Outside

17 Apr

It’s been a gloriously sunny few days here in London, but I’ve been rather too gone in pig to venture far out of the front door.

Instead, afternoons have been spent lazing in the garden.*

There’s a little spot where I like to sit on a tiny brick wall underneath my lovely acer tree. I always head here first, cup of tea in hand, to look up at the blue sky…

Acer | Wolves in LondonAcer | Wolves in London

The plum blossom is over now, but the apples are just starting to come out. I love the pink little buds before the flower unfurls.

apple blossom | Wolves in LondonBlossom | Wolves in LondonAnd the clematis is looking especially glorious at the moment.

Clematis | Wolves in LondonI think this must be my favourite time of year in the garden; everything just waking up and looking fresh and new, ready for the summer ahead. Thank heavens for sunny spring days, long may this good weather last…

Joining in with How Does Your Garden Grow.

*I say lazing, a more accurate representation would be to imagine me sitting, prone, on a blanket and issuing a series of requests / instructions / shrieks at the sproglet along the lines of, “please don’t run by the pond,” “don’t dig in that flower bed where I’ve just planted seeds,” “please don’t pick up that giant paving slab and drop it on your foot” etc etc. before lugging my giant body off the floor to go to the loo for the hundredth time that hour…

Related articles:

A finished baby blanket

14 Apr

As I mentioned in my last post, I managed to summon up a burst of knitting energy recently and finish off the blanket that I started about three months ago for the impending new arrival (aka sproglet mi).

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

I’m loving this snuggly blanket a lot…

After sewing in all the ends (oh, such a tedious process, I always put it off and off and off for days…) and blocking overnight, I took a few photos this morning.

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

A little close up of the pattern

A few knitting notes for anyone who might be interested… The pattern is the heirloom blanket by Madeline Tosh. (Costs $4 for an instant download on Ravlery. Well worth it, in my opinion.) It’s the second time I’ve made it and I think it’s a lovely pattern; difficult enough to keep you interested, simple enough to memorise.

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

Just showing off my neat edges…

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

…and my neat stitches

The yarn is Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino and sadly you can’t reach into your computer screen to give the blanket a stroke because it is soooo deliciously soft and stretchy and generally just the perfect thing for putting against a newborn’s skin.

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

Sooo soft and squishy.

Full project details over on Ravelry as always: Blanket for bump.

In other knitting-related info, thanks so much for everyone’s comments and advice on my quandary in my last post. You made me realise that, yes, I really did feel like knitting something and I cast on that very evening. In fact, a bit of a knitting frenzy has since ensued and I am half way through the project already. Will share more details and photos once it’s finished and given away!

Related articles:

  • This blanket was the first thing I’d cast on for a while, back when I started it, and reminded me exactly why it is I love knitting: the joy of knitting.

 

Homemade baby presents; a quandary

10 Apr

Can you give my weary brain a little help this fine spring morning?

I’m having a quandary about what to make for the imminent arrival of my future niecephew (tbc) and could use some advice…

When my sister had her first baby, last summer, I put together a lovely little box full of homemade goodies: a blanket that I’d been knitting for the previous four months or so, some homemade baby trousers and some homeprinted babygrows.

In five weeks or so, my brother is having his first baby and I’d like to do something similar for them. Only problem is, in, oooh, two weeks or so, I am also having a baby (yeah, yeah, I know I’ve mentioned it a million times before) and my recent knitting has been dedicated to a blanket for him. (Which is, as of yesterday, finally finished. I’ll share some pictures after the weekend…)

So, I’ve got (probably) a few weeks of late pregnancy brain fug and lack of crafting mojo to work on something now, followed by a few weeks of new baby brain fug and, I suspect, no time at all for any crafting, mojo absent or otherwise.

So, what I’m after is a quick make, but still of something really special. Does such a thing exist?!

I trawled my Pinterest board, I could make that, to see what had inspired me in the past and this is the shortlist. Does anyone have any advice on these projects? Or any suggestions for something completely different? I’ve been pondering over this for so long now, I could have made something really nice in the meantime!

Seven homemade baby presents

Click on any of the photos below to go through to the tutorials…

1. Purl Bee big bottom baby trousers

Purl Bee baby trousers

The cutest thing ever?

These trousers from the Purl Bee are just too adorable, aren’t they? I have some really lovely fabrics in my stash so I could almost certainly make these without having to go to the shops. In fact, I think I must certainly have a go at these, irrespective of anything else I decide to make…

2.Rainbow blanket from the Purl Bee

Purl Bee baby blanket

So colourful. So perfect for a boy or girl…

I am still tempted to go for a knitted blanket, but making sure I pick something simple and quick. I’ve long admired this simple block colour blanket, also from the Purl Bee, and am tempted to try and make one with four rainbow colours (red, yellow, green and blue) and then add a border around the edge in cream.

But, two concerns: is knitting that much garter stitch going to be so boring that I can’t bear to pick up the needles? And, am I simply setting myself up for a sure and certain failure in trying to knit in a blanket in two weeks? Hummmm…

3. Fabric stacking blocks

Homemade stacking blocks

Every baby needs a lighthouse

These stacking blocks from the Shabby Home blog have been sitting on my Pinterest board for about two years now I think. I absolutely love them: the long teetering lighthouse, the nautical stripes, the hint of Italian (“mare” means sea) that every cultured baby should surely have in their toybox…

Potential issue: is this one of those projects that looks quite simple, but actually takes a long time to make? I have a sort of feeling that I could be spending hours trying to get the perfect pointed corners.

4. Squishy bunny toy

Homemade bunny

He’s squidgy, he’s a bunny, he’s red and striped. What’s not to like?

Then, of course, I could go for a homemade toy (or two). I love this little squidgy red-tummied bunny from Chez Beeper Bebe. Why haven’t I simply started making one already? I’m just never quite convinced that toys are the perfect new baby present. I know the sproglet has accumulated a lot of toys over the 21 months of his life so far and maybe it is better to give something a little more useful???

5. Little puppy

Homemade puppy

Woof woof

Then again, this little scrap fabric puppy is almost irresistible, isn’t he? And would surely keep a child company from babyhood all the way through to… …well, who knows how old?

6. Yoked knitted cardigan

Yoked cardigan

Love these big red buttons

Back to the knits though. Maybe I should still aim for something with the knitting needles (easier to pick up and put down and work on little by little when I have time and energy in the evenings) but just focus on something a bit smaller than a blanket? This cardigan is really gorgeous, and if I knit it in a neutral colour like grey, I could always add buttons to make it more feminine / masculine after the baby’s arrival. Again, I already have wool in my stash I could use for this too. And the pattern is available on Ravelry as an instant download.

7. Homeprinted babygrows

Homeprinted babygrow

Modelled by the sproglet in his younger days

This is the only one I am sure about. I will definitely be making some homeprinted babygrows, with an appropriate picture on the front, once the baby has been born. (I’m kind of hoping they have a girl and call her something like Rose or Violet, so I can use some lovely botanical images…) Check out my tutorial for how to print on fabric for more info.

Well, even as I’ve been writing this, I’ve been vacillating wildly between all the different choices so, please, any suggestions to help my indecisive brain would be much appreciated!

Related articles:

Various other baby projects I’ve made are:

Garden moodboard: April

4 Apr

After nearly a year of photographing these monthly garden moodboards, I’ve come to realise that getting the main shot is a little like taking a group family photo.

Garden moodboard April | Wolves in London

Spring has sprung!

You line everyone up neatly, check they’re standing in a good position, look through the lens, go back to the group, move someone a little, ask someone else to take off their glasses and, click, take what you think is a great photo. And it’s only when going through the photos later on your computer that you realise someone always had their eyes shut, or someone’s hair is blowing in the wind, covering up the face of the person to their left. And you scroll through all the photos, to discover that though you have one in which every individual person is looking good, there isn’t one of them all looking good together…

(My family are notorious eye closers. From all the events of the past few years — four weddings for each of my siblings, new babies, first birthday parties and so on — there is not one single photo where we all have our eyes open…)

This month, it was the artemisia letting the side down. Look at that photo above, everything looks magnificent except for the bit of slightly wilty green foliage, snuggling a little too close to the blossom and just generally looking a bit drab. But, the artemisia is a glorious little plant really, here it is showing off its colours with a little more panache.

Artemisia | Wolves in LondonArtemisia 'Powis Castle' | Wolves in LondonIt’s got lovely silvery foliage, covered in fine hairs, and it smells absolutely wonderful rubbed between your fingers. This cultivar is ‘Powis Castle’ – it’s growing in my front garden, but looking a bit bedraggled, overall, after being buried under scaffold planks and who knows what else for the most of the winter. I think I might need to take some cuttings and hope to start again with a sturdier plant now.

But it’s full on spring outside now, so there are plenty of lovely flowering plants as well. I’ve got two different types of bluey / purpley bulbs that I can’t identify. A big prize for anyone who can give me names for these two (small print: no actual prize will be forthcoming):

Update: a huge thanks to Philippa from Mini eats and Natalie from Slate grey, lime and hay for identifying both of these bulbs for me as, respectively, Scilla forbesii and Ipheion ‘Rolf Fiedler’

blue bulb | Wolves in London

Lovely blueish bulb flower. Is it is a scilla, perhaps?

Purple flower | Wolves in London

I had one solitary flower of these, but I didn’t feel too bad cutting it out, since it was at the very back of my garden completely out of eyesight

Others are more familiar to me. The gorgeous grape hyacinths are nearly over, but I managed to find a few still poking their heads up, though the bottom flowers on the stalk are already shedding seeds as you can just see here:

Grape hyacinth | Wolves in London

The bottom flowers are spent already, the middle ones have seeds waiting to spill…

The yellow primulas are still going strong as well. I know I showed you these last month, but I’ve since dug out my macro lens, so I thought they deserved a better close up photo this time round:

Primula | Wolves in London

It’s the colour of spring, isn’t it?

Ditto the last of the magnolia flowers, from next door’s front garden. I was reading something in my RHS magazine this month (uh huh, I’ve just subscribed, I’m getting serious about this gardening lark!) from a garden designer who said that in a small garden, every single plant has to perform to the fullest and provide interest in every season of the year. So he wouldn’t put any plants into a design that only had a short season of interest — no matter how appealing they were in that time. But the magnolia! I immediately thought to myself. How could you miss out on such a wonderful couple of weeks, even if it does very little for the rest of the year?

Magnolia stellata | Wolves in London

Magnolia stellata. A few weeks of glorious display, only, but fully worth its place in the flowerbed, in my opinion…

I planted lots of Leucojum aestivum bulbs (common name, Summer snowflake, says the RHS) in the front garden when we first moved in, though only a few have come through again this year. In the back garden, though, I’ve suddenly got loads around the pond, which is really beautiful. They look a lot like snowdrops, but grow on much taller stems.

Leucojum aestivum | Wolves in London

Just like a snowdrop. But not.

Most pleasing of all, though, is the proliferation of blossom on my plum tree. I hold out hope for a good plum crop this year, unlike last.

Plum blossom | Wolves in London

So delicate and so hard to photograph!

And for a little variety in colour, I had to show you a little of my forced rhubarb with it’s heavenly pink stems…

rhubarb | Wolves in Londonrhubarb stalk | Wolves in London…and these (what I think are) miniature tulips, with their red-and-yellow flowers:

Tulip | Wolves in London tulip | Wolves in LondonBut back into the front garden again for my last two plants. My batch of white snap dragons from last year have self-seeded back into the same pots and, so mild has it been, some have even started to flower, a good three or four months early:

Snapdragon bud | Wolves in LondonFinally, a little look at another silvery foliage plant, this gorgeous ‘Silver Dust’:

Senecio cineraria 'Silver Dust'I grew it from seed a few years ago and am amazed at how it’s continued to thrive, despite usually being grown as an annual in this country…

Once I’d finished photographing all these little beauties, I bunged them into a tiny jar so I could continue to admire them. Sweet, no?

garden flower jar | Wolves in London

A thimble full of cuteness

Joining in, as every other month, with Karin and Asa.

Related articles:

  • If this is your thing, lots more moodboards to be seen here: Monthly garden moodboards
  • You can also see my pick of my fave photos from mine and others’ moodboards over on Pinterest

Spring cheer

2 Apr

Just popping in quickly this morning as I realise I have been a little bit moany and gloomy in my last few posts and definitely lacking in spring cheer.

daffodil

So just to say, I have finally been catching up on a bit of sleep (hurrah) as my mother-in-law has been staying for a few days and giving me a hand with the sproglet.

Daffodil | Wolves in London

I have also done all sorts of things like unpack the odd box, make some soup for the freezer (ready to be eaten when the next baby arrives), attend a midwife appointment without the sproglet in attendance, make some delicious rhubarb fool from my amazingly pink forced rhubarb (the glory of which you might have seen on instagram if you follow me over there…) and even managed to knit a few more rows of the new baby’s blanket

Daffodils | Wolves in London

Not only has my mother-in-law entertained the sprog, she also brought me a beautiful bunch of daffodils from her garden. Gorgeous aren’t they?

Daffodil bunch | Wolves in London

And with all that activity and the re-emergence of the sun, how could I not be feeling in good cheer once again?

Related articles:

  • Happier? Yes. As happy as the weekend of the mating frogs? Not quite. But I can always take a look at my photos to remind myself of their glory…

Feeling guilty

31 Mar

I’m feeling a little guilty this morning…

You see, today was my deadline to make something rather glorious from this heavenly peacock fabric.

peacock fabric

I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve not even got as far as ironing it still…

And what have I done with it? Erm, absolutely nothing.

A month or so ago, I entered the Hillarys Blinds country craft competition: you selected your favourite fabric from four options which was then sent to you for free so you could make something wonderful and blog about it.

Only, of course, I haven’t made something wonderful, or indeed, at all.

I was never in any danger of finishing ahead of time, but I did have what I thought was a genius idea earlier this week and was quite excited about the amazing entry I was going to submit. I ordered a lampshade making kit and planned to put the wonderful peacocks onto a big drum ceiling lightshade for my newly painted sitting room.

Only, when the kit arrived on Saturday, I realised I was going to have to cut off the peacock’s tail to fit it onto the drum. Which seemed a huge waste of the amazing fabric.

So, then, a little desperate for ideas with two days to go, I thought I might just whip up another bag holder (not glamorous, I know, but the peacock would have surely added an extra glam element to a rather pedestrian item).

And then, on Sunday, this happened:

Boxes

This is my sitting room. Honestly, it’s in there somewhere…

Boxes in room

And this is my bedroom. And, actually, I took this photo half way through the unloading. It’s even worse now

All our possessions that have been in storage for the past four months returned to our house. Simply clearing enough space to tunnel between the bed, the kitchen and the TV took up the entire day.

All of which, is a very long winded way of publicly saying, “Hillarys, I am sorry! I had no intention to deceive you when I ordered the fabric and I really did fully intend to blog about an amazing make. Thank you so much for the beautiful peacocks  and I promise that I will, eventually, make something lovely with it and indeed put it on the blog with a nice link back to your fine website. But, erm, just not at the right time.”

Sigh.

I hope you all had slightly more successful weekends than me.

Still, the sun was glorious here in London on Saturday and I got a beautiful bunch of Mother’s Day tulips today, so I’ll try and hold onto those thoughts entering the week ahead…

Tulip

Oh how I love tulips

Related articles:

  • Of course, another cause for my complete failure at making anything are my permanent levels of stress right now, which I wrote about a a few weeks ago: On being permanently stressed. I’d like to pretend that I’ve managed to calm down since then, but in all honesty, if anything, I’ve got worse… Late pregnancy hormones do weird things to you, don’t they?

On being permanently stressed out

18 Mar

Apart from a glorious weekend last weekend (see my garden moodboard or mating frog pics for more on that!) I’ve been seriously strung out since we moved back home…

Unpainted room

Just a few things to get sorted in this room…

Of course, it’s not surprising. The house is a tip, we’ve had workmen of one kind or other in here almost every day since we’ve been back, which not only means rooms are out of action, but makes it impossible for the sproglet to nap and puts a vast array of exciting looking power tools within his reach if I take my eye off him for a second.

We could only afford a painter for our main sitting room and – after two weeks of the room being dust sheeted up and out of action – he has gone AWOL, never, I suspect to return, leaving the job half finished. We’ve run out of time to find someone else to take over, so our dreams of having just one room that was fully finished and painted before the next baby comes will remain unfulfilled.

To compound all this, I’m also knackered, at nearly eight months pregnant. I suspect looking after a toddler full time, even in a fully functioning, clean, safe and comfortable house, would be exhausting right now.

Any more first world woes to add to the list? Well, yes actually. The husband is working on some major deal at the moment, which means he gets home after 10pm and is also at work all weekend. So, no chance of house progression in any way at all until the deal is finished. Harumph.

As a result, I’ve turned into someone I dislike. Grumpy, short-tempered, permanently stressed out and worried because of all the things I want to get done, but can’t get done, either due to a sproglet in attendance or because my gigantic body runs out of energy within a few minutes of standing up.

I cast my eyes around a room noticing all the things I could be sorting out if only I had some time and energy: bare plaster walls, untreated wood skirting boards, light switches and plug sockets dangling a few inches clear of the wall. And I feel completely fed up. I can’t concentrate on playing trains with the sproglet because I’m making a gigantic to do list in my head. And then panicking because there is nobody to do the to do list.

So, rather than continue in this way, worrying myself into a gigantic hole which makes me thoroughly unpleasant for anyone to spend time with, I am going to try and force myself to think small and to appreciate the improvements that are already there.

45 minutes while the sproglet naps? Great, I won’t try and paint the kitchen (like I did yesterday) and then get frustrated when he wakes up early. Instead, I’ll focus on cleaning a single fireplace to remove all the grime and building dust. And then I’ll sit back, admire the sparkling fireplace, put my feet up and have a cup of tea.

And when I look at the sproglet’s bare plaster walls (in the photo above) I won’t stress about whether the damp patch on the ceiling is drying out or the lack of paint on the walls or the unoiled wood floor. I’ll think how nice the chair looks sitting in the corner.

It’s not a way of existing that comes naturally to me, focusing on the small finished thing, instead of tackling the gigantic list of unfinished jobs, but I’m going to give it my best shot… Wish me luck for the next six weeks!

And hey, after the new baby comes, I’ll be so sleep deprived I won’t notice any of my surroundings anyway.

Related articles:

Amorous frogs…

16 Mar

…it must be Spring!

Frog | Wolves in London

Wot yew lookin at?

It seems to be frog mating season in our pond; every time I wander down to the end of the garden I can hear a low melodic ribbiting and look over to the pond to see at least four sets of frogs, clinging to each other in an endless embrace in the sunshine.

If I walk too close and disturb them, they rush back into the depths, one still clutching onto the other’s back.

Mating frogs

They stay like this for hours, clutching on to each other…

The frogspawn multiplies by the day. When I first noticed it, there was one little ball. The following day, two. Now, the surface of the pond is practically covered with it.

A winter of neglect while we were away has meant the fish have died one way or other (I suspect at the hands, or rather paws, of the neighbours’ cats, since there is no evidence of fish bodies anywhere), the plants that are still there look very sorry for themselves and the water has turned a murky brown from all the decomposing apples we didn’t fish out.

But the frogs seem to enjoy the lack of competition as I have never seen so many of them in there…

Affectionate frogs

There’s something sweetly affectionate about the way the one on the right is touching the other one

Elsewhere in the garden, other wonderful signs of spring are everywhere. Nothing better than the fabulously blue sky…

Plane

The sproglet gets terribly excited by the sight of a plane flying overhead.

… the blossom on the tree next door…

Blossom | Wolves in London

A treeful of gorgeous white flowers

… and the acer buds starting to burst out against a backdrop of London rooftops.

Acer in bud | Wolves in London

I think these will be fully unfurled by next week

London rooftops | Wolves in London

Sigh. If only every day was like this…

Days like these warm the soul, don’t they?

Related articles:

Garden moodboard: March

15 Mar

Isn’t Spring bloody great?

I’m practically elated to be back to my garden in time for this fabulous early March weather.

As I collected the flowers for these pictures, the sproglet was careening up and down the garden (as full as Spring fever as I am), the air was scented with blossom from next door’s tree and I could hear the chirruping of birds, the drone of bumble bees and the low ribbits of the frogs in the pond.

If that sounds too ridiculously bucolic for words, that’s pretty much how I felt as well.

March garden moodboard

Yellows, blues and whites just shout spring, don’t they?

We haven’t got a huge amount of flowers out there. Three months of building work has put paid to many of the beds closest to the house. But some bulbs have struck through regardless and there are buds on all the bushes and trees promising a feast of glorious things to come later.

Of course, I couldn’t find much to photograph these against, in among all the building detritus, so these are shown on a piece of beige plyboard. Classy, eh?

They may be slim pickings and they may be inadequately backdropped, but these lovely first signs of spring still make me smile…

Acer bud | Wolves in London

The promise of great things to come

Our acer tree has fabulous red stems and little furled buds that look as if they’ll be coming into leaf within a week or so.

Crocus | Wolves in London

Small but impressive

These purple and white crocuses have fought through against all the odds, a little cluster peeking out in the front garden, pushing their way through (quite literally) inches of dust, rubble and sawdust. I just love a garden survivor…

Daffodil | Wolves in London

It’s as good as feeling the sun on your face, looking at a cheery yellow daff

There are small little outbreakings of daffodils around the garden, though the couple of large pots with bulbs in are doing best. I think this might be something like a Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ as it’s quite short and riotously yellow (and obviously happy growing in pots with complete and utter neglect…)

Grape hyacinth | Wolves in London

Have I ever mentioned before (ahem) that I love blue flowers the most?

As I’m sure I’ve said a million times before, I just adore blue flowers. These lovely grape hyacinths are just poking their noses above the soil in a couple of places. I hope to be getting more as the month progresses…

Primula | Wolves in London

Another stalwart, unbothered by neglect, trampling or dust…

The good old Primula is another survivor. Not the most exciting plant in the world, in my opinion, but reliable and cheery.

Magnolia | Wolves in London

Oh the delicate papery magnolia!

And very much saving the best til last, my lovely magnolia flowers that grow over the front garden from the tree next door and which I claim as my own each year…

Spring. It’s really good to see you after what’s felt like a long and rather difficult Winter. Please stick around.

(And, just in case that all sounds a bit too good to be true, here’s the behind the scenes peek. We spent all of last weekend moving a huge pile of rubble into bags and then to the tip, so the “patio” outside the kitchen is now clear. But, ahem, as you can see, it needs a bit of love and attention still:)

Flowers on concrete

This looks bleak, I know, but trust me when I say this is major progress!

Joining in with Karin A.

Related articles:

  • I’m coming round to almost a whole year of garden moodboards now, take a look at them all if you’re so inclined: Garden moodboards.
  • My Pinterest board collects together some of my favourite moodboards each month, both from my blog and from others. Follow along there for lots of monthly garden loveliness…

Home

11 Mar

I wrote this and took the photos a week or so ago, but couldn’t find my camera lead to download anything… Pleased to report that *some* progress has since taken place!

I’ve been a little quiet this week, because last Saturday we moved home.

After three months away, we’re finally back in our pad.*

It was a week earlier than planned, as my Mum’s house – where we were staying — was clogged up from the flooding and the drain situation was getting a little unpleasant. So, everything wasn’t exactly finished when we got back here.

There’s still quite a lot of this…

Hole in the wall

What a lovely hole in the wall

building work

Oh no, this sort of thing isn’t at all dangerous with a toddler running round. Honest…

new plaster

This is one of the “good” walls. Nothing, but nothing is painted yet… I think they look quite beautiful though.

 

But also lots of lovely renovations already completed, like this…

Fireplace tile

A tile from our reclaimed fireplace, brand new in the sitting room

Parquet

Newly laid (and newly mopped) parquet floor that runs throughout the downstairs of the house

Shower valve

A shower! We finally have a shower

Fired Earth tiles

And this is the bathroom floor, fully covered in Fired Earth tiles**

radiator valve

Most exciting to me: though slightly dusty, this is one of our lovely radiator valves because, hooray, we finally have central heating

So, there’s still a way to go, but we’re in, we’re heated and we can wash. What more do you need than that?!

I’ll show you some proper photos of completed rooms when (or if) they get finished…

*A fact that always reminds me of the amazing Robert Lowell poem, Home after three months away. Check it out if you like a bit of modern poetry.

** If you like these tiles, I’m selling our spares on eBay right now!

Related articles:

  • A bit more about our house and everything we needed to do to it…
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