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Elma Family Handmade Handmade for Elma Knitting

Camilla {handmade for Elma}


As soon as I finished making the little purple Camilla Bebe for the baby who turned out to be Cora I knew I wanted to make a Camilla Kid for Elma.  My littlest girl hits the 75th centile but next to her brother and sister she has always looked dinky, and I suspect that when they’re all fully grown she will be the only one in the family not topping 6’0″.  She’s the snuggliest of ever moving little girls and I wanted to wrap her up for winter in a nice chunky jumper to keep her warm and cosy and ever so cuddly.  And it had to be sea green.

The joy of making anything yourself is that the possibilities are endless; you should be able to make anything in any colour and any size; the reality is that sometimes you dream something up that just doesn’t quite exist.  With me it’s usually yarn colours; I get a vision in my head of the very perfect colour and then struggle to find a yarn company that actually makes it. But this wasn’t one of those times.  I walked into Lil Weasel at the end of August (on the Parisian stop of the trip home from Germany) certain that I was only going to buy just the one ball of yarn I needed to finish Pip’s birthday jumper, and there, sat right on the shelf at my eye level, was the most perfect sea green yarn in soft merino aran.  It was fate. I bought five balls and pretended that I’d never intended to do anything else.

This most unicorn of yarns is by DMC (who I associate more with embroidery thread than wool), in their Woolly 5 range. It’s pure merino, very soft and incredibly bouncy with a lot of loft and if I could get it any nearer than Paris it would definitely make the repeat list.

Space for the Butterflies - Camilla Kid in DMC Woolly 5

And so through the last days of November it became Elma’s birthday jumper.  Knit on 6mm needles (a size down from the pattern) and in an age 6 to compensate for the slightly smaller needles it was a speedy little knit.  Carrie Bostik Hoge writes some properly gorgeous patterns (including the Immie Tee which was Kitty’s Christmas jumper two years ago but is still in use with the little two), and it’s an easy pattern despite looking impressively complicated when finished.  I’ve knit it long; an extra repeat in the body and enough length on the sleeves to make them full length not only on her birthday but two weeks later post celebratory growth spurt.  She’s actually having to turn them up at the moment (which is why her hands appear to have vanished) as they grew a little with the blocking, but in a small child with a propensity to grow whenever you’re not looking that’s never going to be a disadvantage.

Ends tucked in, washed, blocked and wrapped, it sat on the birthday table waiting for her and almost as soon as she could shake it free of the paper she had it all lined up to wear to nursery that day. Praise indeed.

Space for the Butterflies - Camilla Kid in DMC Woolly 5

It’s taken me until now to get some photos of her wearing it, usually because it’s in the car, or tucked down the side of her bed, or on her, and she is posed very carefully so that you can’t see that she got a bit of supper on one of the sleeves, not that I think she’d let me wash it even if I wanted to.

I loved making it, and I’m not sure even now that I’ve got the pattern completely out of my system so I may have to see if I can find any more tiny new arrivals to the world who need a sweet little jumper.

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

Christmas Elma Family

The decorating conundrum


Space for the Butterflies - Merry Christmas

We have the dark house on our street.  All our neighbours decorated on 3rd December, gold and white lights strung across the front of garages and the two tiny reindeer glowing gently from the lawn of the house on the corner, but we have nothing up.  No lights out front, no wreath on the door, no tree, nothing to suggest festivities but the fairy lights that have been up since Halloween and the picture of Father Christmas on the cornflakes.

We’re not suffering from an Eberneezer-esque case of the Bah-Humbugs, and we are on the brink of out-decorating every single one of the neighbours, but until now we’ve held off.  It was a certain someone’s birthday yesterday, and this year, as in the last couple of years, we let her decide whether she wanted the house to be decorated for her birthday or wait until after.  She almost invariably chooses to wait, and in fact I’ve only decorated once on 1st December; I was pregnant with Elma and thought that maybe the promise of a Christmas tree might tempt the baby to make an appearance sooner rather than very very late.  12 days later, she arrived all of a hurry.

It’s not an unfamiliar concept to me; my sister’s birthday is 15th December and when I was little we never decorated until after her birthday; which usually meant waiting until the end of term and then decorating as soon as we got home.  But when I was little it didn’t feel late; it felt like we were decorating at the same time as everyone else.

This year we’ve been asked if we’re worried about all the good trees having gone, and if I were to belive social media, we’re the very last people in the entire planet to have still not yet done any decorating.  Work’s no consolation either; at 8.20 on 1st December we finished decorating the office Christmas tree.  It’s not the official office one,  but a little bundle of artificial glory which spends most of the year living in a bin bag on the bottom shelf of our library and cake shelves.  Sitting on the carpet hanging pink and purple baubles up with paperclips has got to be one of the best ways to start the day.

I love Christmas. Love it with a capital L.  Or perhaps I should say that I love Advent; for me it’s all about the getting ready; the things that we do each and every year to mark time as we head towards the 25th.  When I first started working I would happily take the Christmas-New Year shift at work as long as I got to be home for the week before Christmas, for the carolling, the carol service and collecting the order of mince pies from the village post office, walking along the shoreline with Dad scavenging for driftwood, all the while belting out Good King Wencleslas, the magic in the light of the advent ring as each week went by, and the Christmas Eve party at Grannie’s house, which my sister and I took over in later years; she in charge of the catering, me the author, director and producer of our very own two-man panto.

Nowadays our family have their own traditions, the Christmas Eve crib service where everyone dresses up (John is threatening to go as Batman this year and the Vicar has promised she’ll work him into the story- it’s almost tempting!), heading out in the dawn to collect the turkey and then making my great-grandmother’s stuffing recipies and prepping veggies while Carols from Kings plays on the radio.  And of course, dressing the house to within an inch of its life.

And so tomorrow, when we go to buy the tree and bring it home, and tie it to the wall with fishing wire so that Pip can’t pull it over, and get the boxes out of the cupboard and find the new decorations that we brought back from the Black Forest this summer, I’m going to be just as excited as the children.  And yet I cannot regret letting Elma have her day; we still have plenty of time for Christmas (no matter what the media says), and yesterday our lounge was pink and pastel rainbows; the Happy Birthday banner I made for Kitty’s first birthday hung across the wall, and a pile of presents in fairy wrapping paper waiting underneath.  She was in her element, all smiles from the minute she rushed into our room at 6am; “is it morning?! am I four?!”


And tomorrow we will decorate.  But are we the only ones? Is there anyone else out there that doesn’t have a tree? are artificial trees letting people start decorating earlier? or is it just that 2016 has been such a humdinger of a year that we need all the help we can get?


Birthdays Elma Family Photography

And now you are four


To my littlest girl,

Well sweetie, now you are a whole four years old.  I can’t believe it’s come so quickly, and you can’t believe it’s taken so long.  Not only does everyone else in the family have their birthday before you in the year, I think you’d swear that every day of the last week has got longer and longer and every morning you’d ask me “how many more days is it now Mummy?”.  I’m writing this on your birthday eve and while I was putting your brother to bed tonight I could hear you chatting away to your sister, planning each and every moment of tomorrow morning, starting with waking up, jumping out of bed and racing down stairs.  We’ve been doing a little arranging in here, I think you’re going to like it.

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

So, what do I want the future you to know about you at four? And what do I want to treasure and remember?

I think the biggest thing is that right now you are so incredibly wholehearted about just about everything.  You throw your whole self into everything, regardless of whether you know how to do it or not, and you fly more times than you have a bumpy landing.  At the moment it’s all about singing and dancing, you and your sister could spend an entire afternoon dancing around the lounge, and you happily forgive her when your planned spins don’t quite take off and go back to leaping about without a second thought, usually singing along as you do.  I sometimes wonder if we’ve accidentally stumbled upon your best learning style because you soak up songs like a sponge, from things on the radio to songs you hear us sing.  The Baa Baa Bethlehem song in your birthday video was something that your sister learnt for her school nativity last year, and there you were, rattling it off in April.  Your nursery are very big on singing and action songs and your teacher tells me that you get so caught up in the moment that every now and then you completely tumble over yourself, look very surprised, and then hop up and join in again.  It sounds exactly like my little miss wiggly feet; I think you’re dancing even in your sleep.

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

Speaking of nursery, you absolutely love it.  It’s only three mornings a week at the moment, but you’re already asking when you start afternoons and all the mornings which bodes very well for next September.  You had an easier start of it than your sister because you knew quite a few people from playgroup and you’re so happy to be back with them, and it’s lovely for us to see you making such good friends, especially when their big brothers and sisters are friends with yours.  I never hear very much about your days, but from what I can work out the notable moments seem to have been going into the garden in your slippers during a fire drill and other people’s school birthdays.  You get to wear a crown during little meal and it’s a matter of some relief all round that you’re in nursery on your actual birthday because I don’t think you could have waited a minute longer.

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

When you’re at home I think you are the storyteller of my girls; when you’re playing lego your sister is all about the technical construction and working out how to make things stand up, but you put up a window, a door and a couple of bricks for a table and suddenly all these little Lego people are off on an adventure, quite oblivious to their surroundings.  It’s the same when you want to read a story to your brother, you’ll have a look at the pictures and then tell him whatever you think the story ought to be, or when you play trains; there’s always a tale to be told.

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

You and he are best buddies, and occasionally fiercest rivals.  It probably helps that there’s little between you in height, even though you’re still well above average for a four year old, and that 20 month age gap is shrinking by the day.  When it’s just the two of you, I can see so clearly the unspoken understanding that you have, the way you settle into games together without ever really having agreed how it’s going to go.  It’s lovely to see and lovely that you’ve had that time at home together while he’s actually been big enough to play with so that you’ve built a rock solid bond that allows you to fall out and fall over each other and still be chasing each other around the house for a hug.

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

As far as your sister is concerned, I think that starting nursery, and being at the same school and just across the hall from her classroom, has brought you closer too, I think she felt a little on the outside last year, being the only one at school but now you share so many stories (the fire drills!) and the daily rhythm of a school day.  When it was suggested that you might join her kindergarten for a little bit in the summer when you fall into the multi-year age bracket she just couldn’t wait to have you with her, and it made me so proud of both of you.

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

You are a lovely mixture of gentle kindness and an iron will; if someone says “ouch” or sneezes, or your brother falls over, you rush to make sure they’re ok, and you give the biggest cuddles to anyone who needs cheering up, and yet at the same time I am confident that no one will ever be able to push that so far as to take advantage of you; you know your own mind and as both your parents have somewhat of a determined streak, it probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that it’s very clearly present in you too; channel it in the right direction and you’ll move mountains.

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

On the whole you are the happiest little girl in the world; you’ve got quite a strong sense of what you need to feel content.  And yes, sometimes being your Mama is hard work, because being a parent was never supposed to be an easy ride, but it is more than worth it.  You brighten up our lives my little ‘dorable girl and every single one of us loves you more than we could ever tell you.

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

Happy 4th Birthday, and many more to come.



Space for the Butterflies - a birthday letter to Elma

Elma Family Video

On birthday eve – the year that Elma was three


It’s crazy but true; tomorrow this lovely little girl of mine is actually turning four.  And as I still have to make both her school birthday cake and her home birthday cake, it’s time to let the pictures do the talking as, in now time honoured tradition, I’ve made another little video to look back on the year she was three – and just look how little she looked on her third birthday!

Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip The 52 Project

45/52 {the 2016 portraits}


A portrait of each of my children once every week for 2016.

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project - Halloween

Kitty: You haven’t seen a cat marmalising a penguin before? I’m pretty sure you were trying to get your Daddy to sit up, alas to no avail, but your squeals of laughter and solid determination to make things go your way set the tone for one of my favourite ever Me and Mine photo shoots.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/5.6, ISO 100)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project - Halloween

Elma: Halloween Princess Elma, complete with possibly the craziest wig we’ve acquired so far.  You love this costume to distraction, you dress up at least once every day, and for the last week this has even trumped the Cinderella dress with butterflies on the skirt; well it is pink!  I just hope it fits next year because it’s going to be hard to find something you love more.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/5.6, ISO 100)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project - Halloween

Pip: the world’s smiliest pirate, complete with genuinely accidental fake pirate scar after being just that bit too interested in something your sister was drawing.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/4.5, ISO 100)