Monday, 24 January 2011

Knitting season - book reviews

It is officially the knitting season in this household, not that anyone else is taking part*, just that the knitting bag is now a permanent feature in the living room as my thoughts turn to hats and scarves and gloves (but let's not mention the glove gone bad incident again).

It's been a chance for me to rediscover all my well-thumbed and newer knitting books, including this pair that were sent to me by Quadrille to review a long while ago: Simple Knittingby Erika Knight and Blankets, Bears and Bootees by Debbie Bliss. The reviews never got published at the time due to the arrival of the small person, so I'm revisiting the books now.


Blankets, Bears and Bootees is everything I want in a knitting book at the moment - lots of projects for tiny people - so mostly achievable in the the curtailed knitting time I have . I've cast on for the teddy blanket in exactly the colour palette of the book (I know it's lazy, but the pretty silver grey and the tan and beige colours are part of what drew me to the pattern in the first place). As ever, however, I only discovered the errata after blithely knitting on for a few full rows of 100-plus stitches! The patterns use Debbie Bliss's own baby cashmerino yarn (bought at a bargain price from hejhog)- I have yet to knit with a more lovely baby yarn, it's so super soft to the touch and stands up so well to washing and wearing (these legwarmers were worn to death by my daughter and are still looking pretty good!).

The baby booties with a bear on the sole to match the blanket are also on my to-knit list, and also the trio of little baby shoes, earmarked as a baby gift for my friend who's expecting her first baby early this year. Other projects include a very baby-boutique jumper with a zig-zag edged detail, a covered baby book, some cute fair isle covered hangers for the nursery and pretty bears and rabbits to cuddle (these too would make lovely gifts). On a somewhat larger scale, we have the giant penguin beanbag, though I must confess I'm pretty sure I have neither the patience nor the staying power to see through such a large project (so much stocking stitch in one colour would probably send me to an early grave, though if you're a tv knitter then this would rattle along on the needles without too much concentration required).

Simple Knitting would make a fantastic present for someone learning to knit, or a past knitter wanting to pick up their sticks again. It's styled like a Japanese craft book, with pretty graph paper contents page (I'm a sucker for graph paper; might be why I married a mathematician) and beautiful shots of needles and yarns. It not only covers the basics, like casting on and off, decreases and increases, but also has lots of information on following patterns, correcting mistakes and aftercare of your knitted items. There's also a stitch library, including some lovely textured swatches which I definitely plan to knit up.


Each pattern in the book has a little 'masterclass' section, going in to more depth on the individual techniques needed to make the piece. The projects, using some beautiful yarns in a neutral palette, range from those which could be gifted, like a cabled hot water bottle cover and an intarsia tea cosy to practical designs like the long fingerless gloves and moss stitch bag. I particularly liked the round buttoned cushion and the striped knitted throw, though I'm not sure I could carry off the pared down aesthetic in my chaotic home!

*As I finish typing this post (they're generally a 3-day plus affair these days) I have won over the girl who has completed her first two rows of wobbly solo knitting. I'll crack 'em all given time :)

My own knitting efforts have been somewhat hampered by the fact I've had my wrist in a splint for 10 days after a fall when out ice-skating with some of the other mums from school. It wouldn't have been quite so embarrassing if I hadn't been a bit of a ringleader for the entire expedition. And I wasn't even doing a triple salchow or anything! According to my dad, going ice skating when you have a small baby is 'tantamount to rock climbing', and though I have to stress that I didn't actually have the baby with me, I will admit that the timing wasn't ideal, and I do feel like a bit of a lemon!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Happy New Year and giveaway winner

I thought it was twelfth night this evening so started taking down the decorations this morning. Then it dawned on me that twelfth night is actually the eve of the 6th of January so I'm actually a day late. So there's another housewifery fail I can notch up! I'm a little late wishing everyone a happy new year, but it seems I'm a little late with everything these days.


Christmas was lovely, our first as a family of five. We had real snow, the most we've ever had living in the Thames valley. It began snowing on the boy's birthday and formed a lovely sledgable covering (time for a little gloating over my husband who had told me it probably wouldn't snow this year when I snapped up the last sledge in Daniels in November). We've had riotous fun, mostly doubled up with laughter as we careered out of control down the slope; I must have laughed for about 45 minutes when the boy and I nearly took out his older sister in one headlong run (bad mummy!). The baby sister flapped her arms and legs around so much watching her siblings sledging that she fell asleep in our arms on the way home each time.



snowpoliceman and black cat

The run up to Christmas was full of festive goings on, including a most exciting trip to see the Nutcracker in the London Coliseum. My sister treated my mother, my girl and me to the tickets as a Christmas gift, and so a few days before Christmas we took the train to London to meet her. We had a fabulous time, the girl was absolutely spellbound. The boy and baby, not being so compatible with the enjoyment of a ballet performance, were taken to the London transport museum by my husband, which to be fair, in the boy's eyes was equally as magical as the girls' outing!

It's been an exciting year for us with the arrival of the baby sister. The weeks seem to have been jam-packed with family outings and lots going on in general, but I have precious little making to show and tell. The list of things I made in 2010 is scarily short compared to my usual sewing/knitting output, so here's a list of things I said I'd make but didn't instead:

1) handmade advent calendar for the children
2) zig zag quilt (I've wanted to do one since seeing Linaloo's lovely yellow zig-zags)
3) scrap vomit quilt (and not just because of the name!)
4) seat liner for the baby's pushchair (bought the greens and pinks in this bundle especially)
5) mini quiltlet for the baby (using the Rosie Quinlan squares I won in Florence's giveaway)
6) aprons for both the children (cut out in April, never finished)
7) tea cosies (lots of them, sketchbook full of ideas, none made)

I achieved a grand total of zero sewalongs, in spite of being signed up to the zig zag quilt group, tentatively saying I'd join in with imagingermonkey's scrap vomit, and having been in the handmade advent calendars group since January 2009! I should have known better than to start my own little make-along last January. The Make a Month group over on flickr has loads of beautiful things that everyone else has been making, but not much of my handiwork. I've actually not done too badly at the making considering the scarcity of free time, it's the photographing, flickring and blogging I've struggled with as that evening slump comes over me. It's going to be start again in 2011 for me, I'll just rollover last year's project list and hope to accomplish more this year.

Meanwhile there's a tax return awaiting my attention - all the more galling as I have totally neglected my shop this year, just quietly ticking over with the odd sale here and there. Again, hopefully I'll dust off the cobwebs and Spring clean the shelves in 2011.

So on to the winner of the calendar giveaway, the random number generator has come up with no. 7, which makes Tess of Driftwood the calendar winner. I hope you get lots of inspiration from the calendar this coming year! Just drop me a line with your address and I'll get it in the post to you.

Back soon, now I've charged the camera's batteries I'll show you some pics of my Christmas presents, and perhaps try and share some of the things I actually did manage to sew and knit this year (though I'm wary of over-reaching myself, so won't promise anything).

Happy New Year!
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