Hand-knitted hot water bottle cover

I’ve got something different for you today – the first non-garment ever to appear on this blog!

P1170403

For about two or three weeks now, my brain has been anticipating autumn and winter – I’ve found myself thinking about wool fabrics for my my autumn wardrobe, browsing A/W fashion collections in the September issues, and yesterday I even bought myself a pair of winter mittens I spotted in the sale.

When you move out of a city (I grew up in Leeds, and in my twenties I lived in London), the first thing you notice is how much more influence the weather has on your day-to-day life. Suddenly you’re not moving from one air-conditioned building to another, so the temperature and the climate make the seasons feel much more distinct. If you also have a dog to walk, the effect is magnified because you’re outside in all weathers.

P1170404

Last year, Mr Wardrobe and I made an effort to get into the hygge trend as a way to combat any winter blues. I’ve always loved winter, but even so, it’s still not easy to occupy an active pre-schooler in a small town on a wet day; there are weeks when the view from the office window is continually gloomy; and the endless mud that the dog brings home can start to get you down.

What seems to help is having the right kit – good-quality waterproofs for dog-walking, a bright light if you’re prone to seasonal affective disorder, and some really cosy gear for those evenings when nothing but a roaring woodburner and a mug of hot chocolate will do the trick.

On really cold nights, I love using a hot water bottle to make the bed all toasty before I sink into it, and this snuggly merino/cashmere blend cover should make it even better. (Plus it stops you scalding yourself if you’ve put too much boiling water in…) I knitted this using yet another pattern from my beginner’s book, Knitty Gritty by Aneeta Patel. It’s pretty simple – if you can knit and purl, you can easily knit this.

The yarn I used is actually an aran, rather than the double knit recommended by the pattern. That was mainly deliberate – and I like the densely packed effect it gives. Beige might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it goes really well with the bedroom curtains I sewed last year. I wouldn’t say I’m all set for autumn yet, but this takes me one step closer.

Do you love the changing of the seasons, or would you rather it was forever summer?

Knitted mittens

P1150947

So Broadchurch is back on ITV, and it seems to be more or less back on form. Half-decent TV means I like to have something to knit, and it’s still pretty cold on the pre-school run at the moment, so I thought I’d have a go at some mittens to match my pink hat.

I used another pattern from the Knitty Gritty book, and the same merino wool as for the hat. Using 5mm needles, as suggested in the book, they’ve come out fairly narrow. But they are stretchy, so I can get them on, and the snugness should help keep my hands warm while we see out the last of the winter weather.

If I were making these again (there’s no gauge guide in the book – the author thinks beginners wouldn’t be bothered with swatching, or that their tension wouldn’t be consistent enough for it to help much), I’d size up to a fractionally larger needle, and I wouldn’t make them quite as long as suggested by the measurements in the pattern. (Really unusual for me – my hands are fairly large,  and I always buy a large in Marigolds!)

They knit up quickly on straight needles, and my sewing up has improved a bit so the side seams have come out quite tidily this time. The book also includes pattern variations for children and babies (the babies’ mittens don’t have a thumb section.) And if you’re looking for an alternative mitten pattern, I’ve also spotted this free one from Tin Can Knits.

 

 

Hand-knitted baby cardigan

After my first kiddie cardie, I swore I’d have another go to see if I could fix one or two things that didn’t go to plan last time. And here it is.

P1110681

This one is the smaller, baby size, from the pattern I found in Knitty Gritty and it’s for my new nephew who was born in March. I used a blue cashmerino double knit yarn – Rialto DK in colourway 510. It’s a mid-blue with just a hint of lilac – you might call it periwinkle?

I realised that I’d measured the front section from the wrong point last time so this time the front and back are the same length. And I managed not to drop any stitches so it’s a bit neater overall.

P1110678

My favourite bit is definitely the ladybird buttons – so cute. Now I just have to hope it fits!

What should I knit next? I’d like to try something that’s worked at least partly on either circular or double-pointed needles. I’ve got a couple of ideas from Ravelry, but I’d love to know what patterns you’d recommend for beginners.

Kiddie cardie

My first hand-knitted cardigan is finally complete – and in Kids’ Clothes week, too.

P1110523
Train buttons!

I started this in early December, when it seemed as though the winter was going to consist of lots of sitting around. Things haven’t exactly worked out like that (my son has dropped his nap, for example, so I no longer sit around in the car waiting for him to wake up!)  But I have managed to finish it before he grew too big to fit into it.

I won’t lie, it does contain one or two dropped stitches and the back seems longer than the front. But you have to be prepared to make some mistakes to learn anything. I learnt some new skills on this project, including:

  • casting on and off part of a garment at a time
  • pick up and knit
  • eyelet buttonholes

It was a beginner pattern with no gauge guide so all the sizing was pretty approximate. I added an inch to the length on both the front and the back because my boy’s long and lean.

P1110527

This project also gave me an opportunity to use the train buttons I’d been saving since last year. He loves those.

And looking at this critically, I’d say my sewing up has definitely improved. I’m now looking for another very easy jumper or cardigan pattern I can try that’ll fit age 3/4. I’ll scour Ravelry, but do let me know if there’s one you’d recommend.

P1110516
He’s a reluctant model

Cost:

Pattern from Knitty Gritty (£14.99). This is my seventh make from it, so that’s £2.14 per make.

Wool from my local yarn shop, The Knitting Parlour, about £12. It’s Rico Creative Sport Print DK in Colour 003. It’s 50% cotton and 50% acrylic, so it was tricky to knit with and it’s very thin for a DK.

Train buttons from my other local yarn shop (!), The Wool Shack, about £1

Total: roughly £15

Supersoft pink beanie hat

P1100337

It’s definitely turned wintry here in Worcestershire this week. All the leaves have gone from the trees (revealing this year’s mistletoe) and the wind’s got up. All of which means it’s time to don a warm, woolly hat for my regular walks on the Malvern Hills. And this year, for the first time, I’ve made my winter hat myself!

P1100347
This was taken on the Worcestershire Beacon – you can see the southern Malverns behind me.

This is the third project I’ve made from Knitty Gritty. It’s quite simple for beginners  – there’s some rib stitch, lots of garter stitch and then a straightforward decreasing section to shape the hat. I used straight needles, so there’s a seam up the back of the hat (not my finest moment, but I have found a better technique for weaving in the ends this time).

P1100345
I really need to get better at sewing up!

I’d been eyeing up similar hats I’d seen in ME + EM, so I decided to make this one in pale pink wool. (And I decided yesterday that I’ll also add a grey fake fur pom pom on the top.) The wool is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in colour 300603, and I love it. I can see myself prancing around in the snow or ice skating in this hat. OK, maybe not, but you get the idea.

P1100338

Costs:

Pattern book £14.99 – used for six projects so far

Needles £4.50 – used for four projects so far

Wool £10

Fake fur pom pom (ordered but not yet arrived) £7

So I estimate this project cost me £20. Yes, cheaper hats are available, but ME + EM are charging £98 for their version, so I’m pretty happy with that.

Knitting seems to be becoming a regular habit with me, so I’ve also signed up to Ravelry

Knitting 101: my first makes

A confession: I’ve been bitten by the knitting bug.

It started as a way to keep my hands busy on a long train journey (Worcestershire > Berlin and back). With a toddler in tow and several borders to cross, I didn’t want to be doing anything involving sharp needles or scissors.

Secondly, toddlers quickly put a stop to anything that takes your attention away from them (goodbye reading, listening to music, watching films, doing anything on a computer or drinking your tea while it’s hot). My husband’s aunt can knit, watch TV and read a book all at the same time, so I was hoping to at least be able to talk to my two-year old about his Lego while I knit. So far, I can report that he seems very curious about knitting, loves talking to me about it and poking the needle into the ball of wool.

Thirdly… I love knitwear. I wear a jumper almost every day from September until April. My favourite season is winter and I really enjoy the sensation of snuggling up in hats, scarves and mittens to go out in the cold. I gravitate towards knitwear in clothes shops (OK, this might be partly due to fitting issues with RTW woven garments) and I was secretly gutted when jackets and blazers replaced cardies and pashminas as the dressed-up cover up of choice.

I’m a long way from knitting myself a jumper at the moment, but I thought I’d share a few of my beginner’s makes with you and hopefully you can point me towards some easy makes I could try next.

So far, I’ve just been working through Knitty Gritty by Aneeta Patel. I like this book because it really does assume you know nothing. Literally nothing. She teaches you how to cast on, knit, purl, and combine stitches, and provides some simple patterns you can try as they are or adapt if you’re feeling brave. I’ve supplemented it with some YouTube videos to see knitting in action. (NB If you buy this book, you should be aware that some copies contain errors – you’ll want to check the corrections.)

My makes so far are:

  1. A scarf for me in simple garter stitch (best to practise on yourself first, I always think). I love this multicoloured, super bulky, textured wool, but it wasn’t the ideal choice for this project as the scarf doesn’t hold its shape brilliantly. That said, it does cover up your mistakes…

    Exhibit 1: Rowan Big Wool Colour in Fairground, using 10mm needles
    Exhibit 1: Rowan Big Wool Colour in Fairground, using 10mm needles
  2.  A scarf for my son. He chose the colour, and I went for a super bulky acrylic yarn that felt soft and would wash easily. It’s not been cold enough for him to wear it yet but he says he likes it!

    Patons Fab Big super chunky in Frost, also on 10mm needles
    Patons Fab Big super chunky in Frost
  3. Baby booties. My sister’s expecting a baby at the moment and so I thought this would be a good gift for her. Double knit wool was a very different experience and I learnt to decrease. You can see here I’ve got the classic uneven tension that marks out beginner knitters – maybe the baby will have different sized feet to fit these unevenly sized booties?

    I've lost the label for this wool, so I don't remember anything other than the weight - double knit, on 5mm needles
    I’ve lost the label for this wool, so I don’t remember anything other than the weight – double knit, on 5mm needles
  4. A hat for my nephew. Again, this is in double knit wool, and deliberately knitted on 5mm needles (at Aneeta’s suggestion) so that’s it’s stretchy. I need to work on my sewing up but I’m pretty pleased with this for a first effort at a rib stitch. I’m now trying another one in a pink aran wool for me.

    Sirdar acrylic double knit in lipstick, on 5mm needles. This picture makes the wool look almost radioactive - it's actually much nicer in real life, I promise.
    Sirdar acrylic double knit in lipstick, on 5mm needles. This picture makes the wool look almost radioactive – it’s actually much nicer in real life, I promise.

Things I’d like to learn soon: a different cast on to make the hat hem neater, how to correct mistakes, how to sew up neatly (I have this Craftsy class in my queue), and what all those different complicated looking needles are for – I’ve only used straight ones so far.

I’m a bit overwhelmed by Ravelry at the moment – there’s just so much to look at and I get distracted by all the gorgeous pictures. What would you suggest I could try next?