Monday, 28 January 2013

Benjy the Blanket Buddy

Let me introduce you to Benjy.
Benjy is a mischievous little monster made from scraps of yarn left over from Jake's stripy blanket.
I had been planning on knitting up a Rebecca Danger design for a while, after picking up her Knitted Monster Nursery book on Amazon. There are some really cute knits in the book, and her little son's nursery must look amazing! I haven't got nearly enough time to knit a whole nursery, but one of the monster toys I can stretch to.
I chose the Vinny V pattern, knitted in the Hayfield Bonus dk I had leftover, about 3/4 of each ball. As it turns out, I still have leftovers - Vinny doesn't use much yarn. I named him Benjy the Blanket Buddy because I intended him to be used for snuggling when Jake is all wrapped up in his blanket. I'm sure one day little J will rename him though.
Benjy literally flew off the needles - he is such an easy knit, and knitting all the pieces in the round meant there was next to no making up to do. Even then, I put it off for a few days - sewing up is never as fun as the knitting.
Probably my favourite bit was giving Benjy his face. I couldn't use safety eyes or felt teeth because my 6 month old would chew those right off, so I made some knotted yarn eyes, made famous by Jean Greenhowe, and embroidered the teeth on using a double thickness of white dk yarn.
I am absolutely over the moon with how Benjy turned out - he looks like he has a real personality, and Jake has played with, or should I say chewed, him lots. Hopefully he will be tough enough to last - at least he is made from washable yarn and stuffing, something I can see being quite useful in the future!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Knitter 54 Review

So before I stitch up my blanket buddy over the weekend and share him on here as soon as possible, I thought I would write a review of the latest issue of The Knitter. I'm a digital subscriber so I buy it every month, and generally I love this magazine. I have a lot of past patterns in my Ravelry queue waiting to be knitted up, and I'm always adding more though I'm sure I'll never get to knit them all!
So first up, one thing I love about this issue. As always, The Knitter provides more than just patterns, and there was an interesting interview in this issue with the historian Sandy Black looking at the amazing archives of the V&A museum, which much to my shame I have never visited though I have always intended to go. As a history teacher I obviously find this fascinating and just wish they had gone into a bit more depth about some of the items, such as the stranded knitting fragment from 12th century Egypt. It makes you realise just how long established this craft really is.
The Masterclass this issue is on Modular Knitting to accompany a pattern called Barnacle by Layla Chelache. This is something I have never tried, but while it looks clever, the pattern doesn't really appeal to me and I can't see me knitting it. Other items that I am not personally keen on are the Navajo tunic by Brandon Mably - I am not a fan of this type of bold colour work and would never wear it. And although I like the general style of Carol Feller's Carlow hoody, there is something about it that just doesn't sit right - I'm not sure if its the colour combination or the graphic detailing on the front - I would be more inclined to knit the hoody without this.
Now onto the positives. I absolutely love the Bergere de France Alaska sweater and could see me casting this on at some point once I've attacked a few other things in my queue. I'm quite a fan of layering and the short sleeves would look good over a long sleeved T-shirt.
Kyoko Nakayoshi always produces interesting designs and the vintage style shawl collared cardigan is very sweet, though I might alter some of the colours myself to something slightly more muted.
Martin Storey delivers as always with Tipsy, a man's cardigan. Ed doesn't really wear cardigans so I can't see this getting made, but I think it would look great on any man who does.
One of my favourite designs is Conifer by Rosee Woodland - I love the effect of reverse fair isle and the optional wristwarmers are genius too. I am not really confident enough at fair isle to attempt this at the moment, but if you are it's well worth a look.
There are various other patterns in the magazine including some for children which is always handy, a bag by Barb Brown and a lovely shawl by Anniken Allis. Overall, it's a fairly strong issue, though there are probably only two items I might add to my queue at this point. In the preview for next issue though I have already spotted some gorgeous items that are right up my street design wise, so I'm looking forward to that!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Flat Battery

If you have ever had a C-section, or know someone who has, you will know that one of the biggest problems following it is being unable to drive for weeks. I got by very well due to a good network of new mum friends, but unfortunately my car was not very happy about the lack of attention received for six weeks. Needless to say, when I tried to drive it again the battery was flat, and despite several charges and jump starts, when the recent cold weather hit my little car decided enough was enough and it wanted a new battery.
Unfortunately, I didn't discover this until I left the house last Thursday intending to visit friends. I was so frustrated that I had got me and little J out of the house promptly after his nap, only to find that we couldn't get to my friend's house after all. I won't lie, I shed a few disappointed tears while standing on the pavement deciding what to do.
Fortunately for me, there is a yarn store in my local parade of shops. Although the ground was pretty snowy, I decided to brave it with the pushchair rather than heading back inside to sulk for the afternoon. Despite my meagre statutory maternity pay, I knew I wanted to treat myself to something, and spent a good half hour browsing the shelves. My yarn store doesn't do a lot of the high end brands like Rowan or Louisa Harding unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately!), but it does do my favourite Sublime, Sirdar, King Cole, and some always useful Stylecraft.
I hit upon a ball of King Cole Supa Dupa Chunky in a gorgeous olive green and decided to knit myself a cowl to keep me toasty in this extremely cold snap we are currently enjoying. Spontaneous purchase achieved, I headed off home to feed J and search for any likely patterns.
In the end I decided simple was best, and went for a cowl based loosely on the My Kind of Town Cowl, although in reality the only thing it really shares with it is the provisional cast on and graft, as I used thicker yarn, bigger needles, cast on fewer stitches and knitted fewer rows. In the end I even regretted the graft as I messed it up the first time whilst trying to simultaneously have a conversation with my mother in law! I ended up knitting the whole thing again. Being super chunky at least it knit up quickly.
Today I got Ed to take some photos of me in my new super-warm cowl - minutes after these were taken he pelted me with snow balls. What a joker.
In other news, Benjy the Blanket Buddy is flying off the needles - just half a leg left to knit! Photos will be shared in due course...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Jake's Stripy Blanket

So here, as promised, is the big reveal of Jake's Stripy Blanket, though a little later than I intended - somehow taking care of a 6 month old who suddenly decides he is not going to nap anymore can be time consuming! But normal service has resumed, little man is sleeping and I have time to write a post.
I started my blanket for two reasons - firstly, my friend Rach gave little J a gorgeous pram blanket when he was born, and it got so many compliments from my friends that I knew I wanted to make a bigger one for J when the little blanket became too small. Then one of my new mum friends asked if I could show her how to make one for her little boy. Of course, I agreed. I have a basic knowledge of crochet and knew I would be able to teach my friend who was a complete beginner, but I needed to make sure I understood how the blanket was constructed myself first. So, the perfect excuse to start my own!
I took a quick trip to my local yarn shop to pick up some acrylic in some nice bright shades. I went for two shades of Hayfield Bonus and two shades of Stylecraft Special - very economical and great for baby knits as they are easy to wash. I decided on a range of blues with a splash of yellow thrown in for contrast.
I followed the instructions for the Granny Stripe blanket on the Attic24 blog - this is an extremely popular pattern for a reason, once you get going, it is so simple and very 'moreish' if that is an appropriate term for a yarn project? You know what I mean anyway!
The blanket was so easy to pick up and put down to just add another stripe when I could, perfect for fitting in around little J's nap times. I decided to crochet until I ran out of yarn, but then typically I ran out of a colour in the middle of a stripe. So another trip to the LYS was in order, and I picked up another couple of balls so I could also add a border, which I hadn't originally intended to do. However, my tension had been a bit iffy over the course of the project and I thought the border might disguise that a bit. I am so glad I did! It makes the blanket, and really did sort out the slightly wonky edges. I just added a round of granny stripe all around the edge and a row of treble crochet, simple but effective I think.
I would love to make another one of these and probably will do in the future. My friend who I taught to crochet is already on her second! I love this - spreading the yarn love. But in the meantime, I had some of the extra balls of yarn leftover, so I decided to create a little blanket buddy to go with J's blanket. More on that another day...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Simply Crochet

When I saw a post on Ravelry about a forthcoming UK based crochet magazine, I was quick to join the Simply Crochet group to find out more about the dedicated publication for this definitely under represented yarn craft. Although primarily a knitter I am always keen to learn new techniques and in recent years have taught myself some basic crochet, but it's often difficult to find interesting patterns that go beyond the traditional granny square. The magazine is produced by Future, who bring us Simply Knitting, The Knitter, Papercraft Inspirations and the long-lamented Scrapbook Inspirations, so I had high hopes for this new offering.
Today the magazine was released on Apple Newsstand, so I purchased a digital copy to have a browse with my cup of tea this afternoon.
The format very much follows its sister title, Simply Knitting, with various shops, yarns and books highlighted in the first section of the magazine. I quite like this section, as it draws my attention to some independent sellers and designers that I am often not aware of, and even if I couldn't afford to purchase some of the products showcased, it at least provides some inspiration.
So what about the patterns? My favourites include a crochet collar decorated with buttons which usefully includes suggestions for how to wear it, alongside a corsage which I could envisage me making out of some leftover Sublime yarn. I also liked the chunky cowl, which I'm sure would work up really quickly, the cute little Amigurumi dragon toy, the granny square beanie and the triangle motif 'Lecchi' blanket which appears on the front cover.
The patterns I was not so keen on were the bedroom items apart from the cushion covers and blanket - some of these were a little too 'twee' for me. I just cant imagine ever wanting to own a granny square covered lampshade, but maybe that's just me. Also the headphone cover is pretty pointless unless you know a music loving tweenie I suppose.
I also unfortunately wasn't keen on either of the full garments in the magazine. The adult cardigan looked a little bedjackety for me, and the little girl's cardigan a bit boxy. I think it's really hard to design truly wearable crocheted garments, though one designer who manages it admirably is Marie Wallin, and I hope the magazine will feature some of her Rowan designs in the future in the same way as Simply Knitting does.
All in all, I was impressed with this first issue and will definitely buy it again to see how it progresses. I hope they do improve the garment offerings and keep the designs contemporary and fashionable, as I think crocheted items can be really stunning to wear if the design is right - I still own (and, until the onset of breast feeding and massive boobs, wore!) a crocheted waistcoat which my mum bought in the seventies, which proves the longevity of a classic design.
All the images above come from a sneak peek available on the Simply Crochet website, so if you think this magazine might be for you, go and take a look.
In other crochet news, I have just finished a granny stripe blanket for the little man that I am very pleased with - I will endeavour to photograph and blog it over the weekend so watch this space!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Godfather

It's been an age since I had a chance to scrap, but I don't think I ever shared this page that I made before the little one was born.

Back in February, my hubby became a godfather to his friend's little girl. Although neither of us is religious, I think he was secretly quite proud to be asked and I managed to snap this photo of him after the service (whilst suffering from horrible morning sickness and desperately trying to get through the christening without having to run out the bathroom!).

This was made with a Cocoa Daisy kit but I can't remember which one now. All of my stash has been stored away for the moment as my old craft room has become little Jake's bedroom, so I can't check at the moment. I love the little gem sprinkles, they give some lovely texture to your pages.

I'm desperate to make a few pages again, I have some lovely photos to scrap with stories that need to be told but it's so difficult when you have a small house and very littke time. Hopefully I can fish a few supplies out and have a go again soon.

In other news, little man has just started on solids, so we are having an exciting time steaming and blending veg for him to try - in fact, he is eating better than we are at the moment! We have tried carrot, potato, swede, parsnip, sweet potato, pear, banana and mango. So far carrot is definitely the biggest hit. It's so funny watching the little grimace on his face everytime he tries something new, but he soon gets his head around the new flavour and is really enjoying it. If anyone has any good ideas for flavour combinations for a 6 month old, please let me know!