Friday, 10 June 2011

Smitten Shmitten

Well now. The sun may be shining, but there are clouds overhead, and poor old Drew has gone back to the drawing (drew-ing?) board.

So, having knit furiously up to the armholes and completed the back and started on one of the fronts, I took stock. Hmmm. Less than three balls of yarn used for a project that is supposed to take 9 balls. Hmm. And, only 21cm below the armhole for something meant to fit a 4-5 yr old, even before washing/shrinking. Hmmmmm.

It wasn't stacking up. I checked on Ravelry, and I think there's only one completed Drew (perhaps that says something), which had the comment that it came up small. A forum post about the pattern and yarn requirement mismatch generated various comments mostly saying 'dont forget the hood' - which is a bit bamboozling as this pattern doesn't have a hood, but anyway. I usually find Rowan patterns/sizing to be generous, so thought age 4-5 would be fine for my average/slim 4 1/2 year old son. Then I got the tape measure - you know like proper knitters do - and actually measured my son and a couple of his jackets, and have decided to start all over again. This time I am going to use the age 6-7 size in terms of chest size/width, but aim for something which is about the same length as the age 10-11 size. I hope I'll end up with a jacket which he can wear for a little while at least, and not something which is so short he'll grow out of it before I have had chance to sew the zipper in. 

I spend an unhappy half an hour or so on Wednesday morning frogging all the lovely stripes, and then I took a deep breath and started again. I went to an interesting lecture later on that day, and got on with the reknitting while Carolyn Steel talked about cities and food and her book 'Hungry City'. Food for thought. If you are interested at all in issues around food shopping and supermarkets and growing your own (which of course most people are) then it's worth having a look and/or listening to Carolyn speak. She is very passionate about her subject, and there is lots of interesting info on her website and blog.

Monday, 30 May 2011


The boys went out on Saturday to watch the rugby sevens at Murrayfield. While they were out I grabbed a little pile of Rowan Denim which has been marinading in the stash for a while. I swatched for Drew - something new to knit for the bean. I got gauge and cast on, and I'm smitten. I can't put it down, even though there are a million other things to do like finish Grace, plant out the runner beans, hoover up the dust bunnies, make the supper, write a presentation for Wednesday. You know how it is. I can't stop. It's only been on the needles since Saturday afternoon and I'm almost at the armholes. It's yummy. I love the feel of the fabric in my hands.

My stash of Rowan Denim doesnt quite run to the required 9 balls of one colour/dye lot, so I'm going all stripey instead. The bean declared yesterday that he "...doesnt like stripes..." but he added that when it's finished, then he might like them then. I'm smitten, even if he isnt (yet). And, as he is only 4, I like to think I'll be able to make him wear it anyway.

Betty is looking pretty good too, but she's one for a quiet corner when there is space and time and light to concentrate on the pattern and the increases (that's a lower cuff in case you're wondering).

The wild weather has kept us mostly inside this weekend. The wind has been incredible and both children have been blown over by it, making outside walks/adventures rather difficult. The sun has been glorious, but the showers frequent and heavy and the wind very, very strong. I managed a few minutes of gardening between the showers, earthing up the spuds and weeding the denuded rows of salad and beetroot. Pesky slugs.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


A few FOs to record and celebrate (it's been a long, long time coming). I foresee more in the next days...

upcycled baby wipes and an upcycled dribble bib (tutorial here)

my first home sewn nappy

oh, and this one isnt finished, but she's perfect in every way...

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


The WIPs are getting a bit out of hand.

1. Grace is still OTN, but progress has been made. I've redone the button bands - with the correct number of buttonholes this time - and I've knitted the collar again but have a little modification in mind to make it look even better. Then there's the small matter of sewing it up...

2. The Java socks are not done. I'm just about ready to do the toe decreases on the first sock - but I need to check the length with DH's foot, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I dont have enough yarn to make two - which is a major drawback in a sock project.

3. My fingers were itching the other evening, so I cast on for a Betty (Rowan Winter Kids)in a lovely raspberry pink colour very similar to this (although it a substitute yarn) ...

4. The scarf is bimbling along. I am not expecting to finish this soon - it's my fall back project, something to grab when there's a chance of knitting a few rows here or there. The colours are gorgeous...

5. And then there's the sewing. We've been having a few nappy issues lately, and it's getting harder to wrangle the jelly bean (now almost 21 months) into her nappies because she's getting bigger, and they aren't, and there's been a lot of leaking and changing of clothes going on (particularly at nursery). For the most part we use Totsbot bamboozles - a shaped nappy made from bamboo terry, and we also have a couple of the Ella's house hemp nappy. The hemp nappies have a longer rise and fit better than the bamboozles now that the jelly bean is bigger. We love our cloth nappies, and have used them very happily for both of our babies. Given that we are hoping not to need them for too much longer, I have been experimenting. I have made a nappy!!

It makes me very happy. I'm not an accomplished seamstress (I find using a sewing machine awkward, no doubt because it is not designed for a left-hander) so I feel very pleased to have done this. Of course, things may yet unravel when we try it out for real, but so far so good. I used the hemp nappy as a template and constructed the new nappy from a single bamboo terry square and two layers of cotton flannel cut from a crib sheet/head cloth. I elasticated the waist/leg openings with regular elastic from my sewing box, and I'm now waiting for some aplix to arrive so that I can finish it off and try it out! While I had the machine out the other evening, I also got started on the pile of wipes and dribble bibs that I cut out a few weeks ago, and I ironed some patchwork pieces ready for stitching. It's satisfying to get things done...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

happiness is...

... clean washing on the washing line, blowing in the spring sunshine

... making easter decorations with my children

... collecting the mugs we painted for daddy's birthday surprise

... getting into a pilates class with my favourite teacher

... working at home on a sunny day, reading and marking dissertations in the garden

... a quiet house, waiting for the small ones to return from their adventures

... the last day of work before a week of holiday

... hearing of a new baby, gently and safely born. Welcome to the world little Dylan, and many congratulations to your mama and papa. We wish you all much joy, sleep and love as you grow together in your new family.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

third time lucky?

With only a few days to go until DH's birthday, the end of the purple socks (currently on my feet) gave me chance to cast on for some quick and secret birthday socks. Since Grace is having a short break in the not-quite-finished basket, I thought that 10 days or so would be plenty of time for some secret sock knitting.

Well, I might have been right, except I made a rather basic error. It's not even a beginner's error, because beginners tend to not to be quite so stupid. So, time to 'fess up: I didn't read the pattern and knitted the cuff in the wrong rib pattern, so I had to rip it and start again. And I didnt just do that once, I did it twice.

So, now I'm casting on for a third time and reading the pattern (Java) just one more time, in the hope that this time I've got it right and third time does prove to be lucky.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

This week I have...

... finally managed a FO! The purple socks are done, and very fine they are too. They took 56g of Jenny Cook's lovely yarn (leaving another 50g for another pair), and they took an absolute age (I cast on at Christmas!) because I have been doing. Other. Things.

... still not finished poor old Grace. I ripped the collar and button bands, and will have to do them again - perhaps things will work out better if I do it in the light. It was kind of okay before, but not good enough really (given that i've spent sooo much time knitting the d*rned thing, I might as well make a good job of finishing it).

... been trying - but failing - to finish my marking (grrr).

... enjoyed the spring sunshine and being outside without coat, hat or scarf! It was so glorious at the weekend, that I had to take refuge in the shade from the fierce sun and heat [Note: fierce is a relative term, but given that we are in Scotland, and still in early April, temperatures of more than 20 odd degrees is really a shock to the system. Today it was equally sunny, but very windy and about 10 degrees cooler!]

... cast on for some new socks - Java from knitty. I'm hoping to dash them off in the next couple of weeks so I can give them to my husband for his Easter birthday.

... got some sewing lined up; dribble bibs and wipes have been cut and stacked ready for stitching. It felt good because I cut them from a bundle of old/stained baby clothes which were not good enough to give away. There are some new babies in the offing, and I want to plenish my stash of gifts for new parents. I also cut a few fleece nappy liners too in the same vein.

... listened to Lord Layard's lecture on happiness, given as the fourth Joseph Rowntree Lecture at York University a few weeks ago.

... finally realised that it is best to make bread in the morning. On Sunday morning I started a couple of loaves at breakfast time, while the little ones were playing and DH was having a snooze. It felt really good to have dough made and proving all before 9am! By late morning they were all done, and perfectly crusty and warm and delicious for lunch.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A pip and a squeak

Grace is almost there. And I still have yarn. Hallelujah. There was 44g left when I had cast off the back, and now I'm on the collar, so I'm (almost) confident that I'll be able to finish it now without having to buy or find a suitable substitute. The button bands and collar aren't quite working out as written - I had less than the suggested no. of stitches for the button bands, and way more for the collar. Not sure how or why that should be - the button bands look okay, although I did manage to miscount and only made 6 buttonholes instead of 7 (doh). Not sure about the collar yet - I started with the wrong side facing so that the slightly raggedy neck edge will be hidden beneath the collar. We'll just have to see how it works out. 

While I was waiting for Grace to block, I cast on for another chevron scarf from last-minute knitted gifts. I'm using some rowan cashsoft from the stash and some of Jenny Cook's delicious handpainted yarn, this time in soft greens and blues. I made one of these scarves last year for a friends' 40th birthday, also using some Jenny Cook yarn, but never blogged it because, as usual, I was knitting up to the deadline and didn't manage to photograph it before it was wrapped and gifted!

The second purple sock (also Jenny Cook yarn) has been picked up again, and in a rare slot of child-free time at the weekend, I managed a leisurely coffee and got past the heel flap, so it's all down hill from here. But as if that wasnt enough I'm itching to cast on for a couple of other projects too. I've promised the Bean a new jacket knitted with Rowan denim, and there are some balls of deep raspberry yarn waiting to be cast on for a Betty (Rowan Winter Kids). Perhaps it's the spring that is doing it? Anything seems possible now that the evenings are lighter and the washing can go outside on the line for a good blow again.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Baby Lost

Just heard that a new mama I know, has lost her baby son after only 15 days. Rest in peace little one.

Slooooow progress

Grace is still on the needles. The back is almost done, but so is the yarn and my optimism about having enough to fnish it now seems misplaced. Heaven only know what I'll do to complete the collar and button bands... oh well. On the plus side, it seems pretty big as age 3-4, so it should fit the intended recipient for a while yet!

In other news, we helped a young friend of ours celebrate her 4th birthday last weekend. The bean and I made her this lovely card. We also gave her a copy of one of our favourite books: 'Iggy Peck, architect' which the bean received for his 4th birthday. It has some fabulous rhymes, and great illustrations - and is perfectly suited to the daughter of a trained (if not practising) architect. Happy birthday Ruby.

In the spirit of ongoing discussions about going off-grid and supporting the local economy, we bought the book in a real bookshop. You know one that you actually physically go to,  and where you can touch and read the books before you buy them! It was lovely, and as an added bonus DH found a lovely book for his dad's birthday - something always to give thanks for, so we heartily recommend the Edinburgh bookshop if you are ever in Bruntsfield/Morningside or Edinburgh for that matter... [As I was holding a sleeping toddler, I was unable to rifle very effectively through the craft books, of which there is a nice selection. looks like I need a return trip...]

Finally, in terms of the lenten aspirations: I have made 3 loaves of bread; been out on my bike twice; been to Pilates classes once a week and generally managed to keep myself off the biscuits, cakes and chocolate (except on Sundays of course). No sewing to report (except sewing on a button and reattaching some elastic in my pyjama trousers), and a bit more knitting. Things should get a bit easier from now on because teaching (but not marking) for this semester is now over, and some other project deadlines have also passed, so the mountain of work is no longer so mountainous. Phew. And, summer time is here to boot, so a chance perhaps to get out in the garden in the evening and continue the work sowing and growing.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Oh frabjous day....

Today I finally managed to finish Grace's two fronts. I weighed them. They weigh 167grammes. I weighed the yarn that remains: 208 grammes. Phew. Looks like I should be able to make it after all. I am pleased. I wouldn't have minded some yarn shopping you understand, but it's just so satisfying to use things up. I like finishing things: bottles of bubble bath,  bars of soap, the last few scraps of pastry, the last jelly baby in the packet.... It's a different to finishing a project. It's something to do with replacing a thing with a space - particularly when our lives are so full of stuff and so lacking in space.

The other thing I did today was make a mental list of the things I will be avoiding during Lent (chocolate, sweets, cakes, biscuits) and some of the things I'd like to do more (exercise, sit-ups, Pilates, making bread, knitting, sewing). Today I knitted. Yesterday I did Pilates - which counts as exercise and sit-ups. So far, so good.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Home Alone...

It's Saturday and the sun is shining weakly outside. My husband and children are elsewhere and I am all alone. I should be in the garden, trying to unwreak the havoc therein, and getting ready to plant seeds and bulbs and things to eat in the coming months. But inside, looking at a computer screen, trying to catch up with work or get ahead or somehow effect some change in my never-ending list of things to do and the blizzard of emails that fall thickly into my mailbox each day. So am trapped and free all at the same time.

I might, just might, have spent a few minutes searching in my stash for some more yarn for Grace. I found little bit more, but as I still haven't finished the fronts and the yoke seems to be eating yarn, I am more and more sure that the yarn will run out. I may even have to unravel my tension square, except that it's not very big and wouldn't help very much... The trouble is there is nothing else in my stash that I can use to make up for the missing yardage. Rats. Looks like I might have to go shopping....

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Birthday Parties # 2

We were at another children's party this weekend (they always seem to come along in pairs dont they?) to celebrate the birthday of one of the bean's nursery friends, Macey. There were balloons and dancing and face painting, and we came home with one of these boy tigers.

While we were there I met Kerry Kimber, who runs Kids Knit. She was telling us about the tights (yes, tights!) she'd been knitting for Di Gilpin and a catwalk show happening today in London. Di has designed a collection of knitted pieces including socks, stockings, tights and a skirt with 4m of knitted fabric - all of which have been hand knitted. Kerry made one pair of tights, which took around 70 hours to complete. It sounds interesting and fun as a one-off, but not a way to make any money - although DH was quite keen on the idea of me knitting for money...

Examples like this demonstrate the great difficulty that UK hand-knitters have in making a sensible living from knitting pieces for sale, and the very great price that such items would need to retail at to provide such knitters with the minimum wage. Maybe if we shifted our taxation and economic system to favour labour-intensive processes and products over carbon-intensive processes and products then this might change a bit. But £700 (or more) for a pair of tights is still a hell of a lot...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Children's parties

Although his birthday was at the end of January, last weekend we celebrated the bean's 4th birthday with a proper birthday party. There were grandparents, there were friends, there were balloons, there were candles and cake and presents. And, we all had a lovely time (phew).

Much as I aspire to lead the sort of crafterly life that leads to serene parties in which calm children play party games, participate in well chosen craft activities, and take home a hand-stitched party bag packed full of homespun craft and baking goodness, my life just isnt like that (sigh).

So, this is what we did. We opted for a bouncy castle party at a local leisure centre. The room hire/charges were modest, and gave us 2 hours of fun - an hour or so bouncing/playing in the sports hall and an hour or so in a separate room for our party food. The bouncy castle was more of a bouncy assault course than a castle, so children went in one end, and after negotiating various pillars/slopes, slid out of the other end - hopped off the mat, ran round and repeated until they were hot and bothered.  

As well as that, the hall had some footballs, tennis rackets and a couple of space hoppers - and we took a basket of toys for some of our younger friends which we spread on a couple of quilts/blankets. Surprisingly some of the older children sat down to play/read after a while - and it seemed that having a variety of activities on offer worked very well.

In terms of food, we laid the table in good time, and put out bowls/platters for children (and/or their mums) to serve themselves. Everything was finger food - sandwiches, hula hoops (these seem to be very, very popular), sausages, mini cheese portions, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, cherry tomatoes, grapes and satsumas. I worked on the basis of allowing 1 or 2 pieces/portions per child - knowing that individual preferences would mean that some would eat sandwiches/cheese and some wouldn't. I also opted for foods which would be familiar to most children - so slightly more exotic things like olives, pineapple and kiwi fruit were not included. The only exception to my portion estimation was the hula hoops. I bought a multi-pack and put them all out.

We kept the cake/sweet things off the table until most of the savouries had been eaten. Then we offered home-baked cookies, blueberry muffins and of course birthday cake. I did this very deliberately, having seen what happens when chocolate biscuits are on the table next to ham sandwiches, and when one child puts 10 chocolate fingers on their plate they all do! I was also very deliberate about avoiding chocolate and commercial cakes/biscuits - nothing moral here, I just thought there would be enough sugar/sweetness on offer without them. And so it seemed. There were no complaints. Most of the food was eaten, everyone seemed to have enough to eat and there was very little left over to take home. My last (inspired) decision was to take a pack of baby wipes for wiping sticky fingers and faces. It was a good one.

As you can imagine, the party hiatus meant that there has not been much knitting in the last few days. But the deadline for the third birthday is getting a bit near, and grace is moving slowly (but gracefully?) forwards. I started with the sleeves, which I'm knitting at-the-same-time, and last night I managed to get to the final series of shapings at the top of each sleeve, so it feels like progress is being made. I'm slightly concerned about running out of yarn though, because I'm knitting with some yarn from a charity shop jumper which I unravelled a couple of years ago. It's about a DK weight, with 50% wool, and has a sparkly lurex strand to make it just a weeny bit shiny and bling - and there should be enough - it was an adult sweater and I'm knitting a child's cardigan, but you know how it is. the internal knitting curmudgeon isnt quite convinced. To counter the running out feeling, I will of course, do the thing every other knitter does in this situation - just knit faster.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

In which the knitting gods make their views known

So, despite casting on and knitting the first couple of inches of Doris in a crazed funk (mmm, more more, my precious), I soon realised that something was not quite right. I'm a bit lazy when it comes to swatching - mostly because when I do bother I tend to find that my tension is exactly that required, and then I feel I've wasted valuable knitting time and should just have started all along. Humph. Anyway. So, looking at the supposedly smallest size Doris I was blithely knitting, I realised that it seemed to be - you know - a bit on the big side. Even without blocking or being particularly flat, the back that I was knitting was measuring more like the largest size than the smallest. Oops.

I frogged and selected another pattern. This time I'm going for Grace. Another cardigan, but with no moss stitch (below on the right). And - you guessed it - I swatched. I swatched in two different yarns and wouldn't you know I got gauge with both. Ha. Seems my tension with stocking stitch is very different to my tension with moss stitch. Who knew? I still want to knit Doris though - although next time I promise I'll swatch first.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Giving Up

January has been a bit of a disaster knitting wise. The purple Christmas socks are still on the needles, stalled somewhere before the heel flap of the second sock, and the Ava that I cast on. Ha. It is no more. It has been cast aside. Frogged. Done away with and sent very firmly to Coventry.

It's a lovely pattern (probably). But we didn't get on. I kept mixing up the wrong and right sides so the button holes appeared on the shoulder, rather than the centre front/flap. And it was all taking longer than I anticipated (because I had to keep correcting my mistakes), so I ended up improvising an infinity scarf for that 6 year old whose birthday was looming in front of me. And then. Last night. When I got to the bottom of the first front I cast off and discovered the fatal flaw. The front and back did not match up. By about 2 inches. Rather more of a mismatch than can be dealt with by finishing tricks. I've got no idea why that is/was, and I didn't bother to try and find out. I frogged it instead, and have put the yarn back into my stash (grrr).

I still love the socks off the Winter Kids book though, so this morning I cast on for a Doris. There's a small girl we know that will be 3 at the end of the month and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this time the knitting gods will approve.

February seems to be a good time for a spring clean, so I'm giving myself one, and am looking forward to a gluten free month. I'll (probably) keep away from sugar and chocolate too, although my resolve may weaken on that one on account of the two bars of delicious chocolate sitting in the fridge!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

To a haggis...

Today is Burn's night, and we're having haggis for supper, as one should when one lives in Scotland. It's noteworthy because it'll be the first time I've had haggis on Burn's night, after only recently discovering that I like it! Who knew it was so tasty? We (probably) won't be doing the more elaborate bits of Burn's night ritual, e.g. piping it into the dining room or stabbing it with a skean dhu, but we might just manage a verse or two of the address...

To a Haggis, by Robert Burns
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!

Then horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit!' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As fecl;ess as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Tho' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

New Year New Knitting New Babies

Happy New Year!

It's been a whirlwind start to the year. I'm teaching again so there is lots of thinking and reading and preparing and photocopying and tinkering with the university VLE going on. And, there has been plague in this house. I am the only one not to have succumbed and the only one not to have antibiotics. DH is still laid low and although ordered to rest by the GP, as a self-employed person, he is inevitably tucked up with his laptop... So time to knit and blog has been small.

Anyway, there is new knitting and new babies to report. First, some old friends welcomed their second child, a girl named Zoe, last week. She was born at home, like her big brother, and on her mama's birthday! A day later - near neighbours Lorraine and Trevor welcomed a little girl called Sophia Rose. Welcome to the world little ones. We wish you much love, light and peace as you grow. And, to your dear parents we wish much sleep.

On the knitting front, I swapped one of my Christmas presents (a sock book) for something I was a bit more excited about: Rowan Winter Kids.

It's stuffed full of gorgeous projects and the bean has already requested one of the sweaters... not sure I'll manage it in time for his birthday (next week!) but I have already cast on for one project - Ava - a girl's cardigan knit in one piece in a chunky yarn.

I am using something from my stash rather than the colourscape yarn specified. It's a shame not to have such lovely colours to work with, but stash busting is *still* the challenge in 2011! I'm hoping to gift Ava to a friend's daughter, but it will depend how it looks in my tweedy yarn...

Oh yes, and one last thing, I  had some scrumptious sock yarn from my mother for christmas. It's Jenny Cook's again, and so tempting that I wound the skein on Christmas day and started knitting straight away. The first sock is done, and the second on the needles...