A combination of a due date drawing closer and a desire for a bit of quick knitting led me to take a break from my more slow-burn project this weekend for a pair of baby hats. An added bonus was the chance to enjoy the work of two of my lovely knitting friends.
First up was Cookie Jar by Joeli’s Kitchen. I first came across Joeli when I was looking for a Tech Editor for Coniston- little did she know as she guided me through the process of putting a pattern together properly that she was only just beginning. Next thing I knew I’d started getting designs accepted in Knit Now and Joeli was knocking more of my patterns into shape and in the process teaching me so much about pattern writing.
Like me, Joeli juggles her paid work with bringing up two little ones of a similar age to mine, so she knows what she’s doing when she comes up with her gorgeous designs for children. Cookie Jar is easy to follow, comes in a range of sizes from baby to adult and uses simple stitches to great textural effect.
I used the rest of the rainbow yarn I had left over from the Milo I wrote about a few weeks ago. As a heavy DK, the yarn is a little bit lighter than the pattern recommends, so I used the toddler stitch count on 4.5mm needles for a baby size. What I didn’t do was work out how much yarn I had left. As a result, when I got to the second moss stitch band the end of the yarn came whipping out of my handbag (most of the knitting for this was completed on the journey to and from a great family meal out at The Highwayman near Kirby Lonsdale. I can recommend the cauliflower fritters with spicy mayo and the Morecambe Bay shrimp). A quick fudge was in order. Since the design is quite slouchy and I was following the toddler hat directions, I judged that I’d have enough height for more of a beanie style if I frogged, then omitted, the last texture band and started the decreases. With just a few yards to spare I had it completed- a very satisfying and quick project. I’ve mentioned the yarn, by Moonlight Yarns before, but at the risk of repeating myself, although I don’t really like multi-coloured yarns as a rule, there’s something utterly joyful about this one. The colours are so vibrant and the length of each colour repeat is long enough that you get a lovely stripe effect rather than pooling. My project page on Ravelry is here.
With one of my baby knits now a set, I needed something to go with my BSJ- so this time I was working with the yarn of another friend, Victoria at Eden Cottage. A quick Ravelry search turned up Logan by Julie Taylor- a devastatingly cute little pixie bonnet. Again, it’s a clear and well-written pattern with sizes up to a young child’s head size. Instructions are given for knitting flat and in the round, with clear photos guiding beginners through any tricky bits and techniques.
I liked the striped version of the original pattern, but thought that regular stripes in stocking stitch wouldn’t be quite the right match for the irregular, garter stitch stripes of the jacket. I therefore had a try at making it in reverse stocking stitch, keeping the stripes as they were. Not only did this not work well, it also made me realise that I probably didn’t have enough of the grey to make it through all the stripes.
At least with baby items it’s not too heart-breaking to frog and start again. I ended up just making the garter stitch border in the grey, then keeping to the green for the main part. I think it really emphasises the pixi-ness of the hat but I’m aware that this isn’t the sort of design that photographs well without a head to model it. A certain baby needs to hurry up, methinks!
This BFL really loves to be blocked- the yarn plumps and smooths itself out so beautifully. I particularly like the way the lines of double decreases that help to shape the hat look. I rather like it when a piece shows something of its structure as a design feature. Ravelry project page is here.
When you design your own patterns it can be hard to find the time to make other people’s, but making these baby knits has reminded me of just how valuable and enjoyable it is to try out other people’s designs. I’m going to try and make the effort to do it more often.
There’s an invisible element of love worked into handmade items created for family or friends. Perhaps you can only really understand that if you’ve ever made such an item. All the thoughts and hopes you have in the hours you spend on it, the devotion and patience you put in when the pattern gets dull or something has to be ripped out and reworked, I’m convinced it somehow works its way into the fibres. Maybe that’s what makes certain handmade items- like the blanket in the picture above- last so long; used, loved and handed on.
The ‘season’ section of the children’s magnetic calendar says ‘Spring’. I write this with sunshine streaming through the window. However, as anyone who ventured outside during the Easter weekend will know, Spring really hasn’t sprung very enthusiastically yet. Undaunted, we nevertheless managed a family weekend of Easter fun. This included a Friday morning walk up Orrest Head above Windermere- a little longer than anticipated for those with littler legs and the iciest wind you can imagine when we got to the top, but the residual patches of snow were thoroughly enjoyed by certain members of the party and the views were spectacular.
With that chilly air still fresh in our minds, if not on our faces, I spent much of the weekend preparing ways to keep warm, as well as the all-important food, for the Easter Egg hunt we had planned on the Monday. The venue was a beautiful little patch of woodland recently bought by a friend’s mum about half an hour’s drive from us and the plan was to meet for egg hunting, food and a fire for as long as we could take the weather.
While our boy runs hot, my little girl takes after me and really feels the cold. I had layered her up with as many clothes as possible without her losing the ability to bend her limbs, but she nevertheless punctuated her forays around the woods looking for eggs, waving bubble wands, throwing dry leaves about and shouting with spells spent by the fire, wrapped in the Grandma blanket. This had been thrown into the car as an automatic reaction, just as it has been for picnics, beach and camping trips so many times before. Not just with the current configuration of the family either, because the ‘Grandma’ who made this simple, stash busting crochet blanket forty, maybe fifty or more years ago wasn’t my children’s Grandma, or even mine, but my mother’s. So technically M should call it the ‘Great-Great-Grandma Blanket’. I know how much love and thought and hope for endurance goes into making items like this, but nevertheless it’s hard to imagine Great Grandma saw her blanket still being in more or less daily use all this time later.
Yes, the wind blew cold and M wasn’t the only one seeking the comfort of the fire and the blanket. But we hunted eggs and we feasted- on barbecued sausages, homemade flatbreads, irresistable Cambodian Wedding Day dip (from River Cottage Veg Everyday), grilled courguettes in minted Greek yogurt, maple syrup popcorn (based on this recipe from Soulemama), Simnel Cake and toasted marshmallows. As we drove home, deliciously tired and scented with woodsmoke, the views included the snow-capped splendour of the Lake District peaks touched by decidedly Spring-like sunshine.
With the unexpectedly warm weather continuing- it’s like Nature is trying to apologise for the hard, cold winter- we took to the garden yesterday. Having near enough burst my lungs inflating the paddling pool and given thanks for a hosepipe in the garden to save me lugging buckets about, I settled down to finish off some handsewing.
Proper smocking is something I’d like to learn, but for now I’m contenting myself with mock smocking using shearing elastic. A slightly late birthday present of a sun top for a little friend of ours in Cardiff was made in a similar way to the first of two sundresses I’m making for Maeve from some Liberty print and other fabric acquired on a recent trip to see my folks. I’ll expand- and reveal- more when the full ensemble is complete.
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!!