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Elma Embroidery Family Handmade Handmade for Elma Quilting Work in Progress

Red, white and sewing


With Pip now warmly clad for the winter it’s been time to turn my attention to the forthcoming season.  Not so much the one that begins with a C; I’m willing myself into a state of blissful denial about the relatively short amount of time I have in which to produce anything handmade for that one but first, and most importantly, we have Elma’s second birthday and I’m making her a quilt.

Technically I was making her a quilt for her last Christmas present. And then when that didn’t happen I was really truly going to make it in time for Easter. Well we all know how that plan turned out but I am determined to finish it before 12 December, and not just because Kitty got a quilt for her birthday and I feel that the years of rigorous sibling equality are upon us.

It’s a companion quilt to the one I made for Kitty when she was one (yes, I know, sibling equality!), made up of 25 squares of various Il Était Une Fois prints.

But where Kitty’s is all Les Manoues prints, Elma’s is a mixture of some of the Les Manoues prints that I didn’t use for Kitty, and some of the gorgeously irresistible Part à la Mer – including all the ones that come ready to be embroidered.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


I’m going to claim that that’s made it all a little more time consuming, the bit that I’m clinging to as my excuse for why it’s taken quite so long to make what is really a very simple quilt.

I’ve been stitching a little bit here and there, but usually got diverted by a more pressing deadline or just the lure of a little knitting, but I’m being good now, and virtually monogamous.  Virtually because very little will stop me queuing up projects on Ravelry during the night feeds and then piling up little balls of yarn on the end of the sofa to match.  My stash organising is turning out to be both very helpful and extraordinarily distracting!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I’m making it sound like the embroidery is a chore to get through and truly nothing could be further than the truth, I just like having lots of things on the go at once.  I’m actually finding the simplicity of the sewing incredibly relaxing.

All I need is the hoop, the current block, my needle and the red thread (DMC 666 if anyone’s curious) and I’m good to go.  I don’t even have to draw the picture, just colour in the lines with backstitch and a few hundred french knots.  It means I can pick it up, sew a couple of stitches and abandon it again without loosing my place or having to consult a pattern, two of the key criteria for any sort of crafting for me while the little ones are around.

I’ve sewn sitting at the table while the girls finish up their lunch, listening to audiobooks with H in the evenings, and I did try to take it in the car recently, though I think that’s going to stay the domain of knitting that I don’t have to look at; potholes and precision being rather mutually exclusive.Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And through the summer and autumn lighthouses, gulls, little boats, big boats, a tiny crab or two and the cutest little beach huts have all taken shape.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

This is the last of the embroidery squares.  One more beach hut and a border of running stitch and water droplets and I’m done.

I know my hands won’t be empty for long, not least because it would probably be a good thing if someone could sit down next to me without risking being overwhelmed with a wooly avalanche but I think I might have to unearth some of my embroidery projects from the tower of waiting that lives in the studio and tuck them on the end of the sofa.

Just not yet. Because I still have a beach hut and a border to sew and then and on to cutting filler squares, squaring up the prints and trying to find an order for each of the picture blocks that tells a story. And I’ve promised myself that on her birthday my littlest girl is going to unwrap a Mummy-made quilt.  Third time lucky – I hope.

Baby Baby Knitting Crafty Ideas Elma Embroidery Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Kitty Knitting

A little knitting in blue


Some people nest. I knit.

Although perhaps I should add that with each additional child I knit with increasing slowness yet identical expectations about what I can realistically achieve in any given time frame.  I did say there was a reason why Natalie Lue’s statement at Blogtacular, “You will always have more ideas than time. This is OK” seemed particularly apt!  I mean right now I’ve got plans (and the fabric) for a couple of summer dresses for the girls, I’m a couple of seams away from having a quilt back to go with a quilt front that I made for Kitty, I’m embroidering panels for a quilt for Elma (lots of boats and seashells), I want to take the girls on a photo walk, I’ve a million and one different things I want to do with the blog and a gazillion and one different things I want to write about. Oh, and the small matter of my husband, family, home and that thing they call gainful employment!

But for today, lets talk about the knitting. Well some of it anyway.  I’m sure if we look hard enough around my house we’d find a bit more.  Actually, I know we would because as well as any long buried WIPs that I’m pretending not to know about I’m also knitting, or rather attempting to knit a crazy ruffle scarf to go in the girls’ dressing up box.  Think feather boa but without the shedding of feathers.  It’s going to be amazing, but “going to be” is probably the crucial phrase there!

I have finished one little project for the Little Bump, a favourite Baby Surprise Jacket (what else) in some very special yarn.  I finally managed to add the buttons in a quiet moment yesterday afternoon and it’s had a little wash and is currently blocking (in all senses of the word) on my ironing board.

The other big knit for Little Bump of course has to be an Alice Starmore blanket.  I’m never entirely sure how much knitting knowledge to assume around here but suffice to say that if you know nothing about knitting or knitting designers (hi Dad!), Alice Starmore is queen of the fairisle patterns.  She has an incredible sense of colour and pattern that somehow takes the simple fairisle rules of only two colours in a row (one in each hand) and from them creates masterpieces.  Kitty has a Point Reyes blanket, Elma an Elephants, and Little Bump is going to be the warm and toasty owner of a Widdecombe Fair.

Well at some point.  This is as far as I’ve got.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

If I pin it out you can see the legs and tail of the horse!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Hmm, yes. It needs to be cot sized with a border on it before Little Bump arrives – guess what I’m going to be doing on the first few weeks of my maternity leave!  The bit that makes it such a lovely knit, and explains the lack of progress, is that you do have to pay attention; I can’t knit just with my fingers, I have to engage brain as well – or I find that I’ve entirely abandoned the pattern in favour of knitting stitches in alternate colours, and that’s the point when even the most determined finisher puts down the wool and heads to bed.  It’s also not the smallest of projects to cart around, and I’m going to claim that’s the sole reason for the existence of this,

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

and absolutely nothing to do with a serial lack of willpower!  Well I needed a little something for the train on the way to London last week.  And that is where I knit most of it, on the train down and back, and on the train back in to London from my sister’s house on Saturday morning, to the slightly curious glances of the other passengers on the Northern Line.

It’s Ysolda’s Wee Liesl pattern, in a suitable size for Elma (18-24 months) in some very special yarn (because life is too short not to knit with very special yarn).  This is my handspun, from an Old Maiden Aunt batt called Two-Thirds Water, that I bought at the very first Knit Nation, long long ago when I was heavily pregnant with Kitty.  I spun it back in the day when I could still get to my spinning wheel, which dates it at some way pre-Elma, and in as far as I can remember it’s a merino/silk mix.  It’s squishy, soft and the blues ripple across it like water on a swimming pool.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Whether it ends up long sleeved, short sleeved, or no sleeves at all is going to entirely depend on how much yarn I’ve got.  I’m pretty sure I’ve not got enough for full on long sleeves, but I’m going to knit the body and then divide up what’s left and knit sleeves until I run out.  I just hope I finish it before Elma grows any more, because frankly it’s gorgeous!

And yes I know, I look at these pictures, I look at the pile on the end of the sofa, I think of all the ideas whizzing around in my head and it becomes clear.  I’m going to have to work out how to do the washing up in my sleep – it’s the only way!




Christmas Crafty Ideas Elma Embroidery Family Handmade Kitty Sewing

To lighten the darkness


Perhaps it’s the universal nature of babies; small, cute, prone to sleeping during the day; that they will sleep through many of what you consider their important firsts.  Elma slept through her first crib service aged 2 weeks 2 days, most of her first Christmas (2 weeks, 3 days), her first family party (2 weeks 5 days), and a good stretch of her own christening.

And now we can add another; she slept through her first trip to choose a Christmas tree, tucked up in the Ergo on my front, snug, warm and ever so gently snoring.  Well, after a week in which the impending arrival of two tiny little front teeth has left her sad, hot and sleepless, there isn’t much that would be worth waking her for.

And so, for the fourth year running, the duties of tree selection went to the sharp eyed team of Kitty and H.

The rejects were “too anorexic” (H), “too wobbly” (Kitty), “just not our tree” (H) or “maybe just no” (Kitty), oh, and “too big, it’s taller than you!” (me – to H, who looses all sense of the size of our lounge the minute he gets outside)

Until at last, on the verge of seeing feathery green fronds burned into our retinas every time we shut our eyes, we rounded a corner and there it sat, our tree; not too tall, deeply green, and plump with bauble-ready branches.

It fit in the car (just) and spent Saturday afternoon sat on the patio giving me half a fright every time I caught sight of it out of the corner of my eye and thought it was a person.

And on Sunday morning, in the pre-dawn dark, when two pairs of bright eyes decided that it was getting up time, and the sleepy eyes that followed them downstairs saw no reason to protest, we dragged the boxes down from our half landing where they’d spent the last year waiting to be put away somewhere else, and opened up the treasure chests of rustle and sparkle.




A green and gold tree skirt, H’s reindeer stocking with the jingle bells, my little Father Christmas, and the stockings that I made for the girls, miles of tinsel, and then little bundles of tissue paper, boxes from chocolates long gone, all holding memories.  The bauble with Kitty’s hand and footprints, 12 weeks old, made for her first Christmas; the white ball that jingles as it moves that we gave Elma last year; the candy striped sphere that H and I bought for our first Christmas together; and memories of every holiday we’ve been on together.


H and I put the really special and the really fragile ornaments up at the top of the tree and this year for the first time Kitty could really join in, hanging my felt ornament trios, plastic gingerbread boys and girls and made-by-Kitty-at-nursery ornaments all over the lower branches.  Elma, wide awake this morning, tried to box dive whenever we weren’t looking, and, after Kitty shared a pre-breakfast Father Christmas, turned a chocolatey smile on all and sundry.


And so this is our tree:

Christmas tree decorating

It’s multi-coloured, eclectic, full of memories and a rather astonishing number of handmade ornaments (I think I forget in these rather barren crafty times just how prolific I used to be!), and most importantly it fills our house with lights, anticipation and that delicious smell of Christmas tree.

Now that we have the tree up, Christmas is really truly coming; it’s a cast iron (cast wood?) excuse for all the festivey sorts of things that you’re itching to do but don’t want to do ‘too soon’; now there can be wall to wall carols and Michael Buble Christmas on the radio; even more glittery afternoons than usual; and a kitchen with fugged up windows and the most delicious smells sneaking out under the door.

But before all that, there is one more first to record; because on the basis that we bought an decorated Tree 2012 almost a fortnight before madam made her arrival, I’m declaring this one to be Elma’s first Christmas tree.  And if that’s not an excuse for some really fuzzy, still-in-our-pyjamas, first thing in the morning family photos, well frankly I don’t know what is!


I think H’s expression reads “If I’d known there were going to be photos I’d have made a lot more coffee” – oh my dear boy, there are always going to be photos!



Elma: scene stealing since December 2012!!


Christmas Cross Stitch Embroidery Finished Handmade Knitting Sewing

Snow Day


It’s official.  I’m ready for Christmas.

Space for the Butterflies - Alicia Paulson - Posie Gets Cozy - Snow Day Ornament Kit

Christmas 2010 that is.

Because yes, with loud hurrahs and a general feeling of pleasant accomplishment I have finished the Snow Day set of Christmas ornaments.  A mere three years after the kit plopped through my letter box.

I think every year I say I’m going to make a mahoosive effort and catch up with myself, and so far I am slightly less behind than I was last year, and I’ve every intention to get started on the Sweet Home set before this Christmas.  But I’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter.

I really love making them.  I love cutting out little bits of felt, I love the embroidery, and I love that while I don’t really want them to be chewed on, and we have distinct rules about touching the Christmas tree (namely don’t) if a tiny hand strays in the direction of the lowest branches it’s owner won’t come to too much harm with one of these.

I think Snow Day might be my favourite set so far, and not just because it included my gateway craft, cross-stitch, the use of waste canvas, which I’d always wanted to try, and a touch of my faithful knitting in the little scarf keeping Mr Polar Bear snuggly warm.  They’re just such an evocative trio, warm mittens, a gorgeous red coat and a snowy polar bear, it’s what I want winter in England to be, well I’ll keep the snow and let the polar bear stay in the arctic; I think he’d feel a little out of place in Warwickshire.

Space for the Butterflies - Alicia Paulson - Posie Gets Cozy - Snow Day Ornament Kit

I can’t do much about the snow, but I’ve got fairisle mittens and if I see a red coat like that in the shops this year I think it might have to come and live at my house.

Dressing to match your Christmas tree ornaments; is it a step too far? and does it rank above or below dressing to match your daughters? (for the record, Kitty and I had matching pyjamas one year and I thought it was awesome!).

Alicia’s latest kit, Night Before Christmas sold out in a ridiculously short space of time (but not before I’d got my order in – phew!) but if you’re at all tempted, she sells PDF patterns of all of the kits, and kits for all five previous years are in stock at the moment.  Why yes, the word “Enabler” is flashing above my head in neon lights right now, however did you know?

Embroidery Exploring Inspiration Quilting Sewing



My creativity is what makes me me, and without a little refuge in yarn or fibre or baking or photography or writing, the things that shouldn’t be a challenge suddenly seem insurmountable; the house feels like it will never be tidy or free of spiders again, there’s always laundry or washing up staring me down if I so much as think about picking up the needles, and I get to the end of the day with the certain knowledge that nothing I have achieved today will stay done tomorrow. It’s enough to drive anyone to ‘rescue’ the emergency Smarties from the door of the fridge.

So I try to carve out a little time as insurance against a fit of the grumpys; a few stitches knit while the girls are finishing breakfast, even if it means that I’ll be washing scrambled egg out of the yarn when I block it, a little writing while Elma sleeps, tunnel vision blocking out the rest of the dining room table and its clutter of baby wipes, empty orange juice bottles, two story books, Kitty’s abandoned pirate hat and half a blue wax crayon, and a little plotting of fabric and pattern across the end of the ironing board, while the shirts sit waiting in a pile beside me.

Creativity cannot exist in isolation, it’s one of the reasons I love blogs so much, and how and why I started blogging in the first place, way back in the days when my clothes were cleaner and my needles more productive. But sometimes you need a little more recharging, more than blogs or magazines or books can provide; a little immersion therapy.

And every summer it lands pretty much on my doorstep in the form of the Festival of Quilts.Quilts Collage9

Even carrying Elma in the sling I took a gazillion photographs (although with some rather extraordinary horizons when my tiny assistant started eating the camera strap). We spent four hours wandering up and down, just drinking it all in; quilts that are gorgeously technical, stunningly beautiful colours, and the ones that had me itching to get home and fire up the sewing machine.

The winning quilts were just amazing


So many hours of work, and such detail that I would have to sit on my head for a week to figure out even where to start.

This was the Group Quilt winner, folded concertina-style and displayed so that you saw one of the two pictures as you came around the corner, and only noticed the existence of the other as you actually went past.

Quilts Collage

And from the ones that got away:

PicMonkey Collage

A whole year’s blog in quilt format; a sweet idea and practical for snuggling under afterwards! To save you squinting it’s 23×16 – that’s 368 squares including “watched Olympics opening ceremony”, “watched Olympics closing ceremony”, “bought pyjamas” and finally “Finished quilt – phew!”

Quilts Collage4

A few phone upgrades in the 15 years I’ve known H mean that I could never accurately produce something like this myself, nor I suspect do I have the drive, and given that the last two texts in my phone are “Ok!” and a message to tell me he tried to call and I missed it, it’s probably for the best. It’s a clever concept though, and impressively executed.

Quilts Collage 6

Ah the flowers; surrounded by a swarm of buzzing quilters every time we walked past, they were just gorgeous.

Quilts Collage5

And this, I have no idea how this didn’t win a prize, except that I think it may have been up against the geese, a wholecloth quilt, handpainted and quilted with every spiral and twirl you could ever want, as well as the words to Flower of Scotland around the side.

I never really think of myself as having a distinct quilting style, but in looking back through my pictures I can easily spot the themes, and make a few predictions of what I might be making in the not so distant future.

Quilts Collage 8

Too much exposure to snowflake quilts is almost certainly going to result in my wanting to make some snowy bunting to put up at Christmas or the New Year (just don’t ask which New Year).

Quilts Collage7

And my unfailing radar for anything Liberty print brought me to these stars, each piece fussy cut to give a kaleidoscope effect and pieced to nest them tightly together. The whole thing was at least double bed sized but each star was only about the size of my palm. I suspect that this could only be done by English Paper Piecing, and it’s definitely hand quilted which makes it all the more impressive.

But if you’re going for impressive, it can only be hexagons


(I so desperately want to make this into a postcard, or maybe wallpaper!)

A rainbow of hexies, a handful of diamonds and the occasional triangle, in a lovely fresh palette. That in itself is worthy of praise but there are two things you should know (and you may need to sit down for this).

Firstly, they’re tiny

Quilt Collage3

I’m not touching the quilt (hence the dodgy focus) but you can see by my shadow that I’m not that far away either. These hexies are the size of my index finger, and the diamonds and triangles are smaller. Just thinking about manipulating fabric cut that small without it fraying or distorting into oblivion brings a knot to my stomach.

Oh and secondly:


It was huge!

Stars, snowflakes, hexagons and Liberty prints; you’ll see it here first – in about five years time of course, although possibly not to quite that scale.

And as for Elma, well judging by the “Ah! bwa! bwa! bwa!” announcing our impending arrival to anyone within earshot, the little hands that stretched out for any passing lens caps that dangled too close, the radiant smiles for everyone who took the time to tickle her toes and ask her if she was going to be a quilter one day, and the contented little sighs as she snuggled into my shoulder for a nap, I think she rather enjoyed it.