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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 Kitty {the ordinary moments}

The Storytellers


In all of the crazy work work work work work sleep work work work work of the last couple of weeks, when taking pretty pictures, and writing blog posts and visiting even my most favourite of favourite blogs has gone out of the window, I have been writing.  In September I got half way through a short story and all through the to the end of the year I was itching to get back to it, and one day I probably will, at least that’s what I’m telling myself.  This time, when an idea started to nestle into my brain and refuse to be ignored I just started writing.  Longhand, on paper, very pretty paper but paper all the dame, with little bits and pieces mapped out ahead so I at least have a vague idea where I’m going, but not much more than that.

Technically it’s a book, or at least it will be when I finish, but putting that there in black and white has distinct shades of over-egging the pudding.  Stephen King writes about the first draft being telling the story to yourself, and only when you get through the second draft can you even contemplate letting anyone else see it, and that’s oddly comforting.  Right now, as much as I am enjoying every word (and keep finding that I’ve sat down to write for 20 mins and it’s an hour later and I really ought to have gone to bed), I am equally certain that I have invoked every dubious cliche, every idea has already been had and it may just be the worst thing ever written, so it’s probably a good thing that I’m writing it just for me.  I’m not even going to tell you the set up, not now and possibly not ever.  But it is a lot of fun, and even though longhand is the most deeply impractical way of writing anything, it’s been nice to step away from the computer, and have a little screen free time.  When I never ever have anything published, you heard it here first!

But in a week when writing was my only creative recharge, it seems that my eldest apple has not fallen too far from the tree.  Kitty has been making little picture books for years, usually with the odd caption or two, but nothing quite resembling a full story.  But this week she upped her game and made me a story and activity book.

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

She started it in school as a surprise and had finished it before I got home so I got the first look at the finished article.

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

Her current school won’t teach formal academics until next year; she’s not learning to read or write at the moment, so everything she does is from memories of last year and input from us whenever she asks, and to see her pull that back out of the memory vault and use it, when this time last year she hated reading, hated writing, thought it all boring and pointless and couldn’t understand why she was being asked to do it, is just wonderful.  It’s in Kitty words rather than the traditional English but I would so rather that she wants to tell stories, but needs to work on the vocab, than that her spelling be perfect but she’s entirely disengaged.

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

To you and I it reads:

“The Lost Bear

Once in a land far away the forest was very empty. But a bear came to the forest and he found his mummy at the edge of the forest. The end”

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

And just in case the story isn’t enough to melt me into a puddle, she’s added “ativtes” – two sums, a butterfly maze, and a spot the difference.

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

I love it, I cherish it, and I’m definitely tucking it away in her memory box to pull out on her 18th birthday (after all isn’t that what parents are for).

And perhaps it comes across as being all super special snowflake; in the grand scheme of the world, and probably in comparison to some of her peers in mainstream school, this is peanuts.  And apart from the obvious caveat that my daughter is a genius (a line of facts to which we swore fealty in NCT classes regardless of anything so rigorous as a truth), I’m not claiming that either she nor I are ever going to be anything special.

This is special to me for two reasons.  The first I’ve touched on; we took a gamble at the end of the year that the change we made would be the right answer for a very unhappy Kitty, and that she has come back to writing of her own accord, without pushing or enticement, gives me comfort that the risk was worth it, and that when she learns again next year, she’s going to soar.

And the other is perhaps more selfish.  Is it greedy to want to see some aspect of the genetics of your own that you like showing up in your children?  All three of mine look like John, clearly have his sporting abilities (especially Pip), love music as much as both of us, and art and generally creativity, but wanting to make little books, that’s just a little bit of me bubbling to the surface and narcissistic or not, I’m not ashamed to say that I take pleasure in seeing that I’ve passed on to my lovely eldest daughter something that gives me so much fun.




Family Kitty Motherhood {the ordinary moments}

Milestones like buses


Do you find that with little ones the milestones come all at once?  When they were really tiny they were saying “Mama”, and walking, and proving their father wrong on the question of broccoli all within a moment, and then it was running and throwing their arms around your neck for a jam smothered kiss and the first unprompted “I luff you”.  It feels like we’ve hit two more within a breath of each other.

 Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
The first of Kitty’s teeth coincided with the start of school, falling out into a post-church-coffee bourbon biscuit much to her very great surprise when aged 5 and a smidgen her parents had entirely failed to mention that teeth fall out and it’s not a problem.  It’s our biggest parenting fail to date but in my defence I thought I had another year to cover the subject.
Tooth number two, another bottom one, followed quickly after and then for the last year or so we’ve got used to that gap, and watched the new big girl teeth make their way in below.  One top tooth in particular has been very wobbly for months, to the point that we were starting to contemplate a dentist visit to check all was well when I got a text message late one Friday afternoon while I was down in London.  Her first top tooth was eagerly awaiting the tooth fairy.
In our house the tooth fairy doesn’t take the teeth, because Kitty wants to keep them, and she doesn’t leave money because she didn’t have any to hand when the first tooth fell out and had to make do with whatever she could find.  Back then it was a chocolate coin which I’m near certain had my dentist grandfather turning in his grave, and most recently it was a tiny notepad with a gold initial on each page and a pen with radishes on it (because the tooth fairy came with Mummy on a trip to the Kikki K shop on the way home from work).
When I took this month’s Siblings photos that weekend, she was determined that everyone would see that shiny new gap, even if it did make her look less like she was gazing affectionately at the rest of the family and more as if we were a tasty snack.
Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
And in the same week we discovered that she needed new glasses.  It’s not the newness that makes this so much of a milestone; she’s worn glasses for nearly a year now, and we’ve got through several pairs of glasses both from a change in the prescription and Kitty’s determination that glasses will not prevent her from doing anything, right up to and including being sat on by her brother.  But this time, there is a change.
Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
(this is the look she’s going to give me when she’s 16 and I suggest that 10pm is a perfectly acceptable curfew isn’t it!)
Since that first letter came home from school to suggest that we might like to take her for an opticians’ appointment, Kitty has been working her way through a cast of Disney characters on the arms of her glasses (bless you Specsavers for having glasses that she wanted to wear, and my mother in law for suggesting it).  We’ve had Elsa and Tinkerbell, Ariel, Cinderella and the Minions and all of my scruples about not letting my children be walking adverts (“you can wear a t-shirt with Elsa on it when she wears one with you on it”) were thrown out of the window because of all the selections of children’s glasses in all the opticians within easy reach they were easily the nicest.  And truth be told, when John took her in to have her latest check up I was expecting more of the same, perhaps Belle this time for variety.
Except my lovely tall girl, who rocks age 10-11 clothes at age 6, has grown out of the characters range.  Nothing with a princess on was the right size for her face, and found myself sat in the office, wishing I was there to lend a helping hand as they entered the world of pre-teen glasses and a world of uncertainty.
 Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
Choosing glasses for Kitty worries me, far more than it does her.  When I was little my choices were whether to have the pink NHS pair or the blue (I generally alternated) and the photos between age 5 and 13 show me with one or the other; enormous plastic frames and every so slightly Dame Edna Everage pointy corners (well it was the 80’s) and I swore to myself when she and her brother and sister were born that if they needed glasses they would always look smart and modern and up to date and never feel less because they’d inherited my dodgy eyesight.  So far we’ve had not problems, but what I think of as the antithesis of what I wore as a child; metal frames, small lenses; isn’t the fashion any more.  The 80′ are back (and you have no idea how old that makes me feel). The current trend is for bigger lenses and more obvious frames and there was a little six year old incarnation of me that whispered “don’t do that” in my ear when I heard of the options that they had in the shop that fitted my lovely eldest daughter.
But times have changed, and the joys of a vintage revival is that it tends to keep only the good stuff and ditch the bits that you skim over in the family photo albums, and if I’m honest with myself I can see that. I cannot and I will not let my own experiences overshadow my children.
So Kitty has new glasses.  They’re bigger frames than last time, they’re definitely more of a statement, they have Cath Kidston flowery arms (or Cath Kit Kat as Kitty says) and my not so little girl rocks them.  She is in every inch, wearing the glasses, and not the other way round, and she looks awesome in them.
Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
It was the first time that I’ve really had to let go of what has made up me, to recognise what it is that makes up her.  No one will tease her for having Cath Kinston glasses; she wore them to school and her classmates were only excited for her, and at home she couldn’t wait to show them off to her siblings.  And for me, to get that wrapped around my brain until the worries calmed and the tension ebbed; that was the latest in a very long line of lessons that my daughter will teach me.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

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