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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

Family Handmade

Blossom and Stars {handmade}


The pile has been sat on the corner of my desk since the Easter holidays.  On a rainy morning I let the children have a gentle ransack of my fabric stash to remind ourselves that sunshine and warm winds were on their way by pulling out a few options for shorts for all three of them for the summer.  Given that my attempts at making baby trousers resulted in three pairs of Anna Maria Horner’s Quick Change Trousers, all of which had a propensity to fall down as the baby in question crawled out of them (note to anyone who arrived here by googling – use half inch elastic several inches shorter than the pattern calls for and you’ll be fine), the idea that I could happily attack a plan to make 6 to 9 pairs of short before we get to the end of June, might seem somewhat fanciful. But last summer, when I had nothing to loose but a bit of spare fabric and an hour or so of a humid evening, I made Pip a pair of shorts to match his sisters’ skirts, and they worked.

In fact they more than worked, they were a roaring success last summer and they still fit this year, even if the young man in question has shot up more than a little. They also fit Elma.  It’s not quite the surprise it seems, she is after all only 1 1/4 lb heavier than him, and height doesn’t matter so much in shorts.  Which means that I have a pattern of sorts, sketched and cut out of a bit of the children’s drawing paper, but carefully preserved in my desk tidy for just such a day.

Whenever people ask me how I find the time to make things, I tell them I need to be creative more than I need to sleep, and I’m only half joking.  I probably need to be creative as much as I need the sleep, but there is a rest and contentedness when it’s just me with a sewing machine, or knitting needles, or even just words, that I don’t get even from something like reading for pleasure.  Last week was a tough one in the working world: nothing bad happened, it was just a steep learning curve that left me lurching between confidence and an all pervading and very irrational fear, but by Sunday I needed some studio time. Preferably something that I didn’t have to think about too much, that would be nice and easy to start, and if at all possible, finish.

Shorts it was.

I was only going to make Elma’s.  As the member of the household with the most clothes in her drawers and the most handmedowns awaiting her, she was clearly in desperate need of more clothing. Clearly. Desperate. So I’m claiming that the fabric made me do it.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

It’s a remnant that we bought in Lil Weasel in Paris last summer, the most beautiful soft floppy organic cotton and if they’d had it by the metre I’d have been wrapping it around myself like a toga if it had let me fit it in the car.  As it was, not such self sacrifice was necessary, and this little bit yielded enough for a pair of shorts and probably a future quilt block or two.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

The fabric is from a line called Madame Mo, who seems to be a Japanese-inspired French cartoon character who has inspired a very lovely line of fabric.  This print is like looking at cherry blossom and a pond through a kaleidoscope so I can see how it fits.

For Elma’s shorts I followed my earlier pattern of basic shorts plus sewn on waistband, with a bit of help from the overlocker along the way (I still can’t figure out how I went so long without using it), and all in all the shorts came together start to finish within my washing machine’s mixed fabrics cycle, so about an hour and half.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

Elma tried them on, jumped up and down for a full five minutes without pause, and dashed off into the garden.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

I turned back to the pile.

For Pip, and in order that we continue the international theme, I picked up the starry print that he chose in Innsbruck last summer.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

For those who are concerned that I seem to spend my summers on a massive fabric haul around Europe, it’s really truly only the tiniest part of our European Adventures, which you can read about here, and watch our videos here.  But back to the shorts.  I have no idea who made this fabric, it’s a border to border print, but Pip loved it, I liked it, and it makes a great pair of “dorts”.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

For this pair I added some extra height to my draft pattern and then folded it down to make an integral waistband.  It’s definitely quicker, and probably a more efficient use of fabric and I’m certain I shall continue to tinker until they’ve both grown out of all of them.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

The next challenge is to somehow size it up and/or copy and existing pair of Kitty’s shorts, but I have a bit of a batik print that I’m happy to experiment with so there’s really no excuse not to keep having a little play.

Space for the Butterflies - handmade shorts for Elma and Pip

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



Embroidery Handmade

Dear Daisy Mouse {handmade}


A lot of what I make is practical.  It’s also beautiful, because I don’t believe in spending my time and energy on something I can’t stand to look at, but quilts keep you warm on the nights when your children steal all of the duvet, crochet blankets are there to snuggly up under and be comforted, socks are to keep toes cosy, and jumpers, hats, shawls and mittens all do there thing.

But every now and then it’s nice to be a little bit frivolous, and make something for no other reason than it’s fun.  It’s why I’m a huge fan of magazine cover kits; you get to have a little play with a whatever it is (macrame, crochet, leatherwork and the rest) in between the big projects.

Space for the Butterflies - Daisy Mouse, Cross Stitcher Magazine

I don’t make every kit on every magazine I buy, and I’m saving a good boxful for when the kids get to an age where they can do most of it themselves, but this little mousie was straight to the top of the list.

According to the instructions (in CrossStitcher) this was about 4 hours sewing.  They give a time estimate for most of their projects in terms of hours stitching and I’d always wondered how accurate it was, and how much buffer they put in for people going slowly or making mistakes, much as the designer of a knitting pattern will put a little buffer into the calculations of how much yarn you need for each size.

I started stitching at Easter.  I stitched and I stitched.

Space for the Butterflies - Daisy Mouse, Cross Stitcher Magazine

And I stitched and I stitched.

Space for the Butterflies - Daisy Mouse, Cross Stitcher Magazine

And four hours came and went.

Space for the Butterflies - Daisy Mouse, Cross Stitcher Magazine

And I stitched and I stitched. For probably 8 hours in total. Clearly there is no buffer in cross stitch time estimates for a stitcher who has to hop up every couple of minutes to kiss a knee better or have lengthy conversations about why we do not encourage our little brother into the latest of his crazy escapades.

Space for the Butterflies - Daisy Mouse, Cross Stitcher Magazine

In terms of construction, Daisy is embroidered flat on two sides, then they’re cut out and machine sewed together around the top curve.  The felt at the bottom was handstitched on with blanket stitch and she was stuffed with a little toy filling.  For a pincushion it would make her a bit too bouncy and wobbly, but then she was never going to be a pin cushion.  I left off the whiskers because they would never survive the kids, but she got a plaited tail as well as her little pink ears.

Space for the Butterflies - Daisy Mouse, Cross Stitcher Magazine

Which is how I learned just how much of a miracle it is that our ears line up in the right places, and so do all the ones on the various teddies around our house.  Ears are hard.  First one would go up, and then the other would wobble down, and then they’d be giving her the most extraordinary expression, and in the end I had to have both firmly skewered in place with some pins before I could get them to behave.  Even so, they’re still a little off – sorry Daisy.

Space for the Butterflies - Daisy Mouse, Cross Stitcher Magazine

But wonky or not, the kids love her.  Kitty asked every day for a week whether she was finished, and when we headed out on our walk this morning, Pip carried her around as he sat up on my back, and made sure she sniffed the lilac tree just as we always do.

Space for the Butterflies - Daisy Mouse, Cross Stitcher Magazine

In time she will become a bit battered, and maybe some of the stitching on her nose will need doing over, but as long as she is loved I think we can all cope with a little mud.


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