Hand-knitted hot water bottle cover

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

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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.

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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?

Home and away

P1160645After deciding two years ago that no, I couldn’t take my sewing machine on holiday with me – not even if Mr Wardrobe agreed to power it by cycling – I took up knitting.

For me, the best thing about knitting is that it’s so portable. You can take it almost anywhere and if you’ve only got ten minutes, you can still make some progress. I’ve knitted on trains, in waiting rooms, in hotel rooms, and in a fair few holiday cottages.

Last week, I visited my parents in Yorkshire, and it felt like the perfect time to start a new project.

If the worst thing about going away is that I can’t take my sewing machine, then the upside is definitely getting to visit new crafty places. So I used a trip to Leeds as an excuse to drop in on Baa Ram Ewe, an independent yarn shop in north Leeds. Baa and away (!) the best place to snuggle up to local yarn in Leeds, the shop had some fantastically strokeable alpaca yarn and some gorgeous tweedy colours to choose from. I have my eye on this for when I’m ready to try knitting socks.

I came away with the needles and some Debbie Bliss merino yarn to knit up a hot water bottle cover. Plus a sheepish project bag to keep it all in.

This coming week I’m going to be in woolly north Wales, so I suspect I might return with more yarn.

Which craft do you like to take on holiday? Or do you just stack up a mountain of hand stitching and take that instead?

Where knitting meets sewing

Call me ignorant (on second thoughts, please don’t), but until recently, I’d never really considered how knitted garments are made up.

Having just about mastered a knit and a purl, it came as an unpleasant surprise to learn that I’d also have to learn garter mattress stitch, stocking mattress stitch and backstitch to bring my first few garments together.

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A child’s cardigan I’ve just completed – except for the sewing up.

I’m not finding this easy…

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You can see the untidy seam at the back of my first knitted hat in this picture.

I don’t rate the section in the book I’m using, Knitty Gritty, on sewing up. The author admits that she doesn’t enjoy it, and I think the pictures are too small to see what’s going on.

I’ve tried a selection of YouTube videos, but so far, I haven’t uncovered one that makes it simple to follow.

The best resource I’ve found so far is a Craftsy class – The Essential Guide to Finishing Handknits, taught by Anne Hanson. It’s a lot more information than I need right now, but it’s clear and relatively easy to follow.

Can you recommend a great book, tutorial or video on sewing up handknits? And what do you think is the best way to learn a skill like this?