Wednesday, December 22, 2010

22nd of Advent

It's not even a year since I completed this sweater from some yarn left over from a different project. It got a good lot of wear until the warmer weather, not to mention a bit of abuse when P, teenager style, pushed his thumb through one of the sleeves just below the cuff. Going through yet another as-yet-unpacked box the other day, searching in vain for lost Christmas stockings, I found it, along with the remains of the leftover yarn. I wasn't quite ready to give up seeing him wearing it, since it had turned out to be one of those charmed unplanned projects that turn out really well, so I decided it was time for a bit of 'make do and mend'- something quite refreshing in this season of spending and excess.
When I originally made this sweater, the difficulties of measuring a wriggly toddler meant I made the body and arms too short. I discovered this fact after I'd finished it and tried it on him, but then also discovered that the advantage of 'top down' sweaters is that you can undo the bottom edges, pick up the stitches and add some more. This came to mind when I found that P has grown a good few inches in arms and body over the summer, so I needed the sweater to 'grow' with him this season.

Here you can see the hole where P had stuck his thumb through the sleeve.

I inserted a circular needle into an unbroken row of stitches below the hole, then frogged the sleeve down to that point.

Then it was just a case of joining in the new yarn and adding a few more stripes and a new ribbed border.

Hole mended and inches added, it should last another season at least. Wonder how many years I can get away with it?!?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

21st of Advent

Given that we're at Winter Solstice, it's probably appropriate that we've had some loooong nights around here. A nasty cold bug continues to make the littles miserable, and today C is in bed with it. So far I've escaped, which may well mean I'm due for a dose on Christmas Day! Still, despite this, I managed to get the last of my 'elving' done last night, with these doll nappies and change mat. They are heading for P's little friend, who is about to become a big sister for the first time. P had some play nappies for his doll when M was born and I thought it was a lovely idea. I used the pattern from Anna Maria Horner's Handmade Beginnings for the nappies, using terry towelling for the inside and some left over babycord from M's dresses for the outside. The change mat is simply a rectangle of cotton print with a rectangle of wool/cotton quilt batting and a rectangle of brushed cotton. I had a bit of fun with the embroidery foot on my sewing machine to doodle on it, having earlier threatened my machine with the sack when it wouldn't work properly for some reason. I believe my threats included "I'll get rid of you and get an antique hand sewing machine, then you'll be sorry." Maybe this is a sign that I could really do with more sleep, but it seemed to work!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

20th of Advent

After a weekend of equal parts yuck- two children and a husband with nasty colds, disastrous attempt at fudge making, snow stopping friends and vital parcel deliveries arriving- and yum- a sister who made it over for Sunday lunch, fence panels mended and some rather good brownies made from salvaged fudge mixture- we are on the final march to the big day. Despite feeling the effects of rather a lot of missed sleep, I have got some 'elving' done and all the presents are sewn, blocked, finished off and wrapped with the exception of those still in the post (aargh!) and one more thing that I really, really will finish tonight. Other than that and a whole load of dull domestic chores, all we can really do now is wait and hope that the weather doesn't scupper our plans.
I have also (somehow! I don't know how!) managed to finish M's winter woolly outfit. It's a sort of dungarees that will hopefully solve the cold toes/ankles problem as it has integral socks. I made it using a free pattern called 'Pepita' on Ravelry by Martina Behm. I knitted it on slightly larger needles than the pattern specified, using Araucania Ranco Multy sock yarn (two different shades for a number of reasons, but it doesn't really show or matter much) as M is at the upper end of the age range. As it turns out, the whole thing was in danger of being so huge she wouldn't have fitted it until next winter, but a few reductions here and there means it's roomy but not ridiculous. There's a little more detail about that on my Ravelry notes. This weather is enough to make me wish they did one in my size!

Friday, December 17, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

16th of Advent

Over on Soule Mama she calls it 'elving'- getting all those jobs done to prepare presents for Christmas. It's what I should be doing, but for some reason I just don't seem to be motivated at the moment, despite running out of time fast! One distraction is getting hold of some more Auracania Multy so I can keep going with making this winter wooly for M. It's going to be some dungarees with feet, made using a pattern from Ravelry. Even though I'm having to use magic loop, it's quite easy knitting and I'm just enjoying the steady rhythm. I'll elve later, I promise!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

14th of Advent

We fed some reindeer today! If they were Santa's then by the time Christmas Eve comes around they're in danger of being too fat to fly, given how popular feeding them at the local animal park is. Taking advantage of the free entry on offer through the winter, we enjoyed what is apparently a temporary thaw wandering round and looking in awe at giraffes, tigers and the afore-mentioned reindeer. P is gradually building up a picture of what this season is about, with the tree he can't resist fiddling with at least twenty times a day (first bauble casualty of the year this morning!), 'Father Mistmass' as that jolly fellow is currently known- we haven't the heart to correct him- the advent calendars, cards and of course the Nativity scene we added to the Season display this morning.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

12th of Advent

A trawl through the address book and a sore writing hand means that all our cards are ready to take to the Post Office tomorrow.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

11th of Advent

Although I only began making it a few days ago, M's Christmas bear is completed, thanks to a few evenings in front of the TV. It's a nice, easy pattern from Debbie Bliss' Simply Baby, all in garter stitch and without too much fiddly shaping or construction. The eyes and nose are darned on in wool rather than using sewn on pieces of felt as suggested, since I thought it would be a little bit safer if she chews on them (she is a very chewy baby!) The yarn is Baby Cashmerino as suggested in the pattern, but instead of the putty colour I used for P's bear I chose a deep golden yellow that reminded me of those old Steiff bears you see in antique shows worth a small fortune. Can't see M's bear ever being worth much in sterling, but hopefully it will be precious to her!

Friday, December 10, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

9th of Advent

I'm quite happy to report that this year I'm not responsible for the full on Christmas feast. Much as I enjoyed preparing it last year, it will be nice to be off duty a bit this year. However, I have volunteered to provide the mince pies, so yesterday, armed with a copy of Good Housekeeping which has a truly sinful recipe including double cream in the pastry as well as orange zest and spice and cider and all those wonderful things that make the kitchen smell of Christmas, P and I took to the kitchen.
Now, I have a bit of a thing about knives and sharp things. My misadventures last advent haven't really helped with this. But my thinking is that if I teach the children how to use knives safely then they are less likely to get hold of them and fool about. So yesterday I took a deep breath and let P use a very sharp kitchen knife to chop up apples for the mincemeat. Obviously no photos as I was busy keeping his free hand and both my hands out of the way of the blade. He was actually very sensible and we both have all our digits present and correct still.

After that it was a bit of fun with the electric orange squeezer (yes, it could have been done by hand, but why not have the fun?), not to mention another lesson in being careful with a zester.

Then a first time stirring something hot on the hob.

Careful spooning of flour into the mixer for pastry...

...and more fun with pressing buttons that make things go whizz!

And lo! Batch #1 of the Christmas mince pies are nestled in the freezer ready for the big day.
Meanwhile, with the temperature a balmy 5 degrees above freezing, the snow is rapidly disappearing just in time for P's Daddy to have daylight time to spend playing out with him. Never mind- if that was November/early December then we may yet have snow fun to come this winter!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

8th of Advent

How many hundreds of babies over the years must have received a homemade soft toy for their first Christmas present? P has grown to love the bear I made for him before he was born, to the extent that 'Edmund' has had to have rather a lot of running repairs and doesn't look nearly as neat as he does here anymore, darned as he is in yarn that only sort-of matches his original colour. When I've finished this golden yellow version for M, I'm going to save the extra yarn for repairs, in the hope that she loves her one in the same way (although perhaps without the ear-chewing). Maybe if one day she's a mother she'll understand the love that is knitted into every row, sewn into every stitch of a toy made by a parent for their little one. Even if she never understands, it's there all the same.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

7th of Advent

Well, our part of the world caught up with the rest of the country in getting the Christmas card style weather last night. Actually, pretty though it is (positively Narnian with our 'unique' garden ornaments, the lamp posts!) it's not such great fun with a toddler and a baby. She is too little to enjoy being outside in the cold, even wrapped up, which means that he can't really get to experience playing the in white stuff until the weekend when his Daddy is home during daylight hours. Let's hope it lasts that long, even if it means being stuck indoors- it's not as if I don't have things to be getting on with...eep! Only a couple more weeks to get a lot of knitting, making and baking done!

Monday, December 6, 2010

6th of Advent

Wow! That was a crazy day getting ready, but it was worth it in the end. No photos of the party I'm afraid, as it was all go and no time to pick up the camera. But above you can see the St Nicholas figure I made, along with the three girls from the story. I used these to do a little puppet show about the St Nicholas day story. We also played a couple of party games with the littles- including pass the parcel where the wrapping was socks (keeping up the stocking theme!) We feasted on pizza and mince pies, so all in all it was a curious mish-mash of traditions and inventions that just worked, somehow. We sent our three little girl guests home in handknitted Santa hats and clutching the gingerbread initials we iced yesterday...and with promises that next year we'll do it all again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5th of Advent

Tomorrow we're having a St Nicholas day party tomorrow evening and these biscuits will form part of the celebrations. It really will be lovely and I'll write more about why tomorrow. At the moment, after a slightly challenging weekend away thanks to freezing weather and non-sleeping children, with shopping and preparation to do in the morning I'm having to remind myself that it really is a good idea for establishing our own tradition. Deep breaths and keep knitting...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

4th of Advent

This is what my lovely friend sent to give me a bit of early Christmas cheer. I'm meant to make the tea, but it's making the room smell gorgeously of spice and oranges so I don't think I'll be brewing it any time soon!

Friday, December 3, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2nd of Advent

The tree is up! We both agreed that this was the earliest we've ever put a tree up in our lives, but they aren't cheap (we tried keeping one in a pot last year but it didn't survive) so we want to get the most out of our investment. Also, we have plans for an early Christmas party on St Nicholas' day next week, so wanted to make the house festive in time for that. We definitely don't have matchy-matchy themed ornaments and decorations, having gradually bought one or two special things each year since we've been together. Some of the tree decorations are ones I handmade some years ago. Now we have children too, their decorations will no doubt be added to our traditions. It's already happened with our somewhat less than traditional tree-topper:

A 'reindeer' made by P when he was at Nursery last year. Apparently he stuck the eyes on himself!
There is also this knitted stocking given to P by his Great Grandma last year. As I write, Father Christmas is still in his chimney. How long he'll remain there is yet to be seen!

These trees are something I made years ago based on an idea whose source I forget now:

While these mini stockings I knitted from this free pattern last year.

And so our Christmas traditions are growing, organically and to my eyes rather beautifully.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

1st of Advent

When you teach in Primary school, there comes a certain time in the winter term when you realise it's time to break out the glitter. Christmas crafts beckon and compete for time with Nativity play rehearsals so you take a deep breath, sweet talk the cleaner and resign yourself to a good few weeks of having everything ever so slightly sparkling, from the carpet to your face to your lunchtime sandwiches. As I'm on a break from teaching just now I don't actually have to do the glitter thing but it must be something inherent in a teacher's nature that come the end of November, it's glitter time. It began with the crafts for the winter season table and continued with the Christmas cards I've made for this year.
I considered the idea of making decorations to send people instead of Christmas cards this year. I'm torn between dislike of the waste of binned Christmas cards at the end of the season and the fact that most of our family and good friends live far enough away that sending Christmas cards is important. I'm just not sold on the idea of e-cards and thought that making something that might be kept and used another year would be nice. Well, it would be if it didn't mean making dozens of whatever we send. In the end, for reasons of economy and to satisfy my taste, I made something- and for reasons of time and to retain my sanity, it was cards not decorations. Cards whose construction mainly involved glue and...glitter. I now understand why there are lots more people who do craft for fun than make money from craft. Doing something once is fun, doing it fifty times is less fun. I had to do what I labelled my 'Christmas Card Sweatshop' sessions in batches, making 10 or so each evening until we had enough. Which meant that each day meant a fresh dusting of the sparkly stuff over everything. Oh well, it's only once a year...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Maeve's Reversible Pinafore Dress

It's been a while but I've finally managed to write a 'How To' for the reversible pinafore dress I created after being inspired by Anna Maria Horner's 'Quick Change Pants' (from Handmade Beginnings). There have been a few changes since the original version, mainly the addition of bias binding to finish the hem and neckline, which I think gives it a much neater and professional look.
So here (hopefully) is the link for the PDF. I decided to share it this way as the instructions are a bit lengthy for a blog post.
Do share with others, let me know what you think, and send me pics if you have a go!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

We may not have the bright lights of the big city round here, but we do pretty well for little town festivals and celebrations. The town we lived in until the summer has a wonderful Christmas tree festival in its Church each year, launched by a Christmas procession through the town. Since there is a Wild Animal Park just nearby, the Christmas procession includes a real donkey for Mary and real camels for the Wise men! I got a sneak preview of the Christmas Tree festival when we had to find an emergency place to feed M- it felt very seasonal to be a woman seeking a room for her and her baby on a cold winter's night! The idea is that lots of community groups decorate trees around the Church and collect money for charities. I couldn't get pictures since I was juggling a still grumpy M and an empty buggy, while C chased P, who was overcome with the urge to touch all the glittery loveliness, but take my word for it, the spectacle is magic.
M certainly made her presence felt last night- I think she objected to the cold despite her brand new 'Snow Gnome' hat, a last minute improvisation with some spare chunky wool I had lying around- pattern on Ravelry now. Funny to think that this time last year she was not much more than a little secret sparkle as we waited for a New Year scan. Now she's such an integral part of the family, and asserting her growing personality more each day.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seasons Change

I had already planned to change our new Seasonal display this weekend, and right on cue this was the snowy scene out of the kitchen window as I cooked up an indulgent full English breakfast this morning. We can claim the breakfast as medicinal since three out of four of us have had a truly awful cold the last couple of days, with number four making up for her lack of cold with teething pains. Thankfully we all seem to be on the mend, even if there is no sign of actual teeth yet.

I'd already broken out the glitter earlier in the week when P and I prepared a backdrop for the Winter display. I was originally looking for some dark blue card, but then I saw this dark indigo felt and thought 'Why not?'. We used cotton buds dipped in PVA glue to create the stars and moon, with glitter heaped on top, then the excess shaken off to settle over everything inside and outside the house, probably until next July. Cotton buds are great for controlling how much gloopy stuff- glue, paint etc- an enthusiastic toddler transfers from pot to artwork. With a bit of experience I've seen lovely pointellism (spelling?) effects using this method.

Since the glitter was already all over the place anyway, we did a bit of instant, post lunch/ pre nap art using pine cones, glue, two empty cream cheese tubs and yes more of the shiny stuff. Actually it's quite a good way of minimising the glue and glitter mess and has the added advantage of involving noise and surprise, always good as far as two-year-olds are concerned! Basically, put some PVA glue in one tub and some glitter in the other. Put the pine cone in the glue tub, put the lid on (firmly!) and give it a good shake and rattle. Open it up, carefully transfer into the glitter tub, repeat the process and 'Surprise!' a frosted pine cone!

We began with 'realistic' white frost but ran out of that colour so ended up with 'tasteful' purple as well.

Also featuring on our Winter display is the Steiner advent calendar we made at the toddler group we go to: an angel made of cleverly tied wool tops moves up 27 stars on the dark blue ribbon until Christmas day (27 because the first Sunday of Advent is not the first day of December). The angel has a slightly unfestive bulldog clip sewn to the back of her to enable the heavenly ascent...
The Season display is becoming one of my favourite things in the house. We do our best to light the candle from it each day at our evening meal, to help P to understand that it's a special time to sit together. We're developing the habit of finding things or making things to add to it as the weeks go past, and while I'm lucky enough to spend a reasonable amount of time outdoors and watching the year as it turns, this focal point helps to give me a heightened awareness of time ticking by, which in turn seems to remind me to take a longer view, rather than sweating the small stuff. Every home should have one!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Into the woods

Okay, I'll admit it, I have serious woodland envy issues! I love the idea of owning some woodland, learning to manage it, maybe heating the house using fuel we'd grown, maybe building a yurt on get the idea of what is definitely nothing more than a dream at the moment. Maybe the next best thing then, is to have some good friends whose family have bought some lovely woodland in a valley near us. Today we got to visit it for the first time and it was magical, from shuffling through the leaves to making music by banging sticks on logs, from being able to let the toddlers tootle off on their own adventures (nearly) out of sight, to eating lunch and drinking tea in the cosy little caravan they've moved there. I get the feeling we'll be back.
Meanwhile, I can't believe that it's been a week since I wrote anything here. It's not that I haven't been productive, but just that I seem to have lots of projects part way through and nothing to show for it just yet. In the case of a certain pirate jumper it's a case of rip it up and start again (ouch!). But hopefully soon I'll have some good stuff to show and tell, especially with a certain special season approaching!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Ever since they started stocking it, I've been tempted by Clothkit's Liberty print bias binding It's Liberty Print! It's on a wooden bobbin (although I've realised it's cheaper to buy by the metre, but hey-ho)! What's not to like? Ok, maybe the answer to that question is the price, so it took a 25% off deal to get me to go for it. By happy coincidence they also had some Rowan Revive on offer too. I've been looking for a chance to try some of this out for a while as I'd really like to source as much yarn as possible from sustainable sources in future and/or support British sheep farmers. This yarn ticks the eco-box and I've an idea for a wintry number for little M, once I finally crack on and finish the sleeve of P's pirate sweater. On that subject, all I can say is that once again I've got a stocking stitch in brown versus entrelac in multicoloured glory situation once again (remember this one?)- I'll get there in the end!!