Mo’ babies, mo’ knits

Hand knit baby cardigan

The impending pitter patter of baby feet inevitably sends me straight for my knitting needles.

True to form, in late pregnancy, I started on a baby blanket for the littlest. But, in rather typical third baby syndrome, I haven’t actually managed to finish that yet. (Ahem, she is nearly four months old now, so I really need to get cracking.)

When I was a week or so overdue, I became convinced that she wasn’t coming out because she was indignant at my inability to have completed a knit for her, so I put the blanket aside for a bit, and knit a quick grey cardie, that she could wear home from the hospital.

baby cardigan

I followed a pattern I’d not tried out before, the bug warmer, by Tagia Hillard designs. It was a great knit, raglan style, and the end result was a perfect fit for a newborn and super easy to put on for a little winter baby.

I used a light grey Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, which is super soft, lovely to knit, but also machine washable (an absolute essential, as far as I’m concerned, for baby clothes. It’s not just me who always has vomiting babies, right?!) All details, as ever, on Ravelry here: baby bug warmer.

I was so pleased with the result that I knit a second one for my sister-in-law’s new baby, who arrived a month later, in the same type of yarn but this time in dark grey.

I fully intended to pick up the blanket again and finish it, but, erm, that’s still to happen, and instead I moved onto another cardie once the grey one was outgrown. I’d spotted a lovely mustard yellow garter stitch cardigan in John Lewis and was convinced I could knit my own version, but then I struggled to find a decent pattern. In the end, I went for the Iceling cardigan by Carol Feller. It’s not garter stitch throughout, but has a huge garter front and turn ups at the sleeves.

Hand knit baby jumper

Hand knit baby cardigan

My usual sewing-on-a-button-inertia struck once I’d finished the knit, so it sat about for nearly a month while I dithered over button selection, yarn selection (for a button. Yes, I know) and threw in some bog standard procrastination.

Eventually, though, I bit the bullet and sewed the little blighters on, and she has been wearing the cardie non-stop ever since. (That would be a better endorsement, of course, if she was actually old enough to choose her own clothes, ha ha.)

Once again, I went for the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, this time in a glorious mustard yellow. I love the slightly vintage look to the colour, matched with more modern big white chunky buttons.

I went for the six month size, which is a pretty good fit on her at nearly four months, but should have enough stretch in it to keep going for a while. Full details of the knit over on Ravelry: Iceling cardigan.

Hand knit baby cardiganHand knit baby cardigan

And finally, yes, isn’t this is a ridiculous amount of photos to show you one tiny little cardie, but, oh she’s too cute, I couldn’t resist – just look at those squidgy legs! Long-term readers might remember that I never usually share pictures of the kids here, but I’ve realised that they grow out of the baby stage so ridiculously quickly that she’ll probably be completely unrecognisable from these photos in a month or so…

And now, back to the blanket! I am determined to get it finished before winter is officially over…

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New baby; new knitting.

Waffles baby blanket | Wolves in LondonWhen I first started writing this blog, 3.5 years ago, the sproglet was just three months old and none of my siblings had any children.

In the time since, there’s been the arrival of another six babies in our family: my next sister down has had a son and a daughter, my brother a son, and, of course, I’ve had the littlest as well. And last month, my youngest sister had her very first baby, an unbelievably adorable little girl.

This is brilliant for all sorts of reasons. I’ve got lots of lovely nephews and nieces to enjoy, the sprogs have lots of cousins the same age as them for sprogging around with and, on top of all that, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to indulge my love of newborn knitting.

It’s turned into a bit of a tradition that I knit a blanket for the first born in each family (this grey one for my first nephew and this stripy one for my second). So I turned, once again, to that enjoyable pastime of browsing baby blanket patterns on Ravelry.

This time round I went for a solid coloured blanket in a waffle knit pattern. The appropriately named waffles blanket from Tin Can Knits.

Once again, I’m delighted with the finished result. It’s a lovely squishy blanket, that will be really soft and especially good for colder months. And though I do love to knit a lace pattern, I think it’s probably quite good that there are no holes for tiny fingers to get stuck in.

waffles baby blanket: hand knit blanket | Wolves in London

I gave it to my sister a few weeks ago, (erm, yes, quite a bit late, I’m ashamed to say) and she was delighted with it. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s a more pleasing present to give in the world than a hand-knitted item for a newborn.

NB, I’m sorry for the lack of decent photos here. I only finished blocking the blanket the morning of giving it away, so just grabbed a few quick ones while I could…

A few pattern notes for anyone interested in more info…

waffles baby blanket: hand knit blanket | Wolves in London

Pattern: Waffles from Nine months of knitting by Tin Can Knits. Download available for $6.

My Ravelry page is here: new baby blanket.

The pattern was straightforward and simple to follow. No need to re-read the pattern after the first repeat, and an easy, relatively quick knit. I didn’t alter it in any way and just kept going until the blanket looked about the size I was after.

After blocking, it stretched considerably, mostly width-ways, but more lengthways than I had anticipated as well.

Wool: I used a yarn that I’d tried before and knew lasted and washed well. (It’s essential to be able to wash a baby blanket in a washing machine, I think. The chances of it getting fairly frequently covered in either poo or sick are pretty high in those early months.) It’s the cashmerino aran by Debbie Bliss. Not the cheapest, at around £5 for 50g, but a really lovely wool that feels soft and wears well. I used a total of 5.5 skeins, so it cost me just under £30.

The colour is called “peacock” and it’s a lovely rich teal, which I thought was pleasingly gender-neutral when I chose it. Actually, after I’d knitted it up, I thought the blanket looked very blue, but my sister shares my opinions on the ridiculousness of gender stereotyping small babies, so she’s perfectly happy for her baby girl to be encased in a blueish blanket.

Now, what to put on my needles next?

A chunky, earthy toddler jumper

Handknit chunky boys jumper, free pattern
Breadstick: model’s own

Handknit toddler jumper, free pattern

Never has anything I’ve knit been met with such enthusiasm as this chunky green and mustard jumper.

Before I had even got the wool on the needles the sproglet was already endearingly excited about the prospect of a new jumper.

Me: “Sproglet, would you like it if I knitted you a new jumper this winter?”*

Sproglet: [face lights up with look of utter delight and disbelief] “A jumper?! For me?! Wot you would knit me?! Really?!”

Me: [slightly disarmed by enthusiasm] “Erm, yes, shall we choose a pattern together?”

Sproglet: [flings arms around me in joy] “Oh yes please Mummy, that would be brilliant!”

Handknit toddler jumper, free pattern

After such an unexpectedly amazing first response, I thought things could only possibly go downhill from there (you know, with a finished result of a jumper that was absolutely never taken out of the drawer) but every few mornings he would ask to check on my latest knitting and say endearing things like, “Oh Mummy, I love the back!” as I showed him each part.

The finished result was just as appreciated and after he tried it on for the first time (and told me how it was his favourite thing ever) he asked, “Am I really allowed to keep it and wear it?” as if I might have just given him something incredibly precious to touch for a few minutes before whisking it away back to a vault somewhere.

Handknit toddler jumper, free pattern

Now, whenever he is wearing it (which is most days) and someone compliments him on it, he always, but always replies, “My Mummy knitted it for me” with a big proud smile on his face.

Adorable. Unexpected. And utterly adorable.

Anyway, a few notes on the jumper itself for any other knitters out there.

I followed the Nantasket pattern by Berocco, which is free and available here on Ravelry. I’m also pretty pleased with the end result: the stitch pattern on the torso looks fabulous, it’s a (fairly) good fit and looks really lovely and like one of those handknits that you could have potentially bought from a very expensive shop (rather than the kind of handknits that you might have bought for 30p from a charity shop because someone’s Granny made it for them in the 80s, badly, and they never wanted to wear it. I have made a few of those in my early knitting days…)

However, though I was pleased with the jumper once finished, I did have a few issues with the pattern.

Firstly, it is by far the vaguest knitting pattern I have ever read. It includes such useful instructions as, for example, “purl the next row, decrease by 28 stitches”, with no indication of where to make the decreases. Which meant I spent ages trying to work out how frequently to purl stitches together in order to make an even decrease from 77 to 49 stitches.

Overall, I spent quite a lot of time figuring out exactly how obey the instructions in the pattern, when I would have much preferred everything to be written out properly for me. But then, that’s what you get with a free pattern I guess…

Handknit toddler jumper, free pattern

Handknit toddler jumper, free pattern

The arms also came up very skinny – I had to frog the first one and re-knit because it just looked like there was no way I could get them round a toddler’s actual arms, and a skinny toddler at that.

And the neckline is pretty tight, though that could well be a problem with my casting off too tightly.

Other than that, I followed the pattern pretty much exactly, though I made the ribbing at the waist, arms and neck a contrasting yellow, which looks rather brilliant (she says, humbly).

Back of a handknit jumper, free patternHandknit toddler jumper, free pattern

As for the yarn, that is absolutely stunning, soft and delicious. It’s Wendy Aspire Chunky, which is 80% pure wool and 20% alpaca and you can really feel it. It’s knitted up thick and soft and made the perfect cold weather jumper. The colours are rich and earthy (they haven’t come out as nicely in the photos as they actually look in real life). But it is very prone to pilling – most of these photos are from the second wear and you can see the little bobbles covering it already. Not the end of the world, but it does mean I spend a lot of time trying to get rid of them…

I’ve gone into even more detail about the exact changes I made to knit the jumper over on Ravelry, so if you want even more details then head over there: Nantasket jumper

Now, I have a hat to complete that I promised someone before Christmas and then I think I’m going to try out a blanket from We Are Knitters to go with our new sofa.

Knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit…

Are you working on anything nice at the moment?

* No, you’re right, I don’t actually call him that to his face…

A green, green Valentines: 5 DIY presents for plant lovers

5 Valentine's Day DIYs perfect for plant lovers | Wolves in LondonHoly moley, the year suddenly seems to be flying by and we’re into February already. And the start of Feb can mean but one thing: the imminent arrival of Valentine’s Day, that gigantic commercial event to make you part with lots of cash.

I’m not normally a big fan of celebrating Valentine’s (could you have already guessed that?!) but I do love a small, thoughtful, ideally handmade gesture and if there are plants involved, why, all the better!

So I bring you my five favourite plant-related tutorials / ideas for Valentine’s Day.

My hubby is not such a plant lover as I am (read: has no interest in plants whatsoever) but if you have a green-fingered lover in your life, these would go down a treat.

  1. Talking cacti, from Look What I Made

5 Valentine's DIYs for plant lovers
© Look What I Made

Long-term readers might recall my very own cactus saga, but these little cuties are almost enough to win me back round to the spiky beasts.

Because, you know, who wouldn’t want a talking plant? You can see a full tutorial here: DIY plant speech bubbles.

 2. A teacup sweetheart plant, by Joy of Plants

5 Valentine's DIYs for plant lovers
© thejoyofplants

I was first alerted to this adorable heart shaped plant by Gardenista about a year ago and I’ve since seen it popping up all over the place.

Hoya kerrii, to give it its proper Latin name, is festooned with heart-shaped leaves. As it’s easy to propagate, you can take an individual leaf and plant it wherever you want. In this case, on the joyofplants website, in a mug to go with your breakfast in bed.

3. String of hearts plant (model’s own)

5 Valentine's DIYs for plant loversOh, I know, I’m completely obsessed with my string of hearts plant, but… …just look at it!

I don’t think you’d need to do much more than tie a bow around a pot of one of these to make a really glorious present.

You can see a few more pictures of mine on my first Urban Jungle Bloggers article, plants and art.

4. A heart-shaped garden pond

5 DIY Valentine's for plant lovers
© Baron’s Palace Hotel

Lovely readers, if any of you have been burning with unrequited love for me recently and are looking for a way to show me that you care then may I eagerly suggest creating one of these amazing carved stone ponds?!

I suspect only a professional stonecarver could whip one of these up in time for the 14th but, my goodness, wouldn’t this just be amazing out in a garden? I love the idea of it filling up with rainwater after a heavy downpour.

I found this on Pinterest and spent ages trying to trace its original source. I *think* that it is from the Baron’s Palace Hotel in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. A place that was, according to its website, built by a wealthy “ostrich baron” at “the turn of the century” (by which, I assume, it means 19th to 20th and not just 16 years ago. Though I might be wrong…) Anyway, the image seems to come from this Facebook post. And I am now dreaming of taking a trip to the Karoo, a place I barely knew about before, and watching some kind of ostrich-based sport like this. The wonders of the internet, eh?!

5. My life would succ without you, by See Kate Sew

5 Valentine's DIYs for plant lovers
© See Kate Sew

Ah, succulents, what celebration would be complete without them? And I love a pun almost as much as I love a succulent, so this could well be the perfect gift in my eyes…

The tutorial comes with a free printable for the cute labels too, check it out here: See Kate Sew.

Now, tell me, do you have plans for Valentine’s Day this year? Oh, and if you’re in the mood for a non-plant-related DIY, then do check out my top 10 Valentine’s tutorials as well…

 

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…

On the blog: plans for 2016

String of pearls plantI didn’t go to the inaugural Blogtacular in 2014 (I was busy pushing a baby out of my lady parts at the time) but I saw one quote from it repeated time and again:

“You will always have more ideas than time… …and that’s alright.”

It resonated with me as much as it clearly resonated with everyone else too. Phew! I thought. It’s not just me…

But 2015 on the blog was the year where I had lots of ideas but so little time that, actually, it didn’t really feel alright.

I started the year bursting with plans: ideas for new blog series, thoughts for fascinating articles, inspiration for stunning photos and oh, y’know, hundreds of amazing genre-busting things I was going to do with my blog. (Okay, that last part is a slight overstatement, but you get the drift.)

But my time felt more pinched than ever before and the huge majority of plans fell by the wayside.

So 2016, I hope, will be the year to resurrect some old ideas and start some new ones too. What can you hope to see on Wolves in London if you drop by in the next 12 months?

Gardening

I started my Gardening A-Z last January, full of excitement and with the intention of writing a fortnightly article explaining something about gardening. I got as far as, erm, the letter D. Not, I hasten to add, for lack of ideas or things to write about, but simply because I was finding it really hard to take a photo I could use for my article on “earthing up”…

I plan to resurrect (and hopefully finish!) the series this year, which I still feel as excited by 12 months later from the original plans.

Also, in a few days time, I am starting the second year of my garden design diploma. Last year was all about plants, this year is all about the “principles and practice” of design itself. I’m thinking of running a series about designing your own garden (in fact, I have had the first few articles written for a few months now) so if you’re hoping to overhaul your garden in 2016, look out for my thoughts on inspiration, designing, planning and planting your space.

Craft

Well, 2015 was not a year of great crafting, it must be said. But my recent reacquaintance with my knitting needles led to a flurry of hats knitted up before Christmas and a jumper for the sproglet is currently in process.

Friends, I must share both photos and chats about such things with you far more often!

But not just knitting; I finally have a permanent desk in our spare room where I can work and sew. The sewing machine is out of the attic and I am determined to get back in the sewing vibe again in 2016.

Wolves in London at home

We’ve been in our little Victorian terrace in SE London for more than three years now and have been almost permanently renovating that whole time. And yes, it’s true, we’re still not finished (I must get round to painting that hallway still) but the majority of the rooms are more or less there. And long-term readers will know that I’ve been meaning to share some room tours for a while now, so that is definitely on the cards for the springtime, once there is actually a bit of light back in the house again.

And the last one is definitely the hardest to achieve…

A bit more Sabrina

I realised a while ago that all of my favourite bloggers regularly include such amazing things as… ….photos of themselves!  I know, who would have thought it? Imagine reading a blog and actually have more than a vague awareness of what the blogger writing it looks like. Some people I have seen, the revolutionaries we might call them, even have photos of themselves in their sidebar! Futuristic or what?!

I mock, of course, because I think I have only three photos of myself on this blog anywhere*, and it’s something I have been meaning to address for a while now. When I’m reading other blogs I like to know who is talking to me, rather than just a faceless collection of words, so it’s only fair to assume others might want the same from me.

Why so few photos here so far (an average of one for every year I’ve been writing the blog, ha ha)?

It’s not just that I never think I look nice in any photo ever, but also because there is nobody around who ever takes a photo of me. I am always the one with the camera.

So this year, I am determined to have a crack with some self-portraits using my tripod and the self-timer on my camera. Cue much awkward posing and discomfort, I am sure.

Sooo, them’s the plans. We’ll see how many I manage to follow through with, but if any of that sounds like your cuppa, then please do visit back again. And of course, finally, a big thanks for checking in here and reading my frequently overly-long thoughts on life, the universe and everything. May 2016 be a wonderful year for you!

*Fact-finders, there is one on my About page (which is taken from my wedding), one with me wearing my homemade maxi skirt, and one of me pootling about in Hong Kong which is now more than four years old.

The annual Christmas blog post

Just popping in very quickly this Christmas Eve to wish you a wonderfully happy Christmas and an excellent start to 2016 and to share a few pics with you of the merry-making that’s been going on around here.

The Christmas bug was late to bite this year and so, unlike past years where I set myself the impossible task to craft my way to some sort of Christmas nirvana (if you’ll excuse the mixed religions that would involve), I did very little until December 23rd.

Homemade wreathHomemade wreath

First of all, I put our wreath up, a gorgeous creation made by my mother-in-law and niece, of foraged ivy and fir trees (and because I have something of a dried orange peel mania going on this year, I couldn’t resist adding a few of those as well). Excuse the fact you can only see a small part of the wreath, but I couldn’t bare to show you our really ugly front door. A new (old) one has been ordered for January and I can’t wait to get rid of this 1960s dark-brown-stain monstrosity.

Homemade gingerbread house

But mostly, yesterday was a flurry of cooking and baking: I pre-cook everything except the turkey, which saves Christmas day peeling and chopping and so on. I remember, as a child, feeling rather put out that I had to help peel sprouts or chop carrots on Christmas morning! Christmas morning, I ask you, which should surely be reserved for opening presents and eating chocolate and nothing else…

Ridiculous though that may be, I now always try and cook everything that I possibly can ahead of time.

It was our first year of making a gingerbread house and I was pretty pleased with the results. Definitely one to be repeated in future years…

brown paper wrapped presents

Presents were wrapped, in a decorous and tasteful manner that I think is obligatory for all bloggers these days. Yawn, yawn, yet more brown paper and string and random bits of foliage stuck on. Actually, I was busy snipping away the rosemary from the fridge, when I remembered it was meant to be saved for the gravy, so I had to restrain myself to a spare sprig per parcel.

Paper chains

What else? Hmmm, oh I stuck some sprigs of ivy around the place and got our spare room all ready for my Mum’s arrival later on today. And this morning, the four of us made a paper chain: the hubby cutting the paper strips, the sproglet punching the holly shapes and me stapling it together. While we all simultaneously read a book to the littlest to keep him entertained…

Now, we’re heading out to my sister’s for a Christmas Eve family lunch, with my Mum, all three of my siblings, their respective spouses and three nieces and nephews. It promises to be a noisy, boisterous, booze-filled do, if previous years are anything to go by. Whatever you’re up to, today and tomorrow, I hope you have a wonderful time. Thank you so much for reading here in 2015 I’ll be back in the New Year with more of the same!

Huge kisses and hugs,

Sabrina xxx

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

Awesome finds at Renegade Craft Fair

Vases by Justine Free

The trouble with attending craft fairs, I find, is you go with every intention to buy hundreds of presents for other people but as soon as you get there you want all the things for yourself.

Just me? Ah.

I don’t go to nearly as many as I used to, due to a combo of having to drag little sproglets with me these days and a far higher density of that sort of event in Hackney where I used to live, compared to here in East Dulwich.

So Saturday’s trip to the Renegade Craft Fair in the Old Truman Brewery was a special effort but oh-so worth it.

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite finds with you in case you’re on the hunt for presents for yourself early Christmas presents too.

(By the way, excuse the slightly crappy pictures — I took most of them on my phone with no decent light.)

Justine Free ceramics

Firstly, my hands down favourite in the room, were these amazing ceramics by Justine Free. I persuaded the hubby to buy me these three single stem vases for Christmas. After photographing them to show you, I’ve had to wrap them back in the bubble wrap and put them away again til December. Still, something very much to look forward to then!

They’re unbelievably tactile, just begging to be picked up. I’m not sure if I will be able to put flowers in them for that reason, or just have them empty on an accessible shelf somewhere in a nice cluster.

Website: www.justinefreeceramics.tumblr.com; instagram: @justinefree

Animal alphabet

Animal counting by Katie Viggers

B for bears by Katie ViggersWe got these two illustrated animal alphabet / counting books by Katie Viggers. The intention is to give them as a present to someone else’s children… …but I suspect they might just stay with our kids, they’re so blooming lovely.

If you like them, they’re also available as prints and cards. Gorgeous.

Website: www.eightbear.co.uk; instagram: eightbear

Here be monsters

And I couldn’t resist this “Here be monsters” tea towel by Woah there Pickle. At £9.50, I have to confess I don’t think I could ever skank it up by doing the dishes, so instead I plan to frame it for the kids bedroom.

Website: www.woahtherepickle.co.uk; instagram: @woah_there_pickle

Grain and Knot chopping board

Grain and Knot chopping board

I’ve spent the best part of the last few years yearning to head off to the hills and whittle spoons, so I couldn’t pass up on the stall of Sophie Sellu, Grain & Knot, which was stuffed full with spoons and other wooden delights. I bought my sister this beautiful beech chopping board for her birthday.

Just getting the website details now, I’ve seen she also runs workshops in London. I shall be off to learn a new skill pronto!

Website: Grain & Knot; instagram: @grainandknot

London print

I also bought my sister’s birthday card, this stunningly intricate print by The City Works. We’d run out of money by the time we reached his stall, so I could only afford a couple of cards, but I’ve since bought the brilliant colouring-in poster for the sproglet online.

Website: the-city-works.com; instagram: @thecityworks

Monti by Monti stall at Renegade Craft Fair

Monti by Monti also blew me away – geometric shaped plant stands in simple glass and black frames, that you can hang directly onto the wall. I picked up a few air plants at the RHS Frost Fair the weekend before and I now have the distinct feeling that they absolutely must live inside one of these very, very soon.

Instagram: @montibymonti

Verdantica collage

For a while, a year or so ago, I decided that I wanted to photograph every tutorial for this blog with a tiny person in each photo. Assisting, if you will. (I never saw through on it, because I tend to only actually execute about one in every 500 ideas I have…)

So, I fell head over heels in love with Verdantica’s stall; a selection of little people in scenes inside salt and pepper shakers, compact mirrors or jars. My photos above aren’t very good, but this was seriously one of the very best things I’ve seen in ages, do go to the website to see some much better photos and get an idea of just how awesome they were.

Website: verdantica.co.uk; instagram: @verdantica

Business cards from Renegade Craft Fair

Then there were other stalls that I loved but didn’t photograph and had run out of money to buy anything from, so just had to satisfy myself by taking their business cards. Here are a few more places to visit, if you’re inclined:

Geo-fleur have a range of amazing succulents, cacti and air plants, along with some lovely concrete pots and macramé plant hangers. (I have to confess, I’m not buying into the macramé trend because I am just (just!) old enough to remember it from the first time round…) The plants and pots, though, I love. There are also some Japanese hanging moss ball planters, called kokedama – a trend I am 100% into. I meant to pick something up from the stall (I had actually been insta-stalking them for a while before the fair) but the wallet was dry by the time I got there. I think I’ll have to go and visit their shop in Walthamstow sometime soon instead…

Website: www.geo-fleur.com; instagram: @geo_fleur

Cactus Club had a brilliant cactus print that I would have bought had I not been busy arguing its merits with the husband over a whale print that he preferred. In the end, we just had to wander off…

Website: cactusclubpaper.com; instagram: @cactusclubpaper

Sarah K. Benning does “contemporary embroidery” for which read the BEST ever embroidered samplers of plants. (See the top right card in the photo above.) I would have insisted on buying one of these, but I had a feeling my husband was remembering the name for another time and I might be surprised with one in future…

Instagram: @sarahkbenning

Hazel Adams business card

I really loved the insect illustrations by Hazel Adams. The hubby’s birthday is in a few weeks and he is a serious insectophile, so I think I might have to buy him one.

Website: www.hazeladams.com

Finally, Pygmy Cloud had some utterly irresistible bear and mountain cushions, as well as lots of beautiful wooden cloud shapes. I think the sproglets will probably be finding one of the bears in their stocking each. Father Christmas has excellent taste, doesn’t he?

Online shop: pygmycloud.com/shop; instagram: @pygmycloud

So, yes, ha! If you’ve got similar tastes to me then I apologise (somewhat) for this deluge of amazingness tugging at your wallet strings. Roll on December, so I can start spending without guilt!

Kids craft: no glue conker spiders

DIY no-glue conker spiders | Wolves in LondonI have to confess, I find crafting with the children a singularly stressful experience.

When the sprogs were still babies, I eagerly looked forward to a time when we could make stuff together. Misty-eyed, I imagined rainy afternoons spent bent over the kitchen table, glue stick in one hand, paint brush in the other, as we painstakingly created a magical castle made of nothing but loo rolls, or perhaps a Thunderbirds mountainside and launchpad from papier mache.

(Yes, I think it is possible that these imaginings were based largely on my own consumption of Blue Peter at a young age in the early 1980s…)

In actuality, now the kids are old enough to make things with me, any time spent attempting to craft anything tends to end with someone having a screaming tantrum and throwing a pair of scissors across the room. And it’s not always me.

The sproglet, in particular, just doesn’t like being helped with anything. If he’s making something, he has to be able to do it all on his own. Frustrations arising from necessary parental assistance tend to be high and volatile. Which generally means that gluing anything is out of the question.

And so I give you, the glue-free conker spider, arguably the least stressful thing I’ve ever made with the sprogs and perfect both for Autumnal conker use and a pre-Halloween craft.

It’s incredibly straightforward, but I’ve put together a bit of a how-to below in case you’d like a bit more info…

What you’ll need:

conker spider supplies

For each spider you need a conker, a pair of adhesive googly eyes, two pipe cleaners.

What to do:

  1. Pull the backs off the googly eyes and stick into place.

conker eyes

2. Cut the pipe cleaners in half, to create four small pieces

pipe cleaners

3. Starting with two pipe cleaners, fold them over each other to make a cross

fold pipe cleanerspipe cleaners 2

Pipe cleaner fold

4. And then add in the last two cleaners so you’ve got a star. (If this is a bit fiddly for your child and they’re not keen to wait while you do it, you can also just pull them into a little bundle at the middle…)

Pipe cleaner foldPipe cleaner fold5. Fold over the very edges of the legs so that the spider will stand up

DIY conker spider

6. Using a small bit of sellotape, stick the legs onto the underside of the conker.

Finished conker spider

7. Repeat as many times as you like, until you have a small army of conker spiders taking over your house…

DIY spider conkersPretty straightforward, no? Do let me know if you have a go at this by leaving a comment below. And if you’ve got any tips for minimising child-crafting stress I’d love to hear them…