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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:

The joy of knitting

20 Feb

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.

Five woolly baked delights

19 Oct

Which came first: the scheduling for the Great British Bake Off final or National Baking Week?

(I ask this rhetorically, simply because I am too lazy for the three second Google search that would undoubtedly give me an answer…)

Whichever it is, with two such prestigious events in the space of a fortnight, this is a big time for baking. It would seem churlish not to get with the action and join in.

But, just as I was heading to the kitchen to get out the Kenwood, it dawned on me that it was also British Wool Week this week too. Aha! Surely the chance for a double celebration here.

And so it is, I present to you my choice of five delicious-looking woollen baked goodies.

Since my current making schedules are running about six months behind, it’s unlikely I’m going to get any of these actually finished before the week is out, but I’ll definitely be pulling out my needles for the Bake Off final next Wednesday and knitting along.

I’ll show you the results, hmmm, probably sometime next year…

1. Knitted cupcake pincushions, by Little Cotton Rabbits

knitted cupcake pincushion by Little Cotton Rabbits

The first knitted goody has been in my Ravelry queue for some time now. These amazing knitted cupcake pincushions are designed by Little Cotton Rabbits, aka one of my very favourite knitting blogs.

If your knitting mojo is lacking, or you’re looking for knitspiration (sorry!), or you just want to look at some beautiful photographs and read a blog by a brilliant writer, then I recommend a visit over to Little Cotton Rabbits.

Oh and I almost forgot to talk about the cupcakes themselves. Well, take a look at the photo, they’re adorable, aren’t they?

You can buy the pattern here for £2: knitted cupcake pincushions.

2. Crochet jammy dodger, by According to Matt

Crochet jammy dodger

Despite not knowing how to crochet, it seems that I pin some amazing crochet project or other on a weekly basis, each time making me declare that it really is time that I learnt.

The latest was this quite, quite delicious looking jammy dodger, from the blog According to Matt. The tutorial is free and to my non-crocheters eyes, it looks really simple to follow.

Take a look here: crochet jammy dodger.

3. A slice of cake, by Bitter Sweet

Slice of cake

Another free pattern, this slice of cake tickles me something rotten. It’s a slice! With a candle! All knitted from wool!

I’m not entirely sure what you would do with this, once you had knitted it. Perhaps just display it proudly on your kitchen table for all eternity. It’s from a cooking blog called Bitter Sweet, by Hannah Kaminsky. If you’re less a fan of knitted goodies (though if you weren’t a fan, I doubt you’d be reading this far) and more a fan of the genuine article, then this is the blog. Loads of recipes for delicious looking cakes and pies and bread.

Find the free knitting pattern here: a slice of cake.

4. Crochet Battenburg, eBay

crochet battenburg pattern

I’ve got to admit, I prefer buying my patterns through Ravelry, individual designers, or Etsy, but when I came across this crochet Battenburg on eBay, I couldn’t resist including it. Those little pink and yellow squares were just calling out to me…

The seller has an absolute wealth of other knitted food patterns too. Spend too long browsing here and you risk falling down a rabbit hole and emerging on the other side with a knitted cup of tea in your hand, wondering where the past few weeks went. You have been warned…

Find the pattern here on eBay for £1.50: crochet Battenburg cake.

5. More cake, I need more cake! Etsy

Knitted cake selection of patterns

And if you just simply can’t pick just one solitary little knitted piece of deliciousness, then cakescakescakes over on Etsy has six different patterns available, including chocolate eclairs and raisin buns.

Choose a selection of three for £6.34: various knitted cake patterns

So there you have it, a tasty selection for a Saturday morning. If you know of any other great patterns I should have included, do drop me a message in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

Related articles:

  • Find these ideas plus many (many, many) more planned craft projects on my Pinterest board I could make that
  • You know, it’s not just knitted foodstuffs that rock my boat. I have been known to make food from felt too, like this Breakfast fry up for Bacon week. (What can I say? I love a good “week.”)

A very important arrival

20 Aug

Last week I became an Aunt for the very first time.*

One of my sisters had a baby boy and I can report, completely objectively of course, that he is one of the cutest little babies ever to be born.

I’d been knitting a blanket for the new arrival for a ridiculously long time, but of course it still wasn’t finished when he arrived, so I did a bit of frantic knitting while we were staying in Shropshire and managed to finish the second half in approximately one hundredth of the time I did the first half.

Together with the blanket, I put together a whole little new baby present pack. Here’s a photo of the whole thing.

Homemade baby present box

A bunch of homemade clothes for a very special baby. (Not the shoes, though. I bought them. Though I have always wondered how hard it would be to make some of those little leather slip-ons…)

I made three little babygrow tops, in the same style as the baby carrot set I made for my own sproglet, and using my tried and tested method of iron-on transfer paper. (I’ve got a step by step tutorial for doing this, if you’re interested: how to transfer images to fabric.)

homeprinted babygrows

Good lord, it’s hard to photograph white babygrows, please excuse this over-exposed shot. Does anyone have any tips? I don’t think the white background helps, but when I put them on other colours, the contrast is too strong…

I used a vintage bicycle image (which you can find at the Graphics Fairy: vintage bike) because the baby’s Dad loves to cycle. I love the caption underneath: “the dandy horse.”

Home printed babygrow

The dandy horse

For the second babygrow, I found this lovely balloon image, with the word “TOYS” emblazoned across it (also from the Graphics Fairy: toys balloon). Perfect for any child, really…

Homeprinted babygrow

A hot air balloon and the promise of toys!

And the third babygrow reads, “D is for the dirigible, a motor driven balloon.” The baby’s name starts with D, as I’m sure you guessed, and this was far more appealing to me than “D is for dog”…

Homeprinted babygrow

D is for dirigible, not dog or drum or door…

Then I made another pair of the baby trousers in the same elephant fabric I used recently for Laura’s baby. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, I can’t stand the persistent blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls, so I always like to use any other colour that I possibly can.

Homemade baby trousers

Stomp, stomp stomp

And, in an amazing instance of learning from my own mistakes, I lined the elephants all up in a straight line this time, so none of them were diving off a cliff. Look, look!

Hem of elephant trousers

All in a straight line, yay me!

Finally, the blanket. It’s called the baby chalice blanket and is a free pattern by Karen S. Lauger. You can see full details on my Ravelry page: baby chalice blanket.

chalice blanket close up

This is a close up of the pattern

The pattern is really beautiful, when finished. Intricate, but yet quite bold too. I found it less pleasing to knit than my previous shale baby blanket which was exceedingly simple to remember, but the overall result is really lovely.

chalice baby blanket

Believe it or not, this is the photo I took after trying to arrange the blanket in a perfect rectangle. Perhaps I really needed to block it once more!

I used a Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino yarn, which is just lovely to knit with (though not cheap…) I think I could have used a slightly smaller pair of needles, actually, but it’s  never worth worrying about that sort of thing at the end of the knitting.

Chalice blanket

Just one more so you can see the pattern repeats again

She was pretty happy with the box, I think. Lots of things to dress my tiny nephew in, when he gets a little bigger…

*If that wasn’t exciting enough, I’ll also become a double Aunt in a few weeks. When I get married, my partner’s niece will officially become my niece too. (I already call her my niece, in fact, but if I do so in his earshot, he always says to me, “She’s not your niece, she’s my niece…”)

It’s been a little while since I’ve joined up with any link parties, but I’ve just seen a new one that’s started on one of my favourite blogs, Dream a Little Bigger, so I’m joining up there this week. Also back to my old favourite, Brag Monday at the Graphics Fairy. And finally remembering to link up with Handmade Monday, A UK-based link party (hooray! they are few and far between) on Handmade Harbour run by the very lovely Wendy Massey who I met earlier this year at the Pinterest party.

Related articles:

  • If you’re looking for something to make a new baby, I’ve got a free tutorial and pattern for a baby bib
  • Or take a look at my tutorials page for more projects that use lovely vintage images

Doggy draught excluders

26 Jul

You know how it’s scorchingly hot at the moment?

Dog draught excluder

Brrrr, feel the breeze from under that door…

Well, in a moment of topical genius, I’ve chosen today to talk about cold weather. About draughts, to be specific. Remember them? The whistling cold wind burrowing its way under your doors to negate any good your central heating is doing…

Sounds quite pleasant right now, in this sticky, muggy weather, but, no, dragging my brain back to wintertime I can just, just, remember that draughts are no fun whatsoever.

Draught excluders, on the other hand, are very huge amounts of fun.

Always one to overstretch myself, when I learnt to knit three years ago, one of the first things I made was not the obligatory scarf, but a dog draught excluder for my dog-obsessed sister. Did her doors have draughts? I neither knew nor cared when I came across the knitting pattern.

knitted dog draught excluder

Guarding the door like any good knitted dog would

Project details on Ravelry, for anyone interested: Dog draught excluder.

She has since got a real dog, but the draught excluder still has pride of place on her bed (he was never allowed onto the floor, he was too nice for that, she said…)

Then, a few months later, I found that my flat had a genuine draught under the door of my sitting room. It was like the arctic was entering the room under that door and the little tiny radiator could do nothing in defence.

The draught excluder had, of course, taken me a very, very, very long time to knit. (I think this was my introduction to all my homemade presents always being late.) So I decided to have a crack at sewing for the first time since I was a teenager.

I bought what I believed to be a legitimate vintage sewing pattern on eBay, which arrived and turned out to be an illegally photocopied pattern, with some greaseproof paper pattern pieces drawn in pencil. I would complain, but boy oh boy did I love the dog it made…

Dog draught excluder

Woof, woof. What a noble doggy face…

His body is from some gorgeous V&A quilts exhibition fabric (sadly no longer seems to be available online). Then I used an old red top to make the underside of his ears. It took me an hour or so and I couldn’t believe how quickly and easily I could rustle something up compared to the hours needed for a knit project.

The little dog got lots of compliments, including one from a friend who had always been tempted by a Cath Kidston version but never wanted to pay the money for it. When she got married last year, I made another dog as a wedding present, just the same as this one, but with the bride and groom’s initials in felt stitched under one ear and the date of the wedding under the other…

And I’ve just completed a third doggy too, this time for my niece, another fan of the original mutt. This one is made from a different pattern from the same V&A quilting fabrics collection (this brown leaf design). He looks a little more genuinely doggy with the brown fabric, but I’ve put that lovely red under his ears as well.

Here he is snuggling up to a radiator.

Dog draught excluder

The warm sun, the warm radiator. This is a happy dog

Here is a glimpse of his ears:

dog draught excluder

What beautiful ears you have, my dear…

And here he is with his older, wiser friend…

Two dog draught excluders

Two friends together, just hanging out…

They’re cute aren’t they? I don’t think he’ll be my last one…

I wish I could even point you in the direction of the genuine pattern, but my photocopy is so bad I can’t tell where it is from. If by any weird and wonderful chance someone knows the answer, please do post a comment!

Related articles:

  • I’ve got to say, I think this is my favourite sewn thing ever, but if you want to take a look at some others, there’s a whole bunch of things in my sewing category

Falling water scarf

15 Feb

I love it when a knitting pattern has a good name.

My (relatively) recently completed Wurm hat carries a great moniker. Even though I had little to say about the project itself (“Knit a hat. Finished it. It is nice.”) I was tempted to write a blog post about it, just so I could call it A “wurm” and fuzzy feeling. Ha ha, I know, a comedian in the making right here.

Other great names I’ve knitted include the Shale baby blanket, the name of which manages to sound rugged and rural at the same time as cosy and warm. Oh, and if anyone out there is looking for a baby blanket pattern, I recommend this one.  Definitely the best one I’ve come across and it’s proved amazingly versatile and useful in the first six months of my little sproglet’s existence.

Shale baby blanket

Detail from my shale baby blanket. The daddy of all baby blankets (metaphorically speaking, I don’t think it’s actually spawned. Or if it has, it’s been very discreet about it…)

The Star crossed slouchy beret brings a touch of Shakespeare and ill-fated love to the otherwise prosaic act of keeping your head warm. (Though, sadly, I didn’t display similar levels of  genius when knitting it, instead messing up the cables…)

And it was partly the fabulous name of the Arsenic and old lace shawl that convinced me to cast on and tackle something way out of my knitting league. (Which reminds me: must dig that out of my project box and have a crack at finally finishing it…)

More successfully knitted than the last two examples, but just as pleasingly named, is the star of this post. Fresh off the needles, this falling water scarf.

Falling water scarf

Little droplets cascade down the scarf

This is a belated Christmas present for my godmother and I’m pretty pleased how it’s turned out. In my usual style, I woefully overestimated the amount of time I have for knitting and cast on in January, thinking I’d have it finished in a week, tops. Yeah. Five weeks later I’ve just sewn in the last end and blocked it.

I wouldn’t choose a brown for a scarf myself, but I know she wears browns and oranges the most, so I hope she likes it (and doesn’t think it’s too poo-coloured, ha ha…)

Falling water scarf

Please excuse the creases on my bed sheet behind the scarf…

The pattern, by Bonnie Sennott, is really simple to understand and quick to memorise. And, the staple of most good patterns as far as I’m concerned, free on Ravelry.

My yarn choice was probably a bit off. The last lace scarf I made ended up too fluffy, because I used wool with a lot of alpaca in it. This time, in response, I seem to have swung widely to the other extreme, choosing a crisp cotton glace by Rowan. The stitch definition is very clear but it’s not as soft (nor, I suspect, warm) as it would be if I’d stuck to wool.

You can see all the details at my Ravelry project page: falling water scarf.

So, now this is completed, I’ve got time to start on one of the excellent patterns in the retro Knitting in Vogue book I found second-hand. But which one, which one?

This article is linked up at today’s creative blogCRAFT, Keeping it simple crafts, the Shabby Nest, Romance on a Dime, Katie’s Nesting Spot and the Shabby Creek Cottage. Head over there to see what others have been up to this week.

Knitting in Vogue

5 Feb

When I moved south of the river last September (I mention this move a lot, don’t I? I clearly haven’t quite come to terms with being a South Londoner yet), I was somewhat disappointed to discover that there was not a single second hand bookshop in walking distance from my house.

Yes, I have two amazing independent book shops, so I’m not really complaining, but what with the whole maternity leave, not-earning-any-money malarkey, I did miss the brilliant, cheap second hand bookshop on Stoke Newington Church Street.

So, you can but imagine my delight to discover a teeny, tiny second hand shelf in Rye Books. (Which is, itself, something of a tiny, but absolutely excellent bookshop.)

Whatever delight you originally imagined, now double it, nay treble it, nay multiply it by a hundred, because this was what I found on said shelf:

Knitting in Vogue

Best second hand book find ever…

Knitting in Vogue, volume 2, from 1983. “Patterns from the ’20s to the ’80s for men and women.” And all fronted by what seems to be a dewy looking Andie MacDowell in a pastel pink number. Perhaps she knitted it herself?

Want to take a look inside? Of course you do…

The inside cover shows you how well-represented the 1980s are going to be, with this fetching pair in their fetching polo-necks:

Knitting in Vogue retro book

But you mean if I knit myself a polo-neck, I could look as glossy and in love as this? Let me at my needles now!

In fact, every pattern has the original photo from the decade it was released, along with a re-shot 1980s photo where the knitting has been “brought right into the current era” (okay, despite the quotes, those are still my words, but I bet it’s what they said to each other as they were brainstorming the photoshoot…)

Knitting in Vogue

But you mean this jumper could look as fashionable as this if it was worn by… …by a woman?

Needless to say, I prefer the original photos, especially those from the 1920s to 1940s. Especially those with dashing men riding bicycles in knitted wonders, looking catalogue-tastic.

Vintage knitted jumper

“This jumper? Oh it’s just something my wife made me while I was out cycling through meadows, what what…”

The big delight of the book though, wasn’t just how wonderfully retro all the pictures are, but the fact that I actually want to make every single pattern. There’s not a dud in here. Say what you like about the ’80s, but they clearly knew how to pick out a good knitting pattern. Here are a few more that look outright amazing…

Vintage knitting pattern

Awesome leaf pattern knitted cardie

Retro knitted twinset

Everybody needs at least one twinset in their life

Vintage aran jumper

The jumper, the belt, the bag – there is nothing about this I don’t love

Knitting in vogue? I certainly think so.

But tell me, which of these patterns should I cast on first?

Christmas knitting

2 Jan

The last few weeks in the run up to Christmas were filled with hectic present making. I ask you, what sort of moron decides it’s a good idea to make Christmas presents for every member of their family, when they have a four-month-old baby and a partner who is working late every evening? Oh. This sort of moron, it seems.

My Christmas good cheer was a little lacking, it has to be said, in the face of the crazed present making attempts. I would have thrown in the towel half way through, except I thought the people who landed homemade presents would be jealous of the people who got bought presents that would have been nicer.

Anyway, as is so often the case, despite despair during the making stage, I was pretty pleased with the end results once it was all finished.

Next year, though, I plan to avoid the late nights, strops at the sewing machine, cricks in the back, callouses on the fingers and general Grinch-like mood that started to appear when I realised I simply couldn’t finish everything on time, by saving the homemade presents for birthdays, so I just need to make something for one person at a time.

(I had briefly flirted with the idea of starting straightaway on next Christmas this January and trying to make one present a month in 2013 so I had a big stash by December time. Then I realised I didn’t want to be that person…)

All that said, I was pretty chuffed with the actual results of most of the presents I made, so I thought I’d share some details, photos and tutorials here over the next few weeks.

To begin with, a few pictures of my favourite part: the Christmas knitting. Ah, I love a bit of knitting and managed to rustle up three knitted presents that were finished on time. (Though there is a final one still on the needles.)

There must be something about Christmas and cabling that go together in my subconscious because I realise now that all of these are cabled patterns. What can I say? Snug and toasty always appeals in December.

If you like the look of these, I’ve put links to my Ravelry project pages for more information, as well as links direct to the patterns.

Hot water bottle cosy

Knitted hot water bottle cosyI am most delighted with this little cutie from all my festive knitting. Simple cable pattern and I tied a white ribbon on the top as well (but didn’t photograph that for some reason). It knit up really quickly and looked nice and professional by the time it was finished. Though there is often a pleasing “homemade” look when something is, erm, homemade, I do like things to look as if you could buy them in the shops as well. Or at least, not like they could have been made by a five-year-old. This definitely passed both those tests.

If you fancy trying out a hot water bottle cover, I did make a few modifications to the written pattern, see my Ravelry hot water bottle cosy page for more info.

The pattern is available for free on Ravelry and is by Christiana.

“Bella’s mittens” for my sister

Knitted mittens

There was another one, of course, but my other hand was busy taking the photo

I thought these mittens were quite awesome and should keep my sister’s hands warm when she’s out walking her dog. I hadn’t seen the sort of horseshoe cable pattern before but loved the end result. The wool isn’t the most glamorous (it’s quite a cheap acrylic one that I’d had in my stash for a while as I was trying not to buy any new yarn for these presents) but the colour is lovely and quite heritagey and it’ll be easy to wash too. Oh and I’d made her a teapot cosy in the same wool a few years ago, so as an added bonus she can be matching to her tea cosy, ha ha. Always essential.

More pics on my Ravelry Bella’s mittens page. The pattern is available for free and is by Marielle Henault.

I’d had this pattern saved in my Ravelry queue for quite a while now (and mentioned it as one of my planned projects to make in my Top 20 tutorials for Christmas presents) so I was delighted these turned out so well.

Cabled hat for my other (soon-to-be) sister-in-law

Slouchy cable hat

A little snap of me modelling the cable hat

I knit this cabled slouchy hat in a nice aran weight wool in a sort of sea blue colour, picked up at my local wool shop.  (Incidentally, when I say “sea blue” I mean UK sea blue, not tropical sea blue. It’s a lovely deep grey-blue that looks like it could sit moodily at the bottom of some English cliffs.) The colour is stunning, but I did actually mess up the cables a bit, so they’re not quite in the right places. That’ll teach me not to bother to look at the pattern after the first repeat. I’m not overwhelmingly happy with it, as a result, but I didn’t have time to frog and re-knit. This was definitely my biggest knit disappointment, as I’d spent a while trying to choose the perfect pattern and the perfect yarn, only to knit in a far from perfect way. Sigh.

More info on my Ravelry page for this Star crossed slouchy beret and again this pattern by Natalie Larson is available for free on Ravelry.

Inspiration: craft kits

19 Dec

Along with my great fabric project dream, I have another business yearning: to open a craft shop on the high street where I live. I’ve recently moved across London and one of the things I miss the most from my old neighbourhood is the fantastic cheap and cheerful craft shop on Stoke Newington High Street, which I used to pop into at least once a week for something or other.

It stocked everything from coloured card, all lined up in a highly appealing rainbow stack, to fabrics, cheap wools, stuffing, paints and so on. Really, anything you could think of that you might need to complete any sort of craft project was lurking somewhere in that shop (sometimes covered in a few years’ worth of dust, it’s true, but always there somewhere).

Where I live now, there is no craft shop within walking distance. There’s a small, very expensive wool room in the back of a rather chichi and very expensive kitchen / clothes shop. And there are a couple of toy shops that stock a few arty things for kids, but that’s it.

So, a definite gap in the market. And I’ve longed most of my life to run a little shop. The nature of the shop changes by the day / season / year.  Sometimes I think a deli is the most appealing, other times a second hand bookshop, or maybe a plant nursery. (The holy grail would be a coffee shop with deli attached, second hand bookshop upstairs, plant nursery in the garden and a space for craft classes. Sigh.) But a lovely craft shop, with all the wares arranged appealingly by colour is sounding right up my street just now. And, of course, I could stock all of my own fabrics in it.

All of which is a rather long intro to the thing I actually wanted to talk about in this blog post: DIY crafting kits. This is, clearly, something else I can stock in my fictional shop, when I get round to writing a business plan and opening it up…

So, to get myself a little more inspired, I thought I’d round up some appealing make-your-own kits. Some are for adults, some are for children. Absolutely all of them I want to buy right away and make…

First up, two from the children’s classic toy maker, Galt.

Craft kits round-up by Wolves in London

“Tweet, tweet, make me, make me,” say these fabric mobile birds

These chime birds are a great idea for kids.  Sew together a little bird mobile, complete with wind chimes. The birds play into the ever-popular vintage vibe with their cute fabrics. Do eight-year-olds buy into the current vintage zeitgeist? I don’t know, because I don’t have an eight-year-old, but if they do, they’d be sure to love this.

Round-up of the best craft kits by Wolves in London

Colourful sock rabbit (eyes included)

A bit less trendy but just as cute, is this sock rabbit kit. The box boasts that it comes with “real toy eyes.” I’m not quite sure why that’s so exciting, but if toy eyes do it for you you’re onto a winner. Okay, sarcasm aside, I love the whole thing, including the eyes.

Round-up of the best craft kits from Wolves in London

Simple to sew your own lavender bags. The kit is aimed for kids, but I find it quite tempting for myself

Nepotism alert, for the next kit is from a company run by a good friend of mine. Trug is her new venture of kits for children. She’s got a few (check out the Trug Facebook page for details) but my favourite is this lavender bag kit.

Round up of the best DIY kits from Wolves in London

He’d hold your door open and eat all your mice too. What more could you want from a DIY kit?

This make your own doorstop owl from Maia gifts is hardly a make your own kit at all.  All you need to do is fill it with rice, but for the really lazy DIYer, this would be a particularly pleasing result. I just love owls at the moment. And foxes. I know, I know, there’s no originality in this brain of mine.

Round-up of the best craft kits by Wolves in London

Remember how great London was in 2012 by sewing your own Routemaster bus

I’m not such a big fan of tapestry, but this London bus cushion by Kirk and Hamilton is quirky enough to tempt me (though the price tag is decidedly offputting).

John Lewis stock a huge range of amazing kits and I can’t resist but put a fair few in here:

Round up of the best craft kits from Wolves in London

“Raaaar, raaaar, raaar, oh no, I just fell over…” is the sort of thing I imagine this dinosaur saying if it could talk

From Sass and Belle, make your own felt dinosaur. He looks frightening but a bit limp at the same time. I especially love that this isn’t too perfect but retains the whole homemade look…

Round up of the best craft kits by Wolves in London

Is he drunk? Has he been run over? Please, take him home and love him til he’s better

Also from Sass and Belle, this fabric fox is a little terrifying in some ways. He looks a little like a roadkill fox. Perhaps more appealing to adults than children, but, like I said, I love me a fox, so I couldn’t resist this little critter.

Round up of craft kits by Wolves in London

Just like your Gran used to have (actually, mine never did, but I won’t let fact get in the way of captions…)

As an actual knitter, I always find knitting kits a bit odd – you pay much more for buying some wool and a pattern than if you just, well, bought some wool and a pattern. Still, this knitted tea cosy is really awesome and the kit would be a great way to introduce a newbie to knitting.

Round up of the best craft kits

Comes complete with two starter laydbirds. (Okay, they’re made of wood really)

And, veering away from fabric or wool based kits, I’ve just stumbled across the following almost-irresistible DIY kit: make your own insect house. Why wouldn’t you, really? Even the tin this comes in look nice. Ah I’m a sucker for packaging.

All-in-all, a rather excellent round up just in time for Christmas, methinks. But tell me, in this one-day-to-be-realised craft shop of mine, what other DIY kits should I stock? What favourites do you remember from childhood? And what would you like to buy now?

And if you need a little more inspiration for some last minute Christmas presents, take a look at my posts All I want for Christmas, 10 gift ideas for cooks or, if you’ve time on your hands between now and Tuesday, Top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents.

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