Christmas and new year’s activities seem so for away now.  As I’ve taken a fair chunk of time off work, we’re now in a summer holiday frame of mind.  Some things we’ve been up to:

  • Reading: bedtime stories.  Rex is old enough to enjoy chapter books, and we’ve worked through The Hobbit, Stig of the Dump and Harry Potter.  I’m now addicted to Harry Potter books and trying to track down the rest of the series second-hand.
  • Watching: movies!  I saw Tangled with Rex, and The Tourist with Mr. Foxy.  Enjoyed them both immensely.  I saw the 3D version of the former, and there was a most delightful moment in a scene where there were lots of lanterns floating in the sky.  Rex leapt to his feet and reached out to touch one that seemed to be at arms reach, and I noticed that all the other kids in the audience were doing the same!  Magic indeed!  And I was loving the good old-fashioned escapism of adventures in Paris and Venice with the impossibly elegant Angelina and hapless yet dashing Mr. Depp.
  • Listening: to Dickens, and I always seem to turn to the Amelie soundtrack lately.  Plaintive, wistful, charming and olde-world-French.
  • Eating: too much chocolate.  But at least the latest new family meal idea has proved to be a winner – pesto made with handfuls of parsley, baby spinach and walnuts with a small clove of garlic and a few glugs of olive oil.  So great to see the vegie avoiders getting a burst of leafy green goodness.
  • Sewing:  transforming trousers with torn knees into shorts, for both large and small.
  • Making: Kirsty’s crochet granny shrugs in small girl sizes.  A fun and not too taxing project for the holidays.
  • Despairing: at the cruelty of nature in sending devastating and seemingly worsening floods to our northern neighbours.  Even more bitter following so many years of drought.
  • Anticipating: a road trip to country Vic and urban NSW, our first holiday as a family of five!  We’re leaving tomorrow, and are still madly packing!

Happy new year!

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Christmas decorating is quite low-key here this year.  Apart from the tree, a crocheted star garland here … and there.  (Such a fun and addictive pattern!)

And what was that on the mantle?  Well, when I saw these (from here) I couldn’t resist making a few.  Instead of making felt hats, I used egg cosies that I had on hand.  As the elf population increased encouraged by the enthusiasm of my offspring, more hats had to be made …

I first made several sets of these egg cosies as Easter  presents a few years ago after falling in love with some on the cover of a Donna Hay magazine (issue 14).  Here is the pattern I made up, in case you have any eggs, or elves, that need hatting:

Egg Hat Cosies

Materials: Small amounts of 8ply /dk weight yarn (I used Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 8 ply in Almond for those above and  BWM Alpaca in Havana for the ones below.)

4mm double pointed or circular needles (for magic loop method); darning needle for finishing

gauge: 5 stiches to the inch

  • Cast on 32 stitches. Join taking care not to twist.  Work in stockingette stitch for approx.  2 inches (don’t unroll hem to measure).
  • *knit 6, knit 2tog* repeat to end of round (4 decreases)
  • next round, *k5, k2tog* repeat 3 times
  • next round, *k4, k2tog* repeat 3 times
  • continue in this manner until there are 4 stitches left (ie., previous row was *k 0, k2tog*)
  • work an i-cord for half an inch or so, break off yarn and thread though stitches a couple of times, tighten and darn in ends.

Variations:

  • for a more tapered hat, knit straight for 1 inch before starting decreases, then knit a plain row between decrease rows.  k2tog on last 4 stitches and fasten off without i-cord.
  • or, decrease two times per round instead of four (ie.* k 14, k2tog* repeat once, *k13, k2tog* … etc.)
  • start off with a k2 p2 rib for about half an inch on any variation.

It’s hard to write something new about a pattern I’ve made and posted about twice before, but making a lace shawl seems like such a notable achievement that I can’t help showing it off.  I am always surprised that such a large piece of knitted fabric (as the finished shawl is) in a fine gauge yarn seems to take less time than expected.  I think that it’s because it starts out small so the early rows fly by, and by the time it is a reasonable width, the lace pattern has been memorised (and has you hooked) and the long rows don’t seem such a chore.  Also, wetting and stretching out a crumpled diamond-shaped thing into a triangle twice it’s size helps too.

As before the pattern is the Shetland Triangle, knit in Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 4 ply in Brick.  I made this one larger than the others at 13 repeats.  I think I enjoyed knitting this version so much as I was so comfortable with the pattern, I loved the colour, and because it was for me!  I am really pleased with it.  Of course it’s too hot at the moment to wear it, but I imagine throwing it on in air-conditioned environs until it becomes indispensable in the far off cooler weather.

On a different but not unrelated note (I love listening to podcasts while knitting as well as while – more frequently – performing tedious repetitive household tasks), I have been really enjoying catching up on my classic literature and listening to Frankenstein!  So good (no, really) and includes a crash course on Romantic poetry!  Looking forward to Dickens next …

In an attempt to make the lead-up to Christmas more fun (and quell constant questions of “How many days until Christmas?”), I made an advent calendar in an unusual fit of creative sewing, inspired by one in the recent Inside Out magazine.  I love it when an idea forms and is acted on at once, thanks to an undisciplined hoard accomodating fabric stash.  This was really made on the fly in spare moments, making it up as I went.  The backing fabric is a heavy Indian cotton herringbone twill left over from some Roman blinds made many years ago.  The borders are some remnants bought at a Nicola Cerini studio sale years ago, as are some of the pockets.  Other pockets are from scraps of Japanese kimono silk, screen printed cotton from Dunnilli Arts in the NT and Balinese ikat weave cotton.

As the Cerini fabric had a canvas backing, I ironed woven fusible interfacing to the other fabric pieces to give them some body.  I couldn’t be bothered embroidering or appliqueing the numbers, so I printed them out on to iron-on transfer paper, cut them into to ovals and ironed them on.  The pieces are not exactly the same size, so the whole has a slightly wonky irregular appearance that I don’t mind given the otherwise regular grid of pockets.

It was met with much excitement, though now there is the problem of having to constantly explain why we can’t empty all the pockets at once …

There’s not normally much opportunity for creativity here, but some time off work has initiated renewed opportunity and enthusiam for making things.  Some preparations for Christmas ….

Creative Spaces abound here at Kootoyoo

My little ones are two today.

Their second year has seen faltering first steps lead to running, stamping, dancing legs

downy heads become mussy golden halos

and garbles and giggles become words.

How wonderful to have someone to travel through life with

and how lucky am I to come along too.

Happy birthday, my beauties.

We’ve been sick, the children with seemingly never-ending gastro one after the other, and me with pneumonia, requiring a few days in hospital and subsequent enforced rest.  While the low energy levels and general fatigue are no fun, the rest has proved somewhat novel.  So in my convalescence, apart from actually getting enough sleep, I have had time to:

  • knit!  A shawl and child’s garment are complete …
  • read a book!  Hastily chosen from the Library as I had heard others recommend Neil Gaiman’s writing, these clever, fanciful, spooky stories took me away from the mundane reality of hospital rooms and untidy domestic arrangements.
  • get a head start on Christmas shopping for overseas friends by browsing Etsy – and maybe getting something for me … (and got to love the current exchange rate!)
  • enjoy meals outside on warm evenings

  • think about Christmas craft projects to make with Rex.  I was considering simple paper-cut snowflakes and I love those angels made by rolling a single piece of paper into a cone, kind of like these (which are much nicer than what I was thinking of – aren’t they beautiful!).
  • catch up on the mending pile and sort out children’s clothes
  • cook proper meals for growing children.   The babies are ravenous at the moment, a growth spurt must be imminent…
  • make lego models.  There has got to be a better way of storing lego to make this easier – I’m thinking separate compartments for each colour …
  • generally enjoy taking it easy.

… and glorious today too, but I’m afraid there is some wintry knitting to catch up on.  Completed for the last wintry days (and I’m not convinced that we wont have a few more chilly ones yet) was quick-toddler-woollie number two.  Again my plan was to use some 12 ply wool from stash, so I did a Ravelry search for something that fitted the bill.  I came up with Waffles for Brunch, a handsome little pattern with lots of nice details and little finishing.

I again used Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 12 ply, this time in Tuscan.  This isn’t a difficult pattern, but that didn’t stop me from failing to correctly follow the pattern. I forgot to continue the garter stripes in the upper fronts, but left it like that as I figured that a plain yoke balancing the garter placket worked ok design-wise. 

(Accessories model’s own)  I’m really pleased with how it turned out.  It has enough room to grow to do for next winter, and the ribbed pattern makes a very stretchy fabric that fits quite well now.  And the girls actually like wearing their new handknits!

And to finish up with the update of unseasonal knits, I also made myself a quick cowl in some lovely dark greyish handspun from The Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria.  Pattern is Destroyed Cowl, an easy expanse of mindless stockingette stitch, with dropped stitches in the final row and kitchener stitch to make it into a seamless loop.  I have been finding this a useful piece, but tend to think that the pattern would be better with a thicker and loftier yarn (as intended).

None of us are much for smiling in photos, but at least we now have a recent group photo in which all children look reasonably cute and not too scruffy.  (Thanks to professional photos by Vision Portraits, organised as a fundraiser by our kindergarten).

(Thanks for the kind wishes for Camille –  after a follow-up trip to the hospital, the dressing is off, and her finger is healing nicely.)

It’s now spring of course, but still chilly here, so this recently completed knit is getting lots of use – in fact more than I bargained on, but more of that later…

Last month when winter seemed unrelenting, the girls decided to grow out of all their winter knits.  I tried to knock out a couple of quick woollies that would warm them for the rest of this winter, yet still hopefully fit next year.  For the first of these knits, quick meant 12 ply wool and an easy nearly-seamless pattern that I was familiar with.  So I turned to my well-thumbed copy of The Knitter’s Almanac for the “baby sweater on two needles” (more popularly known as the February Baby Sweater).  Knit in trusty 12 ply Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic in Cherry from the stash, the baby garment was successfully up-sized to toddler size.  The lace pattern is quite open, but the weight of the wool still provides warmth.  I made no modifications, though I did consider tapering the sleeves, but decided that bell sleeves would be pretty.

As mentioned in the last post, I was finding it difficult to get out to purchase matching buttons, so raided the sewing box and found a vintage covered buttons kit.  I also remembered a cute fat quarter that I had received as a gift from Retro Mummy, and the print was the perfect size to create little critter buttons.  Once complete, the cardigan was quickly claimed by Mlle. C.

… Just a week ago we had an unfortunate incident involving a slamming door, little fingers and more hours than I’d care to remember at the Royal Childrens’ Hospital.  And my darling, brave Camille at least has a warm cardigan that fits over her cast.

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