Monthly Archives

January 2012

Kitty Sewing Work in Progress

Sizing up


It seems that winter is finally putting in an appearance around these parts.  I have laundry on the line more in the hope of it smelling nice after a blast in the sunshine than actually drying, and when we headed out to the supermarket at 10 this morning I still had to spend a good few minutes scraping ice from the windows and mirrors with the aid of a bottle of warm water.

Perhaps my next project is then rather serendipitously timed.  I’ve been planning on making Kitty another pair of the Quick Change trousers from Anna Maria Horner’s Handmade Beginnings book for a little while.  Jo over at A Life in Lists, mentioned the idea of using flannel for the linings in a post on her plans for her boys’ winter wardrobe, and it seemed like such a great idea for snuggly winter trews that I’m shamelessly copying it.

January 175
A Black Friday sale at Fabricworm brought me a little parcel of pretty fabric just before Christmas (Sherbet Pips pink skaters and Michael Miller bicycles blue cotton flannel), and I’ve been sat looking at it as I knit, and thinking about how best to size these new trousers.

The pair I made for Kitty’s birthday in the size 18-24 months (the largest pattern size) are a great length on my little 15 month old, but she still has that babyish chubbiness (particularly when you factor a cushy washable nappy into the mix) that makes them not tight exactly, but with a little less ease than I think would make for a perfect fit.

Her two pairs of dungarees are a great fit, with lots of room for an active little girl to romp around in, and you can see from the comparison that they are both a little bit wider across the derriere.
January 169
You can also see that her pirate trousers need another wash but we’ll gloss over that. 

I’ve decided to try to add an inch to the circumference to match them to the pink flowery dungarees, which should also allow for any extra space taken up by the flannel which is a shade thicker than the quilting cotton that I used for the first version.

I copied out the pattern onto baking parchment and then used my long skinny quilting ruler to follow the line for the outside edge of the pattern piece at the half inch mark, turning it gently as the curve moved away from the straight line.  The front and the back leg were easy enough, I can only hope that I’ve got the extra space on the right side of the back yoke, but for that only time will tell.

I know it means that I’ll have more space at the ankle than I had previously, and there are no real needs to increase there, but it seemed more sensible to cut for the extra space and then try them on Kitty.  If I need to bring it back to the original lines that will be easy enough to do, and I can mark the point at which I start to want the extra width on my real life model, without having to guestimate while she sleeps.

January 176
I did the cutting out earlier this week and it’s all been sat in a little pile of fabric temptation on my newly tidied desk as I slogged away to finish a work project in almost every evening this week.  But now the project is done (until Tuesday anyway) and there’s time for a little sewing of the non-Christmas, non-deadline variety.

Christmas Family Finished Knitting Quilting

On the fourteenth day of Christmas …


our lovely friends came to play.

By virtue of some alphabetical wiztrickery, H and A were lab partners at university, realised they’d spotted each other before at church, and we’ve all been the best of friends ever since.  We count A as family, particularly now that he is Kitty’s godfather, which mostly means that I don’t sweat the tidying up if he’s coming over. 

His better half, L, has an appreciation for the merits of Persephone books, salted caramel almonds from Hotel Chocolat and all things handmade, so we were always going to hit it off.

They came to spend a quiet cosy Sunday with us; a big roast gammon and sticky toffee pudding lunch, followed by Christmas presents, and an afternoon tucked up in my quilt collections, playing Sonic, eating sweeties, reading, knitting and playing shop with Kitty.  It was restful, fun and quintessentially English; if only we had a roaring fire and it had been snowing outside we would have been quite the picture postcard (well minus the computer games perhaps).

But you didn’t really want to know about all that (and apologies to anyone whose New Year’s virtuosity is wavering because I mentioned sticky toffee pudding (with ice-cream)).  Sunday was the unveiling of the final handmade Christmas presents for 2011.

First, there was a large, flat, square, squishy parcel for A, which Kitty assiduously helped him to unwrap.
December 141
A ‘very useful quilt for snuggling under on cold winter’s days when part of your house has a stone floor’

The pattern is Pandora’s Box from the Jelly Roll Quilts book by Pam and Nicky Lintott, and the fabric is a Moda jelly roll that I bought from my very first Festival of Quilts.  It perfectly fulfils the criteria of ‘colours that I have seen A wear’ and in fact he turned up in a jumper that perfectly matched the orange border.

It’s a really great pattern for jelly rolls and just generally; it’s nice and simple to show of the fabric to its best advantage and as it’s all mixed up together, the quilt doesn’t suffer for the quilter not being able to separate the jelly roll neatly into light and dark.

It also lent itself to a piecemeal construction.  On one evening I took the jelly roll apart and did the first stage of cutting, another night I matched the strips into pairs for the centre sections, sewed them together during one nap time, and cut the second stage during another.  At the end of each stage, all the pieces could be tucked away from tiny fingers in a bag without loosing my place, or upsetting a precisely piled stack of cut pieces.
December 166
Once I’d sewn up the main quilt top I stood back and marvelled at the centre points of the blocks; my quilting has improved so gradually through little bits of practice here and there I forget that I can be pretty accurate now if I take my time to do it properly.

The border is a flaming orange and gold weave; it doesn’t feel like a printed quilting cotton but is much softer with more drape.  There was just enough on the bolt at Quilter’s Den for the borders or I would have been tempted to have a little bit more for a skirt in one of my favourite colours. 

I had enough white on lime green polka dots left over from my sampler quilt for the binding, so all that was left was to choose the backing, and what a backing:

November 361

Enough sunshine to chase away any rainy day gloom (also from Quilter’s Den).  I really ought to pay more attention to the names of the fabric I’m buying I know.

I used a pure cotton wadding and quilted it all over with lime green thread in a square stipple.

December 171
I can’t imagine life without my quilts, they have so many uses from extra blankets on cold nights to tents in the lounge and space to lie out in the garden in the heat of summer so I’m glad A and L like their very own.

And just in case he doesn’t share –
November 392
L has a pair of handknit socks.  It’s Regia (definitely Regia this time – I found the ball band) Circus Colour in Akrobatik, bought on my last trip to Liberty’s.  L once borrowed a pair of my shoes on an impromptu muddy walk so I knit to fit me, using a 64st cast on and a slip stitch heel and I think they should keep her feet nice and warm walking around the stone floor of their kitchen on chilly mornings.

So there we have it; four pairs of socks, two quilts, a hat, a scarf and a jumper.  Not a bad turn out considering that I didn’t start until mid-October.  Maybe this will be the year that I start a bit earlier (yes yes, I can hear your hollow laughter from here!). But first I have two new balls of Rowan Big Wool in a delicious deep pomegranate to go and squoosh.

Christmas Finished Kitty Knitting



The twelve days of Christmas may have ended, and the trees, lights, baubles and tinsel have been taken down and packed away and I can now confirm (with pictures) that I did finish the Christmas knitting before the end of Christmas.
January 147
The one lone little piece of knitted present that still trailed yarn and needles was a jumper for Kitty, the Immie tee by Quince & Co, knit from Sparkleduck Galaxy in a deep midnight blue with silver sparkles.  I’d just about finished the body and started a sleeve when I gave it up in favour of a relaxed Christmas Eve with my family, and sure enough it was there waiting for me to do a few little rounds on Christmas afternoon as we curled up by our tree to watch the last of the daylight dance with shadows across the room.

I packed it to take north after the end of the profiterole marathon, and knit as we trundled painstakingly up the motorway one day, and across on another motorway the next to stay with H’s parents for a couple of nights.

I finished it one afternoon, sat in the family room as my parents-in-law enjoyed having all of their chicks and a couple of cuckoos around them, and owing to an incident involving lasagne for supper, cheese, grated cheese and a little more cheese, it was pressed into service straight away to visit Great-Gran to take tea.
December 849
Taking tea with Gran is somewhat of a ritual.  Regardless of the time of day, or the proximity of any of the major meals you have to sit down at the kitchen table and have a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
December 852
For almost 13 years, H has drunk my cup of tea, and I have eaten his Ferraro Roche.  That is the way that it is at Gran’s.  It’s even more special now that Kitty’s grown enough to have a big girl chair and a little Madeira cake, just as H did many many years ago.
December 878
It also helps that Gran’s poodle Sasha doesn’t mind helping to clear up after little girls!
December 842
Kitty played with her auntie
December 796
and had cuddles from a great-auntie who popped by
December 900

and it wasn’t until we’d come back down home that I had the time or the resources to properly wash and block her latest knit.

But at last, a proper unveiling:
Jumper: Immie tee with long sleeves
Trousers: pink and purple stripes from the JoJo Maman Bebe sale
Accessories: Room on the Broom – model’s own, Gruffalo socks from Little Sunflowers

It grew a little with blocking but with incredible growing not-so-tiny wee girls that’s not necessarily a bad thing and I’m happy that if it’s a bit big now, it will be a perfect fit before too long.
Clearly I’ve made one very obvious change to the pattern, I accidentally used a 3.5mm needle rather than a 3.25 and it grew sleeves! Well, ok, I did use slightly larger needles and didn’t notice until I double checked them in preparation for the sleeves but I like the drape of the resultant fabric and I wasn’t going to re-knit the whole body.  She’s wearing it here as a t-shirt layer over a long sleeved vest which works well, although it also works well as a more traditional jumper; in the pictures at Great-Gran’s she’s got a thick penguin t-shirt and a vest underneath.
The original pattern has cute little cap sleeves but full length sleeves are a rather necessary ingredient for a Christmas jumper in England, even in this unseasonably mild winter, and I had plenty of yarn so I invented them.
January 107
This is the largest size, and the pattern would have you cast on 57 stitches and work a few rows of garter before joining it to the body.  I cast on two-third of the stitches (38), joined them in the round and worked in garter stitch for the suggested rounds, then increased up to 57 sts in the next row and worked straight until they seemed about long enough (70 rounds). 
January 158

Christmas Cooking Family



Whether they realised it or not, I know for a fact that the key influence on H’s brother and his wife’s decision to move back down north from Scotland to Yorkshire last year was the proximity of their oh so cute nieces aged nearly two and one and a quarter.  Kitty (and H and I) are now a couple of hours away and K (and C’s sister and brother-in-law are even closer).  The better jobs, bigger house and the rest of the family had nothing to do with it – oh no.

December 694
(Kitty in her party frock)
December 689
(and K in hers – it had snowmen on the bottom just out of shot)

They were working for their first Christmas back home (the perils of being doctors) so a couple of days later they hosted a party for fourteen, and both sides of their family got together for Christmas Take 2.

December 672
(Kitty explores her new Martian Mansion)
December 686
(with help from K – who clearly doesn’t wiggle as much as Kitty – and Auntie A wearing the bows from everyone’s presents)

H and I volunteered to bring pudding and the two Cs pushed the boat out for the starter and main course; bacon and scrambled eggs Benedict on little toasties to start, followed by a gargantuan buffet that took up most of the kitchen.  We had a rib of beef that had been cooking (a la Heston) for 18+ hours at a really low heat to leave it melt in the mouth tender, and a pork belly that was brined and slow roasted for nearly the same amount of time, all polished off with roast potatoes, parsnip puree, sauteed Brussels sprouts and red onions and a selection of gravies.

Now a supper that I haven’t had to cook and won’t have to wash up (all hail their dishwasher) is always going to get brownie points but this was right up there in the gold star category.  It was delicious and amazing and I loved it.

I also may have eaten it all before I even thought of taking any pictures.

For pudding, I spent a good part of Boxing Day making 78 profiteroles (using the Hairy Bikers’ recipe), and the creme patisserie from Nigella’s Feast. The next morning I used up four of my twelve spare egg whites to make the Fig, Ginger and Almond meringue from Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Cakes and then we packed the whole lot up (plus a raspberry jelly as a special request from H) and drove it gingerly up a heavily laden M1.

Once we’d unpacked we found the largest remaining serving plate and started piping custard and stacking my croquembouche. I thought that making spun sugar in someone else’s kitchen was a step too far, and I’m also not very good at it, so I stuck to the caramel sauce in Nigella with some ingredients purloined from our hosts and it turned out really well. 

In fact the only hitch in the whole operation was that the serving plate wasn’t very big.  I stacked and glued the best I could and then called for an engineering consult from H (MEng) and C’s Dad (model railway builder).  Their professional opinion was that I’d reached my limit, so we had a big croquembouche and a little mini one on the other side of the table like sugary cairns marking the location of a feast.

So here they are:
December 715
Two croquembouche, covered with caramel sauce and dusted with snowflake sprinkles, two trees and Father Christmas,
December 716
and a spicy and light meringue that impressively survived the journey from Warwickshire with only minimal damage.
H’s Mum and sister had also been busy and arrived with trays of colourful cakes – just in case anyone had any teeny tiny space left over.
December 719 December 720
We made some pretty good inroads into the table groaning with food but there was still plenty to send home with all the branches of the family, and still be left with more for late night fridge raids, and I may or may not have eaten a couple of profiteroles with my breakfast the next morning!

I don’t think I was hungry again for the rest of the week. Now that’s the sign of a good party – and a New Year diet.

Christmas Family Knitting

A Handmade Christmas Part 3: for the Mummies


December 015
Every now and then I come across a really beautiful knitting pattern, crafted from what can only be Rumplestiltskin’s gold, or something else luscious looking but equally unavailable, and I sigh, and cruise the internets and Ravelry to work out a substitution, or how to not eat for a month to afford the shipping.

So when it turns out that the yarn in question is in fact a nice little Rowan, available from all number of places including a shop five hundred yards from my office; well, it seems only right and proper to knit it up right away to encourage the knitting muses to foster more such synchronicity.
December 004
I saw the Drifted Pearls scarf on Pinterest in a gentle grey, and when I saw it called for Rowan Lima, I knew I had Mum’s Christmas present-to-be.  It’s knit as a traditional scarf with a loopy bobbly edging until you get a little over half the length you might want in an ordinary scarf, then the fabric is pleated, and the pleats securely knit into a loop.  Tuck the end through the loop and you have a gorgeous warm wide scarf, perfect for Mum who tends to wear her ordinary scarves this way.
(Photo shamelessly stolen from Mum)

The Amazon blue matches the hat that I made for her last Christmas, and I hope they are both keeping her warm in the wild winds that are currently howling at our windows as they whip around the house.

Further north, lots further north, is another cozy Mum.  We have a simple formula for H’s Mum’s Christmas gifts: fruit jellies (the good ones made with actual fruit juice) + handknit socks = happiness.

And when you know the recipient likes your knitting so much she wears holes in the heels on a regular basis, you can’t but pick up the needles:
November 387
Edwardian Boating socks, knit from an Opal blank that I hand-dyed with Kool-Aid.  With a linen stitch heel and a sock yarn with a 25% nylon content I’m hoping not to see these in the mending pile for many years to come, and to be honest they may fall into the ‘oh darn’ over the bin pile as I’m not sure I could work out how to reknit linen stitch without dropping almost all of the stitches.

It’s an addictive pattern though; I’d always want to knit to the next waterboatman, and the next and the next, until I had two socks sat in front of me.  I’m glad I didn’t knit them for me though as the linen stitch is not very stretchy and I would never have got them over my ankles.  I know if I really wanted them for me I could change the heel flap to a simple rib, but it was nice to knit them as they were designed.

That’s almost all of the Christmas craftiness out in the open; the last little bit is still wrapped up under our tree, but before I’m truly caught up I’ve still got to tell you about the Christmas Croquembouche and my brother-in-law’s amazing ultra-slow roasted beef.  That’ll have to wait for another day though as it’s late, and after an evening spent chasing electricity with a hairdryer when we got home from work to discover that none of the plugs were working, I’m off to make a nest in which to hide from the storm with a couple of quilts, a knitted blanket and as much of the duvet as I can persuade H to part with.