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!

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.

Dress 1

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:

Teapot

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

Blue and red

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.

Rice dk spoons

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

Radio Silence

The truth is… I’m a teacher. Not only a teacher, but a brand shiny new teacher who just finished her first term in a secondary school. Wow – I didn’t manage a single blog post in all that time! And it’s even taken until the end of the Christmas holidays to wrap my head around posting anything now. I loved blogging over the summer, but as soon as term started, I lost my ‘voice’ (actually, I lost my literal voice quite often, too).

Still – it’s a blog, and there aren’t any rules about how often you have to post! I don’t do new year’s resolutions (apart from retrospective resolutions for things I’ve already completed – brush teeth, eat breakfast… helps the sense of achievement), but I do hope I’ll manage to escape from the real world into blog world a bit more often this term.

I have been reading other people’s blogs though, and obsessively scrolling through Pinterest when I’m awake at 4 a.m. thinking about marking exercise books. I think I’ve gone all the way back to the beginning on Attic24, Cherry Heart, Coco Rose, and lots more. I’m an avid reader of fiction (guess what subject I teach), but just haven’t been able to concentrate on a story for long enough before I fall asleep over the last few months. Blogs fill that gap tidily – a little bit of happiness and escapism before dropping off at night. The only other thing I can manage is dystopian teen fiction, but they started giving me nightmares. So thank you to the bloggers who do manage to get through the day-to-day and still find time to give me something to read – it is very much appreciated!

So. Wool. That’s why we’re all really here, right? (I do know that there are people for whom wool doesn’t play a huge part in their lives, but… Those are the people we knit for.) I have managed to pick up needles and hooks now and then – mostly for Christmas presents which have now been dispatched. Luckily I did have the presence of mind to take a few photos before wrapping them. Not great photos though. Wales in winter does not provide much natural light.

Hand warmer 1

Fair Isle handwarmers for C’s lovely sister. These were from a kit with a magazine – and in case you think I’m cheap for giving a present made from free wool, bear in mind that I bought the magazine for the wool! I haven’t really done Fair Isle before, but I enjoyed it. Well, I enjoyed the first one – the second one was a bit boring. They actually taught me a lot about my Fair Isle preferences. I already knew about catching the wool in the back, and holding the dominant colour above the non-dominant colour, but I found out more about how to make Fair Isle convenient. I’m planning to do this pattern again for myself, so more then! Worth mentioning the value of blocking these – I just steamed them with the iron then pulled and patted until they looked right. See the difference?

Hand warmer 2

Mitred granny square bag

Mitred granny square bag for my lovely sister. I don’t know where I got the idea for this – certainly Pinterest for the granny square structure, but I must have seen the mitre pattern on another project and decided it would work well for diagonal granny squares. And I think it does! My sister is a fan of bright colours, so that’s what she got. I also found the perfect material to line it with – tape measures! Actually, I think my mum was more excited about the lining than my sister was. Attaching the lining was a giant pain in the bum, but the bag is so much better for it.

Ruffled bags

Ruffled handbags for C’s nieces (and one for my friend’s daughter). At what point do his nieces become my nieces too? When we’re married? They call me Auntie, which is very sweet! They are 5 and 8, and definitely girly girls. These bags are lined too, so little hairclips and things don’t fall out. The most exciting thing about the pattern for the two matching bags is that I made it up completely on my own. C and I were in the caravan in the summer – no internet, just me, a hook and some Stylecraft. I’m really pleased with how they turned out, particularly that the fronts and backs all match up! The girls were pleased with them – lots of cuddles for me! Unfortunately, I completely failed to write any of it down, and can’t for the life of me remember what I did. So, I guess I won’t be making these again! The round bag, which isn’t finished in that photo, is just the first few rounds of Attic24’s blooming flower cushion. I want to make it in actual cushion size at some point, but couldn’t see how the pattern made what was in the picture (my fault, not Lucy Queen of Crochet’s, I hasten to add!). This mini version helped me figure it out. This is the lining, captured in a really terrible photo:

Ruffled bag lining

Snowflakes

Sequined snowflakes for C’s parents. Although because of the light, you can’t see the sequins. And I made eight for them, these are the three I kept for myself. Actually, I was going to make some for my parents too, then my mum came to visit in November and showed me the ones she’d made using exactly the same pattern 😦 I guess I still could have, but it wouldn’t have been as exciting. Anyway, I made these using some lovely sequinned Bergere yarn. I picture them on a tree or along a mantlepiece, reflecting the Christmas lights. Or they might end up forgotten about next year, I guess!

Hat

Hats for men. Three men, to be precise, but I only managed one photo. This one is C’s, in double moss stitch. I love double moss, but hate actually knitting it. Too much back and forth. So this is a testament to how much I wanted to make a nice hat for C. The other two hats used the same basic pattern and structure, but I changed the double moss section. Instead, I did stocking stitch for three rows, then a K1 P1 row. Might write a pattern for that, actually, because it looked good! The reason I chose that pattern is that one of the men is my sister’s boyfriend, and my mum knitted him a jumper in that pattern (actually, does it have a name?). And I thought it would be the funniest thing in the world for him to have a matching jumper and hat. Just me?!

Earflap hat

Hat for a boy – I haven’t actually given this one yet. I’m not sure it’s going to fit. Fingers crossed! This pattern was an amalgamation too – standard beanie, then I stole the earflap bit from another pattern. Then I taught myself to crochet an i cord! (Sounds like an Apple product.) I have an aversion to dpns, so it’s nice to have a different method to make i cords. Why are they called i cords?

Round slouch bag

Round bag for C’s other lovely sister. Oh boy, I definitely used a proper pattern for this (OK, I did change it slightly because I used chunky wool and needed fewer rounds), and I can’t remember where I found it. If I find it, I’ll update this. The star is another Lucy pattern from Attic24, and I made a little matching purse based on a pattern from a Nikki Trench book. It used exactly one ball of wool from B&M!

Stocking

Stocking for C. This is the only photo I have of this stocking… He’s still got it in the hope I’ll put presents in it again next year, so I’ll get a better picture. The inspiration for this came from the Hobbycraft magazine – no pattern, and I changed the construction of the toe, but it was really simple. The ends were a pain though… I have to admit, I committed a cardinal crochet sin and just cut some of them off without sewing them in properly. It’ll probably fall apart before next year. I lined this too, so weirdly shaped presents don’t stretch it out. He doesn’t know yet, but I’m going to make one for myself to make sure I get lots of presents next year!

Purse

Purse for a friend who may or may not like handmade gifts. It’s a gamble… I haven’t given this one yet either, so we’ll see! Although she is always polite about them, so maybe I won’t see!

What else? Well, I did get some excellent woolly presents too! C, setting the bar very high for boyfriends of wool enthusiasts everywhere, took me to a lovely wool shop in Cowbridge – La Mercerie – and let me choose my own presents! Actually, I think he just takes me here for some peace and quiet; they’ve got a sofa and newspapers, and I entertain myself for… an embarrassingly long time. I did have a budget of £20, which made me think very hard about what I wanted. Something special, obviously, that I wouldn’t usually buy for myself. Something I would actually use. Something I could even use as soon as I opened it! I spent Christmas day impressing his parents (first Christmas at their house – it was lovely) by knitting a hat with the Crofter DK he gave me. In fact, useful tip for people trying to impress in laws: kicking ass at Articulate while simultaneously knitting a hat from a pattern you can remember by heart goes down very well. My mum gave me a set of pom pom makers so the hat was topped with the biggest pom pom I could make. Actually, it’s too big – I can feel it nodding around on top of my head when I walk down the road. Still, I like it! And there’s enough wool left for handwarmers – I’m using Sandra of Cherry Heart’s excellent stripy mitts pattern because I want something that matches, but isn’t matchy, if you see what I mean. Mixing knitting and crochet is excellent for that. Also, I understand that Crofter DK is not exactly a luxury yarn, but I rarely spend more than the cost of Stylecraft Special on anything for myself, and that’s £1.79 for 100g.

Crofer DK hat

C also gave me two lovely laceweight yarns – a pale blue and a warm cream. They’re soft and squishy, and they scare me. I don’t want to mess them up, or choose the wrong pattern, or accidentally mutilate them. What I’ve got in mind is a long, crescent shawl. But a shallow crescent. Possibly knitted, using the blue. And then a big, ruffly, lacy edge in the cream on the long curve, crocheted because knitting lace is scary – there’s too much to keep an eye on. Hopefully an edge with lots of increases and repeats so I can get a really good ruffle on. And then one single, thin line of blue on the edge just to finish it off. The only problem with this plan is that, of course, I can’t find a pattern like that. I’d even pay for one, and I’m a notorious cheapskate (I get it from my mother). So the laceweight can lace-wait – it deserves the right pattern.

And lastly from C, this some soft variegated DK – my favourite of the three. This will be a scarf with interlocking strands to fasten it at the front. I know exactly what I want with this one! Sort of. All the patterns I’ve seen are plain, and I want a little bit more interest. And I need to work out how much scarf length I can get from 100g. But apart from that, I know exactly!

Finally. My lovely mum. She came with me and my friend to Bristol Wool Fair last summer, and paid very close attention, because she chose the exact wool I wanted – a purpley yellowy primrose affair. But instead of getting a ball of wool and knitting me something with it, she bought unspun wool (loose, dyed sheep, essentially), learned to spin it, made some of it up into a lovely bow knot scarf, and then knitted some more into a little bag which she then felted. She even made the button for the bag. She really is a very excellent mum.

So. Enough? It’s like the floodgates opened! I really am going to try to write more often, if only to keep track of what I manage to make! Back to school on Monday – a colleague and I have been talking about starting a knitting club (I work in a reasonably tough city school. Should go down well.), so we’ll see how that goes!

Happy New Year 🙂

Hats

Seams, selvedges and sewing up: O’s hoodie

I’ve always been confused about whether it’s selvedge or selvage – neither looks right! So I looked it up and from now on I’m going to spell it selvedge. You know when you’ve said a word too many times? Selvedge. Selvedge.

What this post is actually about is: MY FRIEND MADE A BABY! S is my university friend – the first person I met ten years ago when I moved to Cardiff. Since we left university, she’s been busy moving to Somerset, marrying a person and then making two whole new people. Basically, she’s a grown up now. When I drive to Cornwall, she is very conveniently on the way so I try to pop in whenever I can. But this time it was super exciting because she and her husband had a little boy eight weeks ago! When their little girl, J, was born two years ago, I made a blanket for her – I remember it taking forever, but back then I had time. This time round, I didn’t have as much time, so I needed to knit something smaller for baby O, but still something special. I kept seeing these cute garter stitch wrap around booties on Pinterest, but every time I tried to follow the links I couldn’t find a pattern. Step in, Ravelry: it’s got everything! One search later, I had this pattern. I dusted off my A level French (actually, I only got a C, and none of it was about knitting, so I used Google Translate) and an hour later I had this:

IMG_0811Ahhh! Aren’t they sweet?! I love how cute garter stitch looks on tiny items, all those lovely ridges in miniature. I seriously considered making a grown up sized version for me – I still might. They were seriously easy to do: just a T-shape in garter stitch, a bit of pinning, and a bit of stitching. I took a few goes to sew them up because I wanted the toes to wrap around securely.

The yarn is Smoothie DK in the imaginatively named colour 01085: blue. I like the drape of the wool – a large-ish knitted piece in Smoothie DK has a heaviness to it, which makes me feel like I’m knitting something substantial. Also, it’s soft enough that I wasn’t worried about it being for a little person.

Very nice… But not quite enough for A Knitter to present to a friend who has just produced a whole person. So I went in search of a garter stitch cardigan to go with the booties. Ravelry has got a lot to offer, and it took me several evenings just to narrow down the selection. I ended up with this pattern, and made the 12 months size because clearly a baby doesn’t need a hoodie in August (and that’s what S requested).

I had found some lovely matte, slatey blue buttons at the market near my parents’ house which felt like cool little pebbles in my hand.

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Honestly? It was boring. Really, really boring. I’d underestimated how tedious garter stitch would become (stupid endless ridges), and I didn’t think about the fact that there’s no shaping to break up the pattern. What was so charming about the booties was actually a bit annoying in the hoodie, and I’ve been knitting for long enough that I can handle something a bit more complicated. The body is knitted in one piece, with spaces for arm holes and the bare minimum of neck shaping. The sleeves and hood are knitted separately.

IMG_1193See all those nice long ends for sewing up? None of them was quite long enough. You may have noticed from the knitting tour post that most of what I make is small. I’ll tell you something: it’s because I don’t like sewing up. I also don’t like the last hour of the work day, trailers before a film, or having to diet before actually losing weight. Delayed gratification is not my thing. I’ve never really thought about it before, but in that respect I suppose I’m a process knitter – I do it because I enjoy doing it, and my hands feel sad if they aren’t making something. Still, the sewing up had to be done. There was a point, when I’d done everything except the last sleeve, when I thought of removing O’s arm rather than sewing up another seam, but it seemed too cruel.

It went like this: shoulders; hood seam; hood to neck; sleeve 1 to armhole 1; sleeve 1 seam; sleeve 2 to armhole 2; sleeve 2 seam. I thought it would take an hour or two. It took a whole day. I was kicking myself the entire time, because of this:IMG_1196Not the Hulk/Flash pajamas. The selvedges. (By the way, I love these pajamas. They’re from Matalan, they cost about £4 because they were in the sale, and they’re men’s. So much better than women’s, for both leg length and cooler designs.) On some of the edges, I’d remembered to sl1wyif at the beginning of the row. On others, I hadn’t, which meant that matching up seams was a total pain. Also, I managed to sew an armhole seam on the outside TWICE, which didn’t make me any happier!

IMG_1189IMG_1199It was an easy pattern, but if this was the first garment I’d ever knitted, I would have been confused. I know you can’t expect miracles from a free pattern (though some do deliver), but there were a lot of experienced-knitter-common-sense tricks that could have been worked into the instructions – little things like giving a number of rows on each side for symmetry above the armholes, or remembering to slip the first stitch of each row! I’m moaning a lot. In reality, this was a bit of a boring knit, but that’s because I didn’t think about it and make it more exciting for myself. If I was doing this again, I’d totally do a moss stitch border (love moss stitch), and I’d do set in sleeves and some shaping on the hood. Serves me right for being a lazy knitter, but you know what?

IMG_1249All sewn up, I really like it. It’s square and simple and chunky and warm, and worth every boring knit stitch.

IMG_1247It’s soft and drapey, and it looks lovely with its bootie brothers:

IMG_1258When I delivered it on the way back to Cardiff, O’s big sister opened it. She gave it a squeeze, then put the hood over her head and rolled around on the sofa in it. I think it passed the soft test, even if it is way too big for O at the moment! It makes me really happy to be able to make something for someone – not everyone can do it, but S and her new little boy have both got something that no one else will ever have. It’s nice.