Thursday, February 16, 2012

The time has come

I started this blog on 6 February 2006.  I was in my early (ish) twenties, only engaged to the lovely man who became my H, and I wanted somewhere to keep track of my knitting projects, which at that stage largely consisted of baby clothes for miniature second cousins, and a little something Rowan for me.

Fast forward six years and this blog has recorded not only the knitting but all the other crafty things and a good few slices of family life.  And like a pair of battered old favourite shoes, it's been starting to creak a little, and let the puddles in.    Knitted Bear isn't going anywhere, I've no plans to take the blog down, or anything like that and it isn't time for me to give up blogging, far from it, but it might be time to move house.

So, if you'd like to come on a little adventure with me, please step across the way to Space for the Butterflies, where I promise more of the same haphazardly delivered tales of a crafty handmade family life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine

Reader, I married a Yorkshireman. And whilst there is a deeply romantic core inside that intensely northern exterior (and I know I've just made him blush by confessing it), for the most part this is a relentlessly practical man.  So when I admitted to him over the weekend that I hadn't even looked at Valentine's cards yet, he came up with the perfect solution.  Save the card pennies and put it towards steak.

We've just feasted on two rib-eyes from Aubrey Allen (local purveyor of mouth watering meat) some chips and veggies, and in a small white card box on the countertop are two Strawberry Millefeuille from my favourite bakery in Birmingham. 

It isn't by a dozen red roses, or cards, or chocolates that I know that I am loved (all of which is not to say that I don't like them, although for flowers I'd rather have tulips) but by the daily actions of a man who knows that my perfect Valentine is good food, time together, and for flowers my velvety red Rapido amaryllis that burst into bloom yesterday.

But I couldn't resist one more little touch.  Kitty's nursery had a pink and red day and although she already fit the bill perfectly in pink vest, pink flowery dungarees, pink flashing shoes and pink hair bobbles (at least until she got very very excited in water play and soaked herself from tip to tiny toe), she just needed a little something…

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(photo taken on my phone while she was in the sling on the way to nursery this morning, hence the funny angle) 

Her matching pair of heart hair slides were based on this tutorial at The Purl Bee from a few years ago.  I sketched my own heart shape to work with the hair clips we had, and used scraps of pink and fuchsia felt from a felt bundle from Paper and String and purple embroidery thread to put them all together.

They are incredibly easy to make; my pair took a little under half an hour of quiet undemanding stitching, curled up on the sofa last night surrounded by a confetti of felt off cuts.  I'm starting to wonder whether something could be done with shamrocks? Easter bunnies? Diamond Jubilee Union Jacks? The possibilities are limited only by the amount of felt and the colours remaining in the bundle.  I've hit the pinks and reds fairly repeatedly, but if you can think of a hairslide that needs a few varieties of fawn and beige we're all sorted!

I hope you've had a lovely Valentine's.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A mini snow day

I'm hesitant to say this but I think we might almost be feeling healthy again.  Having written that I now fully expect to be struck down by yet another plague.  Seriously, I've had a cold, the flu, and the Noro virus in the last three weeks, Kitty's had a chest infection and H got a cold, a throat infection and his fair share of Noro.  Fingers crossed, that's it for us for a while. (I didn't say that, I really didn't, I promise; we could really do with just catching a break).

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The snow fell again last night.  Only a tiny dusting this time, light enough to cling to the tops of blades of grass, and form a crisp icy crust across the pavement.  Kitty has just a touch of cabin fever, mainly characterised by bringing me her coat at regular intervals and trotting down the hall to pound on the front door, so I bundled her up this morning for a quick blast of fresh air.  We walked up to the allotments, counting foot prints, and different sized doggy prints, and added our own swirly patterns to the path.

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The walk to the allotments always detours to the baby playpark, and even the snow doesn't stop a pointy hand and cry of "Dap!" escaping from the buggy.  The slide was out of action with a snowy crash mat at the bottom but she loved stepping out making little flowery footprints into fresh snow.
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It's all melted now, and the forecast has switched the snowflakes for little round sunshines so I think we may have seen the last snowfall for the year.  I'm glad we got to go out and play though, to see her with rosy pink cheeks and and a pink-tipped nose, playing in the snow, the winter she was one.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Let it Snow!

It's true, I asked for it.  No sooner had I pressed publish than the teeny tiny virus invasion force rallied its troops and sallied forth for Cold 2012: Round 2. They squirmed their weaselly way into every joint and sat there, tapping at my bones with tiny hammers, while their colleagues took battering rams to my retinas, and I sat at my desk at work, desperately trying to carry on, as powerless as a bouncy castle (and with something of that wobbliness) against their microscopic siege.

I spent Wednesday, at home, in bed, wearing two handknit jumpers, my socks, and a hat.  Truth be told, it was an odd sensation, being home alone.  With a toddler doing thrice-weekly germ warfare in the Teeny room, our little family has had its fair share of sicks and lurgies, but most of the time we battle through them, or if we're sick, so's Kitty.  To nap, just because I needed to, was a rare and wonderful thing and did me the power of good.

I promised crafty finished goodness, but this is more than crafty, this is prophetic.  You see I finished a quilt:
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It's made from a couple of jelly rolls (and some extra bits) from a Moda fabric line from a few years ago, and it's called ...
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Let It Snow!
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Two beautiful fluffy white inches fell late yesterday and overnight, which we celebrated in time honoured tradition by going to the pub in the snow for a pint/hot chocolate/small bowl of chips and sitting in the window, watching the flakes fly, and the traffic negotiate the hill up into the village.

It's been melting today, and with rain forecast tonight it'll be gone tomorrow.  I am wondering about calling a quilt "Large Lottery Win" though!

But back to the quilt.
The pattern is the Barbed Wire quilt from Twosey Foursey Quilts.  I know it says it's barbed wire, but I looked at it and saw stars.  I split out the white based strips from the jelly roll to make the stars, and added extras from another jelly roll, some charm square packs, and a few bits of Kona white to fill in the gaps.

It left me with more than a few leftovers of the other colours; some went into Kitty's Christmas stocking, some into her birthday dolly quilt, and some I saved for the back.

I wanted to keep the borders relatively simple because the top is so busy so I added a 2.5" border in Kona white, and the binding is Kona red.
I wanted to try a pieced back, not least because the chances of finding something to work with all of the colours of the front weren't very high.  The middle band is pieced from leftover charm squares, and the rest is Kona red and Kona aqua.  They are the perfect match for my fabric, but I'll admit to being a little gutted that with all the wonderful colour names Kona have for their solids, I got red, white and aqua.
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It's quilted with dark red thread, a quarter inch inside each of the stars to make them pop, and other than that I left it well alone.

It's huge, cosy, and just perfect to snuggle down under to watch the snow melt, drip by tiny drip.

The Bare Necessities

Barbed Wire quilt from Twosey-Foursey QuiltsSize: 68" x 80"
Fabric: Moda 'Let it Snow!', two jelly rolls, two charm square packs and some Kona solids in red, white and aqua.
Time to make: Years. So many years that I've forgotten when I started.  It might not take years if you didn't take a few years off in the middle.
Would I make it again: Quilts tend to be a one time only thing - once is quite enough.

Monday, January 30, 2012

One week

You know when you have a week where everything falls into place: you get more full nights' sleep than not; the laundry fates align so that every family member's clothes are both clean and dry when they need them; delicious suppers materialise out of things you'd bought from a list, with a meal plan; your hair falls naturally into the bouncy glossy style only normally produced by your stylist and an army of blow drying assistants; trains run on time; and at work, opposing counsel lie like scattered dominoes, felled by the devastating power of your carefully worded legal arguments.

And then there are the weeks that counterbalance.  The ones where a twitch of your skirt has got caught up in life's mangle, and there's nothing to do but ride out the storm and wait for it to spit you out sodden, snotty and slightly crushed on the other side.

Where have we been? let me give you a clue.  Poor darling Kit's cough of a week ago turned into a full blown chest infection, complete with steam-train breathing sound effects that landed us at the out of hours doctors at some tiny wee hour of a weekend morning to get mademoiselle started on antibiotics pronto.  And then just as she started to perk up, H and I, exhibiting rare synchronicity on the illness front, were taken out by the same lurgy within 24 hours of each other, just in time for H to take an exam through a cold fog momentarily held at bay by just about every over-the-counter pharmaceutical on the market. My pharmacopoeia being rather limited by the nursling, I've made up for it by a lot of groaning.

Last Tuesday I went down with a fever and the shivers and it wasn't until Sunday afternoon that I started to perk up, and only today that I've felt even vaguely human, and that's while speaking makes me cough, and I appear to have swallowed several golf balls.

On Saturday, having run out of, well just about everything, we ran a carefully planned mission to the butchers (for pie) and then both had to have a little lie down.  Seriously people, if you know me in real life and you haven't had this horrid cold that's doing the rounds - run and hide (and chain eat Vitamin C).

But life goes on, and we are on the mend, a little less:
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and a little more:
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The fairies came at the weekend and did the washing up and took us for a restorative roast lunch at the Durham Ox and you never know, if you're very lucky, there may even be some crafty making in the offing.  Come on this week, you really can't be worse than last week (and for the avoidance of doubt, that in no way shape or form resembled a challenge)!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Seasonally appropriate quilting

Thank you for your help and suggestions for fixing my chronic inability to count.  The popular vote was for option C - pick out the offending line and fudge it somehow and, by the power of evenweave, I think I've managed something that looks almost as if it was supposed to be like that.  But more on that another day when I've had time to finish it properly and find some sunshine for some pictures.

Today we went to town, ran errands, and came home again, and then had lunch, went to town and ran the errands we forgot to do this morning.  It's been a deja vu sort of a day, but that could just be the sleep deprivation talking. Kitty is currently combining the arrival of two new teeth (1 front, 1 molar) with a grotty cold, and to stave off the feelings of misery that clearly envelop her own bed, is showing a marked preference for sleeping on my head, preferably while simultaneously pulling my hair and kicking her father, and all three of us are wading through the sandman's cloying glue trying not to leave our boots behind.

I've only been embroidering while in full possession of my facilities to prevent any more counting incidents, so in the non-nursing gaps of the evenings I've turned back to my sewing machine for a little quilting.

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Well I'm not sure this even counts as proper quilting.  I've been adding the borders to my Christmas quilt, just long long seams to add a 2.5 inch white border that will eventually be finished off with a red binding.
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The quilt in question started life as a jelly roll, and then I needed another one to get enough white background prints to have the desired effect, and then a few charm squares for the same reason.  I ended up with a good pile of charm squares left over so I've used them to piece the back with some Kona solids for company.

One of today's final errands was to pop into Quilter's Den in Warwick for some cotton wadding and deep red quilting thread, and now that Kitty is asleep (for the moment) and H has popped out to compare parenting notes with a fellow NCT class Daddy in the pub, I'm going to push back the sofa, roll up the Aquadoodle, tuck small pieces of toddler-related plastic into all available nooks and crannies, and baste baste baste.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh Christmas tree

With one New Year's Resolution (Kitty's trousers) ticked off the list, I'm feeling very January-enthusiastic and I'm motoring along with another, this time from the Crafty Creating section.

You see for someone whose craft polygamy flits from knitting to quilting (and a little sewing) and back again, I buy a lot of cross stitch magazines.  And they (particularly Cross Stitcher) frequently have beautiful patterns, and I think to myself, "I must make that, it would look cute/match perfectly/be so much fun", and I put the magazine in a pile on my sewing room floor, and there it sits.

It isn't such a big jump to imagine me actually doing some embroidery, I started in cross stitch, taught by my mum to sew a little red poinsettia picture to fit a dark green card one Christmas holidays, and I believe that she still owns the set of tea-napkins painstakingly embroidered by me with blue lazy-daisy flowers with a good deal of coaxing and cajoling from my grandmother when my enthusiasm wained after the second of the six (I can't have been much more than six myself).  A folder full of DMC threads sits in a corner of my knitting box and a little bag of kits and spare fabric is tucked into a corner of my sewing room upstairs.

So in the spirit of Christmas-always, I picked up a pattern, found the fabric and one of the colours in my stash, acquired the other from Decorative Cloth, and set to.
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It is the Deck the Halls pattern from the Christmas 2011 issue, which I didn't buy in hard copy, but found as a back issue through the ITunes Newstand.  Incidentally, Future Publishing whose stable includes Cross Stitcher, Mollie Makes, The Knitter and Simply Knitting, have launched all of the above and many of their other magazines onto ITunes with an introductory free download issue.  I don't know how long that will last for but a free magazine is never a bad thing, particularly when it can't add to the clutter in your house.

But back to the stitching, it's red and white, it's simple to sew and pretty to look at, and I've been enjoying stitching away to some old favourite films - the sort that you don't actually need to look at!

But clearly, watching Persuasion (for the 100th and something time) was a bad idea.  Look carefully.  Somewhere around the time that Fredrick Wentworth realised that he did love Anne Elliott after all but was seemingly inextricably bound to Louisa Musgrove, I was counting down to position the house neatly under the snowflakes.
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It was only as I worked back up the tree, adding in the backstitch that I could see clearly that I've counted a row short.  There should be an extra line of canvas so that the zig zag line doesn't touch the snowflakes, but I've mushed it together a bit.

Now snipping out everything underneath the zig zag line is more time consuming than it's worth so my options are: (a) leave it, it looks fine, it's only obvious if I point it out (b) start all over again on a fresh piece of fabric (and possibly finish this one and give it away to someone who won't notice, or (c) snip out the zig zag line and fudge something along the lines of a shallower zig zag so that it doesn't actually touch the snowflakes, just come close.  What would you do?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Scoot or Cycle trousers

I am in awe of Anna Maria Horner.  Actually I'm in awe of anyone who can sit there and just visualise a sewing pattern and draft it out (although I'm pretty sure there might be a bit more work to it, and possibly a few technical courses thrown in the mix too).  Where do the ideas come from the in recesses of someone's brain to have the back leg a little wider than the front leg to perfectly accommodate a little nappy-clad bottom, or to have a two part back yoke to give a bit more dimension where it's most needed, and a dip at the front to take away excess poofiness?

As I said. Awe.

I've made the Quick Change Trousers twice now, and I can only see a growth spurt that puts Kitty way way beyond the pattern sizes and my rough and ready sizing up, putting an end to wanting to make more.  The aforementioned little touches of genius make me love them as a Mama trying to persuade a wriggly girl that clothes really are the way to go, and the pattern is written in a nice simple straightforward way, to help me (an advanced beginner on a good day) make trousers that I'm proud to send out into public.
It was -6 this morning so our photo shoot was short and sweet, and involved a lots of layers everywhere for both of us.  Kitty stepped outside in both hat and mittens but abandoned them in the herb garden before she'd taken even a few paces so we snapped, hoped for the best, and scuttled back inside.  But here they are, the Scoot or Cycle quick change trousers:


I'm torn whether I like these or the pirates best, but on a day like today, flannel lining wins the day.

Kitty certainly had no complaints which is the best you can ask for in a little girl whose vocabulary of actual words stretches little beyond Mama, Dadaaa, Yea, No, Dap (meaning "bring me! bring me that now"), Pow!, Row-row (as in Row, row, row your boat), Hiya (and variations thereon) and a whole hoard of wonderful babbling.  (When she was having her bath this evening I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, answer: "Bebe!")

They've still got massive turn ups so I'm glad she's happy wearing them because with a bit of luck they'll last all this winter and be around for next.


The sizing up over the bottom worked really well; these have exactly the right amount of ease for her to play comfortably, with no problems getting them off and on over big nappies, and the slightly wider legs don't cause any problems.  The next pair will definitely have the same waist and hip increases, but I might try to shape in towards the ankle back to the original pattern width to see if it makes much difference, or whether she ends up looking like she's sporting 1920's style jodhpurs.  I'm also seriously contemplating reversible shorts for the summer, using different fabric for each side and different again for the back yoke. It's true, the possibilities are endless.


What you can't see under all the layers is that the best match I have for a top half is a cream long sleeve t-shirt.  Perfectly acceptable but not very exciting, and after the last aqua marl t-shirt in the right size sold out of the Mini-Boden sale before I could get to the computer yesterday, and my favourite Molo basics don't seem to do a turquoise, I'm a little out of ideas.  Does anyone have any suggestions for a long sleeved shirt that might match? In the meantime I'm cutting a swatch of the fabrics to carry around in my workbag and planning an onslaught on the baby shops of Birmingham during this week's lunch hours.

The Bare Necessities

Pattern: Quick Change Trousers from Handmade Beginnings
Size: 18-24 months (the largest size) with 0.5 inch added to the outside of each pattern piece.
Fabric: Sherbet Pips Pink Skaters (cotton) and Michael Miller Bicycles (cotton flannel) both from Fabricworm in their Thanksgiving sale - I can't see either on their site at the time of writing.
Time to make: an evening for the cutting out, two naps and another evening to finish - about 6 hours start to finish.
Would I make it again: Yes. Definitely. Watch this space.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter, as in igloos and eskimos and penguins and ICE!

It turns out that I may have been a tad over-optimistic in putting the laundry out yesterday!

From one of the mildest winters in my memory we've jumped down the thermometer 10 degrees or so, although it's not a patch on last year, when a brisk minus two was the daily high. Even so, the world outside today is covered with a brittle of ice, like a white cold creme brulee. 

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The fuchsias that had decided that it was spring have been scorched by the ice and defrosted into a pulpy mush, but these delicate pink berries seem to be holding up.  I don't actually know what they are; they grow over the fence each year to greet the new year, and I think they're beautiful.  Answers on a postcard/in the comments if you've any ideas.
The barbeque, sat outside patiently waiting all through the summer for the promised warm weather, could do double duty as a freezer, and it is to my great regret that Kitty's trousers

say "Ahoy there matey", and not the more appropriate "Shiver me Timbers".

We had Kitty's slide out in the lounge today so a lot of the day has been spent first lifting her up to the top, and then stretching out a watchful hand or two just in case when she figured out how to climb the steps.  I did manage a little sewing last night and this afternoon while Mademoiselle la princess took a petite nap.

Her newest trousers are finished, I just need some daylight and a cheerful girl to take some pictures, but there've been distractions today, aside from the slide, the first instalment of Kitty's Christmas present to me arrived yesterday, and it's an addictive read:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sizing up

It seems that winter is finally putting in an appearance around these parts.  I have laundry on the line more in the hope of it smelling nice after a blast in the sunshine than actually drying, and when we headed out to the supermarket at 10 this morning I still had to spend a good few minutes scraping ice from the windows and mirrors with the aid of a bottle of warm water.

Perhaps my next project is then rather serendipitously timed.  I've been planning on making Kitty another pair of the Quick Change trousers from Anna Maria Horner's Handmade Beginnings book for a little while.  Jo over at A Life in Lists, mentioned the idea of using flannel for the linings in a post on her plans for her boys' winter wardrobe, and it seemed like such a great idea for snuggly winter trews that I'm shamelessly copying it.

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A Black Friday sale at Fabricworm brought me a little parcel of pretty fabric just before Christmas (Sherbet Pips pink skaters and Michael Miller bicycles blue cotton flannel), and I've been sat looking at it as I knit, and thinking about how best to size these new trousers.

The pair I made for Kitty's birthday in the size 18-24 months (the largest pattern size) are a great length on my little 15 month old, but she still has that babyish chubbiness (particularly when you factor a cushy washable nappy into the mix) that makes them not tight exactly, but with a little less ease than I think would make for a perfect fit.

Her two pairs of dungarees are a great fit, with lots of room for an active little girl to romp around in, and you can see from the comparison that they are both a little bit wider across the derriere.
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You can also see that her pirate trousers need another wash but we'll gloss over that. 

I've decided to try to add an inch to the circumference to match them to the pink flowery dungarees, which should also allow for any extra space taken up by the flannel which is a shade thicker than the quilting cotton that I used for the first version.

I copied out the pattern onto baking parchment and then used my long skinny quilting ruler to follow the line for the outside edge of the pattern piece at the half inch mark, turning it gently as the curve moved away from the straight line.  The front and the back leg were easy enough, I can only hope that I've got the extra space on the right side of the back yoke, but for that only time will tell.

I know it means that I'll have more space at the ankle than I had previously, and there are no real needs to increase there, but it seemed more sensible to cut for the extra space and then try them on Kitty.  If I need to bring it back to the original lines that will be easy enough to do, and I can mark the point at which I start to want the extra width on my real life model, without having to guestimate while she sleeps.

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I did the cutting out earlier this week and it's all been sat in a little pile of fabric temptation on my newly tidied desk as I slogged away to finish a work project in almost every evening this week.  But now the project is done (until Tuesday anyway) and there's time for a little sewing of the non-Christmas, non-deadline variety.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On the fourteenth day of Christmas ...

our lovely friends came to play.

By virtue of some alphabetical wiztrickery, H and A were lab partners at university, realised they'd spotted each other before at church, and we've all been the best of friends ever since.  We count A as family, particularly now that he is Kitty's godfather, which mostly means that I don't sweat the tidying up if he's coming over. 

His better half, L, has an appreciation for the merits of Persephone books, salted caramel almonds from Hotel Chocolat and all things handmade, so we were always going to hit it off.

They came to spend a quiet cosy Sunday with us; a big roast gammon and sticky toffee pudding lunch, followed by Christmas presents, and an afternoon tucked up in my quilt collections, playing Sonic, eating sweeties, reading, knitting and playing shop with Kitty.  It was restful, fun and quintessentially English; if only we had a roaring fire and it had been snowing outside we would have been quite the picture postcard (well minus the computer games perhaps).

But you didn't really want to know about all that (and apologies to anyone whose New Year's virtuosity is wavering because I mentioned sticky toffee pudding (with ice-cream)).  Sunday was the unveiling of the final handmade Christmas presents for 2011.

First, there was a large, flat, square, squishy parcel for A, which Kitty assiduously helped him to unwrap.
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A 'very useful quilt for snuggling under on cold winter's days when part of your house has a stone floor'

The pattern is Pandora's Box from the Jelly Roll Quilts book by Pam and Nicky Lintott, and the fabric is a Moda jelly roll that I bought from my very first Festival of Quilts.  It perfectly fulfils the criteria of 'colours that I have seen A wear' and in fact he turned up in a jumper that perfectly matched the orange border.

It's a really great pattern for jelly rolls and just generally; it's nice and simple to show of the fabric to its best advantage and as it's all mixed up together, the quilt doesn't suffer for the quilter not being able to separate the jelly roll neatly into light and dark.

It also lent itself to a piecemeal construction.  On one evening I took the jelly roll apart and did the first stage of cutting, another night I matched the strips into pairs for the centre sections, sewed them together during one nap time, and cut the second stage during another.  At the end of each stage, all the pieces could be tucked away from tiny fingers in a bag without loosing my place, or upsetting a precisely piled stack of cut pieces.
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Once I'd sewn up the main quilt top I stood back and marvelled at the centre points of the blocks; my quilting has improved so gradually through little bits of practice here and there I forget that I can be pretty accurate now if I take my time to do it properly.

The border is a flaming orange and gold weave; it doesn't feel like a printed quilting cotton but is much softer with more drape.  There was just enough on the bolt at Quilter's Den for the borders or I would have been tempted to have a little bit more for a skirt in one of my favourite colours. 

I had enough white on lime green polka dots left over from my sampler quilt for the binding, so all that was left was to choose the backing, and what a backing:

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Enough sunshine to chase away any rainy day gloom (also from Quilter's Den).  I really ought to pay more attention to the names of the fabric I'm buying I know.

I used a pure cotton wadding and quilted it all over with lime green thread in a square stipple.

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I can't imagine life without my quilts, they have so many uses from extra blankets on cold nights to tents in the lounge and space to lie out in the garden in the heat of summer so I'm glad A and L like their very own.

And just in case he doesn't share -
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L has a pair of handknit socks.  It's Regia (definitely Regia this time - I found the ball band) Circus Colour in Akrobatik, bought on my last trip to Liberty's.  L once borrowed a pair of my shoes on an impromptu muddy walk so I knit to fit me, using a 64st cast on and a slip stitch heel and I think they should keep her feet nice and warm walking around the stone floor of their kitchen on chilly mornings.

So there we have it; four pairs of socks, two quilts, a hat, a scarf and a jumper.  Not a bad turn out considering that I didn't start until mid-October.  Maybe this will be the year that I start a bit earlier (yes yes, I can hear your hollow laughter from here!). But first I have two new balls of Rowan Big Wool in a delicious deep pomegranate to go and squoosh.

Saturday, January 07, 2012


The twelve days of Christmas may have ended, and the trees, lights, baubles and tinsel have been taken down and packed away and I can now confirm (with pictures) that I did finish the Christmas knitting before the end of Christmas.
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The one lone little piece of knitted present that still trailed yarn and needles was a jumper for Kitty, the Immie tee by Quince & Co, knit from Sparkleduck Galaxy in a deep midnight blue with silver sparkles.  I'd just about finished the body and started a sleeve when I gave it up in favour of a relaxed Christmas Eve with my family, and sure enough it was there waiting for me to do a few little rounds on Christmas afternoon as we curled up by our tree to watch the last of the daylight dance with shadows across the room.

I packed it to take north after the end of the profiterole marathon, and knit as we trundled painstakingly up the motorway one day, and across on another motorway the next to stay with H's parents for a couple of nights.

I finished it one afternoon, sat in the family room as my parents-in-law enjoyed having all of their chicks and a couple of cuckoos around them, and owing to an incident involving lasagne for supper, cheese, grated cheese and a little more cheese, it was pressed into service straight away to visit Great-Gran to take tea.
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Taking tea with Gran is somewhat of a ritual.  Regardless of the time of day, or the proximity of any of the major meals you have to sit down at the kitchen table and have a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
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For almost 13 years, H has drunk my cup of tea, and I have eaten his Ferraro Roche.  That is the way that it is at Gran's.  It's even more special now that Kitty's grown enough to have a big girl chair and a little Madeira cake, just as H did many many years ago.
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It also helps that Gran's poodle Sasha doesn't mind helping to clear up after little girls!
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Kitty played with her auntie
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and had cuddles from a great-auntie who popped by
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and it wasn't until we'd come back down home that I had the time or the resources to properly wash and block her latest knit.

But at last, a proper unveiling:
Jumper: Immie tee with long sleeves
Trousers: pink and purple stripes from the JoJo Maman Bebe sale
Accessories: Room on the Broom - model's own, Gruffalo socks from Little Sunflowers

It grew a little with blocking but with incredible growing not-so-tiny wee girls that's not necessarily a bad thing and I'm happy that if it's a bit big now, it will be a perfect fit before too long.
Clearly I've made one very obvious change to the pattern, I accidentally used a 3.5mm needle rather than a 3.25 and it grew sleeves! Well, ok, I did use slightly larger needles and didn't notice until I double checked them in preparation for the sleeves but I like the drape of the resultant fabric and I wasn't going to re-knit the whole body.  She's wearing it here as a t-shirt layer over a long sleeved vest which works well, although it also works well as a more traditional jumper; in the pictures at Great-Gran's she's got a thick penguin t-shirt and a vest underneath.
The original pattern has cute little cap sleeves but full length sleeves are a rather necessary ingredient for a Christmas jumper in England, even in this unseasonably mild winter, and I had plenty of yarn so I invented them.
January 107
This is the largest size, and the pattern would have you cast on 57 stitches and work a few rows of garter before joining it to the body.  I cast on two-third of the stitches (38), joined them in the round and worked in garter stitch for the suggested rounds, then increased up to 57 sts in the next row and worked straight until they seemed about long enough (70 rounds). 
January 158


Whether they realised it or not, I know for a fact that the key influence on H's brother and his wife's decision to move back down north from Scotland to Yorkshire last year was the proximity of their oh so cute nieces aged nearly two and one and a quarter.  Kitty (and H and I) are now a couple of hours away and K (and C's sister and brother-in-law are even closer).  The better jobs, bigger house and the rest of the family had nothing to do with it - oh no.

December 694
(Kitty in her party frock)
December 689
(and K in hers - it had snowmen on the bottom just out of shot)

They were working for their first Christmas back home (the perils of being doctors) so a couple of days later they hosted a party for fourteen, and both sides of their family got together for Christmas Take 2.

December 672
(Kitty explores her new Martian Mansion)
December 686
(with help from K - who clearly doesn't wiggle as much as Kitty - and Auntie A wearing the bows from everyone's presents)

H and I volunteered to bring pudding and the two Cs pushed the boat out for the starter and main course; bacon and scrambled eggs Benedict on little toasties to start, followed by a gargantuan buffet that took up most of the kitchen.  We had a rib of beef that had been cooking (a la Heston) for 18+ hours at a really low heat to leave it melt in the mouth tender, and a pork belly that was brined and slow roasted for nearly the same amount of time, all polished off with roast potatoes, parsnip puree, sauteed Brussels sprouts and red onions and a selection of gravies.

Now a supper that I haven't had to cook and won't have to wash up (all hail their dishwasher) is always going to get brownie points but this was right up there in the gold star category.  It was delicious and amazing and I loved it.

I also may have eaten it all before I even thought of taking any pictures.

For pudding, I spent a good part of Boxing Day making 78 profiteroles (using the Hairy Bikers' recipe), and the creme patisserie from Nigella's Feast. The next morning I used up four of my twelve spare egg whites to make the Fig, Ginger and Almond meringue from Annie Bell's Gorgeous Cakes and then we packed the whole lot up (plus a raspberry jelly as a special request from H) and drove it gingerly up a heavily laden M1.

Once we'd unpacked we found the largest remaining serving plate and started piping custard and stacking my croquembouche. I thought that making spun sugar in someone else's kitchen was a step too far, and I'm also not very good at it, so I stuck to the caramel sauce in Nigella with some ingredients purloined from our hosts and it turned out really well. 

In fact the only hitch in the whole operation was that the serving plate wasn't very big.  I stacked and glued the best I could and then called for an engineering consult from H (MEng) and C's Dad (model railway builder).  Their professional opinion was that I'd reached my limit, so we had a big croquembouche and a little mini one on the other side of the table like sugary cairns marking the location of a feast.

So here they are:
December 715
Two croquembouche, covered with caramel sauce and dusted with snowflake sprinkles, two trees and Father Christmas,
December 716
and a spicy and light meringue that impressively survived the journey from Warwickshire with only minimal damage.
H's Mum and sister had also been busy and arrived with trays of colourful cakes - just in case anyone had any teeny tiny space left over.
December 719 December 720
We made some pretty good inroads into the table groaning with food but there was still plenty to send home with all the branches of the family, and still be left with more for late night fridge raids, and I may or may not have eaten a couple of profiteroles with my breakfast the next morning!

I don't think I was hungry again for the rest of the week. Now that's the sign of a good party - and a New Year diet.