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I knit, I sew, I run, I look after children, I cook, I complain.  Sometimes all at the same time.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

An inspiration to us all

I am a Sewcialist, which means that I like to sew and tweet and blog about it.  I am also a Socialist, but that's another story.  This month, on the Sewcialist blog, we are thinking about people who inspire us to sew more, better, faster and using different fabrics.

So here are my inspirations. All photos are shamelessly TAKEN from their websites; bad writers borrow, good writers steal.

First up, Ysolda Teague.  I was a knitter before I sewed anything.  So my favourite designer is a knitwear designer, and so there.  My blog, my rules.  I've actually met her three times, twice at Loop in Islington, once with Lucy who pushed a lot of women out of the way because they were annoying her. Gosh, I love Loop.  I haven't been for ages, how depressing.  It's such a LONG way from Ealing though, and I'm so lazy.

Look.  Look at this beautiful shawl. So gorgeous.

This is on my list for this Year of Projects.  So gorgeous.  Look at the detail at the neckline.  

Ysolda has a whole heap of ebooks and real books for sale.  You can buy them on her website, and while they aren't for absolute beginners, they are perfectly knittable.  

Another knitter; Kate Davies.  Kate was an academic for years, but sadly suffered a very stupidly early stroke a few years back, and hasn't been able to work in the same way since.  Happily for her and us, she had a parallel career in knitwear design, and that is now what she does.  I've been reading her blog for years and years, and love her work dearly.  

Isn't this beautiful?  Kate's blog can be found here.

Roisin who blogs here is a maker and a doer, and a very creative one at that.  She loves a mad print, and has really inspired me to just go for it; I shamelessly, shamelessly copy her style where I can.  Shame I can't wear mad prints to work; the paint and the glue and the children mean I really don't want to ruin my precious handmades.  

Recent inspirations: 

See what I mean?  Such a creepily weird stalker.

Another designer - Tilly Walnes.  I missed the Great British Sewing Bee last year, what with going to Cape Town twice in a month, but I'm making up for lost time by stalking her shamelessly and making thousands and thousands of Coco tops.  I met her too, but was too shy/felt it would be too fangirl to take a photo, but she took one of me!  In my Coco!  SCREAM.  Anyway, you can find Tilly's blog here.  

Look how titchy she is; part of her skill is being able to make something that suits a teeny weeny little thing like her and a much more solid person like me.  

Finally.  She's not a sew-ist.  She's not a knitter.  She's a BAD COOK and a very funny lady indeed.  Esther Walker writes about her adventures in cooking here, and is always worth a read.  She inspires me to cook more, even if I don't.  She also inspires me to write about things in a hopefully amusing way.

So there you go.  Who inspires you?

Monday, 18 August 2014


If you have children of any description in your life, this particular phenomenon will not have passed you by.  There's something irresistible about the combination of children of a certain age and making things for the wrist; when I was at school, it was plaiting and knotting bits of embroidery thread to make sometimes beautiful friendship bands.  Anyway, plaiting and knotting is too old school for today's modern 7 year old on the go, so the LOOM BAND, a small elastic band that looks like something you used on your braces at night to keep your teeth in place, has been developed.

Basically, when making a loom band bracelet, you are making a chain of elastics in a herringbone pattern.  It's not hard, just a bit, well, dull and repetitive.  During this tutorial, imagine your loving child or children gazing at you in adoration and admiration.  They will, in no way, be bored, shouting at you that you are doing it wrong or whining that they want to watch CBeebies instead.


1. Buy a packet of three thousand bands for about a pound.  Immediately lose at least half of them under the sofa, in between the seats in the car, inside the washing machine.

2. Google "how to make a loom band", sit through a twenty minute YouTube video of a 9 year old American girl whizzing away.  Cry quietly.

3. Put an elastic band over your left hand thumb and forefinger.  Remove, put in twist, replace, ping elastic band across room, repeat.

4. Put a second loom band over the first, then pull the first over the second, gaze in awe at what you've just done, celebrate with small glass of wine.

5. Repeat until you have a chain of ten or so elastic bands dangling between your left thumb and forefinger.

6. Lose all feeling in the tips of your left thumb and forefinger.

7. Attempt to transfer loom band to other hand.  Ping whole thing across the room. Finish glass of wine, pour another.

8. Finally get loom band onto right hand, and continue to make the chain until it's about 25 elastics long.  Measure it against child's wrist.

9. Spend ten minutes fitting the hook to both ends.  Place lovingly on child's wrist.  Wait for praise or even thanks.

10. Finish bottle of wine.

My husband has just taught our eldest daughter how to make a loom band; I have shown her time and time again, but it's only when he did it that it took.  Weasels the pair of them.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

We're the heroes of this story, we don't need to be saved

Weeks 31, 32 and 33.  It's all gone by in a bit of a blur, so the pictures are from random points in the last three weeks.

Biarritz, Biscarrosse, Disneyland, the Natural History Museum.  The fun never stops at our house.

Portraits of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

There's Magic Everywhere?

Ah Disneyland Paris.  Where the American "how can I make your day better?" knocks up against the French "your day is of no interest to me."

It's really, really easy to be terribly world weary and cynical about Disney, Disneyland and all things princess, so I won't be.   Encouraged by my neglectful parenting, the children love all that stuff, although they were distinctly underwhelmed about the idea of a trip to Disneyland.  The reality of the thing was different, and they had an amazing time, and so did we.  The looks on their faces when we met the actual real Belle was worth the cost of the admission alone, and the firework display was fantastic.

The place itself is nearly 25 years old and parts of it really look it now.  Alice's Amazing Labyrinth is decrepit; the Queen of Hearts is supposed to jump out at you twice but doesn't, just shouts away from behind her hedge.  The paintwork is, in some places, distressed, in a manner that suggests neglect rather than a planned vintage look, and the attention to detail, which is meant to be the Disney THING, is sorely lacking.  There was a MASSIVE dandelion growing through Peter and Wolf's house in the Land of Fairytales, it just needed pulling out, plus why no Frozen ice palace?  There was fake snow, why couldn't they knock up an Elsa and Ana castle?

The trouble is, once you notice the flaws, it's really difficult to go back to being wide-eyed and naive about the whole thing again.

Thinking about it, all this degeneration was in Fantasyland, which is the most popular area, with the princess castle and the teacups, and the inexplicably popular Dumbo ride, and the rest wasn't too bad.  The Space Mountain ride properly scared both of us; it was far more extreme than we thought it would be.  The children were too small, and I was very glad that they couldn't ride it.  We did manage to smuggle Hattie onto the Big Thunder Mountain rollercoaster, by going on it half past 10 at night when it was properly dark and no one cared anymore.  She was only a centimetre or two too small, so I don't think it mattered that much.

Some tips, in case you fancy this with your children.

Wait until they are at least 3, and able to appreciate it.  Hire a buggy if you don't have one; Hattie was a major pain in the bum the first day and a delight the second.

Stay in the Park hotels and buy a package; it ends up costing the same as a three day ticket.

If you stay in the Park hotels, you get access to a few of the rides early - from 8am until 10am.  This is why Simon and I were able to go on Space Mountain, and why we took the children on the teacups twice in a row.  We were also at the Small World ride first, and were able to have our third trip around the world in one of the first boats.

If you want to meet the Princesses, and why wouldn't you, send someone to queue up to get a time to see them, and take the children on the rides yourself.  It's better if it's raining, as no one wants to go on anything, and we were able to go on the Land of Fairytales boat ride, the funny little train, Snow White's adventure and Small World in the 45 minutes Simon was queuing up.  He gets 3G in France, so wasn't bored, and we were doing stuff and having a great time.

Meeting the Princesses is the best thing in the world.  A tip we were given, but left too late to follow, is to use your meal vouchers to have a meal with the princesses and other characters, and then top it up with actual cash money.  Apparently, this is well worth it, as Belle and Cinderella talk to everyone in the room and have photos taken and sign autographs, and it's magical for children.

Get up and going early, go back to the room for a sleep, then go back for an early meal and then a wander around the Park in the evening before the Disney Dreams Fireworks Extravaganza.  This was how we walked straight onto the Phantom Manor House ride, which terrified us, but the girls weren't bothered, and the Big Thunder Mountain.  Normally, both of these things have massive queues.

Try to leave your critical, adult brain at home.  Yes, most of the Princess stories are massively sexist and give unrealistic expectations.  Yes, Mickey Mouse isn't real.  Yes, it's a massive marketing exercise designed to strip you of all your cash present and future.  But it's also good fun, and if you can stand it for three days, go.

I'm not being sponsored by Disney, but wouldn't it be nice if I was?

In other news, I signed up to write for this site.  Do you think I am good enough?  I'm having a massive crisis of confidence about it.

PS I pinched the picture at the top from here, simply because none of my photos turned out that well.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

It's knitting Jim, but not as we know it

A knitlist update before I go off on one about Disneyland.

For the girls:
Hattie's cardigan.  DONE.

As you can see, the stripes do not match, although the pink ones are predominate, as per instructions.  She is indifferent to it, the little weasel.

A pair of simple socks each - DONE

Lucy's are a bit patchwork - I made one in the red/yellow/orange colourway, then realised that I was going to run out of yarn before I could finish the second sock, so I put the pink from Hat's socks in as the heel, finished them up with the original colourway, then had to finish the edging with green.  Lucy likes them not matching, and I've promised her a pair of orange socks that do actually match to make up for it.  Plus, two whole balls out of stash, just like that.  Gone!

Ringo and Elwood mittens in grey and brown
One of these for each of them - yarn bought, Lucy's is next on my list, after I've finished the sock.

For me:
Garter Yoke cardigan in that lovely blue - no progress
Finish the Wisteria jumper (not much to go) - too hot to think about
Finish the other Peacock Mitten in time for winter - will do in September
Coraline cardigan in either that same lovely blue, or in the other blue I've just impulse bought - Not yet
Petrie top with navy and blue stripes - still thinking; will need to buy yarn for it, and I don't want to do that
A knitted Coco (no link, because I am going to make it up and channel Tilly) - got some yarn for it
A pair of socks - didn't get to start in France, but will try to do them in the car in the next few weeks.

For Simon:
Reknit an unwearably large jumper - I've had a look in his cupboard, and chosen the one to reknit.  I need to take measurements and search out the pattern.
More socks. - I've done the toe and a lot of the ENORMOUS HULKING MAN FOOT of the first one.

 I stage my photos so well, don't I?


Owl Obsession for my new godson - got the yarn....
Hexipuff Quilt (I'm aiming to get 250/500 done by the end of June 2015)
The Weather in the Streets (should probably be finished by June) - weather written down for the past three months, nothing else done
Finish the bloody Elephants blanket - on hold
Lucy Attic24 Ripple Blanket - not started
Nicholas' POP blanket - I've done a few squares, but am being very slow about it

Myrna Cardigan

I'm not doing too badly at the moment.  The fact that I started it a month ago has made me far more focussed than I was last year.  Maybe it will all get done this time.  Knitting and crochet are far easier to find time for; I can do them in front of the TV when the girls are in bed, plus they are more sociable - nothing says LEAVE ME ALONE, I'M CONCENTRATING more than a whirring sewing machine. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What I did on my Summer Holiday

Back home again.  At least all the weather has stopped and there's no hurricane hanging around; it's lovely and sunny in Ealing today, which helps.

I don't intend to bore you rigid with 188 photos of our holidays, or a blow by blow account of everything we did.  If you have young children who are easily amused, I can highly recommend getting a boat to Bilbao (24 hours! You get a cabin! Get an outside one though!), driving to San Sebastien, going Eurocamping near Bordeaux and then bombing up the motorway to Paris and Disneyland.  

San Sebastien.  We were very relieved that the girls ate as much as they did; it would have been no fun at all going to Europe's gastronomic capital and having to hunt down a McDonalds.

We sat on the sea wall and watched the sunset.  After I looked over the edge of the sea wall to the drop to the rocks below, the girls came off the sea wall and sat on our shoulders instead.

The lake by our campsite.  Lovely and still; warm and shallow; bit like an enormous bath.  We managed to find a deepish bit - the water came up to my waist and the girls could paddle around with their rubber rings.

The Dune de Pyla.  Largest dune in Europe, apparently.  Quite tricky to climb too.  Good for the legs though.

A way to keep two children out of trouble on the beach.

The big bucket going splosh.  Fun being underneath, but not very nice if it takes you by surprise.

The smallest slide.  Hattie went up and down it about 50 times.  A day.  For 7 days.  

That will do for now, because other people's holidays are boring.  Also Eurocamps aren't sponsoring me, so I'm not going to say to much about it.  It was basic, but perfectly nice.  Better than I thought it would be.  We had a terrific time.  

Monday, 28 July 2014

They laughed at Louie Armstrong when he said he was going to the moon, and now he's laughing at them from up there.

Some things.

I channelled my friend Jason and made a striped Coco, with shorter sleeves.

It's MEANT to have the stripes on the very slight diagonal.  I love it, and I've been wearing it all day.  It's been a more traditional English summer day today in London.  There's been masses of flooding not very far from us, as in less than 10 miles away, but we've barely had any rain at all, despite a massive thunderstorm this morning. 

The girls are knackered from their busy weekend, so we had a very quiet morning.  They were quite happy playing, stark naked, in the other room, so I decided to try to make a new Anna dress.  It was much too hot in the conservatory, and I cut and sweated and swore for about an hour, only realising that I didn't have enough fabric just that bit too late.  Because the Anna has lots of pieces to the skirt, and this print really relies on direction, I have to have 3 metres rather than 2, so I had to buy some more on ebay as an emergency. It won't come until after our holidays though. I'll have a skirt panel left to cut out, and will have more than enough left to make Lucy a flamingo print dress too, which is pleasing.  Shame about the stupid narrow stupid quilting stupid cotton.

I also felt that I should really at least try to make one of my Mollie Makes kits, so had a bash at this one.  The cherries are easy, but I need to concentrate on the leaves, so I'll leave (leaf) them until later.  This solo parenting lark is a doddle, but does cut into the concentration.

Still, new brooch for our holidays.  

Hattie's cardigan will be finished tonight, which I'm very pleased about.  The sleeves are a bit too long, which I'm not happy about, but she can push them up, and her arms are growing very fast.

I can hear that my angels in human form are still awake, and it is nearly half 8.  Better go and do some growling, then a glass of wine and some knitting feature heavily in my plans for the evening.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

You're so wise. You're like a miniature Buddha, covered with hair.

Portraits of the children, once a week, every week, in 2014.

Both taken in or leaving the Isle of Wight.  We had a marvellous time; camping is great when the sun shines.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The raccoon problem is under control. They have their part of the town and we have ours.

I've been a bit laid back about the Outfit Along; it's a really great idea, and has focussed my colour choices slightly, but I found that there was way too long to do it in - I'm very quick when I sew; because my time is limited, I like to get as much done in a session as possible.  

I've already worn the dress out a couple of times;  to a wedding, to a party and to my WI meeting, where I also wore the cardigan, and was just far too hot.  I think the heat here in London is prohibiting wearing knitted items.

I was recognised by someone off Instagram when I bought this fabric.  How weirdly modern.  The whole lot is from John Lewis.  

They match pretty well, don't they.  I thought I'd maybe make the cardigan orange, but actually the blues go really well together.  The dress pattern is the Anna dress, which is superb and very easy to follow - French seams on the shoulders, get me.  I didn't make any alterations to the cardigan, except I picked up fewer stitches; I always slip the first stitch off each row, so I picked up 1 stitch for every other row, which works well.  Everything else was as written.

There are more lovely outfits here.  An Anna dress pattern can be bought here.  A Myrna cardigan pattern can be bought here.  I absolutely love the keyhole pattern at the back of the neck.  I may well try to add one to my knitted Coco, once I get off my bum and get on with that.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Leslie, what do we do when we get this angry? We count backwards from 1,000 by sevens and we think of warm brownies.

A bit about the knit list 2014 - 2015.

I have to confess to cheating slightly when I drew up the list. I was already more than 50% through my blue Myrna, and only put it on the list to have a bit of a soft start.

Still, my list, my rules, what are you going to do about it?

Blue Myrna, and don't I look silly in it?

For me:
Finish the Myrna cardigan - DONE AND DONE
A Garter Yoke cardigan in that lovely blue - about to finish the yoke
Finish the Wisteria jumper (not much to go)
Finish the other Peacock Mitten in time for winter
A Coraline cardigan in either that same lovely blue, or in the other blue I've just impulse bought
A Petrie top with navy and blue stripes
A knitted Coco (no link, because I am going to make it up and channel Tilly)
A pair of socks

For the girls:

A cardigan for Hattie, probably this one - the back and one and a half bits of the fronts are done. The stripes do not match. This is a bespoke design. My daughter wants me to go a bit (more) bonkers.
Ringo and Elwood mittens in grey and brown
One of these for each of them
A pair of simple socks each

For Simon:
I am going to reknit one of his unwearably large jumpers. Either this one or this one. I was a terrible knitter when I made these, and I'm much, much better at it now. So now he gets a recycled jumper.
More socks.


Owl Obsession for my new godson
Hexipuff Quilt (I'm aiming to get 250/500 done by the end of June 2015)
The Weather in the Streets (should probably be finished by June)
Finish the bloody Elephants blanket
A blanket for Lucy's 6th birthday, which is in September, so may well be sewn together stripes instead of something knitted - I've decided to make her a Lucy Attic24 ripple blanket, which will be for her birthday but not on her birthday, if you see what I mean.

We're going away next week, so I will take a ball of yarn for Simon's socks, a ball for the girls and something for me, and see what I come back with. My record for making socks is something like 5 in 14 days, and we're doing a lot of driving, so who knows.