Knitting to order, but still with love

There are only so many crafting hours in a lifetime.  Only so many things that can be made, and when you have a young child that feels like even less things. Although, on that particular note, it is at least great fun to have someone small to dress up in home made items, knitted and sewn. Mine is at that awkward stage when she knows if she likes something or not, but pretty much only after I have completed it. I ask her beforehand about the pattern/shape, colour/material, whether it’s knit or sewn I get her opinion.  When faced with the completed item, however, anything can happen.

My mother is a better bet luckily. Mine got fed up of waiting for me to offer to knit her another jumper. I made her last one in 2011. She offered to buy the yarn but could I please knit her another jumper this winter. Okay Ma, you can jump my project queue.

Mum is hypercritical.  She loves handmade things, she admires my work, but she is perfectly happy to notice and point out any errors.  Planning is important.  I went through a number of patterns, trying to find the perfect one.  It had to be chunky, having a jumper thrust itself into my knitting schedule meant it had to be reasonably fast to knit, as fast as sweaters can be anyway. Mum likes cables, but her last jumper had pretty prominent cables, so it had to be slightly different.  The red and grey yarn worked really well with the pattern, neither too overwhelming for the other.

Red Jumper

We went with this one in the end.  A couple of modifications though, the garter stitch edging was a little stiff for my mum’s tastes so we altered it to ribbing.  It helped to have ribbing on the neckline as a nice big snug neck was in order and it’s always nice on the bottom as it pulls the garment in a little. The other amendment was to make it a little longer.  On the model it ends around the top of the hip on the picture of the sleeved version.  The bottom of the hip, I find, is much more flattering on those with a not so flat stomach, more like the length of the red jumper above. So we decided we would make it 2-3 inches longer.

I wanted to get mum some nice squishy superwash merino yarn.  I would have been more than happy to contribute towards the costs, as it is a bit expensive compared to acrylic and mum is not a knitter.  It is always hard to look at the costs for handmade products, you compare it to a retail product and it looks ridiculous.  But for me it’s so nice to knit with a lovely yarn, a good quality one will also wear much better, some cheaper yarns pill so quickly.  So the hours you spend knitting should be as enjoyable as you can afford and the item should last longer than it took to knit it, that’s for sure.  Unfortunately we were quite sure what we wanted and that was a chunky purple yarn that had colour changes and could go in the washing machine and it was not available in anything other than acrylic.  The yarn of choice became clear as James C Brett Marble Chunky.

Mum liked the modelling part, I’ll have to remember that

I started knitting the jumper in November and went as quickly as possible, I wanted to get it done in time to make some Christmas presents. The only trouble was that it was looking  a bit big, quite wide and definitely quite long.  I finished the back piece and put it up against mum who just laughed and the length and called it a dress. But at that point I still wasn’t sure if it wasn’t just looking a little big as it was a baggier design and it was hard to hold the back up and the ribbing out and get a real idea. So I knit the front too.  Hmm, asking for trouble I think. So I finished the front, clipped it all together onto mum and decided we had definitely made a dress.  Mum would have happily worn the dress but not nearly as often.  So I bit the bullet and decided that I would rip it back and take the extra 2.5 inches out of the top section of the front and back stocking stitch. I knit the two sleeves and then put the jumper aside for after Christmas.

Anyone reading this who has made any crafts at all, must be familiar with this process.  The knitting/sewing/crocheted item has gone wrong, you have time and emotion invested in it and you feel really close to the project.  When it goes wrong and you just can’t face it right now, the item has to go into a timeout.  I like to think of it as thinking about what it has done wrong and it’s allowed to come back out when it’s ready to say sorry. In reality, it is about getting some distance from the problem and not feeling quite so much like it’s doing the work twice.  Or sometimes it is giving the brain a chance to look at whatever the problem is from a different angle. In the end the jumper came back out in the middle of January.  It didn’t take that long either to rip it back a bit and knit them both up again.  Chunky is so beautifully fast and it was quick to sew up too. I think handsewing parts of some items made with fabric has given me an appreciation for handsewing knitted seams.  They go a lot quicker and it is even easier to make them look beautiful.

The only difference between the back and the front was the neck shaping

I was not looking forward to blocking it.  As it was made of acrylic the blocking process wasn’t entirely necessary, I wasn’t going to steam block it until I was sure it fit mum and I didn’t really think that we would need to do that anyway. But I did want to give it a wash, I always do with items that I’ve knitted as that yarn would have been through my fingers, in and out of bags, near the dogs and I will undoubtedly have dropped the ball of yarn on the floor on numerous occasions.  That jumper is going to need a wash.  It was big and that was going to make it very wet, so I put it off for nearly 3 weeks.  Ridiculous. Then I finally got around to it.  I washed it in the sink and let it drain in the bath for the afternoon, gave  it a few squeezes and then rolled it up in a towel and gave it a good squish around. Lastly I took it and laid it out on the spare bed on top of another, dry towel.  I did not peg it out or pin it to anything to dry in shape, it’s a garment with minimal shaping and the acrylic would make it bound anyway. It took a couple of days to dry as it was still hoarding a fair amount of water, but it got there.

I kept the garter stitch detail at the wrists as it seemed to work

Mum was pretty happy with it and grateful for the time I spent, which is why she is a good recipient of a handmade item.  Both optimistically and yet negatively she did find it necessary to point out that it was unlikely to get a lot of use this winter. But as the other jumper has lasted 6 years I’m not feeing too guilty about it not getting much use right now, it’s time will come.




Starting a project that will take months or years

I decided to make the beekeeper’s quilt. It had been sat in my Ravelry library for a long time. I had even made a few hexipuffs. For non-knitters, or even just for non-ravelry/social media junky knitters, these are hexagonal shaped knitted items filled with stuffing. I designated a project bag for my hexipuffs, then I failed to make another one for at least a year and a half.  For some reason the first two are a lot bigger than the more recent ones.  The recent ones have been done with a few different yarns so not sure what is going on there, I’ve clearly tightened up my tension somewhat.

That’s the larger, older one on the bottom.

Then I bought a yarn advent calendar from Cuddlebums. Each day had a mini skein of yarn and it was in its own little packet, so you opened it just like you’d open a chocolate advent calendar, only it was beautiful hand dyed yarn, so addictive.


I made socks with mine, although I finished the socks before I finished all the yarn from the calendar, so I thought I’d make hexipuffs with the rest. Good plan I thought. Well yes, except that these mini skeins also proved popular with other people so the lovely lady who runs Cuddlebums thought, why not offer a mini skein yarn club and then people can receive a box of these every month? Woohoo says I and dived right in.


Enthusiasm is high right now. I’ve been knitting them on the bus, on my break at work, waiting for MB to go to sleep, even at soft play.

imageI did set myself a target of 10 a month and realised that to get a quilt of any decent size that would take 2-3 years. I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Cuddlebums has a lot to answer for though.  Not only have I begun making hexipuffs for a beekeeper’s quilt, I also signed up for a Rainbow Stripe Blanket Club.  It’s aran weight yarn, merino/nylon blend and oh so beautifully soft. I’m a sucker for rainbows at the best of times, but especially in yarn apparently.  The yarn gets sent once a month and this particular club is designed to run for 12 months.

I even chose the big box.  This was largely because the last time I made a blanket I seriously underestimated how much more yarn crocheting takes up than knitting and ended up with a lap blanket, when really I wanted one to snuggle right under.  This one, I was determined, will be plenty big enough.  It is a lot of yarn to knit, while making hexipuffs, and birthday presents and other whatnots. I didn’t think to take a picture of January’s yarn while it was still in the box, or even still in skeins.  It’s all wound into balls now, well 3 of them, the fourth one is already knit up.  Here it is so far

Blanket Club knitting as at 15-2-16

Blanket Club knitting as at 15-2-16


These two balls are left to knit.  The two main issues I’m considering are whether or not I have cast on too many stitches, it may end up a bit narrow and also the time it takes to knit each row.  The plain garter stitch rows were about 20 minutes each. I’m on the second row of that pattern and that is taking an age, hopefully it will speed up when the pattern is set.


I am excited to see the lovely yarns arrive again next month and I’m hoping to have these ones all knitted up by then. Once again, we shall see.

Making foam shapes from Mister Maker

This was a present from my best friend L for my little girl MB for Christmas. There was actually a number of them and today was the day we had true need of one. We have a lot of craft stuff at home, so we can often make something at a moment’s notice.  MB sees me making things and wants to make things too.  I do struggle with finding the right balance of letting her join in with my projects, letting her mess things up, trying to let her help or be creative without me stressing that it doesn’t look the way it is supposed to.

This kind of pack helped me a lot because it was not my idea. When I have a plan of what I want us to make, I have a clear idea of what it looks like.  This pack was not a plan I came up myself, so it doesn’t matter what she does to it, or doesn’t do to it. Sometimes MB really wants it to be perfect herself, so then she won’t start at all and asks me to do things instead, so I really have to try not to make things neater, or tidier, when she has a good go.

The first thing that we needed to do was cut some templates out, to then draw around them on the foam.  You cut the foam pieces out and decorate them, the bag is filled with sticky backed foam which you can cut up and stick on. MB wanted to start with the car, but once I cut it off the paper the template for the car looked tiny, even in comparison with the house and tree the car looked entirely too small. Luckily I got a printer for Christmas which has a flatbed scanner and I could put the two pieces in and copy it, enlarging it from A5 to A4.


MB also wanted to start with the black foam, so the car was going to have to be black. I cut out the templates and drew around the template on the foam.  MB wanted to do all the foam cutting.  I managed to let her get on with it, but I did have to trim up the shapes afterwards as they would have been unrecognisable, and would not have stood up.

MB Cutting 2MB loves cutting with a passion.  Any reason to get out the scissors, anything she can find that may be suitable for cutting up, packaging, wrapping paper, and even just takeaway leaflets, gets turned into small pieces very quickly.

We decided that we were much better off teaching her how to use a pair of scissors properly rather than trying to control this obsession.  If it follows the pattern of everything else so far, it will fade away as quickly as it arrived, at some point I’ll be wondering why it’s been so long since she asked if she could cut something.

Side note: We were lucky and did well with Peppa Pig, I thought she was going to obsessed like every other child I knew as it’s all I heard about. But she soon got over it once she’d seen all the episodes. She doesn’t enjoy the repeats.  Yay!

I did a lot better not messing with MB doing the decoration parts. I also managed to not insist that her trees be green (that’s a red tree in the pictures). I’m getting there.

I’ve been feeling rotten today with a heavy cold/flu like symptom marlarkey. This killed a couple of hours, with reasonably minimal thought required, which is always a blessing.


Procrastination and forgetfulness

I had the great idea to make a doll carrier for a friend’s little girl who was turning 4. Her mum has a baby boy who she carries in a baby carrier. So I offered to make a mei tei a suitable size for a baby doll, or teddy, or whatever baby substitute you fancy and mum thought that sounded like a good idea. This was about a month before their birthday. A reasonably short job too, I estimated 3-4 hours at most.

At first it was getting done when I finished MB’s cardigan, then when I finished mum’s jumper (post to follow when it’s been blocked). Then I started a present for someone else. I thought, it will be easier to do this when MB isn’t home, I’ll do it in Thursday when MB is at nursery, then I got caught up in some paperwork I had to do for the next day, never mind says I, I can do it next week. And promptly forgot all about it.

I’m not sure what made me remember, but it popped in my head on Thursday night, that I had not yet made this carrier and the party was today, Saturday.

Yesterday morning I picked some fabric, grabbed MB’s doll pattern to copy the basic shape and some interfacing. I copied the general proportions except that I made the waist strap longer and the panel a little taller and wider. It comes up a bit small on MB and her dolls now. I got all the fabric cut out in an hour and a half.


I had to leave then to do some bits and bobs at my mum’s.  I got it finished later in the evening after about 2.5 hours of work. It would have been even quicker but I kept sewing the straps in wrong.

How not to do it (at this stage the strap should be going the opposite way, towards the panel not away from it)

I could do with an action pic. I may have to ask her mum for one with her face obscured.

Here it is on my cutting mat.


Edited to add:

Here it is, I cropped and added a star to obscure the birthday girl.


Capturing the motivation to mend or redo

The frayed hole

I say capturing because it comes quite often, this urge to fix all the things. But it’s always when I’ve finished this thing, or sorted out the space, or found the supplies. Somehow the moment is never quite right.

Sometimes others have different ideas of how I should spend my time.


Jubilee really thought a cuddle was far more important than fixing the frog that had acquired a somewhat frayed hole (dog related? No evidence).

I was more set on fixing the frog as its innards were making a hansel and gretel trail around the house. Perhaps if it were my frog the motivation to fix it wouldn’t have been as high but I was also getting nagged by a 3 year old who wanted her frog back.

The dressing gown was next on the list.  My mum bought MB a dressing gown second hand that was practically perfect.  Pink, fleecy, had Hello Kittys all over it.  Its major weakness was the smaller ties on it, they were made out of satin ribbon and rather weak.  MB, for some unknown small child reason, likes to undo the big fleecy tie and then pull the dressing gown over her hips while the smaller ties were still done up. They were getting weaker, but I kept putting the job off. Unsurprisingly it resulted in a complete break before not too long.  I had fixed a smaller one, but this needed a full replacement.  Luckily, such is the stash of crafty stuff that I had just the thing, a nice long length of pink grosgrain ribbon.  I cut two equal lengths, one end straight and the other at a 45 degree angle.  I heat sealed the 45 degree angle end with a lighter and sewed them onto the dressing gown.


Took about 20 minutes start to finish and left me wondering why I didn’t just get on with it earlier.  Lack of motivation, so it had to break to get to the top of the list.

The last thing I have a picture for at the moment is a little handstitching. It’s not quite mending really but an example of the kind of thing that I usually just put off.  When I finished MB’s cardigan I needed to hand sew two sections of ribbon.  Machine sewing it without it getting too visible proved more of a headache than just hand sewing, so I think the motivation in this case was actually the end result, which makes a change.

I hate redoing stuff too.  But I appear to have got a lot better at that.  The main reason is that when I have put a lot of work into something, my initial instinct is to ignore any error, as undoing takes longer than doing it in the first place.  Be it ripping back knitting or unpicking serged seams, it all seems to take much, much longer than it took to make the mistake. Then you have to repeat the work.  But over the last 4 years I have found that it is so, so much worse to finish an item and have an error in it that your eyes go to every time.  Most of the time those errors were almost invisible or unrecognisable to anyone who didn’t sew or knit. That didn’t stop them driving me crazy.  Eventually the item would go in the bin or to the charity shop. I have finally learnt to just undo it and redo it the way I wanted it to look.  Then it was less likely to get messy.

Note to self: Get some more motivation to just get on with it. The author of one of the blogs that I read chooses a word or phrase for each year, I think that my phrase ought to be that. There can be too much reading of craft things and not enough doing.