Monthly Archives

September 2014

Baby Elma Family Kitty Me and Mine Photography Pip

Me and Mine – a family portrait for September


If August was the month that made us a family of five, September has been the month where we found our feet, our rhythm, our pattern of the new everyday ordinary.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

There are still things we’re trying to work out (mostly bedtime which is a challenge all by itself especially if H has to be out), but for the most part it feels like we’re finding our way.  I’m getting the hang of loading up the car with three, or getting out the door even vaguely sort of on time, or distracting and entertaining two little girls while feeding their brother. I can assemble and disassemble our double buggy in record quick time and even managed to take Kitty to the church bathroom while wearing Pip in the sling and carrying Elma half on my hip and half slid around to my back (I’m awarding myself a Mummy gold star for that particular feat) while H manages to combine impersonating a climbing frame with singing lullabies to his son, and catching Elma by the ankle as she attempts to dive headfirst off the sofa/bed/anywhere not the floor yet again.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

There are moments when it feels like a small daughter is trying very hard to push all of our buttons and failing to grasp the most basic of concepts required to keep her safe; and then there are the moments when we’re all sat at supper just enjoying listening to Kitty tell us about her day; or when we glance over and see our girls sat under the dinner table heads together, one gold, one brown, playing make-believe or plotting world domination; or when Kitty brought me a daisy from the garden “as well done for having baby [Pip] Mummy!”

For every moment when we feel stretched by the demands of three, there are a hundred moments when we know in our hearts that our family would never have felt right without Pip.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

A year ago I was heading back to work, settling Elma into nursery with Kitty, trying to remember where I’d left my heels, my handbag and all the other accoutrements that go with the commuter lifestyle, trying not to let my heart break as I left not one but two babies in the loving care of their awesome nursery, trying not to be overwhelmed with Mummy guilt, trying not to spend every night sobbing into my supper at the knowledge that I’d have to get up the next day and do it all again.

It’s amazing the difference a year makes. In H and my children I have everything I could ever have wanted, and more.  I am so happy and so lucky to get to spend this next year at home with them all, and I think it’s the memories of last September that creep in in the quiet moments of the night that make me so very very determined to treasure every moment of this coming year.

We took our photos in the garden again; and you can already see the change that even a month can bring; the seasons are on the turn and the first few fallen leaves are drifting across the lawn; scattered thinly like the tail ends of confetti that gather around the church porch in the days and weeks after a summer wedding.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s in Pip though that the change is most obvious; no longer the little four day old, so very very new and curled up and tiny, but out beautiful baby boy, all round cheeks and curiosity waking up from his nap.  And if his parents and even perhaps his sisters are a little more sleep deprived than last month, that’s a small price to pay.  The one constant is how much this boy of ours is loved, adored, cuddled and frequently bestowed with the gentlest of kisses.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I am so unbelievably blessed to call this family my own, to be part of “just the five of us”.

My little family, in September

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And just because you know I love the outtakes, I have to share a photo I didn’t take – I left Kitty with the remote trigger while I went to round up the rest of the family, and only later discovered this self portrait on the camera – goodness only knows what the camera had done to upset her!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


dear beautiful


Books Family Kitty Reading what we're reading

Extra Yarn {what we’re reading}


According to the inscription on the fly leaf, Extra Yarn belongs to Kitty, given to her for Christmas 2013 by one of our oldest friends, who also happens to be her godfather. I know Kitty unwrapped it, I know Kitty turns the pages as we read and very definitely claims it as her own, but I also suspect that her god-daddy and his lovely other half knew exactly who might be reading this one when they bought it.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I mean it’s every knitter’s dream isn’t it, a magical box that never quite runs out of yarn however many jumpers and bobble hats and tree cosies Annabelle knits. Well that and the fact that within the space of a book she’s knit enough jumpers to clothe the whole town and cosies to cover anything that will stand still long enough to be measured; clearly this is a young lady with a technique I need to study and the kind of knitting time I can only dream of!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s a lovely lovely collaboration between Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (who wrote and illustrated the darkly hilarious I Want My Hat Back amongst others).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I think part of the charm is that the narration manages to make what is clearly a very extraordinary situation seem so very natural and normal.  I think part of the magic of childhood is your willingness to suspend disbelief and entertain ideas that your rational adult brain tells you are clearly impossible.  Yes, the laws of physics will tell you that a small box cannot contain enough yarn to cloak every surface in a small town; but imagination is where you can make anything happen, so why shouldn’t it?  And if you’re going to allow a never ending source of yarn, why shouldn’t an archduke come to try to steal it away (does anywhere even have archduke’s anymore? the only one I can bring to mind was the one that shot an ostrich – but I digress!).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And with the simple magical storytelling come Jon Klassen’s illustrations.  And as its Annabelle that brings colour to her town in the middle of a deep winter when everything is black as soot or white as snow, everything is a charcoal version of sepia, stark and grey and unrelenting, apart from the knitting.  Giant stitches that drift across every colour of the rainbow (hmm, that may be how she’s knitting so quickly) making the world a much cheerier place.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I love that all the people have pink cheeks and noses from the snowy winter, and how they all look so much happier once they’re wearing their new jumpers.

And Kitty loves the in joke, when all of her favourite friends turn up again, though this is clearly before the hat incident as the bear isn’t wearing a hat – and the rabbit is still with us!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

We’ve come across a few books that include knitting or crafting, and I’m generally predisposed to like them, but they’ve never been as popular as this is with all of us.  This is the book that I want to reach for on a grey winter’s afternoon, with all of my babies snuggled up next to me under a blanket as slowly outside flakes begin to fall and the world turns soft and white.

I’ve got the babies, I’ve got the book, I’ve even got the blanket (hand knitted of course), now all I need is the snow!


Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

And if you have a favourite, or just something fun your little or not so little ones have enjoyed reading lately please do join us. The linky is always open for the whole week so there’s plenty of time. And so, without further ado, it’s over to you to tell me what we should be reading!

Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography

Living Arrows 39/52


It’s that time of year again.  Time for a little expedition.  In the sunshine, under the trees, on a glorious warm and sunny afternoon two little girls went hunting for treasure.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Even though it feels like the trees are just starting to turn, and it was August only yesterday, there were enough fallen leaves to carpet the grass and give a reassuring crunch under tiny feet.  And hidden in the leaves, peeking out from behind spiky shells that look like bright green miniature hedgehogs, is the bounty we’re looking for.Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It was Elma’s first time collecting conkers; she wasn’t really very sure what we were looking for to start with, but as the pile started to build up in her buggy seat she found first one, and then another, and then more and more and more.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I’m not sure that she understands why we want to pick them up and bring them home; they look so very lickeable but for some extraordinary reason Mummy won’t let her eat them, they don’t really do anything, and if you throw them inside the house they get put away in the play kitchen saucepans and someone says “No Thank You!”

But I don’t think she minded too much either.  I sat on our picnic quilt in the shade of the neighbouring trees feeding Pip and snuggling him as he watched the leaves dance in the branches above while the girls ran back and forth to the conker tree, racing each other around the far side of the trunk and back to deposit each new discovery in my lap and just check that I was looking after their baby brother properly.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I really didn’t think that they’d found that many, just a neat little pile building up in Elma’s seat, and even when I moved them all into my handbag so that I could strap her in again for the way home it didn’t seem too many.  It was only when we got home and realised we could fill the entire play kitchen saucepan set to the brim that we realised we’ve got our best collection yet.

I do have a plan, which is probably just as well, and I think we’ll be starting with Red Ted Art’s Conker Snake (thanks to Claire who pointed it out to me) just as soon as we can persuade H to get busy with a barbeque skewer.

But I also think you don’t really need a reason to collect conkers, they’re reason enough themselves, all silky smooth and that glorious rich shiny brown.  They’re so tactile and inviting and pilled up in the play saucepans ready to be stirred, or poured out, or used for some game involving putting a conker on top of each of the building blocks they’re a classic case of nature winning out over every other lovely toy in the house.

And apparently we’re not the only ones.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

We couldn’t decide whether this was the work of squirrels, fairies, pixies or just people without either pockets or a bag to take them home in,

living arrows

Elma Family Handmade Handmade for Kitty Kitty Knitting Photography {the ordinary moments}

Handmade Hand-me-downs


I think there’s always a certain nostalgia when you dress your children in hand me downs from their bigger siblings.  You remember buying it, you remember how it felt to be so new to the mothering game, and how tiny and sweet your little baby looked, and how tiny and sweet their sibling looks, compared to the enormous child your eldest appears to have become. A little set of pirate vests, a pair of pink bunny bootees given to Kitty, a London Zoo t-shirt bought for Kitty by H and now adored and requested on a daily basis by Elma.

In our family we have a babygro that was handed down to us by H’s aunt.  It’s been worn by his cousin (who’s 18 months or so older than Kitty), then by Kitty, Elma, my small nephew, and now most recently Pip and it’s still going strong.  I love that all the children have that connection, and from a purely practical point of view it’s been very handy to operate a sort of lending library of baby clothes amongst ourselves.

It’s also given a few thing huge sentimental value – and probably guaranteed that I’ll be hoarding them forever.

But that’s just the things that H or I bought, or that we were given.  Then there are the things that I made.  There are teeny tiny baby jackets knitted for each baby and tucked away especially for them; a vast array of wooly hats and warm mittens from Kitty’s first winter; summer dresses, cardigans and jumpers. In my mind a little hand knit something isn’t just a useful item of clothing, it’s a gesture of love, a giving of time and skill.

Love given to Kitty and then packed away carefully and saved for her sister.

For the most part Elma’s assimilated them all into her wardrobe and as she’s generally worn them in a different season to Kitty, or with different top or bottoms there hasn’t been quite so much of a visual deja vu in these last few months.  But then came the cool, slightly crisp and very autumnal day this week when I went digging in the wardrobe for something a little warmer than the usual rotation of leggings and a t-shirt and I found this;

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Kitty’s rainbow dress.

And remembered this:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

My lovely four year old at one and a smidgen in what would have been her birthday dress were it not for the fact that even at one she was rather tall and I had to order an extra ball of yarn to add a bit more length to it.

And suddenly it doesn’t seem a moment since this fitted my biggest girl.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I remember knitting it, watching the rainbow stripes go round and round, and dressing Kitty in it, and how plump and warm and snuggly she felt in it.

In the day to day it’s easy to miss the subtle changes in the girls as they grow older and taller and move from babyhood to toddler and toddler to little girl (Pip on the other hand is still growing before our very eyes), but this was a reminder, a very visual illustration of just how much has changed.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

The same dress, the same season and the same garden, it’s easy enough to see the similarities in the two girls, and I think they get more and more alike in looks each day.  But I can see the differences too, in the darker hair and the grey eyes, not to mention the fact that it’s taken Elma a whole extra eight months to fit into it, and even now it’s a little long, and also in their personalities.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And I know that just as Kitty sprinted through it in the course of a winter, come next spring it might not fit Elma either.  And just as much I know that I’ll wash it, fold it gently and pack it away until somewhere in the family there’s another little girl to wear handmade handmedown love.

Birthdays Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Kitty Kitty Quilting

Pink Sherbet {handmade for Kitty}


Way way way back when, in the far off time before the children I used to drag H to the International Quilt Show each year. Well he might say drag, he’s as much of a magpie for colour and pattern as I am so I’m pretty sure he came happily and willingly even if he’d never admit it.

And when we’d had our fill of the exhibition quilts we’d turn our attention to the very important task of perusing the mile upon mile of gorgeous fabrics and trimmings and patterns and ideas and enough lovely things to fill my house twice over and three times on Sundays. We were sort of restrained though, at least I’d try to be restrained, and then H would find something he rather liked and add that to the pile, and then we’d both see something that just had to come home and, ah well, it was in the days when our bank balance could quite happily survive a degree of frivolity and I always tried not to bring home more than I could realistically make before the next year’s show.

I never did quite manage that though, and there are still things sitting in the cupboard from the very first year we went, just waiting for the perfect moment.

But one of them is in the cupboard no more. It started life as a Bali Pop of Hoffman Batik fabrics called Sherbet Dip and despite being buried in the stash for mumble-mumble years it pretty much fell at me when I went looking for a little fabric panacea earlier this year.

I was having cravings to make a quilt (that’s totally normal isn’t it?), something easy, something without too much cutting, something that I wouldn’t have to think about too much, something in short that would give me all the bliss and relaxation from the sewing, without once wanting to hurl it at the wall; not that I’d ever do that of course!

I think as soon as it landed in my lap I knew what I wanted it to be, and I knew that it was going to be for Kitty.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

There are recipes for lasagne quilts all over the Internet, but the basic premise is the same;

  • take a jellyroll, put five strips to one side for the binding and join the rest end to end, setting the ends at 90° to each other and sewing diagonally across the corner;
  • Cut 18 inches off one of the ends of your very long strip and add it to your pile of binding strips;
  • fold the very long strip end to end right sides together and sew what feels like the world’s longest ever 1/4″ seam down one side.
  • Carefully cut along the fabric fold at the bottom.
  • Repeat the last two steps until it looks quilt shaped, then quilt and bind as normal.

Perfect for thinking-free quilting. And perfect for Kitty, and not just because the predominant colours are pink and purple, though I knew that was always going to help my cause.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

The first quilt I made for Kitty was her handmade present for her second ever Christmas. At fifteen months it was the perfect size for wrapping up in and snuggling down, but she’s just not that diminutive any more and while it still covers her nicely (it’s throw size on an adult) I wanted her to have something that was really deeply snuggly and cozy, but not too big that she couldn’t drag it around after her or escape from underneath it.

And so a birthday quilt plan was hatched. The mindless sewing did its trick in restoring whatever good mood was missing in the early summer and as soon as Pip’s blanket was finished I made full use of the remaining pre-Pip days to find backing and quilt and bind it.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

The backing is actually the result of another bit of diving, only this time into my chest of drawers rather than the fabric stash. I had another length of beautiful fabric planned but when it came to the crunch the colours just didn’t quite work and both front and back we’re far too nice to be paired up as a nearly-but-not-quite so I had a rethink. This is a length of fabric that I used to wear as a sarong in the 90’s (if you were only in primary school in the 90’s trust me – batik and sarongs were really cool), but it’s essentially a big rectangle, perfect for a quilt back.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Well almost perfect, it was just a smidge too narrow so I added a little strip of a brilliant turquoise green batik print leftover from some plan or other just to brighten things up. It’s not the most orthodox backing but as I’m unlikely to wear it as a skirt again, and it can only be nostalgia and psychic abilities that had me keep it this long, I’m glad to see it in use, and there’s something rather lovely about handing down to my daughter a fabric imbued with so many happy memories for me.

The wadding is actually the only thing that I needed to buy, it’s Quilter’s Dream in the Request weight which is probably my favourite wadding; it’s warm and cozy but light too and makes for lovely ripply quilts that you can really tuck up around you.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

One of these days I might branch out and try something a little more adventurous than straight lines or my handful of variations on simple stippling but that day is not when you’re nine months pregnant and aren’t too sure how long you’ve got left to finish a quilt so loop-de-loop it is in a gorgeous pink yellow and red variegated thread (YLI thread in Mango).

And for the finishing touch I left off my usual name tape labels and went for something a little special

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

(The weird smudgy bit in the middle is where her real name is).

And the verdict?

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I’m always a little bit nervous about the reception a handmade present will get; I might know how much work, effort, thought, love, time and pin pricks has gone into it, but Kitty’s four and there’s no guarantees about anything when you’re four.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But perhaps all this early exposure to handmade has paid off, or it is the all conquering power of pink and purple. She snuggled up in it to look at her new books on her birthday afternoon, she curled up under it to watch a film and it now has pride of place on her bed. In short, it’s a hit.