Monday, 27 December 2010

Monster Mash

A couple of bear-like friends bought me a cute Donna Wilson Make Your Own Monster Kit for Christmas. It was a really sweet gift as they said "Christmas is a time when parents can be selfless and so someone needs to look out for the Mums and Dads". Awwww!

The best thing about the kit was that it was really quick to make and it was easy to get a bit creative without having to send Flo off to a baby sitter for the afternoon. I had a little look at it on Boxing day and I had finished my little monster, who I named Peter, the very next day.

Peter is a working man by day and a crazy punk by night.

Donna Wilsons designs have often caught my eye. I love her crazy creatures, which you can buy ready made online, from fashionable boutiques or knit your own versions using her cute-as-a-button book The Knitted Odd Bunch.

Although this kit provided me with a nice diversion from mummy duties, being a crafty person already I did have a few criticisms of the kit.
The body shape of your monster has already been sewn for you and so all you need to do is cut round the shape, turn it inside out and stuff it. I felt a bit cheated by this as I was expecting and looking forward to deciding on and then sew the body shape myself. If the shape of the monster is already decided for you then why not have him already sewn and stuffed in the box?
To embellish your monster you get some felt shapes and little machine knitted scraps in some really lovely colours and patterns. However if you cut these scraps into any kind of foot, hand, hair, mouth shape as directed on the box, any knitter will know the knitted stitches will fray and
unravel pretty quickly. I gave it a go and the shape held ok once sewn down, but if you were planning on giving this as a toy to actually be handled and played with, then felt for all of the embellishments would have been a better option.

Over all I really enjoyed making Peter and will be passing him onto a good home soon. I think this would be a good kit for young crafters or really busy craft lovers.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Boxing day over and it’s been one of the best Christmases ever. Not because I got fabulous gifts, was pampered and didn’t have to lift a finger, but because the magic of Christmas was bought back by our little Florence. Her little giggles, smiles, mountains of exciting presents and paper tearing abilities reinvigorated Christmas day and Boxing day for the Parkinson and Davis families and bought us all back to the excitement of a childhood Christmas.

So to update you on my Christmas projects, do you remember the Millamia stripy babygrow I bought the materials for way back at Ally Pally in October? Well I actually got it finished and it fits! Granted I finished it late on Christmas eve and didn’t even manage to get it wrapped. And it will most likely only fit Florence for a month or so before she grows out of it. But the 3 months of knitting were still worth it to see her all snuggled inside.

Don't ask me where her sock went.

I also knitted my sister in law a vintage hair snood from Knitting Fashions of the 1940’s by Jane Waller. It was really simple to make and fingers crossed it looks nice when she fixes it in her gorgeous 40’s hair. Photos to follow!

Finally, I confess that my Christmas quilt... did not get finished. It is a little bit of a shame but I really would rather that it be finished properly for next Christmas than be finished in a rush for this one. Now I can try to take my time over it and make it the best I can to cuddle up under next year.

Florence the Mr and I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Mittens on String

I met up with a fellow new mum the other day who showed me the mittens she knitted for her little girl including a crocheted string to keep them safely inside her coat. They are so cute and are even lined with fabric from an old baby-grow to keep little fingers extra snugly. I commented that you don’t see mittens on string much these days, probably because of all the health and safety scares. Personally I’d like to see more mittens on string.

And a quick mention to any of you Knitting Magazine readers; I have submitted my article and shall be back on the back page of February issue. It'll be good to be back!

Craft Life

I’ve recently had a surge of crafting activity and not just on my quilt, which is rocketing along at the moment, but also on the striped baby-grow I’m knitting for Flo and some other household crafting which has been begging to be done for some time.

Ages ago I knitted up some gorgeous curly mohair into cushion covers for my sofa, but a couple of years later they’re malting all over the place and Florence keeps turning up with fists full of fluff. So it was time for them to go and they were unpicked and packed away for a time when tiny hands aren’t trying to tear or eat them.

With the cold weather rolling in I’ve been spending more and more time under my favourite blanket which I knitted throughout my primary school holidays . This knitted relic has been with me through thick and thin but I haven’t shown it much love back. There were large rips in the soft backing fabric and big pulls in several of the squares. So I gave it some much needed TLC by replacing the fabric, washing the knitted top and repairing the pulls. The new lease of life in the blanket means that we’ll be lovely and cosy this winter without the fear of putting our feet though the worn thin fabric.

Continuing with the Christmas theme I made some of Nigella’s Christmas Cupcakes from How to Be a Domestic Goddess today and topped them with edible glitter from one of my favourite shops Lakeland. You’ll never know that you needed so many crazy gadgets and home-wares until you’ve been to this shop and coveted an egg poaching cup or a magic ironing board cover. These cup cakes along with it being the first Sunday of Advent today and the ‘Holidays are Coming’ Coke ad I saw on TV have signalled the true start of the festive season.

To give you a quick quilt update I have sewn the front together and made the backing, which is basically like making another whole quilt! I tried to make it as simple as possible to save some time and it was considerably quicker than making the front. I then sandwiched the front and back with the squishy wadding and have tacked it in place. The next step is the actual quilting part, which involves me hand stitching around each star and across each candy cane square. That’s hand stitching. By hand! Even once I’ve finished that I’ve got binding to put round the edge. Can this really be finished by Christmas?

Sadly I didn’t make it along to the Craftacular today. Did you? How was it? What was in the goody bag? Oh how I love a goody bag!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Christmas Craftacular

It's that time of year again!
I love Bust Magazine's regular craft fairs and their Christmas ones never fail to give me that warm-inside festive feeling.

This year there will be some great classes such as bauble painting from the Make Lounge and moustache crocheting with Prick Your Finger.
As always there will be vintage music accompanying the day and tons of fantastic stalls with crafty gifts for you and your loved ones.
My favourite bit is grabbing a gorgeous cupcake and pot of tea at cute pop up cafe hosted by Time for Tease. So make sure you make a pit stop in between purchases.

Here are the details:
York Hall, 5-15 Old Ford Road, London E2 9PJ
1 minute from Bethnal Green tube station
Admission: £2.

There will be goodie bags for the first 100 through the door.
I managed to get one at the summer fair. Do I chance it and try for a goodie bag again this year? Not sure if I can wait out in the cold for that long!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Quilt Update

Yay! I finished all of the blocks for my Christmas quilt!

This was largely thanks to my Mum who came round a few times to play with Flo while I sat at the machine. Aren't Mum's the best?

Now the challenge is to attempt to have the quilt finished by Christmas day. Who wants to take bets?

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happily Sewn Together Forever

We went to a beautiful wedding last weekend, which I'm going to call a handmade wedding as there were so many beautiful crafty touches, which really made it extra special.

My favourite of these touches were the place settings at the wedding breakfast. Ladies had a fabulous handmade fabric and crochet broach, there were chocolates for the men, who I don't think would have fully appreciated a handmade gift.
Our place settings were little purple painted old style keys with our name tags attached with purple ribbon.
Favours were a packet of wildflower seeds with note explaining that a donation had been made to Great Ormond Street on our behalf, these were studded with little Great Ormond Street badges. Obviously the donation meant a lot to us as Florence spent so long at GOSH and continues to be treated there and it was made especially poignant as it was Flo's first wedding.

Florence and the other lucky children at the wedding had an amazing place setting too. A wooden letter 'F' with fishes swimming across it marked Flo's seat. Beneath this was a sewn bag with 'Play with me' embroidered across it. Inside was a handmade doll and book of 100 things to count. A fantastic way to keep little ones happy at the dinner table!

Other handmade decorations, hand knitted cardigans for little flower girls and hand sewn napkins were the added crafty sparkle on an already glittering day. It was really touching to see how much effort had gone into their big day when so many weddings these days seem to be exact copies of each other picked out of a magazine. All the little handmade touches speak volumes to the nature of this couples love and commitment to each other.

Oh, I love a good wedding!
Congratulations to the happy couple!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Beach babe

This weekend Florence got her first view of the sea and first experience of an English beach. It was a lovely day filled with our amazing friends, fish and chips in a cosy pub, coffee/ milk on the beach and hand knits put to good use on baby Florence.

Flo wore a suitably nautical navy and white striped jumper which I knitted back when I wasn’t sure if we were having a boy or a girl and a very cute hat which my mum whipped up for her. The hat is from Wee Woolly Toppers by Woolly Wormhead which I’m also using at the moment to make a cute hat called Cubba, one for Flo and one for her friend Harry, it will make them look like a pair at an autumn teddy bears picnic when they’re done!

When we arrived the first thing I saw was this cute little yarn shop called Buzz 4 Wool and Crafts which unfortunately was closed at the time. I thought it was worth a mention if you’re heading to the seaside and fancy some crafting on the beach.

I was a very special trip with Florence to see the sea for the first time. One we’ll remember forever.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching Show 2010

It started off as a military operation. Here’s what I told my bemused friend Sarah before we entered Ally Pally:
“Right, first of all go for a wee. Here’s lunch and a bottle of water I picked up for you earlier. When we get in there we’ll take one room at a time and work from the back of the room to the front making sure not to miss any aisles. You have two choices on how to work the show; either we do a preliminary sweep of the whole exhibition without buying anything and then do a second sweep buying the things you definitely want, or you only make considered purchases as you work your way round, no impulse buys. If you get lost, call me on my mobile.”
She thought I was being a bit over zealous and suggested that perhaps we should carry distress whistles. By the end of the day she admitted that my plan was an essential one as I’m sure many of my fellow Ally Pally veterans will agree.

The plan ensured that my purchases were considered ones; considered but more importantly fabulous! I bought the Bright Young Things pattern book from Millamia Sweden which I’d coveted earlier this year at Knit Nation. As there was 10% off I also bought the yarn for the cutest project in the book; a little stripy babygrow for Florence. The founders of Millamia, sisters Katerina and Helena Rosen kindly let me take their picture with their sample babygrow. I better start it soon before she gets too big for it!

The other hit of the show for me was the V&A stall. They were selling beautiful fabric, printed with designs from quilts in the V&A collection, all for 10% off. I bought two of the same bundles for just £15 each. The price on the ticket was £25, so I reckon this was a serious bargain. I’m hoping to make a quilt with these bundles at some point, but the Christmas quilt really needs to get going first.

I also got some nice needles from The Little Knitting Company.

As always the student and exhibition works were amazing to wander though and take inspiration from. The Black Sheep yarn dive was typically popular and the Stitch London stall had quite a crowd round it. I had a nice chat with Susan Crawford of Knit on the Net, who let me know that there will be a Volume 2 of the beautiful vintage knitting pattern book A Stitch In Time which will be available to pre-order soon.

All my pictures from the day an be found here.

All in all it was a good show. Not the best Ally Pally I’ve been to as I did notice that quite a few regular vendors weren’t there this year. This was most likely down to the more knitting specific shows such as Knit Nation and the I Knit weekender. Stalls are so expensive at these events that vendors are becoming a bit more selective of which shows they spend money on coming to. But for another year the biggest stitching show has come and gone. See you in 2011 Ally Pally and next time I’m bringing distress whistles.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Long time, no blog

Over the last few weeks since my last post I have been very busy and with the increasingly active and awake Flo keeping me well and truly on my toes I’ve felt more like sleeping than blogging when spare time arises. But tonight the Mr is out, Flo is in bed and so I thought I’d make the effort.

First of all I’d like to say, OMG, it’s Ally Pally this weekend! Didn’t that come round quick!?!? I shall be visiting on Saturday with Mum and my amazingly crafty friend, Sarah. I will no doubt find the time to tell you what I spent my maternity pay on once I get back. Last year I went in with a plan and stuck to it, this year I’m going in with only my instincts... this is going to get dangerous... and potentially very expensive.

So in the ridiculously long time that I’ve not been blogging I have done a lot of baking, a little bit of knitting and some quilting.

Baking wise I hosted a surprise cake party for my friend Jessica. It was her first birthday living in the UK after moving earlier this year from Canada and we’ve been out for a lot of cake together so I thought it appropriate to make some cakes and invite people over to eat them in her honour. She enjoyed it very much and the winner of the night was undoubtedly the rhubarb tart, which looks weird as its green rather than pink, but I assure you it was super yummy.

I then went a bit tart crazy and made several plum tarts as my parent’s plum tree was in full swing of fruit. I then topped this off by attempting a pecan pie for my sister in law’s birthday. In a Neil Stuke Celebrity Masterchef moment, here is that attempt.

OK, well I did finish it in the end (by starting from scratch again) but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be. I’ll get it right and won’t drop it next time. Many more picture of my baking adventures/ failures can be found here.

I made a promising start to my Christmas quilt by buying the fabric, cutting everything out and then making half of the blocks up. However I hit a little stumbling block and having managed to get going again for a good few weeks now. All it will take is an afternoon of someone looking after Flo and no disruptions to get my head round it again, but I’m not sure when that will be. Due to the stumbling block I have no pictures of the quilt in progress as yet. I shall report back.

Knitting wise, once I’d finished the skirt (which made it onto the Purl Alpaca's new blog!) I wasn’t sure what to start, so I have been working on a couple of baby hats and a baby bolero for Flo. We’ve had tons of medical visits and hospital checkups for Florence recently so I haven’t had a lot of free time to knit, although I do think about it a lot!

Flo update: We had more good news from Great Ormond Street that Flo’s heart is continuing to improve and she was able to come off a few more of her drugs which is of course WONDERFUL! We are so happy with her progress and it is a continual shock to realise how far she’s made it with every day that passes. She still has a way to go and it looks like she will be a long term tube feeder as she still hasn’t mastered sucking a bottle or taking solids. This has been quite depressing as you really do become a slave to the tube feeding and it’s difficult to get out of the house or go anywhere for longer than an hour and a half, but I’d do anything for this cute little face, so as far as we’re concerned we’ll keep going for as long as we need to.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Purl Alpaca Town

So you may have read about a skirt that I started when we were still in Great Ormond Street. That was May and my goal was to finish it before the cold weather came. With no end in sight of our stay at GOSH I assumed that the skirt would be started and finished by Florence’s bedside. But Flo has now turned 6 months old and on Friday night I finished the skirt. Yes, it took me 4 months to do, but it’s pretty understandable with learning how to look after a baby as well as dealing with all the medical appointments, drugs and tube feeds.

I feel a great sense of achievement at finishing this garment, especially as the weather’s just starting to turn and there will be ample opportunity to wear it. It’s strange how finishing the skirt really feels like closing a door on that stay at the hospital. Although there may be further stays in future, now this project has been cast off and ends woven in, I have a strange sense of closure for that very traumatic part of our lives.

You can wear the skirt three different ways, so this is a really versatile and wearable project. It can be worn as a skirt, dress or poncho and I think it looks great in all three variations. I think my favourite is the skirt with a wide belt round it. I’m so glad I got this finished and it looks nice on me! Bring on the Autumn.

I’ve just realised that I never gave you an update on how our fun run went for Great Ormond Street. Well we raised an AMAZING £6,420! A big thank you for all the donations and runners we had in Team Florence. Perhaps Flo will do it with us next year.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Between you and me...

My mum has been interested in quilting for quite a while now but had been a little cautious of going out and buying all the stuff before she knew it was going to be a hobby she wanted to pursue. She mentioned to me that there was a quilting shop in the local area, who would have thought it, and so we popped along to see what it was like.

Just between Friends is a lovely little shop which is packed with gorgeous quilting fabrics, haberdashery and has a small teaching space. We got chatting to the owner, Carol, who was very happy to chat to us about quilting, whilst also taking a class at the same time! She told us that we could come in for a taster session, which is designed to show all the skills needed for quilting before you make the decision on buying all of the equipment needed to get you going.

We went back a couple of weeks later and did the taster session which was lovely and informal, with lots of chatting and cups of tea. We learnt how to cut using the mat, ruler and cutting wheel, then how to put together a basic square and press it. The session only cost £10 and lasted probably 2 hours with all of our chit chat, so it was well worth the money. You can see some pictures from our day at Just Between Friends here.

Mum has gone ahead and purchased the equipment to start her first quilt, but my heart still belongs to knitting and I don’t really have the time to devote to a new hobby, so I’ll just have to borrow hers if I want to do some quilting in future. I really think I’d like to make a Christmas quilt; something that you can bring out every year to snuggle up under whilst watching crappy Christmas TV. The question is will I find the time to do it before Christmas?

Sunday, 22 August 2010

What do Babies Dream of?

Had to share this amazing blog with you:

The creator says:
'This is my maternity leave hobby. While my baby is taking her nap, I try to imagine her dream and capture it.'
Love this.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Happy Birthday Daddy

It was Brett’s Birthday yesterday and Florence wanted to get him something special for his first Birthday as a Daddy. So a few weeks ago we went down to our local ceramic painting shop called the Creative Biscuit. It’s such a lovely place to go with a few friends for the afternoon and paint a plate, cup, jug, vase, money box, ornament etc. I’ve done it a few times in the past and knew that they could do ceramics with babies hand and foot prints if you pre-book.

Flo chose a side plate as she thought Daddy could use it for his legendary sausage sandwiches and chose the colour red for the foot prints as that’s his favourite colour. The lovely Moss Stitch painted Flo’s feet, which were surprisingly un-ticklish and printed them onto the plate. I then wrote the message for Flo, using her Dad’s favourite nickname for her, which is Bunround.

He liked it very much.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Nappy Cake

A friend of the family was kind enough to send us this amazing gift. It’s a Nappy cake! Sadly you can’t eat it, but I’m sure Florence will give it a try. It’s soooo cute and a really practical gift.

I’d heard of these before from American baby showers but never seen them in the UK. It’s basically layers of rolled up nappies stacked to look like a cake and then covered by cute baby stuff.

You can buy them but I think it’s nicer to make your own as you can put specific bits on the cake to suit the receiver. They’re fun and easy to make too. Although I didn’t make this one I did pull it apart so can see how it was done so here’s a quick ‘How to’.

· Get a couple of packs of nappies. These can be disposables or reusable ones, although reusable ones will cost you a packet. Even though Florence isn’t using disposable nappies these will still come in handy for when we’re out and about.

· Roll the nappies up individually. Once you have enough pack them together standing on end and use an elastic band to hold them together as your first layer. Repeat this process, making each layer a bit smaller each time. You might need a second pair of hands to do this so get someone to help you.

· Stack the layers on top of each other and then start to add your gifts. On our cake there were bibs on the bottom layer, fabric and clothes round the middle layer and socks round the top. Each layer was secured by another elastic band around the gifts and then a ribbon (which said ‘It’s a Girl!’) covered the elastic band.

· To finish off tuck toys, and bulkier gifts into the ribbon or tie them on using pretty coloured cord. We had lots of little chew toys, rattles, teething gel and a thermometer added to our cake.

· Finally wrap it up using cellophane and ribbon.


Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Still too hot for Hand Knits

Since we came home from the hospital it’s pretty much been a wonderful summer weather wise, which is great for lots of reasons, but with only one down side which is that it’s too hot to wear hand knits.

I was over the moon to receive a couple of parcels of hand knit love from some of my lovely knitty fiends but it’s just been far too close to wear them. Despite this I simply have to have her try them on to see how they look and dream of cooler days where there is the need for cardigans and jumpers.

This is a beautiful Sea Waves jumper from Gillian, which looks too cute on her. I especially love the colours.
My mum has also made a few things but this is her stock pattern for all newborns. Although Flo is still small and so it fits her now, I fear that by the time it’s cool enough to wear she’ll be too big. Oh well, we’ll save it for a dolly or something.

These are some beautifully soft vests from Iris which have a great story attached to them. They meant for wearing as under garments during the winter and can be used from birth to two years old as they stretch to fit and have a draw string neck. Iris even included a little swatch of the knitted up fabric to test in the wash before we potentially accidentally shrink them.
As you can see she's not massively happy about wearing this little warm number when it's already 24degrees in pants.
Everything I’ve knitted her I made in 3-6 months or -6-12 months size but she’s still in the diddy 0-3months sizes, so hopefully she’ll get to wear the bits I’ve knitted for her too when the cooler weather arrives.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Things that happened last week

Knit Nation kicked me into gear and I finished Wilbur the Wale. Florence likes his textured stitching.

I made cupcakes for the first time in 5 months. Oh how I missed baking.

I took Flo to baby sensory, which is basically a room of lights, noisy toys and tactile bits and bobs to play with. She loved it!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Tales from a Knit Nation

Yesterday I left the Mr in bed with Flo and took a trip across town to the latest knitting show on the block, Knit Nation. At first I was a bit concerned that it was only going to take me 10 minutes to get round as the room looked a little small, however it was a case of small but perfectly formed. There was just the right amount of stalls, all carefully picked to bring us the best yarns, notions, designers and accessories from around the world. Some of the bigger shows can get a little messy with random hair clips and glitter glue on sale in between the yarn stalls but there was no such fluff here, only fluff of the wooly kind.

It was so lovely to catch up with many of the vendors I’ve got to know over the years from being a visitor and volunteer at various knitting shows. Andy from was the first one I saw as I walked in and he was so glad to hear about Florence’s progress that he gave me a ball of pink Baby Rooster merino yarn to knit Flo something pretty with. What a fantastic start! I’m thinking I’ll maybe make a hat from the Wee Wooly Toppers book that my mum bought at her stall. Did you know the cute as a button boy in all the photos in this book are Wooly Wormhead’s son? He’s so adorable and she assured us that he loves to wear hats, which is probably a good thing when your mum’s a hat designer!

I had a lovely chat with Emma, the editor of Knitting Magazine and took a sneaky peak at Perri Lewis’s article which has taken over my spot at the back of the magazine while I’m on my break. Hopefully I’ll be back on the pages of Knitting magazine next year.

Over at Yoslda’s stall I acted like a massive stalker and generally said the wrong thing. I think she thought I was a bit of a nutter. Despite this, or maybe because of it, she signed both copies of her books for me and we had a photo taken her cute photo booth, with me wearing one of her designs.

I met the nice ladies from Denise needles, picked up some sock yarn from a stall I can’t remember the name of (sorry!) and made it down to the stand everyone was talking about Rohrspatz & Wollmeise. Apparently, because their yarns are not usually available in the UK there was a full on stampede when the doors opened on Thursday night. I hear there was screaming... scary! The stall was beautiful and the yarns were very lush.

On the other side of the room I chatted to Robin at Purlescence and met the nice people at Sparkle Duck (great name). I had a lovely long chat with Dixie from Nicols buttons, who was reluctant to let me take a picture of her. Eventually I manage to get the back of her head.

There were some amazing and inspiring kids deigns from Millamia a Swedish company. I caught up with some of the S&B London girls at the Knitting and Crochet Guild stall and then with the fabulous Eirwen from Knit Witches. Finally I stopped off at the Loop stall where I saw Meghan wearing a cute creation from Susan Cropper’s latest book of vintage gifts to knit. Whilst there I bought a ceramic button with a spool of thread printed on it a) because it was cute and b) because it has my name on it. How vain.

Finally I saw Ravelry creators Jess and Casey and felt very embarrassed to ask them for a photo. I was glad I did but didn’t realise they’d be so tall!

So in my opinion Knit Nation was a successful and really enjoyable day. All my pictures of the show can be found here including stalker-ish shots of all my favourite yarny people.