I love you…How To!

Happy Saturday afternoon readerinos! The weather is rather questionable here today so I’m taking the opportunity to potter about the flat. I do like a weekend to get organised, do little bits and bobs and feel a bit more collected. It makes me happy when everything is clean and in order. Yes, I know how that sounds, but it’s not hurting anybody ūüėČ

So a few weeks ago my friend Hannah (hi Hannah!) asked for some more details on the embroidered hoop I made for my mum for Mother’s Day. I’ve been thinking how best to explain it, and I thought a little blog post might help. It’s very simple, as you will see!

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What you need:

Then, it comes down to three steps:

  1. Position the fabric in the smaller of the two hoops and draw on the design. I found that you need to use a ruler to position the lines and draw them straight. I did it freehand first and it looked rubbish and I had to re-do it. Then write your message – it can be anything you like but if you are new to embroidery a short phrase is best.
  2. Now put it in the bigger hoop to start the embroidery. The design is made with backstitch. This is a really simple embroidery stitch and if I can do it you guys definitely can! If you are worried about your stitches looking uneven, go for the aida rather than cotton fabric – it has holes in it already and you can use them to guarantee even stitches. You can get more character in your writing with cotton though, so it’s up to you.¬†Rather than a photo tutorial (which always confuse me) here is a YouTube video of how to do backstitch. I started with the horizontal blue lines, then the vertical red, and finished with the text.
  3. Put the design back in the smaller hoop and position it so that the screw is at the top. That way¬†you can use it to hang up¬†your finished hoop. Trim the excess fabric to¬†within about 2cm of the hoop and glue what’s left to the hoop. If you have one, use a glue gun, but¬†superglue will work fine too.

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Done! It really is simple but super effective. Enjoy your embroidery!

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Welcome to the world!

Morning campers! Happy Belated Easter, the chocolatey-est, and therefore one of my favourite celebratory weekends. Also, 4 day weekend! Bliss. I hope you all had suitably lazy and sugary weekends. I for one will never grow out of an Easter egg hunt, and thankfully it seems neither will my mum!

Of course Easter isn’t just about chocolate. It’s also about teeny tiny lambs popping up everywhere and chicks peep-peeping into the world and one of my friends contributed to that part of Easter with a fresh little baby; her second son Hayden.

I’ve never knitted for a baby before. I was a bad neglectful friend when Lucie had her first baby, and I didn’t knit little Eythan anything, for which I still feel bad. So it was all different for Hayden. I chose a nice zesty spearmint in a practical machine-washable acrylic and made this.

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A teeny tiny trio of warmth. (Photo by me.)

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I can’t decide if the hat is my favourite… (Photo by me.)

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…or the bootees. (Photo by me.)

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I think the mittens look like little fishies. (Photo by me.)

I chose classic roll-top bootees from a book, The Knitter’s Bible (which really is my bible) and went for a matching rolly hat that I found on Ravelry. I did adapt the hat a little, because I wasn’t in the mood to knit in the round. It translated to flat well enough and I think it’s rather dashing – it even looks a bit like a mini top hat in that photo! The mittens are the least matchy, because without a bit of ribbing those suckers would never stay on.

Anyway, they whizzed off in the post to Lucie and Chris the other day and I hope everyone likes them. I’m not sure they’ll be big enough, but it’s the thought that counts right? Soft things are lovely to have around no matter what.

Welcome to the world, Hayden! And congratulations to mummy and daddy and big bro Eythan.

Extra, extra, read all about it!

As part of our honeymoon, Steven and I visited Portland, Maine. We were only there for a few days, we stayed in a beautiful B&B, and we did some of my favourite things; ate incredible cakes, mooched in a very fine stationery shop and spent hours in a wonderful bookstore.

I don’t know about you guys, but I love a proper bricks-and-mortar book shop. Back in MK I used to love Ottakars, and then it became Waterstones. There’s nothing wrong with Waterstones, of course, but it wasn’t really the same (except that it kind of was, in every way, they just changed the name over the door). Here in Bath we have plenty of book shops. Topping and Company is my favourite, with it’s uneven wooden floors, swooshy ceiling fans and booky smell – they even give you free tea and coffee!

But I digress. In Portland I bought three new books, Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan, The Stories¬†of Breece D’J Pancake and Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons.

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(A fan of books, be still my beating heart! Photo by me.)

Maine was a piece of pure chick lit. The story of one family told by three generations of women, all totally diverse, but all the same on the most important levels (can you hear my faux-psychologist voice?) You know, schmaltzy but immersive and fun. I bought it because so much of the action takes place in towns and locations we visited on our honeymoon. For me it’s the literary version of postcards, and really what could be better than that? I’d give it a 3 out of 5 – light reading, especially good for by the pool on holiday, and wonderful for the memories it evokes for me personally.

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(Don’t you just want to be lying on a beach right now? Photo by me.)

As you may have guessed,¬†The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake is a collection of short stories. (Before we continue, yes, the author is called Breece D’J Pancake, no, D’J is not a name – it was a misprint of D.J. (for Dexter John) in a magazine that printed one of his stories and he stuck with it, and yes, his last name really is¬†Pancake – I’m jealous too.)¬†I’ve read half of the stories, pretty much all based in West Virginia during the 1960s and I really enjoyed them. Pancake has been compare to Hemingway many times and I can absolutely see the resemblance. Pancake’s stories have the same brutal honesty and simplicity, the same¬†intensity of feeling and focus on physical manly work, and in they are also very depressing. That’s why I’ve only read half of them I will go back to the rest, but I had to take a break from all the pain. It was putting a real downer on my morning reading! Perhaps one at a time is the way to go. 4 out of 5 – beautiful and thought provoking, but hard going.

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(Little foxy face! Photo by me.)

Ellen Foster is a revelation. I’d never heard of Kaye Gibbons, but I’m going to have to look out for more of her work. This, her first novel, is short, possibly more of a novella, and I read it in just a week. I like it all the more for that. I was so sucked in by the narrative, the voice of an 11-year-old girl who is trying to find a family, that I didn’t want to stop reading.

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(Fancy font for a fantastic book. Photo by me.)

There’s nothing sentimental about this story. It’s blunt in a lot of ways and it doesn’t shy away from racism, narrow-mindedness, suicide, murder and really awful relatives. But it’s all told with a refreshingly simple point of view. Yes, the things she goes through are horrible, but she’s happy¬†as long as she gets her frozen meals and her microscope. The innocence counters the darkness beautifully, and when you reach the end, you see so much more in it all.

There are quite a lot of characters, for such a short book, and you don’t get the kind of depth into most of them that I usually like, but it works with the narrator – a young child isn’t going to give you a deep analytical response to the people around them, they’re just going to tell you what they think, simply and honestly.

I thoroughly recommend Ellen Foster, to everyone. At just 126 pages, it’s not a mammoth undertaking, and it’s worth however long you take to read it. I promise.

What are you guys reading at the moment? Check back soon for more knitting news!

A bit of silk for summer

Good morning beautiful people! I don’t know about you, but I am so relieved it’s the weekend. Thank god for lie-ins, am I right?

So now that my pink cardi is all done and in the general rotation, and¬†my socks are chugging a long nicely in my lunch breaks (onto sock number two woo!) it’s time to show you new things around here.

Ages ago, and I mean months ago, I found the Purl Bee’s Silken Straw Summer Sweater. It was one of the first things I ever pinned, and I instantly fell in love with it. Bizarrely, I was hit by a very uncharacteristic bout of patience and consideration and have left it in the back of my mind all this time. I wasn’t about to splash out on the Silken Straw yarn ($30+ per skein, and I’d need 5 skeins!) but I did get my hands on some discontinued Debbie Bliss Pure Silk¬†(link to it’s replacement). 8 skeins in complementary colours. How often does that happen? I’ve got about 150 meters more than I need which is perfect, because I had to do a bit of adaptation (eek!)

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(Photo from the Purl Bee. I may have to recreate this with my finished object. Shame my room isn’t pure white…)

The pattern is very simple, and that’s one of the things that drew me to it in the first place. It’s all about the yarn and the clean lines. But it only comes in two sizes and that was a bit of a sticky spot for me. All of the dimensions in the large size were perfect, except for the bust. I needed another 10cm (4in) to fit the girls in. Handily, that’s my tension measurement¬†(thank god I did a swatch!) so I knew exactly how many more stitches I needed, but I wasn’t sure how to get them in. The great knitting guru Faye helped me with some maths and now I’m good to go when I get to that bit. Did you read that? “When I get to that bit.” I actually read ahead and planned ahead in a pattern! This is huge growth for me!

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(Photo by me. Stripy stripy…the pink bit is so curly!)

Anyway, I’ve just started the waist shaping and I’m loving it. It’s knitted in the round from the bottom up, just acres and acres of stocking stitch (perfect to go with my new TV addiction – Modern Family). I had 5 skeins of mint (yes, that’s what that swatch was!) 1 of purple, 1 of blue and 1 of pink. I decided to do a 5cm stripe of each at the bottom, then if I can work out how, I’ll mirror it on the sleeves too. Hopefully it will all tie in and look beautiful. It’s going really well so far, the mint is definitely my favourite – good thing that’s the one I have most of! I think it’s going to be a really valuable addition to my summer wardrobe, and hopefully, the timing will be perfect.

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(Photo by me. It’s growing so fast.)

I’ll keep you posted, as ever, and soon I shall be showing you sock progress too…thrilling, I know.

I love my mum!

Howdy doody readers! Happy Official Summertime to my British readers. Isn’t it lovely to have a bit of light in the evenings? Although my body has not adjusted to that 1 hour time difference. Can I get up in the mornings? Can I heck as like!

Happy Mother’s Day for last Sunday! I hope all you kids pampered your mums and all you mums got a chance to relax. I myself was a naughty daughter and spent the weekend in Brighton with some friends who I barely get to see (my mum’s wonderful though and she was completely understanding.) My big brother took good care of her all by himself, and I think she had a thoroughly lovely day. Here are some snaps from sunny B-town.

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(Isn’t Brighton beautiful? Top down: The Brighton Pavilion, The West Pier, The Boardwalk. Thanks Imo and Ed for having us!)

This situation meant I needed a present that I could pop in the post safely. Mum’s had quite a few hand-knits from me (remember the shawl?) so I wanted to give her something a bit different, but something still hand-made, that had my love poured into it from the very beginning. I did a bit of Pinterest surfing (as one does for inspiration these days) and found so much hoop art that it was all I could think about.

For those who don’t know, hoop art entails embroidery and other textile art that is framed and displayed in an embroidery hoop. It’s genius in it’s simplicity because frames never quite do textiles justice, in my opinion. Check it out!

Now, I may have mentioned here that my sewing is rudimentary and my patience is non-existent so embroidery was a bit of a gamble. That knowledge steered me towards a very simple design, that I just couldn’t mess up. Wanna see? Of course you do.

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Plain and simple, no muss no fuss, just saying it how it is. The whole thing is just backstitch! Beautiful in it’s clean lines, eh? I copied Rugglestitch, who used to sell these on Etsy. Her shop seems to be closed though, unfortunately. (Photo by me.)

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(Dramatic by the window. Photo by me.)

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(Propped on the typewriter, of course. Photo by me.)

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And because it took me ages to find a tutorial that told you how to finish it off, here is the back. You just have to glue gun the excess fabric to the hoop! That part was really fun. Just make sure you are happy with the positioning before applying hot glue, mine could have been straighter… (Photo by me!)

Mum loved the piece of embroidery and my brother was particularly tickled that it still looks like my handwriting. I think that counts as a success. But next year, I think I’ll give the gift in person, eh mum?

Did you guys make anything wonderful for your mums this weekend?