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Family Handmade

Socks to climb a mountain


I have adventures knitted into my socks.  They’re the ultimate in portable knitting and as you never know when you’re going to have a few moments to sit and knit, especially in a life that involves commutes on the train, three children that love play parks and a husband that can be persuades into taking a few moments to sit and sketch, there’s usually a sock in progress in the bottom of my handbag, hopefully also with the right amount of needles.  It means that there’s a pair of socks in John’s drawer that I made on a trip to Paris, another pair that I think went to Vencie, or perhaps to Spain, and there are socks that could tell stories of road trips around Europe and some solid stints on the motorway back home in the UK.

But more than that, they are often the souvenirs I buy of the places we visit; I have a very good radar for yarn shops (thank you Ravelry), and a ball of sock yarn is so nice and neat and doesn’t have to match anything else in my stash, it can be it’s own little reminder of somewhere we love.

This yarn came from Hebden Bridge, which we passed through on our way back from the Lakes earlier in the summer.  It was bucketing it down for most of the day and, not wanting to rush too much on the last day of our mini child-free escape, we pottered our way along the streets, dipping in and out of anywhere that took our fancy, a rare luxury not afforded when the children are around.  We browsed bookshops, took shelter in the Arts Centre (and came out several cards and a butter knife later), and then we found ourselves at Ribbon Circus.  And while I picked out a couple of buttons for Pip’s Snowflake Hoody and looked at all the pretty things, John started to peruse the sock yarn.

It is by this that I know that I have irrevocably changed my husband; not only does he appreciate a hand knit sock, he’s even happy to get stuck in and pick out the yarn.  And with that much effort put into the choosing (and our unpacking revealing just how many overly ventilated socks he currently owns), they were an easy choice the moment my sock knitting needles became free.

The yarn is Stylecraft’s Head Over Heels sock yarn, in a colour which they’ve called Everest.  All of their colours are named after mountains but while I get some of them; Etna and Fuji have lots of hot reds and yellows, Everest isn’t the first mountain that comes to mind looking at those socks.

To me, it looks far more like the hills behind Ullswater; the views along the route that took us high up into the hills, to sit at the shore of Red Tarn and gaze still even further above us to the tiny dots on the skyline as a steady trail of raincoats and backpacks climbed up to the summit of Hellvellyn.

The greens are the grass and the bracken, the blue the sky, the indigo is the colour of mountains off far away in the distance, beyond another lake, and the red and purple are stone and heather bathed in the evening sunlight.  That holiday, even all the way back in July, is still stuck in my mind as the two days when we switched off from the world and went to live in a bubble.  It’s not sustainable in the long term but for two nights it was pure bliss and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  I suspect that the socks have absorbed that memory, and that they carry with them love and hope and relaxation.  Because I finished them on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday John headed off for a trip to Majorca, where hand knitted wooly socks are not traditionally the choice of footwear, even if the temperatures have dropped a smidge for September, and the socks went along for the ride.

For Knitters Notes on this one, it’s a 72 stitch sock with a heel flap heel.  On the leg I knit to the first colour change past 60 rounds of plain stst (on top of the 20 rounds of ribbing) which really helps to get identical socks when working with self striping sock yarn.  Or at least it should.  I did everything I could to make these identical and yet …

Sometimes you just have to laugh with the knitting furies and move on!

The final note is that this is a very sticky yarn and trying to use the ball pulling out from the centre I got horrible tangles time and time again.  I’ve got another ball from Stylecraft in the stash and I will definitely working from the outside in, no matter how much that makes the ball of yarn run away from me on the train!

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

Family Handmade

Snowflakes in September {handmade}


If last week was Christmas in August, today it’s Christmas in September.  Except that this week I know you’re going to forgive me; because we’re talking about Christmas 2016.  Yes, I have finally finished last year’s Christmas knitting.

OK’ it’s not quite as bad as it sounds; this is a knit that I finished at the end of July, packed away to keep it from getting too covered in grass and all the detritus of life in a tent, and then in August neither love nor money would persuade Pip to wear a big woolly jumper with a hood. So yes, I finished the Christmas knitting in July.  Whoops.

I did start this knit before last Christmas (unlike Kitty’s!) but rapidly realised that I could either spend a week desperately trying to crank it out, or I could accept that it wasn’t going to get done, enjoy the festivities and make him an apron instead.  He loved the apron (and I published the pattern in case anyone else ever found themselves in desperate need of a quick mama-make).

But in the new year I picked it up again and slowly knit along.  It would not be a lie to say that I’ve enjoyed every stitch on this sweater; it’s a lovely mixture of nice plain knitting to fly through and give you a feeling of accomplishment, and then the fairisle snowflakes for when you want something interesting to knit, and in March, when I started to realise that I’d been playing yarn chicken in a seriously big way, I just missed having it to knit as much as anything else.

Ah yes, the yarn shortage.  Having had to “nip back” to Lil Weasel for a smidgen of blue to finish Pip’s previous birthday jumper, I was certain that I’d bought enough yarn to make this whole jumper without any problems.  I did the maths and checked again, and then I started adding in just a little bit of extra length on both body and sleeves, just to make sure he got to wear it for more than 30 seconds before this super tall boy of mine shot up into the next size and that was almost certainly my downfall.  Half way up the hood, I looked properly at the remains of the dark grey, and started to worry a little.  I was nearly certain at this point that I was going to run out of yarn, but I could see it for sale on Lil Weasel’s website and thought I’d wait until I was certain that I needed it before placing the order.

A week passed, and no, I definitely needed it.  I went to the website, and the website was gone.  Lil Weasel had their website hacked or infected or something (my French lessons were in the 90’s – we didn’t cover computer terminology), and that was that.  Much as I would have loved to, we couldn’t really justify a day trip to Paris just for me to buy one more ball of yarn, and despite our best efforts, something got lost in translation and Lil Weasel and I never quite managed to figure out a way to send a ball to me while the website was down and so this jumper sat in the bottom of my knitting bag, and waited.  I thought about trying to add in a stripe, about whether the remains of the contrast colour would be enough to finish it off (it wouldn’t), whether I could just go with a smaller hood (who wants a tiny hood), or whether to try to find something the same colour in the UK, but in the end I just kept waiting.

At the end of June the website started to reappear, and then came the day when Lil Wiiz started to reappear on the site – I ordered as fast as my fingers could fly.  It arrived in July and finally I got to sit down and finish that hood and the ribbing around the face.  Three little wooden buttons from Ribbon Circus in Hebden Bridge, a quick wash and block, and we were done.  Phew.

The pattern is the Winter Hoodie by Annie Rowden, and the only adjustment I made was to add a little more length (but not enough to be knitting to the tunic pattern rather than the sweater) to both arms and body.  The yarn, Lil Weasel’s own brand Lil Wiiz, is gorgeous enough to wait for and to justify ordering just one ball to be sent to you from Paris, though if you’re ever in the area I can’t recommend a visit highly enough, especially as their sister fabric shop is just across the arcade!  If I could get it more easily in England this would be my go to yarn, it’s as soft as butter and comes in the most gorgeous colours, apparently inspired by the colours of Liberty prints so that might explain the love at first sight! The dark grey is Encre (ink) and the ice blue, Porcelaine. If we’re being very honest here it probably isn’t the first choice for fairisle; ideally I’d want something with a bit more grip to it so that it can hold itself together, but when so little of it is fairisle, and I’m knitting for the kids, soft as butter wins out over perfect choice for fairisle.

But the best bit was bribing and corrupting Pip to try it on the day I finished it (it was hot) and realising that it actually does still fit, and is going to be big enough for this winter.  If I’d made it properly to the size he was last winter then it would have fit then and I’d probably have finished it with the yarn I had then in time for him to wear it; because I made it bigger I ran out of yarn and didn’t finish until July, but it will fit for this winter – which one would you rather?

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

Christmas Family Handmade

A tiny holly wreath {handmade}


You’re going to have to forgive me for mentioning the C word when we’re only a few hours into September, but we will have to talk about a little festive crafting in a minute.

But first, a little story.  Earlier in August, I scooped Kitty up on a Sunday afternoon and took her off to see the Festival of Quilts at the NEC. At nearly seven she’s just about old enough to enjoy looking at the quilts without getting too fidgety and I love any chance I get to have any of the children one-on-one.  It was so much fun to see what she liked, and what she wasn’t so bothered by.  She loved the children’s quilts, though she would have chosen a different winner, and I was blown away by their talent and creativity, and the beautiful big art quilt of Africa.

Hello Kitty was an obvious hit, but she also tended to pick out the very geometric quilts, preferably with lots of bright colours, the more the merrier.  She would choose a rainbow over any other colour, including her current favourite, blue, and in her mind quilts are definitely made for snuggling under; I think she was a bit bemused by the art quilts, and one with big holes in it got a “I don’t think that would be very warm Mummy!”.

Having followed so many of Kelly’s quilts in progress over on her Instagram, we had to go and see them in real life; they’re absolutely gorgeous and we both thought they should have won.

As for me, well judging by the photos I took, I’m clearly still in the grips of a hexi obession, I also like rainbows, and I really really need to make one of those Passacaglia quilts, just as soon as I can clear some space in the WIP basket.

It should be no surprise then that our meander through the market place seemed to have a bit of a theme to it.  Kitty had some very fixed ideas about what she wanted; some fabric (some with blue dolphins, and a gorgeous pink stripe), and then pink sparkly thread to match, and then we both fell in love with Itching to Stitch, Kitty with the beginner crayons kit and me with just about all the wise words – expect some more cross stitch in our future!

But my make from this week (how’s that for not letting the stash accumulate!), came from one of the first stands we visited, and a company that has come up with something seriously ingenious (which is why they’d sold out of a lot of things).  Ashmead Designs have invented an EPP template that is felt on one side and cotton on the other and is designed to be left in your patchwork.  You tack the fabric on like normal (felt side to so it doesn’t slip), then piece together, then quilt and then remove the tacking.  It gives the patches a bit of structure to them, and while I don’t think I’d use it on a full size quilt, it would be perfect for keeping cushions looking vaguely the same shape that you made them.  It also means that if you’re using low volume or very lightweight fabric, you can’t see the seams through the piecing because they’re all backed.

I have a bunch of tiny hexagons to play with, probably in pincushion format, but to get the feel of it I picked up one of their Christmas wreath kits.  And if the thank you socks were the first thing I finished in the tent, this little wreath is the first thing that I finished in this house.  It took me an afternoon and evening, but I make things with three children rampaging around, so for anyone else it would probably be quicker, and it was incredibly satisfying.  First basting, then sewing, and finally stuffing (with brown shetland that I found in my spinning drawer which shows you how good the lining is!).

It’s just so sweet and dinky, and I’m so looking forward to putting it on the real Christmas tree.

I know I could have waited until Christmas, and there is a lot of fun in making things and adding them on while we’re in the middle of Christmas, but at Christmas I’m usually in a flurry of making presents and cooking, and this year we’ve got to work out how to do everything with the Aga, and actually it was lovely to do some completely indulgent crafting, even if it was in August.

So tell me I’m not alone; have you started marking things for Christmas yet or is it really just me?


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

Family Handmade

The thank you socks {handmade}


Or, what I made, while we lived in a tent.

Tent life lends itself to a lot of snuggling up of an evening with some knitting, and when we were gathering up the things we’d need for camping, before the packers came in to get the rest ready for storage, the first place I went was the yarn stash.  A nearly finished jumper for Pip went in the bag, and then a fiery orange aran to make a winter jumper for me, and then, right on top, two skeins of sock yarn.  My love language is textiles, and I’m utterly unashamed about it, and so there was never really any question about what these would be, or who they were for.

Socks. A very seasonally appropriate gift for the summer, but the best way I know to say thank you.

They were the first thing I made in the tent, knitting on into the evening and then waking up in the morning to see what stripes had appeared. I wanted to make absolutely sure that they were all finished before our purchase completed and we moved in.  Oh such optimism; I could have made both pairs several times over before we were finally able to move.  They lived, hidden in plain sight in a laundry basket, all through the rest of the summer, until finally I got to give them away.

The first pair are Trekking XXL, in a colour called Greens, that, according to the children, look exactly like tractor tyres and courgettes when knitted up.  I can kind of see what they mean, which makes them serendipitously appropriate, especially given the amount of time Pip spent gazing at his uncle’s tractor’s with open-mouthed adoration.  This yarn I think came from Florida, either from our honeymoon, or when we went back to have another shot at a happy Florida holiday and I still ended up in hospital (a story for another time).  Either way, buying that yarn made me very very happy, and knitting it up made me even happier.  They’re not much use in August I know, but in the winter, they will be warm and snuggly, and as I’m definitely hoping for snow, they should be perfect.

And the second, well this is yarn of my own invention.  We had some leftover Easter Egg dye a year ago and I spent a messy afternoon playing around a blank skein of sock yarn from the back of the stash.  At the time it was just playing, with the full knowledge that if it turned out horribly I’d bin it without a second thought, but it turned out to be one of my prettiest inventions and I’ve been saving it for a very special pair of socks.

I could have found no worthier recipient.  All the time I was knitting them Kitty was quite desperate to know who they were for, I suspect harbouring a secret dream that they might be for her, even though it was blindingly obvious that they weren’t her size.  I’ve got a decent wedge of leftovers though, and I suspect that if I can find the right deep blue solid, they might just end up being part of a pair of Christmas socks.

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





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