Come on baby!

I just wrote half of this post on my iPad, and it was possibly the most frustrating thing I have ever done. And I teach Macbeth to inner city children who struggle to read modern English. Anyway. I’ve got my laptop now, so I’m trying again.

Hello! I haven’t posted for ages, again. I wish I had the energy and the motivation and something interesting to write about, but it doesn’t seem to have happened for the last couple of months. I have been crocheting though! C’s sister’s baby was due on Tuesday and still hasn’t made an appearance. I’ve been grateful for the extra few days because it’s given me a chance to put this together:

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Ahh! Want to see what’s in there? Before I show you, I thought I’d better say that it’s all Stylecraft Special DK, and I used a 4mm hook for all of it. Keeps it simple!

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First of all, this little guy. (I don’t know why he’s a guy, given that he’s so pink, but he is.) Someone in a crochet group on Facebook posted a link to the pattern on Bunny Mummy, and I started making it straight away. Actually, I was a couple of glasses of wine down when I finished, so I’m pleased it’s turned out so neat! The only change I made was to double crochet the two sides together through the back loop, which does create a ridge, but I like that, and it’s much neater than my sewing. I used fondant, apricot, lemon and spring, with white for the eyes. The beak is spice, and I’m not sure what the purple is – I’ve had it for ages. I lost the label, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t Stylecraft. The buttons are from Hobbycraft about a million years ago, left over from a hot water bottle I made for my mum. Next out of the box:

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Little booties! I just can’t find the pattern for these anywhere. I only made them a couple of days ago, but I can’t remember if I was looking at the pattern on my laptop, the phone or the ipad. I will keep looking though, because it’s a very nice pattern. The wool is raspberry, and the buttons are two of about thirty little wooden teddies that I’ve finally found a use for.

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More shoes! These are from 1dogwoof, and lovely and easy to follow. I particularly liked row 4! More lovely buttons on here too – a present from C’s mum. The colours are saffron, mocha and white, and I did an extra colour change (that’s the only change I made). I really love these – the strap construction is clever and unusual, and it’s sweet how they look like proper little shoes. They don’t look very tidy in this photo; I think they need blocking, but I don’t have anything suitable to put in them to make the right shape while they dry. They’ll be fine once they’re on, though.

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Next out of the box: teeny tiny cardigan. This will fit for about three minutes after she’s born, if I’m lucky. But I really wanted to give them something they could put on her straight away, and the colours are great. They’re shrimp, apricot, cream and silver. The pattern is lost forever, I suspect – I really can’t find it anywhere. I have to start using ravelry properly to keep track of what I’ve made. If you recognise the pattern, let me know so I can give credit here! The construction was fun – I couldn’t work out how it was going to come together until I split it for the sleeves, and then it just worked.

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By contrast, this is a ridiculously huge cardigan. I do have the pattern! It’s here. I don’t know what happened here – she gives loads of different sizes, but I still managed to make a stupidly huge one. And, frustratingly, it took a really long time – because apparently I was knitting for a one year old. Div. Anyway, it’ll fit one day, and if I don’t put it in the box, I’ll lose it, so in it goes! The wool isn’t Stylecraft, and I didn’t use a 4mm hook, because it’s knitted. It’s Patons Baby Fab DK in ripple. The buttons are from the jar that C bought me from Hobbycraft. On this cardigan, again, I couldn’t work out the construction before I started, but now I want to make one for myself. Imagine how bored I’ll get doing that!

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Haha, remember when I posted, banging on about pastel green and red together? It looked lovely – in winter! But I got it out to sew the buttons on last week and it just didn’t look right for spring! Pattern is here, and I did make a couple of changes. The bodice is garter stitch, not moss stitch, because I didn’t have the patience for moss stitch. I added some eyelet holes along the chest, to match the hem. And I added a crocheted border for strength around the straps. At first, I crocheted the colour straight onto the knitted edge, and it looked really messy so I thought I’d have to leave it. But I remembered reading somewhere about how to make neater colour changes on edges, and did one row of dc in cream around the edge first, then a row of purple. Much nicer! The colours are spring and cream, and that mystery purple again. And the buttons match perfectly! I do wish I’d used white instead of cream for a crisper finish though.

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And last, but certainly not least, is this blanket! Look at all those hexagons. I love a hexie blanket, and I love these colours – pale rose, mocha, graphite, silver, cream, and parchment to join them.

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It was such hard work though. I think I made the African flowers back in January, from HeidiBears’ tutorial. But by the time I’d done twenty, I was seriously flagging. All those ends! Five rounds per flower meant two hundred ends to sew in already! So I had a rethink and came up with another plan: fill the gaps with one-colour hexagons. Phew. I hunted for other hexagon patterns and just couldn’t find anything that I liked. So… I wrote my own patterns! That was a mission. I’m going to try to write them up and do a separate post for them. I don’t think I’m up for a tutorial – I don’t take enough photos – but I’ll see what I can come up with. I made three different types – a granny hex, a solid hex and a circle hex. I ended up with 80 hexagons – 5 of each colour/shape combination. I used 79 of them in the end! Two day of joining, three days of sewing in ends (THREE! I was so, so bored. It took a serious talking-to from my mum to get me to finish it.), and one day of border later, it was done!

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I really, really love it. I’m actually really sad it give it away – is it bad to be protective over it? If I keep something I’ve made, I can make sure that ends stay sewn in, and it doesn’t get dragged around the garden. I guess that’s just part of giving a gift!

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I had to get a photo of all the button loveliness that’s gone into this box 🙂

All that’s left… Is for the baby to arrive! She’s got a name, she’s got a home and now she’s got a box of woolly things waiting for her. Come on, baby!

What is a locking wheel nut, anyway?

Oh I’m so spectacularly bored! I’m at the garage waiting for my car to be fixed. I should be in work, but the car wouldn’t start this morning, and if I don’t get it sorted now, I’ll be done for all week. Does it sound like I feel guilty for not being in work? I do! I haven’t had a day off sick for about four years. 

So I’m in the waiting room at the nice shiny garage, and the mechanics are lovely but keep asking me questions I don’t understand, and I have to reveal my ignorance about the car I drive every day. I think I was just asked ‘Do you know why you don’t have a locking wheel nut on the rear off side wheel?’. Of course I don’t know – but if you’ve dropped any stitches, I’ll be happy to pick them up for you! My feminist senses are tingling, but it’s ok because C doesn’t know anything about cars either, so I don’t feel like a ‘useless girl’. 

I’ve done all the work I can do remotely – lots of emails sent and records updated this morning. But now I’ve got no work I can do here, and I’ve committed the yarner’s cardinal sin: I have no WIPs with me. I’ve got about 20 at home, but that’s no use to me now! So to pass the time, I’m going to try to do an inventory of all the WIPs I haven’t got round to writing about here yet. 

1. Baby blanket of African flowers. 

2. Cream and green dress that needs buttons. 

3. Pink baby cardie that needs about 4 inches of boring stocking stitch, and which I think will be absurdly huge. 

4. Blue hand warmers that I started, but the first one is too small, so I need to frog and restart. 

5. Pink hand warmer – only one because I did the first one and got bored. 

6. Crofter hand warmer – exactly the same circumstances. 

7. Beige hat for C’s mum. 

8. Baby blue crocheted crescent shawl. 

9. Grey and orange sock yarn cowl. 

10. Granny squares blanket in Cath Kidston colours. 

11. Cushion covers – one needs the ends sewn in (20 million of them) and one needs the cross stitch design finishing. 

12. (Oh god, they’ve just asked me another difficult question!) A crochet purse my for mum that I really need to finish before Friday. 

13. A hat for my sister that should have been finished more than a month ago. 

That’s all I can think of. Now, WIPs that only exist inside my head so far:

1. A blanket made of nine giant solid granny squares, in Ice magic light, possibly with a white border. 

2. A peaked hat with two buttons in dark grey and probably red. 

And finally, a show and tell:

I made about five purses last summer, to keep ‘in stock’ as presents. And last month I needed a little purse, and suddenly remembered them! It’s a bit ropey because it was the third thing I had ever crocheted, but I love my little nautical purse 🙂

Paint it purple

This isn’t exactly a post about knitting or crochet or wool. It’s about women – it’s International Women’s Day today. This morning I celebrated by calling C “The Patriarchy” whenever he made a suggestion or wanted to push the trolley at the supermarket. I also posted a status on Facebook making reference to how Taiwan apparently mark International Women’s Day – by releasing survey results about women’s increasing waistlines. Now, I have done basically no research on this, so I can’t speak with any authority, but I was quite shocked when one of my friends – an educated healthcare professional, and a really very kind and lovely woman – didn’t automatically agree that this seemed a bit ridiculous. We both gave our point of view, and that was that: no animosity, no hard feelings. And I’m not going to use this platform to air my views about something I’m no expert on.

However, I am an expert on being a woman. I’ve been doing it for years – I’ve got the anatomy to prove it and everything. I am a fantastically lucky woman, with a family who want what’s best for me, a boyfriend who supports me wholeheartedly and lets me boss him around sometimes (OK, most of the time), an education system that supported me to the point where I can now contribute to it, a healthcare system that’s saved my life, kept me healthy and let me cry on them, and a network of friends – men and women – who are happy to let me be me even when I’m being a bitch. I’m part of a society that doesn’t gang rape and kill me for going out of the house on my own in the evening. My contributions to that society, small as they are, are valued and rewarded. In a very small way, I can be a role model. We might have a very long way to go on embracing gender equality, but when I walk out of the house with no make on, or the wrong sort of clothes, or the wrong sort of hair, or trainers that have definitely seen better days, no one points and stares. And my part of the world lets me be confident enough to say a firm “No thank you” to anyone who might.

But it isn’t OK to settle for that. Malala Yousafzai can tell you that. Jyoti Singh would have been able to tell you that.

We can’t change the world today. It’ll be a long time before there are significant, meaningful changes. But put it this way: you can’t knit a cardigan in an afternoon – that doesn’t mean you never cast on. You knit away, one row a day, for weeks and months and years. And then, eventually, you’ve made a difference. You’ve created something that makes the world better. Maybe you dropped a stitch or the sleeves aren’t quite long enough, but something new exists because of you.

So find a way to make a difference. Educate yourself, and be grateful that you can. Call on your network of strong female friends and ask them what they think. Donate your time to a women’s charity. Mentor a young woman who needs some help. Or just get on your blog and write a post about how it really is time we cast on that cardigan.

Dreaming of spring

No crochet time tonight – I’ve got a big boring pile of work to do. But I’m being cheered up by this:

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And a bag of mini eggs and Bruce Springsteen on the radio. Can you tell I’m ready for winter to be over?! Can’t wait for the daffodils to open up.

I can’t help thinking that my jam jar vase needs a crocheted jacket though… Inspiration to get my work done so I can start hooking! I hope no one’s being too adversely affected by the snow – we haven’t had any to speak of here, and I’m so grateful!

Crossing my fingers for some warmer weather soon 🙂

Edited to add: Duh! I had the perfect solution next to me all along! My fab friend crocheted me this lovely mug warmer – it fits around the jar beautifully. Her stitches are so neat, I’m jealous.

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Incidentally, I saw this friend and her children on the weekend. Her 8 month little boy was using the blanket I knitted for her now two year old when she was born. It’s not as fluffy as it once was, but I was so happy to see it again, and clearly so well-loved 🙂 heart warming!

And no, I haven’t finished my work yet. I keep faffing with jam jars and mug warmers instead…

“But you have such a glowing complexion!” said no one

I’m not into much of a skincare routine. Sometimes I moisturise if my skin feels dry, and if I remember to leave the moisturiser next to my bed, where I can reach it before I fall asleep, but apart from that I don’t do anything. I stopped wearing make up last year, so don’t even use the cleansing wipes that I used to.

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I have always felt guilty for this – I enjoy not wearing make up, but I feel like I’m somehow betraying my future self by not doing anything to my face all day. Like in 50 years I’ll look in the mirror and curse 28 year old me for being lazy about moisturising. Also, I read in a blog post somewhere that using moisturiser without getting rid of dead skin cells first basically glues them to your face. Yuck. So I made a belated new year’s resolution, to wash my face occasionally.

I know – radical.

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But I really hate washing my face… It’s boring, and an extra minute between being standing up and lying down. And I always end up with soap in my eyes. And nice face wash is expensive, and I have a thing about flannels. You use them once, they’re damp and no longer fresh, so next time you need a new one, and before you know it, you’ve got an enormous pile of damp flannels. (I know there is an obvious solution to this problem, but I always forget to throw them in the washing machine.) Anyway. I needed something to make face-washing fun.

Step in, crochet!

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I’ve been making little face cloths – seven so far, until I ran out of yarn. They’re about four inches across, just the right size for a quick face wash without dripping soapy water all over my pajamas. The patterns are from various places, which unfortunately I am too useless to have saved in one place. I think some of them are on my Pinterest board, but because they’re smaller than the average granny square, I haven’t done all the rounds of some of the patterns.

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They’re just made of plain white kitchen cotton from the market near my parents’ house in Cornwall. A 100g ball made seven cloths, and now I need to get some more, because I’ve really enjoyed making them! For ages I’ve been wanting to make a round basket out of cotton, so I think I’ll make one to hold the clean cloths in the bathroom.

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The next solution I need is a towel arrangement. I also have a thing about drying my face with already-used towels, but it is utterly pointless using a new towel every time. I’m thinking about getting some muslin squares, and giving them a crocheted edge to fit in with the theme…

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435 words about face washing and cloths. I’m sure my friends have never been so grateful for the blog, because otherwise they would have had to sit through that conversation!

Casting on… and on… and on…

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You know when you’ve got about ten projects already on the go, at various stages of completion? And then suddenly you feel the need to cast on another eight?

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I love how they all look together – like a bouquet! They’re not for me though; tomorrow is the first meeting of my brand new knitting club in school. Unfortunately I’m not allowed to call it Stitch and Bitch, and Knit and Natter sounds a bit too twee for inner city secondary school students. Any suggestions? I’ve actually been too nervous to announce it in school – I’m just quietly recruiting students from my own classes! I’m thinking it would be too hard to teach a whole room full of people at once though… I remember learning at the same time as my sister, and it was torture waiting for my mum to finish helping her and rescue my dropped stitches for me.

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I’ve got a video sorted, which I’ll play while I’m helping people individually. And I’ll take my favourite beginner’s knitting book – Knitty Gritty – so they can look at projects a bit more inspiring than the standard ‘Endless double knit scarf in garter stitch’ that seems to be everyone’s first project! (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s no instant gratification!)

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I’ve cast on fifteen stitches of leftover bits of acrylic DK from my stash, onto pairs of 4mm needles. In theory, they’re about the right size for a phone case or a little purse. Then once they’ve done enough rows, I can show them how to decrease for a curved flap, and how to make a buttonhole.

Now I just need to cross my fingers and hope that some students turn up!

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I do keep meaning to show you what else I’m making at the moment. I’ve got lots of little projects on the go, but not enough time to sit down and make real progress on any of them. Even the little green and cream tunic from my last post is waiting for the messy border to be ripped out and replaced with a tidy one. Most of my works in progress are crocheted rather than knitted – I really do think I prefer crochet these days, possibly because it grows quicker, or because I don’t have to get to the end of the row before I stop! I prefer knitting for garments because I like a thinner fabric, but I don’t ever make clothes for myself. Crochet seems to be more versatile for making shapes and patterns, which is what I really love. I will do my very best to get some photos taken soon!

How lovely life would be if I could be paid to teach knitting all day!

Checking in

I was back in work today, but I’ve finished much earlier than usual and have much more energy than usual, so I thought I’d let you know what’s on the needles tonight! (I know it’s not actually night yet, but I’m in my PJs and it’s dark outside. That counts.)

C’s sister is expecting a little girl in April, and my broodiness has gone into overdrive! I’ve got about a million plans for what I want to make for her, but I’m having to restrain myself slightly. No point in making scrummy newborn knits – she’s going to be a summer newborn. So the plan is, I’ll wait to see if she’s a tiddler or a dumpling, then knit size-appropriate autumn/winter clothes.

Yeah, right.

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Apologies for the awful light. Wales in winter!

I’m starting off with a little tunic – a free pattern here. The theory is that she can wear it as a dress in summer, but it should still fit as a vest over a warmer top in winter. That makes sense, right?! As I don’t have children, I generally have no idea at all what handmade clothes will be useful for babies. So I try to make something that’s pretty and versatile, and then keep my fingers crossed.

I’ve actually finished both the front and back already – two evenings’ work. I did make some changes: I changed the moss stitch for garter stitch to match the border at the bottom of the tunic; I added some YO eyelets along the top hem, again to match the border; I decreased a couple more stitches on each strap of the back section when I was casting off, for a more rounded edge. I always feel like I’m cheating on the pattern when I modify it! I’m hoping the garter stitch instead of the moss stitch will give it a little bit of extra stretch so it’ll last a bit longer.

Dress back Dress front

According to the pattern, I just need to sew up the seams now, and add a couple of buttons. But I was thinking… These colours remind me of a granny smith apple. Apples are cute. I could crochet a little apple. What colour would go? Red would go. I should crochet a red apple applique. But then it won’t tie in. How can I get it to tie in? I could crochet a little red hem. That would be nice.

I think in quite short sentences – easier on the brain. The upshot is, I’m not quite as nearly finished as I thought, but hopefully it will look extra cute when it’s done! I’ll keep you updated 🙂

Now, as an addendum: I was looking through the rest of my photos to see if I had anything pretty to show you. And I do – check out this colour combination:

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Pastel green and red. Sound familiar?! Apparently I’m more drawn to these colours than I realised! But then, when I kept looking:

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Pastel blue and red! I’ve got a feeling this baby’s going to have a little red hem crocheted onto everything I make. The spoon in that photo is, of course, a Rice DK spoon. I ordered a set of six for myself last week – I always order some January presents to cheer myself up! Look at the mix I got.

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I love the combination of pastels and brights! This might end up being my new thing.