Making round-up

People often say that, when you have a second child, you don’t really get the same benefit from maternity leave as you do with the first: you can’t nap when the baby does (if the baby does nap at a convenient time and place, that is, and I’m smelling a lot of “if” coming off that plan), you can’t just slop around the house in your pyjamas with your similarly pyjama-ed baby because there’s another vocal person who needs to be taken out and entertained. You certainly shouldn’t find that you have more time for general knitting and sewing: perish the thought! This is probably true if you are either a stay-at-home parent, or if you go out to work at a regular 9-5 type of job. I, however, usually work from home. Now, I love my job, but there is one inevitable downside to the situation: I’m usually not able to start work until 7 or so when Eoin goes to bed, and tend to carry on late into the night. Suddenly, on maternity leave, my evenings have become free, and, though my priority a lot of the time is to catch up on lost sleep, I do have far more time to get into the sewing room and let loose.

Rather than writing separate posts for the ever-growing pile of finished objects, I thought I’d do one big round-up of All The Things. First, though, I need to give a little shout-out to the most important creation of the last six months, Snuggly Jeff himself. Here he is, in more conventionally-masculine garb than he has been wearing recently, determinedly masticating a rubber giraffe.

Snuggly Jeff

He’s five-and-a-bit months old already, and scarily huge. He also has a wonderful laugh, a great interest in books (usually to chew, admittedly), and a mercifully high level of tolerance for being dressed up in crazy outfits. Good baby, that one.

And now, the finished objects!

  1. The long-awaited Aidez cardigan (designed by Cirilia Rose), ravelled here: I’ve blogged about this before, but I finally managed to finish it two months before Ronan’s arrival. Now I’m not pregnant, it’s a little baggy in the body, but I can live with that. A word of warning to any large-busted knitters planning to make this, though: you will need to conduct some substantial modifications to the front: you could go for bust-darts if you are that way inclined, but you are likely to have to widen the fronts substantially too. I’d say planning for button-bands from the beginning might be the best way to go.
  2. High Water jumper by Veera Välimäki, ravelled here. A lovely design which would work for boys or girls. Unfortunately, Eoin objects to the yarn in which I made this: apparently it’s too scratchy. Ah, well…
  3. More High Water. He’s smiling under duress, all the while muttering, “It itches”.
  4. Scraptastic hat by Jane Tanner, made from the remnants of my Color Affection shawl, another Veera Välimäki design. Ravelled here. I managed to make it a little too roomy, but I’m calling that a design feature. Slouchy, you know?
  5. Turn a Square hat (Jared Flood, ravelled here) for Stephen. Stolen by Eoin, despite the fact it was (a) ridiculously too big and (b) made from the same much-complained-about yarn as his High Water. Clearly his head is made of sterner stuff than the rest of him.
  6. Antler cardigan (tincanknits, ravelled here) for Eoin, knitted in a fit of pique after he refused to wear the High Water jumper. I gave him shortlists of yarns and patterns, and asked him to choose his own jumper on the understanding that he would actually have to wear this one. It turns out he has good taste!
  7. Longus Socks for Ronan (ravelled here) from Clare Devine’s fabulous Sock Anatomy collection: if you’re interested in sock construction, I’d advise you to check this out. Every design uses a different heel and toe combination, so you get to practice tons of techniques while making adorable socks for small feet. Two of the patterns are also available in adults’ sizes.
  8. Nathaniel the squirrel-cushion, from Ysolda Teague’s Whimsical Little Knits 2. Knitted when I was in full-on nesting mode, obviously, and ravelled here. A word of warning to prospective Nathaniel-knitters: he really does need the button eyes, although they are not specified in the pattern. Without them, he looks less like a squirrel and more like a big grey amoeba.
  9. Ronan’s Pixi hat, from Robynn Weldon’s Elfbaby pattern. Ravelled here. Cute, cute, cute!
  10. Puerperium cardigan by Kelly Brooker (ravelled here), which fitted Ronan until about three months and stood up to many soakings with various bodily fluids.
  11. Pebble bodywarmer (Nikol Lohr, ravelled here), which also did sterling duty until about three months. It was also made from the “scratchy” yarn (it was an unfeasibly giant single ball: I still have tons left), but Ronan was stoic, and did not complain.
  12. Pumuckl Hat, also from Robynn’s Elfbaby pattern (ravelled here), also adorable. I’m hoping it will fit into the winter.
  13. The first of the sewing projects! This is a Coco from Tilly Walnes’ pattern (available here): I think this is being classed as a wearable toile for the moment: I demonstrated my usual lack of sizing awareness and made a 6 when I really should have made a 5. I suspect I’ll be talking more about this in a future post: sizing is a bit of an issue for me as I perpetually seem to think I’m a lot bigger than I am, which means I end up with sack-like garments. See how I’m holding the waist in in this picture? There’s a reason for that…
  14. Another Coco, this time the tunic version. Also a 6, so a bit on the big side, but I don’t think this is such an issue with a top. I also think I managed to balance the print and plain sections better on this: I’m a bit of a stranger to playing with prints, and I think the first dress came out a bit Minnie Mouse-ish, while this is a bit more balanced.
  15. Another Coco! This one is a size 5, and a much better fit. I also kept this one short (I added a couple of inches to the length of the first dress) which, I think, works much better: the high neckline needs to be balanced by a shortish skirt, otherwise the dress looks a bit puritanical. I’m very pleased with this version.
  16. Simplicity 2226, in the shorter of the two lengths. Again, I mucked up the sizing of this: I made an 18 (to approximate a UK RTW size 14), and I could get a friend in there with me. Simplicity seem to add mad amounts of ease to their patterns! It’s a lovely style, though, and I’m planning another version in a smaller size.
  17. Clémence skirt from Tilly Walnes’ book, Love at First Stitch. As you may be able to tell, I’ve developed a bit of a Tilly obsession: her patterns are simple yet elegant, and her instructions are fabulously clear. I used a parasol-print cotton which I have had in my stash for ages: it dates from the time when the Cambridge John Lewis was in the Grafton Centre. I realise this will mean nothing to most people, but Cambridge-based readers will be shaking their heads in dismay at my long-term hoarding tendencies.
  18. Vogue 8295 in an appallingly badly-chosen fabric, also from Grafton-era John Lewis. It’s a lovely print, but I had no concept of drape or body when I chose this. The skirt nearly ended up in the bin years ago when I couldn’t make it come together, so I’m impressed I managed to salvage it. This is also an 18, and I can confirm that Vogue do not add much ease to their patterns. Breathe in…
  19. Botanical-print Delphine skirt from Love at First Stitch. I need to blog about this in more detail, but for the moment, I invite you to admire the fabulous fabric! Ikea FTW.
  20. More botanical Delphine. I’m very pleased that I managed to get the beetle to sit right on my thigh.
  21. New Look 6576 for Emer, fetchingly modelled by Ronan, and blogged here.

This is a bit of a mammoth post, and hurrah for you if you’ve stuck with me up to this point. I’m planning to write about a couple of the projects in more detail (I also need to cover my ongoing struggles with the concept of ease), but I hope this quick overview is interesting. If anybody would like to know more about a particular project, let me know!

I heard there were over 200 cases of forced transvestism involving Mr Sweeney last year.

It’s a sad fact that, in general, sewing patterns for little boys can be a pretty poor show. You can knit some pretty excellent jumpers, hats and so on, but, when it comes to sewing, an awful lot of the boys patterns on offer are at best a bit “meh”, and at worst, not the sort of thing I’d dress a child in for fear of them having the living snot beaten out of them. I know that designers like Rae Hoekstra are keen to redress this, and I’m certainly keen to have a go at Rae’s Flashback t-shirt since I’ve got over my fear of sewing knits.  All the same, I do find myself drooling over girls’ skirt and dress patterns (The prints! The pintucks! The tiny collars!); I don’t have a girl of my own to knit for, but I do have a small and very cute niece who is still too young to protest about me dressing her up in whatever crazy fabrics come my way. I just finished New Look 6576 for her, but I wasn’t sure about whether or not it would fit: I needed an appropriately-sized model, and, well, one thing led to another and this happened:

He's not scarred for life. Honest.

Poor Ronan: the indignity of it. Cross-dressing is obviously all very well if it’s your own choice, but it’s quite another thing to have your mum up and put a dress on you out of the blue. Fortunately he wasn’t too fazed by it, and I was able to get a good idea of how the sizing worked out.

Once you look past the icky styling on pattern envelope (Wow! Such appliqué! Very Sequin! etc), NL 6576 is a very simple a-line shift dress which should act as a good canvas for some of the printed cottons in my stash, but which also ought to work well in a heavier-weight fabric as a pinafore.

New Look 6576This is the medium size, which is a bit large on 5-month-old Ronan, but a much better fit on 7-month-old Emer. It’s a roomy style, and I suspect that the large would fit up to 18 months, though you might be getting more into tunic territory in terms of length. The fabric is a crysanthemum-print cotton which I’ve had in my stash for ages: I was aiming for something which was feminine without being twee, and I hope that this sort of bold floral works. I made the facings out of a fat quarter of purple cotton with a smaller floral sprig, and I edged them with orange bias tape because, hey, there’s always room for bias binding, right?

Contrast facing

That photo is a bit ropey, I know, but it turns out that tiny, cute dresses can be a bit tricky to make and photograph due to their small scale. I had a bit of a wrestle with the facings, and, in the end, I decided to topstitch them rather than attempting to understitch all those minute curves. All the same, I’m pretty pleased with this, and I’m looking forward to making it up in some other fabrics: I have a comic book advert print featuring decoder rings and moon shoes which is calling my name rather loudly. I have some alternative children’s patterns to try out too, but for the moment I’m happy to see what I can do with a simple shape and some interesting fabric.

As I’ve worked out the sizing, there shouldn’t be any need to press my model into service for future fittings. It’s a pity, though: he does manage to rock the look.

Ronan rocks his dress

A big tip of the hat to Roisin of Dolly Clackett, who kindly allowed me to copy her title format: I couldn’t resist the Father Ted reference. Poor Ronan has been known as Mr Sweeney since I put the dress on him on Friday… 

Elfbaby Hat: we have a winner!

My lovely assistant has helped me to draw a winner out of the hat (or, in this instance, out of the red plastic bowl). Here he is in action:

And the winner is…

Scone!

 

Congratulations to (Mrs) UKScone: I’ll send a copy of the pattern over asap. Commiserations to everyone else, but thank you all for entering!

Giveaway time: it’s the fabulous Elfbaby Hat!

I’m very excited to be able to offer a second giveaway: it’s another gorgeous hat, but this time it’s one primarily intended for the small people in your life. Robynn Weldon is the creator of several lovely patterns for babies and children; the Elfbaby hat is her newest design (you can read more about its genesis here), and, as you can see from this picture of Ronan, it automatically makes any baby wearing at least 50% cuter than normal.

Ronan being cute, in Pixi

Elfbaby is a pixie-style hat, with a long point and a choice of three decorative borders: Pixi, Pippi and Pumuckl. Robynn was kind enough to ask me to test-knit the pattern, and, being in the nesting stage of pregnancy at that point, I whizzed through two of the possible border patterns in record time (you can see the third, Pippi, on Robynn’s blog, here).

The pattern is sized all the way from newborn to adult: it looks adorable on babies, as you can see, but that needn’t stop you whipping up a larger size for yourself. It’s worked in sock-weight yarn, so it’s toasty-warm while still being small enough to squish handily into a pocket. It’s also a great way to use skeins of variegated sock yarn (if you’re anything like me, your sock yarn stash probably multiplies like Tribbles).

You can buy the Elfbaby hat pattern through Ravelry (there’s a 50% discount until the end of August if you enter the the code ONLY5YEARS at checkout), but Robynn has very kindly offered me a copy of the pattern to give away to a reader of this blog (come on, I know there’s at least half a dozen of you!): all you need to do is leave me a comment to say which version of the hat you would knit first, and for whom. A week from today, I’ll pick a winning comment at random. So, get your thinking caps on, and good luck!

Summer flags

The Esplanade is looking particularly shipshape at the moment, with this rather impressive flag display:

20140726-101508-36908630.jpg
I wonder if they’re trying to spell out a message to passing ships? I imagine that, if they are, it’s something along the lines of “It’s fierce hot out! Please send ice-cream immediately.”

Not to be outdone, the Cardiff Arcades are sporting a fine line in stripy bunting:

20140726-101451-36891317.jpg
I’m having a strong desire to get out my pinking shears and start stringing little flags all over the house: it seems that the combination of hot sun, general summer festiveness and an overabundance of fabric may have gone to my head…

Disappearing

I’ve already tweeted a version of this picture, but I decided to post it here too, as I’m really rather pleased with it. It’s only an iPhone image, but the setting is so splendidly spooky that I think it’s worth a post.

This morning, we woke up to quite spectacular mist and fog. We live on the coast, so this isn’t unusual, but it is unusual for me to be scarcely able to see a few metres down the road when I come out of the house. On my way back from dropping Eoin at his childminder, I stopped on the Esplanade to see how the Pier was looking under the unusual weather conditions. Well-nigh invisible, it turns out, at least until you were right on top of it. I only had my phone with me, but I took some pictures while clambering precariously on top of one of the seafront benches in search of some much-needed extra height.

I enthusiastically shared my misty photographs online, but I felt that I could improve on them with a little bit of digital tweaking. A couple of filters later, and I feel I have an image which is closer to the eerie scene by the Pier.

20140401-195715.jpg

Introducing…

Ronan Peter Lynch, born on 11th March, and already settling in well, surrounded by handknitted goodness (the blanket is courtesy of the lovely Liz of Knitting on the Green).

20140324-095737.jpg
I have been rather remiss in posting recently, and indeed the little chap has nearly managed to get to the age of two weeks before making his public appearance here. I’m planning to write a post or two about his birth, as there are a few things I feel I need to talk though before they disappear into the fog of newborn-induced sleeplessness. As far as I can tell at the moment, things seem to be going very differently to the aftermath of Eoin’s birth. Hopefully this will continue: coping with a newborn seems to be a whole different experience when you aren’t also struggling with a range of fun symptoms related to anxiety and PND. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the fact that all tiny babies, even the laid-back, self-burping kind, need heaps of attention, so I will have to keep this post short.

For the moment, though, I should say that, from the midwives to the anaesthetists, the surgeons to the diabetes specialists, and most particularly my very lovely GP, the whole medical team involved in the pregnancy and birth have uniformly excellent. I couldn’t have asked for better care, and I owe an enormous thank you to all the people who looked after me, and to the NHS in general. Once again, I am reminded how very lucky we are to have a health service in this country. People moan a lot about problems with the NHS, and I realise that, like any large organisation, it does have its issues. It is, however, all too easy to moan about the bad things, and forget to praise the good things. There is so much excellent work done by so many dedicated and talented people, and I am uncomfortably aware that, like a lot of people, I am guilty of not saying a public thank you often enough. I’ll be sending a letter to the hospital as soon as I can (there may be a large box of biscuits involved), and I’d urge you to show some love to the doctors, nurses and other marvellous medical types in your life too. We’d be lost without them.