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Frozen Pines {handmade for baby}


New arrivals to the family need knitwear.  I’m sure somewhere you’d find that hardwired into my DNA, and it’s impossible to resist and a certain adorable new baby girl was never going to persuade me otherwise.  She shares my middle name, I’m biased.

With all of my favourite baby patterns, and almost all of my yarn stash in storage, I turned to Ravelry and my little collection of adorable baby patterns that I never seem to get around to knitting for someone because (a) I don’t know what variety of baby to expect and (b) I forget I’ve bookmarked them all and go back to one of my favourite tried and tested patterns.

I’d love to be more organised with my Ravelry queue and have the next twenty things I’m going to make all lined up and in a nice neat order but it never works like that. Whatever I’m going to knit next is largely determined by whichever child has an impending birthday, and because they are 6,4 and almost 3, they’re far too capricious to plan their next knits too far in advance, or it will turn out that pink is entirely out of favour by the time I start the sleeve.  But this time, and with the tiny little miss announcing herself as a little miss by suprising my cousins with her early arrival, I went for a serious trawl through all of my bookmarks.

Not something that I’d knit before, something that wouldn’t be too heavy for the summer, something that would be perfectly sweet and make her even more cuddleable than she already is.

Norwegian Pine won.  It’s a very simple pattern, and a clever one; using the yarn overs in the fern pattern to provide the raglan increases, while the garter stitch makes for a super squishy knit that passes all the cuddle tests.  I know the pattern has had some critical reviews in the past, but it’s worth knowing that it’s been completely re-drafted and I found it really easy to follow.

The yarn is a baby favourite of mine; Rowan’s Baby Merino Silk DK.  It’s as soft as butter, has a gorgeous depth to the colour because the dye takes up differently on the silk and the wool, it’s all natural fibre and best of all, it goes in the washing machine at 40.  I’ll admit I’ve been longing to knit with the Iceberg colour for a while; it reminds me of the sea at the end of the brightest of summer days, and the most prized bits of sea glass that would wash up in winter storms, along with a handful of green.  And for a little girl with an equally adorable big sister, it’s also a nice compliment to the pink.


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

Handmade Knitting

No longer In Tsuspense {handmade}


There’s a little plastic bag squished into the corner of my big knitting bag.  A little plastic bag with a squish together top whose creases and worn softness tell the story of a project that’s long been carted around, knit a bit and stuffed away, knit a bit and put out of sight.  And now that bag is empty.

Space for the Butterflies - In Tsuspense Socks
I have finished a pair of socks.  By itself this shouldn’t be particularly noteworthy but if you’ve been reading here for a little while would you like to guess the last time you saw these socks, or sock singular as it then was?
Before Pip was born?
Before Elma?
Before Kitty even?
That it has taken me since 2011 to knit the second sock gives this pair the unenviable honour of having suffered from the worst bout of second sock syndrome I ever inflicted on a pile of yarn, and even that first sock took its time.
Time for a moment of candour.  I cast on this pair of socks on 30 August 2008 (yes you read that right) and finished them on 8 July 2017.  Nine years. Nine whole years of largely being tucked away down the bottom of the knitting bag, of being the constant WIP at the top of my Ravelry notebook, or being out of sight but never quite forgotten.
Space for the Butterflies - In Tsuspense Socks
I’m not quite sure what it was that prompted me to pick it back up again after so long, perhaps simply wanting to make space for more yarn in my tent stash, or, more likely, the realisation that a lot of my socks have all reached the end of their natural life span together and we have something of a cold feet problem in the house, and it really shouldn’t have been a challenge.  I am a good knitter, a knitter with a capital K, who loves to wrap her brain around the complicated and the crazy and put them into order, stitch by tiny stitch and yet this second sock (and probably the first one too) had me questioning everything I ever thought I knew about being a knitter.
Forgive me if you’re learning, or it’s something that you never quite wrapped your brain around, but for me, after 30 years practice, knitting is my second language, a language of stitches, one after the other, that I speak with native fluency (which is far more than can be said for my French), and yet there is not a single section, not one in all thirteen sections, Richard to Vain, that I did not have to rip back and do over.  And I don’t care how much will power you have, how much you love your craft, how clever it makes you feel when you get it right, that amount of frogging would crush Pollyanna.
Space for the Butterflies - In Tsuspense Socks
To get to this point, where I can show you a whole two socks, warm and snuggly and covered in grass because I live in a tent and it turns out to be impossible to take “rainbow in the sky” pictures without at some stage stepping on the lawn, took determination, and a finely judged amount of pink wine.
The truth is that to knit something beautiful and complicated is easy when your hands hold the muscle memory to make it easy.  I can smile and accept a compliment because yes I did just take sticks and string and make clothes, but it’s like a toddler marvelling at an adult for reading Swallows and Amazons while they’re still working out That’s Not My Train.
It’s when the muscle memory isn’t there, and you find a pattern that you love that stretches you, either in the knitting or because it’s not written in the way that your brain works, that’s when you step up and earn every one of those knitterly stripes.  And that means that these could have been the ugliest socks ever to be cast off, and I would still rate them, not as a favourite knit, but as a worthy adversary.
Space for the Butterflies - In Tsuspense Socks
So let me tell you a bit more about them.  The pattern is the Seven Chakras, formerly known as the In Tsuspense Project, sent as part of the 2008 Tsock Club and designed by the late Tsarina of Tsocks, Lisa Grossman.  Each section arrived as instructions and the relevant constituent part of the rainbow rolled up into little balls of Holiday Yarns Flock Sock, you followed the direction and waited for the next month and we were probably on the third instalment before we even knew it was a sock, given that it started at the heel.
The pattern runs out from the heel through the different elements for the Chakras until finally at the toe and cuff you find the heart.  It’s a clever design, typical of Lisa’s creativity, and I love that there is so much going on below the surface of what is otherwise just a beautiful soft rainbow sock.
Aside from all of the ripping back, I learnt a new way to cast on, I learnt that I don’t particularly like that new way to cast on, and in this second sock especially, I got to grips with knitting socks on two circulars, and also decided that I really do like my nice shiny purple metal DPNs.
Space for the Butterflies - In Tsuspense Socks
If you want a pair of rainbow socks, there are far far easier patterns out there, even before you’ve got anywhere near self striping rainbow yarn, but that isn’t what these socks are about; they’re about seeing a project through to the end, about never giving up, about accepting that it is OK to find a project infuriatingly wonderfully hard, and just a little bit about the fact that come the winter, I’m going to have amazingly cosy rainbow toes.
Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On
Family Handmade

Pink Petal {handmade}


It’s the first Friday in June so “Happy Christmas!”. What do you mean, it hasn’t been Christmas for five months and 8 days? I hereby declare Friday 2nd June 2017 to be a knitterly sort of second chance Christmas (shortly to be followed by a third chance Christmas when I eventually finish Pip’s hoodie) because, thanks to a lovely hot sunny day that helped speed along the blocking, I have finally, finally finished Kitty’s Christmas cardigan.

In truth it stopped being Kitty’s Christmas cardigan a good week before Christmas when I realised that with the best will in the world there was no way that I could knit a 4ply cardigan in age 10 in the time remaining, even if I didn’t eat or sleep.  She got a skort instead which still fits and is much loved and ticked all the boxes for handmade by mama and handmade in an afternoon.

But I hadn’t forgotten her cardigan, and knowing that there were no more sizes if I held off too long and she shot up again, I cast on in the Spring and got to work.

The pattern is Petal, designed by Michelle Wang and from Brooklyn Tweed’s BT Kids collection. I love the patterns in that collection and I have my eye on Magnus, Atlas and Wyatt for Pip when he gets just a smidgen bigger (so probably this summer!).  It’s knit top down, which is perfect as being able to try it on as you go it a must with my every growing eldest daughter. It’s also a really clever pattern, because most of that cardigan is just a nice plain knitted rib.  Truly.  There’s a bit of increasing going on for the yoke, and then the leaf pattern adds some interest, but by the time you’ve separated for the sleeves, it’s rib with an incredibly clever sled stitch on every fourth row which does all the work of making those ring cables before another row of leaves and the finishing rib.  I tried to find a video on YouTube to link to but it brought up how to knit and cross stitch pictures of sleds which isn’t exactly what we’re looking for but basically you bring the third stitch from the end of the left hand needle over the other two like a sort of crazy backwards cast off, then k1 yo k1 and you’re done.  It’s true knitting magic and I loved learning something new and clever almost as much as I love the finished fabric.

It’s knit to the largest size in the pattern, no extra inches, no messing around and it fits with a little room to grow.

The yarn is special. This is Wollmeise, that came from the actual genuine Wollmeise shop in Germany last summer.  Kitty chose it with me; she wanted pink, I’d been looking for the perfect coral-rose for her for ages and here it was, Babe; probably named after the pig.  It’s a very gentle semi-solid, with just enough variation to give movement, and not so much that it looks like the washing machine marmalised it, and I suspect the depth of it just doesn’t quite come out on my camera, no matter how long I spend messing about in Lightroom so you’ll have to believe me.  As a fabric it knits up beautifully to show off all the cables and lace work, and the finished cardie is so soft and cosy that I’d be jealous if it weren’t for the fact that there’s also yarn in the bag for a cardigan for me.

And when I came to choose buttons, there, sat on the shelf, were tiny flowers; small enough to get through some fairly dinky buttonholes and a perfect colour match.  That, if anything, must be a sign of the Knitting Fates’ good graces.

From last week’s one sleeve to go, the bank holiday weekend saw one sleeve, two button bands and one collar, the buttons went on on Wednesday and then it had a little wash and block to open up all of the lace work and make it perfect.

It’s a big hit with Kitty; she’s been trying it on in all the different stages, but even when I’d put all the buttons on it wasn’t quite the same as the first time she tried on the finished finished version.  She’s promised faithfully not to leave it on the floor, and if that isn’t a sign of adoration I don’t know what is!

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

Family Handmade Kitty

The emperor’s new sleeve {handmade}


One of these sleeves is not like the other!

But let it be known far and wide that this week I have finished the first sleeve on Kitty’s cardigan.  In abstract, the phrase “this week I knit a sleeve on the cardigan for my six year old” doesn’t sound too impressive, but when the six year old in question needs you to knit a size 10, and for reasons that can only be attributed to yarn fumes, you decided to knit it from 4ply, I promise it represents many hours of knitting round and round.

I took these pictures yesterday evening, just as the sun started to finally fade away, and then I went back inside, picked up the needles and the rest of the ball of yarn, and started on the other side.  We’ve got a sleeve and the collar and button band to go and whilst collars and button bands can be deceptively time consuming, I think I’ve got half a chance and a bank holiday weekend to see if next week’s crafty round up can see Kitty modelling a properly fully finished cardie.  I did think I was going to spend most of the weekend churning out shorts, but as the weather forecast has resisted all pleading and is being resolutely British (which means rainy), I think I’ll have more than enough opportunity to curl up on the sofa with some knitting while we watch raindrops trickle lazily down the windows.

Does it sound strange to say that I love the scruffiness of a project at this stage? Perhaps scruffy is the wrong word, it’s all neatly knitted and, apart from the addition of an extra inch here or there, knitted exactly to the pattern.  But it doesn’t look right; the sleeves and the body are pulling in too much, and the leaf patterns at shoulder, wrist and waist, are throwing the fabric into odd bumps and curves; gorgeously textural, but certainly not the intended finish.

It’s an act of faith to knit on, trusting that when it’s all finished and bebuttoned, I can give it a little swim in a bowl of lukewarm water, gently squeeze it out, and then carefully arrange everything as it should be, and leave it to dry on a towel in my studio, and know that it will stay that way. But it will.

In the yarn countdown, I’ve still got at least half of the second of my three skeins of Wollmeise, so it’s looking more than likely that there could be a matching pair of socks in there for Kitty.  I’ve been planning on making all three of them socks for their Christmas knit this year (I know, but knitters have to at least plan early, even if the execution happens in a flurry at the end of November), and I’m sorely tempted to see if I can make Kitty a pair of toe up socks and use exactly the same pattern as her cardigan.  What do you think, is matching your socks to your cardigan going a step too far?



Family Handmade Kitty

Kitty and the amazing technicolour shorts {handmade}


This week I’ve learnt how not to make shorts. Or at least, how not to make the kind of finished product that I’m aiming for.

The truth is that tiny person shorts are pretty easy to copy, and so my fudged ‘got lucky first time’ pattern from last summer was always in with a decent chance of working, especially as I could try last summer’s pair on both Pip and Elma to check the fit.  I knew that last week’s shorts were probably going to turn out ok before I first took scissors to fabric.  But when it comes to making things for Kitty she’s so much taller and just a generally more grown up person, that the margins for error were always going to be tighter.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

It meant I procrastinated a fair bit after I’d finished the pairs for the little two, but as all mothers of more than one child know all too well, you’re never going to be allowed to leave one of them missing out for too long.

The fabric came from two batik fat quarters we found buried at the back of one of my fabric boxes; they are similar but not matching, but as I’m certain you could have two completely different shorts legs cut from the same length of fabric, these two felt near enough, and I’ve tried to make it so that the fronts at least are vaguely similar.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

For pattern I tried to draw around one of Kitty’s existing pairs of shorts, but found that the fabric wasn’t quite wide enough.  I also came in a bit too much at the waist on the first leg, and decided to widen it on the other, so they aren’t exactly the same.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

In construction I sew the legs first, then the two legs together, and then fold the waistband and fold again to make a casing for the elastic waistband, so from that point of view it’s all very easy.  The exposed edges are all overlocked; the more I use it the more I can’t believe it took me so long to pull it out and have a go, it’s almost easier than my main sewing machine and it doesn’t half speed up clothes construction.  I’ll always love the beauty of a nice French seam or a bit of flat felling, but I’m at the stage of life where speed is a good thing if I want the children to wear their clothes and not simply grow through the available sizing and for now the overlocker rules the day.

An hour or sew at the machines and all that was left was for Kitty to wake up and try them on.  I’ll admit I was properly nervous about them; for one thing a six year old has a much more determined view about what she herself is prepared to wear, and much as we’re doing well on the ‘mama made is wonderful’ brainwashing, if she doesn’t like it, it doesn’t matter who made it, she’s not going to wear it.  The fit was the other issue; I knew the shorts I’d measured off were a bit on the big side, but by how much, and these shorts were most distinctly smaller than the originals. Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts

In the event, they fit for exactly right now.  Kitty loves them, is comfy in them, and wore them to school (always a serious compliment) but by the next growth spurt I can see they’ll be in the pile waiting for Elma.  They are probably best described as a wearable muslin, and that’s OK, it would be boring if everything worked first time, and probably be an indication that I wasn’t stretching out of my sewing comfort zone. But now I know that I can’t fit a pair of Kitty-sized shorts out of a fat quarter, I know I need to remember how much shorts need to stretch to be comfy coming off and on, and I know that when I do she’s going to love them.

And speaking of things I know she’s going to love

I’ve made it to the sleeve!  Kitty’s *mumble* Christmas *mumble* cardigan is still on the needles, but this week I finished the body and started a sleeve.  There are two of them, and she has the long arms to go with her long legs, but we’re getting there, slowly but surely!

(the scrape to her head comes under the heading of “how I learnt to take my glasses off before pulling a jumper over my head!)

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