tucked up in a drawer next to a lavender bag and a cedar wood block, eventually a hand knit sock will wear a little hole.

October 582
Actually, if you only ever did the last then it probably wouldn't wear out but I also wouldn't knit any more socks for you.

H's Mum could not be accused of such wanton disregard of the glory of fluffy knitted socks, and dons a pair every evening after her bath.  The surprise is not that the socks need repair, but that more socks haven't needed darning earlier.

October 605

I've mended at least one pair before, and she has the good fortune to wear out the heel flap rather than the ball of the foot which is always the first place to go on my socks, hers are infinitely more repairable (mine get binned).

October 574

The blue socks were knitted with a short row heel so to mend them I picked up the heel half of the last round before the short rows above and below the heel, then unravelled the remnants of the heel back to those stitches giving me a 'round' of 60 stitches.

October 580
From then on it was simple, I knit a round, and then a toe.  It's exactly the same as an afterthought heel.

The green and yellow monkeys had the traditional heel flap so I picked up the bottom of the heel flap, re-kit the short rows and then grafted them to the bottom of the foot.  That's the crib notes version anyway, there's a more detailed explanation and some photos here.

A few spare moments and a little Downton Abbey and we have four socks, not exactly as good as new, but with a new lease of life.

October 607

Saturday, October 22, 2011

In which we are cold but happy

It seems an unusual affliction, particularly for a self-professed process knitter, but truth be told, I like to finish things.  I often have several projects and several crafts on the go at once, but nothing ever sits around for too long. 

However, when I put the blinkers on to work for Christmas presents, a new baby's layette, or, plucking an example from thin air, decide to knit seven elephants in not quite as many weeks, whatever was on the needles at the time gets plunged to the bottom of the knitting basket, only to see the light of day when the piles of baby cashmerino have been herded away.

And so, as I rounded the corner on the cast off of Kitty's little dress, I faced a dilemma.  Way back in August in those halcyon summer days, I'd excavated the stash for some very special yarn, and cast on a nice pretty little top.  At the time of the commencement of what I'm sure will in time come to be known as 'the great elephant delivery of 2011' I'd got about half way up the back.

Fast forward two months (and a bit). It's cold, I'm wearing socks, and a scarf, and on Friday I wore mittens while waiting for a train on our very windy platform.  Do I finish what I've started, or put it away for more clement times? Linen mix sleeveless top in October? Why that would be perfect!

Let me introduce you to Flow:
October 525
The pattern is from Norah Gaughan volume 2, knit in Berroco Seduce; a slubby mix of rayon, silk, linen and nylon spun as a wrapped cord.  It makes a crunchy but flippy fabric that swishes and swirls.
October 528
In essence it is a flared stocking stitch sleeveless top, with reverse stocking stitch at the neck and shoulders.  But that doesn't do it justice, that's just words, the poetry is in the way that the fabric drapes, clings and curves.  While the heat today was only in my imagination (positive mental attitude being key if you're going to go out in the frost with no sleeves), when the damp and steamy thick heat of an English summer returns, this will be perfect with a long skirt, flip flops and perhaps a little shawl.

The colour is Verdigris; it's reminiscent of Oxford college domes, weather vanes, and leaky water pipes.
October 533
I bought the yarn many moons ago on my last trip to Florida when my shape was not quite what it is today.  I think I meant to knit the size 34 but bought an extra skein to add some length so I had seven to play with.

Having read all the notes on Ravelry about even the most petite knitter needing to add a little length, I cast on for the size 38 with more hope than expectation, and added a whopping four inches to front and back before the armhole shaping (yes, that's four as in 4), fully anticipating needing to acquire an extra skein or some leftovers from someone.  But for now the knitting muses are with me, and whilst I wouldn't say I have oodles left over, I had plenty to sew the seams and knit the borders without ever once having to knit faster so that I finished before the yarn ran out.

So do I count it a success?

October 552
Well I'm either thrilled with it, or absolutely and completely freezing and desperate to get back into the nice warm house because we are taking pictures really rather early in the morning as H has to get to a hockey match.  Perhaps it's both?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The here and now

There is a moment that comes on the best of days.  Towards the end of the day, but before H arrives home from whichever far flung extreme of the Midlands he's been travelling to.  The chores are done, or at least I've made my peace with the ones that aren't going to get done, and the house is at rest.

October 473
We used to spend the time in the garden, cloud gazing and reading stories but the squally showers that swept though this week, and the rose bramble making insistent and repeated requests to enter through the window make it clear that those days are gone for now.

October 476

So we sing, we make funny noises with cardboard tubes and many shaky rattley noisy toys, we play tents, and we snuggle together to read a story, before Kitty takes on the most important task of her day; emptying the bookcase (again).

October 471

It isn't a saccarine-soaked picture of rosy-cheeked perfection, straight from a Mabel Lucie Attwell drawing; sooner or later there will be a nappy to be changed, a little hand will stretch for some out of reach contraband, and given Madam's predilection for Mummy's big books, something heavy will often be carelessly discarded on my toes.  But it is my present and my memories, and to me it is perfect.

Monday, October 17, 2011

An excuse for cake

It's National Baking Week! Once I'd established that it was neither a figment of my early morning imagination, nor something that Chris Evans invented, this was clearly something that I was going to embrace wholeheartedly.

Although, if you read the recipes on the website, I'm not entirely sure what the organisers' definition of baking comprises; possibly just turning the oven on at some point in the cooking process. Soup? Pasta? - all baking apparently.

Nonetheless, what more excuse do I need for a cake.

October 495
This isn't from the baking website, it's my new favourite book, the Great British Bake Off Recipe book, Apple and Maple traybake.

October 497
It's delicious, all damp and appley, with a maple syrup and cream cheese icing.

October 499
As you see, it's not going to last long.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My little daughter's dress

October 372
It's been a bright sunshiney day here today, and what better way to enjoy it than by playing in the garden in a brand new warm woolly winter dress.  I'd planned to finish this for Kitty's birthday but as she's just a tad taller than the average bear and it was delayed while I ordered an extra ball of yarn.
October 362
But the new ball arrived last week and after a bit of playing around with the length I finished it off and handed it over to Kitty for some thorough product testing.  We've found it's good for picking grass...
October 377
... and for pushing our walker...
October 382
... and for crawling towards the edge of the wall....
October 435
... and bending ...
October 388
... and stretching.
October 419
And when we've finished all of that, for snuggling up in Mama's lap.

The pattern is Little Sister's Dress by Tora Froseth Design.  It's a simple, easy knit, and shows off the wonderful colours of a tropical fish Zauberball to their best advantage.
October 414
I knit the 18 month size but added a good few inches; to give you an idea of how much, I would have finished in the last section of dark blue and it would have barely covered her bottom.
October 411
The buttons came from my button tin (sorry for the lack of focus - little miss wriggles had decided she'd had enough of posing), they're red with little white stars around the edge and a perfect match.

H&M came up trumps again for long sleeved bright coloured baby vests and as well as this red one I found a turquoise that exactly matches the dress. I'm hoping that I've added enough extra length for this to last for a while but if she grows out of it there's a Big Sister Dress pattern that goes up to age 8.  It is very possible that she might acquire one in each size as she grows.

We went to the final birthday party of the season this afternoon and then popped into our favourite gallery and she was admired all around.  I think there could be a market for a grown up size - just maybe not in 4ply.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bringing the Sunshine

It's said that your crafty motivation is either the process or the product.  People who are product driven really love the process otherwise they'd just go and buy a jumper, and people who are process driven really love the product.  Mostly.  Well, sometimes.  When the corners meet nicely or when gauge hasn't turned the planned cardigan into a pair of bizarrely conjoined long johns.

How do you tell? Well, if you're product driven then I can promise you that what follows may baffle you slightly. 

When Mollie Makes was launched I was hooked.  I mean when the tag line is "Living and Loving Handmade" you know it's going to be good.  I'm queuing up the project instructions for knitted and felt food for when Kitty's old enough to want to play tea parties, the adverts caused my credit card to start to quiver in my wallet, and the interviews are full of pretty pictures and good questions.  But my one weakness - the cover kits.

I love trying out lots of different crafts; when I lived in London I'd spend a day at the Olympia Knitting and Stitching Show taking class after class (often from the Royal School of Needlework students) on whitework, or satin stitch or beading, and the Mollie Makes cover kits are the same sort of thing in miniature and at home.

Having spent a fair amount of time knitting small elephants recently, and with Christmas still just far enough away to not worry too much, I thought a little indulgent crafty time was in order so I pulled out the kit from issue 4.

October 239
A sunshine flowers necklace.  The instructions were nice and clear and I had plenty of materials to have made even more flowers but this seemed like the right amount.  In the project instructions the necklace ties at the back, but to get as much length as possible I used the whole cord in the necklace.  The leaves are two layers of felt sewn together by the yellow running stitch and I buried the ends of the cord between the two layers.

The most difficult part of the whole enterprise was finding a needle big enough to take the cord and be pointy enough to pierce the felt.  In the end I used a crewel embroidery needle to make the hole and then enlarged it with my thickest fattest blunt sewing up needle and with a bit of jiggery pokery it all worked out OK.
October 241
But will I wear it?

Well I tried it on, and Kitty pulled at it and licked one of the flowers.  In fairness, my usual necklace (if anything) is a small gold cross so this was a bit of a difference, and the chances are that I'll never wear it as a proper necklace with a proper outfit. But that isn't really the point.  It's sunny and bright, and I smile when I see it, and it matches my tablecloth.
October 242
I'm going to hang it on the pinboard in my sewing room for sunshine on the gloomiest of days.

Monday, October 10, 2011


October 230
My Granny's kitchen worktops were bright turquoise crosshatched with pin thin lines of darker blue and they matched the 'swimming pool' lino under your feet.  The cupboards were a vivid lemon, the drawers were bright red, and Mum made the bright flowery curtains.

October 223
I didn't intentionally make fairy buns to homage the kitchen but it seems only appropriate.  My memories of my Granny's kitchen taste of lemon cake.  She wasn't the world's most enthusiastic cook but her piece de resistance was a double layer lemon sponge with little flecks of lemon peel in the icing.  
October 216
These are little lemon sponges with lemon icing and yellow dragees from the stash of 'cake decorations that I'm trying to use up before the best before date'. 
October 212
Dotted in among the trellis in the tablecloth they look like enormous hot house blooms, perfect to lift the dreary gloom outside.
October 206 
It's definitely autumn now, the applause from the August encore has died away leaving blustery days and a swirl of fallen leaves behind the rocking chair in the nursery.  My munchkin pumpkin is toasting green rind into a deep amber in the front garden veggie bed and we've started to harvest the potatoes.  But for now I have cake, and memories of sunshine and fizzy lemonade to lighten the darkness.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Birthday Parade

Those of you that might happen to glance past my projects page on Ravelry will not be blind to the fact that for the last couple of months it would appear that I have been on somewhat of a knitting groundhog day.  In fact that explains much of why there has been little to no knitting popping up on these pages since early August.

Like most of us, cunning plans and crazy ideas whirl through my mind with gay abandon fairly frequently.  Some I discard on the spot, some I shelve for that mysterious and magical future 'when I have time', and some take root, twisting and plying with my mind so that there becomes no doubt that I was every going to do anything different.  I've been working on one of those.

Before Kitty was born we went to an NCT antenatal class.  You learn a little about birth and labour and looking after your fresh new bundle of squeals and snores, but it is also the place where you meet your first set of soon to be Mummy (and Daddy) friends.  We landed on our feet and I have the pleasure to know an amazing group of women, with whom I've shared the crazy and the comedy from our labours, our first weeks as parents and everything since then.  And now almost all of our tiny boys and girls are strapping one year olds with clear personalities and wills of their own.

Well I couldn't give them just any old sort of birthday present could I? I found my stash of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, my 3mm dpns and my pattern and I cast on:
August 470

 And on
August 075
And on
September 003
And on
September 340
And on
October 027
And on
October 077
I finished the seventh yesterday, she (for this one is a girl) is sitting on the arm of the sofa waiting for a party in a couple of weekends' time when she will get to meet little Miss K, but as K's mummy has half an idea what might be coming I don't feel I'm spoiling any surprises.

I know I've put in the hours but I feel some credit has to go to Ysolda for writing a pattern for such a lovely toy that the babies have universally adored, and that I've been happy to knit again and again.

There are currently 2204 Elijah Elephants finished or on the way there around in the world today.  Do you think that in the future, archaeologists will look back on us now and wonder what form of deity we worshiped with little knitted elephants?  I may be partially responsible for the population boom, and not just with these seven. 

You see only Ferdy and Solomon live at home, all of my other elephants have gone to other houses in far flung and slightly nearer corners of the world, except for the Katiephunt of course who is here as a guest, and I rather lost track.  So I added them up.

That would be 14 elephants.  I think I may have a problem.  Please send help, or even better, Baby Cashmerino; it's been 24 hours since I knit on an elephant and I don't quite know what to do.