In recent weeks…

Knitting in progress | Wolves in LondonThe transition from December to January has had me in a flurry of planning, organising and new starts, in a way it doesn’t normally.

Typically, the start of January sees me sitting in a post-Christmas fug, depressed about the lack of availability (or acceptability) of a Bucks Fizz for breakfast and wine at lunch and feeling too cold, bleak and depressed to leave the house.

But for some reason, this year, I am full of verve and vigour and (dare I say it) resolution.

I’ve been knitting up a storm in the evenings, capitalising on the pre-Christmas bobble hat knitting with a jumper for the sproglet that has been all but completed in a fortnight. Actually, though I say this, it has been sitting in a little neglected slump for the past few nights, waiting for me to sew the side seams together – the solitary remaining task before it’s ready to wear. Why oh why is sewing up the seams and knitting in the ends such a dreary end task to the joy of knitting an item?!

Homeknitted bobble hats | Wolves in London
I don’t think I ever showed you these hats – the last ones I knit for cash just before Christmas

After that, I have just one more bobble hat to make for a friend and then I think a pair of mittens for the littlest will be the next thing on the needles. Anyone happen to know of any good patterns for toddler mittens?

In non-knitting news, I have been planning all the plants for our garden, ready to head out and buy them as soon as spring arrives. Meanwhile, I’ve been very very very busy directing, hem hem, my poor old workhorse of a husband for what shape the beds should be and where he should lay the huge slabs of stone that he is moving round the garden on his own…

Oh, and that our oft-maligned (in this blog, at least) greenhouse was removed yesterday so it’s crunch time for making the decision about what will go at the bottom of the garden. Despite the support for option three, (the micro pig option) I am pretty sure I’m going to be sensible and stick with option one: a small shed-slash-greenhouse, along with some raised veg beds. And perhaps a cute (twee?) white picket fence and gate to separate off the far end of the garden from the rest.

Thursday saw me up in Regents Park, back at my garden design course again; the second week of the year and we were set our first assignment. I am chomping at the bit with excitement about everything we’re doing this year. Our final project is to design a show garden and our tutor told us about a student from a few years ago who submitted his show garden from the assignment to Hampton Court Flower Show, was accepted, and won a gold.

So, yup, that’s the dream now. Aim high, right?!

Anyway, happy Monday to you all, I hope there is a good week in store…

A foray into knitting for cash

Hand knitted bobble hats | Wolves in London Hand knitted bobble hats | Wolves in LondonI’m a member of a couple of Facebook Mum’s groups. You know the kind – they’re started for people who live in a particular area, to sell and buy second hand kids stuff, and gradually everyone within a 20 mile radius has joined and there are 5,000 Mums chatting away non-stop about why the kids don’t sleep, what on earth that weird rash is, and occasionally selling and buying things as well.

The other day, I saw a request on one of the groups from a Mum who wanted someone to knit a couple of ear-flapped bobble hat for her twins. She had the pattern and the yarn, but just realised that she didn’t have the time to make them herself. Was there anyone out there who could, and if so, how much would it cost?

I watched the update for a while, checking on the comments coming in, assuming that someone else would jump at the chance.

But nobody did.

I’ve been meaning to get back into knitting recently, not having picked up the needles since I made the sproglet’s cardie last winter, and I ummed and ahhed about whether to say I could do it.

Because, you know, on the one hand it’s a bit of money for knitting, which I enjoy doing. But then again, I long ago worked out that there was no way in the world you could make any money hand knitting anything, unless you had a nearby coterie of millionaires who wanted to buy from you.

But in the end, I left a comment saying I could do it, and the Mum accepted.

I also linked to my Ravelry page, just so she could see that I did know how to knit.

And then the other responses came flooding in. Within a few hours, I’d been asked to knit a total of eight hats. Eight!

In a glow of happiness at the nice things everyone was saying about my knits, I agreed to all of them, saying that I would just have to figure out prices. (And half thinking about what an incredible knitting empire I was going to set up, and how I would spend my days making these hats, which would almost certainly be picked up by Liberty within a few months and they would pay me millions to knit away, sitting in front of fire. Because, you know me, that’s just how I am…)

Hand knit baby hat
My gorgeous niece, modelling the hat for me, pre-bobble attachment

Hand knitted bobble hats | Wolves in London

But after that, everything started to get a bit stressful. I decided to do a trial knit of the hat in question to make sure it was relatively easy to make. I assumed it would take me a couple of hours. It took more than five.

(Partly, my knitting speed is probably a bit slow after a break, but it is also just fairly slow knitting a 1×1 rib for a while at the beginning…)

I’d originally thought of asking for £20 per hat, which already seemed a bit steep to me, but I realised that with the cost of yarn (£5-£7 per hat) I would then be making the grand total of £3 an hour.

While I do love knitting, having to knit eight hats relatively quickly at that rate just didn’t really seem like something worth adding to a life where I already feel a little squeezed for time.

So, I asked the next lady for £22.50 per hat. Tentatively, and slightly embarrassed. She immediately replied, saying she would be happy to pay more. Phew, I thought, this knitting malarkey might just pay off. Time to stop fretting quite so much…

The next person wanted two balaclavas for her grandsons. Buoyed by the last response, and knowing this would involve even more knitting, I asked for £30, figuring I was upping my hourly rate to around £5, which was starting to make it vaguely worthwhile, but obviously still less than pretty much any other job. Within seconds I had an embarrassed response saying that she hadn’t thought it would be that much and she couldn’t afford it.

I felt awful.

Anyway, to cut the rest of the story short, I’ve done little but worry about costs for the last four days and am once again back to the realisation that there is no way to make money by hand knitting, without feeling like a total money-grubber by asking people to part with a lot of money for a knitted item.

Sigh.

It’s my fault, of course, for not having worked out a price and given it upfront. But now I’m putting off contacting the rest of the people who’ve asked for hats, not knowing if pitching at £25 will be just what they expected or wildly more than they had imagined.

Should I go lower, so they’re not disappointed, and just commit myself to knitting like crazy every evening til Christmas, or should I stick at that amount and simply try not to worry if they say no?

Any thoughts gratefully appreciated!

Update: I wrote this a week ago and then left it sitting in my drafts for some reason. I have since finished the first pair of hats, a few pics of which are dotted throughout this post. I worried endlessly about whether the person who’d asked for them would be happy with them. She seemed to like them when she picked them up, but didn’t fall to the floor in wonder and amazement, saying “My god! You’re the greatest knitter in the world, how can it possibly be that your fair hands have created something so wondrous and elegant as these perfectly-knitted hats?” which I think would have been the only response to calm my concerns about various things like size of bobble and evenness of stitches and whether the turn up was a little too tight etc etc.

I also approached the next person on the list who had asked for a hat and said it would be £25. She replied and said that, actually, she was moving to Australia so probably didn’t need the hats after all, which seemed a rather unlikely response, having asked for me to make them a mere day before, so I suspect that she thought it was too much money.

So, I am currently frantically knitting away at the next pair, to try and finish them before tomorrow and I have spent most of the past few days worrying that the yarn I’ve used isn’t soft enough and that she is going to be disappointed with the end results. I then have one more to knit — for a friend — and after that I will put away my needles for any attempts at making money and use them only for knitting for family and friends as presents.

The hat, though, I should say, is pretty awesome and the pattern is great. If you’re a knitter and are in the market for a bobble hat with earflaps then I recommend it! More details over on Ravelry for anyone interested: Earflap helmet hat.

Joining up with Yarn Along

Finally finished: a toddler cardie

Oh, the sun, the sun of the past few days!

Can it really signal an end to this interminable winter at last? I am keeping all fingers and toes crossed that it is so.

Wonder years homeknit cardiganHandknit cardiganAnd so, with the appearance of some warmer weather, it is, naturally, perfect timing for me to actually finish the cardigan I first started knitting the sproglet in October. You know, to keep him warm in the winter months.

Luckily, he hasn’t had any sort of growth spurt recently so, despite the insanely slow pace of knitting (there was a two months hiatus, at one point, because I simply couldn’t be bothered to decide where the buttons needed to go before knitting the buttonholes) the cardigan still just about fits him.

Wonder years handknit cardiganWonder years cardiganOverall, I’m pretty chuffed with it — except for the middle button placement which isn’t exactly centred, but I’m sure the sprog is never likely to notice that.

The pattern is called the Wonder Years toddler cardigan, by Elizabeth Smith, found through Ravelry (of course) and downloadable for $5.50(US). I thought it was a pretty good pattern, very clear to follow, and the only alteration I made was to add a little bit of length (in an attempt to make up for the slow knitting time vs growth of small child). You can see my Ravelry notes here, if you’re interested: toddler cardigan.

Handknit cardigan, Wonder Years patternWhen I finally got round to sewing the buttons on (after another month long hiatus following actually completing the knitting) I gave it to the sprog to put on.

“Oh Mummy, I yike it, I yike it berry berry much,” he said to me.

And I wondered why on earth I hadn’t just got a wriggle on and finished it sooner.

As gratitude goes, it really couldn’t have got much better.

Incidentally, the “in wear” photos here, showing action shots of Driving-a-Car and Playing-with-Nail-Clippers-that-are-only-a-little-bit-Dangerous are because saying, “please stand still while I photograph you wearing your new cardigan” no longer cuts the mustard these days.

Joining up with Yarn Along

Back on the needles…

My knitting has taken a bit of a back seat these past five months.

After the knitting-nesting frenzy before sproglet mark II was born, my needles have been consigned to the needle holder, evenings these days not given over to knitting a gorgeous blanket, so much as slumping, weary, in front of the TV, too tired to even change the channel if the remote control happens to be out of hand’s reach.

 

Vintage knitting needle roll | Wolves in London
Not in use, but at least resting in nice surroundings…

But no longer, my pretty needles! Autumn is truly here, the days are shorter and colder and knitwear is needed in this house. The elder sprog has outgrown most of his jumpers from last winter so I spent a particularly wonderful 10 minutes last week going through saved cardigan patterns on Ravelry with him, asking him which ones he liked best.

(At two years and two months, he had some pretty firm ideas about which ones he did and didn’t like, which I found particularly endearing. I’m sure in six months or so, it will drive me round the bend when he dismisses clothes out of hand, but for now, his firm, “no like dat colour” makes me want to hug him very tight…)

And so it was the wonder years cardigan by Elizabeth Smith was selected. The sprog liked the stripes, I liked the comfy Grandpa look of it and the leather buttons.

By amazing good fortune, I was lucky enough to win tickets to the Knitting and Stitching Show, taking place later this week at Ally Pally, from the very lovely This Blog is Not For You. What better place to choose some lovely squishy wool?

So, with a bit of luck, evenings from now on will be taken up with hot chocolate, knitting, oh, and still a bit of telly too. I’m all talked out by about 7pm nowadays, so vegging and staring is the only option.

Vintage knitting needles | Wolves in London
A glorious array of plastic!

I’ll let you know how I get on…

P.S. My knitting needle case is rather lovely, isn’t it? It was my Granny’s, acquired when she went into a home, at the same time as the bronze urn on my mantelpiece. I assume that she made it herself — I think the outer fabric was probably from some curtains she had, and the inner one is, I believe, Liberty print. Most of the needles inside were hers as well; I love their fabulous rainbow colours.

Knitting needle roll | Wolves in London
Liberty fabric?

P.P.S. I’ve just realised it’s wool week this week! What a fortuitous post this proves to be. (Well, it would be even more fortuitous if I had actually *knitted* something already, but, still, the thought counts too, right?!)

Related articles:

A few things that have already been actually finished and created fully by the wonders of my needles:

 

Rainbow chevron baby blanket

Prepare yourself, gentle readers, for some photos of… …my favourite thing I’ve ever knit!

Whipped up in a mere few weeks of late-pregnancy knitting fever, I present to you this rainbow chevron baby blanket, a present for my brand new nephew.

Handknit chevron rainbow blanket | Wolves in London

I dillied and dallied about what to make for him, knowing that he was due to arrive a few short weeks after my own latest baby and that, newborn in arm, I was unlikely to manage to get anything done, so I had to have this finished before my own babe appeared.

Luckily, the knitting haze descended and I was done in good time.

Chevron baby blanket | Wolves in London

The pattern is a free one, available on Ravelry, the chevron baby blanket from Espace Tricot blog. and the wool is Wendy merino DK.

And can I just say, I bloody love the end result! (I even prefer it to the blanket I made for the baby or the one I made for my other nephew…)

chevron rainbow blanket | Wolves in London

I decided to make an abbreviated rainbow of red, yellow, green and blue, with a small line of cream in between each colour and I adore how it has turned out.

Chevron rainbow blanket | Wolves in London

I heartily recommend the pattern. Very straightforward to follow, but definitely more interesting than a non chevron (fully garter stitch) version would have been to knit.

The construction is deeply pleasing to me, the decreases leading to the lovely triangular shape with little effort.

Chevron rainbow blanket | Wolves in London

I didn’t make the ends too pointy with the blocking, but just let them gently curl as they were.

Chevron rainbow blanket | Wolves in London

Now that it’s finished, I am sorely, sorely tempted to make a large version for myself as a bedspread…

Chevron rainbow blanket | Wolves in London

The only downside to the whole project was the tedious sewing in of ends. There were a lot to do.

Full project details, as ever, over on Ravelry: zig zag baby blanket.

For the love of knit

In the last two weeks of my pregnancy, a haze of knitting obsessiveness descended upon me. I couldn’t put down my needles for a day. Heck, I couldn’t put down my needles for an hour.

As far as a nesting instinct goes, I think it’s a pretty good one. Sure, my fridge was filthy, but how much more fun to have lovely knitted things rather than a clean house?

I whipped up a knitted present for my future nephew in a few short weeks (even managing to immediately sew in all the loose ends I showed you a few weeks ago, rather than putting it off for months as is my usual wont).

But as soon as I put down my needle, I felt the urge to cast on something new.

Home knitted baby cardigan: free pattern

And so this little cardigan was created over the course of a few days. It’s called the Puerperium cardigan, designed for babies up to six weeks old. A free pattern on Ravelry. I’m not sure about the name, personally, but the end result is super cute.

I think all of the buttons make the baby look a little bit a surgeon in waiting when he has it on…

Hand knit baby cardigan, free pattern

I love those big round cream ones, but only had six of them, hence the little duck at the end. And hey, it’s a newborn baby cardigan, if ever there is a place for a button with whimsy, this is it.

Duck button

The yarn I used was lovely: Sublime extra fine merino DK. I really like the clean stitches that you can see, and the end result is both stretchy and squidgy, two things you want for baby clothing.

The pattern is really simple to knit, I love a raglan sleeve construction like this, and the end result is really easy to put on the baby, what with the short sleeves and button up front. No squeezing his little head into a too-small hole. My only criticism: why quite so many buttons? I would definitely drop down to four if I were to knit it again.

All project details are over on Ravelry: new baby cardigan.

And since the baby has arrived, has the knitting craze continued? Erm, nope, I’m yet to cast on anything new. Ah well, til next time!

The horror

I can’t be the only knitter who absolutely hates sewing in all the yarn once the project is finished.

Wool ends of knitting project | Wolves in London

Sometimes, it can take me as long as it did to knit the entire thing to actually get around to binding in all the loose ends.

So, if you share this aversion with me, pity me right now. For this is what awaits me now I have finished my latest project (the one I was agonising over starting a few days ago).

Wool ends of knitting project | Wolves in London
Wool ends of knitting project | Wolves in London
Wool ends of knitting project | Wolves in London

Project knit up in record time. But the finishing touches? Hmmm, watch this space…

A finished baby blanket

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

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:

The joy of knitting

Now that my exams are over, I am itching to tackle my gigantically long to do list. And the very first thing at the top of the list is to knit a blanket for the impending arrival of sproglet number two…

Knitted blanket beginnings
Fresh on the needles. Ahhh, the relaxation of some good knitting…

What with one thing and another* I’ve hardly done any knitting for almost a year. I managed to whip up a bobble hat for my sister for Christmas, but, I have to confess, really disliked the whole process. I used cheap wool (we had a fixed budget for presents last year, I’m not just a total stinge-bag) that was horrible to knit with, on needles that were too small and from about the second round in already knew I wasn’t happy with how the end result was going to look, but had no time to frog and start again on a better pattern.

So it was, I had rather forgotten about the absolute joy of knitting.

This new project is made from some really nice Sublime yarn in a merino cashmere silk mix with a mellow taupey-mushroomy-grey colour. The wool is stretchy and soft and feels lovely, so I’m enjoying knitting every single stitch.

Sublime wool
Sublime in name, sublime in knitability

The pattern, Heirloom by Madeline Tosh, is one I have knitted before and that I know will look good when finished. It’s complicated enough to keep me interested, but not so difficult I worry about going wrong or checking the pattern all the time.

Knitting a blanket
Three repeats down, 24 to go…

But most of all, there is a huge pleasure in being able to quickly get my needles out and knit a few rows here and there when the sproglet is napping or temporarily distracted by Rastamouse. I had forgotten the enjoyment of a craft you can easily pick up and put down without having to get endless supplies out (or clear them away at the end).  One where the pleasure isn’t just in hurrying up and getting to the end result (being impatient, I tend to feel that way about most things) but in just slowly enjoying the making process.

Knitting a blanket
It’s going to be lovely when it’s finished.

So, knitting, welcome back to my life. It’s good to see you again…

As ever, project details for this are over on Ravelry if you want to see more: Blanket for the bump.

*Things = the exhaustion of pregnancy combined with looking after a toddler, revising for exams, not living in our house and trying to oversee a building renovation from far too far away…

Related articles:

  • I was more on the ball with knitting this time last year. Take a look at some knitted goods I made for Christmas presents or this rather nice lace scarf
  • If you’re after more inspiration for baby knitting, or baby presents in general, I put together a nice little homemade gift box for my nephew in the summer. Which, of course, also included a knitted blanket.