Friday, 25 July 2008

Water fun on a sunny day



This has to be the perfect kiddie activity on a sunny day - all you need is a patio or wall, a couple of pots of water and paint brushes, and some budding artists. Painting, with lots of fresh air and no mess! My boy came up with some amazing representations of 'dark monsters' again, and my daughter is obviously a girl after my own heart with this teapot painting.




Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Frocks and socks

Pirate knitting is on hold - as predicted, the off-white yarn failed to arrive today again. I'd used an online shop that's new to me, but unfortunately my emails and calls aren't being returned, so I spoke to a lovely member of staff in John Lewis, Reading, this morning, who is going to post me some from their stock instead.

In the meantime, I thought I'd better tackle a couple of unfinished objects from weeks ago - a dress for my daughter and a matching dress for her doll. These have been sitting almost-finished for a while now, particularly the doll's dress ... anyone who's been reading this blog for a while and who has a very good memory will know just how long! Ahem - those elves were definitely slacking last Christmas!

The dress is Simplicity 4927, a cute a-line dress with cap sleeves, quick and easy to sew - not even a zip to insert! I modified it by adding a lining as the blue fabric was a bit too sheer, and added a rick-rack detail and some pink dotty ribbon. The doll's dress is Simplicity 3879, which includes lots of cute patterns for several sizes of baby doll. My girl was quick to point out that the two dresses don't match exactly, but seems nonetheless to be pleased with the whole concept of 'hers and hers'.

Thinking ahead to our holiday in Wales next week, I thought I'd better get going on some more knitting to take with me. This time a pair of socks in RYC Cashsoft DK (bought from another online yarn store who failed to return my calls!). The yarn is lovely and soft, and the ribbed pattern makes this much more interesting to knit than the first pair of socks I knitted. I had an unusually peaceful afternoon to get started on these, with my boy and girl playing happily for at least an hour. But as you can see from the photo, I soon had a little pirate helper.

He was quite happy to let me knit, provided I submitted myself to an aggressive foot massage. Look at those thumbs, poised:

This is such a common occurrence in our household, that we have our own word for it - 'nobbling' (from the verb 'to nobble'). Our boy has done this since he was tiny, when tired, bored, or worried. He likes to get his thumbs in between the joints on your hands and feet and ..well, 'nobble' them, for want of a better word! Maybe I'd better get knitting a pair of reinforced socks for myself!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Pirates ahoy!

It's my budding little pirate's turn now - I've cast on and knitted the back of his new skull and crossbones jumper. The Debbie Bliss DK cotton is lovely and, most importantly, knits up really fast; I think this one should be finished quite soon, unlike the crocheted border cardigan in 4 ply, which seemed to take forever! My little boy is so far just disappointed by the fact that there is no skull to be seen as yet. Hopefully the cream/white yarn will make arrive by post tomorrow, or I'll be stalled after the ribbing on the front, and the two arm cuffs.

So far the main mishap has been at the 'change to 4mm needles and continue in st-st ...' bit - I did my usual 'change one of your needles to a 4mm needle but continue to use the 3 3/4 mm needle on alternate rows'. I managed not to notice this for 60-odd rows, and there was no way I was going to rip it back, so luckily it doesn't seem to be too obvious!

Bobbins are at the ready so I can try my hand at intarsia again. Hopefully it will go better than last time:

I just dug this one out to photograph it, and I've now finally ripped it so that I can lay it to rest.
Cause of death - my poor mastery of intarsia/fairisle techniques, as manifested in uneven tension, the main yarn colour surfacing in the middle of the pink polka dots, and the oval 'circles'. Maybe I'll start it again if I manage the skull and crossbones!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Girly Style skirt

Fresh off the sewing machine is this twirly denim skirt I made for my little girl. It's a nice simple shape, and lovely and full. I chose a shirt weight denim so that it wouldn't be too bulky and heavy with the pleated top and elasticated back. It's trimmed with the gorgeous Lecien floral bias tape I bought from Kitty-Craft recently.


I've been itching to use this bias tape for ages, and think it looks lovely against the dark blue denim. I love the loose pleated detail on the front of the skirt, and the pattern has also enlightened me as to a better way to use elastic in a waistband - instead of just a single length of wide elastic, the back waistband has two channels for two lengths of narrow elastic - much better, and far less prone to twisting annoyingly!





The pattern came from this book, a recent acquisition which is full of gorgeous patterns for little girls:

Girly Style Wardrobe
ISBN 457911132X

I can see me using this pattern again and again, especially now I've fathomed the maze of green and black lines to trace off the correctly sized pattern! I really like the variation in the book with a lightweight cotton underlay peeping out from underneath (there's an image of it at the end of this post).




In proper seamstressly fashion, I used my sewing gauge for the first time - indispensable for adding seam allowances (great for Japanese patterns and my Ottobre booklets) and especially for pressing the hem allowance on skirts and tops.

Florence, who seems to be something of an expert as finding handy sewing gadgets, kindly sent me mine - thanks for initiating me, I'm a convert now!

This pattern is a really quick make, even if you do it the cowboy way like me, guessing your daughter's waist measurement whilst she's asleep then finding it's far too big in the morning and having to pull it apart! (not the first time I have discovered how woeful my guesstimation skills are!)

So now that my daughter has the beginnings of a handmade wardrobe, is my maternal guilt assuaged? Not at all - now I'm feeling bad that I haven't made anything for my boy for a while, so straight after finishing the skirt I shopped online for yarn for that pirate jumper (Debbie Bliss DK cotton seems to be a suitable substitution for the Rowan Handknit Cotton, and is a fraction of the price). Last time I tried intarsia the results were shocking, and I had to rip the cardigan, so wish me luck with this one!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Maytime in July

I finally finished Maytime from Rowan Babies this morning - just the buttons to be chosen and stitched on, so after agonising for ages over some round coral pink buttons and some flower shaped cream ones, I just let my little girl decide (she went for the flowers). It's frightening how long I can spend arranging buttons on an unfinished cardie without making a decision!

I really do love this pattern. I made it once before in the smallest size in a purple shade of 4ply cotton and my daughter wore it till we could no longer squeeze her in to it. AnnieB's post about the sweet little houses and pincushions she's been making from her daughters' old things got me thinking this week about all those old children's clothes I have stashed around my house. Having a girl and then a boy means that very little has been passed down the line, and I've given away a lot of old things to friends and family. I've held on to all these handknits that I've made though - somehow I just can't part with them. They're usually to be found folded in with my clothes. Now that I've dug out the little purple one to photograph alongside the new coral pink version, I am strongly tempted to dress my little boy in the purple and photograph him with his sister in the pink - they would look so sweet - is that very wrong of me?!


The cardie is a really simple project, but has some lovely little details which really make it, like the picot edge on the neck, cuffs and hem, the band of crocheted squares, and the two purl stitches worked after each decrease on the raglan edges. I do really love Rowan 4ply cotton too (an ebay destash bargain!) - the stitch definition is great and it washes really well in the machine (goodness knows the purple one went through the wash plenty of times!).


These cardigans are the only time I've ever crocheted, and of course in the couple of years since I made the first one I'd totally forgotten how to do it, but, with the help of my trusty Paton's Woolcraft booklet, it's turned out looking fairly plausible, I hope!


And wouldn't you know it - the cardie is a perfect colour match for the liberty top I made for my girl. So now I'm thinking what to make for my boy. His pirate obsession tells me that the skull and cross bones jumper from Zoe Mellor's Adorable Knits for Tiny Tots might make him very happy, though I'm baulking slightly at the cost implications of 8 balls of Rowan DK Handknit cotton for the colour work!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Swaps!

I do love a good swap, so naturally I signed up to the latest UK esty sellers swap organised by ColdCell immediately. I was so excited when the postman rang the bell last week to give me this beautifully wrapped package. I had an inkling of who it might be from when I saw that the package was wrapped in an old map and I was right - I was lucky enough to be paired with Amelia, queen of decoupage. And look at the goodies I received - a lovely journal covered in a map of the town where I live and fastened with a lovely bright red button

Also, some lovely paper goods - a camper van card, a package of beautiful handmade envelopes and a card with a hard shaped motif made from another map of the place where I live!

And it was all so beautifully made and prettily packaged in tissue paper with pretty stickers, a moo card and little cut out hearts and stars from maps (which my daughter promptly claimed!).

Thanks so much, Amelia - I'm thrilled with it all! Do have a look at Amelia's etsy shop, Bombus, for lots of wonderful paper goods, journals and decoupaged accessories.

It wasn't a straight swap, so I was allocated another etsian, EclecticB, and here's what I sent to her after studying her likes and dislikes - a shimmering scarf, kawaii pencil case, lavender bags and tissue holder:



I really enjoy these swaps when they come around, and I've already signed up to the next one - a UK cake-off, after all, what could be better than surprise cake by post?

Friday, 4 July 2008

Sewing for my girl


More fun sewing this week, and a bit of knitting too. I'm really good at buying patterns, books, yarn and fabric to sew and knit things for me or the children, but not quite so good at ever getting around to finishing anything.

I've been feeling a fair amount of guilt just lately at the fact that I was intending for my daughter to have a handmade Summer wardrobe this year, and I haven't actually made that much yet. Such good reasons for going down the handmade route too - not least a reaction against this culture of buying mass-produced clothing items for a couple of pounds or so, when they can't possibly be ethically produced at those prices (this is something I've been thinking about particularly since the latest child labour scandal was uncovered by the UK media). Another element is the whole nostalgia thing, as my mother made so many of our clothes as children, and I have really strong memories of being excited as I waited for a dress to be finished, or for my sister to outgrow something so that it would be mine. My mum almost always made us a little matching purse with a long strap to wear with the new frocks. I think my little girl would love that!

So, craft fair over, I've got time to get stuck into some sewing for my little girl. First up a little smock top (or what we used to call gipsy tops when we were little - a bit of a nostalgia trip in this project!) in Liberty Tana lawn.


The pattern is Butterick B4118. I've used it before to make the little cropped trousers, but this was the first top I'd made from the pattern. I was really pleased to find that my daughter's measurements put her at the top of the age-range for the pattern, as this meant there was no need to trace to preserve the pattern for bigger sizes - how liberating it felt to just cut straight into the tissue paper!

As ever though, when it comes to me and clothes sewing, the fit just wasn't right. I noticed as I cut out the pattern that the length of the top looked a little on the skimp side, so I added a good couple of inches to the bottom of the top. Even so, it turned out far too short, especially in view of the fact that my girl likes to wear her jeans and skirts low slung. I was not really aiming for the 'malibu barbie' look! Looking again at the tops as pictured on the pattern envelope though, they do look as if they're meant to be short, so it probably (?) wasn't just me.

(Incidentally, when I made the trousers the crotch was so low it was practically at her knees, so I had to cut a few inches off the top - maybe they were designed to meet the shortfall in the length of the top??).

The solution: a ruffle on the bottom from the scraps of fabric I had left over. I've always hated gathering and found that I get very uneven results, but this time, with a double row of gathering stitches, which I normally couldn't be bothered with, I avoided all the usual unintentional tucks and pleats.

So there's one happy mummy, and my daughter loves the top too (she reckons the ruffle looks like a tutu, and I'm not going to argue!). Look, french seams and everything:


Next up, a skirt to go with the top from my new favourite Japanese craft book, Girly Style Wardrobe, probably in a lightweight denim, and very possibly with a heart motif and binding from the tana lawn on the pocket.


Also in the works and long overdue for completion is this cardie with a crocheted border. The colour is perfect with the top; hoping to have this one finished tonight.


So with weekend-wear almost sorted, I'd better make sure I take my daughter out and about somewhere to do some twirling in her new top!
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