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.
>I made up that word- ‘slackblogger’, sounds almost Shakespearean, doesn’t it?- to describe how I’ve been recently with this blog. Maybe I just haven’t been doing enough of the stuff I like to write about, making stuff and going out and about, or maybe I’ve just been lacking motivation to write in general. Anyway, a big distraction has been the chance of going back to full time work, but following an unsuccessful interview yesterday, it looks like home is where it’s at for a while longer.
With that in mind, it’s probably appropriate that some of my recent making projects have been of the homely variety:
This dishcloth is my first attempt at one. I ended up using a probably over-fancy yarn, Rowan Revive . I’d got it on special from but found it a bit rough and stiff when I knitted it up. Fortunately rough and stiff is quite good for a dishcloth. I used what my Grandma described as ‘a sort of fancy rib’ for the pattern. You knit a row, purl a row, then k1 p1 rib two rows, basically. In this yarn, this makes for some useful, grot-shifting bobbles.
You may also notice the drip-catcher below the draining rack. I think this was inspired by something Soule Mama put on her blog a while back. It goes some way to solving the problem of a draining board that is too small, doesn’t slope enough and has areas around the outside edge where pools of yukky water form. Some reclaimed polyester cotton, from a charity shop duvet cover in glorious Seventies purple flower print, and some fleece fabric I had knocking around- bit of freestyle embroidery foot sewing and there was something that looked a bit better, soaks up the water and is easy to wash.
The only problem with both these items is they’re meant to be chucked in the wash and replaced every couple of days…and I’ve only made one of each so far. With interview preparation over with, that’s where my priorities should be now.
Except…sometimes the sun is shining at the moment, and there’s a very convincing argument for why going back to work full time wouldn’t really have been all it’s cracked up to be. Or rather two convincing arguments, with big sparkly blue eyes ready to take in the world and its wonders. So when the weather is bad I’ll get mundanities such as dishcloths knitted, but when it’s kind I’ll be grabbing the opportunity and the camera and working at kicking the slackblogger habit.
A couple of blogs I’ve been reading lately (namely Soulemama and The Antidote) got me thinking about some of the beautiful, and enduring, items that we have thanks to the handiwork of family members. I’m sure if I dig through the family albums next time I’m at my parents I could find loads of great pictures, but for now here are just a few examples.
The first pic is my original ‘grandma’ blanket. I’ve made a couple of my own in recent years, but this one has been around throughout my childhood and even earlier, as it was made by my great grandmother, probably long before I was born. Well made at that, as it’s still in great condition after years of keeping her grandchildren and great grandchildren warm, as well as being used as a cape, tent roof etc.
The second pic is my beloved Kitty, my mum’s handiwork. This is one of the originals, although you can now get the kit to make one through the recently relaunched Clothkits- I’ve already made P the Kit doll and need to finish off the rest of Kit’s wardrobe sometime soon. I saved for what seemed like months to get Kitty, then dashed downstairs every morning to see how far my mum had got with making her. I still have all her clothes and despite literally years of playing with her (accompanied by BF Kate and Kitty Brown) she is in pretty good nick, apart from her poor, worn through hands and the bias-binding evidence of an operation carried out by surgeon Mum to reattach her arm…
Finally, just a couple of the items P is lucky enough to have had made for him. Along with lots of other things including knitted clothes, some fantastic dungarees and a giant beanbag to sleep on during daytime naps, he also has these two gems. The work of his two grandmothers, who incidentally collaborated on the beanbag, they are far superior to anything shop bought. The patchwork is my mum’s, responding to the seaside theme I wanted for our then unborn child’s nursery, the intricate knitting is my mother-in-laws and won a prize at the Great Eccleston show! Despite our little boy’s aversion to being covered up, through stealthy application of one or the other after he has fallen asleep these blankets have already kept him cosy on many a night and no doubt will continue to do so for years to come, one way or another.
There’s definitely something about a handmade item, particularly when it’s been handmade with a particular recipient in mind that is more than the sum of its materials- something enduring and very special.