Hats

Prepping – the Layette

There is nothing more compelling for starting a creative project than an event. You know a wedding, a birthday and most compelling of all, a new baby.

I wonder if there is a trigger that goes off in the brain…new baby…make something cosy, soft and snuggly. The ‘Layette’ is an old fashioned concept I think. Essentially a collection of items that are perfect for a newborn; a blanket, a hat, booties and perhaps a romper suit.

In days past, perhaps even when I was a child, these knitted sets would be essential for a new Mum. Having them match would be a ‘boon’, yarn was not so freely available. Whether you are a knitter or not you will have in your consciousness hundreds of patterns from the past fifty years. White tiny items, some in an electrifying lemon, others in the very insipid blue and pink.

New Mums and Dads have avoided those patterns for decades now. The wool was too scratchy, the colours were old fashioned. Fleece and cotton seemed far easier and softer on brand new skin.

But….just like the seasons…fashions come round again. A homemade blanket has a bespoke chic. Crochet hats and booties have a retro charm. I have a friend who is about to have her third baby. You and I know that first babies get all the homemade items. By number three…’yeah, yeah, you are having a baby…how delightful…now what’s for tea?’

So I thought it would be nice to start again and put a lovely layette together. I started with the blanket…obviously. As a child having your own baby blanket is a thing of joy. You own it. It has been on your pram, you have fiddled you little fingers in the the holes, it smells of you. You eventually drag this blanket from room to room, you might tuck up your teddy under it in an imaginary bed, perhaps it might form one wall of an awesome sofa den. This first blanket will have a life.

I chose to make the ‘I love triangles‘ pattern. My first version of this. I spotted this pattern on a pram in a toy shop many years ago and with the audacity of a seasoned crocheter I asked the complete stranger what the pattern was. I know I design my own blankets, my own motifs…but sometimes I just want to make and not think. If you want to know the yarn recipe I used Stylecraft Bambino: Clotted Cream, Vintage Pink, Mellow Yellow and Little Boy Blue. You do need to make up bobbins of yarn for each colour change, but the overall look is delightful and I expect I will make more blankets in different hues.

I then used the Mellow Yellow to make a basic crochet beanie hat and a set of booties with pretty pom-poms. I used my own pattern that I have never written up. In my mind, one day I will write a Crochet Nursery book, but that is still on the to-do list. There are so many patterns, old and new that you can find on the internet. Find a hat here and there is a good set available here.

Finally I thought it would be great fun to make a romper. Such a lovely vintage look. I was inspired by the gorgeous maker, Rachel from Gooseberry fool. Her website and products are so beautiful. Whilst I have the joy (and indeed the compulsion) to crochet my own items, if you can’t crochet and would like to purchase some beautiful bespoke items please do visit her website. Her items are gorgeous and so beautifully packaged.

I have made two rompers, one in Vintage Pink and another in Blue Mist. I hope they prove useful – they are certainly very sweet. Once you have made a layette, then there is all the anticipation – the new baby needs to be born I think before this most joyful of all gifts is handed over. Romper suits will be handed down, booties will fall off and hat will be slung out of buggies by frustrated and hot little hands. Yet the blanket will always belong to the owner – an enduring gift which becomes an heirloom.

If you have some go-to baby patterns that you always make, please do point me in their direction I love to add a new ‘favourite’ to may list.

The bunny and sheep in these photos are my own designs – kits and downloadable patterns are available in my Etsy shop.

Pumpkin Pattern Pick-me-up

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I know how many of you love a free pattern. You also love it when a pattern is seasonal and cute. So I wanted to show you some of my most popular pumpkin patterns. People from across the world love these designs and they are just perfect for a quick and easy Autumn or Fall gift.

Firstly the King of the pattens in this Pumpkin pincushion. You can download it for free here. I still use this very pincushion everyday. Even though this is simple amigurumi design – the overall look of this pattern makes it perfect for autumnal table decorations or a birthday gift for an autumn born crafter.

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Secondly why not make this crochet pumpkin baby hat – how cute is this? One of my favourite patterns, my own son looked so cute in this hat – I just wanted to eat him. I think it is the twirling tendrils which make all the difference. You can download it free from here.

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Finally if you love teacosies, you will love this book; Teacosies 4. I have quite a few patterns in this book, but this is one of my favourites. It seems to work well with the days getting a bit cooler and the need to snuggle up nursing a steaming cup of freshly brewed tea.

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If you do end up making one of these patterns – please do send me your photos. If you would like to be kept up to date with my news and new patterns published – please do subscribe to my newsletter at the top of the side bar.

A Yarn Story – The Steiger Hat

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For lots of joyful reasons we like to go away for the February half-term break. There are lots of birthday celebrations and it feels like a perfect time to visit our beloved Lake District in the north of England. We had a fabulous time this week visiting our old Lake District haunts; cycling, climbing, walking and laughing. Waking up to the stunning views of the mountains and the tranquil water is such a luxury and it feels well with my soul.

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During a family holiday I either madly work on a huge knitting/crochet commission or better still find a pattern designed by someone else so that my brain can relax and my fingers do all the work. Last year I chose Kate Davis’s Betty Mouat Cowl – I wore the cowl lots in the last week.

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This year I downloaded the Steiger Hat pattern designed by Juliet Bernard from Yarn Stories. Yarn Stories is a new yarn company whose product is spun in Yorkshire. I chose the French Navy and Cream in Merino DK – it is such a soft yarn, gorgeous to touch, fabulous to knit with. I was so eager to start, I began casting on in the car and started to rib as we made our way up north. Two days later my hat was complete.

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If you have never tried the fair-isle technique, this would be a good place to start. I almost love the reverse side patterning as much as the pattern proper. The stranding across the back makes the hat incredibly warm.

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If you have read this blog before you will know that I am a huge fan of blocking your work. There are previous posts here and here. Being on holiday doesn’t preclude you from blocking. I found a pudding bowl of the correct size and used the holiday cottage iron to dampen the hat. I always like to leave blocking for about 48 hours to dry properly.

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Funnily enough the master bedroom of the holiday house we were staying in had this beautiful china egg on the window sill. It really reminded me of the hat pattern.

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So knitted, completed and blocked the hat was ready to wear, my ‘Yarn Story’ was inspired and created in the Lake District and I was ready to take to the hills, cosy and warm.

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Do visit the Yarn Stories website, there are some wonderful new patterns available and my yarn arrived in the most beautiful packaging.

The Frozen Hats

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There are lots of different reasons why I am never ‘not’ knitting or crocheting. We have chatted about this before, like so many people across the world, the physical rhythm of working the yarn, the quiet industry of using my hands is central to my wellbeing.

This year I promised Big B, that I would take the production line a little easier. I think I have succeeded in that. Compared to previous years I have made fewer large garments. I have taken on fewer magazine commissions and the ones I have worked on, I really wanted to do. Like last year I continued my resolution of noting down each completed project. I expected that this year I would fall short of what I had made in 2013. In actual fact I think the total will be about the same. However the year feels less pressurised.

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One reason is that I have returned to my first love of ‘spontaneous making’. Hearing a little story, seeing a need and then secretly working on a project to give as a gift. These ‘Frozen’ hats fall into this category. I know lots of little girls who delight in the ‘Frozen’ film. I watched and heard so many singing away with passion to the soundtrack. Two little sweeties really caught my imagination and prompted me to make hats which celebrate the film.

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The first off the hook was the Anna hat, complete with auburn plaits. I free-styled these patterns, if you keen to make your own version there are lots on the web you can use. While the plaits are fun, I knew that most Mummys perhaps wouldn’t been keen to have a plait hanging down on the school run, so I made them detachable.

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The next to be made was the Elsa Hat. The same basic hat shape, with an added snowflake. I sewed some sequins onto the snowflake and I must admit having seen the hat in action, the extra sparkle was worth it. How gorgeous does Missy M look?

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Her little face, her spontaneous hug – someone spent time to make her something special – the opportunity to love through crafting is precious, especially when the recipient is delighted. May it always be so.

Photos of Missy M were taken by Smith Imaging

Rowan Softest Baby Hat

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For so many of us, we returned to knitting when a friend or member of our family was expectant with a new little one. I took up the needles again when my dear friend was pregnant with my now huge godson, Harry. In some way we should blame (thank) him for this blog! I then began designing knitwear because I wanted to create my own designs for Little B. Unsurprisingly, gone are the days when you will catch him in a home-knit made by Mummy, bespoke or not.

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I think knitting a baby hat is a perfect gift for any expectant parent. Little ones need a bit of head protection as the air gets chilly. Let’s face it, hats get flung to kingdom come from buggies, so you can never hat enough baby hats. I created this design using one ball of Rowan finest wool. My lovely friends at Black Sheep Wools asked me to road test this yarn for them. If you pick up a ball you will think, ‘What a dinky size!’ You will wonder if you can make a hat using just one ball. But if you do have a go at this pattern I know you will be delighted. Rowan Finest is a blend of extra fine merino, cashmere and royal alpaca wool it knits up in a 4ply tension and is such a treat to hold.rowanfinest1 rowanfinest6

Now in Britain we traditionally have not knitted in the round much. Our cousins across in the pond in America are far more inclined to work without seams and use a circular needle. If this is not a technique you have used, please can I encourage you to have a go. Let’s face it, avoiding seams in a baby hat makes perfect sense. There are plenty of tutorials on the web to show you how to connect the beginning and the end of the row. If you are already sock knitting this will be no problem at all.

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With the green hat I was inspired by a French fashion house to create this bow and button detail. I hope you like it and I think it might become my signature little girl hat topping.

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So dear friends I have an exciting new for you. This pattern is available exclusively for you from the Black Sheep Wools website here. I also have a special discount for you if you buy this wool from Black Sheep wools. My readers will get a 10% discount on Rowan Finest wool if you use the code FINEST11 – this offer ends Saturday 25th October 2014

Pumpkin Pattern Pop-up

frame31f0d3c7be469abc2020ff1af799082d589bd3d3I know I always force you to look a little ahead of the seasons – sorry about that but when we are talking knitting or crochet patterns we all need a bit of seasonal warning. Today has felt just a wee bit autumnal over here in good ol’ Blighty. My mind has been on new school terms, scarves and hats. I was reminded of the pumpkin hat I knitted for Little B when he was a baby. I then passed this jolly bonnet onto my nephew and it has brought huge joy to all who have seen it.

So as a quick reminder I thought I would point out that I have two pumpkin free patterns on the blog. The every popular pumpkin pincushion or table decoration. You can download that pattern here.

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This is my crochet version of pumpkin hat.

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I just love these tendrils – they make this hat and look hilarious on a sprinting toddler. You can download the pattern here

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Finally my pumpkin teacosy is available in GMC’s Teacozies 4 book. A great fun autumn pattern worth taking a peek at if you see it in your local yarn shop or available to purchase here or here.

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If you have any great pumpkin makes do share you photos with me – pop over to the facebook page and we can share our autumnal makes.

Gifts of Love – people who inspire #2

budgarden5I love my garden – there are some big improvements this year and I really want to spend more time outdoors pottering around in the patch. I have tried to resist making large plant purchases, I know in my head that you should plan and plot where your structural plants should go and then ‘in-fill’ with your crowd pleasing blooms. Like I say, I know in my head….but my heart….

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In the past few years I have had the the pleasure of discovering a local garden centre. My beacon of all things cool, the Fashionista put me on to it. Bud is a petite gem, tucked away off a busy artery road in our fair city. But one small step inside and I am transported into a beautiful haven of greenery. Little B is also a fan. He has a whole imaginary world that he visits up and down the paths of plants. We both enjoy a small detour to Bud on our way home from the school run.

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I love this small space because the plants are always healthy and inspiring. However the real attraction for me is the friendly welcome and advice we receive when we visit. I sort of feel proud that we have this shop in our community. Funny thing really!

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When all our construction work was finished I wanted to fill up the patio pots to take us through to autumn. We bought these gorgeous Echinacea Pow Wow daisies. They are so cheery. The daisies just keep coming and they are in my favourite colour.

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I had a funny thought that came to me the other day when watering them. I realised that they are in my favourite shade of pink and of all the balls of wool in my enormous yarn stash this is the colour that dominates. Then I remembered Brenda and Bud and it occurred to me that very soon the autumn chill would begin. So inspired by our lovely daisies I made Brenda a ‘Pow-Wow’ hat. I made it in Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend Fin, using my go-to hat pattern (Soon to be published for Babies!).

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It was very easy to replicate the daisy it self with a crochet flower and just in case Brenda doesn’t want to wear the daisy everyday I have made it detachable.

While it is very easy and cheap to buy plants from large garden centres – Nothing is more pleasurable than building a relationship with a local company, who know so much about what grows well in our climate. I really hope Brenda feels warm and appreciated this autumn.

Soooo FLUFFY!

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I was a little bit thrilled when the latest copy of Knitting Magazine (Issue 123) dropped through the letter box this week. I was particularly excited that my design Drift beret and collar scarf has a little feature photograph on the front cover. Emma, the editor of Knitting Magazine really wanted a luxurious accessory design and the Rowan Angora Haze certainly fits the bill. I used double strands of the yarn on both items and every time I pick up the finished items I feel like Agnes in ‘Despicable Me‘ – ‘They’re SO FLUFFY’

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When or if it snows this winter I will be sporting this combo and might add a little vintage brooch for added bling. The most hilarious part of this design process was making both items on our August family holiday in Majorca, perhaps the worst sort of conditions to work with spotless white angora – there was a lot of cold hand washing required.

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There is still plenty of time to whip up your own festive version to keep you warm during the carol singing season and if you do manage to work your magic on the needles I guarantee you will feel like a ’50’s movie star in your angora heaven.

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Adventures in Childrens Fashion ~ Marmalade & Mash

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Last Autumn I made a virtual friend through Twitter – I know, how very modern! The childrens fashion designer Naomi Langford-Archer asked me if I would create some pom-pom berets for her AW13/14 photo-shoot. I was very happy to help and the resulting look was a little bit of ‘Railway Children’ chic.

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I discovered the fabulous Marmalade and Mash children’s clothes through Mollie Makes magazine. The style is quintessentially British, the clothes remind me of the dresses and blouses my mother made me.

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So simple, yet pretty and child-like. Naomi Langford -Archer, has a beautiful eye and it is so great to see traditional yet bright and quirky clothes available for children.

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I am rather delighted to be part of this collaboration and if I am honest the photos just bring a big smile to my face. There is very Iittle chance of me taking a photo of Little B in a pom-pom beret, he is the most reluctant of models (‘Sensible boy’, I hear your cry). So this is one of the rare times when I can see my hatty nonsense on a real little person. Delightful.

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All the images are property of MARMALADE&MASH, UK.

 – All Rights Reserved –

 

Autumn issue of Knitting Magazine – Gingernut and Cinder

knittingautumnThe excitement of seeing one of my designs in print never grows old. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have an issue posted to our house. But actually the real thrill is leafing through a fresh issue in a newsagent or a supermarket and spotting an image within and then paying for the magazine with a beaming smile. A secret, cheeky joy.

K120 Final Cover.inddThis month I have three accessories in the Autumn issue of Knitting Magazine.

6. Cowl Main_2829For the autumn season you will see a funky twist on plaid cropping up on the high street. Oh my word how the fashions of my university days are coming round again. Firstly here is my Gingernut cowl. My love affair with the cowl scarf doesn’t appear to be diminishing. Such a practical design which compliments the neckline with no fuss. Perfect.

gingernutcowl1With this commission I wanted to combine autumn tones with a classic tartan pattern. The beauty of this pattern is a really easy twist on creating the vertical lines of colour using a crochet hook.

gingernutcowl2At the weekend I will do a little techniques tutorial. I really enjoyed making this. Not least because I know which jacket I will match it with for my autumn wardrobe.

cinderslouchhat2Next the Cinder slouch hat and legwarmers. This Artesano Aran is gorgeous to work with. A fabulous superfine alpaca.  The colours I have gone with here remind me of cinder toffee and plum crumble, yummy.

cinderlegwarmers2I swapped the colour-way round to show you how choosing a different dominant shade for the main colour can give you a totally different effect.

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If you are thinking that these colour choices are too ‘zingy’ for your tastes. What about a chic monochrome palette of black and white, or perhaps go all Nordic Christmas with a Scarlet Red and cream.

cinderlegwarmers1You may not imagine that you will ever venture again into a bobble hat. Like me you might have done the leg-warmer the first time round. But believe me any teenager or student in your life will be happy for these items for Christmas. I never thought I would revisit the legwarmer, but do you know what? With some skinny jeans and chunky boots I might be able to rock this look. The photo above makes me laugh because I was trying out the warmers for size at the beginning of hot June – I have lived all summer in these flatties – perhaps not the best combination with slubby aran.

Tell me what you think. I hate to say it but I am sort of looking forward to the autumn, just so I can try out my new snuggly creations.

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