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Rainforest Socks {handmade}


Do you know what a “Baronesse Bambalina” is? According to the yarn label it might be some sort of a purple and blue bird but Google can only find me pictures of woolly socks, and Google translate (a) thinks it’s Catalan and (b) translates it as “Baroness Bambalina”.  Well that’s helpful then.

And so, in lieu of any evidence that there may actually be a colour way named after a small purple and blue rainforest bird and not the colourful Friday afternoon daydream of an Opal designer, let me show you some socks.

Before we moved, my train to work had lots of tables and free wifi and so I spent a lot of the journeys writing or playing around on Instagram.  The new train, I still get a seat, and it’s more reliable (please don’t let that jinx me come Monday), and travelling a shorter distance, but it’s not really set up for getting the laptop out, and with patchy reception I’ve gone back to train knitting and listening to podcasts.

That’s how these socks finished anyway.  The start was in more auspiciously knitterly surroundings in the car on the way to Yarndale, on the bus between the car park and Yarndale itself, not in the bus between Yarndale and the car park because my lap was far too full with the most gorgeous bag of squishable yarn you’ve ever seen, but definitely in the car on the way back home.  I only stopped because it got dark and I was pretty sure that I was ready to turn the heel.

The yarn itself, Opal Rainforest in the somewhat bafflingly named Baronesse Bambalina, also known as 4005 was a birthday present from some very dear friends a few years ago and it’s been lurking in the top of the stash boxes just waiting for me to want a ball of yarn for nice plain straight knitting socks.


They are pink and purple and blue and very definitely not stripy self-striping sock yarn.  The pattern seems to knit in bands, but even they’re fairly variable.  I can quite happily take second sock matching to an obsessive degree, and even when I still end up with one toe that has half a stripe of green when the other is all blue, I’ll keep trying on every pair.

I’d claim these socks let me relax and just see what would be, but truth be told I tried to make them match, even though matching is clearly impossible.  I matched the cast on yarn so perfectly, and yet by the time we got to the heel they were just wildly different, without rhyme or reason or even knot.  If ever there were a lesson in letting go of imperfection this should be it, because even with heels that could never claim to be matching, these are still very much a pair of socks that belong together.

(Picture by Pip, aged 3, who may have some work to do as family knitwear photographer)

And somehow, when it’s getting chilly, and the heat from the Aga can’t quite reach the tiles on the far side of the kitchen floor, that matching but not identical starts to matter an awful lot less.

They are warm, and snuggly, and, and this is a rarity for me; they are mine, all mine!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On


Yarn gambling {handmade}


Knitting is a gamble.  An educated gamble a lot of the time, but a gamble none the less.  You choose a pattern, and hope that it’s written in a way that your brain can translate and doesn’t having you wanting to heave the entire yarn basket at the wall.  You choose a yarn, which in my case is never ever the same as the yarn the sample was knitted in, and hope that the weight and the drape behave how you imagine.  You knit a gauge swatch (or not) and hope that your tension over the swatch turns out to be roughly similar to a whole jumper’s worth of stitches, and after all of that, when you’ve checked everything that there is to check, measured everything there is to measure, and spent hours and hours of your time flicking through stitch after stitch, you hope that when you wash it it won’t grow big enough to fit a heffalump.

I haven’t even got to that last stage yet; my gamble was with the yarn, and as we all know, eventually the house always wins.

It started a year ago, in one of my most favourite yarn shops in the entire world (Lil Weasel) which unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) happens to be in Paris, and I was having a yarn attack of a most serious kind.  Not only had I picked out yarn to make sweaters for Pip and Elma, there in my hand was a skein of soft wool cotton, in my absolute favourite burnt orange, and on the counter next to me, were another seven.  I have no defence, I can only offer as plea in mitigation that I became temporarily incapacitated by the smell of wool and the amazing array of buttons and forgot that sheep are not an endangered species.  Mea culpa.

I’d not knit myself a sweater since (quick check of Ravelry) 2012, when I knit myself a maternity jumper while I was expecting Elma, and there was still yarn in the stash for at least two cardigans, and yet, the orange, it called to me.  I could see it then, some big snuggly jumper, the sort you pull on over pyjamas on a chilly winter morning, or curl up into on those weekend afternoons when the rain comes lashing down and your house becomes an island, isolated in the storm, while you watch the drops slither away down the glass.  I didn’t have a pattern in mind, or even a rough idea of the yardage for a me sized jumper, so I went with “all of this colour that they have on the shelf” and the die was cast.

And I don’t know what led me to throw the skeins into the “take to tent” bag when we were packing up our old house, but suddenly it was their time, and I knit and swatched, and chose a pattern, and felt indecisive about the pattern, and eventually cast on.  It was not the most auspicious start.  Despite knitting a swatch and washing it and blocking it, and doing some very careful maths, and casting on exactly that number, I started to knit something that whatever it was was not a jumper for a me-sized person.  I could claim that it was largely due to knitting mostly in very low light that I was at the underarms before I acknowledged that we had a serious problem, but I think it was probably just denial.  In my quest to make something with a bit of positive ease, I might just have gone overboard.  Sort of, will fit John in it as well levels of overboard.


There was nothing for it to rip back.  And on the plus side, I told myself, at least now I’m much less likely to run out of yarn.  Running out had been a near certainty on the original stitches, but now, surely the knitting fates would reward the hours of ripping back with a woollen widow’s curse?

Oh how they laughed.

As I write this I’m a decrease row, two rounds, four short rows, another decrease row and the collar away from finishing.  In yarn terms that’s nearly nothing.  Also in yarn terms, what it is not, is seven inches of yarn, which is exactly all I have left of the original skeins.

Welcome to ‘not quite finished Friday’

Except that while the house may have won this round, at least this time I’m learning (see debacle with Pip’s Christmas jumper), because earlier this week I had a very nice post day:

And now I’ll have a matching hat; just as long as it takes a little less than a skein, because if this runs out, it’s stripes.


And now you are Seven {family}


I’m a little late with this post, but for the first time pretty much since I started taking your portrait to mark your birthdays the weather refused to co-operate.  The sunshine saved itself entirely for when we were out of the house and away from home and the only thing to do was to roll with it and wait for the gorgeous sunny evening that must eventually come.  And so these pictures are of you at seven and a handful of days, but as only you are going to be particular about the days right now, I think they can still count as the portraits for this year for my not so little any more little girl.

At the weekend you stood next to a height chart and was easily over the 135cm mark and you’re wearing age 10-12 clothes and size 2 1/2 shoes so I think I might be the only one still calling you little.  To everyone else you are a tall, strong, confident girl, even though we both know that there’s part of you that will always be my baby.  As I’m writing this you’ve flitted in and out a couple of times asking for a hug and claiming that you can’t get to sleep, so yes, very much like your were as a baby.

I’m sure last year I felt that six was a big step up and away into your own personality, but it had nothing on seven.  Last year you were in Kindergarten, later to be joined by your sister and with all three of you in various sections of the Early Years part of school I think it lulled us into a sense that we were still in those early days with all three of you; a sort of mental lowest common denominator that tells my brain that because your brother is three, all of my children are still tiny.  Now you’ve started Class One and even in those few weeks I’ve seen you stretch out and away from us again, growing more and more into who you are and who you are going to be.  Last Christmas we came to see your nativity ring time and you acted out your role as the star just beautifully, but you didn’t join in with any of the songs, and when we asked you if you’d forgotten the words you said that you just didn’t want anyone looking at you.  Nine months later you have blossomed, and it has been lovely to see your confidence in your place within your class friends.  Part of it is your natural development, and part of it is that you’ve found your school home.

And with that confidence has come the baffling mixture of old and young that is a seven year old.  You can follow something really mature and sweet and loving with something so utterly daft that we just sit blinking at you like goldfish wondering what on earth happened.

On occasion you are very very seven, in much the same way that from time to time you were very very six, but that’s OK, you’re not meant to be an angel, you’re a child, and one who is learning her way in the world and within a family as much as we are learning parenting as we go along.  For both of us it’s try to say that just when we think we’ve got things figured out, everything changes all over again, but on the whole I think we’re getting there.

And in other moments you are the loveliest part of being seven.  After last year’s constant array of knock-knock jokes some of yours are actually genuinely funny now rather than simply very factual, and you love to make people laugh and to sing and dance and put on a show to tell us all about what you’ve been learning at school.  My knowledge of German has nearly doubled and we can both knock out a mean rendition of heads, shoulders, knees and toes which I’m certain will be of deep practical application when we next travel in that direction.

In the last year you’ve started hockey training, a day I suspect your Daddy has been waiting for since you were born, and you’ve been so excited about training both at your old club and the new.  You’re one of the littler ones at your new club, which makes your sister seem even dinkier, and your brother resolutely angry as he fumes from the sidelines at the unfairness of it all.  He’d be with you in a heartbeat, and I love seeing the three of you race around our new back garden in pursuit of some game or other.  I know you’ve started to move ahead of both of them, and it’s stretched the gap out again a little bit, but they still adore you, and you them, and few things give me more joy than seeing the three of you playing happily together, even if playing later turns out to have been a code word for mischief making.

I’ve said before how proud I am of you as a big sister, and while sometimes you wind your own siblings up a treat you are also very loving with them, and any other babies who happen to be in the vicinity.  You met a vast array of aunts and uncles and first cousins once removed and second cousins and all the rest at a family party and you were just so sweet playing with the babies, just as you are with your own cousins.  If you had a say in it I think there’d be a dozen little brothers and sisters (just for the record; not a chance), but you can cuddle your baby cousin all you want.

Recently you’ve been scootering and our running with your Daddy and for the weeks before your birthday you desperately wanted a skateboard, very possibly because one of your dearest friends has one.  On your birthday you unwrapped a teeny tiny skateboard just the size for your fingers and you were so over the moon delighted with it it was just so sweet, and made it even more fun to give you a proper one as your final present.  We’re going to have to get you some lessons because I haven’t a clue how to skateboard and your Daddy struggles to show you the little bits he knows on a smaller board but if you can master it you’ll never have any problems with your core strength and balance, and I know you have the tenacity to stick at it until you do.

If sport is something to do with Daddy, then time with me is all about the creative and crafty.  You have all sorts of little projects on the go; from finger knitting a ball of rainbow yarn that your brother gave you for your birthday to sewing felt to make a picture for an embroidery hoop and half a dozen little felt and pipe cleaner creations that are scattered around the house.  If it has coloured pens and glue and sprinkles and glitter and feathers it’s your kind of project and I love that when I asked your sister how her scalp came to be shimmering in the afternoon sunshine her immediate reaction was to tell me that you definitely didn’t do it.  Hmmm.

I love that I can share so much of my love of making with you and there’s something very special about curling up together with our current projects for an afternoon of making and listening to Swallows & Amazons on audiobook.  When you get to reading them for yourself you’ll realise how much I’m sitting on my hands to only download the first two of the twelve, but I want you to discover them for yourself for the first time, and then we’ll get the audiobooks when all three of you have caught up.

Above all my lovely girl, you are clever and courageous and kind.  I am phenomenally proud of you, and blessed beyond measure to have you,

love Mummy x

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2017: September


Oh this wonderful crazy family of mine.  What a wonderful crazy busy month we’ve had to match.  I thought we hadn’t done very much this month, just settled into life in the new house and the new back to school routine, but as soon as I stopped to start to think about it the more I realised just how much we’d been here there and everywhere in a near constant whirlwind.  It’s been a good sort of whirlwind though, the sort that softly breezes you along, and it’s meant that our month has been full of some of our favourite things; time spent together, and just the occasional adventure.

Some of them were near at hand, Pip’s Mummy morning on the day both his sisters were at school and Daddy was playing golf, and Kitty’s school expedition to harvest sweetcorn didn’t take us very far afield, and some were further flung (and I maintain it may actually be quicker to get to Majorca (for golf) than to Skipton (for Yarndale)).  What is certain is that they were both well worth the effort, and I suspect we both came back knowing that we’re going again next year.


On the house front we continue to unpack.  I fear I may be saying that for many many many more months to come; proof, not that it was ever needed, that we were right to have other people come to pack for us.  We’re trying to unpack gently; actually thinking about what we need rather than just bunging everything in a cupboard, but a random filing cabinet still stuck in the middle of my study says we’re not quite there yet.

And with September gone, we’re properly into autumn; the leaves are turning in the garden and the trains emerge from the mist each morning, audit’s hard not to start to get excited about what comes next, and what comes after that.  In the month to come we have half term; which seems crazy because we obviously only started term 30 seconds ago, and lots of plans to make, and still the occasional box to unpack.

John loves:

  • The golf trip to Majorca.
  • His brother and sister-in-law coming to visit.
  • Having built IKEA furniture for his studio, the actual building of it wasn’t so fun.
  • The start of the hockey season (and football and cricket on the telly)

Carie loves:

  • The trip to Yarndale
  • All the yarn that came home with her.
  • Seeing her first piece of published fiction appear in print
  • A long weekend pottering around with the children

Kitty loves:

  • Her birthday celebrations; many and ongoing
  • Learning to balance on her skateboard
  • the start of school.
  • rediscovering all her treasures as we put the craft cupboard to rights.

Elma loves:

  • getting to see her brother during school playtime.
  • being big enough to go hockey training.
  • magic tricks.
  • collecting huge bunches of autumn leaves.

Pip loves:

  • Mummy.
  • Climbing the Clent Hills.
  • Playing trains.
  • Waking up ridiculously early for his own private adventures while the rest of us are still asleep.

My little family, in September: