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Paper Hydrangeas: Making Watercolour Flowers

Paper Hydrangeas: Making Watercolour Flowers

Do you have a favourite flower? I’m not entirely sure that I do, but these last few years I have favoured big, flouncy blooms, and things like peonies and hydrangeas have been high on my list of ones I’d love to have gracing my imaginary […]

Spring Wreath Of Paper Flowers

Spring Wreath Of Paper Flowers

For the past two seasons I’ve had a wreath on my front door, because I like the little handmade reminder of nature as I cross the threshold to home. So, after the wreaths of paper leaves for autumn, and paper snowflakes for winter, I decided […]

We’ve Got Soot Sprites – A DIY Installation For Our Family

We’ve Got Soot Sprites – A DIY Installation For Our Family

A month or so ago we were discussing Darwin’s favourite programs when we said he’d never really got into a film. I thought, perhaps, that he might like Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro. Russell wondered if he’d find it at all interesting, but as Darwin is obsessed with cleaning and the first half is essentially just people cleaning a house, I decided, yes, it would be worth a try.

And that, my friends, is that day that life changed. See… Darwin didn’t just enjoy it. He fell for the film’s charms in an all-consuming way. Now life is Totoro. Totoro is life. He hums the theme tunes whilst he plays. He draws Totoro. Thanks to Nana he has A huge Totoro cuddly toy (and a medium one, and a little one) and a Catbus.

And so it was, when sitting with Nana, and worrying that she seemed to be searching the internet for Soot Sprite toys, I said that I’d had the idea to make some and stick them scurrying into the corner of the room, as they do in the film. I have a lot of these kind of ideas, at least ten a day, and none ever materialise because nobody has that much time or energy. But Nana took that idea as something we must do, and before I knew it, we were making soot sprites.

Though you cannot see from that picture, each little soot sprite has a face, consisting only of a pair of wide oval eyes. You can see them a little better in this image of Mei catching an unwitting soot sprite, in a scene my toddler likes to act out as it plays.

So, we had a few chats about how to best make the little house guests. Little fluffy balls with faces. I looked at buying pompons, but it would have worked out for too costly, so we bought a 400g ball of black yarn and sat and made forty pompons.

Or, rather, Nana made about 37 and I made three, because I have the attention span of a gnat and nana was amusingly enthralled by the Pompon makers I had in my craft tools (so much so that I have now bought her a set of her own).

Nana curbed my desire to trim each of those pompoms into a perfectly rounded shape by reminding me that the soot sprites had little sticky-out bits – they were not perfect little round sprites – they were a little messy. Hnngghhh.

Each soot sprite was given a pair of eyes, simply made from ellipses of white card with a small round hole punched into it for the pupil. To provide a bit of variety, some were made with the pupils facing up, down, left, right and some straight ahead.

We also made several sizes of soot sprite, because in My Neighbour Totoro they are not uniformly sized. The one that Mei catches is very small, so we made sure to have a few smaller ones in the group.

The eyes of each soot sprite were sorted into pairs and then attached using a generous amount of UHU glue, held into place against the bulk of the pompom yarn for a few seconds each.

Once dry I arranged them as if they were scurrying into the corner of the room where the walls meet the ceiling. I attached them using a pack of Command Decorating Clips (the ones that are made for attaching fairy lights to walls and ceilings) and each clip is more than strong enough to hold up even the largest pompom.

Attaching the soot sprites to the clips was a little fiddly, but achievable by using one of the long tails of yarn that are used to tie and secure the pompoms to wrap around the ‘hook’ of the clip, then tie in a secure double knot with the other yarn tail. Carefully peel off the backing of the command clip pad and press to the clip, then peel off the other side to attach to the wall. Be careful not to get the fluff and yarn of the pompom onto the pad or they may not stick as well. I love these little command clips as they are strong but cause no damage to the walls or paintwork and remove easily when no longer wanted (not that this will be any time soon).

I love this unique little corner of our home, now. It was completely unremarkable before, but now it’s a little celebration of one of the little fascinations of a toddler.

…And his Nana.

Bramen Cowl (Tuck Stitches) – Boost Your Knitting Month One

Bramen Cowl (Tuck Stitches) – Boost Your Knitting Month One

The Boost Your Knitting series is underway, and March’s technique is tuck stitches. At the outset of this project I did not fully understand what a tuck stitch was. The pattern and accompanying tutorials for the Bramen Cowl, by Nancy Marchant, starts with a brief explanation […]

Boosting Myself Through My Knitting: Another Year Of Techniques

Boosting Myself Through My Knitting: Another Year Of Techniques

This is my first post of the year, and don’t think that I haven’t noticed that we are a few steps into March. I started with the best of intention and ambition. No set ‘goals’ as such, but I was ready for a year of […]

Mimi’s Linen Stitch Scarf (A Free Pattern Download)

Mimi’s Linen Stitch Scarf (A Free Pattern Download)

Back in October 2010 I started a scarf, knit lengthways in linen stitch, from four skeins of Koigu Painters Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM). Things in my life were not right at that time, and it was a meditative marathon of a knit. Each row of 550 knit one, slip one stitches took forever, but I needed something for my hands to do whilst my mind worked through some tough times.

I picked it up very occasionally and worked through a row or so, but at the time I was not knitting very often. I found it difficult to knit in sadness, and when I moved to a women’s refuge suddenly in 2011 it was only a couple of inches complete, and long forgotten about.

As fate would have it, it was the one project that I met back with when I got a few possessions some months later in 2011, and it was duly stuffed into a bag and locked in a trunk. I may have knit a few rows on and off, but my heart was never with it as there had been sadness knit into every stitch.

Last December (2017) I was sorting through the long-abandoned project drawer and decided that despite the sadness with which the project seemed to be imbued, the yarn and stitch were really quite amazingly lovely. From that spark of recognition of the beautiful object I had started to create I, somehow, completed thousands upon thousands of stitches of linen stitch in the space of three days. It was done, and it was lovely. Most importantly, though, it was done.

My needles were free. I felt like I was reclaiming those two points from a past time, and the knowledge that I had completed that blasted beautiful scarf was enough. It’d be great to wear, sure, but it was finished, and that was more important. It was so much more important than wearing it, in fact, that I immediately shoved it back into a drawer and instantaneously forgot about it.

A few times in the last year I have thought ‘I really should block that one day’ in a very half-hearted fashion. Only a week or two ago my husband asked me if I thought I would ever finish that half-knitted scarf, and I had to remind him that I did indeed already finish it a year ago.

So, I thought next year I would block that scarf. I started thinking maybe I might even do it in January. Maybe in the first week of January, even. Maybe now, December the 31st, because otherwise it’s becoming more like a New Year’s resolution, which I refuse to set myself.

So, today at lunch time, whilst my husband and little boy were braving the supermarket, I blocked that scarf. I steam blocked it, and it took maybe ten minutes… and then it was done.

Ten short minutes. To be fair, I’d expected to be taking a longer time to block it as I have only ever wet-blocked things before, but the experimental steam block worked perfectly on this long, straight, smooth piece of knitting.

The long cast on and bind off edge sit crisp and perfectly straight. I don’t even remember how I managed the tension at cast on and bind off, but somehow the years and circumstances of this project all came together to make something really quite amazing to me.

There are many a pattern for linen stitch scarves, but I used a few techniques in mine that differ from most. The scarf is knit entirely from knits and slipped stitches. There are no purls, and the scarf is knit flat, but you only ever knit with the right side of the work facing you. I kept notes on this project the whole time I was knitting it, and I love it so much that I have written up the instructions in a pattern free to download for blog readers for a short time.

The Pattern

SIZE: Length : 87” (220cm) (excl fringe) Width: 6” (15cm)
YARN: Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino, 4 skeins (shades can match or be a variety).
NEEDLES: 3.75mm & 4.5mm circular needle, at least 120cm long, or size needed to obtain gauge.
GAUGE: 39 sts/62 rows per 10cm (4”) in linen stitch. Please note: linen stitch compresses stitches to form a smooth, woven-like texture. It is very important to check gauge.

MIMI’S LINEN STITCH SCARF was devised and knit through many experiences and big life changes, and it emerged beautifully at the end of it all.

This scarf is knit lengthways. Each row is a meditation. This is a project comprised only of knits and slip stitches. You’ll be facing the right side of the project at all times and though it is comprised of many long rows, the result is a piece of knitting that should be cherished for a lifetime.

Download the free pattern for Mimi’s Linen Stitch Scarf

Wishing you happiness in your own knitting.


Coddswallop

Our First Two Years Together

Our First Two Years Together

It’s been two years since our family grew by one. I think we were always a family, Russell and I. From, perhaps, the day that I felt like I trusted in his goodness to let go of that little bit of certainty and security of the path I was on, soon to have my own little place to live, and took the leap that I could trust in this human to be good and to care and love enough that I could uproot once more and move in with him to a pokey little cold flat in Whitley Bay. Boy it was cold. And it was so tiny! But perhaps it was my favourite of all the places that I have lived due to it being where our story began and the first place in which I had felt safe in a very, very long time.

But my favourite chapters of the story so far all burst into colour two years ago when a tiny human popped into our world, a mixture of Russell and I. This whopping great blackcurrant stained baby shot into the world at a faster rate than I could really handle it. But after all the worry and panic there lay this 9lb bruise with a wrinkle for a nose and Russell and I cradled pure love in our arms. It had not been so very long previously that I did not think that I could trust anyone to truly love in my lifetime, and now I had these two pillars of love, one huge and protecting and one (not so very) tiny, heartbeat fluttering fast upon my chest, and I knew that I would never feel the same again. And our family was strong.

I truly love being a parent, but as so many people will tell you, parenthood is tough. Gosh, yes we have our off days. Tired, grumpy days, days of illness and the mystery maladies of baby and toddlerhood, sometimes that write themselves apparent three days after the screams and sobs with a scarlet rash and sometimes which manifest on no physical symptoms that you will ever detect and are put down to some mystical condition which may or may not have existed. And you are always, always doing it wrong. So says that lady in the supermarket, or the health visitor who you’ve known for four minutes of your life, or that relation who’d do that differently, or the neighbour who is old enough to remember when babies did not cry because in those days 10 month old babies did as they were instructed, and probably earned their keep down the mines at the same time.

If my little boy knows or feels anything I would hope it is just how perfectly I love him and that I love learning from him more than from any of those people. I hope that Russell and I can teach him, above all else, how to be kind, how to be thoughtful and how to have empathy for all the people whose lives touch on his. I do not expect that as he grows and natually makes mistakes for him to always be good, or that he will always make the right choice, but I do so hope that we will always have time to put three chairs around the table and to talk about how we feel and how others might feel, and the effect of our actions on others. And from him I am learning how to best see the world anew. How the most basic and fundamental feelings that I have can be best nurtured and put to use. I am tougher in my resolve to surround myself with good and kind people and to not let damaging influences into our lives without guard, and to that end I have a strong determination to stand up for my family and to know when to say ‘no more’.

I hope that our third year together will be one of greater learning and growth. I hope it will be full of rainbows and colour, but when there are grey days that we can make things better with love and understanding. I hope that that there will be laughter, kindness, and, importantly, dinosaurs.

 

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