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!