Monday, 26 June 2017

FO: The raspberry dress

This weekend, amid the chaos of several birthday parties, I decided that what I really wanted to do was sew a dress for my daughter. This has been on my to-do list for ages, and a few weeks ago I found a tutorial (in a sewing magazine) for turning a t-shirt into a dress (by adding a fabric skirt), so decided that was what I was going to do.

Yesterday afternoon I set to work, and started reading the tutorial, only to find that it was almost entirely useless: the only measurement given was that the skirt fabric should be four times the waist measurement, and there was no indication of whether that was the width across the waist, or around the waist, and nothing at all about how long the skirt should be. At which point I went upstairs to find one of my daughter's dresses in the right style and decided to make it up as I went along.

The dress I was working from had pockets, and as I love having pockets in all my clothing I decided to stretch myself and draft some pockets. I had a roll of pattern paper to hand, which made the job a lot easier, but I essentially took the measurements from the dress I had to hand and transferred them to the paper, and quite quickly had a template for the front and back of the skirt and some pockets, and got to work cutting the fabric.

The fabric I chose to use was super-cheap - an IKEA duvet cover that was in the sale a couple of years ago - and features a busy raspberry-print, which works any way up, avoiding the need for pattern-matching. I decided to use French seams (which are enclosed - I don't have an overlocker, and hate finishing seams, so this is my preferred method), and quite quickly managed to create the pockets and attach them to the skirt front (although I did have a moment of panic when I pressed one pocket inside out, so it didn't fit at all!). Seaming the front and back of the skirt together once the pockets were in place was easy (I stitched the tops and sides of the pockets in place on the overlap with the skirt front to stop them moving around), and only took a few minutes.

The challenge started when I had to attach the skirt to the top. The skirt is made of non-stretchy fabric and the t-shirt is jersey (which stretches), and is not something I have worked with before. My sewing machine is pretty basic, and doesn't have an overlocking stitch, so I used a zig-zag stitch (to allow the stitching to move with the t-shirt as it's worn), and after gathering and pinning the skirt, I managed to sew the t-shirt on inside out, then spent the rest of the evening unpicking and repinning (I used a lot more pins the second time round to stop the gathers shifting). Oops.

This morning I was up bright and early, so quickly stitched the skirt and t-shirt together, and hemmed the skirt, then managed to convince my daughter to wear it (she initially said she wanted to wear it tomorrow, which usually means she isn't keen on something). And I think she likes it. She certainly likes the pockets - they are perfect for collecting clover flowers, which our garden is full of at the minute!

The dress is not perfect. There is a bit of a wobble at the back in the seam joining the top and bottom of the dress, and the gathers could be more even. Also, the zig-zag stitch isn't doing very well at supporting the weight of the skirt, so I might go over the stitching with a straight stretch stitch when she takes it off at bedtime. But it's certainly not a bad first attempt. And now I have the pattern pieces, I foresee a few more dresses appearing in the future! I also want to make something for myself - maybe a skirt with pockets now I know how to do them.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Yarning Along: Hello Summer!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Snuffle, snuffle: Hedgehog and Hoglets available now!

Some of you may remember that last October I had a pattern published in Knit Now for a blanket featuring three hedgehogs. Well, the rights have reverted to me and the pattern is now available in my Ravelry store.

I have always loved hedgehogs - something that probably started with my mum reading The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle to me when I was little - and a quick search on Pinterest will always bring up a lot of beautiful images of woodland-themed nurseries, so I thought that hedgehogs would make an excellent image for a baby blanket. The Hedgehog and Hoglets blanket features a cute little hedgehog family, with two baby hedgehogs (hoglets) following their mum.

This blanket is knitted in one piece from the bottom up, with a moss stitch border knitted at the same time as the rest of the blanket, so once you've finished knitting the only finishing required is darning in the ends. The hedgehogs are knitted into the blanket using the intarsia technique; the facial features can either be knitted in, or added at the end using duplicate stitch.

As an experiment, I have included written instructions for the intarsia portion of the blanket, as well as the usual charts. If this approach is successful I'll start including written instructions for all my future intarsia designs, so let me know in the comments if this is something you'd like to see more of.

Head to my Ravelry store to pick up your copy. If you use the code SNUFFLE you'll be able to buy the pattern for £3.25, rather than the usual price of £4 (the code is valid until 11.59pm BST, Friday June 30th 2017). If you start knitting now you might even have time to finish the blanket in time to gift it to an autumn arrival! 

Like the blanket, but would prefer it if the background was a different colour? The blanket is knitted in a standard aran-weight yarn (the sample is knitted in King Cole Fashion Aran*), so you can use any aran weight yarn you would like. I would recommend using a machine washable wool or wool/acrylic blend yarn to make the blanket easy to care for.

Beige not your thing? Feel free to choose any colours you'd prefer!

As ever, I would love to see your finished blanket. You can share pictures via Ravelry or Love Knitting by linking your finished project to the pattern page, or via Instagram by tagging your image #vikkibirddesigns

Happy knitting!

*Affiliate link.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sitting still and finding shade

Today it is too hot to do anything, including knit, read, cook, in fact anything beyond sitting. In a strange twist of fate I have nothing urgent to knit, so am quite happy to spend a day just sitting. I did sew some buttons on to the short-sleeved sample of my Barley Twist cardigan (pattern coming next month), and that's quite enough work for the time being. I have spent the afternoon sat in the shade at soft play, contemplating ice cream.

My brother has been to visit this weekend, and yesterday we took a picnic to the Bowes Musuem in Barnard Castle. The Bowes Musuem is a building built as a museum and to look like a French chateau, which is a little surreal in Teesdale - certainly not in keeping with the surrounding architecture - and it is an amazing treasure trove of artwork and exhibits, not least the large silver swan automaton that is forms the centre of the collection. The swan was built by clockmakers 245 years ago, and its 30 second sequence is played at 2pm every day; my kids were impressed, which is saying something! The other thing the kids really enjoyed was the kids quiz sheet (possibly because of the promised prize of a lollipop), and they each whizzed round the building looking for the exhibits shown in the clues. Definitely somewhere to go back to another day!

Hopefully my knitting mojo will return in the next day or two. This is the week to think about Christmas knits, so I can get them published in time for the start of September. There's nothing quite like knitting an adult-sized aran-weight jumper in June... For the time being though, if you want me I'll be hiding indoors reading a book.

Stay cool everyone!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Yarning Along: Whistling by!

The past week has whistled by, I genuinely have no idea where it's gone. When I last posted it was election night, and I was looking forward to spending the evening and early hours knitting away busily, which I proceeded to do. After the exit poll predicting a hung parliament, seats were called rather slower than usual, so I knitted my Barley Twist sample until 12.30, then called it a day and went to bed. I don't think I slept terribly well, and got up at 5 to watch the declarations for the final few seats, and spent the rest of the day, and large portions of this week, following the fall-out on the radio, TV, and internet.

All the time I have spent watching election coverage this week probably goes some way to explaining why I have read so little. I am still reading The Lake House by Kate Morton, and am enjoying it, not that I have much to show for my limited reading time this week. At the current rate of reading, borrowing a book from the library last week looks excessively optimistic...

My knitting time this week has been dedicated to knitting a sample for a magazine, which I'll get to share with you in the autumn. Yesterday I finally got back to my Barley Twist sample and now have a completed yoke and a decent amount of the body done. I have a couple of weeks until the pattern launches in my Ravelry store, so plenty of time, especially as the cardigan is in aran-weight yarn, and only in age 2! I spent a lovely hour or so sat in the garden yesterday knitting, accompanied by my shiny new Griffindor bag, which is perfect for throwing knitting in when I'm out and about.

One thing I have been enjoying this week is watching all the bees pollinating the flowers. Every morning on our walk to and from school my daughter delights in bending down to sniff the flowers and watch the bees. She finds them fascinating, and they are absolutely everywhere at the minute - mostly huge fat bumble bees - so there are plenty of opportunities for bee-watching!
What have you been excited about this week?
Joining in with Rachel for Yarning Along.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Election-night knitting

Today there is a general election in the UK, and while anyone sensible will go to bed at the normal time, sleep soundly and wake up to the result in the morning, I am a bit of a stats geek (I have a doctorate in physics, it goes with the territory), so will stay up way too late and watch the results unfold.

Of course my night of election stats will be accompanied by some knitting, and here's how I think my knitting will unfold.

10pm-midnight: Polls close at 10, so the first couple of hours of the results coverage are purely speculative, based on the exit polls, which are notorious for being wrong. Interviews will be with journalists and pollsters. This is the perfect time to get on with some more complex knitting. I shall be casting on a final test knit for my Barley Twist pattern,* and am hoping to get a decent portion of the yoke done by midnight.

My plan for early on in the election night coverage

Midnight-2am: By now a few of the results will be in, certainly not enough to give a proper picture of what the result in the morning will be, but the interviews will be slightly more detailed. By now it will be past my usual bedtime, and tiredness will be kicking in. Now is a good time to move on to some simpler knitting - a nice vanilla sock or a garter stitch shawl (ideally in a bright colour so you can see dropped stitches easily). I might have to cast on the second of my pink striped socks during the day today so I have something for this period of the night.

Bright striped vanilla socks are ideal for knitting on when you're tired

2am onwards: The results start coming in faster from 2am, and often it becomes more obvious where the election is heading. By now any knitting is a pretence - I'll be too tired to do anything terribly sensible, and I'll be paying more attention to the results. I'll stay awake until some of the seats of personal significance have been declared (repeatedly saying phrases such as 'I'll be up after the next seat has been declared', then staying up for another two hours), crawl to bed, missing the part of the night (3am-6am) when most of the results come in. 

Friday morning: When I get up tomorrow the result will probably have been declared, and I'll spend tomorrow morning sleepily looking through the results. I don't imagine a huge amount of knitting will get done (and there may be mistakes form the night before that need fixing) but a lot of coffee will be drunk!

One day I will learn to go for the opposite approach of having a long nap on Thursday evening and getting back up at midnight for the results... As it is, I will be using the baking I did with the kids this morning while it rained as sustenance to keep me awake!

Chocolate and cheesy bread; perfect late-night snacks

Are you staying up to watch the results come in? Or being sensible and waiting for the result in the morning?

*The pattern will be available next month. If you want to be notified when it goes on sale, sign up to my newsletter.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Rain, rain go away...

This week has been a bitty one: it poured with rain all day on Monday and Tuesday (making the school runs super-fun), and today it's blowing a gale. Tomorrow my son's school is shut for the general election,* so we're totally out of routine, and it's all a bit chaotic, but I'm sure we'll survive.

I spent this morning at soft play (it's too windy to play outside today) with my latest project and my latest read. The project is a commission, so this is all you're getting: some beautifully soft Merino DK from Yarn Stories.** The book is Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes, which I've been wanting to get a copy of for ages!

The cute bookmark that came with my book order

It was my birthday a couple of months ago and I got a book token from my mum, which is a huge treat as far as I'm concerned. I love getting book tokens as they give me an excuse to browse in book shops. I have visited a couple of book shops since my birthday, but none of them had Tilly Walnes' book, which was what I was thinking of buying. I was about to give up and buy it online from Amazon (I had Amazon vouchers too, but I had mentally assigned those to new shoes), when it occurred to me to check whether you can use book tokens online and it turns out you can, hooray! So I ordered a copy, which arrived last week, and took it out with me this morning to browse while I knitted.
I really had planned only to have a bit of a look at the pattern pictures, and make a mental to do list from the book, but I started reading the introduction and got hooked. I've read the first 50 or so pages, and even though I've been sewing for years I've picked up a few hints and tips (such as securing the end of the stitching on a dart by hand-tying a double knot rather than by reverse-stitching; and using shorter stitches when navigating curves), so I'm looking forward to reading the rest, and might even make a few projects from it - I might start with the Margot pyjama bottoms.

Lovely tutorial photos

I have been itching to do some sewing this week, and at the weekend I bought a magazine aimed at beginner sewists as I liked the patterns that come with it. There's also a tutorial inside to make a children's dress out of a t-shirt and a long strip of fabric (the tutorial was originally from Make it, Own it, Love it by Matt Chapple). My daughter has plenty of dresses in a similar style in her wardrobe and she wears them a lot, so this afternoon I bought a couple of plain t-shirts from Asda's school range to turn into cute summer dresses. Hopefully I'll get at least one stitched this weekend.

Cute dress idea! I might switch the skirt to a gathered one rather than pleats

Having read this, you may wonder how I'm getting on with the project and book I shared last week for Yarning Along? Well, I have managed about 50 pages of the book, and I am enjoying it, but not as much as Kate Morton's other books, I have no idea why as the styles are very similar. Maybe it's something as simple as the book being a rather heavy hardback? I have finished the first pink striped sock though, and promptly stole the needle for another project. I have added another 2 mm circular to my Love Knitting** basket, and I'll probably place an order tonight so I can work on both projects at the same time - I seem to be lacking vanilla knitting at the minute.

As ever, linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. Head over to her post to see posts from other bloggers on crafting and reading. Happy crafting.

*If you live in the UK and are registered to vote, go and vote; whatever you may think, your vote does count and you should make your voice heard.
**Affiliate link.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

More cheese Gromit?

Yesterday I lost one of my great childhood heroes: Peter Sallis. Peter Sallis was one of the stars of a programme called Last of the Summer Wine, a programme about three pensioners who lived in the Yorkshire Dales and behaved like small boys (think firing each other out of cannons and racing down hills in shopping trolleys), which I watched every Sunday afternoon with my siblings. And while those Sunday afternoons are fond memories for me, had Peter Sallis only been in Last of the Summer Wine, I doubt my heart would have skipped a beat yesterday when I heard of his death.

In 1989 a new animated feature came to the television, featuring Wallace, a nervous inventor from Yorkshire, and his faithful, silent, dog Gromit, whose powers of observation were far greater than those of Wallace's. The programme was called A Grand Day Out and the plot followed Wallace building a rocket in his basement, then blasting to the moon to go and find some cheese for a picnic. I loved that programme and those that followed: The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and a full-length film called The Curse of the Were Rabbit.* Watching the episodes was always a highlight of bank holiday weekends, when they would be shown mid-afternoon and we would try and get home from days out in time to watch them together as a family. These programmes inspired me to build with plasticine (modelling clay), make animated videos, invent things and draw blueprints. I owned a lot of Wallace and Gromit merchandise - annuals, jigsaws, a t-shirt featuring Gromit sat up in bed knitting, even Christmas crackers than contained models of the all characters. While a lot of my love for these programmes and characters is down to Nick Park and Aardman Animation, it I can also be credited to Peter Sallis, who voiced Wallace, perfect with his nervous Yorkshire accent (which I found out yesterday, after Sallis' death was not in fact Peter Sallis' natural voice but the one he decided would work best for the character), and for that reason will always be fondly remembered by me.

So farewell Peter, and with you Wallace. You shall both be missed.

Image source: Copyright remains with the copyright holder.

*There is also a fourth half-hour long feature that I totally forgot about when drafting this post - A Matter of Loaf and Death.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Out of the half term bubble

For the last week I've been living in a half term bubble, with both kids out of school and nursery for the week there's been less time for knitting, and more time for playing. We've been to soft play, visited friends (and had friends to visit), my daughter got to meet a mermaid (ok, an actress dressed as a mermaid, but my daughter is two, so the mermaid was definitely real), I had a pedicure and cocktails with friends, and it's all been lovely.

Half term knitting = vanilla socks. I'm looking forward to something more complex!

Last night I got the hint that we've out of routine for too long - there's no good time to run out of nappies, but on a Sunday after all the shops have shut is a particularly bad one (I did manage to find a couple in one of my rucksacks, so it was all fine, but I really do need to go to the shops). Today we're bumping back to the usual routine: school and nursery runs, being up and dressed before 11, packed lunches and a food shop (and name-tape sewing - with just seven weeks of school left my son has grown out of all of his trousers. I'm keeping my fingers tightly crossed that he doesn't need more at the end of the summer holidays!). It's currently raining, but this morning I'll have a couple of hours peace (and no Bubble Guppies or Nexo Knights - the current favourites - in the background). And I'm quite looking forward to that!

Hope you're having a lovely Monday.


I can't post without mentioning the terrorist incident in London this weekend. It could have been any of us involved, any of my friends or family, and my thoughts are with all the victims and their families. I do not have any solutions.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Indie June at Love Knitting

June is here, already! The sun is shining, the washing is out and it's time to look ahead to the new month.

This month is Indie June at Love Knitting, an annual event to promote independent knitwear designers. Love Knitting have done a huge amount for indie designers since they helped Ravelry out a few years ago when new rules on VAT on PDF patterns came in, and do an excellent job of promoting patterns written by independent designers.

Indie June banner, copyright Love Knitting

Throughout June, a number of designers, myself included, are offering a selection of their patterns with a discount (the prices shown are the discount codes are needed). All the discounted patterns can be found here, and I'm offering 10% off my Fluffy White Clouds baby blanket, the Rudi jumper, and any of the socks in my Knit Night Collection (Lynda, Sara Elin and Amy). There will also be other offers relating to Independent Designers over the course of the month, so keep checking Love Knitting to find out more.

Fluffy White Clouds
Rudi jumper
Knit Night Collection: (L to R) Sara Elin, Lynda and Amy

As a further incentive to get involved, Love Knitting are offering the chance to win a £100 Love Knitting voucher for anyone who shares a project knitted using a pattern by an independent designer with the Love Knitting community and tags the project #IndieJune2017. You'll need an account with Love Knitting to enter; full details can be found on the Love Knitting blog.

**Disclaimer: I am an affiliate with Love Knitting, and all of the links in this post are affiliate links - if you buy something from Love Knitting having arrived there through one of the links on this page I will be paid a commission. I am a huge fan of Love Knitting and would recommend them and their work even without being an affiliate.**

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Goldilocks and the three knitting needles

It's half term this week, so knitting has to be easy and portable. So far this week I have finished the first of the pair of socks I shared for Yarning Along last week (I still can't share much, I want to do a big reveal when I have both done), then stole the needles from them to finish my Yarn Shop Day socks, which are done, hooray! The needles then got transferred to my pink striped socks that I'm knitting for the Brit Knit KAL* that is being run by Amy of Stranded Dyeworks.

Finished socks

Why do I keep transferring my needles between projects? It turns out I'm like Goldilocks when it comes to knitting needles: the Hiya Hiya sharps are too sharp (and are being donated to a friend; in combination with my knitting style the needles are lethal!), the cheap needles my Yarn Shop Day socks were on have awful joins, and I've bent one of the tips. The red and blue socks were on Knit Pro Novas and those needles are just right: the tips are not so pointy they hurt my pushing finger, but not so blunt it takes effort to 'find' the stitches. Which is why they are being passed between sock projects (yes, I should just buy some more, I will next time I order yarn). I'll finish the first pink sock, then return the needles to the red, blue and yellow socks, knit the second of those, then use the needles again for the second pink sock.

A bit bent!
Too sharp!

Reading has been slow since last week. I gave up on the book I was reading (Be Frank With Me); I'm sure it was interesting, but the writing style wasn't working for me and I didn't get beyond page 50. Last night I restarted The Lake House by Kate Morton, which I started reading last year, but got distracted from. I'm only a chapter in, but am hoping to make good progress over the next week - Kate Morton's writing style is definitely one I enjoy and I tend to read her books very quickly.

The sign of a good book - an intergrated book mark!

This morning the kids and I went to the cinema to see a kids' screening of Sing which I very much enjoyed. The story is based around an X-Factor style singing competition devised to save someone's theatre, and features lots of characters who find themselves through singing. I found the film cute without being nauseating, and there were plenty of jokes for everyone, so I'd definitely recommend it if you have young children who want entertaining.

Joining in with Rachel for Yarning Along.

*Ravelry link; you need to be logged into Ravelry for this link to work.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Perfect weather for sock knitting

After last week's crazy hot weather, the bank holiday weekend was, as ever, a bit of a let-down, weather-wise. Saturday was stormy, but the bits between the storms were actually quite nice, and a bit fresher than the heat of the week. Yesterday was lovely, but I was at a christening for the morning and early afternoon, then went to soft play with the kids afterwards, so didn't really get to enjoy the sun. And today it has been wet all day. I did get a chance to go for a walk this morning, dressed for summer but with a waterproof and an umbrella, which was actually quite pleasant; the fresh air and peace were nice at least!

One of the highlights of this weekend was seeing a hot air balloon flying over our garden. There was a hot air ballooon festival in town this weekend, which we would have gone to if our free time had coincided with the good weather, instead when we were free the weather wasn't good enough for the balloons to be up. Flying in a hot air balloon is one of the items on my list of things I'd love to do, although I suspect the reality isn't quite the same as my idealised notion.

Flying high, in the sky

Another highlight has been Lego building. My husband bought one of the big Lego Technic sets on Saturday and he and the kids have spent the rest of the weekend building it, and this morning it was up and running and the kids had a brilliant time using the scoops to pick up Lego from a pile on the floor. It entertained them for hours!

Amazing Lego!

After last week's knitting disaster, I've been focusing on smaller projects, and have cast off two socks this weekend. When I cast off the second I stole the needles to finish the second of the striped socks - Knit Pro Novas are much nicer to work with than very cheap needles from the market. I have quite a lot of pairs of socks to finish, so I might make finishing a few pairs my goal for half term (even if it means spending a lot of time at soft play...).

Cast off number one

Second cast off of the weekend

Can I finish these tonight?

Hope you've had a good weekend, whether or not it's been a long one.