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Handmade for Kitty

Embroidery Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Knitting

A pair of Urchins {handmade for Kitty and Elma}


Every now and then I knit something entirely on a whim.

For the most part, my knitting planning runs far far ahead of my fingers’ ability to keep up, as does my sewing and quilting planning for that matter.  Right now I have three projects on the needles, including my big crochet blanket, and the next seven projects lined up ready and waiting.  Even if I haven’t bought all the yarn I need for all of them yet, I know what they’ll be and in what order.  But of course  no one likes being told what to do, even when you’re the one telling yourself, and a little rearranging of the plan is in order.

Space for the Butterflies - Urchin by Ysolda Teague in Rowan Big Wool

So it was with these Urchins.  The initial whim was about wanting to make sure I’d put as much time into Kitty’s handmade Christmas as I had in knitting Elma a cardigan.  When what look to be a relatively simple skort still took me all day to put together, I realised that was silly, and shelved the three rows of hat in favour of getting as much of John’s Christmas socks done before the big day.

But after Christmas, and searching around for a nice portable project to take up to my inlaws as car and chatting knitting, I picked it back up again.  Kitty’s hat whizzed off the needles and was finished while we were there, and while Elma had to wait for me to get home to cast on, smaller hats take less time.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017

Both hats are loved, both hats are worn, and both hats are left at school and so I need to nip back to my Siblings photos for this month for the only evidence of the girls wearing their hats at the same time.

Each hat is knit from one ball of Rowan Big Wool, in I think the colour Champion, at least that looks the nearest on the shade card.  This is moderately deep stash yarn, easily from before the children, saved waiting for a perfect project, and it works brilliantly for Urchin.

Space for the Butterflies - Urchin by Ysolda Teague in Rowan Big Wool

It’s not a hard pattern to knit; you make petal shapes knitting back and forth and graft the ends to make a hat, but like every other Ysolda pattern I’ve made, it’s very clever, and what at the first petal looks incredibly strange, turns into a beautiful beret shaped hat before you know it.

And with that little detour out of the way, I’m back to my plans as before. Well almost.  Because if I’m being honest here, the person who has worn both of these hats the most is a certain tiny wee boy named Pip.  He tried on Kitty’s and it was too big, he tried on Elma’s but it was too beloved by Elma, and then he looked up at me, in firm belief in the power of his Mama’s needles, and said the immortal words: “where mine hat Mama?!”

I’m going to have to do some stash diving for something suitable I suspect – any pattern recommendations?

Also coming under the finish line this week is the first of my Christmas tree decorations for 2017.  Yes really.  Every Christmas I end up collecting a handful of cross stitch and papercraft magazines with gorgeous little cover kits and I swear that I’m going to make them over Christmas and then get far too caught up in the actual getting ready for Christmas and usually some high speed finishing of the Christmas presents to sit down to do a little truly indulgent making.

Space for the Butterflies - Cross Stitcher Cover Kit

Starting in the autumn never works because of a proliferation of birthdays and even Christmas in July passed me by so I’m sewing for Christmas in January.  This is the first that I’ve finished, the cover kit from November’s Cross Stitcher, and even if my sewing up isn’t quite perfect, I love how it turned out.  Now all I have to do is not loose it before next December!

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

Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Kitty Kitty

Toy Box Skort {handmade for Kitty}


Now that I’ve caught up to date with the before-Christmas making, I think it might just be time to have a little look at the Christmas makes.  As I said in an earlier post, the plan to knit the children each a Christmas jumper went by the wayside long before Christmas, and so I had a good hunt through the projects waiting list to find something that I could make for Kitty inside the one sewing day I knew I’d have between stopping work and the day itself.

Space for the Butterflies - the Badminton Skort Oliver + S

And while I lingered over a beautiful party dress that will be hers before Easter if I have to spend a week not sleeping, for once my common sense prevailed and realism overruled eternal optimism.  Well almost. I still thought I was going to be finished by lunch. I chose the Oliver + S Badminton Skort pattern, and a blue quilting cotton (Toy Box II by Sara Morgan for Blue Hill Fabrics) that she’d picked out earlier in the summer.  It’s such pretty fabric that I’d picked up the very end of a roll at Darn it and Stitch in Oxford years ago but never found the right project for it but there was just about enough with a bit of jiggery pokery.

I didn’t help myself by adding a few inches to the skirt length either but I’ve sewn for Kitty before and she is (a) very tall and (b) likes to wear her skirts on the long side so extra inches it is.  The front waistband facing and the hem facing had to be cut from a fat quarter of pale pink ice skates print but when she’s wearing it you’d never notice and I rather like the secret pop of pale pink, plus it means that she knows which way round they go, which isn’t always obvious.

By construction it’s one of the more complicated pieces of clothing I’ve ever put together, but Oliver + S patterns have the knack of making you feel very clever and in the end it all came together quite easily, especially now that I’m not avoiding the questioning gaze of my overlocker and happily serged up all the seam finishes.  I genuinely wonder what on earth I was doing without it, it makes life so much easier!

Kitty loves it; she’d suspected I was making something for her when she was barred from the studio for the entire day but I think she must have forgotten exactly what we’d chosen together because on Christmas morning she tore into the wrapping paper to find out what I’d made.

Space for the Butterflies - the Badminton Skort Oliver + S

Waist-wise it fits perfectly; there’s enough give that she won’t grow out of it in a week but not so much that it’s in any danger of falling down when her little brother rugby tackles hugs her.  I think if I were making it again right now I wouldn’t add quite so much extra length, perhaps only one inch rather than three, but give her until the summer and it will be perfect.

The shorts underneath fit pretty well too – even over reindeer leggings so it seems!

Space for the Butterflies - the Badminton Skort Oliver + S

These pictures were taken in the gorgeous sunshine of boxing day and I had no idea she was still wearing her leggings underneath until I asked her to show off the shorts.

But back to the pattern; the shorts are a great fit and I’ll happily swipe it for some simple shorts for the summer.

Space for the Butterflies - the Badminton Skort Oliver + S

The only bit about the pattern that I’m not wholly keen on is the back waistband.  The front waistband is a deep faced band; there’s a complete lining to the front that you can see and it sits nice and smart against her.  The back on the other hand is a single thickness waistband with the top folded over on the inside to make the elastic casing.  And because the casing is only an inch deep it leaves an equal section sort of in limbo.  It’s not part of the casing but it’s not part of the skirt either.  It’s not a fundamental flaw don’t get me wrong and it definitely passes the galloping horse test but if I were to make it again I think I’d draft a bigger pattern piece and make a complete casing and then use really wide elastic to avoid the feeling of a high-low waistband.

I know it looks horribly crumpled in these pictures; she kept carrying them around with her on Christmas Day and tucking them into her stocking to keep them safe, and as anyone who has ever made for a child knows, that’s true love.

The t-shirt is from Sainsbury’s this summer (and is the same one as she was wearing with her camper van skirt) and the shawl is my Icarus shawl which may have gone the same was as my very nice Angora hat – how old are your children supposed to be before they start filching your clothes?

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday

Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Kitty Photography Sewing

Birds, Lollipops and Elephants {handmade for Kitty and Elma}


As it turns out, the answer to the question “what do you do if you finish your daughter’s birthday present in plenty of time?” is “MAKE MORE!!” So we did.

On our travels this summer we found a wonderful fabric shop in Innsbruck (spoilers I know and I promise to catch up with the Europe adventure soon) that had an entire wall of cotton jersey in every imaginable print and pattern and at a price that I was more than happy to pay for it.  I’ve never actually sewed anything with jersey before, or made any trousers beyond baby rompers but in the spirit of nothing ventured, nothing gained, I set the girls to pick a favourite each and John and I chose a couple for Pip.

Back home I obediently washed and dried and ironed the fabric and then waited to gather some courage.  I’d thought I’d try copying some existing pairs like I did in the summer to make Pip’s shorts but then I was reading through some favourite blogs and someone, and they’ll have to forgive me for forgetting who, mentioned the Oliver + S tunic and leggings pattern and it started to look awfully familiar.  Sure enough, one quick ransack of the studio later and there it was, and even better, there it was in the larger sizes.

And so rather than starting at Pip-sized and working up, I started with Kitty’s choice, just in time for her birthday.  I used the age 10 pattern with no extra length added; it’s a perfect fit in the legs and if it comes up a little high on the waist well that will just keep her all the warmer in the winter.

You know your children have grown when you find yourself sitting on the hall floor to trace the pattern and cut out the pieces; no more dainty little frocks that can be cut out at my desk for me.  The pattern is just two pieces, perfect for a first ever effort, and I cut them individually to try to get some pattern matching.  I tried tracing the white circles on the first piece onto the pattern and then lining them up when I flipped it over to cut the other side but somehow while the back lined up perfectly, the front is a smidge out.  It’s not enough to be jarring to the eye, especially is Miss Kitty wears them twizzled around her legs like a candy cane, but I’ve still not quite figured out why.  I think I need to practice with some little pieces to see if I can figure it out.


I have owned an overlocker for a little under four years.  It was my Mum’s and as Dad decided that he was unlikely to take up overlocking as a hobby, he gave it to me, and it’s sat on the shelf for all those years waiting for its time.  All I remember of the overlocker is that Mum said it was horribly difficult to thread and I was never allowed to play with it.  I was in my late teens by the time she bought it so she probably thought I should just get my own.

I tried having a play with it as it was, but one of the spools was nearly out of thread and I didn’t know that you needed to telescope up the thread guides and my first practice sews were the garbled mess you can imagine.  So I did what you should probably only ever do once; I pulled out all the thread, grabbed some other spools, opened the book and decided to work out how to thread it myself.  It’s painstaking yes, but not impossible, though if I ever run out of thread or want to change colour I’m going to do what the book says and pull it through on the end of the old colour, and it’s given me a much better idea of what’s doing what.

It also sewed much more nicely after I’d read the book – who’d have thought!


In the end the leggings were a piece of cake; three seams and some edging.  I also finally got my twin needles out of its wrapper after 15 years of owning my sewing machine for the finishing touches so it’s been a project full of new adventures.

And as Kit has been asking for her leggings, pretty much since we got back from travelling, she was very excited to unwrap them and have them finally made.


But they were finished with a whole clear day before her birthday, and that would never do would it?  John phoned me at work the afternoon before the big day, he’d been looking for a big cushion for her to sit on when she curls up in the corner with a book but hadn’t found anything big enough or nice enough to part with the kind of money on the price tag so I was dispatched to John Lewis on the way home.  Well none of their cushions were big enough or nice enough either so at 6pm I found myself in the haberdashery department accompanied by a large square pillow from the bedding section, eyeing up the fabric selection.  The winner was a Rowan print called Chloe Lollipop, and it, the pillow, my work bags and I squished ourselves onto the train home.


It’s just a simple pillowcase cushion cover, whizzed up in an hour or so but she absolutely loves it; its the cushion she carries around the house with her and takes out into the garden.  It’s those kind of times that I am so glad that I can make things.  It’s a very simple project, probably one of the first things you’d make if you were learning to sew and yet it meant that I could turn John’s vision into reality, and if that’s not a reason to sew then what could be?


And finally, back to leggings.  Because once I’d made one pair and realised just how easy it was, there was really no excuse to hold back on the rest.


I haven’t got to Pip’s yet, but this week I cut out the size five and in an evening made up Elma’s elephants.  Truth be told, the age 5 is a smidge on the big side for her, but the joy of ‘too big’ in children’s clothes is that you only have to wait a month or so before it becomes ‘just right’.


Which only leaves Pip; but his boats and monkeys will have to wait for another day!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday

Birthdays Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Kitty Kitty Sewing

Petit Susanne {handmade for Kitty}


In years to come there will be a milestone in the relationship with my two lovely girls when first Kitty and then Elma get to an age or a height where they can borrow my clothes.  I don’t own many clothes so I’m afraid I will be a severe disappointment to them on that front, but if their tastes continue to run to “some assembly required” clothes, then I think they might rather enjoy pillaging my stash.

I’m writing as if this is something that will happen in the future, but truth be told, we’ve already hit that point; only I’m the one doing the making.

Years ago I bought a lovely metre of Liberty Tana lawn in the Liberty sale with the firm intention that it would be a floaty sleeveless top for me. Well the baby sundress I made for Elma from the same haul has been long grown out of and now hangs on the bedroom wall as a piece of art, but the furthest I’d got was printing out the pattern and trying to decide how many extra inches of length I could squeeze out of what I had.  Realistically, if I hadn’t made it in all that time, it seemed unlikely to happen in the time it would take me to acquire another metre of fabric, and I’m sure in my heart of hearts I’d begun to let go of the idea – and then Kitty saw it.

It was love at first sight; a very determined love.  She wanted it for her, she wanted it for her birthday, and she wanted “a top with the sleeves”.  Very specific, but I knew what she meant.

Her Hello Kitty dress has been one of her standout favourites of the summer, especially when we went travelling and the thermometer soared.  She loves that it’s comfy and cool, and the big sleeves are pretty and fluttery when you twirl in them, and so another Susanne it was always going to be, but this time the top rather than the dress.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

Well sort of the top.  I trace out the patterns onto greaseproof paper so that I can use them in different sizes for Elma and as I traced, and watched my pencil outline a nice boxy little square shape, I thought about my incredibly tall eldest daughter and kept on drawing the main section of the tunic until it wasn’t just several inches past the length for her size 8, but all the way down many many inches to the age 2 dress length.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

The gamble paid off; the finished tunic reaches just below her hips; not too long to be silly, and not too short to have a life expectancy of all of five minutes.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

Kitty put it straight on as her birthday outfit, which is how I acquired so many photos of the top in action, and even wore it to school this week for picture day, a mark of approval if ever there was one.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

Construction wise it is literally just a shorter version of the dress, so I didn’t change much from the previous versions I’ve made, although I did include the elastic casing on the shoulders on this one as I think it makes all the difference in helping it to hang nicely.  the yoke seam is encasing in straight binding to keep it soft against the skin, I used french seams on the side seams, and folded back and stitched down the sleeve seams.  I’m still not wholly convinced that I’ve found the perfect finish as I keep finding there’s a bit of a pull at the underarm which needs a bit of wriggling to sort out – one of these days I shall make a mock up and play with it until I get it exactly how I want it.  I suspect it will be well worth my while as the girls both love this pattern, and there are certain to be ever lengthening versions in my future.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday


Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Handmade for Pip Kitty Pip Sewing

Campervans, Campervans and more Campervans {handmade for Kitty, Elma and Pip}


The sensible part of my brain told me that I needed sleep, that we were too busy packing and organising, that the children have more than enough clothes, that I really didn’t need to, and the creativity replied “but I want to”

I wanted my girls to have their matching camper van skirts for going on our adventures, just like I’d planned way back when, especially since their auntie had given them retro t-shirts that said “happy camper”, in pink and everything.

And so it was that in the last few days before we set off on holiday, when knitting and crochet and anything too finicky was still out of bounds to let my arm and elbow recover, I measured and cut and sewed.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

This is the fourth and fifth time that I’ve made The Purl Bee’s Skirt for all Ages; I’ve not quite got to the point where I can made them just from the measurements but we’re getting close! It’s a really clever pattern that’s so easy to make and makes such a pretty and practical skirt. The girls love them for the pockets and because the have a good twirl and you can’t ask for more than that.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Last summer’s skirts have been handed down so Kitty’s is in Elma’s wardrobe and Elma’s is waiting for the day someone in the family has a little girl to dress, but the winter skirt I made for Kitty is still going strong thanks to a bit of extra length (I wrote some instructions on how to add length here). For this time round I made the age 4 for Elma and the 10 for Kitty, with another inch of added length so that it might last more than five minutes. Elma’s fits to the knee and Kitty’s goes just past it.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Experience always makes you faster, as does working in a production line rather than making one and then the other like I did the first time, so it took me a couple of evenings before I was measuring the waist elastic on them and sewing in the final seam. They looked adorable.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

And then I looked back at my sewing table, and the pile of fabric there. H and I had guestimated how much fabric we’d need for both skirts when we bought it on our wedding anniversary trip to Harrogate and it seemed we’d rather over-estimated. By about half a metre or so. Just enough to maybe, just maybe…

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

…to make a matching pair of shorts?!

Space for the Butterflies - Purl Bee A Skirt for all Ages

I didn’t use a pattern per se for these, I just found a pair of shorts that fit Pip at the moment, folded them in half and drew around them, then added seam allowances for a rough pattern.  I kept them as simple as possible, cutting around my pattern on the fold to create two legs, with one seam each down the inseam.

Space for the Butterflies - VW Campervan Shorts

And speaking of that inseam, I thought of using a french seam to give a nice neat soft finish that wouldn’t rub on little legs but I wasn’t 100% sure of the construction at that point so I used a seam finish I remember reading about somewhere but can’t remember what it’s called ; I cut one seam allowance down by half, folded the other one over the top, and sewed the whole thing down.  It goes you a little line of stitching next to the seam on the right hand side of the fabric but I still think it looks pretty smart, it’s a nice smooth finish so it won’t rub on baby skin, and frankly who is going to be staring at the inside leg of a fast moving toddler?


Once I had the legs finished I put one inside the other, right sides facing, and sewed around.  I couldn’t decide on a fancy seam finish here given that it was going to be going around a curve so I just zig-zagged this one (it being quite late at night at this point possibly came into it as well!) but even after been worn all over Europe it’s holding up just fine.

In an ideal world I would have cut the shorts deep enough to use the top of them folded over to form a waistband casing, but when I tried them on Pip they were only just passable, and a bit too low rise to be truly comfy, so I undid all the stitching and made a separate piece for the waistband in basically the same fashion as the ones on the girls’ skirts.


And there we have them, a finished pair of shorts that I could have made in a couple of hours (including drafting the pattern) had I not mucked up the waistband and had to do it again the next day.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Pip loved them, and still loves them, he calls them his “dorts” and they were his favourite thing to wear all through our holiday and what he asked for almost every morning.  And if he’s prepared to offer that level of adoration to mama-made clothes I am certain that there can be more pairs in his future.  Although I may have to ask his opinion on the style next time because when they all got dressed up the first time and we took these photos and the girls were jumping around with their hands in their pockets the first thing he said was: “Mama! Where mine pockets!?”.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Pockets next time, it’s a deal.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday