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Handmade for Elma

Embroidery Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Knitting

A pair of Urchins {handmade for Kitty and Elma}

20/01/2017

Every now and then I knit something entirely on a whim.

For the most part, my knitting planning runs far far ahead of my fingers’ ability to keep up, as does my sewing and quilting planning for that matter.  Right now I have three projects on the needles, including my big crochet blanket, and the next seven projects lined up ready and waiting.  Even if I haven’t bought all the yarn I need for all of them yet, I know what they’ll be and in what order.  But of course  no one likes being told what to do, even when you’re the one telling yourself, and a little rearranging of the plan is in order.

Space for the Butterflies - Urchin by Ysolda Teague in Rowan Big Wool

So it was with these Urchins.  The initial whim was about wanting to make sure I’d put as much time into Kitty’s handmade Christmas as I had in knitting Elma a cardigan.  When what look to be a relatively simple skort still took me all day to put together, I realised that was silly, and shelved the three rows of hat in favour of getting as much of John’s Christmas socks done before the big day.

But after Christmas, and searching around for a nice portable project to take up to my inlaws as car and chatting knitting, I picked it back up again.  Kitty’s hat whizzed off the needles and was finished while we were there, and while Elma had to wait for me to get home to cast on, smaller hats take less time.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings, a photo project for 2017

Both hats are loved, both hats are worn, and both hats are left at school and so I need to nip back to my Siblings photos for this month for the only evidence of the girls wearing their hats at the same time.

Each hat is knit from one ball of Rowan Big Wool, in I think the colour Champion, at least that looks the nearest on the shade card.  This is moderately deep stash yarn, easily from before the children, saved waiting for a perfect project, and it works brilliantly for Urchin.

Space for the Butterflies - Urchin by Ysolda Teague in Rowan Big Wool

It’s not a hard pattern to knit; you make petal shapes knitting back and forth and graft the ends to make a hat, but like every other Ysolda pattern I’ve made, it’s very clever, and what at the first petal looks incredibly strange, turns into a beautiful beret shaped hat before you know it.

And with that little detour out of the way, I’m back to my plans as before. Well almost.  Because if I’m being honest here, the person who has worn both of these hats the most is a certain tiny wee boy named Pip.  He tried on Kitty’s and it was too big, he tried on Elma’s but it was too beloved by Elma, and then he looked up at me, in firm belief in the power of his Mama’s needles, and said the immortal words: “where mine hat Mama?!”

I’m going to have to do some stash diving for something suitable I suspect – any pattern recommendations?

Also coming under the finish line this week is the first of my Christmas tree decorations for 2017.  Yes really.  Every Christmas I end up collecting a handful of cross stitch and papercraft magazines with gorgeous little cover kits and I swear that I’m going to make them over Christmas and then get far too caught up in the actual getting ready for Christmas and usually some high speed finishing of the Christmas presents to sit down to do a little truly indulgent making.

Space for the Butterflies - Cross Stitcher Cover Kit

Starting in the autumn never works because of a proliferation of birthdays and even Christmas in July passed me by so I’m sewing for Christmas in January.  This is the first that I’ve finished, the cover kit from November’s Cross Stitcher, and even if my sewing up isn’t quite perfect, I love how it turned out.  Now all I have to do is not loose it before next December!

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

Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma

Chickadee {handmade for Elma}

04/01/2017

There are a handful of knitting patterns that I have loved since they were released but never yet knitted.  Most of the time it’s because the right yarn would require shopping, and waiting for it to arrive, and it’s passed over for the instant gratification of another pair of socks, or a little something that’s worked its way to the top strata of the stash.

The love is constant, never wains, and while they may only make it higher up the mental “knit this next” list by a sort of hydraulic pressure from finished projects, neither are they deleted.

Ysolda’s Chickadee pattern is on the list, and so is, or rather, was, Wee Chickadee.

If we’re going to be bluntly honest here, knitting woolies for my children is not the most cost effective way of clothing them.  I like to knit in natural fibres, to the point that I can think of only a couple of yarns in the entire stash where there’s anything extra.  Lovely yarn doesn’t come cheap, and without a shadow of a doubt, I could buy something that would keep the winter chill off for less than the yarn.

There are of course a hundred and one reasons why handmade jumpers still win; the natural fibres, adjusting the fit for my very tall children, being wrapped in the physical expression of their Mama’s love, even when she’s not there, and the buttons. Choosing buttons is at least five reasons in itself.  But there’s got to be some balance in the middle and what it means is that when a cardigan for Elma will take four balls of yarn (ish), buying an extra three because I want to do some colourwork has got to be really worth it.

There was never any doubt that either Chickadee was anything less than awesome; I’ve yet to knit one of Ysolda’s patterns that doesn’t turn out beautifully and make you feel terribly clever in the bargain, but my yarn budget is not unlimited and so it sat, unmoving, on my list.

Years and *cough* lots of years ago, I’d bought three skeins of Quince & Co’s Chickadee, in Delft, Nasturtium and Frost, just to have a little play with.  It was new to the market, knitters were raving about it all over the internet and it was irresistibly soft and plump in person.

Those three skeins sat in my stash, and every now and then I’d pick them up and pet them, and put them back while I went on looking for whatever I needed.  And somehow, and this is where it must have been some sort of knitting magic, my rummaging through the boxes brought four balls of Rowan Pure Wool DK up to the top to sit next to them.

I pulled out the box and there it was, a favourite colour combination all laid out ready to be knit.

Space for the Butterflies: Wee Chickadee, Ysolda Teague, Rowan Pure Wool DK, Quince & Co Chickadee in Delft, Nasturtium and Frost

Now the knitting fates are not that kind and there was one ever so teeny tiny slight hitch; this is DK yarn and the pattern is knit for 4ply. But what’s the point of having two maths A-levels if you can’t occasionally put them to good use.  One set of scribbles calculations on the back of an envelope and I cast on the aged 2 size on 3.75mm needles with the fairly confident expectation that it would end up somewhere between the age 4 and the age 6.

I think I ended up nearer to the 6 than the 4 and it is definitely on the big side for Elma at the moment, but the joy of children is that they grow, and I firmly expect it to be perfect for the middle of August when no doubt it will be colder than it was on Christmas Day!

Space for the Butterflies: Wee Chickadee, Ysolda Teague, Rowan Pure Wool DK, Quince & Co Chickadee in Delft, Nasturtium and Frost

It was a lovely project to knit; interesting in the colourwork and nice and soothing in the ‘my brain does not need any more adventures today’ expanse of nave blue, and I can easily see myself repeating the trick to make a larger size if she ever when she grows out of this one.

Space for the Butterflies: Wee Chickadee, Ysolda Teague, Rowan Pure Wool DK, Quince & Co Chickadee in Delft, Nasturtium and Frost

As well as being interesting, and only a handful of rows, those little birds gave me a schooling in colourwork.  I’ve made a good few stranded knits over the years, including the Magnum Opus Alice Starmore blankets for Kitty, Elma and Pip and I’m pretty competent at knitting with one yarn in each hand, and it gives me nicely spaces floats and pretty stitches.  But I’ve never paid that much attention to which yarn is in which hand, I’ve always used whichever was the most comfortable, usually the yarn with the most stitches in my right hand.  But when I tried that on these little birds, or rather, on their border ribbon, having the orange in my dominant right hand in the first row, and thereby the upper float but in the other hand and the lower float on the next, the two rows blended into one and all I could see was an uneven straight band of orange.  I could sort of push and pull it into place but it just wasn’t having it as a permenant solution.

Space for the Butterflies: Wee Chickadee, Ysolda Teague, Rowan Pure Wool DK, Quince & Co Chickadee in Delft, Nasturtium and Frost

I pulled back to the start of the colourwork, and set out again, each hand sticking strictly to each colour and it worked; all swoops and swirls just as they should be.  I’m not sure I’ll ever entirely cure myself of the habit of letting the main colour be dominant, but on little projects, or on a line I particularly want to make pop, it’s a new skill worth knowing.

Space for the Butterflies: Wee Chickadee, Ysolda Teague, Rowan Pure Wool DK, Quince & Co Chickadee in Delft, Nasturtium and Frost

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for A Lively Style

 

Elma Family Handmade Handmade for Elma Knitting

Camilla {handmade for Elma}

29/12/2016

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

Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Kitty Photography Sewing

Birds, Lollipops and Elephants {handmade for Kitty and Elma}

07/10/2016

As it turns out, the answer to the question “what do you do if you finish your daughter’s birthday present in plenty of time?” is “MAKE MORE!!” So we did.

On our travels this summer we found a wonderful fabric shop in Innsbruck (spoilers I know and I promise to catch up with the Europe adventure soon) that had an entire wall of cotton jersey in every imaginable print and pattern and at a price that I was more than happy to pay for it.  I’ve never actually sewed anything with jersey before, or made any trousers beyond baby rompers but in the spirit of nothing ventured, nothing gained, I set the girls to pick a favourite each and John and I chose a couple for Pip.

Back home I obediently washed and dried and ironed the fabric and then waited to gather some courage.  I’d thought I’d try copying some existing pairs like I did in the summer to make Pip’s shorts but then I was reading through some favourite blogs and someone, and they’ll have to forgive me for forgetting who, mentioned the Oliver + S tunic and leggings pattern and it started to look awfully familiar.  Sure enough, one quick ransack of the studio later and there it was, and even better, there it was in the larger sizes.

And so rather than starting at Pip-sized and working up, I started with Kitty’s choice, just in time for her birthday.  I used the age 10 pattern with no extra length added; it’s a perfect fit in the legs and if it comes up a little high on the waist well that will just keep her all the warmer in the winter.

You know your children have grown when you find yourself sitting on the hall floor to trace the pattern and cut out the pieces; no more dainty little frocks that can be cut out at my desk for me.  The pattern is just two pieces, perfect for a first ever effort, and I cut them individually to try to get some pattern matching.  I tried tracing the white circles on the first piece onto the pattern and then lining them up when I flipped it over to cut the other side but somehow while the back lined up perfectly, the front is a smidge out.  It’s not enough to be jarring to the eye, especially is Miss Kitty wears them twizzled around her legs like a candy cane, but I’ve still not quite figured out why.  I think I need to practice with some little pieces to see if I can figure it out.

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I have owned an overlocker for a little under four years.  It was my Mum’s and as Dad decided that he was unlikely to take up overlocking as a hobby, he gave it to me, and it’s sat on the shelf for all those years waiting for its time.  All I remember of the overlocker is that Mum said it was horribly difficult to thread and I was never allowed to play with it.  I was in my late teens by the time she bought it so she probably thought I should just get my own.

I tried having a play with it as it was, but one of the spools was nearly out of thread and I didn’t know that you needed to telescope up the thread guides and my first practice sews were the garbled mess you can imagine.  So I did what you should probably only ever do once; I pulled out all the thread, grabbed some other spools, opened the book and decided to work out how to thread it myself.  It’s painstaking yes, but not impossible, though if I ever run out of thread or want to change colour I’m going to do what the book says and pull it through on the end of the old colour, and it’s given me a much better idea of what’s doing what.

It also sewed much more nicely after I’d read the book – who’d have thought!

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In the end the leggings were a piece of cake; three seams and some edging.  I also finally got my twin needles out of its wrapper after 15 years of owning my sewing machine for the finishing touches so it’s been a project full of new adventures.

And as Kit has been asking for her leggings, pretty much since we got back from travelling, she was very excited to unwrap them and have them finally made.

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But they were finished with a whole clear day before her birthday, and that would never do would it?  John phoned me at work the afternoon before the big day, he’d been looking for a big cushion for her to sit on when she curls up in the corner with a book but hadn’t found anything big enough or nice enough to part with the kind of money on the price tag so I was dispatched to John Lewis on the way home.  Well none of their cushions were big enough or nice enough either so at 6pm I found myself in the haberdashery department accompanied by a large square pillow from the bedding section, eyeing up the fabric selection.  The winner was a Rowan print called Chloe Lollipop, and it, the pillow, my work bags and I squished ourselves onto the train home.

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It’s just a simple pillowcase cushion cover, whizzed up in an hour or so but she absolutely loves it; its the cushion she carries around the house with her and takes out into the garden.  It’s those kind of times that I am so glad that I can make things.  It’s a very simple project, probably one of the first things you’d make if you were learning to sew and yet it meant that I could turn John’s vision into reality, and if that’s not a reason to sew then what could be?

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And finally, back to leggings.  Because once I’d made one pair and realised just how easy it was, there was really no excuse to hold back on the rest.

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I haven’t got to Pip’s yet, but this week I cut out the size five and in an evening made up Elma’s elephants.  Truth be told, the age 5 is a smidge on the big side for her, but the joy of ‘too big’ in children’s clothes is that you only have to wait a month or so before it becomes ‘just right’.

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Which only leaves Pip; but his boats and monkeys will have to wait for another day!

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

Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Handmade for Pip Kitty Pip Sewing

Campervans, Campervans and more Campervans {handmade for Kitty, Elma and Pip}

02/09/2016

The sensible part of my brain told me that I needed sleep, that we were too busy packing and organising, that the children have more than enough clothes, that I really didn’t need to, and the creativity replied “but I want to”

I wanted my girls to have their matching camper van skirts for going on our adventures, just like I’d planned way back when, especially since their auntie had given them retro t-shirts that said “happy camper”, in pink and everything.

And so it was that in the last few days before we set off on holiday, when knitting and crochet and anything too finicky was still out of bounds to let my arm and elbow recover, I measured and cut and sewed.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

This is the fourth and fifth time that I’ve made The Purl Bee’s Skirt for all Ages; I’ve not quite got to the point where I can made them just from the measurements but we’re getting close! It’s a really clever pattern that’s so easy to make and makes such a pretty and practical skirt. The girls love them for the pockets and because the have a good twirl and you can’t ask for more than that.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Last summer’s skirts have been handed down so Kitty’s is in Elma’s wardrobe and Elma’s is waiting for the day someone in the family has a little girl to dress, but the winter skirt I made for Kitty is still going strong thanks to a bit of extra length (I wrote some instructions on how to add length here). For this time round I made the age 4 for Elma and the 10 for Kitty, with another inch of added length so that it might last more than five minutes. Elma’s fits to the knee and Kitty’s goes just past it.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Experience always makes you faster, as does working in a production line rather than making one and then the other like I did the first time, so it took me a couple of evenings before I was measuring the waist elastic on them and sewing in the final seam. They looked adorable.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

And then I looked back at my sewing table, and the pile of fabric there. H and I had guestimated how much fabric we’d need for both skirts when we bought it on our wedding anniversary trip to Harrogate and it seemed we’d rather over-estimated. By about half a metre or so. Just enough to maybe, just maybe…

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

…to make a matching pair of shorts?!

Space for the Butterflies - Purl Bee A Skirt for all Ages

I didn’t use a pattern per se for these, I just found a pair of shorts that fit Pip at the moment, folded them in half and drew around them, then added seam allowances for a rough pattern.  I kept them as simple as possible, cutting around my pattern on the fold to create two legs, with one seam each down the inseam.

Space for the Butterflies - VW Campervan Shorts

And speaking of that inseam, I thought of using a french seam to give a nice neat soft finish that wouldn’t rub on little legs but I wasn’t 100% sure of the construction at that point so I used a seam finish I remember reading about somewhere but can’t remember what it’s called ; I cut one seam allowance down by half, folded the other one over the top, and sewed the whole thing down.  It goes you a little line of stitching next to the seam on the right hand side of the fabric but I still think it looks pretty smart, it’s a nice smooth finish so it won’t rub on baby skin, and frankly who is going to be staring at the inside leg of a fast moving toddler?

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Once I had the legs finished I put one inside the other, right sides facing, and sewed around.  I couldn’t decide on a fancy seam finish here given that it was going to be going around a curve so I just zig-zagged this one (it being quite late at night at this point possibly came into it as well!) but even after been worn all over Europe it’s holding up just fine.

In an ideal world I would have cut the shorts deep enough to use the top of them folded over to form a waistband casing, but when I tried them on Pip they were only just passable, and a bit too low rise to be truly comfy, so I undid all the stitching and made a separate piece for the waistband in basically the same fashion as the ones on the girls’ skirts.

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And there we have them, a finished pair of shorts that I could have made in a couple of hours (including drafting the pattern) had I not mucked up the waistband and had to do it again the next day.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Pip loved them, and still loves them, he calls them his “dorts” and they were his favourite thing to wear all through our holiday and what he asked for almost every morning.  And if he’s prepared to offer that level of adoration to mama-made clothes I am certain that there can be more pairs in his future.  Although I may have to ask his opinion on the style next time because when they all got dressed up the first time and we took these photos and the girls were jumping around with their hands in their pockets the first thing he said was: “Mama! Where mine pockets!?”.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Pockets next time, it’s a deal.

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