Scrappy recycled shirt for Eoin

Things have been a little heavy around here lately, what with the depression, the diabetes and the rest of the “motherhood is not a bundle of laughs” posts. I have some more instalments planned for the series, but I wanted to break things up a little: with this in mind, here’s the first sewing project I’ve managed to complete since my fractured foot healed enough to allow me to operate the foot pedal on my sewing machine.

Last week, Eoin’s nursery held an “Eco Week” in which they thought a lot about different ways they could reduce, reuse and recycle, culminating in a fashion show featuring outfits made from recycled materials. Predictably, some parents had amazing skills with cardboard and glue: one dad even fabricated a giant, 3D Thomas the Tank Engine costume for his son out of old boxes. I, unfortunately, am utterly ham-fisted when it comes to this sort of thing. There was only one possible course of action: root through my scraps, offcuts and odd buttons, and see if I can make anything wearable out of them. Eoin, as you might imagine, helped vigorously, frequently by picking out an impractically small remnant and asking me to make an entire garment out of it. Patchwork shirt pieces Eventually, though, we managed to come up with a pile of material which was both usable for me and, crucially, Eoin-approved. I toyed with the idea of buying a new pattern for the purpose, but, in the spirit of recycling, I ended up pulling out my copy of Heather Ross’s Weekend Sewing, and tracing off the pattern for Kai’s Shirt.

I’d like to begin by noting that the book really is lovely to look at: I initially bought it for the lovely picture of the Yard Sale skirt on the cover, and I spent a great deal of time drooling over such eye-candy as the adorable mint-green Singer Featherweight which appears in many of the internal illustrations. The patterns cover a good range, from garments for both children and adults to a number of different accessories. I was, however, aware that reviews of the book had been mixed, and many readers had had issues with sizing, instructions, and the making-up process. As more of a newbie, I had let this put me off trying any of the patterns, but, this time, I considered myself up to the challenge. It’s a simple-enough pattern, and the cutting was straightforward. As you can see from the picture above, I even attempted a bit of a hack on the back of the shirt and pieced it together from three fabrics. Things were going so well. There were flat-felled seams: it was beautiful. The shirt itself is pretty boxy, but it began by going together easily enough. Shirt frontLater on, though, I ran into some issues: the sleeves sit somewhat awkwardly in the armscyes, and the collar was, bluntly, a beast to assemble. Admittedly, I haven’t made a collared shirt before, but it seemed to me that the length of the collar itself did not match up to the dimensions of the neck opening. I ended up having to fudge the back of the neck quite badly: there are some pleats on the inside of the collar from where I just couldn’t make the fit work any better (you can see them in the picture on the left if you embiggen it). Judging by the reviews, I’m not the only person to have had these issue, and I have to admit I’d be reluctant to make the shirt up again for a more formal occasion. It was fine for my purposes, though, and it’s certain that using a neglected pattern from my stash was much more in the spirit of the exercise than buying a new, potentially better-fitting pattern would have been.

While I may not have been blown away by the pattern itself, I’m really rather pleased with the wayShirt back the shirt as a whole worked out. Together, Eoin and I managed to come up a reasonably decent colour scheme, and, although the whole thing does somewhat resemble a Shite Shirt, I don’t think it’s overly crazy. You may recognise the brown polka-dot fabric on the back yoke from my Simplicity 2226 skirt, and the blue dot on the collar from the central piece of my Quilt That Almost Wasn’t. The sleeves are from a scrap of Ikea cotton (it’s the Cecilia print, which is, unfortunately, discontinued), and the main body panels are, variously, a pin-print fat quarter from Busy Bee Fabrics (blogged here) and the leftovers of a tape measure design which I had previously used for a cushion cover.

Eoin spent a great deal of time poring over the contents of my button jars (a certain amount of pouring went on in addition to the poring, as I’m sure you can imagine). Button circleAfter we had cleared up the mess, and I had retrieved some of my more precious buttons from Eoin’s pockets, we had a set of seven buttons in a rainbow of colours. Aside from simply being cheerful, this fits well with the nursery’s theme for the term, in which each week is dedicated to a particular colour (eco-week, naturally, was green). Given half a chance, Eoin would probably have covered the shirt with bias binding, zips and pom poms in addition to the buttons, but I cherished a fond hope that he might wear it again after the fashion show, and, with that in mind, tried to urge him to be moderate in this respect.

After a somewhat fraught couple of evenings spent wrestling with the collar and facings, the shirt was finished in time for Eoin’s fashion show, and he wore it proudly in among the tinfoil robots, bubble-wrap fairies, and cardboard box tank engines. I may not be able to make a convincing costume out of papier-mâché, but I hope I managed to come up with something reasonably cute. The wearer, naturally, is adorable.

Eoin in his crazy shirt


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…



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!

Knitting progress, against the odds.

Very shortly after I posted the picture of Eoin cheekily inserting himself between my camera and the quilting fabric yesterday, I heard him wake up and start making some horribly familiar barking, wheezing noises. He has had a few bouts of croup since last winter, and, though we had hoped he might have grown out of it, it seems he managed to get a small dose again. Thankfully, it wasn’t bad, as croup goes: the first time he had it was the worst, and then I was seconds away from calling 999 (If you’re ever in that situation, don’t hesitate: the A&E department the next day told me there’s really no such thing as a false alarm when you’re dealing with an infant with breathing difficulties). Fortunately, Eoin was fine then, and seems well recovered now: last night’s sleep was not too broken, and, although he did have a couple more breathless episodes, I think the worst thing from his point of view was a bad dream in which a lot of minions were trying to get into bed with him, “but I didn’t want them to, mummy!”. After a domestic day of helping Stephen with designing an experiment (“You don’t need to solve the problem, daddy: I’ve done it for you”), building duplo machines and helping me cook, he is now safely tucked up in bed, and I have taken the chance to do a little work on my Aidez cardigan.

Despite a lot of reading around on the subject of shaping, not to mention some very helpful suggestions from other kind knitters, I was still no closer to a strategy for inserting bust darts into the design. The problem is mainly that I have a lot of trouble visualising things in three dimensions: making darts in fabric when sewing is no problem, because you can pin the blasted things in, see how they look, and easily change them if necessary. To me, at any rate, bust darts in knitting seem to entail some form of precognition, not to mention a much more highly-developed mathematical ability than I possess. Basically, in terms of Stuff About Knitting Which Scares Me, bust darts are right up there with stranded colourwork and steeking. I realise I am going to have to deal with this at some point, but I suspect the way to work though my problems might be to try to insert the darts into some plain stockinette fabric, rather than into some fairly complicated (for me) cabling, on which I am only just keeping my head above water. I’ve been planning a Cria since I tried one of Ysolda’s samples on at the 2011 KnitNation: it was the lovely grey one you can see in the linked pattern, and I’m pleased to report it was only a tiny bit snug in the 34″ bust, which goes to prove that a smaller size with well-thought-out shaping is likely to be far more flattering than a jumper in your actual bust size, which is probably just going to hang off you everywhere else. This feels like a sensible place to start my adventures in shaped knitting: Ysolda even uses the Cria as an example in her section on bust darts, and you can’t really get much more hand-holding than that.

Of course, cheering though my Cria plans may be, I was still no closer to a solution to my potential bust issues with the Aidez, which does have a reputation on Ravelry for coming up rather small in the fronts. After a lot of mental wrestling, I looked again at the garment photographs, and thought, “For heaven’s sake, this is almost entirely unstructured: it’s supposed to hang loosely at the front, not fit neatly. This is actually kind of why you’re knitting it, pregnant person!”. So, I did what any sensible slapdash knitter would do, and decided to just add an extra two stitches into the stockinette panel on each front. This should give me an extra centimetre of width in each front, which should hopefully be enough to stop the cardigan looking skimpy. I’m planning to keep the extra width going all the way up the front, and then just decrease a little more rapidly for the neckline.

Of course, now I am worried that the Aidez is going to come out too big (I really struggle with the concept of ease), but, let’s face it, if I wasn’t worrying about this, I’d find something else to panic about. So far I am about a third of the way up the left front, and I’m actually feeling pretty pleased with myself for having managed four separate cable patterns in one garment. You’ve got to take your knitting victories where you can.

In other news, I may have received my oddest spam comment so far: a chunk of text out of what appears to be an academic essay on the sermons of John Donne. This is pretty spooky, not least because I have a good friend who wrote her PhD thesis on this very topic, and I’m really hoping that an unscrupulous spambot (is there any other kind?) hasn’t been plagiarizing her work. Mind you, it makes a change from Viagra advertisements: this may be the first time I’ve been mildly interested in anything a spammer had to say before I consigned the comment to the bin. Spambots, take note!

Fabric love

Yesterday, Eoin and I headed out to Tredegar House with Sam and her little boy: we didn’t go into the house itself, as toddlers and historic homes don’t usually mix well, but there was quite a lot of climbing about in the playground and a great deal of jumping up and down in muddy puddles (this last being, as you may know if you have your own small people, an inevitability). There was also, particularly excitingly, a visit to Busy Bees Patchwork, a fabric shop which is handily located in one of the outbuildings of the House itself. I really need to go back and visit on a day when Eoin is otherwise occupied, because there was such a vast range of fabrics to admire that I’m sure I didn’t manage to do it justice today.

I did, however, pick up some fat quarters:

Fat Quarter CollageRed and blue prints for inclusion in a planned quilt for Eoin (of which, more later), and sheep and pin prints for me. It’s healthy to have a stash of fabric, you know, just in case the zombie apocalypse comes and you don’t have enough quilting cotton to see you through.

The pin print is particularly lovely: if I was in a position to fit one at the moment, I’d say it would make a fabulous dress, maybe in a shape like this one, only without the extraneous bows. Or this one, which I actually have somewhere in the chaos of the wool room. I just have to wait for the bump to (a) appear and (b) disappear first. 17 weeks to go…

Gratuitous photo post: St Augustine’s, Penarth, with lots of lens flare.

Winter sun, and all that jazzSorry: I know this isn’t a proper post as such. I’m really tired, and trying to work short rows out is making my head hurt. The photo itself is a bit better if you click to embiggen.

Mind you, it was a lovely day, and the church is a gorgeous one. John Betjeman gave it top marks out the churches in the local area, don’tcha know? The interior is beautiful: you can see more here.

With that, I’m heading off to bed, clutching a copy of Little Red in the City. I’m going to work this bust shaping out if it’s the last thing I do.

Knitting progress: Aidez

I’m a long-term fan of the marvellous Electric Sheep podcast by Hoxton Handmade, a lady with a mellifluous voice, a sharp sense of humour and some great taste in knitting patterns. She may or may not also have a hard-drinking, supervillain sheep concealed in her back garden in South London, but I think the less attention drawn to him, the better. I have been tempted into favouriting a lot of the patterns she has reviewed, and further tempted into casting others on. My Color Affection shawl, knitted last year and still being worn proudly now that the days are getting chillier, was very definitely Hoxton-inspired.

Colo(u)r Affection This initial recommendation had the fringe benefit of introducing me to the lovely designs of Veera Välimäki: I have also knitted her Fisherman’s Pullover for Eoin (though I did have a bit of a gauge mix-up there), and am working on a Gathering Stripes jumper for him at the moment.

The second pattern which the wiles of the Electric Sheep have seduced me into casting on is the celebrated Aidez cardigan by Cirilia Rose. I had put off knitting this for a while, as it is a fairly unstructured fit, and, being large of bust, I was concerned that it might not be flattering. I had, however, cast on an OWLS jumper which I wasn’t happy with: I was using a wool-mix yarn, and would have preferred to be knitting in a pure wool, and I was also becoming convinced that the shaping in OWLS doesn’t really work for my figure, and was going to need some serious tweaking if I was going to achieve a neat, non-baggy fit. GIven that I am about five months pregnant, working on the neat fit was not going to be easy: I don’t have any bump to speak of yet, but it’s sure to pop out in the next couple of weeks. Throw the likelihood of a bout of Gestational Diabetes into the mix, together with the associated strict diet and drastic weight loss (with Eoin, I weighed less at full term than I did at conception), making anything remotely fitted over the next few months was really going to be a non-starter. I happened to listen again to one of the podcast episodes in which Ms Hoxton discusses her Aidez, and decided to take the bull by the horns, frogging the OWLS and casting on the Aidez.

It’s going well so far: I have finished the back so far (I know it doesn’t look like it from this picture, but I promise it’s true), and am about to cast one of the fronts on.

Aidez back panel

Apologies, again for the photo. The Color Affection one was taken with an actual camera. This one wasn’t, as you can no doubt tell.

It’s a lovely, straightforward pattern so far, and very addictive: I’ve sat up far too late on several evenings, muttering “Just one more row, just one…” under my breath as the clock ticks on towards midnight. Cables just seem to do that to a knitter! As it’s knitted in a chunky yarn, it’s also going very quickly, which makes a pleasing change from working in 4 ply. The yarn isn’t the most exciting (Sirdar Click, so it’s a bit acrylic-y) but it’s knitting up in a pleasantly non-crunchy manner, and should at least survive being thrown in the washing machine. My only concern at the moment is that I might have to add some bust shaping to the fronts, and we all know what that will involve: maths, and the doing thereof. I am not good at maths, nor am I good at thinking in three dimensions. I’m undergoing a tiny bit of a hiatus as I read the pattern very carefully, and try to work out whether just adding a couple of stitches to the stockinette portions and adjusting the decreases at the top will work. If not, I’m going to have to dive in with a calculator and a tape measure: if this happens, I may have to ask you to hold my hand, in a virtual sense.

I’ll keep working on this over the next few weeks: let’s hope I find a solution to the bust issue which doesn’t involve me passing out over some complicated long-division sums.

What’s the opposite of startitis, again?

It seems I start a lot of posts (either in reality or in my head) by apologising for the loss of my yarny mojo. Indeed, this affliction is not limited to knitting: I seem to have stalled on a horrible number of projects in pretty much any fibre-based medium you care to mention. One of BlogHer’s earlier prompts for NaBloPoMo was to describe your writing space: I had initially planned to describe my crafting space (generally known as the Wool Room), complete with photos, as I initially thought it would be a more interesting proposition than just writing “whichever end of the sofa Stephen isn’t sitting on” in large letters under the title. However, a brief look through the door was enough to convince me that I couldn’t photograph that troll-cave of a workspace, to paraphrase Allie Brosh, in its current state. Maybe I could do it later in the month, but, for the moment, there’s no way that any sane person should see the carnage that’s going on behind the door.

My problem is only partly startitis (the knitterly condition in which one casts on numerous new works in process, only to let them languish in your yarn bag after the first few rows). It’s also a form of pre-startitis, in which I plan immense amounts of projects, buy or dig our the raw materials, tools and patterns, and then proceed to do absolutely nothing about starting the actual work. Zilch. Nada. I don’t even have the warm, fuzzy feeling of having started the project, which means you can at least console yourself with the thought that one day you will finish what you started. Instead, I have large, accusatory piles of fabric, yarn and unspun fibre, books and magazines, quilt wadding and crochet hooks strewn about every available surface in the wool room, as well as the floor. The crochet hooks are particularly ridiculous: I can’t crochet beyond the most limited sort of granny square, but I evidently hold a belief that I can learn by some sort of osmotic process, just by leaving enough of the requisite tools around.

It’s not even as if I’m picking hard projects: I recently bought this fabulous cheater quilt top from Spoonflower: if you like owls, I would urge you to have a look at this, as it is absolutely gorgeous in the flesh, so to speak. Or, at least, the unquilted top is gorgeous, even if I have not actually managed to assemble into any sort of quilt sandwich yet. I think I may need someone to give me a virtual slap over this: it’s not as if I really need to do anything: there’s no designing, no complicated piecing. It’s just a question of putting some wadding between two layers of fabric, and breaking out the running stitch, for goodness’ sake. Somehow, though, the constituent parts are still strewn about the wool room. The footstools I am recovering have suffered a similar fate: one has had a shiny new cover for the last few months. The other still has its old, tatty cover, while the paltry three – count’em – pieces of fabric I need to make the replacement remain unsewn.

I’m hoping that NaBloPoMo, with its attendant need for bloggable material, might give me the impetus to finish a few of these projects. I’m realistic about the likelihood of my learning to crochet any time soon (it’s slim), but I am sure I can at least manage to put together Eoin’s new winter jumper, or finish the braid of fibre which I started spinning in May. May! Seriously, I need a good shaking, don’t I?

I’m trying to sort myself out, in a creative sense. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some pictures of the aforementioned part-finished spinning project. It’s a merino/soya blend from L Hogan, colourway “Bathing Suit”, which I bought in This is Knit, the last time I was in Dublin. As you can see from the unspun fibre I have left, it was pretty crazy in the braid, but I’m hoping it will come shading calmly from one colour to another.

Finished bobbin of singles, pink outwards

Finished bobbin of singles, pink outwards

Second bobbin in progress. We're in the blue/green section here.

Second bobbin in progress. We’re in the blue/green section here.

The remaining roving. Psychedelic-looking, no?

The remaining roving. Psychedelic-looking, no?

Wish me luck: I really hope that, before the month is out, I’ll proudly be showing you a finished skein of plied yarn. After all, I haven’t got much roving left to go, and plying’s way faster than spinning. Right?