Saturday, 22 November 2014

A knit for my baby

Back before M arrived, I had plans for my maternity leave which involved a lot of knitting or crochet. I had this vision of me with a new baby all tucked up in her bassinet beside me while I gazed lovingly at her sleeping form, my needles clicking or my hook hooking, as I made up all manner of woolly goodies for her. I planned accordingly, picking up suitable baby yarn and patterns, in readiness for those first few months...

Of course, as is the case with most new mothers, reality turned out to be a little different to my imaginings. I ended up with a baby who was happiest in my arms and I was happy to oblige, which meant my ability to knit or crochet was severely curtailed.

In fact, while I have crocheted intermittently since M’s arrival I had not picked up knitting needles since her birth until earlier this year! My first knitting project was started at M’s request and was Miss Sophie Bear.

My knitting break has left me with a stash of baby patterns and yarns, but instead of a baby I have an independently minded four year old, who has definite opinions on what she will or will not wear. I was determined to knit some of those baby patterns, with some of that yarn so was delighted to discover the Sirdar patterns I’d bought are actually sized from birth to seven years.

While I may be knitting again, I have to sneak it in around the edges of everything else I do, as spare time is practically non-existent these days. This means it takes a comparatively long time to make anything up and I make mistakes as I don’t have time to concentrate properly. I decided that with only three years to go before M outgrew the patterns, I needed to get started knitting straight away.

I chose the simply named ‘Design E - Striped and Plain Cardigan’ from Sirdar’s Little Stars and Stripes, which is a basic cardi with set in sleeves, a ‘V’ neck and fastened by a single button. A little lace adds interest at the cuffs, bottom, fronts and collar.

The yarn I chose from my stash was a pretty pink, self striping special deal from Aldi in a DK weight. Nothing in the way of natural fibres, but soft, cheap and picked up in a haze of hormones a few years back. It knit up nicely on 4mm needles, to the desired gauge of 22 stitches x 28 rows = 4 inch square.

Here is the result, pre-blocking (link to my Ravelry project - here).
Finished cardigan, before blocking - note the curl of the lace edging...
And here, after some steam had been applied.
Finished cardigan after blocking, curl much improved but still sneaking in.
Finished cardigan after blocking, curl much improved but still sneaking in.
Oh how that lace edging taunted me… It curls horribly at the cuffs and needed some seriously blocking to sort it out, but since I was working with a ‘baby’ yarn (code for acrylic), I was very timid when it came to blocking as it is so easy to over do the steam and kill the fabric. I did steam block this, but not heavily due to the acrylic fibre and although it was improved by blocking, that lace edging still has a slight curl to it, particularly at the sleeve cuffs.
Close up of the lace edging (after blocking).
When it came to the front edges and collar, i decided I didn’t like the suggested border or the way it was worked in two pieces and joined at the back of the neck. I decided to add a crochet edging instead, worked on a 3mm hook as follows:-

  • Lay down a foundation row of dc (repeat of 4 + 1)
  • 5tr shell around, 5dc-ch for the button hole

If I make this cardigan again, I will probably skip the suggested lace altogether and crochet a shell edging instead. I worked the edging (both the suggested lace on the cuffs and bottom, and the crochet edging) in a white baby DK from my stash. This contrasted nicely with the pink self striping.

I added a single lilac button from my button tin, which immediately decided it was a complementary shade of pink once I had sewn it on.

I am very pleased with how this turned out. I haven’t knitted many cardigan’s and due to the long break, this project represented a lot or re-learning old skills. I tried to stick to the pattern, but couldn't resist doing my own thing when the lace edging didn't behave, which was why I substituted with a far more civilised and far less scary crochet edging.
The finished cardigan, modelled by my 'baby'.
M likes the cardigan too. However I have a problem. She took a great deal of interest in how this project developed and has discovered my Ravelry queue which she has now co-opted. Rather than another cardi from my baby knits list, M has insisted my next knitting project should be a cat.

Friday, 14 November 2014

World Nursery Rhyme Week 2014

The focus this week has been World Nursery Rhyme week. The idea was to sing and do activities around the theme of five nursery rhymes as set by the organisers.

The chosen songs were:-

  • Monday - Old King Cole
  • Tuesday - Hey Diddle Diddle
  • Wednesday - I Hear Thunder
  • Thursday - Oranges and Lemons
  • Friday - Five Currant Buns

The organisers had put together a resource pack, but I didn't think much of it. Generic clip-art just didn't hit the spot.

Monday - Old King Cole

The first thing we discovered was I cannot hold the tune of Old King Cole. To M's amusement I kept singing a harmony to the original melody. After my failure to sing properly, M showed me how it was done, holding the tune beautifully.

Next up, some crafts in the form of 'K is for King'.

I drew the K and crown for M to cut out, I also drew a pipe (as in a musical instrument) and bowl, the latter complete with a straw as historically bowl may well have been a drinking vessel. Otherwise this K is entirely M's own work.

K is for King.
We went through a lot of glitter glue.

The K complete, M drew a lot of pictures of King Cole and then made up stories about the poor King’s misfortunes. In M’s tales, the Fiddlers try to rescue the King from many unfortunate situations which start when he forgets to put his pants on, but can’t be bothered to take all his clothes off again so pulls them on over the top of his leggings. All is well until he needs a wee.

Tuesday - Hey Diddle Diddle

Dave took this one as I was at work, helping M to make puppets on sticks so she could act out the story.

Hey Diddle Diddle puppets.
Wednesday - I Hear Thunder

I think Dave was lucky to get this one, as I’d prepared a project on Rain a few weeks back which he could dip into!

M started on this as soon as I left for work, with Dave getting out the percussion instruments for a good old sing song. When Dave felt he’d entertained neighbours for long enough he started on arts and crafts.

I am still waiting to see what they got up to…

Thursday - Oranges and Lemons

I was stuck on this one as I couldn't find arts and crafts projects that were suitable for a four year old, but also likely to catch M's imagination. In the end I decided it was time for a spot of baking.

We made lemon drizzle butter cookies using my standard easy butter cookie recipe, but adding lemon zest to the mix, then topping them with lemon drizzle icing.

For reference:-

6 oz butter
9 oz plain flour
3 oz sugar
zest of one lemon

We put all the ingredients into a bowl and used our fingertips to mix them together. Or rather, I did. M played with the mix, squeezing and rubbing with her palms and enjoying the sensory experience. It didn't matter though. We've made these biscuits before and they are very much foolproof, hence why the recipe is a favourite of mine.
Rub between fingertips until you get a breadcrumb like consistency.

When the mixture reached breadcrumb consistency, we kneaded it together into small balls for rolling out, which I did very gently onto a lightly floured surface. M had a go at rolling out, but this dough is very crumbly and needs a light touch, whereas M tends towards heavy handed with a rolling pin. M had chosen cutters in the form of church bells and candles as per the song and we cut out shapes together, placing them onto greased baking trays.

We pierced the cookies with a fork a few times, then put them into a warm oven (150c) for 12 minutes to bake. Once they were cooled, I drizzled icing made from icing sugar and some of the juice from the lemon I’d zested. I was careful not to overdo it here, the cookie on its own is slightly lemony and I wanted to make sure M would enjoy them rather than be put off by a strong lemon taste. M could have done the drizzling herself, she is good at drizzling having practiced a lot, but my girl was looking tired and said she wanted to watch.
Lemon drizzle butter cookies.

The resulting cookies were very yummy.

Friday - Five Currant Buns

I hadn’t intended to do anything for Five Currant Buns as we’d have normally gone out to a weekly home education meetup in Rugby. However M has had such fun this week that she insisted we stay home and do something today too. She awoke this morning full of cold so I decided a day at home probably was the best course and I suggested we could make five toy currant buns.

We had a bit of confusion as to what a currant bun was and what it should look like, so I asked M to draw a picture of what the buns should be like:-

M's drawing of the ideal currant bun.

While I agreed this looked like a fantastic currant bun, I couldn't see how we could make five buns just like this out of felt in a single day. I’d have wanted to draft a pattern and make a prototype to confirm it came out exactly right. I suggested a compromise, explaining that until recently buns tended to be shallow rather than tall and if M thought about our own buns, they tend to be more like a round cushion.

M insisted that any bun should have icing and a cherry on top, which I agreed with and so we got to work. I drafted a simple pattern template and M helped with pinning it to the felt so it could be cut out. M then pinned the icing to the tops so I could sew them, allowing me to get started on the construction which she watched carefully.

Stuffing the buns was M’s job as was choosing five cherries, i.e. five suitably sized red pompoms. M positioned the cherries in the middle of each stuffed and sewn bun, so I’d know where to sew them, then her mind turned towards sprinkles. Glitter seemed the ideal solution, so M applied glue and glitter to each bun once I’d attached its cherry.

We used PVA to stick felt currants to the bottom of each bun, but it didn’t want to stick so I switched to Tacky Glue, which is thicker PVA. Sadly this took an age to dry and by six, a tired, congested M had had enough of waiting. Playing had to happen, glue or no glue, so play and sing, sing and play we did. Resulting in one very happy little girl.
Five currant buns in a bakers shop, round and fat with a cherry on the top.

I’m really pleased with the way these toy currant buns turned out. I did all the sewing here, but M has been learning to sew using little felt kits with precut pieces and pre-punched holes. This was the first time she’s seen a sewing project through from original idea, design, pattern (OK very simple, but it was a pattern), cutting, pinning, construction, stuffing and embellishing. A slight hiccup with the glue and currants aside, it all came together to give her a functional toy. M has ended the day riding high on the sense of accomplishment this has given her, which has got to have been worth the time spent on those five little toy cakes.