Red Acacia

Sometimes I set myself a goal and prove to myself I can do it. It might come at a cost but I get there and it’s worth it. The cost for this one was that my hands were really sore after about five hours straight last night of fast knitting on 2.5mm needles. Ouch!

I made this little singlet in less than 48 hours, leaving just enough time to get it dry on the deck this morning in the sun that I was so thankful to see! I cast on Sunday morning, finished at 11:30pm Monday night. I’d been prepared to pull an all nighter if I had to. Turns out I didn’t need to. I can be fast when I want to and let’s face it, 3month old babies just aren’t very big.

acacia2

Ok so I could have started to knit for my hairdresser’s baby when she was born three months ago. I didn’t. I meant to but she’s funny about wool (she claims she’s allergic but then I show her the nice wool I knit with and she wonders if maybe she’s not allergic. If all you’ve known is scratchy stuff, then of course you’re going to think you can’t wear it!)

But with a knitting grandmother, she knows all about Bendigo Woollen Mills cotton and has often waxed lyrical about how lovely and soft it is so I suppose it was meant to be that I would choose Bendigo cotton for little Juliette, who I am yet to meet.

acacia3

And the colour! Why oh why did Bendigo discontinue the only decent red cotton they’ve ever done? Thank goodness I stocked up when I was there last year. This took one tiny little ball of 4ply cotton and I’ve got several more.

This pattern had some new (to me) techniques in the design that I just loved – the clever way you start at the neck and with a few twists and turns, all of a sudden you have the bodice of a singlet.

A bodice with ruffles. And a bow. And openings for sweet little arms. Unbeatable.

acacia

The pattern is Baby Acacia by Georgie Hallam, aka Tikki, from her Spring Wildflowers collection. If you have little girls in your life to knit for, you would do well to go and buy her patterns. I can’t praise her work enough. I got a huge order from Bendigo Woollen Mills yesterday (massive bag on the doorstep when I got home – joy!) and there will be an Acacia for summer in Alice’s life very, very soon.

Bells

ps I’m thinking of signing up for a month of daily blogging with NaBloPoMo. It’s been a while since I embarked on the crazy, frenzied push for daily output but I think it might be good for me. Check back tomorrow to see if I really did sign up.

RoseRed Embossed Leaves Socks

Several years ago two knitters met in cyberspace. Those two knitters were me and RoseRed. For my birthday, the year we met, she sent me some beautiful red Koigu sock yarn and from it I made a pair of red Embossed Leaves socks, from the great Interweave Knits book ‘Favourite Socks‘.

In those days I had a beginner’s stash. There wasn’t much in it and none of it was particularly special or fancy. There was a whole world as yet unknown to me. From the vantage point of four years later, as I groan under the weight of a sizeable yarn stash, I smile at the memory of the first time I showed her my stash – a small collection in a single box – and how she confessed hers was ‘a little bigger’ than that. (Her stash is legendary, in case you didn’t know).

RoseRed gave me more of the beautiful red Koigu yarn a while ago and I think I always knew what I’d do with it, especially once that original pair of socks gave up the ghost.

This weekend, when I was visiting my parents I finished my second pair of Red (or RoseRed, as I came to call them) Embossed Leaves Socks. My sister Fee posed in them for me. She did threaten to keep them.

Embossed Leaves Socks

In case you can’t tell, I’m a bit sentimental about these socks. It was my first lace pattern, back in 2007, and such a learning curve. This time I memorised the pattern entirely. I’ve come a long way! It was easy and fun and I knew the results would be great. Koigu is a great, great sock yarn. It can’t and doesn’t disappoint. It’s smooshy, attractive and lush. A real winner. And who doesn’t love a leaf motif? You can’t go wrong.

My parents’ dog Coco (also dubbed: the Needy Pooch, because she’s SOOO whiny) got in on the act.

Coco and Red Socks

Then Alice decided the socks made great puppets. Apparently they were dinosaurs. Go figure.

Alice and Red Sock

Either way, they are lovely socks and I’m really, really happy to have myself another pair of red embossed leaves. A truly wonderful sock pattern and, for me, a symbol of what’s been so important to me as a developing knitter. Thanks RoseRed for the red sock love!

Bells

Stacked Coins Table Runner

Inspiration for some pieces comes from the strangest places. I love the surprising way an idea is born out of something as simple as a late night conversation before sleeping.

This is a table runner I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks and the way it came about is something I really love.

runner

I’d had the idea that I wanted to make a small quilt for Alice for Christmas, just something she can carry around and snuggle underneath and I knew I’d want to make it in a style called Stacked Coins – long strips of rectangular shapes I’d seen around the place and admired.

It made sense to learn about the design before launching into a proper quilt, so late one night I said to Sean that I thought I’d have a go at maybe a cushion cover, to see how it would look. Sleepily he said ‘why don’t you try a table runner instead? Nice long rows would suit that.’

It struck me as the most obvious idea and not for the first time, I was delighted that he is the kind of person who shares ideas and inspiration with me, despite having no particular interest, skill or inclination in sewing. When I was making my black and white quilt, he spent a Sunday morning with me moving squares around until we got their placement right. He’s got a good eye.

runner2

The top came together very quickly. One day’s work. The quilting and hand sewing of the binding took longer and now that I’ve done it, there are things I’ll do differently when the time comes for Alice’s quilt. I got away with some stuff on this piece that I wouldn’t do for a quilt that’ll be dragged around the house, washed repeatedly and generally well loved. I’ll make sure with Alice’s quilt that I do all the quilting stitches in one colour, to avoid the stopping and starting at the tops and bottoms of the panels. I’m not thrilled with how messy that is (up close – you can’t see it in the photos well. It’s not the look of it that concerns me so much as the security of the stitching).

But that’s why I gave this a go in something that won’t be so tossed around. I feel ready for the challenge of the bigger piece for Alice now and I’ve got some beautiful Moda Charm Squares to make it. Incidentally, these strips are also Moda charm squares from the Luna Notte collection.

runner1

If it looks a little wobbly it’s because I haven’t ironed it yet. It’s just come off the clothes horse from drying and I kinda like the crinkly look. I’m thinking if I press it too much it’ll flatten out in a way that won’t look as interesting.

I love how it looks on my table which, miraculously, is tidy today. I wanted a nice stage for the photos and, more importantly, somewhere for my parents to sit when they visit this weekend, arriving in time for dinner tonight. Sometimes, the sewing and papers just have to be put away.

Perhaps having such a lovely runner will mean I’ll try harder to keep the table clear. Maybe. I can try.

Finally, the original design I used as inspiration, but which looks very little like what I came up with, is the Stacked Coins Baby Quilt on the Moda Bake Shop.  I’m loving the way I’m learning to see an idea and then make it my own. It’s something I don’t quite manage in knitting, but in sewing it seems somehow a little easier.

Bells

Early Mornings Beret

Winter seems to have returned just as the days were warming up, so my fears that the weather for knitwear was coming to a close seem unfounded.

To that end, I felt no shame in whipping up a beret over the weekend.

I’ve never made one before, with good reason. I’m scarred by a photo that exists of me from about 1983, marching on ANZAC Day with the Brownies. I’m wearing a brown beret and I’ve got it pulled down like it’s a beanie. Not a great look and the image I’ve called to mind for a couple of decades when contemplating headwear.

Why I chose to make a beret at last is a bit of a mystery. I even started it at an odd time of day. Very late last Friday night, several glasses of wine in me and suddenly I was rummaging in the stash for two balls of Rowan Kid Classic that I knew were perfect for a rich, purple beret.

I blinked and it was done.

Early Morning Beret

I then proceeded to take about 300 photos to try and get one that worked. Self portraiture is tricky! This was the best I could do. I think maybe the 11 year old me is still present. I think I still don’t quite know how to wear a beret. But I’m sufficiently taken with the idea to keep trying.

This one is a Knitbot design – her Early Mornings Beret. It was blindingly simple. I started with a plain pattern because, as smitten as I am with fancier ones (like Ysolda’s RoseRed which I am so making next) I wanted to make a plain one first to see if I would like wearing this style of  hat.

I think it works. I think I’ll have another go. This one took just shy of a single ball of Rowan Kid Classic. The second ball will be another beret, just like the first, for a friend who tells me she longs for a purple beret. Her wish is my command.

I’ll leave you with a picture from my day’s work. I’m creating a table runner, experimenting with a classic patchwork design which is called Stacked Coins. It was Sean’s idea to try it this way (I know! He’s good!) and I’m really pleased with the results so far. I took these Moda squares and cut them in half.

Moda charm squares - luna notte

A few hours later I had the first stages of the table runner done. This is just the top – before I’ve backed it or quilted it.

table runner - in progress

The black really works to emphasise the bright strips doesn’t it?

Bells

Polly Jean Socks

What can I say about a new pair of knitted socks that hasn’t already been said? I’m not sure but I’m going to have a go at writing about socks like I’ve never done it, possibly because I’m not sure I’ve loved a pair of socks like this before today.

polly jeans5

Maybe that’s not true. Maybe that’s unfair to the socks I’ve loved before. Maybe the first time I knitted a pair of lace socks I got all excited. Actually I’m pretty sure I did. I remember they were Koigu red Embossed Leaves Socks and I thought they were amazing. Since then, any sock with a leaf motif worked into it has been a special, personal favourite. These socks, Polly Jean, continue that theme.

polly jeans

I raced through the finishing of these late this afternoon, keeping on eye on the fading day, because I knew that the vision I had for the photos of these socks was quickly disappearing. In the front yard, under our ash tree, there’s a ring of beautiful Star Flowers (I can hear Alice even now saying ‘Star! Star!’ over and over) and I had an idea that the socks would look fabulous nestled in the green foliage, the purple stars all around. I was right. I love when a picture I’ve seen in my mind comes to life.

polly jean socks

These socks came about because of a recommendation from my friend Tanya, who some of you may remember as the knitting barrister (and she really should keep blogging, I think!). I was after something I could knit fairly simply, in company (read: at the pub) without becoming bored stupid. Tanya has knitted several pairs of Polly Jeans so I took her at her word when she said this complex looking pattern was deceptively simple. I saw then a vibrantly green pair made by my friend Melissa and knew that these were the socks for me.

polly jeans

I fell hard when I fell in love with this pattern. Such a fun knit! Trust me (and those before me) when we say that it may look fiddly and complex but it’s surprisingly repetitive and a pleasurable knit.

Part of what’s so wonderful about these socks is the yarn. It’s Blue Moon Fibre Arts Socks that Rock, lightweight in Star Sapphire. I can say, without reservation, that this is my favourite sock yarn to both knit and wear. I put the socks on within seconds of sewing in the ends and my feet, I swear, sighed with a kind of ecstasy reserved for the most sublime sock yarns. I never tire of this stuff. If you haven’t tried it give it a go. Every pair of socks I’ve made from Socks that Rock has been a soft, squishy, beautiful delight.

polly jeans - heel

There’s detail in this pattern and it’s all good. The tiny cables run down the length of the heel, the twisted stitches that, to quote Melissa in her comment on facebook, ‘wiggle their way down the foot’ in a way that is just supremely delightful.

I’m happy with these socks. Can you tell? It’s love. Love, love, love.

Bells

You Start at the Top, Go Full Circle Round

Really, you should never say never. There are things I do know know I’ll never do, but more often than not saying I won’t do something seems to mean that eventually I will. Like quilting.

Over a decade ago, my re-entry to the world of making stuff came via cross stitch. I don’t do it any more but I look back on those few years quite fondly. I remember the day I was wandering around a cross stitch shop out at Gold Creek with my friend Catriona, a mad keen stitcher, probably for the umpteenth time. That day, possibly out of a desire to make such visits more than just an exercise in standing around waiting, I chose a little cross stitch for myself. It was a sunflower (a perennial favourite) and I remember feeling kind of shy about buying it, like I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I was going to do something like cross stitch.

I gave it a go and found the neat little stitches and the colours so satisfying. The maker in me was re-born. Fast forward a couple of years and knitting took over. Skip a few more years and sewing took hold.

Today, all three met up in one place. The thing I made today didn’t actually involve any knitting so it’s perhaps a stretch to include knitting in this little story. But as I’m learning to sew, I like to think the last eight years of being a dedicated knitter have trained me in the act of counting, weighing, measuring and making.

The result is this cushion. In spite of its faults, I’m really proud of it.

Cross Stitch and Log Cabin Cushion

The centrepiece is a cross stitch design I think I made about a decade ago. It may have even been the last cross stitch I did. Over the years, it’s floated around, showing up when I’m digging through stuff and I’ve always thought it should become a cushion. I kind of hoped my mum would make it into a cushion. Little did I know that one day I’d have the skills to do it myself!

On Saturday I showed it to my mum and her immediate response was that it should form the centre of a log cabin design, something I’ve wanted to try for a while.

The stars aligned after that. On Sunday morning I was possessed by an almost ravenous desire to build a blue and gold log cabin design around it and it turned out I had just the scraps in my stash ready to go. You Tube is a wonderful thing. All the tutorials I needed were right there and by lunch time I had my cushion front done.

This afternoon I quilted it and added some backing of curtain fabric I picked up in a remnants pile at an upholstery shop. Most importantly, I overcame my fear of zips today and added one, again thanks to a You Tube tutorial.

Cross Stitch and Log Cabin Cushion

It’s flawed though. The dark blue outer border is unbalanced. The ends of the zip aren’t neat. Some of my quilting is not precise. But I’m just going to lighten up and love it for what it is, something I designed and made by myself, out of a piece of work I made before I was thirty.

Younger me and older me are stitched into something that didn’t exist a few days ago, bringing me full circle to the beginning and the wonder that the last decade has been, with all the ups and downs, the lessons and the hardships and the joys.

That’s why I love making stuff. There are stories and memories and dreams worked into the fabric, making history into something tangible, three dimensional. You can’t beat that.

Bells

Girl’s Best Cardigan

I’ve been aware of Australian designer Georgie Hallam for ages – friends around me have knitted endless cute items for children from her steady output of wearable, gorgeous designs, particularly for girls.

I’ve had a little girl in my life to knit for now for two and a half  years and so it astounds me that I haven’t delved into these patterns before now. Why? What opportunities I’ve missed? Dresses, summer tops, gorgeous cardigans, little vests. Endlessly inspired designs. So I plan to play catch up.

I started with her new pattern, Girl’s Best Cardigan. Alice’s mum asked for one last cardigan before winter ends and I complied, like the good knitting obsessed aunt that I am. Today, Alice and I had an outing. We went into town and she posed for photos in the park, with her dinosaur.

cardigan2

Such a sweet girl, such a delight to knit for. Decked out in a purple dress (by me), purple tights and her cardigan, she was a real picture in the sunlight.

It’s a fabulous design. I like the long line shape of it and the wonderful lace panels that are knit as you go, rather than being knit on as a band afterwards.

cardi1

It’s done up with four buttons at the top (one is inside) in such a way that it drapes at a rather fetching angle. And it’s finished off with a picot bind off all around the openings, the hem and the sleeves.

cardigan4

The other nice detail, which you can see in the above photo, is ruffling in the sleeve cuffs. It’s also in the lower sides of the body. That was a nice new skill to learn.

cardigan3

The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Silk Supreme in Silky Plum. I used just over 200g, or one and a bit balls. It’s gorgeous to knit with. My first time. It’s wool/silk/mohair so makes for something that’s smooth, with only a hint of mohair fuzz and oh so warm. I doubt she’ll get heaps of wear out of it but the length means she should still be able to wear it into next autumn, by which time she’ll be three. And taller. But hopefully not broader.

Georgie Hallam does that marvellous thing of providing a range of sizes in her designs. Up to age 12 in some cases! It was a fast-ish knit – taking me just on three weeks.

I think what I’m trying to do is get as much toddler knitting in as I can. I’m sure the time will come when she’ll either lose interest (not that she’s interested now – she just wears whatever she’s put in) or she’ll get too big to have the same level of output I’m managing now.

Next, I move onto cottons. For summer.

Bells

A Patchwork Tote

A project that combines new skill learning with using up stuff from the stash is a winner right? Even more so if it’s something that ticks those boxes and that I’ll use, is how I feel about the bag I made earlier this week.

Sewing and I haven’t seen eye to eye recently. After a run of successful projects, the bottom fell out of my sewing mojo. I felt like the magic of those early months where I was learning and having fun came to an abrupt halt. Everything felt wooden, stilted. It got me down.

So when I was standing on the precipice of a week off, I didn’t plan any sewing that involved garments. If a bag or other practical item doesn’t turn out perfectly it doesn’t matter, it’d probably still be something I’d use. It was a way to ease back in.

I chose a bag designed by a woman whose work I’ve used before. Remember the quilted hot water bottle cover? Yeah, her. Here it is.

bag1

On reflection, the fabrics I chose make it look a little old fashioned. Rose florals will do that, I guess. It’s not quite the funky-adorably-handmade thing I imagined but it’s mine and I made it and I like it. I especially like the ruffled middle section. I didn’t think I’d be able to pull that off but I did. It’s also not quite as pink as it looks here. (Don’t worry RoseRed, I’m not turning into a pink girlie girl!).

Here’s the ruffle section up close.

bag ruffle

It’s all stash fabric. The Moda charm squares, in Luna Notte, I’ve had since almost the first month I started sewing (last year). The black linen of the base and handles came from a remnants sale at Cleggs in Melbourne in June. The lining was also an early purchase.

The lining. Yes. It’s not the same red. I kinda knew that when I was planning it but I’ve ached to use it and thought it would be that flash of funky red print the bag needed. It’s not the same kind of red at all and I could have used something better suited. I’ll get over it. Although to be honest in the photos the lining looks like a better match for the red in the squares than it does in real life.

bag

I learned to use fusible interfacing in the handles and interior of this bag. I’d been afraid of it for so long but it was easy! And the effect is so worth it! Between a sturdy linen outer, interfacing and batting between the layers, the bag has a nice smooshy yet solid feel to it.

So I think this will be the bag I carry to work with extras in it that don’t fit in my handbag. Like knitting. And lunch. An umbrella. That sort of thing. The one I’m using is just too small. Or perhaps I’m just carrying too much stuff. It’s been said before.

I’ll leave you with the shawl I recently mentioned. My new, exciting project that’s been in the planning stage for some weeks. In November my baby brother is getting married and I’m wearing a blue Mad Men style dress. I wanted something delicate to go over my shoulders, particularly in the evening. So I’m knitting a Lilac Leaf Shawl from one of my favourite books – Knitted Lace of Estonia. Two days of having a head cold and spending a lot of time on the couch and it’s going swimmingly.

lilac

It feels good to be back in Estonia.

Bells

Swirl Hat – Upsized

A little while ago, you may recall, I made a Swirl Hat for Miss Alice. In red Wollmeise.

hat1

When her Aunty Adele saw the photo she said immediately she’d love one too. I’m not sure she thought I’d actually do anything about it but I knew already that the pattern came in both adult and child sizes.

I chose some yarn from my stash that’s been there FOREVER. Truly, it goes back to the very first joint shopping spree RoseRed and I ever did together, ordering from somewhere overseas. I don’t even remember where now but it was 2007, the year we met. It’s a nice gentle pinky-red in Jojoland Melody Superwash. A delicate, soft 3ply. I was very glad to finally find a use for it.

Truth be told, I think it’s a little long. I could have made it half an inch shorter so that it didn’t have that odd looking peak at the top. But it fits nicely otherwise.

Adele's Swirl Hat

I had to modify it a bit since the pattern is written for 4ply and the Jojoland Melody was a  fine 3ply but that just meant adding another repeat’s worth of stitches.

Adele's Swirl Hat

I really like the stitch in this hat. I want to find other uses for it. It was, apart from anything else, enjoyable knitting. A nice, rhythmic repetition that made for good bus or coffee date knitting.

Adele was here on the weekend and I wish I’d thought to get a photo of both of them in their Swirl Hats. That would have been so lovely. Instead, I’ll embarrass Adele with a great photo of her and Miss Alice on a slide together at the markets. They did this over and over. As Alice declared with jubilation, ‘It’s fun!’

Adele and Alice at the market playground

Bells

ps yes Adele is wearing vibrant blue tights. We recently got an order from We Love Colors in the US and we all, including Alice, have tights in brightest reds, blues and purples to chase away the winter doldrums!

A Continuation

A little girl was born a few weeks ago. She came into the world and her grandfather mailed this Baby Surprise Jacket to her yesterday.

After I gave it to her grandfather, he told me something touching and moving, something that I’m glad, in a way, I didn’t know until I’d finished the knitting.

Baby Surprise Jacket

I don’t know this little girl, her parents or anything about them. I only met her grandfather yesterday for the first time over a pot of tea in a cafe. He is a fellow blogger called Dave who writes about local history – Canberra and surrounds – and he asked me to make this after he saw the Baby Surprise Jacket I made for a little boy a few weeks ago.

Baby Surprise Jacket

I said it was a pleasure and it was, but I’ll tell you this. Don’t get too cocky with your knitting! I did – I thought, having made this jacket once before that doing it again was a breeze. I didn’t check my work as I went. I messed up. I got cross and put it down for a week. I broke a needle and had to order another one. It seemed like it wasn’t going to work. Then I picked myself up, reminded myself that it pays to concentrate, and got on with it. Then I finished it.

I chose pretty little white buttons that I liked so much I bought extras so I can use them on something for Alice.

Jacket buttons

It was only as we were standing to go after I’d handed over the jacket that Dave, the new grandfather, told me the reason he’d asked for this jacket.

He explained his late mother had been the family knitter. He said if she was here, she’d have knitted her great-granddaughter’s first garment. He said it was important to him that this new little girl had something hand knitted from someone.

Baby Surprise Jacket

I teared up. Who wouldn’t. We parted ways and I called my sister and mum to tell  them the story. I knew they’d get it.

All new babies should have something that’s been made just for them. I hope if her great-grandmother is looking down, she’s pleased to know this new little girl won’t go without.

There’s so much pleasure in continuation and in knowing there will always be knitters, always someone to keep children warm and clothed.

Bells